Strategic Intelligence Summary for 03 May 2018 – Forward Observer Shop

Strategic Intelligence Summary for 03 May 2018

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Strategic Intelligence subscribers.

In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (5,084 words)

  • Philippines leader Duterte says he’s not abandoning court victory over South China Sea areas  
  • U.S. ‘won’t take the bait’ regarding Chinese military flights near Taiwan 
  • Armed Russian robots make their combat debut 
  • Spokesman for Islamic State says ‘new phase’ of jihad has been launched 
  • DARPA wants to combine ethical hackers and AI to better secure the Pentagon’s computers ‘
  • Big news’ said to be coming on hypersonic from the U.S. Air Force 
  • Israel’s intelligence coup against Iran reveals much
  • And more…

In Focus: Will Donald Trump go down in history as the American president who tamed the Korean peninsula? There is much speculation about it — some are even talking about Trump being a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize — but there remains plenty of skepticism about whether Kim Jong-un is really serious about denuclearization or whether this is just another in a long line of ploys by North Korean leaders to buy more time to develop a viable, credible nuclear deterrent. As many resources have been put into the program over the years, and with the most recent advances made in the program, it’s just difficult to imagine Kim abandoning the one capability that would safeguard his rule for a lifetime. It’s also understandable to believe that he has been convinced — by his own advisers and by the Chinese — that Trump is serious about relieving him of his nuclear capability. The Chinese are obviously calling the shots though, as I reveal more evidence of this in PIR 3 below.

As Korea may be on a path to peace, the Middle East remains a cauldron of war. I’ve been watching the Israel-Iran situation, vis a vis Syria, for some time now, and the situation there seems ever closer to all-out war. In fact, some American officials have discussed that very scenario — open warfare between Iran and its proxies and Israel — as being imminent. Israel’s intelligence coup (in PIR 4) against Iran, exposing its secret nuclear weapons program, was accompanied by more airstrikes against Iranian military assets and personnel in Syria this week, as both countries now seem destined for war on some level. Iran is in a position to strike Israel like never before; Israel won’t be blindsided by Iranian intentions. Syria is the key.

There’s much more. Welcome to this week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary and thank you for subscribing We welcome your feedback. — JD

Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

PIR4: What activities are foreign intelligence services directing against the United States or allies?

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

Philippines leader Duterte says he’s not abandoning court victory over South China Sea areas

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte told Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xhan Phuc last week he’s not abandoning an international court ruling in favor of the Philippines and against China over rival South China Sea claims, but rather said the decision “will be addressed at the proper time”. “He wants the totality of the West Philippine Sea controversy settled under the rule of law and pursuant to the binding norms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Harry Roque, a member of the 17th Philippines Congress, said. The 2016 ruling by the International Court of Arbitration said that China’s claims on an island in the Philippines’ economic exclusion zone are illegal under international law, but China has ignored the ruling. Vietnam and fellow ASEAN countries Brunei and Malaysia, the Philippines has competing claims against Beijing in the South China Sea. Duterte, who was elected in mid-2016, is facing criticism within his country for favoring Chinese investment and economic ties over his country’s sovereign claims, but he has said in the past Beijing threatened war if Manila sought to enforce the ruling. [source]

U.S. ‘won’t take the bait’ regarding Chinese military flights near Taiwan

In recent months China has stepped up military pressure against Taiwan, a self-governing island — protected by the United States via treaty — that Beijing claims as its own. Chinese activities have included flights of military aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable strategic bombers, as a show of force. But the Trump administration isn’t jumping up and down about the flights and sail-by’s involving Chinese warships. Thomas Harvey III, acting secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities at the Pentagon, said China’s military moves were an attempt at “intimidation,” but that the U.S. is “mindful of the problems with” those “challenges and potential escalation,” declaring that Washington won’t “take the bait and respond” to Beijing’s actions. Harvey, who advises Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on national security strategy, noted however that the U.S. sent a pair of B-52 bombers about 110 miles off China’s Guangdong Province’s coastline last week. He added that war and conflict is “always a possibility when you have military operated in the same space.” [source]

Armed Russian robots make their combat debut

Russian operatives deployed an armed robot in a gun battle that left 11 jihadist fighters dead as they attempt to clamp down on extremists ahead of the World Cup. Russian counterterrorism forces engaged a group of extremists in the Islamic region of Dagestan over several days last month. In dramatic footage, a compact armed robot is seen approaching an area to engage the jihadist fighters. Later footage shows the bullet-riddled bodies of six men. Video and audio recordings were taken by the robot during the engagement. No police or special operators were injured in the engagement. [source]

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries? 

Spokesman for Islamic State says ‘new phase’ of jihad has been launched

In a recently-released lengthy speech from the spokesman for the Islamic State’s Al-Furqan Media, Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir summarized his organization’s ongoing war against its large number of enemies both in the Middle East and around the world. The group is far from conceding defeat; in fact, al-Muhajir says the fight will go on. He said that the Islamic State’s members have gone into a “new phase” in the “path of jihad” as others “inherit what is left behind by America” when the U.S. withdraws from the region. He claimed that America would leave Syria and Iraq after the “mujahideen exhausted it,” and he claims that the U.S. is “incapable of countering” the Russians and Iranians who continue to expand their presence and influence in Syria and Iraq. Now, al-Muhajir says ISIS must “prepare” for its next state of war against the “Magi” Russians and Iranians in response to their scorched-earth tactics in the Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria. And he says that survivors of the Islamic State should maintain “secrecy” while searching for enemy weaknesses. [source] Analyst comment: It’s not yet clear what President Trump’s long-term strategy is in the Middle East but now that the bulk of the Islamic State has at least been dismantled and scattered, it’s safe to assume the president’s emphasis will be on countering Iran, which is a far bigger regional threat to peace. That said, ISIS formed once (and seemingly very quickly) to fill a vacuum left in large part by departing U.S. forces in 2011. Trump’s national security team knows that; one way the White House may attempt to mitigate a new ISIS presence is by forming an Arab coalition in the region in which the U.S. military would remain but in a smaller, overarching capacity rather than form the main bulk of ground forces. It’s clear from this message that ISIS will remain a long-term threat and as such there would be a need for a counter-force. 

DARPA wants to combine ethical hackers and AI to better secure the Pentagon’s computers

In an effort to leverage the Pentagon’s highly-skilled, highly-trained — and very limited numbers of — hackers, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to ‘arm’ them with artificial intelligence. Presently, DoD hackers scour the Pentagon’s vast computer networks — which control virtually all functions of military operations — but it’s an immensely difficult and time-consuming process. Hackers use specialized software suites to conduct vulnerability tests of DoD networks to locate vulnerabilities, but there are too few ethical hackers for the size of the Pentagon’s networks. DARPA believes AI can substantially bolster the capability of DoD’s current number of ethical hackers, and thus allow them to more confidently — and more quickly — better defend the networks from cyber attack and exposure by near-peer competitors. “The program aims to incorporate automation into the software analysis and vulnerability discovery process by enabling humans and computers to reason collaboratively. If successful, the program could enhance existing hacking techniques and greatly expand the number of personnel capable of ethically hacking DoD systems.” [source]

‘Big news’ said to be coming on hypersonic from the U.S. Air Force

Air Force officials hinted last week that “big news” was coming regarding the development of a hypersonic vehicle, and that likely means, according to analysts, that faster development is possible. This would come on the heels of a large funding increase recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump specifically for the development of hypersonic capabilities. Dr. Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics teased that in a few weeks we could expect an announcement that “a significant acceleration is doable” of the hypersonic missile program, which is a Pentagon priority. But that’s all he would say at a recent press gaggle with defense reporters. [source] Analyst comment: If this pans out, that would be a very good thing considering that the U.S. is believed to be behind China and Russia on the development of missile-defense-evading hypersonic weapons.

NATO stages successful cyber defense exercise

U.S. and NATO forces conducted a successful cyber defense exercise in Tallin, Estonia, last week in which defenders were challenged to respond to high-intensity attacks on IT systems and critical infrastructure in a fictitious country. The exercise was led by the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) agency, whose “blue team” of 30 cyber specialists defended the fictitious country’s power grid, 4G public safety networks, drone operations and other critical infrastructure against 4,000 virtualized systems and some 2,500 attacks. [source] Analyst comment: This is just another reminder of how big a role cyber will play in future conflicts. Nations who don’t take cyber offense and defense seriously are not likely going to win a future war against an aggressor who has even modest cyber capabilities.

USS Abraham Lincoln completes combat qualification trials

The Nimitz-class carrier tested the ship’s defense capabilities during Combat Systems Qualification Trials from April 20-May 2. That included testing the carrier’s ability to safely and effectively operation onboard weapons systems such as the close-in weapons system, rolling airframe missile launchers, and the enhanced NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System. “This evolution is important to our operational readiness as it provides the opportunity for Combat Direction Center [CDC] watchstanders and gunners to train like they will fight by engaging moving targets and drones with live weapons,” said Abraham Lincoln’s Operations Officer Cmdr. Derek Fix. Testing combat systems puts the carrier one step closer to operational readiness and fleet deployment. [source]

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)


Russia has been using its combat experiences in Syria and Ukraine to improve its command-and-control (C2) on the battlefield, moving from C2 theory to C2 in practice. The Russian general staff has long sought to optimize C2, and the Russian military has shown remarkable advances along these lines since armed forces reforms began in 2008 (the year Russia invaded Georgia). The gap between Russian military theory and capability is rapidly closing. These advances are being coupled with improvement in Russian forces’ intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), along with the integration of communications and computers (C4ISR) as they pertain to modern combat operations, theoretical discussions and actual experimentation in the field. The improvements in these areas may have played out following the United States-led bombings in Syria on 14 April, allegedly in retaliation for the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its citizens. Russia threatened retaliation against enemy platforms and missiles under certain circumstances, leading to precision strikes on the part of the attackers. The conduct of the strikes in conjunction with Russian threats and aspects of Moscow’s subsequent disinformation campaign has led some experts to conclude Russia now has a credible stand-off strike capability.

The increased C4ISR capabilities aside, it is apparent that Western economic sanctions are having an effect on the Russian economy. The Russian government has cut military spending for the first time in 19 years, according to a Swiss research institute by a very substantial, 20 percent. The report noted: “The Russian economy has suffered a number of setbacks since 2014, including a significant drop in oil revenues, and government spending has been falling since then. However, military spending kept increasing until 2017 [Ed. Note: likely because modernization programs were vital] when it fell for the first time [last year] since 1998.” At the same time, other European countries have increased there military spending — in part because President Trump prodded them to do so (NATO especially) and in part because of Russian military modernization programs and Moscow’s threatening behavior.

Russian media reports that a Project 949A Antey nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine billed as a “carrier-killer” will take part in the country’s Main Naval Parade in St. Petersburg later this year. Assigned to the Northern Fleet and also designated “Oscar II” by NATO, the Russian navy is scheduled to receive four of these subs by 2021, though with budget cuts coming for the military, it’s possible delivery dates may be pushed back. This is actually a modernization effort that includes upgrades to electronic and communication suites as well as the addition of new weapons. The vessel’s 24 P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles are to be replaced with up to 72 newer P-800 Oniks or Kalibr missiles. The subs can also launch nuclear-tipped anti-sub and anti-ship missiles and are said to be on par with American Ohio-class ballistic missile subs, which are actually larger. Eleven in this class were built; eight are currently in operation.

The military is expected to roll out its new hypersonic missile for the first time during the upcoming Victory Day parade that Moscow says is capable of destroying aircraft carriers. The missile, called the Kinzhal, was first mentioned by President Putin during his annual address to Parliament in March. It is believed the missile can travel at 10 times the speed of sound and defeat existing missile defense systems. Currently, a battery of these missiles is deployed in ‘test mode’ in the Southern Military District. It should be noted that Russia is also working on a nuclear warhead that is small enough to be fitted to a cruise missile. 

Middle East: 

Some of the biggest Middle East news this week is the ‘global press conference’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he laid out reams of evidence the Iranians are cheating on the so-called “nuclear agreement” made with the Obama administration (for more on how Israel obtained this intelligence, see PIR 4 in this edition). “Iran did not come clean on its nuclear program,” he said in a speech that came on the heels of Israeli airstrikes against a pair of Iranian bases in neighboring Syria and as President Trump is nearing a decision on whether he wants the U.S. to remain in the deal. In presenting 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs, Netanyahu claimed that Iran hid an “atomic archive” of documents on its nuclear program. “This is an original Iranian presentation from these files,” Netanyahu said, emphasizing that “the mission statement is to design, produce and test five warheads with 10 kilotons of TNT yield for integration on missiles.” The Islamic nation is “blatantly lying” when it claims it does not have a nuclear weapons program, said the Israeli leader, referring to a secret Iranian nuclear project codenamed “Amad” which he said was largely abandoned in 2003, though field work had continued. “After signing the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret files,” said Netanyahu. “In 2017 Iran moved its nuclear weapons files to a highly secret location in Tehran.” He added that documents indicate Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant was “designed from the get-go for nuclear weapons project Amad. We can now prove that project Amad was a comprehensive program to design, build and test nuclear weapons,” he said. “We can also prove that Iran is secretly storing project Amad material to use at a time of its choice to develop nuclear weapons.”

Israel is also calling on Russia for assurances the advanced air defense systems it is providing to Syria won’t be used to target Israeli warplanes, while at the same time calling on Moscow to condemn Iran for its threats against the Jewish state. “We have normal relations with Russia and we take into account its interests. We hope that Russia will take into account our interests here in the Middle East. We expect Russia’s understanding and support for our vital interests,”  he said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant. “Iran’s leaders come out every week with statements that they will destroy the Zionist entity. Unfortunately, we do not see an unequivocal reaction from Western Europe or Russia, which is very careful to remember everything that happened in World War II. And we expect a clear and unequivocal response by Russia to Iran’s declarations and actions,” Liberman added, noting that Israel has always had “special relations” with Russia. Liberman than reiterated Israel’s long-held position that it won’t tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria. “As far as I am concerned, Assad is a war criminal, responsible for the deaths of more than half a million citizens of his country. But we are not going to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs. What we will not tolerate is Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into an outpost against Israel. Any attempt by Iran to establish itself in Syria will be thwarted,” he said.

That said, Israel appears to be making additional preparations for open war with Iran. On 29 April, Israeli F-15s carried out another strike on a Syrian military base after Iran transferred a batch of anti-aircraft missiles there, according to U.S. officials who spoke with American media. They said that Israel “seems to be preparing for open warfare with Iran and is seeking U.S. support,” the report noted. The strikes reportedly targeted the Syrian 47th Brigade base in the southern Hama district, as well as a military site in northwestern Hama and a facility north of the Aleppo International Airport. Iran was reportedly delivering weapons to bases that included surface-to-air missiles. Officials added that Iran has increased its weapons shipments in recent weeks via cargo flights that include small arms and anti-aircraft systems. Two U.S. officials said they believe the shipments are meant for use by Iranian ground forces against Israel. Iran-backed forces in the region claimed the strikes killed 16 — 11 Iranians among them — and destroyed as many as 200 missiles. “On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top… right now,” one U.S. official said.

As for Syria’s rebels, they appear to be on their last legs. Following a Russia-backed cease-fire, rebels have agreed to surrender an enclave north of Homs, the country’s third-largest city, following a relentless government bombardment and siege. Rebels will also evacuate Houla, Rastan, and Talbiseh, located north of Homs, thus allowing the Syrian army to reestablish government institutions. The deal allows the rebels to seek exile to northern Syria.

North Korea:

In the lead-up to the historic visit between the leaders of the two Koreas we learned more about why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have agreed to stop his nuclear tests and, perhaps, get rid of his weapons program. Chinese media reported that Kim’s nuclear test site collapsed after the most recent nuclear explosions, and when it did it exposed Chinese territory and other nearby countries to the unprecedented risk of radiation exposure, as confirmed by two separate groups of Chinese scientists. One of the researchers said that the collapse after five underground nuclear tests may indeed be why Kim has agreed to freeze his country’s testing. The past five of six North Korean nuclear tests were all carried out underneath Mount Mantap at the Punggye-re test site in the country’s northwest (nearest to China). One group of researchers said that the most recent explosion tore a hole in the mountain, which then collapsed in on itself. The second group said that the breakdown may have created a “chimney” allowing radioactive fallout to escape at some point by rising into the air. The research teams reportedly included geologists who concluded the mountain collapsed after the last test, which was accompanied by earthquakes that struck nearby regions. Earlier reports claimed that the Chinese were upset and concerned over the risk of North Korean nuclear radiation fallout. Another reason why Kim has expressed willingness to end underground nuclear tests is because they’ve completed all the tests necessary for their nuclear weapons program.

Some Chinese experts on North Korea have speculated that this incident is what spurred Kim’s sudden visit to China, where he likely received a frank and stark warning from his only ally, President Xi. And that warning could in turn have led Kim to decide it is better not to anger his only major ally while at the same time drawing increasing ire and threats of military action from the United States — hence his alleged desire and pledge to abandon his program altogether in exchange for security guarantees and the lifting of sanctions (the latter of which will only come if he agrees to allow for open inspections; he’s already said he would allow international media to witness the destruction of his nuclear infrastructure). To reinforce the importance China will play in any final agreement, Kim met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the headquarters of North Korea’s Worker’s Party this week, to smooth relations and reinforce the importance of their strategic relationship. Chinese media billed it as a ‘fend-mending’ visit and while that’s likely true, the visit signals the importance Beijing places on Kim’s upcoming meeting with President Trump. Noted one Korean expert in China, “Wang’s visit reaffirmed that Beijing is not being sidelined.”

There are other risks to North Korean denuclearization, by the way: What to do with Pyongyang’s nuclear scientists and any existing nuclear bombs? Because the North’s program has been so secretive, it’s difficult if not impossible to know where to find every vestige of Kim’s program. The North essentially built its program from the ground up — no doubt with some assistance along the way — and as such, there has to be a high degree of expertise residing in the country. So the risks of rogue nukes and rogue nuclear scientists remain high. We have to believe the U.S., South Korea, and China are well aware of this risks and likely prepared to mitigate them, but as former U.S. senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar wrote recently in an American newspaper, there are literally “thousands of North Korean scientists and engineers” who are “now employed making weapons of mass destruction.” If Kim really does end his program, that would “run the risk of proliferation” of the scientists’ “deadly knowledge to other states or terrorists.” The two senators — who were involved in denuclearizing former Soviet states after the fall of the USSR in 1991 — say mitigating the proliferation risk can be done safely if proper planning takes place. That might include something as simple as paying off those who work in Kim’s nuclear development or otherwise offering them gainful employment in a related field.

And of course, all of this is premised on Kim willingly giving up his program and then allowing outside inspectors to verify it. Already, there is some conflict as to the seriousness of Kim’s offer and claims. For example, regarding claims that the Punggye-ri test site may now be unusable: The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns-Hopkins, 38 North, says that recent satellite imagery indicates the site is still fully operational. “Following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test in September 2017, one area at the site—the North Portal, located at Mount Mantap where the last five underground nuclear tests had been conducted—was apparently abandoned. However, significant new tunneling was noted at the West Portal, another area of the site, up through early March 2018. That renewed tunneling was curtailed by mid-March, but not entirely stopped through early April, suggesting that either the tunnel was complete and ready for future renewed testing or that the slowdown simply mirrored the ongoing political changes underway. …In short, there is no basis to conclude that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is no longer viable for future nuclear testing. There remain two portal areas located in more pristine competent rock that can be used for future tests if Pyongyang were to give the order. Whether that will stay an option will depend on reaching verifiable agreements that build on Pyongyang’s pledge to shut down the facility.”

SC: Other analysts have noted, somewhat conspiratorially but still in the realm of possibility, that Kim’s plan may be more nefarious. Kim would promise denuclearization in return for a U.S. agreement to remove its forces from South Korea. Once U.S. forces are off the Peninsula, North Korea would launch an invasion of the South and threaten nuclear strikes if the U.S. intervened. That has to be on the minds of U.S. military and intelligence officials.

South China Sea:

A report from earlier this month said that the Chinese navy ‘challenged’ three Royal Australian Navy warships as they traversed the South China Sea (SCS) en route to a port call in Vietnam. The encounter led Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to assert the right of his navy and warships of other nations to sail in the waters despite China’s outsized claim to all of the South China Sea. Australian media confirmed that three warships — HMAS Anzac, HMAS Toowoomba and HMAS Success — were confronted by Chinese vessels as the PLA Navy conducted its largest-ever maritime exercises that involved the country’s sole aircraft carrier. “We maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world, and in this context, naval vessels on the world’s oceans including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law,” Turnbull said. But the message is clear: China intends to continue pursuing its claims and in doing so will continue ‘challenging’ foreign navies, especially those of weaker (or perceived to be weaker) nations. This will draw unwanted attention from the United States, especially as U.S. allies in Asia press the Trump administration for additional naval resources and security guarantees.

All of which may lead to war, according to U.S. Navy Adm. Phil Davidson, who has been tapped by Defense Secretary Mattis to head up U.S. Pacific Command, succeeding outgoing PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris, who will become U.S. Ambassador to Australia (and who will be invaluable to the Australians as they seek to shore up security and build naval power as China continues to advance). In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Davidson wrote, “In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.” “Once occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,” Davidson said in reference to the island forward operating bases Beijing has already built. “The PLA will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.” He recommends: “U.S. operations in the South China Sea—to include freedom of navigation operations—must remain regular and routine. In my view, any decrease in air or maritime presence would likely reinvigorate PRC expansion.”

The deployment of the DF-26 ballistic missile in recent weeks could be a game-changer in terms of how the U.S. and its allies handle Chinese expansionism in the SCS. Last week China announced it had deployed its new intermediate-range missile (estimated range of around 2,000 miles). The weapon can be used to strike Taiwan from deep inside Chinese territory, but it also puts Guam in range, an important strategic U.S. military base. In addition to the DF-26, China is believed to also possess a potent anti-ship missile, the DF-21D, which has an estimated range of 900 miles. Both missiles give Beijing a much better anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capability against American warships — including, and especially, U.S. aircraft carriers. U.S. military planners see both weapons as designed to prevent U.S. military assistance from reaching Taiwan — or Japan, or any U.S. ally in the SCS. To counter, experts believe the Pentagon should speed development of longer-range weapons that can be fired outside the range of Chinese A2/AD systems, which it is already doing, and then rethink its reliance on carriers by shifting to undersea assets — submarines — that are difficult if not impossible for China to detect. In addition, the Air Force should move more rapidly with the development of its new long-range bombers and drone programs, as ensuring that the SCS corridors remain open to trade is imperative. 

PIR4: What activities are foreign intelligence services directing against the United States or allies?

Israel’s intelligence coup against Iran reveals much

The Israeli government pulled off an intelligence coup when it managed to secret away some 110,000 Iranian documents recently that indicate Tehran is cheating on the nuclear agreement is struck with the Obama administration and several European countries. According to open-source reporting, Jerusalem managed to obtain the documents after they were smuggled out of a secret Iranian storage facility by Israeli intelligence agents. According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran moved the files “to a highly secret location in Tehran” sometime last year. From the outside, the place looked like “a dilapidated warehouse” but was actually filled with large safes on the inside. “A few weeks ago, in a great intelligence achievement, Israel obtained half-a-ton of the material inside these vaults,” he said during a historic ‘global news conference’ he gave in English this week. Expert analysts pointed out that while spies steal documents all the time, the cache of materials taken was massive, making the operation that much more impressive (the U.S. has vouched for the authenticity of the materials, by the way). “That Israel was able to locate the files, access them, and get them out of the country and safely to Israel sends a huge signal to Iran about the nation’s capabilities, pointing to significant assets inside Iran,” noted one assessment. [source]

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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