July 27, 2008

China Tech Threat Update

"China appears to be enhancing their technological threat capabilities through various channels ..."

A recent investigation, “Operation Cisco Raider” – a cooperative effort between the U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Offices - has led to the seizures of counterfeit Cisco Systems products valued at $76 million entering the U.S. market.

Counterfeit Cisco routers, switches, interface cards, and network hardware pose a risk to U.S. companies in terms of infiltration through hacking and malfunction, a point made also by U.S. Attorney –General Alice Fisher:

"Counterfeit network hardware entering the marketplace raises significant public safety concerns, and must be stopped. This initiative shows that through collaboration among law enforcement agencies and prosecutors worldwide, we can achieve dramatic enforcement results and protect public safety … It is critically important that network administrators in both private sector and government perform due diligence in order to prevent counterfeit hardware from being installed on their networks."

Earlier, the FBI’s Cyber Investigations Division presented newly unclassified information that illustrated the extent of counterfeit computer and network hardware. The FBI fears Chinese Hackers and/or Government Agents are developing a back door into U.S. Government & Military Computer Networks:

“Some months ago, my contacts in the defense industry had alerted me to a startling development that has escalated to the point of near-panick in nearly all corners of Government security and IT infrastructure. The very-real concern, being investigated by the FBI, is that either the Chinese government or Chinese hackers (or both) have had the benefit of undetectable back-doors into highly secure government and military computer networks for months, perhaps years. The cause: a high-number of counterfeit Cisco routers and switches installed in nearly all government networks that experienced upgrades and/or new units within the past 18 months.” more >>

Of greater concern are comments made by Samuel King from the University of Illinois. A computer science expert specializing in Security, Operating systems, Experimental software systems, and Virtual Machines, he recently noted that equipment shipped from Shenzhen City might have been sold to gain access to sensitive U.S. military data and has made a good case for malicious hardware being the next hackers’ tool of choice.

"Malicious hardware is more problematic because it is more difficult to detect; China is already using an early, and simple, version of malicious hardware in its massive military and industrial espionage campaign against Western countries and companies. We wrote last week about how Chinese companies, controlled by the Chinese military, have manufactured counterfeit Cisco routers and switches and offered them at exceedingly low prices to U.S. vendors who had contracts to upgrade or replace U.S. government IT systems." more >>

China also poses a growing tech threat through a strategy of using informal spy networks to acquire sensitive technology with commercial and military applications that can eventually erode U.S. economic and military strength.

"China is stepping up its overt and covert efforts to gather intelligence and technology in the United States, and the activities have boosted Beijing's plans to rapidly produce advanced-weapons systems, reports The Washington Times in part two of its two-part series on China's growing threat to US security. China's spies use as many as 3,200 front companies -- many run by groups linked to the Chinese military -- that are set up to covertly obtain information, equipment and technology, US officials say. Additionally, the Chinese use hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors, students and other nonprofessional spies to gather valuable data, most of it considered "open source," or unclassified information." more >>

Infiltration

We have also seen instances of unauthorized access of the highest order. Just last month, Stephen Brown wrote an interesting piece at FrontPage that detailed the infiltration of computer networks by Chinese hackers on the offices of two Republican Congressman.

“Cyber warfare officially arrived on Capitol Hill last week. Two Republican congressmen, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, went public last Wednesday with the news that in 2006 and 2007 their office computer networks had been breached by Chinese hackers. The cyber raiders were not looking for sensitive military or economic data. Instead, they apparently tried to steal political information about Chinese dissidents. “My suspicion is that I was targeted by Chinese sources because of my long history of speaking out about China’s abysmal human rights record,” Wolf told the Washington Times. Both congressmen said the attacks were made against aides who “…worked specifically on China and human rights issues ... China’s largest cyber-raid in the United States occurred in 2004. The assault was so massive that American security authorities gave it a code name, “Titan Rain.” Computers in several defense and space installations were targeted and thousands of unclassified documents, both military and industrial, were stolen. Fortunately, classified military information is not directly connected to the internet; but data found in those unclassified networks can also be of a sensitive nature. Equally brazen was a 2007 cyber attack on Pentagon computers. That attack saw Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ computer system compromised. The perpetrator in this case was believed to have been the People’s Liberation Army." more >>

Whether the China tech threat constitutes real danger to U.S., security is still a matter for debate. The fear is that the current Presidential race in conjunction with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran – The War on Terror – is diverting attention away from some very real instances of security breaches. One thing is certain, China appears to be enhancing their technological threat capabilities through various channels; something that should raise eyebrows and make even the most cynical security experts worry.

See also:
Taskforce seizes $76 Million in counterfeit Cisco network hardware
Cyberwarfare: The next challenge

July 17, 2008

China's Soft Power

Billboard promotes the Rolling Stones, 'A Bigger Bang' concert in Shanghai.

As is frequently the case, discussions on China’s growth and influence are mostly limited to concerns about military matters. This other side of China’s growth, known as soft power or “Charm Offensive” relates to their rapidly expanding economy and cunning investment strategies. Indeed, over the past two decades China has been totally transformed, having undergone the most comprehensive national metamorphosis in modern history. Mostly impoverished in 1976 after Mao’s reign, it has emerged into one of the worlds most dynamic economies.

Trying to get a grip on how powerful China is — especially when the nebulous, unquantifiable concept of 'soft power' is brought into the discussion — is quite difficult writes Malcolm Cooke.

"Is it replacing Japan as the economic centre of Asia? Probably not, in my view. Will it soon challenge the US for global supremacy? Certainly not, in my view.

However, one of the less standard measures I am using to move my own mental abacus around is how many firms and media outlets are relocating their regional headquarters to China. The
Sydney Morning Herald has shifted its Asia economics correspondent to Beijing, and last week I met the executive vice president, Asia Pacific of one of the world’s largest public relations firms, who is now based in Beijing. I see Motorola now has its North Asia headquarters in Beijing while Alcatel Lucent has consolidated its Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai (sorry Singapore).

At the moment, the numbers of such headquarters seem to be quite low, and some think Singapore and Hong Kong are not at risk yet of losing their hub status in the region. As always, within China, there is quite a bit of competition between Shanghai, Beijing and even Guangzhou to capture these headquarters, each offering a range of sweeteners, from tax holidays to assistance with foreign exchange transactions.

How many top 500 non-Chinese companies, especially those in services, shift their regional headquarters to China may be a good measure of China’s growing economic importance globally and regionally. Whether Shanghai or Beijing snare more will also be a good measure of where the economic muscle is in China itself."

(Via The Interpreter)

Writing for Real Clear Politics, former NYT columnist Richard Halloran quoted Chinese scholar, Joshua Kurlantzick: "China may want to shift influence away from the United States to create its own sphere of influence, a kind of Chinese Monroe Doctrine for Southeast Asia [where] countries would subordinate their interests to China's”.

As one who remains passionate about the prolongation of U.S. global hegemony I feel compelled to point out; the rise of China’s soft power is an issue that needs addressing – a recent BBC poll of 22 nations found that some 50 percent saw Beijing’s as a positive influence compared to 38 percent for the U.S. While military might remains serious America, more than any other nation ought to recognize that in this global information age, soft power sources as political maneuverings, cultures and diplomacy constitute the making of a powerful nation in as much as military might.

One would think that it should not be difficult for Washington to reinforce and sell the still dominant “Washington Consensus”, a phrase seen as being synonymous with neoliberalism and globalization over the “Beijing Consensus” which essentially means authoritarian governance coupled with market economy - what Nicholas Kristof has aptly referred to as “Market Leninism”, a fusion of liberalizing economics and repressive politics.

Contrary to some reports, China’s soft power must take huge strides to match it with the U.S. nonetheless; it is not too early to ignore this “nebulous” aspect of China’s emergence, as Fareed Zakaria wrote in 2007, “Two thousand eight is the year of China. It should also be the year we craft a serious long-term China policy” …

See also, The Rise of a Fierce Yet Fragile Superpower

July 12, 2008

Iraq: Troop withdrawal plans flawed

"Obama is beginning to flop and its going to drive the Liberals crazy"...

In the first place I urge readers to watch this, I was unable to successfully embed the video so check out "Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Plan" clip.

Last week, there was a small dustup when Barack Obama said at a press conference in North Dakota that he would "refine" his Iraq policy after meeting with commanders on the ground later this month. That same afternoon, Obama called another press conference to reiterate that his position in Iraq had not changed: "My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in and I will give them a new mission and that is to end this war – responsibly, deliberately, but decisively."

Obama has always said he will rely on the judgment of commanders on the ground in Iraq before he implements his 16-month withdrawal timetable. As you noticed on the clip, Martha Raddatz of ABC News reports that some commanders on the ground are skeptical of Obama's plan.

Here's what it says on Obama's website:

Bringing our troops home
"Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."

As Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Baghdad area, indicated, any withdrawal of troops need to be conditions based.

Obama is beginning to flop and its going to drive the Liberals crazy. Stay tuned, for as we draw closer to November he will be converted to the "outcomes based" strategy.

The Democratic candidates troop withdrawal strategy is not plausible. Politics aside NOT in Americas Interests, nor the worlds.

July 9, 2008

Nuclear Iran: There are no 'good' options.

The consensus would suggest a cautious approach about whether or not to attack Iran. Just days after visiting Israel and amid growing speculation about a possible Israeli strike, U.S. Navy Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged caution.

Postglobal has posted an interesting panel discussion where it debates just how likely or otherwise a U.S. or Israeli attack is, before President Bush leaves office.

Bush’s Farewell Includes Attack on Iran“Americans appear bent on either launching a strike or steps of covert action to create dynamics that will make it impossible to avoid waging war against Iran” writes Lamis Andoni a Middle East consultant for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news station. more >>

For U.S., History May Repeat Itself“The possibility of an Israeli attack against Iran is always “five,” no matter the circumstances. An existential fear about the fate of their nation seems to be embedded in the Israeli psyche. Our dear president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows this and drives Israelis’ meshuggah by continually talking about two things that Israelis feel most strongly about: the Jewish Holocaust and the existence of Israel. Of course it doesn't help that Iran is developing its nuclear technology "for peaceful purposes." Writes Maziar Bahari of Iran, an award winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from Iran. more >>

Attack On Iran? It Won't Happen“I can think of three reasons why George W. Bush will not attack Iran ... The first reason is the economy … The second reason is North Korea … The third reason is John McCain” … Writes Leon Krauze a Mexican blogger and a founder of letraslibres.com. more >>

At any rate, it would be wise for the international community to keep the pressure on Iran through multilateral negotiations backed by the threat of real force.

Make no mistake; the international community is building to a crisis in Iran, as is the U.S. The present maneuvers by all global interests are fascinating in both complexity and at times, simplicity. Nevertheless, the fact remains, Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and the highly enriched uranium program in addition to the heavy-water reactor that will produce plutonium is evidence enough.

A strike on Iran would present incredible obstacles and danger in the context of the region and Americas present involvement, but allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons presents equal danger, there are no good options.

Is fellow blogger subadei correct in his comments in my previous post? "Iran will obtain nuclear arms and the world will, as it did with Pakistan, effing well deal with it" … What do you think …

July 3, 2008

Nuclear Iran: Diplomatic endgame fast approaching ...


Said Sun Tzu, “All warfare is based on deception, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.”

In a recent piece over at Commentary Emanuele Ottolenghi suggests that Iran is pulling the wool over the world’s foreign policy intellectuals heads through clever techniques that propagate uncertainty about its nuclear intentions:

“And here we see why Iran’s behavior over the past six years has been neither irrational nor foolhardy but rather shrewd, calculated—and successful. Even while loudly repudiating allegations that it is pursuing a military program, the regime has used every technique at its disposal to sow confusion and encourage divisions among its adversaries."

"If Iran is telling the truth and desires solely nuclear energy—which would be peculiar, to say the least, considering that under its sands rest the world’s second largest natural-gas reserves and the world’s fifth largest crude-oil reserves—its behavior these past six years makes no sense. The regime would seem to have had everything to gain from making it crystal-clear to the world that it has no intentions of developing nuclear weapons. Instead, it has rejected repeated and alluring incentives designed to seduce it into demonstrating the non-existence of the efforts it continues to insist it is not undertaking. In the process, it has had to suffer painful economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States. Its six years of defiance and stonewalling have led to increasing diplomatic isolation."

"As a matter of simple logic, then, it is only rational to conclude that Iran is working, and working very hard, to become a nuclear power. But there may be logic of a different and no less compelling kind behind its actions. For, at the end of these same six years, many in the West remain fiercely committed to the idea that discussing the dangers of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power—let alone discussing how to stop it—represents a greater threat to the world than does the Iranian pursuit itself."

"For a significant portion of the world’s foreign-policy makers and intellectuals, any confrontation with Iran on the matter of its nuclear program is dangerously provocative and therefore to be avoided. In particular, prominent European leaders have roundly denounced the supposed “adventurism” of the Bush administration and insisted that (in the words of one leading German Social Democrat) “military options must be taken off the table.” Authoritative American voices joined this chorus in the wake of a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that declared (in an assertion supported by no other intelligence agency in the world) that Iran had suspended its nuclear-weapons program in 2003. More recently, elements within Western foreign-policy establishments have gone a step further and have begun to suggest that the world can “live with” an Iranian bomb.”
Read the rest here

In the meantime blogger, Steven Clemons Washington Note , is concerned that the neocons are once again gaining leverage on the Iran issue: “Last September, I wrote a Salon.com article explaining the many reasons why despite neoconservative obsession with bombing Iran, President Bush would not do so. He had tacked a different direction. Part of my case, though not all of it, rested on the fact that one of Vice President Cheney's staff members had allegedly told a private group in Washington that the VP himself was frustrated with the President's tilt towards Condi Rice, Bob Gates and others who emphasized a mix of diplomatic options over hard power gestures.

More recently, however, in the last six to eight weeks, many of my sources in the State Department, the White House, and the intelligence community tell me that the losers last summer and fall are winning again. David Addington, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, is winning on virtually every battle he is fighting -- from not moving forward on new legal protocols that would be more internationally palatable on combat detainee rights to shelving the Law of the Seas Treaty ratification. But they say that the level of tension in the White House over Iran is also growing -- and the diplomatic game plan that before was dominant seems to have deteriorated significantly -- particularly since the departure of former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns and the firing of Admiral William Fallon.” Read the rest here

Personally, I think the Neocon re-emergence is timely and auspicious!

Local (Australian) blogger Kotzabasis, response to the Clemons piece is creditable and a must read:

“Diplomacy is eminently the best way to resolve conflicts. But beyond a certain point the art of Talleyrand becomes completely ineffective and to continue it with an irreconcilable determined enemy is not only a barren exercise but also extremely dangerous, as one has to fight this enemy in the future when he will be much stronger at an immensely higher cost.”

“In the case of Iran, diplomacy has reached its barren point. The Ahmadinejad regime should be clearly given the option of immediately ceasing and dismantling its nuclear program or stand facing an indetermined force de frappe at an unspecified time. And it should be made crystal clear to the regime that this attack would be targeting the higher echelons of the government, the military, and its religious leaders. This threat against its triumvirate leadership could steer an existential turmoil in the latter that could lead to a “palace revolt” against the Ahmadinejad leadership replacing it with a moderate one which would yield to the demands of the international community.”

Be forewarned, unless the diplomatic stakes are raised significantly, some time in the next 12 to 18 months the President of the United States will be forced to make austere choice, either he will take massive action to thwart Iran from reaching a nuclear threshold or he accepts defeat, and therefore a future with Iran possessing an ever growing nuclear arsenal. Does anyone really believe that the former cold war rules of nuclear balance, namely M.A.D. will apply in the Middle East once Iran goes nuclear, more than ever, in light of Ahmadinejad’s past warnings about Israel? Only last month he decreed that Israel is, “about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene."

Failing American action I suspect that Israel will soon be on the verge of making a choice of its own and hence, the next time hundreds of IAF F-15 and F-16’s take off, they may well be en route to Western Iran, NOT on a training drill over the Mediterranean.

It would be understandable for readers misconstrue my position on Iran, truth is, I would much rather a diplomatic solution but for diplomacy to stand a chance both Europe, America and indeed the world must up the diplomatic ante, quite considerably I might add.

As the Commentary article concludes, "... the Iranian strategy of obfuscation, duplicity, and delay" is working.

“All warfare,” Sun Tzu wrote, is based on deception. When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.

"It is also true that, in diplomacy no less than in war, deception works because those being deceived prefer to live within the deception rather than to acknowledge the sobering facts..."

Further reading

July 2008 FACTBOX - How might Israel attack Iran's nuclear sites?

The Unthinkable Consequences of an Iran-Israel Nuclear Exchange

H. Con. Res. 362

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July 1, 2008

American World Food Aid

Six weeks after the U.S. announced a resumption (the first in three years) of food aid, an American ship carrying thousands of tonnes of food has arrived in North Korea after the Government agreed to allow more international help to feed its people.

The US government's development arm, USAID, said over the next year it will provide half a million tonnes of food.

The decision to resume food aid came days after Pyongyang handed US negotiators documents detailing its past nuclear activities. Read more here

Moreover, just today The Australian reports that the U.S. will spend an additional $US1.25 billion on international food aid donations this year and next as donor countries seek to blunt the effects of soaring food prices on the world's poor.

President George W. Bush has signed a supplemental spending bill that will provide last-minute funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a host of other international and domestic priorities.

The bill signed into law today will also provide an additional $US850 million ($885 million) to Food for Peace, the largest U. food aid program, in fiscal 2008 and $US395 million ($412 million) for fiscal 2009, according to Senate staff workers.

Interesting fact

Contributions to World Food Aid Programme:

2008:
USA $618,116 789 ... China $4,500,000 (as at 22 June)

2007:
USA $1,183,173,510 ... China $2,566,897

That's some 618 million against 4.5 million in 2008 and some $1.18 billion against just over 2.5 million in 2007!

The difference in 2008 to date equals a factor of 137x, which is quite a disparity given that China is the worlds fourth largest economy. Unless that is, it just overtook Germany in which case, it would be the third largest after Japan and the U.S.

Source: World Food Programme

(Thanks to reader Lisa)