Tag Archives: iran

“Countdown To Zero Day” describes the new era of war, preparing you for the next attack.

Summary:  Five years after Stuxnet first appeared we have a detailed analysis of its origin (at least, what’s known to the public) in Kim Zetter’s Countdown To Zero Day.  Here C. Thomas reviews it, explaining Stuxnet’s importance.

Stuxnet is another American triumph (with Israel’s help). We’re now the first to use both of the revolutionary tools of modern war: nukes and cyberweapons. Also, we’ve copied the fascist powers of WWII by not bothering with a declaration of war against Iran. American exceptionalism! How long until the next such cyberattack? Will we be the aggressor, or the victim?  {2nd of 2 posts today.}
Countdown to Zero

 

“Countdown to Zero Day” is a must-read!

By C. Thomas

This article originally appeared on the Tenable Blog. Reposted here with their generous permission.

Recently there have been several great books that illustrate the importance of information security in today’s world, including Kevin Mitnick’s “Ghost in the Wires,” Andy Greenberg’s “This Machine Kills Secrets” and Brian Krebs’ “Spam Nation.” Joining the list at the top is Kim Zetter’s “Countdown to Zero Day.” The book tells the story (which you probably thought you already knew) of Stuxnet and the geopolitical maneuverings that brought it into existence.

The book is engaging to read and meticulously researched. Zetter not only examines the intricacies of this nation-state sponsored espionage tool but also delves deeply into the finer workings of uranium enrichment centrifuges and their industrial control systems. Along with these technical details, she adds the personal stories of the people who discovered Stuxnet and devoted countless hours in deciphering not just Stuxnet but also its relatives Duqu, Flame, and Gauss. Despite the highly technical subject matter, Zetter weaves an engaging narrative that succeeds in explaining complex systems in ways that can be easily understood without being condescending.

This book is an absolute must read for anyone even remotely involved in the information security industry because it looks at an adversary that is seldom seen: the nation-state. Unlike cyber criminals, “hacktivists” or bored teenagers whose online activities are somewhat easy to discover and decipher, the online operations and capabilities of nation-states have been shrouded in rumor, myth and superstition. It is amazing that Zetter was able to obtain this much detail about what was most likely a top secret government operation and that is arguably less than 5 years old. Thanks to Zetter and “Countdown to Zero Day,” we now have a baseline from which to forecast potential nation-state capabilities today and into the future.

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The nation responsible for the record high oil prices we pay is …

Summary:  Why are oil prices so high? After inflation they’re above 1980 record highs. Peak oil enthusiasts have explanations (usually wrong, like their forecasts). There are many factors at work, including one simple but hidden reason: American foreign policy. The USA has played a large role in the suppression of oil production in three major oil producers, including two nations with some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves — and having the greatest potential for increased production. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that we’ve intervened in three oil producing nations, and high oil prices are an accidental by-product of our good intentions.

America & Oil

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Contents

  1. Iran
  2. Iraq
  3. Libya
  4. Another perspective
  5. For More Information

(1)  Iran

After a long history of interference in Iran’s government, we initiated an ever-tightening and broadening array of sanctions on Iran after the 1979 revolution — continuing until today. See a list here; Wikipedia has details on US sanctions and the UN sanctions the US promoted. For analysis see the Council on Foreign Relations and the US Institute of Peace (USIP).

For analysis of sanctions impact on Iran’s oil industry see this USIP report: part one and part two. They’re working. Iran produced 6 million barrels/day of oil in 1974.  In July their exports hit a five-month high of 600 thousand b/day.

Iran has vast untapped reserves. See the EIA’s report on Iran.  From the EIA:
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Iran's oil production

EIA, 10 December 2013

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(2)  Iraq

Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, in August 1990 the UN imposed a broad array of financial and trade sanctions on Iraq, which lasted until the US invasion and subsequent destabilization of Iraq.

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Read these articles about our past to learn about today’s challanges

Summary:  One reason we have such difficulty charting  path to the future is that have lost so much of our past. It not only destabilizes us, but limits our ability to learn from our history. Here are three articles about our past that illuminate problems we face today.

History

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(1) Why weren’t they grateful?“, Pankaj Mishra reviews Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coup by Christopher de Bellaigue, London Review of Books, 21 June 2010

Excerpt:

APOC, renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1935, grossed profits of $3 billion between 1913 and 1951, but only $624 million of that remained in Iran. In 1947, the British government earned £15 million in tax on the company’s profits alone, while the Iranian government received only half that sum in royalties. The company also excluded Iranians from management and barred Tehran from inspecting its accounts.

Growing anti-British sentiment finally forced Muhammad Reza to appoint Mossadegh as prime minister early in 1951. The country’s nationalists by now included secularists as well as religious parties and the communist as well as non-communist left. Mossadegh, who, de Bellaigue writes, ‘was the first and only Iranian statesman to command all nationalist strains’, moved quickly to nationalise the oil industry. Tens of thousands lined the streets to cheer the officials sent from Tehran to take over the British oil facilities in Abadan, kissing the dust-caked cars – one of which belonged to Mehdi Bazargan, who would later become the first prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The American ambassador reported that Mossadegh was backed by 95% of the population, and the shah told the visiting diplomat Averell Harriman that he dared not say a word in public against the nationalisation. Mossadegh felt himself to be carried along on the wings of history. … He was supported by a broad coalition of new Asian countries.

{T}he British, desperately needing the revenues from what was Britain’s biggest single overseas investment, wouldn’t listen. …

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The Syrian dominos

Summary: Today Tom Hayden briefs us on the situation in Syria, about what’s happening — and what might happen soon.

Photo from the Express Tribune of Pakistan

Civil wars are the worst type of warfare. However, we are not implying that there is such a thing as “good warfare.” There are only good causes.

In Syria we have a situation much like the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). As the fighting extends in time between the combat wing of the United Revolutionary Council and the despotic Assad regime, foreign players have begun entering the struggle.

  • Backing Assad, you have the Iranians, Russia and HizbAllah.
  • Backing the revolutionaries we have the Saudis, the Emirates, and to a limited degree, Turkey and Jordan.
  • The USA has sent aid, but best we know at this point it has been, we are told, only humanitarian aid.

In the meantime the body count grows and is now over 30,000.

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Our crusade slowly crushes Iran, and reveals much about us

Summary:  In pursuit of dominance over the Middle East the US government destroyed Iraq, one of the two regional powers. Now we run the same playbook against Iran.  Being a docile and easily led people, we don’t notice the similarity, or that our government trashes America’s greatest accomplishment on the world stage — and perhaps its primary legacy.

Contents

  1. This is success …
  2. … but it paints a sad picture of America
  3. Other posts about Iran

(1)  This is success for the US …

Iran Loses the Economic Battle
by John Allen Gay, The National Interest, 4 October 2012

Opening:

While negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are at a standstill, news this week indicates that Iran is clearly losing the economic battle. As in other cases, currency problems in Iran may contribute to an unpredictable and destabilizing political outcome.

Iran’s currency fell by more than 18% against the dollar on Monday and another 8% on Tuesday, marking a new low in Iran’s continuing economic crisis. The figures are grim: a sheaf of rials worth ten thousand dollars a year ago would be worth about $3,750 Monday and $3,500 Tuesday; on Wednesday, there were protests in the bazaar.

Short of buyers, oil production has fallen dramatically. Peugeot has ended its role in Iran’s auto industry, which has seen production declines of up to 50%. Inflation and shortages have become daily troubles. Various basic goods reportedly have doubled or tripled in price in the last year. Chicken has become a luxury item.

Officially, inflation is at 23.5% ; unofficially, it is at least a few percentage points higher. With manufacturing lagging and certain imports (especially gold) growing in spite of the rapid currency depreciation, Iran’s foreign-exchange troubles apparently are being “passed through” as inflation.

Extreme shifts are coupled with widespread political uncertainty (some of the rial’s worst days have been around nuclear negotiations) and a central bank hobbled by international sanctions. Iran may be on the verge of a bout of hyperinflation.

More about this: “Iran sanctions now causing food insecurity, mass suffering“, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 7 October 2012 — “Yet again, the US and its allies spread mass human misery though a policy that is as morally indefensible as it is counter-productive.”

Let’s recap the play:  Our government, along with Israel’s, has incited fears about Iran’s nuclear program (public information doesn’t allow us to determine if they are largely baseless, like those made since 1984). They’ve hyped fears about what Iran would do with nukes, fears contradicted by history. these have allowed us to impose crippling sanctions on Iran.

(2)  but it paints a sad picture of America

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Hegemon at work on Iran, doing what hegemonic powers do. No war needed – or likely.

Summary: As the sanctions tighten like a noose around Iran, the US deploys its power on Iran’s borders to discourage resistance.  It’s a simple plan to slowly break their will, with Iran’s nukes as a pretext.  So far it’s working. Only China or Russia can save Iran. They probably will not do so.  Fear-mongering by the usual sources about war will probably again be wrong.

USS Stennis, 12 November 2011

Contents

  1. The naval deployment
  2. The overall military build-up
  3. The goal of US policy towards Iran
  4. For more information about nukes — & Iran

(1) The naval deployment

The US has been keeping two carriers in the Middle East.  DoD announced yesterday that a third will be deployed there.

  • The USS Enterprise is on station in the Middle East. It deployed from Norfolk on 11 March, and is scheduled for decommissioning on December 1.
  • The USS John Stennis deploys late this summer from Bremerton, WA. It was scheduled to deploy at the end of the year; it will take about one month to get on station.  See the DoD news release here.
  • The USS Eisenhower deployed from Norfolk on 20 June, to relieve the USS Abraham Lincoln — which left Persian Gulf area on 16 July.
  • The French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is said to be sailing to the French naval base at Port Zayid, Abu Dhabi.  It is only 44,000 tons (US short tonnes); for comparison the US Nimitz is 112,000-plus tonnes.

(2)  The military build-up

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Threats to attack Iran are smoke. Sanctions on Iran are our tool. Weakening Iran is our goal.

Summary:  A follow-up post providing more evidence that neither the US nor Israel plans to attack Iran soon, based not just on the evidence and logic of the situation, but also on statements of senior Israeli officials.  This has been the standing forecast on the FM website since 2007.  See the links at the end for more information about our conflict with Iran.

Let’s not go there.

I received pushback from readers in response to The hidden objective of our alliance against Iran (June 11), showing that trade sanctions on Iran — not military strikes — were the primary tool of the informal US-Israel-Saudi alliance.  Their goal: to weaken Iran. Exaggerated, often fanciful, stories about Iran getting nukes and using nukes justify the sanctions. The news media narrative has this backwards.

This is logical as realpolitik — a safe means of meeting the individual goals of the tripartite alliance (explained in that post), and explains both the continued heated rhetoric despite so much evidence Iran stopped its direct bomb program in 2003 (for details see here and here).

Sanctions as the goal (not an intermediate step) also explains the strong criticism by so many officials in America and Israel of those beating war-drums (governments are not unitary entities; many officials in the US and Israel love wars).  Today we look at a few of the most prominent examples of the past year.  These officials do not challenge the basics of alliance policy — that Iran will get nukes soon (claims made incessantly since 1984) — merely the need for and risks of attacking Iran now.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan referred to the possibility a future Israeli Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard” during a conference held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Friday. Dagan’s presentation during a senior faculty conference was his first public appearance since leaving his former role as chief of the Mossad at the end of September 2010.

Dagan said that Iran has a clandestine nuclear infrastructure which functions alongside its legitimate, civil infrastructure. It is the legitimate infrastructure, he said, that is under international supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Any strike on this legitimate infrastructure would be “patently illegal under international law,” according to Dagan.

… When asked about what would happen in the aftermath of an Israeli attack Dagan said that: “It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

Haaretz, 7 May 2011

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