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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 ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Persistance of Terrorist Threats to Soft Targets

July 26th 2012

James Holmes and counsel

In the early hours of July 20, a gunman entered a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire on the audience that had gathered to watch the premiere of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. The gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others. Though police are looking for potential accomplices, the attack appears to have been conducted by James Holmes, a lone gunman who, according to some police reports, may have had a delusional fixation on the Joker, a violent villain from an earlier Batman movie.

On July 18, just two days before the Colorado attack, a man reportedly disguised in a wig and posing as an American tourist in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas, Bulgaria, detonated an improvised explosive device hidden in his backpack as a group of Israeli tourists boarded a bus bound for their hotel. The blast killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver and wounded dozens more. It is unclear if the incident was an intentional suicide attack; the device could have detonated prematurely as the man placed it on the bus. In any case, the tourists clearly were the intended targets. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Hezbollah Claims: Vanquished the CIA and Mossad

July 26th 2012

Hezbollah Troops

As the civil war continues to rage in Syria, American and Israeli officials have voiced their fears that the Syrian stockpile of chemical and biological weapons may end up in the hands of the Islamist terror group Hezbollah.

The top leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah warned the United States government that any attack by the U.S. military on either Syria or Iran would result in violence throughout the Middle East, the Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah also boasted it had "vanquished" the U.S Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel's intelligence group Mossad. "Our security... has exposed several American and Israeli plots," Hezbollah' Members of the Lebanese Parliament, said to reporters outside the parliament building.  Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Pentagon Efforts to Straighten out Bookkeeping Face Billion-dollar Cost Overruns

July 25th 2012

USMC Harrier Lands on USS Essex

Multiple Pentagon efforts to account precisely for the flow of military spending are facing major delays and at least an $8 billion cost overrun, according to a new report by the Defense Department’s inspector general.

The internal watchdog, in a report last week, said that the military services have missed their deadlines for designing and integrating new accounting software meant to bring their bookkeeping up to modern standards and manage their parts and weapons inventories more efficiently. In the Army’s case, the launch date for its new accounting system has slid 12 years, from 2004 to 2016.

The delays threaten to derail Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s goal of completing a major financial audit for the Pentagon by 2017, according to the inspector general’s report. The aim of such audits is give the Pentagon’s top brass a better understanding of how their funds are being spent and help avoid misspending and waste. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Calls for Special Counsel to Probe National National Security Leaks

July 24th 2012

mitt romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday accused President Obama of putting the nation at risk through politically motivated intelligence leaks and defense cuts and called for a special counsel to investigate the national security disclosures.

Romney's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) national convention in Reno, Nev. aimed to paint Obama as weak on national security and naïve on foreign policy, two areas where the president has consistently polled higher than his opponent.

“It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence,” said the GOP presidential contender of the leaks. “Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama's Attorney General, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House. “This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis,” he added, calling it “contemptible.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Flight School Trained Illegal Aliens

July 23rd 2012

Flight training

In a shocking discovery, the U.S. government allowed up to 25 illegal aliens to attend a flight school in Boston, according to a Government Accountability Office report and a Fox News Channel story on Friday.

The illegal aliens included eight who had entered the country illegally and 17 who had overstayed their allowed period of admission into the United States, according to an audit by the GAO. Even more shocking was the report that the owner of the flight school is an illegal alien.

Three of the illegal aliens were actually able to get pilot’s licenses, according to the GAO. The revelation of the illegalities occurring at the FAA-licensed flight school occurred when local police officers -- not members of the multi-billion dollar budgeted Homeland Security Department -- captured the owner of the school during a traffic stop and were able to determine that he was an illegal alien. Read more ..


Rwanda on Edge

US Aid Cut to Rwanda

July 23rd 2012

Rwanda child victim

An official of the Democratic Republic of Congo said he hopes the U.S. decision to withhold $200,000 of military aid to Rwanda will help enhance efforts to restore peace to the Great Lakes region. The United States cut its military aid to Rwanda saying it had evidence that Kigali was supporting Congolese rebel groups, including M23. The Rwandan government has repeatedly denied helping the rebels.

Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, told the French Press Agency (AFP) that “Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”  But, Congo’s information minister, Lambert Mende, said the U.S. decision to cut its aid to Kigali reinforces his government’s claim that Rwanda has been supporting Congolese rebel groups.

“We think that this is a very positive signal to have Rwanda cooperate with the pacification of this region that has suffered a lot.  It is a good move because it is a matter of life of death for millions of Congolese, who have suffered a lot during the last 20 years,” he said.

Although the U.S. action cuts off aid allotted to a Rwandan military academy, U.S. spokesman Darby Holladay reportedly said Washington will continue to provide assistance to Rwanda to enhance its capacity to support peacekeeping missions. Mende said, even though the DRC has problems with some criminal elements, it does not want to see a cut-off of aid to Rwanda. “For us, the problem is not to make Rwanda disappear.  It’s a neighboring country; they are brothers and sisters.  Though we are having some criminal networks there, we have to live together.  So, what we need is such [a] signal that a country like the United States sends such a message to tell Rwanda to be cautious with the security on the Congo and Rwanda border,” Mende said. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Israel Prepared to Deal with Syrian Chemical Weapons

July 23rd 2012

Israeli Jet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country is prepared to act to neutralize the threat posed by Syrian weapons of mass destruction in a post-Assad era. The prime minister was interviewed by two U.S. television networks. Benjamin Netanyahu says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s days are numbered.

“I think the [Syrian] regime will go," he said. "I do not know if it is days or weeks or months, but I do not think it is sustainable.” Appearing on Fox News Sunday, the prime minister said he worries chaos in Syria could allow chemical weapons to fall into the hands of sworn enemies of Israel.

“Can you imagine Hezbollah - the people who are conducting, with Iran, all these terror attacks around the world - can you imagine that they would have chemical weapons?  It would be like al-Qaida having chemical weapons.  It is something that is not acceptable to us,” he said.

Netanyahu declined to specify what Israel might or might not do. “Do I seek action?  No.  Do I preclude it?  No,” he said. The Israeli prime minister repeated his contention that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was responsible for last week’s suicide bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis and wounded several others.  Hezbollah has not commented on the incident.  Iran has denied the allegation and says it condemns all terrorist acts. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Israel's Mossad Hunts Iranian-backed Terrorists Targeting London Olympics

July 22nd 2012

Hamas Terrorists

Iranian agents are planning an attack against Israeli athletes at this summer's Olympic games in London, Israeli officials fear. Agents from Israel’s elite intelligence organisation, Mossad, are hunting Iranian-backed terrorists in Europe, who are allegedly planning an “anniversary” attack 40 years after the Munich massacre, Britain's The Sunday Times reports. Concerns have only grown after an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last week that left five dead and 32 wounded. Israel has blamed Iranian-backed Hezbollah for the attack. This summer is the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympics, where Palestinian terrorists abducted and murdered Israeli athletes during the summer games.

Israel has intelligence indicating that Iran's Quds Force – largely regarded as Tehran's hit squad – was planning to use a suicide bomber against Israeli targets overseas. According to the report, the Mossad agents sent to [Bulgaria] informed both Jerusalem [and] the agency's London station of the discovery. The Israeli Olympic mission has already arrived in London. The past few months has seen Israel detect – and thwart – several terror plots against Israelis, most recently one in Cyprus and one in South Africa. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Why Iran is Targeting Israelis Abroad

July 21st 2012

Bus bombing, Bulgaria, 18 Jul 2012

This weeks’s terror attack on an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria could lead to war.

The bomb killed at least six and wounded 32 others. Israeli officials quickly accused Iran and its Lebanese terror arm, Hezbollah, of the attack. “Only in the last two months, we have seen attempts to hurt Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus, and other places,” noted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This is an Iranian terror offensive that is spreading throughout the world,” he continued. And: “Israel will react strongly.” He promised reprisals against Hezbollah, but if it becomes clear that Iranian agents played a role in the attack, action against the Tehran regime may also be on the table.

Israeli analysts likened Iran and Hezbollah to cornered animals, so desperate has their strategic situation grown. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Terrorist Violence Returns the Pakistan's Major Cities

July 21st 2012

Terik i Taliban Pakistan
Hakimullah Mehsud (c), leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban terrorists

At dawn July 12, militants raided a prison guard residence in Lahore, Pakistan, leaving nine staff members dead and three more wounded. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the guards had mistreated prisoners who were members of the Pakistani militant group. The raid came just three days after militants ambushed an army camp in the district of Gujrat, killing seven soldiers and one police officer who were searching for a missing helicopter pilot. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also claimed that attack.

Over the last two years, Pakistan has had something of a respite from dramatic attacks such as those that plagued the country from 2007 to 2010. During those years, a series of high-profile and highly disruptive attacks against police, army and intelligence targets challenged the government's ability to control the country. The attacks occurred in Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab, in cities such as Lahore and in the capital, Islamabad.

While suicide bombings and attacks in Pakistan's troubled northwest (along the border with Afghanistan) have continued apace since 2010, major attacks in Pakistan's Punjab-Sindh core have essentially ceased. The sole instance of dramatic violence involving government targets outside of the northwest since 2010 was an attack on a naval station near Karachi following the death of Osama bin Laden Read more ..


The War on Drugs

Bolivia Struggles to Turn the Tide of Narco-Trafficking

July 20th 2012

Bolivian army weed-wackers
Bolivian military coca plant eradication.

Foreign Minister of Colombia María Angela Holguín announced on June 7 that she has intelligence regarding the presence of Colombian drug cartels in Bolivia, to which Bolivian President Evo Morales pleaded ignorance. The increasing pressure from international drug cartels throughout Bolivia has elicited concern among several regional leaders, such as Ruben Costas, governor of the department of Santa Cruz, who fears that Bolivia will become another “Ciudad Juárez.” This dilemma is in no way novel, but also of no small importance. While Morales has downplayed the issue, as economist Carlos Toranzo Roca observes, it is the government’s responsibility to “eliminate the problems of the country that are devouring citizens’ everyday life.”

Foreign Minister Holguín asserts that Colombia’s success in the war against drugs has forced drug traffickers to disseminate their product in neighboring countries,i especially those characterized by “friendlier operating environments.” As John Lyons from Inter-American Security Watch argues, the governments of Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia have failed to effectively combat drug trafficking within their respective borders,v making those areas attractive for traffickers. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Electrical Grid Is Not Well Protected

July 20th 2012

transformer farm

A government watchdog is calling for tighter — and more coordinated — cyber security efforts by federal agencies to protect the U.S. electricity grid, a potentially vulnerable target for U.S. enemies.

The volume of malicious software and online attacks targeting overall U.S. computer networks has tripled in the last two years, raising the possibility of an eventual threat to the flow of electric power to homes, businesses, and the Internet itself, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.

“Terrorists, hackers, and other non-government groups all have the desire and are trying to gain the ability to get into our electricity infrastructure,” Gregory Wilhusen, the director for information security issues at GAO, said in an interview. “The impact of widespread outages could have national security implications. And, in residential areas, it not only affects homes and customers. It also has major effects on commerce.” Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria's Chemical Weapons: Military Options

July 19th 2012

syria-killing

Given the complexities of military action, Washington and its partners should pursue a policy of deterrence, assistance, containment, and elimination to prevent the use or diversion of Syria's chemical arsenal.

Growing violence in Syria has raised concerns that the Assad regime might use its massive stockpile of chemical weapons (CW) against the opposition, or that antiregime insurgents, al-Qaeda, Hizballah, or other states might divert some of these arms for their own use. Just yesterday, Nawaf al-Fares -- Syria's former ambassador to Iraq who recently defected to the opposition -- warned that the regime would use CW if cornered. Such concerns have prompted calls for action to deal with this threat. Yet past experience in Iraq and Libya demonstrates the complex nature of this operational and policy problem.

SYRIA'S CHEMICAL PROGRAM
Syria has probably the largest and most advanced chemical warfare program in the Arab world, reportedly including thousands of tube and rocket artillery rounds filled with mustard-type blister agents, thousands of bombs filled with the nerve agents sarin and possibly VX , and binary-type and cluster CW warheads filled with nerve agents for all its major missile systems. Its CW infrastructure is believed to include several production facilities and numerous storage sites, mostly dispersed throughout the western half of the country. (Syria is also believed to have a biological warfare research and development program, though it is not believed to have produced biological weapons.) Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Europe Recommends Making Its Grids Less Vulnerable

July 19th 2012

electric power lines

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has published a report that makes ten recommendations to the public sector involved in the definition and implementation of smart grids. Smart grids offer benefits to the society at large but their dependency on computer networks and applications, as well as on the Internet, increases exposure to malicious cyber attacks. Vulnerabilities of communication networks and information systems could indeed be exploited for financial or political motivation to shut off power to large areas or directing cyber-attacks against power generation plants.

However, the communication infrastructures are not the only source of vulnerabilities, the report indicated. Software and hardware used for building the smart grid infrastructure are at risk of being tampered with even before they are linked together. Rogue code, including the so-called logic bombs which cause sudden malfunctions, can be inserted into software while it is being developed. As for hardware, remotely operated “kill switches” and hidden “backdoors” can be written into the computer chips used by the smart grid and allowing outside actors to manipulate the systems. Read more ..


China Rising

China's Red Star Rises in the East

July 18th 2012

Chinese cruiser Harbin
American sailors observe Chinese warship 'Harbin'.

Over the past decade, the South China Sea has become one of the most volatile flashpoints in East Asia. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan each assert sovereignty over part or all of the sea, and these overlapping claims have led to diplomatic and even military standoffs in recent years.

Because the sea hosts numerous island chains, is rich in mineral and energy resources and has nearly a third of the world's maritime shipping pass through its waters, its strategic value to these countries is obvious. For China, however, control over the South China Sea is more than just a practical matter and goes to the center of Beijing's foreign policy dilemma: how to assert its historic maritime claims while maintaining the non-confrontational foreign policy established by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1980.

China staked its modern claim to control of the sea in the waning days of the Chinese Civil War. Since most of the other claimant countries were occupied with their own independence movements in the ensuing decades, China had to do little to secure this claim. However, with other countries building up their maritime forces, pursuing new relationships and taking a more active stance in exploring and patrolling the waters, and with the Chinese public hostile to any real or perceived territorial concessions on Beijing's part, Deng's quiet approach is no longer an option. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

London 2012 Olympics Continues to Loom as a Major Terror Target

July 18th 2012

Olympic Runners

Organizers of the 2012 London Olympics have said the games will be a "symphony of inspiration" -- uplifting and unifying.

For Britain's Islamic radicals, however, the Olympics are providing inspiration of a different sort.

During the past month, British authorities have made a series of arrests in connection with terror plots against the Olympics.

Others, like Islamic convert Richard Dart, were arrested for separate plots against London targets. Dart is reportedly a follower of London-based cleric Anjem Choudary, who leads frequent demonstrations calling for Great Britain to be ruled by Islamic Sharia law.

"The Olympics is about division. It's about separation," Choudary stated. When asked if he and his followers would have a presence at the games, Choudary answered, "We will have a huge presence, wherever the people are gathering for the celebrations or watching the events."

Choudary said that true Muslims should oppose the Olympics. British authorities are concerned that some will do much more than that. Among those they've been monitoring is a suspected al Qaeda terrorist who's visited the Olympic site at least five times. As a result of such threats, the London Olympics are the most heavily secured events in the city's history. The British military has even installed missiles on the rooftops of residential homes near the Olympic site in East London.

Read more ..

The Defense Edge

“Drastic” Defense Cuts Would Set the Clock Back—To 2006

July 17th 2012

F-22s

Defense spending cuts slated to take effect automatically in January if the two parties cannot agree on a more balanced budget would still leave the Defense Department with more funding than it received six years ago, according to a July 11 report from the Congressional Budget Office.

It projects that the so-called "sequestration" of military and other funds, ordered by a law enacted last year, would cut the Pentagon’s requested FY 2013 budget of $526 billion to $469 billion, an amount it said was still “larger than it was in 2006 (in 2013 dollars) and larger than the average base budget during the 1980s.”

Sequestration would cut spending for the Pentagon by about $1 trillion over the next decade. The pending cut has prompted panic from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said it would cause “an unacceptable risk in future combat operations.” Lawmakers such as House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) have said they want to block any cuts to defense spending—whether through sequestration or through President Barack Obama’s plan to keep the defense budget mostly level over the next 10 years. Read more ..


The Edge of Islam

European Armies Recruit Muslims in Greater Numbers

July 16th 2012

German officers

Germany is seeking to recruit more Muslims into its army: it cannot find enough native Germans to fill its ranks after it abolished the draft. German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière announced his intention to "multiculturalize" the German Bundeswehr (Federal Defense Force) during a June 20 headhunting mission to the Turkish capital Ankara, where he declared: "I want the [German] army to be representative of a cross-section of the German population."

Germany formally discontinued compulsory military service on July 1, 2011 as part of a comprehensive reform aimed at creating a smaller and more agile army of about 185,000 professional soldiers. But during its first twelve months of existence, Germany's new all-volunteer army has been unable to meet its recruiting goals, and military manpower prospects look dim for the foreseeable future.

In a desperate search for soldiers, German military officials have now identified Germany's Muslim Turkish population (3.5 million and counting) as a new source for potential recruits. Maizière has been trying to jump-start the recruitment of German Turks by offering them some unique incentives to sign up for military service. Maizière's trip to Ankara, for example, was aimed at persuading the Turkish government to waive the compulsory military service requirement in Turkey for those individuals who possess Turkish-German dual nationality and who serve at least 15 months in the German army. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Pentagon Taking New Tack In Counterterrorism Fight In Africa

July 16th 2012

African Rebels and Guns

Backed by a new policy geared toward quelling African-based terror groups, the Pentagon is going on the offensive on the continent, setting up what could be the template for the next-generation of U.S.-led counterterrorism operations worldwide. The approach that U.S. counterterrorism forces take in Africa will likely be less defined by night raids and other direct action missions that dominated operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather, American special operations troops and supporting forces will be focused on indirect missions, characterized by cooperative efforts in military training and logistics support to partner nations in Africa. That is the tack U.S. special forces are taking in assisting Ugandan troops tracking down rebel leader Joseph Kony, who heads up the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group that has been waging an insurgency against the Uganda government since the early 1990s. 

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said using American military power to supplement, not take over, ongoing counterterror missions in Africa will be key as the Department of Defense hones in on other groups on the continent.  Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Former Mossad Chief: Prepare for Possible Military Action in Syria on Bio-Chemical Threat

July 14th 2012

Syrian Missiles

Former Mossad Chief Danny Yatom stressed today that Israel must be prepared for the possibility of military attacks on Syria, which may deteriorate into war as well.  His warning stems from the fear that Syria’s hundreds of tons of chemical weapons will fall into the hands of terrorist groups, which frequently exhort their members to seek chemical weapons for aggression against Israel.

“The conventional wisdom should be that we cannot exclude a non-conventional attack on Israel.” said Yatom in an interview with British news network Sky News. “We would have to pre-empt in order to prevent it. We need to be prepared to launch even military attacks… and military attacks mean maybe a deterioration to war.”

Syria has numerous chemical weapons production sites, including Al Safiria and Lataka, and its combined output of bio-chemical arms, including mustard gas and the nerve gases VX and Sarin, has secured the country one of the largest stockpiles in the Middle East. Many dual-use civilian pharmaceutical laboratories also have the capabilities to produce bio-weapons, including anthrax and botulism. The successfully weaponized chemicals are installed into the heads of war-missiles, whose delivery systems can reach the entire Israel, said Sky News. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Congressional Panel Holding Closed Hearing on IEDs

July 14th 2012

Hamas head

The Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, chaired by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), is holding a closed hearing entitled “Securing Ammonium Nitrate: Using Lessons Learned in Afghanistan to Protect the Homeland from IEDs” this morning.

The scheduled hearing is examining the intelligence gathering, information sharing and inter-agency coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on combating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the battlefield and their possible use within the U.S. homeland.

Committee members are hearing from several witnesses on ways to prevent attacks using IEDs, such as tracking the use of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient used by terrorist bomb-makers. Because the House members and witnesses are discussing classified information at this hearing, the Subcommittee intends to move directly to close the hearing and transition to a secure hearing room in order to receive classified testimony. Read more ..


America on Edge

If America is the World's Firefighter, Who takes Care of Burnt out Neighborhoods?

July 14th 2012

USAF firefighters

One of the advantages of a mythic approach to political culture is that it gives us a chance to put the pieces of the puzzle together in new ways, opening up new, sometimes unexpected, perspectives. Today’s pieces are wildfires in the West and politics in the Middle East.

When fire ravaged some 360 homes in Colorado Springs, federally-funded firefighters were quickly on the scene. Soon Barack Obama was there too, offering more federal aid. I expected the mayor of the Springs, a bastion of shrink-the-government conservatism, to declare indignantly that his people could take care of themselves perfectly well, thank you. In fact, local officials didn’t just take the money. They asked for it even before the president arrived.

It reminded me of the time I had a small fire in my house. The firemen were there for hours, making sure every tiny ember was extinguished. When they wrapped up to leave, I felt like I should ask for the bill. I had to remind myself that when it comes to putting out fires, we Americans are socialists. We all chip in what we can and then take what we need. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Sequestration’s Shadow on the Defense Industrial Base

July 13th 2012

USS Abraham Lincoln Flight Deck

Unless the President and Congress change current law, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces soon will face an indiscriminate, across-the-board cut of more than $500 billion over the next decade.  Known as “sequestration,” this massive reduction in defense spending comes in addition to the $487 billion in long-term military cuts already proposed by President Obama this year.

Civilian and military leaders have repeatedly warned of the dangers of these deep defense cuts.  In a November 2011 letter, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta cautioned lawmakers that sequestration cuts will be “devastating” to national defense, yielding “[t]he smallest ground forces since 1940,” “a fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915,” and “[t]he smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.”  Moreover, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, bluntly told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2012, “I am prepared to say that sequestration would pose unacceptable risk” to national security. Read more ..


Iran’s Nukes

An Israeli Plan B for a Nuclear Iran

July 12th 2012

Iran centrifuges

Despite substantial sanctions designed to curb its nuclear program, Iran has refused to bend to international pressure. It has consistently violated U.N. resolutions calling for it to abandon its uranium enrichment and has continually managed to trick the skilled inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). There have also been far-reaching Israeli efforts to stop Iran from becoming nuclear. Nonetheless, Iran may indeed acquire a nuclear arsenal. Such a scenario would pose a serious threat to the Jewish state and would require it to take immediate action.

While neither the diplomatic channel nor sanctions guarantee success, so a limited military assault—Israeli, American, or a joint one—would not necessarily prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb. Instead, a military assault could lead Tehran to toughen its positions, act firmly to silence the opposition movements, rally the Iranian masses around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and provide the ayatollahs with the necessary domestic support to continue its pursuit of nuclear power. A nuclear Iran would be dangerous to Israel and its containment difficult, but Jerusalem would have no choice but to attempt to contain a nuclear Iran and to reduce the risks as much as possible.

Before Iran becomes nuclear, and especially if and once it does, Jerusalem should clearly delineate to Tehran and the international community its red lines, which if crossed would automatically lead to an Israeli response. The first would be to make clear the consequences of Tehran’s use of the bomb against Israel. Israel must display its strategic arsenal before Tehran. Jerusalem should also rely on a triple American-British-French nuclear umbrella, with which it should sign protection agreements very soon, before Tehran were to acquire the bomb. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Homegrown Terror Suspect Agrees to Plead Guilty to Plotting Attacks

July 11th 2012

Scales of Justice

A suspect who is described as a homegrown radicalized American Muslim is prepared to admit his terrorist activities, according to Department of Justice officials on Tuesday.

In a signed legal agreement filed in federal District Court in Boston, Rezwan Ferdaus, a/k/a Dave Winfield, a/k/a Jon Ramos, agreed to plead guilty to the charge that he attempted to damage and destroy federal buildings using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He also agreed to plead guilty to attempting to provide material support to an Islamic terrorist.

The 26-year-old Ferdaus also agreed to a joint sentencing recommendation of 17 years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. In exchange for his agreement, U.S government officials have agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against Ferdaus when he faces sentencing. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

What The Tlass Defection Means to Assad

July 10th 2012

syria-killing

Thursday came news that General Manaf Tlass, a senior commander of Syria's elite Republican Guard -- the troops most directly responsible for defending the embattled Bashar Assad regime -- had defected to Turkey. While the operational impact his departure on his particular unit may be inconsequential, the impact on the popular uprising could be significant.

Tlass was a regime insider, a member of the ruling Baath party's Central Committee and a childhood friend of the Syrian dictator. His father Mustafa Tlass was for more than three decades the Minister of Defense to Bashar's father, and his businessman brother Firas was close to and profited from ties to the Assads.

In short, the Tlass clan represents the Sunni Muslim establishment that has served and benefitted from the minoritarian, nominally Shiite Alawite regime. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

Colombia's Justice Minister Faces Uphill Battle with Narco-Terrorists

July 9th 2012

Palace of Justice, Bogota, Colombia

On Friday, Colombia's President Juan M. Santos appointed popular attorney and law professor Ruth Stella Correa as the nation's Justice Minister, according to a source at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Correa, a member of the Board of Directors at the Colombian Institute of Procedural Law, takes the reins of the Colombian Ministry of Justice at a time when law enforcement officers and military personnel are battling radical groups such as the radical-leftist terror group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and a number of violent and well-financed drug cartels.

At a ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of Prosecutor General’s Office, Santos announced the appointment of Ruth Stella Correa, saying that she has “dedicated her life to the [pursuit of justice]." "She has dedicated her life to law. She has gained respect and admiration not only of her colleagues, but of all people with whom she is related because of her transparent and suitable performance," said Santos in a press statement. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Confirmation of Al-Qaeda Terrorist involvement in Syria's Civil War

July 8th 2012

anti-assad-demonstration

The chief of the United Nations Mission in Syria reported on July 5 that the killing and destruction in Syria is unprecedented in such a civil war. At the same time, according to a former police trainer who served in Iraq, officials he spoke with said that members of al-Qaeda's terrorist groups (al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) have been crossing the border into Syria to carry out terrorist attacks.

The source's information was later confirmed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who said members of the al-Qaeda terrorism network have crossed border into Syria. "Yes indeed, we have solid information and intelligence that members of al-Qaida terrorist network have gone in the other direction to Syria to help and to liaise to carry out terrorist attacks," Zebari told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad.

The foreign minister told reporters that Iraq had warned the Syrian regime that extremist militants were crossing borders into Iraq, but now the terrorists are going back to fight in the Syrian conflict. "This is a fact that the extremist groups have an important role in the level of violence that is going on in Syria," Zebari added. Read more ..


The Arab Winter

Protest Movements as Effective Political Strategy

July 7th 2012

Egypt army protest

Recent protests throughout Sudan are the latest in an ongoing trend of protest movements around the world, from Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt to oil workers in Norway and opposition parties in Thailand. Protests have proved an effective strategy against autocratic regimes, political repression and austerity measures. As with insurgency strategy, protests rely on underlying support from the population rather than on superior weapons. Both insurgency and protests are forms of asymmetric opposition in which the insurgents or protesters cannot succeed by using force to overwhelm the state but must find (or create) and exploit specific weaknesses of the state.

However, protest movements are not as aggressive as insurgencies. Violence is integral to insurgent strategy, but protest movements may be simply a negotiation tactic to extract concessions from a state or a corporation. Strikes are one of the most common forms of protest used to leverage labor resources for higher wages or more benefits. Thousands of protests, such as strikes, occur around the world every week. Most are small and insignificant outside the protesters' community. In order to address the geopolitical importance of protest movements, this analysis will focus on protests intended to create political change. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

London Olympics: Scotland Yard Nabs Terror Suspects

July 6th 2012

Scotland Yard

Britain's Metropolitan Police Service, a/k/a Scotland Yard, arrested six suspects on terrorism charges in London on Thursday, according to officials. The police officers arrested five Muslim men and one Muslim woman. The counterterrorism case was investigated by officers from the MPS Counter Terrorism Command as part of "a planned intelligence-led operation."

While British police officials downplayed any connection to the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games, the location of the arrests was not far from the main stadium, according to a U.S. police liaison officer. The city of London is preparing to host one of the largest turnouts of foreign visitors in its history as the 2012 Olympics fast approaches. The London Olympic Games opening ceremony will be held on July 27, 2012, with the closing celebration scheduled for August 12, 2012.

The Muslim men and woman, aged between 18 to 30, were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, according to an MPS statement. Officers from the MPS Firearms Unit were involved in these arrests, as well. A 24-year-old suspect was tasered by cops during the arrest but he didn't need hospital treatment, according to the British Home Office. Read more ..



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