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Tunisia on Edge

Maqdisi's Disciples in Libya and Tunisia

November 18th 2012

New Tunisian Assembly

Jihadist groups do not buy into the democratic process and are attempting to consolidate Islamic rule in their countries one charitable act at a time.

Ever since the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and U.S. Embassy in Tunis in September, there has been a large spotlight on the Islamist groups viewed as the main culprits -- Katibat Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi (ASB) and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST). While much of the understandable focus has been on the violent actions of individuals in these organizations, much of the scope of their activities lies outside violence. A large-portion of the activities of these groups is local social service provision under their particular dawa (missionary) offices. This broader picture is crucial to better understanding emerging trends in societies transitioning from authoritarian to democratic rule. Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Hezbollah Remains Wary Amid Israeli Operations in Gaza

November 18th 2012

Hezbollah rally

While Hamas is preparing for an Israeli ground assault into Gaza, Hezbollah's movements on Israel's northern frontier bear close watching. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Nov. 17 called on the Muslim world to retaliate against Israeli actions in Gaza. Naturally, many are looking in the direction of Lebanon, where Hezbollah, Iran's most capable militant proxy, could open a second front against Israel.

Though Iran would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the spectrum of its militant proxy strength, especially after supplying Hamas with the long-range Fajr-5 rockets that have been targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hezbollah will likely be extremely cautious in deciding whether to participate in this war. The group's fate is linked to that of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad; should Syria fracture along sectarian lines, Lebanon is likely to descend into civil war, and Hezbollah will have to conserve its strength and resources for a battle at home against its sectarian rivals. Indeed, Hezbollah has already been preparing for such a scenario by seizing control of villages along the Orontes River Basin in order to maintain connectivity with Syria's Alawite community. Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

A Pause for Negotiations in the Israeli-Hamas Conflict

November 18th 2012

IDF Soldiers

The Israeli-Hamas conflict has entered into a negotiation phase. Both sides want talks. Hamas wants them because any outcome that prevents an Israeli ground assault gives it the opportunity to retain some of its arsenal of Fajr-5 rockets; the Israelis want them because the cost of an invasion could be high, and they recall the political fallout of Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which alienated many European and other governments.

No matter how much either side might want to avoid ground warfare, negotiations are unlikely to forestall an Israeli assault because Hamas' and Israel's goals leave little middle ground.

One of Hamas' main goals in this current round of fighting is to retain enough Fajr-5 rockets to allow it to threaten the Israeli heartland, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor. If they succeed, Hamas will have gained a significant lever in its relations with the Israelis. The Israeli goal is to deny Hamas these rockets. The problem for the Israelis is that this requires a ground assault in order to have any chance of success. The Israelis may think they know where the rockets are, but they cannot be certain. Airstrikes can target known facilities, at least those where rockets are not stored in hardened underground bunkers. But only by going in on the ground with substantial force will the Israelis have the opportunity to search for and destroy the rockets. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria's Internal War Turns Against the Regime

November 17th 2012

Rebel fighters

After almost twenty months, Syria's internal war appears to be approaching a decisive stage. Since early October, rebel forces have been on the offensive in key theaters, while regime forces are stretched thin, increasingly on the defensive, and giving ground. The conflict is evolving from a war of attrition (with the two sides primarily exchanging casualties) to a war of positions, with rebel forces seizing checkpoints, reducing the regime presence in the provinces, interdicting roads, and pressuring key regime strongholds and facilities. Barring a major change in Bashar al-Assad's approach or massive intervention by Hizballah and Iran, the regime's military situation will likely continue to deteriorate, perhaps dramatically, in the weeks ahead. Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Iran's Agenda in the Gaza Offensive

November 17th 2012

Iran Missiles

To begin to make sense of the escalating conflict in Gaza, we need to go back to the night of Oct. 23 in Khartoum. Around 11 p.m. that night, the Yarmouk weapons facility in the Sudanese capital was attacked, presumably by the Israeli air force. There were indications that Iran had been using this facility to stockpile and possibly assemble weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, guided anti-tank missiles and long-range Fajr-5 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from Gaza.

One of the major drivers behind Israel's latest air and assassination campaign is its belief that Hamas has a large cache of long-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets in its possession. Israel's primary intent in this military campaign is to deny Hamas the ability to use these rockets or keep them as a constant threat to Israel's population centers. This likely explains why in early October, when short-range rocket attacks from Gaza were still at a low level, Israeli officials began conditioning the public to the idea of an "inevitable" Israeli intervention in Gaza. Israel knew Hamas had these weapons in its possession and that it could require a war to eliminate the Fajr rocket threat. Read more ..

The Petraeus Scandal

Petraeus Successor At CIA May Address Intel Deficiencies

November 16th 2012

David Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus’ surprising and abrupt resignation from his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency may have a silver-lining despite the uncertainty of leadership at one of the nation’s most important bureaucracies. The next director of the CIA could address agency deficiencies and those within the entire intelligence community, according to experts.

A popular and well-respected military leader, Petraeus shocked many when he revealed he had an extramarital affair with West Point graduate and author Paula Broadwell, who had written a book about Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan.

United States

There are some within the intelligence community, the military and law enforcement assigned to counterterrorism units who accused Petraeus of failing to respond decisively to calls for assistance from CIA operatives posted in Libya amid the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, but his integrity remains unquestioned, at least it does during Obama’s reign. When he worked for President George W. Bush, he was almost constantly lambasted by Democrats, especially left-leaning pundits such as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

'Anonymous' Hackers Target Israel During Terrorist Attack

November 16th 2012

Shadowy Computer User

The hacker group Anonymous announced early November 15 that it would begin attacking Israeli government and military websites in retaliation, it said, for Israel’s recent strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip. The announcement was made on Twitter. The tweet said "Dear Israel, you shut down internet. We'll shut you down."

The group is calling the attacks #opIsrael, and within several hours they were claiming to have successfully taken down over 40 Israeli military and government websites. Another tweet by the group read, "#OpIsrael 40+ Israel'i government & military websites have been taken down in last 3hrs #FreeGaza #Anonymous #FreePalestineV@AnonNewsINT". Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Combating Terrorism from Gaza

November 16th 2012

Gaza Qasam Rocket

United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and International treaties define crimes against humanity as the "participation in, and knowledge of, a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, and the multiple commissions of [such] acts ... against any civilian population."

These international binding instruments go-on to impose uniform mandatory counter-terrorist obligations on all states to "bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of terrorist attacks and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harboring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable.

 There is no escape clause - UNSC repeats "its unequivocal condemnation of all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, in all their forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomever committed." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Senators Get an Eyefull of Benghazi Attack Videos

November 15th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Lawmakers were shown surveillance video and footage from a Predator drone that gave a real-time picture of what happened the night of Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya, as the House and Senate Intelligence committees began inquiries into the attack Thursday.

The committees’ highest-profile witness, former CIA Director David Petraeus, isn’t coming to Capitol Hill until Friday. But the committees each held a lengthy hearing on Benghazi Thursday with several senior intelligence officials, including acting CIA Director Michael Morell stepping in for Petraeus.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said after their hearing concluded that they will hold at least an additional two closed-door Benghazi hearings as well as a public hearing to release their findings. Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Israeli Ground Offensive Imminent Following Gazan Barrage on Tel Aviv

November 15th 2012

Israeli Tank in Sinai

Two projectiles, which are believed to be Fajr-5 rockets due to their range, landed near Tel Aviv -- one just south of the municipal line and one in the water just outside of the southern suburb of Bat Yam. No injuries have been reported. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces denied that a rocket had landed in Tel Aviv, although this statement conflicts with eyewitness reports and may reflect the fact that projectiles have landed in areas just south of the actual Tel Aviv municipal boundary.

Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the attack. This strike is the furthest Hamas has ever struck into Israeli territory and signals a major escalation. Hamas has moved beyond retaliation for yesterday's airstrikes or provocative bombings and instead is engaged in war. An Israeli ground offensive is now almost assured. Read more ..

Lebanon on Edge

A Tale of Two Assassinations and Lebanon

November 15th 2012

Wissam al-Hassan mourner

On Oct. 19, Lebanese Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan was assassinated on a narrow side street near Sassine Square in downtown Beirut. The attack involved the detonation of a moderately sized vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as al-Hassan's car passed by the vehicle in which the device was hidden. The explosion killed not only al-Hassan and his driver but also six other people and wounded about 90 more.

Al-Hassan, the intelligence chief for Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, had been a marked man for some time prior to his death. He was the security chief for former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005 in an attack that most believe was conducted by the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon. Read more ..

Israel and Gaza

1,200 Tunnels Operating Between Egypt and the Gaza Strip

November 14th 2012

Gaza Tunnels

The leader of the Al-Akur Tribe in Sinai, Arif Abu-Akr, has revealed that the 1,200 tunnels between the borders of Egypt and Gaza Strip are working at full capacity. Abu-Akr told Asharq Al-Awsat that these tunnels were being used to carry out terrorist attacks, “but we cannot arrest them or present them to justice.”

During the transitional period, which was administered by the military, the Egyptian authorities had announced the closure of the tunnels to the Gaza Strip; however, security sources in Sinai have said that many of the tunnels are now fully operational since President Muhammad Mursi’s accession to power at the beginning of July 2012. Security sources also revealed that the governor of North Sinai had lodged a complaint with senior officials in Cairo, but was told: “The tunnels do not represent a problem.”

Egyptian authorities say that the situation in Sinai is under control; however, a number of Sinai tribal leaders have been vocal about the need to end the chaotic security situation. Majdi Jilbanah, leader of Abu-Jilbanah Tribe, the largest tribe in Sinai, has called on the state leaders to deploy the National Security personnel urgently to hunt down foreign elements, which Abu-Jilbanah says are widespread across Sinai. Read more ..

The Petraeus Scandal

Picking Up the Pieces at the CIA following the Disgraced Petraeus

November 14th 2012

David Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus' surprising and abrupt resignation from his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency may have a silver-lining despite the uncertainty of leadership at one of the nation's most important bureaucracies. The next director of the CIA could address agency deficiencies and those within the entire intelligence community, according to experts. A popular and well-respected military leader, Petraeus shocked many when he revealed he had an extramarital affair with West Point graduate and author Paula Broadwell, who had written a book about Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan.

There are some within the intelligence community, the military and law enforcement assigned to counterterrorism units who accused Petraeus of failing to respond decisively to calls for assistance from CIA operatives posted in Libya amid the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, but his integrity remains unquestioned, at least it does during Obama's reign. When he worked for President George W. Bush, he was almost constantly lambasted by Democrats, especially left-leaning pundits such as MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Read more ..

Pillar of Defense

Israel Launches “Pillar of Defense” Operation in Gaza, “Decapitation Wave” Against Hamas Terror Leadership

November 14th 2012

Israeli Tanks Gaza Strip

The IDF has launched a major Gaza operation named “Amud Annan (Pillar/Column of Defense)” with the goal of taking “out a large piece of the (Hamas) command structure without toppling the regime,” a knowledgeable source in Jerusalem told The Algemeiner.

IDF Spokesperson Eytan Buchman confirmed to The Algemeiner that “the operation began about an hour ago with a pin-point strike on Hamas terror chief al-Jabari, “Since then” he said,  ”we have targeted about 20 different sites in the Gaza strip focusing specifically in long range rocket capabilities that have been developed in Gaza.”

Bachman told The Algemeiner that there is “no focus on other individuals at this point but all the options are on the table.” A ground invasion is also not planned at the moment.

“The point of operation is to cripple terrorist infrastructure that has developed in the Gaza strip and has received significant assistance from Iran, ” he said, “One of the best examples are the Fajr rockets which we have targeted that have a range of over 25 miles.”

Another IDF spokesperson told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that “we target Hamas and Jihad leaders and Fajr-5 40 km rockets in order to deny Hamas the strategic option of escalating the conflict. A ground invasion is planned for if necessary, and mobilization orders are ready. “The main purpose” he said, is “to end the harassment of the Israeli South.”

Asked how long the operation was expected to go on for, Bachman said there is no specific timetable, “we will go on as long as we need to, we had over a million Israelis in bomb shelters over the last four days, that situation is untenable.”

Regarding a possible escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza Bachman said, “we are prepared for any response that may come, we are confident in our abilities to significantly impair Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations.”

“We have shown enormous restraint and have been gathering very precise intelligence over the last four months on rockets and other terror sites and now we are acting on that intelligence,” he concluded.

“The talk is about a “decapitation wave” against Hamas,” The Algemeiner’s Jerusalem source added, now “that the human shield Gilad Shalit is no more, (the aim is) to kill as many terrorist leaders involved in his capture, holding and exchanging Shalit, to destroy Fajr-5 long-range rockets (that can reach Tel Aviv) and to reassert the deterrent without (so far) land invasion.”

Military sources told The Algemeiner that “A significant number of munitions depot’s are within civilian, residential buildings. This fact is another illustration of Hamas’ modus operandi which uses the civilian population in Gaza as a human shield.”

The operation follows four days of escalated rocket attacks from Gaza during which over 150 projectiles were fired at civilian communities in southern Israel. Israeli leaders have made clear in recent days that the country would not tolerate the continued attacks.

The operation began with the assassination of Hamas terror mastermind Ahmed al-Jabari earlier today. A statement from the Shin Bet about the strike said, “Jabari was responsible for financing and directing military operations and attacks against Israel. His elimination today is a message to Hamas officials in Gaza that if they continue promoting terrorism against Israel, they will be hurt.”

IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai told the Jerusalem Post that al-Jabari was a man with “a lot of blood on his hands.”

The naming if the operation is drawn from biblical verses in Exodus, that refer to a column of smoke that led and protected the Israelites during their sojourns in the desert .

Israel on Edge

Israel's Fight to Regain Deterrence

November 13th 2012

IDF On Guard

Israel is facing an unenviable challenge these days, to regain its deterrence in a chaotic neighborhood in which its enemies are feeling emboldened. As a direct result of the regional turmoil, Israel is dealing with the deterioration of security on two fronts simultaneously.

In the south, the time bomb that is Gaza has, once again, gone off. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and smaller assorted jihadi organizations have stepped up their attacks on IDF patrols along the border, through roadside bombs, missile attacks, and explosives-laden tunnels under the border.

When the IDF responds, the terror organizations seize on Israel's attempt to defend its soldiers as a justification to launch large-scale rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, and fire rockets at southern cities, towns, and villages. In the most recent case, Islamic Jihad terrorists fired a sophisticated Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep patrolling the border, injuring four soldiers. IDF tanks stationed near Gaza returned fire, killing six Palestinians. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

OAS Demands Protection for Mexican Human Rights Activists

November 13th 2012

Mexico memorial

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has requested that the Mexican government protect seven Chihuahua rural activists who are spearheading movements against water over-exploitation and mining. The request was issued in favor of leaders of El Barzon, an organization of small farmers founded in the 1990s, and followed the murder of El Barzon activist Ismael Solorio Urrutia and his wife Manuela Martha Solis Contreras in the Chihuahua countryside on October 22.

An El Barzon leader in the north-central region of Chihuahua, Solorio was physically assaulted along with a son last October 13 by men allegedly connected to a Mexican division of the Canadian-owned MAG Silver Corporation, which operates a controversial mine on land belonging to the Benito Juarez Ejido in the municipality of Buenaventura. Read more ..

Kenya on Edge

Heavy Casualties Reported in Ambush on Kenyan Police

November 12th 2012

Kenya Police

Kenyan officials have recovered the bodies of more than 30 police officers who were killed during an operation to track down cattle rustlers in the northern Baragoi district. Kenyan police officials said the ambush shows the need to better equip the police force.

Survivors of the attack in northwestern Kenya said they were ambushed as they went in pursuit of the suspected cattle thieves.

Police entered an area known as the Suguta Valley by truck Saturday ahead of an operation to recover the stolen animals. But they said the gunmen were waiting in the hills, and fired automatic weapons at the overpowered forces below. Nine police officers were wounded. Kenyan media reported Monday that some officers are still unaccounted for.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe, speaking to a parliamentary commission Monday, said the attack was probably the result of an “operational oversight” on the part of the police. "I believe the commander of this operation acted in very good faith and in the best interest of the community he was serving, but the operation went sour," he said. Kiraithe was answering questions from lawmakers as a candidate for police inspector general. He said the assault this weekend demonstrates the need to improve the capacity of Kenya’s police force. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Israelis Attack Terrorists in Gaza

November 11th 2012


Israeli defense forces launched an air force attack that targeted a Palestinian terrorist cell in Gaza on Saturday night, after the Islamists allegedly fired rockets at southern Israel, an Israeli police source said.

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) attacked the rocket-launching squad of Islamist militants in the northern region of the Gaza Strip just minutes after they fired rockets towards southern Israel. A direct hit was confirmed by the police source.

Gaza's radical Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed martyr-status for one of their leaders, Mohammed Shkokani, who was allegedly killed in the retaliatory airstrike. According to the Israeli police source. Saturday was one of the worst days of cross-border violence in recent weeks with Islamic terrorists firing close to 30 rockets at Jewish communities in western Israel since the early evening hours of Saturday. Read more ..

Battle for Syria

UNRWA Keeps Quiet on Syria

November 11th 2012

UNRWA Refugee Camp

When two employees of UNRWA, the United Nations organization for Palestinians, were killed in Syria, one by a sniper and the other in a crossfire, the organization responded by deploring "the tragic loss of life." It was even more subdued when Syrian artillery shells slammed into a United Nations school for Palestinians in a Damascus suburb, as it called for "all sides to refrain from conducting the conflict in civilian areas and to comply with their obligations under international law."

These mild responses were utterly unlike the cries of condemnation and calls for war-crimes investigations that came forth when an Israeli shell struck outside an UNRWA school during the 2009 Gaza. But double standards are sometimes revealing. The responses point to a new predicament for UNRWA and Palestinians. Simply put, they are no longer the Middle East's premier refugees. Some three hundred thousand Syrian refugees are now registered with the UN in neighboring countries, with estimates of up to seven hundred thousand refugees by year's end. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Zawahri: Somalia's Al Shabaab Must Fight 'Crusader Invaders'

November 10th 2012

Al Shabaab

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, in a statement on Wednesday, urged Somalia's Al Shabaab terrorists to fight back against what he called "crusader invaders," the Kenyan and Nigerian military forces assisting the Somali security forces.

While the security forces claimed they pushed the al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab insurgents out of Somalia's main urban areas which they took over in their five-year-old revolt, the capital city of Mogadishu remains vulnerable to militant attacks.

For example, on Sunday two members of the deadly Islamic terrorist group attacked a restaurant in the Somali capital wearing suicide bombs. They killed three security officers who attempted to prevent them from entering the local eatery. Although no group or individual took responsibility for the bombings, intelligence and police officials believe the culprits are the Al Shabaab terrorists who have conducted similar terrorist attacks in the past. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

The Link Between Climate Change, National Security

November 10th 2012

NASA ICESCAPE Arctic melt pools

The U.S. National Research Council released a report Friday on the link between global climate change and national security. The scientific study details how global warming is putting new social and political stresses on societies around the world and how the United States and other counties can anticipate and respond to these climate-driven security risks.

The report by the congressionally-chartered research group begins with an assertion that global warming is real, and that the mainstream scientific community believes that heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are being added to the atmosphere faster today than they were before the rise of human societies. And it says the consequences of climate change -- including rising sea levels, more frequent and severe floods, droughts, forest fires, and insect infestations -- present security threats similar to and in many cases greater than those posed by terrorist attacks. Read more ..

China on Edge

Tibetan Protests Erupt in Western China

November 9th 2012

Tibetan Protest

Reports from China's western Qinghai Province say hundreds or even thousands of Tibetans marched on government offices Friday.  The protests come amid attempts by China's government to maintain social stability during a political transition.

Tibetans marched on government offices in Rebkong, a region of eastern Tibet, after a series of self-immolations that drew international attention.  Estimates ranged from hundreds to thousands of protesters who began gathering on the streets at 5:00 a.m.  Many said they were speaking out against China's education system.

"Our sources have confirmed that many of the students have been calling for freedom of language and for the return of his Holiness," said Stephanie Brigden, executive director of rights group Free Tibet. Mass protests in Rebkong also occurred in 2010, when demonstrators spoke out against China's plans to replace Tibetan with Chinese as the language of instruction in local schools.

The Edge of Piracy

Somali Piracy Drops Off Dramatically

November 8th 2012


Piracy off the coast of Somalia has dropped off dramatically in 2012. Successful ship hijackings have decreased from 31 in 2011 (and 49 in 2010) to only four so far in 2012. Attacks against ships have also decreased, falling from 199 reported attacks in the first nine months of 2011 to 70 attacks over the same span in 2012 -- a 65 percent drop.

However, diminished activity does not necessarily mean a decrease in the cost of sailing around the Horn of Africa. Somali pirates occupy a unique position, which is right along highly strategic global shipping lanes yet outside the reach of any national power. For international actors, it is politically and militarily easier to try to contain the Somali piracy threat than to eliminate it. But containment comes at a high cost.

Controlling Territory

Many factors have contributed to the decrease in pirate hijackings in 2012. One factor is that shipping companies have begun equipping their ships with more countermeasures, namely armed guards. For several years, commercial ships sailing in the Indian Ocean have used other countermeasures, such as fences, water cannons and adjusted tactics like disabling the ship. Read more ..

Mali on Edge

Militant Group in Mali Ready to Negotiate

November 7th 2012

Taureg dude

One of the three armed al-Qaida-linked militant groups in control of northern Mali since April says it rejects all ties to terrorism and is ready to negotiate with Mali's transitional authorities. A spokesman for the delegation from the Malian Islamist group, Ansar Dine, read the declaration following a meeting with Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore Tuesday in Ouagadougou.

Spokesman Mohamed Aharib says Ansar Dine reiterates its availability to open a "frank and constructive dialogue" with Mali's transitional authorities.  In the interest of creating an environment of confidence and security, he says, Ansar Dine pledges to observe a complete halt in hostilities to guarantee the free movement of people and goods and to facilitate humanitarian aid in the zones under its control.  Ansar Dine, he says, "rejects all form of extremism and terrorism" and pledges to fight organized, cross-border crime. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 50 Syrian Troops

November 6th 2012

Car Bomb damage

A Syrian activist group says a suicide car bomber has killed more than 50 Syrian soldiers in central Hama province. The attack comes as fighting continues across large sections of Syria, and as opposition leaders meet in Qatar to reshape the opposition movement.

Amateur video showed burning vehicles in a rebel-held town in Idlib province. Opposition sources say there were numerous casualties after government warplanes bombed the town's center.

Elsewhere, a car bombing in Hama province killed more than 50 government soldiers, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Syrian government news agency SANA reported the blast, but said there were few victims. Syrian TV also reported deaths from an explosion in Damascus' Mazzeh district. Heavy fighting was reported in and around Damascus, including at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Remains Unlikely

November 6th 2012

Syria Damascus fighting injured baby

The main Syrian opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, voted Monday at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, to broaden its ranks in the face of U.S. pressure to create a more representative leadership. Still, Syria will remain a foreign policy challenge for the U.S., no matter who wins Tuesday's presidential election.

Even as the United States tries to identify the right people for a transitional authority to replace Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Obama administration said it is still considering a no-fly zone for northern Syria, but not a military intervention. Former U.S. Ambassador Frank Wisner said there remains no support for military involvement in Syria from the United States or its allies.

"What we should be talking about is not a military option but a political option, and that option must mean the assumption that as dreadful as this regime is in Syria, as ghastly as the crimes that is committing, you need a political way out of the situation, you need in short a political settlement,” said Wisner. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Readying the Quiver - Arrow 3 Set to Fly

November 5th 2012

Arrow 3 Missile

Eyeing Iran's rapidly progressing nuclear program, the United States and Israel are jointly developing missile defense systems capable of protecting Israel, US forces and friendly countries from potential medium- and long-range Iranian missile attacks. The Arrow 3, whose first flight test was just postponed until November at the earliest due to an interceptor malfunction, is the latest and most capable iteration of the Arrow (Hetz) Missile Defense System. Once operational, the Arrow 3 will be the most advanced missile defense system in the world, a powerful example of the fruits of the US-Israel relationship.

When deployed, Arrow 3 will be Israel's frontline missile defense in any future conflict with Iran and is a marked improvement over the currently fielded Arrow 2, operational since 2005. Arrow 3 is "more advanced than what we have ever attempted in the US with our programs," Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the US Missile Defense Agency, proclaimed earlier in the year.

Co-produced by Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the mobile Arrow System consists of four main components: the hypersonic Arrow interceptors themselves, the EL/M- 2080 early warning AESA radar (also known as the Super Green Pine), the command, control, communication and intelligence center (C3I), and the launch control center. Read more ..

Daghestan on Edge

Daghestan Becomes Hotbed Of North Caucasus Insurgency

November 5th 2012

Daghestan Car Bombing Nov 2012

Suicide bombings in police stations. Muslim clerics gunned down in broad daylight. Shoot-outs between insurgents and security forces. These have become run-of-the-mill headlines in Russia's troubled North Caucasus region of Daghestan. Last week, unidentified gunmen shot dead an imam and two of his male relatives as they drove to morning prayer in the Daghestan town of Derbent. He is at least the fifth Muslim leader slain this year.

Analysts say Daghestan has unquestionably deteriorated into the most unstable republic in the North Caucasus, a region wracked by conflict and insurgency. But why Daghestan? What are the factors that set the republic apart. Like Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and to a lesser extent Chechnya, Daghestan is a hotbed for the militant Islamist insurgency led by Doku Umarov that seeks to create a so-called pan-Caucasus Islamic caliphate.

Widespread unemployment, poor living standards, rights abuses, and resentment of local and federal authorities have spurred new generations to join the insurgency -- or "to go to the forest," as locals say. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

IDF and Mossad Reportedly Refused to Comply with Iran Attack Orders in 2010

November 5th 2012

Bibi Netanyahu with Glasses

The depth of dissension within the Israeli establishment on the issue of Iran was revealed in a shocking news report on Sunday, which showed that the Mossad and the IDF refused to comply to with a 2010 order to ready the military for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear program. According to the Times of Israel, the Israeli Channel 2 report, which will be broadcast in full on Monday, claims that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak issued the order sometime in 2010. It told the military to prepare for a strike on Iran within hours.

Gabi Ashkenazi, who was the IDF chief of staff; and Meir Dagan, then-head of the Mossad, and now one of the most prominent critics of military action against Iran; categorically rejected the order. Ashkenazi apparently justified his opposition by saying that such an order would lead to war, whether intentionally or not, and that Israel was unready for such a conflict. Dagan was far more harsh in his response, calling the order "an illegal decision," as "Only the security cabinet is authorized to make such a decision." In retrospect, Dagan said, "the prime minister and the defense minister tried to steal a war – it was as simple as that." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Filipino Muslim Terrorists Seek to Bury the Hatchet

November 5th 2012

Moro Islamic Liberation Front

In October, the leader of the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group signed a preliminary peace accord with the government, aimed at ending decades of war that have killed some 120,000 people. When Murad Ebrahim was 21, he quit school and joined Muslim rebels fighting against the government. His older brother, then his guardian, was not happy with the decision, Murad said. “I feel the necessity at that time, that maybe what came into mind is schooling can wait, but this situation cannot wait," he said. "So I had to decide on that, a very hard decision.”

Despite only being months away from completing a civil engineering degree, Murad took up arms in 1969, motivated by the reported killing of more than a dozen Muslim military recruits by Christian officers. He joined the Moro National Liberation Front, which battled the military in the south and was accused of carrying out terrorist attacks and assassinations as part of its separatist campaign. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Tanks Stray into Golan Demilitarized Zone

November 4th 2012



Nigeria on Edge

Nigerian Forces Raid Kidnappers' Hideout

November 3rd 2012

Nigeria joint military task force

Nigerian security forces have killed 14 people as they stormed the hideout of the suspected kidnappers of a Turkish national. Police say the raid took place  Friday in the oil-rich Rivers State region. Officials say militants in the region have been linked to a string of kidnappings, armed robberies and other violence.
The French news agency (AFP)  says the Turkish national who was abducted had been freed after his captors were paid a ransom. In another incident, witnesses said Nigerian soldiers shot and killed more than 40 people in the city of Maiduguri, most of them young men. The city is a stronghold for the Boko Haram militant group.

Residents of the city say soldiers from Nigeria's Joint Task Force (JTF) carried out the killings during raids on several neighborhoods late Thursday. A source in the city morgue says that he came to work Friday to find that the bodies of about 40 young men had been dropped off. Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the JTF of extra-judicial killings as the force tries to crush Boko Haram.  The JTF has denied the allegations. Boko Haram, a shadowy militant group, wants to impose Islamic law across northern Nigeria and is blamed for the death of more than 1,400 people since 2009. 

South Korea on Edge

South Korean's Navy: “To the Sea, To the World”

November 2nd 2012

South Korean Destroyer Choi Young
South Korean Destroyer Choi Young

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy welcomes visitors to its website with the headline, “To the Sea, To the World.” Over the past two decades, South Korea has been building an ocean-going, blue water navy that is capable of extended operations in waters beyond the peninsula. After the sinking of the Cheonan, the Navy scaled back plans to build a blue water navy to focus attention on more immediate defense needs around the peninsula. Last week, the ROK Navy announced a plan to resume the expansion of its blue water fleet with a new line of submarines, more Aegis-class destroyers, and twenty frigates.

One of South Korea’s successful uses of its blue water capability has been its participation in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. In spring 2009, Seoul sent the Cheonghae unit consisting of one DDH-II destroyer, a Lynx helicopter, and a team of 30 Navy SEALS to join Counter Task Force (CTF)-151, a group of 25 countries that patrols the waters in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. For over three years, the Cheonghae unit has been escorting ROK commercial vessels and those of other countries and when necessary, conducting operations to foil pirate attacks and rescue seized vessels. The most high profile of these efforts was freeing the South Korean ship Samho Jewelry in January 2011. Read more ..

Obama and Benghazi

Arab Media Report Exposes Security Breaches at Benghazi Consulate Only Hours Before Assassination of U.S. Ambassador

November 2nd 2012


According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, a report on Alaan TV, a UAE channel, exposed lax security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi only hours before Ambassador Christopher Stevens was assassinated in a terror attack on September 11th of this year. Excerpts from the report posted to MEMRI’s website reveal a series of communications between consulate staff and Libyan officials. At one point in the broadcast the reporter for Alaan says,”The letters revealed that since September 9, the Americans had been requesting special security arrangements, in preparation for the arrival of Ambassador Chris Stephens to Benghazi. These arrangements included the police guarding the front and rear gates of the consulate around the clock, in addition to a mobile patrol and a bomb-sniffing dog.”


The Edge of Terrorism

Israel Admits to Killing Top PLO Terrorist in 1988

November 1st 2012

Ancient Doorways

Israel admitted Thursday that its secret agents killed the PLO's second-in-command in his Tunis home in 1988, a man responsible for scores of Israeli deaths. "Abu Jihad," whose real name was Khalil al-Wazir, was shot dead by Mossad agents in an operation led by Nahum Lev. Lev, who carried a box of chocolates that concealed a weapon, was accompanied by another agent dressed as a woman.

The story reads: They approached the house, where Lev shot and killed Abu Jihad’s bodyguard, who had fallen asleep in his car. After the unit got word that the bodyguard was neutralized, the remaining officers secured the doorway of the house. Part of the unit headed toward the basement precisely at the moment a second bodyguard woke up. He refused to let go of his firearm, and was killed. The gardener, Lev recounted, had decided to sleep in the basement that night, and he too was killed. “I felt sorry for the gardener,” Lev said. “But in that type of operation we have to make sure that any possible interference is neutralized.”

Another officer started firing toward the staircase of the house, near where Abu Jihad was located, and Lev followed him. “He shot at Abu Jihad first. It seemed like Abu Jihad was holding a pistol in his hand,” Lev said. “After that, I shot him with a long burst of fire. I was careful not to hurt his wife, who had showed up there. He died. The extra forces came and verified his death.”

Among other attacks against civilians, "Jihad" was responsible for the Coastal Road Massacre in in 1978 that took the lives of 38 Israelis. The Palestinian terrorist was also a leader in the PLO's first intifada against the Jewish state. Read more ..

The Drug Wars

The Real 'Chapo' Guzman and Why it Matters

November 1st 2012

Joaquin 'el Chapo' Guzman
Joaquin 'el Chapo' Guzman in 1993.

A widely propagated myth would have us believe that Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera and his Sinaloa Federation are less violent than many of their competitors. Statements from journalists and analysts allege that Sinaloa is more businesslike than Los Zetas, whose reputation for brutality is well-documented, and that this business savvy somehow renders the group relatively benign. In turn, this has led many to believe that the Mexican government could broker a deal with the leader of one of Mexico's largest criminal organizations.

However, a close examination of Sinaloa's evolution demonstrates the group is hardly the hallmark of civility. In fact, the history of Mexico's cartel wars over the past decade reveals that Guzman, his Sinaloa Federation and the various cartels with which they partner have been more territorially aggressive than any other Mexican cartel. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Sudan's Iran Alliance Under Scrutiny

October 31st 2012

Yarmouk Weapons Factory

Sudan's accusation that Israel bombed a Khartoum weapons plant last week has drawn attention to long-standing Israeli complaints of alleged Sudanese cooperation with Iran in smuggling weapons to Palestinian militants. Sudan and Iran have been allies for decades and boosted military ties under a 2008 agreement. As part of that relationship, two Iranian warships docked at Port Sudan on Monday, in what both sides described as a "routine visit". But, allegations that the two allies also cooperate in arms smuggling have grown since the October 24 explosions at Khartoum's Yarmouk weapons facility.

Khartoum complex raises suspicions

​​The Satellite Sentinel Project, a U.S.-based monitoring group, says images of Yarmouk taken before and after the pre-dawn incident suggest the complex housed "highly volatile cargo" that exploded when struck by air-delivered munitions. Sudanese authorities say four people were killed and blamed the destruction on Israeli warplanes. Since the incident, Israeli defense commentators have claimed that the volatile cargo at Yarmouk included missiles made under Iranian supervision for smuggling through Sudanese and Egyptian territory to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials decline to comment on what happened at Yarmouk, but repeat their accusations of Sudanese-Iranian coordination in arms smuggling. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Pulls Back from Nuclear Brink

October 31st 2012


Iran pulled back from the nuclear brink in August, when that country's nuclear engineers converted a stockpile of enriched uranium to fuel rods. That decision delayed an imminent Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel's defense minister told The Telegraph. Still, Iran could enter a "zone of immunity" starting next spring or summer, thereby forcing a decision whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, Ehud Barak said. Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] 'oh we comply with our commitments’.” Read more ..

The Edge of Crime

FBI Crime Report Show Fewer Violent and Property Crimes

October 30th 2012

Police Running

The latest national crime report based on offenses reported to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies released on Monday shows a continuation of the downward trend for both violent and property crimes, according to the FBI. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report, Crime in the United States 2011, the estimated number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement (1,203,564) decreased for the fifth year in a row, while the estimated number of property crimes reported to law enforcement (9,063,173) decreased for the ninth year in a row.

The South, the most populous region in the country, accounted for 41.3 percent of all violent crimes, while lesser volumes of 22.9 percent were attributed in the West, 19.5 percent in the Midwest, and 16.2 percent in the Northeast. Aggravated assaults accounted for the highest number of estimated violent crimes reported to law enforcement at 62.4 percent. Firearms were used in 67.8 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults (data on weapons used during forcible rapes is not collected). Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Iran Boasts of 'Far more Advanced' Drones in its Arsenal

October 29th 2012

Drone -Pilot

Iran possesses drones that are far more advanced than the unmanned aircraft Iranian-backed Hezbollah launched into Israeli airspace this month, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Earlier this month, Israel shot down a drone after it flew 40 kilometers (25 miles) over its territory. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the aircraft, saying its parts had been manufactured in Iran and assembled in Lebanon.

Vahidi said the downed drone did not use his country's latest know-how, according to a report from Iran's Mehr news agency on Sunday. "The Islamic Republic of Iran currently possesses unmanned aircraft with technology that is far more advanced than the drone recently sent by Hezbollah forces to fly in the skies of the Zionist regime (Israel)," he was quoted as saying. Read more ..

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