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Battle for Libya

War in Libya That Drags on Favors Muammar Qadhafi

April 25th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

Despite appearances, the current state of the Libyan civil war is not a stalemate. Muammar Qaddafi's forces have adapted somewhat to NATO's control of the air and have continued offensive operations. And although rebel forces in the east are slowly improving their organizational, communications, and combat capabilities, they are far from being able to gain and hold ground against even depleted regime forces. NATO operations have been sufficient to prevent the opposition's defeat, degrading Qaddafi's ability to command and sustain his forces or employ heavy weapons against rebels and civilians. But allied forces have not broken the regime's willingness or ability to continue the fight, and NATO is reluctant to take the military steps needed to turn the tide rapidly.

Both the rebels and NATO will suffer a major setback if the western stronghold of Misurata succumbs to regime attacks. Yet, unless the West acts with more determination and assumes more operational risk, the city will likely fall, perhaps soon.

Two-Front War

Two clear theaters of war have emerged in Libya: an eastern front that has essentially stabilized near Ajdabiya, and a western theater with several compartments. In the east, the pattern of advance and retreat by both sides has now settled into indecisive skirmishing around Ajdabiya, with neither side able to obtain a clear advantage. Regime units are at the end of a long supply line, NATO continues to strike at their heavy weapons and logistical support, and their resort to light forces, while complicating NATO targeting, has not enabled them to advance further against solidifying resistance backed by critical NATO support. For their part, rebel forces still lack the ability to plan and conduct serious offensives and are hard pressed to hold the ground they have gained, even with foreign assistance.

The Battle for Yemen

Islamist Militancy: Before and After the Fall of Saleh

April 25th 2011

Yemen Topics - Yemen Crisis

Nearly three months have passed since the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, first saw mass demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but an exit from the current stalemate is still nowhere in sight. Saleh retains enough support to continue dictating the terms of his eventual political departure to an emboldened yet frustrated opposition. At the same time, the writ of his authority beyond the capital is dwindling, which is increasing the level of chaos and allowing various rebel groups to collect arms, recruit fighters and operate under dangerously few constraints.

The prospect of Saleh’s political struggle providing a boon to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is understandably producing anxiety in Washington, where U.S. officials have spent the past few months trying to envision what a post-Saleh Yemen would mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula. Read more ..

Border War

How to Perceive the Bomb Threat South of the Border

April 18th 2011

Mexican Topics - Juarez car bomb

On April 5, Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that a row of concrete Jersey barriers was being emplaced in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico. The story indicated that the wall was put in to block visibility of the facility, but being only about 107 centimeters (42 inches) high, such barriers do little to block visibility. Instead, this modular concrete wall is clearly being used to block one lane of traffic in front of the consulate in an effort to provide the facility with some additional standoff distance from the avenue that passes in front of it.

Due to the location and design of the current consulate building in Monterrey, there is only a narrow sidewalk separating the building’s front wall from the street and very little distance between the front wall and the building. This lack of standoff has been long noted, and it was an important factor in the decision to build a new consulate in Monterrey (construction began in June 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in January 2013). Read more ..

Palestinian Terror

Will "Iron Dome" Negate the Need for Israeli Military Operations Against Hamas in Gaza?

April 18th 2011

Terrorism - Iron Dome
The Iron Dome Missile Defense System

Will the Iron Dome Missile Defense System negates the need for Israel to engage in military operations against Hamas in Gaza?

The escalation in rocket barrages from terrorists in Gaza against southern Israel in 2011 has forced the Israeli government to rush deployment of the "Iron Dome" missile defense system to protect its citizens who live within rocket range. In the beginning of April, two Iron Dome batteries were placed outside of Beersheva and Ashkelon and immediately proved their value by intercepting several GRAD rockets aimed at civilian areas in Israel. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Pentagon Probing Nuclear-capable F-35 Delays

April 11th 2011

Military - F-35b

The Defense Department is examining how long a variant of the F-35 fighter that is nuclear-capable will be delayed, military officials told lawmakers this week. The Pentagon has launched a “technical baseline review” to determine how an expected two-year delay for the entire program will impact the delivery schedule, according to Air Force Maj. Gen. William Chambers, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration.

That study “will give us a new time line” for how far behind schedule the broader schedule slip will place the nuclear F-35, Chambers told the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee this week. To bridge the gap to the date when the nuclear-armed F-35s arrive in the service’s fleet, officials plan to keep more of existing F-15 and F-16 fighters flying longer than initially planned, Chambers said. Read more ..

The Metal's Edge

Pentagon Balks on Report about Rare Earths Reliance on China

April 11th 2011

China Topics - China rare earth mine

Rare earth metals, a variety of elements that are difficult and costly to extract, are vital for technology and the military. Tiny amounts of the metals and their alloys are used in a plethora of everyday devices, like cell phones, computer memory, and fluorescent lighting. But they are also vital components in many weapon systems, laser devices, and telescopes.

The United States used to be the top producer in the rare earth industry, but it is now almost entirely dependent on Chinese exports, which have been increasingly reduced. Read more ..

The Battle for Yemen

Regime Change in Yemen Signals Emboldened Al-Qaeda Presence in the Arabian Peninsula

April 11th 2011

Arab Topics - Yemeni protester

While the world’s attention is focused on the combat transpiring in Libya and the events in Egypt and Bahrain, Yemen has also descended into crisis. The country is deeply split over its support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and this profound divide has also extended to the most powerful institutions in the country — the military and the tribes — with some factions calling for Saleh to relinquish power and others supporting him. The tense standoff in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa has served to divert attention (and security forces) from other parts of the country.

On March 28, an explosion at a munitions factory in southern Yemen killed at least 110 people. The factory, which reportedly produced AK rifles and ammunition, was located in the town of Jaar in Abyan province. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

The Uncertain Aftermath of Waging a Humanitarian War in Libya

April 8th 2011

Africa Topics - Dead African mercenaries in Libya
Teenaged Gadhafi supporters killed by rebels

There are wars in pursuit of interest. In these wars, nations pursue economic or strategic ends to protect the nation or expand its power. There are also wars of ideology, designed to spread some idea of “the good,” whether this good is religious or secular. The two obviously can be intertwined, such that a war designed to spread an ideology also strengthens the interests of the nation spreading the ideology.

Since World War II, a new class of war has emerged that we might call humanitarian wars — wars in which the combatants claim to be fighting neither for their national interest nor to impose any ideology, but rather to prevent inordinate human suffering. In Kosovo and now in Libya, this has been defined as stopping a government from committing mass murder. But it is not confined to that. In the 1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime causing grievous suffering. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Al-Qaeda Operatives Recruit Members and Plan Attacks in Brazil

April 6th 2011

Latin American Topics - Mosque in Brazil
Brazilian mosque

According to Brazil's Veja news magazine, members of the Islamic terrorist groups Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas are operating in Brazil, where they hide, raise money, recruit new members and plan attacks. The April 3 report alleged that at least 20 high-ranking members of the three groups operate in the region where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina converge, the weekly magazine said, citing Brazilian Federal Police and U.S. government reports.

Brazil has long rejected U.S. charges that the triple border region harbors terrorists, but has acknowledged that Brazil’s large Muslim community sends a significant amount of remittances to the Middle East. Khaled Hussein Ali, a 41-year-old Lebanese Muslim who has a Brazilian-born daughter, who has lived legally in Sao Paulo since 1998, has coordinated Al Qaeda’s operations in 17 countries from Brazil, Veja said. Read more ..

Border war

Texas Republican: Put Mexican Cartels on Foreign Terrorist List

April 4th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican Drug Police2

Six Mexican drug cartels would be labeled as terrorist groups under legislation introduced Thursday by a Texas Republican. Rep. Michael McCaul’s bill would add the six cartels to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which also includes al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Shining Path and the Real IRA. McCaul said his legislation is necessary because violence on the Mexican border is increasing even as the U.S. is focused on foreign wars. “The last time I visited the El Paso Intelligence Center and requested to go across the border to Juarez, the State Department told me they could not guarantee my safety,” the lawmaker said at a hearing Thursday on border violence. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Kucinich, Paul, McKeon Join Legislation on Paying for Libya Operations

April 4th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

A liberal House member, a conservative budget hawk and the GOP House Armed Services Committee chairman have joined an effort to force the Obama administration to use funds from non-Defense accounts to finance the Libyan intervention.

Liberal stalwart Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), small-government advocate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and HASC Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) have signed onto a bill offered last week by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) seeking a list of offsets to pay for the military campaign.

Kucinich is intensely anti-war; McKeon and Bartlett have raised concerns about U.S. military involvement in Libya. Both Republicans told The Hill last week they would not have used American combat forces to prevent forces loyal to embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi from crushing opposition forces and targeting civilians. 

The measure would require President Obama to give Congress a list of offsets from non-security discretionary programs for fiscal year 2011, according to a summary of the provided by Bartlett’s office. If approved, the bill would move the freed-up monies to the Defense Department to replace the amounts spent in Libya in fiscal year 2011," according to the summary.    Read more ..

Battle for Libya

America Deploys its Million-dollar Weapon in Libya more than 161 Times

March 28th 2011

Military - USS Reagan Firing Tomahawk

In the opening days of the assault on Libya, the United States and the United Kingdom launched a barrage of at least 161 Tomahawk cruise missiles to flatten Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses and pave the way for coalition aircraft.

In fiscal terms, at a time when Congress is fighting over every dollar, the cruise missile show of military might was an expenditure of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. Each missile cost $1.41 million.

Raytheon Corp. is the manufacturer of the Tomahawk Block IV, a low-flying missile that travels at 550 miles per hour. During a decade of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya, the Pentagon has increasingly relied on the Tomahawk. A year ago, Raytheon boasted of its 2,000th Block IV delivery to the Navy. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libya’s Terrorism Option

March 28th 2011

Libya Topics - Muammar Qaddafi

On March 19, military forces from the United States, France and Great Britain began to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the countries involved in enforcing the zone to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians and “civilian-populated areas under threat of attack.” Obviously, such military operations cannot be imposed against the will of a hostile nation without first removing the country’s ability to interfere with the no-fly zone—and removing this ability to resist requires strikes against military command-and-control centers, surface-to-air missile installations and military airfields. This means that the no-fly zone not only was a defensive measure to protect the rebels—it also required an attack upon the government of Libya.

Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries’ access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya’s past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi’s threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi’s use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose. Read more ..

DHS on Edge

DHS Officials to Testify on “Freedom of Information” Process

March 28th 2011

Politics - Giant Paper Stack

The Republican chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will get his first crack this week at publicly grilling Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials about the agency’s FOIA process.

Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) has doggedly sought to find out whether DHS allows political appointees to play a role in prioritizing or censoring information it is required to release under the agency’s Freedom of information Act (FOIA) guidelines.

When Issa took over control of the committee in January, his first major request for documents was for DHS to turn over thousands of copies of records and emails between agency officials. But Issa was not satisfied with DHS’s response, and last month he subpoenaed two of the department’s career employees, forcing them to give transcribed interviews before the committee.

DHS officials have repeatedly stated their willingness to cooperate with his requests and point to the thousands of documents the department has turned over to the committee so far and the more than 20 staff members—15 lawyers and at least six others—who are dedicated to fulfilling his requests. But Issa’s office has said that a whistleblower from within the agency has come forward with information that contradicts what DHS officials and documents are telling him. Read more ..

The Battle for Yemen

Yemen Crisis Escalates to Near Civil War

March 23rd 2011

Yemen Topics - Yemen Crisis

A crisis in Yemen is rapidly escalating. A standoff centered on the presidential palace is taking place between security forces in the capital city of Sanaa while embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to resist stepping down, claiming that the “majority of Yemeni people” support him. While a Western-led military intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the crisis in Yemen and its implications for Persian Gulf stability is of greater strategic consequence. Saudi Arabia is already facing the threat of an Iranian destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia and has deployed forces to Bahrain in an effort to prevent Shiite unrest from spreading. With a second front now threatening the Saudi underbelly, the situation in Yemen is becoming one that the Saudis can no longer leave on the backburner.

The turning point in Yemen occurred March 18 after Friday prayers, when tens of thousands of protesters in the streets calling for Saleh’s ouster came under a heavy crackdown that reportedly left some 46 people dead and hundreds wounded. It is unclear whether the shootings were ordered by Saleh himself, orchestrated by a member of the Yemeni defense establishment to facilitate Saleh’s political exit or simply provoked by tensions in the streets, but it does not really matter. Scores of defections from the ruling party, the prominent Hashid tribe in the north and military old guard followed the March 18 events, both putting Saleh at risk of being removed in a coup and putting the already deeply fractious country at risk of a civil war. Read more ..

The Battle for Yemen

Yemen Crisis Heading to Boiling Point

March 21st 2011

Arab Topics - Yemeni protester

A crisis in Yemen is rapidly escalating. A standoff centered on the presidential palace is taking place between security forces in the capital city of Sanaa while embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to resist stepping down, claiming that the “majority of Yemeni people” support him. While a Western-led military intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the crisis in Yemen and its implications for Persian Gulf stability is of greater strategic consequence. Saudi Arabia is already facing the threat of an Iranian destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia and has deployed forces to Bahrain in an effort to prevent Shiite unrest from spreading. With a second front now threatening the Saudi underbelly, the situation in Yemen is becoming one that the Saudis can no longer leave on the backburner. Read more ..

Edge on Security

GAO Confirms TSA Screening of Air Cargo Can’t be Verified

March 21st 2011

Terrorism - EWR Suspicious Package Response

The Transportation Security Administration reported last August that it met its mandate to screen 100 percent of air cargo. But the Government Accountability Office says TSA cannot verify the accuracy of the data it used, according to a recent report.

Airline industry representatives report screening data to the TSA, but the government has no way to verify the accuracy of the data. TSA cannot cross-reference its local screening logs, which have information on specific shipments, with the reports submitted by air carriers to TSA. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

The Beginning of Obama's War on Libya

March 21st 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama and Gadhafi

The Libyan war has now begun. It pits a coalition of European powers plus the United States, a handful of Arab states and rebels in Libya against the Libyan government. The long-term goal, unspoken but well understood, is regime change — displacing the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi and replacing it with a new regime built around the rebels.

The mission is clearer than the strategy, and that strategy can’t be figured out from the first moves. The strategy might be the imposition of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone and attacks against Libya’s command-and-control centers, or these two plus direct ground attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. These could also be combined with an invasion and occupation of Libya. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Libyan No-Fly Zone Could Cost $300 Million Each Week

March 14th 2011

Military - F-15E Refuels

Establishing and taking control of the skies over Libya could cost the Pentagon up to $300 million a week – or around $15 billion a year – under mission scenarios formulated by a top Washington defense think tank.

Lawmakers have pressed the White House to consider a no-fly zone, but Pentagon officials have been mum about specific options under consideration.

As such, the report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments shines a light on the Pentagon’s thinking.

While several lawmakers have suggested it would not be difficult to set up the no-fly zone, the report suggests it would be expensive and complicated. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Will Libya Again Become the Arsenal of Terrorism?

March 14th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

During the 1970s and 1980s, Libya served as the arsenal of terrorism. While this role may have received the most publicity when large shipments of weapons were intercepted that Libya was trying to send to the Provincial Irish Republican Army, Libyan involvement in arming terrorist groups was far more widespread. Traces conducted on the weapons used in terrorist attacks by groups such as the Abu Nidal Organization frequently showed that the weapons had come from Libya. In fact, there were specific lot numbers of Soviet-manufactured F1 hand grenades that became widely known in the counterterrorism community as signature items tied to Libyan support of terrorist groups. Read more ..

The Battle for Bahrain

Persian Gulf Oil Kingdoms Pour Billions into Beseiged Oman and Bahrain

March 7th 2011

Arab Topics - Saudi Prince in Meeting

The oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf may soon inject huge sums of aid money into Oman and Bahrain to quiet the unrest that has erupted in both countries recently. Reports of the likely funding -- which includes more than $10 billion for Bahrain alone, a nation of some 900,000 citizens -- come one week after Saudi Arabia announced a $36 billion subsidy package for its own people. Such fiscal generosity suggests that these governments are unwilling to make political concessions as they cope with the winds of change sweeping the Arab world. Read more ..

Rethinking War Strategy

Never Fight a Land War in Asia

March 7th 2011

Asia Topics - Landwar in Asia

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speaking at West Point, said last week that “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.” In saying this, Gates was repeating a dictum laid down by Douglas MacArthur after the Korean War, who urged the United States to avoid land wars in Asia. Given that the United States has fought four major land wars in Asia since World War II — Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq — none of which had ideal outcomes, it is useful to ask three questions: First, why is fighting a land war in Asia a bad idea? Second, why does the United States seem compelled to fight these wars? And third, what is the alternative that protects U.S. interests in Asia without large-scale military land wars? Read more ..

Battle for Libya

The Strategic Geography of the Libyan Civil War

March 7th 2011

Libya Topics - Libya Map
Libya map

In the first ten days of fighting in Libya's civil war, both the regime and rebel forces have demonstrated an inability to dislodge their opponents from well-entrenched positions. Each side has been able to occupy key terrain that initially was either abandoned or unoccupied by enemy forces but unable to capture enemy-occupied ground. This scenario favors the regime of Muammar Qadhafi, which holds the all-important central position between rebel enclaves, providing the advantage of interior lines of communication, and has greater mobility through its control of air forces and air bases.

Patterns of the Conflict

From February 20 to February 27, the Qadhafi regime experienced a widespread loss of control along the coastal belt, where most of Libya's cities and economic infrastructure are located. From February 28 onward, momentum tilted back toward the regime in four key areas:

    * The regime initiated energetic security operations in Tripoli and the nearby industrial center of Zawiyah. The opposition-held town of Zawiyah -- significant for its proximity to Tripoli as well as its major oil refinery and two oil and gas export terminals -- is now surrounded by Qadhafi forces and has sustained numerous assaults since February 28, with opposition fighters narrowly maintaining their hold. When the coastal town of Sabratha was retaken by the regime on March 1, Zawiyah was cut off from Zuwarah, another opposition enclave to the west. Read more ..

The Battle for Libya

Jihadist Opportunities in Libya

February 28th 2011

Libya Topics - Libyans say Juden Raus!

Militant Islamists, and specifically the subset of militant Islamists we refer to as jihadists, have long sought to overthrow regimes in the Muslim world. With the sole exception of Afghanistan, they have failed, and even the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was really more a matter of establishing a polity amid a power vacuum than the true overthrow of a coherent regime. The brief rule of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council in Somalia also occurred amid a similarly chaotic environment and a vacuum of authority.

However, even though jihadists have not been successful in overthrowing governments, they are still viewed as a threat by regimes in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In response to this threat, these regimes have dealt quite harshly with the jihadists, and strong crackdowns combined with other programs have served to keep the jihadists largely in check. Read more ..

The Bear is Back

Arms Made in China and Russia Continue to Penetrate Latin America

February 28th 2011

Russian Topics - Chavez and Putin
Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez

Russian military sales have become so frequent in recent years that they no longer make for major headlines. However, as Washington policymakers continue to voice concern about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America, some alarmists argue that Russia’s eagerness to supply the region with weapons is likely to trigger a “soft arms race” and present itself as a threat to the United State’s historic hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. Adherents to this point of view persist in looking at Moscow through a nostalgic Cold War lens that sees Russia (and probably China) as a growing and certain threat to U.S. national security. Little, if anything, is heard of WashingtonWashington concerns about other countries (like Israel or France) selling weaponry to the region. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Revelations Seek to Link Diplomat Raymond Davis to Taliban Militants in Pakistan

February 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Raymond Davis

As US newspapers lifted a self-imposed gag on the CIA links of Raymond Davis, in place at the request of the US administration, according to intelligence sources, the alleged killer of two Pakistanis had close links to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist organization.

The New York Times reported on February 21 that Davis “was part of a covert, CIA-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.”

This contradicts the US claim that Davis was a member of the ‘technical and administrative staff’ of its diplomatic mission in Pakistan. Read more ..

No Plan for Oil Interruption

Saudi Arabia's Fears for Bahrain

February 21st 2011

Arab Topics - Bahrain enraged protesters

On February 16, Bahraini security forces used brute force to clear democracy protesters from Manama's Pearl Square, on orders from a regime seemingly undaunted by international media coverage and the near-instantaneous self-reporting of Twitter-generation demonstrators. Although the relatively small size of the crowds (compared to recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia) facilitated the crackdown, the action is best explained by the regime's long-held mindset regarding dissent. Specifically, the Bahraini ruling elite believe that any political challenge by the island's Shiite majority must be quickly suppressed -- a view backed by the royal family in neighboring Saudi Arabia and violently enforced in Bahrain despite significant Sunni participation in the protests. This Saudi factor, and the looming presence of Iran across the Persian Gulf, elevates the Bahrain crisis to a U.S. policy challenge on par with events in Egypt. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case

February 21st 2011

PakistanTopics - Davis protest

On Februiary 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt.

Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’s version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. Read more ..

Edge of Energy Security

Energy Security Lessons of the Egypt Crisis

February 21st 2011

Egypt - map of Egypt

The political turmoil in Egypt has prompted renewed concerns about the security of oil and gas supplies from the Middle East. The country's proximity to two key chokepoints—the Suez Canal and the Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden—is significant. Yet concerns about these routes highlight the vulnerability of an even more critical energy chokepoint: the Strait of Hormuz, the only exit from the Persian Gulf. The Egyptian crisis should serve as an opportunity to reexamine contingency plans for avoiding or limiting energy supply disruptions. Whether stemming from political upheaval, direct interference by Iran, or other factors, such disruptions could have a devastating effect on the global economy.

Gas Exports Hit by Sabotage

So far, the crisis has resulted in only one energy disruption: the February 5 sabotage of a pumping station in the Sinai Peninsula, which cut off natural gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. Both countries use this gas to generate electricity, and Jordan is particularly dependent on it. Egypt is expected to restore the flow shortly; in the meantime, Amman will have to rely on limited stocks of fuel oil and perhaps seek additional supplies from Iraq or Saudi Arabia. For its part, Israel can turn to fuel oil or coal stocks, though the incident will likely prompt early exploitation of recently discovered offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean. Read more ..

Egypt After the Revolt

Strategic Implications for Israel and the U.S. in the Current Egyptian Crisis

February 14th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian antisemitic sign

The events in Egypt have sent shock waves through Israel. The 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel have been the bedrock of Israeli national security. In three of the four wars Israel fought before the accords, a catastrophic outcome for Israel was conceivable. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, credible scenarios existed in which the Israelis were defeated and the state of Israel ceased to exist. In 1973, it appeared for several days that one of those scenarios was unfolding.

The survival of Israel was no longer at stake after 1978. In the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the various Palestinian intifadas and the wars with Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in Gaza in 2008, Israeli interests were involved, but not survival. There is a huge difference between the two. Israel had achieved a geopolitical ideal after 1978 in which it had divided and effectively made peace with two of the four Arab states that bordered it, and neutralized one of those states. The treaty with Egypt removed the threat to the Negev and the southern coastal approaches to Tel Aviv. Read more ..

War on Terror

The US and Canada Share the Longest Undefended Border in the World—Yet Only 32 Miles are Secure

February 6th 2011

Politics - US-Canada Border station

Only 32 miles of the 4,000-mile border between the continental U.S. and Canada—5,500 miles if one adds the Alaska-Canada portion of the border—had reached an acceptable level of security last year, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

“The remaining miles were assessed at levels that Border Patrol reported are not acceptable,” GAO said. “These border miles are defined as vulnerable to exploitation due to issues related to accessibility and resource availability.” Read more ..

Egypt in Revolt

Congress Increasingly Worried Over Mideast Instability Rather than Democratization

February 6th 2011

Politics - Capitol Senate

In a week of Capitol Hill vocally supporting Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrators, lawmakers are growing increasingly concerned about the prospects of revolutionary fervor spreading to other critical countries in the Middle East.

Legislators have been clear about their desire for President Hosni Mubarak to let go of his nearly 30-year grip on power and begin the transition to democracy. But the stakes could be different for the U.S. in Jordan, where a wave of protests spooked King Abdullah to the extent that he quickly dismissed his cabinet in a surprise move on February 1. Not only is the moderate Muslim nation a key U.S. ally, but the Hashemite kingdom shows no signs that it would break its peace treaty with Israel. Read more ..

Mexico on the Edge

Romanian Weapons—Modified in the U.S.—in the Mexican Drug War

February 6th 2011

Politics - Romanian firearms in mexico

Camron Scott Galloway, 21, walked into X Caliber Guns in Phoenix, Ariz., on Jan. 30, 2008, and filled out forms for the purchase of six AK-47 rifles.

Reliable and powerful, and a bargain at about $500 each, the Romanian-made gun, a semiautomatic version of the iconic Kalashnikov assault weapon, had become popular with the drug cartels in Mexico.

Galloway, who eventually pleaded guilty to a forgery charge and became a cooperating prosecution witness in a broader case, testified that he agreed to act as the purchaser of the Romanian AKs on behalf of a co-worker’s brother, who was trafficking weapons south of the border. Just for doing the paperwork, he earned $100 per rifle. Read more ..

Egypt in Revolt

Egypt’s Security Forces are the Key to the Current Crisis

January 30th 2011

Africa Topics - Wary Egyptian Cops

The current wave of protests in Egypt has pitted thousands of demonstrators against the police and Central Security Forces (CSF). The performance of these forces is key to the outcome of the crisis. If they can contain the demonstrations without excessive violence, the protests will likely burn themselves out over time. But if the demonstrations continue or escalate into greater violence, the police and CSF could break down, either dissolving entirely or engaging in undisciplined violence that further exacerbates the situation. Such a scenario, or even the likelihood of it, would probably spur the government to deploy army personnel to support the security forces, deter further demonstrations, and, if necessary, put down the protests through force. That would be a true crisis for the government, one with an uncertain outcome. Read more ..

Crisis in Egypt

Days of Rage in Egypt and an End of Days for Hosni Mubarak

January 30th 2011

Arab Topics - Egypt Riots #2

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak remains the target of the demonstrators, who still number in the tens of thousands in downtown Cairo and in other major cities, albeit on a lesser scale.

After being overwhelmed in the January 28 Day of Rage protests, Egypt’s internal security forces — with the anti-riot paramilitaries of the Central Security Forces (CSF) at the forefront — were glaringly absent from the streets January 29. They were replaced with rows of tanks and armored personnel carriers carrying regular army soldiers. Unlike their CSF counterparts, the demonstrators demanding Mubarak’s exit from the political scene largely welcomed the soldiers. Despite Mubarak’s refusal to step down January 28, the public’s positive perception of the military, seen as the only real gateway to a post-Mubarak Egypt, remained. It is unclear how long this perception will hold, especially as Egyptians are growing frustrated with the rising level of insecurity in the country and the army’s limits in patrolling the streets. Read more ..

Sudan on Edge

Iran Influence Seen in Sudan Election

January 24th 2011

Africa Topics - Sudan demonstration

Results of a recent referendum vote on independence in Sudan are set to be announced next month. Preliminary numbers show more than 98 percent of voters in southern Sudan want independence from the north. But the country's Arab Muslim government, which is based in the north, and its Iranian ally may not let the south break away without a fight. For more than 20 years, the Sudanese government waged a ruthless jihad against the south, leading to some 2 million deaths -- many of them Christians. Now that the south is set to become an independent nation, Sudanese Dictator Omar al-Bashir is once again rallying his troops.

"The Islamist Salafist and jihadi forces who rule the elites of Khartoum are going to try to do everything they can," explained Walid Phares, Middle East expert and author of The Coming Revolution. "One -- to undermine the viability of the young southern Sudan. Two -- to make sure that no other spots in Sudan which are against the government, against the jihadi regime, will erupt as well." Read more ..

Edge on the Mideast

The Muslim Brotherhood's March to Victory

January 18th 2011

Terrorism - Hamas head

For the past five decades most funding to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations around the world – especially those involved directly in terrorist activities – has come from oil rich countries in the Middle East. However the MB Palestinian branch, Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the E.U. and U.S., seems to derive large sums of money from the EU, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and even the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In fact, the world community facilitated Hamas' victory in the 2006 Palestinian Authority election, when it allowed Hamas to run under the name "List of Change and Reform." In June 2007, Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority (PA). Since then, despite repeated promises to cut off funds to Hamas, international aid organizations and many countries have continued funneling money to Gaza, purportedly for humanitarian aid, but more recently to fund the “Gaza Administration.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terror

2009 DHS Report Warned of “Lone Wolf” Attacks

January 18th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Janet Napolitano

Two years before the Tucson massacre, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report that right wing extremism was on the rise and could prompt “lone wolves” to launch attacks. But the agency backed away from the report amid intense criticism from Republicans, including future House Speaker John Boehner.

The report, which warned that the crippled economy and the election of the first black president were “unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment,” described the rise of “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology [as] the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

In the wake of early January’s attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which left six dead and 14 wounded, the report’s warning of a lone wolf attack from someone with extremist tendencies seems prescient. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Neutrality Will Not Shield Sweden from Terrorism

January 10th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new
Walid Phares

Until Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly’s explosive belt went off prematurely in Stockholm last month, Sweden was the poster child for isolationism in the war on terror. While Abdulwahab’s bomb failed to achieve his desired result, it did obliterate the myth that nations can remain neutral to global terrorism.

Abdulwahab’s failed attack typifies the jihadis’ all-out war against “infidels.” He was a doctrinaire jihadist with ties to a local militant Islamist organization, and his attack didn’t spring up out of nowhere. There had already been warning signs that terrorists were mobilizing against the Scandinavian democracy. Militants had threatened Swedish artist Lars Vilks for his satirical cartoon portrayal of the prophet Mohammad, attacking his home and attempting to murder him with an axe. Others threatened Vilks.

The Iraqi-born Abdulwahab was a member of the Facebook group “Islamic Caliphate State.” He lived in Luton in Bedfordshire, England, where four of the terrorists boarded a train and later killed 52 and injured more than 2,000 in the 7/7 train bombings.

Swedish authorities claimed that Abdulwahab had been “completely unknown” to them before the blast, and that they were trying to ascertain when he was first “radicalized.” Swedish prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said that the country’s security apparatus “was not a Stasi organization engaged in analyzing people’s Facebook pages.”

The irony is that Abdulwahab’s musings on Facebook are the only evidence of his radicalism prior to the attack. Read more ..

China Rising

China's Military Modernization is Coming Much Sooner Than Expected

January 3rd 2011

Military - Chinese DF-21d

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates prepares to go to China and President Obama prepares to host Chinese leader Hu Jintao, it is important that they recognize that the Chinese leadership has an increasingly capable military at its disposal. Worse, the factors shaping that military remain opaque.

A number of items concerning the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were in the news this past week. The most high profile was the comment by Admiral Robert Willard, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, that China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system had reached initial operational capability (IOC). This means that the Chinese DF-21D, which is believed to have been developed specifically to target U.S. carrier strike groups (CSGs), has now been distributed to at least some PLA units for actual operational use in the event of conflict.

The DF-21D is not a new program; its development has been mentioned in various official and academic publications, including this year’s Department of Defense report on China, released in August. What is striking is that the system has reached IOC much earlier than had been expected. The annual Pentagon report on Chinese military capabilities, for example, gave no indication that the system was going to reach IOC this year. Read more ..

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