World View: Obama Weighs Plans to Prevent Al-Qaeda Grabbing Syria’s WMDs

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com.

  • Hillary Clinton accuses Russia of fomenting civil war in Syria
  • Debka: Obama weighs plans to prevent al-Qaeda grabbing Syria's WMDs
  • U.S. Treasury yields plummet as investors scramble for safety
  • Vital industrial control computers remain unprotected from attack
  • Origins of the 'Flame Virus' still a mystery
  • Syria rebels demand apology from Hezbollah's Nasrallah

Hillary Clinton accuses Russia of fomenting civil war in Syria

In a speech on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that unless unchecked, the violence in Syria could lead to a civil war or develop into a proxy war between Iran and the Gulf Arabs.

"The continued slaughter of innocent people, both by the military and by militias supported by the government and increasingly by the opposition ... could morph into a civil war in a country that would be riven by sectarian divides, which then could morph into a proxy war in the region.

Remember you have Iran deeply embedded in Syria – their military are coaching the Syrian military. The Quds Force, which is a branch of the military, is helping them set up these sectarian militias. We know it actually could get much worse than it is."

She said that the Russians "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war." Telegraph

Debka: Obama weighs plans to prevent al-Qaeda grabbing Syria's WMDs

While Clinton's remarks directed at Russia were made publicly, in the background there is an effort by the Obama administration to convince Russia to cooperate in a military effort to prevent al-Qaeda from gaining control of al-Assad's collection of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). According to intelligence sources quoted by Debka, the WMDs kept in large barrels or kegs in six underground bunkers, holding Sarin (GB), Tabun (GA) and VX nerve gases, some four kinds of mustard gas and anthrax. Three of the six locations are situated in heavily embattled areas between the Syrian army and rebels, and al-Qaeda elements are penetrating these areas with a view to seizing some of the WMD stores. President Obama hopes to convince Russia's president Vladimir Putin to agree to insert 5,000 international monitors into Syria to protect the WMDs, and if Putin agrees, then it's hoped that al-Assad will agree. Obama has also signaled Russia that if Putin does not agree to the plan, then the U.S. may bypass the U.N. Security Council and take unilateral military action to protect the WMDs. Debka

U.S. Treasury yields plummet as investors scramble for safety

Yesterday we reported that 10-year government bonds from Spain are yielding 6.6%, which means that if you're willing to lend money to Spain for ten years, then Spain will pay you 6.6% interest -- assuming that Spain doesn't go bankrupt, in which case you'll lose all your money. A high bond yield means that investors are betting that a government will default. On Thursday, U.S. Treasury bond yields fell to a historic low -- 1.58% -- down from Wednesday's record low 1.62%. Investors are fearing a fall in American and European stock markets, and are putting their money at record levels into U.S. Treasuries. CNN

Vital industrial control computers remain unprotected from attack

A lot of attention is given to protecting desktop computers and data center servers from cyber-attack, but a third category of computer, those used for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) are almost completely unprotected. These are the computers that are used by utilities, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, and are critical to our lives and the security of the nation. The potential for destruction through a cyber-attack was illustrated in 2010 when the Stuxnet computer virus was launched to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. It took control of the centrifuges and spun them so rapidly that they were disabled. SCADA computer networks are often years or even decades old, because they've been working reliably and nobody wants to touch them -- even to upgrade the software or to provide additional protections from cyber-attack. SCADA networks are the most unprotected networks of all and now cyber-criminals have them in their sights. If they get access, the consequences for many organizations, their customers and perhaps the population at large, could be extremely damaging. Security Week - Part 1 and Part 2

Origins of the 'Flame Virus' still a mystery

News stories have been reporting a new malware attack called "Flame," a highly complex computer virus. The news stories have variously said that it's attacked Iran's major oil terminals and computers in the Mideast, suggesting that Flame was launched by Israel. However, while there have been 189 infected computers found in Iran, there are also 100 in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and 30 in Sudan and Syria. These figures are extremely low when compared with other viruses. Flame is not destructive, like Stuxnet. Instead, it appears to be an espionage tool -- collecting keystrokes, making screenshots, and sending the data back to the mother computer. Flame even searches for nearby Bluetooth devices -- cameras and microphones -- and turns them on so that your actions can be overheard and recorded. Deutsche Welle

Syria rebels demand apology from Hezbollah's Nasrallah

Practically everything about the Syria situation is absolutely dreadful, so if one tiny aspect is amusing, it's worth pointing out. Last week, a busload of Shia Lebanese citizens were kidnapped in Syria, as they traveled back to Lebanon from a religious pilgrimage to Iran. A previously unknown armed group calling itself the "Syrian Revolutionaries - Aleppo Province" claims to have perpetrated the kidnapping, and they're demanding an apology from Hezbollah chief Sheik Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in exchange for releasing the kidnap victims:

"The kidnapped Lebanese are being looked after by us and are in good health. Negotiations for their release are possible as soon as Nasrallah apologises ... Our problem is not with any particular community but with those who assist in the suppression of the uprising."

Hezbollah and Iran are the principal allies of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. Nasrallah is a terrorist who is always going on Lebanese television giving speeches fomenting violence against Israel and demanding apologies from various Western countries. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and it's Nasrallah that's calling for calm, and it's a different group of terrorists that are demanding an apology from him. Al-Jazeera