On September 28, the European Commission announced that it would begin to strengthen the jurisdiction on the exports of goods and technologies that “may also be misused for severe human rights violations, terrorist acts or the development of weapons of mass destruction” (1). The proposal focuses on exports of cyber-surveillance technologies, such as monitoring centers and data retention systems, which are meant for legitimate civilian applications. On the day of the press release, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom stated, “We are living in turbulent times. Preserving peace and protecting human rights are core objective of the EU and our trade policy is essential to that aim. That’s why we are proposing a set of modern rules to make sure that exports are not misused to threaten international security or undermine human rights” (2). An additional benefit of the proposal is that it would simplify already existing export control laws and save the European Union both time and money. More importantly, this motion will assure the world of the EU’s commitment to international peace and security.
In 2014, the European Parliament reached a political understanding that “recognized the importance of continuously enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of the EU’s strategic export controls regime” (3). The aim of this understanding was to keep up with newly arising threats that may result from rapid technological changes in the modern system. Just last year, leaked invoices and emails exposed that a Milan-based software company, Hacking Team, had sold spyware to a number of governments, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Sudan. Although the Italian government instantly rescinded the company’s license to export internationally, it is events such as this that the EU is trying to avoid. Although the EU attempts to oversee as many major trades and exports as possible, some countries are known for approving export requests more leniently. Under the new rules, members of the EU will be forced to disclose information about the exports they approve to EU leaders and regulators.
While attempting to maintain a high level of security and provide transparency, the European Commission does not want to impair international trade nor the competitiveness of European companies. A lengthy approval process for items such as location tracking devices and biometrics equipment could make it difficult for technology companies to capture new markets and quickly increase their profit margins (4). The EU must be careful not to cast a broad net that unintentionally makes suspects out of harmless items and overwhelms licensing authorities. After all, the European economy could benefit greatly from being a major player in the ever-growing technology sector, which is moving at an astounding pace.
The international spike in terrorism is the driving force behind the EU’s efforts to make export controls more efficient, consistent, and effective. The depressing rise of acts of terrorism around the world has forced authorities and governments to tighten controls on potential weapons of mass destruction. By harmonizing the controls on brokering and transit of technological surveillance items, European authorities will be able to monitor the potential risks more closely than ever before. The EU hopes to do their part in the fight against terrorism by introducing precise provisions preventing the exploitation of dual-use items in relation to terrorists’ global threat.
(1) "Commission Proposes to Modernise and Strengthen Controls on Exports of Dual-use Items." European Commission. European Commission, 28 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
(4) Stupp, Catherine. "Commission Plans Export Controls for Surveillance Technology." EurActiv.com. EurActiv Network, 21 July 2016. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.
Image: © Eudaemon | Dreamstime.com - European Commission - new Juncker team
On December 4, 2011, Iranian forces seized an American RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance drone near the city of Kashmar. The RQ-170 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), another term for a drone, was believed to be running surveillance of Iranian nuclear facilities when Iran’s cyber warfare unit took control of the aircraft and brought it down. The Iranian government claimed that the aircraft was in clear contravention of international law by blatantly entering Iranian airspace. After acknowledging that the UAV was in fact part of undisclosed CIA missions, President Obama requested that the drone be returned to the United States. In response, General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stated, “No nation welcomes other countries’ spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin” (1). The perceived disrespect by the U.S. administration fueled the Iranians to use RQ-170 Sentinel as a way to further their own combat drone technology.
Five years later, on October 1, 2016, Iran’s IRGC unveiled its newly manufactured combat UAV named Saeqeh (Thunderbolt). The IRGC’s Aerospace Division revealed Saeqeh at a showcase displaying its latest advancements in UAV technology. Saeqeh is long-range combat drone equipped with four smart-guided bombs. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Aerospace Force of the IRGC, described that Saeqeh has the capability of detonating four different targets with precision and returning to base safely. The ability for the drone to carry out long operations with such accuracy is an impressive feat in Iran’s growing UAV industry. The Iranian drone is one of the Simorgh drone class and a product made by the reverse engineering of the American RQ-170 Sentinel that could not be reacquired by the U.S. government. Saeqeh is portrayed as the first in a series of drones that Iran declares will have both civilian and military use.
The IRGC’s strategy is focused on attaining self-sufficiency in producing advanced military systems based on deterrence. General Hajizadeh finds it imperative that Iran does not halt its development of new UAVs, stating, “The enemy is continuing down the path of hostility, and we should continue our course for reinforcing our might for defense against the enemy” (2). The commander claims that the latest achievements place Iran among the top four nations in the world in the UAV industry. Hajizadeh also asserts that Iran now has better aviation systems and equipment than the U.S. Only time will tell if Hajizadeh’s assertion is accurate, but his statements have garnered the attention of the U.S. military.
One of the U.S. government’s concerns lies in the possibility of Iran distributing these new technologies to nations such as Russia or China. The past two years have seen Iran make significant breakthroughs in its defense sectors. In 2010, the U.S. and other nations placed sanctions on Iranian forces with the goal of severely limiting the growth of their nuclear programs. In 2015, the Western sanctions that had been placed on the Iranian military were reformed into an agreement that allowed Iran to redesign its nuclear facilities for the means of producing nuclear fuels. As a result, Iran has been taking advantage of the agreement and producing new machinery at a notable pace. Their weaponry is thought to range from UAVs to rocket and artillery systems. The IRGC stresses that its military operations pose no threat to other nations. Nonetheless, its rapidly evolving technologies will force Western nations, especially the U.S., to keep a watchful eye on the Iranian military.
(1) CNN Wire Staff. “General: Iran Won’t Return U.S. Drone It Claims to Have.” CNN.com. CNN, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.
(2) Military UAS News. “Iran’s IRGC Unveils New Combat Drone – UAS VISION.” Uasvision.com. UAS VISION, 02 Oct. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
Image: © Steve Estvanik | Dreamstime.com - Defense Ministry
Carlos was born in Chicago, Illinois and came to USC to study psychology with a minor in Business Administration. He has worked in healthcare and finance for the past two summers. Carlos also helped co-found Trojan Marketing Group, a group that develops marketing strategies for large companies. Carlos has been with Global Intelligence Trust since summer of 2016. He am most interested in writing about innovation in the technology sector and aerospace developments. Apart from academics, Carlos enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, and traveling.