Israel on Edge
|Zach Pontz||February 6th 2013|
A patriot missile defense system deployed in Turkey by NATO cannot protect Israel from an attack by Iran.
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, during a speech to Parliament Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said: “Some of our colleagues lodged claims that ‘the target of the deployment of these [Patriots] is aimed at protecting Israel from missiles to be launched from Iran,’ which does not at all comply with the truth. It is not technically possible for a missile, the target of which could be 36 kilometers away, to intercept a missile launched from Iran to Israel.” Read more ..
Japan on Edge
|John Chapin||February 6th 2013|
|Japanese destroyer 'Asigiri' visiting Anchorage, Alaska.|
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says it is "extremely regrettable" that a Chinese warship locked its pre-firing radar on a Japanese navy boat near disputed islands last week. Speaking to a parliamentary session on February 5, Abe called the move "dangerous." He said it could lead to an accidental clash, and he warned China against escalating the situation further. "At a time when it seemed there are signs of improvement towards increasing talks between Japan and China, having this sort of one-sided provocative action taken by the Chinese is extremely regrettable," said Abe.
Tokyo has lodged an official protest with Beijing over the January 30 incident, the latest in a series of dangerous escalations in their long-running dispute over ownership of a group of East China Sea islands. On February 5, Japan's defense ministry said it confirmed that the Chinese navy frigate aimed its weapons-targeting radar at the Japanese vessel. It also said a Japanese military helicopter was targeted with similar radar earlier last month. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Justin Sink||February 5th 2013|
The Department of Justice has developed a white paper outlining the specific circumstances under which the United States can conduct a lethal drone strike against an American citizen, a copy of which was obtained Monday by NBC News.
The paper provides the first detailed look at the criteria the Obama Administration uses to judge if it can legally kill American citizens traveling abroad without the benefit of due process. In the document, the Justice Department concludes that a lethal strike against a senior operational leader of al Qaeda — or an affiliated terrorist group — can occur if a three-part test is met: that a high-level American intelligence official has determined the individual poses a imminent threat, that capture is infeasible, and that the strike is conducted according to the laws of war governing use of force.
"This conclusion is reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a U.S. citizen, and also of the extraordinary seriousness of the threat posed by senior operational al Qaeda members and the loss of life that would result were their operations successful," the memo reads. Read more ..
Israel Next Northern War
|Zack Pontz||February 4th 2013|
Israel has begun development of what it claims will be the world’s most advanced border system, according to Israeli daily Maariv.
Situated between the Golan Heights and Syria, the fence will cost an estimated quarter of a billion dollars. Defense officials claim that the project has no connection to recent turmoil in the north, but that the decision was made last year given the already weakening Syrian government.
The fence, which will be completed this year, will soon be equipped with technology able to monitor and sensor any movement or suspicious activity near the border. Data collected will be transferred to a central control center able to analyze and then respond to it accordingly. The Syrian civil war has increasingly encroached on Israel’s northern border. In November mortar fire from Syria landed in Israel, prompting the IDF to fire warning shots back into Syria. Read more ..
Israel's Next Northern War
|Michael Herzog||February 3rd 2013|
The Washington Institute
Compared to Syria's other neighbors, Israel has been the least affected by the storm raging to its north. The fighting between regime and opposition forces can be seen from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, but the border itself is quiet, and the few incidents of firing toward Israel in late 2012 were likely unintended. Yet Israel is far from complacent -- its airstrike near Damascus, reported yesterday, highlights its concerns about the explosiveness of the Syrian scene, particularly the proliferation of strategic weapons. More broadly, Israel expects the nearly forty years of calm along the Syrian border to end once Bashar al-Assad falls, or even before then.
WHO WILL FILL THE VOID?
Israeli officials are skeptical about whether Assad will be able to maintain his grip on power past this year. Yet they also realize that the civil war may continue consuming the country beyond his ouster. Although the turmoil diminishes the traditional risk of war with the Syrian army, it highlights the risk of confrontation with hostile nonstate actors. Read more ..
The Edge of Immigration
|Alexander Bolton||February 2nd 2013|
Under a bipartisan Senate framework, Democrats say, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano would have final say over whether the border is secure enough to put 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. If Napolitano does not provide the green light for putting illegal immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, the responsibility for judging whether the metrics for border security have been met will be given to her successor.
The early debate over immigration reform has yielded two thorny questions: What metrics will be used to determine whether the goals for border security and other safeguards against illegal immigration have been met? Who will decide whether the metrics have been achieved?
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan immigration reform framework unveiled this past week, said Napolitano should decide. “What we’ve proposed is that the DHS secretary, whomever it is, will have final say on [whether] whatever metrics we proposes are met,” Schumer said. “We think those metrics will be quite objective.” Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Rachel Ehrenfield and Ken Jensen||February 1st 2013|
Economic Warfare Institute
“Terrorism and drugs go together like rats and the bubonic plague,” stated Attorney General John Ashcroft (March 2002). “They thrive in the same conditions, support each other, and feed off each other.”
The nexus of terrorist groups and international criminal organizations is complex, linking money, geography, politics, arms, and tactics to create a mutually beneficial relationship. This nexus yields hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues worldwide—for 1992 alone, the figure was close to $1 trillion. A decade later, with the exponential growth in drug consumption, U.S. experts estimated the profits to be as high as $2 trillion. Since then, a staggering supply of heroin from Afghanistan, Iran and Mexico, and cocaine from South America, have created millions of new drug addicts the world over and filled the coffers of Islamist warlords. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|William Gallo||January 31st 2013|
Chinese hackers have conducted a growing number of attacks against foreign companies and government institutions in recent years, leading a recent U.S. congressional report to call China the "most threatening actor in cyberspace."
Although the attacks are difficult to trace to a specific source, many suspect the hackers are targeting overseas business, media, political and security institutions at the direction of, or with the permission of, the Chinese government or military.
Chinese officials have denied the charge, saying Beijing also is a victim of computer attacks and security breaches. They argues that just because cyber attacks may originate from Chinese soil does not mean China is sponsoring the attackers. The latest accusation came Thursday from the New York Times, which said hackers employing methods known to be used by the Chinese military broke into its computers, in apparent retaliation for a scathing investigation into the wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao. Read more ..
Libya on Edge
|Jamie Dettmer||January 31st 2013|
With French-backed government forces advancing in northern Mali after seizing the Islamist rebel strongholds of Timbuktu and Gao, leaders in neighboring Libya are raising the alarm, warning of a spillover that could see rebel Tuareg and al-Qaeda-linked fighters fleeing into Libyan territory.
A mass exodus of Malian rebels would pose a severe challenge for Libya’s new rulers. They are already struggling to contain security problems of their own, including Islamist-related violence in the country’s second city of Benghazi, which has gone through a series of bombings and assassinations in recent weeks.
Last week’s attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria – mounted by al-Qaida militants opposed to the French intervention in Mali – has heightened fears in North African and Western capitals of more attacks by jihadists on energy facilities in Mali’s neighbors. Read more ..
Israel's Next Northern War
|Bernard Banks||January 30th 2013|
Whether an Israeli strike against a suspected transfer of missiles to Hezbollah took place within Syrian territory, or over the border in Lebanon, could affect any escalation from the incident. Iran, Israel's arch-foe and one of Damascus's few allies, said on Saturday it would consider any attack on Syria as an attack on itself. During and since Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah, there have been unconfirmed reports of Israeli strikes on convoys just after they entered Lebanon from Syria.
Israel has long made clear it claims a right to act preemptively against enemy capabilities. Alluding to this, air force chief Major-General Amir Eshel on Tuesday said his corps was involved in a covert and far-flung "campaign between wars". He added, "This campaign is 24/7, 365 days a year," Eshel told an international conference. "We are taking action to reduce the immediate threats, to create better conditions in which we will be able to win the wars, when they happen." Read more ..
The North Korean Threat
|George Friedman||January 29th 2013|
North Korea's state-run media reported Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the country's top security officials to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," which has been widely interpreted to mean that North Korea is planning its third nuclear test. Kim said the orders were retaliation for the U.S.-led push to tighten U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang following North Korea's missile test in October. A few days before Kim's statement emerged, the North Koreans said future tests would target the United States, which North Korea regards as its key adversary along with Washington's tool, South Korea.
North Korea has been using the threat of tests and the tests themselves as weapons against its neighbors and the United States for years. On the surface, threatening to test weapons does not appear particularly sensible. If the test fails, you look weak. If it succeeds, you look dangerous without actually having a deliverable weapon. And the closer you come to having a weapon, the more likely someone is to attack you so you don't succeed in actually getting one. Developing a weapon in absolute secret would seem to make more sense. When the weapon is ready, you display it, and you have something solid to threaten enemies with. Read more ..
Mali on Edge
|Gabe Joselow||January 29th 2013|
African nations and members of the wider international community pledged more than $455 million Tuesday to assist an African-led military intervention in Mali. Donations pledged at the conference at African Union (AU) headquarters nearly meet the target of $460 million the AU says is needed for the African-led international support mission in Mali, known as AFISMA.
The force will support Mali's army in its fight against al-Qaida-linked militants who seized control of northern Mali following a coup last March. The money raised at the conference will go into a United Nations trust fund for AFISMA and for training and equipping the Malian army.
Ethiopian Prime Minister and AU President Hailemariam Desalegn welcomed the fundraising effort as a show of solidarity. “It is in the best interest of all of us to do everything we can to assist this sisterly nation. I hope that the pledge we have made today will be urgently materialized to ensure that the momentum we have gained is sustained until we restore peace,” he said. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Ron Ben-Yishai||January 28th 2013|
Hezbollah has set up several bases in Syria, near known locations where Syrian President Bashar Assad is holding parts of his chemical warfare arsenal. The information came to light amid growing concerns in Israel that Assad's arsenal of unconventional weapons – considered to be the largest in the world – would fall into the hands of the Lebanon-based Shiite terror group. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently held a number of security assessments focusing on the developments in the war-torn country. Israel's defense establishment has been holding similar assessments, focused on the potential shift in the balance of power between the IDF and Hezbollah, in the event that the latter would get hold of Assad's WMDs. As the regime's hold on power slips further, it is becoming apparent that Hezbollah will use the chaos embroiling Syria to transfer advanced weapons system – and most likely unconventional weapons – into Lebanon. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Douglas Birch||January 27th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
A test pilot preparing for takeoff in what is billed as the world’s most advanced military aircraft made an unsettling discovery last week: A cockpit signal warned him of a fuel problem and closer inspection revealed a hose that carries jet fuel had come loose in the engine compartment.
The result was a scramble to investigate the incident and the grounding over the weekend of twenty-five F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being tested at air bases in Florida and Arizona, as well as Lockheed Martin’s production factory in Fort Worth, Texas. The decoupled hose was only the latest of many glitches in the costliest weapons program in U.S. history.
Just days earlier, the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office's annual report to Congress had identified the “fueldraulic” lines at the heart of the incident as a potential fire hazard. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Terrence Sterling||January 27th 2013|
Iran warned on Saturday any attack on Syria would be considered an attack on the Islamic republic, AP reported. In its strongest warning to date against outside intervention in Syria, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, said Western and Gulf powers were trying to destabilize the “golden ring of resistance,” referring to Iran, Syria, and paramilitary groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The comments came as warplanes bombed districts in Damascus and regime forces uncovered a network of tunnels used to smuggle arms into the country. Since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March 2011, more than 60,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the fighting. Iran is Syria’s strongest ally in the region, and has said its Revolutionary Guard force has top-ranking officers in Damascus providing advice. Iran has long been accused of arming and funding the suppression of the protest movements in Syria, and of aiding the regime in its armed conflict against rebels by providing weapons and money.
Reuters reported: "Any sign of Syria's grip on its suspected chemical weapons slipping as it battles an armed uprising could trigger Israeli military strikes, Israel's vice premier said on Sunday. Silvan Shalom confirmed a media report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had last week convened security chiefs to discuss the civil war in nearby Syria and the state of the country's chemical arsenal. The meeting, held on Wednesday, had not been publicly announced and was seen as especially unusual as it came while votes were still being counted from Israel's national election the day before, which Netanyahu's party list won narrowly.
Reuters continued; "Should Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas or rebels battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad obtain Syrian chemical weapons, Shalom told Israel's Army Radio, "it would dramatically change the capabilities of those organizations". Such a development would be "a crossing of all red lines that would require a different approach, including even preventive operations", he said - alluding to military intervention, for which Israeli generals have said plans have been readied. "The concept, in principle, is that this (chemical weapons transfer) must not happen," Shalom said. "The moment we begin to understand that such a thing is liable to happen, we will have to make decisions." Interviewed separately by Army Radio, Civil Defense Minister Avi Dichter said Syria was "on the verge of collapse". But asked whether Israel perceived an imminent threat, Dichter said: "No, not yet. I suppose that when things pose a danger to us, the State of Israel will know about it." Read more ..
Korea on Edge
|Sabine Guinsbourg||January 26th 2013|
A U.S. research institute devoted to analysis of North Korea says the country's nuclear site is in a high state of readiness to conduct another nuclear test. Joel Wit, the founder of 38 North website, said satellite images show that such a test could be conducted within weeks if ordered by Pyongyang. "What we see is a lot of activity at the site and it's easy for us to see that because there has been snow there and you can see that the roads that are in use are not covered with snow, nor are a lot of the footpaths in the area near the test tunnel," he said.
Wit said that satellite photos taken on January 4 also show many North Koreans lined up near the entrance to the test tunnel which, he says, could be armed guards. In addition, there are a lot of buses and other vehicles in the area, which he says is unusual in the winter. Read more ..
The Mali War
|Susan St. Claire||January 25th 2013|
from VOA and agencies
French-backed Malian forces are battling Islamist militants in a key town that leads toward the city of Gao, a militant stronghold in the country's north. Residents and security officials say French and Malian forces fought rebels in Hombori, on Friday, a town about 250 kilometers from Gao.
Meanwhile, local officials say militants have bombed a strategic bridge near the border with Niger. A French-led international counter-offensive against Islamist militants who seized control of much of northern Mali last year has entered its third week. French and Malian forces are pushing toward rebel strongholds.
"They left the city of Diabaly, which they had taken last week, and are now going north, past a city called Nampala, which is very close to Mauritania, and heading to Lere, which is also very close from the Mauritanian border. And, from Lere there is a small airport there and the French troops are within, let’s say, 100 or 200 to Timbuktu," Fall reports. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Jonathan Spyer||January 24th 2013|
Saudi and United Arab Emirates security forces recently apprehended a 10-man cell linked to the Muslim Brotherhood that was active in the UAE. The cell, according to Gulf media reports, was engaged in raising money for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, propagandizing among Egyptians residing in the UAE and gathering information on the UAE’s defense facilities. It was also reported as being in “constant communication” with its parent movement in Cairo.
The arrest of this group has highlighted growing fears in some conservative Gulf states that the Muslim Brotherhood is now turning its attention to the Gulf monarchies. But the monarchies are sharply divided in their response to the rise of the Brotherhood.
The 2011 to 2012 period brought a long-awaited windfall of political power for the Muslim Brothers. Franchises of the movement are now in government power in Tunisia and Egypt. The Brotherhood is playing a major role in the Western- supported political and military leaderships of the rebellion in Syria. Read more ..
Africa on Edge
|Selah Hennessy||January 22nd 2013|
For years, unmarked ammunition has been turning up in some of Africa's bloodiest conflict zones — Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ivory Coast. After a six-year investigation, independent arms investigators with Britain-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) say they have figured out where the ammunition is being made: Iran.
According to their December 2012 report, “The Distribution of Iranian Ammunition in Africa," CAR researchers say Iranian ammunition is circulating widely in Africa despite a United Nations arms embargo on Iran. Their breakthrough came in 2010: At Papa Wharf in Lagos, Nigeria, security forces intercepted 13 containers holding more than 240 metric tons of ammunition. Later, the offloading bill showed that the containers — labeled “building materials," but holding unmarked cartridges identical to those sighted across Africa — had been sent from Iran. Read more ..
The Afghan War
|Carlo Muñoz||January 22nd 2013|
For the second time in as many weeks, Taliban gunmen launched a deadly, high-profile attack against Afghan security forces inside the capitol of Kabul, just as U.S. and Afghan leaders are looking to craft a peace deal with the terror group.
Monday's nearly nine-hour assault on the headquarters of the Kabul traffic police, a part of the Afghan National Police, in downtown Kabul ended with three policemen killed and four Taliban attackers dead, according to recent news reports.
Taliban fighters used a car bomb, two suicide bombers, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire in an attempt to overrun the police compound, Interior Ministry officials told United Press International. Afghan National Security Forces, backed by Norwegian special operations troops, battled back against the insurgents, exchanging gunfire from nearby buildings and rooftops adjacent to the police headquarters and the Afghan parliament building. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Sam Orez||January 21st 2013|
from VOA and agencies
Algeria's prime minister said 37 foreign workers were killed during the hostage crisis at a remote desert gas complex, with five others still missing. In a news conference Monday, Abdelmalek Sellal offered Algeria's first detailed account of events at the In Amenas natural gas plant, where Islamist militants took dozens of hostages last Wednesday. He said one Algerian was killed during the crisis, and that Algerian security forces killed 29 militants and captured three others during the operation to free the hostages. Sellal said at least one Canadian was among the militants.
The crisis began last Wednesday when Islamist militants intercepted a bus carrying some foreign workers to an airport near the gas compound. The Algerian prime minister said the attackers' initial goal was to hijack the bus and take the foreigners to neighboring Mali, to use as leverage in negotiations with foreign countries. Sellal said Algerian guards fired on the bus, prompting the heavily-armed militants two split into two groups -- one that stormed the residential part of the complex and another that raided the industrial section and planted explosives around it. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Mackenzie Eaglen||January 20th 2013|
he members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have penned a 28-star letter to Congress warning that the U.S. military is at a “tipping point” in the face of future budgetary reductions and uncertainty. The chiefs paint a grim picture of a post-sequestration military, arguing that they will have to “ground aircraft, return ships to port, and stop driving combat vehicles in training.”
While that is supposedly a consequence of the future, today’s outlook doesn’t sound any better: Not enough people, not enough parts, not enough training, not enough everything.
Those were the blunt words of the admiral in charge of the surface fleet this week. He went on to note how demand has only grown while resources have gone down even though the new defense strategy, issued just last year, indicated otherwise. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Dan Levin||January 19th 2013|
An Israeli defense technology company says it has successfully tested an anti-missile system designed to protect commercial passenger jets. Elbit Systems Ltd. on Wednesday said its C-MUSIC system to protect large jets against shoulder-launched missiles from the ground passed tests. Elbit said it proved effective a number of times in protecting a Boeing 707 aircraft. In 2002, militants fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter plane shortly after takeoff in Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target but spurred an Israeli effort to improve countermeasures. Elbit says the new system can be applied to any aircraft. It says it integrates advanced fiber laser technology with a thermal camera to protect against missiles fired from the ground.
The technology provides protection for a variety of airborne platforms against shoulder-mounted missiles by diverting them from their trajectories through the use of a laser beam. The capability was originally developed for military usage, and due to the increasing threat to civilian aircraft, Elbit also developed a parallel system for civilian use. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Kevin J Kelley||January 18th 2013|
Kenya has imported "very large quantities of Iranian ammunition," some of which has been transferred to civilian militias in Turkana, Uganda and what is now South Sudan, according to a group of independent arms-tracking experts. Their report, published last month by Conflict Armament Research, names Iran as the manufacturing source of previously unidentified ammunition supplied to Kenyan security forces.
Read more ..
The UK-based NGO estimates the shipments from Iran to Kenya as "probably in the range of millions of rounds." And a portion of that ammunition has made its way into the arsenals of militias in northern Kenya and neighbouring countries, the researchers say. "Kenyan security forces are the confirmed source of Iranian ammunition that is in widespread circulation in the border regions of Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda," the report declares.
Mali on Edge
|Lisa Bryant||January 17th 2013|
As Algeria launched an operation to rescue foreign hostages held by al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants, European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to offer training and logistical support to fight militants farther south in Mali. But European Union (EU) states have yet to contribute combat forces to bolster France's military operation there.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a 500-troop European mission to help train Malian forces would be operational within days, with its French commanding general in Mali as of Sunday. At a news conference in Brussels, Fabius said European Union countries were unanimous in expressing their solidarity with France's nearly week-old military offensive in Mali to help expel Islamist radicals there. Read more ..
The Drug Wars
|George Friedman||January 17th 2013|
In 2013, violence in Mexico likely will remain a significant threat nationwide to bystanders, law enforcement, military and local businesses. Overall levels of violence decreased during 2011, but cartel operations and competition continued to afflict several regions of Mexico throughout 2012. These dangers combined with continued fracturing among cartels, such as Los Zetas, could cause overall violence to increase this year.
A New President
This year, 2013, will be the first full year in office for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who campaigned on promises to stem cartel violence. The most significant of his initiatives is his plan to consolidate and restructure federal law enforcement in Mexico. Pena Nieto's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party has introduced legislation that would switch oversight of the federal police, among other entities, away from the Public Security Secretariat to the Interior Ministry. The president also announced plans to bring the state police from each of Mexico's 31 states under a unified federal command. Pena Nieto has frequently stated his plans to create a national gendarmerie that would serve as a supplemental paramilitary force for tackling violent organized criminal groups. During a Dec. 17 conference, he announced that this new organization initially would have 10,000 personnel trained by the Mexican army. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Eddie Boxx||January 16th 2013|
The Washington Institute
During last November's Gaza conflict, Israeli forces performed extremely well against short-range Palestinian rockets and mortars. The Iron Dome missile-defense system was able to counter heavy fire over a week of fighting, with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) serving as the indispensable brains of the operation. These two elements -- effective defense systems and seamless command and control (C2) -- would be just as essential in the event that the United States and its Persian Gulf allies are forced to confront a similar rocket/missile threat from Iran. Yet preparing for that scenario will require greater attention to the lessons learned from Gaza.
DISSECTING ISRAEL'S SUCCESS
Although Iron Dome's Tamir interceptor and associated radar garnered the lion's share of praise during the conflict, perhaps the most significant contribution was the C2 exercised by the IAF. During the 1982 Beqa Valley war with Syria, the IAF perfected tactical and operational C2 through directed intercepts of fighters from airborne radar platforms, and by creating a regional air operations center to manage the battle. In the November fighting, the IAF again trail-blazed C2, this time with regard to rocket defense. Read more ..
America's Darkest Edge
|Fred Schulte||January 16th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
Proposed legislation to regulate online purchases of ammunition and high-capacity magazines is bringing new attention to a growing cyberspace ammo market that has operated with little government oversight.
Under federal law, firearms dealers must obtain a federal license and keep records of their transactions, but there’s virtually no federal regulation of ammunition suppliers or sales —though there was prior to 1986. Adults who currently want to stockpile large amounts of ammo—say 1,000 rounds of rifle fire or more— can buy it from dozens of web sites that specialize in bulk sales, often at low prices. Some sites also hawk magazines that fire up to 100 rounds without reloading, which critics argue have repeatedly been tied to deadly mass shootings and should be outlawed. Some of the online sellers list no names of their owners, give only a post office box as their address and ship merchandise to customers using overnight couriers. Buyers can access a special search engine to compare inventory and prices at more than 30 dealers. Read more ..
|Yoni Hirsch||January 15th 2013|
Read more ..
Iran could produce a nuclear weapon by mid-2014, a recent U.S. report has revealed. The report, prepared by a group of U.S. nonproliferation experts, said Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by mid-2014, and the United States and its allies should intensify sanctions on Tehran before that point is reached.
President Barack Obama should also clearly state that the U.S. will take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the report said. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed concern that Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension. Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, calls those allegations baseless. "Based on the current trajectory of Iran's nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014," the report said.
Mali on Edge
|Lisa Bryant||January 14th 2013|
France attacked Islamists targets in Mali for the third straight day on Sunday, bombing an key northern town held by the extremists. French fighter jets bombed the northern Malian town of Gao, even as West African troops were due to arrive to help Bamako beat back an Islamist insurgency.
In a television interview, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the air raids would continue Monday. Le Drian said roughly 400 French soldiers have been deployed to Bamako, to ensure security and protect French and European nationals. More French troops were dispatched to the town of Mopti, about 500 kilometers north of the capital.
Launched Friday, the attacks aim to eradicate an Islamist insurgency that was making inroads to the south last week, after capturing vast chunks of territory in northern Mali. France says the Islamists not only threaten Mali and surrounding countries, but also Europe. Read more ..
Kashmir on Edge
|Dan Levin||January 14th 2013|
from VOA and agencies
India's army chief says he has ordered his commanders to deliver an "aggressive" response to any firing from Pakistani forces in disputed Kashmir. General Bikram Singh said Monday that he expects his troops to fire back if they are provoked by Pakistani forces. Singh's comments were made ahead of a meeting Monday between Indian and Pakistani commanders to discuss last week's deadly flare ups along the de factor border in Kashmir in which both Indian and Pakistani troops were killed. But one Indian soldier was reporteedly beheaded, and despite demands, the Pakistani military has noty returned the head.
General Singh's remarks come amid mounting public anger in India after Delhi accused Pakistani soldiers of slitting the throat of one of the soldiers and decapitating him. Calling the beheading of the soldier "gruesome", Singh told a news conference: "We reserve the right to retaliate at a time and place of our choosing." Read more ..
Mali on Edge
|Kate Moody||January 13th 2013|
The first soldiers promised by West African bloc ECOWAS to support Malian forces in their counter-offensive against Islamist rebels could be deployed as early as Sunday, an ECOWAS official said. French aircraft have already halted a rebel advance.
Read more ..
The first troops promised by African nations were expected in Mali Sunday to join local forces who, backed by French air support, have driven back an advance by Islamist fighters. Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal on Saturday each pledged 500 troops for an African-led intervention force. Ivory Coast's African Integration Minister Ally Coulibaly, speaking for the West African bloc ECOWAS, said the first soldiers could arrive as early as Sunday. "We are not letting up the pressure," he added. "It is the reconquest of north Mali that has just begun."
The Battle for Syria
|Susan St. Claire||January 12th 2013|
Syrian Shiite sources have confirmed that Hezbollah and Iran are intervening in the Syrian crisis in order to “protect” Shiite towns, villages and religious shrines against the “Takfirists”. The sources revealed the presence of “Hezbollah training centers in the Beqaa valley to train up young Syrian Shiites, paying them salaries to fight in Syria”. Syrian opposition figures confirmed that there are roughly 1,500 Hezbollah elements in Syria, and the same number of Iranians assisting the Syrian regime, but said that the talk of 5,000 elements is an exaggeration.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, and its transformation into a military struggle, there has been increasing talk of Hezbollah participating in the fight alongside the Syrian regime. There is a sense of a strategic interdependence between Hezbollah and the al-Assad regime, the latter of which is a vital artery that connects Iranian aid (of all kinds) to the movement in Lebanon. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Carlo Muñoz||January 11th 2013|
The rising costs associated with the Pentagon's next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have caused another American ally to back off its participation in the program, according to recent reports.
Defense officials in Turkey have decided to postpone a planned purchase of the first two Joint Strike Fighters ordered by Ankara last January, Agence-France Presse reported on Friday. Turkey, along with the United Kingdom and Israel, is one of the top international participants in the Joint Strike Fighter program. Other JSF countries include Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
"Due to the current state of the JSF ... and the rising cost ... it was decided to postpone the order placed [last January] for the two aircraft," according to a government statement. The decision, issued by Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industry, was driven by concerns that the fighter jet's advanced capabilities "were not at the desired level yet," according to defense officials. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Eric Trager||January 10th 2013|
Egypt's mounting political and economic woes will cause many policy headaches for the Obama administration during the next four years. But in the short run, the Obama administration will have to confront a more immediate risk: that a major terrorist attack in the Sinai will catalyze a security crisis between Israel and Egypt, which the ruling Muslim Brotherhood may use as a pretext for downgrading Egyptian-Israeli relations and perhaps canceling the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement altogether. To prevent this outcome, Washington should immediately press Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to establish direct communication channels with the Israeli government to ensure that this kind of crisis will be managed responsibly. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Zach Pontz||January 9th 2013|
Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, a division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which conducts special operations outside Iran, visited Egypt at the end of December at the invitation of President Mohamed Morsi’s government. The Times of London reported that the purpose of the visit was “to advise the government on building its security and intelligence apparatus independent of the national intelligence services, which are controlled by Egypt’s military.” During the visit he met with Essam al-Haddad, foreign affairs adviser to Mr Morsi, and officials from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Times article quoted one Egyptian official as saying,”The government requested a high-level meeting with Iranian officials. Iran sent Suleimani. The meeting was intended to send a message to America, which is putting pressure on the Egyptian government, that we should be allowed to have other alliances with anyone we please.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Jim Kouri||January 8th 2013|
Russia's special counterterrorism security force on Sunday in the North Caucasus province of Kabardino-Balkaria killed three radical Islamists suspected of planning attacks on Russian Orthodox Catholic churches during the Orthodox Christmas holiday on Jan. 7, 2013. Russia's security force attempted to stop an SUV in Kabardino-Balkaria, but the suspects in the vehicle opened fire and were eventually killed during the deadly gunfight. During the security officers and suspected terrorists exchange of gunfire, the Islamist's SUV caught fire, according to a statement by the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee.
The anti-terrorism committee's statement said that explosives, guns and ammunition were found in the van and that the men who were killed had been planning attacks on churches during services marking Russian Orthodox Christmas, which is on Monday. Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. Intense battles between police and suspected militants at security checkpoints are common in the North Caucasus region, which contains several provinces with active Islamist insurgencies rooted in two separatist wars in Chechnya, according to the Israeli source. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Zach Pontz||January 7th 2013|
Iran’s ability to retaliate for any strike on its nuclear facilities has been “dramatically” reduced by events in the region, an Israeli intelligence report has said. Israeli diplomats meeting in Jerusalem were told by Defense Ministry intelligence officials that the weakening of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has taken its toll on Iran militarily.
The officials said that neither Syria nor Hezbollah have the capability to start a war with Israel and would be largely unable to respond on behalf of Iran in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Hezbollah would need direct aid from Iran to be capable of fighting Israel as it did in 2006, the officials said, but Iran was likely not to do so, because such a move would likely bring the U.S. and Europe directly into the conflict. Hezbollah recognizes its weakened position, the officials said, and was unlikely to provoke Israel into a massive invasion of Lebanon. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Jeremy Herb||January 7th 2013|
The defense industry is worried last week's budget deal on taxes could damage its negotiating position for the next “fiscal cliff” deadline two months from now, when across-the-board spending cuts would take effect. The deficit debate is shifting from taxes toward spending cuts and the debt limit, where there will be more of a focus on new cuts to the Pentagon.
While the first fiscal-cliff fight over taxes included the threat of massive across-the-board spending cuts, the sequel is going to be nearly all about where to cut spending. The Pentagon is the largest target outside of entitlements. “Even when sequester was on the table along with the fiscal cliff, it seemed pretty clear that to get to a spending-side agreement you will have to go deeper in defense,” said Gordon Adams, a defense analyst at the Stimson Center. Read more ..
The Congo on Edge
|Jim Kouri||January 6th 2013|
Officials in the Obama administration on Thursday announced what they termed "tough sanctions" on two terrorist groups accused of fomenting violence and instability in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Department of Treasury blacklisted Mouvement du 23 Mars ( M23) and the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), alleging that as armed groups operating in eastern DRC, they have committed "serious crimes" involving the targeting of children in the conflict in the African country. "These crimes, which include recruitment as well as killing, maiming and sexual violence, violate international law and are the basis for the groups' designation today," the Treasury said in a statement. The FDLR was previously added to the State Department's Designated Terrorist List.
M23 was targeted also for smuggling weapons and military equipment that have contributed directly to the ongoing conflict, the agency said. Read more ..
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