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i3CA Predictive Analysis: US National Security Challenges for 2022



A Reflection on i3CA’s 2021 Predictions


The year 2021 saw a progressively more complicated and complex security landscape with Russia and China remaining the two biggest external threats to the homeland.

Russia increasingly asserted its formidable military and cyberwarfare threats. China, as a “near peer competitor,” tested us on economic, cyber, and military fronts, as well as challenged our democratic values. To add to that, we still saw threats from North Korea, Iran, and Afghanistan as well as the continuing domestic and international terror threats.2021 was full of tough national security challenges that diverted our focus all around the globe and i3CA was at the forefront predicting some of the challenges we would face in 2022.


2021 Predictive Analysis

2021 Actual Events

  • ​Russia will pressure Ukraine while the West is concerned with China/Taiwan.

  • Discussed in August 2021 briefing to SOCOM on emerging threats and in September 2021 NATO discussion on “Operational Outlooks.”

  • With world attention on COVID, and our efforts were focused on worsening relations between China and Taiwan, Russia began moving forces in small numbers in October and by November there were over 100k forces with equipment on the border of Russia and Ukraine.

  • Russia/China and Iran will use crisis to form closer partnerships in areas of mutual interests.

  • Discussed in May 2021 SOCOM analysis meeting, July 2021USASOC meeting, and August 2021 Boeing meeting.

  • China and Russia began working together on military airplane design, hypersonic weapons (land, sea, air), and space activities to counter US anti-air defenses in October 2021. In December 2021 China and Russia held discussions on how to counter NATO and work closer together on shared interests.

  • Iran has increased relations with both China and Russia for weapon sales, help with U.N. representation, economic agreements and Middle East Politics. In July 2021, China entered into a $400B economic agreement with Iran to counter US nuclear agreements and sanctions. In January 2022, Russia and China made statements about building alliances with Iran and demanded the West cancel unilateral sanctions. Iran also agreed to the new “one road” for China.

  • ​The Iranian election will have a low turnout and Ebrahim Raisi will become the next President of Iran.

  • After the Election Biden will not be able to re-sign JCPOA with the hardline officials.

  • Iran will look to China as a way to escape harsh sanctions.

  • Discussed in January 2021 CENTCOM J5/J3IO and J3IAG briefings on Iranian Elections.

  • Published prediction in the March 17, 2021 Blog – Preventing Crisis with Iran on www.i3ca.com.

  • Ebrahim Raisi was elected president in June 2021 although he was not even officially running until 2 months before the election.

  • JCPOA was not signed and Iran signed a $400B trade deal with China in July 2021.

  • i3CA built a timeline chart in March 2021 that showed what actions would happen as well as what activities the US should be doing prior to election to help with U. objectives.

  • President Biden’s change to Saudi Arms Sales will force Saudi to purchase weapons from China/Russia.

  • CENTCOM Briefed 02/05/21.

  • Prediction published 2/5/21 – President Biden and Foreign Diplomacy Blog on www.i3CA.com.

  • Biden sold $650M in arms consisting of 280 missiles and 596 missile launchers to Saudi Arabia. However, this was only enough to defend itself and only after the Saudis sought weapons elsewhere:

- Saudi Arabia signs Military agreement with Russia (August, 2021).

- Saudi Arabia purchases Chinese missiles and drones and is collaborating on building missiles inside of Saudi Arabia (December 2021).

  • Turkey’s economy will face inflation and President Erdagon will use this to seize more government control over economy.

  • Prediction made in the January 2021 briefing to CENTCOM.

  • Throughout 2021 Turkey’s inflation continued to rise, capping out at a historic 17%.

  • Erdagon continues to push his powers to the limit with intimidation of banking, courts and opposition parties. Erdagon uses crisis to justify more control that must be taken to avert greater crisis.

  • Great Powers competitors will test new administration on National Security issues (i.e., China will pressure Taiwan and take privileges from Hong Kong, Russia will advance in Eastern Europe and Middle East and push Arctic capability.

  • Presented in January 2021 discussion at Ft. Bragg with USASOC staff, February 2021 discussions with NORTHCOM J39, March 2021 at INDOPACOM Threat Assessment SOCOM Conference.

  • Prediction published 3/30/21 – The Arctic: The next Theatre for GPC Blog on www.i3CA.com.

  • ​There were continual actions in 2021 to test the new administration.

  • Taiwan was pressured on 16 occasions with fighter jets entering Taiwan airspace and China is pressuring surrounding countries to reduce trade and recognition of Taiwan.

  • Russia has continued hybrid warfare along its eastern boundary while also pushing into the middle east and Africa.

  • Between March and June, Russia conducted testing of all their aircraft and military equipment performance in the Arctic as part of their expanding interest in arctic.

  • The U.S. state and local government will take the opportunity regulate during this time of crisis.

  • Supreme Court will strike down some of the mandates citing “government overreach.”

  • Predicted in multiple briefings to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Florida and his team Jan - June 2020

  • President Biden created mandates for federal employees, federal contractors, medical workers and employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated or test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. (Sept 2021)

- Supreme court strikes down the mandates for private companies over 100 employees

  • Continuation of federally distributed COVID medications (Ongoing)

  • State requirements for schools regarding vaccine and mask wearing. (Prior to start of 2021 school year)

US National Security Challenges for 2022


Most of these challenges we faced in 2021 still remain at the dawn of the new year and will likely continue for years to come. In addition, new threats will also begin to emerge.So what are the key challenges we will likely face in 2022?


Russia


Long before there were news reports of Russia building forces on the other side of Ukraine, i3CA provided awareness and analysis of the impending crisis. Not only did we warn about this impending crisis, but we also shared measures required to send strong messages to Russia of the consequences they would face by both the United States and its allies if forces were deployed. Additionally, we looked at the determining factors to inform us whether to use military force or diplomatic and/or economic sanctions to deter Russia from further advancement.


This situation is far from over and will carry into 2022. There are other activities that are most likely to happen short of invasion that will pressure US/Russia negotiations as Russia looks to build its security and influence in Eastern Europe. i3CA provided analysis using the military standards of most likely course of action and most dangerous course of action. i3CA predicted that the most dangerous course of action (MDCOA) would be that Russia and China would form an alliance and use their personal interest to pressure the West or create a situation in which the West is unable to respond. The second MDCOA would be for Russia to move into Ukraine while simultaneously China retakes Taiwan. That would provide a scenario that the rest of the world would have a hard time countering and would be the most dangerous course of action to the United States and allies. Although this course of action might not be likely, we do know that Russia and China have met several times since we made this prediction and have decided to cooperate both in space and cyber against the United States, as well as in new advanced military weaponry. They are also looking at how to unify economics and natural resources to act as a counterweight to the ability for other countries to hurt them through sanctions.


The most likely course of action (MLCOA) is that Russia is planning on invading the Ukraine but could be deterred. This will depend on two situations: The first is whether there is a unified front against Russia that will cause them to incur too high of a cost. If that happens, Russia will reconsider. The second is if NATO is willing to make security agreements that will favor Russia’s objectives without having to go to war. Some of these are missile deployments, NATO membership, and future exercise restrictions and weapons sales to Eastern European countries. If Russia thinks they can get what they want in the short term, it may delay an invasion for an opportunity in the future.r


China


For the first few months of the 2022, China will likely abstain from making any national security waves as they will be under intense scrutiny as hosts of the Winter Olympics. However, after the last athletes have headed home, the intensity of China/Taiwan relations will deepen, and a new “cold-war” between the US and China will mount.


Additionally, the advancement of Chinese cybertechnology and its hypersonic weapons have created a variable that is difficult for the West to maintain or counter. The current activities in space are going to be more concerning with the additional space platforms and China intentionally causing difficulties with both military and civilian satellites from the West. The newly formed space command must integrate multiple streams of data and information in a timely manner that would enable a counter to any activities. We need to identify whether the threat is an actual physical threat, a cyber-threat, or a deception to cause a reaction by the United States. China will continue to collect data each time they use satellites or space debris in a manner that causes us to have to react. This will form the basis of its space strategy believing that we will repeat actions in the same manner in the future. China continues to build a template in space from an Intel perspective on actions, reaction, and counter action. The United States must build a strategic deterrence package that strengthens our space initiative to ensure dominance in space.


While we have discussed China's continued threat against Taiwan, we must also be aware that China is moving in other areas around the globe - Central America, Africa and now the Middle East. This signals to us that we must engage in not just military tactics, but economically, environmentally, diplomatically, structurally, and politically.


North Korea


Although, for the most part, it has been out of the headlines in the past two years, I believe that North Korea will reemerge into the national spotlight. The crisis inside the country is becoming more desperate and will lead North Korea to seek an international forum.

Often this happens by shooting ballistic missiles, or threatening neighbors. North Korea’s movement in 2022 will hinge on China’s assistance in a long-term partnership in the Pacific. North Korea’s economic and resource problem will force leadership to act. If past is prologue, then it will use a tactic within its missile program for building additional nuclear weapons. North Korea is banking on the West’s predilection to negotiate and provide resources in order to alter behavior.


Afghanistan


America withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 2021. In just two months most of Afghanistan was no longer in the news cycle. During the political debates that will occur this summer, I believe Afghanistan will once again arise as a topic to delineate the differences between politicians. Currently, Afghanistan does not pose an immediate threat, but what we can see are terrorist organizations such as Isis and al Qaeda gaining size and strength in Afghanistan. The United States must be vigilant in monitoring these terrorist organizations in order to prevent another 9/11 and might need to conduct counter terrorism activities that would be more difficult logistically than they were in 2021.


The Middle East


i3CA published an article that predicted the ultra-conservative leader, Ebrahim Raisi, would be elected as well as Israel’s 20-month approach in response to the election. i3CA said that JCPOA would not be signed with the current leader based off his previous comments unless the terms were changed to give Iran a distinct advantage over the old JCPOA plan. This provides Iran the access to large political actors that can go head to head in negotiations with the United States.


Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani will be 92 years old in August. Outside of Iran’s military threats through militia forces, the replacement of this leader (should his health fail) will become a prime target for Iran. Iraq’s ability to replace Sistani with a legitimate religious leader who also believes in Iraq nationalism will be crucial to maintain the Shia faction inside Iraq.


We expect Iran to move forward in 2022 with some of its national objectives. We will continue to see this through its surrogate forces primarily in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. Iran also influences the Gaza Strip. Iran will also increase in military missile technologies as they try to see what benefit it can get out of Western countries negotiating with its nuclear program. Often Iran will attempt to use missiles and civilian space endeavors to mask the same technology, rockets, and payloads required for nuclear weapons. Iran will make another push to influence Syria and Iraq while it continues to destabilize Israel. Israel is preparing for a conflict with Iran should it move forward with its nuclear program. In the past, Israel has been incapable of being any real threat to Iran against its nuclear facilities due to a number of factors such as the distance and refueling capability for fighter jets, and the munitions needed to penetrate the underground, classified facilities. Iran will continue to build the offset capability with Hezbollah and Lebanon and the Gaza Strip to put any pressure on Israel should they come close to a military strike.


As we turn now to Saudi Arabia, we predicted that the new administration would change or halt arms sales to the kingdom, thus forcing it to purchase weapons from Russia and/or China. This prediction came true, and while we have not halted sales entirely, we are only selling defensive weapons to the kingdom. This weapons reduction created a vacuum that China and Russia sought advantage. In August of last year, Saudi Arabia signed a military agreement with Russia, and just last month purchased missiles and drones from China. Additionally, China is collaborating with the kingdom to build missiles inside of Saudi Arabia. This will enable China to establish more links inside the Middle East.


Infrastructure


COVID will continue to impact the United States in 2022. The United States will continue to be impacted by economic pressures with inflation, employment, and political divide.


In November of 2022, the midterm elections will take place, dominating the news cycle and placing national security issues on the backburner. The focus of politicians will become more domestic, focusing on COVID, Interest rates, the national debt and social programs as these elections draw closer. While distracted with midterm elections, our competitors will use this time to move their national objectives forward.


In 2022 we will see a rise in cyber-attacks against civilian structures and organizations. Some companies in the past have been targets of state sponsored cyber hacking to reap important technological gains from Department of Defense entities, contractors, or high-end companies that have innovative technologies. We have seen other forms of attack such as the use of ransomware. This will become more of a problem and must be countered. In order to secure companies within the United States, each state should use the infrastructure bill to protect, upgrade, and build redundancy in their IT structures.

Political policies must be formed that provide guidance on cyberattacks against the United States and the consequences. If a country shoots a missile to the United States everyone knows that that's an act of war. Cyberattacks can be much more costly and yet we have failed to build policies to address cyber warfare.


As we talk about cyber warfare, we must address security of space. I have mentioned in this article the vulnerabilities of space being exploited by Russia and China. Additionally, I think we have to provide unified guidance and countermeasures that will ensure space assets are protected and that space does not become a vulnerability to the United States and its infrastructure. Last year, both China and Russia tested their respective anti-satellite weaponry. These weapons feature fixed sights with lasers that can block out visual satellites while flying over an area in China. This “Russian roulette” that is being played in space must be addressed in a unified policy.


As with all of our national security policies it begins with will. Our will is what determines whether we provide strategic deterrence to our competitors and challenges and whether we can build a unified strategy to take us into a five year plan. The basis of war, or short of war, is always determined by the ability to muster the will of the country and the political will. Too often, we have not done a good job of communicating in clear and concise terms in a manner that our opposition needs to hear in order to change behavior. Through a strong information operations campaign, as well as senior leader engagement, the United States should unify its efforts to leverage its global position and deter acts of aggression or endangerment to friends and allies.


Finally, I would like to leave you with this thought. The best way to deter our foreign competitors is to unify of the people of our country. Russia had good reason to believe that we would fall from within. The Russians understand that by dividing people, playing on their fears and stereotypes, we will eventually crumble. The United States must look inward to ensure that we do not self-destruct. Dissent is crucial to our democracy, it is a pillar of our values, it is a right guaranteed by our Constitution. But while dissent is fundamentally American, we need to take heed that it does not tear us apart. Americans need to remember that we are a people united by our democratic principles, and it is a necessity that we protect, defend and honor those venerated principles and institutions. President Abraham Lincoln said it simply, “A house divided against itself cannot stand."


i3CA will work to help tackle these challenges in the year ahead. We are proud of our work providing analysis and insight for special operations, our National Security Council, and other government entities to help drive their National Security strategies. We will work on IT solutions that help counter aggressive behavior while providing unique integration capabilities. The ability to dominate information and categorize it in a way that gives timely data that enable quick decision-making is where we gain the advantage.


Although i3CA is aware of multiple country elections and other factors that will alter relationships or national security objectives, we have intentionally focused on the above key topics for broad consumption. If you are interested in specific elections, fragile governments, or national security topics, i3CA will build you an analysis specifically for that topic upon request.


i3CA conducts detailed analysis on additional countries and regional hot spots not mentioned in this blog. For in-depth predictive analysis on these countries, a ‘deep-dive’ into the topics presented here, or to discuss other national security matters please contact COL (Ret) Tony Thacker at tony.thacker@i3solutions.com.

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