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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.


The Defense Edge

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

July 17th 2012


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


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


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 ..

The Defense Edge

Company Earned Millions in Defense Contracts While Making Illegal Sales to China

July 6th 2012

US Attack Helicopters

The Canadian arm of the aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney closed a six-year U.S. government probe last week by admitting that the lure of up to $2 billion in helicopter sales to China had caused it to export computer software illegally that helped China create its first modern attack helicopter.

“This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a statement released on June 28. That’s when the government disclosed that Pratt & Whitney and two related companies agreed to pay a total of $75 million in fines for multiple violations of export rules policed by the State Department.

The software probe and the heavy financial sanction appear to have had no punishing impact on Pratt & Whitney’s extensive and continuing contract work for the Defense Department, however. That’s the same department that in an ironic twist announced this spring that it was reorienting its forces to deal with what its officials regard as a rising Chinese military threat against U.S. allies in the region. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Insurgency and the Protracted War

July 3rd 2012

Somali Militants2

In recent weeks, insurgent forces in several countries have been forced to withdraw from territories they once held. Somalia's al Shabaab, which was pushed out of Mogadishu in October 2011, was ejected from Afmadow on May 30. The group now runs the risk of losing its hold once again on the port city of Kismayo, an important logistical and financial hub for al Shabaab.

In Syria, the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups were forced out of the city of Idlib and Homs' Baba Amr district in March. They also withdrew from Al-Haffah on June 13.  

Meanwhile in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been forced to retreat from towns it took control of last year in southern Abyan province, including Jaar, Shaqra and Zinjibar. The organization controlled the area it seized from the government through its Ansar al-Sharia front organization. AQAP was able to capitalize on the infighting that began in Yemen in 2011 and successfully diverted the government's focus away from AQAP and other militant groups. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Hamas Terrorist Killed in Damascus; Hamas Blames … Mossad

July 2nd 2012

Kamal Ranaja, Hamas, deceased

Who is behind the latest assassination of a top Hamas terrorist? The body of Kamal Ranaja was found in Damascus Wednesday after his apartment had been set ablaze. News reports say Ranaja had been tortured and murdered before his home was set on fire.

A Palestinian source with ties to Hamas said Ghanaja’s charred body was found in a cupboard above the ceiling of his ransacked apartment in the Qudsia neighborhood of Damascus. A Hamas source said there were marks of torture on his body.

Hamas has blamed Israel’s Mossad. The Israeli spy agency was also blamed for killing top Hamas official Mohammed Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010, though no firm link has ever been established. According to a Hamas official:

The leader, who spoke anonymously, said that “a group of people entered the home of Kamal Ranaja (also known as Nizar Abu Mujhad), and killed him. According to information that we have gathered, the Mossad is behind the attack.”

Indeed, a link exists between Ranaja and Mabhough.

Palestinian sources in Damascus said that Ranaja had been appointed to replace Mabhouh. after his assassination in Dubai in 2010. Ranaja was reportedly in charge of the logistics of weapons smuggling from Iran, Syria, and Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. The sources claim in the past few months, Ranaja smuggled quality weapons to Gaza via Egypt and the Red Sea. This report has not been confirmed by officials.

Of course, the Assad regime is also a possible suspect in Ranaja’s killing.

The Syrian opposition claimed President Bashar Assad’s regime was responsible for Ranaja’s assassination. One opposition activist, a former journalist, said Assad’s regime ordered the hit. She claimed Ranaja was tortured before he was killed. According to her, the hit was a message to Hamas, which turned its back on Assad following the violent crackdown on the opposition. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Nigerians Require New Counterterrorism Strategy

July 1st 2012

Nigerian church burnt out by Boko Haram

The Nigerian president, after firing his top defense commander and his national security chief, told his people that he was seeking a new direction in fighting the nation's most powerful and deadly terrorist organization.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Boko Haram has been fighting a bloody war against the Nigerian government for well over a year. Several Nigerian military operations have failed to stop the violence, that includes bombings and terror attacks against Christian churches.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement on Friday saying his two top security chiefs had been dismissed but didn't elaborate as to why he canned them except to say that he was seeking new tactics.

"We think some new persons have to come in to change tactics in our fight against terrorism.... It's not that they were not working but just that we need to change tactics," Jonathan said in a statement on Sunday. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Israel Pushed Putin to Cancel S-300 Sale to Syria

June 28th 2012

On Wednesday it was reported that Russia’s planned sale of the S-300 missile system to Syria had been cancelled. Now, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak has shed light into Israel’s role in prodding Russian President Vladimir Putin into stopping the sale, during his visit to Israel earlier this week.

“Putin listened perfectly to what we said,” Barak told Army Radio in Israel, adding that discussions between Israeli and Russian officials during Putin’s state visit were instrumental in Russia’s decision to keep one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft missile systems out of the hands of Bashar Assad in Syria.

In the interview Barak gave on Thursday, he also discussed the killing of a Hamas operative in Damascus, which occurred on Wednesday. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Illegal Alien Pleads Guilty to WMD Terror Conspiracy

June 28th 2012

Amine El Khalifi

An illegal alien man pleaded guilty to attempting to bomb the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., in February 2012, according to a Justice Department report on Monday.

Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan national living illegally in Alexandra, VA, made a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his guilty plea in a Virginia federal court. The 29-year-old was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. Capitol Building.

El Khalifi was arrested in the garage adjacent to the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 17, 2012 by FBI agents. At the time he wore a vest he believed was full of explosives supplied by al-Qaeda, federal law enforcement official said.

The FBI and the Department of Justice officials involved in the case stated that at no time were innocent people in danger since "the IED (improvised explosive device) was inoperable and did not contain explosive material." The wannabe terrorist believed he was working with al-Qaeda when in fact his contacts were undercover U.S. agents, the officials stated.

The radical Islamist also was in possession of a semi-automatic weapon which he confessed he would have used to shoot people before detonating the bomb inside the U.S. Capitol Building. As with the bomb, the gun was also declared inoperable, according to the federal complaint. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Massive Fires Engulf Jerusalem Following 200 Arson Attacks

June 26th 2012

Israel fire

Israeli firefighters have their hands full on Tuesday, dealing with two massive fires near Jerusalem. Thirty-five teams have joined firefighting aircraft to help put out the blazes, which broke out nearly simultaneously around noon time in Israel.  According to a spokesman for the Jerusalem Fire Department, the scale of the flames are significant and residents in the area have been asked to evacuate. “This is a very big fire, with flames at a height of five to ten meters,” the spokesman told Israel’s Channel 2 online, “and a number of homes were evacuated for security reasons.” The source of the fires has not been confirmed by local authorities.  In previous weeks however, the Jerusalem area has seen a rash of arson attempts, including nearly 200 attacks in the past 2 weeks. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Congress Can’t Say No to Military Pay Raises

June 26th 2012


While civilian salary increases have slowed to a crawl in the last five years, a new Pentagon report shows that military payrolls have proved immune to the economic pain felt in the private sector.

The Defense Department’s latest Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation confirms that after years of special benefits provided by Congress, it’s now much more lucrative to be a soldier than a civilian. While average pay for civilians with a two-year college degree rises $3,000 between their tenth and twentieth year in the workforce (to reach $45,000), comparable enlisted Defense personnel see their salaries increase $15,000 in that time (to reach $73,000).

In fact, at every point in someone’s career, pay in the armed services tops that of civilians. In their first year, military officers make $20,000 more than private sector workers with a bachelor’s degree, according to the review by representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard and various Defense bureaus. By their twentieth year, that difference has grown to $60,000. And the shortfall is larger for civilians with some college experience or a high school diploma. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

U.S. Opposed to 'Destructive' Participation of Iran on Summit to End Syrian Violence

June 25th 2012

Assad and Ahmadinejad

The U.S. Department of State on June 22 declared its opposition to Iran's participation in a planned international summit to end the violence and death occurring in Syria, according to a government spokeswoman. Instead of welcoming Iran to the summit, the U.S. government is demanding that Iranian leaders break their strong alliance with the Assad regime in Syria.

The United States government "would like to see Iran play a far more constructive role than it's played" by not fueling the violence in Syria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing televised on Fox News Channel on June 22. Nuland was responding to a statement made by United Nations/Arab League joint envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, who surprised many when he said Iran, Syria's closest ally, "should be part of the solution" of the Syrian crisis.

The much-criticized former UN secretary-general stated he hoped that besides the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the meeting will include governments and countries with influence any of the parties involved in the situation.

"I have made it quite clear that I believe Iran should be part of the solution," he reiterated, much to the chagrin of U.S. security and diplomacy experts who believe Iran is anything but a potential part of any peaceful solution.

Nuland said the U.S. is "continuing to work at the staff level to try to flesh out appropriate parameters for the meeting."

But she clarified that the U.S. is opposed to the involvement of Iran in this conference because it is playing "a destructive role" in Syria. "By part of the solution, we mean breaking its ties with the Assad regime, not fueling the violence," she said.

Kofi Annan is beloved by the political left, but his accomplishments appear flimsy when compared to others who've held his UN position. During his leadership there were several scandals including the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal and inactivity during the Rwanda Genocide, according to a geopolitics professor. Read more ..

The Military Edge

Congress Can’t Say No to Military Pay Raises

June 25th 2012


While civilian salary increases have slowed to a crawl in the last five years, a new Pentagon report shows rapidly-growing military payrolls have proved immune to the economic pain felt in the private sector.

The Defense Department’s latest Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation confirms that after years of special benefits provided by Congress, it's now much more lucrative to be a soldier than a civilian. While average pay for civilians with a two-year college degree rises $3,000 between their tenth and twentieth year in the workforce (to reach $45,000), comparable enlisted Defense personnel see their salaries increase $15,000 in that time (to reach $73,000).

In fact, at every point in someone’s career, pay in the armed services tops that of civilians. In their first year, military officers make $20,000 more than private sector workers with a bachelor's degree, according to the review by representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard and various Defense bureaus. By their twentieth year, that difference has grown to $60,000. And the shortfall is larger for civilians with some college experience or a high school diploma. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

U.S. Opposes Iran's Participation in Summit on Syria

June 23rd 2012

Ahmadinejad triumphant
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The U.S. Department of State on June 22 declared its opposition to Iran's participation in a planned international summit to end the violence and death occurring in Syria, according to a government spokeswoman.

Instead of welcoming Iran to the summit, the U.S. government is demanding that Iranian leaders break their strong alliance with the Assad regime in Syria.

The United States government "would like to see Iran play a far more constructive role than it's played" by not fueling the violence in Syria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing televised on Fox News Channel on on June 22.

Nuland was responding to a statement made by United Nations/Arab League joint envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, who surprised many when he said Iran, Syria's closest ally, "should be part of the solution" of the Syrian crisis.

The much-criticized former UN secretary-general stated he hoped that besides the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the meeting will include governments and countries with influence any of the parties involved in the situation. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel Launches More Air Strikes on Gaza, 3 Killed

June 23rd 2012

Gaza bomb damage

Violence has erupted on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. At least one Palestinian has been killed and 24 others are wounded. One Israeli was also injured.

Ambulances ferried wounded Palestinians to hospitals in Gaza as Israel launched air strikes. On the other side of the border, more than 20 Palestinian rockets crashed into Israel, bringing the week’s total to over 150.

Earlier Saturday, officials said a six-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in an Israeli  strike today near the town of Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The violence erupted Monday after gunmen infiltrated Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which also borders Gaza. An Israeli Arab construction worker was killed along with the two infiltrators. A militant Islamic group claimed responsibility for the attack and said the gunmen came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Boko Haram Promises the Bloodiest Month Yet for Nigerian Christians

June 23rd 2012

bomb in kaduna nigeria
Car bomb wreckage in Kaduna, Nigeria.

There is alarm in the Christian community in Nigeria after the terrorist group Boko Haram, which has continued its attacks on Christians, issued a threat to carry out new attacks in order to make June "the bloodiest month for Christians." The Islamic sect has vowed to purge northern Nigeria of Christians in an effort to eventually impose Muslim religious law over the entire country.

The group said it has trained about 300 suicide bombers ready to attack the Christian churches in the states of Plateau and Kaduna (southern Nigeria). On Sunday June 17, Boko Haram conducted a series of coordinated car bomb attacks at churches in Kaduna in which scores of Christians were killed. Fighting between Christians and Muslims ensued in Kaduna, and then later in northeastern city of Damaturu. The army has struggled to maintain order in the region, as President Goodluck Jonathan has been increasingly criticized for his apparent ineffectuality. Boko Haram, for its part, says it has recruited the sons and daughters of Muslims killed during the recent sectarian conflict by providing weapons and bombs manufactured in Mauritania and Somalia.

Boko Haram has announced further attacks on government buildings in the states of Kano, Kaduna, Yobe and Gombe, as well as a demonstrative major attack on the Federal Capital territory, ie in the capital Abuja, to show the world that "the Nigerian security forces will not be able to stop us." Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

Egypt Condemns Israel for Gaza Violence

June 22nd 2012

Gaza violence Jun 2012

In the wake of the Muslim Brotherhood's victory in the presidential elections, Egypt has put its diplomatic support squarely behind the Palestinians.

On Wednesday, the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority made the first public statement about the recent outbreak of violence in Israel's south. Following a series of terrorist attacks and missile strikes, the Israeli Air Force has been hitting back, destroying missile launching strikes and killing terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip.

In response, Ambassador Yasser Othman chose to condemn Israel, leaving the Palestinians entirely unscathed.

According to the Times of Israel, the ambassador told a pro-Hamas website “The Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip is unjustified and completely unacceptable.”

In another interview, with Bethlehem-based news agency Maan, Othman said Israel must stop its strikes in Gaza first in order for the factions in Gaza to cease responding in kind.

It is unlikely that these statements are a coincidence. In the past, Egypt has condemned Israeli military against terrorism, but also issued calls for both sides to cease fighting and return to negotiations.

This time, there is no caveat added to the Egyptian condemnation. Egypt's senior diplomat to the Palestinians criticized Israel and Israel alone, and placed responsibility for the recent violence solely upon the Jewish state. He did so despite the fact that the violence began as the result of a terror attack in the Sinai in which one Israeli was killed. All the subsequent Israeli retaliations have also been undertaken in retaliation to specific terrorist actions. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Red Cross Evacuation in Homs On Hold

June 21st 2012

Homs Ablaze June 8 2012

Attempts by the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the battered northern Syrian city of Homs appear to be stalled Thursday, as government forces continue their military offensive against the city and its surroundings. New reports also claim that government troops shelled a group of mourners in the southern flashpoint city of Dara'a, killing a large number of people.

Rabab al-Rifai, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, said the team remains in another part of Homs and will continue to attempt to enter the badly hit neighborhood of Hamidiya.

"An ICRC team and Syrian Arab Red Crescent was heading today to Hamidiya area, but it had to turn back to Homs city," said al-Rifai. "The team had to return as it heard close shootings. So, now, they are trying to re-establish contact with all concerned  - the authorities and the opposition - and we will attempt to go back again to the area [later today]." Rifai said both the ICRC and the Syrian Red Crescent are hoping to evacuate both the sick and wounded, as well as ordinary citizens trapped inside the city by fighting. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Foreign Support for Syria's Anti-Assad Rebels

June 21st 2012

US Army Humvee EFP attack
US Army Humvee following EFP attack in Iraq.

A video recently posted to the Internet depicting an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Syria has garnered a great deal of attention. A Syrian militant group called the Hawks Brigade of the Levant claimed the attack, which targeted a Syrian government armored troop bus as it traveled along a road near a rebel stronghold in the Idlib governorate. According to the group, the attack depicted in the video employed a type of IED called an explosively formed penetrator (EFP). Though the video was shot from a fairly long distance away, it does appear that the IED punched a substantial and focused hole through the armored bus -- precisely the type of effect that would be expected if an EFP were employed against such a target.

EFPs are a logical tool for militants to use against superior government forces that are heavily dependent upon armor. EFPs pose a significant threat to armored vehicles, which the Syrian military has utilized extensively, and quite effectively, in its campaign against Syrian rebel groups.

Studying the IED technology employed by a militant group is an important way to determine the group's logistics situation and trajectory. It can also be a way to discern if a group is receiving outside training and logistical assistance. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Homegrown Islamist Pleads Guilty in Manhattan to Aiding al-Qaeda

June 20th 2012

Judge's Gavel

A 37-year-old homegrown jihadist entered a guilty plea in a New York City federal courtroom on Monday to terrorism charges for aiding the radical Islamic group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Brooklyn-born Wesam El-Hanafi pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a terrorist group and one count of criminal conspiracy. The Manhattan federal prosecutors in the case agreed with the defendant's defense attorneys to accept a guilty plea and recommended a 20-year prison sentence.

El-Hanafi told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood that in July 2009, he had a conversation with others in which they discussed contacting al Qaeda operatives.

El-Hanafi was arrested in April 2010, along with Sabirhan Hasanoff, 36, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen. Hasanoff had already pleaded guilty on June 4 to the same crimes. The two Islamists, who were arrested overseas and brought to the United States to be prosecuted, were unaware that law enforcement officers had them under surveillance. Read more ..

Lebanon on Edge

Syria Conflict Puts Hezbollah Ally in Delicate Position

June 19th 2012

Hezbollah rally

The conflict in Syria is having a spillover effect on many of its neighbors and placing some allies of the Syrian government in a delicate position. Violence is affecting Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.

The kidnapping in Syria last month of 11 Lebanese Shi'ite pilgrims returning from Iran has highlighted the delicate links between Syria's conflict and various sectarian groups in neighboring Lebanon. The main Syrian opposition alliance has denied responsibility for the kidnappings. But a previously unknown Syrian rebel group says it is holding the pilgrims until the Syrian government stops attacking innocent civilians.  The kidnappers say five of the pilgrims are members of Hezbollah which they accuse of supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah is a long-standing ally of the Syrian government, which has supplied the group with arms, training and money to fight Israel. But lately, Hezbollah leaders have criticized the violence in Syria and have expressed support for democratic reform there. The head of the International Affairs Institute of the American University of Beirut, Rami Khouri, says Hezbollah is in a difficult situation. Read more ..

Defense on Edge

Bouncing Too Much to Find the Enemy

June 18th 2012


A host of problems plague the military’s newest jet fighter, the F-35, but one of the simplest yet most troublesome is identified in a new government audit as unreadable “symbology.”

The problem exists inside a small item at the heart of what makes the F-35 the world’s most sophisticated aircraft — if only it could be made to work. Namely, the pilot’s helmet visor. On the world’s most advanced, fifth-generation military aircraft, the visor is meant to be much more than a sun shield. It is supposed to do wondrous things.

Acting like a small, see-through movie screen, it is designed to display data showing how the plane is performing, where enemy targets are, and which weapons the pilot can use to handle them. As the pilot swivels his head, the display is meant to adapt, creating a direct link — as in a science-fiction movie — between the pilot and the aircraft’s unprecedented computing power. The visor is, according to the Government Accountability Office’s latest annual report on the F-35’s development, “integral to the mission systems architecture.” In other words, the plane was more or less designed around the unique capabilities of that fancy helmet appendage. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Nigerian Militants Claim Bombings of Churches

June 18th 2012

Nigeria car bombing

 The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for three suicide bombings of Christian churches in Kaduna state Sunday that killed at least 21 people and wounded many more.  The state remains under a 24-hour curfew after the bombings sparked reprisal attacks by Christians against Muslims.

​​The militant Islamist sect Boko Haram said it carried out the three suicide car bombings in a statement e-mailed to journalists late Sunday. 

"We carried out these attacks," the statement said, "because Christians have enjoyed the support of government when they were killing Muslims and destroying mosques in northern towns." The statement said the group would continue attacks against Christians, in particular against women and children.  Christians, the statement said, must convert to Islam. Boko Haram is known to communicate through such e-mailed statements to journalists, but the authenticity of this statement was not immediately verifiable. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Lawmakers Caution Against Targeting Journalists In Security Leak Crackdown

June 17th 2012

As Congress plans to craft new laws to crack down on national security leaks in the wake of a series of high-profile disclosures, lawmakers say they aren’t looking to target the journalists who reported and published the leaked information.

Attempts to re-write laws over classified information are nothing new, but reaction to the latest national security leaks have a different tone toward the media than ones during the Bush administration. “The potential backlash against the media has so far been diverted into a backlash against the White House,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s not the media that is out of control; it is supposedly the White House that is exploiting these stories for partisan gain.”

Aftergood said that the current situation is a contrast from the 2005 New York Times report about warrantless wiretapping, when “there was a push in conservative circles to indict the New York Times for publishing the stories.” Read more ..

Broken Borders

Are Drones Used Effectively on U.S. Borders?

June 16th 2012

Predator3 Drone-Border Patrol

The key military role played by the over 7,500 drones used by the Pentagon is well-known. But until recently, the deployment of drones by the government inside U.S. borders has attracted little attention or critical oversight.

Now a new internal audit from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has raised concerns about the utility of those drones, focusing on their high costs and how they have been managed.

DHS has spent more than $250 million on its program in the past six years, and currently has nine Predator drones on call. While each drone is purchased at a cost of around $18 million each, the GAO estimated that the hourly charge is $3,234 — or almost $65,000 per 20-hour mission. The majority of the drones are based on the U.S./Mexico border, where a growing drug war has slowly seeped into parts of California and Texas. But drones also scout the border with Canada. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified last month that UAVs were patrolling from North Dakota to eastern Washington State. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Kenyan al-Shabab Fighters Present Problems for Families

June 15th 2012

Al Shabaab

The Somali militant group al-Shabab has long relied on an extensive funding and recruitment network funneled through a community-based organization in Kenya called the Muslim Youth Center. Kenyans say there has been a devastating impact on the community resulting from hundreds of young men leaving their families to join the Islamist movement.

Thirty-one-year-old Maryam Gulam, a mother of three, saw her husband recruited to fight for al-Shabab in 2009 when she was three months pregnant. Maryam Gulam says her husband converted to Islam in 2006 and went to an Islamic school to study his new religion. She assumes that is where her husband was taught about jihad, or holy war, instead of basic Muslim religious teachings.

Gulam says she learned her husband left for Somalia to join al-Shabab through another family. "My husband left me when I was pregnant," she says, "and to this day I don’t know if he is alive or dead." She says she came to know that her husband went to Somalia through other families whose sons were recruited.  The other families knew about their sons’ journey to Somalia, but Ghulam says, "I was the only one that wasn’t aware. ... I am facing so many challenges because my in-laws are accusing me of taking their son away from them and [saying that] I am also the one who made him join Islam," Gulam said. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Boko Haram: Mali Connection?

June 14th 2012

Nigeria joint military task force

According to the President of Niger Mahamdou Issoufou, the rebellion in Mali has direct links to the terrorist organization Boko Haram operating in Nigeria. Like Boko Haram the rebel faction Ansar Dine in Mali is an Islamic fundamentalist group that has links to Al Qaeda in North Africa. Their common ties likely mean that the two groups have members that train together and are likely sharing weapons and other resources. It has also been reported that Boko Haram has fighters in Mali. The link has led to speculation as to whether the impending multilateral intervention in Mali will lead to increased activity in Nigeria and whether militants will cross from one territory to the other.

The link between Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Ansar Dine seems more functional than ideological. The groups are working together along the lines of their common interests. However in totality their alliance does not appear to be as cohesive as has been speculated. The agenda of Boko Haram is as political as it is religious and ideological. It appears that they have financial backing from elite elements from the north of Nigeria. Ansar Dine financial backing is largely from Qatar in the Middle East. Aside from the mutual benefit from training and weapons, they do not appear to have any substantive intersecting interests with Ansar Dine. Still since the collapse of the regime in Libya, more weapons and munitions have been floating around the Sahara region than ever before. Military action in Mali will see the weapons move to other territories perhaps even back into Libya where local lords have carved out territories under their control. Read more ..

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