Syrian city’s recapture seen as model for taking ISIS ‘capital’


U.S. officials see the recapture of an Islamic State stronghold in Syria  —  the city of Manbij — as a model for future U.S.-backed operations against the murderous terror group, and especially for  supporting a march by allied forces on Raqqa, the group’s “capital.”

Fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-supported group that includes Kurdish militias and local Arab groups, regained control of Manbij, near the Turkish border and what had been a key logistics point for the Islamic State.

U.S. officials said the offensive showed the value of the small force of U.S. Special Operations troops on the ground in Syria, as they coordinated U.S. airstrikes and advised Syrian forces during intense urban fighting.

“Our operating concept has been validated,” a senior defense official told The Washington Post. “Utilizing local forces and our own Special Operations forces, partnered with overwhelming coalition air power, and enough time — the Islamic State really doesn’t have an answer to it.”

To read The Post’s story, hit this link.

Hackers claim to sell NSA hacking code


Computer hackers assert that they’re selling high-powered hacking tools developed by the U.S. National Security Agency.

CNN reports that computer code — whose purpose is to break into other computers — was leaked to the public  on Aug. 12 by an anonymous entity called “The Shadow Brokers.”

“The same mysterious entity also promised an upcoming ‘cyber weapons auction’ — the digital equivalent to putting stolen military missiles up for sale.”

CNN reported that the gang asserts that the stolen hacking tools were developed by “the Equation Group” —  thought to be the U.S. National Security Agency and spying departments from four international allies: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Computer security experts worldwide now worry that sensitive NSA spying tools are accessible to common criminal hackers or such Western adversaries as China, North Korea and Russia.

To read the CNN story, please hit this link.

Senior North Korean diplomat defects


Thae Yong Ho, a senior diplomat in Britain of the regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, has defected to South Korea, although he may be in hiding in Britain, given the  three-generation communist Kim dynasty’s frequent use of murder. Thae’s defection (along with his wife and children) could provide the West with highly useful knowledge of the brutal and secretive regime.

The incident is apparently the   first such case of its kind since official ties were established  between the Kim regime and Britain  13 years ago.

A South Korean official said that  the diplomat was “sick and tired of the Kim Jong-un regime,” yearned for a liberal, open and democratic country and worried about his children’s future.

To read more, please hit this link.

Possible ‘no first use’ policy scares U.S. allies


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and  leaders of some other major U.S. allies are worried about  the possible policy of “no first use”  of nuclear weapons being considered by the Obama administration. The fear is that such a policy would weaken  the ability to deter aggressive dictatorships such as North Korea.

South Korea, France and Britain are also said to have privately communicated their concerns to U.S. officials about a potential declaration by President Obama of such a policy.

If Mr. Obama were to declare a no-first-use policy, it would represent a  major change in the U.S. nuclear posture.

To read a Japan Times story on this topic, please hit this link.


New Apple center another opportunity for Chinese theft?


Despite the increasing difficulties for foreign companies operating in China, Apple Inc. will build its first Asia-Pacific research and development center in the country, Chief Executive Tim Cook said Aug. 14.

The pledge comes after China’s industry and technology regulator in May told Apple  that China could deepen its cooperation with the country in research and development and stressed information security. Given China’s record of engaging in massive intellectual-property theft and in cracking down on Internet freedom in China while its government engages in frequent cyberattacks against the United States, it’s unclear how beneficial the center will be to Apple,  other U.S. technology companies or, indeed to U.S. and other Western nations’ national security in general.

The regime of President Xi Jinping may see the new Apple center as yet another way of undermining American technology superiority.

To read a Reuters story on the new center, please hit this link.

Russian jets use Iran airbase to attack Syrian rebels


Russian  airstrikes against, Russia asserts, Islamic State in Syria from an airbase in Iran were the first time in 70 years in which Russian forces have operated on Iranian soil. It’s major expansion in the collaboration among the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s and his two main allies — Russia and Iran.

The Guardian noted that hosting Russian jets on Iranian territory is a major change by Tehran from its previous history of  mostly just covert operations in regional conflicts.

To read The Guardian’s article, please hit this link.

Russia-N. Korea-Chinese alliance may be pushing Asia/Pacific toward war


Anders Corr, writing in, warns that the  aggressive dictatorships of China, Russia and North Korea may be pushing the Asia/Pacific region toward war.

Mr. Corr writes: “Official news sources in China have claimed that plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea {to protect itself from North Korean nuclear missile threats} are pushing China, Russia, and North Korea into closer relations, what I would call a de facto authoritarian alliance.”

He goes on: “China is the only country, of these three, not currently subject to international economic sanctions, yet it is driving the conflict in Asia. The international community should impose such sanctions before Asia spirals into military conflict.   Not doing so encourages continued risk-taking on the part of China.

“On the flip side of this authoritarian alliance, Chinese, North Korean, and Russian belligerency is uniting the Asian democracies. Japan and South Korea, along with the U.S. and Australia, are increasingly tough on China and North Korea. In what is spiraling towards a potential military conflict, or at the very least an arms race and media war, South Korea plans to have the U.S. deploy THAAD in its territory, and Japan wants to speed up purchase of a THAAD system under its own operational control. THAAD is the latest issue to unite the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Australia, against China and North Korea…”

To read all of Mr. Corr’s remarks, please hit this link.

New Pakistan cybersecurity law alarms rights activists


Rejecting the criticism of rights groups, Pakistan has  enacted a cybersecurity law that grants sweeping powers to the government to block private information that they deem illegal, or possibly, simply just critical of the government.

The National Assembly approved the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 on Aug. 13 after the Senate had unanimously adopted it last month.

Government officials say  tha the new Internet restrictions  are needed to ensure security against growing threats, such as terrorism.

But human rights and pro-democracy activists worry that its vague language could curn free speech and lead to unfair prosecutions.

“The overly broad language used in the bill ensures that innocent and ignorant Pakistani citizens, unaware of the ramifications of what the bill entails, can be ensnared and find themselves subject to very harsh penalties,” said Nighat Daad, founder of a group called the Digital Rights Foundation.

“There have been no provisions set in place to protect sensitive data of Pakistani users … The state  should not police people’s lives in this manner.”

To read the Reuters story on this, please hit this link.