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The Edge of Terrorism

Hezbollah Leader Threatens to Destroy Israeli Ports and Power Plants

February 18th 2013


Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday that he would not comment on a recent Bulgarian report finding that members of the Lebanese terrorist group carried out an attack that killed five Israeli tourists last summer, saying only that the "issue is being followed calmly and closely."

Speaking to hundreds of supporters via video link, Nasrallah said Israel had already accused his terrorist group of being behind the attack before the Bulgarian report was released. Nasrallah also warned the Jewish state against attacking Lebanon, saying Hezbollah's response would be harsh. The July 18 bombing at an airport in Bulgaria's Black Sea resort of Burgas killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver. As well as the bomber, who was also killed and whose identity has not been established, two other men are suspected of involvement in the attack. The names of the two other suspects, who are believed to still be alive, have not been made public. Read more ..

The Nuclear Edge

A Hair Trigger for the Nuclear Arsenals of Russia and the U.S.

February 16th 2013

Click to select Image

According to the American Federation of Scientists, the United States and Russia have an estimated 1,800 nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles that are on alert and ready to launch on short notice. France and Britain also keep some of their nuclear force on alert, although at lower readiness levels than the United States and Russia. No other nuclear weapon state has nuclear weapons on alert.

In a new report entitled Reducing Alert Rates of Nuclear Weapons (published by UN Institute for Disarmament Research), Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, and Dr. Matthew McKinzie, Senior Scientist in the Nuclear Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, examine how the current alert levels exceed current and future security needs and undercut efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons.

The report finds that the United States and Russia previously have reduce the alert levels of their nuclear forces and recommends that both countries continue this process by removing the remaining nuclear weapons from alert through a phased approach to ensure stability and develop consultation and verification measures. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Soft Targets Back in Focus

February 14th 2013


Obviously, individuals desiring to launch a terrorist attack seek to strike the highest-profile, most symbolic target possible. If it is well known, the target can magnify the terror, especially when the operation grabs the attention of international media. Such extensive exposure not only allows people around the globe to be informed minute by minute about unfolding events, but it also permits them to become secondary, vicarious victims of the unfolding violence. The increased exposure also ensures that the audience affected by the operation becomes far larger than just those in the immediate vicinity of the attack. The attack on the U.S. diplomatic office in Benghazi and the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens led to months of media coverage that has included televised congressional hearings and fierce partisan and bureaucratic squabbles in the media. It was the terrorist equivalent of winning the lottery. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Economic Confidence Eroded: Virtual Currency & HFT

February 13th 2013

International Currency 3

The latest worry among those who are concerned about the digitalization of commerce and the erosion of market confidence seems to be the growing phenomenon of virtual or "alternative" currency. The originator of virtual currency as an easy-to-use convenience was one Satoshi Nakamoto, who created Bitcoin. Its website explains:

"Bitcoin is one of the first implementations of a concept called crypto-currency which was first described in 1998 by Wei Dai on the cypherpunks mailing list. Building upon the notion that money is any object, or any sort of record, accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context, Bitcoin is designed around the idea of using cryptography to control the creation and transfer of money, rather than relying on central authorities."

Unlike actual currency, Bitcoin does not rely on issuance by a central bank or government, and fluctuates in value outside the traditional money markets: "Bitcoin has more than doubled in the past 12 months, strengthening to $16.37 from $5.88, according to data from Mt. Gox, the world's largest bitcoin exchange. The money, issued by a decentralized network of computers, has recovered after falling to $2.14 in November 2011 from a high of $29.58 five months earlier." (Emphasis added). Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

No Longer a Bystander to Revolution

February 12th 2013

Israeli Jet Diving

Depending on what one believes, a week-and-a-half ago Israeli fighter jets struck either an arms convoy in Lebanon, the Assad regime's nerve center for biological and chemical weapons research in Damascus, or an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) headquarters, in an attempt to contain the spillover from the Syrian civil war. Irrespective of the targets, the misnamed "Arab Spring" has finally ensnared Israel, which, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has endeavored to avoid being dragged into the unraveling chaos of the Arab uprisings.

Careful to eschew a public role that could shine the spotlight on "Israel" and the accompanying anti-Semitic conspiracies, Jerusalem has said little, done less, and hoped that the revolutionary tidal wave would not sweep away too many of Israel's regional security maxims. Fearful of both instability and Islamist ascendancy, Israel's strategy has been defensive, clutching to the status quo as best it could. Read more ..

The Cyber Edge

Obama Administration to Issue Cyber-Security Order

February 12th 2013

Click to select Image

The White House is poised to release an executive order aimed at thwarting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Hill. The highly anticipated directive from President Obama is expected to be released at a briefing Wednesday morning at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where senior administration officials will provide an update about cybersecurity policy.

The executive order would establish a voluntary program in which companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government. Observers are expecting the president to briefly mention the need for the country to improve its defenses against cyberattacks during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Read more ..

Nuclear Edge

Obama Likely to Reduce U.S. Nuclear Warheads

February 11th 2013

Misslle in Silo

Senior Obama administration officials have agreed that the number of nuclear warheads the U.S. military deploys could be cut by at least a third without harming national security, according to sources involved in the deliberations.

They said the officials’ consensus agreement, not yet announced, opens the door to billions of dollars in military savings that might ease the federal deficit and improve prospects for a new arms deal with Russia before the president leaves office. But it is likely to draw fire from conservatives, if previous debate on the issue is any guide.

The results of the internal review are reflected in a draft of a classified decision directive prepared for Obama’s signature that guides how U.S. nuclear weapons should be targeted in the future against potential foes, according to four sources with direct knowledge of it. The sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to a reporter about the review, described the president as fully on board, but said he has not signed the document.

The document directs the first detailed Pentagon revisions in U.S. targeting since 2009, when the military’s nuclear war planners last took account of a substantial shrinkage — roughly by half from 2000 to 2008 — in the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. It makes clear that an even smaller nuclear force can still meet all defense requirements. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Senior Senate Dems Push for Oversight of Armed Drone Strikes

February 10th 2013

The top Democrats on the Senate intelligence and judiciary panels are planning hearings to consider establishing new authorities for federal courts to oversee the use of armed drone strikes against suspected terror targets worldwide.
That authority would likely be patterned after the intelligence oversight responsibilities under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, told reporters. FISA established a special federal court to approve surveillance on suspected foreign spies working inside the United States.

Senate Judiciary chairman Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have also indicated "their concern and interest" in introducing some sort of FISA-like legal check on the administration's authority to execute armed drone strikes, the California Democrat said. Read more ..

Iraq on Edge

Iraq Hit by Multiple Bombings

February 9th 2013

Car bomb and kid Baghdad 2012

Four car bomb explosions shook parts of Iraq Friday, killing at least 26 people. Workers swept away shards of glass and other rubble after a car bomb tore through a flea market selling birds and animals in a Shi'ite district of Baghdad. Another car-bomb blast hit the capital while two other attacks occurred in the Shi'ite town of Hilla.

It was the fourth time in under three weeks that devastating explosions have hit Shi'ite or pro-government targets in the country. ​​The bombings come as sectarian tensions escalate between the Sunni opposition and Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In the northern city of Mosul, thousands of Sunni demonstrators chanted slogans against the government, as religious leaders called on Mr. Maliki to meet their demands. One Sunni sheikh who addressed the crowd said Sunnis have their rights and that the government must release prisoners he says were arrested "arbitrarily." He also demanded that parliament be dissolved and that an anti-Ba'ath party law be repealed. Read more ..

Electronic Edge

Bush Family Bush-Wacked by Hackers

February 8th 2013

A criminal inquiry was launched on February 8 into an apparent hack of  email accounts belonging to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as other members of the Bush clan.

"There's a criminal investigation under way," Jim McGrath, according to AFP. McGrath is a spokesman for the elder ex-president Bush (88), who was recently hospitalized. This followed reports that private Bush family communications had been accessed.

"I can't get into the specifics," McGrath added. McGrath compiled Heartbeat: George Bush in his own words, a book the offered selected quotes from the 41st president of the United States. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorist Bomb in Turkey: Security Measures that Worked

February 7th 2013

bomb aftermath us embassy turkey
Aftermath of bombing at US Embassy-Ankara.

On Feb. 1, a Turkish national named Ecevit Sanli walked up to the side entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara like many others had done that day. Dressed inconspicuously, he waved a manila envelope at the man inside the guard booth as he approached the entrance. The security guard had no reason to distrust the man approaching the checkpoint; the entrance is used to screen packages, and perhaps the guard assumed Sanli was dropping off a document or was a visa applicant at the wrong entrance. What the guard did not know, perhaps, is that Sanli was a person of interest to the Turkish police, who suspected that he was plotting an attack.

The guard opened the door of the access control building -- the outermost door of the embassy compound -- to speak to Sanli, who took one step inside before detonating the explosive device that was strapped to his body. The explosion killed Sanli and the security guard, seriously wounded a journalist who was visiting the embassy and left two other local guards who were manning the entrance with minor injuries. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Patriot Missiles in Turkey Cannot Protect Israel from Iran

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

Japanese Premier Warns China over 'Dangerous' Moves

February 6th 2013

Japanese destroyer Asigiri
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

Obama Administration Seeks to Justify Drone Strikes on Americans

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

Israel to Build World’s Most Advanced Border Fence Between Golan Heights and Syria

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

As Syria Crumbles, Israel Prepares for Instability

February 3rd 2013

soldiers pray at wailing wall

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.

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

Homeland Security to get Final Say Over Border Security

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

Trafficking Cocaine for Allah

February 1st 2013


“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

Chinese Cyber Hackers a Growing Threat

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

Libya's Growing Fears of Spill-Over from Violent Mali

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

Did Israel Hit Lebanon or Syria?

January 30th 2013

Jets vapor trail

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

Ferocious, Weak and Crazy: The North Korean Strategy

January 29th 2013

Kim Jong-Un

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

Donors Pledge $455 Million for Mali Force

January 29th 2013

3 Taureg Fighters

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

Hezbollah Sets up Camps near Syrian WMD Facilities

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

World's Most Advanced Fighter Jet has Disastrous Flaws

January 27th 2013

F-35 Military Plane

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

Attack on Syria Constitutes an Attack on Tehran Declares Iran--Israel Eyes Chemical Weapons

January 27th 2013

Assad and Ahmadinejad

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

Tensions Rise as North Korea Announces New Nuclear Test

January 26th 2013

North Korean Missile

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

French-Backed Malian Forces Push Toward Rebel Stronghold

January 25th 2013

French troops Mali

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

Behind the Lines: A Gulf Apart

January 24th 2013

Saudi police

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

Iranian Ammunition Surfaces in African Conflicts

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

Taliban Escalate Attacks inside Kabul

January 22nd 2013

Taliban soldiers

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

Algerian PM States 37 Foreign Workers Killed in Gas Complex Siege

January 21st 2013

Algeria Gas Field

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

The Tip of the Lack of Readiness Iceberg

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

Civilian Airliner Anti-Missile Defense System Advances

January 19th 2013

airplanes shadows

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.


The Iranian Threat

Kenyan Ammo Imported from Iran Traced to Militias

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.

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

EU Steps Up Support to Mali Operation

January 17th 2013

French soldiers

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

Mexico's Drug War: Persisting Violence and a New President

January 17th 2013

Mexican marine infantry

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

Missile Defense from Gaza to the Gulf

January 16th 2013

SM-3 launch from USS Hopper

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.


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

Internet Ammunition Sales Draw Scrutiny

January 16th 2013


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 ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Could Have Nuclear Bomb By Mid-2014--US Report

January 15th 2013

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges


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