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The Iranian Threat

Iran's Oil is Marooned aboard Tankers Seeking Buyers

May 18th 2012

Iranian oil port

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been playing coy with the world’s oil markets, having been routinely switching off satellite tracking systems on oil tankers for more than a month. Iran began using the tactic in April 2012, which affects about one quarter of its fleet, according to the International Energy Agency. Currently, only 1 tanker out of 38 is now complying with satellite tracking. While it violates international maritime law, the practice serves to cloak the positions of the huge ships as they seek ports and buyers willing to violate sanctions on Iran. Without the tracking, the efficacy of oil sanctions on Iran is difficult to determine. Currently, Iran is also hobbled by sanctions on its bank transactions.

Dependent on petroleum for the bulk of its export income and government spending, Iran is in an increasingly perilous situation as it faces tightening restrictions imposed by the West. With its revenues sagging, Iran now faces a glut of oil that is being stored in land-based depots, and on its vessels at sea.

Sanctions have cut off Iranian shippers’ access to maritime insurance, mostly underwritten in Europe, and making Iran ever more dependent on its own fleet of 39 tankers, including 25 super-tankers, according to the IEA. After being pressured by the United States, Lloyd’s Register said last month that it is closing its office in Iran and stop certifying the safety of Iranian ships. Their certification is needed by ships seeking entry at most of the world’s ports. This steps up the pressure on Iran, which was already facing the end of its relationship with Norway’s Det Norske Veritas, another ship classification organization. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Jihadis: Real and Exaggerated

May 18th 2012

Click to select Image

On May 12 a video posted to YouTube purporting to be from the Palestinian branch of the Syrian jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra (The Victory Front; JN) claimed responsibility for the May 9 twin car bombings near a security complex in Damascus that killed more than fifty-five individuals and wounded hundreds. And, while JN appears to be a genuine extremist group, it is not clear whether it was responsible for either the attack or the video. The video raises disturbing questions about the Assad regime's possible manipulation of jihadists based on its past relationships with these groups.

Jabhat al-Nusra

The terror outfit Jabhat al-Nusra first trumpeted its existence on January 24, 2012, when it released a video through its media outlet al-Manarah al-Bayda (the White Minaret). The release directly to online global jihadi forums suggested that they were a legitimate group, which was later confirmed when a few top jihadi ideologues backed JN activities. Since January, JN has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Israel's New National Unity Government and the Iran Question

May 18th 2012

Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz

Since the shock announcement last week of the formation of a national unity government in Israel, there has been much speculation over what caused Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz to join forces with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's governing Likud Party. The coalition government was formed just a few days after new elections were announced for September. Now, in light of the new coalition, elections have been put off to 2013.

Before joining the Netanyahu's government, Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff and Defense Minister, has used his time in the opposition to attack Netanyahu's policies in the harshest of terms, going as far as to brand him a "liar" recently (during their joint press conference to announce the new coalition, Mofaz said the two had put the issue "behind them"). 

By joining the unity government so soon after repeatedly vowing not to do so, Mofaz, who replaced Tzippi Livni as head of Kadima, has damaged his credibility for the present time at least, leading many to ask what gains Mofaz saw in the move. Some political analysts say Mofaz's poor elections prospects - Kadima under his leadership dropped to just eight projected Knesset seats in recent polls - pushed him into Netanyahu's arms. According to this argument, elections in September would have resulted in the collapse of Mofaz and the Kadima Party as relevant political forces. Read more ..


Korea on Edge

N. Korea Reportedly Resumes Work on Reactor

May 17th 2012

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

New satellite images show North Korea has resumed construction on a new nuclear reactor, despite international criticism. The U.S.-Korea Institute, operated by Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), says images taken by a commercial satellite on April 30 show Pyongyang has made progress on a light water reactor at its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon.

North Korea says the reactor is intended to generate electricity, but in a blog post on its website, the institute says the reactor clearly indicates Pyongyang's intention "to move forward" on expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile.

Pyongyang first disclosed construction of the new reactor to a group of visiting U.S. scientists in 2010. It had made significant progress by late 2010, when work was halted. SAIS says the work may have stopped in part because of the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il. The research institute's findings could increase concerns that the North will conduct a third nuclear test. Read more ..


The Edge of Narco-Terrorism

Narco-Submarines Pose a Growing Threat to National Security

May 17th 2012

Narco sub exhibit at Naval Air Station Key West
Narco-sub display at Naval Air Station, Key West FL.

After a two-year manhunt, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency last week arrested Colombian drug kingpin Javier Antonio Calle Serna, a senior leader of Los Rastrojos, one of the country's most formidable drug-trafficking organizations. After being indicted last summer by the Eastern District of New York, Serna reportedly felt so squeezed by the agency and rival drug dealers that he began negotiating for his surrender.

His arrest is by all accounts good news, especially due to Los Rastrojos alleged connections to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most wanted man and perhaps the world's most notorious drug lord. Yet Serna's capture is also a reminder of one of the growing challenges in the seemingly never-ending war on drugs: combating narco subs. Serna headed an organization well known for its ability to rapidly build and use roughly 50-foot-long fiberglass vessels, which float just above the waterline, to surreptitiously smuggle drugs across the globe. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Role of Exceptional Individuals and Leadership in Terror Activities

May 17th 2012

Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki

There has been a lot of chatter in intelligence and academic circles about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri and his value to AQAP. The disclosure last week of a thwarted AQAP plot to attack U.S. airliners using an improved version of an "underwear bomb" used in the December 2009 attempted attack aboard a commercial airplane and the disclosure of the U.S. government's easing of the rules of engagement for unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in Yemen played into these discussions. People are debating how al-Asiri's death would affect the organization. A similar debate undoubtedly will erupt if AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi is captured or killed.

AQAP has claimed that al-Asiri trained others in bombmaking, and the claim makes sense. Furthermore, other AQAP members have received training in constructing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while training and fighting in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. This means that al-Asiri is not the only person within the group who can construct an IED. However, he has demonstrated creativity and imagination. His devices consistently have been able to circumvent existing security measures, even if they have not always functioned as intended. We believe this ingenuity and imagination make al-Asiri not merely a bombmaker, but an exceptional bombmaker. Read more ..


The Weapons Edge

Pentagon Spends Extra $250 Million on Missile System already Targeted for Cancellation

May 15th 2012

MEADS Battle Manager
credit: MEADS International

The talk of the defense world is the budget—specifically, how to shrink it and what will be cut, due to Congressional wrangling or the looming “sequestration.” Given the new austerity pressures, it’s noteworthy that a costly program targeted for cancellation by both the administration and the Congress has gotten a new government check for a quarter of a billion dollars—and, if the Pentagon gets its wish, will get another $400 million soon.

But that’s what happened with the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a putative replacement for the Patriot missile defense system. It has been plagued with so many cost overruns and delays that DoD and Congress both agreed last year to pull the plug—although conflict remains over the timetable.

The Pentagon decided to keep funding the program until “proof of concept,” a status that falls well short of production and deployment but would in theory allow the U.S. or its foreign partners to restart the project later if they chose. DoD requested a total of $804 million over 2012 and 2013. But Congress disagreed, and agreed to fund only the first year. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Obama and Clinton Ignore Requests to Name Haqqani as Terrorist Group

May 15th 2012

haqqani terrorists

The chairmen and ranking members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee are awaiting an Obama administration response to their request last week to name the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network a terrorist organization as quickly as possible, according to a U.S. counterterrorism source in Washington, D.C. 

The lawmakers stated, "It [is] clear that the Haqqani Network [based in Pakistan] continues to launch sensational and indiscriminate attacks against U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the group poses a continuing threat to innocent men, women, and children in the region,"  in a letter to the President and Secretary Clinton.

 "We understand there may have been reluctance within the Administration to designate the Haqqani Network while Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman attempted to negotiate a reconciliation agreement with the Taliban -- a deal that may have included or affected the Haqqani Network. However, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said last week that there have been no such talks since late last year (2011), and that President Karzai has opposed their continuation," the unclassified letter noted. Read more ..


Travel Safe

Illegal Alien working as Airport Security Supervisor with Assumed Identity Arrested

May 15th 2012

Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole

Department of Homeland Security officials are shocked to discover that an illegal alien held the position of security supervisor at an airport from which United Flight 93 departed on September 11, 2001 and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania when passengers rose up and attacked their terrorist captors. In a shocking revelation, a Post Authority of New York and New Jersey police source have confirmed that a veteran security supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey -- one of three major airports in the New York City metropolitan area -- has been using the identity of a murder victim for about 20 years.

The police source stated that the illegal alien -- whose real name is believed to be Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole -- was arrested on May 14 in his home in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The 54-year old Nigerian had assumed the identity of American citizen Jerry Thomas, who was a murder victim in 1992 in an unsolved homicide in New York City. "Investigators have reopened the case in order to rule out Oyewole as a suspect in the 20-year old cold case," the police stated.

Homeland Security and Port Authority Police are investigating how Thomas' personal information was allegedly stolen by the Nigerian illegal alien. A Nigerian crime syndicate has been involved for a number of years in identity theft and creating fake identification documents including driver licenses, social security cards and other ID instruments. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Roadside Blast Hits UN Conoy; 20 Killed at Syrian Funeral

May 15th 2012

Destroyed terrorist vehicle

The United Nations says a roadside blast hit a convoy carrying a group of its unarmed observers near the Syrian city of Hama on Tuesday, damaging their vehicles but not injuring the monitors. Meanwhile, Syrian activists have accused the government of killing at least 20 mourners at a funeral in the same area.

The U.N. mission in Syria says a convoy of four of its vehicles was struck by a blast from an improvised explosive device as it drove through the town of Khan Sheikhoun, near the flashpoint city of Hama on Tuesday afternoon. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said, “Three U.N. vehicles were damaged, but no U.N. personnel were hurt in this explosion. The mission has sent a patrol team to the area to help to extract those U.N. military observers.”

Upwards of 200 U.N. monitors are on the ground in Syria, mandated with monitoring the cessation of hostilities that went into effect on April 12, but which has all but collapsed with continued violence in a number of cities across the country. Among that violence, Syrian activists say that while the U.N. observers were in Khan Sheikhoun, Syrian army forces shot and killed at least 20 people during a funeral procession. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

IAEA Presses Iran Ahead of P5+1 Talks

May 14th 2012

Iran centrifuges

The U.N. nuclear agency has again urged Iran to give it access to sites, people and documents it seeks as part of its probe into whether Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency delegation in Vienna, Hermann Nackaerts, told reporters Monday that they are continuing the dialogue with Iran on its controversial nuclear program in "a positive spirit."

"The aim of us today is to reach agreement on an approach to resolve all outstanding issues with Iran - in particular clarification of the possible military dimensions remains our priority," he said. Western powers have long suspected Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian energy program.  Tehran denies the allegations. One major issue on the agenda for the two days of talks is the IAEA's lack of access to Iran's Parchin military site near Tehran. Officials suspect Iran has built a container that could house nuclear explosives tests there, and Western diplomats accuse Tehran of trying to remove incriminating evidence before allowing U.N. inspectors inside the facility. Iran has dismissed the allegations as being "childish" and "ridiculous." Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

GOP Plans East Coast Missile Defense Against Any Iranian Strike

May 13th 2012

THAAD Missile Intercept

A new Republican plan to set up a missile defense site on the East Coast has attracted election-year fireworks, with Democrats accusing the GOP of pushing the idea to undercut President Obama’s national-security credentials. Democrats say Republicans are playing politics, but GOP members hit back saying the site is necessary to get ahead of the rising threat of Iran’s missile development and to plug a gap in U.S. missile defenses. The issue is shaping up to be one of the most contentious at Wednesday’s House Armed Services Committee markup, where Democrats are planning multiple amendments to try to strip out $100 million that was included to jump-start the East Coast site.

The Republican proposal calls for the East Coast site, which would be the third in the country, to be operational by the beginning of 2016. Democrats contend the total cost would be $4 billion. Republicans counter that the price tag would be half of that amount. “This is a political move,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who intends to introduce an amendment Wednesday to strip the provision from the defense authorization bill. “Every time the election comes around, the Republicans run out a national security agenda.”

It is unclear where the Obama administration stands on the matter. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress slammed Obama on missile defense after his “hot mic” moment in March, in which Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he needed “flexibility” until after the Nov. 6 election. Republican legislators have also criticized the Obama administration for considering reductions in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. But GOP lawmakers say the site is not about politics, and is necessary due to increased threats from Iran, as tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated in recent months over Iran’s nuclear program. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

The Ayatollah Contemplates Compromise

May 11th 2012

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

The new talks have put Khamenei in a perilous position: compromising is as dangerous for him as digging in his heels.

The recent nuclear talks in Istanbul between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, and Iran have shifted the world’s focus to the possible terms of a deal when the sides meet again, probably in Baghdad on May 23. So, what accounts for the new seeming willingness of Iran’s leaders to reach an agreement?

Economic sanctions and political isolation have, of course, deeply hurt the regime, especially the Revolutionary Guards, whose leaders and industries have been directly targeted by the international community. But these are not the only factors. The regime’s propaganda machine is already portraying the Istanbul talks as a triumph for the Islamic Republic and a setback for the West. Indeed, it is setting the stage for a significant compromise by preparing both the Iranian public and the global community. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Feds Nab White Supremacists Training for Battle

May 10th 2012

Neo-Nazi

During an FBI-led dragnet in Florida on Tuesday, 10 members of an alleged neo-Nazi group were arrested while training near Orlando and Disney World for what they termed a "race war," a federal law enforcement officer stated last night. The apprehensions resulted from information and evidence gathered by a confidential informant who had infiltrated the neo-Nazi organization known as American Front 17 several months ago, according to the arrest affidavit.

The federal affidavit stated: "The American Front (AF) is a military-styled, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, skinhead organization and is known as a domestic terrorist organization." The arrest affidavit  revealed that the AF's alleged "commander," Marcus Faella, was "planning and preparing the AF for what [he believed would be] an inevitable race war" and he had boasted that he personally intended to kill blacks, Jews, immigrants and other minorities living in the United States. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

Latin American Countries Prove to be Restless Allies in the War on Drugs

May 10th 2012

Mexican soldiers on the march

Distracted by the admittedly discussion-worthy Cuba issue at the Sixth Summit of the Americas last month in Cartagena, the nations of the Western Hemisphere paid little mind to the prospect of reforming hemispheric drug policy. Latin American nations displayed unalloyed unity, indicating a deeply felt disdain for Washington’s normal agenda in the region. Several Latin American countries have demonstrated a desire to approach drug policy in a sharply different manner from the heavy-handed direction traditionally favored by U.S. policymakers. This prevailing tilt toward decriminalization became apparent as several Latin American countries proposed alternatives to the current strategy being used in the drug war. Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico have all proposed alternatives, each having recognized that militarized efforts against drug trafficking have proven ineffective.

This shift in ideology regarding the drug war is seismic, and may be a significant factor that influences coming elections throughout the hemisphere. For instance, with Mexico’s presidential elections approaching in July, it will be up to that nation’s voters to decide between three major candidates: Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN), and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Each of these candidates proposes somewhat different solutions to the drug battle, and it falls to voters to evaluate these candidates on this crucial issue. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

U.S. Advisors Return to Yemen to Train Security Forces

May 10th 2012

Yemeni army

U.S. police and military trainers and advisors have returned to Yemen and are training that nation's security forces, Defense Department officials announced on May 6. President Barack Obama's administration had ordered the training mission in Yemen to be suspended due to the political turmoil in that nation. The United States recently began reintroducing a small number of trainers into the country, Navy Captain John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said.

Kirby, speaking to reporters during a press briefing, noted that U.S. advisors had been working for years with the Yemeni government, police agencies, and military forces to combat increasingly powerful al-Qaeda threat throughout the Muslim nation."That threat doesn’t just threaten the Yemeni people but also Americans," Captain Kirby said.

“There was a suspension of some of that activity in Yemen for a while due to the political instability in that country,” the spokesman said. “We are now beginning to resume more of that routine military-to-military cooperation.” Just this week, the American people were told about how CIA agents thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a statement released on Monday. What surprised many counterterrorism experts was the sophistication of the upgrade of the so-called underwear bomb. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

NATO's Ordinary Future

May 9th 2012

NATO
NATO meeting

Whatever one thought of the Libya intervention, the details make for a bad advertisement about NATO. As one U.S. Air Force planner told me, "It was like Snow White and the 27 dwarfs, all standing up to her knees" -- the United States being Snow White and the other NATO member states being the dwarfs. The statistics regarding just how much the United States had to go it alone in Libya -- pushed by the British and French -- despite the diplomatic fig leaf of "leading from behind," are devastating for the alliance.

More than 80 percent of the gasoline used in the intervention came from the U.S. military. Almost all the individual operation orders had an American address. Of dozens of countries taking part, only eight air forces were allowed by their defense ministries to drop any bombs. Many flew sorties apparently only for the symbolism of it. While most airstrikes were carried out by non-U.S. aircraft, the United States ran the logistical end of the war. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

U.N. Increasingly Concerned about Terror Threat One Year after Bin Laden's Death

May 8th 2012

9/11 Ground Zero rescue

On May 4, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement voicing concerns over the threat posed by terrorists one year after the killing of radical Islamic icon, Osama bin Laden, and the risk that groups such as al-Qaeda could pose to nations such as the United States and members of the European Union with weapons of mass destruction.

As part of its mandate to create stable and secure environments UN Police are working with international policing and law enforcement experts to find ways to prevent, disrupt and dismantle organized crime in post-conflict situations, according to Security Council officials. The UN Police assist domestic law enforcement authorities to establish mechanisms to deal with organized criminal activities, including drug production and trafficking, human trafficking, exploitation of natural resources and weapons trafficking.

"The Security Council remains gravely concerned about the threat of terrorism and the risk that non-state actors may acquire, develop, traffic in or use weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery," said the UN statement. The UN also mentioned it provides training for police officers in dealing with crimes related to terrorism and transnational organized crime. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

CIA Foiled al-Qaeda Plane Attack

May 7th 2012

Ayman Al-Zawahiri (al Q #2)

The White House has confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recently thwarted a plot by Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to blow up a U.S.-bound airplane. U.S. officials say the bomb that was seized in the interrupted plot was similar to the one worn by the so-called underwear bomber, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in his failed December 25, 2009 attempt to bring down a passenger jet over Detroit.
 
In a written statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was in possession of the device, which it seized abroad. The statement said the FBI is running technical and forensic analysis on it. "Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations," the statement said.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama was told about the plot in April. She said he “was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public.” A statement by the National Security Council said that Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, had since been briefed several times on the matter. At a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was asked about the plot, and said, "What this incident makes clear is that this country has to remain vigilant against those who attempt to attack this country." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Terror Suspects and Defense Attorneys Disrupt Gitmo Hearing

May 6th 2012

Twin Towers 9/11

The five Guantanamo Bay detainees -- including the notorious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, wreaked havoc on Saturday when the suspects stubbornly refused to respond to the U.S. military judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, when he questioned the defendants, who then disrupted the proceedings, according to a federal law enforcement source. At the same time, their defense attorneys attempted to put the court, the CIA and the United States on trial instead of the self-proclaimed jihadists. 

During the chaotic hearing, the suspected al-Qaeda members' defense attorneys began their strategy of questioning the legitimacy of the war crimes tribunal, telling Col. Pohl that the proceedings were not fair to their clients. The attorneys were intent on discussing how the defendants were all held for more than three years in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006, and all of them claimed they were tortured by interrogators.

The CIA had conceded that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the only prisoner of the five on trial to be subjected to harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. However, according to Fox News Channel's National Security Correspondent Catherine Herridge, when the defense attorneys tried to discuss the way the defendants had been treated and used the word "torture" the CCTV (closed-circuit television) feed of the hearings for journalists and family members of victims was interrupted. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Pentagon Failed to Protect Whistleblowers

May 6th 2012

The Pentagon

The Defense Department has inadequately protected from reprisals whistleblowers who have reported wrongdoing, according to an internal Pentagon report, and critics are calling for action to be taken against those who have been negligent.

The report, dated May 2011, accuses the officials, who work in the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General, of persistent sloppiness and a systematic disregard for Pentagon rules meant to protect those who report fraud, abuses, and the waste of taxpayer funds, according to a previously-undisclosed copy. The report was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group. A three-person team of veteran investigators at the Pentagon, assigned to review the performance of the “Directorate of Military Reprisal Investigations,” concluded in the report that in 2010 the directorate repeatedly turned aside evidence of serious punishments inflicted on those who had complained.

Read more ..

The U.S. and Russia

NATO Still Hopes to Reach Agreement with Moscow on Missile Defense

May 5th 2012

50 Minuteman

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed hope that an agreement can still be reached with Russia on a NATO missile-defense system in Europe -- in spite of a new, harder line from Russia against the plan. Rasmussen was speaking in reaction to Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's statement on May 3 that negotiations with the United States over the proposed antimissile shield are near a "dead end."

After a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron In London, Rasmussen said he was "hopeful" that NATO could reach agreement with the Russians, although not before a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21. "I'm hopeful that we can [reach an agreement with Russia on missile defense] -- obviously not before the Chicago summit, but there is still room for dialogue with the Russians," he said. Speaking earlier on May 3 at a conference in Moscow, Serdyukov said the two sides had so far failed to find a "mutually acceptable solution" to disagreements over the U.S.-led NATO shield. "The situation is practically at an impasse," he said.

In Moscow, Serdyukov also said Russia was "ready for open dialogue."

Missiles in Kaliningrad

Meanwhile, Russia's Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov on May 3 struck a more aggressive note, warning again that Russia might opt to station short-range Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave near Poland. Russian media quoted Makarov as saying, "the placement of new strike weapons south and northwest of Russia against [NATO] missile-defense components, including the deployment of Iskander missile systems in the Kaliningrad region is one possible way of incapacitating the European missile-defense infrastructure." Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Panetta Confirms Climate Change 'Dramatic Impact' on National Security

May 4th 2012

Leon Panetta

Climate change has had a direct effect on national security, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week. Panetta told an audience at the Environmental Defense Fund that climate change has raised the need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, hitting national security in the process. “The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security,” Panetta said. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

Panetta spoke to the Environmental Defense Fund on Tuesday at an event honoring the Defense Department for advancing clean-energy initiatives. In recent years, the Defense Department and the services have spearheaded a number of alternative-energy initiatives and seemingly embraced environmentally friendly practices on the battlefield.

President Obama effectively put the Pentagon at the forefront of an ambitious alternative energy strategy during the State of the Union speech in January. The Navy and Air Force have already spent billions to integrate biofuels into their fleets of fighter jets and warships. Marine Corps combat units in Afghanistan are using mobile solar panels to recharge batteries for their night vision and communications in the field. Solar power is also helping to run a number of Marine Corps combat outposts in the country.

But the Pentagon's adoption of environmentally sensitive practices was driven more by the department's dire fiscal situation than politics, Panetta said on Tuesday. DOD spent roughly $15 billion to fuel its fighters, tanks and ships in 2012, the Defense chief said. The Pentagon spends $50 million on fuel each month to keep combat operations in Afghanistan going, Panetta added. As oil prices continue to skyrocket, the department "now [faces] a shortfall exceeding $3 billion of higher-than-expected fuel costs this year," according to Panetta. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

President Obama’s Missile Defense Program Reveals Glaring Weaknesses

May 4th 2012

patriot missile

On February 13, 2012, the Obama Administration released its proposed missile defense budget and program for FY 2013 and beyond. It requests $9.7 billion for the overall program in FY 2013, including $7.75 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The proposed FY 2013 missile defense budget is inadequate, as Chairman Turner made clear in his opening statement at the March 6 hearing on the missile defense program before the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Representative Turner stated: The President’s FY13 submission is, in fact, lower than the President’s own FY10 budget request by over $100 million. Remember, slide 1 shows that the FY10 request from the Obama Administration was $1.6 billion less than the previous President recommended and slide two shows it was less even than President Obama’s own budget request for FY10. Chairman Turner also pointed out: “What’s more, the MDA FY13 [future years defense plan] projection for FY13-16 is $3.6 billion less than even President Obama’s FY12 projection for FY13-16 [from] just last year and $2 billion less than the previous administration projected for FY13.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Latin America a Terrorist Recruitment Bonanza for Iran, Hezbollah

May 3rd 2012

Hezbollah Troops

While President Barack Obama participated in last month's Summit of the Americas in Colombia, none of the nations' leaders even hinted about the influx of officials from Iran and their proxy warriors in the terrorist group Hezbollah. However, this week Israeli intelligence analysts are warning the United States government that Western Hemisphere countries are hosting members of the radical Islamist movement. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the main political leader of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran in August 2005, Iran has extended and solidified its relations with several Latin American countries, especially Venezuela and Bolivia, both run by far-left leaders, according to an anonymous Israeli police source. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

House Passes Tough Cyber Espionage Legislation

May 2nd 2012

Shadowy Computer User

Economic cyber spies may have a more difficult task of stealing U.S. business plans, as well as research and development data, since the U.S. House of Representatives at least took the first step by passing a cybersecurity bill last Friday that will help private sector businesses more effectively protect themselves from dangerous cyber predators.

The foreign intelligence threat within the United States is far more complex than it has ever been historically. The threat is increasingly asymmetrical insofar as it comes not only from traditional foreign intelligence services but also from nontraditional, non-state actors who operate from decentralized organizations, experts say. Intelligence collection is no longer limited to classified national defense information but now includes targeting of the elements of national power, including our national economic interests. Moreover, foreign intelligence tradecraft is increasingly sophisticated and takes full advantage of advances in communications security and the general openness of US society, according to security management experts. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Costly Work Ahead for F-22

May 2nd 2012

F-22s
F-22s

When officials told reporters recently that they had deployed F-22 fighter jets in the Middle East for the first time, it was downplayed as “a very normal deployment.” But when it comes to the F-22, there’s very little “normal” about it.

Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va, told reporters that some pilots have asked to be reassigned rather than be forced to fly the jet. And while he described the concerned group as “very small,” Hostage made a point of telling reporters he would be flying the plane himself in the future to “check out” his pilots' concerns and try to bolster their in-flight courage. “I'm asking these guys to assume some risks over and above what everybody else is assuming, and I don't feel like it's right that I ask them to do it and I'm not willing to do it myself," said Hostage. (A spokesman confirmed the General would begin his training at the end of the month.) Based on the jet’s history, the pilots’ reaction isn’t surprising. The F-22’s record is one of breakdowns and planning bad enough to require another decade of repairs, according to the government’s watchdog. Meanwhile, the price tag for one of the most expensive Air Force projects in history will keep going up. The plane officially rolled off the assembly line in 2003 and was supposed to be the premiere jet for the U.S. military, a stealth-enabled, hyper-maneuverable air craft capable of dominating the skies at supersonic speeds. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Anarchist and Occupy Conspiracy To Bomb Ohio Bridge

May 2nd 2012

FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force

In a case that was overshadowed by Tuesday's conviction of al-Qaeda member Adis Medunjanin who plotted with others to bomb the New York City subway system and other targets, five men allegedly connected to the Occupy Movement were arrested and accused of conspiring to use explosives to destroy a bridge near Cleveland, according to a federal law enforcement official. Anthony Hayne, 35, Douglas L. Wright, 26; and Brandon L. Baxter, 20, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on Monday evening  (April 30, 2012), on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to adversely effect interstate commerce.  
In addition on Monday, JTTF members arrested Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and criminal charges are pending against them. According to the a federal source, residents and those traveling on the targeted bridge were never in any danger from the explosive devices. The explosives that the suspects purchased and attempted to use were inoperable. Read more ..


Argentina and Great Britain

Peru Finds Itself Snared in the Falklands and Malvinas Dispute

May 1st 2012

hms montrose

Thirty years after a bloody war between the United Kingdom and Argentina, the longstanding territorial conflict over the Falklands/Malvinas islands continues to simmer.

In recent months Buenos Aires has attempted to attract international support for its claim to the islands, particularly from fellow South American countries. Several regional states have stated their perfunctory support for Argentina, in some cases going so far as to accept a blockade on the Falklands, refusing vessels flying the islands’ flag to dock in their ports. One state that is in a particularly troubling position regarding which side to back is the Andean nation of Peru, as exemplified in a recent incident regarding the British frigate HMS Montrose. Peru and the UK: a Troubled Historical Relationship; Though geographically distant, Peru and the United Kingdom often have had a troubled relationship, due to the Falklands sovereignty dispute, which is part of even greater geopolitical issues troubling South America. Read more ..


The Drug Wars

New Study Affirms Grim Role Played by US Guns in Mexican Violence

May 1st 2012

Mexican guns

South of the border, war is raging with guns mostly supplied by merchants in the United States.

The Government of Mexico has estimated that almost 50,000 people have been killed since 2006, a toll that has made its top officials irate about the persistent flow of weapons south. Some law enforcement officials in the U.S. government share the Mexicans’ concern, but their attempts to stanch the flow by obtaining better intelliegence about it have badly singed their fingers.

The notorious “Fast and Furious” operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms—one in a string of attempts over a nearly decade-long period to tag and closely monitor the movement of individual arms—blew up when two of the weapons being tracked were used to kill a U.S. border patrol agent in 2010.

Republicans in Congress seized on the issue, holding multiple hearings last year. Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson was reassigned. The Phoenix U.S. attorney who oversaw the operation also resigned, and Republicans called for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder. Read more ..


Terror and Crime

Combating Transnational Organized Crime

May 1st 2012

Money Bands=Happiness

The U.S. government has, for decades, dedicated significant resources to stemming the flow of illicit drugs into the United States, and my office leads the Department of Defense’s contributions to that side of the effort. But what our government is in the process of learning is that our traditional focus on countering "drug trafficking organizations" must be expanded to a wider perspective that recognizes that narcotics trafficking is one component of the broader challenge of transnational organized crime. As we undergo this change in perspective, we are in the process of adjusting our policies toward disrupting and degrading global criminal networks that do far more than traffic drugs.

For decades, drug trafficking was the dominant lens through which the United States viewed transnational organized crime. In the 1970s and 1980s, the flow of illicit narcotics into the United States was deemed a major risk to the health and safety of Americans, and the government expended massive resources to curtail both the supply of and demand for illegal drugs. Supply side reduction strategies emphasized degrading the capabilities of Western Hemisphere drug trafficking organizations—highly capable, violent, centralized, and hierarchical organizations often led by a charismatic kingpin. Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel, for example, were emblematic of the type of threat facing the United States. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

U.S. Continues Pursuit Of Al-Qaeda at Home and Abroad, Say Officials

April 30th 2012

Ayman Al-Zawahiri (al Q #2)

The United States is a safer place since Navy SEALs located and killed al-Qaeda's infamous Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan on May 1, 2011 [May 2 in Pakistan], according to Pentagon and Justice Department officials on Saturday. Today, nearly a year after bin Laden’s demise, the United States and its allies continue to hunt down al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups wherever they are located. Within the United States police departments and law enforcement agencies are conducting counterterrorist operations against both foreign fighters who have illegally entered the U.S., and against homegrown terrorists who are radicalized American Muslims. Overseas, the nation's intelligence and military organizations pursue terrorist groups throughout the Middle East and North Africa and provide assistance to countries still fighting al-Qaeda and its allies. 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- who served as Director of Central Intelligence on May 1, 2011 when the al-Qaeda leader's reign of terror met its end --  recalled the high-risk mission the Defense Department called Operation Neptune Spear, according to American Forces Press Service's Cheryl Pellerin. Read more ..


North Korea on Edge

Expectation Grows for North Korean Nuclear Test

April 30th 2012

Kim Jong-Un

North Korea is giving no official indication it is preparing a third attempted nuclear test—but reports abroad say such an underground detonation could come at any time. Some regional media outlets are reporting a North Korea nuclear test is expected between early and mid-May. One report, in the Joong-Ang Ilbo in South Korea, quotes a diplomatic source in Washington as saying the United States has told South Korea such a detonation could occur as soon as this week. Asked about that, a U.S. diplomat in Seoul replied the Embassy does not comment on “security matters.”

Diplomatic and intelligence sources, who do not want to be quoted, say they have seen no indication from satellite imagery that the equipment and associated cabling necessary to conduct such an underground detonation are in place. Images taken by surveillance satellites in the past few weeks did reveal that digging of a new tunnel was underway at the Pyunnge-ri test site.

There is growing speculation that North Korea will attempt to detonate a uranium-fueled weapon. Its previously announced tests, in 2006 and 2009, are widely believed to have used plutonium, although no traces of radioactive isotopes were detected following the second attempt.

At an April 30 briefing, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-suk told reporters preparations are underway to activate an emergency task force concerning a North Korean nuclear test, but it is not yet operational. Kim says it is impossible to get precise information in real time about what is happening at the test site. But the South Korean military is utilizing various methods—in cooperation with U.S. forces—to collected pertinent information. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

FBI has a Shortage of Counter-Terrorism Personnel

April 30th 2012

FBI dudes

This report is based on an unclassified version of a classified report the GAO issued in February 2012. The unclassified version was released on April 17 and it was immediately obtained for analysis by the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the Law Enforcement Examiner.

In the wake of the shocking September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made counterterrorism its top investigative priority. Since that fateful day, the FBI has hired thousands of additional staff, increasing its total onboard workforce by 38 percent, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. In particular, the FBI has increased both the size and the role of its Counterterrorism Division (CTD) that is located in Washington, D.C., according to FBI officials.

In 2005, the FBI reported that nearly 40 percent of staff positions in certain parts of CTD were vacant, raising concerns about the FBI’s ability to fulfill its most important mission, and as a result the U.S. Congress requested that the GAO review FBI CTD vacancies. The latest GAO report describes "the extent to which counterterrorism vacancies existed at FBI HQ since 2005 and the reasons for the vacancies as well as the impact of the strategies implemented by the FBI to address these vacancies." Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Defense Spending Sees Smooth Road Ahead

April 29th 2012

F15 in Afghanistan

The partisan battles that nearly derailed two Defense authorization bills appear to have subsided as lawmakers get down to work on this year’s version. In 2010 and 2011, passage of the Defense bill came down to the wire amid bitter fights over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the DREAM Act and terror detainees. This time around, the biggest defense fight of the year in Congress is looming after the Defense authorization bill is complete: the sequestered spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon in 2013. There will undoubtedly be skirmishes as the House Armed Services Committee marks up the Defense authorization bill, but Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told The Hill he’s optimistic the bill can get passed before Congress recesses for the November election.

“This should be done before the election, before we leave town,” McKeon said Friday, adding he’s discussed that goal with Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). That’s not to say that there won’t be robust debate and disagreement over the bill, or that the legislation isn’t at risk of getting stuck in a political floor fight. But the authorization bill, which has a streak of passing for 50 straight years, looks to be returning to its more normal course in Congress following the beginning of markups on Thursday. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Federal Government Contemplates Further Use of Military Assets for Border Control

April 29th 2012

soldiers and phone

A section of the National Defense Authorization Act requires the Government Accountability Office examine the costs and benefits of an increased Department of Defense role in helping law enforcement officers secure the southwest land border. The mandate directed the GAO to submit a report to the U.S. Congress, which was recently released. The GAO report examined, among other things, the potential deployment of additional military units, increased use of ground-based mobile surveillance systems, use of mobile patrols by military personnel, and an increased deployment of unmanned aerial systems and manned aircraft in national airspace.

The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection bureau admitted to GAO analysts that the southwest border continues to be vulnerable to cross-border illegal activity, including the smuggling of humans and illegal narcotics, which directly contradicts statements made by President Barack Obama, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and the leadership of the U.S. Border Patrol. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Missile Defenses Hobbled by Uncertainties

April 28th 2012

SM-3 launch from USS Hopper
SM-3 launch from USS Hopper (credit: Missile Defense Agency)

After the successful U.S. interception of a simulated North Korean warhead in a 2007 test, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III expressed great confidence in the capabilities of the U.S. missile defense program. “Does the system work? The answer to that is yes,” Obering, then the program’s director, told reporters at a briefing.

But after a year-long study, the General Accountability Office has expressed far less confidence and issued a clarification of sorts: The Pentagon, it said, really has no idea if its missile defense systems will do their job, because over the past several decades it hasn’t  concocted validated targets to test them, fielded proven interceptors, or even collected all the data needed to assess their early performance.

Deployment of the interceptors Obering praised, the GAO warned, had been rushed to meet a 2004 deadline set by President George W. Bush. The design was not fully tested before production got under way — a frequent occurrence at the Pentagon — and the results were “unexpected cost increases, schedule delays, test problems, and performance shortfalls,” according to its report. This troublesome pattern of concurrently testing and manufacturing interceptors and related equipment is now being repeated by the Obama administration, the independent audit agency said in its 100-page report. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Plan to Move Marines Off Okinawa Faces Challenges

April 27th 2012

USMC Harrier Lands on USS Essex
USMC AV-8B Harrier lands on the USS Essex on task in the Pacific
(credit: MCS2 Eva-Marie Ramsaran, US Navy)

Friday’s announcement by the United States and Japan that 9,000 U.S. Marines will be transferred from a base on the Japanese island of Okinawa is being hailed as a major diplomatic accomplishment. But there are also concerns the actual transfer will be fraught with numerous complications.

The revised realignment plan, agreed to by Japan and the United States, is seen as both a compromise and a work still in progress. It calls for moving nearly half of the 19,000 U.S. Marines off Okinawa. Up to 5,000 are to be re-deployed to the Pacific island of Guam and 4,000 moved to either Hawaii or rotated in and out of Australia. No timelines were announced.

Political analyst and adjunct senior fellow Richard Baker at the East West Center in Hawaii says the agreement comes after complex negotiations involving political, technical, financial and infrastructural issues. “And I don’t think it was inevitable that they would be able to make a meeting of the minds of that sort, so that is the good news,” he said. “Now the bad news is that the public handling of this has got to be as sensitive as the negotiations were and as nuanced.” Read more ..


The Weapon's

Navy’s Shiny New Ship Not So Shiny

April 26th 2012

USS Freedom (LCS-1)
USS Freedom (LCS 1) (credit: US Navy)

The raids should have been a gold star for the Navy. A trial run for a newly designed ship turned into a series of successful missions against cocaine smugglers, resulting in the capture of nine smugglers and over five tons of cocaine. But the early 2010 victories were darkened, quite literally, by a power failure on March 6 that left the ship briefly adrift at sea. The mechanical failure was not the last challenge that would face the crew of the USS Freedom, the first of a new breed of Navy vessels meant to become a core part of its fleet over the next decade. A series of test runs caused cracked hulls that forced the ship to limit its speed; engines that simply failed; and over 600 failures of equipment around the ship, leading to a number of dry-dockings at its home base in San Diego, according to data released by the nonprofit Washington-based watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

The Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) already had a troubled reputation. The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) notoriously concluded in a 2011 report that the Freedom was unlikely to be “survivable in a hostile combat environment.” But POGO disclosed new details of the Freedom’s shortcomings in a letter to the Chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate armed services committees accompanying the data. The group also raised concerns about what the group calls the Navy’s “pattern of obfuscation” regarding the achievements of the first ship. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Islamist Indicted for Attack on U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo

April 26th 2012

Mevlid Jasarevic

Mevlid Jasarevic, a citizen of Serbia, was indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges of attempted murder and other criminal acts in connection with his alleged machine gun attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina last October, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. The assault has caused serious concerns regarding al-Qaeda's radicalization of Muslims in that impoverished region, according to a Law Enforcement Examiner source.  

Meanwhile in Bosnia, prosecutors charged three men, including Jasarevic, with terrorism on Monday for their participation in the October 28, 2011 attack on the American embassy. According to a U.S. law enforcement source, the attackers have raised serious questions about the threat from radicalized Muslims in the Balkans and the likelihood that al-Qaeda operatives may be involved in both recruitment and training of newly radicalized Muslims.
 
The U.S. government's 10-count indictment charges the 23-year old Jasarevic with one count of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees; one count of attempted murder of U.S. nationals within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (the U.S. Embassy); one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do bodily harm within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; one count of assaulting U.S. officers or employees with a deadly weapon; one count of destruction of property within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; and five counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
Read more ..


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