Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (190)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Russian propaganda machine has been unusually subdued. Norway now reporting GPS jamming. Sanctions debate continues. Energy Sec Perry states some important ground truths in Hungary. NYT does 3 part video doco of the evolution of Soviet “active measures” technique to contemporary Russian practice. ISIS blowback in Central Asia.

Iran update – disturbing reports of payback killings of ethnic Arabs in Iran. FP on Iran nukes. The Hill on the Agency’s compromised communications system. AUS media on suspected cyber attack. Updates on Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia – Gen Abizaid nominated for Amb posting in Riyahd.

Joining Finland, Norway Says Russia May Have Jammed GPS Signal In Arctic

The Norwegian Defense Ministry says Russian forces in the Arctic disturbed GPS location signals during a recent large NATO drill in Norway.

Norway says Russia jammed GPS signal during NATO drill

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces in the Arctic disturbed GPS location signals during a recent large NATO drill in Norway.

Russia’s elusive isolation — Meduza

Dream on, the West In a report for The Financial Times, journalist Henry Foy argues that “reality has not matched rhetoric,” when it comes to Western sanctions designed to isolate Russia. “[I]f the measures were designed to make Moscow an international pariah, friendless and toxic, they are falling short of achieving their goal,” Foy writes, saying that Russia has been expanding its influence in the Middle East, India, and China “at a time of American hesitation.” Additionally, Moscow has continued to draw more foreign direct investment from European corporations and continued demand for Russia’s oil and gas exports. Western officials blame the sanctions’ shortcomings on “staggered implementation,” the rebounding value of oil since 2016, and countries’ lack of resolve to follow through with measures that might damage their own companies. “All the activity suggests that for company executives, Russia is too large and lucrative to let politics get in the way,” Foy writes.

How dare you nay-say, good sir On Twitter, economist Anders Åslund took issue with the article in The Financial Times, calling it “shockingly one-sided and incorrect,” and accusing Foy of citing only “pro-Putin sources.” Åslund also pointed out that Russia’s real GDP has been stagnant since 2009 — an observation Bear Market Brief chief editor Nick Trickett called “own-goaling,” because it bolsters speculation that Western sanctions aren’t responsible for slowing down the Russian economy. (Trickett did add, however, that he believes the sanctions “are having an effect.”)

Brace yourself for the boycott “Russia says it will consider boycotting the upcoming World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, if Russian tycoons are kept out of the prestigious gathering,” reports RFE/RL. Read about Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s response to the blacklisting of several Russian billionaires (including Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg) here.

Oh, sweet irony In a new Facebook post, political scientist Lilia Shevtsova argues that the isolation of Russian business elites in the West will force these individuals to repatriate where they will embrace “totalitarianism, not democracy,” as a form of self-preservation. Western policymakers hoping to squeeze Russian oligarchs into turning on Putin will be disappointed, Shevtsova says. This is ironic, moreover, because Russia’s “oligarch-appointees” and “bureaucrat-oligarchs” are just as despised and vulnerable at home as in the West today, she argues. “They’re still under the authorities’ protection,” Shevtsova says, “but at any moment they could be thrown to the crowd inside the Russian Coliseum.”

U.S. Official: Russia Shouldn’t Be Permitted To Use Energy As Weapon 

Russia has historically used energy as a weapon and that continues today, making energy diversification crucial for Central and Eastern Europe, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said. Russia has historically used energy as a weapon and that continues today, making energy diversification crucial for Central and Eastern Europe, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said. “We should no longer allow the Kremlin to use energy as a weapon,” Perry told a news conference in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, on November 13. Perry was speaking during a visit to the region as the administration of President Donald Trump seeks to encourage the purchase of gas from the United States or other suppliers rather than increasing purchases from Russia. He called on Hungary and its neighbors to reject Russian gas pipelines, which Washington says are being used to cement Moscow’s grip on the region. “Russia is using a pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, and the multiline Turkish stream [TurkStream project], to try to solidify its control over the security and the stability of Central and Eastern Europe,” Perry said.

U.S., Poland to cooperate in defense to deter Russia | UNIAN

The United States and Poland will continue to cooperate in the defense to deter Russia. Mattis thanked Blaszczak for his country’s offer for increased U.S. force posture options in Poland.

Opinion | Operation Infektion: A three-part video series on Russian disinformation – The New York Times

Russian Disinformation: From Cold War to Kanye

Election 2018 results: How Russians used celebrities to target voters

Facebook says Russians exploited divisive issues and people such as Kanye West and President Trump to target voters ahead of the midterm elections.

Russian trolls reached U.S. Instagram, Facebook users before midterms

Facebook said it removed 36 Facebook accounts, six pages and 99 Instagram accounts that may have been connected to a Russian internet troll farm. Most were created after mid-2017, and one Instagram account reached more than 600,000 U.S. users. They were removed on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections following a tip from the FBI.

Russian Lawmaker Says State May Take Money From ‘Dormant’ Bank Accounts

Russian lawmakers will look into possibility to acquire money from so-called dormant bank accounts, a senior legislator has said.

After Denial, Tajik Security Service Says 12 Arrested Over Alleged Plot To Attack Russian Base

DUSHANBE — After an initial denial, Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security (KDAM) says that the authorities have arrested 12 people suspected of plotting an attack on the Russian military base in Dushanbe earlier in November. KDAM spokesman Dilshod Abdualimov said on November 13 that a report issued by RFE/RL the day before was accurate. In the report, RFE/RL quoted sources close to security authorities as saying that 12 alleged members of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) were apprehended near the Russian base in the Tajik capital on November 4. The sources said the group was led by a man identified as Suhrob from the town of Vahdat, near Dushanbe, who authorities allege has fought alongside IS militants in the Middle East. In an initial comment on November 13, Abdualimov said the RFE/RL report was untrue. But he later confirmed the report, saying that he did not have “concrete information” when he denied it. Some 7,000 Russian troops are stationed at three separate locations in Tajikistan — Dushanbe, Kulob, and Qurghon-Teppa.

‘British tip-off’ led to arrest of retired Austrian colonel suspected of spying for Russia

British intelligence provided the tip-off that led to the arrest of a retired Austrian army officer on suspicion of spying for Russia, an Austrian newspaper has claimed.

Russia Starved People in a U.S.-Controlled Corner of Syria, and Trump Let It Happen

ISTANBUL—On a remote patch of flat desert in southern Syria, some 50,000 people displaced by the war have managed to survive in primitive surroundings for years without seeing an aid convoy—until last week. They live in self-built mud huts with plastic sheeting for roofs. There’s no electricity, no running water, no sanitation, no roads, only one small clinic and four small schools. The camp dwellers were driven from their homes when the so-called Islamic State took over much of eastern Syria, starting in 2014. But the Assad regime, which has since regained control of their lands, doesn’t want them back. Nothing grows on the arid land they occupy along the Jordanian border, but the hut-dwellers were able to rely on smugglers for much of their food and medicine until last month, when the regime in Damascus closed down smuggling routes.

Chemical weapons team to begin assigning blame for Syrian attacks | Reuters

The global chemical weapons watchdog will in February begin to assign blame for attacks with banned munitions in Syria’s war, using new powers approved by member states but opposed by Damascus and its key allies Russia and Iran.

The brutality of the Syrian regime must be told

More than 95,000 Syrians have ‘disappeared’ since March 2011. Alistair Burt MP, minister of state for the Middle East, introduces Amina Khoulani, who witnessed the regime’s brutality first hand. ave you ever commented online about a government policy, signed a petition or taken part in a peaceful demonstration? Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, isn’t it? And now imagine being arrested, tortured and detained for years, simply for this. For the people of Syria, such brutality is part and parcel of the Assad regime. Over 95,000 Syrians have ‘disappeared’ since March 2011 according to Syrian civil society organisations, of which more than 80,000 are estimated to have been forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime. The overwhelming majority of these people have been regular, everyday citizens. Many of them have died as a result of torture.

Syrian Arab Republic: Attacks on health care in Syria 1 Jan – 30 September 2018 – Syrian Arab Republic | ReliefWeb

English Infographic on Syrian Arab Republic about Health and Safety and Security; published on 10 Oct 2018 by Health Cluster and WHO

Assad calls on Syria’s Druze minority to do military service – The National

The call comes days after members of the minority were released following a mass ISIS abduction

Syrian Kurds resume final push against ISIS – CNN

Syrian Kurdish forces are resuming the final phase of operations against ISIS, as the terrorist group is pushed back into its last remaining slivers of territory.

ISIL continues to wreak havoc in Syria’s Deir Az Zor | ISIS/ISIL | Al Jazeera

Pockets of ISIL fighters continue to place mines and IEDs in Deir Az Zor province, and civilians are paying the price.

Iraq PM Says IS Militants Seeking to Cross to Iraq From Syria

PM says the militants, who have reverted to insurgency tactics since their 2017 defeat in Iraq, were seeking to recapture Iraqi territory they had controlled

The world is forgetting about Syria – Syria –

Among those suffering the ravages of the civil war are Syrian students at local universities, or in their countries of refuge, who are in dire need of scholarships

SWIFT Kicks Out Iran – Country Responds with State-issued Cryptocurrency – Ethereum World News

Iran is set to launch its own state-issued cryptocurrency in the wake of the decision by global interbank service provider, SWIFT to delist its banks

Bolton Says Iran Will Be Squeezed `Until the Pips Squeak’ – Bloomberg

The U.S. intends to double down on sanctioning Iran, pressuring the nation until it submits, National Security Adviser John Bolton signaled on Tuesday.

Pompeo accuses Newsweek of ‘helping’ Iran ‘spread lies’ | TheHill

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at Newsweek on Monday over a magazine article that he said suggested that the U.S. was preparing to sanction food being imported into Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at Newsweek on Monday over a magazine article that he said suggested that the U.S. was preparing to sanction food being imported into Iran. In a tweet, Pompeo accused the magazine of “helping” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spread “lies” about the U.S. after Zarif tweeted a screenshot of the article and accused Pompeo of threatening to starve Iranians. “Shame on #FakeNewsweek for helping @JZarif spread lies,” Pompeo responded on Monday. “The truth is: the U.S. does not, and never did, sanction food and medicine. They are exempt from sanctions, as are financial transactions related to humanitarian needs.”

OPEC, Russia Crude Production Offsets Iran Losses – WSJ

OPEC and Russian crude production continued to climb in October, more than offsetting losses from Iran where U.S. sanctions have curbed output, the oil cartel said.

U.S. Ramps Up Sanctions on Hezbollah as Part of Iran Pressure – WSJ

The Trump administration on Tuesday targeted Iran-backed Hezbollah with fresh terrorism-related sanctions, as the U.S. moves to keep up pressure on Tehran and its tools of foreign-policy abroad despite resistance from European allies.

Iran: Fears mounting for detained Ahwazi Arabs amid reports of secret executions | Amnesty International

Iranian authorities must immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority being held without access to their families or lawyers, Amnesty International said following reports that some have been executed in secret. In the last few days, Ahwazi Arab activists outside Iran have told Amnesty International that 22 men, including civil society activist Mohammad Momeni Timas, have been killed in secret. Since 24 September, up to 600 Ahwazi Arabs have been detained incommunicado in a wave of arrests following a deadly armed attack that took place in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, two days earlier. “If confirmed, the secret executions of these men would be not only a crime under international law but also an abhorrent violation of their right to life and a complete mockery of justice, even by the shocking standards of Iran’s judicial system,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is difficult to imagine that these individuals could have received a fair trial within merely a few weeks of their arrests, let alone had the opportunity to appeal death sentences.”

Concerns Raised Over ‘Secret Executions’ Of Ahwazi Arabs In Iran

Amnesty International has urged authorities in Iran to immediately provide information about hundreds of members of the Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority being held incommunicado. The London-based human rights watchdog made the call on November 13 following reports that 22 men have been executed “in secret” over the previous days. Iranian officials have dismissed those reports. If confirmed, the secret executions of these men would be “not only a crime under international law but also an abhorrent violation of their right to life and a complete mockery of justice,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. Up to 600 Ahwazi Arabs have been detained without access to their families or lawyers since September 24, according to Amnesty International, following an armed attack that claimed at least 25 lives in the southwestern city of Ahvaz two days earlier. Iran has blamed the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), a group seeking a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Iran’s oil-producing province of Khuzestan, for the September 22 attack. ASMLA has condemned the violence and said it was not involved. Khuzestan Province’s governor told state-run media earlier this week that reports of 22 detainees being executed were “complete lies,” and said that those arrested in connection with the Ahvaz attack had been charged.

Iran’s regime is terribly afraid … of dancing on Instagram

The end is in sight for Iran’s mullahs. It may take years, but the demise of their oppressive theocratic regime is inevitable. That prediction reflects one simple notion: They are afraid of Instagram. We don’t know how and when the rotten Iranian theocracy will implode on its own — a topic on which even experts can endlessly disagree. It is a remarkable comment on the regime’s fragility that Tehran’s rulers feel threatened by dancing on social media. Specifically, they are threatened by teenage girls such as Maedeh Hojabri. Hojabri is an 18-year-old gymnast in Iran. Like many girls her age around the world, she loves to dance. This past July, Iran’s morality police broke into Hojabri’s home and arrested her in front of her parents. Hojabri’s crime? She had videotaped herself wearing jeans and a cropped T-shirt, dancing in the privacy of her bedroom. She had then uploaded the videos to Instagram, where her account had 300 other videos and thousands of social media followers. Weeks later Hojabri appeared in another video. This time she was not on Instagram. She was on old media: Iranian state TV. And she was wearing the compulsory hijab covering her hair. She publicly confessed that her videos, filmed while clothed but without a hijab, were immoral. She cried: I had no bad intentions. … I did not want to encourage others to do the same. … I did not work with a network.

Iran deal: More sanctions from Trump mean misery for Iran’s fliers

Iran’s troubled aviation safety record is likely to worsen in the face of President Donald Trump’s renewal of economic sanctions against the country.

Iran, feeling sanctions bite, looks for outlet in Iraq | Fox News

At this year’s Baghdad International Fair, Iranian businessmen displayed thick, colorful Persian rugs to impressed onlookers while others showcased the latest in Iranian manufacturing in power generators and industrial tools.

World War 3: Iran issues stern WARNING that it will protect ships against THREATS from US | World | News |

IRAN has declared that its military will protect its ships against “any threats” to ensure safe passage, a week after the US reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran’s oil, shipping and banking industries.

Iran Was Closer to a Nuclear Bomb Than Intelligence Agencies Thought – Foreign Policy

If Tehran pulls out of the 2015 deal, it could have a weapon in a matter of months.

Iranian hackers suspected in cyber breach and extortion attempt on Navy shipbuilder Austal – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Iranian hackers are believed to be responsible for a cyber security breach and extortion attempt on Australia’s biggest defence exporter. Key points: Ship designs were accessed in the cyber attack on Austal Not known whether the hackers worked for the Iranian Government or not An Iranian-based hack attack on Australian universities took place this year Perth-based shipbuilder Austal earlier this month revealed an “unknown offender” had hacked into its computer systems, accessing staff email addresses and phone numbers as well as ship drawings and designs. Some of the information was then offered for sale on the dark web in an apparent extortion attempt. The ABC can reveal the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has determined the attack was most likely carried out by Iranian hackers. The head of the ACSC, Alastair MacGibbon, would not confirm the nationality but said the hackers failed to steal sensitive information. “We don’t like anyone breaking into any type of business, particularly defence contractors, but I can say that nothing of national security significance was taken,” he said. Mr MacGibbon likened the attack to a “ram-raid”, suggesting the hackers stole as much information as they could until they were detected and shut out.

CIA operations in Iran, China compromised for years because of hubris and a Google search | TheHill

Has the CIA lost their tradecraft mojo? Could the same agency that invented the forerunner to the modern devices like the Blackberry and iPhone lose dozens of spies in multiple countries from 2009-2013 through something as simple as a Google search? The terrifying answer is yes. It would be far easier to understand the devastating losses if it had truly been something you could have found in a movie – some fabulous invention dreamed up by a brilliant criminal mastermind seeking to defeat his James Bond. But it wasn’t. The catastrophic failure resulted in the loss of agents inside both China and Iran. According to one senior intelligence official, “We’re still dealing with the fallout. Dozens of people around the world were killed because of this.” The failure was predicted, identified and reported in 2006 by a government contractor named John Reidy. ADVERTISEMENT Reidy highlighted significant vulnerabilities in the covert communications system and determined that “…upwards of 70 percent of our operations had been compromised.” This was in 2006. Instead of fixing the flaws, and protecting CIA assets using the system, the CIA removed Reidy from his contract after he warned about “anomalies in our operations and conflicting intelligence reporting that indicated several of our operations had been compromised.”

Who are we fooling? The South will have no quiet until Iran is stopped – Israel National News

Iran does not want any ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas. It doesn’t want Netanyahu in Oman.

Trump taps ex-general for ambassador to Saudi Arabia – POLITICO

In recent months, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been unusually turbulent.

Trump Waives Iran Sanctions for Turkey – Foreign Policy

How Erdogan could use the exception to outsmart the United States, again.

Opinion | A Saudi Murder Becomes a Gift to Iran – The New York Times

The assassination of a journalist has further hurt the Trump administration’s frail strategy of buddying with Saudi Arabia to restrain Iran’s expanding influence.

Top Saudi officials ‘considered assassinating Iran’s General Soleimani’ – Middle East News –

A year before Khashoggi, senior Saudi intel officials and a group of businessmen met discussed potential assassination strategy against Iran. An Israeli businessman was involved, the New York Times reports

Khashoggi hit squad arrived with ‘torture toolkit’, airport x-rays show | News | The Times

The hit squad believed to have killed the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi passed through Istanbul airport with a “torturer’s toolkit” in their baggage, according to new leaks in the Turkish press.It had previously been believed that the Turkish authorities had x-rays of the luggage taken out of th

Erdogan calls recordings of Khashoggi’s killing ‘appalling’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said recordings related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi were so “appalling” that they shocked a Saudi intelligence officer who listened to them.

Bolton says Khashoggi audio doesn’t implicate Saudi crown prince MBS

White House national security adviser John Bolton said that an audio recording that the Turkish government possesses does not implicate the Saudi crown prince.

U.S. designates son of Hezbollah leader a terrorist | Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday designated Jawad Nasrallah, son of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a terrorist and accused him of carrying out attacks against Israel in the West Bank.