The Edge of Oil Interruption
|Lenny Ben-David||May 17th 2010|
Cutting Edge News analyst
At the end of April 2010, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Navy conducted three days of “Great Prophet V” exercises in the Persian Gulf. Hundreds of fast boats were deployed in what appears to be a rehearsal for Iran’s first wave of attackers against ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz where 40 percent of the world’s oil passes. These are the same swarming boats that harassed U.S. Navy ships in January 2008. The fast boats may have been reinforced recently by Iran’s furtive acquisition of the Bradstone Challenger, the world’s fastest speed boat, which could now be cloned. Some of the speed boats are reportedly equipped with anti-ship missiles and torpedoes.
The danger of small boats was proven when the USS Cole was hit in October 2000 in Yemen by a bomb-laden inflatable boat – an order of magnitude slower than the speed boats. Seventeen sailors lost their lives in the Cole attack.
During the Iranian exercise the Revolutionary Navy also interdicted and searched a French and an Italian vessel in the Strait of Hormuz for "environmental" checks. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Neal Rauhauser||May 17th 2010|
Cutting Edge contributor
The United States has come under significant criticism for the harm to civilians caused by unmanned drones operating in Afghanistan and occasionally across the border into Pakistan. Steps are being taken to alleviate the collateral damage and public relations concerns, steps which will also enhance rather than decrease the effective of the delivery system.
The Air Force began acquiring unmanned drones when avionics matured enough to permit the operation of such vehicles almost thirty years ago. The 15-year-old Predator started out life as the RQ-1, with the R denoting reconnaissance and the Q indicating that it was an unmanned vehicle. The mounting of Hellfire missiles meant a new designation, MQ-1 for its multipurpose role, and the hunt was on.
The MQ-1 weighs a bit more than a ton fully loaded, half of which is fuel and a pair of hundred pound Hellfire missiles, when fitted for combat missions. The turbocharged gasoline engine, a 115 horsepower Rotax 914F, is a larger version of the those used to power ultralight aircraft. The machine can fly out 400 nautical miles over a five hour period, loiter for fourteen hours over the target area, and come home with fuel to spare. The longest mission on record was just over forty hours. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Ben West and Scott Stewart||May 10th 2010|
Faisal Shahzad, the first suspect arrested for involvement in the failed May 1 Times Square bombing attempt, was detained just before midnight on May 3 as he was attempting to depart on a flight from Kennedy International Airport in New York. Authorities removed Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, from an Emirates Airlines flight destined for Dubai. On May 4, Shahzad appeared at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan for his arraignment.
Authorities say that Shahzad is cooperating and that he insists he acted alone. However, this is contradicted by reports that the attack could have international links. On February 3, Shahzad returned from a trip to Pakistan where, according to the criminal complaint, he said he received militant training in Waziristan, a key hub of the main Pakistani Taliban rebel coalition, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Authorities are reportedly seeking three other individuals in the United States in connection with the May 1 Times Square bombing attempt.
Investigative efforts at this point are focusing on identifying others possibly connected to the plot and determining whether they directed Shahzad in the bombing attempt or merely enabled him. From all indications, authorities are quickly collecting information on additional suspects from their homes and telephone records, and this is leading to more investigations and more suspects. While the May 1 attempt was unsuccessful, it came much closer to killing civilians in New York than other recent attempts, such as the Najibullah Zazi case in September 2009 and the Newburgh plot in May 2009. Understanding how Shahzad and his possible associates almost pulled it off is key to preventing future threats. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Scott Steward||May 3rd 2010|
For several years media coverage of the threat posed by dirty bombs runs in a perceptible cycle with distinct spikes and lulls. We are currently in one of the periods of heightened awareness and media coverage. A number of factors appear to have sparked the current interest, including the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama. Other factors include the resurfacing rumors that al Qaeda militant Adnan El Shukrijumah may have returned to the United States and is planning to conduct an attack, as well as recent statements by members of the Obama administration regarding the threat of jihadist militants using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Baker Spring||April 26th 2010|
In 2004, the congressionally mandated Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack released an unclassified executive report on its broader study of the U.S.’s vulnerability to EMP weapons strikes. In 2008, the commission released a follow-up report that detailed the vulnerabilities of the critical infrastructures of the U.S. to EMP strikes. Taken together, these two reports make it clear that an EMP attack could inflict severe damage on the U.S. As the initial report stated, “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences.”
What Is EMP?
EMP is triggered by the detonation of a nuclear weapon at a high altitude over the earth. As a result of this detonation, an electromagnetic field radiates down to the earth, creating electrical currents.
These fields cause widespread damage to electrical systems—the lifeblood of a modern society like the U.S. In turn, the damaged electronic systems can cause a cascade of failures throughout the broader infrastructure, including banking systems, energy systems, transportation systems, food production and delivery systems, water systems, emergency services, and—perhaps most damaging—cyberspace.
Effectively, the U.S. would be thrown back to the pre-industrial age following a widespread EMP attack.
The lack of public awareness regarding the disturbing implications of an EMP attack may prompt the Obama Administration to set aside proposals for addressing this problem. Specifically, Congress may take the following three steps in response:
Step No. 1: Require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to Produce a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) Describing Which Countries Are Capable of Launching an EMP Strike. The NIE should review not only the weapons systems themselves but the delivery systems and platforms capable of carrying the weapons. Additionally, Congress should obtain from the NIE the intelligence community’s assessment of how EMP-capable countries are incorporating those weapons into their broader military strategies. Read more ..
North Korea on the Edge
|Bruce Klingner||April 19th 2010|
The Heritage Foundation
International attention has been focused on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which endangers U.S. national interests, the safety of critical U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, and peace and stability in Asia. Washington must continue to use a combination of diplomatic pressure and highly conditional negotiations to induce Pyongyang to abide by its denuclearization pledges, as well as to prevent nuclear proliferation.
Yet there is another North Korean threat for which Washington must prepare: instability in the country's leadership. The planned succession from the ailing Kim Jong-il to his third son faces many challenges and may not be successful. Because the young son lacks the gravitas of his father, there is the potential for a power struggle among challengers within the senior party and military leadership.
The issue of succession is especially worrisome in view of recent indications that deteriorating economic conditions, exacerbated by the tightening noose of international sanctions, and rising civil unrest in response to draconian attacks against free-market activity could create a tinderbox of instability.
If the situation became so dire as to bring about the collapse of the regime, it could lead to North Korea's loss of control over its nuclear weapons, greater risk of rogue elements selling weapons of mass destruction to other rogue governments and terrorist groups, fighting among competing factions, economic turmoil, and humanitarian disaster. Under such circumstances, China or South Korea might feel compelled to send troops into North Korea to stabilize the country, raising the potential for miscalculation and armed confrontation. Read more ..
Edge of Deterrence
|Baker Spring||April 12th 2010|
The Department of Defense released its Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report (BMDRR) on February 1, 2010, laying out America's long-term policy on ballistic missile defense. At the same time, the Obama Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request, which includes recommended funding levels for the overall ballistic missile defense program and for the portion of the program that falls under the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The Defense Department is requesting $9.9 billion for the overall program in FY 2011, including $8.4 billion for the MDA. The remaining $1.5 billion would mainly go to the Army's ballistic missile defense programs, including the Patriot interceptor and the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program.
Taken together, the BMDRR and the budget clearly indicate that the ballistic missile defense program will tread water in FY 2011. The BMDRR proposes significant steps forward for some programs, such as the sea-based Aegis system and its land-based variant, particularly when compared to the programmatic retreats that the Administration has imposed on other programs in FY 2010. On the other hand, these steps forward may be temporary because they are reversible. Further, the BMDRR proposes continuing retreats in other programs, such as the Airborne Laser system. On the budget side, the Obama Administration's $8.4 billion request for the MDA is more than $500 million above projected spending for the current fiscal year. On the other hand, it is almost $1 billion less than the Bush Administration's budget request for the MDA for FY 2009. Read more ..
China on the Edge
One of the little-noticed actions in the recently concluded session of the Chinese National People’s Congress was the enactment of a National Defense Mobilization Law. In an age when conventional conflicts are planned to conclude in a matter of days or weeks, it is striking that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) should choose to ensure its readiness for a protracted war. Indeed, it suggests that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is thinking about future wars in a very different way from their Western counterparts, where full-scale mobilization is rarely discussed at all. Whereas the U.S. and its allies have mostly neglected the prospect of a prolonged high-intensity conflict, the PLA appears intent on preparing for both short- and long-term wars. Read more ..
|Patrick Clawson||March 29th 2010|
The United States maintains a range of "terrorist lists," of which the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list is one of the better known. But in two recent court cases, the U.S. government has offered arguments that raise questions about the purpose of the list.
FTO List vs. State Sponsors List
Another list is that of state sponsors of terrorism. The act of naming a foreign government as a terrorism sponsor is one instrument among many to affect the general foreign policy stance of the country concerned. Yet in practice, the state sponsors category has become a list of governments Washington simply does not like, often with little connection to terrorism; witness the continued presence of Cuba and the longtime presence North Korea. By contrast, governments that actually do sponsor terrorism but that Washington does not wish to single out are omitted from the list. A case in point is Lebanon, whose governing coalition includes Hizballah, the terrorist activities of which are protected and defended by the Lebanese government. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Joseph Grieboski||March 22nd 2010|
Cutting Edge foreign desk
|Venezuelan troops in ceremonial presentation|
This week President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela formally received the first four of 18 K-8W aircraft purchased from China in 2007. This poses a significant security threat to the western hemisphere and especially to the United States.
During a speech on a military base in the northwestern state of Lara, Chavez called March 13 “a historic day for the Bolivarian anti-imperialist air force.” During this televised ceremony, Chavez wore a Bolivarian military uniform. Armed with free-fall bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and guided weapons, the Chinese-built airplane acquisition follows Venezuela’s purchases of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (2009) and fighter jets, military helicopters, and assault rifles (2006) from Russia. It has been reported that Chavez has secured financing of $2.2 billion from President Dmitri Medvedev for 92 model T-72 tanks and the Igla-S mobile anti-aircraft system.
The Venezuelan leader claims these purchases were made to defend “the sovereignty of this sacred land and of this revolution” and to guard “the country's riches of water, oil, energy, gas, geographic location, and its role as the cradle of the first great revolution of the 21st century.” Chavez has tripled Venezuela’s defense budget since 2000, with $3.3 billion allocated in 2008. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Roxana Tiron||March 15th 2010|
The Hill correspondent
The price tag for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has increased by more than 50 percent, crossing a threshold that will force Pentagon officials to justify the need for the program to Congress, Pentagon officials have told a Senate panel.
The price for one F-35 fighter jet in 2001 was estimated to be $50 million. Now the price tag has risen to between $80 million and $95 million per plane, calculated in 2002 constant dollars. In today’s dollars, one aircraft would cost an average of $112 million, according to Michael Sullivan, the director of the acquisition team at the Government Accountability Office.
Some of the first jets are expected to cost about $205 million apiece, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Ashton Carter, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 11. Pentagon officials walked senators through the cost increase: The Pentagon in 2001 estimated the cost of one F-35 at $50.2 million for an order of 2,852 jets. In 2007, the Pentagon updated that estimate to $69.2 million for a reduced order of 2,443 jets. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||March 8th 2010|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
The confrontation in the Indian subcontinent between al Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies on the one hand and the three democracies they target—Afghanistan, Pakistan and India—on the other hand, must be reevaluated in terms of international cooperation against the Jihadi threat. A regional system should be established to integrate the struggle against all Jihadi forces in the subcontinent. There needs to be a separation between the ethnical and territorial questions and the fight against Terrorism. Once that distinction is made, the possibilities of internationalization of counter terrorism will be high. Jihadists based in any country of the subcontinent must not be given legitimacy by any government on the ground of a local ethnic issue. Jihadi forces must be confronted collectively, while diplomacy and international mediation assist in solving the local problems. Read more ..
Hamas and Israel
|Jeffrey White ||March 1st 2010|
Recently, Hamas has gone to extraordinary lengths to prove that it did not attack civilian targets in Israel during the December 2008 to January 2009 Gaza conflict. But a review of the organization's own media—including the website of its military arm, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (www.qassam.ps), and the Hamas-associated monthly journal Filastin al-Muslima (www.fm-m.com)—shows that Hamas knowingly and repeatedly fired on Israeli population centers in southern Israel. To accept Hamas's latest claim that it did not launch rockets at civilians is to deny its numerous past claims to the contrary.
Claim vs. Conduct
On February 3, 2010, Hamas released a fifty-two-page response to the UN's Goldstone report regarding its conduct during the Gaza war (called the “Battle of al-Furqan” in the organization’s commentary). According to this document, the killing and wounding of Israeli civilians was unintentional—Hamas forces had targeted only military installations during the fighting. This claim was based on a supposed internal investigation conducted by Hamas and led by its justice minister, Faraj al-Ghoul. Read more ..
|Eduardo Szklarz and Martin Barillas||February 22nd 2010|
Cutting Edge Contributors
Relations between Argentina and the United Kingdom have entered a period of renewed tension since Buenos Aires on February 16 began to restrict the travel of seagoing vessels between the South American republic and the archipelago known to the British as the Falkland Islands. Known to Argentina—and the rest of Latin America—as the Malvinas Islands, the tiny South Atlantic archipelago has long been disputed between the land of tango and Old Blighty and was the subject of a war in 1982. The British easily mopped up the “Argies” in two months: a defeat that hastened the end of the military dictatorship then reigning in Argentina.
The most current measure was taken just days before the arrival of a British oil drilling platform “Ocean Guardian,” owned by Desire Petroleum, that arrived in the area on February 20, some 30 to 60 miles from the storm-tossed Falklands/Malvinas.
Experts have been cited as saying that some 60 billion barrels of oil may be found in the strata around the islands. Desire Petroleum spokesmen say that they will drill despite objections by Argentina. There are reports that Argentine naval or coast guard vessels buzzed the oil rig on its way to the islands from Scotland.
Signed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the decree calls for “any seagoing ship or vessel that proposes to transit” between the ports on the shore of continental Argentina and those in the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands “must request previous authorization issued by a competent national authority.” Read more ..
|David Horovitz||February 15th 2010|
Jerusalem Post editor
Is Iran about to get the bomb? It's getting closer every day, and shows no signs of changing course.
Once a week, the security chiefs who assess the relentless threats posed by enemy forces to the physical well-being of the State of Israel are required to give an assessment to their political bosses: Is war going to break out in the very near future?
The requirement is a legacy of the intelligence failures ahead of Yom Kippur, 1973, the last time that Israel's neighbors launched a concerted conventional attack on Israel—on an Israel unprepared.
The good news—this week—is that concerted conventional attack is not deemed imminent.
The bad news—this week and for many past weeks, months and years—is that concerted conventional attack is not what the defense establishment is most worried about. What keep the security chiefs burning the midnight oil are concerns about missiles and terrorism, about nonconventional payloads and secret programs, and about the vulnerability of the Israeli home front—the new battleground. And their focus is not primarily on the traditional military capacities of our immediate neighboring states, but rather on the nonconventional threat to do us harm as posed, in escalating order, by al-Qaida, Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria... and Iran. All five of those players are incontrovertibly scheming, right now, to damage Israel. And there is another quintet—Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Libya—which, in the dispassionate, nondiplomatic analysis of the intelligence community, cannot be discounted as potentially joining them.
By our relative standards, things have been a whole lot better in the recent past. Just six, seven years ago, for instance, Syria was being forced out of Lebanon, Libya was stopping its nuclear program, Yasser Arafat was dying, the United States was disposing of Saddam Hussein, and Iran, fearing that the US was heading its way next, was freezing at least parts of its nuclear program. Read more ..
The Edge of Piracy
|Martyn Drakard||February 8th 2010|
Cutting Edge Africa Correspondent
Over $60 million was last year’s ransom money paid out to pirate groups off the Somali coast, according to a regional anti-piracy watchdog, the Seafarers’ Assistance Program. Their report mentioned 47 vessels and nearly 300 crew members captured by pirates during the same period.
Recently a Greek flagged tanker, the VLCC Maran Centaurus and her 28 crew members were released after the owners reportedly paid a whopping $7 million, the largest sum to date. The Chinese, who usually make a point of not getting involved in the “internal affairs” of other countries, especially where human rights are concerned, have been dragged in too, and will –interestingly- join the naval forces of the European Union, NATO and the United States. Chinese container ships, laden with goods of all qualities and descriptions, destined for the fast-growing African market, are also threatened. Last December the Chinese bulk carrier De Xin Hai was freed after being held for two months. The Chinese say this will give them an international leadership role that will foster trust. Perhaps they need to work up a little consistency too. Read more ..
Inside the Mideast
|Mitchell Bard||February 1st 2010|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Beginning with the 1968 Phantom jet sale, the United States adopted a policy of assuring that Israel would have a qualitative military edge over its neighbors. Ten years later that edge began to erode with the decision of Jimmy Carter to sell advanced fighter planes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Since that time, even as the United States has continued to provide Israel with advanced weaponry, its advantage has diminished as successive presidents sold increasingly sophisticated systems to Arab states.
Israel has not objected to the sale of arms to Egypt since the Camp David Accords, but the quantity and quality of those sales has become increasingly alarming given that Egypt has consistently directed its war games toward Israel and that President Hosni Mubarak is now in his eighties with no clear successor. While the prospects of a radical change in Egypt's policy toward Israel is currently viewed as unlikely, it cannot be discounted and therefore makes the continued arming of an Egyptian military that faces no external threats a matter of concern. Read more ..
Iraq on the Edge
|Raymond Tanter||January 25th 2010|
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran has sought to dominate Iraq politically, economically, and militarily. The most recent and visible manifestation of Iran’s meddling with its neighbor was the late December 2009 seizure of a portion of the remote Fakka oil field in Maysan Province in southeastern Iraq; although the Iranians, however, withdrew after three days, the seizure made it clear that Tehran has the capability to enforce its will on Baghdad. Also, there is the threat of suicide bombing in Iraq by foreign Arabs; in addition to Syria—Iran’s only Arab ally—Iran itself has become another entry point for foreign suicide bombers to enter Iraq, e.g., for Arabs entering Iraq from Afghanistan.
Despite promises to the United States not to do so if Washington took action against the main political opposition to Tehran based in Iraq, thousands of Iranian-sponsored clerics crossed into Iraq from Iran. They carried books, compact discs, and audiotapes that promoted the Iranian version of militant Islam in spring 2003, following Operation Iraqi Freedom. Furthermore, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods (Jerusalem) Force established and continues to support armed underground cells across the Shiite southern region of Iraq, using the humanitarian organization, the Iranian Red Crescent, as a front. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||January 18th 2010|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
In 2001, one would-be shoe bomber forced millions of travelers to take off their shoes. In 2006, terrorists planned to bring down aircraft on transatlantic flights by smuggling liquid explosives onto planes. They were thwarted but they succeeded in preventing passengers from bringing liquids into airline terminals.
Lesson number one: In this terror war, the jihadists have the upper hand. They are the ones who choose to use a new weapon and they are also the ones who—by using simple logic—have refrained from using the same terror weapons more than once. In fact, since September 2001, Al Qaeda’s terrorists have avoided rushing into the cockpit of an airliner with box cutters.
Does this mean we were successful in deterring the terrorists? Of course: as long as we can prevent them from using the 9/11 methods, they won't be naive enough to repeat the same strategy. So is the US winning the fight with Al Qaeda by using these specific measures? No, we are simply protecting our population until the war is won. But winning is not measured by surviving potential copycat attacks.
Instead, this confrontation will be won by striking at the mechanism that produces the jihadists. And on that level, no significant advances have been made either under the previous administration or under the current one. For, as President Obama admitted late last month after a near-terror attack on Northwest Flight 253, there is a "systemic failure" in our defense against the jihadi terrorists. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||January 11th 2010|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
In the Arab world there is a saying: “Take their truth from their crazies” I didn’t think it would fully apply in geopolitics until I heard Libya’s dictator, Moammar Qadhafi, claiming on al Jazeera few years ago that Bin Laden had acquired intercontinental missiles.
The “crazy boy,” as the late Egyptian President Sadat used to call him, argued sarcastically that al Qaeda has developed an unstoppable weapon: human transoceanic missiles. He meant by that Jihadists who were committed to istishaad (martyrdom) by blowing up commercial jets over targets in America.
The man who has been ruling Libya for the past forty years knows his region very well and despite his peculiar behavior, has predicted what most observers of the Jihadist movement have also projected: al Qaeda and its allies worldwide have discovered the Achilles heel of American defenses: the inability of its security apparatus to identify the readying of the new weapon, its deployment and its launching.
The situation is so bad, that a man who was on some “persons of interest” list was nearly able to massacre hundreds of passengers and probably many innocent people on the ground but for the failure of his underwear bomb and the courage of a citizen of the Netherlands who rose to defend humanity with his bare hands.
A Nigerian young man, educated in Europe, with no antecedent (and visible) involvement in “violent extremism” -- as defined by new US doctrines -- with a family wealthy enough to elevate him well above any sense of disenfranchisement and the other so-called roots of radicalization, burned parts of his body as he was leaping into the “heaven of virgins.” Had he succeeded he would have accomplished a considerable feat: the second bloodiest terror act within US borders, pushing back the Fort Hood jihad to third position after 9/11. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Benjamin Freedman and Matthew Levitt||January 4th 2010|
On December 8, the United Nations Security Council hosted its first-ever thematic debate on drug trafficking as a threat to international security. This focus is notable. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned with the evolving threat of drug trafficking, especially as terrorist organizations stake a bigger claim in this illegal arena. In fact, on November 18, FBI director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials "strongly support Turkey's efforts against the PKK terrorist organization" and highlighted the two countries' long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
These discussions are timely. Despite Ankara's recent bid to alleviate the Kurdish issue -- a bid referred to as the "democratic opening" -- the PKK is one of a growing number of terrorist organizations with significant stakes in the international drug trade. In fact, in October the U.S. Treasury Department added three PKK/Kongra-Gel senior leaders to its list of foreign narcotics traffickers. The PKK, along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is one of only a few organizations worldwide designated by the U.S. government as both a terrorist organization and a significant foreign narcotics trafficker.
"Kongra-Gel" is the latest in a long series of names for the PKK. Established in 1974 as a Kurdish Marxist-Leninist group by Abdullah Ocalan (currently serving a life sentence), the organization's use of violence has vacillated over time. Initially, the PKK sought the establishment of an independent Marxist-Leninist Kurdish state, though more recently it claims to focus on securing a binational Turkish-Kurdish state. While the PKK's use of violence has subsided, it still maintains an active armed wing -- and it was this wing that, after seizing control of the group in 2004, annulled the PKK's five-year-long cessation of hostilities, declared by Ocalan in 1999 following his arrest. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Hassan Barari||December 28th 2009|
In early September, three senior leaders of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) resigned from the organization's executive bureau after it voted to dissolve the MB political department -- one of the few remaining components of the organization controlled by moderates. The resignations were a protest against not only the executive bureau's decision, but also the MB's increasingly close affiliation with Hamas. Today, the Jordanian MB is facing an unprecedented internal crisis, pitting the traditional moderate East Bank leadership -- Jordanians who are not originally Palestinian -- against the powerful pro-Hamas Palestinian-led element. Lately, these divisions have been aggravated by Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashal's apparent efforts to exploit the shifting balance of power within the MB to further his own organization's agenda in Amman. Ironically, Jordanian authorities -- who have long prided themselves on managing the Islamist issue -- have done little to stem the tide.
Two Competing Schools of Thought
Jordan's MB has always been divided ideologically between hawks and doves, a division that historically has benefited and strengthened the MB. The doves -- mainly East Bankers -- served as both the movement's leaders and as a cushion that insulated the regime from the organization's more radical base. Until recently, Jordanians of Palestinian origin never filled leadership positions. On April 30, 2008, however, Hamam Said, a radical clergyman with Palestinian roots and sympathies, was elected supreme guide, the top position in the MB.
Hamam Said's ascendance has been controversial, creating a dynamic that places the kingdom's Islamists into direct confrontation with the state. Paradoxically, this development may itself lead to increased dependence on the doves to mitigate expected tension with the state in the coming months. Read more ..
The Afghan War
|Isaac Kfir||December 21st 2009|
Cutting Edge Contributor
The West’s Afghan policy is in deep crisis, as eight years since the removal of the Taliban regime the country is experiencing rising violence. This is due to internal Afghan politics and history coupled with political and military mistakes made by the international community. The current situation has naturally led western politicians to suggest contradictory approaches to Afghanistan with some calling for talks with ‘moderate’ Taliban which have largely been rejected, whilst other call for a continued commitment to countering the Taliban and the other armed groups. In reality, the effect of the debate is to emphasize how rudderless the Afghan policy is, whilst the Afghan political system remains moribund.
The international community, with America in the lead, has made Afghanistan and Pakistan key issues in world affairs, and despite rising costs (the US has annually doubled its official defense costs in respect to Afghanistan, moving from under US $21 billion in 2001-2002, to a projected US $ 180 billion in 2009-2010), there remains a deep failure to understand the underlying dynamics of the area. Policymakers seem to believe that as long as money and soldiers are ‘thrown’ at the problem it would eventually come to an end. In reality Afghanistan is a bottomless pit. This is something that the Soviets discovered - the more men and money they poured into Afghanistan, the more difficult it became to extricate themselves from the Afghan quagmire.
The author argues that new efforts are unlikely to succeed because of the Pashtun culture and the legacy of the Afghan Jihad. For this reason, the international community should - instead of trying to ‘fix’ the Afghan problem by sending more troops and money - adopt a policy of containment that calls for a redeployment of resources. It is abundantly clear that despite billions of dollars and massive international efforts, many Afghans do not feel connected to their state. If anything, Afghans increasingly see the presence of the international community as an occupying force keeping a corrupt and decadent government in power. On the other hand, in the words of an Afghan man, "They [Taliban] collect 10 percent tax on all income, even from the government fields… So if you grow 100kg of wheat you pay 10kg and they give you a receipt and never charge extra or more." Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||December 14th 2009|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The United Nations is looking into claims that the Islamic Republic of Iran is establishing a smuggling network to import specialized equipment it needs to fashion nuclear weapons. According to recent reports, it is feared that companies in Taiwan are being convinced to obtain needed parts for nuclear weapons. This comes following growing pressures from the UN and third parties such as the United States for Iran to stand-down on its nuclear program. It uranium enrichment program is believed to be aimed at creating nuclear weapons.
Western intelligence suggests that Iran's Ministry of Defense have held a series of meeting with companies based in Taiwan to buy hundreds of pressure transducers, which can be used to produce weapons-grade uranium. Iran has been desperate to acquire the equipment for more than a year, but has been frustrated by the refusal of European and US companies to sell material that might be used for its nuclear program.
Read more ..
Africa on Edge
|J. Peter Pham||December 7th 2009|
|West African Pirates|
Almost all the attention on and, hence, resources for combating piracy in African waters have of late been focused almost exclusively on the waters off the Somali coastline. But a recent bloody attack is a reminder that the Gulf of Guinea on the opposite side of Africa can be equally dangerous – if not more so – even if it does not grab headlines as have spectacular heists like last week’s capture of the Greek supertanker MV Maran Centaurus. The Greek ship was transporting more than two million barrels of oil destined for the United States.
In the latest West African attack, on November 24, pirates in a speed boat approached the German-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker MT Cancale Star some 18 nautical miles off the coast of the West African country of Benin. The 230-meter vessel was weighed down with some 500,000 barrels of diesel bound for the Beninois port of Cotonou.
Storming on board the vessel, the pirates killed the Ukrainian first officer and wounded four other seamen before putting a gun to the head of one of the crew members and forcing the captain to open the safe, which they then emptied. With the exception of one pirate who was overpowered by the crew, all the marauders managed to escape before naval forces could respond to the tanker’s distress signal. It was subsequently learned that the pirates came from the Nigerian town of Badagry, on the border with Benin, 70 kilometers west of Lagos, Nigeria. The attack was the first such incident recorded for Benin, a poor, but peaceful, democracy, and represented a new expansion of the reach of Nigerian pirates. Read more ..
Chavez on Edge
|Christina Equivel and Paulina Serna||November 30th 2009|
Council on Hemispheric Analysis
On October 30, U.S. and Colombian officials signed the controversial Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), granting the U.S. armed forces access to seven Colombian military bases for the next ten years. The deal has been the subject of anxious speculation and heated debate since talks were first confirmed over the summer, as many policymakers throughout the hemisphere are now grappling with the reality of a heightened U.S. military presence in South America.
Though details were not released to the public prior to the signing of the agreement, official statements from both governments have continuously affirmed that the leased facilities would be exclusively used to support counternarcotic and counterinsurgency initiatives within Colombia.
However, a recently publicized U.S. Air Force document presents a far more ominous explanation for massive congressional funding for the forthcoming military construction at the Colombian bases. It emphasizes the “opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America” against threats not only from drug trafficking and guerrilla movements, but also from “anti-U.S. governments” in the region. Read more ..
Chavez on the Edge
|Luis Fleischman||November 23rd 2009|
Cutting Edge contributor
As in Honduras, Uruguayans will go to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday; November 29. The most likely candidate to win the elections is Jose Mujica, a leader of the former guerilla movement “Tupamaros” and a likely ally of Hugo Chavez. However, before reaching conclusions, it is important to understand the characteristics of this small country in order to evaluate the situation correctly.
Uruguay is a small country sitting as a buffer between Argentina and Brazil.
Uruguay evolved differently than neighboring Argentina. While in Argentina, Perón ruled undemocratically, Uruguay maintained a vibrant democracy which continued until its collapse in 1973. Uruguay also established a benevolent state early in the twentieth century aimed at preventing class conflict by redistributing goods and providing employment. The state later expanded its economic activities by creating their own companies. Thus, state bureaucracy grew under the multi-tasking role of the government as an entrepreneur and an employer. Political democracy and social welfare led to Uruguay becoming known as “The Switzerland of South America.” Read more ..
|Gal Luft||November 16th 2009|
Cutting Edge Security and Energy Writer
The tragic killing of the 13 U.S. soldiers in Fort Hood by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is one is a string of events involving Muslim soldiers and veterans who have gone astray, raising delicate questions about the role and trustworthiness of the 3,000 Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military. The major incidents include the March 2003 attack in Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait by an American Muslim soldier, Asan Akbar, who rolled grenades into three tents where officers of the 101st Airborne’s 1st Brigade were sleeping, killing one serviceman and wounding 15; the six Islamic radicals who in May 2007 plotted to storm New Jersey’s Fort Dix Army Base with automatic weapons and execute as many soldiers as possible; and John Allen Muhammad, the Beltway Sniper, a Gulf War veteran and convert to Islam who was responsible for 16 shootings and 10 murders and who was executed on November 14.
It would be inappropriate to malign or even question the loyalty of the hard-working Muslim men and women wearing the uniforms of the United States. But it would be equally irresponsible to ignore the amassing evidence that subversive and combustible elements with radical Islamic persuasion have infiltrated our military, often putting our personnel at bigger risk in their own bases than from their enemies on the battlefield.
While Muslim soldiers have served in uniforms loyally for decades, it is the rising number of Wahhabi-trained and converted Muslims that is a relatively recent phenomenon. Since Wahhabism is one of the most radical and puritan strands of Islam, the penetration of Wahhabi thinking into the ranks of the military must be treated with care. Read more ..
|Walid Phares||November 9th 2009|
Cutting Edge Terror Analyst
The Fort Hood killings, perpetrated by Major Malik Nadal Hasan, a psychiatrist by training, no matter what the judiciary reports will conclude is for now the largest single Terror act in America since 9/11. This quantitative finding will take into consideration the dramatic changes in the injury data released by authorities. However the most important matter now is not to fail to analysis the motives.
This mass murder was not an issue of sheer frustration because of foreign policy or revenge for racist slurs, nor is this an issue of simply being a Muslim American or indeed a member of any faith. This is an issue of radicalization of individuals by an extremist ideology, Jihadism, which fuels acts of terror.
The main question should be, when did Hasan radicalize and who indoctrinated him? Everything else will fall in place once we have these answers. Moreover, this would allow us to detect other potential terror acts that may be in the making. Read more ..
|Matthew Levitt||November 2nd 2009|
The Washington Post recently reported that some in the administration see the Lebanese Hezbollah as a possible model for transformation of the Taliban. Describing the Taliban as a movement "deeply rooted" in Afghanistan, much like Hezbollah is in Lebanon, proponents of a Hezbollah model for the Taliban see a scenario in which the Taliban participates in Afghan politics, occasionally flexes its military muscles to benefit its political positions at home, but does not directly threat the United States even if it remains a source of regional instability.
According to the Post, while the idea has been discussed informally "outside the Situation Room meetings," it has not yet been presented to President Obama. That's a good thing because the notion is deeply flawed, and its implementation would have dire consequences for Afghanistan, the region more broadly, and U.S. counterterrorism efforts all.
Hezbollah in Lebanon is a destabilizing force, as is the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not only does Hezbollah maintain an independent militia in explicit violation of United Nations resolutions, it uses this private army to create semi-independent enclaves throughout the south of Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley where Lebanese Armed Forces are not allowed. In these spaces, Hezbollah maintains training camps, engages in weapons smuggling and drug trafficking, and maintains tens of thousands of rockets aimed at its neighbor to the south, Israel. Hezbollah collects intelligence on people traveling through Beirut international airport, and has built its own communications infrastructure beyond the reach of the national government. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Myriam Benraad and Mohamed Abdelbaky||October 26th 2009|
Amid the uncertainty over Egypt's impending political succession, Egyptian security forces have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the country's largest opposition group, in an attempt to curtain MB participation in Egyptian political life. Since late June, the government has arrested dozens of mid- and high-level Islamists, including the leader of the movement's guidance council, Abd al-Muanem Abu al-Fatouh.
These Islamists oppose President Hosni Mubarak's bid for a sixth presidential term and reject his son Gamal as a potential replacement in 2011. After more than a decade of relative political moderation and successful deradicalization of the main Islamist groups, Cairo's policy of exclusion and persecution threatens to foment a return to radical Islamism in Egypt.
Muslim Brothers at an Impasse
Although formally outlawed, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has achieved important political gains over the past few years. In 2005, the group won eighty-eight seats in the national assembly through "independent" candidates, representing the largest opposition bloc to President Mubarak. The growing role of the MB in the political arena has emboldened its historical confrontation with the regime and found new impetus this summer after Egyptian security forces arrested hundreds of its members and leaders. While the current campaign is reminiscent of Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat's repression of the Islamist movement in the 1960s and 1970s -- which resulted in the emergence of other radical factions -- this crackdown has created an unprecedented crisis for the MB.
As a result of constitutional amendments passed in 2007, it has become difficult for the movement to run in either parliamentary or presidential elections. In fact, the restrictive new electoral law, which allows only registered political parties to campaign, bans religious parties, and imposes tough conditions on "independent" candidates, makes it nearly impossible for the MB to participate. Last year, these restrictions resulted in the rejection of more than 800 MB candidates for local council elections. The movement also failed to win in elections for professional lawyers and journalist syndicates. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
|Alex Sanchez||October 19th 2009|
In mid-September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton critiqued Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chavez for his ongoing purchases of mostly Russian military equipment, arguing that this could trigger an arms race in South America. The statement has added fuel to the ongoing discussions about what form South America’s rearmament is taking and what this could come to mean for the security of the region. Observers fear an inter-state war could break out due to geopolitical tensions.
Ongoing reports about major purchases by Venezuela, Brazil, and Chile tend to blur the actual geo-security situation in the region, as several countries -- with Argentina as the most prominent example -- have carried out only limited military acquisitions. The common perception is that an arms race raises the possibility of conflict; however, the reality in South America (and Central America as well) is that interstate warfare has seldom occurred since World War II. Additionally, it is misleading to assume that all South American countries are carrying out their arms purchases with the same gusto as Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela. Read more ..
|Peter Crail||October 12th 2009|
Arms Control Association
This report reflects the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation of the Iran nuclear program prior to the discovery of the secret Qom facility.
Since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began investigating Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear programs in late 2002, it has sought clarification for number of activities of particular concern regarding Tehran’s nuclear intentions.
The agency made little headway in getting answers from Iran until 2007, when Iran and the IAEA developed a work plan outlining steps Iran would take to provide more information on these activities. As part of this work plan, Iran agreed to address questions about work it carried out in the past, explain some of its contacts with the Abdul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan nuclear smuggling network, and respond to claims by western countries that Tehran was engaged in work directly related to nuclear weapons. Read more ..
|Adam Wallace||October 5th 2009|
Cutting Edge London correspondent
With the discovery in Iran of a hidden second uranium enrichment plant, in defiance of world opinion and United Nations Sanction, recent revelations from Canada may be the smoking gun that finally reveals the military purpose behind Tehran’s claims of “nuclear development for peaceful purposes only”.
George Webb, head of the Canada Border Services Agency's Counter Proliferation Section stated in interview last week that Iran has been running sophisticated nuclear procurement operations in Canada for some time, in order to surreptitiously acquire materials for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. "Anything to do with a nuclear program is going to Iran," said Webb.
An on-going investigation by Canada’s Border Services Agency has seized not only various nuclear components such as a raid in 2008 that netted centrifuges and programmable logic controllers, [components used in nuclear reactors to implement automated systems, including emergency shutdowns] destined for Iran, but also far more significantly, this week the discovery of a shipment of microchips, claimed by Department of Defense officials as likely to be guidance chips for ballistic missiles. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||September 28th 2009|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
It is unprecedented in American counterterrorism annals: in one day the nation was dealing with three separate Jihadist plots to blow up civilian and other targets inside our homeland. Although the cases were addressed at different time periods by the FBI and other agencies, nevertheless, the thickening web of terror attempts has breached the line of U.S. national security.
In recent days, authorities revealed three conspiracies by American Jihadists: Michael C. Finton, a 29-year-old man, who wished to follow the steps of American-born Talibani John Walker Lindh, was arrested after trying to detonate what he thought was a bomb inside a van outside a federal courthouse in Springfield, Ill. Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian national was arrested after placing what he believed was a bomb at a downtown Dallas skyscraper. But perhaps the most troubling case is of Afghan-born Najibullah Zazi, who set up shop in suburban Denver and began scouting the Web and visiting beauty supply stores in a hunt for chemicals needed to build bombs for Al Qaeda. Sources called the alleged plot one of the most significant terror threats to the U.S. since 9-11. Add to that list the North Carolina Jihad cell, led by Saifullah Boyd, which was planning to attack civilian and military targets across the country.
The immediate question raised by an increasingly worried public is about the connection between all these terror cases: are they all connected? While law enforcement and certainly judicial authorities proceed in a bottom up reasoning, that is to build the case for a global connection between all that is happening with the help of legal evidence, analysts in the field of counter terrorism and conflict are already realizing the meaning of what is happening inside America.
Years ago, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America (2005-2006) projected that Jihadists—individuals and cells—would mushroom inside the United States within few years, that they would do what they are trying to do now, and how large they would become with time. It was a simple deduction: if the Government doesn’t counter this ideological growth, Jihadists will keep coming. And in fact they kept coming, spreading crossing the barriers of ethnicities, races, nationalities and geographical frontiers. The Jihadists committed to harm the U.S., and there are now hundreds based inside our borders. These predictions, made on CNN and Oprah’s show in 2006, raised a few eyes brows. Now unfortunately, we are meeting the cells of Jihadism in our cities and towns; and sadly, the expectation is that we will see more and may not be able to stop them all from achieving their goals. Read more ..
Iran's Nuke and North Korea's Nukes
|Edwin Black||September 21st 2009|
|GBU 57 A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator |
The Pentagon is accelerating by three years plans for a super bunker buster, the GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator or MOP, a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder or more than 20 feet base to nose, weighs 30,000 pounds. Some 18 percent of its total weight is comprised of explosives. Guided by a precision GPS system, the MOP can penetrate an unprecedented 200 feet down before exploding with devastation into an underground bunker, such as those buried in Iran and North Korea currently used to shield rogue nuclear programs. Now Congress has quietly advanced $68 million into the 2009 budget to accelerate the purchase and deployment of ten such super bunker busters making clear they are for possible use against the regimes in Iran or North Korea. Pentagon planners are rushing to beat by months the latest June 2010 deadline for just four such bombs, and have been subsequently directed to increase the number of MOPs to at least ten.
In early July 2009, the Defense Department told a Congressional committee that the MOP was the "weapon of choice" for an “urgent operational need” enunciated by both the U.S. Pacific Command, tasked with North Korea, and the Central Command, tasked with Iran. In doing so, the Pentagon accelerated the program by three years. Read more ..
The Weapons Trade
|Eduardo Szklarz||September 21st 2009|
Cutting Edge Latin America correspondent
|French-built Eurocopter 725 to Brazil|
Some analysts fear that military cooperation between Brazil and France may change the strategic balance in Latin America.
In recent months, tension has grown in the region because of arms purchases by Venezuela's flamboyant President Hugo Chavez from Russia, and the accord signed by Colombia and the United States that allows the US to use Colombian military bases. Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim defended his nation's recent shopping spree by saying that its new nuclear submarine will be equipped with conventional weapons only, while noting that Brazil has “constituional prohibition” against the fabrication and use of atomic weapons. Besides, Brazil is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Brazil recently inked with France the most important military pact in Brazil's recent history. The agreements signed by the the Brazilian foreign ministry and the French Quai d'Orsay provides for the delivery of 50 EC-725 helicopters, four conventional Scorpene submarines and a nuclear-powered sub. These will actually be built at shipyards and a naval base located near Rio de Janeiro. The entire deal is valued at approximately $10 billion and will be completed in stages out to 2021. Read more ..
The Weapons Trade
|Alex Sanchez||September 14th 2009|
Brazil has become a high-tech and growing civil-military power in the same league as Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries). When it comes to Brazil and military technology, one name comes to mind: Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica, S. A.). The Brazilian company specializes in civilian and military aircraft, and is regarded as one of the top three aircraft companies in the world, next to Boeing and Airbus. Today Embraer’s military products make it an increasing factor in the arms manufacturing and supplying field, along with several other transnational arms companies currently competing to be major international weapons suppliers.
How Embraer became the flagship of the Brazilian arms industry
Embraer’s history can be traced back to the Brazilian military junta that ruled the country from 1964-1985. When Embraer was founded in 1969, the junta was led by General Emilio Medici, who wanted the country to have its own self-contained aircraft manufacturing company, with the state controlling 51 percent of the shares.
While Embraer is commonly mentioned today as Brazil’s major military industrial complex, it should be recalled that it also was one of only three such companies in Brazil during military rule and afterwards. As its name suggests, Embraer focused on aircraft, with the Tucano becoming its flagship military product. The other prominent Brazilian military industries were Avibrás Indústria Aeroespacial S.A. (Avibrás), which was established in 1961, and Engenheiros Especializados S.A. (Engesa), which began its operations in 1963. Globalsecurity.org explains that “…by 1980 Brazil had become a net exporter of arms. On the demand side, the rapid success resulted from a growing need in the developing world for armaments.” Specifically, this meant those that met specialized performance and cost qualifications. The report continues, “On the supply side, Brazil’s arms exports were designed for developing world markets and were noted for their high quality, easy maintenance, good performance adverse conditions, and low cost.”
Read more ..
|Yaakov Katz||September 7th 2009|
Jeruasalem Post correspondent
|Israel's Arrow2 |
The Israeli Defense Ministry is preparing for the possibility that the United States will decide to leave missile defense systems in Israel following a joint missile defense exercise the two countries will hold next month, senior Israeli officials have confirmed.
While the US has yet to announce that it will leave systems in place here, the possibility is strong, one official said, particularly in light of reports that the Pentagon was conducting a review of its European missile shield and was leaning towards deploying the systems in Turkey.
The Israeli Air Force's Air Defense Division will hold a joint drill, called Juniper Cobra, with the US Military's European Command (EUCOM) and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) next month in what is being described as the largest joint exercise ever held by the two countries, during which they will jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems.
Czech Defense Minister Martin Barták will meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv to discuss a wide range of issues, including the Iranian nuclear threat and the US review of the missile shield in Europe.
Under the original plan, initiated by the Bush administration, an advanced radar was to be deployed in the Czech Republic and to be connected to some 10 missile interceptors based in Poland. The plan has been met by fierce Russian opposition, which led to the current reevaluation being conducted in Washington. Read more ..
|Yaakov Katz||August 31st 2009|
Jerusalem Post correspondent
"Iran can now reach Israel but still wants to develop longer ranges," a NATO official has said. "We believe that in the foreseeable future, Iran could fire conventional or nuclear-tipped missiles into Europe."
As a result, NATO's interest in Iran has dramatically increased in recent months as the Islamic Republic works to upgrade its ballistic missiles and increase their range so they can penetrate deep into Europe, according to officials at the Western military alliance.
While the interest has not taken on a practical form, except in NATO and the United States's plan to deploy a missile defense shield in Europe, Israeli defense officials said that the military alliance no longer viewed Iran as taboo. Read more ..
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