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NightWatch 20091230

NightWatch

For the Night of 30 December 2009

China-Gulf of Aden: A top Chinese naval official proposed setting up a permanent base to support ships on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, Agence France-Presse reported 30 December. Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, who is also a senior researcher at the People's Liberation Army Navy's Equipment Research Center, said such a base would bolster China's long-term participation in the operation. Yin stated that China is not saying it needs its navy everywhere to fulfill international commitments, but a permanent, stable base would be good for Chinese operations. He added that any decision to establish such a base would have to be decided by the government.

The Indian Navy might have a few comments about this proposal. A base or port access arrangement in the Gulf of Aden would complete the program of establishing safe ports that encircle India: Burma, Pakistan, and an unnamed country in the Gulf region. All that is left would be an arrangement with Sri Lanka, a Chinese arms customer to complete the encirclement of India in its own ocean.

At this stage this is just a proposal, probably floated to see how nations react.

Vietnam-China: Vietnam protested a new Chinese law aimed at protecting the nation's islands, which maps made in Beijing show as including the disputed Spratly Islands as well as the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, Earth Times reported 30 December. Taiwan and its offshore islands and Japanese held islands also are Chinese, according to Chinese laws.

Viet Nam News quoted a government spokeswoman as stating that Vietnam has time and again affirmed its sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracels.

India: Update. The Times of India reported today the Indian Army is revising its five-year-old doctrine to meet effectively the challenges of a possible 'two-front war' with China and Pakistan. The Army has identified five thrust areas that will propel the new doctrine - be ready for a two-front war, to optimize capabilities to fight asymmetric warfare including cyber and electronic warfare, to enhance strategic reach and capability to fight a war away from Indian shores particularly in the Indian Ocean Region, tri-services joint operations including space-based capability, and to achieve technological edge over the enemy, according to a military spokesman.

Work on the new war doctrine -- to reflect the reconfiguration of threat perceptions and security challenges -- is on under the aegis of the Shimla-based Army Training Command, headed by Lt-Gen A S Lamba, Times sources reported. The doctrinal revision is the next step after multiple war games during the past five years to practice the Army's "pro-active" or "cold start" strategy to mobilize and move fast and strike hard. A review of warfighting doctrine is mandatory every five years, Brahmand.com reported.

The cold start strategy, including provisions for operations in NBC (nuclear-chemical-biological) warfare conditions, emerged from the 'harsh lessons' of Operation Parakram, during which the Army took just under a month to prepare 750,000 soldiers for war with Pakistan in January 2002, after the attack against the Indian Parliament by Pakistani Muslim terrorists in December 2001.

The Army has been developing and testing the new doctrine for nine years. In the past two years it began significant reinforcement of forces on the China border in eastern India and in the disputed Aksai Chin region, adjacent to Jammu and Kashmir State in the west.

The new doctrine assumes that in any conflict Pakistan and China will coordinate their military moves. Pakistan's forces act as pawns in China's drive for dominance of Asia. The news is that India perceives no reason to change its strategic assumptions and directions. The aim is to knock Pakistan out of a war through surprise, speed and combat power, before it can retaliate and before outside political intervention produces another inconclusive outcome.

Afghanistan: An attack by a suicide bomber in eastern Afghanistan at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province on 30 December killed eight American civilians, and several Afghan soldiers, but no U.S. or NATO soldiers, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. defense official.

Khost, which forms part of the eastern border with Pakistan, has been the focus of nearly daily IED attacks and firefights since mid-December. It is a core province of the Taliban and yet the Taliban continue to fight there because the government and the coalition forces will not concede the province to the Taliban.

After so many bombings and clashes in Khost this month, it is hard to imagine a security lapse of this magnitude without inside help.

Iran: Update. Hundreds of thousands of government supporters rallied across Iran on 30 December, swearing allegiance to the clerical establishment and accusing opposition leaders of causing unrest in the Islamic state.

Iran's police chief warned supporters of opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi to expect harsh treatment if they joined illegal anti-government rallies. "You should repent ... otherwise the system will confront you as a 'mohareb' (enemy of God)," cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda told a Tehran rally, directing his remarks at reformist leaders, state TV reported. Under Iran's sharia (Islamic law) the sentence for a mohareb is death.

Robat-Karim Member of Parliament (MP), Hojjat ol-Eslam Hasan Nowruzi, told Fars: "The MPs urged judicial bodies and the prosecutor's office to arrest the leading provocateurs and the leaders of the sedition. In addition, the agents provocateurs of the recent Tehran unrest, such as Mehdi Karrubi, Mir-Hoseyn Musavi, and Fa'ezeh Hashemi -- daughter of senior cleric Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who spread the unrest with their speeches and statements, should be arrested."

He added that "the state prosecutor-general has announced the plans to prosecute the leaders of sedition." According to Nowruzi, the minister of intelligence and the police chief did not take part in the Majlis session as they attended a meeting of the Supreme National Security Council.

Expect show trials and executions in coming weeks.

Correction. Iranian security forces trashed the offices of Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei, vice Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, in six cities on 29 December, as part of the crackdown of pro-reform clerics. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, an outspoken government critic, died in mid-December. Regret any inconvenience.

More on the intelligence failure. The failure to share information about the would-be Christmas bomber is not the critical failure. All intelligence officers know to share threat information. It is insulting to suggest the alternative. The media coverage implies people in one or more agencies were guarding jealously the information each had collected. That misrepresents the actual nature of the intelligence failure and the way intelligence reports are disseminated throughout the 16 agencies. It is the height of cheek for some one to report that NCTC never got the report to which the President referred. Every agency gets almost every report, according to former CIA officer on public radio today.

As in all past intelligence failures, the most critical failure is cognitive, meaning a person must recognize information is important before he or she recognizes the need to share that insight. There is no technology or technique in use that would ensure that perfect, unquestioning information sharing would have generated a warning to the airline industry, unless some recipient first discerned a credible threat in it. The probabilities of that occurring were zero because holders of similar information in different agencies all discounted or ignored it.

This problem is not about sharing. It is about the quality of the thinking. Those who had the information failed to recognize that it needed to be acted on. That is a cognitive failure of threat recognition and is the critical first step in any warning system. You have to see dots before you can begin to try to connect them.

There are lots of reasons for not seeing dots, including volume of ambiguous reports, press of time and lack of analytical education about threat phenomenology, to name only a few. These are the same shop worn, albeit still accurate and relevant, explanations for every intelligence failure since the Berlin crisis of 1948. So what happened to the idea of transformation of analysis? Nothing seems to have change much, analytically.

An accurate identification of the nature of the failure is important in order to find a solution that works to correct it. After $ billions spent on intelligence, the intelligence agencies apparently continue to make the same cognitive mistakes they made in 2001 and are getting the same result. Whatever those $ billions were spent on, they did not correct the cognitive shortcomings. Taxpayers would be justified in feeling just a little short-changed.

US Strategic Warning experts produced from long experience six sequential steps in effective warning:

- Recognition that a report contains threat information

- Authentication that the report is not an exercise message or mistake

- Validation that the information has some probability of accuracy

- Communication of the information to analysts

- Assessment (Analysis/synthesis/diagnosis and prognosis)

- Communication to executive action elements

Well trained warning analysts work these steps quickly and accurately. In the Christmas bombing attempt, none were worked accurately, if any were worked at all. Most analysts today will not have ever heard of the six steps.

As mentioned yesterday, the drone attacks and other offensive clandestine operations are essential, but they clearly are not enough to keep the Republic safe. There also must be an effective intelligence warning system; something more than relying on a burly airline passenger to recognize the threat and then subdue an attacker already on the plane.

End of NightWatch for 30 December.

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