Tag Archives: United Nations

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Kodahafez, Iran, Syrian Resolution, and London in al-Shabaab’s crosshairs.

The phone call heard around the world, the U.N. passes resolution on Syrian chemicals, and al-Shabaab’s plans for London – all into today’s defense headlines.

 

Shutdown Countdown D-3.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.   Falsified background investigations. Must read contributor Ashley LaGanga’s excellent primer on Reuters’ important Exclusive: “Hundreds of U.S. security clearances seen falsified.”  LaGanga notes, “Of the more than 350 cases Reuters identified, the violators were both special agents of OPM as well as background investigators from private firms.  While federal employees at OPM conduct many investigations, the majority are contracted to private entities such as USIS and CACI, among others.”

2.  The National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI). Contributor Jeffrey Bennett deep-dives the NACI and explains its nuances: “The National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI) is a background investigation primarily for federal employees who will not have access to classified information. This investigation is appropriate for positions designated as public trust positions that require responsible and trustworthy employees, but with no national security impact. The primary reason that the NACI is not an appropriate investigation for a security clearance is that a credit check is not required.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1. On Iran, Khodahafez – The Presidents’ breakthrough.

a.  A phone call from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to President Obama cracks the “taboo.”  Reuters reports, Obama and Rouhani “spoke by telephone on Friday, the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades and a sign that they are serious about reaching a pact on Tehran’s nuclear program. . . . Obama has said for years he was open to direct contact with Iran while also stressing that all options – including military strikes – were on the table to prevent Iran building a nuclear bomb. . . . [Rouhani] said Iran would bring a plan to resolve the decade-long dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program to an October meeting with the six powers in Geneva. He offered no details about that plan, but emphasized that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.”

b.  Optimism in a sea of pessimismAP’s Josh Lederman and Nedra Pickler describe, “Iranians awoke Saturday to learn that their president, Hassan Rouhani, had spoken directly to Obama, breaking through a barrier that had left American and Iranian presidents divorced from such contact for 34 years. . . . By the end of the call, Obama was suggesting that a breakthrough on the nuclear issue could portend even deeper ties between the U.S. and Iran, a notion that would have seemed unfathomable in recent years.”

c.  Success.  So Iran’s President Rouhani calls his week of diplomacy at the U.N. America.Aljazeera.Com reports, “Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Friday declared his first visit to the United States a success — and it was hard to argue with that assessment, if the measure was the number of important world leaders he met, the speeches he gave and the respectful audience he was given at and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. But for Tehran, the measure of success of Rouhani’s outreach will be whether Iran achieves relief from punishing sanctions — and that will depend on the outcome of the tough, detailed bargaining on its nuclear program that gets under way in Geneva next month.”

d.  The groundwork – SecState Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Thursday, setting the stage for the historic call, Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Zarif. Radio Free Europe reported, “The brief encounter between Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at UN headquarters in New York on September 26 was one of the highest-level meetings between the United States and Iran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. . . . Kerry was upbeat, but cautious. . . . ‘Discussions were very substantive, business-like,’ Zarif told reporters.

2.  U.N. Syria Resolution, but without a punch. No worries, we’ll be happy to oblige. Reuters reports, “The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Friday that demands the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons but does not threaten automatic punitive action against . . . Assad’s government if it does not comply. . . . The resolution does not allow for automatic punitive action in the form of military strikes or sanctions if Syria does not comply. At Russia’s insistence, Friday’s resolution makes clear a second council decision would be needed for that.”  See also Aljazeera.Com, Syrian “Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem tells Al Jazeera his nation is committed to destroying its chemical weapons stockpile.”

3.  Mercenaries. AP’s Larry Neumeister reports, “Two former American soldiers – one nicknamed “Rambo” – and a German ex-soldier faced charges Friday that they plotted to kill a U.S. drug enforcement agent and an informant for $800,000 in an assassination plan created by drug agents who wanted to catch trained snipers gone bad . . . . ‘The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends’ . . . . The indictment described 48-year-old Joseph Hunter, also known as ‘Rambo,’ as a contract killer and leader of the group of ex-snipers.”

4.  London – in al-Shabaab’s crosshairs. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “A document found after Somali troops killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s former leader in East Africa and a senior Shabaab commander, details a plot to conduct multiple Mumbai-like attacks that target civilians in London. The plot highlights how al Qaeda and Shabaab seek to strike civilian targets outside Somalia, and foreshadowed Shabaab’s attack on the Eastgate Mall in Kenya this week. . . . Shabaab’s external terror teams are to emulate ‘the tactics used by our brothers in Mumbai.’ In the Mumbai attack, small teams of Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters armed with assault rifles, grenades, and bombs fanned out across the city and attacked civilians. More than 170 people were killed during the Mumbai siege, which lasted for three days. Shabaab targeted train stations, a theater, two posh hotels, and a Jewish center during the attack.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Contracting failures. Reuters Exclusive by Tabassum Zakaria explains the unfortunate facts: “Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management . . . . The inspector general’s office said it has referred 22 former background investigators for debarment, but no decisions have been reached by OPM. A debarment is usually for a specific time period and means the person cannot contract with another federal agency. The Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled an October 1 hearing on government clearances and background checks.”

2.  $68 million worth of Raytheon Sidewinders for Belgium. Exactly why Belgium needs a Sidewinder . . . . DSCA.Mil posts, “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Belgium of AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $68 million. The Government of Belgium has requested a possible sale of 40 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II All-Up-Round Missiles . . . . The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, Arizona.”

3.  $1 billion, practically, by Japan for Boeing AWACS. Also from DSCA.Mil, “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Japan of an E-767 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Mission Computing Upgrade (MCU) and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $950 million. . . . The principal contractor will be Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, Washington.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Information risk – get the Board involved. Wired.Com contributor Steve Durbin, global vice president of the Information Security Forum (ISF) explains, “From cyber to insider, organizations have varying degrees of control over evolving security threats. With the speed and complexity of the threat landscape changing on an almost daily basis, all too often we are seeing businesses being left behind, sometimes in the wake of reputational and financial damage.”

2.  Action-Reaction: NSA’s quick response to Snowden. VentureBeat.Com contributor Kevin Poulson reports, “When on June 9 Edward Snowden stood up in Hong Kong and revealed himself to the world as an NSA whistleblower, the Justice Department wasted little time in targeting his email provider. A new appeals court filing today shows the government served a court order on Texas-based Lavabit the very next day, demanding metadata on an unnamed customer that the timing and circumstances suggest was Snowden.”

3.  Sea-basing: our Navy’s sharp edgeDefenseMediaNetwork.Com reports that “only the U.S. Navy has a blue water fleet able to operate, simultaneously, on all the planet’s major oceans, providing a mobile force not needing any other nation’s permission when it moves into place during a crisis. That fleet is by far the largest in the world, with more supercarriers (100,000 tons or more) than all other navies’ smaller flat-tops combined, plus more large-deck amphibious warfare ships of similar size to most other carriers than the rest of the world’s fleets.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  The South’s gonna do it again. Led, mostly, by Southerner (well, Texas) Ted Cruz, hyperbolic hyperbole has reached “one of the most dangerous points in our history.” NationalJournal.Com paints the subtle, fluorescent picture: “This isn’t just congressional business as usual, Harkin said. It’s much, much more dire: ‘It’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous. I believe, Mr. President, we are at one of the most dangerous points in our history right now. Every bit as dangerous as the break-up of the Union before the Civil War.’”  [See also, Charlie Daniels – Daniels fiddled while Washington burned.]

2.  Anticipation of shutdown is worse than shutdown itself. WaPo reports that in the DoD, the scramble to respond to the threat of shutdown impedes work as much as a shutdown: “’The planning itself is disruptive,” an exhausted [DoD Comptroller Robert] Hale told reporters. ‘People are worrying right now about whether their paychecks are going to be delayed, rather than focusing fully on their mission.’”  So, all cyber-terrorists should take note: cut the money and the mission goes in the toilet.

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  The Phone Call – 3 Takeaways. Time contributor Michael Crowley argues, “The call was only a symbolic step, but still a very important development in the showdown between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program. Here are three reasons why:  . . . Iran’s hard-liners must have allowed it. . . . Rouhani did the smart—and maybe cynical—thing. . . Diplomacy just got easier for Obama. . . . we’re closer to the beginning of this story than the end.”

2.  “Rafsanjani and Khamenei: The Rouhani element.”  In part III of his lecture on Iran (that we all should read), Aljazeera.Com contributor Akbar Ganji argues, “No other people in the region have as positive a view of the US as the people of Iran. If free elections are held in Iran, the pro-democracy majority would undoubtedly win handily. The Iranian society has gone through a real transformation in all aspects, and has grown enough that the garment of Velayat-e Faqih is too small for its body, and does not fit but by force.”  Catch up on parts I and II of Ganji’s triptych: Rafsanjani and Khamenei: A brief history and Rafsanjani and Khamenei: The Ahmadinejad years.

3.  “The key stumbling blocks U.S. and Iran face.” Reuters’ contributor David Rhode argues, “A historic phone call Friday between the presidents of the United States and Iran could mark the end of 34 years of enmity. Or it could be another missed opportunity. In the weeks ahead, clear signs will emerge whether a diplomatic breakthrough is possible.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Chic Chicks.

2.  Diplomacy.

3.  Donations accepted.

4.  Just can’t get it out of my head.

 

 

Iraq artillery position cover

Daily Intelligence: The United Nations, Warlords get ready, and Shutdown showdown.

The United Nations’ General Assembly comes to life, Afghan warlord Ismael Khan – “The Lion of Herat” – and other gear up for their future, and Congressional sniping hits new levels as shutdown looms – all in today’s defense headlines.

 

Shutdown countdown: T-6 days & Tuesday’s Top Ten

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.   Because not everyone can be the 82d Airborne Division. But at least you can have a cool motto. Contributor D.B. Grady explains what “Otatsiihtaissiiststakio piksi makamo ta psswia” has to do with ““9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a.”  All the way!

2.  Why they can’t keep secrets, either. Also from contributor D.B. Grady, a quick tutorial on other nations’ clearance processes: “The security screening process is in many ways a measurement of how interesting your life has been. (Only the most fascinating of people can fill out all four boxes in Section 5, which asks for a list of the applicant’s aliases.) . . . there’s a remarkable overlap in structure and process by other nations.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  POTUS – building diplomatic opportunities in New YorkAP’s Julie Pace’s read-ahead on President Obama’s address at the United Nations, which precedes Iranian President Rouhani: “Seeking to build on diplomatic opportunities, President Barack Obama is expected to signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies. . . . The president’s address will be closely watched for signs that he may meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven’t had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.”  See also Time’s “Handshake that could shake the world.”

2.  At the U.N., Syria tops the agendaTheGuardian.Com updates on what’s happening – and not happening – at the United Nations:

a.  Include Iran in a Syria solution: United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs said, “there is a fresh opportunity for a political, diplomatic approach to the Syria crisis, now that Damascus has acknowledge it has chemical weapons and agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. . . . Jeffrey Feltman also suggested that Tehran would have to play a role.”

b.  Thursday, time to talk nukes: “The last round of nuclear talks with Iran took place in Kazakhstan in April, but the negotiations have been stalled for eight years. . . . Since the election of a new pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, in June, Tehran has signalled that Iran might be ready for a compromise on the nuclear issue and Zarif, a American-educated former ambassador to the UN, is conducting an intense diplomatic offensive at the UN, arriving five days before the general assembly and meeting a large number of foreign ministers.”

c.  Ladies and gentlemen, the new Iran: “There is little doubt Rouhani will deliver the rhetoric. The devil as ever will be in the fine print. It may be that the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has empowered him to make a deal that critically falls short of international expectations, in the hope that the momentum building around Rouhani would bounce the West into giving away more than it intended.”

3.  Muslim Brotherhood outlawed in EgyptAljazeera.Com reports, “An Egyptian court has banned all activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ordered authorities to seize all of the group’s assets . . . . The ruling opens the door for a wider crackdown on the vast network of the Brotherhood, which includes social organisations that have been key for building the group’s grassroots support and helping its election victories.”

4.  It’s been a long time, too long. Thursday, SecState Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart in the first such conference in over 30 years. McClatchyDC.Com reports, “In a diplomatic milestone, Secretary of State of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet here Thursday for talks that analysts say could pave the way for warmer U.S.-Iranian relations after a decades-long freeze. . . . Thursday’s meeting, however, will be about Iran, and analysts who specialize in U.S.-Iranian relations say the time could be right for steps toward a detente: The U.S. and Iran are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict but both are looking for a solution to the bloodshed, and Iran is feeling the burn from sanctions on its petroleum exports.”

5.  In Kenya, at least 62 dead . . . and counting. AP’s Jason Straziuso and Tom Odula report from Nairobi, “Nairobi’s city morgue is preparing for the arrival of a large number of bodies of people killed in the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Kenya. The government official says morgue employees were told to prepare for many bodies. . . . Authorities have said they are involved in a final push to clear out the remaining attackers. But authorities have before referred to their operations as final.”

6.  In Afghanistan, 49 Taliban dead over 24 hours. Khaama.Com reports, “The interior ministry of Afghanistan following a statement announced that the operations were jointly conducted by Afghan police, Afghan army, Afghan intelligence – national directorate of security and coalition security forces. The statement further added that the operations were conducted in Helmad, Farah, Herat, Logar, Uruzgan, Zabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces of Afghanistan.” In Kabul, Afghan security forces derail twin suicide attacks.

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  The Scorpion – “The world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft.” DefenseMediaNetwork.Com reports, “Industrial powerhouse Textron (think Bell Helicopter, Cessna, and Textron Systems) and small startup AirLand Enterprises, LLC (website under construction) have joined forces to create the Scorpion light tactical aircraft. The joint venture, Textron AirLand, LLC, has boldly or foolishly designed the clean-sheet Scorpion without a requirement, in the midst of budget constraints both domestically and internationally. . . . Mission capabilities that the Scorpion hopes to fulfill include border security, maritime security, counter narcotics, aerospace control alert, humanitarian assistance/disaster response, and irregular warfare support.”

2.  $60 million worth of avionics to Tunisia. DSCA.Mil announces, “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on September 18 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Tunisia of F-5 avionics upgrades and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $60 million. . . . The principal contractor will be Northrop Grumman of St. Augustine, Florida.”  [Given all the other distractions in Congress, expect this proposal to slide through unopposed.  Good timing.]

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  IPOs aplenty in the tech world – NASDAQ and NYSE. Pull together the gambling money. VentureBeat.Com contributor Dylan Tweney reports, “Almost all of the . . . companies will have valuations well under $1 billion, although the largest by market capitalization will be Pattern Energy, which will hit the $1 billion mark almost exactly if its offering prices at $20, the midpoint of the proposed range. The next largest companies would be Violin Memory ($874 million valuation at the midpoint of its range) and RingCentral ($804 million). . . . Notably, 11 of the 13 companies will list their shares on the historically tech-friendly Nasdaq, while two — RingCentral and Violin Memory — will list on the NYSE.”

2.  Sell it. If you need some extra cash now that you bought the new iPhone, here’s where to get the best deals.  Time reports, “cashing in on old electronics is easier than ever. Take your smartphone to a retail store for an immediate trade-in, or sell it online if you don’t need the cash immediately.”

3.  Go private. Blackberry takes itself out of the market. Reuters reports, “Smartphone maker BlackBerry has agreed to go private in a $4.7 billion deal led by its biggest shareholder, allowing the on-the-go email pioneer to regroup away from public scrutiny after years of falling fortunes and slumping market share. The $9 a share tentative offer, from a consortium led by property and casualty insurer Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, will set a floor for any counteroffers that might emerge for Blackberry, which has been on the block since August.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Damn freshmen . . . . Senate freshman Ted Cruz (R-TX) turns the Good Old Party against itself and twerks the Congress along the way: “A master of fiery conservative oratory, the freshman senator is trying to block funding for President Obama’s health-care law with a strategy that, if successful, will almost certainly lead to a partial government shutdown next week. The Texan has become the face of an effort variously described as the ‘dumbest idea,’ leading Republicans to a ‘box canyon’ and ending with their political ‘suicide note.’”  See also, “Republicans’ dangerous rationality” and “GOP Extremists.”

2.  Obama + Clinton = Love.  The President teams up with the putative next president’s husband to win on healthcare. Reuters’ Jeff Mason and Steve Holland report, “Clinton’s effort to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system while president, spearheaded by his wife, former first lady Hillary Clinton, failed in Congress, dealing them a major political blow. But it called attention to the plight of millions of Americans who did not have insurance. . . . Hillary Clinton, who is a potential presidential candidate in 2016 and served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term, will introduce the two men.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Must Read: The Warlords Get Ready. Der Spiegel’s Christian Neef with an in-depth pregame on the Afghan warlords’ first moves after we leave: Ismael Khan, “The Lion of Herat,” “foresees a return of the fundamentalist Taliban, the collapse of the government in Kabul and the eruption of a new war between ethnic groups. He sees a future in which power is divided between the clans as it was in the past, and in which the mujahedeen, the tribal militias seasoned by battles against the Soviets and later the Taliban, remain the sole governing force.”

2.  “Bring on the shutdown.”  Slate.Com contributor Matthew Yglesias argues, “A little government shutdown isn’t the worst thing in the world, and it’s much better to have this fight now rather than entertain months of herky-jerky crisis.”

3.  “Why diplomacy with Iran is doomed.”  Aljazeera.Com contributor John Glaser argues, “There are a multitude of outstanding issues and grievances beyond the nuclear matter that have great potential to spoil this window for peaceful reconciliation. But the greatest spoiler of all lies in the fact that Ayatollah Khamenei, who holds ultimate control no matter who is president, is convinced Washington is out to overthrow his government. Worse still, he has good reason to believe it.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  More powerful than a speeding Hillary.

2.  The Mystery Machine.

3.  More guns!