The Weapon's Edge
|Tafline Laylin ||March 11th 2012|
Egyptians researchers believe that sugar beets like those pictured above can help to clear the country’s stockpile of land mines.
20 percent of the world’s land mines are planted in Egypt, where they have killed or maimed a total of more than 7,000 people in the last 25 years. They are scattered in the western desert and Sinai and pose an enormous impediment to development as well as considerable risks to animal and human safety.
Researchers from the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT), the government body responsible for funding research in Egypt, believe they have found a three-tiered solution to this problem that involves plants and bacteria, but critics doubt whether their laboratory tests will prove effective in the field.
Disarming landmines safely
Many of the land mines left by German forces in the 1940s throughout the Western Desert were laid in such a way that if one in a cluster is detonated, others will be as well. This makes it virtually impossible for human beings to crawl around the land mine field in order to disarm these weapons. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear Energy
|Aaron Mehta and R. Jeffrey Smith||March 11th 2012|
Ever wondered who the nuclear defense community suports in Congress? Wonder no more. In mid-February, a group of House Republicans sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing “deep concern” about possible future cuts to the strategic nuclear arsenal reportedly being considered by the administration. Some of the options — including two that would at least halve the arsenal’s current size — would by many accounts undermine the rationale for spending billions of dollars on new strategic bombers, missiles and submarines over the next decade. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Tafline Laylin||March 10th 2012|
|Chewing khat in Yemen.|
Analysts believe that this benign-looking plant popular in the Middle East may be funding the Al Shabaab terrorist organization in southern Somalia.
A very popular narcotic in the Middle East, khat maybe be funding the terrorist organization Al Shabaab in Somalia, CNN reports. Chewing the red stems of Catha edulis produces mild euphoria and an alertness akin to that produced by caffeine, and it is openly and widely use in the Horn of Africa. In Yemen, growing Khat uses more water than the country can afford and takes priority over more sustaining crops. Now Dutch officials are banning khat in the Netherlands, where a large Somali community imports large quantities of the plant from farmers in Meru County, Kenya. Government spokespeople insist that this decision was taken to protect against grave economic, health, and social concerns, but analysts believe that funds generated by the trade are funneled to Al Shabaab and that the Dutch aim to curtail that. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Scott Stewart||March 10th 2012|
As we noted last week, terrorist attacks do not materialize out of thin air. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Those planning terrorist attacks follow a discernable process referred to as the terrorist attack cycle. We also discussed last week how terrorism planners are vulnerable to detection at specific points during their attack cycle and how their poor surveillance tradecraft is one of these vulnerable junctures.
While surveillance is a necessary part of the planning process, the fact that it is a requirement does not necessarily mean that terrorist planners are very good at it. With this in mind, let's take a closer look at surveillance and discuss what bad surveillance looks like. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Jeremy Herb ||March 10th 2012|
The Pentagon’s top leaders said Wednesday that the U.S. military would be ready for intervention in Syria, while warning that a military campaign would be challenging and should not be done unilaterally.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the Pentagon is reviewing military options in Syria for an international coalition to intervene if necessary. The Obama administration still supports a diplomatic solution that removes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. Panetta cautioned, however, that the United States acting unilaterally would be a “mistake,” and said that an international coalition backing military action still must be formed before the military option is viable. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Julien Happich||March 5th 2012|
GPS personal tracking devices and applications are forecast to grow with a CAGR of 40%, with both markets breaking $1 billion in 2017 according to ABI Research. Senior analyst Patrick Connolly says, “The hardware market remained below 100,000 units in 2011. However, it is forecast to reach 2.5 million units in 2017, with significant growth in elderly, health, and lone worker markets. Dedicated devices can offer significant benefits, with insurance and liability increasingly encouraging the use of approved equipment.”
“We are also seeing the first signs of leading CE companies entering the market, such as Qualcomm, Apple (via PocketFinder), Garmin, Cobra, etc. and there will also be significant partnerships and acquisitions in this space as new entrants looks to add tracking to their portfolio,” adds Connolly. Other markets include family, personal items (e.g. luggage), and pet and offender tracking. There is an addressable market of over 120 million people across these markets alone, with over two million US elderly using non-GPS Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS). However, awareness, battery life, economic conditions, and high subscription fees remain significant barriers. There is also a fear that smartphone applications will cannibalize the market. Read more ..
|Mitchell Bard||March 5th 2012|
Myths and Facts
Those who argue that the world can live with a nuclear Iran ignore the likelihood that a nuclear arms race is likely to ensue in the Middle East, which will exponentially increase the danger to the region and beyond. The cost of stopping Iran’s drive for a bomb, therefore, must be balanced with the benefit of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
At least 12 Middle Eastern nations have either announced plans to explore atomic energy or signed nuclear cooperation agreements since the exposure of the Iranian program. Like Iran, they say they are interested in only “peaceful uses” of nuclear technology.
The Saudis have been quite explicit about the impact an Iranian bomb will have on their security. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon,” an official close to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said in June 2011, “that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit.” In January 2012, Saudi King Abdullah signed an agreement with China for cooperation in the development and use of atomic energy for civilian purposes. Read more ..
Saudi Arabia on Edge
|Erick Stakelbeck||March 5th 2012|
Christian Broadcasting Network
|Discontent in Saudi Arabia|
The so-called Arab Spring just passed the 15-month mark and continues to leave chaos in its wake. Dictators are falling and radical Islamists are filling the gap across the Middle East and North Africa.
Now Islamists have their sights on a bigger prize, and it could send shock waves through the United States.
The power gained by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies throughout the Muslim world during the past year has also led to a growth in confidence. They call 2011 the year the dictators fell, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. In 2012, the Brotherhood is targeting the monarchies. Jordan and Saudi Arabia sit on top of the list, and the Saudi royal family has wasted no time getting ahead of the game.
Military on Edge
|Peter Huessy||March 5th 2012|
Tremendous changes can occur over the course of one year. Regarding defense spending, the Administration is now planning to pay out $4.5–$5 trillion over the next ten years on defending the country, compared to nearly $6 trillion just 12 months ago. This, in part, reflects the debt ceiling agreement of last summer when Congress and the Administration called for reducing a ten-year deficit of $10 trillion to $7.5 trillion.
Many Americans would no doubt applaud such a reduction. They would probably also assume the spending cuts reflect America’s withdrawal from Iraq, and the drawdown in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, what the citizenry probably does not know is that while the cuts in funding for the two wars will occur, they cannot count toward the required budget cuts agreed to in August 2011 as part of the debt agreement. Read more ..
China on Edge
|Stephanie Ho||March 4th 2012|
China is planning a double-digit rise in military spending this year, an increase authorities say is in line with the country's economic development and defense needs. Li Zhaoxing, the spokesman for the National People's Congress, announced on Sunday the overall figure for China's 2012 military spending. Li says the defense budget will be about $110 billion (670.2 billion RMB), which represents an 11.2 percent increase over what was spent last year. This compares to a 12.7 percent increase in military spending last year and is in line with a nearly unbroken string of double-digit increases over the past two decades. The spokesman says China has the world's largest population, a big territory and a long coastline, but only spends 1.28 percent of its gross domestic product on defense spending. By comparison, he points to other developed countries like the United States and Britain, which spend more than 2 percent of their national budgets on defense. Li says China is committed to a path of peaceful development and pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Avi Jorisch||March 2nd 2012|
In recent years, a large number of Asian companies have profited by doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States and the European Union have struck back, cutting off access to these companies' markets by levying sanctions on Iran. As a result, Asian giants such as Huawei Technologies, one of the world's largest and most powerful telecommunications firms, have finally decided to cut back their Iranian dealings. Those companies that have yet to make the right decision should consider carefully whether doing business with the mullahs is worth the risk. Huawei is a Chinese multi-national corporation that is soon expected to surpass Sweden's Ericsson as the largest telecommunications infrastructure supplier in the world. The company has annual revenues of $32 billion and over 110,000 employees, and its products and services are deployed in most of the world's largest telecom markets. Huawei was also recently ranked 352 out on Fortune magazine's global 500 list. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Scott Stewart||March 1st 2012|
We have discussed the fact that terrorism is a tactic used by many different classes of actors and that, while the perpetrators and tactics of terrorism may change in response to shifts in larger geopolitical cycles, these changes will never result in the end of terrorism. Since that analysis was written, there have been jihadist-related attacks in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Yemen and Pakistan, an assassination attempt against the president of Abkhazia, and a failed timed-incendiary attack against the Athens subway. (The latter incident, which militant anarchists claimed, reinforces that jihadists are not the only ones who practice terrorism.)
But while terrorism is a continuing concern, it can be understood, and measures can be taken to thwart terrorist plots and mitigate the effects of attacks. Perhaps the most important and fundamental point to understand about terrorism is that attacks do not appear out of nowhere. Individuals planning a terrorist attack follow a discernable cycle -- and that cycle and the behaviors associated with it can be observed if they are being looked for. We refer to these points where terrorism-related behavior can be most readily observed as vulnerabilities in the terrorist attack cycle. Read more ..
Greece on Edge
|George Friedman||February 28th 2012|
The European financial crisis centered for several years on the idea of preventing Greece from defaulting on its national debt. However, the rest of Europe has had time to prepare itself for any potential fallout from a Greek default.
This is changing the dynamic between Greece and Europe even as emerging societal trends within Greece are illustrating changes in the relationship between Greece's political elite and its people. These trends will continue as the crisis transforms from a financial one to a political one.
Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, European leaders' actions have been dictated by a presumed need to keep Greece from defaulting on its massive national debt at all costs. Even at the cost of losing domestic popularity for supporting a Greek bailout, and even if Greece seemed unwilling or unable to repay the money Europe poured into it, European politicians prioritized the prevention of a Greek default in order to prevent the euro -- and possibly the European Union -- from collapsing. However, that could now be changing, along with the relationships between Greece and the rest of Europe and between Greece's political elite and the Greek people. Read more ..
The Obama Edge
|Daniel Halper||February 24th 2012|
President Obama is cutting future defense spending. It is both a conscious choice to divert funds elsewhere, away from the military, and a consequence of last year’s congressional budget agreement, which alone will likely result in an automatic sequestration of at least $500 billion from future military budgets. Regardless, the decision has serious consequences. In a report today released by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), former brass from all five U.S. military branches detail what these cuts might mean. “It will be difficult for the Army to perform the missions indicated if some of the numbers that are being bantered about to achieve the $500 billion reduction become fact,” retired Army Gen. Louis Wagner writes. “If sequestration for another $500 billion becomes a reality, it will be devastating for the Army and the national security of the country.” Wagner warns: “Instability in the Middle East, the Arab Spring activities, the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, the threat of a nuclear capable North Korea, and instability of our neighbors in Central and South America are all strong indicators that the world is not going to be peaceful in the foreseeable future. Ground forces are very likely to again be involved in a large-scale irregular war or even a conventional conflict. The capability to execute robust full spectrum land operations remains absolutely essential if the United States is to remain a preeminent world power.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Scott Stewart||February 24th 2012|
The Arab terrorism that began in the 1960s resulted from the Cold War and the Soviet decision to fund, train and otherwise encourage groups in the Middle East. The Soviet Union and its Middle Eastern proxies also sponsored Marxist terrorist groups in Europe and Latin America. They even backed the Japanese Red Army terrorist group. Places like South Yemen and Libya became havens where Marxist militants of many different nationalities gathered to learn terrorist tradecraft, often instructed by personnel from the Soviet KGB or the East German Stasi and from other militants. The Cold War also spawned al Qaeda and the broader global jihadist movement as militants flocking to fight the Soviet troops who had invaded Afghanistan were trained in camps in northern Pakistan by instructors from the CIA's Office of Technical Services and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. Emboldened by the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and claiming credit for the subsequent Soviet collapse, these militants decided to expand their efforts to other parts of the world. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Justin Sink||February 20th 2012|
Two prominent Republican U.S. senators urged that the United States arm opposition forces in Syria Sunday as the government of Bashar al-Assad continued a bloody crackdown on the protests that have engulfed the nation. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who both serve on the Senate Armed Services committee, argued that arming rebel fighters in the country could help beat back a Syrian government with close ties to Iran. “Breaking Syria apart from Iran could be as important to containing a nuclear Iran as sanctions,” Graham said at a press conference in Kabul, according to the New York Times. “If the Syrian regime is replaced with another form of government that doesn’t tie its future to the Iranians, the world is a better place.”
Graham and McCain were in Afghanistan as part of a larger tour through the Middle East. The former GOP presidential candidate said that Syrian rebels needed help to defend themselves. “I believe there are ways to get weapons to the opposition without direct United States involvement,” McCain said. “The Iranians and the Russians are providing Bashar Assad with weapons. People that are being massacred deserve to have the ability to defend themselves.” “So I am not only not opposed, but I am in favor of weapons being obtained by the opposition,” McCain added. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Mitchell Bard||February 20th 2012|
Cutting Edge contributor
The terror war against Israel and the Jewish people is not confined to the Middle East. For years PLO terrorists attacked Jewish targets around the world, hijacked airplanes, murdered Olympic athletes and targeted diplomats. This worldwide terror campaign appears to be escalating again with the support of Iran, aided by its proxy Hezbollah. As events of the past few months show, terrorism against Jews is neither a byproduct of "occupation", nor a response to specific Israeli actions but is bred out of wanton incitement to kill Jews wherever they are.
In February 2012, terrorists attacked official Israeli representatives abroad in India and Georgia, while in Thailand security officials were able to prevent Iranian and Lebanese cells from carrying out their planned strikes. Thai security officials arrested several Iranian men who likely were trying to attack Israelis in Bangkok. These incidents came on the heels of the January arrest of three Iranian men in Azerbaijan who had planned to kill two Israeli religious emissaries in Baku. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated unequivocally that Israel holds Iran responsible for the string of attacks. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Jeff Seldin||February 18th 2012|
The FBI and Capitol Police arrested a man Friday that they say intended to detonate a suicide bomb at the U.S. Capitol. All across the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, police kept watch, wary after officials said they had foiled a plot - a plot that would have struck at the heart of the U.S. government. Police say 29-year-old Moroccan Amine El Khalifi - brought to a federal courthouse under heavy security - planned to shoot up the Capitol and then blow himself up. The news took many of the tourists walking around the Capitol by surprise. "Everything looked great, I mean, a perfect day for tourists and everything, so pretty scary," said New Zealand Tourist Hank Wang.
The arrest is the result of what authorities describe as an extensive investigation, during which El Khalifi lived illegally in nearby Virginia. Officials say El Khalifi wanted to join a terrorist group and thought he was working with al-Qaida. What he did not know, officials say, was that his suicide vest, filled with explosives, had come from undercover officers and could not go off. The arrest came on a day when lawmakers were in session and tourists flocked to the Capitol. But officials say no one was ever in any danger. Read more ..
Defense on Edge
|R. Jeffrey Smith||February 15th 2012|
The Obama administration’s 2013 defense spending plan, detailed as part of its overall new federal budget, includes $178.8 billion to buy new weapons, ranging from jet fighters and artillery to naval cruisers and satellite systems. But the real costs of these programs to the federal budget are unlikely to be disclosed in its budget documents or dozens of detailed weapons program reports due on Capitol Hill in March, according to a recent federal audit report.
The true costs of some of the biggest pieces of the U.S. arsenal are mostly hidden, the audit concluded, because the Defense Department’s public documents typically list only how much has been spent or will be spent to acquire its fighters, ships, and vehicles. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Kamran Bokhari||February 14th 2012|
In an eight-minute video clip titled "Onward, Lions of Syria" disseminated on the Internet Feb. 12, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri expressed al Qaeda's support for the popular unrest in Syria. In it, al-Zawahiri urged Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to aid the Syrian rebels battling Damascus. The statement comes just days after a McClatchy report quoted unnamed American intelligence officials as saying that the Iraqi node of the global jihadist network carried out two attacks against Syrian intelligence facilities in Damascus, while Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assadi said in a recent interview with AFP that Iraqi jihadists were moving fighters and weapons into neighboring Syria.
Al Qaeda's long-term goal has been to oust Arab governments to facilitate the return of a transnational caliphate. Its tactics have involved mainly terrorism intended to cause U.S. intervention in the region. Al Qaeda has hoped such interventions would in turn incite popular uprisings that would bring down the Arab regimes, opening the way for the jihadists to eventually take power. But the jihadist network's efforts have failed and they have remained a marginal player in the Arab world. By addressing Syria, al Qaeda hopes to tap into the past year of Arab unrest, a movement in which it played little to no part. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Andre Oboler||February 13th 2012|
Cutting Edge Analyst
Since its earliest days the “Hactivist collective” known as Anonymous has declared “we are legion.” After attacks on PayPal, Amazon, Sony, and various banks and US Government websites, as in Roman times, the power of the legion is again feared. According to some, Anon’s latest target is Israel, with a specific threat of systematically removing Israel from the internet.
The evidence, however, suggests this is far more likely an impersonation. Though only circumstantial, the evidence suggests the possibility of Iranian sponsorship. If so, this would mark the first effort by a state, or perhaps its proxies, to infiltrate and manipulate Anonymous into pursuing a government’s agenda. If that effort backfires, I for one wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end.
The allegations of an attack appear to emanate from a YouTube video, “Anonymous Message to the State of Israel” released by TheAnonPress. In the video the computer-generated voice declares “For two long we have tolerated your crimes against humanity and allowed your sins to go unpunished … You are unworthy to exist in your current form.” The anonymous voice goes on to speak of a “crusade against your reign of terror” which will start with a systematic removal of Israel from the Internet. Read more ..
The Afghan War
|George Friedman||February 11th 2012|
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested last week that the United States could wrap up combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2013, well before the longstanding 2014 deadline when full control is to be ceded to Kabul. Troops would remain in Afghanistan until 2014, as agreed upon at the 2010 Lisbon Summit, and would be engaged in two roles until at least 2014 and perhaps even later. One role would be continuing the training of Afghan security forces. The other would involve special operations troops carrying out capture or kill operations against high-value targets.
Along with this announcement, the White House gave The New York Times some details on negotiations that have been under way with the Taliban. According to the Times, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the senior-most leader of the Afghan Taliban, last summer made overtures to the White House offering negotiations. An intermediary claiming to speak for Mullah Omar delivered the proposal, an unsigned document purportedly from Mullah Omar that could not be established as authentic. The letter demanded the release of some Taliban prisoners before any talks. Read more ..
|Diego DiGhero||February 11th 2012|
From VOA and Agencies
|Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad|
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today that Iran will soon unveil new nuclear achievements.
Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke at Tehran's famous Azadi (Freedom) square during a rally marking the 33rd anniversary of the country's Islamic Revolution.
"God willing, in the coming days, the world will see Iran showcasing some very big nuclear achievements," he said.
The Iranian president gave no other details about the nuclear work.
The West insists Iran's nuclear program is designed to create nuclear weapon. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Read more ..
The Drug Wars
|George Friedman||February 7th 2012|
The Mexican Attorney General's Office seized a large amount of cash from Veracruz state government employees associated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) on Jan. 27, an incident that follows the recent corruption allegations leveled against three former PRI governors in Taumaulipas state. The employees claimed the cash was intended as payment for a legitimate government contractor, and indeed cash is often used in official government business transactions in Mexico. However, the unusually large amount seized and the fact that federal authorities detected the transaction was notable. Taken together, these incidents may presage what will likely be a political campaign season marked by extensive corruption.
Officials from rival political parties in Mexico continued to exchange accusations Feb. 2 following the Jan. 27 seizure of 25 million pesos (about $1.9 million) in cash. Escorted by Veracruz state government employees from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the cash was discovered on a government-owned airplane by authorities from the Attorney General's Office (PGR). The PGR claims to have been conducting a random search of the plane. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||February 6th 2012|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Ten years have slipped by since Osama bin Laden’s jihadists massacred thousands of men, women and children in the northeastern United States, prompting the start of what Americans came to know as the War on Terror. The current administration, however, insists on more benign terminology, choosing for political reasons to describe the conflict as an “overseas contingency operation,” and a “war against al Qaeda.” But are we making progress in this conflict, whatever the name? Gaining an objective assessment begins with asking the right questions.
Has the decade-long global confrontation with al-Qaeda been an actual war, or a series of U.S.-led military operations against a single terrorist organization? Has al-Qaeda been acting alone against the U.S., or is it merely one among many in an expansive network of jihadists? Is it U.S. policy that incites jihadists, or a sui generis ideology with a centuries-old agenda? How does the broad-based U.S.-led coalition to defeat al-Qaeda measure up to the jihadist alliance to destroy the U.S.? Have U.S.-led military efforts defeated al-Qaeda globally and within nation-states, or have the jihadists increased their penetration of democracies around the globe? These are the “right questions” that need to be asked. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Mitchell Bard||February 4th 2012|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Iran is one of the foremost, self-proclaimed enemies of the West and one of the most serious threats to stability in the Middle East.
The Iranian government’s extreme interpretation of Islamic law, and its anti-Western philosophy, inspire the rise of Islamic extremists across the world. Iran is also one of the principal state sponsors of terror, proudly delivering weapons to Hezbollah members in Lebanon and terrorists affiliated with the Palestinian Authority.
Additionally, the regime in Iran continues to provide safe haven for terrorists, including some of al-Qaeda’s senior leaders such as Yasin al-Suri, Saif al-Adel and Abu Muhammad al-Masri who have been hunted by the United States for over a decade. Moreover, Iranian agents have been implicated in many anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorist attacks, including bombings that have killed U.S. servicemen in Iraq and the foiled attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. in October 2011. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Terence McKnight-USN (Ret.)||February 3rd 2012|
Just recently President Obama crossed the Potomac River and stopped at the Pentagon to rollout America's newest national security startegy-Sustaining Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. The key idea behind the strategy is that after ten years of war in the Middle East, along with the current fiscal crisis facing the United States, we can no longer afford the "two major theater wars" doctrine of the last 50 years. This old strategy was developed after the Cold War for the military to fight two major conventional wars with large amounts of ground forces, ships and aircraft.
The new strategy calls for sufficient forces in one major conflict and a rebalancing of these forces toward the Asia-Pacific region. Some will question if this is a new strategy or just a precursor for the massive cuts in the military that are projected in the next decade. The Department of Defense has already commited to $450 million in reductions over the next several years. If Congress fails to act on the latest "sequestration", however, this number could grow to $1 trillion in cuts. The major problem with this strategy of course being, the enemy has yet to surrender.
Read more ..
The Arab Fall in Libya
|Scott Stewart||February 2nd 2012|
Mali has experienced perhaps the most significant external repercussions from the downfall of the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The impact of the conflict in Libya on the wider region since international intervention began in March 2011.
Instability in Libya due to that country's deep internal fault lines meant that re-establishing a government would prove difficult. As we pointed out, that instability could spread to neighboring countries as weapons and combatants flow outward from Libya. Reports now indicate that thousands of armed Tuareg tribesmen who previously served in Gadhafi's military have returned home to Mali. The influx of this large number of well-armed and well-trained fighters, led by a former Libyan army colonel, has re-energized the long-simmering Tuareg insurgency against the Malian government. These Tuareg insurgents have formed a new group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In mid-January, they began a military campaign to free three northern regions of Mali from Bamako's control. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|George Friedman||February 1st 2012|
Russia's political landscape has been relatively calm and consolidated for the past decade under former President and current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. However, recent months have seen instability rise sharply, with a purge in the government, a shift in parliamentary election results and large protests in the streets. None of these is new to Russia, but these and other factors are converging and creating changes in Russia's political landscape.
When Putin came to power in 1999, he ruled a country that was in utter political disarray, economically broken and threatened by internal and external forces. He aggressively consolidated the country politically, economically and socially and quashed the security threats. The country rallied around him as Russia's "savior," a sentiment that in recent years evolved into a cult based on the belief that Putin is the sole heartbeat of the country.
But Russia cannot survive indefinitely under one ruler; historically, internal dissent has risen and fallen inside the inherently unstable country. Such dissent had been under control for the last decade, allowing the country to strengthen. But now dissent is on the rise again, both outside the Kremlin and within Putin's circles of power. All of this comes as Russia is facing economic instability and national security concerns, and Russia's next presidential election -- in which Putin is running -- is a mere month away. Read more ..
|Yaakov Lappin ||January 28th 2012|
A virtual conflict is developing in the Middle East, involving high speed internet connections and keyboards rather than missiles and tanks. It has been a victimless affair so far, though it carries the potential for more serious harm in the future, and serves as a wakeup call for the Israeli private sector to beef up its online defenses. At the start of January, an Arab hacker claiming to be from Saudi Arabia broke into an Israeli coupon website and stole tens of thousands of credit card numbers.
The hacker, calling himself 0xOmar, announced his hostility to Israel, and proceeded to publicize the credit card details, encouraging others to begin using the numbers to make online purchases. Israeli credit card companies and the Bank of Israel mounted a speedy defense, cancelling all affected accounts and issuing new cards overnight. But 0xOmar succeeded in firing the first shot in an escalating internet feud with Israeli hackers. Not long afterwards, a group of Israeli hackers fired back, releasing hundreds of hacked Saudi credit card numbers on the internet. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Rachel Marcus||January 26th 2012|
The current Defense Department budget again makes the DOD the premier funder of security assistance to foreign countries, giving it more than double the comparable budget of the agency popularly associated with America’s foreign aid, the State Department.
The $17 billion Pentagon aid budget for the 2012 fiscal year is the second in a row to exceed the State Department’s by $10 billion, a disparity that has begun to provoke debate among foreign policy experts in Washington. Seven years ago, circumstances were reversed, with the State Department spending triple the amount the Pentagon spent on such aid.
Some foreign aid experts have complained that, as a result of the shifting responsibilities, U.S. aid priorities have shifted from trying to establish good governance to supporting stronger foreign military partners. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Scott Stewart||January 26th 2012|
The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram conducted a series of bombing attacks and armed assaults Jan. 20 in the northern city of Kano, the capital of Kano state and second-largest city in Nigeria. The attacks, which reportedly included the employment of at least two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), targeted a series of police facilities in Kano. These included the regional police headquarters, which directs police operations in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states, as well as the State Security Service office and the Nigerian Immigration Service office. At least 211 people died in the Kano attacks, according to media reports.
The group carried out a second wave of attacks in Bauchi state on Jan. 22, bombing two unoccupied churches in the Bauchi metropolitan area and attacking a police station in the Tafawa Balewa local government area. Militants reportedly also tried to rob a bank in Tafawa Balewa the same day. Though security forces thwarted the robbery attempt, 10 people reportedly died in the clash, including two soldiers and a deputy police superintendent.
In a third attack, Boko Haram militants attacked a police sub-station in Kano on Jan. 24 with small arms and improvised hand grenades. A tally of causalities in the assault, which reportedly lasted some 25 minutes, was not available. This armed assault stands out tactically from the Jan. 20 suicide attacks against police stations in Kano. The operation could have been an attempt to liberate some of the Boko Haram militants the government arrested following the Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 attacks. Read more ..
The Arab Fall in Egypt
|Barry Rubin ||January 22nd 2012|
The political history of the modern Middle East can easily be divided into three eras. In 1952, a military coup in Egypt signaled the start of the period in which radical Arab nationalism dominated. The 1979 Iranian revolution began the challenge of revolutionary Islamism. And then, in 2011, in the wake of more revolutions, Arab nationalism collapsed completely.
In most of the Arab world we are now in the era of the Muslim Brotherhood. Finally, there is a new “Middle East,” but instead of being directed by moderation, peace, and a hunger for material prosperity, it is dominated by Islamists determined to transform their own societies and to conquer the region for their cause.
The Muslim Brotherhood is overwhelmingly the most powerful organization in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Tunisia, and very probably Libya, where its branches will control the governments. In Jordan, the brotherhood leads the opposition; in Syria, it plays an important role in the revolutionary upheaval. Read more ..
|George Friedman||January 20th 2012|
In early December I received a call from Fred Burton, Stratfor’s vice president of intelligence. He told me he had received information indicating our website had been hacked and our customer credit card and other information had been stolen. The following morning I met with an FBI special agent, who made clear that there was an ongoing investigation and asked for our cooperation. We, of course, agreed to cooperate. The matter remains under active investigation.
From the beginning I faced a dilemma. I felt bound to protect our customers, who quickly had to be informed about the compromise of their privacy. I also felt bound to protect the investigation. That immediate problem was solved when the FBI told us it had informed the various credit card companies and had provided those companies with a list of compromised cards while omitting that it had come from us. Our customers were therefore protected, as the credit card companies knew the credit cards and other information had been stolen and could act to protect the customers. We were not compelled to undermine the investigation.
The FBI made it clear that it expected the theft to be exposed by the hackers. We were under no illusion that this was going to be kept secret. We knew our reputation would be damaged by the revelation, all the more so because we had not encrypted the credit card files. This was a failure on our part. As the founder and CEO of Stratfor, I take responsibility for this failure, which has created hardship for customers and friends, and I deeply regret that it took place. The failure originated in the rapid growth of the company. As it grew, the management team and administrative processes didn’t grow with it. Again, I regret that this occurred and want to assure everyone that Stratfor is taking aggressive steps to deal with the problem and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Ben West||January 20th 2012|
On Jan. 12, Thai authorities arrested a man they say was a member of the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah who was plotting an attack in Bangkok. In uncovering the plot, Thai police cite cooperation with the United States and Israel going back to December 2011. Bangkok is indeed a target-rich environment with a history of terrorist attacks, but today Hezbollah and other militant and criminal groups rely on the city as more of a business hub than anything else. If Hezbollah or some other transnational militant group were to carry out an attack in the city, it would have to be for a compelling reason that outweighed the costs.
The suspect was identified as Hussein Atris, who was born in Lebanon but acquired Swedish citizenship and a passport after marrying a Swedish woman in 1996. Atris was arrested on immigration charges as he was trying to board a plane at Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok's main international airport. Police said another suspect is still at large and possibly already out of the country. Atris's arrest on Jan. 12 was followed by a statement the next day from the U.S. Embassy warning U.S. citizens in Bangkok of the potential foreign terrorist threat in the country and encouraging them to avoid tourist areas. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Israel, issued similar warnings. Thai police have responded by increasing security in tourist areas like Bangkok's Khao San Road and the island of Phuket. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Patrick Clawson||January 19th 2012|
If Washington does not demonstrate through both word and deed the risks that Tehran faces, overly optimistic Iranian hardliners may wrongly decide that the benefits of a confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz outweigh the costs.
Victory in war means accomplishing one's political objectives, and some Iranian leaders seem to believe they could advance four of their main goals through armed conflict with the United States: namely, resisting "global arrogance," creating disorder in the oil markets, justifying nuclear breakout, and rallying the nation. If Iran were to make significant progress toward these objectives via hostilities against American forces, some in Tehran might conclude that they had won. More likely, however, the optimistic expectations of these overly confident, risktaking Iranian hardliners would not be realized, and war could turn out badly for the regime. Washington can do much to shape the perceptions of both Iranian leaders and world opinion regarding the risks Iran would face from such a conflict.
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The Violent Roads of Mexico
|Natalia Cote-Muñoz||January 18th 2012|
The drug war in Mexico grows more brutal daily. It is practically impossible to read news from that country without exposure to a myriad of literal rolling heads, mass graves, shootouts, and grisly abductions. While addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on September 8, 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton qualified the situation in Mexico as “looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, when the narco-traffickers controlled certain parts of the country.” In fact, both U.S. and Mexican policymakers have proposed tactics based on the Colombian experience. However, one must closely examine the practical differences between the two countries before applying Colombian tactics to Mexico indiscriminately, since in practice many of Colombia’s crime strategies might well be ineffective in the Mexican case.
Inequality, Drugs, and Violence: Colombia 2.0?
On the surface, similarities between the two countries are obvious: both are tainted by the almost uncontrolled presence of organized crime and a quickened tempo of violence. As in Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s, urban violence has risen, and criminal groups have proliferated. The news regularly portrays drugs cartels slamming into each other and the state, usually through indiscriminate homicides and massacres that target innocent civilians. Such was the case in Monterrey in August 2011, when gunmen burst into the Casino Royale, burning down the building and killing over fifty people. In fact, Ciudad Juárez, the most dangerous city in the world, has surpassed Medellín’s homicide rate, reaching 10 to 11 deaths per day. Read more ..
Jordan and the U.S.
|David Schenker and David Makovsky||January 16th 2012|
The Washington Institute
|Jordan's King Abdullah II|
King Abdullah's trip to Washington will provide ample opportunity for crucial talks on Jordan's stability, the Syrian insurrection, and the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
President Obama will host Jordan's King Abdullah II Tuesday for a meeting in the Oval Office. The visit -- King Abdullah's second since the onset of last year's Arab uprisings -- occurs amid a backdrop of increased tension in the kingdom. Not only is Abdullah facing a spike in domestic economic and political foment, but violence across the northern border in Syria threatens to deteriorate into civil war. Making matters worse, across the river to the west, Israeli-Palestinian relations are facing yet another crisis that could see the Palestinians resume their controversial unilateral drive for statehood at the UN later this month, notwithstanding Abdullah's laudable mediation efforts. These developments, along with the general regional trend toward political change, are once again raising concerns about Jordan's stability. Although neither leader is likely to mention these concerns publicly, such issues will shape the context of the discussion. Read more ..
The Military Edge
|George Friedman||January 14th 2012|
One of the most iconic images of the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as global U.S. counterterrorism efforts—has been the armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), specifically the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. Unarmed RQ-1 Predators (which first flew in 1994) were flying over Afghanistan well before the 9/11 attacks. Less than a month after the attacks, an armed variant already in development was deployed for the first time.
In the decade since, the Predator has clocked more than a million flight hours. And while U.S. Air Force procurement ceased in early 2011—with more than 250 airframes purchased—the follow-on MQ-9 Reaper has already been procured in numbers and production continues. Predators and Reapers continue to be employed in a broad spectrum of roles, including close air support (CAS), when forward air controllers communicate with UAV operators to release ordnance with friendly troops in the vicinity (CAS is one of the more challenging missions even for manned aircraft because of the heightened risk of friendly casualties). Read more ..
|David Axe ||January 13th 2012|
|Soldiers a tactical satellite radio antenna in Iraq. (Credit: DoD)|
As several dozen soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Rock drove into Afghanistan’s Chowkay Valley one morning in March 2010, Taliban fighters immediately began moving into ambush positions along a higher ridge. The Force’s mission was to protect a U.S. reconstruction team as it met with local village leaders, but it was stuck in place as the Taliban reached their fighting posts. What tied them down was their radios: a forest of plastic and metal cubes sprouting antennae of different lengths and sizes. They had short-range models for talking with the reconstruction team; longer-range versions for reaching headquarters 25 miles away; and a backup satellite radio in case the mountains blocked the transmission. An Air Force controller carried his own radio for talking to jet fighters overhead and a separate radio for downloading streaming video from the aircraft.
Some of these radios worked only while the troopers were stationary; others were simply too cumbersome to operate on the move. “Not good,” said Spec. Geoff Pearman, as he watched farmers scurry indoors from their wheat fields — a sure sign that fighting was imminent. Task Force Rock’s vulnerability that morning is routine for U.S. forces in Afghanistan today. But it was never supposed to occur at all. Almost fifteen years ago, the Army launched an ambitious program, the Joint Tactical Radio System, aimed at developing several highly-compatible “universal” radios. Together, the JTRS radios would replace nearly all older radios in the American arsenal, greatly simplifying communications and freeing up combat units “to tap into the network on the move,” according to Paul Mehney, an Army spokesman. Read more ..
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