The psychological protection of our peoples
[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]n all likelihood, the peoples of our Western countries are not shielded and protected against actions, operations and manipulations typical of the most modern psychological war. Operations which, after all, also come from our current opponents: States, non-State actors, large global companies, State and non-State opposing agencies and international organisations. The State does no longer exist there, but there are global mainstream communicators that have taken its place. As I will do later on, it would be interesting to analyse the communication and advertising agencies dealing with seemingly non-commercial issues.
Those who managed the end of the Cold War – that often, in the marginal countries of the Western bloc, had been an operator and an opponent in the context of the Cold War, probably not recognized as such – decided that, after the anti-Soviet propaganda, there should be no longer people’s psychological and information protection.
A huge mistake that generated others: in fact, the Cold War is not over and it has only changed its nature and modus operandi. The Islamist jihad is a global enemy (also for Russia and China) and globalization is a kind of Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes (“war of all against all”) that does not take prisoners, even if possibly not a single shot is fired.
Or rather, shots are fired in the disputed regions, not in those where a master has already been assigned.
When the Democratic Republic of Germany collapsed, it had a debt totalling 22 billion marks, equivalent to one thousand million Western marks.
It was like the sale of a bankrupt company – favoured by the one-to-one exchange rate with the Western mark, which destroyed Eastern companies from the day until the morning. Nevertheless the old Soviet East sold us many failed politicians, managers and officials – in the specific meaning attributed to this term by the intelligence world.
Oleg Gordievsky – a great Soviet intelligence officer who defected silently, as a double agent, from the KGB in 1972 and was later ordered back to Moscow, and physically taken there with the so-called techniques used at the time by the intelligence services, as early as 1985 – told us that currently the Russian Federation has more intelligence agents in Great Britain than at the time of the Soviet Union.
Anatoly Golitsyn, a British citizen since 1984, wrote an extraordinary book on estern Soviet destabilization, New Lies for Old.
I do not mean that the Russian Federation is just a mask of the old USSR. Quite the reverse, but I wish to underline that the universal and global world is still today a lie – and also a danger.
This is not the right time to analyze Golitsyn’s book – we will do so in a future article – but its underlying concept is interesting: there is no ideological tension between a political system and another – as the foolish Westerners believe – but a structural and geopolitical clash, which does not consider the ideologies with which current and old worlds are “covered”.
To create this covering, we must at first preserve the national traditions, which are a substantial part of national interest. Without national interest – and hence without the corresponding identity – we are brutally sold to the highest bidder. This is exactly what is currently happening in Italy.
Furthermore, if the people are exposed – without psychic and cultural protections – to all the strangest trends, often well-designed and developed in the current thought manipulation centres, the people are sold to the global mass training and disinformation agencies.
The gender obsession produces people who do not reproduce themselves – hence are perfect for the new Western geopolitics, aimed at replacing those who have lost the war, known as globalization, with the African or Asian “poor” in an engineering frenzy manipulating peoples, cultures and economic systems, on the basis of foolish GDP growth forecasts – the only ones these fools understand.
If there is no product innovation, which now costs too much and has no longer a market in new Western poverty, there must be process innovation, which is carried out, above all, by paying the labour force ever less, down to a point of indifference that is the one accepted by a part of migrants.
Here is the social engineering idea underlying these follies, which we will pay dearly. Therefore what matters is only what the GDP is worth and what the average productivity is worth, without adding taxes. Hence the democratic regimes accept only the great transhumances – but the ideologies supporting these and other similar actions are always valid. Consumption unification, cultural de-Westernization, as well as education and training destabilization, which do not allow the mainstream discourse to express itself in its fullness.
However, as the great liberal masters of the “Austrian school” taught us, society is always a natural organism, which does not left itself be tampered with impunity by the societal “engineers”, those who move populations today in the Middle East and are about to do so also in Western Europe.
The mind, which is always identity-based, never works like that. The same applies to the mechanism of the brain amygdala that enables us to distinguish between the “friend” and the “enemy”, as in the title of a great essay by Carl Schmitt.
Hence believing that social communication can quickly transform people’s primary reactions is a mistake fraught with very severe dangers.
Because, in essence, the political notions are always the same, namely that there are no universal friends, but enemies who are defeated or otherwise weakened.
Inimicus and Hostis, the personal enemy the community’s enemy, are absolute but always changing criteria.
Therefore it is the urge for war that the West – implicit but anyway foolish servant of its enemies – always destructures in its own peoples who find it hard to accept the superficial ideologies of multiculturalism or anyway of defeat, such as the teenagers who, in Turin and Manchester, lay their hands on their necks, as if to surrender to the enemies before their coming.
If the great jihad wave comes – and we can rest assured this will happen – there will be no information manipulation that will spare us: many people will react, others will surrender to the enemy without fighting, while others will still try to negotiate.
There is no manipulation – although very strong as the one currently in place – which can unify behaviours in a phase of extreme danger.
This is the true psywar against the West that the Western countries wage carefully, but only against themselves, even as if it were in their own interest. We are those who wage against us the psychological warfare of our enemies.
With the damned offspring of the 1968 movement who is currently in power, we have created a multicultural myth that is influenced exactly by the ideological system which has enabled the 1968 ideology to last.
America was behind the riots of the 1968 French young people. The United States retaliated against the favourable exchange rate of the franc against the devalued dollar, which anyway needed gold or hard currencies to be, at the time, the universal means of payment in France.
The rest must be silence now for the immigration, anti-marriage and anti-sexist ideology (and what does it mean?) or anyway against those traditional ideas which create a cultural barrier, a wall against the current, self-styled modernity.
A Soviet defector, who had worked in India, always recommended – in his lectures – people’s psychological and cultural stability.
With a view to justifying himself, he showed a picture in which he was with the well-known Mahatma Maharishi, the reference point of the Beatles and of many stars of the 1960s and 1970s.
What does pseudo-Indian mysticism have to do with the KGB? A lot. Because, as the defector explained, if we instil anti-science trends in the West, we will have to do with young people who will not study “serious things” – hence a country will not have a ruling class living up to the challenges is shall meet.
Not to mention the drugs trend, which is now deeply rooted throughout the West.
Furthermore, the escape from Piazza Cavour, Turin, causing a toll of 1,400 injured people, eight of whom very severely, is another extremely serious sign.
Few units of the law enforcement – now reduced significantly after a sequence of Ministers all yielding and obedient to the resulting 1968 ideology; very few funds for security and defence – an image of “fascists” in uniform, often supported by politicians, as shamefully happened in the case of the two Italian marines, unjustly detained in India, or in many negotiations in the Middle East, which were handled with excessive respect for the criminals who agreed to mediate.
Italy, a State founded by cowards like the fearful Don Abbondio, the character of Manzoni’s historical novel The Betrothed. Appease and quieten, as the Father provincial of the Capuchins told to the uncle Count in that novel.
A constant apology for having being “fascists”, a term equating all the dictatorships of the 20th century – and here again there is a serious historical mistake – and above all for frustrating our strategic ambitions in the Mediterranean which today, unlike what happened during the First Republic, we can no longer afford.
The crazy Western operation against Libya, which was still ours with Gaddafi – a Colonel of Sirte we had selected, with our intelligence services, in a hotel in Abano Terme – has hit the mark. We do no longer count anything exactly where we were princes.
Libya, Tunisia – the first to be destabilized, coincidentally, by the nonsense of the “Arab Springs” – and Egypt, placed by the United States in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which it was freed by a great leader of the intelligence services, namely Al Sisi.
The destabilization of the Maghreb region means our own destabilization – and we must be aware of it.
Hence some additional concise considerations are now appropriate:
a) we have no ideology against the jihad, other than the stupid repetition of a foolish song by John Lennon. Thanks to these indolent and incompetent politicians, we have nothing shielding our people against the enemy propaganda, which in fact spreads with our support.
b) We are those who, for ignorance or interest, passively accept the propaganda – which we do ours – accusing us of being the ones who starved the African black peoples. Instead of telling the truth, namely the Central-African youth bulge or the small economic boom of those who remain in Africa with fewer competitors, less marginal population and even fewer people asking for help or charity. Immigration is a transfer of marginal peoples who in the past, as colonizers, we could have kept in the countries of origin. As some scholars have noted, immigration is a form of “indirect strategy” of the poor against the rich. From their viewpoint the countries favouring the exodus are fully rational; they impoverish an excessive workforce they cannot integrate and send it to the “bad” colonialists.
c) All the information operations of the European West are such as to dangerously weaken the demographic threat of Islam or, anyway, of Africa.
d) Is this really the final strategy of mainstream communication? Or is it an anthropological engineering operation that ultimately creates more problems than it believes it can solve? Is not the notorious “populism”, which these poor-wretched pseudo-intellectuals declare to be a danger, the electoral reaction of those who have everything to lose with their crazy globalization? And how do they intend to proceed, with increasingly technocratic governments, which obviously last from the day until the morning, or with governments really ruling but without the naive idea of fixing the situation and then returning to business as usual?
e) Moreover, in the imagination of the Africanism spread by google or the various social media, as well as by stars online, shall we also be those who wait for their commercial and political moment of the global spreading of our way of life? Nevertheless, currently have we not the money to manage – possibly with some misinformation – the perpetrators of the jihadist threats against us? Finally, are we able to respond to the image that the global jihad has conveyed about us? No, we are not. And, once again, there is a strategic mistake at the root of the issue.
f) As early as the time of Brzezinsky, the West has believed in Columbus’ principle “buscar el levante por el poniente” (to try to reach the East through the Atlantic Ocean by circumnavigating the earth westwards) – namely to use the jihad against the Soviet Union. To surround, as Brzezinsky said, the USSR “with a green belt of Islamist republics”. Hence the Afghan jihad became global, with its first major migration to the West, during the Balkan wars of the early 1990s, having Alja Izetbegovic’s Bosnian Republic as axis – and in Sarajevo Osama Bin Laden was like one of the family. Nobody at that stage ever thought that the jihad support to the crazy policy disrupting former Yugoslavia was expensive, dangerous or ambiguous. At that time no one thought it was better to have a Russian-Serbian axis of the endless jihadist madrasahs, from Kosovo to Tuzla up to Sarajevo and beyond. At that time al-Qaeda filled a void and the stupid common sense of many Western analysts and decision makers did the rest, with a correlated exaggeration of our psychological and political strength and stability.
g) Hence what happened? Simply the West has never realized that the jihadist Islam was about to accomplish the program of its continuity, after Russia and after the United States. As in the lyrics of a song at the top of the Afghan hit parade: “We have destroyed the Kremlin, we will also destroy the White House.”
h) The lack of psychological protection put in place by the West with its masses has done the rest. Throughout the West, we live as if we were still in the phase of economic expansion – which is not the case, as we all know. Moreover, currently the mass psychological control tools are only linked to immediate, sexual, subjective and autonomous self-satisfaction. And also symbolic – it is a great synecdoche in which the part is used for the whole. Theorizing consumerism when there is little to be consumed and, above all, when there is a polarization of social classes no longer allowing any American, social-democratic or liberal “dream” to come true, is pure madness.
i) The current social communication has eliminated all identitarian discourses, dismissing them as “fascists,” and has created a space that will be filled only by what the Western mainstream leaders call “populism”, while the immigrant masses are exposed to the systematic propaganda of the sword jihad. They have arrived as poor in a country which is going to become poor, and they react like all those whose dream has been spoilt.
j) Indeed, the public communication system has brought the ever increasing and widespread dissonances together into a set of predetermined subjective and instinctive models: gay marriage, gender, the “Other” from a different ethnic group, the migrant. It is worth noting that the current manipulated ideological discourse includes both the acceptance and the refusal, both vague pacifism and rampant rage. We have responded to an identity crisis of our peoples with the 1968 ideology typical of a provincial high school. The greater the need for a new ideological and mass identity bond, the more decision-makers and mass culture big agencies have reacted with preconceived ideologies, always modelled on private consumption – that does no longer exist. Advertising can certainly afford to portray the world as if everything were a young, wealthy, happy and “normal” middle class. Politicians cannot do so, otherwise they will lose any contact with voters, with their own militants, the people and their own ideals. The opposite of the current identity is not the subjective consumption – on which, however, today’s political communication is shaped – but a new identity. In this regard, it is worth noting that the current political systems are always late, proud of their crazy belief in communication manipulation. Europe’s myth came as a huge weight just after the failure of the French referendum on the European Constitution of May 29, 2005. The machine of “democratic wars” collapsed when in February 2003 the then US Secretary of Defence, Colin Powell, showed to the UN the notorious “vials” of chemical weapons allegedly available to Saddam Hussein’s regime, which, as stated by the Secretary of State, was the State part of non-State jihad, namely al-Qaeda. Positivist and primitive manipulation of the public and, indeed, scarcely professional manipulation, but there is ultimately an interest in voiding Iraq to favour Saudi Arabia and redesign the Middle East.
k) Indeed the US victory in Iraq was a major strategic gift to Iran, which got rid of its traditional Sunni opponent. Furthermore, the first Governor of Baghdad, after the defeat of Saddam’s forces, organized the road traffic in a chaotic Middle East city like Baghdad by enforcing the same rules applied to Boston’s road traffic. The whole world had to like the West, but it is hard to understand that the world is not all in the West. And it does not want to be so. The fact is that understanding the world means above all intus legere, to read inside the Other and not necessarily homogenise him/her by force. If you do not read inside him/her, he/she will always be the Other and the enemy.
l) Hence, as is also the case with finance, the current psycho-political sequence is the creation of a series of “altered states” we cherish the illusion of being able to manage. The first altered state is that of body identity, which becomes transient and indefinite. The second one is the rejection of reproduction, considering that the insanity of “social engineering” will replace current populations with migrants who, however, have other identities that the current decision-makers do not see and, indeed, interpret – according to the criteria of vulgar Marxism – only as “poverty” and “need”. The third one is the disruption of the traditional non-State social units: family, civil society and the State – entities that are replaced by fluid pre-political identities, but capable of becoming – according to the delayed-action 1968 ideology currently much in vogue – “a distribution mass”, just to use Elias Canetti’s terminology. Today, however, there is nothing to distribute and hence a token, a “symbol is created – but, indeed, leaders not even create it – which only allows the repetition of the association game, as well as its duration which is considered indefinite. Opportunity and not career, gig economy but not employment, temporary income but not wages and salaries – everything today is token, but not substance.
m) Symbol, replacement, partial satisfaction, repetition. This is the chain uniting communication and economy. And it is by no mere coincidence that, in this phase of Western political communication, everything repeats the well-known “victories” of the past. The liberation of the black population in North America. Partial, like all “liberations”, was the female or feminist issue, after the old suffragettes and the big boom of female employment. The students, now considered only mass of manoeuvre for all “liberations”. It springs to our mind when in the 1970s the Canadian federal government theorized, in one of its documents for internal use, that child education should imitate the Maoist “cultural revolution”. Hence, today every social class has not employment as a goal, but mainstream communication. Everything must be covered by weapons of mass distraction having the sole purpose of changing the discourse and providing predefined identities to people who, however, must no longer have the real identity that has always objectively characterized them. No longer workers, but “citizens”, no longer unemployed, but people “looking for a job”, no longer housewives, employees, teachers, but only “career women”.
n) Hence the creation of a much subtler neo-language than the one theorized by Orwell in 1984 is part of the operation for creating a fictitious reality. It is the neo-language creating reality, by obsessive repetitions (think of contemporary music) and prohibitions of repeating what has been known for long time.
o) Currently Plato’s dream of the dialogue The Republic has come true. Poets – who, in fact, in Plato’s vision are those who remind us of the City history and heroes – have been excluded from the perfect New City. In the globalist model – which, however, currently the West has not even the financial, military and strategic possibilities to create, although continuing to think of being capable to do so – we need to forget not only our own identities – which are all “fascist” – but also those of the others. Hence hilarious explanations of the jihad are provided, according to which it is allegedly the war of the poor (and possibly “exploited”) Muslims of the Third World. Or the self-reduction of our own traditions is theorized – a diminutio which is used as a form of “acceptance” of the usual African or Middle East “poor”, which results being a communication and media self-destruction which is unparalleled in the modern Western world.
p) We are still blamed for being “rich” – and possibly now no longer so – and all our wealth allegedly comes from the cynical exploitation of the Third World’s natural resources that we “steal” from the “poor”. This is obviously a way to create mass acceptance for our future poverty – a way to artificially justify globalization and finally a way to justify our enemies. It is worth noting, however, that contemporary social communication is based on three pillars: firstly, the loosest atheism, that is the loss of a criterion going well beyond temporary or silent “distribution masses” – as Canetti would call them – and hence a criterion justifying the lowest instinct as the only law, a law that seems subjective but is biological and universal. “Materialist” atheism is a way of avoiding any vertical value, any kind of identity affecting the spirit and hence also culture.
q) Secondly, youth. Contemporary society is an organization of “juvenation”, of the eternal permanence of all individuals among young people or among those who believe to be so. As everyone knows, young people, women and, to some respects, children, are the trendsetter groups in advertising. Thirdly, hate for “high” culture – in short, tradition – and this is the core of the issue, all the identities existing before the contemporary world. Rousseau plus Orwell, Eden without God that created it, eternal childhood against the dangers and disappointments of maturity. These are the images of the contemporary world according to its deep communication model.
r) We could add to the three pillars also the leader’s myth, but only provided that the leader is obviously insignificant. His/her current role is not to act as katèchon, as the one who “postpones the End Times”, but only to represent the weaknesses, ignorance and puerile pathos of the masses. He/she must be “good,” exactly as “good” is the Antichrist in the Shiite theology of the End Times. It is only when he/she cries that currently everyone loves the Leader, not when he/she exercises his/her power, which must be possibly subjected to the mainstream one. Currently culture, politics and science are categories of Repetition that creates hypnosis.
s) Hence today the Islamic jihad is the “full”. Supreme Leader, identitarian violence, omnipotence of religion, which we believe to fight with few talentless, third-rate Voltaires – a stable, very motivated and warring mass, while we are peaceful and almost powerless, now only creating vague tribes, not States or communities. We believe we can fight this “full” with our “void” – the refusal of strong thought, natural identities or political traditions – with the even comical obsession for an economy that is still getting out of our control, as well as with the eternal present of primary instincts instead of critical thinking and of idealistic and superior models of human behaviour. We will not manage to fight this “good fight”. As the recent jihadist operations in Europe have demonstrated, we just want to stop, to be subservient and enslaved, so that they will probably stop and quit it. As worthy heirs of the Left anti-militarism and, indeed, of so many Catholics, we put our hands behind our heads, as a sign of surrender to every noise or violent act. We are now devoid of self-control, as recently happened in Piazza San Carlo, Turin and a mere paper bomb is enough to generate 1,527 wounded people. Hence the psycho-politics of mass and low-quality consumption, applied to today’s politics, is a complete failure. The identity of citizens, not producers, creates illusory images of themselves. The Other, to be incorporated and homogenized, does not want to do so, regardless of our giving in shamefully – as already happened too many times. The void we have created to “accept” the non-West is precisely the space that the Other will fill and occupy.
The Failures of Russian Intelligence in the Ukraine War and the Perils of Confirmation Bias
The Russian invasion of Ukraine defied many expectations, not least the Kremlin’s. Prior to the ‘special military operation’ launched by President Vladimir Putin last February, the Russian government expected minimal organised military resistance from the Ukrainians. A quick victory was assured, much like the 2014 annexation of Crimea but on a grander scale, with the decapitation of the Ukrainian government as a likely result. Yet, more than one year later, Ukraine remains very much in the fight, in defiance of Russian expectations. Evidently, the Russian military and political elite launched the invasion based on flawed assumptions. The question now, is what role did Russia’s intelligence services play in forming these false assumptions and why did they go unchallenged?
Much of the blame may rest on Putin himself according to a paper published in The British Journal of Politics and International Relations in December last year. Before the invasion, it was widely assumed that the Russian President’s ability to use strategic intelligence was virtually unrivalled on the world stage. Unlike other world leaders, Putin possesses a professional background in intelligence, having been both an officer in the KGB and director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), between 1998 and 1999. Russia’s swift and surprising annexation of Crimea and ability to disrupt targets with hybrid warfare was further evidence of Putin’s strategic acumen. However, the events leading up to and during the war in Ukraine cast the Russian President in a different light, as a deeply flawed intelligence manager and consumer.
One issue highlighted by the paper’s authors is that intelligence agencies within authoritarian regimes are blindsided by ‘a frequent inability to accept dissenting judgements as being offered in good faith.’ This appears to have been true of the Russian intelligence agencies prior to the invasion of Ukraine. Instead of offering their primary intelligence customer an intellectually honest assessment of the situation in Ukraine, the intelligence services appear to have disseminated intelligence that merely confirmed his biases. As explained by a group of experts in May last year, ‘Putin believes Ukraine is or ought to be Russian and whatever passed for intelligence preparation for the invasion may have confirmed this in his mind… We can infer that Russian intelligence services supported Putin’s view of Ukraine as a state ready to be absorbed.’
Ultimately, the officers of Russia’s intelligence agencies, be it the FSB, Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), or Main Intelligence Directorate (GU), are dependent on Putin for their advancement, prosperity, and survival. This encourages a culture whereby the intelligence services compete for his approval, which is far from useful in terms of generating dispassionate and unbiased intelligence products. Years before the invasion, in 2017, Professor Brian D. Taylor argued that independent thinkers had largely left the Russian intelligence services, the implication being that they were now staffed by individuals who were content to conform with the dominant viewpoint. This has led to the formation of an institutional culture compromised by groupthink.
A very public example of the Russian intelligence community’s hesitancy to speak truth to power came in February 2022, when Director of the SVR Sergey Naryshkin was humiliated by Putin during a televised meeting of the Security Council. When questioned whether Russia should recognise the two self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, Naryshkin suggested giving the West one final chance to return to the Minsk agreements. This was evidently not what Putin wanted to hear and he pressed a now visibly nervous and stuttering Naryshkin until the latter agreed that it would be the right course of action for Russia to recognise the two breakaway republics. Of course, this was a clear example of political theatre, but it does not bode well that Putin was willing to publicly humiliate one of his intelligence chiefs. Whilst it is not known what goes on behind close doors, there has been increasing scrutiny of Putin’s behaviour which suggests that the Russian leader has put an unhealthy amount of distance between himself and his top officials.
This is not to say that Putin micromanages the intelligence services or that he predetermines every decision without any recourse to their advice. Indeed, the intelligence services wield a tremendous amount of influence over high-level decision making. The problem is more so that the intelligence services are institutionally incentivised to say what they think Putin wants to hear. His views on Ukraine were well-publicised before the invasion, and no doubt senior intelligence officials would have been familiar with his frame of mind. His dismissal of there being a legitimate sense of Ukrainian nationalism and a belief that Ukrainians would be willing to join Russia and reject Western moral decadence and degradation were hardly secrets. For the intelligence services competing to win approval, there would have been few incentives to contradict this official narrative. Russian intelligence preparation for the invasion therefore likely served to confirm the Russian President’s biases.
There is some evidence to the contrary. According to US intelligence documents leaked in April, the FSB accused Russia’s Ministry of Defence of underreporting Russian casualties in Ukraine. Allegedly, the FSB was critical of the Ministry of Defence for failing to record the losses suffered by the Russian National Guard, the Wagner Group, or fighters under the command of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The FSB’s casualty estimates were reportedly roughly double those given by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in December. This does indicate a willingness to break bad news and contradict the official narrative. However, in this particular case, the FSB stands to enhance its own standing with Putin by undermining the Russian Ministry of Defence, thus fitting the broader pattern of institutional rivalry.
Naturally, much remains unknown about the activities and procedures of the Russian intelligence services prior to and after the invasion of Ukraine. What the available evidence does suggest however, is that Russia’s intelligence services are burdened by political considerations and biases which interfere with their ability to plan, direct, collect, process, analyse, and disseminate valid and useful intelligence. The Russian President bears much of the blame for the creation of a professional culture which does nor prioritise the truth as the highest good. Consequently, Russia initiated its invasion of Ukraine based on faulty assumptions and was unable to forecast the Ukrainian reaction with much accuracy.
Iran Threat to National Security 2023
The annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community for 2023, identified Iran as the third greatest national security threat to the United States, after China and Russia. As those two countries have been covered in other reports, this paper will focus on the Iran threat, evaluating it within the framework of a PMESII analysis. PMESII is an acronym used in military and intelligence services which analyses threat countries across six dimensions: Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure, and Information.
1. Political: This dimension examines political systems, governance structures, institutions, and decision-making within a country, as well as the effectiveness of these systems and institutions. It also considers the stability or instability of the government.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran), formerly known as Persia, has a population of around 88 million, and is located in Western Asia, bordering on Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia, the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The country is a theocratic republic, with a Shia Islamic legal framework.
Iran regularly holds elections, but the quality of democracy is limited because of the influence of the Guardian Council, an unelected body with the power to disqualify candidates on religious grounds. Iran has a president who is elected by the people, but the president is only the head of government, not the head of state. As head of government, the president oversees the operations and implementation of government. True executive power rests in the head of state, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Supreme Leader controls numerous unelected institutions, including the security forces and the judiciary, which are used to suppress dissent and to restrict civil liberties.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the Supreme Leader has always been an Ayatollah. The founder of the Islamic Republic was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who maintained the title of Supreme Leader until his death in 1989. He was succeeded by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader.
The Supreme Leader presides over the Guardian Council, which interprets legislation and elections to determine if they are consistent with the principles of Islam and the Iranian Constitution. The Guardian Council has twelve members, six of whom are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The remaining six are nominated by the Judiciary and approved by the Parliament (Majlis).
In terms of political rights, Freedom House assigns Iran a score of 4 out of 40 and civil liberties 10 out of 60. Citizens have the right to form political parties, but those parties must be loyal to the current government. Change is unlikely to come within the existing governmental framework because of the influence of the unelected bodies. In 2021, for example, the former vice president Jahangiri, was disqualified from running for president because he was determined to be a reformist.
The government is largely dominated by men from the Shiite Muslim majority. Women hold some appointed positions, but generally not powerful ones. In the parliament, five seats are reserved for recognized non-Muslim minority groups: Jews, Armenian Christians, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, and Zoroastrians. However, members of these groups would generally not be appointed to high-level government posts.
Corruption is rife in Iran. Transparency International assigns Iran a score of 25/100 for corruption, whereby a lower score denotes higher levels of corruption. Iran ranks 147th out of 180 nations. Much of this corruption is attributable to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is above scrutiny in practice, and is protected from criticism by the media and civil society.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a military/paramilitary organization with vast political and economic power. The IRGC was formed immediately after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, tasked with safeguarding the principles of the Islamic Republic and protecting the country’s sovereignty. Under the direct control of the Supreme Leader, the IRGC controls large sectors of the economy helping fund Tehran’s activities. The IRGC also provides military assistance to entities beyond Iran’s borders, as it has done for various groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen.
The group’s mandate includes defending the nation against external threats and maintaining internal security. The IRGC is also assigned the duty of preserving the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary ideals and ensuring compliance with Islamic principles. Additionally, it has significant influence on Iran’s foreign policy, including supporting regional proxies and paramilitary groups, by providing training, weapons, and logistics. On the economic front, the IRGC is involved in a broad array of businesses, including construction, infrastructure development, energy, telecommunications, and others. It owns and operates numerous conglomerates and companies which augment the groups financing and influence.
2. Military: The military dimension of PMESII assess a country’s military strength. It is not comprehensive, however, as it mostly considers personnel and hardware. It does not consider alliances, overseas bases, or the quality of equipment or quality and experience of personnel. All of this will be covered in greater detail in a separate report.
The U.S. ranks first in global firepower. Iran ranks 17th. The U.S. population is 337 million, compared to Iran’s 88 million. The U.S. is the world’s number-two nuclear power. While it is widely suspected that Iran is working on a nuclear weapons program, to date, it seems they do not possess any nuclear weapons.
The number of active-duty troops is1.39 million for the U.S. and 575,000 for Iran. Additionally, Iran has about 90,000 paramilitary personnel. Comparing the defense budgets, the U.S. spends $762 billion and Iran $25 billion.
Aircraft – US 13,300 to Iran’s 541
fighter aircraft -1,914 to 196
Transports – 962 to 86
Helicopters – 5,584 to 126
Attack helicopters – 983 to 12
Tanks – 5,500 to 4,071
Armored vehicles – 303,553 to 69,685
Self-propelled artillery – 1,000 to 580
Towed artillery – 1,339 to 2050
Ships – 484 to Iran’s 101
Aircraft carriers – 11 to 0
Helicopter carriers – 9 to 0
Submarines – 68 to 19
Destroyers – 82 to 0
Frigates 0 to 7
3. Economic: Wars are costly to wage. Existing assets have to be deployed, possibly overseas, which is expensive. Factories need to begin churning out exhaustible resources, such as ammunition and artillery shells, as well as replacement vehicles, planes and ships. Uniforms and weapons for new recruits must also be produced en masse. Wars are generally funded by debt, with governments issuing war bonds. The ability to sell those bonds and the interest rate the government has to pay is determined by the nation’s creditworthiness, its economic condition before the war, and whether or not the country is under sanctions. The Ukraine War has underscored the power of sanctions and their ability to prevent dollars from flowing into a country deemed the aggressor. Iran would be incapable of levying meaningful sanctions against the U.S. The U.S., by contrast would be able to bring sanctions against Iran. China would most likely help Iran bypass sanctions, but in the end, the U.S. would be able to reduce the amount of money flowing into Iran, while Iran would not be able to do the same to the U.S.
The size of the potential pool of soldiers is important, as is the number of workers available to produce war materials. The U.S. labor force consists of 163 million workers, while Iran’s comprises only 28 million.
Iran holds foreign currency reserves valued at $21.4 billion, while the U.S. holds about $37.5 billion. Roughly 60% of foreign currency reserves around the world are held in U.S. dollars. The U.S. does not hold as much foreign reserves as countries such as China and Japan, but this is because the U.S. government has access to more-or-less unlimited quantities of U.S. dollars.
Basic Indicators for Iran
GDP = $352.2
GDP Per capita = $5344.96
Inflation rate = 43.3%
Unemployment = 9.7%
Corruption and mismanagement, including price controls and subsidies, weigh heavily on the Iran’s economy. The reliance on oil as well as government domination of numerous industrial sectors further inhibit Iran’s development. There is also a significant brain drain as many of the most qualified people flee the country, in search of a better life abroad.
The Heritage Foundation assigns Iran an overall economic freedom score of 42.2 out of 100, making it the 169th freest country in the world. For business freedom Iran scored 38.9 out of 100, labor freedom of 50.7, monetary freedom of 40.6 and financial freedom of 10.
Investment in new businesses, as well as economic development in general, are directly correlated with the protection of property rights and enforcement of contracts. For property rights, Iran scored 25/100, judicial effectiveness 26/100, and for government integrity 20/100.
4. Social: The social dimension looks at societal and demographic elements, including social unrest, ethnic or religious tensions, and social cohesion which might weaken a country’s ability to fight a war.
Ethnicities: Persians 61% of the population, Kurds (10%), Lurs (6%), and Balochs (2%), Azerbaijanis (16%), Arabs (2%), Turkmens and Turkic tribes (2%), followed by a small number each of Armenians, Assyrians, and Georgians.
Religion: Islam is the official religion, accounting for roughly 99.4% of the population. Shi’a Muslim (89%) and Sunni (10%). The remaining 1% is composed of Christian, Zoroastrian, Baha’i and Jewish. Christians are the largest minority religion with 250,000 to 370,000 followers, mostly of Armenian origin.
The government punishes Shi’a Muslims who they believe have failed to uphold Islamic values, while Sunnis, Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims have all been victims of repression. Some religious minorities are effectively banned, such as Baha’i and unrecognized Christian groups. Baha’i members have been persecuted, jailed, and banned from attending university.
The Iranian constitution allows freedom of assembly, as long as gatherings are not “detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.” Given the state’s interpretation of detrimental, there is effectively no freedom of assembly in Iran. Protests and unauthorized gatherings are generally met with brutal force. In 2022, the government used lethal force to suppress protests against water shortages and poor living conditions in several provinces. Human rights leaders and labor rights advocates have been arrested or punished on an arbitrary basis. Activists can even be arrested without a warrant. The lawyers who defend them can also face jail time.
5. Infrastructure: an analysis of critical systems, such as transportation networks, energy systems, telecommunications, and industrial facilities can help to determine a county’s vulnerabilities, resilience, and potential risks.
The United States has 13,513 airports while Iran has 319. The U.S. has 35 ports, but Iran only 4. In oil production, the U.S. also leads with 18,000,000bbl, compared to Iran’s 3,450,000bbl.
Proven oil reserves – U.S. 50,000,000,000bbl, Iran 210,000,000,000bbl
Natural Gas Production – US 967,144,362,000bbl, Iran 237,561,415,000bbl
Coal Production – 495,130,000bbl, Iran 2,783,000bbl
6. Information: The information dimension analyzes the flow of information, as well as the communication systems, and media within a country. This analysis helps to understand how public opinion is formed and how propaganda and disinformation are disseminated.
In Iran, there is little media freedom either on or off line. Newspapers and other media are heavily censored, and the government directs journalists as to which stories to cover and which to avoid. Critics and opponents of the government are never given a platform. Many foreign websites, including news sites and social media, are blocked. Satellite dishes are illegal, and the police have actually raided homes, confiscating dishes. Persian language journalists working abroad have had their families threatened if the state did not approve of their reporting.
Reporters without Borders Ranks Iran as 177th least free country out of 180. Television is controlled by the state, and Persian language TV broadcasts from outside of the country are jammed. State television often airs confessions extracted from political prisoners by way of torture. Over the past two years, there has been a particular crackdown on journalists with an increased number of arrests and imprisonments. In one case a journalist was sentences to 90 lashes for allegedly making false news reports. The Islamic Republic has been known to target for kidnapping Iranian journalists operating abroad, as nearly happened to journalist Masih Alinejad in July 2021.
Academia is also not free and contains a great deal of indoctrination. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei warned that universities should not become centers for political activities. Students and professors have been jailed for speaking out against the regime or studying or teaching material which the state disapproved of.
Digital communication is monitored by state intelligence agencies. At the same time, the Iranian government utilizes online platforms and social media to disseminate propaganda and to influence the public. To this end, troll farms have been utilized, creating fake accounts and manipulating online discourse to support Tehran’s narratives. State sponsored cyber hacking is another way that Tehran controls the information space. And while the government has access to the most modern technology, the country suffers from a massive urban/rural divide, with much of the rural population unable to access the internet.
Online activism is illegal. And, the government is looking for ways to make accessing forbidden content even more difficult. In July of last year, the parliament began considering criminalizing the use and distribution of virtual private networks (VPNs) and requiring internet users to verify their legal identities. In January, 2023, it was announced that the unauthorized sale of VPNS would be banned.
International Information Security in US-Russian Bilateral Relations
There have been periods of convergence and cooldown in U.S.-Russian relations on issues pertaining to international information security (IIS), the latter being witnessed by us today.
Moscow remains open to dialogue, advocating the rules of responsible conduct for governments, with a view to boosting peaceful development of the ICT environment, both globally and bilaterally. However, Washington is betting on maintaining its leadership and deterrence of Russia in cyberspace, so reaching agreements in the near future seems rather unlikely.
Amid a complex geopolitical environment, communication between the two countries needs to be maintained for managing contradictions and reducing the risk of escalation in cyberspace. Today, bilateral interaction takes place on the platform of the UN Open-ended Working Group on the Safe Use of ICTs (OEWG), which was established at the initiative of Russia. Informal diplomacy of the expert community, business representatives and NGOs can play an important role in determining possible areas of cooperation between the two nations in the long term.
Cybersecurity as a foreign policy priority for Russia and the U.S.
In 1998, Russia turned to the United States with a proposal to sign a bilateral agreement focused on preventing the militarization of the information space. Washington did not endorse Moscow’s peacemaking initiative, willing to keep a free hand in the military use of ICT. In the same year, Russia proposed this issue to the UNGA, which became the starting point of the UN negotiation process on IIS. Since then, at the initiative of the Russian side, a resolution on “Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security” has been annually adopted at the UNGA. Six groups of government experts were convened to discuss this problem, and four of them managed to pass the final reports.
The most important result of Russia’s diplomatic efforts was the adoption of 13 rules of responsible behavior of states in the global ICT environment, which were outlined in the 2018 UNGA resolution. These include: non-use of force or threat of force in the ICT environment, respect for state sovereignty, peaceful resolution of disputes, inadmissibility of unproven accusations of cyberattacks, etc.
In the early 2000s, this topic, largely due to the efforts of Russian diplomats, entered the agenda of most global and regional forums, including the SCO, CSTO, BRICS and others. IIS is currently one of the key topics.
According to complex expert ratings, Russia and the U.S. (along with China) are the leading cyber powers as of today. Therefore, their relations in the field of cyber security bear critical importance for the whole international community. Russia supports digital multipolarity and peaceful development of the ICT environment, while the United States seeks to preserve its leadership and sees Russia and China among its main strategic rivals in information and real geopolitics. The U.S. National Security Strategy of October 2022 considers deterring Russia and China, including in cyberspace, as one of the national security priorities.
The priority nature of international information security for Russia is enshrined in a number of strategic planning documents, such as the Fundamentals of Russia’s National Policy in International Information Security 2021, National Security Strategy 2021, and others. According to these documents, Russia pursues a policy towards shaping a peaceful and stable ICT environment and an inauguration of the IIS regime.
The U.S. has long been wary of Russia’s proposals, seeing them as an attempt to limit the development of ICT and challenge American leadership. In April 2022, the United States issued a Declaration for the Future of the Internet, proposing to fight for freedom of information transfer, and naming authoritarian states Russia and China as antagonists of the free Internet.
However, vulnerability to cyber threats has repeatedly prompted the U.S. to seek bilateral agreements with Russia.
In 2013, on the sidelines of the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, a Joint Statement of the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States of America on a New Field of Cooperation in Confidence Building. It included three documents stipulating the establishment of direct lines of communication between Moscow and Washington to prevent any escalation of cyber incidents, to promote the exchange of information between national security supervisors, as well as to establish incident and emergency response teams. A special working group was supposed to foster such cooperation. However, as a result of the general chill in the relations between Russia and the Collective West after Russia’s reunification with Crimea in 2014, Washington suspended its participation. A direct line of communication was used in October 2016, when President Obama contacted Moscow in view of hacking attacks on U.S. political institutions on the eve of the U.S. presidential election. The conflict was frozen, but it was an important precedent that attested to the importance of responding to various incidents or emergencies and the importance of communication channels between the two countries.
It was much more difficult for Donald Trump to collaborate in this area due to allegations of his ties to “Russian hackers,” which is why discussions on this issue did not result in practical agreements. In July 2017, during a meeting with Trump in Hamburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to step up engagement in cyberspace. Initially, the head of the White House publicly expressed support for the initiative, backtracking later due to the pressure from the U.S. Congress. During the 2018 meeting between the two leaders in Helsinki, Russia offered cooperation in preventing cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, but Washington rejected that initiative as well.
Collaboration between Russia and the United States to promote information security in historical perspective
The dynamics of negotiations changed under Joe Biden. On September 25, 2020, President Vladimir Putin proposed a project called to normalize U.S.-Russian relations in cyberspace, which included an exchange of “guarantees of non-interference in domestic affairs, such as election campaigns, using the ICT leverage.” The initiative followed a growing number of accusations by various U.S. political forces that Russia had deliberately interfered in the U.S. elections. Moscow has always denied and still denies the very possibility of such interference. The U.S. did not support the proposal, but Russia’s efforts bore fruit later. During the meeting of Putin and Biden on June 16, 2021, the two leaders reached an agreement on cooperation in fighting cybercrime. Besides, a joint U.S.-Russian resolution on international information security was proposed and subsequently adopted as a follow-up to the agreements at the UNGA level.
In 2022, the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from cyber agreements reached in 2021 under the pretext of Russia’s special military operation (SSO) in Ukraine, embarking upon the path of aggressive unilateral action. As Oleg Syromolotov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, points out, Washington is supporting Ukraine’s IT army, including for attacks on critical information infrastructure. At present, the largest number of cyberattacks on Russian territory comes from the United States, NATO member states and Ukraine.
Thus, in the short term, the U.S. is not willing to engage in dialogue with Russia as an equal partner, while Moscow will not accept any interactions imposed on it from a position of power. Moreover, as was noted by Andrey Krutskikh, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cooperation in the Field of Information Security, “statements about the need to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia sidetrack any opportunity for dialogue.”
Problems of reconciling the approaches of the two nations to IIS
This situation in bilateral relations is far from new. We can draw parallels with the crises of the Cold War, when the parties saw the need for dialogue in the face of acute mutual contradictions. Today, interaction on cyber issues is carried out on the OEWG platform. During the Cold War, the UN performed the same functions in the area of strategic stability as the OEWG does today in cyber policy and IIS.
In addition to the OEWG, the UN Special Committee on Combating the Criminal Use of ICTs, also established at Russia’s initiative, successfully follows through with its effort.
Despite the fact that Western states have repeatedly tried to divert the OEWG’s discussions—away from the mandated issues of designing rules of responsible conduct for state actors in the ICT environment to the discussion of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine—the platform has maintained its importance, with Western nations, along with Russia and its partners, actively participating in the proceedings of the platform.
Moreover, there has been a shift in the U.S. position on the regulation of the global ICT environment. The U.S. officially declares the need to develop rules for the behavior of state actors in the information space. Thus, the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy defined the development of rules of responsible conduct for states in cyberspace as one of its goals in 2022. U.S. support for the UN dialogue is related to the fact that the U.S. is becoming more vulnerable in the midst of multipolar digital world order.
Thus, Moscow’s and Washington’s approaches to a potential cybersecurity dialogue at the UN level may seem to be complementary on many issues. No reconciling is to be expected, however. The U.S. and its allies seek to “hijack the agenda” in global forums, orienting the global community towards their own initiatives. As for the rules of responsible conduct for state actors—the area of cooperation traditionally supported by Russia—the U.S. took a stand in favor of the French draft resolution of the UNGA “Program of action to advance responsible State behavior in the use of information and communications technologies in the context of international security” in 2022. This program, as conceived by its authors, should become a permanent UN institutional mechanism for discussing issues related to countering global threats in the field of ICT. It is suggested that the French project should be launched once the OEWG mandate expires in 2025.
The document presents a number of propositions that coincide with Russia’s stance on IIS and that our country has been proactively promoting over the past 20 years. In particular, there is an emphasis on the priority role of the UN in the process of negotiations on those issues. It is also recognized that, taking the specifics of ICT into account, new binding norms might be adopted in the future, and the significance of the results already achieved within the framework of the UN GGE on IIS is also pointed out. The discrepancy has to do with the longer-term prospects of cooperation. In the long run, Russia advocates for an international convention on IIS under the auspices of the UN, while the West insists on non-binding voluntary norms, conditioning the rapid obsolescence of any document on the speed of technological advancement. Non-binding norms are insufficient to deal with the increasing intensity and danger of threats to IIS, and this explains why the Russian vision is backed by many states. In 2023, Russia submitted its draft resolution “Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security” to the UNGA, which was backed at the General Assembly.
Besides, there are contradictions in the area of combating the criminal use of ICTs. The United States supports the 2001 Budapest Convention, which makes it possible to combat cybercrime without regard for state sovereignty and, in fact, assumes extraterritorial extension of the right of the strongest in this area. Russia, for its part, supports the adoption of a UN Convention, stemming from the principle of inviolability of state sovereignty in combating the criminal use of ICT. At the same time, successful discussions on the draft convention proposed by Russia show support for the Russian vision of IIS, focused on the respect for state sovereignty, equal partnership and formation of international regimes on the basis of legally-binding agreements.
Meanwhile, U.S. initiatives have, for the most part, a limited number of supporters. For example, about 60 states have joined the Declaration for the Future of the Internet. As was noted in the report Confronting Reality in Cyberspace: Foreign Policy for a Fragmented Internet co-authored by Nathaniel Fick, Head of the State Department’s Bureau of Digital Policy and Cyberspace, norms are better used for rallying allies than for managing the behavior of competitors. Washington’s approach is not widely supported around the world, and only its closest allies are willing to sign on to it. Many nations support Russian initiatives, or back both Russian and Western approaches, as they try to avoid politicization in this area.
At the same time, the U.S. expert community, traditionally having a serious influence on foreign policy, is getting tired of anti-Russian rhetoric. In particular, the authoritative political scientist John Mearsheimer argues in his article published by Foreign Affairs in 2022 in favor of dialogue between Washington and Moscow as it could prevent further escalation between the nuclear superpowers. Another prominent realist, Stephen Waltz, published an article following a similar logic. Cyberspace experts pay more attention to the need for dialogue and parity with China, than with Russia, although some publications are devoted to the necessity of dialogue between superpowers in order to prevent global “cyber disorder.” Similar ideas are expressed in the European expert community, including among SIPRI experts. Russian experts and politicians have repeatedly stated that Russia is ready to cooperate on the condition of equal partnership.
Yet, given the modern-day circumstances, no political force in Washington can support cyber negotiations with Russia as anti-Russian sentiments are very strong in the American society. Be that as it may, from practical perspectives, the U.S. is still interested in cooperation to de-escalate incidents and combat cybercrime, as Biden’s representatives have repeatedly stated before. Thus, one should not expect deeper cooperation and new documents adopted, but the U.S. will probably seek to preserve the existing channels of communication instead of tearing relations completely. Drawing an analogy with the Cold War, one can argue that cybersecurity is becoming part of a new strategic stability equation in bilateral relations, despite Washington’s unwillingness to openly admit it, as it insists on maintaining its leadership in this area.
With bilateral ties severed through Washington’s fault, the UN’s OEWG still serves as a channel of communication, which is especially important in promoting information security, where misattribution of a cyber incident can lead to escalation. The prospect of new bilateral agreements on information security signed looks rather unlikely in the foreseeable future; and the most important task is to maintain the level of ties and relations that have been achieved so far.
Despite growing tensions in the international arena, there have been no major cyber clashes between cyber powers. This suggests that states view the use of cyber weapons as one of the “red lines”, being well aware that crossing them could lead to an unwanted escalation. Thus, the IIS in bilateral relations confirms is the best evidence that it belongs to a larger network of strategic stability relationships.
Even the crisis in U.S.-Russian relations, following the launch of Russia’s operation in Ukraine, did not see any changes in the activities of the UN platforms—the dialogue remained intact. The OEWG, as a negotiating platform on international information security, has passed the test in a rough environment, having proven the relevance of such platforms as well as Russia’s global initiatives. In the long run, informal channels of communication will be important, including expert, academic and business meetings, where the search for ways to develop bilateral relations in the cyber space will be possible.
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