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The Battle for Syria

Syrian Conflict Carries Threat of Regional War

June 17th 2014

Bomb Damage

U.N. investigators are warning the Syrian conflict is threatening the entire region.  The four-member Commission of Inquiry on Syria says a regional war in the Middle East draws ever closer.

The latest report documents the extent and violence of the abuse and suffering being endured by the Syrian people after more than three years of war.  It also warns what had been a localized state war can no longer be contained.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry says the most dangerous aspect of these developments is the rise of the sectarian threat.  It considers this a direct consequence of the dominance of extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn saif the Commission predicted a long time ago the dangers of a spillover of the Syrian conflict from its borders into those of its regional neighbors.     Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel Prepares for Major Actions

June 16th 2014

Soldiers-vehicles

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz put the world on notice Monday that Israel is "heading towards an extensive operation" against Hamas in order to recover three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on Friday.

"We have one objective," Gantz said in an IDF briefing, "find the three teens, bring them home, crack down on Hamas as hard as possible and move forward."

The IDF has already deployed in force across the West Bank, closing down the city of Hebron, calling up reserves, and doing house-to-house searches in many Palestinian towns. It is the largest IDF operation in the West Bank in years, and now appears set to become much larger.

"We are looking ahead at increasing the activity against Hamas, with an emphasis on the Hebron area," an anonymous source told YNet. Another source said that deporting Hamas officials to Gaza is also being seriously considered. Read more ..


The Battle for Iraq

Senate Republican Leader Demands Obama to Take Action in Iraq

June 14th 2014

Click to select Image

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has called on President Obama to provide immediate assistance to Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is battling Sunni extremists threatening to topple his government.

McConnell warned the gains made by the United States and a coalition of partners to transition Iraq from a dictatorship to a democracy, at the cost of more than 4,000 American lives and trillions of dollars, risk evaporating.

He said if the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an off shoot of al-Qaeda, takes over Iraq it would pose a “grave threat” to U.S. national security. He stopped short of calling for the redeployment of American ground troops. Obama rejected Maliki’s pleas for airstrikes last month, according to The New York Times, but opened the door to some kind of intervention in remarks Friday. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

China's Jihadists

June 14th 2014

Soldiers

On March 2, 2014, a train station in Kunming, in western China's Yunnan province, witnessed a horrific slashing attack by black-clad Uighurs wielding large knives and machetes.  The attack left 29 dead and 143 wounded. At least 9 Uighurs, members of the East Turkestan [separatists] Islamic Movement (ETIM), which have committed more than 200 terrorist attacks over the past 12 months, were identified as the attackers.

The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from the country's northwestern region Xinjang that borders Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan. Xinjiang is also known as East Turkestan. It is unlikely that the machete-wielding Uighurs, who traveled 900 miles away from home, could have planed the massacre without help from a few of the very small number of Kuming's Uighur residents. 

The Chinese authorities blame inflammatory videos and social media sites that have managed to evade China's Internet censorship as the instigators of the Uighur jihad movement. They also blame outside support from Sunni radicals from the 5 post-Soviet Central Asian states for growing terrorist attacks. Others claim the attack was orchestrated by al Qaeda in Xinjang. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

The Scope of the Challenge

June 14th 2014

U.S. Naval Carrier

In November 2013, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) embarked on an effort to reform what is universally recognized as a broken acquisition system within the Department of Defense. Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Tex), the HASC Vice Chairman, and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) were tasked with leading the charge on what will likely be a multi-year reform effort.

The task is daunting and has skewered many previous efforts at improvement. To understand the magnitude of the challenge, it may be helpful to view DOD as first and foremost a people-centric enterprise supporting an economy the size of a small nation. Together, military service members, civilians, and contractors (oftentimes performing interchangeable functions) use an installed capital base of machines, equipment and land to meet the national security missions of the United States. To operate this economy, DOD bought $308 billion in goods and services in 2013. How contractors are used is critical to the productivity and readiness of the Armed Services that translates into the ability to fight and deter potential enemies abroad. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Iran May Have Already Entered the War in Iran

June 13th 2014

Iranian government officials including President Hassan Rohani have expressed readiness to help the government of their Iraqi ally, Nuri al-Maliki, fight the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) amid Western media reports that the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard has already dispatched forces to Iraq.

Rohani warned that Tehran is not ready to stand by and tolerate the recent violence in Iraq. He did not elaborate on the time and measures Iran could take to assist Maliki. Iran's police chief, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, was quoted as saying that Tehran could intervene to protect Shi'ite shrines and cities. Read more ..


The Battel for Iraq

ISIS Annual Reports Reveal a Metrics-Driven Military Command

June 13th 2014

Iraqi Militia

On March 31, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) published a new edition of “al-Naba” [The Report], its “annual report” covering the period of November 2012 to November 2013. The Arabic language report, over 400 pages long, was first published by the I’tisaam Media Foundation, ISIS’s main media arm, and then re-posted online by secondary sources. This report is the second known ISIS report publicizing the results of their military campaign in Iraq. In August 2013, ISIS published a similar report covering the period of November 2011 – November 2012. This report was posted to the al-Shumukh jihadist forum, one of al-Qaeda’s primary information outlets. Although the covers of the report refer to them as the “fifth” and “fourth” years, respectively, no previous editions appear to be available online. Possibly these years refer to an organizational milestone, rather than a first edition, given that the quantity of military operations between 2009 – 2011 was not as significant. The repeated publication of consecutive annual reports indicates that the ISIS military command in Iraq has exercised command and control over a national theater since at least early 2012. ISIS in Iraq is willing and able to organize centralized reporting procedures and to publish the results of its performance to achieve organizational effects. Such organizational effects might include attracting the attention of potential donors to ISIS’s cause and also showing off an increasingly structured organization capable of more than just attacking haphazardly.
 
There are many reasons why a military organization would collect and publish attack metrics. First, metrics effectively demonstrate the use of centrally distributed resources, such as suicide bombers. Second, metrics provide a higher command with a means to compare subordinate commands and to control main efforts. Third, attack metrics provide a means to communicate organizational efficacy to outside parties, such as donors, al-Qaeda groups, and adversaries. While the contents of the annual report are more significant as a message than as a measurement of actual attacks, it is important to understand what ISIS is reporting about its own performance in order to understand its own narrative about the war in Iraq.
 
This essay will examine the statistics provided by ISIS in its two consecutive annual reports. Where possible, this report will compare the attack statistics reported by ISIS to other sources of information, such as local news and previous ISW assessments. This verification will not be possible in every instance; therefore, this report will not attempt a full quantitative or content analysis. Rather, this report is a preliminary summary in order to point out that ISIS is claiming credit for significant battlefield effects, including some that are not readily observable in open source reporting. In particular, ISIS describes its campaign for Ninewa as a main effort, which is only incidentally apparent from local news because ISIS has silenced journalists in that area through intimidation since January 2014.
 
It is important to remember that the number of attacks reported by ISIS may be exaggerated or irregularly reported; for example, it is unclear from their reported numbers how ISIS categorizes complex attacks that include more than one attack type (a raid of a building preceded by a suicide vest attack, for example). A more intensive analysis of the Arabic report content may identify monthly trends and other significant insights into how ISIS interprets data. ISIS reporting about its campaign in Ninewa makes these documents an important resource. Further analysis may also explain how ISIS in Iraq conceptualizes phased operations; how operations are resourced; and how subordinate commands operate.
- See more at: http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/ISIS-Annual-Reports-Reveal-Military-Organization#sthash.L3qXRD43.dpuf
On March 31, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) published a new edition of “al-Naba” [The Report], its “annual report” covering the period of November 2012 to November 2013. The Arabic language report, over 400 pages long, was first published by the I’tisaam Media Foundation, ISIS’s main media arm, and then re-posted online by secondary sources. This report is the second known ISIS report publicizing the results of their military campaign in Iraq. In August 2013, ISIS published a similar report covering the period of November 2011 – November 2012. This report was posted to the al-Shumukh jihadist forum, one of al-Qaeda’s primary information outlets. Although the covers of the report refer to them as the “fifth” and “fourth” years, respectively, no previous editions appear to be available online. Possibly these years refer to an organizational milestone, rather than a first edition, given that the quantity of military operations between 2009 – 2011 was not as significant. The repeated publication of consecutive annual reports indicates that the ISIS military command in Iraq has exercised command and control over a national theater since at least early 2012. ISIS in Iraq is willing and able to organize centralized reporting procedures and to publish the results of its performance to achieve organizational effects. Such organizational effects might include attracting the attention of potential donors to ISIS’s cause and also showing off an increasingly structured organization capable of more than just attacking haphazardly.
 
There are many reasons why a military organization would collect and publish attack metrics. First, metrics effectively demonstrate the use of centrally distributed resources, such as suicide bombers. Second, metrics provide a higher command with a means to compare subordinate commands and to control main efforts. Third, attack metrics provide a means to communicate organizational efficacy to outside parties, such as donors, al-Qaeda groups, and adversaries. While the contents of the annual report are more significant as a message than as a measurement of actual attacks, it is important to understand what ISIS is reporting about its own performance in order to understand its own narrative about the war in Iraq.
 
This essay will examine the statistics provided by ISIS in its two consecutive annual reports. Where possible, this report will compare the attack statistics reported by ISIS to other sources of information, such as local news and previous ISW assessments. This verification will not be possible in every instance; therefore, this report will not attempt a full quantitative or content analysis. Rather, this report is a preliminary summary in order to point out that ISIS is claiming credit for significant battlefield effects, including some that are not readily observable in open source reporting. In particular, ISIS describes its campaign for Ninewa as a main effort, which is only incidentally apparent from local news because ISIS has silenced journalists in that area through intimidation since January 2014.
 
It is important to remember that the number of attacks reported by ISIS may be exaggerated or irregularly reported; for example, it is unclear from their reported numbers how ISIS categorizes complex attacks that include more than one attack type (a raid of a building preceded by a suicide vest attack, for example). A more intensive analysis of the Arabic report content may identify monthly trends and other significant insights into how ISIS interprets data. ISIS reporting about its campaign in Ninewa makes these documents an important resource. Further analysis may also explain how ISIS in Iraq conceptualizes phased operations; how operations are resourced; and how subordinate commands operate.
- See more at: http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/ISIS-Annual-Reports-Reveal-Military-Organization#sthash.L3qXRD43.dpuf

On March 31, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) published a new edition of “al-Naba” [The Report], its “annual report” covering the period of November 2012 to November 2013. The Arabic language report, over 400 pages long, was first published by the I’tisaam Media Foundation, ISIS’s main media arm, and then re-posted online by secondary sources. This report is the second known ISIS report publicizing the results of their military campaign in Iraq.

In August 2013, ISIS published a similar report covering the period of November 2011 – November 2012. This report was posted to the al-Shumukh jihadist forum, one of al-Qaeda’s primary information outlets. Although the covers of the report refer to them as the “fifth” and “fourth” years, respectively, no previous editions appear to be available online. Read more ..


Jordan on Edge

Iraqi Jihadists Threaten to Kill Jordan's King and Envelope the Mideast

June 13th 2014

Click to select Image

The recent victories in Iraq and Syria by the terrorists of ISIS -- said to be an offshoot of al-Qaeda -- have emboldened the group and its followers throughout the Middle East. Now the terrorists are planning to move their jihad not only to Jordan, but also to the Gaza Strip, Sinai and Lebanon.

Failure to act will result in the establishment in the Middle East of a dangerous extremist Islamic empire that will pose a threat to American and Western interests.

"The danger is getting closer to our bedrooms." — Oraib al-Rantawi, Jordanian political analyst.

Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Syria have begun creeping toward neighboring countries, sources close to the Islamic fundamentalists revealed this week. Read more ..


The Battle for Iraq

Iraq Falling--What It Means

June 12th 2014

ISIS

According to the pattern already implemented in the “conquered” areas in Syria, the ISIS will likely begin its rule by establishing a Caliphate governed by Islamic law – Shari’ah – and headed by its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a jihadist who began as an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in 2003. In February 2014, Al-Baghdadi refused to declare allegiance when Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri demanded that he subordinate himself to the Jabhat Al-Nusra jihadist organization fighting the regime in Syria.

ISIS presented the non-Muslim population with three choices: either convert, pay a special tax (the Islamic per capita tax “jizya“) applied to non-Muslims, or leave the area. A first signs of this development are the 500,000 residents of Mosul fleeing the area, mostly Assyrians of Christian faith, who historically were the majority of the population in the Ninawa (Nineveh) Governorate surrounding Mosul.

The Meaning of the ISIS Victory

The ISIS’ achievement in Mosul has very dire implications:

Analysts originally estimated ISIS’s strength to be around two to three thousand fighters. The Mosul campaign means that the assessment was a gross underestimation.

Moreover, it appears that ISIS has mastered communications and tactical operations suggesting that it may have adopted the pattern of an organized army, graduating from guerrilla warfare and undisciplined bands.

The Iraqi army’s disintegration and disorderly retreat show a lack of leadership, a low morale and a weak resolve to fight the insurgents. This may lead the ISIS to exploit its victory and carry out further attacks on army outposts and to enlarge ISIS’s territory (perhaps towards the oil city of Kirkuk).

The ISIS now neighbors the Iraqi Kurdish area which leads to several assessments:

1. The Kurds, seeing the Iraqi central regime’s weakness, will take all the necessary measures to protect their autonomy and expand their influence to neighboring Syrian Kurdistan. The Kurds understand very well that they could be the next target after the Assyrians and accordingly will preempt any attempt by the jihadists to step foot in their areas. The fall of Mosul could become the beginning of Kurdish quest for independence.

2. Mosul is a strategic city at the crossroads between Syria and Iran. Several strategic oil and gas pipelines crisscross this area to the west, north and south. The presence of the ISIS represents a threat if the ISIS takes possession of oil-producing areas and shipments. Destabilizing northern Iraq and further deteriorating the security of other areas such as Baghdad and further south to Basra, could have dire consequences of Iraq’s production and export of oil. In an extreme scenario, one could envisage a situation similar to Libya, where militias’ rule brought Libya’s production of oil almost to a halt.

Today, Iraq fills the gap created by Libya’s absence in the oil market. Would Iran and Saudi Arabia be able to replace Iraq production?

A Titanic Cataclysm

3. The city of Mosul is 45 miles south of the mammoth Mosul Dam formerly known as the Saddam Dam.2 Built on a water-dissolving gypsum foundation, the dam’s stability has generated great concerns and led to major reconstruction and rehabilitation program since 2003. A man-made or natural collapse of that dam could unleash a trillion-gallon wave of water, possibly killing tens of thousands of people and flooding the largest cities in the country, according to assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. officials.

American officials have warned that the dam’s collapse could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet. “In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world,” the Army Corps concluded in September 2006.

At this point in time, it is not known if the ISIS controls also the dam or if it is in the hands of the Kurds or the Iraqi Government. Falling into ISIS hands could represent a huge threat of “titanic” dimensions were the jihadists to use the dam as an extortion weapon against the Iraqi regime. Even without trying to destroy the dam, the possibility of the dam remaining under their control raises the question of the maintenance and the resilience of its foundations if not taken care on a continuous basis.

4. In order to keep Iraq as a unified political entity, the regime has no choice but to declare war on the ISIS. Failure to dislodge the ISIS from Mosul and from other cities will signal other communities that they have to take care of their own interests. This could lead to the partition of Iraq into four main autonomous areas: the Kurds in the northeast, the Sunnites in Baghdad area, ISIS in the northeast and the Shi’ite autonomous areas in the south comprising Najf, Karbala and Basra.

Unknown Iranian and American Reactions

5. Facing this situation, Iran will likely intervene in order to assist its Shi’ite neighbor. Iran cannot accept the partition of Iraq as a solution because the irredentist trends in Iraq might find an echo in Iran itself. Then, as in the case of Syria, losing Shi’ite Iraq to the Sunnites would mean in the long run another conflict with Iraq. In this situation would Iran choose to intervene like in Syria, through proxies such as Iraqi Hizbullah or expeditionary Lebanese Hizbullah units, or through its own Basij units?

6. The U.S. Administration also has to act swiftly to preserve its own national interests and to prevent “newcomers” replacing the U.S. role in Iraq. A divided Iraq or an Iraq caught up in civil war is not of America’s interests. The U.S. choices stop short of sending troops to Iraq. American assistance would be limited to actions such as providing intelligence, carrying out drone attacks, training, and/or supplying sophisticated lethal and intelligence equipment. In this perspective, the U.S. administration might be led to assess that its ongoing dialogue with Iran could also include regional issues, such as the stability of Iraq.

7. Finally, the ISIS victory in Mosul could become a beacon to rally other jihadist organizations (such as in Nigeria) and another threat to the monarchies of the Gulf. The ISIS has proven that years after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and of Mali by the MNLA, the jihadist organizations are still capable of mass operations and not only limited to small scale guerrilla warfare.

On the other hand, the same examples of Afghanistan, Mali, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Central African Republic demonstrate very clearly that no terrorist organization can withstand a head-on collision with an organized, well-led regular army. It is up to the Iraqi government to make the tough decision to enter into armed conflict in order to prevail.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/fall-mosul-iraq-jihadists-game-changer/#sthash.pOBXmqhG.dpuf

According to the pattern already implemented in the “conquered” areas in Syria, the ISIS will likely begin its rule by establishing a Caliphate governed by Islamic law – Shari’ah – and headed by its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a jihadist who began as an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in 2003. In February 2014, Al-Baghdadi refused to declare allegiance when Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri demanded that he subordinate himself to the Jabhat Al-Nusra jihadist organization fighting the regime in Syria.

ISIS presented the non-Muslim population with three choices: either convert, pay a special tax (the Islamic per capita tax “jizya“) applied to non-Muslims, or leave the area. A first signs of this development are the 500,000 residents of Mosul fleeing the area, mostly Assyrians of Christian faith, who historically were the majority of the population in the Ninawa (Nineveh) Governorate surrounding Mosul.

The Meaning of the ISIS Victory

The ISIS’ achievement in Mosul has very dire implications:

Analysts originally estimated ISIS’s strength to be around two to three thousand fighters. The Mosul campaign means that the assessment was a gross underestimation.

Moreover, it appears that ISIS has mastered communications and tactical operations suggesting that it may have adopted the pattern of an organized army, graduating from guerrilla warfare and undisciplined bands.

The Iraqi army’s disintegration and disorderly retreat show a lack of leadership, a low morale and a weak resolve to fight the insurgents. This may lead the ISIS to exploit its victory and carry out further attacks on army outposts and to enlarge ISIS’s territory (perhaps towards the oil city of Kirkuk).

The ISIS now neighbors the Iraqi Kurdish area which leads to several assessments:

1. The Kurds, seeing the Iraqi central regime’s weakness, will take all the necessary measures to protect their autonomy and expand their influence to neighboring Syrian Kurdistan. The Kurds understand very well that they could be the next target after the Assyrians and accordingly will preempt any attempt by the jihadists to step foot in their areas. The fall of Mosul could become the beginning of Kurdish quest for independence.

2. Mosul is a strategic city at the crossroads between Syria and Iran. Several strategic oil and gas pipelines crisscross this area to the west, north and south. The presence of the ISIS represents a threat if the ISIS takes possession of oil-producing areas and shipments. Destabilizing northern Iraq and further deteriorating the security of other areas such as Baghdad and further south to Basra, could have dire consequences of Iraq’s production and export of oil. In an extreme scenario, one could envisage a situation similar to Libya, where militias’ rule brought Libya’s production of oil almost to a halt.

Today, Iraq fills the gap created by Libya’s absence in the oil market. Would Iran and Saudi Arabia be able to replace Iraq production?

A Titanic Cataclysm

3. The city of Mosul is 45 miles south of the mammoth Mosul Dam formerly known as the Saddam Dam.2 Built on a water-dissolving gypsum foundation, the dam’s stability has generated great concerns and led to major reconstruction and rehabilitation program since 2003. A man-made or natural collapse of that dam could unleash a trillion-gallon wave of water, possibly killing tens of thousands of people and flooding the largest cities in the country, according to assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. officials.

American officials have warned that the dam’s collapse could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet. “In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world,” the Army Corps concluded in September 2006.

At this point in time, it is not known if the ISIS controls also the dam or if it is in the hands of the Kurds or the Iraqi Government. Falling into ISIS hands could represent a huge threat of “titanic” dimensions were the jihadists to use the dam as an extortion weapon against the Iraqi regime. Even without trying to destroy the dam, the possibility of the dam remaining under their control raises the question of the maintenance and the resilience of its foundations if not taken care on a continuous basis.

4. In order to keep Iraq as a unified political entity, the regime has no choice but to declare war on the ISIS. Failure to dislodge the ISIS from Mosul and from other cities will signal other communities that they have to take care of their own interests. This could lead to the partition of Iraq into four main autonomous areas: the Kurds in the northeast, the Sunnites in Baghdad area, ISIS in the northeast and the Shi’ite autonomous areas in the south comprising Najf, Karbala and Basra.

Unknown Iranian and American Reactions

5. Facing this situation, Iran will likely intervene in order to assist its Shi’ite neighbor. Iran cannot accept the partition of Iraq as a solution because the irredentist trends in Iraq might find an echo in Iran itself. Then, as in the case of Syria, losing Shi’ite Iraq to the Sunnites would mean in the long run another conflict with Iraq. In this situation would Iran choose to intervene like in Syria, through proxies such as Iraqi Hizbullah or expeditionary Lebanese Hizbullah units, or through its own Basij units?

6. The U.S. Administration also has to act swiftly to preserve its own national interests and to prevent “newcomers” replacing the U.S. role in Iraq. A divided Iraq or an Iraq caught up in civil war is not of America’s interests. The U.S. choices stop short of sending troops to Iraq. American assistance would be limited to actions such as providing intelligence, carrying out drone attacks, training, and/or supplying sophisticated lethal and intelligence equipment. In this perspective, the U.S. administration might be led to assess that its ongoing dialogue with Iran could also include regional issues, such as the stability of Iraq.

7. Finally, the ISIS victory in Mosul could become a beacon to rally other jihadist organizations (such as in Nigeria) and another threat to the monarchies of the Gulf. The ISIS has proven that years after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and of Mali by the MNLA, the jihadist organizations are still capable of mass operations and not only limited to small scale guerrilla warfare.

On the other hand, the same examples of Afghanistan, Mali, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Central African Republic demonstrate very clearly that no terrorist organization can withstand a head-on collision with an organized, well-led regular army. It is up to the Iraqi government to make the tough decision to enter into armed conflict in order to prevail.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/fall-mosul-iraq-jihadists-game-changer/#sthash.pOBXmqhG.dpuf

According to the pattern already implemented in the “conquered” areas in Syria, the ISIS will likely begin its rule by establishing a Caliphate governed by Islamic law – Shari’ah – and headed by its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a jihadist who began as an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in 2003. In February 2014, Al-Baghdadi refused to declare allegiance when Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri demanded that he subordinate himself to the Jabhat Al-Nusra jihadist organization fighting the regime in Syria.

ISIS presented the non-Muslim population with three choices: either convert, pay a special tax (the Islamic per capita tax “jizya“) applied to non-Muslims, or leave the area. A first signs of this development are the 500,000 residents of Mosul fleeing the area, mostly Assyrians of Christian faith, who historically were the majority of the population in the Ninawa (Nineveh) Governorate surrounding Mosul.

The Meaning of the ISIS Victory

The ISIS’ achievement in Mosul has very dire implications:

Analysts originally estimated ISIS’s strength to be around two to three thousand fighters. The Mosul campaign means that the assessment was a gross underestimation.

Moreover, it appears that ISIS has mastered communications and tactical operations suggesting that it may have adopted the pattern of an organized army, graduating from guerrilla warfare and undisciplined bands.

The Iraqi army’s disintegration and disorderly retreat show a lack of leadership, a low morale and a weak resolve to fight the insurgents. This may lead the ISIS to exploit its victory and carry out further attacks on army outposts and to enlarge ISIS’s territory (perhaps towards the oil city of Kirkuk).

The ISIS now neighbors the Iraqi Kurdish area which leads to several assessments:

1. The Kurds, seeing the Iraqi central regime’s weakness, will take all the necessary measures to protect their autonomy and expand their influence to neighboring Syrian Kurdistan. The Kurds understand very well that they could be the next target after the Assyrians and accordingly will preempt any attempt by the jihadists to step foot in their areas. The fall of Mosul could become the beginning of Kurdish quest for independence.

2. Mosul is a strategic city at the crossroads between Syria and Iran. Several strategic oil and gas pipelines crisscross this area to the west, north and south. The presence of the ISIS represents a threat if the ISIS takes possession of oil-producing areas and shipments. Destabilizing northern Iraq and further deteriorating the security of other areas such as Baghdad and further south to Basra, could have dire consequences of Iraq’s production and export of oil. In an extreme scenario, one could envisage a situation similar to Libya, where militias’ rule brought Libya’s production of oil almost to a halt.

Today, Iraq fills the gap created by Libya’s absence in the oil market. Would Iran and Saudi Arabia be able to replace Iraq production?

A Titanic Cataclysm

3. The city of Mosul is 45 miles south of the mammoth Mosul Dam formerly known as the Saddam Dam.2 Built on a water-dissolving gypsum foundation, the dam’s stability has generated great concerns and led to major reconstruction and rehabilitation program since 2003. A man-made or natural collapse of that dam could unleash a trillion-gallon wave of water, possibly killing tens of thousands of people and flooding the largest cities in the country, according to assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. officials.

American officials have warned that the dam’s collapse could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet. “In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world,” the Army Corps concluded in September 2006.

At this point in time, it is not known if the ISIS controls also the dam or if it is in the hands of the Kurds or the Iraqi Government. Falling into ISIS hands could represent a huge threat of “titanic” dimensions were the jihadists to use the dam as an extortion weapon against the Iraqi regime. Even without trying to destroy the dam, the possibility of the dam remaining under their control raises the question of the maintenance and the resilience of its foundations if not taken care on a continuous basis.

4. In order to keep Iraq as a unified political entity, the regime has no choice but to declare war on the ISIS. Failure to dislodge the ISIS from Mosul and from other cities will signal other communities that they have to take care of their own interests. This could lead to the partition of Iraq into four main autonomous areas: the Kurds in the northeast, the Sunnites in Baghdad area, ISIS in the northeast and the Shi’ite autonomous areas in the south comprising Najf, Karbala and Basra.

Unknown Iranian and American Reactions

5. Facing this situation, Iran will likely intervene in order to assist its Shi’ite neighbor. Iran cannot accept the partition of Iraq as a solution because the irredentist trends in Iraq might find an echo in Iran itself. Then, as in the case of Syria, losing Shi’ite Iraq to the Sunnites would mean in the long run another conflict with Iraq. In this situation would Iran choose to intervene like in Syria, through proxies such as Iraqi Hizbullah or expeditionary Lebanese Hizbullah units, or through its own Basij units?

6. The U.S. Administration also has to act swiftly to preserve its own national interests and to prevent “newcomers” replacing the U.S. role in Iraq. A divided Iraq or an Iraq caught up in civil war is not of America’s interests. The U.S. choices stop short of sending troops to Iraq. American assistance would be limited to actions such as providing intelligence, carrying out drone attacks, training, and/or supplying sophisticated lethal and intelligence equipment. In this perspective, the U.S. administration might be led to assess that its ongoing dialogue with Iran could also include regional issues, such as the stability of Iraq.

7. Finally, the ISIS victory in Mosul could become a beacon to rally other jihadist organizations (such as in Nigeria) and another threat to the monarchies of the Gulf. The ISIS has proven that years after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and of Mali by the MNLA, the jihadist organizations are still capable of mass operations and not only limited to small scale guerrilla warfare.

On the other hand, the same examples of Afghanistan, Mali, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Central African Republic demonstrate very clearly that no terrorist organization can withstand a head-on collision with an organized, well-led regular army. It is up to the Iraqi government to make the tough decision to enter into armed conflict in order to prevail.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/fall-mosul-iraq-jihadists-game-changer/#sthash.pOBXmqhG.dpuf

According to the pattern already implemented in the “conquered” areas in Syria, the ISIS will likely begin its rule by establishing a Caliphate governed by Islamic law – Shari’ah – and headed by its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a jihadist who began as an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in 2003. In February 2014, Al-Baghdadi refused to declare allegiance when Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri demanded that he subordinate himself to the Jabhat Al-Nusra jihadist organization fighting the regime in Syria.

ISIS presented the non-Muslim population with three choices: either convert, pay a special tax (the Islamic per capita tax “jizya“) applied to non-Muslims, or leave the area. A first signs of this development are the 500,000 residents of Mosul fleeing the area, mostly Assyrians of Christian faith, who historically were the majority of the population in the Ninawa (Nineveh) Governorate surrounding Mosul. Read more ..


The War on Terror

U.S. Slams Pakistan with Renewed Drone Attacks

June 12th 2014

Pakistani residents and intelligence officials say two suspected U.S. drone strikes have killed at least a dozen people in the North Waziristan tribal region that borders Afghanistan. If confirmed, the strikes led by the CIA that took place late June 11 and early June 12 may be the first American drone action in Pakistan in six months.

Residents and officials say unmanned aircraft fired a number of missiles at a vehicle and a suspected militant compound in separate parts of the Waziristan district. Some officials said members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were among those killed. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran Warns 5,000km-Range Missile Can Hit US Indian Ocean Base

June 10th 2014

Iran Long-Range Missile

Tehran has ballistic missiles able to pound targets over twice as distant as previously thought, and can reach the American mid-ocean strategic base at Diego Garcia, a senior Iranian official has explicitly warned.

“In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.

Dhualnuri made the statements in the context of talks with the United States and western powers to curb its believed goal of creating nuclear weapons, Israel’s Channel Two reported Monday.

Iranian political and military leaders have, until now, only publicly admitted to possessing ballistic weapons with about a 2,000 km range. Diego Garcia, situated on a lone lagoon in the Indian Ocean, houses major Air Force, naval and submarine, space and communications, and logistics facilities. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Pakistan Taliban Claims Responsibility for Assault on Karachi Airport

June 9th 2014

Pakistani Taliban

The Pakistani Taliban is claiming responsibility for Sunday night’s deadly assault on the country’s largest international airport in Karachi that left at least 28 people dead, including 10 “terrorists” and more than a dozen security personnel.

Authorities say that just before midnight a group of around 10 heavily armed militants, some wearing military uniforms, infiltrated an old terminal at Karachi’s busy Jinnah International Airport.

Suspected Taliban insurgents carrying automatic weapons, hand grenades and rocket launchers shot their way into the facility, which is used mainly for cargo and executive flights. The audacious coordinated assault triggered an intense five-hour gun battle with security forces guarding the terminal that lasted into Monday morning. Read more ..


Thev Edge of Terrorism

Syria's Jihadis Are Coming Home

June 8th 2014

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

The war in Syria threatens to tear the region apart along sectarian lines, leading to a sharp rise in violent extremism from within both the radical Sunni and Shiite camps. Syria's neighbors bear the immediate brunt of the conflict, as they struggle to contend with the steady stream of refugees flowing across their borders. But the repercussions of the war in Syria are being felt far beyond Syria's borders. Last week, two events drove this point home for policymakers in very specific ways.

On May 25, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American in his early 20s from South Florida, became the first American suicide bomber in the Syrian jihad. Less than 24 hours later, Fawzi Ayoub -- a senior Hezbollah commander who once lived in the United States and Canada, was a naturalized Canadian citizen, and was featured on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list -- was killed in a rebel ambush. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Kurds Under Increased Pressure From Jihadists

June 7th 2014

Syrian Jihadis

Following military successes earlier this year against jihadist fighters, an ethnic Kurdish militia that has been carving out a de facto Kurdish state in northeastern Syria is now facing a renewed challenge from a powerful al-Qaida offshoot.

In a sign of growing aggression against the Kurds, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant known as ISIS, which was disowned earlier this year by the al-Qaida leadership, has launched an offensive against Syrian Kurds, both in the far northeast adjacent to the borders with Iraq and Turkey, and in Kurdish areas in Aleppo province. Kurdish sources concede militiamen from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD are suffering reversals.

The PYD, an affiliate of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a separatist movement that has battled the Turkish government for Kurdish autonomy for three decades, scored a series of victories over jihadist rebel groups last autumn and during the winter. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Death of a Terrorist: Hezbollah Operative Recently Killed in Syria

June 6th 2014

al Qaeda Fighters

On May 26, 2014, Hezbollah announced the death of Hajj Fawzi Mustafa Muhammad Ayoub (Hajj Abu Abbas). He was a senior field operative with a long history of terrorist activity abroad. According to Hezbollah he was killed while "fulfilling his duty of jihad." There are two versions of where he died. Lebanese and Syrian media reported that he was commanding a Hezbollah force in Aleppo, and was killed there. However, "Lebanese security sources" and a Syrian source reported that he was killed in the Syrian town of Nawa in the southern Golan Heights, in the Dara'a province (Alzaman.com, albawaba.com, May 27, 2014). It was also reported that last year he was wounded in the battles at Al-Qusayr (Saidaonline.com, all4syria.info, May 28, 2014).

Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Baby-Boom Expatriates Demand Better Security in Mexico

June 4th 2014

Foreign-born residents joined Mexican nationals in a recent demonstration demanding security for a storied but troubled town. Dressed in white and carrying candles, about 400 people staged a silent march late last week through San Miguel de Allende in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Ruth Kear, a former U.S. resident who currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, articulated public safety fears held by a growing number of residents which, in her case, is based on personal experience. Kear told a Mexican reporter that she had been robbed three times in her home, including on two occasions by armed and masked thieves. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Israel's Air Force to Increases its Operational Capabilities by 400%

June 2nd 2014

IAF Fighter

The Israeli Air Force chief stated last week that the IDF’s offensive capabilities will quadruple by the end of 2014. In a single day, Israeli planes will be able to strike thousands of terror targets and expand the IDF’s achievements during extended operations.

Major General Amir Eshel, Commander of the Israel Air Force, spoke last week at the Tenth Annual Conference for National Security on the contribution of air power to Israel’s strategic capabilities. Maj. Gen. Eshel discussed the air force’s attack and defensive capabilities during times of war and routine operations.

“I believe our capabilities are only second to the United States, from both an offensive and defensive standpoint,” the IAF commander said, referring to a significant leap in capabilities over the past two years. He based his assessment on an evaluation of IDF abilities and conversations with officials from foreign militaries.  Read more ..


Edge of Islam

Europe's 'Newspeak' Approach to Islamist Terror

June 2nd 2014

Yesterday, French police arrested the terrorist accused of murdering three Jews in Brussels, Belgium on the eve of the European elections. The killer, 29-year old French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche, a son of Muslim immigrants, had gone to Syria in 2013, where he joined the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad and was trained as a jihadist.

On Saturday afternoon, May 24, Nemmouche walked into the Jewish Museum in Brussels, armed with a pistol and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. He killed three Jews, including two Israeli tourists, and seriously wounded another, who is still fighting for his life in hospital. Then Nemmouche calmly walked out of the museum.

During the past three years, thousands of young Islamic immigrants from France, Germany, Britain and all other European countries, as well as young Western Islamic converts, have gone to Syria, where they trained to be killing machines. Some of them have returned home, where they now constitute the biggest threat to domestic security in decades. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Hamas Funding Violence on Temple Mount--Captured Operative Reveals

June 1st 2014

DomeOfTheRock

Israel's Shabak security service lifted last week a gag order on the arrest of a senior Hamas terrorist in April 2014. The Shabak arrested Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Tuama as he treid to enter Israel from Jordan via the Allenby Border Cross. Tuama was born in 1951 and is married with 8 children. Originally from Tul Karem, he has been residing in Saudi Arabia since the 1970's. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1983 and joined Hamas as early as 1987 when the terror organization was established. He admitted to being a member of the Hamas General Shura Council headed by Khaled Mashal since 2008. The General Shura Council is Hamas' supreme leadership entity that shapes the organizations overall policy, including its military strategy.

Tuama disclosed eye-opening insights to the organization's methods of operation, financing and connections to other organizations.

He stipulated that Hamas is directly involved in the recent escalation of violence on the Temple Mount and is funding it. In recent months there has been a sharp increase in violence activity perpetrated by Arabs on the Temple Mount. In some of the cases Israeli police had to close the Mount to Jewish visitors as a result of the extreme hostility. Tuama stated that Hamas is behind the projects of the Islamic Movement Institution, 'Omara al Aqsa', which acts to prevent visits of Jews on the Temple Mount using an array of hundreds of activists who stay on the Temple Mount compound day and night. This institution was administratively closed in late 2013 by the Shabak and Israeli police due to the violent use Hamas and the Islamic Movement have made of this institution. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

ISIS Committing Atrocities Against Civilian Population in Northern Syria

May 29th 2014

ISIS

Evidence is mounting that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically committing atrocities in eastern and northern Syria, its areas of control.

While individual incidents of brutality have been well-documented, the near-impossibility of on-the-spot reporting in the area controlled by the organization has made it difficult to build a general description of the situation there. However, as more and more witnesses come forward, the picture is gradually becoming clearer.

Public executions are a regular weekly occurrence in Raqqa city, the provincial capital controlled by ISIS. In a number of verified cases, the bodies of executed people have been “crucified” — placed on crosses in public areas after execution by other means, supposedly to act as a deterrent to others. (Note: at least one crucifixion of a living victim by an Islamist group has occurred recently, in Yemen.) Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

The Proliferation of Suicide Bombing in the Middle East and Beyond

May 28th 2014

Child Suicide Bomber

Suicide bombings make for frequent headlines in most newspapers.  Today, AP reported the suicide bombing of a bus full of South Korean Christian tourists waiting at the Egypt-Israel border crossing in Sinai.

While suicide attacks to achieve martyrdom are not new, they have gradually become a more prominent feature in the Islamist arsenal.  Particularly troubling is the extent to which most are directed at civilian targets.

In 2006, researchers in Australia showed that between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks constituted 4 percent of all terrorist attacks in the world and killed 14,599 people–32 percent of all terrorism-related deaths.  The study also revealed that 90 percent of these attacks occurred in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka.

Another study reports that in the ten years after September 11, 2001, there were 336 suicide attacks in Afghanistan and 303 in Pakistan, while there were 1,003 documented suicide attacks in Iraq between March 20, 2003, and December 31, 2010. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Protect American Commercial Fleet From Shoulder-Fired Missiles

May 27th 2014

Boeing 787

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, former CIA director General David Petraeus issued a serious warning about the international threats posed by shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (Manpads) in the hands of al Qaeda and other terrorists.  Petraeus referred to the January 27th downing of an Egyptian military helicopter by a Russian Strela-2 missile (aka SA-7) by al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in the Sinai Peninsula. “Shooting down a helicopter with an apparent shoulder-fired missile is a big deal. … Our worst nightmare [was] that a civilian airliner would be shot down by one,” he said. … “The concern over an attack on civilian aviation flows not only from the loss of passengers’ lives, but also from the likely economic consequences that would follow—a worldwide grounding of air traffic that might bring the global economy to a screeching halt.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama White House Blows CIA Station Chief's Cover

May 27th 2014

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The White House accidentally revealed the identity of the top CIA agent in Afghanistan on Saturday.

The Kabul station chief’s name was initially included on list of more than two dozen people meeting with President Obama during his short visit to Bagram Airfield in the country on Saturday. The CIA agent was identified as “chief of station” in an email sent to reporters covering the White House as part of a routine pool report.

A revised version was sent shortly afterwards that did not include the chief’s name.

The Hill is withholding the officer’s name at the request of the Obama administration, which said that identifying the agent could make them a terrorist target. Both the White House and CIA declined to comment. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Foreign Fighters Bolster Jihad in Syria

May 26th 2014

Syrian Sunni jihadis

Recent in-fighting among anti-Assad rebel groups in northern Syria attests to the extent to which the area has become the new home of Islamist jihad.  While there may be as many as a thousand rebel "bands," it's clear that most are either al Qaeda, or affiliated with al Qaeda, or are just like al Qaeda but not quite affiliated yet. While IHS Janes's recent estimate claims the number of Islamist jihadis among the rebels to be around 50 percent, other estimates have the figure at 80 percent. However, according to daily reports from the region the number of new jihadist recruits making their way to Syria is steadily growing. By some estimates, the inflow from Turkey is several hundreds per month, with groups gathering in Bulgaria and other places and arriving ... by car.  Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Shabab Attacks Somali Parliament, Kills 18

May 24th 2014

Al Shabaab

Al-Shabab militants stormed Somalia's parliament building Saturday in a bomb and gun attack that killed at least 18 people, including some of the attackers.

Police spokesman Kasim Ahmed Roble told VOA Somali Service 10 security officers with Somali forces and AMISOM were among those killed during the attack on the heavily-fortified building in Mogadishu. He said 14 security personnel were wounded, along with four lawmakers. Ahmed Roble said at least eight of the attackers were killed.

Witnesses say lawmakers were meeting inside the building when a car bomb exploded near the entrance. Then came more blasts and gunfire from attackers wearing suicide vests. An ensuing gun fight lasted for hours.

One member of parliament, defense committee chairman Hussein Arab Isse, said there was advance warning about the attack from Somalia's internal security committee, which called for tighter security. However, he said the report apparently "was not taken seriously." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Cameroon, Chad Team Up to Combat Boko Haram

May 22nd 2014

Boko Haram

The presidents of Cameroon and Chad met Thursday to map out ways to combat the Islamist group Boko Haram, which has extended its violence from Nigeria to its neighbors.  Presidents Paul Biya and Idriss Deby were also to examine security reports that some weapons used by Boko Haram came from Libya through Chad.

The two leaders said they were meeting to fine-tune plans and reiterate the commitments they made in Paris on May 17 to wage war against Boko Haram.

Colonel Didier Badjeck, spokesperson for Cameroon's military, says the two governments were committed more than ever to fight Boko Haram alongside Nigerian forces.

"We can not be indifferent when our brothers and sisters live in permanent fear from those who have taken upon themselves to use violence on everyone instead of a spiritual rearmament they claim to bring," he said. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Pakistani Air Strikes Target Terrorists

May 21st 2014

Terrorist Bombing

Pakistan’s army has launched a series of air strikes against suspected terrorist hideouts in the country’s remote northwest and says it has killed at least 60 militants. The onslaught comes after a series of militant bombings in the country.

According to the military, a number of hardcore terrorists, important commanders and foreign fighters died in the targeted strikes in North Waziristan, an area rife with militants. A reporter said the military targeted hideouts in Mir Ali and Miranshah, near the Afghan border.

Later on Wednesday, the military said four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a separate clash with "terrorists" near Mir Ali.

One eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said a number of non-combatants had died in the strikes. He said the strikes started at 2:00 a.m., and then happened again hours later.  He said many residential homes were also destroyed and a number of people were killed besides the militants. Residents were also affected by the shelling. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

New York Jury Convicts Islamic Preacher of Terror-Related Charges

May 19th 2014

Bomb explosion

A federal jury in New York has convicted former London-based radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza on all 11 counts of providing material support to terrorists.

The guilty verdict for Abu Hamza, whose birth name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, followed a month-long trial before a jury of eight men and four women. They found Hamza guilty on all 11 terrorism-related counts, including sending two followers to set up a jihad training camp in the U.S., dispatching two men to help al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and providing hostage-takers in Yemen with a satellite phone.

Four European hostages died during a rescue attempt. Two survivors testified at the trial, as did a convicted former al-Qaida associate who appeared from Britain via a live television feed. Jurors also saw videotapes and heard audio clips of Hamza in which he called non-Muslims “pigs” and justified taking them captive. Read more ..


The Edge of Spying

FBI Wary Of Possible Russian Spies Lurking In U.S. Tech Sector

May 18th 2014

NSA

During the heady days of the U.S. "reset" policy with Russia, the high-tech sector emerged as a potential centerpiece for bilateral commercial and scientific cooperation, underscored by Internet-savvy Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s 2010 visit to Silicon Valley.

But a surge of Russian cash into the U.S. tech sector in recent years has prompted federal authorities to alert start-ups in a key American innovation cradle about potential espionage via Russian venture capital firms financing their operations.

The Boston division of the FBI is taking this warning to U.S. tech firms with Russian funding, and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a partner of Russia’s Skolkovo initiative, which was launched in 2010 to create a Russian version of Silicon Valley. Lucia Ziobro, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, specifically cited Skolkovo’s relationship with Russian truckmaker KamAZ, which supplies armored vehicles to the Russian military, as possibly worrying. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Gray Zone: Mariupol Sinks Into Power Vacuum

May 17th 2014

Protest in Ukraine

A week after the southeastern port city of Mariupol saw some of the worst violence of the Ukraine crisis so far, an uneasy calm has fallen over the city.

But it is not the kind of calm which comes from government forces clearly defeating separatists -- or vice-versa -- and then restoring order.

Instead, it is the kind of limbo that develops when nobody has won and the city turns into a gray zone where fearful residents walk the streets by day and criminal gangs rule the streets at night.

Violence came to Mariupol on May 9 when Ukrainian troops backed by tanks launched a raid against separatist rebels occupying the city's police headquarters. The building caught fire amid the fighting and it still remains unclear how many people on either side died. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

EU Imposes Further Sanctions on Russia while World Awaits Obama Doctrine for Eastern Europe

May 13th 2014

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Catherine Ashton

The European Union has expanded its sanctions over Ukraine’s crisis after pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine and separatists in Donetsk asked Moscow to allow their self-declared “republic” to join the Russian Federation. The separatists’ appeal to Moscow was in a May 12 statement read out at a news conference by Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader in the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic."

The move came a day after the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held so-called self-rule referendums. The self-styled separatist officials – some of whom are now being targeted by EU sanctions -- claimed a high voter turnout and an overwhelming support for independence in the May 11 votes. Read more ..


South Sudan on Edge

UN Chief Concerned by South Sudan Truce Breaches

May 12th 2014

South Sudan soldier

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is concerned about breaches to South Sudan’s cease-fire agreement signed Friday in the Ethiopian capital.

Ban told the U.N. Security Council Monday that President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar must work together to heal the country and end the violence that has killed thousands of civilians since December.

“If the conflict continues, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year’s end," said Ban.

The two South Sudanese leaders met Friday in Addis Ababa and signed a peace deal, but fighting has flared in recent days, with both sides accusing the other of breaking the truce. The secretary-general told reporters that the onus is now on the two leaders to set aside their power struggle and accelerate momentum for peace. Read more ..


The US and Latin America

Clash of the Titans in Latin America: USA vs Russia

May 10th 2014

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In spite of ongoing tensions in Ukraine, which have seriously soured relations between Russia and the U.S. & Europe, Moscow has not altogether forgotten the Western Hemisphere. A case in point is the recent visit by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov to four Latin American nations in April (Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua and Peru).

While Lavrov’s trip did not end in any particularly major deals between Moscow and his Latin American hosts, the visit came months after declarations by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that the Russian armed forces require some form of overseas military facilities. Regarding Latin America, the countries mentioned by Minister Shoigu in late February which could hypothetically host a Russian military facility included Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Shoigu’s statement sparked a flurry of debate in the U.S. and Latin America regarding whether Russia’s military ambitions and expansion of its sphere of influence in recent years could be considered as the resumption of the Cold War. Read more ..


China on Edge

Uighurs Blamed for Knife Attack in China

May 8th 2014

China Security

Chinese authorities blamed Uighur separatists for a knife attack at a railroad station in Guangzhou, China on Tuesday. The unnamed assailant injured six people before being shot by police. According to the local officials, the stabbings were the work of a lone attacker, but eyewitness accounts claim there were up to three other perpetrators.

Tuesday's attack is similar to terrorist attacks undertaken by other Uighur separatists. Last week a coordinated bombing and knife attack at a station in Western China killed three and injured 79. In March, another mass stabbing at a train station in Kunming, Xinjiang killed 29. China's President Xi Jinping promises that China will take "decisive action" and a "strike first" approach to combat violence and terrorism. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russia Shows Modern Military in Ukraine Crisis

May 7th 2014

Russian Tanks Invade Georgia

An estimated 40,000 Russian troops are deployed on the Ukrainian border, poised to invade if the order comes from Moscow. These forces are part of a much larger military that has been modernizing its forces over the past several years.

Western estimates say the Russian Defense Ministry has between 800,000 and one million men under arms. These include strategic rocket forces as well as the various uniformed services: air, air defense, ground and naval. And there are various kinds of special forces, such as the Spetsnaz belonging to Russia’s military intelligence or GRU.  Stephen Blank, an expert on the Russian military at the American Foreign Policy Council, said there are also paramilitary forces. Read more ..


China on Edge

New China Train Station Attack Sparks Terrorism Fears

May 6th 2014

China Security

The third attack at a train station in China in a little more than two months is sparking fears of terrorism. The midday stabbing attack Tuesday left six people injured at a train station the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. 

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said whoever carried this attack out will be brought to justice.  The Chinese government will take firm actions to safeguard the lives of the Chinese people, she vowed. 

Chinese state run media reported that police gunned down one of the attackers, captured a second and said two attackers were still at large.  A local newspaper reported the attackers were wearing white hats.

Two suicide bombers killed three people and injured 79 others in an attack at a train station in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Province, last weekend.  On March 1, a group of men and women killed 29 people and injured another 143, slashing people with knives at a train station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.  Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Lebanon's Presidential Race

May 5th 2014

Beirut Hizbollah Street Violence

Last week, Lebanon's parliament convened for the first round of balloting to elect a new president. While Samir Geagea -- who leads the Christian "Lebanese Forces" party, which is aligned with the pro-Western March 14 coalition -- received the most votes, he failed to secure the requisite two-thirds parliamentary support. In the coming weeks, legislators are slated to continue meeting until a president is selected. Unlike last week's session, in which the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc did not challenge Geagea's candidacy, the voting promises to become increasingly contentious in subsequent rounds. Perennial sectarian tensions exacerbated by the war next door in Syria have complicated the historically wrought and arcane election process. Should a compromise candidate not emerge by May 25, the term of current president Michel Suleiman will expire, leaving the post vacant. Read more ..


China and Russia

China and Russia to Hold Joint Naval Exercises in East China Sea

May 2nd 2014

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China says it will hold joint naval exercises with Russia during the latter part of May in the East China Sea, where Beijing is involved in a territorial dispute with Japan.

A statement by China's Defense Ministry said the "regular exercises" would begin in late May off the coast of Shanghai, well north of the disputed area.

China and Japan have a longstanding quarrel over a series of uninhabited islands that are surrounded by vast natural resources and strategic shipping lanes. The dispute worsened in 2012 after Japan purchased some of the islands. China responded by increasing patrols, challenging Tokyo's control of the area. China also declared an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, but Japan and the U.S. have ignored Beijing's demands that all foreign aircraft identify themselves before entering the zone. President Barack Obama last week visited Tokyo, where he explicitly stated that Washington is obliged by treaty to defend Japan in the event the islands are attacked. Read more ..


After the Cold War

U.S. Still Hunting KGB, Decades After Cold War

April 30th 2014

Russian tank Red Square

Attention former KGB officers: If you were involved in rights abuses during Soviet times and find yourself in the United States, U.S. authorities may be looking for you.

For decades, the U.S. government has been ferreting out alleged Nazi war criminals and other purported rights violators leading quiet lives in the United States, deporting hundreds of individuals suspected of such abuses.

But U.S. immigration officials are also quietly pursuing potential cases against former KGB employees and collaborators who may have engaged in persecutions as part of the notorious Soviet secret police.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would not specify how many of these investigations are pending, saying only that the number is “less than 10.” The agency’s officers, however, “continue to monitor cases and information” on former KGB officials “who may have committed or assisted in human rights violations,” the spokesperson said. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russia Wants to Start WWIII--Says Ukrainian Leader

April 26th 2014

Russian Tanks Invade Georgia

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia on Friday of wanting to start a third world war.

“The world has not yet forgotten World War II, but Russia already wants to start World War III," Yatsenyuk told his interim cabinet, according to The Guardian.

He warned Russia’s interference in Ukraine could spread to wider conflict. "Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe,” he added.

The United States has already deployed troops to Baltic nations for military exercises, and Russia announced new exercises along Ukraine's border on Thursday. The prime minister’s remarks were some of his strongest since the crisis escalated last month. Read more ..



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