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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 ..

The Battle for Syria

Al Qaeda in Syria Pledges Conterattacks in Wake of Chemical Strikes

August 26th 2013

Syria's chemicals

Jabhat al-Nusra, the main al Qaeda faction in Syria, is vowing wide-scale attacks against Alawite Muslims in the country in retaliation for chemical weapon strikes against rebels in the country.

For every chemical rocket that had fallen on our people in Damascus, one of [the Alawite] villages will, by the will of God, pay for it,” Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jawalani, said in a statement. "We will prepare a thousand rockets that will be fired on their towns in revenge for the ... Ghouta massacre," he said, referring to the area outside Damascus where the chemical attacks reportedly took place.

The Syrian cell of the Sunni terror group has been fighting alongside rebel forces for most of the three-year civil war. Rebel forces have been battling to overthrow embattled President Bashar Assad, whose family is part of the country's ruling Alawite population, centered in Western Syria. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Will Financial Markets Suffer Next Attack?

August 25th 2013

Wall Street Bull

Successive U.S. administrations' failure to stop al-Qaida helped facilitate the 9/11 attacks. Targeting the World Trade Center, the symbol of U.S. financial might, bin Laden intended to destroy the U.S. financial markets and its economy. He failed. The markets survived.

However, bin Laden's and other Islamists' calls to destroy the U.S. economy, along with rapidly evolving technology, left the financial markets vulnerable. Over the past 11 years, the U.S. failed to prepare for another major war - one that is already under way, yet rarely recognized: financial and economic warfare.   

Cyber attacks have been the focus for some time. Between October 2011 and February 2012, more than 500,000 cyber attacks on U.S. government and private industry, including 86 attacks on "critical infrastructure networks," were detected. However, a July 2012 report by the Bi-Partisan Task Force, headed by Gen. Michael Hayden, concluded that these represented "a small fraction of 'virtual, network type' attacks against the U.S." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Two Sahara-Based Jihadist Groups Merge

August 24th 2013

3 Taureg Fighters

Two groups that fought in Mali earlier this year and carried out the deadly twin suicide bombings in Niger in May have become one to fight back against what they called the "crusader campaigns" of France and its allies against Muslims.  

Three months after they carried out the Arlit and Agadez suicide bomb attacks together in Niger, the two groups, MUJAO and the Those Who Sign in Blood Brigade, have decided to make it official.

In press releases published by Mauritanian press agency ANI, the two groups say they are merging into a new one.  They already had strong ties.  Both are offshoots of al-Qaida's Algerian-dominated franchise in the Maghreb, AQIM. ANI quotes one written statement as saying that the new group brings together fighters "from the Nile to the Atlantic" to fight what it called a "Zionist campaign against Islam and Muslims."

The new group pledged support for Islamists in Egypt and promised attacks against France and its allies as revenge for the French-led military intervention against the militants in northern Mali this year. The militants named their group the "Mourabitounes," Arabic for the Almoravids, the Islamist Berber dynasty based in Morocco nearly 1,000 years ago that reached as far south as Senegal. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

FBI Granted Power to Delay Citizenship for Muslims

August 24th 2013

NYPD and flag

A covert national security programme allows the FBI and US immigration authorities the power to indefinitely delay immigration benefits to Muslims and those from Muslim countries, according to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The previously unknown programme, which began in 2008 under George W Bush to identify those with links to terrorism, has continued under President Obama to blacklist law-abiding applicants and profile Muslims as "national security concerns", according to the ACLU.

Migrants who have travelled through or lived in areas of known terrorist activity, wired money back to their families, attended a mosque of interest to the FBI or even given a voluntary interview to the agency, can be labelled "national security concerns", the report, published on Wednesday, says.


The Battle for Syria

Al-Qaeda Battles Kurds in Syria

August 23rd 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, threatened this week to send forces into northern Syria, to defend beleaguered Kurds there. In the statement, issued on August 10, the Kurdish leader said that he had instructed his representatives to enter Syria in order to investigate media claims that the ‘terrorists of al-Qaeda are attacking the civilian population and slaughtering innocent Kurdish women and children.”

If the reports are true, the statement continued, then ‘Iraq’s Kurdistan region will make use of all of its capabilities to defend women and children and innocent citizens.” No details were offered as to the form the intervention would take. But Barzani’s statement indicates the growing gravity of the situation in north east Syria. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

War Within A War: Kurds, Arabs Battle In Northern Syria

August 22nd 2013

Syrian Kurdish protesters

Islamist and Kurdish militias are fighting a war within a war in Syria that is not just creating tens of thousands of new refugees. It's also increasingly becoming an ethnic-based conflict between Arabs and Kurds that gives new reasons to worry Syria will break apart.

A glimpse of the increasingly ethnic dimension of the combat in northern Syria comes as tens of thousands of mostly Kurdish refugees have crossed into Iraq since fighting broke out in the middle of last month.

One of the refugees said that Arab Islamist groups regarded killing Kurds as "halal," or religiously condoned. "There is violence and killing and kidnapping in the Kurdish areas. They made Kurdish blood 'halal,'" he said. The man, who did not give his name, is among the tens of thousands of people who have crossed into Iraq since August 15.

One young woman said she had personally seen the killings of Kurds in Qamishli, a mixed city of Kurds, Arabs, and Christians near the Turkish border. "We had no problems, we had our house, and my father and brother were working. We had no problems," she said. "But because of the situation, the killings and beheadings [we fled]. We saw a massacre with our own eyes in Qamishli." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Opposition Says Assad Forces Used 'Poison Gas'

August 21st 2013

Corpses in Homs

Syrian opposition leaders have accused forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of killing hundreds of people in attacks using "poisonous gas" on rebel-held areas of Damascus. 

Estimates of reported death tolls from human rights activists varied widely.  George Sabra of the exiled Syrian National Coalition estimated the number of casualties at 1,300.  His claim at a news conference in Istanbul on Wednesday could not be independently verified.  

The Syrian government denied using chemical weapons in Wednesday's military operations. Syrian activists claimed Syrian troops unleashed an artillery and rocket barrage against several Damascus suburbs on Wednesday that allegedly included some chemical elements. The activists posted videos online showing scores of bodies of adults and children laid out on the floor of makeshift clinics with no visible signs of injuries.  Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

European Jihadists: The Continuation of a Historical Trend

August 20th 2013

Muslims London

The threat of experienced militants returning to Europe from combat in North Africa and the Middle East is fueling debate about immigration and integration in Europe and strengthening xenophobic and nationalist sentiments. It is not a new phenomenon for Europeans to travel abroad to fight. Reports have circulated for months about the growing number of foreigners fighting alongside Islamists in places such as Libya and Syria. Most recently, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Aug. 5 that leaks by unspecified European intelligence services warned that terrorist organizations in Syria could be preparing international attacks, particularly in Europe.

As new intelligence emerges -- whether the threats are legitimate or not -- European authorities will intensify counterterrorism efforts and immigration controls in an effort to thwart possible attacks. But given the large and growing Muslim population in Europe and the ease of travel throughout the Continent, preventing all attacks will not be easy.



The Edge of Terrorism

European Hi-Speed Rail Targetted by al-Qaeda

August 20th 2013

Italian Hi-Speed Rail

Al Qaeda has been plotting attacks on high-speed rail networks in Europe, according to a German media report. The information reportedly came from the US National Security Agency (NSA) listening in on top operatives. A report by the German daily newspaper Bild on Monday said that al Qaeda leaders have been plotting attacks on high-speed rail networks across Europe. The group was possibly targeting trains and tunnels or planning to sabotage railway tracks themselves and the electric cabling serving them.

The terrorist attacks were reported to have been a "central topic" of a conference call intercepted by the NSA, involving high-ranking al Qaeda operatives.


The Arab Winter of Rage

24 Egyptian Police Killed in Sinai Ambush

August 19th 2013

Egyptian soldiers and flag draped protester

Gunmen have killed at least 24 Egyptian police in an ambush in the country's Sinai Peninsula. It's the latest in a series of violent incidents following the army's crackdown on its opponents last Wednesday.

The security forces were riding in buses when they were stopped by armed men. Some reports say the men were forced from the bus and shot, others say rocket propelled grenades were used.

The attackers are believed to be members of a militant Islamist militia of the kind that critics say deposed President Mohamed Morsi allowed to operate in the Sinai.  The army ousted Morsi July 3, backed by large-scale public demonstrations, and forcibly ended weeks of sit-in protests by his supporters last Wednesday. The death toll among protesters has risen to more than 700, and now nearly 100 members of the security forces have also died. Read more ..

The Battle for Egypt

Egyptian Authorities Vow to End 'Terrorism'

August 18th 2013

Flames in Cairo

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and the Anti-Coup Alliance called for another day of protest Sunday, as authorities dismissed international criticism over their violent crackdown on opponents. Interim foreign minister Nabil Fahmy said Sunday the international community has been silent about the “criminal acts” of the protesters.
Challenges to the Islamists and anti-government protesters continue to mount - with the interim government mulling a possible ban on the Muslim Brotherhood -  and other Islamists reportedly arrested and killed.

Still, supporters turned out overnight in rallies across the country, defying curfew in Alexandria, Minya and Helwan, just south of the capital. The marches came after a day that saw the siege of a Cairo mosque by security forces and civilian supporters.  Protesters had sought refuge in the al-Fath mosque in Ramses Square, but the stand-off appeared to end without the devastating loss of life we've seen in other confrontations in recent days.

Pakistan on Edge

Executions Of Taliban Militants Risk Provoking A Wider War in Pakistan

August 17th 2013

Taliban in Pakistan

The Pakistani government's decision to restore capital punishment was designed to put the fear of god into the hearts of the country's hardened militants. Instead, the move has provoked threats of war from Taliban factions as some of their comrades face imminent death by hanging.

The first three executions are slotted for next week. They include at least one prominent militant figure and two low-profile extremists associated with anti-Shi'a Sunni hard-line groupings. Their scheduled execution prompted three major Taliban factions this week to issue a stern warning to leaders of the governing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) for pushing ahead with the hangings.

The three militants include Muhammad Aqeel (aka Dr. Usman), who was convicted of masterminding a deadly attack against Pakistani military headquarters in 2009. Leaders and purported spokesmen of Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e Jhangvi and Mujahedeen-e Ansar, told PML-N leaders to brace themselves for a wider war if Aqeel and the two other militants were executed next week. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Doctors Without Borders Flee Somalia to Escape Terrorists

August 16th 2013

Al-Shabbab in Somalia

A group of physicians who provide emergency healthcare and medical treatment free of charge for the people of war-torn Somalia on Wednesday informed the world that they were fleeing the country by crossing the border into Kenya, according to officials from the non-governmental agency (NGO).

Officials from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, claimed that the threat of Islamist-perpetrated violence had become intolerable and the medical staff providing the starving and homeless population were fearful for their lives.

This latest setback comes in the wake of the Somali government's attempt to convince Somalis and foreign governments and businesses that they are being victorious against the Islamist group and al-Qaeda-affiliate, Al-Shabaab.


India on Edge

India Launches Indigenously-Built Aircraft Carrier

August 15th 2013

USS George Washington

India has launched an indigenously-built aircraft carrier, joining a small group of countries capable of building such a warship.The project is part of India's efforts to enhance its naval capabilities amid a growing regional rivalry with the other Asian giant, China.

Standing in front of the 37,500 ton warship decorated with flags and buntings in the southern city of Kochi on Monday, Defense Minister A.K. Antony called it a “red letter day [a day of special significance] for the nation.”

There was an outpouring of national pride at the carrier's launch. India's biggest warship has been designed and built locally, making it the fifth country after Britain, France, Russia and the United States to do so. The aircraft carrier is not yet operational. It will be fitted with advanced weaponry and undergo extensive sea trials before being put into service sometime around 2018. But defense analysts point out that New Delhi has beaten its regional rival, China, in building an indigenous aircraft carrier. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

State of Emergency Declared as Chaos Erupts in Egypt

August 14th 2013

Egypt army protest

Cairo has come under curfew—and many parts of Egypt under a month-long state of emergency–after protests Wednesday turned violent, leaving as many as 150 people dead, according to media reports.

Egyptian security forces had moved early in the day to clear a sit-in of supporters of recently ousted President Mohamed Morsi  in Cairo. The security intervention prompted nationwide clashes.

Amid the violence, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour said in a statement that a state of emergency would begin at 4 p.m. and ordered the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. The exceptional measures came as “the security and order of the nation face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life by extremist groups,” Reuters quoted Mansour as saying. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Iran and Syria Smuggling Weapons to Gain Influence in the West Bank

August 13th 2013

Islamic Hamas rocket

There are growing indications that Iran, Syria and their local proxies may be attempting to build up militant capabilities in the West Bank to eventually threaten Israel. Physically transferring weapons into Fatah-controlled West Bank will remain a key challenge, as recent arrests of weapons smugglers in Jordan have shown. Though Iran and Syria face many constraints in trying to spread militancy to the West Bank, their quiet efforts are worth noting, particularly as Hamas and Iran are now finding reasons to repair their relationship after a period of strain.

In the past several days, Jordanian authorities have reported two separate incidents in which groups of smugglers traveling from Syria have been caught with weapons and drugs in Jordan. A Jordanian security official speaking anonymously to local media said that five Syrian smugglers were caught the morning of Aug. 6 with anti-tank missiles, surface-to-air missiles and assault rifles in their possession. According to a Stratfor source, the arrests were made near Madaba in central Jordan.


The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Plots Attacks in Yemen

August 12th 2013

Yemeni terrorists

The U.S. State Department urged all American citizens to leave Yemen on August 8, citing increased terrorist activity and civil unrest. All non-emergency U.S. government personnel working in the country were also evacuated. The State Department announced Sunday twenty embassies and consulates through the Middle East and North Africa would remain closed into a second week. The UK, France, and Germany also temporarily closed their missions in Yemen.

American officials cited terrorist organizations, notably al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), could be in the final stages of planning attacks against Western targets. Communication between jihadist operatives, known in the intelligence community as “chatter,” increased significantly in the few days leading up to the travel warning and embassy closures. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt Claims Aerial Strikes Against Militants in Sinai

August 11th 2013


An Egyptian military spokesman says Egyptian Air Force helicopters have been carrying out strikes close to the Israeli border, in an effort to root out Islamist militants operating in the area.

The attacks follow claims by an Islamist militant group that an Israeli drone strike Friday killed at least four of its fighters.

Egyptian media are reporting that Islamist militants attacked army troops overnight in the coastal Sinai resort town of el Arish. A soldier guarding an officers club was lightly wounded. Another attack was reported near the town of Sheikh Zaweid, near the border with Gaza. Militants have stepped up attacks on army forces in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the army says it has used Apache helicopters in a series of strikes on militant targets near the Israeli border. An army statement indicated that at least 12 militants were killed in a strike on the village of Touma, near Sheikh Zaweid, overnight.

An army spokesman has denied reports that Israeli drones carried out a strike against Islamist militants on Egyptian soil. An Islamist militant group calling itself Beit al Moqadess claimed that four of its fighters were killed by an Israeli drone strike Friday. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Time is Quickly Running Out in Egyptian Crisis

August 10th 2013

Egypt army protest

High-ranking Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Saturday that “time is quickly running out” for finding a solution to political turmoil in Egypt following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi.

Fresh from a trip to the North African nation on behalf of President Obama, the GOP lawmakers said in an op-ed in The Washington Post that they still had hope for a peaceful solution. But McCain and Graham said Egyptian leaders need to act soon to prevent a full-scale civil war.

“We traveled to Cairo this week to support a U.S. and international effort to help Egyptians end their political crisis,” the lawmakers wrote. “We met with leaders from the civilian government, armed forces, political parties, civil society and the Muslim Brotherhood. We returned convinced that time is quickly running out to resolve this crisis, but that there is still a chance to do so if Egyptians of goodwill come together for the sake of their country, which is the heart of the Arab world and home to a quarter of its people.” Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Saudi Arabia Steps Up Efforts To Oust Syria's Assad

August 9th 2013

pro-Assad Rally Damascus

It's no secret that Saudi Arabia wants to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But just how much Riyadh is willing to use its money to reach that goal can be surprising.

One measure was a meeting on July 31 in Moscow between Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Details of the meeting are still sketchy, but Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia say the prince offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons if Moscow agreed to ease its support of Assad and stop blocking future UN Security Council resolutions on Syria. At the same time, the prince reportedly offered to ensure that no Persian Gulf country would export natural gas across the Arabian Peninsula to challenge Russia's position as the main gas supplier to Europe. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Foiled Yeman Terror Plot Sought to Reclaim bin Laden's Birthplace

August 8th 2013

Osama bin Laden

A foiled terrorist plot by al Qaeda's Yemeni faction to take over several cities in the country was driven by the terror cell's desire to reclaim the birthplace of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

One of the cities targeted by the Yemen faction, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was Mukalla. The port city in southeast Yemen is the provincial capital of Hadramaut, which is the ancestral home of the bin Laden family, according to The Washington Post.

Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said the broken up terror plot included plans for AQAP gunmen, disguised as Yemeni soldiers, to overrun Mukalla and other cities in the southeast. The plan to take over the Hadramaut capital and surrounding areas was part of an overarching strategy to move AQAP's power base from its current strongholds in Abyan province in the south, Yemeni officials told the Post on Thursday. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Cairo on Edge as Military Warns of Crackdown

August 7th 2013

Anti-Morsi Protests June 2013

Egyptian authorities say they will not tolerate the massive sit-ins by members of the largely Islamist opposition, but threats of dispersal are being dismissed by the thousands hunkering down in the encampments.

Cairo is on edge. Opponents of military rule said they would stay in their protest camps until ousted President Mohamed Morsi was re-instated. Authorities, citing national security, said they would use any means necessary to clear the sites.

Some of the protesters said the camps posed no threat. Ahmed Abu Bakr, a professor at Suez University, was among a group of men marching out of the camp for a rally at a security office.  He waved aloft his Koran.

"All of the military say that we have weapons here, that we have machine guns here.  But no one has anything.  Nothing here.  Just our Korans," he said. But some of the marchers flashing peace signs were also carrying sticks.  Others wore helmets and gas masks, in anticipation of clashes.

The march ended peacefully, but there has been deadly fighting in the weeks since opponents of the military-backed government have taken to the streets. For all the talk of peaceful demonstrations, pro-Morsi computer engineer Ahmed Omar ruled out the idea of Gandhi-like passive resistance. Read more ..

India and Pakistan

India Accuses Pakistan of Killing 5 Soldiers in Kashmir

August 6th 2013

Indian Soldier Killed in Kashmir

India has accused Pakistan of killing five soldiers and injuring another in an attack along the disputed Kashmir border. The attack could set back efforts by the two rival countries to resume a stalled peace dialogue.

Indian army officials said Tuesday Pakistani soldiers entered the Indian side of the Kashmir border and ambushed a military post around midnight. They called it a “gross violation” of a 2003 ceasefire. 

The Pakistani army denied involvement and dismissed the Indian allegations as baseless. In New Delhi, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament that about 20 heavily armed men wearing Pakistani army uniforms launched the attack. 

“We strongly condemn this unprovoked incident," Antony said. "Government of India has lodged strong protest with government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels. I assure the house that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps.” Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

WSJ: Iran Adding Plutonium Path to Nuke Program

August 5th 2013

Iran Missiles

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Iran may be embarking on the worrisome plutonium path to nuclear weapons. WSJ report Jay Solomon wrote:

"Iran could begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer, U.S. and European officials believe, using a different nuclear technology that would be easier for foreign countries to attack. The second path to potentially producing a nuclear weapon could complicate international efforts to negotiate with Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, who was sworn in Sunday in Tehran. It also heightens the possibility of an Israeli strike, said U.S. and European officials. New Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, seen after his swearing-in at the parliament in Tehran on Sunday, called on the West to drop sanctions." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

GOP, Democrats Support Closing US Embassies

August 4th 2013

Embassy Attacks 9-12-12

U.S. lawmakers and former high-ranking officials say the closing of more than 20 American embassies and consulates and the issuance of a global travel alert are both extraordinary and appropriate responses to credible terrorist threats.

Republican lawmakers are often critical of President Barack Obama’s decisions. Not so when it comes to current embassy closings and a global travel warning. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Michael McCaul, spoke on the CBS Face the Nation television program.

“We are on a high state of alert," he said. "I think the administration’s call to close these embassies was actually a very smart call.” U.S. actions can cause terrorists to rethink their plans, according to McCaul. “When you let them [terrorists] know what you know, you put them on their heels, and they often times back down,” he said. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Obama, Yemen Leader Discuss Counterterrorism, Reconciliation

August 2nd 2013

Yemeni terrorists

U.S. President Barack Obama and Yemen's president, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, held talks at the White House Thursday on the political reconciliation process in Yemen, counterterrorism cooperation and economic assistance.

Hadi's visit to Washington came at a pivotal time as Yemen continues difficult national negotiations for political, economic and other reforms.

Since 2012, after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down following mass demonstrations, Hadi has overseen a National Dialogue involving more than 500 delegates from across Yemeni society.

Obama has said the process could serve as a model for peaceful transitions and after their talks, on Thursday he praised progress achieved so far. "Because of his leadership, he has been able to initiate a national dialogue that can potentially bring the parties all together in Yemen, and produce a constitution and a transition to a fully democratic government that can serve the interests of the people," said Obama. Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

More Missile Launches Expected from Maverick North Korea

July 31st 2013

Launch with Un insert

Specialists following North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development concur the reclusive state is nearly certain to continue launching long-range rockets which may be intended to improve its capability to fire weapons of mass destruction.

A North Korean official in Pyongyang last week told VOA News that another launch of the Unha series vehicle will occur “soon” as part of the country's “peaceful use of space.” He did not elaborate.

The latest in the series, the Unha-3, carried the apparently non-functioning Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star) satellite into a low Earth orbit on December 12, 2012. A floral exhibition, which closed Tuesday in Pyongyang, included several small-scale models of larger “Unha-9” rockets among the flowers, reinforcing the message that North Korea wants its people and the outside world to believe there will be additional launches. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Reading Between The Red Lines Of U.S.-Afghan Security Talks

July 30th 2013

Afghanistan Fighters

A months-long effort by the United States and Afghanistan to hammer out a long-term security arrangement has so far achieved one obvious result -- each side has established clear red lines.

Read between those lines, however, and there appears to be enough common ground for each side to get what they want.

Going by the positions publicly taken by the two sides, they are at polar opposites on the terms of a continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

Afghan officials have said that if U.S. troops are to remain, they must answer to Afghan law. Upping the ante, officials as high up as the president have called for U.S. troops to pick up and leave entirely.

U.S. officials, eyeing the end of the current campaign in 2014, have made clear that they want a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place to protect U.S. troops from prosecution in Afghanistan. With no SOFA agreement, according to the message being sent from Washington, the "zero option" of leaving no troops behind is a very real possibility. Read more ..

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