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The Israeli military satellite Ofek-16

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On July 6, at 4 a.m., the Israeli Aerospace Agency and Israel Aerospace Industries launched the Ofek-16satellite (“Orpheus”) from the Palmachim air base, almost in the centre of the Jewish State.

 The carrier was a Shavit 2 rocket and, after about 90 minutes of travel, the satellite entered into orbit regularly according to calculations.

Elbit System also collaborated in the program, organized by the MLM division of IAI. It provided the Jupiter Space camera with high spectral resolution, up to 50 centimetres and from a height of 600 kilometres, while the Ofek-16camera can photograph 15 square kilometres in a single shot. Other companies included the Rafael Advanced Defense System and Tomer, which built the launch engines, as well as Baer System and Cielo Inertial Systems, for navigation systems and satellite full autonomy.

Ofek-16 is a satellite designed for advanced optoelectronic reconnaissance, which has on board a much improved version of the high definition electro-optical imaging system of the already used Jupiter camera, which is still present in the OPSAT-3000 satellite, with a resolution further increased to 0.5 meters.

 So far Israel already has ten Ofek satellites operational, but only 13 countries in the world are capable of launching this type of spacecraft, of which the first Israeli one was sent into space on September 19, 1988.

Israel, however, never discloses the precise number of advanced satellites it has in orbit, but we know that Ofek-9, which will return to earth in two months, is still operational, in addition to Ofek-11, as well as Ofek-8 (TechSAR 1) and Ofek-10 (TechSar 2), which are satellites with synthetic aperture radars that allow continuous strategic control of the ground.

As usual, the images produced by the Ofek satellites will be analysed by the 9900 Intelligence Unit, but we should also recall the Amos military communication satellites, whose network covers all the strategically relevant areas of the world.

It should be recalled that the 9900 Unit is part of the Israeli Defence Forces and deals only with Imagery Intelligence (IMINT). Together with the 8200 Unit, which deals with Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and the 504 Unit, which provides excellent Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and also sends covert agents everywhere in the world, it forms the entire military Intelligence, Aman.

Netanyahu said enigmatically that this new satellite “significantly strengthens Israel’s defences against near and far opponents”.

Obviously the reference here is mainly to the Islamic Republic of Iran, but the ability to control the territory, the movements and the structures is essential to Israel to monitor the whole Middle East, and not only it.

 Now, in fact, with the Ofek-16 satellite, Israel can observe the whole Middle East and other regions with great precision.

The Israeli reference here is to the sending of the first Iranian spy satellite, launched at the end of last April after several unsuccessful attempts.

 The Islamic “Revolutionary Guard Corps” have in fact sent their first modern spy satellite, Noor 1(“light”), into space. It was brought into orbit by the Ghasedrocket, never mentioned before by the Iranian authorities and media.

Undoubtedly, the Ofek-16satellite is designed to closely monitor the Iranian nuclear program, but the race for satellite IMINT has now spread to the entire Middle East and the Maghreb region. In fact, in a few days Tunisia will launch its self-produced and designed satellite, called Challenge ONE, sent into space by the historical Russian (indeed, Kazakh) Baikonur  Cosmodrome, while the United Arab Emirates have even launched their own Mars Mission.

The Emirates reconstituted their Space Agency in 2014 and an Arab Space Coordination Group was also established in March 2019, with the participation of Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco and Egypt.

 A new satellite, which will be called “813”, will be developed at the Emirates’ University in Al Ayn and will be operational in three years. The data will be reprocessed by a centre in Bahrain.

However, the Pan-Arab Space Agency’s objective is allegedly to build satellites to monitor climate change and environmental transformations.

813, however is the year in which the House of Wisdom was established in Baghdad, during the reign of Al Ma’mun.

In Egypt the satellite system is based on TIBA-1, a military satellite designed and built by Thales, Alenia Space and Airbus, in the historical factories of Toulouse.

Egypt also has EgyptSat 2, also called MisrSat 2, built and designed by the Russian company Energy and the Egyptian company NARSS – a satellite that has been in operation since 2013.

 Saudi Arabia can also rely on Saudisat 2, 3, 5A and 5B, for communications, in addition to the World View Scout 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

 The various kinds of Chinese satellites currently in orbit are as many as 363.

China wants space supremacy over the United States and will make no concessions to it or, even less, to Europe while, in the future, it could support its allies in the Middle East.

 China owns a very important anti-satellite system, namely SC-19, a kinetic energy ASAT vehicle which is launched by a medium range ballistic missile, operating since 2007, which directly hits an enemy satellite.

China also owns the Dong-Neng-3 and the Hongqi-19, some anti-satellite missiles already tested in 2015, while China has also already tested ASAT satellites with robotic arms for inspections and repairs. Shortly China will even launch its Mars mission known as “Tianwen-1”, which will be in space in a few days.

With specific reference to Iran, to which we have already made extensive reference, the most used base by the Pasdaran and space facilities is the one called “Imam Khomeini”, which is the main one among the eight Iranian national satellite and missile sites, located in the Semnan province east of Tehran.

Between 2009 and 2015 about 45 satellites were sent into space from various Iranian sites, but none of them lasted in orbit more than a few months.

 Certainly the Iranian space launchers are mainly based on the refinement of Iran’s ICBMs. Iran has also recently established a “Centre for Space Monitoring”, which mainly uses radar, radio-optical technologies and radio tracking.

 There is already a centre, operational since 2018, which tracks – with specific radars – all the satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

 So far Iran has mainly two launch vehicles, Safir 1 and Safir 2, which is often called Simorgh.

 In the Iranian space system, the specialized Agency created in 2004, is under the control of the Ministry for Information and Communications Technology, but it depends mainly on the Supreme Space Council, which is chaired by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 As is already known, Iran can reproduce ICBM and LCBM missiles and weapons in large quantities, given the technology that, still today, often results from the Taepo Dong, No Dong and other missiles developed by North Korea.

 Moreover, during a military parade in late 2019, Iran unveiled an autochthonous ballistic missile, namely Labbayk-1, which is expected to transform both the Zelzal and the Fateh-110 traditional Iranian ballistic missiles into guided weapons and satellite launchers.

In all likelihood, Iran has already obtained from China and Russia the laser technologies that “pierce” the atmosphere and allow to hit electronic energy satellites or kinetic weapons with other advanced technologies or electronic jamming weapons.

 It was in 1990 that Russia agreed to build and design – together with scientists from Iran – the first modern military and civilian nuclear power plant.

 In 2012, however, Iran and North Korea signed an agreement “for Civilian and Technological Scientific Cooperation”, which so far has been a great transfer of military and, above all, nuclear technology.

 Iran has also proved to have remarkable ability to modify or blind the GPS systems.

 In 2011, Iran claimed it had forced a U.S. RQ-170 drone to land within its borders, after having disrupted and manipulated its communications with the reference satellite, as well as its GPS receiver.

 An Iranian base in one of the many islands in the Strait of Hormuz has been long modifying the communications of aircrafts and ships so that they unintentionally arrive in Iranian territorial waters and are captured by it.

 Also in 2019, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps notified the rest of the world of the construction and commencement of an autonomous system of hardware for cyberwarfare and coverage of adverse jamming, a system called Seperh 110, which is supposed to cover all cyberwarfare operational units.

 This year, the “Iran’s Centre for Autonomous Jihad and Research” has announced it has built a portable anti-jamming system which, as Iran claims, would even be able to identify and destroy drones.

Iran has already demonstrated its cybercapabilities: some operations have already been made against U.S. critical infrastructure, as well as the 2012 Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack, against some U.S. banks and telecommunication companies, which led to a loss of over 5 million U.S. dollars.

 Again in 2019, the FBI was the target of covert access and data removal operations – probably coming from Iran- concerning U.S. satellite technologies.

 Iran has also built the Shamoon computer virus, which is capable of destroying and cancelling entire internal computer systems. In some periods of 2019, Iranian attacks on computer networks were estimated at almost 500 million per day.

 Meanwhile, Israel is developing the intelligence saturated combat model – albeit it is still in a non-operational phase – by combining artificial intelligence, data fusion from various sources, augmented reality and big data.

 The 3D mapping that is provided is absolutely realistic. It should be recalled that it was Israel that responded – for the first time – to a cyberattack with a conventional counter-attack, to destroy the cyber headquarters of Hamas in early May 2019.

Hence currently the Middle East balance of satellite weapons and weapon systems that depend on space networks is infinitely more complex than we can imagine.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons

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Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.

“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.

The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.

“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.

Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.

“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.

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Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues

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The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.

Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.

Relevance of Psychological War

Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.”  With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.

In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs  How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.

The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.

Materialisation of Psychological War

China

Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.

Pakistan

The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.

Psychological War and the Indian Perspective

Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.

In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.

In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.

Conclusion

Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare. 

Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.

Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.

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Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States

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India has developed remarkable ties with the Gulf nations, particularly the GCC, over the past few decades. The significant trade between GCC nations and India and Israel are the main cause.  This gradualist approach and efforts on part of India is to include Israel in a broader Middle East policy. Under the Namenda Modi administration, since 2017 Israel is “special and normal” because India has avoided the negative repercussions and no longer have fears opened relations with the Jewish state.  

However, the point of concern is that India and Israel’s growing ties must not result in a coalition against Muslims. Modi and Netanyahu have many good reasons to rejoice over their thawing ties. But the gulf countries must discredit them if they use that proximity to advance a common narrative of extreme nationalism, exclusion, and labeling Muslims as the enemy.

Since October 25th, 2022, news reports have been making the rounds in the media revealing India’s involvement in global terrorism. Eight former Indian Navy officers have recently been detained in Qatar on suspicion of espionage and terrorism supported by the Indian government. These spy-officers were arrested in August 2022 for their involvement in international terrorism, espionage, and spying while working in Qatar for a private company and providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy.

Purnendu Tiwari, a retired (Naval commander) who received the Pravasi Samman 2019 (Highest Indian Award Abroad), was the brains behind the transfer of data from a major Gulf Muslim nation to Israel and India. It has been reported in the media that these Indian officers had access to sensitive information while working with Qatar’s enemies and the Defense, Security, and other government agencies. This is not the first time; India has been involved in espionage operations that violate foreign governments’ sovereignty, though it continues to deny it. International terrorism perpetrated by India has also frequently targeted Pakistan in the past. One such instance is the Kalbushan Yadav case.

The relationship between India and Israel is frequently described as a result of a natural convergence of ideologies between their respective ruling BJP and Liked parties. The BJP’s Hindutva and right-wing Zionism are two ethno-nationalist political movements that naturally discriminate against other races and religions because they are based on the majority populations they serve. In comparison to earlier, more liberal iterations of Hindutva and Zionism, both parties have become more racist. Therefore, by all means, India’s continued close strategic, economic, and security ties with Israel are more ideological than pragmatic.

India should make an effort to protect itself ideologically from the threat of Hindutva becoming the state’s guiding principle and a vehicle for incitement both domestically and abroad. Its exclusivist and discriminatory belief that India is only the property of Hindus is dangerous, especially at a time when Muslim minorities are increasingly being lynched in the name of cow vigilantism.

Today, the Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence. However, as a result of escalating anti-Muslim sentiment and the Hindutva movement’s flawed ideology, the BJP, government is arguably facing its most difficult diplomatic challenge in its nine years in office. A few years ago in 2020, Muslim nations were outraged by Nupur Sharma’s (a BJP official) insulting comments made during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic-majority nations voiced their opposition through tweets, official statements, and by summoning Indian diplomats. The BJP was compelled to take action against the party officials for posting a screenshot of offensive tweet.

Subsequently, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE then made a rare public statement in response to the rising Islamophobia among Indians, saying in a tweet, “I miss the peaceful India.” She did this after she specifically called out a tweet from an Indian resident of the UAE as being “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the penalty for hate speech could be a fine or even expulsion. These statements come after the Islamic world, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged India to act quickly to defend the rights of its Muslim minority and expressed concern about how the BJP treats Indian Muslims.

This suggests that the relationships New Delhi has worked so hard to build over the past few years drawing on the efforts of the previous administration is now seriously in jeopardy. India’s diplomatic achievement is starting to fall apart due to domestic developments that target its 200 million Muslims. The flagrant mistreatment of India’s Muslim communities now jeopardizes New Delhi’s carefully crafted Middle Eastern diplomacy, particularly with regard to the Gulf States.

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