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MemosJul 2, 2020 | 18:32 GMT
Fred Burton's Summer Reading List
Fred Burton has put together a few books to add to your warm weather reading list. Some are classics and others are brand new — I can’t wait to read Brad Thor’s new thriller NEAR DARK. The Scot Harvath series never disappoints.
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AssessmentsNov 11, 2019 | 11:00 GMT
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (bottom image) and King Salman (left) look out from a billboard promoting Vision 2030 in Jizan, Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 16, 2018.
Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 Remains a Hard Sell
Saudi Arabia's "Davos in the Desert" has come and gone, producing $20 billion in newly signed deals. And while the Future Investment Initiative -- as the event is officially known -- also reduced the threat of U.S. sanctions over Saudi Arabia's human rights record, investors are nevertheless weighing the pros and cons of pouring money into a kingdom where returns are far from guaranteed. Investors remain wary of major geopolitical risks, like a war with Iran and another human rights outrage that could reignite an international push to isolate Saudi Arabia, as well as domestic considerations, like the consistency of Saudi Arabia's policies amid lower oil prices and the personality politics of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Such factors will ultimately weigh down the Saudi investment strategy -- and make the 10-year drive toward Vision 2030 all the more difficult to achieve.
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Contributor PerspectivesNov 6, 2019 | 18:30 GMT
John Cena (L) competes with Triple H during the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Greatest Royal Rumble event in Jeddah on April 27.
The Sports World Wrestles With the Khashoggi Scandal
By most standards, Saudi Arabia tends to punch above its weight in geopolitical matters. However, the same cannot be said about sports in the kingdom. Whether considering the performance of its national and Olympic teams, the number of major sports events hosted by the country or the development of professional leagues, the Saudis are G-20 bottom-feeders, arguably superior only to Indonesia in this regard. Yes, they have a decent professional soccer league compared to the region (money helps). They also hosted the first three iterations of what is now called the Confederations Cup, FIFA's marginally prestigious World Cup warm-up tournament, and have qualified five times for the World Cup proper. Some members of the royal family have also held symbolic leadership posts in FIFA and the International Olympic Committee's sport governance apparatus (again, money helps). This began to change two years ago as it began making moves to develop a
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PodcastsJun 24, 2019 | 18:47 GMT
A picture of rusted gates with the star of the former Soviet Union on them.
Backlash With Author Brad Thor
Brad Thor, best-selling author of the Scot Harvath series of thrillers, recently sat down to talk about his latest action-packed novel, Backlash. "You can go into Backlash never having read a Brad Thor book," the author told Fred Burton, Stratfor's Chief Security Officer and host of the Pen and Sword podcast. "In my book, you've got Scot Harvath, who is American's number one operative. [In Backlash] a hostile nation decides 'this guy gets in our way far too often. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna grab him and wring him dry. We're gonna get all the intel we can get out of him and then we're gonna kill him.'" Needless to say, Harvath isn't amused by this approach. The action starts on page one and continues until the very end.  Join Fred and Brad for a wide-reaching conversation -- about the plot of Backlash, the state of contemporary publishing,
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On SecurityJan 8, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) addresses senior officers of the Federal Security Service during an annual meeting of top officials of the service in Moscow on Feb. 14, 2013.
The Curious Story of an American Arrested by the Kremlin
The holiday season was less than merry for one Paul Whelan. On Dec. 28, 2018, the U.S. citizen (and bearer of additional passports from Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom) was arrested by officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in his room at Moscow's Metropol Hotel. His family said the former Marine was in Moscow to play tour guide for the family of a fellow service member who was marrying a Russian woman, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Russians, naturally, have a different story. For them, Whelan is an intelligence officer who was using "non-standard methods for intelligence gathering," as well as social media to target Russians with access to classified information. In fact, the FSB claimed they arrested Whelan shortly after a contact gave him a flash drive that contained a list of employees at a classified Russian government agency. The Western press was quick to
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On SecurityOct 30, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
The bomb squad of the Broward County Sheriff's Office uses a robotic vehicle to investigate a suspicious package at the building housing an office for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)  in Sunrise, Florida, on Oct. 24, 2018.
When Terrorism Isn't Intended to Kill
On Oct. 26, law enforcement officers arrested a 56-year-old Florida resident in connection with a series of mail bombs that were sent to prominent Democratic politicians and liberal figures, including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The suspect (whom we will purposefully not name here) has a long criminal history, including a 2002 conviction for threatening to bomb Florida Power & Light, an electric utility company. His social media accounts contained a great deal of disturbing and even threatening material directed against the media, Democratic politicians, moderate Republican politicians, celebrities and high-profile liberal figures such as George Soros.
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AssessmentsMar 10, 2018 | 15:36 GMT
Diplomatic pouches can be the source of illicit weapons brought into a country, all under the eyes of border security.
The Diplomatic Pouch: A Hands-Off Exception to Border Inspection
Diplomatic couriers travel first class and are the first to board when bearing a diplomatic pouch and the first to deplane upon arrival to keep an eye on any larger diplomatic pouches in the belly of an aircraft. They monitor when the hold is secured -- and when it is reopened -- to ensure thieves don't attempt to grab the sensitive material or spies don’t try to clandestinely examine the contents of the pouch in what's known as a "black bag" job. They also travel under black diplomatic passports, ensuring smooth and uninterrupted travel. But unlike Hollywood’s depiction of diplomatic couriers -- with black briefcases handcuffed to wrists -- the average air traveler would never be able to spot a courier in transit. In many cases, they keep their bright orange diplomatic pouch inside a normal carry-on bag, stuffed under the seat. The most important aspect of a courier's job is
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Partner PerspectivesFeb 27, 2018 | 12:46 GMT
U.S. cross-country skier Jessica Diggins (L) crosses the finish line ahead of Swedish skier Stina Nilsson to win gold in the sprint event at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Winning Olympics – After the Games
The cost of hosting the event is steadily climbing, a pattern China hopes to break -- without sacrificing pageantry -- at the next Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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AssessmentsJan 22, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan.
Trade Profile: The U.S. Struggles to Break Its Fetters
More a continent than a country, one nation has held pride of place in the global trading system for most of the last century: the United States. Since World War II, the United States has been central to underpinning a system that has spread to encompass the whole world as it reduces trade barriers and reciprocity. This centrality has not only extended to leadership on trade but also to the use of the U.S. dollar in global payments and central bank reserves. Despite its preeminence in the global trading system, the United States periodically has chafed against the bonds that hold it in place. Under the leadership of U.S. President Donald Trump, the country is now staging the latest iteration of these periodic rebellions -- an uprising that puts the whole structure of international trade at risk.
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Contributor PerspectivesOct 18, 2017 | 09:00 GMT
The leaders of Fatah and Hamas sign a reconciliation deal at the Egyptian intelligence services headquarters in Cairo on Oct. 12, ending their decadelong split.
For Palestinians, a Rare Glimmer of Hope
Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas signed a deal on Oct. 12 that may bring their people closer together. I could be utterly disillusioned by what happens next in this sociopolitical series; the past is often prologue, but what if it were to work even just a little?
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Partner PerspectivesSep 15, 2017 | 12:22 GMT
An instructor gives a lesson in Chinese language at a Confucius Institute in Lagos, Nigeria, in April 2016.
The Mirage of Chinese Soft Power
As part of its campaign to project soft power around the world, China has set up educational programs, known as Confucius Institutes, to teach Chinese language, culture -- and, perhaps, politics -- abroad. But no matter how soft Beijing's projections of power may be, the message behind them is as firm as ever.
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On SecurityJul 27, 2017 | 08:00 GMT
The framework for understanding terrorist plots is still a useful guide for anyone seeking to thwart actions both complex and simple.
The Terrorist Attack Cycle Remains Unbroken
Last week while attending a conference where I was a speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to a U.S. government representative give a presentation on terrorism. One of the topics he discussed was the trend in recent years toward what he called "homegrown violent extremists" — individuals we at Stratfor refer to as grassroots jihadists. As he talked, the government representative showed a slide depicting the terrorist attack cycle on which, as he clicked, most of the cycle's steps were marked off by red X's indicating that they did not apply in cases involving grassroots jihadists conducting simple attacks. As red X's filled the slide, I thought to myself, "Has the terrorist attack cycle really become obsolete?" I have pondered this question over the past week, and I believe the answer is more a matter of the attack cycle being misunderstood when applied in a leaderless resistance context, than it
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Partner PerspectivesApr 18, 2017 | 13:45 GMT
Which States Get the Most Chinese Investment?
Part of being a global superpower is having some money to throw around. Want to fund a giant 80 million person megacity in the Pearl River Delta for $322 billion? Piece of cake. Re-build the Silk Road for up to $1 trillion? Not an issue. But China doesn’t only show off its deep pockets domestically. The country has also been extremely active on the global market, buying up everything from natural resources in Africa to luxurious real estate in Manhattan.
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On SecurityFeb 16, 2017 | 08:30 GMT
A man in a hazardous materials suit goes through a decontamination shower during a WMD training workshop in California.
With Unconventional Weapons, Drones Hit Their Limits
Could terrorists or other criminals use off-the-shelf drones to launch chemical, biological or radiological attacks? That was the question on many readers' minds after last week's look at how the Islamic State has used drones in Iraq and Syria. At the time, I wrote that the hype surrounding the group's drone program would inspire jihadist sympathizers (and perhaps other criminals and terrorists) to use drones to try to conduct attacks in the West. I concluded, however, that the payload limits of commercially available drones, combined with a lack of access to military munitions, would limit the damage any drone attacks could wreak. The public's interest in chemical, biological and radiological weapons is not surprising, given the high profile (and somewhat exaggerated capabilities) ascribed to them by the media and Hollywood. Though the threat of an attack using such weapons could be grave in theory, there are a number of practical constraints
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