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Iran's Voter Revolt

Arab Regimes Won't Miss Iran's Ayatollahs

June 22nd 2009

Iran - Iran Election Protest

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

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

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

Afghanistan on the Edge

Stabilizing Iraq Provides Intelligence Lessons for Afghanistan

June 15th 2009

Asia Topics - Afghani Counter-Insurgents
Afghani counter-insurgents

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

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

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

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

Russia's Nukes

Moscow’s New Nuclear Strategy and the Old MAD Principle

June 8th 2009

Russian Topics - Russian ICBM
Russian ballistic missile

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

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

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


Edge on Terrorism

Arkansas's Lone Jihadi: Is He Really Alone?

June 8th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

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

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


Edge of Terrorism

Bronx Jihadi Cell and Its Wider Implications

June 1st 2009

Terrorism - Bronx Jihad
Bronx Jihadi David "Daoud" Williams

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

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


Edge of Terrorism

After Mumbai--Countering Jihadi across the Subcontinent

May 25th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

After Mumbai, what's next?

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

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

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


The Edge of Terrorism

Assessing Progress against the Global Jihadist Threat

May 18th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

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

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

Edge of Terrorism

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism is a Global Intelligence Imperative

May 11th 2009

Iran - Doctored Iran Missile Launch

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

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

Post-September 11 Urgency

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

Pakistan on the Edge

Reviving Pakistan's Pluralist Traditions to Fight Extremism

May 5th 2009

Islamic Topics - Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto

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

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

Military Edge

Special Forces Need Gunships

April 20th 2009

Military - AC-130 Gunship
AC-130 Gunship

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

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

Inside Islam

Behind the Somali Jihad on the High Seas

April 20th 2009

Piracy - Somali Pirate
Somali Pirate

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

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

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

Military Edge

Somali Piracy of Maersk Alabama Places Littoral Combat Ships in Perspective

April 13th 2009

Military - SS Independence
SS Independence Littoral Combat Ship

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

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

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

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

The Edge of Islamic Extremism

The Myth of the Two Talibans

April 6th 2009

Terrorism - Taliban

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

The Edge of Islamic Extremism

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

March 30th 2009

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

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

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

Edge onTerrorism

Hizballah and Iran Open New Contacts As West Engages

March 23rd 2009

Terrorism - Hamas Terrorists

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

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

Inside Terrorism

Al-Qaeda's Response to the Economic Crisis

March 16th 2009

Islamic Topics - Islamic Terrorist

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


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

The Edge of Computer Security

Identity Theft Upgrades to "Identity Assumption"

March 9th 2009

Computer Topics - Shadowy Computer User

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

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

Inside Terrorism

Iraq Withdrawal Contingent Upon Pressuring Iran and Syria

March 3rd 2009

Terrorism - Terrorist Movements in Iraq

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

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

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

Iran's Nukes

Iran-Israel Nuclear End Game Now Much Closer

February 23rd 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked

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

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

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

Israel and Hamas

Israel Deploys 'James Bond' Gadgets in War with Hamas

February 23rd 2009

Israel Topics - Israeli Eye Drive

Some gadgets look like they came straight out of a James Bond movie. One is a softball-sized camera that can be thrown into a suspect house and transmit images to soldiers outside. Another is a special door-buster that is connected to an M-16 and can blow open booby-trapped portals.

On February 18, the IDF Ground Forces Command put these weapon systems and others - most of them used during last month's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip - on display in a military base in the South.

Called the Eyeball, the spherical camera was developed by the Tel Aviv-based company ODF Optronics. An advanced, audio-visual surveillance sensor, the Eyeball was used by IDF troops during the Gaza offensive to survey homes and suspicious areas before entering them.

Each unit is only slightly larger than a baseball and can be simply thrown into the area that needs to be checked out. It can also be mounted on a pole or lowered on a cable into a tunnel. Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Offers Olive Branch Before Clinton's Swing through Asia

February 16th 2009

Asia Topics - Taepodong Missile
Taepo-Dong 1 and 2 missile range

North Korea suggested that it is open to new and warmer relations with Washington, despite reports the regime is preparing to test-fire a long-range missile in an apparent attempt to get the attention of President Barack Obama.

Ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, Kim Yong Nam – the North's ceremonial head of state – commented that, "We will develop relations with countries that are friendly toward us." He made his comments at a national meeting held as part of celebrations on the eve of the 67th birthday of Kim Jong Il.

North Korea has reportedly moved a long-range Taepodong-2 missile to a launch site on the northeastern coast of the country. South Korean media report that the missile is the country's most advanced, is believed capable of reaching U.S. territory, and could be test-launched as early as this month.

In recent months, North Korea has increased its rhetoric against Seoul, calling Lee a "pro-U.S. traitor," vowing an "all-out confrontational posture" and canceling all nonaggression agreements with the South. Relations between the two Koreas have been frayed since Lee took office a year ago with pledges to take a harder line on the North. Kim Yong Nam continued the North's oratory against Lee on Sunday, urging all Koreans to deal "an iron hammer blow to anti-unification forces in South Korea that are bringing the catastrophe of a nuclear war."

Analysts say North Korea's saber rattling is an attempt to grab Obama's attention and to start negotiations where it can extract concessions, believing the new U.S. administration is more interested in other issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Read more ..

Inside Terrorism

Terrorists Released from Guantanamo Will Continue Their Jihad

February 9th 2009

Military - Guatanamo detainees

"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for."

These are the words loudly uttered by an al-Qaeda cadren detained at Guantanamo for a number of years and released in 2007 back to the region. This statement comes at a time the detention center has been ordered to be shut down within a year. This episode provides evidence that Jihadism as an ideology does not respond to the political culture of democracy nor are the indoctrinated Jihadists impacted by the moral and legal debate within what they see as the sphere of the infidels. The Guantanamo legal and ethical drama will continue to be discussed in the United Sates and the West, but for now let's look at the outpouring harsh facts.

Two men released from the prison known as “Gitmo” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a Jihadi site, according to the SITE Intelligence Group web site. The most notorious of the two, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, or "Prisoner Number 372," has been "elevated to the senior ranks of al-Qaeda in Yemen," a US counter-terrorism official has said.

The other man on the video is Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an al-Qaeda commander. SITE stated he was "Prisoner Number 333." Reviewing the video provided by the Laura Mansfield monitoring group. I analyzed the statements made by al-Shahri and al-Oufi in the original Arabic.  Read more ..

The Energy Weapon

Can Europe Be Taken Hostage by Russia’s Natural Gas Supply?

February 2nd 2009

Russian Topics - Russia Shuts off Gas to Ukraine

On January 1, 2009, Russia's state monopoly OAO Gazprom began reducing gas supplies to Ukraine. Moscow and Kiev had failed to negotiate the price for natural gas, and the initial reduction affected six additional countries: Czech Republic, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. As problematic as this was, the crisis has extended beyond these initial victims.

Not surprisingly, Russia is losing its reputation as a reliable supplier of gas to Europe. Motives for the Russian action include sending a signal to Europe that Ukraine should not be integrated into the Euro-Atlantic zone, but remain within the Russian sphere of influence. The crisis demonstrates Europe's strategic dependence on Russian gas and highlights the necessity to change this situation quickly in order to prevent Europe from being taken hostage by Russia.

Failed Negotiations
Russia began halting supplies after Ukraine rejected a proposal to raise gas prices in 2009 to $250 per 1,000 cubic meters from the 2008 price of $179.50. This was considerably below European market price, and Russia claims that Kiev owes more than $600 million in late fees and fines. Read more ..

Massacre in Mumbai

Jihad in India—How Neglect and Appeasement led to Mumbai

January 26th 2009

India Topics - Mumbai Massacre

India is a country on the cusp of joining Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq to form the quartet most affected by international terrorism. The three neighboring terror-prone states bear witness to the fact that terrorism flourishes where terrorists do. Recent events demonstrate that India offers several lessons to other democracies in how not to fight the War on Terror.

Jihadi terrorism first manifested itself in India in Kashmir in 1989 after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan made the Jihadi forces' Pakistan-based controllers turn their attention to Kashmir. So long as the virus was confined to that state and, excepting rare incidents in the rest of India, such as the 1993 terror attacks in Bombay, India continued to develop normally, because of the low economic linkage between Kashmir and the hinterland.

Indian leaders failed to understand that rather than being freedom fighters, terrorists are parasites that drain the host nation of its resilience and eventually its existence. Read more ..

The Surge Against Hamas

A Plan for Gaza: Demilitarization and Internationalization

January 11th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new

It may be too early to discuss both a comprehensive solution for the future of a Palestinian state and to anticipate an end to the global War on Terror at the same time, but here goes. In any discussion of peace in the Middle East it is important to remember the intentions of the Iranian and Syrian regimes and their proxy, Hezbollah, when we think about saving the civilian population of Gaza from war, shielding the Israeli population from rockets, and avoiding an escalation of violence that could engulf the entire region. The Iranian and Syrian regimes -- and their ally Hezbollah -- will always oppose the peace process and try to sink it.

So is there a plan to bring peace to the southern shores of the Levant? In an interview with Al Jazeera, Israeli President Shimon Peres said his country will stop military operations when the strikes by Hamas and its allies come to an end. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his Palestinian Authority (PA) is ready to assume responsibility for the sake of his people. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah said their governments are ready to solve the crisis in Gaza if the PA is part of it. The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations all affirmed that everything must be done to end the war in Gaza. Excellent.

If all the players listed above are ready to stop the violence, end the war, and save Palestinian and Israeli civilians from bloodshed, then the plan seems to be clear: demilitarization and internationalization of Gaza.

Establishing a fully-fledged U.N. sponsored and managed security system in the enclave has precedents across the planet: Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and to some extent in Lebanon and possibly in the near future, Darfur. When an area slips under the control of a militia which is neither bound by a peace treaty nor operating under international law, and when a population comes under fire from any party because of the military actions of such a militia, until a recognizable and recognized sovereign state becomes responsible for such an enclave, the U.N. Security Council must step in and apply Chapter 7 of the charter, that is: to bring peace to civilian populations. Read more ..

Surge Against Hamas

Israel Faces Iran in Gaza

January 5th 2009

Terrorism - Hamas troops w/rocket
Iranian-supplied Grad Rockets

Those 40 km missiles Hamas is unleashing against Israeli cities are certainly not "amateur rockets… nagging the residents" of Israeli cities, as a Palestinian journalist recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

The press calls the rockets "Grads" or "Katyushas," the Russian name given several generations ago to the original Soviet-made surface-to-surface missiles. Today, it would be more correct to label some of the missiles by their real name, the "Arash," the name given to them by their Iranian manufacturers. The long-range 120 mm mortars raining down on Israel are also Iranian in origin. The mortars are equipped with auxiliary motors to increase their range from six to ten kilometers.

The longest range "Grads" were manufactured in China and but many of these too were smuggled to Hamas via Iran. Visitors to Sderot's rocket heap museum of spent missiles can view Iranian-made weapons for themselves.


Edge on Internet Security

Building Cyber Security Leadership in the Obama Administration

December 29th 2008

Technology - Cyber Warfare

The issue of cyber security, cyber competitiveness, and cyber warfare has weighed heavily on the minds of policymakers as the severity and complexity of malicious cyber attacks have intensified over the past decade. These attacks, directed against both the public and private sectors, are the product of a heterogeneous network of state and non-state actors whose actions are motivated by a host of factors. Helping to ensure that the federal government achieves a high level of competency on cyber security issues is an imperative for the next Congress.

Indicative of how important cyber security has become, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell raised this issue for the first time this past February as part of his testimony on the 2008 Annual Threat Assessment. When asked if he believed the United States was prepared to deal with cyber secu­rity threats to the civilian and military infrastructure, McConnell noted that the country is "not prepared to deal with it. The military is probably the best protected; the federal government is not well protected, and the private sector is not well protected. So the question is: How do we take some of the things that we've developed for the military side, scale them across the federal government? And then the key question will be: How do we interact with the private sector?" Properly answering these questions begins with developing cyber-strategic leadership skills in the U.S. government and private sector.

Even as Washington wrestles with issues concerning organization, authorities, responsibilities, and programs to deal with cyber competition, it must place more emphasis on developing leaders who are competent to engage in these issues. This will require a professional development system that can provide a program of education, assignment, and accreditation to develop a corps of experienced, dedicated service professionals who have an expertise in the breadth of issues related to the cyber environment. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Obama Urged To Trade European Missile Shield For Russian Help On Iran Sanctions In 60 to 90 Day Effort

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Howard Berman
Rep. Howard Berman

The U.S. should consider making concessions to Russia on the placement of a missile-defense shield in Europe, in order to get Moscow to back "crippling" concessions against Iran if the time comes, suggests Howard Berman (D-Cal), the powerful Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Berman said that one reason for a limited dialogue with the Iranians to get them to suspend uranium enrichment would be to encourage other countries to "buy into crippling" sanctions if Teheran failed to do so.

The pivotal Congressman stated that the U.S.-Iran talks should be of a set duration, somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks, so the Iranians would not, as they have done in the past, use the negotiations as a cover to continue their nuclear program and their weapons development.

The chances of getting the international community to put its full weight behind sanctions are greater once dialogue between the U.S. and Iran is established, Berman said.

When asked whether he genuinely thought Moscow would cooperate with sanctions that would include a ban on refined oil exports to the Islamic republic, Berman said that the U.S. had "lots of different issues" with Russia, and that he did not think the Bush administration had "prioritized Iran on those issues." The Russians knew full well how important this issue was for the U.S., and at the same time were watching the U.S. "push policies that they deeply resent," such as the missile-defense system in Europe and the quick expansion of NATO, he said. Read more ..

Edge on Jihad

Behind The Shoe Bomber

December 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Shoe bomber rally
Rally in support of the Shoe Bomber

Observing the immediate aftermath of the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, one may note that the most striking effect occurred among the Western public, particularly within the United States.

Commentators and regular citizens were asking themselves, seven years after 9/11, “why do they hate us?,” once again missing the fact that this particular violent expressionfar from being a unique emotional reaction by one individualis part of a war of ideas, a continuous organized confrontation over the future of the region.

In short, this is another form of Jihadism, one which we may refer to as Jihad by the Shoe (Jihad bil Hizaa). Here is why.

Western Awe of So-Called Arab Reaction

The main question on anchors’ minds and lips reflected the shock and awe felt by many Americans. It wasn’t really about the Iraqi journalist al Zaidi targeting President Bush with his two leather “missiles,” for in liberal democracies the scene of flying eggs, pies, or liquid in the direction of politicians, legislators, Prime Ministers, or Presidents is part of the political culture. Leaders are even on the receiving end of obscene gestures and words; this comes with the package of democratic freedoms. It ends up usually with a sensational picture on the front page, or as a joke on TV’s late night shows. The legal consequences, if any, are usually minor. Read more ..

Edge on Terrorism

Belgian Victory Over Al Qaeda Offers Lessons In War On Terror

December 15th 2008

Europe Topics - Belgian Police
Belgian anti-terror squad

Belgian authorities have arrested 14 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, including a Jihadi who was allegedly planning a suicide attack, according to Agence France Presse and the Associated Press.

Sixteen raids were executed by 242 police officers in Brussels and in the eastern city of Liege on the eve of an important European economic summit scheduled to take place in Brussels. Security and judicial sources described the arrests as the “most important anti-terrorism operation in Belgium.” Citing the Federal prosecutor’s office, AFP reported that the move was targeting “a Belgian Islamist group involved in training as well as fighting on the Pakistan-Afghan border in cooperation with important figures in al Qaeda.” Read more ..

Edge of Terror

In 2009, Terror Attacks Will Only Worsen

December 8th 2008

Terrorism - Jihadi Salute

Mumbai’s bloody week has ended with shock and awe in India and around the world. Since 9/11, and even before, the jihadists have been leaping from one massacre to another, scarring democracies and civil societies with their violent imprints.

From New York and Washington to Madrid and London, from Beslan and Baghdad to Islamabad and Bali, the seekers of a Taliban-like Caliphate continue to adapt their tactics even as they stay the course. No civilization or continent has escaped their designs.

But after Mumbai, one has to expect more—and worse. Let’s look at what’s on the horizon:

1) Urban Jihad is Now Open for Business
My initial assessment of the Mumbai terror attacks leads me to predict that the Mumbai model is now a frame of reference for copycats. These attacks can happen again, in India, in the region, and around the globe.

Urban jihad is a siege of coordinated terror activities by Salafists or other adherents of Jihadism aimed at shocking, paralyzing, and seizing part of an entire city or a neighborhood. The goal of the jihad is to take the battle inside the cities of the enemy, in this case India. But the Beslan school massacre in Russia in September 2004, the terror attacks in Saudi Arabia in November 2003 the multiple killings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria, as well as the similar scenarios in Israel over several decades, tell us that this form of urban terrorism is now beyond the test phase—it is now open for business worldwide. They strike anywhere en masse.

2) Sub-Continental Jihadi Now Makes Claims Beyond Kashmir
Interestingly, the Jihadi propaganda machine reacted instantly to the attacks by invoking the issue of Kashmir. So did many in the international media. But the reality is the goals have mutated and now extend beyond the classical ethnic conflict in Kashmir. Read more ..

Mumbai Massacre

Indian Commandos May Have Killed Some Chabad Hostages

December 1st 2008

Israel Topics - Mumbai Chabad rabbi
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and Rivka Holtzberg

Col. Yossi Turgeman, Israeli military attaché to India, said that the two Israelis previously announced missing by the Israeli Foreign Ministry were not among the dead, according to a report by Israel's Army Radio.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry announced that the number of Israelis unaccounted for in Mumbai had dropped to two, after contact was made with two Israelis thought to be missing.

The Indian commando raid launched to save the lives of Jewish and Israeli hostages at Mumbai's Chabad House may have inadvertently ended the lives of one or more of the hostages, the head of a six-man rescue team in the terror-stricken Indian city told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Speaking by phone from Mumbai, Haim Weingarten, the head of the Mumbai ZAKA rescue team, said, "Based on what I saw, [although] I can't identify the type of bullets in the bodies [of the victims], I don't think the terrorists killed all the hostages, to put it gently."

All six Jewish and Israeli hostages found dead in the Chabad House were killed by either gunshot wounds or shrapnel from grenade blasts, or both, Weingarten said, adding that he didn't know who threw or fired the grenades that wounded the hostages. Read more ..

Inside Terrorism

Al Qaeda’s Message: Global Jihad Will Not Stop With Obama White House

November 24th 2008

Terrorism - Zawahiri

While observers waited for the release of the "official" al Qaeda position on the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States, seasoned experts on the Jihadist movement had little doubt about the substance of the main message. As I have outlined in my appearances on Arabic television channels since November 4, Osama bin Laden or his second in command, was expected to declare that their "Jihad" will continue despite the election of an African-American president and despite Obama’s intention to withdraw from Iraq. Ayman al-Zawahiri lived up to expectations in his latest message to both his supporters and his enemies. The message: Even if the war ends in Iraq, the global war will continue everywhere.

The tape was expected to appear a few weeks after the election—because that’s how the terror group does things. First, al Qaeda monitors the reaction from of the international community, both from the Arab and Muslim world and also from other Islamist authorities. The Bin Laden-Zawahiri style is to give the "last word," like a Caliph would. The points raised in the tape were almost all predicted by experts familiar with the Jihadi-combat mind set: Although a new president was elected—one who would reverse some of Bush’s policies—the new president will also devise new strategies to defeat al Qaeda. Read more ..

Inside Terrorism

Message to Barack Obama from Al Qaeda in Iraq

November 17th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Walid Phares new
Walid Phares

As reactions to the election of a new U.S. President across the Arab and Muslim world reflecting the fundamental interests of the various regimes and movements, the most radical groups including al Qaeda have been sending messages in different directions. Of particular interest is one message to Barack Obama.

Al-Furqan, a Jihadi outlet, released on November 8 an audio recording of a speech by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who describes himself as "Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq." The less than half hour internet broadcast was titled "Message to the New Governors of the White House (and other Christian leaders)." It can also be translated as "to the new rulers," i.e. the President and Vice President elect.

After a mandatory "theological" segment taking on Christians, Jews, and apostate Muslims, the speech wandered erratically between issues high on the Jihadist agenda worldwide, particularly the necessity for the United States to call it quits and pull out of the Mideast region. In essence, al Baghdad, who is one of al Qaeda's most lethal "generals," demands the United States under the Obama administration to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and remove its military presence from the Muslim world.

Interestingly, this message to the Obama White House connects with a dominant theme not only of al Qaeda's but also the Jihadist forces and regimes around the world. Despite their divisions and diverse strategies, the Salafists and Khomeinists have a common ideological approach on how to deal with the United States. This attitude has been embodied by multiple speeches, statements, and declarations since the early 1990s. From the powerful doctrinal positions of Sheikh Yusuf al Qardawi on al Jazeera, al Qaeda's Usama Bin laden and Ayman Zawahiri, to President Ahmedinijad, the "agenda" is single-minded: The United States must pull its forces outside the region and keep them inside its own borders.  Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Could Israel Strike Iran Before Obama's Inauguration Day?

November 10th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked

On December 8, 1988, under the cover of night, IDF warplanes, helicopters, guided-missile frigates and an elite force of Flotilla 13 naval commandos and Golani Brigade reconnaissance fighters infiltrated Lebanon.

Their target was a cave-based headquarters 20 km. south of Beirut, serving the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, headed by Ahmed Jibril.

The raid, code-named Operation Blue and Brown, involved the first known use of the IDF's secretive Oketz K9 dog unit.

Four soldiers found themselves left behind, forcing the air force to conduct a dramatic helicopter rescue. The soldiers clung to the helicopters' railings as they choppers took off, with Palestinian gunmen in pursuit. Lt.-Col. Amir Meital, commander of Golani reconnaissance unit, was killed by enemy fire during the raid. Read more ..

America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Iran Defiantly Increases Threat to Strait of Hormuz with New Naval Base

November 3rd 2008

Iran - Iranian Warships
Iranian Warships near Strait of Hormuz

Iran opened a new naval base on October 27, 2008, at the southern mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic chokepoint for Persian Gulf oil. 

About 20 percent of the world’s petroleum and 40 percent of the searborne crude traverse the Strait daily. As such, some 20 percent of America's daily oil needs, passes through the Strait, according to the Energy Information Administration. The EIA has dubbed it, “by far the world’s most important chokepoint.”

Author Edwin Black in his book, The Plan, has spotlighted the fact that the United States has no plan in the event of an oil interruption. The threat to American oil was a point not lost on Iranian naval chief Habibollah Sayyari who was quoted as saying the base at the town of Jask (1,050 miles from Tehran) would enable Iran to block the entry of an "enemy" into the Gulf. Read more ..


OPEC Regimes: The "Change They Need" in U.S. Foreign Policy

October 27th 2008

Contributors / Staff - walid Phares new

Americans should not be surprised to learn that a number of regimes on three continents badly want a fundamental change of direction in U.S. foreign policy. But let’s quickly note that what binds these ruling establishments together in their desire for a different America is that they are authoritarian, afraid of democracy and oil producers. Furthermore, they control the destiny—and thus the economic firepower—of a collaboration of the wealthiest rulers in history, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC.

Indeed, it initially was formed in September 1960 in Baghdad to "coordinate and unify petroleum policies among member countries in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers." It mutated gradually, however, into a world cartel that lobbies for the comfortable survival of most of its member regimes.

The free world witnessed OPEC's first "economic terrorism" against consumer states, including against the United States and Europe during the 1973 oil boycott. That year, European citizens were forced to bike in freezing temperatures to their jobs and homes, and Americans were humiliated at the pumps in their own country. Since that shock, and because of the West’s need for oil, OPEC's hard core regimes exported immense political influence into the West; multinational corporations, universities and foreign policy chanceries were virtually colonized by the imperial power of the oil producers. Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

OPEC Is A Convenient Villain In Current Economic Collapse But Not The True Culprit

October 20th 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Group

There is so much blame to go around in the wake of the financial crisis that there is no wonder OPEC’s name shows up high in the list of culprits. After all, soaring oil prices and loss of wealth in 2008 to the tune of $1.2-$1.9 billion each and every working day, depending on the price of crude, not only helped pop the U.S. mortgage bubble but have also helped create the economic conditions that brought the U.S. economy to its current dire straits.

I don’t like the oil cartel and have even been called "the most hated man in Riyadh." My positions on OPEC and its methodical price manipulation and looting of the world’s poor are well documented.


Economic Terrorism

Is OPEC Warring Against America's Economic Independence?

October 13th 2008

Energy / Environment - Saudi Oil

In the fog of economic mayhem ravaging American and international economies, experts are having a hard time determining the root causes of the current financial crisis. One parameter is established: The Ground Zero of this economic fear is located in Wall Street, a few blocks away from the other Ground Zero, where al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center and massacred thousands of Americans and other nationals.
While we know who caused the destruction of the Twin Towers and why they did it, the question of who is causing the crumbling of the world economy, starting with America, and why, remains unanswered. It will take probably years and the best economists to investigate the web that led to the most dangerous crisis in international finance since the late 1920s. But to political economists and international relations analysts, there are some leads to explore while pure economists are proceeding with only their reconstruction of the crisis.
The latter may not ever reach definitive conclusions, and for political reasons. Too many strategic interests are at stake in the convulsions we are witnessing. From a stratospheric view, we see a U.S. economy bleeding intensely; and as its government, in the midst of an electoral transition, is trying to administer some financial medicine, we can see that serious illnesses are breaking out in several economies around the world. The international community is waking up to watch another dimension of globalization: the lethal domino effect. When the greatest economy goes down, the international economic system follows.  Read more ..

Edge on Terror

Experts Often Misunderstand Jihadi Tactics

October 6th 2008

Terrorism - Jihadi Salute
Jihadis in Hitler Salute

 The main finding of the last 19 years since the Soviet collapse is that Jihadi-led terrorism has become a central threat to democracies worldwide. The debate among Jihadi Salafists since the Khartoum conferences in the early 1990s wasn’t between those who advocated violent Jihad as a concept and those who rejected it, as many experts in the West continue to erroneously affirm. The gist of that Jihadi debate was between two schools, as to which enemy to target and how.

Combat-Jihad (al Jihad al Qitali) is a tool, a weapon, not a sui generis doctrine by itself. As I advanced in my first post-9/11 book, Future Jihad, the realist school—the classical Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood—advocated a reserved attitude towards engaging the West militarily before being able to achieve strategic parity with the West. Unfortunately, a number of analyses in the West confused this strategic approach with an alleged commitment to non-violent means. Hence, we’ve had a very poor understanding of Jihadi penetration for more than one decade. Today we see the emergence of a similar understanding within the Western counterterrorism community, which argues that the classical Jihadists are philosophically non-violent, thus they can be partnered with liberal democracies against the philosophically violent Jihadis such as al Qaeda. Read more ..

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