• Iran has at least 10 military bases in Syria

    Iran has a network of 10-13 military bases in Syria according to a new study. The study includes a map of Iranian bases, details of each base and an analysis of the strength of the main Shia militias operating in Syria. The bases have tens of thousands of troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), as well as missiles and transfer facilities to support Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia.

  • Asia, the Middle East lead rising trend in arms imports, as U.S. arms exports grow significantly

    Continuing the upward trend that began in the early 2000s, the volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2013-17 was 10 percent higher than in 2008-12, according to new data on arms transfers. In 2013–17 the United States accounted for 34 percent of total arms exports. Its arms exports increased by 25 percent between 2008–12 and 2013–17. U.S. arms exports in 2013–17 were 58 percent higher than those of Russia—the second largest arms exporter in that period. The United States supplied major arms to 98 states in 2013–17. Exports to states in the Middle East accounted for 49 percent of total US arms exports in that period.

  • Nerve agents: what are they and how do they work?

    The first nerve agents were invented by accident in the 1930s when researchers were trying to make cheaper and better alternatives to nicotine as insecticides. In their search, German scientists made two organic compounds containing phosphorus that were very effective at killing insect pests. However, they soon discovered that, even in minuscule amounts, the substances caused distressing symptoms in humans exposed to them. The two substances – too toxic to be used as commercial insecticides in agriculture – became known as tabun and sarin. Since then, other nerve agents have been developed, but much less is known about them, although they are thought to work in broadly the same way. Unlike street drugs, nerve agents cannot be made in your kitchen or garden shed, on account of their toxicity, even in tiny amounts. Synthesis of nerve agents requires a specialist laboratory, with fume cupboards. As more details emerge from the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, we’ll know more about the precise substance used and how it should be tackled. Either way, nerve agents are horrendously lethal and chemical warfare is an obscene use of chemicals.

  • Small-drone threats to infantry units require development of countermeasures

    The emergence of inexpensive small unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs) that operate without a human pilot, commonly known as drones, has led to adversarial groups threatening deployed U.S. forces, especially infantry units. Although the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are developing tactics and systems to counter single sUASs, a new report emphasizes the need for developing countermeasures against multiple sUASs — organized in coordinated groups, swarms, and collaborative groups — which could be used much sooner than the Army anticipates. The committee that conducted the study developed a classified report that details its findings and recommendations, along with an unclassified public version that discusses key background issues presented in this news release.

  • New framework for guiding controversial research still has worrisome gaps

    In December the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release lifted the funding moratorium on Gain of Function (GoF) research, following the controversial projects involving H5N1 in 2011. The “Framework for guiding funding decisions about proposed research involving enhanced potential pandemic pathogens” is similar to the January 2017 “P3C0 Framework,” and it came with the bonus of restoring funding for such research – but there are still considerable concerns with how GoF research is evaluated and if these frameworks have really addressed the gaps.

  • Putin: Russia has missiles that can evade antimissile defenses

    Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country has developed and successfully tested new nuclear weapons, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile and a nuclear-powered underwater drone, that would be immune, the Russian leader claimed, to enemy intercept. In his annual address in Moscow on 1 March, Putin said that the newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile Sarmat had an unlimited range and was capable of penetrating any antimissile system. Using graphics and video, Putin said a new deep-water missile could be launched from submarines and target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities and, he claimed, be impossible to track.

  • Iran building new military base near Damascus

    Iran is building a new military base eight miles northwest of Damascus. Satellite images show what is believed to be a new base with warehouses – each roughly 18m x 27m – which could store short and medium-range missiles. Western intelligence officials say that the base contains hangars used to stockpile missiles “capable of hitting all of Israel”. According to a Fox News report, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s special operations Quds Force are operating the base. The new base is similar to one established by the Iranians near the town of al-Kiswah, 15 km southwest Damascus, which was hit by Israeli airstrikes last December.

  • Analytical methods to help develop antidotes for cyanide, mustard gas

    Several Food and Drug Administration-approved antidotes are available for cyanide poisoning, but they have severe limitations. To develop effective antidotes for chemical agents, such as cyanide and mustard gas, scientists need analytical methods that track not only the level of exposure but also how the drug counteracts the effects of the chemical.

  • Financier of Russian troll farm supporting Trump funds anti-U.S. paramilitaries in Syria

    Yevgeniy Prigozhin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin and the financial backer of the St. Petersburg-based troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA). The IRA has been at the center of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign which was launched in 2014 to sow discord and deepen polarization and conflict in the United States (and other Western democracies) – and which, in 2016, changed focus to help Donald Trump win the Republican nomination and then the White House. According to U.S. intelligence, a Prigozhin-financed paramilitary group of Russian mercenaries attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria earlier this month. Prigozhin was in close touch with Putin and senior aides to Assad in the days and weeks before and after the assault.

  • Pentagon says U.S. was told no Russians involved in Syria attack

    The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria earlier this month led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces. Up to a 100 Russians were killed in the attack, which was conducted by the Wagner Group, a paramilitary firm based in southern Russia and financed by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close Putin ally who owns the St. Petersburg troll farm Internet Research Agency. Senior U.S. intelligence officials told ABC News that Prigozhin’s connection to the Wagner Group is important, as his private military work offers more evidence that he is pursuing Vladimir Putin’s global ambitions while providing the Russian leader some deniability that the actions are officially sanctioned.

  • Experts: Drone incursion shows that Israeli-Iranian status quo is unsustainable

    The incursion on an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent Israeli response on Saturday shows that Israel considers Iran’s efforts “to consolidate their strategic position” in Syria and Lebanon to threaten the Jewish state “unsustainable,” two experts say. They characterized the downing of the drone after it entered Israeli airspace and the subsequent attacks by the Israeli Air Force against targets in Syria as “the most significant clash to date between Israel and the so-called Axis of Resistance—Iran, Syria’s Assad regime and Hezbollah—since Iran began deploying soldiers and proxies to Syria six years ago.”

  • Israel destroys Iranian drone, hits targets in Syria after losing F-16

    For the first time, Iran sent a military drone from one of its bases in Syria, in response to which Israel, for the first time, bombed Iranian targets in Syria, killing several Iranian soldiers. An Israeli jet was shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile, and in response Israel bombed and destroyed nearly half of Syria’s air defense systems, in addition to attacking other Syrian and Iranian targets.

     

  • Fmr. IDF intelligence chief: Shootdown of Iranian drone could be prelude to Israel-Shia war

    The interception of an Iranian drone that targeted Israel suggests that the chances for a war between Israel and Iran-led forces, the first Israel-Shia war, have increased, General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israel’s military intelligence, said. “There is a determination by Iran to build a military force in Syria and Lebanon, and there is determination by Israel not to let it happen. And the two vectors are colliding,” Yadlin said. “Maybe instead of the first northern war, we should call it first Shia war, Israel-Shia war. Because it will be the Shia axis, led by Iran, with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime and Shia militia from all over the Middle East.”

  • Spotting IEDs from a safe distance

    Landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other homemade bombs struck 6,461 people worldwide in 2015, killing at least 1,672. Survivors are often left with devastating injuries. In a study published in BMJ Open, 70 percent of people hit by IEDS in Afghanistan required multiple amputations. These homemade bombs are often hidden—nestled in bushes, buried underground, or sometimes stuffed inside other objects. To keep soldiers away from these deadly weapons, researchers are developing technology that can spot explosive hazards precisely and from a safe distance.

  • Epigenetic technology to help in fight against WMD proliferation

    Intelligence officers in the field, in trying to determine the presence or use of WMDs, would benefit from being able to check the epigenetic markers of an individual who may have come into contact with WMDs, read a history of any time he has been exposed to threat agents, and start piecing together a chain of evidence right there in the field, in real time. The epigenome is biology’s record keeper. Though DNA does not change over a single lifetime, a person’s environment may leave marks on the DNA that modify how that individual’s genes are expressed. DARPA’s new Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone’s epigenome.