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The Defense Edge

Groundbreaking Ceremony for US Missile Defense Facility Held in Romania

October 29th 2013

patriot missile

Romania and the United States have inaugurated a military site that will be part of the NATO missile defense system that protects Europe from attack. Russia has vigorously opposed having a U.S. missile system so close to its borders, and a Russian analyst told VOA that Moscow is sure to retaliate. 

The land-based missile defense facility is located in a former air base near Deveselu village, 180 kilometers east of Romania's capital, Bucharest. U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller attended the groundbreaking ceremony there on Monday.

"When phase two is completed here in the 2015 time frame, Europe will be safer, U.S. forces will be better protected, Romania will be safer, and the NATO alliance will be stronger," said Miller. Romanian President Traian Basescu also attended the ceremony. Read more ..

Kenya on Edge

UN's Eliasson Calls for More Efforts Against al-Shabab

October 28th 2013

Al Shabaab

A top United Nations official visiting Nairobi has urged Kenyans and Somalis not to relent in the battle against Somali militant group al-Shabab. The group continues to threaten and attack security forces and civilians in both countries.

As Kenya and Somalia plot out ways to fight terrorism and subdue al-Shabab, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson says the terrorist threat is not only about killing and destruction, but also a threat to basic rights of the people.

“We have to see this threat as a threat also to the values and the principles that we stand for, both laid down in your constitution and laid down in something I always carry with me - the U.N. Charter.  This is the threat to the basic principles that are in here, and if we start to diminish these rights and the principles that are in here, they could say they could have succeeded,” said Eliasson. Kenya has boosted security in Nairobi shopping malls following text messages sent to shoppers warning them to keep away from some upscale shopping centers.  Read more ..

Iraq on Edge

At Least 50 Killed in Baghdad Blasts

October 27th 2013

Bomb Victims

Reports from Iraq say about 50 people were killed and dozens wounded when at least 10 bomb blasts rocked the capital, Baghdad, and other parts of the country.

Iraqi government helicopters hovered low in the skies of Baghdad while a thick trail of black smoke etched the horizon after the blasts.

One of the deadliest attacks hit a bus terminal with service to the town of Baquba.  Witnesses said several explosions sent people running for cover and spread shrapnel in all directions. 

Passengers were fleeing the station in panic in different directions, said a shopkeeper in the area. He said terrorists deliberately targeted places where people congregate. Only innocent people are hurt by such attacks, he added. Other bombings hit crowded markets in mainly Shi'ite areas of the Iraqi capital.  Another blast tore through a parking area in front of a government court.  Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Is War Inevitable?

October 26th 2013

Free Syrian Army

Throughout human history, war has taken countless lives, cost untold sums of money and brought great cities to ruin. But despite the long list of conflicts from ancient times to modern day, psychologists say war is not inevitable.

Much research has focused on the causes of war and how to deal with its aftermath. But three political psychologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say a better understanding of the psychological roots of war “can increase the likelihood of avoiding violence as a way to resolve conflicts with others.” Bernhard Leidner, Linda Tropp and Brian Lickel present their views in the peace psychology issue of American Psychologist.

Leidner, lead author, said “Mostly psychology, when it comes to war, focuses obviously on human tendencies to be aggressive, to be violent. So, it’s a lot of focus generally on the more negative end – problematic side – but not as much focus on either the positive side or how to actually prevent those problems in the first place.” Research shows, he said, that those who tend to “glorify their country” – a kind of nationalism – are more likely to choose a violent solution. Read more ..

Iraq on Edge

Iraq Wants U.S. Warplanes, Drones 'Immediately'

October 25th 2013

F15 in Afghanistan

Baghdad is requesting the White House and Pentagon accelerate planned deliveries of U.S. warplanes and unmanned drones to battle resurgent al Qaeda cells in the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will press the issue with President Obama during bilateral talks scheduled for next week in Washington.

The Obama administration agreed to provide $2.6 billion in American military airpower to Iraqi forces earlier this year.

But as al Qaeda cells in Iraq, and incresingly in Syria, continue to step up their campaign of bombings and attacks in the country, Bagdad has no choice but to pressure the administration to deliver U.S. weapons immediately.

"The first thing the Prime Minister will ask for is to accelerate the processes for the shipment of drones and F-16s," Iraqi Deputy National Security Adviser Safa al-Sheikh Hussein told Reuters. "The initial response from the U.S. was positive, but it depends on the delivery time. We want them immediately," he added during an interview Friday. Read more ..

The Drug Wars

Mexico's Zetas Are Not Finished Yet

October 24th 2013

Mexican Drug Police2

During the question-and-answer portion of our quarterly Mexico Security Monitor webinar, we were asked a question pertaining to the current status of Los Zetas. The question was something to the effect of: "Some Mexican media outlets and analysts claim that Los Zetas have been dismantled as an organization and are now little more than a 'ragtag operation.' Why do you disagree with that assessment?"

This question apparently came in response to our quarterly cartel report (an abbreviated version is available here), in which we wrote that despite the leadership losses suffered by Los Zetas, including the arrest of their leader, Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, there were no signs that other leaders were challenging the current leader and Miguel's brother, Omar Trevino Morales. We also wrote that we believed Los Zetas have maintained their operational capabilities in terms of drug smuggling and other criminal activity, and that they have retained the ability to defend their operations and to continue conducting offensive operations deep in the their rivals' territory. Read more ..

The Edge of Space

A New Use for Nuclear Weapons: Hunting Rogue Asteroids

October 23rd 2013

Nuclear Missile

When planetary scientist H. Jay Melosh attended a meeting between nuclear weapons designers from the United States and the former Soviet Union in May 1995, he was surprised by how eagerly the ex-Cold Warriors sought to work together against an unlikely but dangerous extraterrestrial threat: asteroids on a collision course with Earth.

After Edward Teller, father of the American hydrogen bomb, urged others in the session at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to consider building and orbiting large, new, nuclear weapons for planetary protection, some top Russian weaponeers in attendance voiced their support.

“It was a really bizarre thing to see that these weapons designers were willing to work together — to build the biggest bombs ever,” said Melosh, a geophysicist at Purdue University and expert in space impacts who has an asteroid named after him.

Ever since, he has been pushing back against relying on nuclear bombs for the earth’s defense, arguing that a non-nuclear solution — such as diverting the trajectory of asteroids by hitting them with battering rams — is both possible and much less dangerous. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Tensions Rise Between Turkey's Government, Alevi Minority

October 22nd 2013

Turkey flag waving

Alevi Muslims, Turkey's largest religious minority, are widely seen as the biggest losers in the government's recent package of democratic reforms.

Recognition of Alevi religious rights was widely expected to be included among the reforms, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said such a step could be taken after the issue is further studied. But the issue of Alevi religious rights remains deeply contentious, with many of the prime minister's grassroots Sunni supporters viewing Alevis, who do not pray in mosques, as heretics.

Prime Minister Erdogan’s democracy package included few reforms for the Alevis other than renaming a state university after an historical Alevi figure. Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist and columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf, says religious prejudice is behind the lack of such reforms. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

U.S. Warns Uganda of Imminent Terrorist Attack by Al-Shabaab

October 21st 2013

Al Shabaab

Police officials informed Uganda's citizens and visitors of tight security -- especially against Muslim terrorists -- ahead of November 3, when over 30,000 foreign tourists will visit to watch the hybrid eclipse, the rarest type of solar eclipse, in Uganda, according to a New Vision Uganda news story on Sunday.

The United States had provided intelligence to Uganda's security forces detailing an imminent terrorist attack similar to al-Shabaab's attack in Kenya where terrorists invaded Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall last July, according to the China Daily on Friday evening.

This latest warning comes amid increased security alertness in Uganda following similar police warnings that terrorists may attack.

The U.S. embassy's officials in Kampala, Uganda, said in a statement that a Westgate-style attack by the Somali-based, al-Qaeda ally Al-Shabaab may occur in Kampala, but the warning gave no information on timing or location of the attack.


The Battle for Syria

Ayman al-Zawahiri Urges Syria Jihadis to Create Caliphate

October 19th 2013

Syrian Jihadis

Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became the top leader of Al-Qaeda following the killing of Osama bin Laden, released a new audio-taped message to several Islamist websites and gave his opinion on a number events occurring in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Egypt. Zawahiri is heard counseling the Islamist fighters in Syria to unite in a common struggle against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime. He also warned them to end their collaboration with non-Islamist forces that oppose setting up a Caliphate once Assad is defeated and ousted from office, said the report.

"In our assessment, he was referring to the dispute between the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda in Iraq) and the Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra, the branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria directly subordinate to Ayman al-Zawahiri). Thereby he urged the two rival organizations to end their dispute and unite."


The Drug Wars

Mexicans Killed in Drug War Surpasses Americans Killed in Vietnam

October 18th 2013

Mexico crosses

With the number of Mexican's killed in that nation's eight-year drug war surpassing the number of Americans killed in the 10-year Vietnam War, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said during a televised forum on Tuesday that there must be improvements made in Mexico's national security and public safety, according to a federal government statement.

Nearly 80,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against Mexico's drug cartels in December 2006, according to Mexico's Ministry of Justice.

According to a recent survey conducted by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), "[W]ell over half of Mexicans living in urban areas consider living in their respective cities to be unsafe, and have deliberately made adjustments to their routines in order to avoid being victims of crime."


The Iranian Threat

Rowhani's Younger Brother Hossein Fereydoun as Adviser

October 17th 2013


Since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, his brother, Hossein Fereydoun, has been presented in the Iranian media as one of his allies and senior advisers.He accompanies the president to some of his meetings, he accompanied the president on his last trip to the meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York, and took part in the meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, the Five plus One Group and the United States, which was held in the margins of the conference.

Shortly before President Rowhani took office, the Iranian media reported the appointment of Fereydoun as Head of President’s Inspection Office. However, in a recent interview with the Fars news agency, the president’s brother denied that he holds any position in the government.He noted that no letter of appointment for a government position has been issued for him and that no position has been given to the Iranian media reported that President Rowhani has issued a decree officially appointing Fereydoun as his special adviser for executive affairs (http://www.tabnak.ir/fa/news/351184/ حکم - روحانی - برای - فریدون). Read more ..

The Edge of Violence

Shippers Raise Alarm Over Oil Piracy in Gulf of Guinea

October 16th 2013

Somali pirates

The vast Gulf of Guinea which is nearly as big as the Gulf of Mexico is now one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world, home to pirates that attack oil tankers and other cargo vessels at will, raising fears that shipping lanes that have existed for 500 years could be permanently disrupted.  

West African piracy centered on the Niger Delta has in recent years expanded from the coasts of Nigeria to the shorelines of many of the 11 West African countries that border the Gulf where pirates seize large oil tankers, siphon the product into smaller vessels, refine it in clandestine facilities and quickly sell it, fueling a regional oil black market. Oil-consuming nations are concerned because more than 30 percent of U.S. oil and 40 percent of Europe’s oil passes through the Gulf and is vulnerable to West African piracy. Read more ..

Iran's Nules

Trust but Verify Iran's Current Charm Offensive

October 15th 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to reassure the Israeli people that his positions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not changed. He told an audience at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University that the international community should tighten rather than relax economic sanctions against Iran until Tehran completely ends its suspected nuclear weapons program. Israel sees Iran’s nuclear activities as a military threat and has said it would attack the country’s nuclear sites if necessary.

Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is peaceful. This stance has been reiterated most recently by Iran’s newly-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, at his September 24 address before the United Nations General Assembly, described by many observers as a ‘charm offensive.’ Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Israeli War Hero Brutally Murdered in his Home

October 14th 2013

Hamas head

An honored former Israeli military officer was beaten to death during a home invasion in Israel's Jordan Valley on Friday in what was believed to be a Palestinian terrorist attack, according to an Israeli counterterrorism expert. Colonel Seraiah Ofer, who was one of the founders of a top-secret, elite Israeli military unit known as Shaldag, was spending a quiet evening with his wife at his home in the Jordan Valley, a strip of land bordering with Jordan on the east and the West Bank on the southwest.

According to counterterrorism analyst Jacob Cruiz, the two were attacked by terrorists using axes and blunt instruments to assault the elderly couple.

Ofer's wife was able to escape with only minor injuries while Col. Ifer attempted to ward off the attackers, according to Cruiz.


Israel and Iran

Iran Cancels Annual Anti-Israel Conference to Woo the West

October 13th 2013

The government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani has reportedly cancelled an annual anti-Israel conference as part of recent efforts to improve relations with the West.

The annual conference, titled "New Horizon," was among several anti-Israeli events launched under former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who had made verbal attacks against the Jewish state and denial of the Holocaust his hallmarks.

The chairman of the conference, Nader Talebzadeh, has described its cancellation as "a disaster" and a "big mistake."

In an interview with the hard-line Fars news agency, which is close to Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, Talebzadeh described the event as "the most powerful anti-Zionist conference" in the Islamic republic. He said more than 60 "anti-Zionist thinkers" had been invited to this year's conference, which would have been its fourth edition. Read more ..

The War on Drugs

The Problematic Proliferation of Drones in Latin America

October 13th 2013

Click to select Image

Over the past decade, a growing number of nations have been utilizing drones in their security operations. Most notably, the U.S. is using this new technology to target and eliminate suspected terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. So far, Latin American militaries have generally used drones for surveillance operations, but their role most likely will greatly expand in the near future.

Latin American countries that currently operate drones include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. They are either home-built or have been purchased from other countries with a sophisticated drone industry like Israel; it is important to highlight that the international suppliers of this technology may vary depending on each government’s diplomatic relations and agenda of operations. For example, the Colombian military has acquired drones from the U.S. and Israel, obviously benefiting from the existing close political relations among these governments. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Special Forces Capture Senior Pakistani Taliban

October 13th 2013

Seal Team 6

U.S. special forces captured a senior commander with the Pakistani Taliban, Latif Mehsud, in a covert operation, the U.S. Department of State said on Friday.

"I can confirm that U.S. forces did capture a Pakistani Taliban (the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) terrorist leader Latif Mehsud in a military operation," said State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf in a daily briefing. "[But] I don’t have further details to share about the operation for you at this time," she added.

Mehsud is a senior commander in the Pakistani Taliban and served as a trusted confidant of the group's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, she said.


Iran on Edge

Optimism Present as Iranian Nuclear Talks Set to Resume

October 12th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

Iran is expected to introduce new proposals regarding its controversial nuclear program when talks with major Western nations resume next Tuesday in Geneva. There is cautious optimism because this is the first round of negotiations since Iran’s new president took office.

Iranian war games in the Middle East. U.S. warplanes roaring down an aircraft runway in the Persian Gulf. Military muscle flexing has for years been indicative of the adversarial relationship between Iran and the West. But with sanctions crippling Iran’s economy, however, diplomacy now has taken center stage.

Recently-elected President Hassan Rouhani says it is time for a new approach. “Iran will prepare and present it in Geneva. We hope that even a more effective step will be taken in Geneva in order to settle the nuclear issue.” The biggest symbolic breakthrough came when U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to his Iranian counterpart on the phone, opening the way for a possible thaw in relations. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Pays the Price for an Obama Leak

October 11th 2013

Lybian Gunmen

Leaks have consequences. Just ask Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who was kidnapped in retaliation for allowing the United States to carry out a special operations raid in Tripoli that captured a senior al-Qaeda leader, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known as Abu Anas al-Libi.

How did the kidnappers know that the prime minister had approved the raid? After all, his government denied any prior knowledge of the U.S. action. Simple: The Obama administration told them. A front-page story in the New York Times, “U.S. Officials Say Libya Approved Commando Raids,” reported that “After months of lobbying by American officials, the Libyans consented ‘some time ago’ — weeks or perhaps even months — to the United States operations.” The article, which cites “more than half a dozen American diplomatic, military, law enforcement, intelligence and other administration officials” as sources, notes that “The Libyans’ consent marks a significant step forward for the Obama administration, which has been criticized by Congressional Republicans for moving too slowly to apprehend the Benghazi suspects.” Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Growing Unease Over Turkish Jihadists in Syria

October 10th 2013

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

Growing numbers of young Turks are crossing into Syria to join jihadist groups fighting the Assad regime raising fears in Turkey of a future national security risk for Ankara.

Last month the U.S. and Turkey agreed to create a $200 million dollar fund to help local organizations develop programs to counter violent extremism among young people in places like Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan.   Now some are warning the threat might be closer to home because of a surge in recruitment of young Turks by al-Qaida affiliates.

Al-Qaida affiliates in Syria such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra are making headway in persuading Turkish Sunnis to cross the border into Syria for jihad, Turkish officials acknowledge.  Read more ..

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 ..

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