Welcome to a new series of articles. We will be providing interpretations on recent current affairs, kicking things off with three articles closely related to Trumps administration.
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US withdrawal from UNESCO
The relationship between the USA and UNESCO has been strained at best throughout UNESCO’s existence. Cold War tensions saw the first USA exit under Reagan’s administration and now, Trumps administration announced on the 12/10/2017 that it will depart again.
The Department of State has stated, the decision was made in light of a perceived bias against Israel and concerns over the financial arrears of the organisation. These reasons lend support to James Carafano’s claim that Trump, is placing the importance of maintaining sovereign state power over international institutions as the key to understanding his administration’s Foreign Policy. UNESCO’s stance towards Palestine and the purposeful ommittance of Judaism’s links to several historical sites is seen by the administration as an attempt to undermine Israel’s sovereignty.
It is likely, as the administration continues other international institutions might find themselves under the lens to see what they can offer the US, instead of what the US can off the institutions. The decision may also be a warning signal. The administration has shown it is not afraid of using action rather than words to serve as a warning. Trump has long been critical off European defense efforts and reliance on US membership in NATO. It is not an impossibility that the departure from UNESCO will serve as a threat of what happens when institutions, or their member states fail to toe the administrations line. If European NATO members fail to step up defense budgets in the manner Trump expects them too, a new example could be made with another US exit.
The Iran Deal
Cosmin Timofte and Iasson Chryssikos
Two years since the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred as the ‘Iran Deal,’ the Trump administration has concluded that the Republic of Iran does not follow the terms of the deal. Despite allies like UK, France and Germany, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency, believing it does.
President Trump has stated that: Iran does not follow the 130 metric tonne limit of heavy water that was imposed in the deal; that it does not allow inspectors to enter military areas and has made accusations that Iran is intimidating the international inspectors to prevent them using all their authority during their investigations. He also states that Iran is not complying with the requirements set regarding the use of advanced centrifuges.
President Donald Trump believes that the Iran Deal does not address the issue of Iran’s continuous testing in the use of ballistic missiles, nor does the deal help mitigate the matter of them funding of organisations such as Hezbollah. If anything, the relief of sanctions allows for further funding on this matter thanks to a higher availability of money. President Trump believes that the deal does not constrain Iran’s, “destabilizing influence” or aggression in the Middle East. As such, the US has declared it has begun taking steps in implementing new sanctions and started cooperating with allies on this matter in order to prevent Iran from continuing these acts, as well as preventing the state from having any path to creating a nuclear weapon. This will naturally anger Iran, because the US is not only seen as going against its word, but also it will leave Iran in a situation where it will not be able to trust future deals with the US. This will result in relations becoming increasingly hostile and bitter; with the risk of a vicious cycle in the relation of the two states forming. Most of the US’s allies have stood against the US’s stance towards the deal.
Moreover, the decision made by the administration has disappointed its allies. One can argue that, by abandoning this deal, the US is demonstrating its standing deals with other states, both friendly and hostile are not safe. If deals are not adhered to, it jeopardizes the sincerity of US actions and signals within the international system. There is a potential states will no longer see the US as a political entity that can be trusted, which will adversely affect the continuation and development of peaceful relationships.
Cyber Security Concerns in South Korea
Cosmin Timofte and Iasson Chryssikos
A new revelation since North Korea’s (NK) latest ICBM lunch test in September 15 comes to highlight the factor of cyberwarfare in the Korean conflict.
Ruling Democratic Party Assemblyman, Lee Cheol-hee claimed in an interview that NK had stolen 235 GB of military documents, including extremely sensitive information. The data had been hacked under Park Geun-hye’s administration in September 2016. Little information was disclosed on the depth of the hacking. Republic of Korea (ROK) Defense Minister Song Young-moo, in light of Lee Cheol-hee’s revelations, has ordered heightened vigilance and new measures to be taken by the military.
Two of the classified files to be stolen were codenamed OPLAN 5015 and 3100. OPLAN 5015 is the wartime operation plan of a joint ROKA-USA pre-emptive strike against North Korea, as well as the plan to ‘decapitate’ the North Korean leadership. OPLAN 3100 is the wider plan of the Republic of Korea Army(ROKA) reaction in the case of a North Korean invasion and penetration of the South. Other crucial information stolen was; data on the joint ROKA-USA Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, held from August 21 to August 31 2017, information of military facilities and power plants that are of strategic importance for an effective retaliation of the ROKA in the instance of an attack.
According to Pentagon officials, the information is secure. “I can assure you that we are confident in the security of our operations plans and our ability to deal with any threat from North Korea,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters.
The timing is important, since this revelation comes amid heightened tensions, with President Trump not excluding the possibility of mounting a military operation against North Korea. Previous statements such as, ‘only one thing will work’, or threats about ‘totally destroying’ the North Korean nation establish the state of mind of President Trump. However, Secretary of State Tillerson has reaffirmed that the US, and especially the President, are fully committed to dialogue and have great relations with Chinese counterparts regardless of the ‘President’s unconventional way of communicating’.
The hacking of such hypersensitive information, raises the question of cyber security capabilities. The Korean Institute for National Unification reports that, as of April 2017, NK has been employing 7,700 professional hackers. The ROK Unification Ministry reported that 4,000 hacking attempts took place over the five last years, most of which are suspected to have been conducted by North Korean hackers.
There has been a generalized focus on cyber attacks by the North Korean regime over the last years. One of the main reasons is the tightening sanctions, thus forcing NK to look for alternative sources of funding; notably engaging in crypto currencies, but also raising foreign currency by hacking into financial institutions and making fraudulent money transfers.
The coming weeks will be crucial in seeing how the Ministry of Defense will mount up its defenses against cyber security attacks. It has already been announced that a new unit working on a new plan to ‘decapitate’ North Korean leadership will be launched in December, but it remains to be seen how countermeasures to NK’s expanding cyber warfare capabilities will be materialized jointly by the US Army and the ROKA.