Inside Opinion

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Tag: Iran

May
8th

America faces rising threat from malware weapons

snakeThis editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

There it is, buried deep in a seemingly routine annual report the Pentagon has just released: The Chinese government has been carrying out cyber-raids on the U.S. government.

They aren’t actual cyber-attacks – attempts to destroy, disable or take over enemy information systems. They sound like sophisticated attempts to scrape this nation’s security secrets. According to the Defense Department’s May 6 update on Chinese military capacity:

“China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs.”

The purpose, the Pentagon believes, is to get “a picture of U.S. defense networks, logistics and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.” What’s more, the techniques used in these penetrations “are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks.”

For reasons of his own, President Barack Obama kept this finding at arm’s length by trickling it out through a Pentagon brief. Still, his administration has crossed a threshold, officially accusing its third-largest trade partner of operating as an enemy in cyberspace.

The important takeaway may be as much about cyberwarfare in general than about China in particular.

Malware attacks on networks are increasingly common and increasingly the work of governments — such as North Korea and Iran — as opposed to criminal syndicates.
Read more »

Jan.
3rd

Headlines we’ll read in 2013, for better or worse

Everyone likes predictions (why else do we read horoscopes?). Here are some from David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy. For the most part, he sees positive developments, particularly for the world economy. But he ends on a sad, pessimistic note.

Headlines we’ll be reading in 2013

By David Rothkopf

WASHINGTON — As that great geopolitical theorist Carly Simon once observed, “We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway, yay.” She then went on to say, as ketchup lovers everywhere remember, “Anticipation, anticipation, is making me late . . . is keepin’ me waitin’.”

Of course, the tortures of anticipation are well known to observers of the slow-motion train wreck that has been Washington’s management of America’s financial situation, or the recent, interminable U.S. presidential campaign, or the hideously slow path to oblivion followed by the Assad regime in Syria, or the painfully circular Eurofollies, not to mention the gradual but undeniable degradation of the planet’s environment that goes on year in and year out despite our clear knowledge about how to avoid the damage.

The time has come to say “enough.” We live in an age in which the average consumer expects instant gratification. There is no reason those who are interested in the bigger issues taking place in the world shouldn’t have it too. For that reason, we bring to you the top headlines that you will be looking back at when 2013 draws to a close 12 months from now. Think of it as the year in review, before it happens. Read more »

Nov.
20th

Call Israel’s bluff, Hamas: Give up the rockets

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The only hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a two-state solution that guarantees both Jews and Arabs a secure homeland.

That’s a distant dream, though, without a no-rockets solution right now.

When fighting breaks out between Israel and the jihadist Hamas government of Gaza, the news is dominated by massive Israeli air strikes and dead Palestinian noncombatants. It looks like swatting a flea with a sledgehammer.

Mostly unreported, month in and month out, are the barrages of missiles that Hamas and related militias launch into Israel.

The latest outbreak of warfare between Israel and Gaza is dated to Israel’s Nov. 14 assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. Jabari was the mastermind behind Hamas’ increasingly sophisticated arsenal, which now includes smuggled Iranian ballistic missiles capable of hitting Jerusalem.

When Jabari died, Hamas vowed revenge and launched rockets at Israel, hence the Israeli counterstrikes aimed at firing pads and other missile infrastructure in Gaza, among other targets.

According to The New York Times, though, Gaza jihadists had already fired – in 2012 alone – more than 700 rockets at Israel. Killing Jabari may have been a political blunder, but he was Gaza’s Rocketman – a legitimate military target.

Hamas is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization whose long-term goal is the complete destruction of Israel. Its leaders exalt death; they have celebrated Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings; its military has hidden weaponry in densely populated areas, betting that attacks will produce videos of mangled civilians.

Nevertheless, it has admirers who will jump to its defense every time the rockets are mentioned.

The standard line – before the Iranian missiles arrived – was that the rockets were crude and inaccurate. That’s like saying it’s OK to shoot at someone as long as you’re a bad shot.

No country but Israel is expected to sit passively as mortal enemies drop high explosives on its towns and territory.

The Hamas-enablers also argue that the rockets are a justified response to Israel’s sea blockade on Gaza. The blockade does cripple the Gaza economy – but it also slows down Hamas’ imports of heavy weapons.
Read more »

Oct.
22nd

Foreign policy questions for tonight’s debate

Tonight’s third and final presidential debate will focus on foreign policy. In the article below, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin, who has long written on foreign affairs, previews the debate and outlines questions she’d like to see answered. It moved on the wire Friday, so the time element in the first paragraph is a little off.

By Trudy Rubin

If you’re still hoping for a serious foreign-policy debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama, you’ll have to wait until Monday, when the candidates will focus on global issues.

Don’t get your hopes up, however. For one thing, the two men know the public isn’t focused on foreign affairs, which was barely raised by the audience at Tuesday’s town-hall discussion.

For another, the most serious security challenges confronting the country — in the Mideast and South Asia — are so complex and fluid, it’s hard to provide clear answers. This makes for a lot of posturing by Romney (it’s easier for a challenger to insist the answers are obvious) and for oversimplification by Obama. Read more »

Jan.
10th

Tehran showing some welcome signs of desperation

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Iran has been much in the news the past few days and – as usual – not in a good way.

On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the Islamic Republic had begun producing highly enriched uranium at an underground nuclear complex near its holy city, Qom.

The details are critical. To use uranium as fuel in a power plant, the percentage of its most volatile isotope must be raised to about 3.5 percent. Iran has been busy doing that for a long time, though its need for nuclear power

Read more »

Nov.
12th

Connect the dots: Iranian nukes and American cars

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The ayatollahs lost the last shreds of plausible deniability Tuesday when the International Atomic Energy Agency documented Iran’s drive for nuclear missiles in damning detail.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of this extremist, unstable theocracy would be uniquely dangerous. Iran’s foreign policy consists of intimidating its Arab neighbors, spreading its revolutionary Shiite dogma, sponsoring terror attacks and destroying the state of Israel – which is capable of mounting a catastrophic nuclear pre-emptive strike.

This threat has a foundation deeper than Shiite radicalism. Follow the oil.

Without the intense global thirst for petroleum, Iran’s theocracy might have been gone the way of Moammar Gadhafi long ago.

The theocracy is funded chiefly by Iran’s oil sales. It uses that money to subsidize food and energy, and otherwise keep the Iranian people dependent on government largess.

Oil revenue pays for Iran’s military and for its “peaceful” nuclear program. And the ayatollahs use petroleum to insulate themselves against outside pressure.
Read more »

Jan.
26th

Who, exactly, will replace Mubarak in Egypt?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The United States supports democracy and detests autocracy. Except when it doesn’t.

What’s been happening in Egypt may be one of the excepts. Huge angry crowds have taken to the streets, threatening to overturn the dictatorship that’s been misgoverning and mismanaging the country for as long as most people can remember.

Since President Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981, he has systematically crushed any opposition groups that posed a serious threat to his rule, rigging elections and sometimes brutalizing his opponents.

The complication is, he’s also been a crucial American ally in the Middle East. He kept his country out of the Soviet orbit during the cold war, kept violent Islamists at bay and maintained the friendly ties his much more impressive predecessor – Anwar Sadat – established with Israel.

Those policies served his interests, and it so happens they served American interests as well. As Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have once said about a Nicaraguan dictator, “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.”

So far, the Obama administration is following that line with Egypt. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared Mubarak’s government to be “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

In other words, we’ve got your back, Hosni.
Read more »

Nov.
29th

The Iran of WikiLeaks is a scary country indeed

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Julian Assange, the chief of WikiLeaks, is a pirate willing to endanger people’s lives with mass releases of secret U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic documents.

But he’s no worse than whoever stole those documents in the first place. Suspicion has settled on Pfc. Bradley Manning, an unhappy 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, who’s been arrested and charged with downloading thousands of highly sensitive and classified messages while deployed in Iraq.

Does the U.S. Army really give low-ranking soldiers in their early 20s access to secret communiqués whose exposure could threaten American foreign policy? The Defense Department now promises to track users of its information systems the same way credit card companies track card-users to detect fraud. It seems that MasterCard has a better handle on computer security than the Pentagon.

So far, news accounts of the leaked diplomatic messages suggest there are no outright bombshells among them. Like previously leaked dispatches and reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they mostly filled in the details of a larger picture already known to the public.

It comes as no surprise, for example, that Hamid Karzai’s brother is corrupt, Arab leaders are terrified of Iran’s nuclear program, America has been unable to keep Iranian weapons from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanan and al-Qaida continues to receive enormous funds from Saudi donors.

Some of the messages are downright comical. The Obama administration is depicted as begging and bribing foreign countries to take Guantanamo detainees of its hands. Slovenia was offered a visit with Obama. Belgium was told that taking more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
Read more »