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Edge of Terrorism

Transition in Egypt: Radicals on the Rise?

October 26th 2009

Islamic Topics - Muslim brotherhood

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

South American Arm Races Advance War Agendas

October 19th 2009

Military - EMBRAER AMX

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 ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran's Outstanding Nuclear Issues with the IAEA Before Qom--at a Glance

October 12th 2009

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuke

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 ..


Iran's Nukes

Iranian Nuclear Program Nears Critical Mass With Canadian Disclosures

October 5th 2009

Iran - Iran Nuclear Equipment

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

The Mushrooming of Jihad in America

September 28th 2009

Terrorism - 3 Terrorists

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

Super Bunker-Buster Bombs Fast-Tracked for Possible Use Against Iran and North Korea Nuclear Programs

September 21st 2009

Military - MOP GBU57
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

France Alters Latin America's Strategic Balance Amid Arms Build-Up

September 21st 2009

Military - Eurocopter 725
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

Embraer: Is the Brazilian Military Industry Becoming a Global Arms Merchant?

September 14th 2009

Military - EMBRAER AMX

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 ..


Iran's Nuke

U. S. Missile Defense May Be Stationed in Israel

September 7th 2009

Israeli Military - Arrow2
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 ..

Iran's Nukes

NATO Concerned as Iran Extends its Nuclear Missile Range to Europe

August 31st 2009

Iran - Iran Long-Range Missile

"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 ..


The Edge of Terror

Africa's Terror Threat is Real

August 24th 2009

Africa Topics - Somali Militants
Somali militants

Over the past months, the narrative of Washington's "new direction" in world affairs blurred the clarity of the confrontation with the terror forces worldwide. Are we at conflict with a global threat? The administration, insisting on treating the issue locally, claimed otherwise.

But during President Barack Obama's July 11 speech in Accra, he said that "when there's a genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems,” explaining, "they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response."

This zigzag between local and global risk is confusing not only to the public but to strategists as well. If terrorism in Somalia is a global security challenge, then it is a global threat. And thus it is a global confrontation, call it war or call it anything else. Therefore, the response has to be global, security, military, political, economic, and ideological.

Responding to the jihadi threat throughout Africa must be continental and integrated with international efforts. The president should have drawn the attention of his audience to the trans-African jihadi threat commencing in Somalia with the al-Shabab, and thrusting through the immensity of the Sahel via Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania. The menace is even wider as the Salafists (al-Qaida-like jihadists) threaten northern Africa via Algeria, Morocco, and even Egypt. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

The Recession and Terrorism Financing

August 17th 2009

Islamic Topics - Islamic Terrorist

The economic downturn and instability of the financial markets in the West has battered global economies. Despite the accompanying drop in oil prices, the current financial crisis has actually presented opportunities to expedite the influence and extend the global reach of Islamism in ways Sunni imams and Shiite mullahs could have only fantasized about before.

Saudi & Gulf Funding

The financial tsunami that swept state and local governments, as well as national and international aid organizations, has led to a precipitous decline in services to growing numbers of unemployed or needy citizens, not to mention subsidies to academic institutions and other organizations. This provided petrodollar-loaded Islamist regimes with an opportunity to practice da'wa (Islamic missionary outreach) through donations in the name of Islam. Such donations, including financial bailouts of cash-strapped Western institutions and businesses, have helped directly and indirectly to spread Islamism globally.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is commonly recognized as the primary exporter of Wahhabism, among the more extreme strains of Islamism. In 2008, Saudi Arabia earned $285 billion, up from $201.1 billion in 2007. Indeed, the Saudi Kingdom took the lion's share of the $968 billion total revenue of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Read more ..


Israel and Hamas

Reality Contradicts New Hamas Spin

August 10th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

In recent interviews, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has offered to cooperate with U.S. efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, indicated a willingness to implement an immediate and reciprocal ceasefire with Israel, and stated that the militant group would accept and respect a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. But the conciliatory tone of this hardline Hamas leader, who has personally been tied to acts of terrorism and is himself a U.S.-designated terrorist, is belied by the group's continued violent actions and radicalization on the ground, as well as the rise to prominence of violent extremist leaders within the group's local Shura (consultative) councils. Hamas's activities of late appear to be diametrically opposed to the compliance of Mashal's statements.

Continued Terrorist Activities

Despite talk of a ceasefire and pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hamas's military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, continues to engage in terrorist activities. Shooting attacks are still common along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, including the firing of rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. Read more ..


America and Iran

Persian Gulf Lessons in 1980s for Pentagon Planners Today

August 3rd 2009

Iran - Iranian Warships

While Iran studied the lessons of its conflict with the United States, the Pentagon arguably paid far less attention than it should have. The “Tanker War” of the 1980s had never been popular with an “open ocean” U.S. Navy. The tactical innovations of waging counterinsurgency operations at sea were not incorporated into U.S. naval doctrine or training, except by individual participants who taught at the Naval War College according to their own experiences in the Gulf.

The service branch that did take some interest was the U.S. Army: Operation Earnest Will was used as a case study at its Combined Arms Center, when interest in low-intensity conflict heightened during the 1990s. To save money, U.S. combatant vessels were withdrawn from the Gulf as quickly as possible following the July 1988 ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War, over the objections of the new CENTCOM commander, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. He argued that too rapid or dramatic a drawdown in U.S. naval forces would send a message to the region of decreased U.S. commitment and may invite aggression from Iran or other regional adversaries. Read more ..


Arabs and the West

Original Mideast Peace Plan Recognized Jewish State in Return for Arab Nation in Syria

July 27th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Every day, politicians and pundits talk of another chance at Mideast peace missed, delayed or subverted. The focus is always on Palestinians and Israelis as the keystone to a global settlement with the West and across the region. But in the original peace arrangement between the Jews, Arabs and the Western powers, it was not settlements and Jerusalem that were at the heart of the problem. In fact, the Arabs originally agreed to a Jewish state complete with massive Jewish immigration. For Arabs, the prize was not Palestine, it was Syria.

This is the story of how the original Middle East Peace Plan crafted among all sides in the aftermath of World War I was subverted—not by Jews or Zionists, but by the French.

It begins at the Paris Peace Conference, on January 1919, in a flag-bedecked, battle-scarred—but victorious—Paris. There, the great top-hatted Allied men of vision and illusion gathered to remake the world and invent the post-Ottoman Middle East. At those fateful meetings, the Arabs and Jews formally agreed to mutually endorse both their national aspirations and live in peace.

This was the deal: The Jews could have an unrestricted Zionist state in Palestine. The British could have Iraq and its fabulous, albeit still undrilled, oil. The Arabs only wanted Syria and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the Arabian Peninsula.

During the first days of the League of Nation’s Paris Peace Conference, Faisal, accompanied by T.E. Lawrence, widely dubbed "Lawrence of Arabia," met in Paris with Zionist Organization president Chaim Weizmann. Following up on meetings the two leaders had held the previous June in Aqaba, Faisal signed an enlightened and tolerant nine-point agreement endorsing the Balfour Declaration and inviting the Zionists to coexist in Palestine. The text includes great specificity about mutual national aspirations. But the chief goal of the Arabs for an Arab national state at that time was not Palestine—but Syria. The text: Read more ..


The Edge of Terror

Was Soccer Team a Target in Jakarta Hotel Bombings?

July 27th 2009

Terrorism - Manchester United player
Manchester United in the red jersey

The double bombing of the Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta that killed nine people and wounded over sixty was a clear attack on Western targets. The organizers were members of Jama Islamiya, an al Qaeda splinter. Even before JI publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, it was easy to determine that they were the perpetrators. All the indications were there—and not just because this same Marriot hotel was hit in 2003 by this same group, killing twelve people.

Luxury hotels are obvious targets. Western travelers enjoy luxury hotels around the world. Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world. Indonesia is therefore the perfect place for extremists to ply their trade. Clearly, this attack was intended to cause a bigger bang for the terrorist world than it actually did cause. Was it just another bloody attack on a luxury hotel—or was something more at play? Read more ..


America and Iran

Iranian Persian Gulf Strategy, Operations, and Tactics in the 1980s

July 20th 2009

Military - U.S. Naval Carrier
U.S. Naval Carrier

Iran’s military approach in its 1980s clashes with the United States show that the Teheran regime pursued one simple objective in opposing the U.S. escort of Kuwait’s tankers: force the U.S. Navy out of the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s leaders viewed the U.S. decision to safeguard the Kuwaiti tankers as a direct intervention in their war with Iraq. It was a common belief in Tehran at the time that the Iraqi invasion had been carried out at the behest of Washington to undermine the Islamic Revolution. With Iran’s dramatic seizure of the al-Faw Peninsula in February 1986, the United States had intervened to support Baghdad. According to U.S. intelligence, one Iranian commander at Bandar Abbas stated that the United States seemed intent on doing everything to "protect" Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s war machine. And since Kuwait was one of Iraq’s chief financial supporters, safeguarding the emirate’s oil tankers was tantamount to aiding Baghdad’s war effort.

Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Can Iraqis Stand Up After American Forces Stand Back

July 13th 2009

Iraq - Iraqi Forces
Iraqi Forces

During a Congressional briefing in July of 2007, a plan called "Freedom Lines" was submitted to the U.S. House Caucus on Counter Terrorism which suggested a second phase in the American military campaign in Iraq. Freedom Lines suggested a rapid training and expansion of the Iraqi armed forces followed by a gradual redeployment of U.S. and Coalition forces out of the cities and urban zones. This was part of a long term goals of al Qaeda and the Iranian regime in Iraq by CENTCOM officials and National Defense University professors. Today, we see the first phase of withdrawal beginning to take place. It is in this redeployment stage that Iraqi forces will be taking over from Americans and allies in all cities and most towns.

Two crucial questions immediately arise: 1) Will Iraqi forces be able to control their own urban zones? 2) And, as a corollary, what should be the next phase for U.S. and Coalition forces on Iraqi soil According to the proposed plan, the answer to the second question can determine the success or failure of the first. Indeed, for Iraqi forces to win the battle against their security challenges, it will depend on what kind of strategic mission U.S. armed forces will be tasked with in the next stage of their new deployment. Here is why:

The two main forces the U.S. and the West are facing in the region, and which are threatening the rise of democracy amongst local civil societies have been and continue to be the Salafi Jihadists led by al Qaeda on the one hand and the Ayatollahs' Pasdaran on the other hand. These two threats—regardless of how various U.S. administrations perceive them or project them—are the main challengers to Iraq's national security.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Inside NYPD's Counterterrorism Operations

July 6th 2009

Crime Topics - NY Cops

The NYPD has a highly developed counterterrorism program, due in large part to the strong support of city and department leaders such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who are both committed to having a strong counterterrorism program that effectively complements federal efforts. Our department is by far the largest police department in the country. While most police departments have only a few hundred employees, the NYPD has 53,000 men and women plus an operating budget of $4 billion. In addition, the city currently has a very low crime rate. All of these factors make it relatively easy for the NYPD to devote significant resources to counterterrorism.

To say that the NYPD is filling in the gaps in federal counterterrorism efforts is not a criticism of the federal government, which is very good at acquiring information on individuals connected to overseas terrorist organizations. Rather, our department has something the federal government lacks: plenary police power, which gives the department a broad ability to maintain public order, and a unique and important role in overall counterterrorism efforts. The NYPD counterterrorism bureau comprises several main elements. Read more ..


Russia's Nukes

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control for the "Protect and Defend" Strategy

July 6th 2009

Russian Topics - Putin
Vladimir Putin

The Obama Administration has declared its determination "to stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; and seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material." In line with these goals and the promise "to extend a hand if others are willing to unclench their fist," the Administration has rushed to renew negotiations with the Russian Federation (RF) on a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and broader areas of cooperation. The negotiations will seek to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and prevent further proliferation, in accordance with the joint statements issued by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in London on April 1, 2009.

The recent upsurge in international calls to eliminate all nuclear weapons has intensified the Administration's hope to develop a new workable agreement with the RF by December 5, 2009, when START will expire.

Yet the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), frequently referred to as the Moscow Treaty, already requires the U.S. and Russia to reduce their strategic nuclear forces below START levels. However, SORT lacks the verification and control measures in START. Since at least mid-2006, Moscow has called for maintaining START verification and transparency measures, albeit modified to reduce expenses and make the measures less cumbersome.

Admittedly, progress in bilateral U.S.–Russian relations, particularly in reducing American and Russian nuclear arsenals, could benefit both powers and the international community at large. However, progress will not emerge automatically simply on the strength of good intentions. Moreover, while the quantity and quality of weapons possessed by nuclear powers are key elements in assessing defense requirements, the nature and state of relations between them are just as important. Obviously, the United States has nothing to fear from the nuclear arsenals of Britain and France, two democratic Western allies, but the U.S. relationships with Russia and China are clearly much more complex and controversial. Read more ..


Exiting Iraq

Inside the Agreement Governing the Exit from Iraq

June 29th 2009

Iraq - Iraq-US SOFA Signing

According to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the U.S. military will complete its withdrawal from Iraqi cities on June 30, 2009. The redeployments have both real and symbolic importance, and will mark a milestone in the Obama administration's cautious drawdown of Washington's military commitment. Nonetheless, the U.S. military will continue to play a vital role in consolidating and extending security gains throughout the country, particularly in the rural provinces.

The SOFA was approved by Iraq's cabinet, parliament, and presidential council during November and December 2008 and is supposed to be ratified in a national referendum by July 30, 2009, a date that may be allowed to slip to coincide with the January 2010 national elections. Read more ..


Iran's Voter Revolt

Arab Regimes Won't Miss Iran's Ayatollahs

June 22nd 2009

Iran - Iran Election Protest

Many Arab governments, including the Palestinian Authority, are quietly hoping that the latest crisis in Iran will mark the beginning of the end of the radical regime of the ayatollahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Frustrated with Teheran's long-standing policy of meddling in their internal affairs, representatives of the relatively moderate, pro-Western governments in Ramallah, Cairo, Beirut, Riyadh and other Arab capitals are hoping that regime change in Iran would undermine radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah.

These proxy groups, together with Syria - Iran's strategic ally and facilitator in the Arab world - have long been viewed as a main source of instability in the Middle East.
Yet the Arab heads of state and their government officials appear to be doing their utmost to downplay the Iran crisis. They are obviously concerned that their constituents would follow suit and demand reforms and free elections.

Invoking Palestinian terminology, Arab editors and columnists have been describing the anti-government protests in Iran as an intifada. "The pro-Iran camp in the Arab world is very worried," said Abdel Rahman Rashed in an op-ed in the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. "It's natural for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other pro-Iran groups to be afraid because their existence depends solely on the radical regime in Iran. If anything bad happens to this regime, they will suffer even more." Read more ..


Afghanistan on the Edge

Stabilizing Iraq Provides Intelligence Lessons for Afghanistan

June 15th 2009

Asia Topics - Afghani Counter-Insurgents
Afghani counter-insurgents

After the U.S. initiation of hostilities in Iraq in 2003, Washington's focus shifted away from the conflict in Afghanistan. Until recently, U.S. policy focused on winning the war in Iraq while securing an apparent coalition victory in Afghanistan. Although this policy yielded positive results in Iraq, it led to drift and a series of security reverses in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, despite vastly different circumstances, the United States has learned many lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom that can be applied to Operation Enduring Freedom, particularly in the intelligence arena.

Not long ago, sectarian violence, brutal attacks with improvised explosive devices, ambushes, assassinations, and kidnappings were the norm in Iraq. This situation, however, has changed dramatically over the last eighteen months, and the frequency of these types of events has diminished significantly.

Some observers attribute the dramatic changes in security to the 2007 "surge" of U.S. military ground forces into Iraq, while others believe the Sunni Awakening, in which U.S. forces helped establish local Sunni militias, should be credited with much of the success. Both factors contributed to the remarkable turnaround in Iraq; however, the major reason for success can be traced to timely and accurate intelligence, born of new technologies and innovation, new leadership at the combat support agencies (CSAs), and new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) derived from lessons learned on the battlefield, which enabled U.S. forces to undertake highly effective, intelligence-driven operations.  Read more ..


Russia's Nukes

Moscow’s New Nuclear Strategy and the Old MAD Principle

June 8th 2009

Russian Topics - Russian ICBM
Russian ballistic missile

A small but vocal group of Russian traditionalists allege that calls for eliminating nuclear weapons hide a sinister U.S. desire to deprive Russia of its ultimate security guarantee:

One such Russian traditionalist pronouncement declares: "Today, nuclear weapons are a factor of deterrence. However, take a closer look: The Americans are already developing the theory of strategic nonnuclear deterrence.… Actual use of nuclear weapons…puts an end to any deterrence because it results in irreversible processes. In contrast, strategic high-precision nonnuclear weapons may be used both for deterrence and punishment. This is why in America…they are now seriously looking at strategic nonnuclear deterrence that offers significantly more flexible capabilities for use and punishment of any aggressor specifically for purposes of deterrence."

Hence, a significant litmus test of the Russian leadership's real attitudes toward nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament is its position on overcoming the vestiges of the Cold War in strategic relations with the United States.

Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Arkansas's Lone Jihadi: Is He Really Alone?

June 8th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

In an armed attack outside the Army-Navy Career Center which handles recruiting in Little Rock, Arkansas, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, killed one soldier and wounded another. Muhammad, an American citizen who is a convert to Islam and was previously known as Carlos Bledsoe, was already under investigation by the FBI at the time of the shootings. He had traveled to Yemen, received indoctrination from radical clerics—according to a watch group—and possessed a false Somali passport. He was charged in the death of Pvt. William Long, 23. A prosecutor said Muhammad admitted shooting Long and another soldier "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

Here is a new case of an individual U.S. citizen who committed an act of terror in the name of his ideology (Government officials have called it inaccurately a "political and religious motive") against U.S. military targets. Is there a pattern here? Is he a repeat? A copycat? In fact, if one reviews several previous cases: the Miami cell, the Fort Dix Six, the Georgia two, the New York Four, the Virginia Paintball network, and others, this appears to be an upsurge of a phenomenon called analysts have labeled "Mutant Jihad." Two important elements are to be taken into consideration. One is the fact that in many of these cases, U.S. military personnel and targets have been on the short list of these "homegrown terrorists." These urban Jihadists tend to systematically focus on military deployment inside the United States. In a sense, even as the perpetrators are separate, dispersed, and not connected, their targeting seems classically war-like: attacking the enemy's forces in the homeland. Second is the clear fact that in all these cases, without exception, we're seeing one ideology: Jihadism. Despite various levels of understanding and sophistication, the cells and lone wolves who were involved in the terror acts legitimized their actions under the label of "Jihad."

Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Bronx Jihadi Cell and Its Wider Implications

June 1st 2009

Terrorism - Bronx Jihad
Bronx Jihadi David "Daoud" Williams

A successful counterterrorism operation led by the FBI and the NYPD ended with the arrest of four New York City men in connection with plots to bomb Jewish temples, other city locations, and gun down military planes in upstate areas. According to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the suspects—identified as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen—allegedly "wanted to commit Jihad." A first reading official statementts and of material made available by authorities prompt several questions and raise a number of points for debate.

First, one must acknowledge the success of the counterterrorism agencies' efforts to stop a "Jihadi" attack against the country. According to the Associated Press, the arrests came following a nearly year-long undercover operation that began in Newburgh, New York, roughly 70 miles north of New York City. The patience, professionalism, and sophistication of the law enforcement procedures used in engaging the cell indicate that the first lines of defense are efficient. Since the 9/11 attacks, New York task forces have been able to arrest suspects in a number of plots including against the Ft. Dix, New Jersey military base, JFK International Airport, the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan, and the Brooklyn bridge. This leads us to realize that both New York and the nation have been attacked, but that the shield has worked well—so far. The dismantling of this cell is certainly good news, but it should also be a stark reminder that we as a nation are still under attack. And if we are under attack, it only means that we are still at war, a real one, not a "man-made disaster."

Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

After Mumbai--Countering Jihadi across the Subcontinent

May 25th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

After Mumbai, what's next?

Today, post-Mumbai, the expectation of repeat attacks and copycats is eerily high. Indeed, the jihadists who seized a few buildings in India's financial center and who wreaked havoc at several locations in the city have brought a concept for the future to the attention of national security analysts: Urban Jihad.

Projections of al Qaeda and other jihadi tactics should be based on a patient and thorough observation of their literature and actions over the past decades. By now, the public realizes that such scenarios are not just possible, but highly likely in the future. In all countries where Jihadi cells and forces have left bloody traces over the past eight years, at least counter-terrorism agencies have been put on notice: it can happen there as well.

But the Mumbai Ghazwa (raid) reveals a more sinister shadow hovering over the entire subcontinent, if not all of Central Asia. Although a press release was issued by the so-called "Indian Mujahideen," many traces were left—almost on purpose—to show Pakistani involvement, or, to be more precise, a link to forces operating within Pakistan, one of them being Lashkar-e-Toiba. Investigators suspected that elements within the intelligence service in Pakistan were involved, even if the cabinet wasn't aware of it. This strong probability, if anything, gave rise to much wider speculation, since this attack took place in the midst of dramatic regional and international developments.

Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Assessing Progress against the Global Jihadist Threat

May 18th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

In April 2009, the U.S. State Department and the European Union released their annual terrorism reports, which paint a varied picture of international counterterrorism efforts to date, with clear progress in some areas and deterioration in others. The reports also illustrate how the rapidly evolving terrorist threat presents an ongoing and significant challenge to the United States and its allies, as terrorists continually adapt to international pressure. One positive aspect of the reports is that Americans and Europeans appear to have similar views on the threat posed by international Islamist terrorism, which may offer opportunities for the Obama administration as it attempts to improve transatlantic ties.

The Threat
According to both the State Department and Europol, the EU's law enforcement organization, the major terrorist threat to the West now emanates from the tribal areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda's leadership is safely ensconced. The numbers released by the National Counterterrorism Center for the State Department's report demonstrate markedly the growth of the terrorist threat within Pakistan. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism is a Global Intelligence Imperative

May 11th 2009

Iran - Doctored Iran Missile Launch

As Mohamed El-Baradei's term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) draws to a close, the organization is struggling to choose a new leader. After deadlocking on an initial vote in March, a new round of nominations closed on April 27, with the next vote scheduled in the coming months.

While the IAEA sorts out changes at the top, the United States should try to expand the agency's mandate and responsibilities. One such change would be the establishment of a full-fledged intelligence office, which would dramatically improve the agency's ability to identify and deter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Post-September 11 Urgency

After the September 11 attacks, the CIA faced the daunting prospect of al-Qaeda seeking a nuclear bomb and collaborating with Pakistani nuclear scientists in an effort to build one. A mood of grim determination gripped the U.S. intelligence establishment, a sentiment highlighted by CIA Director George Tenet when he stated that "We are behind the eight ball" in tracking al-Qaeda's efforts to obtain WMDs.  Read more ..


Pakistan on the Edge

Reviving Pakistan's Pluralist Traditions to Fight Extremism

May 5th 2009

Islamic Topics - Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan is in the midst of rapid political shifts that are challenging the leadership's ability to maintain cohesion within the country and even raising questions about that nation's ability to survive as a viable nation-state over the next few years. The country has long suffered from ethnic and sectarian divisions.

However, the recent threat from a well-armed and well-organized Islamist insurgency pushing to establish strict Islamic law in the entire country, beginning with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), adds a new and more dangerous dimension to the country's challenges. Although the collapse of the Pakistani state may not be imminent, as some have recently argued, the government's surrender of the Swat Valley is a major victory for Islamist extremists seeking to carve out pockets of influence within the country. Read more ..


Military Edge

Special Forces Need Gunships

April 20th 2009

Military - AC-130 Gunship
AC-130 Gunship

Gunships are a special breed of aircraft. Ironically, they are valued most by those on the ground. When critical close air support is needed by special forces, the gunships fly into action. But the United States is running out of these valuable flying battleships.

America's milittary currently deploys a variety of special forces, that is, small, highly trained units that perform specialized, tense and tough missions. These include the Army's Rangers, the Marine Corp's Force Reconnaissance Companies, and the Navy SEALs, who have most recently been in the news for their anti-piracy work. Common to all of the missions undertaken by these units is the need for close air support. This might be delivered by an attack plane such as the A-10 Thunderbolt, the AV-8B Harrier, a helicopter gunship such as the AH-6 Little Bird or AH-64 Apache, or by one of two types of fixed wing gunships currently operated by the U.S. Air Force. These fixed wing gunships, seventeen 1990s era AC-130U Spooky and eight 1970s vintage AC-130H Specter class planes, are literally falling to pieces due to the mission tempo they're subjected to in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Behind the Somali Jihad on the High Seas

April 20th 2009

Piracy - Somali Pirate
Somali Pirate

Most of the media discussion about piracy in the Gulf of Aden has drifted understandably towards the sensational part of the story: how are the pirates able to roam the Ocean? Is paying them ransom a better option than to engage them militarily? Last but not least, will a military intervention against the Pirates worsen the situation; will it lead to a massive escalation in Somalia and a Vietnam like quagmire for many years to come?

The armed bands on the waters are still roaming the seas of Aden and the Indian Ocean across from Somalia and Kenya, are not impressed with the dozens of naval units dispatched by powerful navies from around the world.

What is behind this Piracy phenomenon, what lays ahead if the international community intervenes and what could develop in that region if the latter is late to intervene or doesn’t meet the challenge? It appears the strategic challenge is even bigger than the mere piracy. Indeed the strategy now contemplated by regional powers could become a major military debacle. Here is why: Read more ..


Military Edge

Somali Piracy of Maersk Alabama Places Littoral Combat Ships in Perspective

April 13th 2009

Military - SS Independence
SS Independence Littoral Combat Ship

The captain and crew of the M/V Maersk Alabama are now safe thanks to their own quick wits and our fast acting navy. With piracy on the high seas and defense budgets sinking, it might be a good time to place some our naval assets into perspective—especially littoral combat vessels. Here are some details.

The United States maintains twelve carrier strike groups. They are a mix of one aircraft carrier, several surface support ships such as cruisers, destroyers, or frigates and one or two attack submarines. Less well known than the seventy year old carrier strike group formations are the equal number of expeditionary strike groups, a concept that arose less than a decade ago.

The expeditionary strike group has a similar contingent of surface support warships and submarines but in place of the aircraft carrier an amphibious assault ship, a landing platform dock, and a landing ship dock are found. Their objective is to stand ready at sea and deliver a package of troops, landing craft, vehicles, and support aircraft when needed.

The heart of the expeditionary strike group is either one of five Tarawa class landing helicopter assault ships or one of the seven Wasp class landing helicopter dock ships. The Tarawa class dates from the 1970s while the Wasps are twenty years newer. Each can carry roughly thirty five aircraft that would include a mix of helicopters and the Harrier close air support jets, a crew of about a thousand, two thousand marines, and both have internal bays accessible from the rear of the ship where landing craft can enter. Read more ..


The Edge of Islamic Extremism

The Myth of the Two Talibans

April 6th 2009

Terrorism - Taliban

In a recent interview with the New York Times, President Barack Obama said he hopes U.S. troops can identify moderate elements of the Taliban and move them toward reconciliation. The proposition came as a conclusion to a larger picture: the battlefield situation in Afghanistan. Obama said the United States was not winning the war in that country and thus the door must be opened to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.
 
Following these statements, a flurry of comments exploded throughout the international media.  While most of the mainstream press and networks in the West praised the new daring turn in U.S. policy--the readiness to engage the Taliban, most of the pan Arabist and Jihadi sympathizer outlets in the region warned the move will not be successful. In a panel discussion on BBC TV Arabic, a noted expert in Islamist affairs from Amman said there is no such thing as Taliban independence from the higher ups like Mullah Umar. Read more ..


The Edge of Islamic Extremism

Obama's Options Running out in Afghanistan and Pakistan--Next Six Months Crucial

March 30th 2009

Islamic Topics - Pakistan - Islamic extremism
Pakistani Police Battle Islamic Fundamentalists

President Obama is running out of options and time to prevent the mass Talibanization of Islamic Asia, according to  Pakistani political analyst Ahmed Rashid. Rashid's remarks were given in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais. Time is running out for Central Asia as it approaches the abyss of Islamic fundamentalism, he said. Rashid is the author of the book Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

Rashid explained that “Talibans have become a model” for insurgency, adding that a “redefinition of the war on terror” is necessary in order to prevent a wholesale descent into anarchy. Read more ..


Edge onTerrorism

Hizballah and Iran Open New Contacts As West Engages

March 23rd 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

In early March, the British government reestablished contact with Hizballah, reversing a ban that had been in effect since 2005. The move comes less than a year after Britain decided to actually tighten the ban on Hizballah and outlaw its military wing. The decision not only highlights the lack of a coordinated EU policy regarding the Shiite movement, but also complicates EU and U.S. efforts to formulate a coherent and unified policy toward Lebanon and Iran.

Britain's new policy position toward Hizballah, which will certainly be mimicked by EU members that do not already have dealings with the Lebanese movement, was justified by Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who stated that "We have reconsidered the position . . . in light of more positive developments in Lebanon." One of the "positive developments" was the establishment of the new Lebanese unity government last July, which reinstated Hizballah ministers and ensured that it would hold an effective veto over government decisions. Read more ..


Inside Terrorism

Al-Qaeda's Response to the Economic Crisis

March 16th 2009

Islamic Topics - Islamic Terrorist

The deepening global financial crisis has focused international attention on failing companies, rising unemployment, and diving stock markets. Little attention, however, has been given to the downturn's significant effect on terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, which has altered its central message and is facing dwindling financial resources. Although the economic situation has likewise affected government and private-sector counterterrorism efforts, steps can be taken to improve the current counterterrorism financing regime even in these troubled times.

Background

Al-Qaeda's immediate reaction to the financial crisis has been to claim credit for the economic misfortunes of the West. The group argues that today's financial problems are the consequences of the September 11 attacks and the cost of the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leaders have always regarded the West's consumerism as a key vulnerability and have consistently espoused attacks against economic targets. Despite complaining that the Muslim world's resources benefit Western countries and their allies more than they do the Muslim community, terrorist leaders regard oil as the treasure of their future caliphate.  Read more ..


The Edge of Computer Security

Identity Theft Upgrades to "Identity Assumption"

March 9th 2009

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

The dark and increasingly dangerous world of identity theft is often presented to us as mere personal chaos revolving around fake credit card charges. While this is a valid concern, the emerging dimension of this threat is far more sinister. Today, identity theft has morphed into something far more odious: “identity assumption.”

This fast-growing crime now facilitates many drug deals and massive fraud. But that is just the beginning. It is only a matter of time before another major terror event occurs in which identity assumption is a key component. Security professionals are extremely reticent to divulge exact details lest they provide  the roadmap for an upstart identity assumption ring; however, amid growing concerns, they are now willing to talk in general terms. Read more ..


Inside Terrorism

Iraq Withdrawal Contingent Upon Pressuring Iran and Syria

March 3rd 2009

Terrorism - Terrorist Movements in Iraq

 Iran, Syria and al Qaeda plans for post-U.S. withdrawal

Now that President Obama and his aides have announced their plan for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by August 31, 2010, they must consider what the forces engaged against the Coalition and Iraqi Government are planning. For the Iranian and Syrian regimes, as well as al Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, can affect the U.S. withdrawal plan.

Per senior U.S. officials, the Iraq war will unilaterally come to an end on August 31, 2010 unless dramatic developments force another strategy. As President Bush declared “mission accomplished” after the removal of Saddam in 2003, President Obama has now declared the end of “all counter-insurgency missions” by 2010. After that date, from the 142,000 Marines and Army personnel, some 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain and would be ready to deploy in counter-terrorism missions. Under the “Status of Forces Agreement” with the Iraqi government, all American forces must be removed by December 31, 2011. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran-Israel Nuclear End Game Now Much Closer

February 23rd 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked

This continuing coverage of America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.

What has happened? First, Iran has proven it can successfully launch a satellite into outer space as it did on February 2. Tehran claimed to the incredulity of Western governments that the satellite was to monitor earthquakes and enhance communications. Few believe that, especially since America’s own space program continuously launches unpublished military satellite missions. Tehran plans three more satellites this year, creating an easily weaponized space net that worries American military planners. Read more ..



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