Posts Tagged ‘iran’

At the summit

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Unlike the one in BURNING SKIES, the summit between the U.S. and Russia was not crashed by elite Autumn Rain hit-squads. Nor did any of the participants wear powered armor. They did, however, dance around a couple of the key issues that arise in the Autumn Rain trilogy, to wit:

Missile defense:  Russia would like nothing better than for the U.S. to dismantle its plans for missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe.  This is unlikely to happen, but the key variables are (a) the administration’s overall posture toward missile defense (which is still being defined), and (b) whether Russia will ultimately insist on a formal linkage between that and overall arms control talks (in particular the still-unresolved questions around bombers/launchers). While the defense facilities themselves would appear to be directed at Iran rather than Russia, a heavy NATO presence in Eastern Europe is something that makes the Bear nervous.  To say nothing of the possibility that the current “Son of Stars Wars” will ultimately be a stalking horse for a more robust space-based systems.  The conversation so far has both sides biding their time, agreeing to study cooperation options, i.e., defer the key decisions to a later point.

Cyberwarfare:   I’d be surprised if serious discussion occurred on this between the principals, but it’s definitely something getting discussed at the lower levels.  Particularly given that the U.S. created CyberCommand a few weeks back (handing the whole thing over to the NSA—uh-oh).  But while everyone agrees that cyberwar is a problem (if it’s aimed at them), no one agrees on what to do about it.  Indeed, Russia has already launched successful attacks on both Estonia and Georgia.  And China has been attacking the U.S. in cyberspace for some time now.  Ongoing “warfare” of this nature may just be a fact of life in the 21st century, at least until/unless the major regional power blocs establish their own separate nets like they do in my books.  (Of course, such “cyber-autarkies” would have to be accompanied by a comprehensive failure of globalization, but that could be the least of our problems in the decades to come.)

And of course there’s no better way to prepare for those problems than to read BURNING SKIES.

Secret assassination squads?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Looks like legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh may have (inadvertently?) let the cat out of the bag, alleging that former VP Cheney was using the Joint Special Operations Command to terminate people on the presidential hit-list: “under president Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.” In theory, of course, the JSOC is under congressional oversight; Hersh’s allegation, though, is that Cheney was running select parts of it out of his own office.

There are a lot of things I could say about this; I’ll go where you might not be expecting me to, though, and say that the irony here is that targeted wet-ops campaigns are a damn sight more rational than most of the War on Terror strategies we’ve fooled around with. Hit-teams make a LOT more sense than invading and occupying real-estate.  Iran, for example—taking out the scientists working on the nukes would be a far better option than bombing the place (which is probably why those scientists never leave the thirtieth floor of the underground bunker they’re in). As to Al-Qaeda in general, by all means go after them Mossad-style, but don’t fall into the trap of occupying failed states to get at their operatives/operations.

From a tactical perspective, the real problem is keeping this kind of thing deniable.  This is an issue that I deal with a lot in MIRRORED HEAVENS, because as a problem in dirty politics, it fascinates me:  run them all through cut-outs and there’s that many more layers that might get interrogated by some pesky congressional oversight committee, but run them through you, and it’s really hard to maintain deniability.  Guess we’ve got yet another reason why Cheney was so adamant in destroying his files when he left office.  We’ll see what Hersh can dig up/prove.

More thoughts on Iran’s sat

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Iran’s satellite launch has got folks concerned about whether they’re about to perfect ballistic missile technology as well. This is something that’s good to be concerned about, but it’s worth remembering that if you can get something into orbit you’ve already got a global missile. It may not be as sexy as an ICBM capable of hitting any street you like in New York City from the moment it’s launched, but as long as you can de-orbit your payload with precision you won’t be worried about sexiness.

Nikita Khrushchev certainly wasn’t.  Right about when he was ranting on about how “we-is-gonna-bury-you” was when he was signing off on development of the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System:  strap a massive warhead to a satellite, and then de-orbit it over the U.S. city of your choice.  Technically, FOBS (as it’s affectionately known) wasn’t even in violation of the soon-to-be-signed Outer Space Treaty of 1967, since the orbits were obstensibly partial ones.

But before everybody starts to panic, let’s get back to Iran.  To attain a FOBS capability, they’d need three things.

1. Increased payload.  The Safir-2 payload isn’t enough for anything but the most tactical of nukes.

2. Precision de-orbiting capability.  Getting something into space is tough, but it’s a helluva lot easier than re-entry/landing.

3. A nuclear warhead.  Always top of any self-respecting nation’s shopping list.  And it turns out that today is the day that discussions resume in Frankfurt about just what the West should/could be doing to prevent Iran from getting one.  Hmmm.  If I were a fly, I know where I’d like to be. . .

And I should note that you don’t even need #2 if you want to have some fun with EMP effects.  But more on that later.

For an in-depth look at the weaponization of space a hundred years from now, my novel Mirrored Heavens is available at your local bookstore and at Amazon.

Space and cyberspace

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Two interesting headlines today:

-Kyrgyzstan under cyberattack:  Details are sketchy, but Russian hackers appear to have knocked Kyrgyzstan entirely off the Internet, engaging in the same DDoS attacks that they deployed in Estonia and Georgia. As of last night, the American air base in Kyrgyzstan was no longer receiving emails, which is presumably the point, given that the U.S. and Russia are jockeying for position/negotiating in Central Asia as the U.S. tries to secure supply lines into Afghanistan that don’t involve Pakistan.  Regardless of the extent of the attack, geography dictates that Russia has the upper hand here, and this is their way of reminding the U.S. of that fact.

-Iran launches satellite:  As Danger Room is quick to point out, the details need to be taken with a grain of salt, as Iran scores high on the Bullshit Meter vis-a-vis anything involving missile capabilities.  Nonetheless, the satellite is being tracked even as I write this, meaning that Iran’s weapons are on the verge of global reach. The targeting problem will be a lot trickier, but in the meantime:  score one for the Persians.  Xerxes would be proud.

October surprise(s)

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

The possibility of an October surprise has never loomed so large over an election, partially because there are just so many possibilities this year. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think it does cover the major categories.

1. War with Iran. This is far less likely than it might have seemed a few months back, as this article in the Guardian attests.  It would be sheer insanity for the U.S. to start anything, since Iran’s capability for retaliation (both in Iraq and in the Gulf) is considerable.  Nonetheless, it would be to McCain’s electoral advantage, and is impossible to discount altogether.

2.  Bin Laden found. Bin Laden’s capture/death would go a long way toward vindicating Bush II in the eyes of the American people, though (in stark contrast to 04) such an event wouldn’t automatically redound to the benefit of the GOP candidate. Nonetheless, this may be why the temperature on the Pakistani border has been increasing so dramatically (note I said “may“).

3. War with Pakistan.  Caught between the U.S. and its own militants, Pakistan may lash out in unpredictable ways.  There’s also the (remote) possiblity of an Islamic coup.

4.  Al-Qaeda launches attacks in U.S.   It’s no secret that Al-Qaeda would love to disrupt the U.S. election, and the internet traffic predicting such an event is growing (as it usually does at this point in the election cycle). There are too many intangibles here to anticipate how this would impact the election; also of note is that in 2004, second-tier U.S. officials discussed postponing the election entirely in the event of such an attack (for which there is no legal basis).

5. Catastrophic incident against a candidate.  I’d be reluctant to even mention this, were it not for the fact that Senator Clinton has already gone on record about the issue, and had not one plot already surfaced.

6.  U.S. dollar meltdown. This would seem to be more of a medium-term scenario than an immediate possibility.  But we are very much in uncharted economic waters now, and anything could happen.

7.  Bristol Palin’s wedding. Well, this surprised me, that’s for sure.  It’s not on the same level as the items above, but apparently it just might happen, and if so, it’d be a #$# media circus.  How many more plot twists can one election take?