Armored Upgrades And Modifications: The Evolution Of Syrian Army Tanks

Here’s a video documenting the evolution of Syrian Army tanks during the several-year civil war, which include both improvised “DIY” type modifications as well as technological upgrades organically-developed and received from allies. 

modifications

Susceptibility to rocket propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds quickly forced Syrian troops to develop improvised countermeasures to increase survivability. They piled sandbags on top of the armor, and hung chains and welded steel cages around the hull of their tanks. The idea was to detonate shape-charged warheads prematurely to exhaust their spalling distance before actually reaching the vehicle’s hull.

Later, when the rebels began receiving anti tank guided missiles (ATGM) like the BGM-71 TOW through President Obama’s arm and equip program, the improvised armor systems were of little use. Soon, the Syrian military began developing active protection systems like the Sarab variants that use infrared lights to mitigate the threats of enemy missiles.

http:// https://youtu.be/0BOqiliXt4w

Posted in Syrian Army | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ترمپ، مشتاق مذاکره با ایران Trump, eager to negotiate with Iran

Donald Trump’s declaration of readiness to negotiate without a precondition with Iran and his explicit statements about Washington’s reluctance to a regime change project in Tehran indicates that the United States intends to bring Iran to the negotiating table by imposing economic sanctions and political pressure. The goal of Washington is to bring Tehran to the negotiating table. He goes on to say that he does not want the United States to engage with Iran in the phase of military conflicts. Washington seems to have realized the limitations of its national and military power after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the events that followed, and it does not seem necessary to launch a rally on regime change.

Another important fact is that there is no active anti-regime force inside Iran that Washington can unite with and begin a regime change operation. In Iran, there is no rebellion, no coup d’état or protest streams. The Green Movement, which considers itself inherited from the reform movement of 1376, does not believe in a subversion of government. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, Green Movement Moveers, despite the delinquency and other problems, refused to question the legitimacy of Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayed Ali Husseini Khamenei. The result of the 2009 presidential election was controversial, and Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi did not accept it. In that election, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced victorious. After Mr. Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi did not accept the result, popular waves came to the streets and protested the result of the election. Khamenei’s legitimacy was questioned along the lines of the demonstration, but the leaders of the Green Movement did not want to dispel the slogan of the military overthrow that Mr. Khamenei was at the head of.

The Green Movement, the reform movement, and even the supporters of Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, do not want a gun battle for the fall of government in the theory. Reform Movement Leader Seyed Mohammad Khatami believes that democratic capacities are in the constitution and the current Iranian system, and should activate it and lead to more democracy. They are in favor of gradual democratization of Iran. Their aspirations are to increase the qualifications of elected institutions and reduce the qualifications of non-elected institutions. This nonviolent movement can not overthrow a coalition in a united war.

The reality of the riot, revolution and coup in Iran indicates that the legitimacy of the current leader of Iran has not been hurt very seriously. In 1996, a powerful revolutionary movement was formed in Iranian cities and it became clear that the last Shah of Iran lost its legitimacy. Seyyed Roohollah Mousavi Khomeini led the revolution. With the fall of the monarchy, its legitimacy was transferred to the deceased Khomeini. The monarchy is an institution whose legitimacy has a strong roots in the religious and cultural narratives of the region, the military’s overwhelming self-control of a major political legitimacy. This legacy was legacy and traditional. In the past, the power struggle was limited to the members of the royal family, and the executive and political powers were exercised between them. If they ruined the kingdom, he would turn his son to his successor. But in the 1979 revolution of Iran, masses of people came to the streets, and the scope of the power struggle was broad. But at the end of the work, the legitimacy of the monarchy was transferred to Khomeini, and he laid the foundation for an ideological religious rule. This religious government, but along with the religious legitimacy, considered the legitimacy of the election itself. Unlike the Saudi government and the Taliban, the religious government of Iran recognizes electoral legitimacy and selective institutions. The existence of electoral institutions has led political forces to come together in elections. Perhaps the existence of these elected institutions and the electoral institution has caused the political force to overthrow inside Iran. With the death of Khomeini, his legitimacy and authority were transferred to Khamenei, and he is currently in charge of the whole. Since all political, administrative and religious power is in his hands, the political science theorists regard the Iranian regime as an undemocratic one. The religious theory that sees the government as the right of one jurisprudent is also contradictory to the foundations of democracy. But opponents of the Iranian government’s exiles have not been able to build a social base for themselves within Iran. They have lost their ties to Iran. Perhaps this is why no foreign power, including America, desires to overthrow the Iranian government using military force and considers it useless.

But it is clear from the current US government’s behavior that the government wants to turn Iran from an hostile state to a US-friendly government. The US Secretary of State last year demanded 12 Washington calls from Tehran. Stopping Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs, capturing hostility with Israel, ending Iran’s support for Shiite militias in the Middle East and the withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria are among the most important of these. The United States now says it intends to force Tehran to put pressure on Iran to negotiate and negotiate with Washington on these issues. If Iran accepts all the demands of the United States, Washington has promised to establish normal relations with that country and will cooperate. In other words, acceptance of the demands of the United States by Tehran makes Iran a friend of America.

But it seems that Iran’s leaders do not currently intend to negotiate with the United States. Iran is waiting to be thrown off in the US election in 2020. But if Turkmen wins in that election, it is not clear what the leaders of Iran will decide. The enthusiastic tramp is that air.

ORIGINAL TEXT IN FARSI \ PERSIAN LANGUAGE

اعلام آماده‌گی دونالد ترمپ برای مذاکره‌ی بدون پیش‌شرط با ایران و سخنان صریح او در مورد عدم تمایل واشنگتن به پروژه‌ی تغییر رژیم در تهران، نشان‌دهنده‌ی آن است که امریکا قصد دارد با اعمال تحریم اقتصادی و فشارهای سیاسی، ایران را روی میز مذاکره بیاورد. هدف واشنگتن روی میز مذاکره آوردن تهران است. از سخنان ترمپ و دیگر مقام‌های امریکایی برمی‌آید که او نمی‌خواهد ایالات متحده با ایران وارد فاز درگیری‌های نظامی شود. به نظر می‌رسد که واشنگتن پس از لشکرکشی به عراق در سال ۲۰۰۳ و حوادثی که پس از آن واقع شد، محدودیت‌های قدرت‌ ملی و نظامی خودش را درک کرده است و لزومی نمی‌بیند که برای تغییر رژیم به ایران هم لشکرکشی کند.

واقعیت مهم دیگر این است که در داخل ایران هم نیروی فعال ضد رژیم وجود ندارد که واشنگتن بتواند با آن متحد شود و عملیات تغییر رژیم را آغاز کند. در ایران نه شورش‌گری است، ‌نه کودتا و نه موج‌های مردمی معترض در خیابان‌ها دیده می‌شود. جنبش سبز که خودش را وارث جنبش اصلاحات سال ۱۳۷۶ می‌داند،  به براندازی قهری حکومت باور ندارد. میرحسین موسوی و مهدی کروبی رهبران جنبش سبز به رغم تحمل حصر و مشکلات دیگر، حاضر نشدند مشروعیت سید علی‌حسینی خامنه‌ای رهبر ایران را زیر سوال ببرند. نتیجه‌ی انتخابات ریاست جمهوری سال ۱۳۸۸ جنجالی شد و آقایان میرحسین موسوی و مهدی کروبی آن را نپذیرفتند. در آن انتخابات آقای محمود احمدی‌نژاد پیروز اعلام شد. پس از این که آقای موسوی و مهدی کروبی نتیجه را نپذیرفتند، موج‌های مردمی به خیابان آمدند و به نتیجه‌ی آن انتخابات اعتراض کردند. در حواشی این تظاهرات هم مشروعیت آقای خامنه‌ای زیر سوال رفت،‌ اما رهبران جنبش سبز نخواستند که شعار سرنگونی نظامی را که آقای خامنه‌ای در رأس آن است سر دهند.

جنبش سبز، جنبش اصلاحات و حتا طرف‌داران آقای حسن روحانی رییس‌جمهور کنونی ایران،‌ در تیوری هم خواستار جنگ مسلحانه برای سقوط حکومت نیستند. کسانی مثل سید محمدخاتمی رهبر جنبش اصلاحات به این باور اند که ظرفیت‌های دموکراتیکی در قانون اساسی و نظام کنونی ایران است و باید آن را فعال کرد و به دموکراسی بیش‌تر رسید. آنان طرف‌دار دموکراتیزه شدن تدریجی ایران اند. آرمان آنان بیش‌تر شدن صلاحیت‌های نهادهای انتخابی و کاسته شدن صلاحیت‌های نهادهای غیر انتخابی است. این جنبش خشونت‌پرهیز به هیچ وجه نمی‌تواند در یک جنگ گرم متحد یک نیروی برانداز باشد.

واقعیت نبود شورش،‌ انقلاب و کودتا در ایران نشان‌دهنده‌ی آن است که مشروعیت رهبر کنونی ایران به صورت بسیار جدی و اساسی صدمه ندیده است. در سال ۱۳۷۵ جنبش انقلابی نیرومندی در شهرهای ایران شکل گرفت و با گسترش آن روشن شد که آخرین شاه ایران مشروعیتش را از دست داده  است. سید روح‌الله موسوی خمینی رهبری آن انقلاب را به دوش گرفت. با سقوط سلطنت مشروعیت آن نهاد به مرحوم خمینی انتقال یافت. سلطنت نهادی است که مشروعیتش ریشه‌ی نیرومندی در روایت‌های مذهبی و فرهنگی این منطقه داشت، نفس غلبه‌ی نظامی به یک سرلشکر مشروعیت سیاسی به بار می‌آورد. این مشروعیت میراثی و سنتی بود. در گذشته منازعه‌ی قدرت هم محدود به اعضای خاندان سلطنتی بود و اختیارات اجرایی و سیاسی بین آنان دست‌به‌دست می‌شد. اگر شاهی را خلع می‌کردند، ‌پسرش را به جانشینی او بر می‌گزیدند. ولی در انقلاب ۱۳۵۷ ایران توده‌های مردم به خیابان آمدند و گستره‌ی منازعه‌ی قدرت وسیع شد. اما در پایان کار مشروعیت نهاد سلطنت به شخص خمینی انتقال یافت و او یک حکومت  ایدیولوژیک دینی را اساس گذاشت. این حکومت دینی اما در کنار مشروعیت مذهبی، مشروعیت انتخاباتی نیز برای خودش در نظر گرفت. حکومت دینی ایران برخلاف حکومت عربستان و امارت طالبان، مشروعیت انتخاباتی را به رسمیت می‌شناسد و نهادهای انتخابی دارد. وجود نهادهای انتخاباتی سبب شده است که نیروهای سیاسی در انتخابات‌ها به مصاف هم‌دیگر بروند. شاید وجود همین نهادهای انتخابی و نهاد انتخابات سبب شده است که نیروی سیاسی برانداز در داخل ایران شکل نگیرد. با مرگ خمینی، مشروعیت  و اختیارات او به خامنه‌ای انتقال کرد و او در حال حاضر اختیار‌دار کل است. از آن‌جایی که تمام قدرت سیاسی، اجرایی و مذهبی به دست او است، نظریه‌پردازان علم سیاست،‌ نظام ایران را غیر دموکراتیک می‌دانند. نظریه‌ی مذهبی‌ای که حکومت را حق یک فقیه می‌داند نیز با مبانی دموکراسی در تضاد است. ولی مخالفان خارج‌نشین حکومت ایران، نتوانسته‌اند،‌ پایگاه اجتماعی برای خودشان در داخل ایران بسازند. آنان ربط‌شان را با داخل ایران از دست داده‌اند. شاید به همین دلیل است که هیچ قدرت خارجی از جمله امریکا، میل به براندازی حکومت ایران با استفاده از نیروی نظامی ندارد و آن را بی فایده می‌داند.

اما از رفتار حکومت کنونی ایالات متحده معلوم می‌شود که این حکومت می‌خواهد ایران را از یک دولت خصم به یک دولت دوست امریکا بدل کند. وزیر خارجه‌ی امریکا سال گذشته ۱۲ خواست واشنگتن از تهران را رسانه‌ای کرد. توقف برنامه‌های هسته‌ای و موشکی تهران، دست برداری از دشمنی با اسراییل، پایان حمایت ایران از نیروهای شبه‌نظامی شیعه در خاورمیانه و خروج نظامیان ایرانی از سوریه،‌ از مهم‌ترین این خواست‌ها است. امریکا حالا می‌گوید که قصد دارد با اعمال فشار اقتصادی بر ایران، ‌تهران را وادار سازد تا روی میز مذاکره بیاید و با واشنگتن روی این مسایل مذاکره کند و به توافق برسد. اگر ایران تمام خواست‌های امریکا را بپذیرد، واشنگتن وعده کرده است که با آن کشور روابط عادی ایجاد می‌کند و آن را همکاری خواهد کرد. به بیان دیگر پذیرفتن خواست‌های امریکا از سوی تهران،‌ ایران را به دولت دوست امریکا بدل می‌کند.

اما به نظر می‌رسد که رهبران ایران در حال حاضر قصد مذاکره با امریکا را ندارند. ایران منتظر است که در انتخابات سال ۲۰۲۰ امریکا ترمپ ببازد. ولی اگر ترمپ در آن انتخابات برنده شود، روشن نیست که رهبران ایران چه تصمیمی خواهند گرفت. ترمپ مشتاق است که ایرانی‌ها به او زنگ بزنند و روی میز مذاکره بیایند.

Posted in IRAN REGIME CHANGE | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Military Scientists and Future Warfare

Eurasia Daily Monitor

  • Since the reform and modernization of Russia’s Armed Forces was initiated in late 2008, the General Staff leadership has been persistent in its appeals to the military scientific community to meet the challenges stemming from these complex processes. An essential ingredient in this public discussion is the focus on future warfare as part of the national defense strategy, to encourage greater attention to strategic foresight. The chief of the Russian General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, has pressed this issue heavily in his public speeches and articles, since his appointment in November 2012. This past March, Gerasimov outlined a new doctrine of limited actions that conceptualizes Russia’s approaches to warfare beyond its borders—particularly, as witnessed in Syria. Gerasimov also once more raised the issue of future warfare (see EDM, March 6). These views offer insights into how Russian defense specialists see future warfare and, consequently, some of the factors driving Moscow’s strategic posture.

In November 2018, Colonel General (ret.) Leonty Shevtsov authored a review article in Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer examining a monograph by General Aleksandr Vladimirov. The second edition of Vladimirov’s book, Osnovy Obshchey Teorii Voyny (The Basics of the General Theory of War), was examined in detail. In one section of the review, Vladimirov’s use of Soviet and Russian military theorists is outlined, many of whom are also frequently referred to in Gerasimov’s speeches (see EDM, March 12). In particular, Vladimirov based much of his thinking about modern warfare on Aleksandr Svechin, Andrei Snesarev and Yevgeny Messner. He refers to Snesarev: “The solution to the question of the future of war—positive or negative—remains a matter of faith, not a scientifically proven fact.” He also notes that Messner had forecast, “We must stop thinking that war is when people fight, and peace when they are not fighting. You can be in war without fighting” (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, November 28, 2018).

While themes and concepts drawn from some of the leading Soviet and Russian military theorists are present in Gerasimov’s speeches, showing the roots of current military thought among the General Staff leadership, elements of the interface between military science and emerging perspectives on future warfare are clearly represented in a May 28 article on this theme in Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer. Lieutenant General (ret.) Vladimir Ostankov considers the issue of Russian perspectives on future warfare and shows clearly how this is influencing Moscow’s defense posture in many areas. Ostankov is a former head of the highly influential Center for Military-Strategic Research Under the General Staff (Tsentr Voyenno-Strategicheskikh Issledovaniy Generalnogo Shtaba Vooruzhennykh Sil’ Rossiyskoy Federatsii—TsSVI GSh). It is known, for instance, that the TsVSI plays a role in the formulation of military doctrine and produces classified papers on strategy, force development and future warfare, among other issues (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, May 28).

Ostankov declares at the start of his article the importance high technology and modern weapons systems and their impact on shaping the views and concepts of the Armed Forces, noting that the most important aspect of strategy is to predict the nature of future wars and outline the potential of the future enemy in order to form counter measures. Ostankov then describes the main features of modern warfare as follows:

  • The massive use of high-precision and hypersonic weapons and Electronic Warfare (EW) tools;
  • Multifaceted impact on the enemy throughout the depth of its territory and simultaneously in the global information and aerospace confrontation;
  • Strengthened centralization and automation of troops and weapons control;
  • Participation in the battles of irregular armed formations and private military companies (PMC);
  • The complex use of force and non-military measures implemented with the wide use of the protest potential of the population;
  • The use of externally funded political forces and social movements.

The author asserts that modern warfare increasingly centers on the application of political, economic, information, and other non-military means. He suggests this has been used during Russian military operations in Syria, mixing military and non-means in its application of power. On this basis, Ostankov claims the present Russian political leadership has augmented deterrence by adopting a deliberate policy of intimidating potential adversaries (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, May 28).

However, Ostankov believes the dominant role in future warfare still lies in the application of kinetic force. He refers to the changing face of warfare and its implications for the future: “New technologies have significantly reduced the spatial, temporal and informational gap between troops and command and control. Frontal collisions of large groups of troops (forces) at the strategic and operational levels are gradually becoming a thing of the past. A remote contactless impact on the enemy becomes the main way to achieve the goals of the battle and operation. The destruction of its objects is carried out [across] the entire depth of the territory. The differences between the strategic, operational and tactical levels, [as well as] offensive and defensive actions are erased.” The author further argues that artificial intelligence will play a much greater role in the wars of the future, robotizing the battlefield but not entirely negating the needs for human involvement (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, May 28).

Drawing on Russia’s experiments in Syria with network-centric warfare capability, Ostankov asserts this has significant implication for Moscow’s planning for future wars: “Anticipating a similar change in the nature of the struggle, the military strategy develops requirements for the development of interspecific reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire complexes, determining their place in the combat system and share participation in the destruction of the enemy. No wonder that a unit has been created within the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to deal with this problem.” Analysis of the United States’ military capabilities has resulted in a “transition of Russia from the policy of deterring a potential adversary with nuclear weapons to a policy of intimidation by causing unacceptable damage with hypersonic weapons in response to any large-scale aggression” (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, May 28).

It appears that a combination of views on the likely nature of future warfare, analysis of Russia’s threat environment and close attention to US military capability, has resulted in a shift in Moscow to adopting a policy of intimidating potential enemies, while strengthening its own capabilities to strike with unacceptable damage below the nuclear threshold. Ostankov’s article should not be underestimated given his background in the TsVSI and his access to and knowledge of current strategic thinking. He offers insight on Moscow adopting a deliberate policy of intimidating its potential enemies, which may be important in understanding Russia’s strategic actions in a wider context.

Posted in Military News | Leave a comment

Moderating Saudi Islam: Government Proposes Tightening Fundraising Rules

A litmus test of the impact of the law, once adopted, will be how Saudi Arabia deals with people like Pakistani cleric Maulana Ali Muhammad Abu Turab. Mr. Abu Turab was identified last May as a specially designated terrorist by the US Treasury at the very moment that he was in the kingdom to raise funds for his militant madrassas or religious seminaries that dot the border between the Pakistani province of Balochistan and Afghanistan.https://chainsoff.me/2019/05/25/moderating-saudi-islam-government-proposes-tightening-fundraising-rules/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Moderating Saudi Islam: Government Proposes Tightening Fundraising Rules

James Dorsey 31 Jan, 2018_A Saudi draft law could constitute a first indication that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vow to return the kingdom to a moderate form of Islam will include reshaping of the kingdom’s global funding for Sunni Muslim ultra-conservative educational and cultural facilities as well as militants.

The law, if adopted, would at the very least tighten rules governing the raising of funds in the kingdom that often flowed to militants in campaigns of which it was not always clear whether the government had tacitly approved. Tighter rules will make it more difficult for the government to put a distance between itself and militant fundraising.

To be sure, analysts have long assumed that fundraising, particularly with the help of members of Saudi Arabia’s government-aligned, ultra-conservative religious establishment, could not occur without the knowledge of a regime that maintains tight political control.

It remains unclear how tighter fundraising rules will affect Saudi Arabia’s ideological war with Iran. The kingdom has for decades invested billions of dollars in globally propagating Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism as an antidote to the Islamic republic’s revolutionary zeal.

The bulk of the funds flowed to non-violent groups, but in some cases also to ones that attacked Shiites and/or Iranian targets. That has largely not changed since the rise in 2015 of King Salman and his powerful son, Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia, in the latest suggestion that tightened fundraising may target militancy rather than supremacist, sectarian and intolerant strands of ultra-conservatism, plans to open a Salafi missionary centre in the Yemeni province of Al Mahrah on the border with Oman and the kingdom.

The plan harks back to the creation of an anti-Shiite Salafi mission near the Houthi stronghold of Saada that sparked a military confrontation in 2011 with the Yemeni government, one of several wars in the region. The centre was closed in 2014 as part of an agreement to end the fighting.

Prince Mohammed’s use of ultra-conservative Sunni Islam in his controversial war with the Houthis was also evident in the appointment as governor of Saada of Hadi Tirshan al-Wa’ili, a member of a tribe hostile to the Shiite sect, and a follower of Saudi-backed Islamic scholar Uthman Mujalli. Mr. Mujalli reportedly serves as an advisor to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the exiled, kingdom-backed Yemeni president.

Writing in Al-Monitor, Brookings fellow and former CIA official Bruce Riedel argued that continued government support of ultra-conservatism served not only Saudi Arabia’s regional ambitions but also as a pacifier for a religious establishment that, despite public endorsement of Prince Mohammed’s social reforms, is deeply uncomfortable with changes like a loosening of restrictions on women and greater entertainment opportunities.

“After three years on the throne, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are pursuing the most aggressively sectarian and anti-Iran policy in modern Saudi history. The Wahhabi clerical establishment is an enthusiastic partner, which is good internal politics for the royals…it’s a way to keep the mainstream Wahhabi establishment and the Al Sheikhs content that their core interests are safe,” Mr. Riedel said, referring to the descendants of 18th century preacher Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, who constitute the ruling Al Sauds’ religious counterpart.

If adopted, fundraisers would have to be authorized before launching a campaign. Failure to obtain authorization would result in a jail sentence of up to two years and, in the case of foreigners, deportation. Fundraisers would only be allowed to accept donations from Saudi nationals and institutions.

The stipulation that the fundraisers themselves too would have to be Saudi nationals would effectively block foreign individuals and groups from Pakistan and elsewhere that have been supported for decades by Saudi Arabia from independently seeking financial support in the kingdom.

A litmus test of the impact of the law, once adopted, will be how Saudi Arabia deals with people like Pakistani cleric Maulana Ali Muhammad Abu Turab. Mr. Abu Turab was identified last May as a specially designated terrorist by the US Treasury at the very moment that he was in the kingdom to raise funds for his militant madrassas or religious seminaries that dot the border between the Pakistani province of Balochistan and Afghanistan.

A member of Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology that oversees whether legislation is in line with Islamic law, Mr. Abu Turab is a leader of Ahl-i-Hadith, a Pakistani Wahhabi group supported by the kingdom for decades, and a board member of Pakistan’s Saudi-backed Paigham TV.

He also heads the Saudi-funded Movement for the Protection of the Two Holy Cities (Tehrike Tahafaz Haramain Sharifain) whose secretary general Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil has also been designated by the Treasury.

Similarly, Pakistani militants reported over the last 18 months that funds from Saudi Arabia were pouring into militant madrassas in Balochistan against the backdrop of indications that the kingdom may want to try to destabilize Iran by stirring unrest among the Islamic republic’s ethnic minorities, including the Baloch.

Saudi efforts to more tightly control fundraising may also serve Prince Mohammed’s unconventional effort to fill depleted government coffers at a time of economic recession. Prince Mohammed launched in November what amounted to a power and asset grab packaged as an anti-corruption campaign after the kingdom’s elite had failed to respond to a request to make patriotic contributions to help shore up government finances.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said last week that authorities had received a total of roughly $100 billion in out-of-court settlements from around 350 people accused in the purge. As a result, tougher fundraising rules could potentially mean that donations would increasingly favour domestic rather than foreign causes.

However, with no indication that Saudi Arabia is willing to reduce tension with Iran, it is unlikely that the kingdom will halt funding of its ideological war with the Islamic republic. Nor is there an apparent Islamic packaged alternative to the propagation of ultra-conservatism as its primary soft power tool.

In short, tighter fundraising rules are certain to enhance control of the causes for which money is solicited and who will be allowed to raise funds. It may well also result in support for advocacy of interfaith dialogue and greater tolerance as recently propagated by the World Muslim League, a government-controlled non-governmental vehicle that for decades funded the global spread of ultra-conservatism. The rules, however, are unlikely to mean an end to funding of ultra-conservatism and sectarianism that serves Saudi Arabia’s existential battle with Iran.

Posted in SAUDI ARABIA | Leave a comment

Germany Demands An End To Working Cryptography

Aaron Swartz’s words: “It’s not OK not to understand the internet anymore.” That goes double for cryptography: any politician caught spouting off about back doors is unfit for office anywhere but Hogwarts, which is also the only educational institution whose computer science department believes in “golden keys” that only let the right sort of people break your encryption. –

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Germany Demands An End To Working Cryptography

Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer — a hardliner who has called for cameras at every “hot spot” in Germany — has announced that he will seek a ban on working cryptography in Germany; he will insist that companies only supply insecure tools that have a backdoor that will allow the German state to decrypt messages and chats on demand.

He’s said that he’ll ban any service or app that does not comply with the rule.

It’s basically the rule Australia enacted in December 2018. It’s also been repeatedly proposed by Rod Rosenstein in his capacity as US Deputy Attorney General; and by GCHQ’s Technical Director, Ian Levy.

Aaron Swartz once said, “It’s no longer OK not to understand how the Internet works.”

He was talking to law-makers, policy-makers and power-brokers, people who were, at best, half-smart about technology — just smart enough to understand that in a connected world, every problem society has involves computers, and just stupid enough to demand that computers be altered to solve those problems.

Theresa May says that London terror attacks mean that the internet cannot be allowed to provide a “safe space” for terrorists and therefore working cryptography must be banned in the UK.

It’s impossible to overstate how bonkers the idea of sabotaging cryptography is to people who understand information security. If you want to secure your sensitive data either at rest – on your hard drive, in the cloud, on that phone you left on the train last week and never saw again – or on the wire, when you’re sending it to your doctor or your bank or to your work colleagues, you have to use good cryptography. Use deliberately compromised cryptography, that has a back door that only the “good guys” are supposed to have the keys to, and you have effectively no security. You might as well skywrite it as encrypt it with pre-broken, sabotaged encryption.

There are two reasons why this is so. First, there is the question of whether encryption can be made secure while still maintaining a “master key” for the authorities’ use. As lawyer/computer scientist Jonathan Mayer explained, adding the complexity of master keys to our technology will “introduce unquantifiable security risks”. It’s hard enough getting the security systems that protect our homes, finances, health and privacy to be airtight – making them airtight except when the authorities don’t want them to be is impossible.

What Theresa May thinks she’s saying is, “We will command all the software creators we can reach to introduce back-doors into their tools for us.” There are enormous problems with this: there’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it. If your Whatsapp or Google Hangouts has a deliberately introduced flaw in it, then foreign spies, criminals, crooked police (like those who fed sensitive information to the tabloids who were implicated in the hacking scandal — and like the high-level police who secretly worked for organised crime for years), and criminals will eventually discover this vulnerability. They — and not just the security services — will be able to use it to intercept all of our communications. That includes things like the pictures of your kids in your bath that you send to your parents to the trade secrets you send to your co-workers.

But this is just for starters. Theresa May doesn’t understand technology very well, so she doesn’t actually know what she’s asking for.

For Theresa May’s proposal to work, she will need to stop Britons from installing software that comes from software creators who are out of her jurisdiction. The very best in secure communications are already free/open source projects, maintained by thousands of independent programmers around the world. They are widely available, and thanks to things like cryptographic signing, it is possible to download these packages from any server in the world (not just big ones like Github) and verify, with a very high degree of confidence, that the software you’ve downloaded hasn’t been tampered with.

May is not alone here. The regime she proposes is already in place in countries like Syria, Russia, and Iran (for the record, none of these countries have had much luck with it). There are two means by which authoritarian governments have attempted to restrict the use of secure technology: by network filtering and by technology mandates.

Theresa May has already shown that she believes she can order the nation’s ISPs to block access to certain websites (again, for the record, this hasn’t worked very well). The next step is to order Chinese-style filtering using deep packet inspection, to try and distinguish traffic and block forbidden programs. This is a formidable technical challenge. Intrinsic to core Internet protocols like IPv4/6, TCP and UDP is the potential to “tunnel” one protocol inside another. This makes the project of figuring out whether a given packet is on the white-list or the black-list transcendentally hard, especially if you want to minimise the number of “good” sessions you accidentally blackhole.

More ambitious is a mandate over which code operating systems in the UK are allowed to execute. This is very hard. We do have, in Apple’s Ios platform and various games consoles, a regime where a single company uses countermeasures to ensure that only software it has blessed can run on the devices it sells to us. These companies could, indeed, be compelled (by an act of Parliament) to block secure software. Even there, you’d have to contend with the fact that other EU states and countries like the USA are unlikely to follow suit, and that means that anyone who bought her Iphone in Paris or New York could come to the UK with all their secure software intact and send messages “we cannot read.”

But there is the problem of more open platforms, like GNU/Linux variants, BSD and other unixes, Mac OS X, and all the non-mobile versions of Windows. All of these operating systems are already designed to allow users to execute any code they want to run. The commercial operators — Apple and Microsoft — might conceivably be compelled by Parliament to change their operating systems to block secure software in the future, but that doesn’t do anything to stop people from using all the PCs now in existence to run code that the PM wants to ban.

More difficult is the world of free/open operating systems like GNU/Linux and BSD. These operating systems are the gold standard for servers, and widely used on desktop computers (especially by the engineers and administrators who run the nation’s IT). There is no legal or technical mechanism by which code that is designed to be modified by its users can co-exist with a rule that says that code must treat its users as adversaries and seek to prevent them from running prohibited code.

This, then, is what Theresa May is proposing:

  • All Britons’ communications must be easy for criminals, voyeurs and foreign spies to intercept
  • Any firms within reach of the UK government must be banned from producing secure software
  • All major code repositories, such as Github and Sourceforge, must be blocked
  • Search engines must not answer queries about web-pages that carry secure software
  • Virtually all academic security work in the UK must cease — security research must only take place in proprietary research environments where there is no onus to publish one’s findings, such as industry R&D and the security services
  • All packets in and out of the country, and within the country, must be subject to Chinese-style deep-packet inspection and any packets that appear to originate from secure software must be dropped
  • Existing walled gardens (like Ios and games consoles) must be ordered to ban their users from installing secure software
  • Anyone visiting the country from abroad must have their smartphones held at the border until they leave
  • Proprietary operating system vendors (Microsoft and Apple) must be ordered to redesign their operating systems as walled gardens that only allow users to run software from an app store, which will not sell or give secure software to Britons
  • Free/open source operating systems — that power the energy, banking, ecommerce, and infrastructure sectors — must be banned outright

Theresa May will say that she doesn’t want to do any of this. She’ll say that she can implement weaker versions of it — say, only blocking some “notorious” sites that carry secure software. But anything less than the programme above will have no material effect on the ability of criminals to carry on perfectly secret conversations that “we cannot read”. If any commodity PC or jailbroken phone can run any of the world’s most popular communications applications, then “bad guys” will just use them. Jailbreaking an OS isn’t hard. Downloading an app isn’t hard. Stopping people from running code they want to run is — and what’s more, it puts the whole nation — individuals and industry — in terrible jeopardy.

That’s a technical argument, and it’s a good one, but you don’t have to be a cryptographer to understand the second problem with back doors: the security services are really bad at overseeing their own behaviour.

Once these same people have a back door that gives them access to everything that encryption protects, from the digital locks on your home or office to the information needed to clean out your bank account or read all your email, there will be lots more people who’ll want to subvert the vast cohort that is authorised to use the back door, and the incentives for betraying our trust will be much more lavish than anything a tabloid reporter could afford.

If you want a preview of what a back door looks like, just look at the US Transportation Security Administration’s “master keys” for the locks on our luggage. Since 2003, the TSA has required all locked baggage travelling within, or transiting through, the USA to be equipped with Travelsentry locks, which have been designed to allow anyone with a widely held master key to open them.

What happened after Travelsentry went into effect? Stuff started going missing from bags. Lots and lots of stuff. A CNN investigation into thefts from bags checked in US airports found thousands of incidents of theft committed by TSA workers and baggage handlers. And though “aggressive investigation work” has cut back on theft at some airports, insider thieves are still operating with impunity throughout the country, even managing to smuggle stolen goods off the airfield in airports where all employees are searched on their way in and out of their work areas.

The US system is rigged to create a halo of buck-passing unaccountability. When my family picked up our bags from our Easter holiday in the US, we discovered that the TSA had smashed the locks off my nearly new, unlocked, Travelsentry-approved bag, taping it shut after confirming it had nothing dangerous in it, and leaving it “completely destroyed” in the words of the official BA damage report. British Airways has sensibly declared the damage to be not their problem, as they had nothing to do with destroying the bag. The TSA directed me to a form that generated an illiterate reply from a government subcontractor, sent from a do-not-reply email address, advising that “TSA is not liable for any damage to locks or bags that are required to be opened by force for security purposes” (the same note had an appendix warning me that I should treat this communication as confidential). I’ve yet to have any other communications from the TSA.

Making it possible for the state to open your locks in secret means that anyone who works for the state, or anyone who can bribe or coerce anyone who works for the state, can have the run of your life. Cryptographic locks don’t just protect our mundane communications: cryptography is the reason why thieves can’t impersonate your fob to your car’s keyless ignition system; it’s the reason you can bank online; and it’s the basis for all trust and security in the 21st century.

Martha Lane Fox recalled Aaron Swartz’s words: “It’s not OK not to understand the internet anymore.” That goes double for cryptography: any politician caught spouting off about back doors is unfit for office anywhere but Hogwarts, which is also the only educational institution whose computer science department believes in “golden keys” that only let the right sort of people break your encryption. –

BOING BOING

Posted in CRYPTO | 1 Comment

What to Do with Islamic State Returnees?

………………In a letter to his family in Germany, he wrote: “I miss you very much. Maybe you’ve heard I’ve been captured?” The letter was delivered via the Red Cross from a detention camp near the northern Syriantown of Qamishli. In another letter, he wrote: “Mama, please let me know how you’re all doing and whether you know how to get me out of here. What do the authorities say? I just want to come home. I want to get out of here.”

Bajram G., 25, is a German citizen and the son of immigrants from Kosovo. He was only 20-years-old and still in school when he disappeared from Germany and, according to investigators, joined Islamic State (IS). He is one of thousands of Islamists who left Europe to join the fight, a large number of whom are now sitting in prisons run by the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia YPG. These fighters of the “Caliphate” have now become prisoners of war.

The German government must now grapple with several difficult questions: How should it deal with these prisoners of war? Must someone like Bajram G. be repatriated? What would be done with him once he returned? So far, Berlin has yet to come up with any concrete answers.

Playing for Time

Authorities have been deliberating for some time about what to do with the overseas IS fighters. In the past few weeks, the defeat of the militant group has become tangible, with the last remaining fighters having barricaded themselves in an area smaller than a single square kilometer. Many foreign fighters have spent months, or even years, in prisons in northern Syria and Iraq — so far, without much prospect of ever returning home.

In recent months, the Syrian Kurds and their U.S. allies have pressured the Europeans to take back their citizens and put them on trial. But so far, the Europeans have been playing for time.

According to German diplomats, Berlin made the decision to not to get too involved with the imprisoned jihadists. “Our marching orders were, ‘We’re actually required to, but we’re not going to,'” says one official. Now, however, the clock on this evasive tactic has run out.

A recent tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump put the issue at the top of the agenda: “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them……..”

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-ponders-what-to-do-with-islamic-state-returnees-a-1254631.html#ref=nl-international

Posted in CIA, HomeLand Security, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Iran Builds A New Tanker At Sadra

Iran’s Sadra Island shipyard is currently constructing another AFRAMAX tanker, satellite imagery acquired by Planet Labs confirms.

Workers at the shipyard began laying the keel in late April 2018 but very little progress was made until November — the targeted month for the return of U.S. oil sanctions. New international orders have not been revealed in public reporting which suggests that the tanker will be delivered to the domestic market (despite denials). Additional crude carriers have not been built at the shipyard since Iran negotiated the construction of three Venezuelan AFRAMAX vessels for PDVSA. The PDVSA tankers however were quietly cancelled and the first vessel, which Iran completed, was sold to a third party. Notably, infrastructure upgrades at the Sadra Island yard remain incomplete. The Goliath crane that was erected in 2012 to help speed-up the delivery of the Venezuelan order has never been utilized. The rail on which the crane may eventually operate still appears inoperable. Additional reclamation activity however has been ongoing throughout 2018, according to imagery.

Between November 2018 and January 2019, new sections of the vessel’s keel were laid in the drydock. These sections were originally part of Venezuela’s second ship and they’ve been sitting next to the dock since 2012. In 2016, President Rouhani’s government placed a 10-tanker order for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy, sparking tensions with Iran’s IRGC-associated Khatam Al-Anbia Construction HQ. General Ebadollah Abdollahi, former commander of the group, publicly described the order as “treason”. “The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line’s disrespect for the domestic potentials is a treason,” Abdollahi was quoted as saying. In response, Abdollahi echoed a proposal for a consortium between Sadra and ISOICO shipyards to construct the 10 vessels. However to date, ISOICO has never finished a tanker. The one tanker ISOICO attempted to construct in the late 2000s still remains at the Bostanu-based shipyard without its deck house. All things considered, domestic actors may have little confidence in the ability of Iran’s shipyard to deliver the order. But of course, Iran may not have much choice. Over half the vessels the regime operates are more than 15 years old, and oil tankers typically have a lifespan of 20-25 years.

Bottom Line: No Iranian shipyard has fulfilled an order to successfully construct a crude carrier for a domestic customer despite the extraction of rents to do so. However, with the implementation of new sanctions, Iran may be forced back into self-reliance as its crude fleet continues to age.

Posted in Security and Intelligence, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Spy Who Overthrew Macedonia’s Government

For two years, he had watched his country slip into what he thought was a dictatorship. Then the engineer, who had been working for the secret service for 25 years, threw himself into a quest that was much more likely to get him arrested than to overthrow the government.

Borjan Jovanovski

Eventually, it did both.

Lazarevski was one of the three Macedonian intelligence agents who helped topple the allegedly corrupt and authoritarian regime of the then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski by leaking hundreds of thousands of audio files. The recordings had been made by regime loyalists from his agency while illegally wiretapping thousands of Macedonians over three years.

occrp

Gjorgi Lazarevski, a former Macedonian intelligence officer who helped expose a massive wiretapping scheme that brought down the government.  (Credit: Nova TV)

Lazarevski had known about the massive interception of conversations — which took place without court orders — since 2008. But when he saw special forces raiding A1 TV, a station that had been critical of the government, he finally had enough.

“It was a shock for us,” Lazarevski remembered.

“I did not expect to experience such a thing in Macedonia,” he told OCCRP.

With Zvonko Kostovski, a colleague who worked on the unlawful surveillance but felt the same way about it, Lazaraveski developed a plan.

Kostovski would secretly make copies of the controversial files and Lazarevski would take them out of the building and decrypt them on a private computer.

Thousands of Macedonians, including ministers, government employees, journalists, and judges were wiretapped. The two agents often could not believe what they were hearing: Conversations that revealed high-level corruption; government influence of prosecutors, judges and media; extortion of businesses; discussions of politically-motivated arrests, election-rigging, and even attempts to cover up a murder.

At first, the two agents worked alone. But the scope of wrongdoing revealed in the files kept growing, and they soon discovered that even Gruevski’s Interior Minister, Gordana Jankulovska, had been wiretapped.

That’s when the two agents realized the magnitude of the information they were sitting on and started to consider bringing in someone else.

They approached Zoran Verusevski, the former chief of intelligence.

“Both Zvonko and I trusted Verushevski,” Lazarevski said. “He used to be our superior. He is a professor, and he’s the one who taught me that corruption is the biggest threat to the security of a state.“

Meanwhile, in 2013, police conducted an operation codenamed “Spy,” aimed at finding moles within the agency. Afraid of being exposed, Lazarevski quit his job.

“An atmosphere of fear had been created,” he said. “Everyone was scared.”

Kostovski was also afraid — but Verushevski convinced the two that they were “on the right side.” He soon shared the audio files with Zoran Zaev, head of the country’s opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia.

In a September 2014 TV interview, Zaev announced that he would soon make big revelations he referred to as “bombs.”

Macedonia started to simmer.

But a few months later, after searching Verushevski’s computer and finding his correspondence with Lazarevski, the police arrested him on January 23, 2015.

This is what prompted Lazarevski to go to the Ministry of Interior and report the wiretapping.

“I testified in front of a colleague in the police station. There was a prosecutor in the next room,” Lazarevski said.

“I told the truth to two institutions, but instead of giving me the status of a whistleblower, I was charged with espionage,” he said, describing the drama he, his family, and the whole country were going through.

In response, three days later, Zaev played the first batch of the audio files to reporters, exposing pressure on the judiciary, election rigging, and corruption.

He continued to play the files in a series of weekly press conferences, shocking the public with revelations about the brutality of Gruevski’s regime.

Macedonians heard orders to beat opposition politicians, to set regime opponents’ properties ablaze, threats of murder, and corrupt deals.

Gruevski counterattacked, accusing the foreign intelligence services of manufacturing the recordings in order to “brutally destroy” his party and the country.

Macedonia boiled over.

Days-long street protests staged by Gruevski supporters on one side and Zaev supporters on the other brought the country to a halt, prompting the European Union to get involved. The EU negotiated early elections and the appointment of a special prosecutor mandated to look into the scandal.

Gruevski had wiretapped allies and opponents alike.

An investigation conducted by experts hired by the European Commission concluded that his government had misused the security service “to control top officials in the public administration, prosecutors, judges and political opponents.”

In December 2015, Zaev submitted 606,555 audio files of the illegally wiretapped conversations to the new Special Prosecutor’s Office.

In May 2017, he won the elections, but because of obstructions by Gruevski’s supporters, he was able to form his government only half a year later.

Kostovski, Lazarevski, and Verushevski watched most of this from their jail cells, where they spent 11 months before the Special Prosecutor’s Office dropped the charges against them.

At the same time, prosecutors opened a new investigation into the former minister of interior, the intelligence chief, and his closest associates.

“While I was in custody, my optimism was upheld by the everyday events that were leading towards the breakdown of the system I thought was impossible to crush,” Lazarevski said.

“People were thrilled with the developments and that gave me strength,” he added.

It was painful to hear a colleague in the intelligence service defending Gruevski’s regime and accusing Lazarevski and his co-conspirators of “undermining the reputation of the service.”

“I think that we saved the reputation of that institution,” he said. In fact, he added, it was the employees who watched what was happening in silence who undermined its reputation.

Now, though he still feels guilty for what the three families went through, Lazarevski looks back at the episode with no remorse.

“The pleasure of knowing that we managed to unmask an evil system is great,” he said. “What happened was exactly what I wanted. It ended like a fairy tale.”

“I did not live in vain.”

 

Posted in ESPIONAGE, Uncategorized | Leave a comment