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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


Mali on Edge

French Planes Continue Bombing Islamist Positions in Mali

January 14th 2013

Fighter Jets

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

India Orders 'Aggressive' Response to Pakistanis After Kashmir Beheading

January 14th 2013

Indian Soldier Killed in Kashmir

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

African Troops Due In Mali As France Bombs Rebels

January 13th 2013

French fighter planes


The Battle for Syria

Hezbollah Reportedly Training Shiite Fighters In Syria

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

Turkey Backs off the F-35

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

Obama's Big Egypt Test: Sinai

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

Egypt Consulted Powerful Iranian Security and Intelligence Commander

January 9th 2013

Wary Egyptian Cops

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

Russian Security Force Kills Islamists Who Planned Christmas Attacks

January 8th 2013

Russian Paratroopers

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

Iran’s Military Capability “Dramatically” Reduced by Conflict in Syria

January 7th 2013

Iran centrifuges

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

Defense Industry Fears Sequestration Delay Won't Stop Pentagon Cuts

January 7th 2013

Lockheed Martin/Alenia Aeronautica C-27J Spartan

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

U.S. Targets Armed Groups Operating in Congo

January 6th 2013

Congo M23 Rebels

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 ..

Israel's Next Northern War

Golan Security Fence to be Built as Global Jihadists Replace Syrian Army Across Northern Border

January 6th 2013

Golan Heights

As global jihadist groups have replaced Syrian army forces across the northern border, Israel is determined to keep out terrorists and other intruders through the construction of a security fence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at his weekly cabinet meeting.

Citing a recently completed section of a security fence along the southern border, Netanyahu highlighted the effectiveness of such efforts. “The result of building the fence is that we have completely stopped the entry of infiltrators into Israel. In the past seven months, no infiltrators entered Israel’s cities. Several dozen reached the fence each month and were taken to holding facilities. Not one infiltrator reached any community or city inside Israel.” He continued, saying, “This was one of the largest engineering enterprises in the history of the State of Israel and I have directed that this team not be disbanded, but that it continue until the section in the area around Eilat is finished, which will occur in another few weeks, and even continue work along other borders, especially our border with Syria. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Dictator Assad Vows to Fight Al-Qaeda and 'Gang of Criminals'

January 6th 2013

Syria Pro-Assad demonstration

Syria's president has called for national mobilization to fight against rebels he says are "al-Qaida terrorists." Bashar al-Assad said on January 6 in his first speech in months that there is "no joy while security and stability are absent" on Syrian streets.

"I will go one day, but the country remains," said Assad, in his hour-long speech in which he referred repeatedly to plots against Syria and the role of al-Qaeda. The terrorist network has long been suspected as a leading element in the rebellion that began in March 2011. Syria was not facing a revolution but a "gang of criminals", said Assad. "We are now in a state of war in every sense of the word," the president told cheering supporters. "This war targets Syria using a handful of Syrians and many foreigners. Thus, this is a war to defend the nation."

This was Assad's first public speech since June 2012. In his last public appearance, in November 2012, he told Russian television that he would live and die in his native land.


The Edge of Terrorism

DHS Fails Again to Implement ID Card Protections

January 5th 2013

Eyeball Surveillance

Lost amid the scuffle of fiscal cliff negotiations and holiday preparations was the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) December 20 statement confirming that only 13 states were deemed REAL ID compliant and that the remaining states would receive another extension. Unfortunately, that means DHS isn’t sure whether 37 states are doing enough to safeguard their ID cards from costly fraud or terrorism-related abuse.

The REAL ID Act is almost eight years old, but due to multiple failures at DHS, it is still not fully implemented.

The act was passed in 2005 and follows the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to secure U.S. identification cards from misuse. After all, 18 of the 9/11 hijackers had a total of 30 driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs between them, and they used six of those IDs to board their planes the morning of the attack.

The REAL ID Act created a voluntary program for states to follow a set of certain common criteria for state ID systems to meet in the areas of facial recognition, document authenticity, data sharing between states, card security, lawful status verification, and issuer integrity. If a state does not meet these standards, its IDs will not be accepted for federal purposes such as boarding a plane or gaining entry to a federal building.


Israel's Next War

Iran's Ability to Hit Back at Israel Limited

January 4th 2013

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Iran's ability to attack Israel has been compromised significantly in the past year, Israeli diplomats meeting in Jerusalem were told by Defense Ministry intelligence officials. According to the study by the officials, Iran's attempts to prop up Bashar al-Assad and the weakness of Hizbullah has taken a great toll in manpower and funds from the Islamic Republic.

The officials, quoted in Maariv, said that neither Syria nor Hizbullah are in any position to not only start a war with Israel, but would also be largely unable to respond on behalf of Iran in the event of an Israeli strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. Syria is too badly divided at this point to respond, and without the material support in men and weapons from Damascus, Hizbullah would be too feeble to respond effectively. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

New Details on Kamene Okonjo Kidnapping

January 3rd 2013


The Nigeria media is supplying new details on the December 10 kidnapping of the mother of Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The media reports that the Minister’s family paid a ransom of between N10 to N11 million (U.S. $64 to $70 thousand), and that the kidnappers were an organized gang that numbered ten.

The minister has told the press that the kidnappers told her mother she had been kidnapped because of the minister’s policies concerning oil subsidy payments.  If the kidnappers were telling the truth, then the crime had a political dimension as well as a mercenary one.

According to the minister, the kidnappers complained about the government’s disbursement of fuel subsidy payments and about certain aspects of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).  Both were outcomes of President Goodluck Jonathan’s effort to eliminate the popular petroleum subsidy in January 2012.  Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

UN Human Rights Office Says Over 60,000 Killed In Syria Conflict

January 2nd 2013

Corpses in Homs

Syrian activists say dozens of people have been killed by an air strike on a gas station in the outskirts of Damascus. Local residents said that they saw burning bodies and horrific scenes after the attack near the town of Maliha. According to activists, the attack sparked a huge explosion in which up to 70 people died. The deadly incident came hours after the United Nations human rights office released a new study, which suggests that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the number of casualties was "much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking." The report, "Preliminary Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in Syria," was commissioned by the United Nations. It took data from sources including the Syrian government and opposition groups.

Nigeria on Edge

Boko Haram and Nigeria's Pervasive Violence

January 1st 2013

Jos Nigeria violence

International security experts are watching Nigeria 's radical Islamist movement Boko Haram with concern. The militant group has destabilized northern Nigeria and attracted the attention of other jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda affiliates gaining strength in neighboring northern Mali. Boko Haram is highly diffuse. It has an important Islamic revival dimension, but also has political and criminal elements. Little is known about its leader, Abubakar Shekau, including his age, where he was born, or if he can speak English. The movement has issued no formal manifesto. Nevertheless, its various factions do share a common agenda of imposing and rigorously enforcing Islamic law in northern Nigeria; some even want to impose it throughout the country in areas where Christians are the majority. The group is bitterly hostile to the Christian-led secular government in the capital of Abuja, which it accuses of exploiting the poor. Its methods are violent and deadly, ranging from targeted killings to mass deaths resulting from car bombs. Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Iron Dome Significantly Improved Since Operation Pillar of Defense

January 1st 2013

Iron Dome

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system continues to improve, a fact Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza won’t be happy to hear. The news comes via the National Post, which interviewed a senior engineer with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Israeli company that developed Iron Dome.

“Soon,” writes the National Post,  “the engineer hopes, the system’s reliability will be limited only by the mechanical reliability of its various component parts. As long as the equipment works, they expect to hit their target every time.”

Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas was a perfect opportunity to work out the Iron Dome’s kinks. “We expected it to work perfectly,” the engineer told the National Post.“We knew it wouldn’t, of course. But we wanted it to work 100% of the time. And every day, we tried to make it better.” Read more ..

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