07/25/21

New Nuclear Deal Would Empower the Iranian Regime

By: Hany Ghoraba | CCNS

The current, bumpy negotiations aimed at preventing the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons are among the Biden administration’s highest priorities. The administration lifted sanctions on more than a dozen former Iranian officials in June, a move that Iranian officials viewed as a victory.

Iran even claimed that 1,000 more sanctions will soon be lifted, which the U.S. State Department spokesman denied. Days later, it was reported that the Biden administration might remove what it considers symbolic sanctions on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The relief comes as Iran faces new internal pressures. Severe water shortages have triggered six days of massive anti-government protests, including chants of “Death to [Ayatollah] Khamenei.”

As diplomacy continues, Iran is not relenting in pursuing its violent objectives. U.S. troops in Syria were shelled by Iranian rocket fire following U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias. While U.S. forces responded to the attacks, it was not enough to stop six reprisal attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria this month alone. “President Biden must put forward a real strategy for deterring and ending these attacks, rather than continuing his bare-minimum, tit-for-tat approach that is failing to deter Iran or its militias and puts American lives at increased risk,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday rejected a new draft nuclear agreement because it was incompatible with legislation passed by Iran’s parliament last December. That law prohibits the country from dropping below 20 percent enriched uranium, which would not be allowed in any negotiated nuclear deal.

“The committee formed at the SNSC which was responsible for comparing the draft with the law passed by the parliament in December has decided that it is incompatible with the law,” said Ali Rabiei, spokesman for outgoing Iranian President Ali Rouhani.

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07/18/21

The Downing of TWA Flight 800: 25 Years Ago Today

By: Roger Aronoff | CCNS

July 17 marks the 25th anniversary of the downing of TWA Flight 800, in which 230 people were killed when the Boeing 747 blew up off the coast of Long Island, New York just 12 minutes into a flight from New York to Paris. Last week in Ashburn, Va., not far from the nation’s capital, the reconstructed fuselage of the plane was set to be scrapped, as if to wipe that memory from the nation’s memory bank.

Earlier this month James Kallstrom died. He was the FBI’s headman in New York, and he led the FBI’s criminal investigation into the explosion that brought the plane down. I was set to meet with Kallstrom, along with my correspondent Reid Collins while working on a documentary on the subject in 2001, but less than an hour before our scheduled meeting, he called me to reschedule, which never came about.

This was a story that I was intimately involved with, having participated in the investigations into the cause of the disaster, and having written and produced a documentary laying out the case at the time for the three leading theories as to what brought the plane down: a naval exercise gone wrong; a terrorist attack on the plane; or a mechanical and electrical failure, which is the official version of what happened.

On July 2nd, 2013, I saw the reconstructed fuselage of TWA Flight 800 at a press briefing put on by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), shortly after the wreckage was brought to the NTSB Academy in Ashburn, about 45 minutes outside of D.C.

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07/13/21

After Guns Go Quiet, Hamas Works with Hizballah and Iran to Learn Lessons for Next War

By: Yaakov Lappin | CCNS

Over a month after the conflict between Israel and Hamas came to an end, a deceptive calm has taken hold, and a new, fateful learning competition is underway.

Hamas, the radical Islamist regime that rules Gaza, is working with its allies in the Shi’ite axis – Iran and Hizballah – to study the latest conflict and share lessons that can help in the next war.

According to an Israeli military source, Hamas is sharing its operational lessons with its allies.

Israel is sharing its own valuable lessons from the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls with the United States.

This learning competition shapes future conflicts between Israel and the terrorist armies on its borders. It also influences conflicts throughout the region, affecting any state that must face Iranian-armed, hybrid guerilla-terrorist forces.

The information-sharing can help Hamas and its radical allies identify weaknesses in air defense capabilities, make new uses of combat tunnels, find new ways to use weapons such as anti-tank missiles, and search for new asymmetric warfare doctrines.

In the past, Iranian experience in producing and using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), mortar attacks, and drones influenced Hamas’s engineers and its Gazan combat battalions.

Hizballah’s systematic use of Lebanese civilians as shields for the organization’s arsenals of rockets and missiles has inspired Hamas’s military wing to do the same in Gaza.

“In principle, every round of conflict is a learning tool. Ultimately, what we see during conflicts is the result of a learning competition between the two sides,” Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research division in the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

“Each side learns as best as it can the lessons from the past round, and it tries to apply them in the next conflict,” said Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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07/12/21

The Threat of Iran’s Ayatollahs – Track Record vs. Speculation

By: Yoram Ettinger | CCNS

US policy-makers who are negotiating a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear accord (JCPOA), should be aware that the most effective predictor of Iran’s future behavior is its past behavior.  Past performance – especially in the highly traditional Middle East – is a tangible and objective basis of assessment, while future behavior is subjective, speculative, and fraught with uncertainty.

Ignoring the systematic and relentless anti-US track record of Iran’s Ayatollahs, since the 1978/79 revolution – which transformed Iran from “the American policeman of the Gulf” to a key epicenter of regional and global subversion, terrorism, and wars – would be at the expense of regional and global stability, undermining vital US national security and economic interests.

However, the US administration seems determined to conclude another accord with Iran, irrespective of Iran’s consistent track record of the fanatical anti-US education systemviolation of agreements with the US and the Arab Gulf countries, and horrific violations of human rights and democracy.  Add to that, Iran’s regional and global proliferation of subversion, terrorism, wars, conventional and non-conventional military technologies, and close ties with North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan’s Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, and additional rogue entities.

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06/9/21

US Has Recovered Ransom Payment for the Colonial Pipeline Hack

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Just last month, this site posted a detailed article about the fallout of DarkSide, the hackers of the Colonial Pipeline. In short, U.S. officials seized at least two servers.

Now there is more… the ransom payment, not all of it, but $2.3 million in real dollars, remember it was paid in cryptocurrency. (Remember, money was paid out to all the dark actors of the DarkSide.)

“In addition, a couple of hours after the seizure, funds from the payment server (belonging to us and our clients) were withdrawn to an unknown account,” the DarkSide ransomware operation told its affiliates.

DarkSide: New targeted ransomware demands million dollar ...

(AP) — The Justice Department has recovered the majority of a multimillion-dollar ransom payment to hackers after a cyberattack that caused the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline to halt its operations last month, officials said Monday.

The operation to recover the cryptocurrency from the Russia-based hacker group is believed to be the first of its kind and reflects what U.S. officials say is an increasingly aggressive approach to deal with a ransomware threat that in the last month has targeted critical industries around the world.

“By going after an entire ecosystem that fuels ransomware and digital currency, we will continue to use all of our tools and all of our resources to increase the costs and the consequences of ransomware attacks and other cyber-enabled attacks,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference announcing the operation.

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast, temporarily shut down its operations on May 7 after a gang of criminal hackers known as DarkSide broke into its computer system.

Colonial officials have said they took their pipeline system offline before the attack could spread to its operating system, and decided to pay a roughly $4.4 million ransom in an effort to bring itself back online as soon as it could.

The FBI generally discourages the payment of ransom, fearing it could encourage additional hacks.

05/18/21

Will Biden Challenge Turkey/Erdogan for Funding Hamas?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

 

Primer: The IDF spokesperson, LTC Jonathan Conricus declared in a recent briefing:

IDF had assassinated Hussam Abu Harbeed, who commanded Islamic Jihad’s northern Gaza brigade and led attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians for almost 15 years.

In a statement, the IDF said Harbeed “was behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians.” One of those attacks occurred on the first day of the current round of fighting when a civilian was wounded, Conricus said.

There was no immediate confirmation from Islamic Jihad or its armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades, about the assassination.

Conricus also announced Monday it had destroyed just about 60 miles of militant tunnels.

“Our fighter jets neutralized 9.3 miles of the Hamas ‘Metro’ terror tunnel system overnight. That’s 9.3 miles that can no longer be used for terror,” it said in a statement before the updated information was provided by Conricus.

Air strike kills jihad commander in Gaza

I was asked 2 days ago who funds Gaza….there is no single name or organization actually…it is hardly that simple. The Islamic National Bank in Gaza served as a terrorist vault for Hamas, directly funding its rocket production operations. So, the U.S. Treasury has some extraordinary tools to investigate monies going in and out of financial institutions across the world, why not use them, or do they and just ignore their findings? Would other countries and nefarious organizations be cast in funding terror? Yes…much like Turkey.

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05/17/21

We Are in the Third World War

By: Cliff Kincaid

Geopolitical analyst Jeff Nyquist, on a new edition of America’s Survival TV, commented on the Chinese Communist surprise attack on the United States and our inability to respond. In a recent blog post, he put it this way: “To underscore our cluelessness and our unreadiness: The Chinese hit us with a biological weapon last year and what did we do? We denied that the virus was from a Chinese weapons lab. We denied that they unleashed it on purpose.”

Today, China Joe Secretary of State Antony Blinken even says we have disavowed a containment strategy directed at China.

Meanwhile, the FBI has issued a mysterious two-sentence statement on the cyber-attack on the Colonial pipeline, shutting down gas supplies for several states, saying, “The FBI was notified of a network disruption at Colonial Pipeline on May 7, 2021. We are working closely with the company and our government partners.”

We are spending $70 billion a year on “intelligence” and this is all the FBI says about this crippling action taken against our economy.

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05/14/21

Hostility towards Israel as functional antisemitism

By: Renato Cristin

On one thing, the recent report by Human Rights Watch dedicated to Israel is right: “a threshold has been crossed”. Yes, one limit has been crossed, or rather two, but it is Human Rights Watch itself that has exceeded them: on the one hand, its report goes beyond the limits of the caricature and the grotesque (which is inadmissible for an organization accredited to the UN), presenting a political and social reality through the distorting lens of pro-Palestinian, pro-Islamic and anti-Zionist ideology; on the other hand, the border that divides criticism of the work of the State of Israel from antisemitism as the result of an action, an analysis or an opinion has been crossed. Yes, this relationship has introduced a new level: it cleared that form of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish hatred that I call functional antisemitism.

We know that these organizations, protected by the UN, have no problem attacking any government not aligned with the Palace, tarnishing it with hallucinating and often spurious accusations. But towards Israel there has always been, in that Palace and in its ideologies, a special aversion, which can be explained above all by the resistance that Israel opposes to the tendency to annihilate the nations that the UN has always supported and with the refusal Israel to accept the warnings (or rather: the diktats) to behave according to criteria that the UN considers politically correct.

Today, with an apparently isolated but in reality concerted action at the highest level, because it is connected with the orientation of the UN and, as we will see, with the action of the International Criminal Court, this questionable NGO puts Israel in the dock for racism and crimes against humanity (but with what credibility, then?, with what historical heritage, with what spiritual mission, with what political authority, with what popular mandate, with what ideological neutrality?), as if it were Amin Dada’s Uganda or the Central African Republic of Bokassa. Absurd, as in a piece by Beckett or Ionesco.

Yes, the measure is really full; the insults have exceeded all limits. And yet it would not be worth commenting on the HRW report, so much is it false due to bias of the accusations and even ridiculous due to the groundlessness of the analyzes, as Fiamma Nirenstein has incontrovertibly shown in an article in the italian newspaper Il Giornale of 28 April, if it were not for three dense reasons of strategic implications: the NGO Human Rights Watch is highly rated among the UN leaders; it receives funding from institutions, organizations and personalities of considerable depth and a certain political orientation, such as, but not by chance, George Soros; HRW’s anti-Israel theses have far-reaching repercussions, which can range from the consolidation of a defamatory vulgate and, unfortunately, also of a boycott front against Israel (understood as a state and as a people), to the encouragement of acts of sabotage and, hopefully not, also of terrorism by that galaxy of acronyms that make up the anti-Israeli hatred in the Middle East, to the unleashing of isolated but very violent aggressions against symbols and people of Judaism in Europe, up to the indirect support of those state powers, Iran in the front row, which explicitly aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. For these reasons, maximum attention must be paid to pages that would otherwise be classified as junk.

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05/13/21

More Exact Colonial Pipeline Hack Details

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

It is prudent to review several sources for the real evidence and details and most often non-government companies are the ‘go-to’ places for that. Government spins stuff but private cyber experts offer up great context and such is the case below.

FBI Confirms Darkside Behind Colonial Pipeline Ransomware ...

As a primer, CISA is a government agency launched by the Trump administration for all the right reasons.

Alert (AA20-049A)

Ransomware Impacting Pipeline Operations

But read on.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued an Alert that offers a set of best practices to protect against ransomware-induced business disruptions. The Alert was prompted by the attack against Colonial Pipeline, and it includes in its introductory section the preliminary conclusion that DarkSide ransomware affected Colonial’s IT systems only, and had no direct effect on the company’s OT networks. The best practices CISA advocates are familiar. The Alert closes with a statement strongly discouraging any victim from paying the ransom their attackers demand: “Paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations, encourage other criminal actors to engage in the distribution of ransomware, and/or may fund illicit activities. Paying the ransom also does not guarantee that a victim’s files will be recovered.”FireEye yesterday published a report on DarkSide that emphasizes the group’s ransomware-as-a-service model. It’s a selective operation (criminal applicants for affiliate status are, for example, interviewed before being given access to DarkSide’s control panel) but it’s also not a monolithic one. FireEye’s Mandiant unit currently tracks five “clusters” of DarkSide threat activity. The affiliate model DarkSide uses shares criminal profits: “Affiliates retain a percentage of the ransom fee from each victim. Based on forum advertisements, this percentage starts at 25 percent for ransom fees less than $500,000 USD and decreases to 10 percent for ransom fees greater than $5M USD.”

Colonial Pipeline’s website came back online late yesterday, newly armored with a reCAPTCHA landing page. The company published an update in which it reported progress toward resumption of refined petroleum deliveries, with some 967,000 barrels delivered to Atlanta, Belton and Spartanburg in South Carolina, Charlotte and Greensboro in North Carolina, Baltimore, and Woodbury and Linden (close to the Port of New York and New Jersey). Some lines have been operated under manual control since Monday, at least, and have been moving existing inventory. As the company prepares to restart deliveries, they’ve taken delivery of an additional two million barrels, which they’ll ship once service is restored.

The company appears also to be addressing some concerns about its pipelines’ physical security, having “increased aerial patrols of our pipeline right of way and deployed more than 50 personnel to walk and drive ~ 5,000 miles of pipeline each day.” (hat tip to CyberWire)

Related reading:

Colonial Pipeline using vulnerable, outdated version of Microsoft Exchange: report

Pipeline operators were warned about potential attacks in 2020


05/13/21

Global Experts Weigh in on Hamas’ War on Israel: Michael Johns

By: Rachel Brooks | Republic Underground

In the photo above, taken on May 11, 2021, Israeli sirens wail in the night as bombs meet in the air. Hamas has launched hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilian targets.

With the terrorist movement Hamas launching major missile attacks against Israel beginning on May 10, 2021, Republic Underground sought the opinion of some of the world’s leading Middle East experts on the conflict and its ramifications. In this second in a series of these interviews, Republic Underground managing editor Rachel Brooks spoke on May 11 with Michael Johns, co-founder of the influential U.S. Tea Party movement who has served previously as a White House speechwriter, Heritage Foundation foreign policy analyst, and influential U.S. expert and strategist on national security, foreign policy, and other public policy matters.

Michael Johns

Michael Johns launched the influential U.S. Tea Party movement in 2009. Its extensive national political victories in 2010 and 2014 proved immensely politically consequential, blocking Obama’s progressive legislative agenda for the last six years of his two-term presidency. The Tea Party has proven globally consequential, inspiring Britain’s Brexit campaign and other populist political movements in Europe and globally.

Johns’ immense influence on public policy has been a constant in Washington, D.C. since the 1980s when, as a Heritage Foundation foreign policy analyst during the Reagan administration, he helped lead the development and implementation of the Reagan Doctrine that provided military support to anti-communist resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and other communist regimes in the Soviet orbit. These efforts have since been credited widely as a major contributing factor to the U.S. victory in the Cold War in 1991.

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