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Counterintelligence operations in the Persian Gulf War and the Iran-Contra Operation

Bob Budahl



Counterintelligence played an enormous and very beneficial impact on the success of the first Gulf War, “Desert Storm.”Military action was swift, decisive and successful. During 1990 the CIA closely monitored Iraq’s military and political actions. The CIA also notified the U.S. Military and U.S. policy makers as Iraq began an armed forces buildup near Kuwait. CIA had determined they would probably attack Kuwait. CIA assessed the attack as being “highly likely” to occur in a short time and that forces were significant enough to not only seize all of Kuwait but also to drive into Saudi Arabia. CIA established continuous watch in its operations to conduct whatever collection, assessment, etc. needed. Included were operations officers, political analysts, weapons analysts, military analysts, economic and oil analysts, imagery analyst and cartographers. They produced mass amounts of intelligence cables, reports and briefings. Much of the intelligence dealt with probable locations and capabilities of Iraqi chemical weapons and systems. The analysts gave briefings to the US military on such topics as Iraqi ground, air and air defenses; their tactics of which included chemical weapons which Iraq utilized during their war with Iran, minefields, etc. The CIA warned Iraqi forces had chemical weapons, warheads and possibly biological warheads. And it was prepared to launch Scud missiles. The CIA also warned the Scuds would be launched into Israel within 48 hours of the start of the war. President Bush warned Iraqi President Hussein that grave consequences would await Iraq should they use chemical weapons.

The CIA also lent support that aided in the execution of the war. It provided specifics of what WMD might be used and locations of such. The logistical information on Iraqi ground forces was very beneficial. The CIA also provided logistics to the Coalition. The air and defense forces information was provided to the military, and also any threat to naval forces.

Although aligned with Desert Storm the US post war provided “Operation Provide Comfort” which provided humanitarian assistance to the Kurds and also enforced a “no fly zone” north of the 36th parallel and a no-fly zone south of the 32nd parallel, and some later were renamed and continued operations.

In my second operation I will briefly analyze The Iran-Contra Operation, which was controversial in that it dealt with rogue nations but it did have strong merit as priorities were worthy and included persuading Iran to release American hostages and to aid the Contras since they were favorable to the United States rather than the Sandinistas which were pro-socialist.The Sandinistas gained power as socialists in Nicaragua through revolution in 1979. President Carter of the United States tried providing aid of $99 million to The FSLN so to influence them to a pro-US view. But FSLN had Cuban influence and also sought an alliance with the Soviet Bloc. They passed three decrees limiting the freedom of press and political organizing. Carter tired of this and authorized the CIA to support resistance forces in Nicaragua but did not include armed action.

In 1981 President Reagan is inaugurated and with it a shift to the conservative side of politics. President Reagan continues encouragement of the CIA, but stops short of authorizing arming the rebels. Reagan then establishes a “democratization everywhere” proclamation. In 1983 the CIA assists the contras in attacking transportation and economic targets in Nicaragua. In spring of 1984 the U.S. Congress found out about the CIA’s mining of the harbors-which even intelligence committee members did not have much knowledge of. In June of 1984 Saudi Arabia provided money through McFarlane for the Contras. Oliver North in Summer of 1984 asked Richard Secord to get supplies to the Contras. The Boland Amendment II established a policy of not financing the Contra’s and no solicitation of 3rd party donors. The Iran focus of the Iran-Contra operations was to obtain needed military equipment for its ongoing war with Iraq.  U.S. reluctantly did agree to provide arms after a long and arduous hostage release program that was unsuccessful and kept it distanced directly from involvement with the United States by shipping the supplies from Israel as a cover seller. Later in 1985 Israel initiated a sale to Iran of 500 TOW missiles which were obtained from the United States. Oliver North then assisted and arranged Hawk missiles to be sold to Iran to be shipped from Israel. Importantly “On January 17, 1986, the defendant JOHN M. POINDEXTER orally briefed the President from a memorandum prepared by the defendant OLIVER L. NORTH, after which the President signed a finding authorizing the sale of arms by the United States Government to elements in Iran in support of a United States initiative to establish a more moderate government in Iran, to obtain intelligence relating to Iran, and to secure the release of American hostages held in Lebanon.” Iran subsequently offered to pay $10,000 per TOW missile to the U.S for each missile. Oliver North arranged that the CIA be paid $3,469 per missile. The Iranians had made the $10 million dollar payment to the account Lake Resources for the 1000 TOW missiles. The ending financial results paid the CIA $3.7 million for the TOW missiles and left $6 million in the Enterprise account. These missiles were shipped from the U.S.

Funds kept crediting to the U.S. with a large portion of it being available for the Contras. In late 1986, 500 TOW missiles were again sent to Iran. The amount received for the missiles was higher than the amount paid to the CIA.

In addition during 1985 and 1986 military weapons and supplies flowed to the Contra leaders with $100,000 of radios. Also, money was earmarked for cash for use by DEA officers including gaining information on American hostages in Lebanon. The operation was made public and hearings took place. The release of hostages was an opportunity that most would attempt if it had a chance of success. Supporting Pro-American Nicaragua Contras instead of the Sandinista socialist form of government is preferred. It resulted in charges and most involved were pardoned. It had worthy purpose and cause but procedurally did not have authority to conduct all operations that were conducted, or at least in the manner they were.

Operation Desert Storm was very successful and counterintelligence played a beneficial role in the operation. This is a great example of post-Cold War to pre-9/11 in which it showed great technological advances in IMINT and SIGINT. The main challenge presented was to civilians in proximity to the war campaign and also friendly fire within such close quarters with amassed forces.

The Iran-Contra Operation was also pre-9/11 and as such did not have the leniency afforded intelligence personnel via the “Patriot Act.” I do think if this operation had been post 9/11 the Congress and public may not have perceived the operation as it did. The Iran-Contra operation faced enormous difficulties in the legal spectrum from violating our own doctrine of not aiding Iran and not directly interfering in political affairs. It resulted in investigations and charges filed.

These two operations are 180 degrees apart with conclusions at that same level of disparity and it illustrates how a counterintelligence operation such as “Desert Storm” given the support and tools needed can provide a most valuable service. In the Iran-Contra operation it had a wide spectrum of goals which perhaps were unrealistic. Their counterintelligence should have diligently and regularly provided statistics as to probability of outcome and risk/reward.

These two examples of operations I discussed may strengthen Mission Objective 1 of the National Counterintelligence Strategy regarding the deepening of understanding foreign intelligence entities plans, intentions and capabilities. In the Desert Storm Operation the CIA did a great job of assessing Iraq’s aggression towards neighboring countries. An accurate assessment was in place and perhaps could only be slightly improved upon. And the Iran-Contra operation realizes the need of Mission Objective 2 especially into assessing the adversary’s capabilities, strengths and weakness, as well as the capabilities and likelihood of the Contras gaining power.

I am an educated professional who has completed 3 University programs with the latest being in Counterintelligence from American Military University. Formerly I managed a Bank and currently hold a Real Estate license. US Citizen.

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Coronavirus: Bioterrorism or Not, Who Is the Winner?

Sajad Abedi



Authors: Sajad Abedi and Mohammad Amin Zabihi*

It has been so long since the early instances of using toxins, chemicals, and diseases as agents of assassinations and/or even mass murder. There are numerous historical and even modern instances of using toxins in assassinations, or using contagious diseases in warfare without even knowing about the bacteria or virus. For example, (allegedly) the first registered event of such method goes back to 14th century when Tatar army, desperate to win after three years of siege, threw corpses of plague victims to the Caffa city[1], causing an outbreak of this disease within the city. But the most important part happened afterwards; some soldiers could manage to escape on boats – Caffa was a port city on the Crimea Sea – to Italy, unaware of the fact that they were already infected. Nevertheless, most of them died along the way, but infected rats and remaining bodies caused one the major waves of plague pandemic[2] all over the Europe.

The paramount point is that in our modern world, it is just a matter of hours to leave New York and land somewhere else, thousands of miles away, even before the first symptoms of your disease manifest itself. In fact, the most horrifying factor of any contagious disease could be its latent period.

On the other hand, considering the unprecedent pace of ever-growing biological technologies, many developed countries possess the ability to develop an intelligent virus equipped with customized features in order to remain unnoticed on the victim’s (vector’s) body for quiet a time, and only manifest itself after it infected a considerable number of surrounding people. More interestingly, such customized virus can be planned whether to disable a specific organ or to metastasize within the whole system of the host. Even more, it can be planned according to the genetic map of people within a given region.

Looking at the whole picture with broader perspective, it does not matter whether the agent is toxic, chemical, or biological. The capability to produce and employ a virus, bacteria, or toxin by malicious actors, namely terrorists or criminals, could bring disastrous results.As we witnessed such case during 1990s in Japan – the Aum Shinrikyo Cult.

In fact, if we are going to prevent such disasters, first we should find the potential actors who may resort to such actions, investigate the probable ways, and also understand the costs, benefits, motives, and risks of which for these potential actors.

Of course, terrorists and criminals are the first probable examples which may pop up in our minds, but looking more rigorously, state actors are also among the potential cases. In the case of Coronavirus outbreak, if one considers it as an instance of bioterrorism/biological-war act, the probability of participation of terrorist or criminal organizations seems to be low, due to the complexity of production process and the highly advanced technologies required to produce such virus at the first place. On the other hand, a terrorist organization typically claims the responsibility of such attack in order to earn the reputation, and a criminal organization may demand ransom prior to release the virus – otherwise it would not be beneficial, unless they already have the cure (vaccine/antidote) ready to sell. In any case, it doesn’t seem probable. 

Considering the fact that, in the case of a pandemic, finding the main cause and the zero patient in this complex, interconnected world is significantly difficult (if possible), state actors may resort to such options due to multiple reasons. They may try to initiate a hidden biological war against another country (countries), in order to cause economic interruptions, socio-political chaos, create power vacuum in a specific area, forcing another actor to leave a region, or just simply to enjoy the economic benefits of selling the vaccine or antidote to victims. Obviously, there will be some serious prosecutions and consequences in the case that some concrete evidence shows any tracks of participation of an actor – whether a sovereign state or even a pharmaceutical company; but in such cases, states usually start to throw allegations at each other anyway.

We are living in a world that any kind of news affect the open markets immediately; the more important the news is, the deeper it affects the markets. In this case – Coronavirus – we witnessed a serious drop in international stock markets –especially oil markets – all over the world, which coincided with Russia’s ambivalence approach regarding the cutting supply decision made by OPEC – and also Saudi Arabia’s reaction to the whole story. Altogether, these factors caused a serious drop in different markets which, in fact, started with the news of Coronavirus outbreak at the first place. Who gets the best use of such scenario? The oil and gas producers are the main victims, obviously; but if one (the alleged perpetrator) knows the whole story before it happens, he would sell at the highest price and buy at the lowest price again – after the price crash, president Trump ordered to stock up the US oil reserves.

Although it seems pretty convincing, but is it really rational? What are the risks and costs? In reality, the pandemic of a dangerous virus – one like Coronavirus – equipped with a two-week latent period, in a high-populated country like China can cause sever problems in almost every corner of the planet; in fact, the bigger economy you have, the deeper your challenge would be. The implications of such outbreak are considerably wide: (1) it causes decrease in oil prices which will result in budget deficits in oil-dependent countries – like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia; (2) it interrupts the production process and consequently the sale chains – like China; (3) reduces the tourists travels which will consequently result in budget deficits in tourist-dependent countries – like Turkey and most of EU; (4) it causes sever socio-economic costs, especially for populated countries – like China, US, and Russia.

Altogether, if one state actor decides to initiate a biological war against another state, using a virus agent which has the potential to cause a global pandemic, it should consider the possibility of backfiring the same gun inside its own country in numerous ways. In an interconnected world like the one we are living in, such actions cause gargantuan reactions in different ways, one may not be able to predict all of them. Considering such costs and also the risk of being traced back and accused of committing such horrifying act, the possibility of state-sponsorship in these cases will be considered relatively low (but still possible). It is not like creating a computer virus – like Stuxnet – that may or may not blow back to your face; it is the matter of people’s lives. 

*Mohammad Amin Zabihi, MSc. Regional Studies, Allameh Tabatabaei University

[1] Nowadays it is Feodosia, Ukraine 

[2]Also known as Black Death

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Cybercrime effecting banking sector/economy of Pakistan



Cyber-crime is not a conventional offence as its ramifications transcend borders.  It affects a society in different ways. The term “cybercrime” denotes any sort of illegal activity that uses a computer, cell phone or any other electronic device as its primary means of commission. The computer and electronic devices serve as the agents and the facilitator of the crime. Cyber criminals take full advantage of obscurity, secrecy, and interconnectedness provided by the internet and are able to attack the foundations of our modern information society. Breaching of cyber space is an issue of utmost concern for the banks and financial institutions. The menace of data theft is growing in magnitude with huge financial impact. As custodian of highly valuable customer information, banks have always been the favorite target of the cyber-attacks.

Moreover it is estimated that banks are more frequently targeted by the hackers than any other business organization. IT based financial solutions of the banks such as ATMs, mobile banking and internet banking are exposed to various forms of frauds including skimming and phishing etc. Affected banks may also witness decline in their share prices. Banking industry is more susceptible to the breach of cyber security due to its financial lure for the transgressors. In Pakistan, banking is increasing its user base at a brisk pace; the resulting threats are also multiplying. Financial services in Pakistan i.e. credit cards, accounts information and other, can also be acquired for theft or fabrication. During last few years Pakistan faced some serious cyber breaches in the banking sector. In 2018 it lost US $6 million in cyber-attacks as online security measures failed to prevent breach of security in which overseas hackers stole customer’s data.Data from 19,864 debit cards belonging to customers of 22 Pakistani banks has been put on sale on the dark web, according to an analysis conducted in year 2018 by Pakistan’s Computer Emergency Response Team, PakCERT.

However Cyber breaches of January 24 and January 30, 2019 included such data in large quantities pertaining to bank Meezan Bank Ltd. Gemini Advisory; a body that provides guidance with addressing emerging cyber threats stated that the compromised records posted between January 24 and January 30, 2019 is associated with a compromise of Meezan Bank Limited’s internal systems. Cyber security company “Group-IB”on  a February  22,2019  in advisory stated that money mules use the fake cards, to either withdraw money from ATMs or buy goods” that are later resold by fraudsters. Despite efforts of banks to eliminate ATM card fraud, criminals still find ways around security measures to acquire card data at the point of sale.

The impact of a single, successful cyber-attack can have far-reaching implications including financial losses, theft of intellectual property, and loss of consumer confidence and trust. The overall monetary impact of cyber-crime on society and government is estimated to be billions of dollars a year. While, the banks in Pakistan claim that they have insurance policies, they do not seem much interested in securing their system and the public remains highly affected by such attacks. There is growing sense of distrust in the online banking. Several banking organizations fail to provide proper insurance to their customer. That is why people are more comfortable in keeping their money and reserves at home rather than banks. This is one of the major factors that add to country’s severe economic decline.

Pakistan needs to develop its cyber capabilities infrastructure and should invest in the youth to build a cyber security force of young experts. Simultaneously, there is a need to focus on artificial intelligence, block chains and software robots as suggested by Chief Technology Officer Huawei (Middle East and European Union) Jorge Sebastiao in the recent international seminar on Global Strategic Threat and Response (GSTAR). Establishing a stronger cyber infrastructure will provide stronger security guarantees to the IT enabled services especially to the banking systems of Pakistan. This will in turn enhance the economic growth and security. Furthermore, the transnational nature of cyber-crime makes cyber-security a global challenge and, hence, demands collective and collaborative measures at the international level with flawless and strong legal and cyber policy framework.

In this regard, Pakistan’s cyber-law provides for ‘international cooperation.’ It has the membership of the International Multilateral Partnership against Cyber Threats (ITUIMPACT) and participates in Asia Pacific Security Incident Response Coordination Working Group (APSIRC-WG). However, cyber-security does not appear to be a priority on the country’s agenda for international dialogue and agreements.  Pakistan needs to review the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill which will contribute mainly to increase the security of banking systems.

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‘Da Cui Yun’ – False Flag Operation



“Customs detains Karachi-bound ship in Gujarat: Report”

February 3, 2020, the tragic day of sheer propaganda where India claimed Ship was carrying a dual-use autoclave in it. Indian customs officials detained a ship bearing a flag of Hong Kong and bound for Port Qasim in Karachi. The officials seized the ship as it was carrying an autoclave — a pressure chamber that is used for launching ballistic missiles.

India accused that the autoclave has been certified as a “dual-use” item. India wrongly ascertained that their examination has proved that the item can be utilised for military application. Whereas the authorities from both sides (China and Pakistan) firmly denied any such application of the item this was claimed to be utilised for Ballistic missiles. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has confirmed that the item or the autoclave was a heat treatment furnace casing system which has numerous industrial applications. MOFA also cleared that the item was correctly declared in the relevant documentation and this item is not listed in any international export control list.

This is not the first time, of course, where in the backdrop of major events that happened in New Delhi where President Trump was expected to arrive in India and Islamabad’s resorts to tackle the FATF issue, India has started highlighting another fake incident where they captured Chinese ship carrying suspected cargo to Pakistan fearing wrong estimates of nuclear proliferation in the region.

Such were the headlines features that occupied the front pages of Indian newspapers and were displayed as news tickers on all Indian news channels. The practice remains to linger till date while the fact remains that the authorities in New Delhi have failed to come out with any hard substantiation regarding the incident. The Indian authorities started to blame Pakistan right off the bat while the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) still engaged in a battle of how to go ahead with such folly.

New Delhi once again is brewing the anti-Pakistan curry in its witches’ cauldron by persistently accusing Pakistan. The recent News coverage shows that only few Indian sources have started raising the issue of Chinese ship involving it with a larger interest of blaming both partners for Indians own aspired goals.

For maligning Pakistan’s repute in the international arena, India has never ever spared a moment from blaming Pakistan over insubstantial grounds. This can be further understand by analyzing the major past events that happened in India i.e.   From unrest in India to the chaos in Karnataka and the Mumbai attacks etc. Pakistan has been apprehended with unjustifiable accusations for every incident of restlessness in New Delhi. New Delhi not only contends Pakistan but also convinces other major players in the international arena to think the same. In the meanwhile, whenever proof has been claimed from New Delhi, their government has always nose-dived to produce any in front of international statutory bodies.

Unfortunately, truth and logic are what lacks in the Indian investigations. We have observed that 26/11 has been proved a false flag by none but New Delhi’s own Intelligence agencies be fooled themselves. There are various books, interviews and articles that have thoroughly described the sham, that ‘claims’ regarding 26/11 actually are. ‘Who killed Karkare’’ and ‘Betrayal of India- Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence’ by Elias Davidsson are among the notable books published.

Nevertheless, a number of questions arises to one’s mind where important facts are going to be overlooked as similar to the trial of the Mumbai attack i.e. ambiguities in the investigation procedure, no provision of proof beyond reasonable doubt against Pakistan blaming, differences in the witnesses’ confessions, etc. and most importantly this all event questions that before any investigation and without any evidence why India started blaming Pakistan immediately with unfounded accusation of proliferation. Indian version in every case was totally concocted, based on deceit and outright lies.

Lastly, India must refrain from acting so recklessly and irresponsibly to just pick out their biased side of the story and fuel to the already present hatred towards Pakistan.

Rather than tirelessly blaming Pakistan, New Delhi needs to secure her own domestic environment. While there is an urgent need by Pakistani media of countering such fake allegations of India and Indian media with rationale and logic. There is also a need of taking such issue to international forum by Pakistan where India continuously mudslinging Pakistan to harm its sovereignty or international standing. In the end if India appears unable to provide the concrete proofs of such incident then they must be penalized for their every fake accusations.

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