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The Battle for Ukraine

As Ukraine Escalation Fears Rise, A Flurry Of Diplomacy

August 16th 2014

Ukraine protest

A tense 24 hours that saw claims of direct military conflict between Ukraine and Russia sparked a burst of diplomatic scrambling as top officials moved to head off further escalation of the crisis.

After Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukrainian forces had partially destroyed a Russian military column that had entered Ukraine's territory, his foreign minister announced he would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on August 17. "Whether the table will be round or square, it is necessary to talk," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted on August 15.

The meeting, to be held in Berlin, will be the first between Klimkin and Sergei Lavrov since they met in the German capital in a similar format on July 2. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are set to join them in the talks. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Syrian Fighters Learn To Dig Tunnels from Hamas

August 15th 2014

Hamas Tunnel

The main purpose of Operation Protective Edge is the destruction of the elaborate tunnel system that the Hamas terrorist organization built up over years.  But this significant model of digging was not only performed in Gaza.  The method has a receptive audience among Syrian rebels who learned from Hamas how to dig tunnels to implement attacks.

See the Tunnel Video Here

Abu Assad is a Syrian rebel leader in the city of Aleppo. The man is known as the commander of the tunnels among Syrian rebels, after undergoing training from Hamas in Gaza.

Last May, it appears that studying the tunnel method paid off. 25 tons of explosives were placed underneath the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo, where there were dozens of Syrian soldiers and officers staying. The hotel and all its inhabitants blew up, causing a major uproar within the country that has been suffering from a civil war over the last three years. Read more ..


The Islamic State

Syrian Oil Finances ISIS Militants in Iraq

August 12th 2014

ISIL militants and flags

The Sunni militant group that has taken over a large area of Iraq has financed its operations in part through an unlikely alliance with one of its enemies - the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

The militant fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) want to impose strict Muslim rule throughout the region, and eventually the entire world. Their initial push in western Iraq 10 years ago failed, and many of them crossed the border to fight the Syrian government.

In the process, they took over some Syrian oil facilities, potentially a huge source of revenue. But they could only find one customer. And, according to Shiraz Maher of London’s King’s College, that customer was their enemy, the Syrian regime.

“It will act in its own self-interest, and that will mean cutting a Faustian Pact with the fighters of ISIS [ISIL] for the time being," Maher said. "Both sides are being very pragmatic about that.” Now, the militants have set their sights on Iraq’s Beiji oil facility, potentially providing another source of revenue to further expand their operations. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Nuclear Weapons Lab Employee Fired After Publishing Scathing Critique Of The Arms Race

August 11th 2014

Trinity Test July 16, 1945

James E. Doyle’s ordeal with Washington began one morning in early February last year, when his supervisor stopped by his desk at Los Alamos National Laboratory and told him that senior managers wanted copies of all his publications.

The 55-year-old political scientist asked the reason for the request, and he eventually was told that someone at the House Armed Services Committee wanted to see the publications. But Doyle said officials refused to tell him who it was or why.

Later that day at the lab’s New Mexico campus, he said, two members of a Security Inquiries Team abruptly arrived with a special, silver-colored briefcase for secure documents, and pulled out an article he published a few days earlier on the website of a London nonprofit group. They claimed that the article, an impassioned critique of the political theories undergirding the nuclear arms race and a defense of President Obama’s embrace of a nuclear weapons-free future, contained classified information.

Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Many Terror-Tunnel Diggers Killed By Hamas

August 11th 2014

Hamas Tunnel

A number of tunnel diggers working in Hamas’s service were killed by Hamas in the past weeks, this according to a report by the Israeli Walla news site. Hamas eliminated part of its work force out of fear that they would reveal their secrets to the Israeli security forces.

The report further sheds light on the extremely difficult terms under which the tunnel diggers were employed by Hamas, in many cases under coercion. “They would take some 100 men in trucks, their eyes blindfolded so that they could not know the accurate location of the tunnel entries. Hamas were fearful that one of them was collaborating with Israel,” a Gazan source well acquainted with the tunnel industry was cited in the report. The excavators worked taken for shifts of up to 24 hours long, working for eight to twelve hours underground with intermissions. They were paid the low wage of $150-$300 per month. Many of the diggers are veterans of the smuggling tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip. Read more ..


The Islamic State

U.S. Airstrikes Against Islamic State a 'Long-Term Project'

August 10th 2014

F-15E Refuels

The United States expanded its Iraq air campaign over the weekend to beat back Islamist militants determined to kill members of a religious minority.

Fighter jets and drones struck ISIS fighters firing on ethnic Yazidis near the northern town of Sinjar, where extremists had driven tens of thousands fleeing into nearby mountains.

Iraqi officials said U.S. airstrikes Saturday killed 16 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the extremist militia that calls itself the Islamic State.

An Iraqi airstrike in Sinjar killed an additional 45 ISIS fighters and injured 60 on Friday, Iraq state media reported.

Airdrops not enough

On Saturday, three U.S. cargo planes, accompanied by U.S. fighter jets, airdropped 3,804 gallons of fresh drinking water and 16,128 ready-to-eat meals to Yazidis stranded in the mountains, the military said. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Islamic State Advances in Syria

August 7th 2014

Iraqi Christians beheaded

In recent weeks, far from the attention of the world’s media, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS, formerly ISIS) has been fighting its enemies and expanding its borders.

There is mounting evidence that IS has obtained a chemical weapons capacity of some kind, and has utilized it on at least one occasion during intense combat against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The organization has achieved signal successes against regime forces in Raqqa and Hasakeh provinces that culminated in the capture of the Division 17 base, and the subsequent gruesome execution of over 200 members of the garrison.

There is also clear evidence of Palestinians, specifically Gazans, fighting in Syria in an organized unit under the IS banner, and of at least one clearly IS-linked group operating in northern Sinai and in Gaza itself. The overall picture is one of a vigorous, capable and savagely brutal Islamist entity, but one which nevertheless has clear limitations on its capabilities.

Lets take a look: Following its lighting capture of Mosul on June 10, many observers expected the jihadi group to continue to push on into Iraq, and perhaps make a bid for the capital city, Baghdad.

This has not happened. IS has set about implementing its brutal version of Shari’a in the city, but has made no serious effort to push further east. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

New Details Emerge in Killing of US General

August 6th 2014

IED 1; Humvee 0

The two-star U.S. Army general who was fatally shot by an Afghan soldier in Kabul Tuesday died at the military academy where he was attacked, according to the Army. 

"Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene of Schenectady, New York, died Aug. 5, at Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul City, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by small arms fire," the Army announced Wednesday.

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel at the senseless loss of Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene," said Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Wednesday.

Greene, 55, is the highest-ranking U.S. officer to be killed in combat since 1970, with the exception of a three-star Army general who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon. Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno said Tuesday that the Army would stick to its task in Afghanistan, despite the attack.

"We remain committed to our mission in Afghanistan and will continue to work with our Afghan partners to ensure the safety and security of all coalition soldiers and civilians," Odierno said. He said that other soldiers were injured, but an Army spokesman said a definitive number of the wounded had not been confirmed. There were at least 12 individuals injured, "some more severely than others," the spokesman said. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Video: How Hamas Terrorists Rapidly Assemble and Fire Rockets

August 5th 2014

Click to select Image

In the minutes before the ceasefire kicked in at Gaza this morning, Hamas fired a flurry of rockets towards Israel - 30 according to some counts.

see video here

Israel has argued that that these rockets are fired from civilian areas, and this is why its retaliatory strikes can result in civilian casualties.

But this morning, NDTV witnessed one such rocket silo being created under a tent right next to the hotel where our team was staying. Minutes later, we saw the rocket being fired, just before the 72-hour ceasefire came into effect. See video here.

It began with a mysterious tent with a blue canopy that bobbed up yesterday (August 4) at 6:30 am in an open patch of land next to our window. We saw three men making a multitude of journeys in and out of the tent, sometimes with wires.

An hour later, they emerged, dismantled the tent, changed their clothes and walked away.

The next morning - today - we woke to news of the 72-hour ceasefire but just before it was to take effect, the rocket next to our hotel was fired. There was a loud explosion and a whooshing sound. The cloud of smoke that rose was captured by our cameraperson. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Islamic State forces Inflict Stunning Blow to Stability in Iraq

August 4th 2014

Click to select Image

The armies of the Islamic State seized control of Iraq's biggest dam, as well as an oilfield and three more towns near Mosul on August 3. This was the first major defeat of Kurdish forces since the fighting over control of Iraq began in June. Fears have peaked that the Sunni militants of IS now have the ability to flood major Iraqi cities, and shut off electric power. According to a report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, if the dam were to fail, it could release a 65-foot high wave across northern Iraq and potentially flood and kill many in several surrounding towns.

Besides the hydroelectric dam on the Tigris River that supplies Mosul, the IS militants seized the Ain Zalah oil field, in the triangular border area of Iraq, Syria and Turkey, while adding to the four others they already control. The Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government appears even more shaky. Read more ..


Ebola Outbreak

Ebola-Afflicted Doctor Arrives in U.S. for Treatment in Isolation

August 3rd 2014

Click to select Image

An American physician who was stricken with the Ebola virus while helping victims in Liberia has returned to the United States, becoming the first known Ebola patient on U.S. soil. Dr. Kent Brantly was flown from Liberia to Atlanta GA on August 2 on a specially equipped chartered medical plane.

After arriving at a Georgia military base, he was transferred to an ambulance that become part of a convoy that traveled to Emory University Hospital, a medical facility in the city of Atlanta.

Television video from the hospital showed two people emerging from the ambulance in white, full-body protective suits and entering the facility. Dr. Brantly could be seen emerging from an ambulance, walking with the help of medical personnel. The Emory University Hospital is one of only four in the U.S. that is equipped to handle such cases. Dr. Brantly will be treated in an isolation unit that is separate from the other patient areas. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Pentagon Wants to Send Military Trainers to Ukraine

August 2nd 2014

Troops in IED Training

The Pentagon announced Friday that the U.S. wants to send troops to train Ukrainian forces next year as the country faces continued aggression from pro-Russia separatists.

According to the plan, which must be approved by Congress, soldiers stationed in Europe or from the California National Guard would train and equip four companies and one tactical headquarters of the Ukrainian national guar

The effort would help "build their capacity for internal defense," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. The training would take place inside Ukraine at an international peacekeeping and security center, he said.

"It's an area where we do multilateral exercises. It's an area that we're familiar with," said Kirby, though he did not specify how many troops would be going. "Our intent is to use $19 million in Global Security [Contingency] Fund authority. That's what the authority's for," Kirby said, referring to a fund shared by the Defense and State departments for security and counterterrorism training programs. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Deaths in Gaza -- How Many Civilians vs. Terrorists

August 1st 2014

Gaza Militants

Below are the findings of a preliminary, partial list of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge. The goal is to ascertain the identity of terrorist operatives and non-involved citizens, and to examine the ratio between them.

We have examined the first 150 names of Palestinians killed between July 7 and July 12, 2014, which appeared on the list of those killed issued by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. To this list the ITIC added the names of six terrorist operatives who were killed on those dates but were not included on the Health Ministry's list, or who were killed and whose names were added later. Conversely, we removed the names of three dead, whose identity is still unknown, and the name of a terrorist operative who, it turned out, was wounded and whose name appeared on the mortality list by mistake. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Israeli Military Discovers Terror Tunnel Entrance in Gaza Mosque

July 31st 2014

The IDF is continuing to dismantle the terror tunnels in Gaza, while deepening its hold on the Gaza Strip. For the first time in the operation the IDF entered the Jabaliya refugee camp. Israel has reportedly stepped up its military strikes on Hamas targets as well.

In one incident, Givati forces shot and killed a gunman who fired an anti-tank missile at troops in the southern Gaza Strip overnight. In the course of house searches in the central Gaza Strip, IDF soldiers uncovered sensitive intelligence gathered by Hamas on the IDF, numerous weapons, and a large number of tunnels used as bunkers linking a string of houses. A joint IDF task force further uncovered a tunnel entrance on the ground floor of a mosque that had been used by Hamas terrorists to attack Israeli soldiers. See video here. Read more ..


Broken Government

GOP Emergency Border Bill Appears to be Going No Where

July 31st 2014

An emergency border spending package backed by the House GOP leadership appeared to be in trouble Wednesday evening after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) met with a group of House conservatives.

House conservatives emerging from a late evening meeting in Cruz’s office said they would oppose the $659 million legislation and warned it might fail on the House floor, an embarrassing prospect for the new GOP leadership team.

“It doesn’t sound like the Granger bill has the votes to pass,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), who plans to vote against the border package endorsed by his leadership. House leaders scrambled Wednesday evening to save the bill by promising conservatives a chance to vote on separate language curtailing President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

They are also discussing legislation that would prevent Obama from easing deportations through executive action. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Rep. McCaul's Cybersybersecurity Information Sharing Center. If You Build It, They Will Come?

July 29th 2014

Oak Ridge Super Computer

Yesterday, the House of Representatives placed four cybersecurity bills – all pieces of a larger cybersecurity legislative puzzle – on the House suspension calendar. The core bill, sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX), would establish the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, a coordination point for civil information sharing between sector-specific coordination groups and federal, state, and local government agencies. This multi-layered approach is meant to manage current cyber incidents and eventually reach the goal of proactively managing cyber risks through collaborative efforts. Should the bill pass, will its provisions be enough to bring cybersecurity to the top of the agenda in corporate America? Read more ..


The Caliphate

ISIS Cut Off 50 Heads, Put Them On Poles Throughout Town Square

July 28th 2014

ISIL execution captive prayers

After the ISIS defeated the Raqqa base manned by Division 17 of the Syrian army, the countless POWs were then beheaded and their heads were displayed for public view in the city square.

STRONG WARNING ON VIDEO

Shoebat.com also translated what the ISIS spokesperson said during the filming:

In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful
He had fulfilled his promise and defeated the enemy by himself.
Your brothers here, the soldiers of the Islamic Caliphate,
Allah had blessed us a great blessing from him. He had allowed us to defeat Division 17. This is a victory from Allah. We thank Allah for our strength and power, and our armament. Today, and till the day of judgement, devils who Allah had allowed us to defeat, and to be hung in this place, and we ask Allah to complete this victory the great victory of your brothers in the Islamic Caliphate. Allah had promised the believers that they will dominate the land as it was dominated previously. And will strengthen the religion to be acceptable to him. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

In Gaza, Operating Behind Enemy Lines

July 27th 2014

Gaza violence Jun 2012

Operating behind enemy lines in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas, the elite Maglan unit has attacked dozens of terrorist cells that fired on the IDF, destroyed areas used to launch rockets and killed and injured 40 terrorists in the last few days.

A senior source from the unit revealed that its members targeted Hamas gunmen waiting in ambush for the IDF’s ground forces, striking the threats before the soldiers passed by the would-be attackers.

The Maglan unit has detected and destroyed forward Hamas posts and rocket launchers. It detected a cross-border underground attack tunnel leading into Israel from Gaza, and found 20 bomb-laden, booby-trapped Gazan homes. The unit also uncovered a large quantity of weapons in raids. The source said the company is operating in a heavily built up area, characterized by residential buildings, orchards surrounded by buildings, and tunnels. Hamas planted its military assets deep inside the very fabric of Gazan civilian life, he said.

“Hamas operatives and area commanders, as well as their rocket cell members, keep one part of their home for normal family life. A second part of the home is the command center, or the start of a tunnel. Daily life and military infrastructure are totally interwoven,” the source said. Read more ..


Air Travel on Edge

Putin has Blood on His Hands, But Ukraine Airliner Disaster is No Re-Run of KAL 007

July 26th 2014

The tragic shoot-down over Ukraine of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 Boeing 777 that killed 298 people on board revives gruesome memories of similar events during the last phase of the Cold War in the 1980s. But the comparisons are not quite what we might expect.

The best explanation of the MH17 disaster is on a strangely-titled website, Scallywag and Vagabond, which draws from a variety of sources including the UK’s Daily Mail and the Kiev Post, and cites Dr. Igor Sutyagin, a Research Fellow in Russian Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU], and other Ukrainian officials.

This article presents evidence that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in late June bragged about obtaining a BUK missile launcher, and just before the shoot-down of MH17 had placed it in a civilian area with the goal of shooting down Ukrainian military planes. The article includes images that it suggests might be the missile launcher in transit and in placement. The BUK can hit objects up to 25 km or 75,000 feet in altitude, well above the altitude of commercial airliners. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Money For New US Navy Amphib Falls Far Short

July 26th 2014

Lobbyist

Powerful forces in Congress are working to buy the US Navy an extra amphibious ship, and lawmakers in both the House and Senate have added between $650 million and $800 million to the proposed 2015 shipbuilding budget to begin construction.

But, even if the money is approved and signed into law, it won’t be enough to cover the more than $2 billion needed to buy the ship, the Navy’s top acquisition official told Congress Friday. With no guarantee the rest of the bill would be funded in the 2016 request, the Navy can’t begin work at all, he said.

“That billion-plus has to enter into a budget process where we've got other bills that are, frankly, a higher priority,” Sean Stackley told the House Seapower subcommittee.

“We've got competition to go into the budget and add these priorities, at the same time we've got all of the risk associated with sequestration on the back end,” Stackley added. “So I cannot look at you today and give you a sense of confidence that the Navy is going to be able to budget that additional billion- plus in [20]16. The challenges are huge, in terms of being able to fund the balance.” Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Israeli Military May Have Underestimated Extent of Hamas Tunnels Leading from Gaza

July 25th 2014

Click to select Image

A network of tunnels dug by Islamist militants from the Gaza to Strip to Israel has been dubbed "lower Gaza" by the Israeli military. It has become a strategic weapon used by the Hamas terrorist organization against Israel as it continues to unleash rocket attacks against civilian targets. Hamas utilize the tunnels as a possible game-changer in their ongoing struggle with Israel. The tunnels, say Israel’s defense forces, pose a serious threat against the country.

In some cases, when the IDF or Israeli police were alerted to the excavation of tunnels, concerned citizens were ignored. However, former Israeli general Shlomo Brom told ABC News, "Israel knew there was a problem with the tunnels, but it didn't internalize their significance," adding "At any given moment, Hamas could send dozens of militants through separate tunnels to attack communities in Israel." Until now, Israel has had no effective method of contending with the tunnels. Dan Murphy, who reports for The Christian Science Monitor, said Hamas justifies the tunnels as an “existential issue for the movement.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

President Obama Hopes Ukraine Jet Disaster will 'Stiffen' Europe's Spine

July 25th 2014

President Obama on Thursday said the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight last week "may stiffen the spine of our Europeans partners moving forward” as the U.S. pushes for tougher sanctions on Russia.

In an interview on CNBC, Obama said the United States is seeing Europe "move with us" behind additional penalties on Moscow.

Obama, though, acknowledged that many European counties are "concerned about a robust response to the violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity that Russia's been conducting." Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Hamas and Other Terrorists Groups in Gaza Use Medical Facilities and Ambulances for Military-Terrorist Purposes

July 24th 2014

Rocket Damage

Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have frequently made use of hospitals and other medical facilities for various military purposes. That is because they know the IDF does not attack medical facilities, and using a medical facility provides their terrorist operatives located there with a kind of immunity. For the same reason they use ambulances to move terrorist operatives and weapons from place to place in combat zones. They repeat the modus operandi in Operation Protective Edge.

William Booth wrote in the Washington Post on July 15, 2014, that "At the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority's health minister, who represents the crumbling 'unity government' in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices" (ITIC emphasis). Washington Post correspondent Nick Casey Tweeted that Hamas used the Al-Shifa'a Hospital as a "safe place" to meet with the media.

Al-Shifa'a Hospital, located in the western part of Gaza City, is the largest and most important hospital in the Gaza Strip. Hamas used it for military-terrorist purposes in Operation Cast Lead as well, when senior Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives located themselves at the hospital, closing off some of the wings (See below). Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Can Vladimir Putin Survive the Malaysian Airlines Disaster?

July 23rd 2014

Click to select Image

There is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.

Ukraine and the Bid to Reverse Russia's Decline

Ukraine is, of course, the place to start. The country is vital to Russia as a buffer against the West and as a route for delivering energy to Europe, which is the foundation of the Russian economy. On Jan. 1, Ukraine's president was Viktor Yanukovich, generally regarded as favorably inclined to Russia. Given the complexity of Ukrainian society and politics, it would be unreasonable to say Ukraine under him was merely a Russian puppet. But it is fair to say that under Yanukovich and his supporters, fundamental Russian interests in Ukraine were secure. Read more ..


The Battle Iraq

Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

July 22nd 2014

PKK (Kurdish Worker's Party) Fighter

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong.

Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has fabulous oil wealth. It is an ethnically divided city. For years, Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen factions fought each other. Then, insurgents including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - or ISIL - unleased their terror.

In June, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga troops, reputed to be some of the toughest fighters in this region, moved into Kirkuk to restore stability, and to protect the oil beneath it.A monument in Kirkuk, a well-head surrounded by swords, is highly symbolic of both the value of the province’s oil, as well as the fight to control it. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Is Iron Dome Everything Israel Says It is?

July 21st 2014

Click to select Image

A U.S. Senate defense subcommittee has voted to double funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The Pentagon originally requested $175 million for Iron Dome, but if the new bill passes, Israel would receive more than $350 million.

That’s good news for Israel—and for American defense contractors slated to receive more than half those funds to co-produce more Iron Dome units. But critics question such big spending on a system they say doesn’t live up to its glowing reputation.

A clever system
Iron Dome was developed after Israel’s second war with Lebanon in 2006, when about 4,000 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon. “What is special about Iron Dome is that it’s the only one of its kind,” said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East/Africa editor for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Charting Separatists' Use Of Increasingly Sophisticated Weaponry In Ukraine

July 19th 2014

Russian Tanks Invade Georgia

Just a few short months ago, separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine was underscored by fisticuffs and the occasional appearance of small arms. As unrest rose, Kalashnikovs and Molotov cocktails entered the scene.

And in recent weeks, the separatists have deployed much more sophisticated weapons in their fight against Ukrainian forces amid rising accusations that Russia is the supplier.

APCs
Armored personnel carriers (APCs) first came into the control of separatists in April. This YouTube video shows Ukrainian troops peacefully abandoning their vehicles to rebels in the town of Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine.

T-64 Tanks
The U.S. State Department said in early June that Russia had sent tanks to separatists in Ukraine. It said NATO satellite photographs showed that three T-64 tanks crossed the border near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne. The T-64 has been phased out of service in the Russian Army, though they are believed to be stored in southwest Russia. The Ukrainian Army's arsenal includes T-64s, leaving open the possibility that separatists could commandeer them. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria's Silent Weapons

July 18th 2014

Corpses in Homs

The decommissioning of Syria’s vast chemical weapon arsenal has brought its weapons of mass destruction into the media spotlight. Far less attention has been paid to Syria’s admitted biological warfare program, one of the largest in the Middle East today.

While Asad’s chemical weapons have been monitored for decades, biological weapons are silent weapons. There are no identifying heat signatures, no activities such as mixing precursor materials for loading into conventional warheads, which could be indicative of a chemical weapon facilities and few observable activities by which to identify a biological weapons laboratory. Biological weapons usually exhibit a combination of selected characteristics: they are highly infective, highly transmissible, have lengthy incubation periods and are untreatable (no vaccines or medical counter-measures available), among other desired attributes. Above all, they are silent weapons, in some instances deniable until noted epidemics and pandemics occur. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

The Military Reality of Israel's Operation in Gaza Sets In

July 17th 2014

Rocket Fajr-5

Hamas and affiliate militant factions out of the Gaza Strip are so far rejecting an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire, having launched far more than 100 rockets since the cease-fire proposal. In exposing Israel's inability to stem the rocket flow, Hamas is trying to claim a symbolic victory over Israel. Hamas' spin aside, the military reality paints a very different picture.

Palestinian militants have launched more than 1,200 rockets, but their limited range and accuracy combined with Israeli defensive capabilities have led to only one civilian death, less than 100 further casualties and disruptions to daily life over the past week. Conversely, Israel Defense Forces have struck more than 1,500 targets in Gaza, inflicting much heavier destruction on the militants. On the surface, the exchange of fire might seem balanced, but conflicts are measured by more than aggregate numbers of casualties and explosions.

Read more ..

Bordering on Crisis

Nebraska Governor Accuses Obama Administration of Secret Operations involving Immigrant Minors

July 15th 2014

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) pressed the Obama administration Monday to give him the names of nearly 200 children in his state who had been apprehended entering the country illegally.

"We want to know the names of those individuals, who their sponsor is, is their sponsor legal, what communities did you send them to," Heineman said. "Why are they conducting a secret operation essentially — transporting them all over the country, and now we learn to Nebraska, and the federal government won't tell us what is going on."

The governor said on "Fox and Friends" that he learned from Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R) that the federal government had moved the children to the state amid the large influx being apprehended crossing over the Texas-Mexico border — mainly originating from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
"I'm concerned, it is 200 today, how many is it tomorrow?" Heineman asked. Read more ..


Bordering on Crisis

U.S. Military Feels the Pinch Due to Immigrant Surge on U.S./Mexico Border

July 15th 2014

Click to select Image

Lawmakers warn President Obama is shortchanging the military by calling it into action at the U.S. border without providing a boost in funding.

“President Barack Obama has already decimated the military with budget cuts and the lack of overall strategy; now he’s asking them to do more,” said Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in an op-ed published Monday.

Obama last week requested $3.7 billion from Congress to respond to the flow of children crossing the border but that did not include additional funding for the military, which is housing thousands of immigrant children and trying to contain the violent drug trade. Military officials say there’s a direct link between drug traffickers and the influx of immigrants from Central America, but that they lack the resources they need to combat the problem at the source. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

A Stalled War on Terror Finance

July 14th 2014

Rials

Only two weeks after the attacks of September 11th, President George W. Bush addressed the media in the White House Rose Garden and declared "war" on terrorism financing. "Money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations," he told reporters.[1] "Today, we are asking the world to stop payment." A few weeks later, the Treasury Department—the agency that would become the weapon of choice of the White House in this new economic conflict—boasted in a press release, "The same talent pool and expertise that brought down Al Capone will now be dedicated to investigating Usama bin Laden and his terrorist network."[2]

Unfortunately, more than a decade after these pronouncements, it is obvious that the war on terror financing and money laundering has stalled. This is clear even through the lens of the government's own bottom-line metrics: assets seized and forfeited, successful investigations and prosecutions, and effective sanctions. In fact, the situation has gotten considerably worse of late, as political considerations have progressively displaced or rolled back serious work that has been done to date on draining the financial "swamp" in which terrorists and terror-supporting regimes operate. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Netanyahu to World Media: "We're Using Missile Defense to Protect Our Civilians and They're Using Their Civilians to Protect Their Missiles"

July 14th 2014

Binyamin Netanyahu and flag

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed yesterday (Jul. 13) on CBS's 'Face the Nation' and Fox News' 'Sunday'. Netanyahu's primary objective was to strengthen the legitimacy of Operation 'Protective Edge' in the international realm. He stressed the difference between the IDF's actions and Hamas' targeting of civilians, while using their own civilians as shields and their homes as centers for terror.  

 "Here's a difference between us. We're using missile defense to protect our civilians and they're using their civilians to protect their missiles. That's basically the difference. They're embedding these rockets that they're firing wholesale into our cities, terrorist rocketing, trying to kill as many as they can," said Netanyahu. "

"They're not succeeding because of two reasons. One is because we've developed this incredible missile defense system, which I think is a stark development in the history of defensive warfare, with US help and I want to thank the American people, President Obama, the US Congress, for helping us fund this amazing development. But the other reason we're succeeding – you have to understand some of the rockets do pierce through this shield and the reason we're succeeding is also because we're targeting the terrorists. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Palestinian Envoy Admits on Television to UN Agency: "Israelis Warn Civilians Before Attacks, We Don't"

July 13th 2014

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal

Palestinian Envoy to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Ibrahim Khreisheh admitted in an interview, translated by MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute), that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not abide by international law and commit war crimes. 

Responding to a question presented to him on PA TV last week about the Palestinians' demand to appeal to the International Criminal Court at The Hague (ICC) against Israel, Khreisheh responded: "The missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or missed, because it is directed at civilian targets...Therefore, targeting civilians, be it one civilian or a thousand, is considered a crime against humanity." Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

As Death Toll Rises in Gaza, U.N. Calls for Cease-Fire

July 12th 2014

The Israeli air force struck targets inside Gaza for the fifth day Saturday, as rockets fired from the Palestinian territory set off alarms across southern Israel.

Officials in Gaza say about 130 people have been killed in Israeli military strikes since operations began in response to weeks of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.

A mosque in central Gaza was among the targets struck Saturday.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Libby Weiss says the building was being used by Hamas militants.

"It's important to note that this was a mosque that was used almost entirely for Hamas operations. Meaning as a structure perhaps yes it was a mosque but it was very clear that it was being used, and I would say almost hijacked by Hamas for terror purposes," Weiss said.

The United Nations humanitarian affairs office has said the majority of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes since operations began have been civilians. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama's Relations with Germany Reach New Low

July 10th 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday expelled the top American intelligence official from her country.

The retaliatory action comes on the heels of German investigations into two people suspected of covertly spying for the U.S., allegations that have stirred new tensions between the two nations.

In a statement, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that the “representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the Embassy of the United States of America was asked to leave Germany.”

Seibert added that the expulsion came “in light of the ongoing investigation” into the suspected spies as well as months of “unsolved questions on the activities of U.S. intelligence agencies in Germany,” which the German Parliament has begun to investigate. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Iraq: Iran and Russia Go Where Obama Fears to Tread

July 9th 2014

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on July 8 that his country proposes to organize an international forum on terrorist threats in Iraq in the hope of enlisting support. "We hope this idea would win support, since, as far as we understand, all are worried over the developments in Iraq," he said to Russian journalists, adding that Iraq was "really facing a threat of disintegration."

Gatilov said, "There is understanding in the international community that it is high time to do something. I think this support will only grow to create a platform for the organization of such forum," while adding that discussions about the forum are "are at the initial stage." Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Islamist Captors

July 7th 2014

Click to select Image

Approximately 60 women and children abducted by Islamic extremists in Nigeria have escaped, sources told Agence France-Presse late Sunday.

A vigilante told the news service that he had heard from colleagues who said the women and children, who were captured by Boko Haram last month, “had it made it back home.”
A high-level security source confirmed the escape, AFP reported.

More than 60 women and girls, and 31 schoolboys were reported missing after a three-day siege in June in the northern part of the country. Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates to “Western education is sin,” also snatched more than 250 girls from a state-owned school in northern Nigeria in April. Read more ..


Japan on Edge

Japan's Military Is Not About to March Through Asia

July 6th 2014

Japnese destroyer at Guandong China

When Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced this week that he would be asking the parliament to pass laws revoking the country's ban on engaging in collective self-defense, it resulted in a predictable gnashing of teeth and wailing both in Japan and abroad. The move, which has been mooted since Abe was first in office, in 2006, simply allows Japanese military forces to come to the aid of allies or innocent parties under attack. Put in the context of Japan's gradual security evolution over the past several decades, it is neither a radical move nor one that threatens peace in Asia.

Abe has been attacked for his decision from two fronts. At home, large protests have demanded that Japan not become a militarist state that gets sucked into foreign wars. Meanwhile, protestors in South Korea and official voices in China darkly warn that Tokyo is changing the law so as to have a pretext for more aggressive action overseas. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Texas Governor Says Obama is 'Inept' or Doesn't Care for Border Issues

July 6th 2014

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Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) on Sunday said the Obama administration is either “inept” or doesn’t care about the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border with Mexico.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Perry pointed to a letter he sent in May, 2012, that raised concerns about the flow unaccompanied minors. Perry said there was no response from the administration.
“They either are inept or don’t care,” Perry said. “I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept or you have some ulterior motive.”

“This is a failure of diplomacy, this is a failure of leadership,” he added.

Perry said he does not believe that President Obama “cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure,” adding that “we are paying a huge price.” Perry said Obama’s comments urging Central American parents not to send their children to the U.S. are coming “about five years too late.” Read more ..



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