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The Battle for Syria

Syrian Opposition Warns Of Catastrophe In Homs

August 25th 2012

Inside Wartorn Syria

Syria's main opposition group has urged the United Nations and Arab League to intervene in order to prevent a "catastrophe" in central Homs province.

Syrian National Council member Naji Tayyra said on August 25 that Homs residents have now been besieged for more than 80 days by regime forces and all supply routes had been cut off. 

Homs, a flashpoint of the revolt that started against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, has seen some of the fiercest battles between troops and opposition forces in recent months. The call for intervention comes as the new U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria prepares to take up renewed international efforts to mediate peace in the country.  Read more ..

Japan on Edge

Japan Increases Rhetoric Against S. Korea Over Island Dispute

August 25th 2012

Liancourt Rocks
Liancourt Rocks

Japan's top government officials and lawmakers are continuing to turn up the heat on two neighboring countries with claims on islands that Japan considers its own. While calling on South Korea to respond to the territorial dispute in a wise and cautious manner, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's remarks at a Tokyo news conference Friday evening are likely to do little to ease rising diplomatic tensions with both Seoul and Beijing. Noda tells reporters Japan will strengthen measures to secure its surrounding waters.

In a tough 10 minute opening statement, the Japanese prime minister asserted his country's territorial claims noting while it may be 61st in land size, Japan's expansive maritime waters make it the world's sixth biggest sea power. When the depths of those waters are also taken into consideration, Noda asserts, Japan is number four. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Spillover from Syria Endangers Lebanon

August 24th 2012

Syrian Refugees
Syrian refugees

On August 15, a Shiite faction in Lebanon kidnapped twenty Syrian expatriate laborers in retaliation for the earlier snatching of two dozen Shiite "pilgrims" by a Sunni opposition group in Syria. Less covered by the Western media, but perhaps equally consequential, was the August 9 arrest of former Lebanese labor minister Michel Samaha, charged with plotting to bomb a Sunni iftar dinner following the Ramadan fast. The allegation against Samaha -- a prominent Christian with close ties to both the Syrian regime and the Shiite militia Hizballah -- shocked a Lebanese government already reeling from the violence in Syria. The latest incidents highlight not only concerns about spillover from the bloody eighteen-month uprising against Bashar al-Assad, but also the need for an effective U.S. strategy to promote stability and foster a viable political alliance to displace the current Hizballah-based government in Lebanon.


Samaha has been a public figure in Lebanon for decades. An elected member of parliament from the Christian nationalist Phalange Party, he served once as minister of tourism and information, and twice as information minister in governments led by the late Rafiq Hariri. After the civil war ended and Syria occupied Lebanon in 1991, Samaha developed increasingly close ties to Hafiz al-Assad's regime in Damascus. Later, following Hariri's 2005 assassination, the Cedar Revolution, and Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, he aligned politically with the pro-Syria, Hizballah-led "March 8" coalition. In 2007, he was banned from traveling to the US for his role in "destabilizing Lebanon." Read more ..

America on Edge

The Persistent Threat of Domestic Terrorism

August 23rd 2012

floyd corkins

A string of incidents over the past month has served as a reminder that despite the intense, decadelong focus on the jihadist threat, domestic terrorism is still an issue in the United States. On Aug. 5, Wade Page opened fire on the congregation of a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding three others. Though Page killed himself and did not leave any evidence explicitly listing his motives for the attack, his long association with the white supremacist movement was clearly a factor in his target choice.

On Aug. 15, Floyd Corkins shot and wounded a security guard in the lobby of the Family Research Council's office in Washington after the guard blocked him from entering the office. Corkins reportedly was carrying a bag containing a box of ammunition and a number of Chick-fil-A sandwiches. He apparently targeted the Family Research Council because of its public support for Chick-fil-A in the wake of the controversy over statements made by the fast food chain's founder regarding gay marriage. According to media reports, Corkins said, "I don't like your politics," before opening fire. Read more ..

America's Nukes

Nun's Story: Octogenarian Breaches Security at Nuclear Weapons Complex

August 23rd 2012


An 82-year-old nun successfully breached a high-tech security complex’s protective fences using garden-variety, low-tech bolt cutters. And even more disturbing to the facility's security director, she remained undetected in a highly secure area on the nuclear complex’s grounds for more than two hours, according to a security report dated Aug. 22, 2012.

The octogenarian, Sister Megan Rice and two accomplices, activists Michael Walli, 57, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 63, were able to compromise three security fences belonging to Y-12 National Security Complex located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, according to a security report.

While the trio's July 28 intrusion did initiate an alarm condition, they managed to evade capture by supposedly well-trained security officers for more than two hours. During that time the Catholic nun and her two accomplices threw blood on the walls of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) located inside the complex. They also spray painted anti-nuclear and anti-war graffiti. Built in the early 1950s, Y-12 manufactures uranium components for warheads for the U.S. military's nuclear arsenal and is the U.S.government's primary source for bomb-grade uranium. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Assad's Artillery and Tank Fire in Damascus Reasserts Control

August 23rd 2012

Syrian tankers

Syrian government forces have renewed their attacks in the capital, Damascus, killing at least 35 people in a campaign of shelling and artillery fire on August 22. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that the deaths occurred in Kfar Souseh, Daraya and other southern districts where anti-government rebels operate. Residents said the shelling and aerial bombardment were some of the fiercest since the army reasserted control over the opposition neighborhoods. They said rebels who left the city last month during a brutal army campaign had started to return.

Also on August 22, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told BFM-RMC radio that France is providing the Syrian opposition with “non-lethal” military aid such as means of communication and protection. But he added that France opposes any military intervention in Syria without U.N. backing. Ayrault said France had responded to a request from the rebels for aid.  Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Ayatollah Khamenei Orders More Terror Attacks Against the West

August 23rd 2012

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Members of Iran’s Quds Force were recently instructed by the country’s most authoritative figure, Ayatollah Khamenei, to increase their attacks on western targets in retaliation for what Iran believes is a direct effort to help the Syrian opposition topple Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, according to senior western intelligence officials.

The directive was given at a meeting of Iran’s National Security Council in Tehran, which was held to review a report commissioned to examine the geo-political ramifications for Iran if Assad were to lose power in Syria.

Khamenei himself is said to have commissioned the report, according to western intelligence officials, and in response to international sanctions against the Iranian regime, along with western support for Syrian rebels, Khamenei has decided that his country “cannot be passive”. According to one of the intelligence sources who spoke with The Telegraph in Britain, Khamenei believes he must show “America, the Zionists, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others that they cannot act with impunity in Syria and elsewhere in the region” Read more ..

Egypt and Israel

Israel Concerned About Egyptian Tanks in Sinai

August 22nd 2012

Egyptian Tanks in Sinai


Turkey on Edge

Turks Fear “Kurdish Spring”

August 21st 2012

Turkish Military

Turkish forces have launched a major offensive in recent days against positions held by the PKK rebel movement in the area of the Turkish-Iraqi border. Up to 2,000 troops are taking part in the operation, according to Turkish media sources.

Turkey’s Interior Minister, Idris Naim Sahin, claimed that 115 Kurdish rebels had been killed by the Turkish security forces – an assertion dismissed by the PKK, which itself claims to have killed up to 49 Turkish soldiers. The fighting has been going on since July 24, when the Turkish army responded in force to a PKK attempt to seize control of the road between the towns of Semdinli and Gerdiya. The authorities have closed off the area, making it difficult to attain an accurate picture of events on the ground. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Taking the Edge Off a Pipe Bomb--Literally

August 20th 2012

Bomb explosion

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T) new low-cost device for dismantling dangerous pipe bombs may look like a tinkerer's project, but that's no accident. The Semi Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-cap Remover (SAPBER) is unassuming in appearance, but sophisticated enough to preserve the forensic evidence needed to track down the perpetrator.

"From ten paces away, you might mistake the contraption for a pressure washer," says S&T Program Manager Christine Lee. "But step closer and you'll find an ingenious device bristling with four video cameras, radios, a telescoping mast, cutting wheels, a twisting wrist, an electric motor, and a chain-driven gear, all powered by a pair of 12-volt batteries."

Thousands of pipe bombs are made each year, and thousands of pipe bomb threats are called into local police and FBI authorities across the country. Many are false alarms, but those that aren't can be deadly.

Dismantling a pipe bomb is tricky and serious business, and missteps during the dismantling process can produce catastrophic results. Law enforcement authorities ideally would like to preserve all evidence related to pipe bomb attacks, but the main focus of responders is the safety of the public and current pipe bomb render-safe techniques often limit the amount of evidence that can be collected. Not so with SAPBER (say-ber). Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels and al-Qaeda Alliance Becomes More Likely

August 19th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters

Syrian rebels on Thursday warned the U.S. and the European Unions they will turn to al-Qaeda if the West fails to provide aid -- including weapons -- to them, according to reports. The U.S. and other nations' hesitancy to provide meaningful aid to the Syrian rebels battling the Assad government troops in a bloodbath within nation's largest city, Aleppo, could very well cause the rebels to turn to al-Qaeda terrorists who continue to pour into Syria from Iraq, according to a counterterrorism source in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

"My colleagues overseas tell me that fighters from al-Qaeda's Iraqi faction have been sneaking into the country for at least a year in hopes of taking control of the civil war and then takeover the new government once the Syrian president and his minions are imprisoned or executed," said the veteran counterterrorist. During the Iraq War, Syria was used as a base of operations for al-Qaeda in Iraq during the most violent and destructive days of that war, according to Thomas Angeleno, who served as a police advisor under former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was contracted to help create the first stages of the Baghdad Police during the early days of the Hussein ouster. Read more ..

Afganistan on Edge

US Troops Armed at all Times in Afganistan

August 18th 2012

Army in Afghanistan

Gen. John Allen, commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has taken the drastic step of ordering all American troops to be armed at all times -- even when within U.S. or coalition bases -- as a way to protect against increasing insider attacks.

The order, according to reports by CNN, states that all U.S. personnel will carry a weapon plus a magazine of ammunition around the clock. The weapons will be carried in formerly secured areas, CNN reports, such as U.S. headquarters in Kabul and other coalition and Afghan government installations around the country.

Allen issued the order on Saturday, a day after two members of a U.S. special operations group were killed by a local recruit to the Afghan police force in Western Afghanistan. The two soldiers assigned to a U.S. special forces team assigned to train and equip local police forces in Farah province, were unarmed when they were shot and killed by Mohammad Ismail on Friday. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Rebels Step Up Efforts to Get Anti-Aircraft Missiles

August 18th 2012

Syrian Rebels

Syrian rebels are redoubling their efforts to acquire portable anti-aircraft missiles following government airstrikes on cities and towns in the north of the country. In the latest such strike, a Syrian Air Force jet bombed the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100. Rebel commanders and activists say their buyers are now scouring the arms black markets in the region to get the shoulder-fired missiles that can counter the government airstrikes.

According to opposition activist “Tony” al-Taieb, who works with the rebel military council in Aleppo, representatives with cash from rich Syrian exiles are negotiating to buy the portable surface-to-air missiles, often called SAMS or MANPADS, for “Man-Portable-Air-Defense-System.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear about the Qataris and Saudis supplying us with heavier weaponry,” al-Taieb says. “We are getting hardly anything from them.” Al-Taieb said acquiring as many MANPADS missile systems as possible was now the highest priority for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the umbrella organization for many of the rebel brigades that have been trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the past 18 months. He said the government airstrikes on Aleppo, Azaz, Tel Rifat and villages such as Akhtarin and other settlements closer to the Turkish border were apparently designed to menace the rebel enclave in the region and disrupt rebel supply routes from Turkey. Military analysts say shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles can turn the tide of battle in an insurgency war like the one in Syria. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Targeting Tribal Leaders: A New Militant Tactic in Sinai

August 17th 2012

haqqani terrorists

Militants killed Egyptian tribal leader Khalaf al-Menahy and his son Aug. 13 as the two were returning from a conference in east Sinai organized and attended by tribal leaders to denounce militancy, according to Sinai security forces. The senior al-Menahy was a prominent proponent of bolstering the Sinai Peninsula's representation in Egypt's parliament and of improving security in the region. He also was a prominent sheikh in the Sawarka tribe, said to be the largest in Sinai. Following his burial Aug. 13, the tribe vowed to seek vengeance. This is the first reported case of militants attacking tribal leaders in Sinai. It comes soon after an attack on Egyptian security forces Aug. 5 and an attack on military checkpoints in northern Sinai on Aug. 8.

Although the militant tactic of targeting tribal leaders is new to Sinai, the tactic has been common in conflict zones in the Middle East and South Asia, such as in Yemen, Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Though it can offer many benefits to these militants -- including weakening the targeted tribe and possibly leading to its co-option -- these kinds of attacks tend to only succeed in zones with little government control and against tribes that cannot effectively retaliate. Examining similar instances of this tactic thus provides a helpful tool for assessing the consequences of attacks against tribal elements in the Sinai Peninsula. Read more ..

The Edge of Defense

Dissent among Republicans over Defense Spending

August 17th 2012

B-2 Bomber

Grover Norquist, influential Republican Washington lobbyist, is advising his party’s lawmakers to cut the defense budget deeply to avoid a major federal tax hike. His remarks this week were another sign of splintering views in Republican ranks about spending on national defense, that presently consumes about half of the discretionary federal budget—with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney going in one direction and some Republican lawmakers and lobbyists headed in a different direction.

Norquist, a long-time anti-tax crusader in Washington, said in a talk at the Center for The National Interest that Republicans should not be pushing for increased spending on defense when the national deficit has ballooned. Instead, he said, lawmakers should embrace the need to balance the budget and cut wasteful projects, which he said could be done without negatively impacting national security. “You need to decide what your real defense needs are,” said Norquist. “That doesn’t mean chairmen of certain committees get to build bases in their states. That’s not a defense need ... [but] a political desire.” The debate so far, he said, has been marked by a lack of “serious conversation” on the Hill. However, he predicted that many of the Republicans unwilling to cut defense spending would either retire or be replaced in the November elections. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Google and Apple Enable Hezbollah and Hamas Pro-Terrorism "Apps" on their Phones

August 17th 2012

Smart phone

Terrorism watchers have expressed concern about Hezbollah re-launching its smart phone applications, which were previously removed by Apple and Google. The Anti-Defamation League was the first to report on such apps, which first appeared on July 25 and directs users to con­tent from Al-Manar, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization’s satel­lite tele­vi­sion sta­tion that broad­casts mes­sages of hate and vio­lence. Apple and Google later removed the app.

In a statement just issued blaming ADL for the failure of its previous efforts, Al-Manar said the app has been rereleased for the Android operating system and is “back on Ipad and Iphone applications via alternative ways, following the campaign carried out by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League to deactivate Al-Manar applications on smart phones at Google Play and apple store.”

The ADL stated in a letter, “As terrorist groups adapt to new technologies and figure out ways to circumvent restrictions, it is critical for the industry to take appropriate action to ensure that their services are not exploited by terror organizations.” Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director added, “We will continue to monitor and expose how Hezbollah and other ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions use cur­rent tech­nol­ogy to spread their vio­lent mes­sages and to work with Internet service companies to see to it that terrorists don’t succeed in evading industry safeguards designed to prevent the use of these platforms to promote terrorism. Now more than ever, the stakes are too high to be complacent.” Read more ..

Israel's Looming Strike

Israel Simulates Chemical Attack Amid Increased War Speculation

August 17th 2012

Gas Mask Triage

Israeli citizens who went shopping this morning at a Nazareth mall were in for a surprise, as emergency medical and military personnel simulated their responses to a chemical attack in the country’s northern region.

An IDF lieutenant who spoke with the Ynet newspaper says that since the Second Lebanon War there has been an increased desire to prepare for missile and chemical attacks in the northern part of Israel.

“Every time they want more. Another practice, another meeting, another round table. We try to satisfy the needs,” the lieutenant said. The exercises come amid international concerns over the safety and security of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, which is believed to be the largest in the Middle East, and renewed speculation of a major confrontation with Iran. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

US Military Pilot Training Emphasizes Drone Warfare

August 16th 2012

MQ-1 Sky Warrior drone

The U.S. military is rushing to train more pilots for remotely piloted aircraft as its reliance on drones grows in places such as Afghanistan and Yemen. Holloman has long been the testing ground for cutting edge warplanes. These days, German training jets are the few manned aircraft to be seen here. 

The skies at Holloman are now ruled by remotely-piloted aircraft, or RPA's,  flown by crews that never leave the ground. Their controls are mainly screens and joysticks.  It is here that hundreds of young airmen and women are trained to conduct missions thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan and Yemen. 

Jay, one of the trainers, said, “The thing that’s drilled into our mind from day one is that this is not a video game. This is real. Ultimately, we could be put into situations where we do use weapons to take lives of enemy combatants.”
It used to be that the operators of remotely piloted aircraft had flown manned aircraft.   Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Panetta: Iran Training Local Militias to Fight Syrian Rebels

August 16th 2012

Iran's Revolutionary Guard

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps are actively training and assisting local militias inside Syria to fight alongside government troops that are waging a civil war against rebel forces looking to oust embattled President Bashar Assad. “Iran is playing a larger role in Syria in many ways,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asserts. “There’s now an indication that they’re trying to develop … a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the [Assad] regime.”

Iranian support to a new pro-government militia in Syria mirrors the country’s efforts in Iraq. Tehran actively provided weapons and equipment to Jaysh Al-Mahdi, the insurgent militia headed by powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during the darkest days of the war. In Syria, Iran has continually sought to prop up the Assad regime, which Tehran sees as one of the country’s key regional allies, since government troops began their violent crackdown against Syrian rebels 18 months ago.

Since then, Iranian influence in the country has only grown, to the dismay of the United States and other world powers seeking a peaceful resolution to the growing crisis in the country. Earlier this month, members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured and detained 48 Iranian nationals who were traveling in the country. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Israeli Prepares for 30-Day War

August 15th 2012

Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli Jets Await Orders

Israel’s outgoing home front defense minister has told the Ma’ariv newspaper that the country is prepared for a 30 day war on numerous fronts, if Israel decides to go ahead with plans to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. “The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” Matan Vilnai said, adding “I can say in the most authoritative manner that the home front is ready as never before in the country’s history.”

Vilnai is stepping down and will be replaced by former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter. An attack on Israel in response to the Jewish state’s operations inside Iranian territory would cause roughly 500 Israeli deaths, according to an estimate given by Vilnai. “It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.”

The outgoing minister, who will now become Israel’s ambassador to China, did not offer his support for or opposition to an Israeli strike, however he did say that Jerusalem and Washington should be in sync on this issue. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Lawmakers Unhappy with Air Force Launch Monopoly

August 15th 2012

ULA Atlas V liftoff, June 2012
ULA Atlas V liftoff, June 2012 (credit: United Launch Alliance)

For six years, the Air Force has relied mostly on a single, high-cost rocket manufacturer to loft its reconnaissance, communications, and GPS satellites into space—and it is about expand that. In the fall of 2013, it plans to give the company a new $19 billion contract for all of the Air Force launches scheduled through 2017.

Some members of Congress are upset by the price tag, however, and key lawmakers—acting with the support of an array of upstart rocket firms—are starting to push back against the Air Force’s plan to reward its contractor with a five-year lock on all its launches. The latest salvo comes from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who complained in an August 2 letter that the Pentagon’s largest launch project “lacks domestic competition and is unable to compete internationally due to high costs.”

The Air Force satellite project is known as the Evolved Expendable Vehicle Launch (EELV) program. The firm that the Air Force favors is United Launch Alliance, a joint project formed in 2006 by the Pentagon’s top two contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The Air Force plans to award the $19 billion deal between June and October 2013. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Israel Confronts the Painful Decision to Attack Iran's Nuclear Weapon Complexes

August 14th 2012

soldiers pray at wailing wall

Israel believes its best interests will be served by an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. That is the logic apparent in a remarkable piece at Ha'aretz, an interview with a top Israeli official who is most likely Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Ari Shavit, one of Israel's top columnists, conducts the far-ranging interview, in which the official calmly describes Israel's rationale for attacking Iran in the near future. Shavit says: “A nuclear Iran is one of the gravest things that could happen to Israel,” the decision maker begins. “If Iran goes nuclear, everything here will be different. Everything. We will shift into a different state of existence. If Iran goes nuclear, down the road Israel will face a threat of existential magnitude. The first aspect of the issue doesn’t only concern us but the international community and the regional alignment. I’m talking about the spread of nuclearization. Up to now the world has found a way to live with two recalcitrant countries: Pakistan and North Korea. If Iran goes nuclear, the world will just lose it. It won’t have any control over the nuclear demon.

"We know this as a virtual certainty because we’ve heard it straight from the horses’ mouths. If Iran detonates a nuclear device, Saudi Arabia will be nuclear. Within a few years Turkey will go nuclear. The new Egypt will acquire nuclear capability within less than a decade. People ask, what’s our rush? We’re not rushing at all. We waited for years. If Iran’s nuclearization is not halted now, before long we’ll find ourselves in a Middle East that has all gone nuclear.” Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Possible War with Iran and Regional Instability Worry Israel’s Investors

August 14th 2012

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

Israel’s stock prices and its currency, the shekel, dropped sharply Monday amid a  media campaign against a possible Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, and it seemed investors were also worried about a generally unstable regional security situation., including  upheavals in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. “The TASE  (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange) fell hard across the board today, despite a mixed session in European markets,” reported the local financial newspaper, Gobes, citing “new talk of a possible strike on Iran.”

There was no panic selling but, economic observers spoke of “jitters” among investors brought on by several regional developments, including the New Egyptian government’s shake-up of senior army officials yesterday, sending tanks, planes  and large forces into Sinai for the first time since the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in order to fight several terror groups, and the continued bloodshed in Syria that threatens to destabilize  the border regions of Israel, Turkey and Jordan with an ever-surging flow of refugees. The air of uncertainty has also been fed by an campaign led by media opponents of the Israeli government and its consideration of a possible preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program.


The Edge of Terrorism

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Hezbollah Terrorist Network

August 14th 2012

Hezbollah Troops

Secretary Timothy Geithner and his Treasury Department ordered the imposition of financial sanctions on the Lebanon-based, Iran-supported terrorist group Hezbollah on Friday, according the a government report.

The U.S. government sanctions are being imposed due to Hezbollah providing material support to the government of Syria, according the Treasury Department press statement.

In a press statement, the Treasury Department accused Hezbollah of providing training, advisors and "extensive logistical support" to the Syrian military and police in the regime's quest to destroy its opposition as a result of the uprising that started more than a year ago.

"Hezbollah [is] directly [training] Syrian government personnel inside Syria and has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran's terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Qods Force (IRGC-QF)," said the Treasury Department statement. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

U.S. Would Provide 'Air Umbrella' For Israel In Event Of A Strike On Iran

August 13th 2012

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

As talk of an imminent Israeli strike on the Iranian nuclear program intensifies, American diplomatic sources have reportedly said that the U.S. will provide logistical support for Israel in the event of such an attack, as well as an "air umbrella" to help cope with possible retaliation. The Israeli daily Maariv reported these developments on Monday, and apparently emphasized the role played by electoral considerations.

"Such an intervention," writes the Times of Israel: "would all but guarantee Obama a second term in office. If he chose not to act, the president would likely be handing the office over to the Republicans, [sources] said." It appears that American involvement in an Iran strike would be solely defensive in nature, however, and the White House has no plans to take part in the attack itself. This would fit with the electoral concerns of both President Obama and Mitt Romney. While aiding Israel would likely be quite popular in the U.S., actual American involvement would likely be equally unpopular with an already war-weary electorate.

Argentina on Edge

Argentine Physicians on Strike to Demand Improved Security

August 12th 2012

justice for jennifer graffiti argentina

Doctors, nurses and other staff members went on strike at thirty-three public hospitals in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 9-10 for 24-hours to voice their demand for better protection from crime and violence, according to the head of the physicians' association.

The walkout was the result of a violent incident in which family members of a patient who had died stormed the hospital and attacked doctors and other medical staff. The departed, an unidentified young pregnant patient, Jennifer Farias, died three days after giving birth at Santojanni Hospital in Buenos Aires on July 18.

Several of the deceased patient's relatives and friends then attacked and beat hospital staff members, directors and top administrators. The attackers also alleged destroyed expensive equipment and medical facilities. Read more ..

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.


Broken Borders

Of Horses and Narco-Kingdoms

August 10th 2012


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


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 ..

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