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Iran's Nukes

Iran Promises Complex and Devastating Retaliations for Attacks on Islamic Republic

March 26th 2012

Iran holy missiles

The Islamic regime in Iran issued a warning on March 24, promising that any attacks on the Persian state will lead to retaliations more complex and devastating then ever before, the Daily Caller reports:

   The [Fars news agency] analysis, titled “The Secret War Against Iran’s Nuclear Program Will No Longer Be Unanswered,” quotes the Islamic regime’s supreme leader, Khamenei, who said in his Iranian New Year message last week that while Iran does not want a nuclear bomb, any attack on Iranian nuclear sites will spark the same level of force against the attacking country. That statement is in line with what Iran’s defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, said recently — that Iran has “secret weapons yet unknown to the West that will be used in response to any attack on Iran.” Vahidi is on Interpol’s most-wanted list for the Jewish community center bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Boko Haram: Addressing the Threat Before It Strikes

March 24th 2012

Nigeria Oil

Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist insurgency, is emerging as a threat not only to Nigeria, but also to the African continent and the United States. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has proven unable to address the growing security crisis that has targeted government officials, police forces, and hundreds of innocent civilians. Ongoing instability across the Sahel has also created an atmosphere ripe for tribal conflict, weapons proliferation, and terrorism. The region’s mounting instability is facilitated by a cultural interconnectedness providing Boko Haram with access to terrorist and militant groups.

The United States should not overlook the threat Boko Haram poses to U.S. interests in the region and potentially to the homeland. Boko Haram’s connections to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabab in Somalia have provided militants with the means to wage deadly attacks against international facilities, as seen by the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja last August. The Obama Administration should not wait until a U.S. target is hit to take action. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Party of Fraud: Hizballah’s Criminal Enterprises

March 23rd 2012

Hezbollah rally

Given the growing confluence of drugs and terror, Washington needs to be more focused on Hizballah’s illicit activities, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. A long-established relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Qods Force provides Hizballah, Iran’s trusted proxy group, opportunities to build operational capacity in the global illicit drug trade.

Hizballah entered the global narcotics trade approximately seven years ago by acquiring relatively small amounts of cocaine in 15kg–20kg quantities. Trafficking the drugs from the Tri-Border Area (Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina), across the Atlantic, and into locations like Europe, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, this initial investment produced hefty profits almost overnight. Today, Hizballah is moving tons of cocaine into West Africa, onward to North Africa, and eventually into European markets.

For decades, Hizballah has been a master at identifying and exploiting existing smuggling and organized crime infrastructure. Conservatively, the DEA has linked at least half of the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations to the global drug trade. Hizballah’s illicit activity is directly linked to the group’s ability to build contacts and relationships globally. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Sarkozy Wants to Imprison Those Viewing Terrorist Websites

March 23rd 2012

Online Jihad

In reaction to the recent spate of murders carried out by a Moslem extremist in France, its president, Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled proposed legislation that has stunned both legal experts and journalists. 

The proposed law would jail those who visit extremist web sites, and is just one plan in a list of new measures under consideration in the wake of Toulouse terrorist Mohamed Merah’s killing spree that took the lives of three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi.

The opponents of the new measure claim that it can prevent free expression and possibly infringe on an individual’s privacy.  Sarkozy, in defense of the measure, said, "Anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison," suggesting that it was time to consider people who follow extremist websites as we would someone perusing pedophilia and child pornography websites. "What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Keeping Terrorism in Perpective is Good Policy

March 22nd 2012

NYPD and flag

By design, terrorist attacks are intended to have a psychological impact far outweighing the physical damage the attack causes. As their name suggests, they are meant to cause terror that amplifies the actual attack. A target population responding to a terrorist attack with panic and hysteria allows the perpetrators to obtain a maximum return on their physical effort. Certainly, al Qaeda reaped such a maximum return from the Sept. 11 attacks, which totally altered the foreign policy and domestic security policies of the world's only superpower and resulted in the invasion of Afghanistan and military operations across the globe. Al Qaeda also maximized its return from the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings, which occurred three days before the 2004 Spanish general elections that ousted the ruling party from power.
One way to mitigate the psychological impact of terrorism is to remove the mystique and hype associated with it. The first step in this demystification is recognizing that terrorism is a tactic used by a variety of actors and that it will not go away, something we discussed at length in our first analysis in this series. Terrorism and, more broadly, violence are and will remain part of the human condition. The Chinese, for example, did not build the Great Wall to attract tourists, but to keep out marauding hordes. Fortunately, today's terrorists are far less dangerous to society than the Mongols were to Ming China. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Washington and Israel on Iran: Unresolved Differences

March 22nd 2012

Israeli Jet

The March 5 summit between President Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu marked an important milestone in the U.S.-Israeli decisionmaking process on Iran's nuclear program. The meeting helped clarify positions and narrow gaps, yet significant differences remain to be addressed in the coming months.

According to Israeli government sources, the two leaders refrained from sharpening their differing red lines on Iran. This is understandable given that neither country is likely to forsake its freedom of action on such a crucial issue. Israelis are pleased that the Iranian nuclear file has moved to the top of the U.S. and global agenda, with the international community adopting sharp sanctions for the first time. They also appreciate Obama's strong public statements rejecting containment, depicting a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to U.S. national security, pledging to keep all options on the table -- including the military one -- and, above all, respecting Israel's sovereign right to protect its vital national security interests. Such statements are important to Israeli ears because they create a sense of commitment no less significant than what is said behind closed doors.

Yet respecting Israel's sovereign rights or appearing open to Israeli requests for certain military wherewithal does not mean that Washington has given its ally a green light to strike Iran. The White House apparently reiterated its negative attitude toward a premature strike during the summit, urging Israel to allow sufficient time for sanctions and diplomacy to work first. For its part, the Israeli leadership clarified that it had not yet made a decision and would wait to see whether Iran yields to international pressure. In interviews with the Israeli media following his return from Washington, however, Netanyahu stated that the time to decide is measured "not in days or weeks, but also not in years." Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Obama Prepares for War with Sweeping Executive Order

March 20th 2012

Barack Obama in Thought

Last Friday, March 16, President Barack Obama may have quietly placed the United States on a war preparedness footing, perhaps in anticipation of an outbreak of war between Israel, the West, and Iran. A newly-propounded Executive Order, titled "National Defense Resources Preparedness," renews and updates the president's power to take control of all civil energy supplies, including oil and natural gas, control and restrict all civil transportation, which is almost 97 percent dependent upon oil; and even provides the option to re-enable a draft in order to achieve both the military and non-military demands of the country, according to a simple reading of the text. The Executive Order was published on the White House website.

The timing of the Order -- with little fanfare -- could not be explained. Opinions among the very first bloggers on the purpose of the unexpected Executive Order run the gamut from the confused to the absurd. None focus on the obvious sudden need for such a pronouncement: oil and its potential for imminent interruption. If Iran was struck by Israel or the West, or if Iran thought it might be struck, the Tehran regime has promised it would block the Strait of Hormuz, which would obstruct some 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil, some twenty percent of the global supply, and about 20 percent of America's daily needs. Moreover, Tehran has promised military retaliation against any nation it feels has harmed it. The United States is at the top of the list. Read more ..

The Afghan War

Afghanistan on the Road to Nowhere

March 20th 2012

Afghanistan us army dustoff

The war in Afghanistan has been under way for more than 10 years. It has not been the only war fought during this time; for seven of those years another, larger war was waged in Iraq, and smaller conflicts were under way in a number of other countries as well. But the Afghanistan War is still the longest large-scale, multi-divisional war fought in American history. An American soldier's killing of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, on March 11 represents only a moment in this long war, but it is an important moment.
In the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, military strategists in the United States developed the concept of the long war. The theory was presented in many ways, but its core argument was this: The defeat of Taliban forces and the Iraqi resistance would take a long time, but success would not end the war because Islamist terrorism and its supporters would be a constantly shifting threat, both in the places and in the ways they would operate. Therefore, since it was essential to defeat terrorism, the United States was now engaging in a long war whose end was distant and course unknown.

The Battle for Syria

Assad Assaults Rebel ‘Free Zones’

March 19th 2012

Tanks Leaving Homs ahead of Ispectors

One of the signal, underreported achievements of the Syrian uprising over the last year was the establishment of a number of “liberated zones” from which the Assad regime, at least in visible form, was excluded. In these areas, the rebel flag (the pre-Baathist Syrian national flag) flew over public buildings. Fighters of the Free Syrian Army maintained roadblocks at the entry points to villages and towns. These “free zones” were the most visible sign of the regime’s decline in authority.

The regime of Bashar Assad is now attempting to roll back the gains made by the Syrian rebels and to retake the free zones. Following the brutal re-conquest of Homs, Assad’s armed forces have turned their attention to other centers of opposition activity. The attempt by the Syrian dictator is unlikely to succeed, but it has already extracted a heavy cost in the lives of civilians and oppositionists and is set to continue to do so.

In February, I spent a week in one of the liberated zones of Idleb province. It was a place of fierce but precarious hope. The FSA fighters I spoke with were aware that if international assistance for their revolt did not come, it was only a matter of time before the government forces moved to retake the areas they had liberated.

This moment has now come; the uneasy stalemate between the Assad regime and the free zones is over. The forces of the dictatorship are now attempting to reassert their authority throughout Syria.


The 2012 Vote

Hiding at the Back of the Budget Book

March 17th 2012

The Pentagon

Some vexing news about the Obama administration’s military contracting practices was well-hidden in the Pentagon’s budget briefing materials this year, appearing near the back of the Defense Department Comptroller’s overview presentation of the 2013 budget. There, amid generally positive self-grades in the chapter entitled “Performance Improvement” (page 83) was a disclosure that the number of Pentagon contracts awarded competitively dropped last year.

From the relatively low threshold of 65 percent in 2010, the number dropped to 58.5 percent in 2011, according to the comptroller, Robert F. Hale. That was below 2009’s tally of 62.5 percent, which means that the administration’s ballyhooed effort to boost competitive military contracting has been an utter failure so far. Hale’s report attributed the shortfall to congressionally-driven funding uncertainties in 2011, the use of a new procurement system that more accurately records which contracts are competitively awarded, and simply “the award of several major weapon system programs.” It did not explain why the latter – the act of contracting by itself — would necessarily produce less competition. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Grim Torture Tales from Syria

March 17th 2012


Many reports of violence by pro-Government forces in Syria have been at arms length, and rarely given in detail. That changed today when Amnesty International released a disturbing new report detailing the almost invariable violence adult protestors — as well as some children below the age of 18 — have faced from the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The report’s findings, the group concludes, are “evidence that torture and other ill-treatment in Syria form part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and as part of state policy and therefore amount to crimes against humanity.” It says that hundreds have died in custody.

Among the persistent methods of torture detailed in the report: “Shabeh, whereby the victim is hung in one of a number of ways, for example from a raised hook or handle or door frame” and then beaten. Crucifixion is also sometimes used, and the beatings can be accompanied by being cut with bayonets and burned with cigarettes. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Belfast Summit Important in Preventing Cyber World War

March 16th 2012

Shadowy Computer User

One of the world's leading Internet security experts, Eugene Kaspersky, has described the World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit at Queen's University Belfast as key in preventing a Cyber World War. Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of the largest antivirus company in Europe, Kaspersky Lab, will be giving a keynote address at the second annual Cyber Security Technology Research Summit on Friday 16 March. The cyber security guru is joining some of the world's leading cyber security experts and government policy makers from around the world for a two-day meeting of minds to combat future threats to global cyber security. The annual Summit, held at the Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT), Queen's University - the UK's lead university centre for cyber security research, made headlines across the world when it was launched last year, and has attracted even more leading international experts in cyber security to this year's Summit in Belfast. Speaking ahead of the event, Eugene Kaspersky said: "For almost a decade I've been doing my best to attract the attention of governments and officials around the world to the imminent threat of cyber-war and cyber-terrorism and the need to prevent it - but with limited effect. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

To Retaliate or Not: Hizballah's Calculus Following a Strike on Iran

March 15th 2012

Iranian Qiam missile launch

The potential consequences of an American or Israeli preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear weapons sites are legion. For example, Tehran might fire missiles in retaliation, launch terrorist attacks, or attempt to disrupt oil flows through the Persian Gulf. Until recently, conventional wisdom also held that the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hizballah would unleash its rockets on Israel in response to such an attack on Iran. Yet despite continued claims by senior Hizballah officials that an assault on the Islamic Republic "means the whole region will be set alight," other statements by Hassan Nasrallah, the organization's secretary-general, have raised doubts about whether the militia would in fact respond. Hizballah was established in Lebanon in the early 1980s with Iranian political and financial support. During the 1982 Israeli invasion, Tehran dispatched 1,500 Revolutionary Guards to the Beqa Valley to help organize a resistance force.

Today, unlike the majority of Lebanon's historically Iraq-oriented Shiite population, Hizballah members are required to embrace the doctrine of velayat-e faqih, which puts an Iranian mullah at the pinnacle of Shiite theology and politics. Critics point to this, along with the organization's professed goal in the early 1980s of transforming Lebanon into an Islamic state, as evidence that Hizballah is an agent of Iran. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Combatting Terrorism with Situational Awareness

March 15th 2012

dark parking lot

It is important to note that situational awareness -- being aware of one's surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations -- is more of a mindset than a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not something that can be practiced only by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security teams. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. Situational awareness is not only important for recognizing terrorist threats, but it also serves to identify criminal behavior and other dangerous situations.

The primary element in establishing this mindset is first to recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat make a person's chances of quickly recognizing an emerging threat and avoiding it highly unlikely. Bad things do happen. Apathy, denial and complacency can be deadly. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Satellite Image Reveals High Explosive Test Chamber at Iran's Parchin Site

March 14th 2012

Parchin building Iran

ISIS has identified in commercial satellite imagery a building on the Parchin site in Iran that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants to visit because it contains, or used to contain, a high-explosive test chamber.  The building is located on a relatively small and isolated compound within the Parchin military site and has its own perimeter security wall or fencing. 

A berm can be seen between this building and a neighboring one, which is consistent with a description of the compound in the November 8, 2011 IAEA Safeguards Report.  The compound is located more than four kilometers away from high-explosive related facilities also at the Parchin site which the IAEA visited in 2005.

The IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano recently noted that the IAEA has “information that that some activity is ongoing” at the Parchin site. When asked if he was concerned that Iran was cleansing the site, Amano said that the “possibility is not excluded…” and that “we have to go there.” If Iran is engaging in clean up work to hide evidence at the Parchin site then it could be occurring inside this building as well. Thus, the IAEA deserves international support to visit this site without delay to inspect the inside of this building and other locations in Parchin as well. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Five Principles That Should Guide U.S. Policy Toward NATO

March 13th 2012

NATO meeting

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has played a vital role in the defense and security of Europe. This role has been carried out primarily through the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Today, the U.S. commitment to NATO is not about protecting Europeans from the threat of Soviet Communism; it is about ensuring America’s strategic reach in Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East. With strong American leadership, NATO can continue to advance U.S. security and defense interests.

NATO Is Still Important Today

During the Cold War, the threat from the Soviet Union meant that NATO had a clearly defined mission. Today, NATO is still trying to find its place in the post–Cold War world. With declining defense spending across Europe and the lack of political will to use military force, coupled with the Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia and support for EU defense integration, there is a serious risk that NATO will become irrelevant.

To prevent this from happening, NATO needs American leadership and vision. The following five principles should guide U.S. policy toward NATO. Without these core principles, NATO will cease being the most capable security alliance the world has ever known. Read more ..

The Battle for Egypt

Egypt's Government Continues its Crackdown on Human Rights Advocates

March 12th 2012

Democracy advocates jailed in Egypt
Democracy advocates jailed in Egypt.

Cairo lifted its travel ban on 17 foreign democracy activists working at NGOs, including Americans, allowing them to leave Egypt on March 1 via a U.S. military plane to Cyprus. The activists are on trial in Cairo for allegedly receiving illegal foreign funding, inciting protests against the interim military government, and failing to register their organizations.

The NGO workers' arrest and detention following raids on their offices caused an enormous row between Cairo and Washington, forcing U.S. officials to threaten withholding its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. U.S. officials also said that the rift halted work on an International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt for two months. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Egyptian Researchers Aim to Clear Landmines Using Bacteria and Plants

March 11th 2012

sugar beets

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

Possible Nuclear Weapons Cuts Worry Republican Lawmakers

March 11th 2012

Ballitic Missile

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

Intercontinental Trade in a Leafy Narcotic Funds Somalian Terrorists

March 10th 2012

Yemen khat cud
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

Detecting Terrorist Surveillance is Key to Personal Security

March 10th 2012

Bomb Maker

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

Panetta: Pentagon Reviewing Military Options for US Intervention in Syria

March 10th 2012

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

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

Personal Tracking to be the Next Billion Dollar GPS Market

March 5th 2012

gps devices

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 ..

Arab Nukes

Is Iran the only Muslim Nation in the Middle East seeking to Develop Nuclear Technology

March 5th 2012


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

Why the Saudis' Downfall Could Impact America

March 5th 2012

Saudi protests
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

How Defense Cuts Could Affect America’s War Fighting Capabilities

March 5th 2012

The Pentagon

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

China Boosts 2012 Military Spending

March 4th 2012

Chinese J-20 fighter

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

Iran Sanctions and the Huawei Technologies Case

March 2nd 2012

Iranian jihadi geeks

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

Detection Points in the Terrorist Cycle of Violence

March 1st 2012

Bomb Maker

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

Fiscal and Financial Woes of Greece may become Political Headache for Europe

February 28th 2012

Greek and EU flags

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

Retired Military Brass Warn of Obama’s Harmful Defense Cuts

February 24th 2012

Obama in deep thought

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

The Myth of the End of Terrorism

February 24th 2012

Twin Towers 9/11

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

McCain, Graham Call for US to Arm Syrian Rebels

February 20th 2012

Syrian security forces

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

Terrorism Against Israelis Defies Borders

February 20th 2012

Hezbollah Troops
Hezbollah Troops

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

Islamist Suicide Bomber Intercepted in Sting at the Capitol

February 18th 2012

US Capital Day

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

Pentagon Ignores, Misreports Long-term Weapons Costs

February 15th 2012

Military - F-35b

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

Opportunities Aplenty for Jihadi Extremists in Conflicted Syria

February 14th 2012

Syrian Issues - Syrian Protesters

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

Impersonating Anonymous: A New Form of Terrorism?

February 13th 2012

Computer Topics - Iran Anonymous

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

Obama Moves toward a Distant Endgame in Afghanistan

February 11th 2012

Afghan Topics - Afghanistan casualty

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 ..

Iran's Ukes

Iranian President Ahmadinejad's Ominous Announcement of Nuclear 'Achievements'

February 11th 2012

Iran - Ahmadinejad at Iranian nuclear plant
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 ..

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