User ID leak: Iran using coronavirus crisis to spy on ordinary Iranians

Iran Commentary

As the world rightly focuses on addressing the coronavirus pandemic, a lesser discussed issue is how the Iranian regime is taking advantage of the status quo in many different ways. And with China’s support.

42 million Iranian “Telegram” user IDs and phone numbers leaked online, according to a recent report. Iran’s regime has a history of using apps to place the general public, especially activists and dissidents, under a watchful eye.

The incident follows a similar case in 2016 when Reuters reported 15 million Telegram user IDs, phone numbers, and one-time verification codes were identified by Iranian hackers, resulting in more than a dozen compromised accounts.

The information contained in this recently exposed database poses a clear risk to users. Not only does it reveal who in Iran uses Telegram (or a Telegram fork), it also opens them up to attack.

SIM swap attacks are one example. A SIM-swap…

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Hezbollah, Word Wide Criminals.

In their October 2011 article titled “The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America ” Roger F. Noriega and Jose R. Carden of the American Enterprises Institute (AEI) stated that the Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran have “greatly expanded their operations in Latin America. ” The Hezbollah uses the Western Hemisphere (in particular Venezuela and Margarita Island as well as, the Tir-Border Area (TBA ) where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet) as a staging ground for laundering millions of dollars on behalf of the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels and other drug pins. As well as, Oficina de Envigado and Ayman Joumaa. The Hezbollah is also involved in recruitment, training, arms trafficking, counterfeiting, as well as, forging travel documents. So, on April 11 2019 the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC ) sanctioned Kassem Chams and his money laundering organization. Chams launders tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit narcotics as well as, faciltating money movements for the Hezbollah. The sanctioning of Kassem Chams is all part of the Trump administration’s campaign to prevent the Hezbollah and it’s affiliates from profiting off of violence. The administration’s “network-centric” approach towards the Hezbollah’s worldwide criminal activities help shine a light on the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Treasury’s important use of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act (HIFPAA ) which is in pursuant to the Kingpin Act will make U.S. sanctions more effective. This legislation will allow the Trump Administration to increase financial scrutiny at the federal, state and municipal levels of the TBA and Latin America that “expressly consent to, or with knowledge allow, the use of their territory by the Hezbollah to carry out activities including training, financing, and recruitment.” This is much needed message to General Secretary Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. Even though there has been improved cooperation with the TBA and Latin American Governments there needs to be more. Such as the extradition of Hugo Carvjal and Ayman Joumaa. Not only are AEI’s Roger Noriega and José Cardenas correct in noticing that the Hezbollah has “greatly expanded their operations in Latin America” the Hezbollah has expanded to become a “Transnational Threat” since the 1980s. The administrations ruling to prioritize the use of law enforcement as well as, sanctions on the Hezbollah is a significant policy intiative.

Should the U.S. make the U.S. Space Corp a fully functional branch of the U.S. Air Force

On July 12 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to creat a U.S. Space Corps which will become a fully functional branch of the U.S. Air Force  This is an excellent sing that the military and congress are working to get more focus and resources for the domain of space.  This domain has been growing more contested in re cent years.  The fact that all sectors across Government are recognizing “we need to be poised and postured and budgets need to be in place to make the right changes so we (the Air Force) can protect the nation” says the director for space programs at the Air Force’s office of Assistant Secretary for acquisition Brig. Gen. Mark A. Baird.  The White House, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson along with House Tactical and Land Forces Subcommittee chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio must recognize that China and Russia’s militarization of space has become critical for the U.S. military with satellites used for navigation, protected communications, missile warning, surveillance, as well as, intelligence collection.  The U.S. is dependent on space therefore, we must organize and train forces to be able to prevail in any future conflict which could extend into space.

 

On December 17 2009 Siobbhan Gorman and Yochi J. Dreazen wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal titled “Insurgents hack U.S. drones.” In the article Gorman and Dreazen wrote that Iranian backed Shite militias have used a “$26 dollar off-the-shelf software program to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator Drones.”  This provides Shite militias with information that they can use to “evade or monitor U.S. military operations.”  These Shite militias intercept video feeds from Predator Droned by “taking advantage of an unprotected communications link” in the drones systems.  The software program is called “Sky Graber” and can be purchased online.  U.S. officials went on to say that “there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights.”  According to the WSJ article there is also evidence that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been hacked in Afghanistan too.  The U.S. Government has known about this vulnerability since the campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s.  Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman was quoted in the WSJ article saying that “The department constantly evaluates and seeks to improve both the performance as well as the security of various intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and platforms.”  Whitman went on to say “If and when we identify any shortfalls we obviously correct them as a continuous process of seeking both improved capabilities as well as improved security.”

 

Harsh Vasani a postgraduate research scholar at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal city, India wrote in a January 2017 article for the diplomat.com that in April 2016 Chinese president Xi Jinping asked Chinese  scientists to help realize “China’s dream of becoming a global space giant.”  In open source literature on China’s space dreams the literature suggests that Chinese strategic thinkers see space “as the ultimate high ground” as well as the “key to military success on the terrestrial battlefield.”  In a report prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated that the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) noted that in any conflict that China must deny its enemies the use of “strategic information.”  The report goes on to state that Chinese strategic thinkers surmise that the PLA must “develop capabilities to attack space systems.”  According to “some” Chinese analysts “The U.S. military relies upon space for 70 to 80 percent of its intelligence and 80 percent of its communications.”  In 2013 the PLA tested a Dong Neng-2 (DN-2) Anti-Satellite which jolted the United States.  Washington recognized that high-priority national security satellites positioned in geostationary orbit are within the reach of the PLA.  The response of the Pentagon was to declare publicly the commencement of a “space war center.”  The Department of Defense (DOD) received five billion dollars in space security spending with precious little to show for their efforts up to date.  The Air Force must learn from this five billion dollar mistake.

 

Russian Generals have made public statements concerning Russian forces fielding ASAT capabilities.  For example, the former Commander of space forces LT. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko has said that the Russian “S-500 anti-missile system is capable of hitting low-orbit satellites and space weapons.”  Also, in May 2016 Academy of Military Sciences professor Vadim Kozulin was quoted as saying that “Moscow is preparing for a conflict with the United States” in a discussion about “space kamikazes.”  These kamikaze satellites are known as Kosmos 2499 which are able to slide up next to American satellites and “destroy or disable them.”  The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) stated in a report to congress in 2015 that the Russian  leaders “openly assert that the Russian armed forces have ASAT weapons and conduct anti-satellite research.”  furthermore, not only does the Russian armed forces promote ASAT weapons, Moscow policymakers have also gotten in on the act of promoting  ASAT weapons.  According to Dave Majumdar a defense editor at The National Interest (TNI) wrote in his May 14, 2017 article that an unknown Russian official acknowledged that Russia is developing a “aircraft-launched missile capable of destroying low-earth orbit satellites.” Even more troubling, Russia is developing directed energy weapons.  These directed weapons technologies could blind or destroy sensitive space-based optical sensors.  The Russians are also developing airborne laser weapons to use against U.S. satellites.  In 2015 Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before congress about his concerns about a “growing thereat  to U.S. satellites from the capabilities that China and Russia are developing to deny the U.S. military access to its satellites in any future conflict.”

 

As i stated above in December 2009 Shite militias controlled by Iran used a “$26 off-the-shlef software program to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones.”  On July 19 2017 I asked Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a tweet about these intercepts “if the U.S. Space Corp would be able to stop these intercepts?”  Mr. Harrison assured me that “it is highly likely that we (U.S. Space Corps) will deploy our own cybersecurity teams” that would work “in tandem with the specialized units of other agencies.”  The U.S. Space Corps cybersecurity teams must fix, as well as, protect the unprotected communication links that the U.S. Predator drones have had since the Bosnia campaign in the 1990s.  As kids we are taught that “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”  I have no doubt that Shia militias try, try again until they take control of one of the predator drones and use it aginist the U.S. military.

 

In conclusion, the statements by Lt. Gen. Oleg as well as professor Kozulin are worrisome to say the least, which is all the more reason to have a U.S. Space Corp.  Just like Moscow policy makers that promote ASAT weapons and research, U.S. policy makers must promote ASAT weapons and research to counter Kamikaze satellites, as well as, aircraft launched missiles that are capable of destroying satellites in low-earth orbit and direct energy weapons.  Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein was quoted in a January 2018 article in breakingdefence.com saying that “Every mission we perform in the United States is dependent on space.” The Chinese dubbed the first Gulf war the “first space war.”  A war in which the Chinese took notice of the United States dominance and use of space.  If my recollection is correct the Chinese Government destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in 2007 with its own ASAT weapon and have tested ASAT weapons since.  Lawmakers must realize that the Air Force and U.S. Space Corps is the way to keep the United States safe and from falling behind in the space of space dependence.

Do Shia militas pose a threat to U.S. interests?

Ayatollah Khomeine vowed in 1979 to export the Iranian revolution. Ali Akbar Mohtasamipur one time Iranian ambassador to Damascus wrote in 2006 that “the Hezbollah is the spiritual child of Iman Khomeini and Islamic revolution”. Dominique Avow & Anaistrissa Khatchadourian, Hezbollah: A history of the party of God (2012). The model for the Shiite militias in Iraq is the Hezbollah. The Hezbollah is very much a product of the Iranian revolution and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). The IRGC & the Qoud forces Iran’s elite paramilitary force also provide funding & training for the Shi’a militias in Iraq. The IRGC is a central  tool of Iranian foreign policy in the region. Many of the Shi’a militias have grown in importance because of the vacuum left by poorly preforming Iraqi conventional armed forces. Qassem Suleiman commander of Shi’a  militias told the Associated Press (AP) that “dozens of advisers from the IRGC & the Hezbollah where on the front line in Jurf al-Sakhner providing weapons training for 7000 troops & militia.” Alarbiya.net/English 11/05/14. The Shi’a militias under the command of Qassem Suleiman are such groups as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq,The Badr organization & Kata’ib Hizballah. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq: League of the righteous (AAH) (AKA) The Khazali network is an Iraqi Shi’a paramilitary group active in the Iraqi insurgency. AAH is also known as a special group. SG is a term that Americans use for Iranian backed Shi’a militia. AAH has claimed responsility for 6000 attacks on Americans. AAH is lead by Abd al-Hadi who has ties to IRGC & Qods force. AAH claimed responsibility for the October 10 2006 attack on Camp Falcon. AAH has also claimed responsibility for the assassination of the American commander in Najaf. AAH’s most known attack was in January 20 2007 in which AAH attacked the Karbala provincial Headquarters. AAH infiltrated the U.S. Army’s office and killed one American soldier and abducted & killed four more. THE BADR ORGANIZATION; The Badr Organization was setup in 1982 in Iran. It’s the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). It’s founder Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim. It’s leader is Hadi Al-Amiri. SCIRI is a Iraqi Shi’a Isalmist political party. SCIRI has been accused of receiving money & weapons from Iran as well as being a proxy for Iranian interests. SCIRI controls the Interior ministry in Iraq. Bayan Jabr once a leader of SCIRI’s Badr Brigade militia now runs the Interior ministry. John Pace United Nations Human Rights chief in Iraq has accused the Interior ministry of torturing to death and executing hundreds of Iraqi’s . According to British TV’s channel 4 in 2005 through early 2006 the Badr Organization has been implicated in rounding up thousands of Sunni civilians and killing them. Source Wikipitia. KATA’IB HIZBALLAH: Kata’ib Hizballah (KH) (Briigades of the party of God) is a Iranian backed Iraqi organization. KH also has a jihadist ideaology and is anti-western. KH has attacked U.S. & coalition troops in Iraq. KH also has ties to the Lebanese Hezbollah. KH has recived training from the Hezbollah along with the IRGC. (source Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium) TRAC. KH is an off shoot of the SG’s. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of Iran’s Quds force is a senior adviser to KH. KH has been accused of numbers of IED bombings, Mortar,Rocket & RPG attacks as well as  sniper operations. In November 2008 KH launched a rocket attack that killed two UN workers. (source Wikipedia.com) There is no doubt that Iran’s influence runs deep in the region. Iran has been spreading it’s Islamic revolution for more 36 years. The training and weapons provided by the IRGC & Qods force are for one reason and one reason only. One has only to look at the attacks that the Hezbollah has taken on behalf of the IRGC during the 1980’s against U.S. interests. The hijacking of Kuwait airlines flight 221 which left two Americans from USAID dead and laying on the tarmac. It had been suggested that Iran was complicit in the hijacking, along with press reports indicating that the Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyah was responsible. The October 23 1983 Beirut barracks bombing which left 241 American military personal that were part of the UN peace keeping force. If the Hezbollah is the model for the Shi’a militias then it is clear that these militias are the product to attack American interests and spread Iran’s Islamic Revolution.                                                      

Will bringing home U.S. forces defeat jihdists?

According to Devin R. Springer, James L. Regens & David N. Edger in their book Islamic Radicalism and Global Jihad ” Jihadists seek to convey images that weaken the resolve of their adversaries while signaling the inevitability of victory in a long war”.  Usama bin Laden (UBL) preached to his followers “have patience the Americans will tire of war and go home.” This is exactly what the American public has called for and what president Obama has done.  With the absence of combat troops in Iraq former P.M. Nouri al-Maliki  tore apart (mostly likely at the behest of the Iranians) all the work that America did to put Iraq back together. With the alienation of the Sunnis and the Shia militias the matter in Iraq has gotten worse and given rise to IS.                      Dr. Michael Knights told a crowd at the Washington Institute  for Near East Policy on 02/06/15 “that the Hezbollahlation of Iraqi security forces is occurring.” Dr. Knights also said during his presentation at the Washington Institute that “it will take decades long effort to shore up Iraqi Security Forces.”  To improve the security situation in Iraq senator Lindsey Graham of S.C has called for a least 10,000 combat troops to go after IS in Iraq & Syria .  Senator Graham knows that this will be a long war.                   The ouster of Col. Gaddafi in the U.S. NATO backed uprising left Libya without  strong security forces after Libya was abandoned.  This has only given rise to such jihadists  groups as Ansar al-Sharia, Libyan Islamic fighting group as well as IS.                  As long as the administration is unwilling to entertain the idea of a long war in the Middle East the more we will see failed stated.  AQAP recently pointed out that America has closed embassies in four different countries.  This is a clear indication that jihadists are conveying the image that they are winning their long war.