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Cables, Confirmed

I’ve long traced the severance and disconnection of various parts of the world from telecommunication cables on this blog, most recently in the wake of Syria losing Toobz access after it purportedly mixed some chemical weapons.

Danger Room’s sources aren’t even asserting that both events–the mixing of the CW on Wednesday and the Intertoobz blackout on Thursday–are both signs of Bashar al-Assad’s panic.

Which would sort of be the default unless intelligence sources had reason to know that the Intertoobz blackout had nothing to do with the CW mixing.

We’ve long traced interesting Intertoobz blackouts caused by cut cables on this blog: the recent blackout in Djibouti. to a cable in the Bay Area, to a number of cut cables in the Middle East back in 2008.

It appears to be an increasingly common tactic, one difficult to attribute to a specific actor.

But if one of those actors comes out a few days after an outage and says they have no reason to find that outage as suspicious as the mixing of CW, maybe it’s not so hard to attribute after all.

One of the interesting revelations in this profile on the guy who shot Osama bin Laden is that sending Seal Team Six to do something with underwater cables is apparently routine enough that’s what they were told the mission would be before they were read into the real target.

There was so much going on — the Libya thing, the Arab Spring. We knew something good was going to go down. We didn’t know how good.

The first day’s briefing, they actually kind of lied to us, being very vague. They mentioned underwater cables because of the earthquake in Japan or some craziness.

Consider me thoroughly unsurprised.

On Toobz and Gases

Danger Room answers–sort of–one of the big questions I had after reading NYT’s report (relying in part on Israeli sources) that Syria appeared to be preparing to use its chemical weapons: what is the connection between Syria’s two and a half day Internet outage last week and today’s barrage of leaks reporting on the CW?

On Thursday, Syria abruptly became disconnected from the internet, likely after the regime disabled the four cables that provide Syria with connectivity. The rebels use the internet not only to document regime atrocities but to disseminate training tactics and to spread their propaganda,. Yet the regime also relies on the internet: it’s tried to hijack rebel hardware by spreading spyware in the form of fake security software. As Danger Room predicted last week, the outage ended quickly, as online monitor Renesys confirmed a “largely complete restoration of the Syrian Internet” by Saturday.

The U.S. official doesn’t believe the internet blackout was related to the combination of the chemical weapon binaries. And at the Pentagon, Defense Department spokesman Little said the online outage didn’t make a difference for the U.S. understanding of Assad’s dangerous weapons. “The U.S. government has good visibility into the chemical weapons program and we continue to monitor it,” Little said.

These paragraphs make it clear that:

  1. The US and Israel are not relying on the Toobz to spy on the Assad regime
  2. A US source claims to believe there is no tie between alleged Syrian moves, taken on Wednesday, to mix sarin precursors and the complete shutdown on Thursday of Syria’s Internet

Danger Room’s sources aren’t even asserting that both events–the mixing of the CW on Wednesday and the Intertoobz blackout on Thursday–are both signs of Bashar al-Assad’s panic.

Which would sort of be the default unless intelligence sources had reason to know that the Intertoobz blackout had nothing to do with the CW mixing.

We’ve long traced interesting Intertoobz blackouts caused by cut cables on this blog: the recent blackout in Djibouti. to a cable in the Bay Area, to a number of cut cables in the Middle East back in 2008.

It appears to be an increasingly common tactic, one difficult to attribute to a specific actor.

But if one of those actors comes out a few days after an outage and says they have no reason to find that outage as suspicious as the mixing of CW, maybe it’s not so hard to attribute after all.

Update: See Moon of Alabama’s description of why Assad is not mixing chemicals. Which makes it all the more interesting that US sources claim to be so certain the outage had not ties to their claimed sarin mixing.

World Approach to “Peace” in Syria: Arm Both Sides

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE4tpmzb9SQ[/youtube]

The carnage in Syria continues unabated, with government forces shelling citizens, especially in the city of Homs. Qatar’s minister for international cooperation described Sunday’s veto of the UN Security Council resolution by Russia and China in this way:

Khaled al-Attiyah, Qatar’s minister for international co-operation,  said the vetoes sent “a very bad signal to Assad that there (is a) license to kill.”

Russia claims they are working for a peaceful settlement in Syria, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Damascus now to speak to Assad:

Lavrov told Assad, according to Russia’s RIA news agency: “Every leader of every country must be aware of his share of responsibility. You are aware of yours. It is in our interests for Arab peoples to live in peace and agreement.”

Lavrov, whose government wields rare leverage in Syria as a major arms supplier to Damascus, said Assad assured him he was committed to halting bloodshed by both sides and that he was ready to seek dialogue with all political groups in Syria.

But the arms that Russia has been supplying to Assad are still being put to use against Syria’s citizens. From the same Reuters article:

Opposition activists said the fresh assault on Homs came after 95 people were killed on Monday in the city of one million, Syria’s third biggest. More than 200 were reported killed there by sustaining shelling on Friday night.

“The bombardment is again concentrating on Baba Amro (district of Homs). A doctor tried to get in there this morning but I heard he was wounded,” Mohammad al-Hassan, an activist in Homs, told Reuters by satellite phone. “There is no electricity and all communication with the neighborhood has been cut.”

A further 19 people were killed and at least 40 wounded in Tuesday’s barrage, activists said. Some reported fighting between army defectors and government forces trying move into areas the rebels hold in Homs.

Reflecting the total failure in what passes for world “diplomacy”, the response from the West is to arm the citizens of Syria to fight back against government forces who were armed by Russia. The approach starts out positively, as an attempt to prevent the arming of the Syrian government, but by the time Joe Lieberman gets involved, it goes terribly astray: Read more

The Declining Credibility of the IAEA

Yesterday, I pointed out that the IAEA is preparing to release a report on potential development of nuclear weapons in Iran almost exactly two years after the departure of Mohamed ElBaradei as its leader.  As discussed in that post, one of the key pieces of evidence that is anticipated to be discussed in the report is a large steel container in which explosions are carried out.  The claim will be that this chamber is being used to test the use of conventional explosives as a trigger device for a nuclear weapon.

Even before the official report comes out, there are now serious questions about the credibility of the claims on the steel tank.  In a post yesterday at Moon of Alabama, b informs us that there is a likely very different use of the conventional explosive technology and the steel chamber where the explosions are carried out.  A key to unraveling this mystery was an examination of the area of expertise for the Russian scientist cited as the source of the explosive technology in the Washington Post’s “scoop” of the expected content of the IAEA report.  From the Moon of Alabama post:

Dr. Vyacheslav Danilenko is a well known Ukrainian (“former Soviet”) scientist. But his specialties are not “weapon” or “nuclear” science, indeed there seems to be nothing to support that claim, but the production of nanodiamonds via detonations (ppt). According to the history of detonation nanodiamonds he describes in chapter 10 of Ultrananocrystalline Diamond – Synthesis, Properties, and Applications (pdf) he has worked in that field since 1962, invented new methods used in the process and is related with Alit, an Ukrainian company that produces nanodiamonds.

/snip/

Some years ago Iran launched a big Nano Technology Initiative which includes Iranian research on detonation nanodiamonds (pdf). Iran is officially planing to produce them on industrial scale. It holds regular international conferences and invites experts on nanotechnology from all over the world. It is quite likely that famous international scientists in that field, like Dr. Danilenko, have been invited, gave talks in Iran and cooperate with its scientists.

Producing nanodiamonds via detonations uses large confined containers with water cooling, for which Danilenko seems to have a patent. The Ukrainian company he works with, Alit, shows such a detonation chamber on its webpage as does the picture above from the French-German nano-research company ISL. The detonation nanodiamond explanation thereby also fits with another allegation from the IAEA report:

So it turns out that the most likely use of the “bus-sized steel container” is the production of nanodiamonds.  As b points out in an update, that explanation now has reached the Guardian (though without citing Moon of Alabama, I would note): Read more

Syriana

Aurora Borealis (ionization of the upper atmosphere)(While I have been trying to find a resolution to MI’s DNC delegation in the last few days, the Admin put on their nukes in Syria dog and pony show. Partly because I didn’t have the time to do the Syria presentation justice, and partly because Professor Foland–whom you know from his great comments–has a lot more expertise on this area than I, I asked him to do a post assessing the presentation. Thanks for the really informative post, Prof! -ew)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of this Administration, it’s that if Dana Perino one day announces that the sky is blue, I will be forced to assume that an alien invasion has commenced with the total ionization of Earth’s upper atmosphere.

With that in mind, there’s an awful lot of cognitive dissonance for me in analyzing the evidence on the raid (apparently named "Operation Orchard" by the Israelis) on a Syrian desert site (apparently named "Al-Kibar"). Having started my own blog motivated by "the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006", I don’t find it easy to accept anything this Administration puts forth as evidence. I’m having all this difficulty because the pictures they showed last Thursday are clearly pictures of a nuclear reactor.

In what follows, I will lay out the history of what we’ve known about Operation Orchard and al-Kibar, what the latest photographs show, and what questions we should probably be asking.

Read more