Center for Independent Threat Analysis and Research

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Emerging Threats

John Robb over at Global Guerrillas has posted yet another prophetic article detailing out the New Threats that will be faced in the coming decades and how the situation in Iraq is giving us a very descriptive glimpse.
The emerging threats are so closely linked that with this pattern in mind, one can quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of threats that have the ability to quickly consume vast areas of our lives and of the globe itself.

  • Global guerrillas. Open source warfare and systems disruption. Fragmentation and chaos that can swallow states and regions. In the mid-term: super-empowered actors that can wield bio-weapons.
  • Peak oil and resource depletion. The acceleration of resource consumption due to the mainlining of China and India at the very point these resources are reaching capacity limits.
  • Global warming. Not the slow change discussed, but rather a cascading change in weather patterns and ocean flows that drastically change continental climates. Ditto the mainlining of China and India as a driver here too.
  • Pandemics. Bird flu and other forms of infectious disease that can sweep the world in the matter of days. Have infection, will travel.
As I am a visual person, I decided to have a quick look at the world as of today while overlaying the Four emerging threats upon it.
More on this in future posts....

My intuitions tell me that if you add possible scenarios for future resource depletions due to Abrupt Climate Changes (im not a fan of Al Gorish Global Warming), Overuse by Developing Nations and poor Environmental/Industrial controls, one can quickly view potential hotspots. Take it another step further and overlay these areas with recent or current conflicts and even more by adding Globalization, Terrorism and Economic Freedom indexes and the picture of the future comes into clear view. Note of interest is in plotting the hotspots we have chosen to involve ourselves in over the years. Of present note, Sudan has little obvious Strategic or Resource value. That is except for the fact that it is yet another nation falling under Islamic rule and that the Chinese have recently invested close to $1.6 billion in development there.

This is all nothing new of course. Thomas Barnett, the Coming Anarchy crew, ZenPundit, John Robb and many others have been discussing this for years.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Future Fitna?

(فتنة) is an Arabic word, generally regarded as very difficult to translate. It is often used to refer to civil war, disagreement and division within Islam and specifically alludes to a time involving trials of faith, similar to the Tribulation in Christian eschatology. The word also implies meanings including schism, secession, upheaval and anarchy.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a future Fitna may be developing within the regional boundaries of the Near East. In the past Four Fitna's, Sunni and Shia have lined up against one another in an effort to fight for the very heart and control of Islam, this iteration adds the Arab vs Persian dynamic as well.

In a recent article in the London Telegraph,
Nawaf Obaid, a senior government security adviser to the Sunni dominated kingdom of Saudi Arabia has expressed alarm in the funding and training of Shia militias in Iraq and a military buildup by their Gulf neighbors, the Shia/Persian Iran. In order to prevent what they believe will be a wholesale slaughter of their Iraqi brethren, Saudi Arabia is reported to be supplying "anti-US Sunni military leaders with funding, logistical support and even arms". Many have begun to theorize about a coming Sunni-Shia conflict in the Near East, that could quickly spread throughout the region. This is most evident in the bombings of Shia areas in Iraq by Sunni insurgents and the reciprocation by Shia death squads that permeate the Iraqi police forces. If this were to continue to escalate or to spill from the Iraq's borders and into the surrounding moderate regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon, a larger conflict could occur.

Now it seems that the situation is escalating even more between the nations of Islam that surround the Gulf, most evident in a news story today is which Arab States Announced Joint Efforts for 'Peaceful' Nukes. This is another example of a growing consensus that a Shia regional hegemon is an unacceptable consequence and one that GCC members, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, are unwilling to live with.

So what does this mean for the region as a whole? Something akin to a Battle Royale not only for regional hegemony and control of the economic resources but a struggle for the control of Islam itself. A bit dramatic perhaps but in the coming weeks we will be examining both the rise of Shia Islam throughout the world and the friction points that it will create with classical Sunni Muslims and secular Western nations.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Beginning anew

As I am preparing some articles dealing with a whole plethora of subjects I wanted to give everyone a chance to read some of ourearlier work. In the beginning, CITAR was more affectionately known as an aggregate portal for threat news and analysis from around the globe. We provided up to date news and events on topics ranging from International Terrorism, WMD proliferation and Global Hotspots.
The original CITAR is since dissolved but we are beginning preliminary studies on a new similar project that will quickly eclipse the original CITAR in scale. For now, enjoy some of our earlier writings included on this blog.

Earlier versions of CITAR (courtesy of the Wayback Machine)
CITAR in 2005
CITAR in 2004

The New MAD

During the first week of November, Iran decided to pull an old play out of the Cold War playbook and did so decidedly well. Knowing full and well that in any military conflict between the Islamic Republic and the West would result in an eventual defeat, they wanted to make it clear that it would also be just as costly in economic terms to their opponents. By using a veiled threat (no pun intended), hinted by Mr. Hosseini of Iran's Foreign Ministry's that Tehran could close the Strait of Hormuz "depending on the kind of sanctions" leveled against the Islamic Republic and then followed up by this week's expanded military war games, a basic tenant of deterrence was put into place saying, "You may take us out of the picture militarily, but we would make it so costly in terms of US lives and economic damage, that its almost like Mutually Assured Destruction".

The 10-day maneuvers, named "Great Prophet 2," includes hundreds of SRBM and MRBM launches ranging from smaller Scud models to the infamous Shahab-2 and 3's with a rang of 2,000 klicks and the capability of carrying either small-yield tactical nukes or the bomblet cluster munitions. Also, it is reported that in and around the Gulf of Oman there are reports of reconnaissance planes, in the form of pilot planes and drones, Sokho 25 fighters, heavy and light transportation and carrier planes such as the Russian made "Antonev".

These games were also probably a partial response to
U.S.-led maneuvers focused on surveillance, in which Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy also took part in in the past month. The Western war games were centered mainly around surveillance and interdiction of a mock-WMD laden vessel.

So what does this tell us about the current and near future situation in dealing with Iran? In a nutshell, we are hosed. Even with Iran's limited military infrastructure, they are still the most powerful and capable in the region except for of course the US and Israel. The damage they could inflict to so many different regional targets is staggering. Lets take a look at some.

  • US Bases in Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. All well within the range of hundreds of Shahab 2s and 3s and each capable of carrying cluster munitions, Bio/Chems and small nukes if they had them ready. Attack on US targets in Saudi and Turkey are unlikely unless Iran is feeling particularly insane that day.
  • Israel. In a nutshell, the whole state is within range. This would also be a bit of insanity and would lead to a great deal of restraint to NOT nuke Tehran.
  • US Navy vessels in and around the Gulf would be succeptable to literally hundreds of "Silkworm" anti-ship missiles and other goodies that the Chinese have been selling them for years to take out ships
  • Gulf Oil shipping could be virtually wiped out with multi-pronged attacks on Gulf oil terminals, the sinking of large tankers in the narrow Strait of Hormuz and mining of Gulf areas.
  • The Arc of Shi'a that spans throughout Iraq, Syria and Lebanon could be "turned on" which would result in a literal bloodbath for most everyone involved.
Now this of course is about the extent of their abilities but just think of the impact from a psychological and economic dimension? What would our response be? Invasion.... bad bad idea. Airstrikes.... for sure but ultimately ineffective Limited Nuclear Strikes.... could lead to an effective punishment but at what cost.

When you get down to it, the costs for either side are so high, that evokes the imagery of the Cold War MAD scenarios, where it was just lunacy for either side to push a first strike button. But is that the case on the opposing side now? The Iranians or at least the ruling theocracy can hardly be called rational state actors when the majority of them are awaiting the return of the messianic Madhi next year and with it the end of the world. The scenes that I have described are exactly what many in power in Iran want. So will a mini version of MAD work in the region?
Hmm I do not know. I must meditate more on the subject and try to come up with the answer that only 5 people will read and none will take seriously. Is ok, at least in the end I will be able to tell you I told you so :)

New Info, Updated, 11/2/06 1430 est
Widespread Mining in the Persian Gulf
"begin[ing] on Thursday, November 2nd. Reportedly the plan is the widespread planting of under-water mines in the Persian Gulf."

An informed source says: “Testing the discharge capacity of the various kinds of missiles as well as long-range missiles with cluster warheads, shoulder missiles and anti-helicopter Katyushas, and extensive mine planting in the Persian gulf, are the most likely activities planned for said maneuvers. The purpose for these maneuvers is to promote defense readiness and assess the effectiveness of new weapons. The air force, army, navy and Basij forces* will be taking part in these 10-day-long maneuvers."

Internal Security, the Basij
Commandant of the revolutionary guards Rahim Safavi, also made mention of the presence of the Basij forces, as another part of the maneuvers, whose mission, according to him is "defending the streets and urban areas in case of encounter with potential unrest”.
Basij forces are auxiliary mobilization forces created by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; they are extremely radical and supported by the current supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Suicide-Bomber forces:
Safavi also made very clear threats of terrorist attacks and explicitly spoke of suicide-bombers who are under his direct command, saying: "Those forces that have been trained in the ‘culture’ of martyrdom-seeking are, among the unique features of the Islamic republic’s armed forces that are comparable to other armies around the world."

and of course, a word from our sponsor (theirs, not mine)
"Our officials’ warnings are serious. Should the U.S. and it’s allies choose confrontation with the Islamic Republic, not a single border restriction will be observed and Americans and their interests as well it’s allies around the world will be stormed." - from the state run newspaper JAVAWN

Well, that sure clarifies things.

"Its the Cool Thing... Everybody's Doin' It"

Sometimes I feel like a staff writer at the Onion when I begin to formulate ideas about what I should comment on. Depressing really.
So now, everybody (well 30+ countries) is getting the nuclear itch and wants to play too. Most of these countries under the guise of uranium enrichment programs (funny how we immediately equate that now to "building the bomb". Even soccer moms understand the concept behind gas centrifuge cascades). These 30 countries would join the current 9 in the announced "nuclear club" for the following reason given by the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei "Unfortunately, the political environment is not a very secure one... there are a lot of temptations (to develop nuclear weapons)," he said.
So basically, if you feel insecure, get a bigger weapon. Ok, I can kinda see that. So lets take a look at these "virtual nuclear states" as he called them.
Iran - duh
Australia, Argentina and South Africa - Uhm the Aussies, ok. Argentina, can they pay their debts first. S. Africa, didnt they have a program and give it up?
Canada, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Taiwan, Spain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania - All of these countries have the capability to do so quickly. Canada? now thats comedy.
Egypt, Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Namibia, Moldova, Nigeria, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and Yemen - All these are considering near term nuclear programs. This is where I begin to save money for the next orbital trip to the ISS. I completely forgot that Moldova was even a country! I for sure thought it was a Starbucks flavor of the month... As for the rest of them, the day that Vietnam, Yemen or Nigeria get the bomb or ANY nuclear capability, I believe its time to elect another Republican President and Congress. And Namibia?? Isnt that where Jolie-Pitt had a baby? this world is imploding and quickly.
Lets see, rounding out the list are Japan, South Korea and Brazil. Now there are three countries that I would not mind seeing have the bomb, hell we should probably help them out. Japan, mainly out of guilt and trust, South Korea because they deserve the chance to make things even (with China not N Korea) and Brazil, well, ive spent sometime in Brazil in the past few years and those people are amazing and should probably rule the world anyway (food, drink, weather, beauty).

So, in closing, in looks like our exclusive club that has been most recently barged in upon by Crazy Kim could get a little less exclusive in the near future. Kind of like when all the degenerates come to sit at the cool kids table. Ya, just like that

The Art of Ambiguity

China is normally famous for the historic strategms of Sun-Tzu and his Art of War, but the Middle Kingdom is quickly becoming known for its mastery in the Art of Ambiguity.
This has recently risen to the surface in the unfolding of UN negotiations over a draft Security Council resolution to seek "punitive actions" against North Korea for their underground testing of a small "nuclear weapon". Of course this is the first time that China has agreed to anything stronger than a raised eyebrow in the direction of their vertically challenged friend to the east and so took most everyone by a greatly welcomed surprised. Ahhhh but it was not to last. Today, China is looking with a very confused look as they are continuing to water down the UN resolution until it looks something more like... well like all the rest of them.

Is this a new tactic or a just business as usual or is it part of a larger more comprehensive strategy aimed at slowly weakening the geostrategic influence of the United States and her regional allies? Afterall, the Chinese culture is almost entirely predicated on the teachings of some of the greatest and most foundational strategists in history, why would it be so hard to think that there actions are so well thought out that we are merely seeing what it is that they want us to see.

The point being, it is nieve to think that the United States and the rest of the relatively young Western world has the upper hand when it comes to dealing with regional influence and strategy in the Asian sphere and increasingly in the Middle East, Africa and our own back yard, South America. Most of our strategic thought is primarily based on the rudimentary understanding of Chinese stratgems and military treatise that emanate from a culture what is vastly older and cohesive than our own. The advantages that we hold are centered around our technological dominance and the fact that we won the most recent global struggle (Cold War) with our infrastructures and influences intact. These advantages will not contiue forever and there is more than enough evidence to suggest that they have or are being countered ('shashou jiang' or assasins mace).

Hmmm where was I going with this.. Oh yeah. Dont be surprised by China's continual flip-flopping or constant ambiguity, its all part of the plan.

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, 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; when far away, we must make him believe
we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."
Sun Tzu - The Art of War