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South Korea on Edge

US to Sell South Korea Spy Drones

December 26th 2012

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

The Obama administration has formally proposed the sale of advanced spy drones to South Korea, in a push to boost the Seoul government's ability to protect itself from attacks by the heavily-militarized North.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement that it has officially notified Congress of the proposed $1.2 billion deal for four high-altitude Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, as well as training and logistical support. Analysts say congressional approval is likely. Brad Glosserman, an analyst with an Hawaii-based security research group, said the South's new drone program will fill a gap in its ability to monitor security developments in North Korea.

"Rather than relying on human intelligence on the ground, which in North Korea is extremely difficult, or satellite intelligence, which is essentially dependent on the ability to put a bird in the air and get it over your targets at the appropriate time. You know absent that, the South Koreans are blind," said Glosserman. Read more ..


Edging Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Time Running Out to Avoid Defense Sequestration

December 25th 2012

Apache Helicopters

The clock has all but run out on the defense industry's efforts to stave off billions in looming budget cuts under sequestration. At the Pentagon, administration officials have given Defense Department number crunchers the green light to begin planning for the $500 billion in budget cuts set to go into effect in January. Weeks of intense, last-minute negotiations between Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Barack Obama on a potential deal to avoid January’s “fiscal cliff” of looming tax hikes and automatic spending cuts appeared to come to an unceremonious end last Thursday. 

After a furious effort to draw GOP support for his "Plan B" tax proposal, the Ohio Republican was forced to pull his bill from the floor, unable to secure the 218 votes needed for passage. Boehner's defeat at the hands of his own party draws the curtain on a multimillion-dollar campaign by top defense industry lobbyists and interest groups to gin up opposition to the sequestration plan.  Read more ..

The Defense Edge

What Happened to $200M in Gas Receipts for NATO in Afghanistan

December 24th 2012

Afgan Police

The multinational NATO force in Afghanistan has declared that it spent more than $200 million to buy fuel for the Afghan Army in 2010 and 2011, but cannot locate any documents to substantiate the expense or show precisely where the money went, according to a special report by a government watchdog on Dec. 20.

As a result, the U.S. government is unable to “account for $201 million” worth of fuel purchases, said Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, in a letter alerting two members of Congress to the missing documentation.

The letter is a follow-up to a warning by Sopko in September that coalition force personnel in Afghanistan had improperly shredded fuel purchase records that covered a five-year period, blocking the ability of auditors to assess how much fuel was actually used by the Afghani army and how much might have been lost or stolen.

Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Hamas Plans To take Over the West Bank

December 24th 2012

Khaled Meshal kisses Gaza

Hamas is preparing for a possible takeover of the West Bank the UK’s Sunday Times is reporting. The Times cites a report by Aman, Israel’s military intelligence service, that Hamas chief Khaled Meshal has ordered sleeper cells to prepare for a struggle to take control of the territory.

Military intelligence reports that there are strong indications Iran is encouraging Hamas to replace the more moderate Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority. The article claims that the broken ties between Iran and Hamas that resulted from the latter’s refusal to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been restored as Iran has accepted Assad’s weakened position as a reality. Read more ..


Mali on Edge

Extremist Mali Muslims Destroy More Timbuktu Mausoleums

December 23rd 2012

Tourag at Timbuktu

Islamist militants are tearing down more ancient mausoleums in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu. Witnesses and tourism officials say rebels from the Ansar Dine group began destroying the mausoleums Sunday with pickaxes. The militants destroyed several mausoleums in the city in July, after the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, put Timbuktu on its list of sites that are in danger.

UNESCO has listed Timbuktu as a World Heritage site for its ancient mosques and shrines, some of which date back to the 15th century. The sites are revered by many Muslims but Ansar Dine considers them sacrilegious. Ansar Dine is one of three militant groups that seized control of northern Mali earlier this year, after renegade soldiers overthrew the government. Read more ..


Benghazigate

Surveillance Cameras Still in Boxes at Benghazi Mission

December 23rd 2012

libya-consulate

The deaths of four Americans in Benghazi on Sept. 11, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, stemmed from systemic shortcomings in the State Department’s handling of diplomatic security, according to an independent review ordered by the department and published this week.

These included a failure by the department to anticipate the gravity of the security threat, and a failure to have adequate forces in place or in a position to rush to the Benghazi mission during the attack that unfolded during Amb. Chris Steven’s visit there.

But they also stemmed from some fairly prosaic failures at the mission itself, according to a less-noticed portion of the department’s report. The attack unfolded quickly, but it was a surprise to those inside partly because an additional set of surveillance cameras “remained in boxes uninstalled” and a camera in the guard booth at the main gate “was inoperable on the day of the attacks, a repair which also awaited the arrival of a technical team.”

Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

U.S. Marine Released from Mexican Custody

December 22nd 2012

Prison bars

Former U.S. Marine Jon Hammar is set to be released by Mexican authorities on Friday, after unreleting pressure from American lawmakers on local authorities to hand over the Iraq and Afghan war vet. American officials secured Hammar's freedom when the judge presiding over his illegal weapons possession case in Mexico found the U.S. citizen not guilty and ordered his release, Hammar's mother Olivia told Fox News.  Hammar has been incarcerated in a detention facility in the northeast Mexican state of Tamaulipas since his arrest by Mexican authorities in August for attempting to bring a firearm across the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The former Marine, who sufferers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to multiple combat tours in Southwest Asia, was heading into Mexico as part of a surfing trip with a fellow Marine Corps veteran when he was arrested.  Read more ..


The Edge of Film

CIA Avers 'Zero Dark Thirty' Isn't a Documentary Film

December 22nd 2012

Click to select Image

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency sent a memo to CIA employees on Friday informing them that the new movie "Zero Dark Thirty," about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, "is not a documentary."

"The film takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate," CIA Acting Director Michael Morell wrote. The film, by director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, has already achieved both Oscar predictions and controversy in Congress. The movie depicts the international search for the al Qaeda leader, highlighting one CIA analyst. It ends with the successful Navy SEAL raid of bin Laden's compound that resulted in his death in May, 2011. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Jordan Warns that Syria will Become a "Black Hole" for al-Qaeda

December 21st 2012

Syrian Jihadis

Senior Jordanian officials have expressed their concern that Syria could become a magnet for Jihadists from across the globe once Bashar al-Assad falls and they’re warning that their country and Israel could be the terrorists’ next targets.

In an article published by Haaretz, senior Jordanian officials are quoted  as saying Syria could become  a “black hole that sucks Jihadists from around the world.”  As evidence, the Jordanians point to an incident two months ago in which their intelligence service was able to thwart a plan to attack shopping centers and Western embassies in Jordan. The cell planning the terror operation consisted of 11 Jordanian Salafists who had assembled in Syria and were working under the aegis of Al-Qaeda. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Hezbollah Ready for Battle, Warns Israeli Air Force

December 20th 2012

Jet Fighter

Israel's Air Force (IAF) chief warned Wednesday that the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah was preparing to battle the Jewish State. The terrorist group leaders are blaming Israel for a mysterious blast that leveled a Hezbollah-owned weapons warehouse in southern Lebanon. The facility reportedly contained long-range missiles capable of striking targets throughout Israel and the most of the Middle East, said the source who is a former U.S. police official.

"Anyone who goes to sleep with rockets needs to understand that it is a very unsafe place," Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said, according to Israel National Radio. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Taliban Get Mixed Results from Raid on Peshawar Air Base

December 20th 2012

Pakistani Taliban

The Pakistani Taliban continue to undermine Pakistan's government and military establishment, and in doing so, they continue to raise questions over the security of the country's nuclear arsenal. On Dec. 15, 10 militants armed with suicide vests and grenades attacked Peshawar Air Force Base, the site of a third major operation by the Pakistani Taliban since May 2011. Tactically, the attack was relatively unsuccessful -- all the militants were killed, and the perimeter of the air base was not breached -- but the Pakistani Taliban nonetheless achieved their objective.

The attack began the night of Dec. 15 with a volley of three to five mortar shells. As the shells were fired, militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device near the perimeter wall of the air base. Reports indicate that all five militants inside the vehicle were killed. The other five militants engaged security forces in a nearby residential area and eventually were driven back before they could enter the air base. The next day, security forces acting on a report of suspicious activity confronted the militants, who all died in the resultant shootout. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's New President Unleashes Strategy Against Narco-Terrorism

December 19th 2012

Mexican soldiers on the march

Newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced on Monday his new security and public safety strategy, which "focuses on the transformation of law enforcement institutions and crime prevention." Pena Nieto took office on Dec. 1, 2012, in a tough campaign that candidates had to run while in the midst of economic turmoil and rampant crime, especially homicides committed by the bloodthirsty cartels.

"Not a week goes by without Mexican police or the military discovering yet another mass grave," said Joseph Listron, a criminologist and crime scene investigator. "Mexico's crime and violence are detrimental to any desire to become a prosperous nation." Pena Nieto promised that he will order 10,000-strong militarized police force known as the national gendarmerie to be created. The military would continue to patrol Mexico's streets until the gendarmerie is ready to take over, but the Mexican people will soon see an end to soldiers in their neighborhoods. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

The Growing Presence of Hezbollah Terrorists in Mexico

December 19th 2012

Enrique Pena Nieto

A day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s inauguration, opposition leaders met with the new leader to sign the “Pact for Mexico”, a bipartisan agreement to increase economic cooperation and improve the stability in a country notorious for its violent drug war and devastating corruption.

The current plague of instability in Mexico appears to have attracted transnational criminal and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, which should be of paramount concern for President Peña Nieto. Hezbollah’s presence would further indicate a disturbing degree of instability in Mexico, which would undermine economic and social developments.

Hezbollah has been reportedly operating for over a decade in some of South America’s most corrupt and violent regions. However, a series of arrests, coupled with the discovery of an international money-laundering scheme in Mexico, has led some to claim that Hezbollah has now established a foothold in the country. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Growth of Al-Qaida in Syria Increases Chances of Chemical Weapons Attack in Europe

December 18th 2012

Syrian Chemical Weapons

Joby Warrick, The Washington Post’s correspondent who specializes in intelligence, wrote a story on Dec. 3 about how the Syrian rebellion was already spilling over and having an impact on neighboring countries. He focused in particular on Jordan. According to interviews he conducted, last month Jordanian security forces arrested 11 men and thus foiled a massive planned terrorist attack in the heart of Amman.

The Amman attack was supposed to begin with suicide bombings at two shopping malls to be followed by strikes against luxury hotels used by Westerners. But the main target in Amman was the U.S. Embassy, which was to be assaulted with mortar shells. Most of the suspects captured were Jordanian Salafists, who fought in Syria, which served as their new training ground. Moreover, the same explosives that were to be used in the Amman attacks were found in Syria as well.

But the key player orchestrating many operations in Syria, and also now in Jordan, was the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida. It had been incorrectly assumed that al-Qaida had been vanquished in 2007 by General David Petraeus during the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq. Recent events in Syria and Jordan demonstrate that it has been rehabilitating itself. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Five Anti-Polio Volunteers Killed In Pakistan

December 18th 2012

Taliban in Pakistan

Five polio vaccination workers in Pakistan have been shot dead in the past day and a half, prompting a suspension of the program in the area around the country's biggest city, Karachi.

Karachi police official Amanull Marwa stated that unknown attackers killed two female volunteers in the Gulshan Bonir area of Karachi on December 18. Police said another female volunteer was killed in the town of Awrangki near Karachi the same day and a male coworker was wounded. The UN said a fourth female polio campaign worker in the Karachi area was killed on December 17. Sindh Province Health Minister Saghir Ahmad told Radio Mashaal the three-day polio vaccination campaign in the province, which was in its second day, has been suspended.

The 24,000 workers taking part in the campaign there were told to cease their activities. There are also reports of a woman involved in the polio vaccination program being shot dead in the northwest town of Peshawar on December 18. Senior police official Mohmand Khan said the attack happened in the Mathra suburb of Peshawar. Read more ..


The US and Mexico

The U.S. Fiscal Cliff Offers Opportunity for Reciprocity with Mexico

December 17th 2012

Enrique Pena Nieto
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto

The economy in the United States is currently in turmoil, as evident by the “fiscal cliff” negotiations that may result in an overall tax adjustment. As such, a stronger bi-lateral trade relationship with Mexico might turn out to be a vital factor in the restoration of the U.S. economy in the months to come. President Obama’s relentless efforts to find a solution to the deficit problem may be more productively directed towards a collaborative relationship with newly elected Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto. This revived North American relationship between the two leaders, tied together by increasing cross-border trade, has the potential to mutually stimulate both the United States and Mexican economies.

However, as the Mexican economy continues to rise, it is likely that powerful Mexican drug cartels, along with perpetuated violence and corrupt public officials associated with these criminal organizations, could witness a concurrent expansion as well. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

A Thinking Liquid--Swarms of Tiny Bots Developed for Air or Sea Launch

December 16th 2012

Jets vapor trail

University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll likes to think in multiples. If one robot can accomplish a singular task, think how much more could be accomplished if you had hundreds of them.

Correll and his computer science research team, including research associate Dustin Reishus and professional research assistant Nick Farrow, have developed a basic robotic building block, which he hopes to reproduce in large quantities to develop increasingly complex systems.

Recently the team created a swarm of 20 robots, each the size of a pingpong ball, which they call “droplets.” When the droplets swarm together, Correll said, they form a “liquid that thinks.” To accelerate the pace of innovation, he has created a lab where students can explore and develop new applications of robotics with basic, inexpensive tools. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Scud Missile Strikes in Syria--The Implications

December 14th 2012

Syria fighting injured baby

The Assad regime's use of Scud missiles over the past several days represents a dramatic escalation in its war against the rebels, with deep military, psychological, and political implications for the Syrian people. More urgently for Washington, the Scud strikes have come just as the United States is finally recognizing the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) -- the latest indication that events on the ground are rapidly outpacing U.S. policy, and that Washington should revisit its redlines.

EFFECTS OF SCUD ATTACKS

Scud missiles can deliver a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead or a chemical agent. Although they are not very accurate, there is no effective way for the regime's opponents to stop them. Assad's longer-range Scuds, the C and D types, can reach most if not all of Syria from the Damascus area, where the major Scud garrisons are located. Scuds also create surprise and shock. The rebels have no means of knowing when the missiles have been fired, where they are going, or what kinds of warheads are onboard. In fact, even with good intelligence collection, there is no reliable way to know which Scuds have been uploaded with chemical warheads. The regime's decision to deploy the missiles therefore crosses another threshold, reducing potential warning time for more Scud launches and posing a greater threat to Syria's neighbors, particularly Turkey and Israel. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Is Boko Haram More Dangerous Than Ever?

December 13th 2012

Boko Haram

On Nov. 25, Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group from northern Nigeria, attacked a church in Jaji, Kaduna state, using two suicide bombers during the church's weekly religious service. The first bomb detonated in a vehicle driven into the church, and the second detonated approximately 10 minutes later, when a crowd of first responders gathered at the scene. About 30 people were killed in the attacks; the second blast caused the majority of the deaths. The incident was particularly symbolic because Jaji is the home of Nigeria's Armed Forces Command and Staff College, and many of the churchgoers were senior military officers.

In the wake of the Jaji attacks, media reports quoted human rights groups saying that Boko Haram has killed more people in 2012 than ever before. The group has killed roughly 770 people this year, leading many to conclude that Boko Haram has become more dangerous. Read more ..


Obama and Egypt

US Sends Egypt 20 F-16 Warplanes

December 13th 2012

F15 in Afghanistan

Egypt’s increasingly unstable Muslim Brotherhood regime, voted into power on an anti-US and anti-Israel platform, is about to receive 20 F-16 fighters jets despite calls to suspend arms sales to Cairo, Fox News reported Tuesday. The jets were ordered by deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and the Muslim Brotherhood is about to take over the inheritance. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, swept into power earlier this year on an Islamic campaign that promised reforms, has turned the Arab Spring revolution on its end by trying to usurp power. He has deployed armed soldiers and police to quell angry riots that have raised fears of a repeat of the violent suppression of anti-Mubarak protesters nearly two years ago.

Despite the instability, the United States is going ahead with the delivery of the F-16 jets, part of a two-year-old order for the planes. The first four jets are to be delivered January 22,  according to a source at the Texas air base where the planes are being tested. The date, by coincidence, is the same day that Israelis will vote for the next Knesset. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Strikes Makes Patriot Deployment more Urgent

December 12th 2012

Syrian explosion

NATO preparations to defend Turkey from potential Syrian attacks may find new urgency as Damascus begins to use missiles against Syrian rebels across the Turkish border.

U.S. officials on Wednesday said Syrian troops fired Scud missiles at opposition forces for the first time in recent days, marking an escalation of longtime President Bashar al-Assad's fight against a 21-month rebellion.

Turkey has long feared that an increasingly desperate Assad government may resort to striking Turkish targets with its Russian-designed missiles and warplanes, in retaliation for Ankara's hosting and support of Syrian rebels and refugees. IHS Jane's analyst Ben Goodlad says Syria has about 550 Scud missiles with a range of up to 800 kilometers. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Women Increasingly Recruited by al-Qaeda in Iraq

December 12th 2012

Baghdad Women

While considered a religious taboo in Islam to involve women in combat, al-Qaeda in Iraq is using every means possible to recruit women to help the terrorist group make a noticeable resurgence in the nation's Sunni Arab strongholds, according to a report in the India Times on Monday. With the Iraqi forces and the U.S. troops in the past years fiercely fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, they successfully pushed them out of their strongholds. But now, al-Qaeda extremists are coming up with other ways to penetrate the current Iraqi security measures.

Al-Qaeda is working hard to increase the role of women in its terrorist activities. They know that they are using unethical means to recruit women, in addition to their using the widows of their former members and their female relatives, say experts. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Military's Mystery Mini-Shuttle Launched on new Mission

December 12th 2012

NASA X-37B

A sized-down and top-secret version of NASA's space shuttle was shot into orbit Tuesday on an undisclosed mission. It is the third such mission for the militarty's mini-shuttle. The Associated Press colorfully reported: "The Air Force launched the unmanned spacecraft Tuesday hidden on top of an Atlas V rocket. As if on cue, clouds quickly swallowed up the rocket as it disappeared out over the ocean. It is the second flight for this original X-37B spaceplane. The craft circled the planet for seven months in 2010. A second X-37B spacecraft spent more than a year in orbit. These high-tech mystery machines -- 29 feet long -- are about one-quarter the size of NASA's old space shuttles and can land automatically on a runway. The two previous touchdowns occurred in Southern California; this one might end on NASA's three-mile-long runway once reserved for the space agency's shuttles. The military isn't saying much if anything about this new secret mission known as OTV-3, or Orbital Test Vehicle, flight No. 3. In fact, launch commentary ended 17 minutes into the flight and a news blackout followed." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Somali Security Forces 'Evict' Al Shabaab from Biggest Town

December 10th 2012

al-Shabaab

Somali and African Union security forces drove members of a powerful Islamic terrorist group out of the town of Jowhar on Sunday, according to a report from a counterterrorism expert in Israel.

The government and AU troops surprisingly encountered little or no resistance from the members of Al Shabaab who retreated from Jowar, said the Israeli source who monitors Islamist groups in North Africa.

Until Sunday, Jowhar had been the largest town under the control of Al Shabaab Islamists. Although the al-Qaeda affiliated group has retreated most urban areas since the African Union first began assisting the Somali forces two years ago, Al Shabaab still controls many rural areas of the country. Jowhar, which is 55 miles north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, has access to Somalia's biggest road linking the southern and central regions of the country. The Somali government claims this latest Islamist retreat is a major victory for the struggling Somali government. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israel will Take Action if Assad gives Hezbollah Chemical Weapons

December 10th 2012

Missiles on jet

Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, confirmed on Sunday that Israel will act if Syria sends its chemical weapons arsenal out of the country, especially Lebanon. Rumors have been flying since Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad, beleaguered by an ongoing civil war, either has or is planning to hand his chemical weapons over to his ally Hezbollah, a fundamentalist terror group that effectively controls southern Lebanon. "Were those weapons to pass into the wrong hands," Oren told Fox News, "into Hezbollah's hands, for example, that would be a game changer for us."

President Barack Obama has already made it clear that he will not allow Syria to employ chemical weapons without retaliation. There has been growing concern that this may happen, as the Syrian civil war is going badly for Assad, and there is fear that he may deploy his weapons of mass destruction as a last resort. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Netanyahu Accuses Hamas of Calling for Israel’s ‘Destruction’

December 9th 2012

Bibi arguing

Last month’s deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip may be over, but the war of words continues. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the Islamic militant group Hamas, accusing its leader of calling for Israel's destruction at a mass rally Saturday in Gaza.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel's Palestinian enemies have proven once again that they are not interested in compromise.

He was referring to comments by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who returned to Gaza on Friday after 45 years of exile. At a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, Meshaal vowed Hamas would fight until all of Palestine, including the territory of the State of Israel, is liberated from the Jews. He reiterated this position at speech Sunday in Gaza. There will be “no concessions on a single inch of Palestine,” he declared. He said armed struggle would continue until the liberation of Jerusalem. Read more ..


The Battle Syria

Pentagon Drafting Plans to Strike Syrian Chemical Weapons

December 9th 2012

USAF Desert Storm

Senior U.S. defense officials are drafting plans for a potential preemptive strike against government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, prompted by concerns over the country's chemical weapon stockpiles. While information on the specific status of those weapons remains extremely fluid, recent U.S. intelligence showed Assad's forces outfitting air-to-ground bombs with sarin gas at two airfields in Syria, according to CNN. That latest development spurred on the Pentagon's latest strategic assessment of its military options in the country, according to several Defense Department officials. 

"The more information and intelligence you have, the more clarity you can bring to options you may decide to use," a department official told CNN on Friday. "You would expect new information like this to drive an update of options," the official said.  Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Threatens Aerial Freedom of Navigation in the Gulf

December 8th 2012

Iran Missiles

Last month, Iranian jets intercepted and fired on an unarmed U.S. drone aircraft in international airspace. And this week, Tehran displayed what it claims is a captured U.S. Navy ScanEagle drone, a charge Washington flatly denies. These Iranian actions and rhetoric demonstrate a growing anti-U.S. campaign with drones as the cause celebre. For now, Washington has opted not to retaliate for the November incident, but it needs to ensure that the confrontation does not become a precedent that limits U.S. aerial freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. The United States must preserve its patrolling rights, particularly in light of Iran's threat to regional shipping and apparent desire to pursue nuclear weapons. Given the short range from Iranian ports to major commercial maritime lanes, the ability to quickly detect any provocative naval preparations is paramount. If aerial surveillance and intelligence collection were rerouted further away from the Iranian border, coalition forces would face a severe intelligence gap in detecting the regime's offensive military preparations or, worse yet, suspected nuclear activity. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Obama Will Strike Iran if Necessary say Three former Presidential Advisors

December 7th 2012

B-2 Bomber

Three former presidential advisors from both the Left and Right told a New York audience on Thursday that they believe U.S. President Barack Obama will take military action against Iran if sanctions fail.

The three officials: Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams, and James Jeffrey, have advised both liberal and conservative presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama himself. They registered their votes of confidence at a banquet held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It was Jeffrey who gave the strongest endorsement, as the Times of Israel reports, he said that, while Obama prefers diplomacy, if it fails "I think that we’re going to strike."

Sometime in 2013, he said, Iran will have enough enriched uranium to begin work on a bomb, and if they are "actually on the threshold, as Obama said during the campaign, then the president is going to take military action." Ross seconded this assessment, saying that "I think there’s the stomach in this administration, and this president" for a military strike on Iran. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

How Would Assad Use Chemical Weapons?

December 6th 2012

Syrian Chemical Weapons

U.S. intelligence has detected increased activity at Syrian chemical warfare facilities, raising concerns about the regime potentially using chemical weapons (CW) against the opposition. Although such an action would likely only be carried out in extremis, Bashar al-Assad and his cohorts are approaching that very status. Given the regime’s lack of regard for the casualties it has already inflicted and the value it places on its own survival above all else, the United States must prepare for the growing possibility of CW use in Syria.

After twenty months of internal war, the regime is in an increasingly difficult military situation. It suffered substantial reverses in November, losing territory, positions, troops, and equipment, including combat aircraft. The fighting capacity of its forces appears to be diminishing, and its standard tactic of bombing and shelling opposition areas, primarily civilian, is becoming less effective and more costly due to rebel antiaircraft fire and other tactics. As a result, pressure is undoubtedly rising within the regime to take different and more effective action—that has been the pattern for Damascus since the emergence of armed opposition in summer 2011. Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Operation Pillar of Defense: An Initial Strategic and Military Assessment

December 6th 2012

Iron Dome

Israel’s achievements in Operation Pillar of Defense include its ability to surprise Hamas, kill its military leader, and destroy most of its strategic assets. The performance of the Iron Dome anti-missile system and Israel’s civilian defense also proved impressive. An important gain for Israel is a reduced fear of repercussions in the aftermath of an attack on Iran. The operation in Gaza also proved Israel’s determination to act forcefully in the post “Arab Spring” environment. However, the lack of a ground offensive allowed Hamas to craft a victory narrative and the potential to re-arm. The next round is only a matter of time.

Israel’s declared objectives in Operation Pillar of Defense were limited: to cripple Hamas’ military capabilities, restore its deterrence, and return quiet to the communities of the South. The operation ended with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt, with US involvement. While the details of the agreement are still vague, it is possible to offer an initial assessment of the achievements and shortcomings of the operation. As history in the region indicates, the facts on the ground dictate reality more than any agreements signed on paper. Read more ..


Israel and Lebanon

The Rise of the Salafis in Lebanon: A New Sunni-Shiite Battlefield

December 5th 2012

Hezbollah rally

Since the beginning of the rebellion against Bashar Assad, Lebanon has been absorbing the shock waves resulting from the disintegration of the Alawite regime in Syria. As the Syrian war has evolved into an ongoing war and becomes a Sunni-Shiite conflict, there is little doubt that Lebanon could be the first in a series of countries in the region to find sectarianism once again at its doorstep. Indeed, the crisis in Syria has turned into a civil war where the two main contenders are fighting for supremacy: the Sunni majority is trying to gain back power from the Alawite minority that has ruled Syria since the late 1960s.

The rebellion in Syria and the direct involvement of the Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah militia on the side of the regime against the Sunni rebels has ignited a sense of solidarity among the Sunni community in Lebanon that has translated into their active involvement in the fighting in Syria. Read more ..


The Nuclear Edge

Radio Telescopes can Spot Clandestine Nuclear Tests

December 5th 2012

RBSPs deploy solar panels

In the search for rogue nukes, researchers have discovered an unlikely tool: astronomical radio telescopes. Ohio State University researchers previously demonstrated another unlikely tool, when they showed that South Korean GPS stations detected telltale atmospheric disturbances from North Korea's 2009 nuclear test. Both techniques were born out of the discovery that underground nuclear explosions leave their mark—on the outer reaches of Earth's atmosphere.

Now, working with astronomers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), they have analyzed historical data from the Very Large Array (VLA), a constellation of 27 radio telescopes near Socorro, New Mexico—and discovered that the VLA recorded a very similar pattern of disturbances during the last two American underground nuclear tests, which took place in Nevada in 1992. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israeli Intelligence Official: Border With Syria Will Soon be “the Hottest Border in Israel”

December 5th 2012

Rebel fighters

A senior Israeli intelligence official has told Israel’s Channel 2 that soon the country’s border with Syria will be “the hottest border in Israel,” even more dangerous and active than those shared with Egypt and Gaza. According to the source, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s holdout against opposition rebel forces appears to slowly be coming to an end, the expectation of attacks against Israel from extremist groups who have been massing weapons along the border will rise.

“Currently what keeps the Assad regime in power is the Syrian Air Force,” said the source. “Fighter jets and helicopter attacks” have prevented the rebels from winning the war. ” The problem,” the source says, “is that recently the Syrian Air Force has been losing one to two planes a day and they can not keep pace with attrition like that. The collapse of the Syrian Air Force would lead to the outright collapse of the government.” Read more ..


The North Korean Threat

North Korea Ignores Warnings, Prepares Rocket Launch

December 4th 2012

North Korean Rocket

North Korea appears to be moving ahead with preparations to launch a long-range rocket, despite international condemnation. South Korean media quoted government officials saying Tuesday that North Korea is preparing the second and third stages of its launch vehicle at the Tongchang-ri facility. Pyongyang says it plans to launch the three-stage rocket between December 10 and 22. It says the launch is aimed at placing a satellite into orbit. Its neighbors and much of the rest of the world have warned against the launch, saying it is really a disguised missile test banned under U.N. sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he is “seriously concerned” about the launch, saying it would raise tension in the region. Ban called on Pyongyang to reconsider its decision and halt all activities related to its ballistic missile program. North Korea’s main ally China also added increasing diplomatic pressure, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei warning Pyongyang to “act prudently” and not take steps to escalate the situation. On 3 December, Moscow also urged a cancellation.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Tai-young said he hopes China will keep the pressure on North Korea. “Especially with regard to the Korean peninsula issue, China is a nation that is very closely involved,” he noted. “In that matter we look forward to China playing an active role in maintaining and improving the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.” Read more ..


Operation Pillar of Defense

Iron Dome Sparks Interest from Potential Buyers around the World

December 3rd 2012

Iron Dome

Following the Iron Dome missile defense system’s success in last month’s conflict with Hamas, several nations have expressed interest in purchasing the Israeli-created and American-funded system, The New York Times reported on November 29. While experts note that Iron Dome has limitations—it was designed to intercept unsophisticated rockets with a range of less than 50 miles—countries such as South Korea and Singapore have reportedly been in discussions to purchase the system.

Some South Korean officials believe Iron Dome could defend its populated areas near the border with North Korea, according to Times.

Anti-missile defense advocates in the U.S. are also urging the military to consider Iron Dome for the defense of ground units such as those deployed in Afghanistan, the report said. “I think the successes of Iron Dome create a pretty big opening,” Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance Chairman Riki Ellison was quoted as saying. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

Iran Says Attack Cannot Stop Uranium Enrichment

December 2nd 2012

Iran Nuclear Equipment

Iran says a military attack will not prevent it from enriching uranium. In Vienna on November 30, Iranian Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh told journalists that Iran would rebuild any enrichment centrifuges destroyed in an attack. “Of course, all centrifuges would be replaced because we have the technology know-how and we can make them ourselves,” Soltanieh said. “Therefore, even a military attack cannot stop enrichment in Iran.” He made the comments after a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors. Soltanieh said Iran had mastered uranium enrichment and would “never, ever give it up.”

Earlier, he demanded that the IAEA close its investigation into allegations Tehran has a military dimension to its nuclear program, saying that Tehran had already answered all concerns about its nuclear activities. Soltanieh said the agency had found no “smoking gun” and that the IAEA’s continued interest in investigations was driven solely by Western governments, particularly the United States. The ambassador’s remarks could dampen hopes that the IAEA and Iran can agree on December 13 when they meet in Tehran to discuss IAEA demands that Iran be more forthcoming about its nuclear program. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Iraq Reportedly A Major Weapons Route to Syria

December 2nd 2012

Free Syrian Army fighters

A report says the air corridor over Iraq has become a main supply route for weapons for the beleaguered government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times, in a story posted on its website late Saturday, said the American effort to stem the flow of Iranian arms to Syria has faltered because of Iraq's reluctance to inspect aircraft carrying the weapons through its airspace. The newspaper says the weapons include rockets, antitank missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

The report, which cites anonymous U.S. officials, says the Obama administration is disappointed that American efforts to persuade the Iraqis to randomly inspect the flights have been "largely unsuccessful." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Suspects in 9/11 May Be Tried In Civilian Courts Not Military Tribunals

November 30th 2012

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had requested a complete study regarding the suitability of incarcerating and trying Guantanamo terrorism detainees on the U.S. mainland and switching jurisdiction for the trials from the military courts back to the civilian courts and the U.S. Justice Department. According to a study by the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress described the civilian custody and trial of Gitmo detainees "viable."

Fox News was successful in obtaining a Government Accountability Office document which is the result of "an investigation into whether domestic facilities could house the approximately 170 detainees remaining at the controversial facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." Read more ..


China Rising

China Aircraft Carrier Landing Poses No Direct Threat, Say Analysts

November 28th 2012

Liaoning - China's first flattop

Western analysts say China's recent landing of a Russian designed fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, though significant, poses no immediate regional or international security threats. In reports published Sunday, China's state-run news agencies said the navy landed several Chinese-made J-15 jets on the carrier Liaoning in the past week. The reports said the warplanes also took off successfully.

Chinese military analysts described the daytime landings and take-offs as a "landmark" in the navy's efforts to develop the combat capability of the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier. Bonnie Glaser, senior Asia Adviser at the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said while this is a significant achievement for China, it needs to be put in perspective. "The landing took place in good weather and it took place in the daytime.  It is significantly more difficult to land an aircraft on a carrier at night and in bad weather." Read more ..



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