Egypt's Second Revolution
|Edward Yeranian||July 8th 2013|
Shootings in front of a military facility Monday in Cairo have left dozens of people dead and dozens more wounded, according to an Egyptian health ministry official. Reports about who ignited the shoot-out are conflicting, with Muslim Brotherhood supporters accusing the army, and army officials insisting it was a “terrorist attack.”
Witnesses said the shootings began just before the end of dawn prayers Monday. The Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators and the Egyptian Army each accused the other side of starting the violence.
The Health Ministry said Monday at least 51 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the early flare-up near Republican Guard headquarters. Military officials said one soldier was among the dead and several more were in critical condition. Pro-Muslim Brotherhood doctors at a field clinic held a news conference in which they claimed the army had used excessive force. Clinic doctors said they treated more than 400 serious wounds, including 150 gunshot wounds. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Joshua Levitt||July 5th 2013|
Terror group Hamas will be weakened by this week’s “second revolution” in Egypt, as millions of Egyptians forced President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power, and by the inter-generational transfer of power in Qatar, where Hamas leadership has been based, Al-Monitor reported in two articles, citing unnamed officials and policy experts.
The Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, shares its ideology with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, although the two groups are not formally linked; with the Brotherhood’s loss of power, analysts believe Hamas will also suffer. Al-Monitor referenced news reports that some 7,000 Hamas militants were thought to be in Egypt to support the Brotherhood, although Egyptian and Hamas officials denied those claims. Al-Monitor reported that, like Hezbollah, Hamas is accused in Egyptian courts of organizing the jailbreak of several senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including former president Muhamed Morsi, in 2011. Read more ..
The Edge of Crime
|James Romero||July 4th 2013|
University of Leicester
Neutron scattering at ILL and ISIS delves inside new crime scene forensics technique developed by the University of Leicester; research to address the fact that only 10 percent of fingerprints taken from crime scenes yield identifications usable in court.
Wednesday 28th June 2013, Durham: A new way of detecting and visualizing fingerprints from crime scenes using colour-changing fluorescent films could lead to higher confidence identifications from latent (hidden) fingerprints on knives, guns, bullet casings and other metal surfaces. The technique is the result of a collaboration between the University of Leicester, the Institut Laue-Langevin and the STFC's ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source, and will be presented today at the Royal Society of Chemistry's Faraday Discussion in Durham.
When your finger touches a surface, it leaves behind deposits of sweat and natural oils in a pattern that mirrors the ridges and troughs found on your fingertips. The odds of two individuals having identical fingerprints are 64 billion to 1, making them an ideal tool for identification in criminal investigations.
The greatest source of fingerprint forensic evidence comes from latent fingerprints, i.e. those not immediately visible to the eye, because they are less likely to be 'wiped'. However, visualizing these prints with sufficient clarity for positive identification often proves difficult. Despite the availability of several enhancement techniques, only 10 percent of fingerprints taken from crime scenes are of sufficient quality to be used in court.
The classical approach to enhance latent print visibility is to apply a coloured powder that adheres to the sticky residue and provides a visual contrast to the underlying surface. However, these techniques require significant preservation of fingerprint material and are therefore vulnerable to ageing, environmental exposure or attempted washing of the fingerprint residue. Read more ..
Egypt’s Second Revolution
|George Friedman||July 3rd 2013|
Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced July 3 that the country’s president, Mohammed Morsi, had been removed from office in the wake of popular unrest. In a short media statement, al-Sisi, who was flanked by the three armed services chiefs, opposition leaders, the sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque and the pope of the Coptic Church, announced that Adly Mansour, chief justice of the Constitutional Court, has replaced Morsi as interim president. He also announced that the constitution has been suspended. Mansour’s appointment is notable in that one of the key demands of the Tamarod protest movement was that he become president. The provisional government will be holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.
The arrangement was made without the involvement of Morsi, whose whereabouts remain unknown, or of anyone representing the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has effectively been thrown out of power, must now figure out how to respond. The group probably will not respond violently, but it will engage in civil unrest that will lead to violence. Though the Brotherhood is unlikely to abandon the path of democratic politics, Morsi’s ouster will lead elements from more ultraconservative Salafist groups to abandon mainstream politics in favor of armed conflict. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Diaa Bekheet||July 3rd 2013|
Voice of America
Egypt's army took power from President Mohamed Morsi and suspended the constitution. Army tanks are surrounding the presidentail palace, and Morsi's whereabouts are unknown. The head of the constitutional court will be sworn in to run the county's affairs, form a technocrat government, and call for early elections, the Army chief said. In a live televised statement, Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the action was taken to resolve the political crisis in Egypt. Al-Sisi said the move had to be taken after Morsi refused the military's unlimatum to reach an agreement with Egypt's opposition. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Farangis Najbul||July 3rd 2013|
Just how dangerous it is to be a police officer in Afghanistan was brought home this week when the Interior Ministry released figures showing that nearly 300 local and national police officers were killed in the span of just one month. That's a jump of 20 percent over the same period last year, as the Taliban stepped up attacks on Afghan security forces.
With risks like these, who would want to join the ranks of the police force? Interviews were conducted with three police officers working in different parts of the country (none of whom wanted to be photographed for this story).
'ONE INCIDENT CHANGED MY LIFE'
Jan Muhammad, 31, Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province
"I've been serving as a police sergeant for the past three years in Spin Boldak, one of the most volatile areas in Kandahar. Military operations, witnessing deaths and injuries, and facing constant threats of roadside bombs have become an everyday reality for me. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Heather Murdock||July 2nd 2013|
As the Nigerian government battles Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast, officials are also grappling with how to end the fighting and what to do with the rebels once peace is restored. New York-based Human Rights Watch says when the battle is done there will be no peace without justice. But some Nigerian leaders say the battles will never end without compromise.
How to stop Boko Haram insurgents from killing people has become a national debate in Nigeria. The most common answers are: crush them with military might or, find out why they are killing people and negotiate a peace deal.
The Nigerian government is currently trying both approaches.
Three northeastern states have been locked down in a state of emergency for more than six weeks now and thousands of troops have been deployed. Meanwhile a presidentially appointed committee is trying to get Boko Haram leaders to come out of the shadows and talk. “Constructive discussion that will lead to dialogue. Dialogue that will lead to peaceful resolution of the security challenges in the north," said Amnesty Committee Chair Kabiru Tanimu Turaki explaining how the process will work. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|Daniel Pipes||July 1st 2013|
Rebellion has shaken Turkey since May 31: Is it comparable to the Arab upheavals that overthrew four rulers since 2011, to Iran's Green Movement of 2009 that led to an apparent reformer being elected president last week, or perhaps to Occupy Wall Street, which had negligible consequences?
The unrest marks a deeply important development with permanent implications. Turkey has become a more open and liberal country, one in which leaders face democratic constraints as never before. But how much it changes the role of Islam in Turkey depends primarily on the economy.
China-like material growth has been the main achievement of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the party he heads, the AKP. Personal income has more than doubled in the decade that he has been in power, changing the face of the country. As a visitor to Turkey since 1972, I have seen the impact of this growth in almost every area of life, from what people eat to their sense of Turkish identity. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Michael Knights||June 28th 2013|
As the war in Syria drags on, external actors may play an increasingly important role in tipping the balance through material support and sponsorship of individual armed units. One of the most significant international brigades currently fighting on the Assad regime's side is the Damascus-based Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA), a collection of predominantly Iraqi Shiite fighters organized and supported by the Qods Force, an elite branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Though relatively small in size, LAFA could have a strategic impact on the war's course. More broadly, its expansion marks a potentially dangerous turn for the region, giving Tehran a transnational Shiite militant legion that it could use to bolster its allies outside Syria. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Skyler Schmanski||June 27th 2013|
In a display of widespread public dissatisfaction with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the nation's first elected leader, opposition groups plan to hold anti-government protests on June 30, the one-year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration. With increasing demands for his ouster following economic difficulties and executive overreach, government officials have been preparing extensive security measures in the weeks leading up to the potentially volatile demonstrations.
Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced last week that tunnels and ferries on the Suez Canal would be shut down, blocking jihadists from capitalizing on the protests, effectively sealing off the Sinai Peninsula from the rest of Egypt. Furthermore, clan chiefs in Sinai have joined together to ensure the protection of public property. The dramatically increased security is intended to avert a repeat of the chaos during the 2011 protests that forced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Gabe Joselow||June 26th 2013|
Somali officials say they have captured a leading al-Shabab commander designated a terrorist by the United States. The new development underscores a growing rift within the group. Local officials in central Somalia say Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was captured in a coastal area around three in the morning.
A spokesman for the Himin and Heeb administration, which controls the region, said the militant commander was apprehended without a fight. “After long negotiation with him and his fighters we were successful to convince him to hand himself to the authorities,” said spokesman Mohamed Omar Hagafey The spokesman added the administration is now discussing a handover with the Somali federal government. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Frud Bezhan||June 25th 2013|
It was heralded as a significant step toward reaching a negotiated peace with the Taliban, so why has the opening of a modest political office in Qatar been met with such fierce opposition by the Afghan government?
For Afghan President Hamid Karzai, it's because the Taliban's Doha office stands as a threat to unravel everything his government has worked for over the past 12 years.
"[Afghan officials in Kabul] will see the Americans negotiating with the Taliban, while they're left on the sidelines with no central role," says Anatol Lieven, a professor and Afghanistan expert at King's College London.
"President Karzai and his immediate followers, in particular, see a very strong risk that they will find themselves completely sidelined in Afghanistan and even eliminated politically as a result of a deal made between the Taliban and the United States -- and any other Afghan forces that want to climb on board -- with essentially no role for the present Afghan government at all."
The fact that the office was opened with all the trappings of an official embassy did not help things. Before preliminary discussions could begin between U.S. and Taliban officials, Karzai objected angrily to the presence of the Taliban's flag and insignia on the grounds of the building. Read more ..
|Carlo Munoz||June 24th 2013|
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has admitted the only reason he took a job at the National Security Agency was to gain access to the agency's most sensitive programs.
Snowden said he sought out the NSA contractor position with the goal of exposing the agency's domestic intelligence operations. He made the comments in an interview with the South China Morning Post published Monday.
“My position with [contractor] Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” he told the Post on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”
Snowden had been an employee with Booz Allen Hamilton when he leaked details of the NSA domestic intelligence programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post. The former CIA analyst added that he accepted a significant pay cut to join Booz Allen and later the NSA as a contractor “in the course of pursuing specific work" to uncover details of the agency's programs. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Carlo Muñoz||June 23rd 2013|
Syrian opposition forces have received the first tranche of foreign-supplied arms, marking a new chapter of international involvement in the country's three-year civil war. Gen. Salim Idris, the top commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said his forces recently obtained the weapons but refused to say who supplied the arms.
"I would like to thank the brothers and the friends whom I don't want to name," he said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Friday.
The FSA is the largest and most organized of the rebel factions battling to overthrow longtime Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in the country. The rebel commander was pressed on whether the weapons were the first deliveries of American arms the Obama White House announced would begin in within the coming months. Read more ..
The Nuclear Edge
|R. Jeffery Smith||June 23rd 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
President Obama disclosed in Berlin on June 19 that he has ordered the Pentagon to revise its plan for targeting America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons in wartime, a decision that opens the door to negotiated reductions in all three categories of these devastating weapons: strategic or long-range; tactical — meaning those deployed in Europe; and the large U.S. inventory of bombs and warheads held in reserve.
Obama signed the classified directive to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on June 18, a senior administration official said. That was one day after Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin had what several officials describe as a difficult private conversation about nuclear weapons policy, the conflagration in Syria, and other thorny foreign policy issues.
Obama’s speech thus signaled his determination to press for deeper bilateral arms reductions despite Russia’s often-stated reluctance to trim its nuclear forces beyond the cuts called for by the New START treaty both countries signed in 2010. Read more ..
Iraq on Edge
|Samira Ali Mandee and Frud Bezhan||June 22nd 2013|
With the rising wave of sectarian violence in Iraq, militias that were thought to have disbanded have reemerged and new armed groups have taken root. The development has ignited fears among Iraqis that the country could descend into civil war. As sectarian violence surges across Iraq, militias that once pushed the country to the brink of all-out civil war have reentered the scene.
Iraq has seen a sharp increase in retaliatory Sunni-Shi'ite attacks in recent months, with a wave of deadly bombings and assassinations resulting in a death toll not seen since 2008, according to the United Nations. Almost 2,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed as a result of the violence since the start of April, and nearly 200 have died so far this month. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||June 21st 2013|
What is most remarkable about the Pentagon’s massive growth in its civilian workforce is not that it expanded after 9/11, alongside the military’s much smaller increase. Rather, it has been the unchecked boost in Pentagon civilian manpower that has occurred since the financial collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008.
While the rest of America — particularly private-sector companies and many U.S. families — tried to constrain their budgets and spending since the recession began … the nation’s largest employer just kept on growing.
Even more astonishing was that this growth in people — the Pentagon’s single most-expensive weapon system and asset — occurred as defense budgets were coming down. Since President Obama took office, he has cut the defense budget by 10 percent. The President has significantly reduced the planned sizes of the Army and Marine Corps. He has overseen the cancellation of dozens of major equipment programs, and ended production at several long-standing marquee manufacturing lines across the country. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|George Friedman||June 20th 2013|
In the wake of their seizure of Qusair in western Syria, Syrian loyalist forces are bent on capitalizing on their newfound momentum by wresting more of the loyalist core from the rebels and advancing on rebel-held territory. In order to continue their advance, however, loyalist forces will have to address logistical difficulties, potentially fight through powerful rebel blocking positions and overcome increasing U.S. weapons aid to the rebels.
The regime has by and large proved that the loyalist core is not seriously threatened at the moment. However, for their resurgence to seriously undermine the rebellion, the loyalists would need a victory in Aleppo. Seizing Aleppo would simultaneously give the loyalists effective control of the vast majority of Syria's population centers, defeat perhaps the largest concentration of rebel forces and inflict a terrible blow to the rebels' morale. Read more ..
Brazil on Edge
|Flávia Ribeiro ||June 19th 2013|
When two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on April 15, it felt as though the shrapnel shot all the way to Brazil. For those responsible for security during the Confederations Cup and other major events to be held in the country from now until 2016, the tragedy in Boston reaffirmed the need to be prepared to handle terrorist threats. Brazil historically hasn’t been a target of terrorist attacks, but the high-profile event has put authorities on alert.
In addition to the Confederations Cup (six cities, June 15-30), Brazil will host World Youth Day (Rio, July 23-28), the World Cup (12 cities, 2014), and the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Rio, 2016). “We’re working to ensure that these major events transpire without incident, and integration [among the security forces] will be one of the most important factors,” Defense Minister Celso Armorim said in March upon approving the Strategic Security Plan for the 2014 World Cup. Read more ..
|Richad H.P. Sia||June 17th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
The Obama administration promised four years ago that it would significantly shrink the number of private contractors working for U.S. intelligence agencies. But a key member of Congress said this week she remains unconvinced the administration has done enough to shift critical intelligence-related jobs back to government employees.
The most recent public data from the intelligence community depict a one-year decline of 1 percent in the number of contractors holding security clearances, leaving private-sector workers still holding about 22 percent of all those clearances.
In the wake of new controversy about such work, stemming from the recent leak of secrets about U.S. surveillance tactics by a federal contract employee in Hawaii, officials this week cited the decline as a sign of the administration’s commitment to reduce the outsourcing of intelligence work, reversing a hasty expansion of the contractor population after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Read more ..
Lebanon on Edge
|Jamie Dettmer||June 16th 2013|
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says the nation’s militant Shia movement, Hezbollah, is risking the “fate of the nation” by taking on an expanded front-line role in neighboring Syria’s civil war.
The warning from Hariri comes a week after Hezbollah guerrillas from Lebanon, fighting beside Syrian government troops, led the attack on Qusair a strategic Syrian town on the main highway into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The government’s capture of Qusair is considered a major blow to the Syrian rebel movement, which has been trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Hezbollah, the militant arm of a Shia Muslim movement considered stronger than Lebanon’s own army, has been closely allied with Assad, whose Alawite religion is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Most Syrian rebels belong to the Sunni branch of Islam.
The United Nations estimated about 93,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which has been going on for more than two years. On Thursday, the Obama administration in Washington said it had concluded that Assad’s forces had been using chemical weapons in the fighting and that the United States would begin helping to arm the rebels. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat Edge
|Kyle Balluck||June 15th 2013|
Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday called an attack on a former U.S. Marine base in Iraq that houses Iranian exiles “brutal, senseless, and utterly unacceptable.”
A mortar attack on Camp Hurriya killed three people in Baghdad on Saturday, police sources told Reuters. The Mujahidin-e-Khalq group said Iran was probably to blame, with Iraqi complicity, according to the news service.
“At the highest levels, we have personally urged the Government of Iraq to render all possible medical assistance to the victims and ensure the safety of the camp’s residents, consistent with its commitments and obligations.” Kerry said in a statement. “We’ve also called on the Government of Iraq to investigate this attack and bring the terrorists responsible to justice.” Kerry said officials are also consulting with Iraqi officials and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) “to ascertain the full extent of this unprovoked terrorist attack.” Read more ..
|Murray Polner||June 14th 2013|
Making War at Fort Hood. Kenneth T. MacLeish. Princeton UniversityPress. 2013. pp280.
Fort Hood, in Texas, is named after Confederate General John Bell Hood, who lost his arm and leg at Gettysburg and Chickamauga but was defeated at Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee. It employs 50,000 troops and civilian employees and is close by the city of Killeen, population 130,000, and which, like most military satellite cities and towns, thrives because of its location, selling food, goods of all sorts, housing, and loans, some no doubt predatory. In fact, as Kenneth T. MacLeish writes, Killeen is “more prosperous than Austin, the state capital, home to a large university and a booming tech sector.” When he asked soldiers what impression off-base civilians mistakenly held of them he was told “That we have a lot of money.”
What McLeish, assistant professor of medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt University, has done is explore the impact of our recent wars on the military men and women and their families and loved ones. For those who have never served in the military and been burdened by its demands, Making War at Forth Hood is a humane and penetrating look in some depth at a huge military base and its military and civilian inhabitants. Some of his material is very familiar, given the combat experiences of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But what he does that is different is put it all into context.
MacLeish frankly admits at the outset that we -- presumably himself too -- Americans “don’t know as much as we think we do about what the violence done by and visited on soldiers means for them or for us “ Dime -- a pseudonym, like all his interviewees -- is a thirty-five-year-old veteran of Iraq, married with kids, who joined up at age thirty-one so his kids would have health insurance, who tells MacLeish the first time they met,” Don’t fuckin’ leave any of this shit out.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Zlatica Hoke||June 14th 2013|
Terrorist attacks in Afghanistan appear to be getting bolder in recent days. The Taliban also increasingly is targeting the civilian population, including children.
A suicide bomber blew himself up right outside the Supreme Court building in the capital, Kabul, Tuesday, killing 17 people and wounding almost 40 others. Mohammad Zahir, Chief of the Kabul Police Criminal Investigation Department, said all of the victims were civilians, including women and children.
"There are children and women among those who were martyred (killed) and wounded, all the ones who are martyred [killed] and wounded are civilians and there aren't any military personnel among them," said Zahir. The United Nations said Tuesday that the civilian death toll in Afghanistan has increased by almost 25 percent compared to the same period last year.
U.N. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis said that more than 3,000 people in Afghanistan have been killed or wounded since the beginning of this year, mostly by insurgents. "What is even of more concern is the fact that the children account for 21 percent of all civilians killed or wounded in 2013," Kubis noted. "This is an increase of 30 percent compared to 2012 and 34 percent compared to 2011.'' Read more ..
Ethiopia on Edge
|George Friedman||June 13th 2013|
Ethiopia's initiation of a dam project on the Blue Nile has quickly drawn the ire of Egypt, which is critically dependent on it as a source of much of the country's freshwater needs. As Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said June 9 following Ethiopia's refusal to halt construction of the dam and ahead of his trip to Addis Ababa to discuss the project, Egypt will not give up a "single drop of water from the Nile." "No Nile, no Egypt," he said.
While Egypt has struggled to attract diplomatic intervention on its behalf to thwart Ethiopia's dam construction, tensions have reached the point where Egypt has suggested the use of force to keep the dam from potentially lowering the Nile's water levels downstream to unacceptable levels. There will be serious international pressure to keep the dispute over the dam in the realm of diplomacy, but there are also fairly significant constraints on the physical possibility of an Egyptian military solution. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Meir Gershuni||June 13th 2013|
The continent of Africa, and in particular the countries south of Sahara, are center of wide scale activity for Israeli companies who have been acting at the area since the end of 50`s. The activity was first led by the Israeli Foreign Office, who in a very short time established tens of Israeli representation offices in African countries, and in this way laid the foundations for activity in the fields of agriculture, security and infrastructure development. Later on, more and more private companies from Israel entered Africa, and performed impressive projects in various areas. During the years the business relations had their ups and downs that were influenced by political moves and events like the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War. Nevertheless, along the entire period a massive Israeli business presence was established in Africa in various fields. The present deterioration in the level of terror threat and crime at the continent of Africa is a blinking red light considering the substantial risk requiring security arrangement against it. Read more ..
|Richard H.P. Sia||June 13th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
The Obama administration promised four years ago that it would significantly shrink the number of private contractors working for U.S. intelligence agencies. But a key member of Congress said this week she remains unconvinced the administration has done enough to shift critical intelligence-related jobs back to government employees. The most recent public data from the intelligence community depict a one-year decline of 1 percent in the number of contractors holding security clearances, leaving private-sector workers still holding about 22 percent of all those clearances. In the wake of new controversy about such work, stemming from the recent leak of secrets about U.S. surveillance tactics by a federal contract employee in Washington, officials this week cited the decline as a sign of the administration’s commitment to reduce the outsourcing of intelligence work, reversing a hasty expansion of the contractor population after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Terrence Sterling||June 12th 2013|
Syrian rebels have attacked a village in the country's east, killing dozens of Shias, activists said. A Syrian government official on Wednesday denounced the attack that occurred a day earlier, saying it was a “massacre'' of civilians. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 60 people were killed in the village of Hatla in the oil-rich province of Deir al-Zour bordering Iraq.
A video supplied by the Observatory showed masked fighters shouting, “Here are the Mujahidin [Islamist fighters] celebrating entering the homes of the rejectionists, the Shias.” The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified. The fighters added that they “burned the homes” of the Shia residents. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Aryeh Savir||June 11th 2013|
Tazpit News Agency
The U.S. State Department released its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 in late May. This report provides the Department of State’s annual assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that occurred during 2012. The findings of the report indicate that the year 2012 saw a “marked resurgence” of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Iran or its proxies. Iran’s terrorist activity in 2012, the report says,“reached a tempo unseen since the 1990's”. Iran sponsored terrorism through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Hezbollah, Tehran’s ally in Lebanon. Iran’s terrorist activity in 2012 included attacks and attempted attacks in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.
In January 2012, Hezbollah, in cooperation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, attempted to attack tourist sites in Bangkok visited by Israelis, using IEDs. A month later, on February 14, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards attempted another terrorist attack in Bangkok, this time using a magnet to attach an IED to the car of an Israeli diplomat. On February 13, a terrorist attack occurred in New Delhi. An Israeli diplomat’s car was attacked using a magnetic IED that was attached to it. An Israeli diplomat’s wife driving the car was severely injured when the car blew up. Three Indian civilians were injured as well. Read more ..
The Middle East on Edge
|Thomas Donnelly||June 10th 2013|
After a three-week siege, the combined forces of Hezbollah and the Assad regime have taken the important crossroads town of Qusayr, which is just south of the even more important city of Homs in east-central Syria. “Whoever controls Qusayr controls the center of the country, and whoever controls the center of the country controls all of Syria,” crowed Syrian brigadier general Yalya Suleiman.
While that boast is as much propaganda as military fact, the capture of Qusayr is a happy moment for Bashar al-Assad—who has had few of them in recent years—and for Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, whose heavy investments in propping up the Syrian dictator appear to be paying off. Indeed, the Iranians “felicitated” Assad on the gain. As well they might, since the Syrian regime is becoming ever more dependent on Tehran; Assad’s army on its own had been unable to retake Qusayr. The specter that looms is nothing less than the near-complete collapse of the U.S. position in the Middle East. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Erick Stakelbeck||June 9th 2013|
U.S. authorities are still piecing together how the two brothers behind April's Boston Marathon bombing -- Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- became Islamic terrorists. Tamerlan had traveled to al Qaeda hotbeds in southern Russia, where authorities believe he may have met with known jihadists.
Closer to home, he and his brother attended a Boston-area mosque with radical ties. "The fact is that these fellows attended, blocks from their house, a radical mosque that has been the center of controversy in Boston for 10 years," said Charles Jacobs, who heads Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a group that has closely monitored Islamic radicalism in the Boston area. Jacobs said the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge has seen convicted Islamic terrorists pass through its doors. Read more ..
Venezuela on Edge
|Ronn Pineo and Laura Powell||June 9th 2013|
The announcement that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on June 5 is extraordinarily good news. The meeting, held in the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, came as representatives gathered for the General Meeting of the Organization of American States. Warm smiles and friendly conversation were everywhere. It marks the “start of a good relationship of respect,” offered Jaua, and a step toward creating “a more constructive and positive relationship,” echoed Kerry.
What makes this diplomatic initiative so encouraging is that until this development United States relations with President Hugo Chávez’s (and now Nicolás Maduro’s) Venezuela too often seemed only to feature irate political blasts from both sides. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
The European Union in reneging on its plan to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem have told Israel’s Maariv newspaper.
As recently as two weeks ago the EU was planning to name Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization following reports of its involvement in Syria. However, a meeting held this week quickly became political, and the plan was met with strong opposition from both Ireland and Sweden, as well as several other countries, the diplomatic sources said.
The official reason given for retracting the move is a fear of instability in Lebanon, but the diplomatic sources say it was a matter of Ireland and Sweden fearing for the safety of a UN peacekeeping mission in the region.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that another main concern is the clarity of evidence linking Hezbollah to the Burgas bus bombing last year. Officials from member states in favor of the blacklisting have admitted that the evidence appears circumstantial. The new Bulgarian government’s hesitation in fingering Hezbollah has also weighed on discussions, several diplomats said, according to the WSJ. Read more ..
Honduras on Edge
|Gretchen Heine||June 8th 2013|
An update from Rights Action (rightsaction.org), issued on May 24, reports that on the evening of May 22 the armed forces opened fire from their posts on the Paso Aguán plantation “in what appears to be attempts to intimidate and scare the community of ‘La Panamá’ that lives inside and adjacent to the finca.” Although no current members of La Panamá’s community were killed or wounded in this raid, the attack appears to be part of a pattern of human rights abuses committed by the Honduran security forces and the Dinant Corporation’s security guards. At this point the members of the La Panamá community are almost certainly being wrongfully targeted by key state and corporate figures and are being deprived of their rights to their land.
Miguel Facussé, owner of the Paso Aguán plantation and one of the largest landowners in Honduras, has “accumulated land through coercive and fraudulent land purchases” since 1995. La Panamá formerly owned a fraction of the Paso Aguán plantation and the African palm growing on the plantation was originally planted by the community during the 1970s and 80s agrarian reform initiatives. Today the livelihood of campesinos is in jeopardy as their labor has been reduced to subsistence agriculture. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Gary J. Schmitt||June 7th 2013|
When President Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday and Saturday in Southern California, a major topic of conversation between the two will be Chinese cyber-attacks and cyber-espionage against American commercial and government targets.
According to U.S. counterintelligence officials, billions upon billions of dollars worth of information has been “lifted” out of American computers and servers in recent years.
In fact, only last week, newspapers were reporting that an internal Defense Department review had concluded that China had used cyber attacks to gather data on more than three dozen key U.S. military programs, including the country’s most advanced missile defense systems, naval warships and even the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—the stealthy, fifth-generation jet that will be the backbone of the American military’s ability to sustain air superiority in the decades ahead. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Rachel Ehrenfield||June 6th 2013|
American Center for Democracy and Meir Amit
|Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Bashr Assad of Syria|
For Iran and Hezbollah, the preservation of Bashar Assad’s regime is of supreme strategic importance. Syria is Iran’s greatest “resistance camp” ally, providing it with a firm foothold in the heart of the Middle East, as well as political and military influence. Syria also plays a vital role in Hezbollah’s military buildup, helping it to build offensive and deterrent capabilities against Israel. For Iran and Hezbollah, the fall of the Syrian regime would be a disaster, it would weaken Iran’s regional position against the United States and Israel and damage Hezbollah’s military capabilities and political influence in Lebanon.
Iran and Hezbollah’s strategic interests are accompanied by religious-sectarian solidarity with Syria’s Shi’ite population (an estimated 400,000-450,000 strong) and also with the Alawite sect that rules Syria. That solidarity, which as been pronounced in Nasrallah’s recent speeches, has became stronger since the Syrian Shi’ites and their holy sites in Syria became targets for harassment by the rebels (particularly organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda, such as the Al-Nusra Front, which considers Shi’ites as infidels). Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Robert D. Kaplan||June 6th 2013|
Few people comprehend Russia's vulnerabilities like its leader, Vladimir Putin. He must try to govern a country that extends through nearly half the longitudes of the earth but that has fewer people than Bangladesh. What's more, Russia's population is declining, not increasing. All the Arctic seas to Russia's north are ice-blocked many months of the year, so with the exception of its Far East, Russia is essentially a landlocked nation.
Moreover, Russia's flat topography affords little natural protection and is therefore bereft of natural borders. Land powers, as they have no seas to protect them, are more insecure than island nations and continents like the United States and Great Britain.
But Russia is particularly insecure. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Richard H.P. Sia||June 5th 2013|
Center for Public Integity
Shortly after 11 a.m. local time, a U.S. ballistic missile target loaded with a mock nuclear warhead blasted off from Narrow Cape, a low-lying coastal area of Alaska’s Kodiak Island. A network of radars from Alaska to California tracked the target, watching for the release of metal chaff, Mylar or aluminum balloons, or other objects like those that North Korean missiles might use to fool U.S. defenses.
This simulated attack on the United States on Dec. 5, 2008 was the first time massive sea- and ground-based defenses would try to penetrate the decoys or countermeasures that might be used to hide a warhead in the near-vacuum of space. As the Pentagon had wanted, a rocket interceptor launched from a silo at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base destroyed the warhead and the radar network performed well, prompting officials to declare the test a success in a press release the same day.
But the real test of U.S. defenses against the countermeasures that North Korean missiles might eventually carry — the primary objective of that exercise, which was estimated to cost taxpayers between $200 million and $300 million — never happened. The target malfunctioned and failed to release them. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
World Jewish daily
Protests in Turkey entered a fifth day as demonstrators called for more freedoms in a nationwide steering toward strict Islamic rule. What began as a protest over the removal of a city park in Ankara has become a nationwide social movement. Hundreds have been injured in demonstrations and at least two killed. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said Monday the protesters were "arm in arm" with terrorists, but a trade union called for a strike of its 250,000 members Tuesday in solidarity with the protesters. The White House said it was concerned with reports of excessive force used by police to quell the protests and defended the demonstrations as part of the democratic process, the Voice of America reports.
The White House stated: "The United States supports full freedom of expression and assembly including the right of people to peaceful protest, because that is fundamental to any democracy. And we are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police." Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Rachel Ehrenfeld||June 3rd 2013|
American Center for Democracy: Economic Warfare Institute
This study examines the concept of the Palestinian "popular resistance" (al- muqawama al-sha'abiya) as it was formulated during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then adopted by the sixth Fatah conference in August 2009, and has since been implemented in Judea and Samaria by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah. Thus the concept of "popular resistance" has become a main component of PA policy, utilized to promote PA interests when interacting with Israel and in both the international and internal Palestinian arenas. The "popular resistance" is a prominent strategy implemented on the ground and integrated into the political, economic, propaganda and judicial campaigns currently waged by the PA against Israel. As far as the PA and Fatah are concerned, the "popular resistance" creates constant, controlled tension in the Palestinian relations with Israel. Read more ..
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