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The Medical Edge

Pacemakers and Defibrillators Vulnerable to Electronic Hackers

May 21st 2013

Artificial cadaver and implantable defibrillator
Artificial cadaver and implantable defibrillator

The type of sensors that pick up the rhythm of a beating heart in implanted cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers are vulnerable to tampering, according to a new study conducted in controlled laboratory conditions. Implantable defibrillators monitor the heart for irregular beating and, when necessary, administer an electric shock to bring it back into normal rhythm. Pacemakers use electrical pulses to continuously keep the heart in pace.

In experiments in simulated human models, an international team of researchers demonstrated that they could forge an erratic heartbeat with radio frequency electromagnetic waves. Theoretically, a false signal like the one they created could inhibit needed pacing or induce unnecessary defibrillation shocks. The team includes researchers from the University of Michigan, University of South Carolina, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School. Read more ..


Afghanistan and India

Karzai to Discuss Enhancing Defense Ties with India

May 21st 2013

Karzai-Mukherjee

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in India seeking to enhance defense ties with New Delhi. Afghanistan is looking for more military aid as it prepares for a withdrawal of NATO forces by next year. Speaking at ceremony during which he was given an honorary degree Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his appreciation for the $2 billion aid that India has extended toward rebuilding his country.

But, as he heads into talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Tuesday evening, he is likely to press India to expand that aid to include military assistance.  Aides to President Karzai say he wants India to help strengthen Afghan security forces and meet military shortages.  Read more ..


The New Algeria

Algeria: Middle East's Next Revolt if Soccer is a Barometer

May 20th 2013

Soccer Protest-algeria

Algeria is competing to be the next Arab nation to witness a popular revolt. That is assuming soccer is a barometer of rising discontent in a region experiencing a wave of mass protests that have already toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and sparked civil war in Syria.

In fact, there is increasingly little doubt that soccer, a historic nucleus of protest in Algeria, is signaling that popular discontent could again spill into the streets of Algiers and other major cities. Two years ago, protesters inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia ultimately pulled back from the brink despite the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Now, in circumstances similar to Saudi Arabia, protests are mounting amid uncertainty about the future as Algeria's aging leadership struggles with a series of natural deaths and the effects of health problems among its remaining key members. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria says 14 Militants, 3 Soldiers Killed in Latest Fighting

May 19th 2013

Nigeria soldiers

The Nigerian military says it has killed 14 Boko Haram militants and arrested 20 others.  The military says three soldiers died in the fighting Sunday and another is missing.

It was only last Tuesday that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the immediate deployment of thousands of soldiers to the north to fight Boko Haram, a militant group that has been blamed for thousands of deaths in the past four years.  But as of Sunday, the military says 24 Boko Haram members have been killed and another 85 captured in the offensive.

It could not independently verify the military claims because roads to affected areas are blocked and communications networks are sporadic at best.  Some analysts fear the military, which international rights groups have accused of extra-judicial killings and other abuses, could alienate the people by killing civilians along with suspected militants. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Islamist Terrorist's Home in Latin America and its Threat to the United States

May 17th 2013

Wassim el Abd Fadel - terrorist in Paraguay
Wassim el Abd Fadel in Paraguayan custody.

In December 2012, Paraguayan authorities detained Wassim el Abd Fadel, a suspected Hezbollah member with Paraguayan citizenship, and charged him with human trafficking, money laundering, and narco-trafficking. International authorities had connected Fadel to Nelida Raquel Cardozo Taboada, a Paraguayan national arrested in France the same month with 1.1 kilograms of cocaine in her stomach. Cardozo Taboada had claimed that Fadel and his wife hired her as a drug mule, prompting an Interpol investigation into Fadel’s finances.

According to Paraguayan police, Fadel deposited the proceeds of narco-trafficking and pirated music and movies into Turkish and Syrian bank accounts linked to Hezbollah.The Fadel arrest cast new light, and fresh international attention, on a long-running phenomenon. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Hezbollah's Criminal Network Expanding in Size, Scope and Savvy

May 16th 2013

Hezbollah

In late April, the Obama administration blacklisted two Lebanese money exchanges for allegedly facilitating Hezbollah's use of narcotics trafficking profits to fund terrorist activities. In an email interview, Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute and author of the forthcoming Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God, explained the broad range of Hezbollah's illicit activities and the growing savvy of its criminal network.

What are Hezbollah's main illicit business activities, and where is it most active
Hezbollah is engaged in an amazingly broad array of illicit activities, from counterfeiting currencies, documents and goods to credit card fraud, money laundering, arms smuggling and narcotics trafficking. Hezbollah, one investigator quipped, is like the "Gambinos on steroids." Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Lessons and Context of the Navy’s First Carrier Drone Flight

May 15th 2013

Carrier Drone

The U.S. Navy recently made history with its flight of the X-47B UCAS, the first unmanned carrier drone (unmanned systems) to launch from an aircraft carrier. In 2009 and 2011, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings had the pleasure of hosting then Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Gary Roughead, to discuss the future of unmanned operations. The vision he laid out is well on its way to fruition, making it especially useful to place what happened today in the context of the larger U.S. defense strategy and to look at what lessons have been learned in the development of unmanned systems. As I explored in a look at the past and future of naval aviation after 100 years of flight, this success is only one part of a much bigger story. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israeli Airstrikes Meant to Aid Assad

May 14th 2013

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

A top Syrian rebel commander has said that Israeli airstrikes on Damascus were meant to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against opposition forces.

Al-Tawhid Brigade Commander Abdulkader Saleh told the Cihan news agency that Israel decided to strike a military facility after it learned that rebels battling the Syrian government were going to gain control of weapons there.

“The opposition was going to take over arms, so Israel attacked. There is evidence pointing to this. There were some high-ranking officers with whom [the opposition forces] got into contact. [Those officers] were going to defect from [the Assad administration], handing over arms to the opposition. Israel hit these posts in fear that the opposition would take over the arms. The arms included heavy artillery as well as air defense systems. This assault, of course, was intended to support the Assad administration,” Saleh explained in a translation provided by Turkey’s Today’s Zaman.

Israel reportedly struck military positions in and around Damascus last Sunday. According to reports, the Jewish state made clear to the Assad regime that it was not attempting to interfere in the country’s civil strife, but rather proactively stopping weapons from ending up in the possession of terrorists. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Offshore Documents Solve Mystery of Pre-Civil War Helicopter Deal in Congo

May 13th 2013

One Million Dollars

On June 5, 1997, all hell broke loose in Brazzaville. Presidential forces moved on the compound of a former president whose militia hit back, igniting a civil war that would lay to waste much of the Congolese capital and claim the lives of thousands of civilians, many of them victims of indiscriminate bombardment from helicopters.

Five days earlier, as his forces readied for the offensive, then-President Pascal Lissouba personally approved the purchase of four ex-South African Air Force helicopters offered by a Johannesburg company headed by a German expat. They were French-designed Puma SA 330L transporters, suitable for military and civilian use. Within weeks, as the war raged on, tens of millions of petrodollars started sloshing from a Paris account controlled by Lissouba’s oil-rich regime to pay for the Pumas and other items that could be useful in war. Other hardware ordered from companies linked to the German expat included two East-bloc MI-17 multi-role helicopters, four fixed-wing cargo and transport aircraft, and 290 trucks.  Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Getting Closer to Military Nuclear Capabillity

May 12th 2013

Iran Long-Range Missile

In April, Iran celebrated its National Nuclear Day just after the failed second round of nuclear talks with the 5+1 group in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The talks’ failure again revealed the dead-end reached by the present Iranian-Western nuclear negotiations channel. It also once again demonstrated that there are actually two parallel processes in motion.

On one side is Iran’s foot-dragging in the talks – the first round in Kazakhstan was held after almost a year’s intermission – and their repeated failure; on the other is Iran’s ongoing progress in developing its technological capabilities in the nuclear domain. This progress is bringing Iran close to a point where it will be able to achieve its goal of a military nuclear capability. It will do so when it chooses, subject to the full range of its strategic political considerations, which are a main component of the decision-making process in Tehran – especially in light of the changes in the geostrategic environment and its assessments of threats and opportunities. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Explosion Near Turkish-Syrian Border Kills 40

May 11th 2013

Turkish Soldiers on patrol

Turkey's interior minister, Muammar Guler, said the death toll from bombings near the country's border with Syria has risen to 40, with about 100 more wounded.

Guler says two car bombs went off in the town of Reyhanli, just a few kilometers from a Syria border crossing. Turkish media outlets had reported earlier that there were four blasts Saturday.

Residents in the Turkish town of Reyhanli rushed to the scene of the explosions to help the many injured. The blasts occurred Saturday around 2 p.m. local time in the center of town. The interior minister, Muammer Guler, blamed the explosions on two car bombs that he said targeted a municipal building and post office. Several buildings were destroyed while others were set on fire. A stream of ambulances and cars rushed the injured to nearby hospitals. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

China Denies Pentagon Accusations of Cyber Espionage

May 8th 2013

Computers/Nerd Silhouette

China is denying U.S. accusations that its military has backed cyber attacks against U.S. government institutions and businesses. A U.S. Defense Department report published Monday says the cyber attacks “appear to be directly attributable” to China’s government.

The report by the Pentagon is the first direct accusation by the U.S. government that China’s military is guilty of cyber espionage.  According to the report, China’s People’s Liberation Army of has used cyber attacks on U.S. defense networks to map vulnerabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.

But China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying firmly denied the report, saying the U.S. Defense Department has released this type of report year after year to justify a defense build up and hype the so-called China military threat. And she said the allegations are not helpful to U.S. China relations. Read more ..


Edge of the Cliff

Sequester Could Hinder US Capabilities in Syria

May 7th 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Tuesday that sequestration could place the U.S. military at greater risk next year if it’s called on to intervene in Syria. Odierno said that after three or four months, the military’s readiness will be hindered due to the automatic budget cuts, increasing the risk in a possible U.S. intervention.

“Readiness is OK right now, but it’s degrading significantly because our training is reducing,” Odierno said at a breakfast roundtable with reporters. “So the next three, four months, we probably have the capability to do it. Next year it becomes a little bit more risky because our readiness is lower.” President Obama has said that no options are off the table to respond in Syria, but thus far there’s been little appetite among lawmakers or the public for the U.S. military to put “boots on the ground.” Read more ..


China on Edge

China Targeting U.S. Military Secrets to Support Arms Buildup

May 6th 2013

F-35

Chinese military and intelligence officials are ramping up efforts to secure sensitive U.S. military technologies, as part of Beijing's plans to bolster its own arsenal of next-generation weapons. Over the past several years, there have been "number of cases of either export control violations or potential espionage" related to the theft of sensitive U.S. military technologies by China, according to a new Pentagon report.

The report, released Monday, claims China is leveraging pseudo-academic and defense industry organizations, along with traditional spy craft, to obtain classified and unclassified details of the Defense Department's top weapons programs. Beijing's "network of government-affiliated companies and research institutes often enables [China] to access sensitive and dual- use technologies . . . under the guise of civilian research and development," the Pentagon report states. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Israel Air Strikes Target Iranian Assets In Syria

May 5th 2013

Jet Fighter

Tonight’s air strikes in Syria targeted sensitive military facilities, including ones staffed by Iran Revolutionary Guard personnel, according to Western government sources who focus on the Middle East. Those reports have yet to be publicly confirmed. Israel has consistently made clear that it will act to prevent the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons either to Damascus’s Hezbollah allies or to Al Qaeda-linked rebel forces seeking the regime’s overthrow. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Four UK Islamists Imprisoned in Bomb Plot

May 5th 2013

Four Muslim men living in the United Kingdom have been imprisoned for plotting to perpetrate terrorist bombings throughout Great Britain, according to British intelligence agency MI5. Part of the alleged plot was an attack on a British army base using a remote-controlled toy car packed with explosives which they planned to drive under the security gates.

Prosecutors in London noted that the suspects were captured as a result of an operation involving London's Counter Terrorism Command and the MI5 domestic spy agency. The four Islamists were characterized by Britain's Crown Prosecution Service as being "dangerous and committed terrorists."

All four suspects -- Zahid Iqbal, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, Umar Arshad and Syed Farhan Hussain --resided in Luton, north of London. Each man entered a guilty plea last month to planning to commit terrorist acts against the U.K. Read more ..


Israel's Next Northern War

Israeli Air Strikes As Both Rebels and Hezbollah Close In on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

May 4th 2013

Israeli Jet Diving

Israel’s air force recently attacked a Syrian chemicals weapon cache, probably on Thursday or Friday and probably from within Lebanese airspace. The reports cited Western intelligence sources, likely based on radar evidence. A CNN report comes days after Syrian opposition forces reported that IAF strikes had taken place on Syrian territory. The opposition reports also indicated that the Israeli attack targeted Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Israeli officials have been increasingly explicit in warning that Jerusalem would act to prevent the Syrian regime from crossing the double red line that Israeli officials had set at the onset of the Syrian conflict: no transfer of advanced Syrian weapons to terrorist allies of the embattled Bashar al-Assad and no seizure of those weapons by Al Qaeda-linked opponents fighting to overthrow the regime. Read more ..


The Boston Massacre

Continued Boston Bombings Investigation Shows Radical Influences

May 3rd 2013

Boston Marathon Massacre

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remains locked in a 10' by 10' prison cell at the U.S. Marshal's Federal Medical Center in Devens, MA after being transferred from Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, as authorities continue to examine his past. The FBI and media outlets continue to release new information about Dzhokhar and his late brother Tamerlan, after they planted two bombs at the Boston Marathon earlier this month.

Ruslan Tsarni, uncle to the two bombers, originally identified a man named Misha, who could have influenced Tamberlan. The FBI interviewed the man living in Cambridge, later identified as Mikhail Allakhverdov. Allakhverdov admitted knowing Tamerlan, but denied trying to brainwash him. He said he had provided his computer and phone records to the FBI. Read more ..


Indonesia on Edge

Indonesia Readies Mass Production of Drones

May 2nd 2013

MQ-1 Predator Drone

Indonesia has announced that it will begin to mass-produce surveillance drones this year. Analysts say Indonesia's local drone development and production is part of a broader trend of rapidly modernizing militaries in the Asia Pacific.

Funded by the Defense Ministry, Indonesia initiated its surveillance drone development program in 2004. A collaborative effort between several government agencies, the Wulung, a type of unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, is ready to be mass-produced for the Indonesian Air Force this year.

The Wulung prototype was locally designed and produced, and initially will be used for non-military purposes, such as monitoring active volcanoes, spotting illegal logging and patrolling the country’s huge maritime area. Samudro, a director at Indonesia’s Research and Technology Application Agency that jointly developed the prototype, said the drones will help Indonesia keep tabs on its 17,000 islands and multiple borders. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Clashes Roil Istanbul as World Marks May Day

May 1st 2013

Turkish demonstration against Syria and Israel

Police in Istanbul have clashed with May Day demonstrators. The protestors were trying to reach the main square, where a planned demonstration had been banned. Elsewhere in Europe, May Day rallies were peaceful. In Istanbul, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

The government had banned a rally in Taksim Square, which is undergoing renovation. They said the ban was for security reasons, and clashes began after hundreds of people tried to bypass barricades around the square.

Ercan Karakas, a member of main opposition Republican People's Party, was there. He said May Day has been celebrated peacefully before by thousands of people and no one suffered, because May Day celebrations were not prohibited by the government. Prohibition, he said, always leads to clashes. Read more ..


Mali on Edge

Pentagon Sends Troops to Mali

April 30th 2013

3 Taureg Fighters

U.S. military leaders have deployed more than 20 American soldiers to the war-torn West African nation of Mali, calling into question the Pentagon's previous promise not to put troops on the ground there.

The majority of that small U.S. force are working with their State Department counterparts at the American Embassy in Bamako, Pentagon officials told The Washington Post. The remaining members of that U.S. force have been tasked to conduct "liaison support" as part of French-led counterterrorism operations in the country, The Post reported on Tuesday.

The American troops in direct contact with French forces are barred from carrying out combat operations as part of their liaison support mission. Recent reports claim U.S. special operations forces had been conducting clandestine missions inside Mali since the beginning of the French operation. Read more ..


The New Libya

Libyan Police Headquarters Bombed in Benghazi

April 29th 2013

libya-consulate

An improvised explosive device was detonated on Saturday morning outside of the local police headquarters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, according to an Israeli police and intelligence source who monitors North Africa.

The bomb blast caused an enormous amount of property damage but only three officers sustained injuries and there were no reported deaths, according to Capt. Dennis Spielman.

The bomb attack took place at 7 a.m., Libyan time, adjacent to the Fadil Buamr battalion, which had been the last stronghold of loyalists to Libya's executed dictator Moamar Khadhafi, according to Reuters.

Police investigators told the media that there were no civilians at the police station when the blast occurred, and said the bomb was probably detonated by remote control. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

How U.S. Responds to Syria’s Chemical Weapons Use Will Send Signal to Iran

April 27th 2013

Israeli Jets Parked

How the United States responds to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons will send a signal to Iran, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zev Elkin said on 26 April. “If they don’t act on something they defined as a ‘red line,’ then the Iranians will learn that the red lines the West sets are very flexible, and will continue their nuclear program,” he told IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal).

“If the United States and the international community are able to take action and to take control of the chemical weapons reserves in Syria, the concerns over its use will not be relevant. It could be that as soon as the international community understands that red lines have been crossed, it will realize that there is no choice but to take action,” he continued. Israel is, at this point, unconcerned with who leads the Syria government, but rather with who controls Syria’s chemical weapons, Elkin added. “The world is beginning to internalize the fact that chemical weaponry endangers us all,” he said. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Mossad Has “Many, Many” Security Personnel Operating in Syria

April 26th 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

A Syrian rebel military leader said Wednesday that it would be logical for Israel to know whether or not the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons because they have “many, many” security personnel inside Syria.

“Israel has this information because there are many, many members of security services who are now very active in Syria,” Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “Mossad is one of the most famous security services in the world and I don’t think they are away.”

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. ltay Baron, said Assad has used lethal chemical weapons, mostly sarin gas, against armed rebels several times in the past few weeks, and is continuing to do so. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Dipomacy, Sanctions Have Not Stopped Iranian Centrifuges

April 25th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

Israeli Ambassador to U.N. Ron Prosor: The Iranian nuclear program continues to advance at the speed of an express train, while the international community's efforts to stop them are like a local train, pausing at every stop for nations to get off and on.

Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon cast doubt on Wednesday on the current diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop its nuclear program.

"The diplomatic channel is not bringing the Iranian nuclear program to a halt and the economic sanctions have yet to stop the centrifuges. A viable military option is required, even if it is the last resort," Ya'alon said during a meeting with Canadian Chief of Staff Gen. Thomas J. Lawson. Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor warned the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday of Iran's continued progress toward developing a nuclear program. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Despite Gains Against Taliban, Helmand Residents Feel Insecure

April 23rd 2013

Taliban soldiers

After years of bloodshed, a tenuous calm has emerged in Helmand. Large swaths of the southern Afghan province, once a bastion of the Taliban insurgency, have been wrested from militant control.

The daily firefights and roadside bombs that plagued Helmand have abated. Development is evident. Schools have been built, roads have been paved, and markets reopened. Local elections have been held, giving the government the opportunity to expand its presence to remote areas.

But despite the inroads, security in the province has been piecemeal and few residents appear optimistic about the future. Some express fears that the Taliban will return in force once foreign troops leave. Others say Afghanistan's fledgling security forces will be unable to protect the hard-fought gains made in Helmand. And rampant corruption has diminished confidence in the local government. Around 8,000 American and 9,000 British soldiers are currently deployed in the province, but most are on their way out in keeping with the expected withdrawal of most foreign forces by the end of 2014. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

Tense Standoff Continues for 60th Year in Korean DMZ

April 22nd 2013

N Korean Missiles

The tense situation on the Korean peninsula may be the world’s most urgent security challenge. However, unlike threats from Iran or Syria’s civil war, the Korean situation has been unresolved for more than 60 years. The conflict's most recognized flashpoint is Panmunjom in the Korean DMZ (demilitarized zone).

The division of North and South Korea has spanned seven decades. Neither side recognizes the other diplomatically and both claim the entire peninsula.

The peninsula is divided along the 38th parallel. And, it is in the United Nations Military Armistice Commission's conference room T-2, where attempts have been made over the years to resolve the lingering differences. General officers of the United States-led U.N. Command and the North Korean army have not met in the room since March of 2009. In recent weeks, North Korea, has threatened to renew war and to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Lawmakers Criticize Pentagon Spending For Golf Nets, Museums And Sun Rooms

April 20th 2013

The Pentagon

Pentagon officials have been warning that budget cuts will provoke a “hollowing out” of warfighting capabilities in coming years, with tens of billions of dollars on the table under so-called “sequestration” cuts.

Somehow, however, there is still enough money to pay for the construction of some new sun rooms for military housing used by senior officers in Stuttgart, Germany, a country the U.S. military has begun to flee. There also is enough – amid persistent military threats by North Korea -- to pay for a new $10 million museum in South Korea lauding the U.S. Army’s years of work there. And there is also sufficient cash to finance millions of dollars worth of netting around an Army golf course at Camp Zama in Japan, helpfully listed as “safety countermeasure” netting.

Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

Islamization of Egypt and the Role of al-Azhar University

April 19th 2013

Hijab and flag

After replacing the heads of the Constitutional Court, officials close to the Islamist-line President Mohamed Morsi and the passage of the Constitution, only the University of al-Azhar has the power and the authority to stop the spread of Islamic extremism in Egypt. The entrance of the Sharia into civil law concerns not only the Christian minority, but also Muslims. Until now, the most important university of Sunni Islam has maintained a moderate position and more than once its Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb gave the impression of being on the side of the secular opposition against the establishment dominated by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis.

However, according to the great scholar of Islam Samir Khalil Samir, such behavior is just a tactic employed by al-Azhar to maintain power. Starting from the very history of the university, responsible for the formation of thousands of imams, the priest examines the situation in Egypt, a victim of an Islam that uses ignorance and illiteracy to dominate the population. The constitution based on Sharia law approved in December is the result of this strategy and will not turn Egypt into an Islamic state. It is confusing and full of contradictions and is being used by Islamists to show the Egyptians that they are "true Muslims."

For the scholar of Islam, al-Azhar has a great responsibility in the current situation in the nation. The university forms all imams in Egypt and most of the Sunni Muslim religious authorities throughout the world.

For centuries, al-Azhar, has followed the ruling power. The rector of the University is appointed by the President of the Republic. The expenses of the organization and the formation of its imams are largely paid for by the government. As a result its support for the Constitution that binds civil law with Islamic law and its future support to the Muslim Brotherhood is not surprising. On the one hand the university presents itself as the spokesman for more balanced and representative Sunni Islam. On the other, it is opposed to the Salafists, but only because the majority of the population considers them too extreme. By supporting them, it would lose support. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Underwater Internet Cable Cutting: A Neglected Aspect of Cyber Warfare

April 19th 2013

Stormy Seas

In recent years there has been considerable discussion of the new phenomenon of cyber warfare, its methods, and its ramifications. In essence there are three objectives that can be achieved by cyber-offensive activities: espionage (infiltrating the target’s information storage systems and stealing information), denial of service attacks (preventing Internet usage), and sabotage (infiltrating systems reliant on Internet connections and causing functional damage via malevolent programs). The media largely focuses on the use of computer programs as weapons in the cyber domain, but an attack on Internet infrastructure is no less an option for terrorists, and often more devastating and effective. It doesn’t require a great deal of computer programming skill to implement, and its effect is widespread and immediate. Even partial success has extensive consequences because of the resultant jamming of traffic on the limited remaining connection.

For example, on March 27, 2013, an Egyptian Navy patrol discovered and arrested three men engaged in cutting an underwater cable connecting Egypt to international internet service. Seacom, the cable operator, said that while the attack was interrupted before the cable had been completely cut, network speed was significantly reduced in Egypt. This was just one of many instances from over the past decade in which cables off the coast of Egypt were cut. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

U.S. Sends Soldiers To Jordan

April 19th 2013

Aussies going home

The United States intends to send hundreds of troops to Jordan amid the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Officials said the U.S. military has approved plans to deploy at least 200 soldiers in Jordan in 2013. They said the U.S. soldiers would help Jordan secure its northern border with Syria as well as to monitor the war against President Bashar Assad.

"The deployment of the troops is part of U.S.-Jordanian military cooperation to boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria," Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Momani said. In remarks on April 17, Momani did not say when the U.S. soldiers would arrive in the Hashemite kingdom. He said the U.S. military deployment reflected what he termed the "deteriorating situation" in Syria.

Read more ..

The Durg Wars

In Mexico's Drug War, Balkanization Leads to Regional Challenges

April 18th 2013

Mexico memorial

Since the late 1980s demise of the Guadalajara cartel, which controlled drug trade routes into the United States through most of Mexico, Mexican cartels have followed a trend of fracturing into more geographically compact, regional crime networks. This trend, which we are referring to as "Balkanization," has continued for more than two decades and has impacted all of the major cartel groups in Mexico. Indeed the Sinaloa Federation lost significant assets when the organizations run by Beltran Leyva and Ignacio Coronel split away from it. Los Zetas, currently the other most powerful cartel in Mexico, was formed when it split off from the Gulf cartel in 2010. Still these two organizations have fought hard to resist the trend of fracturing and have been able to grow despite being affected by it. This led to the polarized dynamic observed in 2011 when these two dominant Mexican cartels effectively split Mexican organized crime in two, with one group composed of Los Zetas and its allies and the other composed of the Sinaloa Federation and its allies. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

Mexico's Drug War: Balkanization Leads to Regional Challenges

April 18th 2013

Mexican Drug Police1

Balkanization of Cartels
Since the late 1980s demise of the Guadalajara cartel, which controlled drug trade routes into the United States through most of Mexico, Mexican cartels have followed a trend of fracturing into more geographically compact, regional crime networks. This trend, which we are referring to as "Balkanization," has continued for more than two decades and has impacted all of the major cartel groups in Mexico. Indeed the Sinaloa Federation lost significant assets when the organizations run by Beltran Leyva and Ignacio Coronel split away from it. Los Zetas, currently the other most powerful cartel in Mexico, was formed when it split off from the Gulf cartel in 2010. Still these two organizations have fought hard to resist the trend of fracturing and have been able to grow despite being affected by it. This led to the polarized dynamic observed in 2011 when these two dominant Mexican cartels effectively split Mexican organized crime in two, with one group composed of Los Zetas and its allies and the other composed of the Sinaloa Federation and its allies. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Defeating Terrorism on the Internet

April 17th 2013

Hamas head

The Internet is a crucial tool that terrorist groups and their extremist supporters use to distribute their propaganda and attack planning beyond the "physical" space where they operate clandestinely into the worldwide "cyber" space, where it is easier to reach vast audiences that have Internet connectivity. Terrorist presence and appeal on the Internet can be thwarted, however, through a four-pronged approach with simultaneously employed counter-measures.  

The Internet's websites and social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are used by terrorist groups as vehicles to conduct propaganda, recruitment, communications, training, tactics, and even issue coded plans for new attacks. Terrorists' presence in cyberspace, however, also presents significant vulnerabilities that can be (and, in fact, are) exploited by governments to defeat terrorists' on-line militant activities.   Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Democrats Warn that Sequester Cuts Undermine Fight Against Terror

April 16th 2013

Security Against Terrorism

Top House Democrats are warning that the sequester cuts are undermining the country's ability to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks like Monday's bombings in Boston.

"We know that first responders are being cut. We know that community police [are] being cut. We know that healthcare services, especially emergency healthcare services, are being cut," Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday at a press briefing. "Why do we know that? Because we know the sequester … demand[s] that we make these blind cuts across the board."

Becerra said the sequester – $85 billion in automatic cuts that took effect in March – will likely leave Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) facing a budget crunch in the wake of Monday's tragedy. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Three Dead, Dozens Injured in Boston Marathon Explosions

April 15th 2013

Bomb-Boston-Marathon

At least three people--including an eight-year-old boy, Martin Richard--were killed and over 175 others injured after two bomb explosions struck Boylston Street near the Copley Square finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. The Boston Globe is reporting that more than 100 persons, including children have been admitted to seven area hospitals and Trauma Centers, 17 in critical condition, and many others presented for treatment at South Shore hospitals. At least 10 of the injured have been reported with amputated limbs. Doctors are reporting many shrapnel injuries requiring treatment and removal from victims. Authorities are now stating that the bombs were made with ball bearings packed into pressure cookers. 

There are reports, which the FBI and police are refusing to confirm that a 20-year-old Saudi national is being questioned in a Boston hospital, and is suffering from severe burns sustained in the explosions. The man was reportedly tackled and held by a bystander as he ran from the scene. Overnight, FBI, police, and Homeland Security officials, accompanied by local firefighters, swarmed his apartment at 364 Ocean Ave. in Revere, a suburb five miles north of Boston, as part of an investigation of a person of interest. They were seen leaving the apartment with bags and boxes of materials. However, it is being reported that the man is very cooperative with authorities and gave consent to having his apartment searched. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

US, China Pledge to Resolve Crisis on Korean Peninsula

April 14th 2013

Soldiers-marching

The United States and China have expressed their desire to work together to get North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.  Just how the two will do that remains uncertain.  North Korea topped the agenda during a visit by the top U.S. diplomat to Beijing on Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says both Beijing and Washington support the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. "China and the United States today recommitted to find a peaceful solution and we say to Kim Jung Un and to the government of the DPRK, they have an obvious choice here - which is to join us to try and find a negotiated resolution.  Regardless of what they do, we will continue to fight for that," he said.

Kerry has been urging Chinese officials to use their influence as the North’s biggest ally to get it to pull back from its provocations.  China, however, made no indication on Saturday that it was going to step up the pressure on its neighbor.  Read more ..


Broken Banking

Mystery of Pre-Civil War Helicopter Deal in Congo

April 14th 2013

One Million Dollars

On June 5, 1997, all hell broke loose in Brazzaville. Presidential forces moved on the compound of a former president whose militia hit back, igniting a civil war that would lay to waste much of the Congolese capital and claim the lives of thousands of civilians, many of them victims of indiscriminate bombardment from helicopters.

Five days earlier, as his forces readied for the offensive, then-President Pascal Lissouba personally approved the purchase of four ex-South African Air Force helicopters offered by a Johannesburg company headed by a German expat. They were French-designed Puma SA 330L transporters, suitable for military and civilian use.

Within weeks, as the war raged on, tens of millions of petrodollars started sloshing from a Paris account controlled by Lissouba’s oil-rich regime to pay for the Pumas and other items that could be useful in war. Other hardware ordered from companies linked to the German expat included two East-bloc MI-17 multi-role helicopters, four fixed-wing cargo and transport aircraft, and 290 trucks. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

What Would the US Do if Israel Defied It by Attacking the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program?

April 13th 2013

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

At least one of President Obama’s goals for his recent visit to Israel was probably to obtain Israeli agreement not to attack the nuclear weapons program of the revolutionary regime in Iran without US agreement. The Obama Administration feels very strongly about preventing such an attack by Israel.

Many people assume that if Israel defies the US by attacking Iran without US agreement, the US would join international condemnation of Israel, partly to convince the Iranian regime and the rest of the Muslim world that the US was not complicit in the attack, and partly in response to Israel creating major problems for the US by defying American demands.

While it is possible that this would be the US reaction, the overriding American national interest actually leads in the opposite direction. Even if an Israeli attack goes as planned, the physical damage to Iranian facilities could likely be repaired in perhaps six months to a year or so. Consequently, the most important interest of the US in the wake of an Israeli strike would be to dissuade the Iranian regime from restarting its program of building nuclear weapons. Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

Embassy Staffers in North Korea Not Evacuating

April 12th 2013

Kim Jung Un-Chinese Officiers

Foreign diplomats in North Korea appear to be staying put, ignoring a warning by the government that they should consider evacuating their missions amid rising nuclear tensions. North Korea had informed embassies on Friday it could not guarantee their safety after April 10 if a conflict broke out as concerns grew that the isolated state was preparing a missile launch. But most of their governments made it clear they had no immediate plans to withdraw personnel, and some suggested the advisory was a ruse to heighten global anxiety over the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.

"The security of the German embassy and its exposure to danger are continually being evaluated," the German foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday. "For now, the embassy can continue working." A British Foreign Office spokeswoman, commenting on the North's advisory, said: "We believe they have taken this step as part of their country's rhetoric that the US poses a threat to them." Read more ..



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