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The Iranian Threat

The Haqqani and Alavi Schools: Hotbeds for the Growth and Developmentof Iranian Leaders

October 9th 2013


In August 2013 the Iranian president presented his new government, which is largely comprised of technocrats with an extensive academic education. One of Rowhani's government's distinctive characteristics is the prominent presence of graduates of "Alavi" high school and "Haqqani" religious seminary. Ever since the Islamic revolution of 1979, these two educational institutions have been considered a "hotbed" for the growth and development of high-ranking officials in the upper echelons of the Iranian regime, who maintain their relations and form a network of allies within the government's various branches.

The political influence of the graduates of "Haqqani" religious seminary (established in Qom in 1964), many of whom are identified with the Iranian politics' radical right, reached its peak during President Ahmadinejad's first government. This can be partly attributed to the close relations between the former president and the senior conservative cleric Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, who was one of the founders of the religious seminary. Read more ..

North Korea on Edge

N. Korea Puts Troops on Alert Over US-Led Military Drill

October 8th 2013


North Korea has placed its military on alert and warned of "disastrous consequences" in response to a planned U.S.-led military drill near the Korean peninsula.

A North Korean military spokesman told state media all troops have been ordered to "keep themselves ready to promptly launch operations at any time."

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok confirmed North Korea's military has been placed on high alert.

"Our armed forces are closely monitoring the North Korean military's movements and are fully prepared to take a decisive action against the North's possible provocations," he said. The North Korean threat comes as U.S. warships deployed to the South Korean port of Busan for what officials describe as a routine search and rescue drill with the South Korean and Japanese navies. Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

Government Targets Hit in Egypt

October 7th 2013

Car Bomb

Attacks on government targets in Egypt Monday are adding to instability after a weekend of clashes. Suspected militants attacked a satellite television facility in Cairo, while a car bomb went off in front of a government building in the Sinai.

Ambulances rushed to the scene of a car-bomb explosion in the south Sinai capital of Tor Monday after the blast destroyed part of a government security compound. Witnesses say a section of the structure collapsed, burying victims under the rubble.

Egyptian state TV blamed Islamist militants in the Sinai for the attack and accused them of trying to destabilize the country. Several European countries recently lifted travel advisories to the Sinai, a top tourist destination, amid improving security. Egyptian analysts say the attack was probably intended to scare tourists away, intensifying economic pressure on the government. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

US Forces Hit Shabbab After Nairobi Mall Attack

October 6th 2013

Navy Seal Team 6

In a stealthy seaside assault in Somalia and in a raid in Libya's capital, U.S. special forces on Saturday struck out against Islamic extremists who have carried out terrorist attacks in East Africa, snatching a Libyan al-Qaida leader allegedly involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies 15 years ago but aborting a mission to capture a terrorist suspect linked to last month's Nairobi shopping mall attack after a fierce firefight.

A U.S. Navy SEAL team swam ashore near a town in southern Somalia before militants of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. The raid on a house in the town of Barawe targeted a specific al-Qaida suspect related to the mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told AP. Read more ..

Broken Government

Defense Firms to Begin Furloughs Monday

October 4th 2013

B-2 Bomber

Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other defense firms will furlough thousands of employees starting on Monday if the government shutdown has not ended. Lockheed Martin said Friday that 3,000 employees would face furloughs on Monday due to the shutdown.

United Technologies Corp.'s (UTC) subsidiary Sikorsky plans to furlough 2,000 employees Monday if the shutdown is still in effect, and the defense firm said Pratt and Whitney and UTC Aerospace System could also issue 2,000 furloughs next week. In all, UTC said more than 5,000 employees could be furloughed if the shutdown lasted into November.

Boeing said that it could issue furloughs “in the coming days,” and BAE Systems Inc. indicated 10 to 15 percent of its 35,000-person workforce could be impacted by the shutdown. The defense industry warned the Pentagon in a letter Thursday that thousands of furloughs would hit the industry due to the 400,000 civilians who are furloughed within the Defense Department. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Terrorist Abu Sukkar Glorified in Speech Given in Abbas' Name

October 3rd 2013

Abbas UN

Moderator at the PA memorial for terrorist Ahmad Jabara Abu Sukkar: “The speech of President Mahmoud Abbas will be delivered by Jibril Rajoub, member of Fatah’s Central Committee.”

Member of the Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub: “Abu Sukkar, the legend who walked on earth, Abu Sukkar, who with the sweat of his brow, with his faith, with his sincere belonging outlined a path for us and wrote a page [of history] that is unforgettable and indescribable… Believe me that Abu Sukkar is worthy of being named the most noble among the noble [prisoners] because he is Abu Sukkar. Abu Sukkar, who spurned his American passport, who scorned the life of comfort, who returned to the homeland [from the US] to fulfill our dream, is worthy of receiving the utmost honor and appreciation from us. To the people of [village] Turmus Ayya and to Abu Sukkar’s family, I say: ‘You lost a hero, but we, Abu Sukkar’s comrades… in Fatah and in the Palestinian National Movement, lost a beacon…’ Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Kerry in Asia to Discuss Security, Trade

October 2nd 2013

John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has started a six-day trip to East Asia for meetings on regional security and trade.  Kerry will participate in a U.S.-Japan defense dialogue in Tokyo before joining President Barack Obama in Bali for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC). 

Kerry arrived in Japan Wednesday one day ahead of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee. The strategic defense dialogue in Tokyo brings together the top U.S. and Japanese diplomats and defense chiefs.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reports the two sides will discuss a schedule for revising a bilateral defense agreement by the end of 2014. The decades-old security arrangement outlines responsibilities for U.S. and Japanese forces in defending Japan. Tetsuo Kotani, a researcher at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, said the meeting Thursday to change that agreement marks the beginning of a new U.S.-Japan alliance. Read more ..

Israel and Iran

Netanyahu Slams Iran at UN; Iran Lashes Back

October 1st 2013


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.  Speaking on the last day of the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, he cautioned the international community about Iran’s new president, saying his charm offensive is only a strategy to get crippling sanctions lifted.  Iran's envoy lashed back, calling Netanyahu’s speech "inflammatory."

During his UNGA address, Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately launched into his argument that Iran is not on the path of change, saying new President Hassan Rouhani is a “loyal servant” of the Islamic hardline regime and no different from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad.  But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing; Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  A wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” said Netanyahu. He listed a catalog of Iran’s actions - from directly supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to jailing and executing political dissidents - saying it's clear Iran has not changed. Read more ..

The War on Drugs

Brazil Container Terminals to Get Updated Mega-Scanners to Detect Contraband

September 30th 2013

Click to select Image

All the 21 container terminals in Brazil will get a mega scanner before January 2014. The Port of Santos (above), which is the biggest in Latin America, started using a mega scanner on Sept. 1. Brazil’s ports are becoming electronic fortresses designed to prevent the trafficking of weapons and drugs, as well as other illegal merchandise.

Marine cargo terminals up and down Brazil’s coast are receiving mega scanners capable of penetrating up to 30 centimeters of steel. The authorities hope the technology will help curb the drug trade, which in recent years has opened a new maritime route between Brazil and Africa.

“It used to take us six hours to release a container. With the mega scanner, we need only 10 seconds,” said Carlos Wilson Azevedo Albuquerque, the chief inspector at the Customs Office in the Port of Pecém in the state of Ceará.

The equipment scans all of the 10,000 containers that pass through the port monthly, Albuquerque said.

“Approximately 40% of the Brazilian fruits sent to Europe and the United States are shipped from Pecém. There’s no way to open and inspect every single case,” he added. “The scanner makes a big difference.”

Each mega scanner costs about US$3 million and processes up to 120 containers an hour. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Al-Qaeda Entrenchment in Syria

September 30th 2013

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

During the Syrian civil war two branches of Al-Qaeda established themselves among the rebel organizations fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The most prominent is the Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), directly subordinate to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The other is The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, subordinate to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In addition, other Salafist-jihadi military organizations not necessarily affiliated with Al-Qaeda operate in Syria. The two Al-Qaeda branches have an estimated 6,000-7,000 operatives, and in our assessment the number is growing.

This study deals mainly with the Al-Nusra Front, an organization established at the end of January 2012, ten months after the outbreak of the Syrian uprising. Initially it operated as a branch of the Islamic State in Iraq, a Salafist-jihadi umbrella network affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq. To make its status official, in April 2012 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, announced the union of the two organizations, to be called "The Islamic State in Iraq and in Al-Sham (Greater Syria)." However, the union was not honored by the Al-Nusra Front and was annulled by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in June 2013, who said the Front was the official Al-Qaeda branch in Syria. That resulted in a split between the two branches of Al-Qaeda in Syria and today they are antagonistic toward both each other and rivals. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

British Terrorist 'White Widow' Converted to Islam in High School

September 29th 2013


British subject Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the "White Widow," and who is allegedly linked to the terrorist attack on a major Nairobi, Kenya, shopping mall, became a Muslim while attending high school in London, according to an Al Arabiya news story on Saturday.

When Lewthwaite was 17-years-old she had an Internet romance with a Jamaica Island-born Muslim named Germaine Lindsay, and she converted to Islam and married Lindsay, according to British law enforcement.

Whether or not she was involved in the Westgate Shopping Mall attack, the 29 year-old Lewthwaite is wanted by Interpol for her alleged participation in a terrorist plot to bomb holiday resorts in Kenya in 2011. Interpol last week issued a Red Notice for her capture. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Organizer Extradited from Nigeria Arraigned in New York

September 28th 2013

Prison bars

A member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is based in Yemen, was arraigned Friday in federal court in New York City after being extradited by the Nigerian government, according to the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y. The suspect, Lawal Olaniyi Babafemi, a Nigerian citizen, is charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury.

Babafemi is also charged with using firearms in furtherance of that crime. At this initial appearance in court in the United States after his extradition from Nigeria, Babafemi was ordered held without bail by Judge John Gleeson at the federal court building in borough of Brooklyn, N.Y.


The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Shabaab Threatens Much More Bloodshed

September 27th 2013


In the aftermath of the shocking Westgate Mall attack, the relatively unknown commander of Somalia's Muslim terrorist group Al-Shabaab on Thursday threatened to spill more blood in his organization's quest to cause Kenyan military members to cross the border back into Kenya. In an audiotaped message sent to media organizations in the Middle East and North Africa, Ahmed Abdi Godane, the face and voice of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, admitted that his minions launched the shockingly bloody attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi as vengeance for Kenya's military presence in southern Somalia and its role in helping the African Union fight Islamist terrorism. Of the five countries providing troops to the African Union's Mission in Somalia -- Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda -- Al-Shabaab’s animosity appears directed most towards Kenya, according to Al Jazeera.


The Edge of Terrorism

Kenya Mall Attack Highlights Police Role in Fighting Terrorism

September 26th 2013

Kenya Police

A terrorist attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi highlighted the importance of police in fighting terrorism. Kenyan police - many of them without adequate protection such as flak jackets - were the first to rush to the scene of the four-day siege that left at least 67 people dead and 61 missing. Security analysts say African nations need to emphasize the role of police in fighting terrorism. 

The first people to rush to the scene of the shooting in Nairobi’s upscale Westgate mall were regular policemen. They bore little resemblance to the heavily armed soldiers and elite police units who moved in with assault rifles as the four-day siege unfolded and gunmen from Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group executed shoppers and seized hostages.

Most of that first line of police officers weren’t even wearing uniforms and lacked basic protections such as bulletproof jackets and helmets. Most carried handguns - a poor match for well-equipped, heavily armed militants. Kenyans say they’re moved by these initial images broadcast around the world. Like the policeman who balanced a baby on the barrel of his rifle and carried the child outside. Or the cop who clutched his wounded stomach while covering the back of his colleague as he scanned for gunmen inside the mall. Or the young cop in the checked shirt who was photographed numerous times, escorting women and children to safety. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al Shabab Recruited Internationally for Kenya Attack

September 25th 2013


Kenyan intelligence reports suggest two Americans, who fought previously in Somalia, could be among the perpetrators of the four-day siege at a Nairobi shopping mall. U.S. officials are said to be looking into the claim that those gunman may be from the large Somali expatriate community based in Minnesota. U.S. Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, claims that 15 to 20 Somali-Americans are active in Al-Shabab ("The Youth" in Arabic), and that up to 50 people from Somali communities across the U.S. have been recruited by the Somali terrorist organization. Reports also suggest a British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, could be involved in the attack as well. Lewthwaite is the window of Germaine Lindsay, an Islamist who killed 26 people in the "7/7" terrorist attacks on London's transit system.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on Tuesday, saying the siege had ended after terrorists claimed the lives 61 civilians and six soldiers. However, gunfire continued to ring out for much of the day, as security forces cleared the upscale shopping center. In the days prior, up to 16 assailants, dressed in black and wearing turbans, targeted Westerners and non-Muslims as they threw grenades and fired automatic weapons. Kenyan officials released new details on the victims and perpetrators. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killings on Twitter. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Mall Attack Shows al-Shabab Still Potent Force

September 24th 2013

Al-Shabbab in Somalia

Two years after Kenyan troops deployed to Somalia to fight al-Shabab and help pave the way for the first government in 20 years, al-Shabab has taken its fight to Kenya. The Westgate Mall terrorist attack is an indication of the militant group's intentions and capabilities.

In October 2011 Kenyan forces moved into Somalia to counter alleged cross-border kidnappings and attacks by al-Shabab.  Within a week, the militant group threatened that it would bring down skyscrapers in Nairobi unless Kenyan soldiers withdrew.

The group finally made good on that threat September 21, when armed men stormed an upscale mall in Nairobi, killing scores of people, injuring about 175, and taking others hostage. Security experts in the region and some foreign embassies had warned the group was planning an attack on this scale in Kenyan cities. Read more ..

The Edge of Violence

Lawmakers Want Probe of Navy Faulty First Responder Radios

September 23rd 2013

Sandy Hook Shooting

Democratic lawmakers are calling on federal regulators to investigate reports that first responder radios failed during last week's shooting at Washington's Navy Yard.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) sent a letter on Monday to the heads of the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, urging them to work with other federal and local officials to investigate the problems. "It is imperative that we understand what happened to these communications systems and why," they wrote.

They also urged the officials to ensure that FirstNet, a planned nationwide wireless network for first responders, avoids similar communications breakdowns. It was reported last week that numerous firefighters and police officers were unable to communicate using their radios as they responded to the shooting. Some equipment stopped working as officers ventured into the building, and at least one officer was forced to rely on his cellphone. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Hezbollah Now Threatens all of Latin America

September 22nd 2013

Hezbollah waving flag

Illegal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering and smuggling are financing the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah in Latin America, according to experts and authorities. Increasingly strong evidence shows the Lebanon-based Shiite militia sponsored by Iran maintains ties with drug cartels and receives contributions from organized crime groups.

"The money is used to maintain a military structure and finance social activities among Shiite populations in Lebanon and the Diaspora," said analyst Paulo Botta of the Center for Contemporary Middle East Studies in Córdoba, Argentina. Authorities in the region also are investigating the Shiite militia's links between drug trafficking and terrorism. "There are suspicions that elements of Hezbollah based in the tri-border area [among Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil] are involved in drug trafficking," said Carlos Benítez, the director of Paraguay's Secretariat for Terrorism Prevention and Investigation (SEPRINTE). "We're working in coordination with security agencies from Argentina and Brazil to make progress [in these investigations]." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

At Least 39 Killed in Nairobi Mall Attack

September 21st 2013

Kenya Police

Kenya's president says at least 39 people have been killed and more than 150 wounded following an attack by heavily-armed gunmen in an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi.

Survivors say gunmen fired indiscriminately at crowds of shoppers and threw grenades as they moved into the Westgate Mall, a popular, upscale gathering place for shopping and dining in the capital.

Kenyan police and security forces say they have regained control of the mall, but the fate of the attackers is unclear. The militant group al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for the attack, in which some children were injured.

The Somalia-based armed militants claimed in messages posted on Twitter that its "mujahideen" carried out the assault in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia. The extremist group said it had warned that Kenya's military presence in Somalia would bring "severe consequences," and that bloodshed at the mall is only a "very tiny fraction" of the violence that has been inflicted on Muslims in their own country.

Seeking to reassure the nation, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke just hours after the morning attack, condemning what he called the cowardly act and praising Kenyans for their solidarity in the face of the terrorist threat. "Terrorism in and of itself is the philosophy of cowards," he said. "The way we lead our lives in freedom, unity and consideration for each other represents our victory over those who wish us ill." Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Port Of Damaged Goods: India’s Dangerous Investment In Iran’s Chahabar

September 20th 2013

Cargo Ship

India has launched a bold initiative to bolster its influence Southeast and Central Asia. The Indian government is investing significant capital in Iran’s Chabahar free-trade zone and the surrounding infrastructure to secure its economic interests throughout the region, reduce Pakistan’s sphere of influence and compete with China. While this policy seems attractive in the short term, this course of action is fraught with unanticipated dangers. Investing in Chabahar not only allows Iran’s rogue regime to fill its coffers with the hard currency it needs to repress its people and facilitate terrorism, but may also harm India’s strategic relationship with one of its most important allies, the United States.

Traditionally, the relationship between India and Iran has revolved around trade. In 2010, the two countries conducted $14 billion worth of business, mostly in oil and gas. India’s decision to invest $100 million in Chabahar, a port in the Sistan-o-Balochistan province on the southeastern tip of Iran, is part of this relationship. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel's Strategic Challenges: The Next Five Years

September 19th 2013

Israeli Jets Parked

Israel will face a complicated and challenging strategic landscape in the years to come. This, of course, could have been said at any point since 1948. Ever since the Zionist idea took the shape of a political movement, there have been several times at which the situation was even more dire than it is today. Yet the combination of recent developments in the region, in the broader international arena, and within Israel and the Jewish people, suggests that another demanding period lies ahead. And these challenges will make it more difficult for Israel to secure the nation state of the Jewish people and build peaceful relations with its neighbors.

The Threat from Iran
The most demanding challenge is the progress of Iran's military nuclear project, aimed at equipping the fanatical messianic regime in Tehran with an arsenal of atomic bombs that is intended to enable it to be a regional hegemon and a world power, and to threaten Israel's security attempting, ultimately, to wipe it off the map. At this stage, the Iranians have accumulated uranium enriched at a level that is 40-50 percent of the full enrichment process needed for military grade uranium, enough for the production of at least six bombs. Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Presses for Resumption of Nuclear Talks

September 18th 2013

North Korean Missile

China says North Korea is willing to work with Beijing on restarting six-party talks on its nuclear program. The talks have been stalled since 2008.

In the Chinese capital, authorities hosted Wednesday an international forum marking the 10th anniversary of the start of Korea’s nuclear talks. The forum included attendees from the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was sending a diplomat to attend merely as an observer.

Kim Kye-gwan, first vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and North Korea’s chief nuclear strategist, represented Pyongyang. Ahead of Wednesday’s gathering, China’s foreign ministry said Kim confirmed Pyongyang is willing to work with China on resuming the six-party talks.

Both China and North Korea have pressed for restarting talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. But the United States, Japan and South Korea oppose a restart until Pyongyang makes verifiable attempts to dismantle its nuclear program. Read more ..

The Philippines on Edge

Death Toll Jumps in Philippine Standoff as 64 Hostages Rescued

September 17th 2013

Moro Islamic Liberation Front

The Philippine military says the death toll in the more than week-long standoff with a Muslim rebel faction in the country’s south has surged to at least 90 people. More than a week of fighting has killed 72 rebels, 11 security forces and seven civilians, and displaced nearly 82,000 people. But on Tuesday authorities said they had rescued more than five dozen hostages and recaptured more than two thirds of the territory occupied by the rebels. 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines says it helped 64 people escape to their freedom in an overnight operation that started Monday evening on the outskirts of Zamboanga. Armed Forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said they succeeded because troops were closely trailing members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria's Chemical Disarmament Deadline Is Fastest Ever Tried

September 16th 2013

Syria's chemicals

When chemical-weapons experts work with things as dangerous as mustard gas and sarin, they don't like to be rushed.

But a fast timetable is exactly what the United States and Russia have agreed for Syria. The deadline of mid-2014 for destroying all of Syria's chemical weapons is the fastest schedule ever attempted, anywhere.

No wonder, then, many chemical-weapons experts are wondering what form the disarmament effort in Syria will take. And in the absence of details from Washington or Moscow, many assume the approach will have to be both extremely flexible and even unorthodox.

"I cannot see this go through the traditional orthodox process of setting up a destruction facility [in Syria], commissioning it, testing it, and then destroying in a systematic manner the controlled stockpiles, because that would take years," says Rolf Trappe, an independent chemical-weapons expert based near Geneva. "You can't really do that within a few months." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Beyond Tomahawks: Defeating Syria From the Air

September 15th 2013


While President Obama pursues a potential Russian diplomatic solution designed to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control, the potential for U.S. airstrikes remains very real. Should the President decide on military action, then he will likely return to his prior plan of securing Congressional approval. While the political debate over both Russia's proposal and Congressional authorization continues in Washington, U.S. military planners are busy preparing for a wide range of actions. Yet successfully attacking Syria goes far beyond simply launching cruise missiles from a few U.S. Navy destroyers sitting in the Mediterranean. Instead, the U.S. military will have to exploit the full dimension of its aerial capabilities in order to punish Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and deter him from using chemical weapons in the future. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

The Military Option and Disarmament Diplomacy with Syria

September 14th 2013

Standard Missile 3

If the threat of force persuaded Syria to agree to the destruction of its chemical weapons (CW) arsenal, as President Obama and his advisors claim, then clear signs that military planning and preparations continue could bolster the search for a diplomatic solution. This diplomatic "timeout" could also help the administration address concerns raised during the recent debate about the use of force, which focused on how a limited strike might deter further CW use by a determined and ruthless regime, avoid morphing into an open-ended conflict, and advance broader policy objectives in Syria.


Should the United States eventually decide to attack Syria -- whether to deter CW use or in response to Syrian obstruction of disarmament efforts -- limited strikes on tactical targets would likely yield only limited results. Bashar al-Assad's regime has become inured to hardship after more than two years of bloody, desperate fighting that has touched even its inner circle (e.g., the defense minister and his deputy -- Assad's brother-in-law -- were killed in a July 2012 bomb attack). Thus, a limited strike that focused on noncritical targets would probably not alter the cost-benefit calculus in Damascus; it might even assuage the regime's fears about U.S. military action, thereby emboldening Assad. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Rights Group Details Horrid Syrian Massacre

September 13th 2013

Syrian Dead

Atrocities and massacres have been regular occurrences in Syria’s two-and-half year civil war, but Human Rights Watch provided details Friday about one of the worst massacres carried out by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documents in exacting detail the summary executions of 248 people by Syrian government forces and allied irregular units in the mainly Sunni Muslim towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas on May 2 and 3 this year. The dead included women and children, some of them infants.

Shortly after the summary executions took place, the Syrian government acknowledged that its forces had been active in the towns—Sunni enclaves in a region overwhelmingly populated by pro-Assad Alawite Muslims—but insisted they had been battling “terrorists.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Palestinians Express Most Favorable View on Terrorism Among Muslims

September 12th 2013

Destroyed Bus

In a new survey released by the Pew Research Center, support for terrorism and terrorist groups remains high amongst Palestinians, despite overall drops in support of terrorist groups across the Muslim world. Charred remains of an Israeli bus that was attacked by Palestinian terrorists in 1978.

“Widespread Muslim concern about Islamic extremism is generally coupled with rejection of suicide bombing and other forms of violence in the name of Islam. However, in some countries, substantial minorities of Muslims say attacks on civilians are at least sometimes justified to defend Islam from its enemies; in the Palestinian territories, a majority of Muslims hold this view,” the survey said. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Israel’s Secret Doctors

September 10th 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

To help refugees from the Syrian war, Israeli doctors and aid workers must do their work furtively. When they go into refugee camps in Jordan, they change clothes so that they can fade into the background. They must be smuggled in and out. They don’t tell others where they’re going and when they go home they usually don’t say where they have been. Above all, they don’t want anyone to know the names of their patients.

They move “under the radar,” in the words of a clandestine organization in this field. When they treat Syrians in Israeli hospitals, they make sure no visiting journalist learns details that will identify the patients to authorities back in Syria.

Usually, Israel is glad to announce when it contributes to emergency relief. The case of Syrian aid is different. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Unexpected Iranian Dispute on Syria

September 9th 2013

Hassan Rowhani

Following the recent chemical strikes in Damascus, some analysts began to focus on whether Iranian president Hassan Rouhani had the will or ability to change the Islamic Republic's policy toward Syria (see PolicyWatch 2123). In the past few days, the "will" part of that question may have been answered: Rouhani and his allies seem to be using the chemical weapons controversy to pick their first major fight with domestic opponents. If so, the outcome of this fight -- as exhibited in how Tehran reacts to any military strikes by the United States and its allies -- will invigorate either the president or his critics. Based on the belief that successful foreign policy is the main key to ending Iran's economic crisis, Rouhani may have decided that he cannot cede the Syria issue, nuclear negotiations, or other diplomatic matters to the hardliners. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Significant Regime Defection in Syria

September 8th 2013

al-Assad and Generals

Members of the Syrian opposition are correct in describing Alawite army general Ali Habib Mahmoud's "defection" to Turkey over the past few days as a "blow to the morale" of the Assad regime. He is the most prominent military official to leave Syria since the July 2012 departure of Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, who came from a prominent family and was at one point close to Bashar al-Assad.

Habib became army chief of staff in 2004 and defense minister in 2009. He was the first Alawite to serve in the latter post since Hafiz al-Assad relinquished it in 1972, after which it was reserved for figurehead Sunnis. He is well respected among Syrians for resigning in August 2011, when the regime ramped up its murderous attempt to shoot the people into submission on the eve of Ramadan; this came shortly before President Obama declared that Assad must "step aside." Although Habib officially resigned for "health reasons," it was widely rumored at the time that he differed with the Assad family's approach to the uprising. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

In Syria, Banks Before Bombs: Consider Stronger Economic Sanctions before Military Intervention

September 7th 2013


As the White House considers taking military action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, the president has turned to Congress to authorize airstrikes. Lawmakers weighing their decision on the most consequential policy vote since the 2002 authorization for war in Iraq should encourage the President to also consider using an additional tool to force the Syrian regime to change course: stepping up economic warfare against Syrian banks and institutions that do business with them.

While sanctions are not a silver bullet, properly targeted, they might yet succeed in pressuring the regime to change its ways. Cutting off banks inside Syria and in other parts of the world that are helping the Assad regime gas its people and circumvent the already existing international sanctions regime—which includes an asset freeze, travel bans, and oil restrictions—should be a top priority for legislators on both sides of the Atlantic. This type of effort can have measurable policy impact for a simple reason: the Assad government needs money.

Without hard currency and access to the international market, the regime will find it far more difficult to fund its part in the civil war and its ability to purchase Russian-made weapons will be limited. Read more ..

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Afghan-Pakistani Talks Show Limited Cooperation

September 5th 2013

Hamid Karzai and Nawaz Sharif Sep 2013

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently completed a round of talks in Islamabad focusing on security and the Taliban peace talks. Karzai, who extended his visit an extra day, failed to gain substantial assurances of help from the Pakistani government.

President Karzai hoped Pakistan could help the Afghan High Peace Council gain momentum in talks with the Taliban. The Pakistani PM said he would help persuade the Taliban to move its diplomatic office from Qatar to Saudi Arabia or Turkey. Afghan leaders held strong objections to the mission in Doha after the Islamists raised their black flag over the compound earlier this year.

But Islamabad's political will apparently ran out; the Pakistani government refused to set a timetable to release more captured Taliban prisons. Karzai hopes freeing Taliban prisoners, such as second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, would help restart negotiations. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

US Military Intervention in Syria: The Broad Strategic Purpose, Beyond Punitive Action

September 4th 2013

B-1 Bomber

Until the publication of reports that Bashar Assad’s army carried out a large attack using chemical weapons in an eastern suburb of Damascus, Washington had not seriously considered military intervention in Syria. In light of the conclusion by Western intelligence agencies – reflected in the statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry – that the Assad regime is responsible for using chemical weapons, the US government is considering a military response. A military response, however, does not stand on its own; it obligates the United States to define its strategic purpose in using military force in Syria. 

The declared US objective is to punish Assad for the use of chemical weapons and to deter him from further use of these weapons. Undeclared but no less important American goals would be to damage the Syrian president’s sense of security; bring about an end to the slaughter, including the “conventional” slaughter; and bring about an end to the civil war. Read more ..

Jordan on Edge

Jordan May Be the Next Arab Government to Fall

September 2nd 2013

Bordering the attention-grabbing countries of Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is sometimes overlooked by the media and by policy experts because of its peace with Israel, its close alliance with the United States, and its relatively liberal socio-economic system. Underneath this façade of stability, however, is a country plagued by a number of economic and social issues that threaten to plunge Jordan into the chaos of the “Arab Spring” upheavals. “If there is to be another country, other than the ones that are already in play, and I include Yemen in that, and Bahrain… if there is to be a new country in play [in the “Arab Spring”], it is most likely to be Jordan,” Dr. Daniel Pipes, president and founder of the Middle East Forum, told JNS.org.

Jordan has long been a unique country in the Middle East, an aberration of sorts in a chaotic region and a holdover from a different era in the region’s history. Jordan was established by Great Britain post-World War I from the original Mandate of Palestine. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Shabaab Designated as Organized Crime by Kenyan Government

September 1st 2013


Somalia's Islamist terrorism network, the al-Qaeda ally Al Shabaab, was officially added on Friday to Kenya's list of groups involved in organized crime. In a statement released in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday, Attorney General Githui Muigai described terrorism not as a war to be fought with military troops but as criminal networks in the country.

"Organized criminal gangs are evolving in Kenya in unprecedented ways. The increasing incidents of the terror they unleash among citizens where lives are lost, property destroyed and injuries inflicted is very worrisome," Muigai said following the release of the report by the National Crime Research Center (NCRC) on Organized Criminal Gangs in Kenya.

The Kenyan government's top lawyer stated that there was a clear need for Kenyan law enforcement agencies "to apply a collective approach to tackle the threat."


The Battle for Syria

Canadian Appointed to the Chief of the Political Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria

August 30th 2013

Qaradaqi in Cairo

The political bureau of the Syria's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) announced (August 9, 2013) the official return of the Islamic movement to open political activity on Syrian soil after more than three decades of being banned by the Syrian regime.

Following is a translation of the MB's announcement (originally in Arabic):

"Hassan Hachimi, MB's head of political bureau, inaugurated during his visit to Aleppo in northern Syria few days ago the first office of the organization in the country after an absence that lasted decades of open political activity of the MB."

"The opening of an office of the MB party inside Syria is a great challenge in the face of Assad's regime and a step that stresses the Muslim Brotherhood's determination for a public return and to found, along with all other Syrian groups, a new political life in the country." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria and the Limits of Comparison

August 29th 2013


Because so many war plans simply do not survive the reality of war itself, each war is a unique universe unto its own and thus comparisons with previous wars, while useful, may also prove illusory. One of the many wrong assumptions about the Second Gulf War before it started was that it would somehow be like the First Gulf War, in which the pessimists had been humiliated by the ease of the victory. Indeed, the Second Gulf War unfolded in vastly different ways, this time proving the pessimists right. That is why the recent media refrain comparing a military operation in Syria with the one in Kosovo in 1999 worries me.

There are profound differences.

The Battle for Syria

Hezbollah Will Attack Israel If Strike Aims to Topple Syria's Assad

August 28th 2013

A massive military strike by the United States and its Western allies on Syria aimed at changing the balance of power in the country will likely trigger a swift intervention by Hezbollah, political analysts and sources close to the group said Tuesday.

Hezbollah’s response will likely involve the firing of rockets into Israel, igniting the dormant front in south Lebanon, they added.

However, analysts and experts predicted a limited U.S.-led military operation against sites in Syria suspected of stockpiling chemical arms or materials.

A senior source close to Hezbollah told The Daily Star the party was unlikely to retaliate in case the U.S. and its Western allies carried out a punitive operation against Lebanon’s neighbor.

But analysts warned that if the Western attack on Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians was aimed at striking the Syrian army or toppling the regime of President Bashar Assad, this would prompt a retaliation from Iran and Hezbollah against Israel. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Chemical Attack in Syria--Implications

August 27th 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

The regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad has once again made use of chemical weapons in Syria's bloody civil war, which has cost over 100,000 lives since it began in March 2011. An aerial bombardment of several communities in the suburbs of Damascus apparently killed over a thousand people. Videos show numerous corpses with no sign of external injury, as well as bodies of people who died of asphyxiation.

The Assad regime has already crossed all moral lines in this war, and is committing genocide against the Sunni Muslim population by indiscriminate bombardment of civilian targets, mass executions, the torturing to death of thousands of detainees and prisoners, and mass acts of rape. In the regime's view the war against the popular insurrection and rebel forces is a zero-sum game; giving up the reins of government would likely entail the genocide of the Alawite minority by the Sunni majority. That majority is now led by radical Islamic organizations that mostly share the aim of establishing an Islamist regime in Syria that would implement Shari'a law. Read more ..

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