Pakistan on Edge
|Abubakar Siddique||August 17th 2013|
The Pakistani government's decision to restore capital punishment was designed to put the fear of god into the hearts of the country's hardened militants. Instead, the move has provoked threats of war from Taliban factions as some of their comrades face imminent death by hanging.
The first three executions are slotted for next week. They include at least one prominent militant figure and two low-profile extremists associated with anti-Shi'a Sunni hard-line groupings. Their scheduled execution prompted three major Taliban factions this week to issue a stern warning to leaders of the governing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) for pushing ahead with the hangings.
The three militants include Muhammad Aqeel (aka Dr. Usman), who was convicted of masterminding a deadly attack against Pakistani military headquarters in 2009. Leaders and purported spokesmen of Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e Jhangvi and Mujahedeen-e Ansar, told PML-N leaders to brace themselves for a wider war if Aqeel and the two other militants were executed next week. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Jim Kouri||August 16th 2013|
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A group of physicians who provide emergency healthcare and medical treatment free of charge for the people of war-torn Somalia on Wednesday informed the world that they were fleeing the country by crossing the border into Kenya, according to officials from the non-governmental agency (NGO).
Officials from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, claimed that the threat of Islamist-perpetrated violence had become intolerable and the medical staff providing the starving and homeless population were fearful for their lives.
This latest setback comes in the wake of the Somali government's attempt to convince Somalis and foreign governments and businesses that they are being victorious against the Islamist group and al-Qaeda-affiliate, Al-Shabaab.
India on Edge
|Anjana Pasricha||August 15th 2013|
India has launched an indigenously-built aircraft carrier, joining a small group of countries capable of building such a warship.The project is part of India's efforts to enhance its naval capabilities amid a growing regional rivalry with the other Asian giant, China.
Standing in front of the 37,500 ton warship decorated with flags and buntings in the southern city of Kochi on Monday, Defense Minister A.K. Antony called it a “red letter day [a day of special significance] for the nation.”
There was an outpouring of national pride at the carrier's launch. India's biggest warship has been designed and built locally, making it the fifth country after Britain, France, Russia and the United States to do so. The aircraft carrier is not yet operational. It will be fitted with advanced weaponry and undergo extensive sea trials before being put into service sometime around 2018. But defense analysts point out that New Delhi has beaten its regional rival, China, in building an indigenous aircraft carrier. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Zach Pontz||August 14th 2013|
Cairo has come under curfew—and many parts of Egypt under a month-long state of emergency–after protests Wednesday turned violent, leaving as many as 150 people dead, according to media reports.
Egyptian security forces had moved early in the day to clear a sit-in of supporters of recently ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo. The security intervention prompted nationwide clashes.
Amid the violence, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour said in a statement that a state of emergency would begin at 4 p.m. and ordered the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. The exceptional measures came as “the security and order of the nation face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life by extremist groups,” Reuters quoted Mansour as saying. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Geroge Friedman||August 13th 2013|
There are growing indications that Iran, Syria and their local proxies may be attempting to build up militant capabilities in the West Bank to eventually threaten Israel. Physically transferring weapons into Fatah-controlled West Bank will remain a key challenge, as recent arrests of weapons smugglers in Jordan have shown. Though Iran and Syria face many constraints in trying to spread militancy to the West Bank, their quiet efforts are worth noting, particularly as Hamas and Iran are now finding reasons to repair their relationship after a period of strain.
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In the past several days, Jordanian authorities have reported two separate incidents in which groups of smugglers traveling from Syria have been caught with weapons and drugs in Jordan. A Jordanian security official speaking anonymously to local media said that five Syrian smugglers were caught the morning of Aug. 6 with anti-tank missiles, surface-to-air missiles and assault rifles in their possession. According to a Stratfor source, the arrests were made near Madaba in central Jordan.
The Edge of Terrorism
|Beth Kanopsic||August 12th 2013|
Jewish Policy Center
The U.S. State Department urged all American citizens to leave Yemen on August 8, citing increased terrorist activity and civil unrest. All non-emergency U.S. government personnel working in the country were also evacuated. The State Department announced Sunday twenty embassies and consulates through the Middle East and North Africa would remain closed into a second week. The UK, France, and Germany also temporarily closed their missions in Yemen.
American officials cited terrorist organizations, notably al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), could be in the final stages of planning attacks against Western targets. Communication between jihadist operatives, known in the intelligence community as “chatter,” increased significantly in the few days leading up to the travel warning and embassy closures. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Edward Yeranian||August 11th 2013|
An Egyptian military spokesman says Egyptian Air Force helicopters have been carrying out strikes close to the Israeli border, in an effort to root out Islamist militants operating in the area.
The attacks follow claims by an Islamist militant group that an Israeli drone strike Friday killed at least four of its fighters.
Egyptian media are reporting that Islamist militants attacked army troops overnight in the coastal Sinai resort town of el Arish. A soldier guarding an officers club was lightly wounded. Another attack was reported near the town of Sheikh Zaweid, near the border with Gaza. Militants have stepped up attacks on army forces in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the army says it has used Apache helicopters in a series of strikes on militant targets near the Israeli border. An army statement indicated that at least 12 militants were killed in a strike on the village of Touma, near Sheikh Zaweid, overnight.
An army spokesman has denied reports that Israeli drones carried out a strike against Islamist militants on Egyptian soil. An Islamist militant group calling itself Beit al Moqadess claimed that four of its fighters were killed by an Israeli drone strike Friday. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Keith Laing||August 10th 2013|
High-ranking Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Saturday that “time is quickly running out” for finding a solution to political turmoil in Egypt following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi.
Fresh from a trip to the North African nation on behalf of President Obama, the GOP lawmakers said in an op-ed in The Washington Post that they still had hope for a peaceful solution. But McCain and Graham said Egyptian leaders need to act soon to prevent a full-scale civil war.
“We traveled to Cairo this week to support a U.S. and international effort to help Egyptians end their political crisis,” the lawmakers wrote. “We met with leaders from the civilian government, armed forces, political parties, civil society and the Muslim Brotherhood. We returned convinced that time is quickly running out to resolve this crisis, but that there is still a chance to do so if Egyptians of goodwill come together for the sake of their country, which is the heart of the Arab world and home to a quarter of its people.” Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Charles Recknagel||August 9th 2013|
It's no secret that Saudi Arabia wants to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But just how much Riyadh is willing to use its money to reach that goal can be surprising.
One measure was a meeting on July 31 in Moscow between Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Details of the meeting are still sketchy, but Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia say the prince offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons if Moscow agreed to ease its support of Assad and stop blocking future UN Security Council resolutions on Syria. At the same time, the prince reportedly offered to ensure that no Persian Gulf country would export natural gas across the Arabian Peninsula to challenge Russia's position as the main gas supplier to Europe. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Carlos Munoz||August 8th 2013|
A foiled terrorist plot by al Qaeda's Yemeni faction to take over several cities in the country was driven by the terror cell's desire to reclaim the birthplace of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
One of the cities targeted by the Yemen faction, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was Mukalla. The port city in southeast Yemen is the provincial capital of Hadramaut, which is the ancestral home of the bin Laden family, according to The Washington Post.
Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said the broken up terror plot included plans for AQAP gunmen, disguised as Yemeni soldiers, to overrun Mukalla and other cities in the southeast. The plan to take over the Hadramaut capital and surrounding areas was part of an overarching strategy to move AQAP's power base from its current strongholds in Abyan province in the south, Yemeni officials told the Post on Thursday. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Elizabeth Arrott||August 7th 2013|
Egyptian authorities say they will not tolerate the massive sit-ins by members of the largely Islamist opposition, but threats of dispersal are being dismissed by the thousands hunkering down in the encampments.
Cairo is on edge. Opponents of military rule said they would stay in their protest camps until ousted President Mohamed Morsi was re-instated. Authorities, citing national security, said they would use any means necessary to clear the sites.
Some of the protesters said the camps posed no threat. Ahmed Abu Bakr, a professor at Suez University, was among a group of men marching out of the camp for a rally at a security office. He waved aloft his Koran.
"All of the military say that we have weapons here, that we have machine guns here. But no one has anything. Nothing here. Just our Korans," he said. But some of the marchers flashing peace signs were also carrying sticks. Others wore helmets and gas masks, in anticipation of clashes.
The march ended peacefully, but there has been deadly fighting in the weeks since opponents of the military-backed government have taken to the streets. For all the talk of peaceful demonstrations, pro-Morsi computer engineer Ahmed Omar ruled out the idea of Gandhi-like passive resistance. Read more ..
India and Pakistan
|Anjana Pasricha||August 6th 2013|
India has accused Pakistan of killing five soldiers and injuring another in an attack along the disputed Kashmir border. The attack could set back efforts by the two rival countries to resume a stalled peace dialogue.
Indian army officials said Tuesday Pakistani soldiers entered the Indian side of the Kashmir border and ambushed a military post around midnight. They called it a “gross violation” of a 2003 ceasefire.
The Pakistani army denied involvement and dismissed the Indian allegations as baseless. In New Delhi, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament that about 20 heavily armed men wearing Pakistani army uniforms launched the attack.
“We strongly condemn this unprovoked incident," Antony said. "Government of India has lodged strong protest with government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels. I assure the house that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps.” Read more ..
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Iran may be embarking on the worrisome plutonium path to nuclear weapons. WSJ report Jay Solomon wrote:
"Iran could begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer, U.S. and European officials believe, using a different nuclear technology that would be easier for foreign countries to attack. The second path to potentially producing a nuclear weapon could complicate international efforts to negotiate with Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, who was sworn in Sunday in Tehran. It also heightens the possibility of an Israeli strike, said U.S. and European officials. New Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, seen after his swearing-in at the parliament in Tehran on Sunday, called on the West to drop sanctions." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Michael Bowman||August 4th 2013|
U.S. lawmakers and former high-ranking officials say the closing of more than 20 American embassies and consulates and the issuance of a global travel alert are both extraordinary and appropriate responses to credible terrorist threats.
Republican lawmakers are often critical of President Barack Obama’s decisions. Not so when it comes to current embassy closings and a global travel warning. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Michael McCaul, spoke on the CBS Face the Nation television program.
“We are on a high state of alert," he said. "I think the administration’s call to close these embassies was actually a very smart call.” U.S. actions can cause terrorists to rethink their plans, according to McCaul. “When you let them [terrorists] know what you know, you put them on their heels, and they often times back down,” he said. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Dan Robinson||August 2nd 2013|
U.S. President Barack Obama and Yemen's president, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, held talks at the White House Thursday on the political reconciliation process in Yemen, counterterrorism cooperation and economic assistance.
Hadi's visit to Washington came at a pivotal time as Yemen continues difficult national negotiations for political, economic and other reforms.
Since 2012, after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down following mass demonstrations, Hadi has overseen a National Dialogue involving more than 500 delegates from across Yemeni society.
Obama has said the process could serve as a model for peaceful transitions and after their talks, on Thursday he praised progress achieved so far. "Because of his leadership, he has been able to initiate a national dialogue that can potentially bring the parties all together in Yemen, and produce a constitution and a transition to a fully democratic government that can serve the interests of the people," said Obama. Read more ..
North Korea's Nukes
|Steve Herman||July 31st 2013|
Specialists following North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development concur the reclusive state is nearly certain to continue launching long-range rockets which may be intended to improve its capability to fire weapons of mass destruction.
A North Korean official in Pyongyang last week told VOA News that another launch of the Unha series vehicle will occur “soon” as part of the country's “peaceful use of space.” He did not elaborate.
The latest in the series, the Unha-3, carried the apparently non-functioning Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star) satellite into a low Earth orbit on December 12, 2012. A floral exhibition, which closed Tuesday in Pyongyang, included several small-scale models of larger “Unha-9” rockets among the flowers, reinforcing the message that North Korea wants its people and the outside world to believe there will be additional launches. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Frud Bezhan||July 30th 2013|
A months-long effort by the United States and Afghanistan to hammer out a long-term security arrangement has so far achieved one obvious result -- each side has established clear red lines.
Read between those lines, however, and there appears to be enough common ground for each side to get what they want.
Going by the positions publicly taken by the two sides, they are at polar opposites on the terms of a continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
Afghan officials have said that if U.S. troops are to remain, they must answer to Afghan law. Upping the ante, officials as high up as the president have called for U.S. troops to pick up and leave entirely.
U.S. officials, eyeing the end of the current campaign in 2014, have made clear that they want a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place to protect U.S. troops from prosecution in Afghanistan. With no SOFA agreement, according to the message being sent from Washington, the "zero option" of leaving no troops behind is a very real possibility. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||July 29th 2013|
The House of Representatives debated and passed the 2014 defense spending bill this week. The White House has threatened to veto the bill for a variety of reasons, but one stands out: the unsustainable cost of military and retiree benefits.
The president's advisers are encouraging Congress to help them restrain internal cost growth on priorities like health care for troops. But Congress is moving in a different direction.
Reining in defense personnel benefits, pay and compensation is a small but important step to restoring fiscal health to the military's budget. While most are familiar with sequestration's cuts weighing on those in uniform, fewer – including those in Washington – are familiar with the budgetary storm brewing below the surface of the Pentagon topline. Internal cost growth on non-warfighting overhead like excess bases, the size and composition of the overall Pentagon workforce and excess or redundant headquarters and staff all threaten to crowd out other critical spending on military readiness, innovation and modernization. Read more ..
The Edeg of Genocide
A naturalized U.S. citizen living in Vermont was taken into custody by special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday charging him for obtaining his American citizenship through fraudulent means, according to a federal indictment.
According to law enforcement officials, 54-year-old Edin Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, while undergoing the application process for legal immigrant status and subsequent citizen status hid his record of crimes committed during the war in Bosnia.
According to the indictment filed in federal court, Sakoc of Burlington, Vt., committed the crime of naturalization fraud by giving false information about his commission of crimes and his participation in the persecution of Bosnian Serbs during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Read more ..
Edge of Islam
|Soeren Kern||July 26th 2013|
Muslims say they are upset over police who are enforcing the secular laws of France.
Police in the suburbs of Paris are working to restore order after hundreds of Muslims went on a rioting spree to protest the simple identity check of a Muslim woman who was wearing a full-face Islamic veil.
It is against the law to wear the face-covering niqab or the body-covering burqa in public spaces in France; violators are subject to fines of up to €150 ($200).
The latest round of violence erupted the evening of July 19 in Trappes, a gritty suburb situated 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Paris. Trappes has 30,000 inhabitants, many of whom are Muslim immigrants. Police say a crowd of possibly 400 Muslims gathered outside the Trappes police station in response to the arrest on July 18 of a man who had assaulted a police officer during an identity check on his wife, who was entirely veiled. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Scott Stewart||July 25th 2013|
The many and diverse efforts to arm the various actors in the Syrian civil war are really quite amazing to watch. These efforts are also quite hard to decipher -- and intentionally so -- since many of the arms transfers occur on the murky gray and black arms markets. Indeed, it is quite doubtful that anyone, whether Syrian intelligence, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service or the CIA really has a complete picture of all the channels used to funnel arms into the conflict. Certainly, I cannot hope to catalogue all of them here. However, the efforts to arm all of the factions fighting in Syria do provide a great opportunity to discuss the global arms trade and its various facets.
To understand the global arms markets we must first understand some critical things about the nature of weapons. First of all, it is important to realize that weapons are durable goods. While certain types of weapons and weapon components have a limited shelf life -- such as battery-coolant units for the FIM-92A Stinger missile -- numerous other weapons remain functional for many decades. Read more ..
|Luis Fleischman||July 24th 2013|
The Americas Report
Four members of the Bolivarian Alliance—Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua—have offered asylum to the National Security Agency (NSA) leaker, Edward Snowden. Snowden is believed to be in Russia, where he has repeatedly asked for asylum, which has not been granted by the Russian authorities. Meanwhile, Snowden has not responded to the offer by the four Latin American countries. At the same time that the United States was applying pressure on them not to provide asylum, the South American common market (Mercosur) adopted a resolution in support of Venezuela‘s, Bolivia’s and Ecuador’s right to provide asylum to Snowden while rejecting American pressure on these countries not to do so.
The Snowden case has had an impact not just because of the sense that the U.S. is bullying these Latin American countries not to accept Snowden but also because of the espionage activities that the NSA carried out in the continent.
It is important to stress a few important points. If any of these four Latin American countries consents to harbor Snowden, it would constitute a geo-political danger more serious than if the Russians had taken him. These four countries have an anti-American ideology and resent the fact that Latin American countries were targets of American surveillance. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Aryeh Savir||July 23rd 2013|
Tazpit News Agency
The number of losses Hezbollah has suffered during its involvement in the Syrian civil war is immense, especially during the final battle for Al-Qusayr, this according to a report released by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC). The assessment of the ITIC is that Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war has cost the terror organization almost 180 deaths and several hundred wounded. This assessment is based on ITIC having located 82 names of operatives recently killed, in addition to 96 names previously found. The numbers continue to rise as the fighting ensues.
Most of the Hezbollah operatives killed (120) met their deaths during the campaign for Al-Qusayr, the majority of them (114) in the final battle that began on May 19, 2013, and ended on June 5, 2013, with the takeover of the city by Assad's forces and the Hezbollah. Read more ..
The NSA Effect
|Richard Solash||July 21st 2013|
Recent revelations about the National Security Agency's (NSA) Internet surveillance program have caused waves in the United States, raised concern among Washington's allies, and sent the Obama administration scrambling for explanations. And they could be a godsend to authoritarian regimes around the world.
Internet experts say Washington's covert program to track the online activity of foreigners by tapping into the servers of Facebook, Google, Skype, and other U.S. companies could play directly into the hands of repressive regimes. The revelation could provide them with potentially powerful justification for existing programs that restrict online freedoms -- as well as cover for implementing new measures.
Ronald Deibert, the director of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, one of the world's foremost research centers on how cyberspace, global security, and human rights interrelate, says the United States has now largely ceded the moral high ground on Internet freedom. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
Israel National News
After Israel gave its consent last week to allow Egyptian military forces into Sinai in order to pursue Islamists, the IDF has placed an Iron Dome battery near Eilat. Last weekend, several rockets were reportedly fired at Israel's southernmost city as Islamist groups, fleeing Egyptian troops, took refuge in remote areas of the Sinai near Israel's border, and took the opportunity to attack Israeli targets.
With the summer tourist season in full swing and Eilat hotels and resorts packed to capacity, the last thing the army and government needs is a panicky run for the exits if Sinai terror groups decided to attack again – hence the placement of the Iron Dome system, which has been proven to intercept the type of short-range Kassam rockets and missiles that Sinai terrorists have fired at Israel. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Kathryn Jean Lopez||July 18th 2013|
National Review Online.
With Mohamed Morsi out and Egypt’s future unclear, Erick Stakelbeck, author of the new book The Brotherhood: America’s Next Great Enemy, talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about what the “Arab Spring” turned into and where Egypt may go from here, with a warning for the United States.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Is there anything about what’s going on in Egypt right now that surprises you?
ERICK STAKELBECK: I’m a bit surprised that it took the Egyptian military a full year to finally step in and pull the plug on Morsi’s disastrous, aggressively Islamist tenure. Beginning in August 2012, when Morsi suddenly and boldly sacked Egypt’s longtime defense minister and other top generals, and continuing through that November, when Morsi seized dictatorial powers and then rammed through a nakedly sharia-driven constitution, it was obvious that he and the Brotherhood (aided by a freshly minted, Islamist-dominated parliament) were going “all in” on their dream to transform Egypt into a draconian Islamic state. In the process, they dropped their longtime strategy of stealthy gradualism and made their nefarious intentions for Egypt abundantly clear to the world.
All the while, the Egyptian military brass largely stayed silent, even as Morsi attempted to stack its ranks — and those of Egypt’s military academy — with Islamists. Why the military waited so long to turn back the MB tide is unclear. As NRO’s Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, top general Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who was handpicked by Morsi, may himself have Islamist tendencies. But Morsi’s ham-handed, polarizing, and tactless methods of going about the Islamist project in Egypt had to be red flags for al-Sisi and other possible sympathizers in the military (as was the looming possibility of famine and starvation among segments of the Egyptian populace). The final tipping point for the military was clearly the demonstrations — the largest in human history — against Morsi and the Brothers during the first week of July. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Daniel Goure||July 18th 2013|
Jewish Policy Center
Nations, like nature, abhor a vacuum. It must be filled. How it is filled, by whom and with what are the challenging questions. Unlike nature, which seeks to fill a vacuum with whatever is handy and can be stuffed or sucked into the space available, nations rely on power, relationships and institutions to fill vacuums that arise in the international system. Political vacuums can readily be filled by raw power and the domination of the strong over the weak. Or they can be filled by the rule of law and a community of nations.
Twice in the last 60-plus years the United States chose to fill the vacuum caused by the collapse of old institutions, relationships, and power centers. After World War II, along with key allies, the U.S. created an entirely new international order with a set of democratic institutions and international agreements that have endured to this day. America, again in concert with many allies, also built a security apparatus and military machine of global reach and power unlike any seen in peacetime. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States did not simply declare victory and go home. Rather, even while reducing the size of its military, America chose to remain in the world, forward deployed, and committed to maintaining and even expanding long-established alliances and security relationships. As a result, the world was able to weather difficult and dangerous transitions and create or maintain a viable international system. In both cases, nations, including America's former adversaries, had the opportunity to become part of that system and to flourish. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Cindy Saine||July 17th 2013|
Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary have questioned why the National Security Agency is collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, when the majority of the calls are not relevant to any terrorist investigations.
The focus on Capitol Hill is shifting away from the former contractor who revealed the surveillance programs, Edward Snowden, to privacy and civil liberty concerns.
Edward Snowden, who has now applied for temporary asylum in Russia, unleashed a firestorm of controversy in the United States and abroad when he revealed massive phone and email surveillance programs conducted by the NSA. The House Committee on the Judiciary focused on the program authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was designed to prevent another major terror attack on the United States after September 11, 2001. Under Section 215, the NSA has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans and can store them for five years. Read more ..
|Richard P. Sia||July 16th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
With large budget cuts looming in the next decade, top Air Force officials knew last year they needed to halt spending on some large and expensive programs. So they looked for a candidate that was underperforming, had busted its budget, and wasn’t vital to immediate combat needs. They soon settled on the production line for a $223 million aircraft with the wingspan of a tanker but no pilot in the cockpit, built to fly over vast terrain for a little more than a day while sending imagery and other data back to military commanders on the ground.
Given the ambitious name “Global Hawk,” the aircraft had cost far more than expected, and was plagued by recurrent operating flaws and maintenance troubles. “The Block 30 [version of Global Hawk] is not operationally effective,” the Pentagon’s top testing official had declared in a blunt May 2011 report about the drones being assembled by Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, Calif. Read more ..
Brazil on Edge
|Eduardo Szklarz||July 15th 2013|
Cutting Edge Latin America desk
The Brazilian military will deploy more than 13,000 troops during Pope Francis’s July 23-28 visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day (WYD) — an event likely to attract 1.5 million to two million people.
The Coordination Center of Area Defense (CCDA/RJ) will manage defense and security actions in Rio and in the “Campus Fidei” [Field of Faith], venue for the closing vigil and Papal Mass, which is located in the Guaratiba region, about 70 kilometers west of central Rio.
Gen. José Alberto Costa Abreu, coordinator of the CCDA/RJ and commander of the First Army Division, said the recent Brazilian protests did not change WYD security planning. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Carolyn Presutti||July 15th 2013|
An Internet privacy group has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look into the government’s surveillance of phone records over the past seven years. Polls show Americans are divided over this issue.
The American public is split over whether the National Security Agency, or NSA, should continue phone and email surveillance to stop terrorists. Some say the concerns are overblown; others maintain that what people do in the privacy of their homes and on the Internet should be their business and nobody else's.
A recent Quinnipiac survey shows a reversal in public opinion. Three years ago, Americans overwhelmingly supported anti-terrorism actions over civil liberties. Pollster Peter Brown says a slight majority now think those efforts are eroding freedoms. "That’s a really big change and it’s significant,” says Brown. Read more ..
Egypt on Edge
|Walid Phares||July 14th 2013|
As soon as the Egyptian military asked President Mahmoud Morsi to step down and dismantle his Islamist regime, millions in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns celebrated the end of what they felt was a dangerous, fascistic regime. But despite an overwhelming popular support for the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, some U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama and later joined by Republican senator John McCain, expressed their rejection of the move because they argued it was “directed by the Egyptian military against a democratically-elected government.”
Awkwardly, the United States executive branch, along with some of its supporters in the legislature, sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be hardcore Islamists, against a wide coalition of democratic and secular forces which called on the military to help them against what they perceived an oppressive regime.
Why would Obama and McCain end up backing the Muslim Brotherhood while the liberals and secular forces of Egyptian civil society rise against the Brotherhood? The chaos in Washington has several roots but one global fact is clear: U.S. foreign policy has lost momentum in the Arab Spring. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Frud Bezhan||July 13th 2013|
As Afghanistan welcomes Ramadan in the spirit of worship and forgiveness, the Taliban has vowed to step up its campaign of violence during the holy month.
This is a reversal from the norm in Afghanistan, where the near-continuous fighting traditionally slows during Ramadan. But this summer, which has already seen a worrying uptick in violence, the militant group has pledged no letup.
Ramadan carries extra religious significance for the Taliban, which claims that jihad provides more rewards during the period of religious observance considered one of the five pillars of Islam. According to Islamic teachings, Allah multiplies any good deed during Ramadan by 70. "During the holy month of Ramadan, jihad has major rewards," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in an e-mail statement sent out on July 5. "Mujahedin will continue to employ all their fighting techniques to mount attacks on the enemy." Read more ..
The EMP Threat
|Langley Intelligence Group Network||July 13th 2013|
A recent study by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board concludes that cyber warfare poses such a serious ³existential threat² to the United States that Washington should be prepared to retaliate against an all-out cyber attack with a nuclear response. At least 33 nations are developing cyber attack and defense capabilities and integrating this new dimension of warfare into their military organizations, according to a United Nations survey.
Skeptics claim that the catastrophic scenarios envisioned for cyber warfare are grossly exaggerated, in part to justify costly cyber programs desired by the Pentagon and defense contractors. However, it is not widely understood that foreign military doctrines define cyber warfare as encompassing kinetic attacks, including electromagnetic pulse attacks that do represent an existential threat to the United States. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Skyler Schamanski||July 12th 2013|
More than 50 people were injured Tuesday in a car bombing targeting Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut representing the largest attack against the powerful Lebanese Shi'a Islamist militant organization in its near 30-year history. While no parties have stepped forward to claim responsibility for the explosion, the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star declared Israel had a hand in the incident. More significantly, discrepancies permeate the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) response to the bombing. While the group's mainstream leadership denied any involvement in the affair, an FSA battalion issued a Facebook statement declaring it had conducted the attack and vowed to continue such operations until Hezbollah ceased its backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Read more ..
Israel's Next Northern War
|Joshua Levitt||July 12th 2013|
On the seventh anniversary of the start of the month-long Second Lebanon War, marked Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has dramatically expanded its arsenal of weapons, exceeding 60,000 rockets and missiles in 1,000 military facilities, making the terrorist group capable of striking any part of Israel with continuous, precise attacks.
The organization’s missiles endanger Israel’s entire population, the IDF said. Hezbollah’s upgraded stockpile can strike at any of Israel’s civilian centers, including its southernmost city of Eilat. Thousands of missiles can strike targets within 40 kilometers, placing Israel’s northern region at risk of a devastating attack.
Seven years ago today, Hezbollah terrorists abducted two IDF soldiers in an unprovoked assault on Israel’s northern border. The attack sparked the Second Lebanon War, a month-long conflict in which Hezbollah fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Jeremy Herb||July 11th 2013|
The U.S.-backed Syrian opposition coalition is calling out Congress for blocking U.S. arms from reaching Syrian rebel fighters.
The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces issued a statement Thursday urging the House and Senate Intelligence committees to allow the arming of Syrian rebel groups “without delay.”
“The urgency of delivering these arms cannot be overstated as the regime continues to intensify its attacks on civilians and opposition forces in Homs, Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria,” said Najib Ghadbian, the coalition’s special representative to the United States. The congressional Intelligence committees last month voted to block the Obama administration from providing the military aid to the opposition over fears that that weapons would wind up in the hands of al Qaeda-affiliated groups. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Lilach Shoval and Staff||July 10th 2013|
The Israel Defense Forces has begun implementing government-mandated cuts to its budget, announcing Tuesday that several of its operational platforms will be reconfigured, while others will be retired in an effort to slash its expenditures.
The defense establishment has been asked to slash some 22 billion shekels ($6 billion) from its budget over the next three years.
As part of the operational restructuring, the Israel Air Force will shut down one of its veteran squadrons, as well as fuse two other squadrons into one. One of the IDF's ground units will be shut down as well, and several brigades will be reconfigured accordingly.
IAF Chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel met Tuesday with the servicemen assigned to the squadron that is scheduled to be dissolved and broke the news to them.
"The IAF would rather forfeit a jet than cut back on flight hours. We would rather have well-trained pilots and advanced equipment than hollow capabilities," a senior IAF officer said. The IDF has yet to finalize the restructuring of some of its ground units, but a military source familiar with the issue said the army would retire outdated tanks and other equipment whose operational relevance had significantly reduced over the years, ahead of making any changes that would affect personnel. Read more ..
The Middle East on Edge
|F. Gregory Gause III||July 9th 2013|
The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran has generated a boomlet of optimism, not only about the prospects for a deal on the nuclear question but also about the chances for a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia regarding the increasingly intense and increasingly sectarian regional struggle for influence. President Rouhani himself went out of his way to signal his willingness for a new relationship with Riyadh. Even Saudis skeptical about Iranian intentions are encouraged by the new Iranian president.
One source of this boomlet was Rouhani’s involvement in a past, successful effort at improving Saudi-Iranian relations. As a top aide to former President Rafsanjani, Rouhani negotiated directly with the Saudis in the mid-1990’s in an effort to improve relations after the Iran-Iraq War, where Riyadh supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq against Iran. That effort continued under President Khatami, who was elected in 1997, culminating in the signing of an agreement to cooperate on criminal issues like smuggling and drug trafficking during a visit to Tehran by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif in April 2001. Note that this was a bilateral agreement on criminal matters, not a security alliance or even a common understanding of regional international politics. It represented an improvement in bilateral relations, but not a meeting of the minds on foreign policy. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Walid Phares||July 8th 2013|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
As soon as the Egyptian military asked President Mohammed Mursi to step down and dismantle his Muslim Brotherhood regime, millions in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns celebrated the end of what they felt was a dangerous fascistic regime. But despite an overwhelming popular support for the ousting of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) from power, some U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama and later joined by Republican Senator John McCain, expressed their rejection of the move because they argued it was “directed by the Egyptian military against a democratically elected Government.” Awkwardly, the United States executive branch, along with some of its supporters in the legislature, sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be hard core Islamists, against a wide coalition of democratic and secular forces which called on the military to help them against what they perceived an oppressive regime. Read more ..
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