01 SEP 2017 – Executive Intelligence Summary – Forward Observer Shop

01 SEP 2017 – Executive Intelligence Summary


In this EXSUM… (2707 words)

  • Biggest U.S. power grid operator suffers thousands of attempted cyber attacks per month
  • Russia, China, North Korea, and Middle East Situation Reports (SITREPs)
  • Defense in Brief
  • Far Left Roll-Up
  • And more…

Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of systems disruption or instability that could lead to civil unrest or violence?

PIR2: What are the new indicators of an outbreak of global conflict?

PIR3: What are the new indicators of organized political violence and domestic conflict?


PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption that could lead to instability, civil unrest, or violence?

Hurricane Irma latest to target U.S. coast

Swirling in the Atlantic Ocean with its sights set on the U.S. coast, Hurricane Irma might reach Category 5 strength before nearing the U.S. sometime next week.  Computer models predicting the path of Irma vary, however, they trend towards strafing the coast as opposed to hitting it head on.  You can track hurricane developments at http://nhc.noaa.gov.


Biggest U.S. power grid operator suffers thousands of attempted cyber attacks per month

The nation’s largest grid operator has admitted how serious the cyber threat is to power infrastructure. After a meeting last week with President Trump’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council, PJM Interconnection’s former CEO, Terry Boston, said the utility experiences 3,000-4,000 hacking attempts every month. Because of the severity of the problem, Boston wants to see Energy Department personnel with top security clearances working alongside company employees to better coordinate with the federal government during cyber attacks.

Other industry officials at the meeting said they are also concerned that without a federal response to cyber threats that is coordinated and proactive, the nation is risking an attack on its power grid that is comparable to the 9/11 terrorist attack. [source]


PIR2: What are the current indicators of an outbreak of global conflict?


The Russian government on Tuesday moved to calm fears that massive war games scheduled to begin next month are not a precursor to an invasion of Poland, Lithuania, or Ukraine.  The games, Zapad-2017 (West 2017), are designed to be defensive in nature, Moscow said, but U.S. and NATO military officials remain wary nonetheless.

Russia has used the cover of war games in the past to launch military action against Georgia and Ukraine; for Zapad 2017, Russian training will take place in ally Belarus, and U.S. and NATO officials think that Moscow may leave behind equipment there for later use — “Trojan horse,” as Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army’s top general in Europe, has said.  Here’s a map of where Zapad exercises are scheduled to be held.  The boundaries in green are Russia and Belarus, with exercises taking place on the border of NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says he thinks “substantially more” Russian troops will be taking part in the exercises than the Kremlin has announced. He added that the alliance will be paying close attention to the exercises.

The drills will be held from Sept. 14 to 20 in Belarus, western Russia and Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad. The Kremlin said the drills will simulate an attack by extremist groups.

NATO expects up to 100,000 troops and civilians to be involved in Zapad this month.  Almost 700 pieces of military hardware will be deployed, including almost 250 tanks, 10 ships and various artillery and rocket systems. [source]

In recent days U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Ukraine and held talks with President Petro Poroshenko to discuss, among other things, Ukraine’s request for the U.S. to provide his country with lethal military assistance. Up to this point, the United States has only been providing Ukraine with non-lethal military aide. The Trump administration has not yet announced what it will do, but a comment by Mattis dismissing a reporter’s suggestion that providing weapons would escalate the violence seems telling: “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”

Moscow has historically considered Ukraine well within its zone of influence. Putin’s seizure of Crimea and his ongoing support for the “rebels” battling against the Ukrainian government in the eastern part of the country is clear evidence he still believes that Ukraine ought to remain within Moscow’s zone of influence.


South China Sea SITREP

How the Chinese are planning to win a war in the South China Sea

China’s communist party leaders have wedded themselves and their future to exerting unchallenged influence over a busy, crowded body of water; parts of which many countries claim and where freedom of navigation has traditionally been guaranteed by the U.S. Navy.  And one way or another, party leaders aim to fulfill their pledge to the Chinese people to dominate in the South China Sea because at this point they have no other choice — even if that means using force.

For 20 years Beijing has invested in naval modernization that is being supported by ample shore-based weapons systems and an increasingly modern air force. In addition to adding aircraft carriers, China is building blue-water frigates and destroyers, as well as quiet diesel and nuclear-powered subs. During that time the communist party has praised the upgraded navy and proclaimed it will be used to assert Chinese sovereignty.

Could the U.S. Navy muster the firepower to oppose a truly assertive China on the South China Sea? Would Washington even want to risk a direct confrontation? Would Japan? Would any U.S. ally?  Working together with the U.S., ASEAN nations could more than likely assemble a force that could challenge and even defeat the Chinese. How willing are those countries to risk war with a nuclear-armed power that is also vital to their own economies?

China is probably considering a strategy to outlast the U.S., figuring that over time the American public (and Treasury) would simply decide the costs of keeping that waterway under democratic control are not worth it. That means Chinese forces don’t have to be better than American and coalition forces, just good enough to make it politically and economically painful to keep sending them.  China will continue to press its advantages in the South China Sea where it has them. There is no reason to expect that trend to end. Communist party leaders have made pledges they simply cannot break. [source]

Korean Peninsula SITREP

North Korea could use a low-tech option to attack South Korea

The North Korean air force is not something you’d describe as “modern” in any way, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be an effective tool with to attack South Korea and U.S. military forces.

Interestingly enough, the North possesses about 300 biplanes — 70-year-old Soviet-manufactured An-2 transport aircraft that can fly as slow as 30 miles an hour. While they’d be no match for anything the U.S. and South Korea would put in the air, they may indeed be more than a match for modern radar-controlled anti-air missile batteries. They fly so slowly, even being capable of going backwards in a strong headwind, they have a very low radar profile making them difficult to track. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is reportedly training special operations troops to parachute from An-2’s and conduct missions behind enemy lines. Each biplane can carry about a ton of cargo or 10 troops. They are capable of flying low to the earth making them nearly invisible to conventional radar and hard to spot by pilots flying in supersonic modern fighters. There are also fears that North Korea could load one of the planes with a nuclear weapon and detonate it over the South. [source]

Mideast SITREP

Israel may be laying the diplomatic groundwork for its next war with Hezbollah

Israeli defense officials have met with the top UN official, Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in Jerusalem and warned that Iran-backed Hezbollah was tightening its grip on Lebanon.

Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Directorate, said that Hezbollah had engaged in serious and prolonged violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and he called on the UN chief to guarantee that the world organization would do more to preserve the current peace and to prevent another war between Israel and the Iranian surrogate.

IDF officials have accused Hezbollah of violating the terms of the resolution several times in the past; the resolution was adopted to end the 2006 war between the Jewish state and the well-funded militant group. The mere presence of Hezbollah violates provisions within the agreement that prevent the presence of any armed factions in Lebanon save for the country’s Armed Forces. The agreement also bans any country from shipping weapons to any force inside Lebanon other than the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

Currently, Halevi noted, LAF and Hezbollah forces are fighting side-by-side in northeastern Lebanon against ISIS, which demonstrates that Hezbollah is firming its political and military control over the country.

Also, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has accused the UNIFIL’s leadership of failing to endorse its mandate, while Hezbollah is preparing a new for war, “arming itself with more lethal and accurate weapons to harm the Israeli home front.”

During is meeting with Guterres, Halevi provided the UN leader with additional intelligence showing Iran becoming more entrenched in Syria, as well as Iran’s efforts to produce precision weapons for Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

“The consolidation of Iran and the Shi’ite axis in Syria and the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon are two processes that could lead to an undesirable escalation in the northern front,” Halevi said. [source]

Israel has been carefully watching as Iran continues to spread its influence throughout the Middle East on its way to become the dominant power and regional hegemonic power. If the Israelis get intelligence that Iran is preparing to strike the Jewish state — say, with a nuclear weapon at some point in the future — Tel Aviv would not hesitate to strike first. So Israeli leaders certainly would not think twice about attacking, preemptively if necessary, an Iranian proxy like Hezbollah or Hamas.

The Israelis are doing due diligence in the intelligence sector, as always; they now appear to be laying the diplomatic groundwork for a future strike against Hezbollah, which the Israelis believe is their foremost strategic threat.

Israeli leaders know that Hezbollah and Iran have used the Syrian conflict as a means of improving their positions near the Golan Heights and other parts of southern Syria. Israel won’t long tolerate a steadily strengthening Iranian presence on its border.


Defense in brief

U.S. tests new nuclear bomb

The Pentagon announced this week a successful test of its new B61-12 nuclear bomb, a test that was actually carried out earlier this month but announced this week — not so ironically as tensions ramped up once more with North Korea. The new weapon is scalable, meaning it will have an adjustable nuclear yield that limits collateral damage. It is also very highly maneuverable, and is expected to give military planners (and presidents) far more options if the situation ever arises where the U.S. would have to engage in a nuclear response to an attack. [source]

F-22’s replacement is beginning to take form

The U.S. Air Force is finalizing requirements for its new fighter jet, which is expected to replace the F-22 Raptor and enter service sometime in the 2030s. The concept is known as “Penetrating Counter Air” and is expected to maintain a technological edge over competitors in its air superiority role. A sixth-generation plane, it is expected to incorporate several technologies that only exist now on designers’ drawing boards. The service is emphasizing stealth, range, and the ability to fly escort duty for B-2 and, eventually, B-21 bombers over peer competitor nations like China and Russia, missions that were unfathomable only five years ago. Two major design changes: An engine that utilizes “three-stream propulsion” involving a third air stream; and an aircraft that comes without vertical tail fins, because they make planes — even stealth planes — much more visible on certain types of radars. [source]

Trump’s no micromanager and our top commanders find that refreshing

During his last briefing as commander of the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend addressed a common frustration among military commanders during the Obama presidency. The former commander-in-chief was a micromanager, apparently, and the current commander-in-chief…isn’t. “We don’t get second-guessed along. Our judgement here on the battlefield in the forward areas is trusted. And we don’t get 20 questions with every action that happens on the battlefield and every action that we take. I don’t know of a commander in our armed forces that doesn’t appreciate that.” One of Trump’s first actions as commander-in-chief was to delegate more authority to field commanders to make tactical decisions without have to first get permission from Washington. Under Obama, even small requests were subjected to a review process that often took days. Such requests may be as simple as wanting to move forces on the battlefield, and most required long decision memos for Obama to peruse and assess. Allowing field commanders to actually be field commanders is the American way of war dating back to the Revolutionary period, and it was also a tactical advantage our commanders had over Soviet and Chinese field commanders. It’s good to see the concept reinforced once again. [source]

PIR3: What are the new indicators of organized political violence and domestic conflict?

Is the tide turning against Antifa violence?

While long-lauded among the Left for their anti-racist and anti-fascist stance — not to mention their anti-capitalist stance — parts of the Left are beginning to turn on Antifa after continued violence.  Just this week, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) condemned Antifa violence, which was followed by The Daily Show’s famously liberal Trevor Noah who did the same.  “Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts,” Pelosi said in a statement. [source and source]  Op-eds in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Diego Union-Tribune, The American Spectator, and other major news outlets this week have called into question the idea that Antifa’s violence furthers the Leftist cause.  Even Berkeley’s pro-Antifa mayor recently called to label Antifa as a criminal gang. [source]

Similar to what we saw during the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Left loves the cause but is beginning to dislike the tactics of its militant wing.  The simple explanation is that Leftist violence makes martyrs and heroes out of the Alt-Right members and conservatives who are attacked.  That pits the Left as the oppressors at a time when they’re trying to frame the argument as the Right Wing who are the oppressors.

Most of these opinion-editorials cite opposition to political violence for one of two reasons.  The first — the more altruistic — is that violence begets violence and Antifa’s political violence is just asking for harsher attacks from the Right.  But the second reason, what I would describe as more prevalent among the Left, is that Antifa violence actually empowers the Right and, for that reason, the violence is bad.  What the Alt-Left needs to justify future violence is a rallying cause; a “Remember the Alamo” moment — perhaps an attack that could be described as terrorism — that will galvanize support for violence.

Who’s afraid of Antifa?

Todd Gitlin, a sociology and journalism professor at Columbia University,” wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times with some observations of the Antifa movement.  Gitlin, a radical himself in his younger days, says that Antifa could pose a threat because “antifa groups are willing to use force when needed” and that “provoking them can trigger a self-fulfilling prophecy.”  He continues his observations:  “[M]any antifa activists do not think strategically about whom they alienate. They are convinced that the hour for normal politics has passed, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Gatlin says that Antifa will probably grow in size, which means that the likelihood of future clashes is also high; that includes the likelihood of “armed showdowns.”  [source]

Far Left Roll-Up

FL: Florida CPUSA plans work against Trump

MO: St. Louis CPUSA on the move!

NV: Hundreds rally for BLM in Reno

PA: Antifa is strong in Philly

WI: Building mass antifascism in Milwaukee

WI: Resistance to Line 3 pipeline increases

FBI, DHS warn of more Antifa violence

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