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Broken Government

Can’t Stop the Abrams

August 12th 2012

M1A1 Abrams main battle tank
M1A1 Abrams main battle tank

The M1 Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, two conflicts in Iraq and a decade of war in Afghanistan. No wonder—it weighs as much as nine elephants and is fitted with a cannon capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away.

But now the machine finds itself a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large donations by its manufacturer. The Pentagon, facing smaller budgets and looking towards a new global strategy, has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign it from top to bottom.

Its proposal would idle a large factory in Lima, Ohio as well as halt work at dozens of subcontractors in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states. Opposing the Pentagon’s plans is Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics, a nationwide employer that has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade. The tank’s supporters on Capitol Hill say they are desperate to save jobs in their districts and concerned about undermining America’s military capabilities. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Life Sentence for Home-grown Muslim-American Terrorist

August 12th 2012

Click to select Image

A U.S. soldier and Muslim-American, who went AWOL and was plotting to kill other American soldiers near Fort Hood, Texas, will serve the rest of his life in federal prison, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Friday.

Friday morning in Waco, Texas, former U.S. Army Spc. Naser Jason Abdo faced United States District Judge Walter S. Smith as he sentenced Abdo to two consecutive life prison terms for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and for possession of a weapon in order to commit a violent crime.

In addition, Judge Smith also sentenced the 22-year-old dishonorably discharged Abdo to a total mandatory consecutive 60 years’ imprisonment for one count of attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, and one count of possession of a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, according to Justice Department officials. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Senators Suggest New Penalties in Chinese Helicopter Probe

August 11th 2012

Chinese wz-10 attack helo
WZ-10 Attack Helicopter

Two senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 6 called for the Defense Department to consider suspending or blocking its ties to a major weapons contractor that admitted illegally helping China develop a new attack helicopter. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), its senior Republican member, asserted in a letterto Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a series of export violations by the Canadian branch of helicopter engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney and its parent company United Technologies “may have caused significant harm to our national security.”

Although Pratt, United Technologies and another firm agreed to pay a total of $75 million in fines when they publicly admitting wrongdoing in June, Levin and McCain complained that “no individual manager or employee has been held personally accountable.” The senators said that although the State Department has restricted some licensing privileges for Pratt’s Canadian branch, “we believe that the Defense Department should itself evaluate this case for the appropriateness of contract suspension or debarment.” Read more ..


UAE on Edge

UAE Arrests Highlight Challenges to U.S. Middle East Policy

August 10th 2012

Al Dhafri Military Base

Over the past few months, more than fifty Islamists have been arrested across the United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer and U.S. ally. The country's attorney-general stated this week that the detainees, all thought to be UAE citizens, had "revealed plans to jeopardize the security of the state" and were linked to "suspicious foreign parties and organizations." Put another way, they were arrested for demanding political reforms and receiving support from Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the chief of police in Dubai, the country's commercial hub, was more explicit about the issue last month, describing the "large number of Muslim Brothers in the Gulf states" and warning that "we have to be alert and on guard...for trouble."

Washington has so far been silent on the detentions. Even so, the UAE has been surprised by the international media reaction and apparently irritated that the Islamists -- described as members of a group called "al-Islah," meaning "reform" -- are being depicted as democracy activists. The UAE government regards itself as progressive even though it lacks a parliament (the Federal National Council, an advisory body, is chosen by 129,000 carefully vetted voters). It is also proud of its openness to foreigners, who make up an estimated 80 percent of the population of more than five million.

Read more ..

Broken Borders

Of Horses and Narco-Kingdoms

August 10th 2012

Horses

Following a two-year investigation, federal prosecutors have submitted a mindboggling 30,000 pages of documentation and 2,000 recorded phone calls that paint an extensive picture of how one of Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking organizations raises, moves and eventually washes its illicit funds.

The indictment, issued by the Northern District of Texas, charges fifteen people with laundering millions of dollars in drug profits on a sleepy Oklahoma ranch on behalf of the Los Zetas cartel, the most powerful syndicate in Mexico today. In a trial scheduled for October in Austin, Texas, the IRS and other federal authorities will present findings based on thousands of financial records and recorded conversations and dozens of witness interviews that provide information on how the Zetas conduct their business.

The case became public in June when federal agents carried out a sweep of seven locations in several states and seized 200 boxes of evidence. Eight suspects have been arrested, and an additional seven remain at large. It is widely believed that some of the defendants will take plea bargains after providing federal authorities with intelligence. The most notable figure incarcerated is Jose Trevino Morales, the brother of two high-ranking Zetas, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales. Read more ..


Central Asia on Edge

Militarism in Central Asia Reflects More than Religious Extremism

August 10th 2012

Uzbekistan mosque

Since 2010, Central Asia has become increasingly volatile, a trend many have attributed to a rise in militant Islamism. Militancy has indeed risen since 2010, but the notion that militant Islamists primarily are responsible for Central Asia's volatility is shortsighted because it ignores other political and economic dynamics at play in the region.

But if these dynamics, not jihadist designs, inspired much of the region's recent militant activity, the impending U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 could put Central Asia at greater risk for militant Islamism in the future. Combined with upcoming leadership changes in several Central Asian states, the withdrawal could complicate an already complex militant landscape in the region.

Regional Militancy: Late 1990s and Early 2000s

Central Asia was an important region for Islamist militancy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The region is predominantly Muslim, though like all religious practices, Islam was suppressed during the Soviet era. Given the region's secularization under Soviet rule, many religious groups and figures either went underground or practiced openly to the extent that the Soviets would allow.

These groups and individuals were concentrated in the Fergana Valley, the demographic core of Central Asia that encompasses parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Islamists were particularly prevalent in Uzbekistan, which is home to several important religious and cultural cites in areas such as Samarkand and Bukhara. Read more ..


Border Wars

Bold Brazil Thumps its Chest with Military Operations on Southern Borders

August 10th 2012

Brazilian firebase

On August 7-8, Brazil began reinforcing its southern borders with about 9,000 more military troops as the fifth part of its war on criminal gangs, according to a U.S. security official who monitors South American organized crime. The security source told the Law Enforcement Examiner that the border reinforcements are part of Operation Agatha 5, which the Brazilian government initiated on July 6 on their country's borders with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The deployment of troops is aimed at actively assisting Brazil's border security officers who are outgunned and out-manned by the crime groups that include drug cartels, the source said.

Also involved in what's expected to be a month-long operation are the Brazilian Air Force and Navy, who will use attack helicopters, jet fighters, patrol boats and high-tech equipment, he added. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Homeland Security Proposes 'Expanded Border' with Mexico

August 10th 2012

Truncated border fence
Truncated U.S/Mexico border fence

In an era when border travel has become increasingly problematic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now proposing to expand the geographic area Mexican nationals can travel within the state of New Mexico. Invoking its rule-making authority, the DHS proposed August 9 an expansion of the geographic limit in New Mexico for holders of a Border Crossing Card, or other proper documentation besides a CBP Form 1-94, from the current 25 miles north of the border to 55 miles. “This change is intended to promote commerce and tourism in southern New Mexico while still ensuring that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent illegal entry to the U.S.,” the DHS stated in its notice of proposed rule-making.

Dating back to a system first put in place in 1953, the modern-day Border Crossing Card allows Mexican nationals to travel within certain geographic boundaries for up to 30 days. In 1999, the old Immigration and Naturalization Service expanded the geographic limit to 75 miles in Arizona but kept the 25 mile-limit for New Mexico, Texas and California. Currently, Mexican nationals can travel to Tucson for shopping and other purposes. According to the DHS, applicants for the Border Crossing Card and other appropriate travel documents are vetted by the department's personnel and/or staff from the Department of State. Read more ..


Broken Borders

New Border Rules Cost Millions

August 10th 2012

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Wednesday unveiled the Obama Administration's proposed rulemaking which would extend the border zone up to 55 miles, from the current 25 mile restriction, for Border Crossing Card (BCC) holders in the state of New Mexico. This proposed change would allow BCC holders to travel to the towns of Deming, Lordsburg and Las Cruces, N.M., stimulating commerce, trade and tourism activity in the area.

“The proposed extension of the border zone in New Mexico, when finalized, will provide significant economic benefits to many of the smaller communities along the border while maintaining ample safeguards to prevent illegal entry into the United States,” said Secretary Napolitano.

However, no mention was made about yet another example of ineptitude on the part of Napolitano and her staff. Border security experts are pointing to the loss of more that $225 million spent on a nuclear and radiological detection system boondoggle that failed to operate as advertised, a police source said. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Affiliate - Jaish al-Islam - Receives Formal Sanctuary in Hamas-Ruled Gaza

August 9th 2012

Jaish al Islam

Except for Fatah, the other Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza enjoy full freedom of movement under Hamas rule. Offshoots of al-Qaeda in Gaza include Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam), the Army of the Umma, and Fatah al-Islam. Following a series of violent clashes, Hamas and Jaish al-Islam established a joint committee to regulate relations between the groups and to solve disputes between them. In essence, Hamas recognized Jaish al-Islam as a legitimate armed movement inside the area under Hamas jurisdiction.

In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas warned about the emerging trend, telling Al-Hayat on February 26, 2008: “I believe that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. It is the Hamas movement that brought al-Qaeda in and it abets the entry and exit [of militants]….I believe that they are allies.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Saudi National al-Qaeda Trainer

August 9th 2012

al-Qaeda

The U.S. Department of State on Tuesday identified Azzam Abdullah Zureik Al-Maulid Al-Subhi as an international terrorist and added his name to the State Department's specially designated global terrorist list. According to State Department officials, the Saudi citizen is an active trainer for al-Qaeda and a top member of that group of deadly radical Islamists.

The State Department's action will freeze all of Al-Subhi money and valuables under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. companies and citizens from doing business with him. Officials said Al-Subhi, a/k/a Mansur al-Harbi, is currently wanted by the Saudi Kingdom for participating in terrorist activities and for his work with other senior leaders of al-Qaeda including Abdel Aziz Migrin and Sayf al-Adl. The International Police (INTERPOL) also issued a "Red Notice" due to his membership in al-Qaeda and his role in training and commanding terrorists, State Department officials said in a statement. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels Say Captured Iranians are Revolutionary Guards as Post-Assad Plans Are Proffered

August 8th 2012

Syrian Rebels

Iran's Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, says some of the 48 Iranians kidnapped by Syrian rebels are retired members of the Revolutionary Guards and the army and were in Damascus on a religious pilgrimage. The rebel Free Syrian Army describes those kidnapped Saturday as Revolutionary Guards on a "reconnaissance mission." But Iran's ISNA news agency quoted Salehi Wednesday, as denying that the Iranians have any current military connection. Salehi's comments were published after he visited Turkey Tuesday to ask for help in securing the hostages' release. Iranian officials have reached out to both Turkey and Qatar for help in freeing those kidnapped. Both nations support the Syrian opposition, while Iran backs the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could try to create a stronghold for his minority Alawite sect if he is unable to keep control of the entire country. In an interview with CBS, the king said such an event would create major problems for the nation's neighbors. "That would be, I think for us, the worst case scenario because that means then the breakup of greater Syria," said King Abdullah. "And that means that everybody starts land grabbing, which makes no sense to me. If Syria then implodes on itself that would create problems that would take us decades to come back from." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Egypt Bombs Sinai Terrorist Checkpoints As Gaza Blockade Intensifies

August 8th 2012

Apache Helicopters

Egyptian security officials say the military has carried out an assault on suspected Palestinian Gaza terrorists in the Sinai peninsula following new attacks against checkpoints. Officials say the airstrikes Wednesday killed 20 militants. The strikes came hours after an attack against checkpoints in the city of El-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian military and President Mohamed Mursi had vowed to assert more control over the border area following an attack Sunday that killed 16 Egyptian border guards. Egypt said Gaza terrorists involved in the attack were trying to cross into Israel.

Egyptian security officials say they used army attack helicopters to fire missiles at suspected Islamic terrorists in Sinai following simultaneous attacks by armed men on three security checkpoints. It was the first time Egypt's army has fired missiles in the area since the 1973 war with Israel to recapture the Sinai Peninsula. The missile strikes came hours after the militant attacks near northern Sinai's main city of Al-Arish, about 50 kilometers from the Gaza-Israel border. Officials say a military officer, two soldiers, two police and a civilian were injured by the militants early on August 8. State media quote Egyptian military sources who say 20 militants were killed by the air strikes. Read more ..


The Weapon’s Edge

Counter-IED Efforts Still Beset by Poor Oversight and Duplication

August 8th 2012

IED 1; Humvee 0

The Pentagon has pumped billions of dollars into programs to counter the dangers of improvised explosive devices over the last decade but still lacks a way to track whether its initiatives are meeting their goals—a circumstance that a government watchdog warns could lead to overlap and wasted taxpayer funds. Poor recordkeeping has hindered the Defense Department’s ability to monitor more than 1,300 individual anti-IED projects, complicating any effort by outsiders to assess whether the funds have been well spent, an August report by the Government Accountability Office said.

“DOD has not determined, and does not have a ready means for determining,” just how many anti-IED projects it is currently funding, the report said. Although GAO accounted for $4.8 billion in Pentagon spending, it called that estimate “understated,” because many anti-IED initiatives weren’t properly recorded. “DOD has funded hundreds of C-IED initiatives but has not developed a comprehensive database of these initiatives or the organizations conducting them,” the report stated. The report is a follow up to a February 2012 GAO study that concluded DOD does not have “full visibility” over its anti-IED projects. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Govt. Report: More than 16,500 IED Bomb Incidents in 2011

August 7th 2012

IED - Improvised explosive device

More than 16,500 improvised explosive devices were detonated -- or discovered before detonation -- against U.S. military personnel deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 proving that the improvised explosive device (IED) is the current terrorists' and insurgents' weapon of choice, according to a government report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police's Explosives and Incendiary Devices Study Group on Monday.

According to officials at the Department of Defense, IEDs will most probably be encountered in present and future conflicts due to being relatively inexpensive to develop while their effectiveness is proven by the number of military deaths and casualties, as well as the destruction of military vehicles and other assets. And that doesn't include those IEDs developed by domestic terrorists on the U.S. mainland that will be encountered by police bomb squads. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Demands Better Pentagon Auditing

August 7th 2012

KC-135, A-10s, and F-16s

A bill proposed by a bipartisan group of senators at the beginning of August would punish Pentagon agencies for failing to meet a series of deadlines for conducting proper internal audits, marking a major ratcheting up of congressional pressure about a good-government goal first set in legislation enacted 18 years ago. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a member of a subcommittee on federal financial management, is leading the effort to provide new incentives to the military services, which have moved slowly to comply with a target of completing successful audits of their expenditures by 2017. He was joined this week by five other Republicans and two Democrats.

Under their bill, military branches that don’t meet the 2017 deadline would see the development of weapons systems blocked before reaching the production and deployment stage.The bill would also reward agencies for meeting deadlines by conferring more control over their own budgets, including the ability to shift between $30 million and $60 million annually between accounts to pay for more weapons procurement, operations and maintenance, research or personnel, all without congressional approval. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Is Turkey Losing to the PKK?

August 7th 2012

Turkish Military

On the evening of August 4, Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] fighters attacked three military outposts in southeastern Turkey, killing six soldiers. The attack culminates a series of successful PKK operations. The Turkish military, its morale low after years of having its officers targeted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies and its conscripts targeted by Kurdish insurgents, has been unable to prevent attacks. Turkish claims that the PKK attacks are simply the storm before the calm and that the PKK is on the verge of disbanding itself are risible.

The United States, European Union, and Turkey also consider the PKK to be a terrorist group. Erdoğan’s embrace of Hamas, however, raises questions about whether the PKK designation should stand. After all, Hamas is a far more violent terrorist group, as likely to target civilians as soldiers. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

King Accuses White House of Leaking to Aid Syrian Rebels

August 7th 2012

Syrian Rebels

Information regarding President Barack Obama signing a supposedly secret order to provide American support to Syrian rebels was leaked to “enhance” Obama’s reputation, according to Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, during an interview Sunday on Fox News Channel.

King is alleging the source of recent news reports on a plan that should have remained secret is the Obama White House. “The administration’s leaks must stop before they further endanger the lives of men and women sent into harm’s way on our nation’s behalf,” stated Rep. King.

“To me, all the evidence points towards the White House, and that compromises us because there were two other major allies involved with us in that, and there are tremendous hard feelings and a sense of betrayal from them,” King said on Fox News. News reports appeared in newspapers and aired in broadcast news stories on Thursday and Friday saying the President gave the go-ahead to provide Syrian rebels with "non-lethal" aid. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Cairo Tightens Egypt's Blockade of Gaza After Sinai Terrorist Attack

August 7th 2012

Egypt Blockade of Gaza

An angry Egypt has tightened its five-year land, sea, and air blockade of Gaza following the spectacular weekend attack on an Egyptian border installation by Islamic terrorists traced to Gaza.

After a recent encouraging meeting in Cairo between newly installed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Hamas strong man Ismail Haniya, reports suggested that Cairo would keep the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai open for a full 12 hours a day, until 9 pm nightly, The 4-hour increase was expected to allow as many as 1,500 Gazans to cross daily. The Egyptian crossing and checkpoint was Gaza’s transit point to the rest of the world. But the Egyptian government publicly rescinded all such assurances and slammed shut all access points, including tunnels. Moreover, Morsi’s government declared the ramped up blockade strictures were “indefinite.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Major Terrorist Attack Thwarted in Southern Israel

August 6th 2012

IDF Soldiers

IDF Air Force and Special Forces thwarted an attempt to execute a massive terrorist attack on Israel's southern border with Egypt.  At about two in the afternoon on Sunday, July 6, terrorists, presumed to be members of the Global Jihad movement, infiltrated an Egyptian outpost on the Egyptian – Israeli border. After a prolonged battle, during which sixteen Egyptian soldiers were killed and seven were wounded, the terrorists overtook the base. The terrorists then stole two BRDM armored vehicles and began to drive towards the Israeli border. One vehicle was destroyed on the Egyptian side. At about eight o'clock at night the second vehicle made it across the border and was met by the Israeli Air Force, tanks and Special Forces who destroyed the second vehicle.

The terrorists, who were carrying assault weapons, were also wearing explosive charges. There were initial concerns that some of the terrorists managed to infiltrate Israeli territory, and that an Israeli citizen may have been abducted. Israeli citizens in the vicinity were subsequently ordered to enter their shelters. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Can Kurds Create Safe Havens in Syria?

August 5th 2012

Machine Gun Bunker

As the civil war intensifies in Syria, officials and experts in the region are increasingly concerned the fighting could lead to redefining the nation’s political boundaries, possibly including autonomous regions or safe havens for Alawite and Kurdish factions.

Those concerns have increased in recent days as the Sunni-dominated Free Syrian Army on an urban corridor in the west and Kurdish rebels in the north have scored one success after another against President Bashar al-Assad’s army and his Alawite followers.

Aram Nerguizian, a Syria expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says the concerns are not ill-founded. He says if the safety and the interests of Syria’s Alawi and Kurds are not addressed, “they will opt at least for the effort to produce some kind of autonomy and if not, a territorially contiguous space where they feel they have command and control.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Role of Iranian Security Forces in the Syrian Bloodshed

August 5th 2012

Riot Gear Police

Amid the intensifying crisis in Syria, which in recent weeks has seen massacres of the civilian population in various parts of the country, Iranian military, propaganda, and economic assistance keeps flowing in, and its aim is to help President Bashar al-Assad survive. Iran aided Assad in withstanding the waves of protest as soon as they erupted, and it is now backing him and advising him on how to overcome an existential crisis that put to the test the two countries’ strategic alliance. 

Iran, which has invested great military, economic, and political resources in Syria – a main pillar of the anti-Israel “resistance camp” and the gateway to aiding Hizbullah – now views Syria, amid the rapid changes in the Middle East, as a key battleground to confront the West. How this conflict unfolds will determine the new landscape that is being shaped in the region.

Syria as a Battlefield

The present state of affairs is highly reminiscent of what transpired after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005. Iran backed Hizbullah while Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, and Western states, supported the Lebanese freedom forces. The eventual outcome was Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon at the height of President Bush’s democratization campaign after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi elections of January 2005. Iran then viewed Lebanon as the first line of confrontation with the West, which was trying, unsuccessfully, to impose a rapid democratization there, too, and disarm Hizbullah. At present, Hizbullah weapons are serving as part of Assad’s apparatus of violent repression – under Iran’s command. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Claims to Have Launched New Short-Range Missile

August 4th 2012

Iran Missiles

Iran's defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, says that Tehran has tested a new version of its Fateh 110 short-range missile. He claims the newer missile can hit "enemy" targets in neighboring countries, and targets at sea in the Persian Gulf. Lebanon's Hezbollah reportedly has stockpiles of an earlier version of the missile.

The reported test of the Iranian short-range missile with a new guidance system was announced on government TV Saturday, accompanied by video of rockets being launched. It was impossible to verify if the rocket launch video is recent or from archives.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi described the upgraded missiles at a press conference, lauding his country's technological prowess. He stresses that the specificity of this missile is its ability to hit targets with precision. He also praises Iran's talented scientists and home-grown defense industry. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Pentagon To Ground V-22 Aircraft in Japan

August 4th 2012

Osprey

A tranche of American hybrid airplane-helicopters won’t be buzzing over the skies of Japan anytime soon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto announced on Friday that U.S-led operations of the V-22 Osprey aircraft would be suspended in the country until Tokyo is satisfied the aircraft are safe to fly.

"Until that we confirm the safety of it, the United States will refrain from flying Osprey" in Japan, Morimoto said during a joint briefing at the Pentagon. The Ospreys destined for the Pacific will replace the older CH-46 helicopters flown by Marine Corps units attached to Marine Expeditionary Force III stationed in the region, according to a Pentagon statement.

The first group of V-22s will arrive at the service's air station in Iwakuni in late July, according to the Pentagon. The aircraft, built by Bell-Boeing, is designed to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like a fixed-wing plane. But the planes will remain dormant on U.S. airfields at Iwakuni until DOD completes its investigations on recent incidents with the Osprey in North Africa and Florida. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Al-Qaeda Resurgent In Iraq On The Back Of Syrian Turmoil

August 4th 2012

Syrian Fighters

Al-Qaeda is back in Iraq, a fact underscored by a wave of spectacular attacks this summer. With 325 Iraqis killed by militants, according to statistics released on August 1 by the Iraqi Health Ministry, July was the country's deadliest month in two years. Al-Qaeda, believed to be on the wane in the country when U.S. forces withdrew troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, played a direct role in the violence through affiliates.
 
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which carried out numerous large-scale attacks in 2004-07, has taken the opportunity provided by the U.S. withdrawal to regroup and even expand its reach abroad. And the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella group of militant organizations that includes Al-Qaeda in Iraq, has taken responsibility for a number of deadly attacks recently. One, on July 23, involved tens of coordinated strikes across the country that targeted Shi'a and left more than 100 people dead. Both appear to have benefitted from the unrest in neighboring Syria.
Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Tourism Stays Strong, Despite Violence in Mexico

August 4th 2012

Mexico crosses

The gruesome violence associated with the drug war has done grave damage to Mexico’s global image, and potential tourists searching for a sunny, safe vacation cannot overlook the 50,000 drug-related homicides that have been committed throughout the past six years. Tourism accounts for nine percent of the country’s GDP and provides 2.5 million jobs for Mexican citizens. The importance of sustaining this industry is twofold in that it is not only an important sector of the economy, but also a shrinking tourist industry will come with the cost of already scarce jobs, with the unemployed being inclined to resort to the illicit drug market as a source of income. The year 2009 proved to be a low point for tourism in Mexico, but since then, President Felipe Calderón’s administration’s attempts to protect this key industry have led to positive and visible results. Despite the drug war’s widespread violence and Mexico’s besmirched image, the tourism industry has continued to perform in spite of the persistent violence.

According to former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, drug-related violence has plateaued at a relatively high level but is not increasing, with a steady 1,000 drug-related homicides per month, which eventually could prove to be a disaster to the Mexican economy. Although foreign media networks tend to concentrate on the violence in Mexico, the rate of homicides per every 100,000 people in Mexico is still less than Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia, and Brazil. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

U.S. Nuclear Targeting Unaltered Since 2008

August 3rd 2012

Bomb blast

Behind doors that can be opened only by spins of a combination lock or an electronic scan of fingerprints or eyeballs, Defense Department officials periodically work out the details of America’s plans to drop nuclear explosives on aggressive enemies.

Not many outsiders get to peer in, particularly those dispatched from another branch of government, like Congress. But twice in the past 20 years, a few analysts at the Government Accountability Office have been allowed to get a rough sense from closed-door Pentagon briefings — not from actual documents — of the conditions and manner in which the United States could detonate its nuclear bombs.

The resulting reports to Congress have been highly classified, so they don’t offer much to a broader audience. An unclassified version, released July 31, says virtually nothing about what’s actually in the U.S. nuclear war plan. It is, in fact, even shorter and less detailed than its sketchy 1991 predecessor. Read more ..


The Weapons Edge

Army Tank That Could Not Be Stopped

August 3rd 2012

Tank

The M1 Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, two conflicts in Iraq and a decade of war in Afghanistan. No wonder — it weighs as much as nine elephants and is fitted with a cannon capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away. But now the machine finds itself a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large donations by its manufacturer.

The Pentagon, facing smaller budgets and looking towards a new global strategy, has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the hulking, clanking vehicle from top to bottom. Its proposal would idle a large factory in Lima, Ohio as well as halt work at dozens of subcontractors in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states.

Opposing the Pentagon’s plans is Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics, a nationwide employer that has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade. The tank’s supporters on Capitol Hill say they are desperate to save jobs in their districts and concerned about undermining America’s military capabilities. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Khamenei Reportedly Concerned For Safety of Hezbollah Leader if Assad Falls

August 3rd 2012

hassan nasrallah - hezbollah

Kuwaiti media is reporting that Tehran is concerned over the safety of the Secretary General of Hezbollah arch terrorist Hassan Nasrallah after the expected fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has demanded that Nasrallah come to Iran out of fear that there will be assassination attempts on Nasrallah’s life in the event that Syria’s opposition takes power.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa, the Iranian government has planned for two scenarios regarding Nasrallah and Hezbollah in Lebanon.  One option is that if Assad’s regime falls, a large transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon will take place, in an attempt to deepen its hold on the country. In addition, Tehran would also send reinforcement troops from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Read more ..


The Bear is Back

Putin Wants NATO Military Base in Russia?

August 2nd 2012

Putin

In a surprise to many who remember the Cold War years, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his government is interested in having the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) build and staff a base in Russia, according to a Wednesday statement.

The proposed location will act as a NATO warehousing and distribution facility on Russian territory, because such a hub would benefit his country, said the former Soviet KGB official. The base would be built in the central city of Ulyanovsk, which would aid NATO in the delivery of equipment and other consignments to and from Afghanistan.

Putin stated that Russia would definitely not participate in any of the combat operations in Afghanistan, but that down the line Moscow would benefit from peace in that war-torn country. "Now there numerous NATO troops in Afghanistan. They need help. Let them keep fighting there and we will help them," Putin stated.

The President stressed that he wished Russia to help deliver NATO's consignments rather than to send troops to Afghanistan. "It is a pity that all the states participating in Afghan events are thinking how to escape from there," Putin said.

"Perhaps Putin forgets the results of Russia not pulling out of Afghanistan when they were the occupiers. It contributed to the fall of the Soviet Empire," said Mike Baker, a political consultant and historian. While NATO is expected to allow Russia's involvement, some veterans find the arrangement ironic. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Specter of Syrian Chemical Weapons

August 2nd 2012

Syrian Missiles

The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a "disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands -- hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area." When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad regime.

The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Dream Act: Condemned by Lawmakers, Enforcement Agents

August 1st 2012

Border Patrol shakedown

Senator David Vitter (R-LA), a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed President Barack Obama's immigration policy changes Sunday during an appearance on Fox News Channel. Vitter. Sen. Vitter told anchor Shannon Bream that he and a number of senators are joining federal law enforcement officials in blocking Obama's attempt at incremental "amnesty" through fiat.

Vitter said Sunday that he supports the fight against the White House by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who held a press conference televised on Fox News Channel on Thursday, along with officials from two major unions that represent federal law enforcement agencies, in order to increase national awareness of the Obama administration's continued descent into lawlessness.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent Christopher Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the union representing America’s more than 7,000 ICE agents and personnel, and Border Patrol agent George McCubbin, President of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing America’s more than 17,000 border agents and personnel, both blasted President Barack Obama's de facto "Dream Act," and the actions of superiors at their respective agencies. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Chicago Jihadi Pleads Guilty

July 31st 2012

FBI dudes

A homegrown, radical Islamist from Chicago pleaded guilty on Monday to planning a trip to Somalia in 2010 specifically to help a terrorist organization in its fight against Somali government forces. He also toyed with the idea of going to Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.

Shaker Masri pleaded guilty to intentionally trying to help provide material support to Al Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, knowing that the group was engaged in international terrorism. The guilty plea resolves all charges that have been pending since Masri was arrested as he was preparing to leave the United States in August 2010.

The 28-year-old U.S. citizen lived in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, and will remain in federal custody awaiting sentencing, which U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman scheduled for Oct. 16, 2012. Masri’s plea agreement calls for a sentence of nine years and 10 months. Attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization also carries a $250,000 fine in addition to the prison time. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Israeli Police Intercept 16-Year-Old Before Apparent Suicide Attack Bid

July 31st 2012

Hamas head

A 16 year old boy was arrested near the Kerem Shalom kibbutz recently in connection with a planned suicide attack against Israeli Jews. According to Israeli Police, the Palestinian boy jumped over a border fence and walked for two days, from Gaza into Israel. Israeli soldiers with the IDF’s Golani Brigade spotted the boy, with a large axe, as he approached a kibbutz, and arrested him.  He was taken to a hospital in Soroka for medical treatment, and it was during his time there that more information was gathered about his intentions. While speaking to a nurse in Arabic, the boy informed her that he had come to Israel to kill Jews and had brought the axe as protection against dogs and other animals that might try to harm him on his journey. According to Israeli’s Channel 2 News, the boy is not believed to be affiliated with any terrorist group, and he has been charged with “armed infiltration” in district court.

Mohammed Jibrin, who is representing the 16 year old in court, says his client is innocent and is not linked to any terror organization. Read more ..


Domestic Terrorism

Violent Aryan Brotherhood Member Sentenced to Federal Prison

July 30th 2012

FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force

A member of the white-supremacist, prison-based Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) gang was sentenced on Friday in Houston to serve 10 years in prison for his role in an aggravated assault that took place in Tomball, Texas.

David Harlow, aka “Bam Bam,” was found guilty by a federal jury on Mar. 21, 2012, of aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit racketeering aggravated assault for his role in the severe beating of a prospective ABT member. The 43-year-old Harlow was convicted of both counts and sentenced to serve three-years on count one and 10-years on count two, to run concurrently. In addition to the prison term, Harlow was fined $2,000 by U.S. District Court Judge Ewing Werlein Jr.

According to court documents, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is a powerful and violent race-based organization that operated inside and outside of state and federal prisons. The ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system. The gang modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the original Aryan Brotherhood that was created within the California prison system during the 1960s. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

New—And Less Expensive—Direction for Terrorist Nuclear Materials Detection

July 30th 2012

Truck passing Advanced Spectroscopic Portal
Truck passing through Advanced Spectroscopic Portal

Federal officials in charge of detecting dangerous nuclear materials charted a new strategy at a House hearing on July 26, in the aftermath of the government’s failed attempt to build large, advanced radiation scanners for ports and border crossings.

Huban Gowadia, the acting director for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, said her office will sharply increase the use of hand-held monitors, which she said are both cheaper and more reliable than the stationary scanners the government spent six years trying to develop. But she emphasized that the task of preventing the importation of dangerous nuclear materials—including those that could be fashioned into so-called “dirty bombs”—remained an “inherently difficult technical task,” and offered no near-term, comprehensive solution.

The nuclear detection office, part of the Homeland Security department, sunk $230 million into developing 13 Advanced Spectroscopic Portals that scientists and nuclear security experts assessed as a bad investment. Read more ..


Israel and Lebanon

Israeli Security to Upgrade Intelligence Gathering

July 29th 2012

X band radar

With the Hezbollah terrorist group being used as a proxy paramilitary by Iran, Israeli security forces are planning to upgrade their border defense with a new system that officials claim will dramatically increase the effectiveness of Israel's intelligence-gathering capabilities on its border with Lebanon, a source said yesterday.

A report from the Israeli source claims that the early warning Multi-Sensor System (MSS) possesses the most sophisticated technology available. Israeli officials plan to install a number of hi-tech, electro-optic cameras as well as radar units that enable systems operators to quickly create visual and audio intelligence throughout both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

The system is scheduled to be installed and operational in a few months. The intelligence-gathering equipment will be operated by specially-trained personnel at army outposts along the border, the Israeli source said. The Israel-Lebanon border has not been subjected to hostility since July 2006, when Hezbollah terrorists showered Israeli cities and communities with thousands of rockets during a 33 day period forcing the Israeli military to strike back. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Is Syria Falling into the Hands of Al-Qaeda?

July 28th 2012

Free Syrian Army

Once the jihadists get rid of Assad, they will move on to hijack the "Arab Spring" in Jordan in the hope of replacing the monarchy with another Islamist state in the region.

The "Arab Spring" in Syria, which began as a popular and non-violent uprising against Bashar Assad's regime, has been hijacked by Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist organizations.

In the past few weeks, thousands of bearded Muslim fundamentalists from various Arab and Islamic countries have converged on Syria to participate in the fighting against Assad's forces.

Many of these armed extremists who appear every day on Arab TV stations have made no effort to conceal their aspiration to establish an Islamist caliphate in Syria. The men who are fighting against Assad's army are anything but reformists and democracy-loving activists. Most appear to be ruthless terrorists and militiamen who came to Syria to carry out suicide bombings and massacre innocent civilians. Read more ..


Border Wars

Obama Administration Conceals Serious Crime on Mexican Border

July 27th 2012

Militia man patrol

The Obama Administration is deceiving Americans by underreporting serious crime along the Mexican border, according to the Texas lawmaker who chairs a congressional Homeland Security committee.

The Obama Administration “is not giving the American people a complete picture of security on our border with Mexico” and data on crimes and violence along the southern border is “deceiving and underreported,” Michael McCaul, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials who deal firsthand with violent Mexican drug cartels will deliver testimony to prove it at a special committee hearing, according to a public-interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption. Authorities at every level will tell the “real story” of how they are “outmanned, overpowered and in danger of losing control” of communities to “narco-terrorists,” says McCaul. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

International Alarm Rising Over Besieged City

July 27th 2012

syrian explosion

Despite mounting international criticism, the Syrian government's offensive on the northern city of Aleppo intensified Friday as government aircraft bombed the country's commercial heart. The United States, Britain and the United Nations have voiced growing alarm of an imminent massacre there as government troops appear poised for a showdown with rebel fighters. Deaths have been reported but figures cannot be confirmed.

Army troops and rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army have been locked in battles for nearly a week. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said President Basher al-Assad's forces were using helicopter gunships in several Aleppo neighborhoods Friday. It reported clashes and explosions in other areas of the city. Read more ..



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