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Monday, October 22, 2018

Khashoggi Murder, Crash of IL-20, Skripal Poisoning, and Stuxnet - DEADLY Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare

 {**** This post has now been published at Indian Defence Review as  "

DEADLY Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare

DEADLY Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare

DEADLY Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare

Khashoggi Murder, Crash of IL-20, Skripal Poisoning, and Stuxnet - DEADLY Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare

Jamal Khashoggi's death in a fight in Saudi consulate in Istanbul as claimed by Saudi public prosecutor surfaces a new set of criteria of “targeting” in the multi-dimensional warfare that each state is getting involved in. The boundaries of wars of different types, even if earlier they were blurred, have now become a full spectrum continuum where governments of all hues and colors view war as permanent – arguably, a markedly Orwellian world has emerged - though the dimensions of the war may vary from time to time.  We have identified 15 dimensions of this multi-dimensional warfare earlier. (Please also see Indian Defence Review, July-September 2018, “War as a Multi-Dimensional Whole: A Framework for India in a Repolarizing World”). 

As we know every war has targets to be eliminated/destroyed. At the basic war planning level, elimination of the identified targets is the way to prosecute war. The Clausewitz’s invariant “nature of warfare” is violent – destroying the enemy’s capability to wage its own war, its assets and in fact its will to fight.  The characteristics of war change or evolve from time to time but its nature does not change. One of the key characteristics of war is the type and targets that need to be eliminated and destroyed to achieve the goal. In the new 15-Dimensional Warfare, the state may have to wage a war against the influence-makers or key opinion leaders who may create ripple effects of encouraging the world and the citizens of the country to seek change from the current “state” or “deep state”. One can argue that such targets were always there and were eliminated in previous world of delineated war dimensions, however, the argument that the boundaries are blurring cannot be denied.

Khashoggi, Russian IL-20, Skripal Poisoning, and Stuxnet – The Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare

Jamal Khashoggi was a target of Saudi State may be for elimination, but for silencing is well established in the media reports. His last op-ed in Washington Post, he wrote, “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate”. He was silenced, if the apple watch connected to his apple phone recording has to be believed, through an excruciating dismemberment in the consulate that is accepted as a fight by the Saudi and the US President has already tweeted the explanation as “credible”. One lesson of “targeting” in this new type of war by states and perhaps the most important parameter is how to build “Deniability” into the process of elimination or silencing of targets – be they individuals or war-making components.

In September 2018, in a most peculiar targeting and combat cunning if one may, Israeli fighter aircraft F-16s were accused of destroying a Russian IL-20 aircraft with 15 Russians on-board. In a remarkable choreography captured by S-400 Command radar mapping the firing of S-200 Missile against the Israeli F-16 and the cunning maneuver  by F-16 to lead the missile fired on itself to the IL-20 was presented by Russia after claims and counterclaims by both Israel and Russia.  Once again, the Israeli targeting was built on deniability. 


In March 2018, a Russian-British Spy and ex-Russian Military officer, Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned through a nerve agent as claimed by UK. Although both victims survived the attack but went through prolonged treatment. The UK suspected two Russian “tourists” who came specifically to UK to eliminate Sergei. This incident resulted in expulsions of diplomats from both sides. Russia, of course, denied the charges. 

About a decade back, “Stuxnet” computer virus reportedly disabled centrifuges in an Iranian uranium-enrichment plant. These were later considered as the handy work of US and Israel, although neither of them admitted.  A “worm” program designed by US and Israeli scientists to take control of the centrifuges at the Iranian plant and make the centrifuges speed very high or very low to disrupt the working the plant was successful till due to a programming error it escaped the controlled operation and was discovered. The Stuxnet is the first instance of state carrying out cyber-attack. It was built-in with “deniability”.

Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – a WWII organization that later evolved as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of USA, developed a simple methodology for French field agents to identify targets for disruption. It was called CARVER – which is an acronym of Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Reconfigurability. This was also used by US special forces in Vietnam war. It has also developed into some sort of risk prioritization methodology as well. Most significant of the above six parameters considered were criticality and effect on goal.

For the 15-dimensional war (the 15-D war). we propose an evolution of the CARVER to a new set of parameters that include Deniability, Effectiveness, Accessibility, Destructability, Low Cost and Yield (high). The new targeting methodology for targeting in the 15D warfare is DEADLY. The DEADLY targeting framework selects those targets and methods that have high deniability. We define deniability as the ability to hide/shift/obfuscate the evidence of involvement of the attacking/sponsoring agency. Effectiveness is the probability of success in achieving desired effects while Accessibility is the ease of reaching the target. We also have added the Destructibility (level) desired and achievable of the target as one of the parameters of this framework. Next parameter is the Cost that should be as Low as possible but includes the political, combat/military cost and the economic cost in that order. And finally the expected Yield which should be high. The expected Yield is defined as produce of the targeting – something positive for combat/military, political and/or economic value.

The major shift from Criticality and Effects on the goal from the CARVER is the Deniability, Destructibility and Yield in the DEADLY matrix. The targeting matrix and methodology can be same.  Also, as CARVER has been used to strengthen friendly targets so that enemy need to do more to attack the friendly targets, DEADLY can also be used to strengthen friendly targets against potential attackers that are Deniable.

DEADLY requires technology-based innovation

As all the four cases cited above point out, the Deniability need to be countered for friendly targets and technology helped in all the cases. Whether it’s the command radar of S-400 in IL20 crash or Apple watch linked to Apple Phone or the use of cyberweapon in Stuxnet – technology proved critical. Further, technology alone will not suffice, it has to be enmeshed into a solution for the mission that aids deniability if you are attacking or it surfaces deniability while defending. That requires technology-based innovation. 

We propose DEADLY as the methodology for Targeting and Strengthening Friendly Targets in the multi-dimensional warfare continuum that we have today. Using DEADLY matrix one can devise technology-based innovative solutions for both – constructing deniable attacks and countering deniable threats.



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