The Mideast on Edge
|Mohamed Eishinnawi||April 23rd 2014|
Post-Arab Spring political tensions are driving up military spending in the Middle East, analysts say.
Expenditures escalated to an estimated $150 billion in the region in 2013. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain are the countries spending the most on its military.
According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia’s military spending increased to $67 billion, making the kingdom the world’s fourth largest military spender after the U.S, China and Russia.
Carina Solmirano, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Military Expenditure Program, says that while countries do have security needs, the specific reasons for maintaining high level military spending vary from country to country.
“Tensions with Iran and fears of an Arab Spring-type revolt were the likely main factors explaining the Saudi increase of 14 percent in 2013, but also the desire to maintain strong and loyal security forces to insure against potential Arab Spring type protests,” said Solmirano, one of the study’s co-authors.
In Bahrain, Solmirano says, internal security in the wake of anti-government protests by the Shi’ite majority is the likely motive for the country’s 26-percent increase, whereas data for 2013 was not available for Iran, Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. Read more ..
The Koreas on Edge
|Steve Herman||April 22nd 2014|
Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.
South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.”
Daniel Pinkston, the Northeast Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, said Pyongyang is unlikely to worry about the South’s reaction.
“They’ve demonstrated a long dedication, persistence and resolve to dedicate a lot of resources over a long period of time. They’ve been able to bear the international pressure and sanctions and everything else. So I think it’s a clear indication that the nuclear program is very important to the leadership and so I don’t expect them to stop or reverse course,” said Pinkston. Read more ..
The Battle for Ukraine
|Doug Barnard||April 21st 2014|
On the day Crimeans voted in a referendum in March on secession from Ukraine, hackers from a group calling itself the "Cyber Berkut" pelted NATO websites with online nuisance attacks designed to knock the pages offline.
While not technically sophisticated, the DDoS, or "denial of service" attacks, were enough to send several websites - including a cyber-security site in Estonia - into darkness for several hours. NATO quickly recovered: the sites came back online, the hack attack ebbed, and no serious damage was done.
But it sent a clear message - a warning shot of sorts of things to come. As tensions have escalated between Kyiv and Moscow, so too has the frequency of online attacks targeting a variety of government, news, and financial sites located across Ukraine and several in Russia. So far, these attacks have amounted to mere skirmishes rather than all out cyber war. However, with the possibility of further Russian military incursions into eastern Ukraine, a full-blown cyber war may be looming on the European continent. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Heather Murdock||April 21st 2014|
The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital Abuja on April 14 that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing.
At a hospital in Abuja, survivors fill rooms and the hallways. Some are unconscious, others slowly sip Ovaltine and milk.
“I was about to enter the bus when I heard the bomb sound, boom! Then I fell down and my face was shattered," said Sahadu, a civil servant who was on his way to work when the bomb went off.
The attack on the bus station, Nyanya, was the first attack in the capital since 2012. Hours after the bombing, blood still stained the ground and stunned crowds quietly stared at the bomb site. Boko Haram, an insurgent group that has killed thousands of people in the past few years, usually launches attacks in the northeast. The government has deployed thousands of troops in efforts to crush the insurgency.But analysts say violence is still increasing, and 1,500 people have been killed in the first three months of this year alone. Read more ..
Ukraine on Edge
|Michael Bowman||April 20th 2014|
A deadly shootout in eastern Ukraine has cast doubt on the viability of Thursday’s accord between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union aimed at pacifying Ukraine’s restive eastern territories.
Although much is unclear about Sunday’s gun battle at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists, the incident shattered an Easter truce and appeared to dash already-scant hopes for a swift end to the unrest.
Russian and Ukrainian officials traded accusations of responsibility for the shootout and the worsening chaos engulfing eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press television program broadcast in the United States.
“[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union," said Yatsenyuk. "And every day he goes further and further, and God knows where is the final destination.” The prime minister demanded Moscow adopt a hands-off policy towards his country. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||April 19th 2014|
Last week, the military’s vice chiefs told Congress that their ability to fight two wars at once was at risk. They warned that ongoing pressure, including from the 2011 Budget Control Act and its substantial defense cuts, is eroding the size and capability of America’s armed forces. As Army General John Campbell cautioned bluntly, “We’re mortgaging the future.”
While the vice chiefs are correct that fewer resources are having a profound and negative impact upon the ability of the Department of Defense to support the nation’s defense strategy, the unfortunate reality is that the military’s ability to fight and win two wars at once has been steadily eroding for the past 20 years under presidents of both parties.
The “two-war standard” has long been an important measuring stick for the military to roughly approximate the forces necessary to provide the most options to the commander in chief in response to questions of war and peace. The 1993 Bottom-Up Review articulated the clearest thinking behind this policy: “U.S. forces will be structured to achieve decisive victory in two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and to conduct combat operations characterized by rapid response and a high probability of success, while minimizing the risk of significant American casualties.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Heather Murdock||April 18th 2014|
In the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on the Nigerian capital since an insurgency began in 2009, survivors say they escaped with their lives but lost everything else. Officials say they are looking at ways to help the bombing victims and boosting security ahead of the World Economic Forum for Africa to be held in Nigeria next month.
At this Abuja hospital, some bomb blast victims moan softly, but most sleep. They’ve lost limbs and been burnt.
Evere Ivbezim, a fruit seller, had her jaw nearly knocked off by the blast that hit Monday as she was boarding a bus, killing 71 people and injuring at least 124 others. But, she says, it's not just lives that were lost. A man rests in the hospital after 71 people were killed and 124 injured when a bomb exploded at a bus station just outside Abuja, Nigeria. “All my money. All my handset. Everything. I no get anything. Only my life, thank God. Thank God for that, may government help us," said Ivbezim. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Joe DeCapua||April 17th 2014|
While attacks by the militant group Boko Haram have killed many people in northern Nigeria, communal violence is also taking a toll. The group Human Rights Watch said since December more than one thousand people have been killed in five northern states.
HRW researcher Mausi Segun said that communal violence is a common occurrence.
“The violence has been almost on a daily basis in some places like Benue State and in a few other places you’ve had it almost on a weekly basis.” Speaking from the capital Abuja, Segun said communal violence has gone on for years in northern Nigeria. But she warned it’s now spreading.
“A lot of it we have been able to trace to tensions between the pastoralist herdsmen, who are nomadic, and farmers who find that their farmlands and their crops have been destroyed by the cattle of the herdsmen. And then you’ll have the herdsmen, on the other hand, also complaining about killing of the cattle, which [are] really a prized treasure to them,” she said. Segun said that violence begets violence in northern Nigeria. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
The Shi’ite foreign fighters fighting in Syria can be divided into two main groups: one consists of Hezbollah operatives, of whom there are several thousand, sent by the organization to participate in offensive and defensive operations in Syria. The other consists of Shi’ite foreign fighters from Iraq and other Arab-Muslim countries who are sent to Syria to fight in support of the regime. In our assessment there are between 4,000 and 5,000 such fighters, most of them from Iraq. In retrospect, it can be seen that the Iraqis exported fighters to Syria, both those who established the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of Al-Qaeda fighting against the Syrian regime, as well as some Shi’ite foreign fighters who fight for the Syrian regime. The Shi’ite fighters from the Arab-Muslim countries are organized into military units, the most prominent of which is the Abu al-Fadhel al-Abbas Brigade. There are also smaller military formations. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|R. Jeffrey Smith||April 14th 2014|
Center for Public Integrity
Every day, 90 uniformed men and women in their mid-twenties ride elevators forty to sixty feet below remote fields in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, and Nebraska in rote preparation for improbable nuclear Armageddon.
They spend some of their 24-hour alerts seated in front of steel Minuteman III missile launch control panels mounted on shock-absorbers, with toggle switches capable of hurling ten to fifty nuclear warheads — each with twenty times the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb — to the other side of the globe, at speeds of 15,000 mph.
But their day-to-day enemy, for decades, has not so much been another superpower, but the unremitting boredom of an isolated posting that demands extreme vigilance, while also requiring virtually no activity, according to accounts by missileers and a new internal review of their work. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Martin Barillas||April 13th 2014|
Dozens of people were killed in two explosions in Abuja, a city in central Nigeria, on the morning of April 14. Commuters were about to board buses and taxes at crowded bus station for their trip to work in central Abuja when the detonations took place. Witnesses say that dozens of bodies are scattered about the area in a sea of carnage. It is feared that this may have been yet another attack by the armed Muslim sect known as Boko Haram, which has sworn to impose Muslim law throughout the multi-ethnic multi-religious nation. Witnesses say that at least 40 bodies have been taken to makeshift morgues in the city, while rescue works and police are gathering body parts.
The blast tore a hole at least 4 feet deep in the ground at Nyanya Motor park, which is about 10 miles from the center f Abuja. More than 30 vehicles, including buses, have been destroyed. Secondary explosions, caused by ruptured fuel tanks, added to the destruction. Panic ensued as the flames rose throughout the bus station.
The dead and wounded are being taken to area hospitals, including Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Joshua Levitt||April 10th 2014|
|Palestinian Girl Trained to Provoke Israeli Soldier|
The Israel Defense Forces has trained 24 soldiers to work as “combat cameramen,” a special division of the IDF Spokesperson’s unit, that was created two years ago, to document IDF operations from the inside, generating the visual evidence to combat false accusations that make their way into reports based on second or third-party propaganda.
In a feature on the unit, Israel’s Globes wrote on Wednesday:
“Years later than it should have, the IDF has come to understand that stealth fighters and smart bombs are not enough to win the battle for public opinion, and that one good picture can save commissions of enquiry and a few other international headaches. En route to this victory, the IDF decided to forego one or two guns on the battlefield, and to replace them with still or video cameras that will make it possible to tell the same story to the world, in an entirely different way.” Read more ..
The US and the Ukraine
|Cindy Saine||April 8th 2014|
As tensions escalate in Ukraine, a number of U.S. lawmakers are calling on Washington to do more to help protect the people of Ukraine from a possible Russian invasion after Moscow's recent annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck Mckeon, and Representative Mike Turner introduced new legislation condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine and calling on the Obama administration to take more decisive action.
Chairman Mckeon said he believes Russia is provoking unrest in eastern Ukraine to create a reason to invade. He outlined new legislation which would condemn any further action by Russia, and go further than providing economic aid to Ukraine. Republican congressman Mike Turner explained: Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Rebecca Valli||April 6th 2014|
The head of the U.S. Defense Department says Washington plans to send two more missile defense warships to Japan to counter the threat posed by North Korea's actions.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a news conference in Tokyo Sunday after meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, that two AEGIS missile defense ships will be sent to Japan by 2017, bolstering the U.S. missile defense force to seven ships.
On his second day in Japan, Hagel announced that the United States will increase military support to its Asian ally.
Hagel said, "In response to Pyongyang's pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions, including recent missile launches and violations of recent U.N. security council resolutions, I can announce today that the United States is planning to forward deploy two additional Aegis ballistic missile defense ships to Japan by 2017." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Pamela Dockins||April 5th 2014|
A Nigerian soldier says he has witnessed incidents that suggest some Nigerian military commanders are working with Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009.
In an exclusive interview with VOA's Hausa service, he described how his military unit, based in the northeastern Borno State region, was ambushed by Boko Haram fighters.
The soldier, who did not want to be identified, said the commander of a nearby military unit, based in the town of Bama, recently sought assistance from his unit in carrying out a raid.
The soldier said when the two military units joined up, they were given different uniforms. The Bama unit commander gave his own troops green uniforms. The soldier said his unit received tan "desert camouflage" uniforms. When the troops reached the battle area, the soldier said the commander of the better-equipped Bama unit suddenly withdrew his forces, leaving the remaining troops to fend for themselves against Boko Haram fighters. Read more ..
Pakistan and Afghanistan
Pakistan says it has closed all border crossings and deployed additional troops to help Afghanistan conduct Saturday’s presidential polls peacefully.
The Pakistani military said late Friday that all crossing points into Afghanistan will remain closed until conclusion of polling there on Saturday.
It added that border security arrangements have been stepped up in close coordination with Afghan security forces.
The military says patrols in Pakistani border areas have been increased, while immigration checks have been enhanced.
The army says that all routes leading toward the border with Afghanistan are being strictly monitored and aerial surveillance will be carried out to prevent "any untoward cross-border movement."
The increased security comes after Afghan allegations that the Pakistani spy agency is behind recent deadly attacks on election officials and facilities to disrupt the historic vote. Pakistani officials rejected the allegations as unfounded. Pakistan’s foreign policy and national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, said in a interview that peace in his country is linked to stability in Afghanistan. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Kristina Wong||April 3rd 2014|
The top lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee said the United States needs to continue buying Russian-made helicopters for the Afghan air force despite tensions over the annexation of Crimea.
Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who recently took a trip to Afghanistan, said the country’s soldiers are used to the Russian-made helicopters, which he said are easier to operate and maintain than American choppers.
“I met with the colonel that’s training their air force. They’ve been flying those helicopters for 20 years,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Our machines are just much more sophisticated and complicated,” he said. “It’s cheaper, [Afghans] understand them, they know how to fly them, they know how to repair them.”
Some members of Congress have renewed a push for the Pentagon to end the $550 million contract with Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport and instead buy American-made helicopters for the Afghan air force. They say the move makes even more sense now that Russia has defied the United States and other world powers by moving into Ukraine. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Sharon Behn||April 2nd 2014|
A suicide bomber tried to ram his way into Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry on Wednesday, killing at least six police officers who were outside the compound. This latest attack is likely to add to the tension surrounding the April 5 presidential election.
The large explosion shook the Afghan capital. A suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform detonated his explosives at the entrance of Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just hours after the militants reiterated they would disrupt Saturday's vote with more violence and warning Afghans against heading to the polls. The Interior Ministry said the suicide attacker blew himself up after security personnel recognized him as he tried to enter the highly fortified compound. A number of people were waiting at the entrance when the bomb went off. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Heather Murdock||March 31st 2014|
Amnesty International says 1,500 people have been killed this year in an escalating armed conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian security forces. Amnesty says more than half the victims were civilians.
Amnesty International calls the rising number of Boko Haram attacks “truly shocking” and the reaction of Nigerian security forces, “brutality.”
The rights group says both sides may have committed acts that “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity." It calls for an investigation by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group based in northeastern Nigeria, has been attacking government forces, churches, schools, markets and mosques since it began violent operations in 2009. Three northeastern states have been under emergency rule for nearly 11 months but Elizabeth Donnelly of the Africa Program at the London-based policy institute Chatham House says the attacks continue to get worse. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||March 30th 2014|
The military’s most recent budget request provides even more detail about the consequences of continued automatic spending cuts. Yet the U.S. military’s challenges did not start with the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration; they have been underway for years, as the Armed Forces struggle to meet ever-increasing global demands and challenges with fewer forces and resources.
This growing strain prompted Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear, U.S. Pacific Command chief, to tell Congress that the Navy’s attack submarine requirements are going unmet in the Pacific right now. With the Navy’s attack submarine fleet on a path to drop from 55 today to 42 by 2029 — under the most optimistic scenario — outcomes only promise to get worse.
This was not the first time the Navy has confessed it lacks the capacity necessary to carry out all of its missions. As Rear Admiral Thomas Moore argued last year, “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed a similar concern in his assessment of recent Pentagon strategy, warning that “the smaller and less capable military outlined in the [Quadrennial Defense Review] makes meeting [strategic] obligations more difficult.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Alex Finkelstein||March 29th 2014|
Taliban gunmen attacked a luxury hotel in Kabul Sunday, killing nine civilians including children. The Serena Hotel, previously one of the most secure spots in the Afghan capital, frequently hosts high ranking diplomats and other foreign officials. Sunday's shooting not only targeted Westerners inside the capital, but also seeks to delegitimize upcoming elections before a NATO withdrawal.
Taliban forces have increased their attacks in order to disrupt elections scheduled for April 5th. Following the shooting, election observers who were staying at the hotel from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have left the country. The European Union's monitoring mission maintains the only sizeable presence left inside Afghanistan. But the EU's mission during the polls will be limited, as it is too dangerous for most Western observers to leave urban areas. Early Thursday the Taliban claimed a series of strikes in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, that left a Radio Television Afghanistan facility badly damaged. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Femi Owolade||March 28th 2014|
The Western influence of British colonialists caused a division among the people of Northern Nigeria, who were once united by Islam. This division saw, on one side, the so-called "civilized" -- by Western standards -- elite who were used by the British as agents of colonization; and on the other side, the commoners, who vehemently resisted Western influence in the region.
Dissatisfaction with Western influence also led to an emergence of Islamist fundamentalists among people of the Northeastern region of Nigeria.
The reason Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram appears to be that he saw an opportunity to exploit public outrage at government corruption by linking it to Western influence in governance. Read more ..
Israel and Palestine
|Khaled Abu Toameh||March 26th 2014|
U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry may be able to force Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, under threats and pressure, to sign a "framework agreement" with Israel. But as this week's rally of hatred in the Gaza Strip shows, even after the signing of a Palestinian-Israeli "peace" treaty, a large number of Palestinians will not abandon there dream of destroying Israel.
"Jihad in Palestine is not terrorism. Jihad in Palestine is a sacred duty." — Yusef Rizka, representative of Hamas
A mass rally held in the Gaza Strip on March 23 showed that Hamas continues to enjoy popular support among Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to attend the rally commemorating the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Hamas officials claim that nearly one million Palestinians attended the rally in the center of Gaza City. Read more ..
Iraq on Edge
|Jonathan Spyer||March 25th 2014|
Largely ignored by the global media, Iraq today stands on the brink of a renewed Sunni insurgency. The emergent insurgency in Iraq is following the same sectarian pattern as the civil war in Syria and the growing violence in Lebanon. It also involves many of the same local and regional players.
The rising violence in Iraq is not, however, simply the result of a spillover from the Syrian war. It derives also from internal Iraqi dynamics. But these are themselves in significant ways comparable to the Syrian and Lebanese situations.
Over 9,000 people were killed in fighting in Iraq in 2013. This is not yet up to the levels of violence just prior to the surge, in the very worst days of the insurgency against U.S. forces and the sectarian bloodletting that accompanied it. But it’s the highest since 2007. This year, more than 2000 people have already lost their lives as a result of political violence in Iraq. Read more ..
Ukraine on Edge
|George Friedman||March 25th 2014|
As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine poses for Russia, beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union. The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world's perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken.
Whatever the origins of the events in Ukraine, the United States is now engaged in a confrontation with Russia. The Russians believe that the United States was the prime mover behind regime change in Ukraine. At the very least, the Russians intend to reverse events in Ukraine. At most, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the United States intends to undermine Russia's power. They will resist. The United States has the option of declining confrontation, engaging in meaningless sanctions against individuals and allowing events to take their course. Alternatively, the United States can choose to engage and confront the Russians. Read more ..
The Ukraine Crisis
|Thekla Hritz||March 24th 2014|
President Barack Obamas said the United States and Europe are united in holding Russia to account for its actions in Crimea. "Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people," he told reporters after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Amsterdam on March 24. "We are united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far."
Obama told the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant that his message to European leaders is that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to "understand the economic and political consequences of his actions in Ukraine" but that "it's important that Ukraine have good relations with the United States, Russia, and Europe." Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Edward Yeranian||March 20th 2014|
Syrian warplanes bombed areas along Lebanon's northern border Thursday amid bitter fighting between rebels and government forces in a historic border town. Scores of civilians and fighters were reported to be fleeing into Lebanon.
Ambulances ferried victims of the fighting to hospitals in northern Lebanon. Rebel fighters and civilians forded a border river to enter Lebanon after the regular crossing was closed.
Syrian state TV reported that government forces had captured the besieged old Crusader fortress town of Qala'at al-Hosn by mid-afternoon, but the report could not be confirmed. Syrian fighter jets reportedly strafed areas near the border, causing a number of casualties. A young man who lives on the Lebanese side complained that the Syrian conflict had spilled onto Lebanese soil. Read more ..
|Andy Henion||March 19th 2014|
Stopping massive data breaches like the one that hit Target will require a more sophisticated, collaborative approach by law enforcement agencies around the world, a Michigan State University cyber security expert argues.
In a new research report for the National Institute of Justice, Thomas Holt found many hackers and data thieves are operating in Russia or on websites where users communicate in Russian, making it easier to hide from U.S. and European authorities. All countries need to better work together to fight hacking and data theft campaigns, he said, and use undercover stings in which officers pose as administrators of the Internet forums where stolen data is advertised.
The Target breach, which comprised 40 million credit- and debit-card accounts during the 2013 holiday shopping season, may have originated in Russia, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. “This is a truly global problem, one that we cannot solve domestically and that has to involve multiple nations and rigorous investigation through various channels,” said Holt, associate professor of criminal justice. Holt authored the 155-page report with Olga Smirnova from Eastern Carolina University. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||March 19th 2014|
The Arab Spring, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the war in Syria have contributed to the rapid escalation in the number of Sunni and Shia jihadists. Their threat expands far beyond the Arab countries to the rest of the world.
During the Soviet-Afghan war, (1979-1989) jihadi operations were concentrated in Afghanistan. In his book "Taliban," Ahmed Rashid estimated that 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Muslim countries in the Middle East, North and East Africa, Central Asia and the Far East fought for the Afghan Mujahideen. Eventually, Rashid said, "more than 100,000 Muslim radicals were to have direct contact with Pakistan and Afghanistan and be influenced by the jihad." After the Soviets departed, tens upon tens of thousands of jihadis went home to spread violent Islamism. Afghanistan's role as cradle of jihadism continued through the period of U.S. and NATO involvement, to this day. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Julien Happich||March 18th 2014|
Using clever design rules and crunching numbers through computational simulations, Researchers from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University (North Carolina), have managed to engineer a hollow structure that could cloak any object placed inside, from sound.
The cloak is made of sheets of plastic, designed into a structure with precisely repeating perforation patterns and specifically engineered to process sound waves as they pass by, so as to interact with them in a way that conceals both the cloak and what’s inside.
“To give the illusion that it isn’t there, the cloak must alter the waves’ trajectory to match what they would look like if they had not come across it”, explains professor Steven Cummer, leader of the project at Duke University. The cloak effectively works from all directions, it takes the sound wave "processes it mechanically" and restores it in its original wave front as if no obstacle had been encountered by the sound wave. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Jonathan Spyer||March 17th 2014|
The disintegration of the Syrian state into warring enclaves is bringing with it new challenges and threats for Israel. Alarm bells have now been sounded on Israel’’ shared northern border with Syria.
“For the moment, they [Jihadis] are not fighting us, but we know their ideology. . . . It could be that, in the coming months, we could find ourselves dragged into confrontation with them,” said a top-level Israel Defense Forces officer.
In addition to the Jihadi threat, the Iran-sponsored terrorist entity Hezbollah remains Israel’s most potent security threat in the north. Just last month, Israel reportedly struck a Syrian weapons convoy on its way to Hezbollah. Evidence is now beginning to emerge of the methods the Jewish state is adopting to meet this new reality.
Since mid-2012, Syria has been effectively divided into three enclaves. The first of these is the area controlled by the Bashar Assad regime, supported by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The second is an area under the rule of a confusing mass of rebel forces, mainly consisting of Sunni Islamist militias. The third, in the far north-east, is an area controlled by Syria’s Kurds. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Hasib Danish Alikozai and VOA Afghan SVC.||March 16th 2014|
U.S. and NATO military commanders in Afghanistan are reportedly developing plans to deploy a NATO military force in Afghanistan this year designed to assume a training mission in 2015, but small and nimble enough to be withdrawn if the Afghan government does not sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that lays out conditions for NATO’s continued security presence in the country.
President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the BSA even though it has popular support and was approved by a traditional grand council or Loya Jirga. The U.S. has warned if the BSA is not signed it will proceed with the so-called “Zero Option” and pull all U.S. forces from the country by the end of the year.
Karzai has said he objects to BSA provisions that allow night raids by NATO forces and also any U.S. initiatives to negotiate with the Taliban. He has also said his successor should sign the agreement because it will be up to him to deal with the consequences.
U.S. officials say they do not expect the BSA to be signed until after presidential elections in April, but President Obama recently warned Karzai in a phone call the longer the wait the less effective a BSA will be. “We will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year. However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S mission,” Obama said in his phone call with Karzai, adding that “Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.” Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Heather Murdock||March 15th 2014|
The U.N. says nearly 500,000 people in northern Nigeria have fled their homes in fear of what it calls an “increasingly monstrous” insurgency that threatens food security in many parts of the country.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who visited Nigeria this week, warned that what was formerly an internal conflict has become a regional crisis. The insurgency in northeastern Nigeria has “spilled across borders” into neighboring West African countries along with nearly 60,000 refugees, Pillay said.
“With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across international borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter," she said.
Pillay urged Nigeria to broaden its counter-terrorism strategy and work more closely with neighbors and the international community to stop the Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram. Inside Nigeria, she adds, farmers have abandoned their fields as they flee the insurgents, threatening food security in many areas. Read more ..
Isreal on Edge
|Alex Finkelstein||March 14th 2014|
Jewish Policy Center
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the media in front of a stockpile of seized weapons in Eilat on Monday. Israeli intelligence had been tracking the weapons which were flown from Damascus to Tehran and then put on a Panamanian flagged ship. The arsenal was ultimately captured last week by the Israeli Navy in the Red Sea near Port Sudan and taken to Israel for further examination. The shipment contained 40 M-302 missiles as well as 400,000 rifle shells and 180 mortar rounds.
Israel believes the weapons were bound for Gaza via smuggling tunnels in Egypt. Islamic Jihad a terrorist group with stronger ties to Iran, and not Hamas, was the most likely intended recipient. However, smuggling the missiles over land has become somewhat more difficult since the Egyptian security crackdown in the Sinai region. For this reason, some analysts speculate the shipment was not actually going to Gaza, but would stay with terrorists in the Sinai. No matter where the shipment was meant to go, M-302 missiles have a range of roughly 100 miles and would have inflicted major damage over wide swaths of civilian territory, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa - or Cairo - if successfully launched. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Frud Bezhan||March 13th 2014|
The deadly reemergence of a little-known militant group in Afghanistan has prompted fears that rogue insurgents could be an added source for concern ahead of a crucial presidential election.
The Feday-e Mahaz, or "Suicide Brigade," announced its return by claiming responsibility for killing Swedish-British journalist Nils Horner in Kabul on March 11. In a brazen attack that has sent shockwaves through the international community in Kabul, Horner was gunned down in broad daylight in the Afghan capital's heavily fortified diplomatic district.
Feday-e Mahaz said in a statement posted on March 12 on its website that it targeted Horner because the Taliban splinter group believed he was a spy for Britain's MI-6 spy agency, and not a journalist. The mainstream Taliban, meanwhile, denied any involvement in the killing as well as any affiliation with Feday-e Mahaz. Afghan officials consider the crime unsolved and are hunting for two suspects as part of their investigation. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||March 12th 2014|
President Obama’s recent defense strategy and budget proposal have made clear that five years of defense cuts are reducing the American military’s capacity to protect our many interests around the world. With still more than a half-decade of sequestration left to go, Pentagon leaders are bracing for a challenging future as outlined in stark terms by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently.
Unfortunately, smaller budgets are not the only tests the Pentagon must deal with as it attempts to recruit, train and equip the force of today and tomorrow. Increasingly, the military is confronting a variety of cyber- and espionage-related threats that could undermine, and in some cases already is damaging, the safety of American forces and the effectiveness of contingency plans. Read more ..
Air Travel on Edge
|William Ide||March 10th 2014|
It is still unclear why a Malaysia passenger jet vanished on its way to China early Saturday from Kuala Lumpur. But as authorities investigate apparent security lapses, analysts say they should be a catalyst for bolstering airline safety in the region.
The little information that has emerged from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has frustrated increasingly desperate families and authorities who are still searching for the plane.
In Malaysia Monday, transport minister Hishammuddin Bin Tun Hussein urged people to refrain from repeating rumors until authorities are able to verify what happened.
"I would like to plea, make a plea, especially to the media and the public at large, not to spread and disseminate unverified and false news for two reasons, One because it affects our exercise of search and rescue because unverified news or false news will distract us from work at hand," said Hussein. "And secondly to be fair to the families who are hoping against hope." Read more ..
The Battle for the Ukraine
|Alexander Bolton||March 9th 2014|
Gen. James Jones, President Obama’s former national security adviser, on Sunday urged his one-time boss to avoid a tit-for-tat escalation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Crimean Peninsula.
Jones warned the situation could spiral out of control and lead to a military confrontation.
“I think we don’t want to knee-jerk and overreact,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“A lot of the things that we’re talking about in terms of some of the tit-for-tat gestures that only tend to exacerbate the situation,” he said.
Jones said the administration should focus more on economic steps than military exercises, an option endorsed earlier on the program by former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“This is a strategic question I think that has long-term strategic consequences,” he said. “And it’s more about economies and about the future of the region than it is about troop displacements right now.” Read more ..
Groups on Edge
|Joe DeCapua||March 7th 2014|
A new report says attacking schools and universities has become a weapon of war. It says in the last five years hundreds of students and teachers have been killed and many more injured. The report – Education Under Attack – identifies 30 countries where “there was a pattern of deliberate attacks between 2009 and 2013.”
The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack published the 250 page study. Diya Nijhowne, the group’s director, said, “Attacks on schools, teachers, students, professors, academics [are] much more widespread than previously documented. Schools are being burned, bombed, torched. Teachers are being extorted, abducted. Students are being recruited into armed forces in schools and universities in conflicts across the world.” But why attack schools? Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Jeff Seldin||March 6th 2014|
Plans to shrink the United States military to levels not seen since World War II are not sitting well with many U.S. lawmakers. Some expressed their frustration and anger to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
With U.S. troops in Afghanistan, waiting to come home, anger is boiling over in Washington over the Defense Department's proposed budget cuts.
Pointing to events in the Middle East and Ukraine, lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged Hagel.
"This budget lacks a realistic assessment of the increased risks," said Senator James Inhofe. "President Obama seems unwilling to accept that the tide of war is not receding." Fellow Republican Senator John McCain was equally blunt. "Your timing is exquisite. You're coming over here with a budget that we agree on, at least on the number, at a time when the world is probably more unsettled than it has been since the end of World War II," he said. Read more ..
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