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Tuesday September 23 2014 reaching 1.4 million monthly
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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 ..


The Mideast on Edge

Mideast Military Expenditures Increasing

April 23rd 2014

Iraqi Forces

Post-Arab Spring political tensions are driving up military spending in the Middle East, analysts say.

Expenditures escalated to an estimated $150 billion in the region in 2013. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain are the countries spending the most on its military.

According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia’s military spending increased to $67 billion, making the kingdom the world’s fourth largest military spender after the U.S, China and Russia.

Carina Solmirano, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Military Expenditure Program, says that while countries do have security needs, the specific reasons for maintaining high level military spending vary from country to country.

“Tensions with Iran and fears of an Arab Spring-type revolt were the likely main factors explaining the Saudi increase of 14 percent in 2013, but also the desire to maintain strong and loyal security forces to insure against potential Arab Spring type protests,” said Solmirano, one of the study’s co-authors.

In Bahrain, Solmirano says, internal security in the wake of anti-government protests by the Shi’ite majority is the likely motive for the country’s 26-percent increase, whereas data for 2013 was not available for Iran, Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. Read more ..


The Koreas on Edge

South Korea: North Believed to be Preparing for 4th Nuclear Test

April 22nd 2014

Atomic Mushroom Cloud

Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.

South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.”

Daniel Pinkston, the Northeast Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, said Pyongyang is unlikely to worry about the South’s reaction.

“They’ve demonstrated a long dedication, persistence and resolve to dedicate a lot of resources over a long period of time. They’ve been able to bear the international pressure and sanctions and everything else. So I think it’s a clear indication that the nuclear program is very important to the leadership and so I don’t expect them to stop or reverse course,” said Pinkston. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine Conflict Conjures the Spectre of Cyber Warfare

April 21st 2014

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On the day Crimeans voted in a referendum in March on secession from Ukraine, hackers from a group calling itself the "Cyber Berkut" pelted NATO websites with online nuisance attacks designed to knock the pages offline.

While not technically sophisticated, the DDoS, or "denial of service" attacks, were enough to send several websites - including a cyber-security site in Estonia - into darkness for several hours. NATO quickly recovered: the sites came back online, the hack attack ebbed, and no serious damage was done.

But it sent a clear message - a warning shot of sorts of things to come. As tensions have escalated between Kyiv and Moscow, so too has the frequency of online attacks targeting a variety of government, news, and financial sites located across Ukraine and several in Russia. So far, these attacks have amounted to mere skirmishes rather than all out cyber war. However, with the possibility of further Russian military incursions into eastern Ukraine, a full-blown cyber war may be looming on the European continent. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Abuja Bombing

April 21st 2014

Boko Haram

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital Abuja on April 14 that killed 75 people.  In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. 

At a hospital in Abuja, survivors fill rooms and the hallways.  Some are unconscious, others slowly sip Ovaltine and milk.

“I was about to enter the bus when I heard the bomb sound, boom!  Then I fell down and my face was shattered," said Sahadu, a civil servant who was on his way to work when the bomb went off.

The attack on the bus station, Nyanya, was the first attack in the capital since 2012.  Hours after the bombing, blood still stained the ground and stunned crowds quietly stared at the bomb site. Boko Haram, an insurgent group that has killed thousands of people in the past few years, usually launches attacks in the northeast.  The government has deployed thousands of troops in efforts to crush the insurgency.But analysts say violence is still increasing, and 1,500 people have been killed in the first three months of this year alone. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Shootout in Ukraine Casts Doubt on International Accord

April 20th 2014

Ukraine--Berkut Riot Police Nov 2013

A deadly shootout in eastern Ukraine has cast doubt on the viability of Thursday’s accord between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union aimed at pacifying Ukraine’s restive eastern territories.

Although much is unclear about Sunday’s gun battle at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian separatists, the incident shattered an Easter truce and appeared to dash already-scant hopes for a swift end to the unrest.

Russian and Ukrainian officials traded accusations of responsibility for the shootout and the worsening chaos engulfing eastern Ukraine.  Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press television program broadcast in the United States.

“[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union," said Yatsenyuk. "And every day he goes further and further, and God knows where is the final destination.” The prime minister demanded Moscow adopt a hands-off policy towards his country. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Stop Asking the Military to do More with Less

April 19th 2014

Cyber Warfare

Last week, the military’s vice chiefs told Congress that their ability to fight two wars at once was at risk. They warned that ongoing pressure, including from the 2011 Budget Control Act and its substantial defense cuts, is eroding the size and capability of America’s armed forces. As Army General John Campbell cautioned bluntly, “We’re mortgaging the future.”

While the vice chiefs are correct that fewer resources are having a profound and negative impact upon the ability of the Department of Defense to support the nation’s defense strategy, the unfortunate reality is that the military’s ability to fight and win two wars at once has been steadily eroding for the past 20 years under presidents of both parties.

The “two-war standard” has long been an important measuring stick for the military to roughly approximate the forces necessary to provide the most options to the commander in chief in response to questions of war and peace. The 1993 Bottom-Up Review articulated the clearest thinking behind this policy: “U.S. forces will be structured to achieve decisive victory in two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and to conduct combat operations characterized by rapid response and a high probability of success, while minimizing the risk of significant American casualties.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

April 18th 2014

Nigeria car bombing

In the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on the Nigerian capital since an insurgency began in 2009, survivors say they escaped with their lives but lost everything else.  Officials say they are looking at ways to help the bombing victims and boosting security ahead of the World Economic Forum for Africa to be held in Nigeria next month. 

At this Abuja hospital, some bomb blast victims moan softly, but most sleep.  They’ve lost limbs and been burnt.

Evere Ivbezim, a fruit seller, had her jaw nearly knocked off by the blast that hit Monday as she was boarding a bus, killing 71 people and injuring at least 124 others. But, she says, it's not just lives that were lost. A man rests in the hospital after 71 people were killed and 124 injured when a bomb exploded at a bus station just outside Abuja, Nigeria. “All my money.  All my handset.  Everything.  I no get anything.  Only my life, thank God.  Thank God for that, may government help us," said Ivbezim. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

1,000 Dead in Nigeria Communal Violence

April 17th 2014

Nigeria soldiers

While attacks by the militant group Boko Haram have killed many people in northern Nigeria, communal violence is also taking a toll. The group Human Rights Watch said since December more than one thousand people have been killed in five northern states.

HRW researcher Mausi Segun said that communal violence is a common occurrence.

“The violence has been almost on a daily basis in some places like Benue State and in a few other places you’ve had it almost on a weekly basis.” Speaking from the capital Abuja, Segun said communal violence has gone on for years in northern Nigeria. But she warned it’s now spreading.

“A lot of it we have been able to trace to tensions between the pastoralist herdsmen, who are nomadic, and farmers who find that their farmlands and their crops have been destroyed by the cattle of the herdsmen. And then you’ll have the herdsmen, on the other hand, also complaining about killing of the cattle, which [are] really a prized treasure to them,” she said. Segun said that violence begets violence in northern Nigeria. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Shia Foreign Fighters in Syria

April 15th 2014

Syrian Jihadis

The Shi’ite foreign fighters fighting in Syria can be divided into two main groups: one consists of Hezbollah operatives, of whom there are several thousand, sent by the organization to participate in offensive and defensive operations in Syria. The other consists of Shi’ite foreign fighters from Iraq and other Arab-Muslim countries who are sent to Syria to fight in support of the regime. In our assessment there are between 4,000 and 5,000 such fighters, most of them from Iraq. In retrospect, it can be seen that the Iraqis exported fighters to Syria, both those who established the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of Al-Qaeda fighting against the Syrian regime, as well as some Shi’ite foreign fighters who fight for the Syrian regime. The Shi’ite fighters from the Arab-Muslim countries are organized into military units, the most prominent of which is the Abu al-Fadhel al-Abbas Brigade. There are also smaller military formations. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Air Force Seeks Less Perfection In Its Nuclear Missile Corps

April 14th 2014

Nuclear Missile in Silo

Every day, 90 uniformed men and women in their mid-twenties ride elevators forty to sixty feet below remote fields in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, and Nebraska in rote preparation for improbable nuclear Armageddon.

They spend some of their 24-hour alerts seated in front of steel Minuteman III missile launch control panels mounted on shock-absorbers, with toggle switches capable of hurling ten to fifty nuclear warheads — each with twenty times the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb — to the other side of the globe, at speeds of 15,000 mph.

But their day-to-day enemy, for decades, has not so much been another superpower, but the unremitting boredom of an isolated posting that demands extreme vigilance, while also requiring virtually no activity, according to accounts by missileers and a new internal review of their work. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Terrorist Bombings in Nigeria Bear Hallmarks of Islamist Boko Haram

April 13th 2014

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Dozens of people were killed in two explosions in Abuja, a city in central Nigeria, on the morning of April 14. Commuters were about to board buses and taxes at crowded bus station for their trip to work in central Abuja when the detonations took place. Witnesses say that dozens of bodies are scattered about the area in a sea of carnage. It is feared that this may have been yet another attack by the armed Muslim sect known as Boko Haram, which has sworn to impose Muslim law throughout the multi-ethnic multi-religious nation. Witnesses say that at least 40 bodies have been taken to makeshift morgues in the city, while rescue works and police are gathering body parts.

The blast tore a hole at least 4 feet deep in the ground at Nyanya Motor park, which is about 10 miles from the center f Abuja. More than 30 vehicles, including buses, have been destroyed. Secondary explosions, caused by ruptured fuel tanks, added to the destruction. Panic ensued as the flames rose throughout the bus station.

The dead and wounded are being taken to area hospitals, including Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

IDF Combat Cameramen Deployed to Counter Propaganda--Years Late

April 10th 2014

Palestinian Girl Provokes IDF Solder Nov 2012
Palestinian Girl Trained to Provoke Israeli Soldier

The Israel Defense Forces has trained 24 soldiers to work as “combat cameramen,” a special division of the IDF Spokesperson’s unit, that was created two years ago, to document IDF operations from the inside, generating the visual evidence to combat false accusations that make their way into reports based on second or third-party propaganda.

In a feature on the unit, Israel’s Globes wrote on Wednesday:

“Years later than it should have, the IDF has come to understand that stealth fighters and smart bombs are not enough to win the battle for public opinion, and that one good picture can save commissions of enquiry and a few other international headaches. En route to this victory, the IDF decided to forego one or two guns on the battlefield, and to replace them with still or video cameras that will make it possible to tell the same story to the world, in an entirely different way.” Read more ..


The US and the Ukraine

Some US Lawmakers Call for Military Assistance, Advice to Ukraine

April 8th 2014

Congress-senate

As tensions escalate in Ukraine, a number of U.S. lawmakers are calling on Washington to do more to help protect the people of Ukraine from a possible Russian invasion after Moscow's recent annexation of the Crimean peninsula. 

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck Mckeon, and Representative Mike Turner introduced new legislation condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine and calling on the Obama administration to take more decisive action.

Chairman Mckeon said he believes Russia is provoking unrest in eastern Ukraine to create a reason to invade.  He outlined new legislation which would condemn any further action by Russia, and go further than providing economic aid to Ukraine.  Republican congressman Mike Turner explained: Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Hagel Confirms US Support for Japan, Asian Allies

April 6th 2014

Chuck Hagel

The head of the U.S. Defense Department says Washington plans to send two more missile defense warships to Japan to counter the threat posed by North Korea's actions.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a news conference in Tokyo Sunday after meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, that two AEGIS missile defense ships will be sent to Japan by 2017, bolstering the U.S. missile defense force to seven ships.

On his second day in Japan, Hagel announced that the United States will increase military support to its Asian ally.

Hagel said, "In response to Pyongyang's pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions, including recent missile launches and violations of recent U.N. security council resolutions, I can announce today that the United States is planning to forward deploy two additional Aegis ballistic missile defense ships to Japan by 2017." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Army, Boko Haram Working Together in Parts of Nigeria?

April 5th 2014

Boko Haram

A Nigerian soldier says he has witnessed incidents that suggest some Nigerian military commanders are working with Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009.

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Hausa service, he described how his military unit, based in the northeastern Borno State region, was ambushed by Boko Haram fighters.

The soldier, who did not want to be identified, said the commander of a nearby military unit, based in the town of Bama, recently sought assistance from his unit in carrying out a raid.

The soldier said when the two military units joined up, they were given different uniforms. The Bama unit commander gave his own troops green uniforms. The soldier said his unit received tan "desert camouflage" uniforms. When the troops reached the battle area, the soldier said the commander of the better-equipped Bama unit suddenly withdrew his forces, leaving the remaining troops to fend for themselves against Boko Haram fighters. Read more ..


Pakistan and Afghanistan

Pakistan Closes Border to Boost Security for Afghan Vote

April 4th 2014

Taliban in Pakistan

Pakistan says it has closed all border crossings and deployed additional troops to help Afghanistan conduct Saturday’s presidential polls peacefully.

The Pakistani military said late Friday that all crossing points into Afghanistan will remain closed until conclusion of polling there on Saturday.

It added that border security arrangements have been stepped up in close coordination with Afghan security forces.

The military says patrols in Pakistani border areas have been increased, while immigration checks have been enhanced.

The army says that all routes leading toward the border with Afghanistan are being strictly monitored and aerial surveillance will be carried out to prevent "any untoward cross-border movement."

The increased security comes after Afghan allegations that the Pakistani spy agency is behind recent deadly attacks on election officials and facilities to disrupt the historic vote.  Pakistani officials rejected the allegations as unfounded. Pakistan’s foreign policy and national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, said in a interview that peace in his country is linked to stability in Afghanistan. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

US Needs Russian Choppers

April 3rd 2014

Russian M17 Helos

The top lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee said the United States needs to continue buying Russian-made helicopters for the Afghan air force despite tensions over the annexation of Crimea.

Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who recently took a trip to Afghanistan, said the country’s soldiers are used to the Russian-made helicopters, which he said are easier to operate and maintain than American choppers.

“I met with the colonel that’s training their air force. They’ve been flying those helicopters for 20 years,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Our machines are just much more sophisticated and complicated,” he said. “It’s cheaper, [Afghans] understand them, they know how to fly them, they know how to repair them.”

Some members of Congress have renewed a push for the Pentagon to end the $550 million contract with Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport and instead buy American-made helicopters for the Afghan air force. They say the move makes even more sense now that Russia has defied the United States and other world powers by moving into Ukraine. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Suicide Blast at Afghan Interior Ministry Kills 6

April 2nd 2014

Kabul Car Bomb

A suicide bomber tried to ram his way into Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry on Wednesday, killing at least six police officers who were outside the compound. This latest attack is likely to add to the tension surrounding the April 5 presidential election.

The large explosion shook the Afghan capital. A suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform detonated his explosives at the entrance of Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just hours after the militants reiterated they would disrupt Saturday's vote with more violence and warning Afghans against heading to the polls. The Interior Ministry said the suicide attacker blew himself up after security personnel recognized him as he tried to enter the highly fortified compound. A number of people were waiting at the entrance when the bomb went off. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

1,500 Nigerians Killed in Boko Haram Violence in 2014

March 31st 2014

Boko Haram

Amnesty International says 1,500 people have been killed this year in an escalating armed conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian security forces.  Amnesty says more than half the victims were civilians.

Amnesty International calls the rising number of Boko Haram attacks “truly shocking” and the reaction of Nigerian security forces, “brutality.”

The rights group says both sides may have committed acts that “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."  It calls for an investigation by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group based in northeastern Nigeria, has been attacking government forces, churches, schools, markets and mosques since it began violent operations in 2009. Three northeastern states have been under emergency rule for nearly 11 months but Elizabeth Donnelly of the Africa Program at the London-based policy institute Chatham House says the attacks continue to get worse. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

The Growing Problem of a Shrinking Military

March 30th 2014

Navy Seal Team 6

The military’s most recent budget request provides even more detail about the consequences of continued automatic spending cuts. Yet the U.S. military’s challenges did not start with the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration; they have been underway for years, as the Armed Forces struggle to meet ever-increasing global demands and challenges with fewer forces and resources.

This growing strain prompted Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear, U.S. Pacific Command chief, to tell Congress that the Navy’s attack submarine requirements are going unmet in the Pacific right now. With the Navy’s attack submarine fleet on a path to drop from 55 today to 42 by 2029 — under the most optimistic scenario — outcomes only promise to get worse.

This was not the first time the Navy has confessed it lacks the capacity necessary to carry out all of its missions. As Rear Admiral Thomas Moore argued last year, “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed a similar concern in his assessment of recent Pentagon strategy, warning that “the smaller and less capable military outlined in the [Quadrennial Defense Review] makes meeting [strategic] obligations more difficult.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Taliban Uses Violence to Intimidate Before Elections

March 29th 2014

Taliban

Taliban gunmen attacked a luxury hotel in Kabul Sunday, killing nine civilians including children. The Serena Hotel, previously one of the most secure spots in the Afghan capital, frequently hosts high ranking diplomats and other foreign officials. Sunday's shooting not only targeted Westerners inside the capital, but also seeks to delegitimize upcoming elections before a NATO withdrawal.

Taliban forces have increased their attacks in order to disrupt elections scheduled for April 5th. Following the shooting, election observers who were staying at the hotel from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have left the country. The European Union's monitoring mission maintains the only sizeable presence left inside Afghanistan. But the EU's mission during the polls will be limited, as it is too dangerous for most Western observers to leave urban areas. Early Thursday the Taliban claimed a series of strikes in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, that left a Radio Television Afghanistan facility badly damaged. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

The Origins of Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Menace

March 28th 2014

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The Western influence of British colonialists caused a division among the people of Northern Nigeria, who were once united by Islam. This division saw, on one side, the so-called "civilized" -- by Western standards -- elite who were used by the British as agents of colonization; and on the other side, the commoners, who vehemently resisted Western influence in the region.

Dissatisfaction with Western influence also led to an emergence of Islamist fundamentalists among people of the Northeastern region of Nigeria.

The reason Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram appears to be that he saw an opportunity to exploit public outrage at government corruption by linking it to Western influence in governance. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Palestinians Still Dream of Israel's Destruction

March 26th 2014

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry may be able to force Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, under threats and pressure, to sign a "framework agreement" with Israel. But as this week's rally of hatred in the Gaza Strip shows, even after the signing of a Palestinian-Israeli "peace" treaty, a large number of Palestinians will not abandon there dream of destroying Israel.

"Jihad in Palestine is not terrorism. Jihad in Palestine is a sacred duty." — Yusef Rizka, representative of Hamas

A mass rally held in the Gaza Strip on March 23 showed that Hamas continues to enjoy popular support among Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to attend the rally commemorating the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Hamas officials claim that nearly one million Palestinians attended the rally in the center of Gaza City. Read more ..


Iraq on Edge

New Sunni Insurgency in Iraq

March 25th 2014

Revolutionary Guards

Largely ignored by the global media, Iraq today stands on the brink of a renewed Sunni insurgency.  The emergent insurgency in Iraq is following the same sectarian pattern as the civil war in Syria and the growing violence in Lebanon. It also involves many of the same local and regional players.

The rising violence in Iraq is not, however, simply the result of a spillover from the Syrian war. It derives also from internal Iraqi dynamics. But these are themselves in significant ways comparable to the Syrian and Lebanese situations.

Over 9,000 people were killed in fighting in Iraq in 2013.  This is not yet up to the levels of violence just prior to the surge, in the very worst days of the insurgency against U.S. forces and the sectarian bloodletting that accompanied it.  But it’s the highest since 2007.  This year, more than 2000 people have already lost their lives as a result of political violence in Iraq. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

U.S. Strategy After Ukraine: From Estonia to Azerbaijan

March 25th 2014

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As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine poses for Russia, beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union. The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world's perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken.

Whatever the origins of the events in Ukraine, the United States is now engaged in a confrontation with Russia. The Russians believe that the United States was the prime mover behind regime change in Ukraine. At the very least, the Russians intend to reverse events in Ukraine. At most, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the United States intends to undermine Russia's power. They will resist. The United States has the option of declining confrontation, engaging in meaningless sanctions against individuals and allowing events to take their course. Alternatively, the United States can choose to engage and confront the Russians. Read more ..


The Ukraine Crisis

Obama Gives Assurances that Europe and America are On the Same Page

March 24th 2014

President Barack Obamas said the United States and Europe are united in holding Russia to account for its actions in Crimea. "Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people," he told reporters after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Amsterdam on March 24. "We are united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far."

Obama told the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant that his message to European leaders is that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to "understand the economic and political consequences of his actions in Ukraine" but that "it's important that Ukraine have good relations with the United States, Russia, and Europe." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria Fighting Spills Into Northern Lebanon

March 20th 2014

Bomb Damage

Syrian warplanes bombed areas along Lebanon's northern border Thursday amid bitter fighting between rebels and government forces in a historic border town.  Scores of civilians and fighters were reported to be fleeing into Lebanon.

Ambulances ferried victims of the fighting to hospitals in northern Lebanon. Rebel fighters and civilians forded a border river to enter Lebanon after the regular crossing was closed.

Syrian state TV reported that government forces had captured the besieged old Crusader fortress town of Qala'at al-Hosn by mid-afternoon, but the report could not be confirmed. Syrian fighter jets reportedly strafed areas near the border, causing a number of casualties. A young man who lives on the Lebanese side complained that the Syrian conflict had spilled onto Lebanese soil. Read more ..


Internet Edge

Serious Global Approach Needed to Attack Data Thieves

March 19th 2014

Stopping massive data breaches like the one that hit Target will require a more sophisticated, collaborative approach by law enforcement agencies around the world, a Michigan State University cyber security expert argues.

In a new research report for the National Institute of Justice, Thomas Holt found many hackers and data thieves are operating in Russia or on websites where users communicate in Russian, making it easier to hide from U.S. and European authorities. All countries need to better work together to fight hacking and data theft campaigns, he said, and use undercover stings in which officers pose as administrators of the Internet forums where stolen data is advertised.

The Target breach, which comprised 40 million credit- and debit-card accounts during the 2013 holiday shopping season, may have originated in Russia, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. “This is a truly global problem, one that we cannot solve domestically and that has to involve multiple nations and rigorous investigation through various channels,” said Holt, associate professor of criminal justice. Holt authored the 155-page report with Olga Smirnova from Eastern Carolina University. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Shi'a Jihadis in Syria

March 19th 2014

Syrian Jihadis

The Arab Spring, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the war in Syria have contributed to the rapid escalation in the number of Sunni and Shia jihadists. Their threat expands far beyond the Arab countries to the rest of the world.

During the Soviet-Afghan war, (1979-1989) jihadi operations were concentrated in Afghanistan.  In his book "Taliban," Ahmed Rashid estimated that 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Muslim countries in the Middle East, North and East Africa, Central Asia and the Far East fought for the Afghan Mujahideen.  Eventually, Rashid said, "more than 100,000 Muslim radicals were to have direct contact with Pakistan and Afghanistan and be influenced by the jihad." After the Soviets departed, tens upon tens of thousands of jihadis went home to spread violent Islamism. Afghanistan's role as cradle of jihadism continued through the period of U.S. and NATO involvement, to this day. Read more ..


The Weapon's Edge

Acoustic Invisibility Cloak Tricks Sound Waves and Sonars

March 18th 2014

M1A1 Abrams main battle tank

Using clever design rules and crunching numbers through computational simulations, Researchers from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University (North Carolina), have managed to engineer a hollow structure that could cloak any object placed inside, from sound.

The cloak is made of sheets of plastic, designed into a structure with precisely repeating perforation patterns and specifically engineered to process sound waves as they pass by, so as to interact with them in a way that conceals both the cloak and what’s inside.

“To give the illusion that it isn’t there, the cloak must alter the waves’ trajectory to match what they would look like if they had not come across it”, explains professor Steven Cummer, leader of the project at Duke University. The cloak effectively works from all directions, it takes the sound wave "processes it mechanically" and restores it in its original wave front as if no obstacle had been encountered by the sound wave. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Not Quiet on the Northern Front

March 17th 2014

Golan Heights

The disintegration of the Syrian state into warring enclaves is bringing with  it new challenges and threats for Israel. Alarm bells have now been sounded on  Israel’’ shared northern border with Syria.

“For the moment, they [Jihadis] are not fighting us, but we know their  ideology. . . . It could be that, in the coming months, we could find ourselves  dragged into confrontation with them,” said a top-level Israel Defense Forces  officer.

In addition to the Jihadi threat, the Iran-sponsored terrorist entity  Hezbollah remains Israel’s most potent security threat in the north. Just last  month, Israel reportedly struck a Syrian weapons convoy on its way to  Hezbollah. Evidence is now beginning to emerge of the methods the Jewish state is  adopting to meet this new reality.

Since mid-2012, Syria has been effectively divided into three enclaves. The  first of these is the area controlled by the Bashar Assad regime, supported by  Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The second is an area under the rule of a confusing  mass of rebel forces, mainly consisting of Sunni Islamist militias. The third,  in the far north-east, is an area controlled by Syria’s Kurds. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Security Plans Under Review With No BSA

March 16th 2014

Karzai

U.S. and NATO military commanders in Afghanistan are reportedly developing plans to deploy a NATO military force in Afghanistan this year designed to assume a training mission in 2015, but small and nimble enough to be withdrawn if the Afghan government does not sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that lays out conditions for NATO’s continued security presence in the country.

President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the BSA even though it has popular support and was approved by a traditional grand council or Loya Jirga.  The U.S. has warned if the BSA is not signed it will proceed with the so-called “Zero Option” and pull all U.S. forces from the country by the end of the year.

Karzai has said he objects to BSA provisions that allow night raids by NATO forces and also any U.S. initiatives to negotiate with the Taliban.  He has also said his successor should sign the agreement because it will be up to him to deal with the consequences.

U.S. officials say they do not expect the BSA to be signed until after presidential elections in April, but President Obama recently warned Karzai in a phone call the longer the wait the less effective a BSA will be.  “We will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year. However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S mission,” Obama said in his phone call with Karzai, adding that “Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.” Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria’s Boko Haram 'Increasingly Monstrous'

March 15th 2014

Boko Haram

The U.N. says nearly 500,000 people in northern Nigeria have fled their homes in fear of what it calls an “increasingly monstrous” insurgency that threatens food security in many parts of the country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who visited Nigeria this week,  warned that what was formerly an internal conflict has become a regional crisis. The insurgency in northeastern Nigeria has “spilled across borders” into neighboring West African countries along with nearly 60,000 refugees, Pillay said.
 
“With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across international borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter," she said.

Pillay urged Nigeria to broaden its counter-terrorism strategy and work more closely with neighbors and the international community to stop the Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram. Inside Nigeria, she adds, farmers have abandoned their fields as they flee the insurgents, threatening food security in many areas. Read more ..


Isreal on Edge

Netanyahu Excoriates Seized Weapons

March 14th 2014

Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the media in front of a stockpile of seized weapons in Eilat on Monday. Israeli intelligence had been tracking the weapons which were flown from Damascus to Tehran and then put on a Panamanian flagged ship. The arsenal was ultimately captured last week by the Israeli Navy in the Red Sea near Port Sudan and taken to Israel for further examination. The shipment contained 40 M-302 missiles as well as 400,000 rifle shells and 180 mortar rounds.

Israel believes the weapons were bound for Gaza via smuggling tunnels in Egypt. Islamic Jihad a terrorist group with stronger ties to Iran, and not Hamas, was the most likely intended recipient. However, smuggling the missiles over land has become somewhat more difficult since the Egyptian security crackdown in the Sinai region. For this reason, some analysts speculate the shipment was not actually going to Gaza, but would stay with terrorists in the Sinai. No matter where the shipment was meant to go, M-302 missiles have a range of roughly 100 miles and would have inflicted major damage over wide swaths of civilian territory, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa - or Cairo - if successfully launched. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Taliban Splinter Groups Add To Election Fears In Afghanistan

March 13th 2014

Taliban soldiers

The deadly reemergence of a little-known militant group in Afghanistan has prompted fears that rogue insurgents could be an added source for concern ahead of a crucial presidential election.

The Feday-e Mahaz, or "Suicide Brigade," announced its return by claiming responsibility for killing Swedish-British journalist Nils Horner in Kabul on March 11. In a brazen attack that has sent shockwaves through the international community in Kabul, Horner was gunned down in broad daylight in the Afghan capital's heavily fortified diplomatic district.

Feday-e Mahaz said in a statement posted on March 12 on its website that it targeted Horner because the Taliban splinter group believed he was a spy for Britain's MI-6 spy agency, and not a journalist. The mainstream Taliban, meanwhile, denied any involvement in the killing as well as any affiliation with Feday-e Mahaz. Afghan officials consider the crime unsolved and are hunting for two suspects as part of their investigation. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

The Cyberspies Who Don't Love Us

March 12th 2014

hacker keyboard

President Obama’s recent defense strategy and budget proposal have made clear that five years of defense cuts are reducing the American military’s capacity to protect our many interests around the world. With still more than a half-decade of sequestration left to go, Pentagon leaders are bracing for a challenging future as outlined in stark terms by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently.

Unfortunately, smaller budgets are not the only tests the Pentagon must deal with as it attempts to recruit, train and equip the force of today and tomorrow. Increasingly, the military is confronting a variety of cyber- and espionage-related threats that could undermine, and in some cases already is damaging, the safety of American forces and the effectiveness of contingency plans. Read more ..


Air Travel on Edge

Malaysia Plane Disappearance Prompts Security Discussion

March 10th 2014

USAir ditch in Hudson

It is still unclear why a Malaysia passenger jet vanished on its way to China early Saturday from Kuala Lumpur. But as authorities investigate apparent security lapses, analysts say they should be a catalyst for bolstering airline safety in the region. 

The little information that has emerged from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has frustrated increasingly desperate families and authorities who are still searching for the plane.

In Malaysia Monday, transport minister Hishammuddin Bin Tun Hussein urged people to refrain from repeating rumors until authorities are able to verify what happened.

"I would like to plea, make a plea, especially to the media and the public at large, not to spread and disseminate unverified and false news for two reasons, One because it affects our exercise of search and rescue because unverified news or false news will distract us from work at hand," said Hussein. "And secondly to be fair to the families who are hoping against hope." Read more ..



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