10/23/17

UN/Harvard Comprehensive WMD Programs in N. Korea/ISIS

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Primer:

A North Korean mining firm, reputed to be a front for Pyongyang’s weapons development programs, attempted to ship materiel to Syrian officials tied to the country’s chemical weapons program, according to a confidential United Nations assessment of international sanctions against the North.

Details of the U.N. findings, first reported by Reuters, found officials from Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation {KOMID) had sent a pair of shipments of unknown contents to members of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre or SSRC. The Syrian government organization has been responsible for developing chemical and biological weapons for regime in Damascus since the 1970’s.

The shipments never arrived in Syria after being intercepted by international authorities from U.N. partner nations, Reuters reports. “Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria,” the U.N. review states.

KOMID has repeatedly trafficked in materials associated with ballistic missile development and other conventional arms programs, and was blacklisted by the U.N. security council as a result of those activities, Reuters reports.

As a result, the U.N. “is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and [North Korea],” the report states. More here.

Quoting the South Korean Defense Ministry, it said: ‘North Korea has 13 types of biological weapons agents which it can weaponize within ten days, and anthrax and smallpox are the likely agents it would deploy.’

***

Harvard produced a report with the summary in part that reads:

Amidst the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear program, the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother via VX nerve agent in February 2017 brought renewed interest in North Korea’s other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs—chemical and biological weapons. If used on a large scale, these weapons can cause not only tens of thousands of deaths, but also create panic and paralyze societies. Nevertheless, the vividness of the nuclear threat has overshadowed other weapons programs, limiting the attention and policy input that they deserve. This paper focuses on North Korea’s biological weapons (BW). Accurately assessing the threat from North Korea’s biological weapons is challenging. Whereas North Korea has publicly declared its will to become a nuclear power many times, it has been less overt about itsintention or capability for biological weapons. BW capabilities are inherently hard to detect and measure. While nuclear programs can be monitored by the number of nuclear tests and the success of missile tests, weaponizing and cultivating pathogens can stay invisible behind closed doors. Moreover, equipment used for BW production are often dual-use for agriculture, making external monitoring and verification virtually impossible. Limited information on North Korea’s BW program leads to a low threat perception that may undermine preparation and response efforts. The full 46 page report is here.

A German newspaper reported last week that at least one European intelligence agency has already warned that the Islamic State is exploring the use of chemicals for attacks in Europe. Such an eventuality would be a radical departure from prior attacks by the Islamic State in the West. In the past, the militant group has shown a strong preference for low-tech means of dispensing violence, such as firearms, vehicles and knives. But it has utilized chemical substances in Iraq and Syria, and its technical experts have amassed significant knowledge about weaponized chemicals.

Last week, several European and American counter-terrorism experts participated in a bioterrorism preparedness exercise in Berlin. Codenamed WUNDERBAUM, the exercise was one of several anti-terrorism drills that have taken place in the German capital this year alone. But last week’s drill was the first with an exclusive focus on preparing for a bioterrorist attack. German authorities insisted that the drill was not sparked by concrete intelligence of a pending biological or chemical attack. But the Berlin-based national newspaper Die Welt claimed on Friday that it had information about at least one such warning by a European intelligence agency. The paper did not name the agency, but said that “a foreign intelligence agency” had warned European security authorities of a possible terrorist attack by the Islamic State using chemical weapons. According to Die Welt, the warning was “explicit” and cautioned that the Sunni militant group may be preparing to use improvised bombs utilizing chemicals, including toxic gasses. The warning was communicated to European intelligence agencies, including Germany’s said Die Welt.

How likely is such a scenario? Terrorist groups tend to be conservative in their use of lethal technologies. They typically opt for time-tested methods using explosives or firearms, because these have a higher of success in comparison to more sophisticated, hi-tech weapons. The latter are also more expensive to build and require scientific and technical capabilities that are not typically available to terrorist organizations. Militants are usually strapped for cash, and are not science-savvy, so exceptions to this general trend are rare. But the Islamic State is different. Ever since it made its eventful appearance in 2013, the group has experimented with a variety of chemicals, including nerve agents. It is known that it initiated a modest chemical weapons program, headed by Iraqi engineers who were trained under Iraq’s late ruler, Saddam Hussein. One of them, Abu Malik, was killed in an American airstrike in early 2015. Another, Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, who headed the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program, was captured by US Special Forces in northern Iraq in March of last year.

The Islamic State’s rapid loss of territory in the past year has delivered serious blows to the group’s military infrastructure. Its chemical weapons program, which was targeted early on by the US, Iran and other belligerents, is now almost certainly defunct. But many of its engineers and technical experts are still at large, as are those who were trained by them during the group’s heyday in Iraq and Syria. Despite its continuing retreat, the Islamic State is still capable of employing chemicals that are relatively easy to procure, such as chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, or even various fertilizers, to construct explosives or nerve agents. Last summer, members of a terrorist cell with connections to the Islamic State were arrested in Sydney, Australia. By the time they were arrested, they had already procured significant quantities of hydrogen sulfide and had even tested the chemical, in an apparent preparation for a large-scale attack.

The Australian case shows that the Islamic State is not averse to the tactical use of chemical weapons in terrorist attacks. As the militant group’s self-proclaimed caliphate is disintegrating, and its leaders feel like they have nothing left to lose, the deployment of unconventional terrorist technologies should not be excluded as a tactical option for the organization. Western counter-terrorism officials should actively and immediately prepare for such an eventuality.

10/23/17

China Stays True To Marxism/Communism

By: Trevor Loudon | New Zeal

Many Westerners believe that because China has adopted a “state capitalist” model, it is therefore on the road to abandoning Marxism/communism.

That is a very dangerous mistake.

From the Communist Party USA’s People’s World:

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President of the People’s Republic, recently told the Politburo that a profound understanding of Marxism on the part of the country’s leadership was essential. He warned his colleagues that any abandonment of Marxism would cause the CPC “to lose its soul and direction.”

Classical Marxism maintains that mankind goes through five stages of development.

  1. Primitive Communism – hunter-gatherer, communal subsistence living.
  2. Feudalism – an agricultural based economy, ruled over by strongmen and warlords.
  3. Capitalism – a highly productive, but eventually self-destructive industrial based economy, dominated by business leaders.
  4. Socialism – a centrally planned economy, where the wealth created by capitalism is re-distributed by government bureaucrats, lead by an elite.
  5. Advanced Communism – the centrally planned state withers away. Wealth is abundant and shared in common on the basis of need. This stage of course will never be achieved, because the socialist stage will destroy productive capacity and the bureaucrats and dictators will hoard as much of the remaining wealth as they can for themselves.

According to Marxist theory “socialism” was supposed to occur first in advanced industrialized countries like Germany, Britain and the United States, not in semi-feudal backward nations like Russia, China, Cuba and Vietnam.

By returning to an at least partially “capitalist” economy, China, Vietnam, Russia and now even Cuba are acknowledging that missing the “capitalist” stage and trying to jump straight from “feudalism” to “socialism” was a huge mistake.

By returning temporarily to “capitalism,” the communists believe they can re-build their economies and their military might to the point they can enforce “socialism” worldwide.

China and its allies Russia and Cuba are not abandoning the road to Marxian “communism.” They are re-affirming it.

10/23/17

N. Korea Months Away from Ability to Strike U.S. with Nukes

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Japan is taking defensive measures:

The Yomiuri Shimbun The government is considering equipping planned ground-based Aegis Ashore systems with the capacity to intercept cruise missiles, in addition to the ability to defend against ballistic missiles.

With Chinese bombers making repeated flights in areas around Japan, the government believes it should also prepare for attacks by cruise missiles, multiple government sources said.

The government intends to introduce two Aegis Ashore systems in Japan by around fiscal 2023 as part of the effort to boost the nation’s missile defenses.

These would be equipped with SM-3 Block IIA missiles, a new interceptor being jointly developed by Japan and the United States with the capacity to intercept ballistic missiles at altitudes exceeding 1,000 kilometers.

The government is also considering equipping the systems with SM-6 anti-air missiles, which are multifunction interceptors that also can take down cruise missiles.

United Nations (AP) — North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador said Tuesday the country plans to launch many more satellites and accused the United States of trying to block its efforts to help peacefully develop outer space.

Kim In Ryong told a U.N. General Assembly committee meeting on “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” that the country’s five-year plan for 2016-2020 includes development of “practical satellites that can contribute to the economic development and improvement of the people’s living.”

As a party to several space treaties, North Korea’s space development activities are “all ground on legal basis in all aspects,” Kim said.

But he said the United States is “going frantic to illegalize our development of outer space,” claiming the effort violates U.N. sanctions.

“The U.S. is the country that launched the largest number of satellites and yet it claims that our launch of satellites is a threat to international peace and security,” Kim said. “This is a preposterous allegation and extreme double standards.”

The United Nations, the U.S. and other countries view the North’s space launch development project as a cover for tests of missile technology, as ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology. North Korea is also openly working on developing nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

US: North Korea Months Away From Being Able to Hit US with Nuclear Missile

North Korea is likely just months away from being capable of striking the United States with a nuclear missile, according to two top U.S. officials.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a forum in Washington on Thursday he is “deeply worried” about the advancing threat from North Korea and the possibility it could spark a nuclear arms race across East Asia.

“We ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said when asked about Pyongyang’s pursuit of missile technology that could launch a warhead to targets in the U.S.

“They are so far along in that it’s now a matter of thinking about how do you stop the final step?” he added.

McMaster: We’re running out of time

U.S. National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster said later on Thursday that Washington was racing to resolve the situation, short of using military force.

“We’re not out of time but we’re running out of time,” McMaster said, speaking at the same event. “Accept and deter is unacceptable.”

The comments by Pompeo and McMaster come as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have been steadily rising following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test last month, it’s sixth overall, and repeated tests of what intelligence officials have assessed to be both intermediate and long range ballistic missiles.

But despite warning that North Korea is just months away from being able to target the U.S., the CIA’s Pompeo cautioned there are still questions about just how “robust” the North Korea nuclear threat has become, and whether Pyongyang will be able to deliver multiple nuclear warheads to nuclear targets.

“There’s always a risk. Intelligence is imperfect,” Pompeo said, adding there is evidence Pyongyang may be getting help from Iran, citing “deep conventional weapons ties as between the two countries.”

He also warned that each North Korean test makes an arms race ever more likely.

“You watch as North Korea grows ever closer to having its capability perfected, you can imagine others in the region also thinking that they well may need that capability,” he said.

Putin suggests force won’t work against North Korea

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against the use of force to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat, suggesting it would not work.

“Talks about a preventative, disarming strike — and we hear both hints and open threats — this is very dangerous,” Putin said during a speaking engagement in Sochi.

“Who knows what and where is hidden in North Korea? And whether all of it can be destroyed with one strike, I doubt it,” he said. “I’m almost sure it is impossible.”

North Korean officials have also repeatedly warned the U.S. against any provocations.

Pyongyang’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

Other North Korean officials have accused the U.S. of making preparations for war, citing the presence of the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, conducting exercises to the east of the Korean Peninsula.

10/23/17

Russia Takes Over Kurds’ Oil Pipeline, Hillary?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft (ROSN.MM), has agreed to take control of Iraqi Kurdistan’s main oil pipeline, boosting its investment in the autonomous region to $3.5 billion despite Baghdad’s military action sparked by a Kurdish vote for independence.

The move appears to be part of a strategy by President Vladimir Putin to boost Moscow’s Middle Eastern political and economic influence, which was weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Rosneft said it would own 60 percent of the pipeline, with current operator KAR Group retaining 40 percent. Sources familiar with the deal said Rosneft’s investment in the project was expected to total about $1.8 billion.

That comes on top of $1.2 billion that the Russian firm, which has struggled to raise Western loans due to U.S. sanctions, lent Kurdistan earlier this year to help fill holes in its budget. Rosneft also agreed to invest another $400 million in five exploration blocks. More here.

You remember Rosneft right? That Russian oil conglomerate that donated big dollars to the Clinton Foundation during the Uranium One deal and even the NYT’s reported it.

(Reuters) – A senior Iranian military commander repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, Kurdish officials briefed on the meetings said.

Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to meet Kurdish leaders at least three times this month before the Baghdad government’s lightning campaign to recapture territory across the north.

The presence of Soleimani on the frontlines highlights Tehran’s heavy sway over policy in Iraq, and comes as Shi’ite Iran seeks to win a proxy war in the Middle East with its regional rival and U.S. ally, Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Soleimani met leaders from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main Kurdish political parties in northern Iraq, in the city of Sulaimania the day before Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered his forces to advance on Kirkuk, according to a PUK lawmaker briefed on the meeting.

His message was clear: withdraw or risk losing Tehran as a strategic ally.

“Abadi has all the regional powers and the West behind him and nothing will stop him from forcing you to return back to the mountains if he decides so,” the lawmaker quoted Soleimani as telling the PUK leadership.

The Iranian general evoked late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s massive attack on a Kurdish rebellion in 1991, when almost the entire Kurdish population fled northern Iraq to the mountains, the PUK lawmaker said.

“Soleimani’s visit … was to give a last-minute chance for the decision-makers not to commit a fatal mistake,” said the lawmaker, who like others interviewed in this story declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Commanders of the Iraqi Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, have accused Iran of orchestrating the Shi’ite-led Iraqi central government’s push into areas under their control, a charge senior Iranian officials have denied.

But Iran has made no secret of its presence in Iraq.

“Tehran’s military help is not a secret anymore. You can find General Soleimani’s pictures in Iraq everywhere,” said an official close to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“Now, beside political issues, Kirkuk’s oil is a very key element for Iran, which is an OPEC member. Control of those oil fields by Iran’s enemies would be disastrous for us. Why should we let them enter the oil market?.”

“THERE WILL BE CONFLICT”

Kirkuk fell to Iraqi government forces on Monday. Their offensive followed a referendum last month in which the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region voted to secede from Iraq against Baghdad’s wishes.

Kurds have sought an independent state for almost a century, after colonial powers divided up the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and left Kurdish-populated territory split between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

But Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties have been at odds over both the referendum and the approach to the crisis in Kirkuk, which the Kurds consider to be the heart of their homeland.

The PUK, a close ally of Iran, accused its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), of putting the Kurds at risk of military intervention and isolation by pushing hard for the vote, which won wide approval for independence.

Soleimani has been allied to the PUK for years, but the referendum has drawn him even closer to Kurdish politics and expanded Iran’s reach in Iraq beyond the Baghdad government.

The Iranian general is no stranger to conflicts in Iraq, which fought an eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s. He has often been seen in footage from the frontlines, and Iran has long helped Baghdad to carry out its military strategy through paramilitary Shi’ite militias which it funds and arms.

Before the referendum, Soleimani suggested to Kurdish leaders that holding a vote on secession — which Iran feared would encourage its own Kurdish population to agitate for greater autonomy — would be risky.

“The Iranians were very clear. They have been very clear that there will be conflict, that these territories will be lost,” said one prominent Iraqi Kurdish politician who met Soleimani ahead of the Sept. 25 referendum.

On Oct. 6, barely a week after the vote, Soleimani attended the funeral of PUK leader Jalal Talabani. Again, he wanted to make sure even his closest Kurdish allies understood the dangers of not withdrawing from Kirkuk, officials said.

A senior Iranian diplomat in Iraq and an official in Iran close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office said Soleimani met with Kurdish leaders after Talibani’s funeral and urged them to withdraw from Kirkuk and in exchange Tehran would protect their interests.

Soleimani met with one of Talabani’s sons, Bafel, a few days after his father was buried, one of the PUK officials said.

“Soleimani said Abadi should be taken very seriously. You should understand this,” the official said.

An Iranian source in Iraq said Soleimani was in Kirkuk two nights before the Iraqi government offensive for “a couple of hours to give military guidance.” Iraqi intelligence sources said Tehran sent a clear signal to the PUK.

“We understand from our sources on the ground that neighboring Iran played a decisive role in making the PUK chose the right course with Baghdad,” one Iraqi intelligence official told Reuters.

KURDISH DIVISIONS

Tensions over the referendum and Kirkuk have deepened divisions between the two main political parties in northern Iraq. The KDP accused the PUK of betraying the Kurdish cause by capitulating to Iran and striking a deal to withdraw.

“The Talabani clan were behind the offensive on Kirkuk. They asked Qassem (Soleimani) for help and his troops were there on the ground,” said a source close to Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and head of the KDP.

“It is becoming clear that Iran is directing the operations to destroy the KDP.”

The PUK strongly denies this. Talabani’s son Bafel accused the KDP of missing a zero-hour chance to avoid losing Kirkuk by failing to reach a deal over a military base which Iraqi government forces had demanded to take back.

“Unfortunately we reacted too slowly. And we find ourselves where we are today,” Bafel told Reuters.

Two other Kurdish political sources gave a similar account.

Iran and Soleimani offered early assistance to northern Iraq’s Kurds in the fight against Islamic State, a rallying point for the Kurdish community. But after the devastating loss of Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurds have been left disillusioned.

“They (both PUK and KDP leaders) just make decisions on their own and play with people’s lives. In the end, we pay the price,” said pensioner Abdullah Ahmed in Sulaimania.  “This is a disaster for everyone. Everyone was united against Daesh (Islamic State). Now they are back just looking out for themselves.”