America With No Plan for an Oil Interruption
|Martin Barillas||November 3rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
|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 ..
|Walid Phares||October 27th 2008|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
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
|Gal Luft||October 20th 2008|
Cutting Edge Energy and Security Desk
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. Read more ..
|Walid Phares||October 13th 2008|
Cutting Edge Security Analyst
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
|Walid Phares||October 6th 2008|
Cutting Edge Terror Analyst
|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 ..
|Elie Khawand||September 29th 2008|
Cutting Edge Analyst
|Hezbollah on the March|
The world continues to grasp the importance of Lebanon as a major front in the global battle between the forces of moderation and the forces of extremism. Vital to that battle are the large numbers of Lebanese, especially the Shias, who continue to support Hezbollah as it serves the interests of Iran while dragging all of Lebanon onto the wrong side of the fight.
Under the pretense of representing Shia interests, Hezbollah exploits the intrinsic sectarian divisions in order to continue gnawing at Lebanese sovereignty. The false sense of empowerment that the “divinely” guided Hezbollah has successfully casted over the Shias has blinded them from uncovering the party’s real intentions. Their apparent willingness to suffer huge losses caused by Hezbollah’s adventures allows its leaders to remain irrationally defiant as Hassan Nassrallah did after his criminal blunder of 2006 by claiming a “divine victory” while hundreds of mutilated corpses were still under the rubbles of the mostly Shiite devastated neighborhoods.
The Shias’ support emboldens the leaders of Hezbollah to challenge the demands for disarming even if Israel withdraws from the disputed Shebaa farms area, thus indirectly exposing their true mission, which goes beyond the conflict with Israel, to serve their Iranian masters and to achieve the hegemony of the Iranian regime over the Lebanese Shias. Read more ..
Edge on Jihadism
|Walid Phares||September 22nd 2008|
Cutting Edge Terror Analyst
|Blast at Islamabad Marriott Hotel|
As shown by world networks, the hellish flames ravaging the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad seemed like a vision of the Apocalypse. That's how many survivors of the terror attack that massacred more than 60 and wounded hundreds have described it: "The end of the World." But beyond the barbaric bloodshed and the human suffering, the heavy question fast arises: How to read this Jihadi mayhem, and what is the message behind the bombing?
When a war is raging, as is the case in Pakistan for the last years, analysts won't wait on the procedural investigation to determine the identity of the perpetrators of this attack. local police and security forces will get somewhere sometime. But the graver question is about the big picture. What are al Qaeda and their Taliban herds up to by terrorizing the people and Government of the second largest Muslim country in the world and—more important—the first Islamic nation to possess nuclear weapons? Read more ..
Edge on Russia
|Joseph Grieboski||September 15th 2008|
Cutting Edge Foreign Desk
|Russian Jets Overfly the Kremlin|
Many of Washington’s elite foreign policy analysts and media voices have been decrying the return to the Cold War and that the Russian Bear is back.
Many experts would answer: the Bear never left.
Russian military action in Georgia was met with shock, surprise, dismay, and disdain by the West, which believed that Russia had accepted its place in the world as a minor player. The West never understood that Russia has always seen itself as powerful empire. The Soviet Union's disintegration did nothing to disturb that view.
But Russia wasn’t just sitting back remembering the old days. Rather, under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia was rebuilding, redefining, and re-equipping itself to once again play a role on the global stage. In the same length of time it took the American economy to nearly collapse, and the United States to be embroiled in a devastating and questionable war in the Middle East, Vladimir Putin brought Russia from bankruptcy to financial affluence, rebuilt the Russian military, established new and strong international partnerships, and expanded its influence into new strategic arenas.
One of those strategic arenas is right in America’s backyard.
Russian air and naval forces will join with the Venezuelan military in joint exercises. The Venezuelan navy and air force, together with four Russian warships carrying 1,000 soldiers will participate in the exercises scheduled for November 10-14 in Venezuelan territorial waters, according to a statement from the Venezuelan military. Russia said its ships would include the heavy cruiser Peter the Great. Anti-submarine planes would also be temporarily sent to Venezuela. Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took office, Venezuela has boosted its military cooperation with Russia. Read more ..
The Bear is Back
|Obrad Kesic||September 15th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|A Victim of the Russia-Georgia War|
It is obvious that the current conflict in Georgia has been greatly influenced by the United States' and the European Union's decision to initiate, support and recognize Kosovo's independence. Over the last few days this connection has been made in newspapers from Spain to China. Prominent European statesmen such as Lech Walesa and Jiri Dienstbier also have linked the current violence in the Caucasus to the "irresponsible" decision to recognize Serbia's breakaway province.
Even the major protagonists in the current crisis have embraced this connection. The South Ossetians and Abkhazians have cited Kosovo's independence as an argument for their own separatist ambitions; the Russians have referred to Kosovo to slash at the credibility and legitimacy of EU and American criticisms. Georgian leaders who had warned about the dangerous precedent of Kosovo's independence and had refused to recognize it are now desperately attempting to find differences between the two situations in order to deny any possible legitimacy for the case for independence of its own separatist regions. Read more ..
The Economics of Terror
|Dan Levin||September 8th 2008|
A rare public session of all eleven active judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will be held on Wednesday, September 10, in Chicago. The court will hear the appeals of the Holy Land Foundation and other American organizations that supported Hamas against a 156 million dollar judgment in favor of the family of a 17-year-old American-born yeshiva student, David Boim, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in May 1996 while standing at a bus stop in Beit El on the West Bank. Boim’s parents were the first to sue American-based organizations under a 1991 federal law granting American victims of international terrorism the right to recover treble damages.
The Boims have been represented by noted Washington attorney Nathan Lewin of Lewin & Lewin LLP and his partner-daughter Alyza D. Lewin. Mr. Lewin filed the case in May 2000, and a court of appeals decision sustaining his novel legal theory has been the leading precedent in post-September 11 lawsuits against financers of terrorism.
The jury trial in Chicago was presented for the Boims by Stephen J. Landes of the litigation firm Wildman Harrold. A 2-to-1 ruling by three appellate judges in Chicago, reversing the Boims’ judgment on the ground that the evidence did not establish that the Holy Land Foundation’s contributions were the “cause in fact” of the murder of David Boim, was vacated by the full 11-judge bench, and all 11 judges will now decide the appeals after oral arguments are presented in Chicago by attorneys Lewin and Landes. Read more ..
Iran in the Americas
|Martin Barillas||September 1st 2008|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
|Presidents Ahmadinejad and Chavez|
Iran's increasingly close ties with Venezuela are causing concern to western terror analysts, given that Iran has long been a sponsor of Hezbollah. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in an embrace accompanied by increasingly strident anti-US rhetoric from the Latin strongman. That has increased scrutiny of Hezbollah’s activities in Latin America.
Although the Shiite Muslim terrorist organization based is in Lebanon, the group has long been linked to terrorism elsewhere in Latin America. Hezbollah has been held responsible by international experts for the deadly 1990s attacks in Argentina against the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center that killed 114. At least one Western government terrorism expert expressed concern that Hezbollah may be able to more easily engage in moving personnel and materiel within Latin America precisely because of the close ties between Venezuela and the Islamic Republic.
Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon said in June 2008 that the Islamic Republic "has a history of terror in this hemisphere, and its linkages to the bombings in Buenos Aires are pretty well established." In 2006, Shannon had warned about Venezuela’s closer ties to both Cuban and Iranian intelligence saying, “Cuban intelligence has effectively cloned itself inside Venezuelan intelligence to the point that [our] ability to cooperate and have a relationship with Venezuela on the intelligence side is very difficult," and "We are worried about the kind of relationship [Mr. Chavez] wants to have with Iran on the intelligence side." Read more ..
Edge on Jihadism
|Walid Phares||August 25th 2008|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
|Palestinian Jihadis in Hitler Salute|
Jihadi terrorism is one of the largest threats Europe and the international community are facing in this era. Hence studying Jihadi terrorism beyond the formation and the dismantling of cells is highly relevant to Europeans because of the impact of its actions on security, politics, and economy.
Jihadism is putting significant pressure on European foreign policy regarding where and when Europe can intervene in an international crisis such as those in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Darfur. It is also putting pressure on the European economy through the choices made in foreign policies. But the inability to explain these pressures is a major reason behind the strategic failure in containing and reversing the threat which continues to expand and grow across the continent.
As some members of the European Parliament have declared, the issue is about "identification" of that threat. We need to "ID" it so that we can address it properly. Western democracies have had a failure in perception of the threat; for the countries that have been fighting this movement are still debating it seven years after 9/11 and several years after Madrid and London attacks. World War II took five years to win, and, in this confrontation, the identification of the menace is still not completed properly after seven years.
Hence, we will offer a few suggestions of strategic guidelines to address this issue.
First: The Identification Problem
1. Self Identification: The Jihadists talk about themselves, their agenda and their views. Let's not ignore this literature, but let's analyze it and learn from it. These movements certainly use theology in their discourse, but they have developed an ideology. They do define themselves as Jihadis, Islamists, Takfiris, and others, but the most accurate term to identify them is "Jihadists." Read more ..
Russian Invasion of Georgia
|Walid Phares||August 11th 2008|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
|Russian Tanks Invade Georgia|
The conflict over South Ossetia -and possibly over Abkhazia's- regions is a dangerous development in international stability, particularly for the efforts deployed worldwide in the campaign against Terror forces. For this local ethnic and territorial confrontation involving now Georgia, the Russian Federation has the potential of absorbing energies and resources otherwise needed and applied elsewhere in resisting Jihadi offensives and networks.
Georgia is an important ally in the US-led coalition overseeing the stabilization of Iraq and the containing of Khomeinist offensive in that country. An escalation over South Ossetia and Abkhazia will lead (and has already significantly) to a full withdrawal of Georgia from Iraq and eventually drawing US and other Western diplomatic efforts and resources for the defense of Georgia in the Caucuses. This will weaken the position in Iraq, in the Middle East, and open an unnecessary front in a different region against a superpower, also drawn into the conflict because of local conflicts. Read more ..
|Joseph Grieboski||August 4th 2008|
Cutting Edge Foreign News Editor
|Iranian Nuclear Equipment|
Iran will not give up "a single iota of its nuclear rights," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last week, snubbing an informal deadline to stop expanding uranium enrichment or face more sanctions. The Iranian president declared, "In whichever negotiation we take part ... it is unequivocally with the view to the realization of Iran's nuclear right, and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights.”
Ahmadinejad made the remarks during discussions with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit. Assad was in Tehran to discuss Iran's uranium enrichment at the behest of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Many observers viewed Assad’s visit as an almost “last ditch” effort to avoid a military confrontation.
Tehran was given an informal two-week deadline, set July 19 by the UN Security Council's five permanent members, plus Germany, to stop expanding uranium enrichment – at least temporarily – in exchange for their commitment to stop seeking new UN sanctions. Ahmadinejad's stance signaled both a failure of Assad's mission and a rejection of the deadline. Read more ..
|Edwin Black||July 28th 2008|
Israeli and American military officials are now publicly differing on whether Iran will receive its pivotal S-300 Russian anti-aircraft batteries by September of this year or well into 2009, according to media reports. However, informed sources tell this reporter that while some of the first components have already arrived in Iran, they are still disassembled in boxes and undeployed. Hence, the difference between Washington and Jerusalem military sources may be parsing over the operational nature of the state-of-the-art batteries, not their actual delivery. Read more ..
|Edwin Black||July 21st 2008|
|Saeed Jalili at Geneva Press Conference|
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of making "small talk" and "not being serious" during last weekend’s crucial Geneva talks about suspending its controversial nuclear program. The collapse of those talks has hastened the moment of a profound diplomatic and military showdown in the minds of many in the international community. The new deadline seems to be two weeks.
Rice said Iran wasted the time of diplomats from the US and five other world powers with a mere "runaround." Many in the international community were especially disappointed because also in attendance was America’s highest ranking negotiator, William J. Burns, Undersecretary of State for political affairs. In an historic turnaround for U.S. policy, Burns joined senior diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. Envoys all sat around the table hoping for a response to a package of ramped up incentives with a guarantee of a six-week freeze of new sanctions in exchange for a six-week freeze in nuclear enrichment.
Although representatives from the six nations attending pushed for some evidence of compromise from Iran, they were met with an astonishing display of cryptic and cultural small talk. Rice told reporters that some of the bizarre Iranian answers amounted to a "meandering" monologue full of irrelevant "small talk about culture" that appeared to annoy the delegates seated around the table. Read more ..
|Jesse Cogan||July 14th 2008|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
|Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours nuclear site|
Teheran’s Revolutionary Guard, responsible for all nuclear programs in Iran, has been instructed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to set up private companies to pursue the acquisition and development of P2 advanced centrifuges, according to recent Western intelligence.
The Bush Administration reacted by imposing financial sanctions on any entity participating in Iran’s nuclear programs.
"Iran's nuclear and missile firms hide behind an array of agents that transact business on their behalf," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
P2 centrifuges enrich uranium two to three times faster than centrifuges currently in use. They are a key component of a blueprint for atomic bombs sold to Iran by Dr. A.Q. Khan, the "father" of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, in the 1990s. Nuclear experts confirm that the P2 centrifuges are used primarily for atomic weapons.
The private front companies, hidden on the outskirts of Teheran, are designed to operate undetected by the United Nations nuclear inspection teams. Concerns that nuclear weapon production will continue despite Iran’s proclamations of peaceful use only have circulated among Western experts. Read more ..
As the question of an Israeli attack on Iran edges from if toward when, a new question looms: What would the United States do?
The question is preoccupying not just the White House but the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns, although neither would address the matter on the record.
A number of neoconservatives in Washington, known for their closeness to the Israeli defense establishment, now predict that Israel may strike between the election in November and the inauguration of the next president on January 21, if only because that’s a time when Israel can count on U.S. support.
"Israel would be unlikely to do it before the U.S. election," said John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is close to the pro-Israel community in the capital. "But after the election and before the inauguration would be a window."
Israeli officials will not name a date, but some have grown more pronounced in recent weeks about the increased prospect of a strike should Iran develop nuclear weapons capability. "A year from now Iran will be very, very close to the completion of its first nuclear bomb," Ephraim Sneh, a member of Israel's ruling coalition, said earlier this month at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. "I may predict that there is – will be – no government in Jerusalem which would allow it to happen." Read more ..
The LNG Threat
|Cindy Hurst||June 30th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|LNG tanker at sea|
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is more than just a potential weapon of mass destruction in the right locale. It also offers terrorists an awesome economic target wherever in the world it can be found--even on the high seas.
During a March 21, 2007 hearing, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, of the second district of Mississippi, observed that although it is important to consider the dangers of LNG, it is equally important to try to assess the economic impacts that an LNG incident might incur. “…Terrorists would just as well like to keep a port out of business for a week or two and that would be an absolutely significant incident… So, I think part of our challenge is how we look at all the consequences associated with the handling of LNG. Clearly, we want to know the hazards initially, but we also want to look at economic conditions that relate to it.”
The variables that would affect the economic impact are too numerous to make such a predetermined calculation possible. Additionally, as time passes and the role of LNG grows worldwide, the potential impact of a terrorist attack on these tankers or terminals increases. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), LNG imports comprised only three percent of overall natural gas consumption in the U.S. in 2005. Energy analysts expect LNG imports into the U.S. to increase by 8.7 percent annually through 2030. Conversely, natural gas piped in from Canada, which is the number one source of imported natural gas to the U.S., is expected to decrease by 4.6 percent. At this rate, by 2030, approximately 17 percent of all natural gas required to meet U.S. consumption needs, will be supplied via LNG imports. Read more ..
The Next Mideast War
|Shmuel Rosner||June 23rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WI) has just published the final version of a report by the Task Force on the Future of U.S.-Israel relations. One fascinating conclusion asserts that achieving peace between Israelis and Arabs while Iran is going nuclear will be difficult. "Moreover, our collective ability to wage peace or prevent conflict will, in many ways, be shaped by the success of Iran's nuclear ambitions."
Giving insight into the pending question of the day, the report is entitled, "How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge." No less insightful is the list endorsing this report: Tony Lake and Susan Rice of the Obama campaign, Vin Weber, James Woolsey of the McCain camp.
The list of endorsers also includes other important people, some of whom are also close to the presidential campaigns. Among them, former counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, Bob Blackwill of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Senator Bob Kerry and others.
Dennis Ross, former Mideast peace envoy, and Rob Satloff, of the WI, were the two main movers behind the report.
The collective group of Washington thinkers raise some concerns regarding the depth and content of U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue. They think this dialogue should be enhanced, especially so because of the challenge Iran poses to both countries.
The gist, in a journalistic headline format is: Obama, McCain advisors agree: US-Israel should discuss preventive military action against Iran. But this is, of course, the simplistic way of describing this document which merits a more nuanced reading.
All signatories agreed upon other points:
The NIE report of Iran was as bad as many people thought it was: "Regrettably, however, the NIE's crediting past efforts to pressure Iran with partial success had the unintended consequence of reducing the sense of urgency for additional pressure. The result is that the prospects for significant strengthening of international resolve to raise the cost to Iran of continuing to pursue objectionable policies in the nuclear field are less hopeful today than they were prior to the publication of the NIE." Read more ..
|Walid Phares||June 16th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
In the coming days, a major battle in the “War of Ideas” will be unfolding worldwide, particularly through the international media—a massive campaign by Hezbollah's strategic communication machine to frame the outcome of the battle for Lebanon, significantly lost by the United States, the West, and the forces of Democracies in the region.
The main issue at hand in the Iranian-funded war room is not about convincing the international community and the Arab and Muslim world that Hezbollah has defeated its opponents in that small but strategically located republic, but that an overwhelming majority of Lebanese are now firmly standing behind secretary general of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in his vision for the future of the Eastern Mediterranean and probably the Greater Middle East.
The propaganda machine, living off Khomeinist Petrodollars, enlists not only the traditional Hezbollah outlets such as al-Manar but also a network of friends in the multi-layered world of the foreign press and active pens in newsrooms around the world. The power of the Iranian Oil lobbies is almost as influential as the power of the Wahabi Petro pressure group.
In his more than significant speech in the first week of June, Nasrallah uncovered the bulk of his agenda for Lebanon, the region, and perhaps his international open alignment with Tehran's ambitions. This speech, delivered after the invasion of West Beirut and southern Mount Lebanon and collapse of the Siniora Government is indeed a declaration of victory. Usually, Hezbollah's commander produces these benchmark-speeches when a new era is already underway, indicating that the Tehran-backed militia in Lebanon has already scored its victory on the ground, in the institutions, and diplomatically. Read more ..
|Elie Khawand||June 9th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Shiite mullahs executing Khomeini’s will to export the “Islamic revolution” remain on their self-assigned mission to slay the “Great Satan,” the U.S. They were finding their campaign stumbling in all the pertinent places throughout the Sunni-dominated Mideast. This forced the Iranians to concentrate on multi-religious Lebanon in order to compensate for the major grounds lost lately in Iraq. The projection of Iranian power comes mainly in the form of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s most recent pretext to disrupt and dominate the nation was simple decisions of sovereignty by the Lebanese government on May7, including extending control over the Hezbollah communications network. Hezbollah refused. The group launched an armed revolt in Beirut, conquering districts, trashing government buildings, burning TV stations, and looting the city at will.
But six days of violent confrontations between the well-armed and trained Hezbollah fighters and untrained individual Lebanese did not lead to the fall of the government or plunge the country in complete chaos as it was intended. Lebanese citizens improvised strategies to defend their neighborhoods. Hezbollah fighters lacked necessary logistical support in order to remain in the areas they invaded. So Hezbollah had to hand the zones back to the Lebanese army. The Arabs, realizing the gravity of the Iranian assault, started an initiative culminating in a summit in Qatar. Ultimately, the factional and governmental representatives left with the Doha Accord. Pacification returned to the smoldering streets of Beirut. Read more ..
The LNG Threat
Cutting Edge Contributor
|LNG Tanker at Sea|
“Once ignited, as is very likely when the spill is initiated by a chemical explosion, the floating LNG pool will burn vigorously…Like the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, there exists no relevant industrial experience with fires of this scale from which to project measures for securing public safety.” Professor James Fay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
On 14 February 2007, the Saudi Arabian arm of al-Qaeda put out a call to all religious militants to attack oil and natural gas sources around the world. Through such attacks, according to the call, al-Qaeda hopes to “strangle” the U.S. economy. Such proclamations give fodder to those who highlight the possibilities that liquefied natural gas (LNG) could be used as a lethal weapon of mass destruction. Industry officials on the other hand point out the improved security measures in place as a result of 9/11.
While the U.S. continues to pursue LNG as a way to diversify its natural gas resources, in order to meet anticipated future shortfalls and increase energy security, the opponents and proponents of LNG have been locked in a bitter debate with no solid conclusion.
Proponents are correct in that both safety and security measures currently in place make LNG terminals and ships extremely hard targets for terrorists. However, it would be imprudent to believe that terrorists are either incapable or unwilling to attack such targets. Read more ..
UNRWA: Refuge for Rejection
|Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky, and Jonathan Spyer||May 26th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributors
Today, Hamas is a central beneficiary of a bizarre system of refugee perpetuation operated under the auspices of the United Nations. A multimillion dollar internationally funded program employs Hamas fighters and even nourishes its ideology and agenda. That UN agency in question is UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East). UNRWA was virtually developed by the PLO, and today stands as a monolithic nexus between the international community and terrorism.
It began shortly after the State of Israel declared independence in 1948. About eighteen months later, on December 8, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly (GA) passed Resolution 302, establishing an agency dedicated to "direct relief and works programs" for the Palestinian Arab refugees. Thus UNRWA was born with a clear humanitarian mandate.
Clearly, UNRWA is a unique body within the UN system. Millions of refugees worldwide—over 130 million since the end of World War Two—had previously come under the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), charged with resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees. UNRWA was created as a separate body with jurisdiction solely over the Palestinians. Read more ..
|Walid Phares||May 19th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|TV Stations Burning in Beirut|
While the West is busy living its daily life, a beast is busy killing the freedom of a small community on the East Mediterranean: Lebanon. Indeed, as of last week, the mighty Hezbollah, armed to the teeth with 30,000 rockets and missiles and aligning thousands of self described "Divine soldiers" has been marching across the capital, terrorizing its population, shutting down media, taking its politicians and the Prime Minister as hostages, and looting at will. The hordes of Lebanon’s "Khomeinist Janjaweeds" have conquered already half of the Middle East’s cultural capital, Beirut. As I have reported before, Hezbollah has occupied West Beirut and has since sent its storm troops in multiple directions to resume the blitz.
Unstoppable, including by the Lebanese Army, which Commander Michel Sleiman has allowed the slaughter to occur, the Pasdaran-founded militia is now hurtling towards the Druze Mountain and positioning its forces against the Sunni North and the Christian Mount Lebanon. Ironically, the geographical bases of Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, are well guarded by the United Nations Interim Forces (UNIFIL). Per UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701 in 2006, more than 10,000 international troops are stationed across the southern parts of Lebanon, technically protecting the 200 Shia towns and villages from where the bulk of Hezbollah fighters came from. Hence, free from guarding their own areas, a dozen thousands well trained "Hezbollahis" have marched north to join another 5,000 already based in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Read more ..
The Next Mideast War
|Elie Khawand||May 12th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
In 1948 tens of thousands of Arabs fled the war in Palestine to take a "temporary refuge" in neighboring countries. In 2008, their numbers have swollen to over 5 million. They remain stateless while living in squalid refugee camps mainly in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
As the years went by, Israelis have grown more adamant towards allowing the detrimental return of millions of hostile Palestinian refugees to their midst. Despite this fact, the Arab and Palestinian leaders refuse to consider any feasible and practical solution to the refugees’ problem besides the "Return" and, out of blind fanaticism, do equate any other suggestions as treacherous advancements of the "Zionist plot." Meanwhile the refugees’ sufferings continue and the impoverished camps remain the fertile breeding grounds for futureless and hopeless generations of expendable youth that are easily attracted by radical and extreme ideologies.
After the 1964 establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Refugee camps, under the pretense of fighting Israel, where quickly turned into armed bunkers. While the totalitarian regimes of other hosting nations succeeded in ruthlessly controlling and violently restraining the Palestinians living on their lands, the consensus governed Lebanon failed to effectively confront their growing military presence. Read more ..
|Leslie Susser||May 5th 2008|
JTA Midwest Bureau Chief
|Syrian President Bashar Assad|
After several false starts over the past few years, Israel and Syria finally seem serious about peace negotiations. What's changed?
Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad have gone public about their readiness for talks. An active and determined mediator, Turkey, has been accepted by both sides. And in a recent interview with the Qatar-based newspaper al-Watan, Assad said Olmert told him via the Turks that he is ready to return the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a peace deal -- a claim Olmert did not deny.
But the main difference is the impending change of administration in Washington. Israel and Syria are preparing for a new U.S. president who may be ready to invest in an Israel-Syria peace deal, primarily to detach Syria from an alliance with Iran. The Turkish mediation effort is moving into high gear. In a lightning visit to Damascus over the weekend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a detailed meeting with Assad focusing mainly on the question of negotiations with Israel. A Turkish envoy is expected in Jerusalem soon to brief Olmert on that exchange, and set up a follow-up meeting in Turkey between Israeli and Syrian officials. Read more ..
The Next Mideast War
|Sec. Robert Gates||April 28th 2008|
U.S. Secretary of Defense
|Defense Sec. Robert Gates|
Generals Ike Eisenhower and George Marshall, of course, are legends—icons etched in granite. Both were influenced by another senior Army officer who is not nearly as well-known. His name is Fox Conner, and he served as a tutor and mentor to both men. Conner had three principles or rules of war for a democracy that he imparted to Eisenhower and Marshall. They were:
• Never fight unless you have to;
• Never fight alone; and
• Never fight for long.
All things being equal, these principles are pretty straightforward and strategically sound. We have heard variants of them in the decades since—the Powell Doctrine being the most famous of recent times. But, of course, all things are not equal, particularly when you think about the range and complexity of the threats facing America today—from the wars we are in to the conflicts we are most likely to fight. So, I’d like to discuss how you should think about applying Fox Conner’s three axioms to the security challenges of the 21st Century—challenges where you will be on the front line.
“Never go to war unless you have to.”
That one should only go to war as a last resort has long been a principle of civilized people; we know its horrors and costs. War is by nature unpredictable and uncontrollable. Winston Churchill wrote in January 1942, “Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter... Once the signal is given, [the statesman] is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Read more ..
Inside the Middle East
|Elie Khawand||April 28th 2008|
While the principled attempts by the U.S. Administration to spread democracy across the greater Middle East, in order to bring freedom and stability to the people of the region and to eradicate the sources of terrorism, are bringing positive results they are still confronting great difficulties. The specter of failure emanates from the formidable obstacles that are intrinsic to a region where religion permeates every aspect of life and where prevailing tribal and clan allegiances supersede any nationalistic feelings.
Democracy could not thrive in societies where customary laws sanction prejudice, intolerance, ethnic and sectarian segregation, gender inequities along with other injustices that emanate from religious beliefs as well as from long held traditions. There, a prematurely instilled democracy might only serve to replace totalitarian regimes with dictatorships of the majority. It risks bringing to power extremists who do not respect human rights within systems with no accountability and no established mechanism of checks and balances to restrict their actions. They use their mandates, under the false pretense that they are democratically elected, to impose their extremist views and policies while branding any opposition as a sacrilegious conspiracy deserving termination. Cases in point of this travesty are the elections to power of members of Hamas and Hezbollah who should have been otherwise ineligible because of their bigoted, violent and oppressive ideologies, strictly outlawed in a true democracy. Read more ..
Inside the Palestinian Conflict
from the JTA and reports
Three decades after he revolutionized the Middle East by brokering the first Israeli-Arab peace accord, Jimmy Carter is back in the region preaching reconciliation.
But this time around, the former U.S. president and Nobel laureate has found himself jilted by a Jewish state that once regarded him as a visionary guided by a heady mix of Christian compassion and realpolitik.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli government officials declined to meet Carter during his four-day stay. He was refused permission to visit the Gaza Strip, and Shin Bet bodyguards were not even around to help his Secret Service detail. At the heart of these slights is Carter's plan to travel to Syria to meet Hamas’ leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal -- a man blacklisted by Israel, the United States and the European Union for his orchestration of Hamas terrorism.
Carter’s itinerary has caused a stir in the United States, too, where President Bush and the three major-party presidential candidates criticized his plans to visit Meshaal.
The former president -- who recently visited Sderot to meet with Israeli victims of Gaza rocket attacks, and went to Ramallah to lay a wreath on Yasser Arafat's grave and embrace a senior Hamas official -- has played down the significance of his meeting with Meshaal while also suggesting he may have the power to soften the arch terrorist’s commitment to Israel's destruction. Read more ..
The Next Middle East War
from the JTA
|Israeli Air Force|
A nationwide emergency drill of unprecedented scale again has Israelis worried about war.
As official rhetoric and media speculation regarding a possible new confrontation with Lebanese Hezbollah, Syria or even Iran continue to simmer, Israel’s armed forces and public services this week are going through a five-day drill intended to test the homefront’s readiness for enemy missile salvoes and other worst-case events.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched the exercise, dubbed "Turning Point 2," at Sunday's Cabinet session by issuing a dummy declaration that the Jewish state was "at war."
But though the drill is being implemented as part of the hard lessons of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when thousands of Hezbollah rockets rained down on northern Israel, Olmert also tried to calm regional concern.
"I would like to make clear that this is an exercise and nothing but an exercise," Olmert said in broadcast remarks. "The State of Israel seeks no confrontation or violence in the North." Lebanon and Syria seemed unconvinced.
In Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s office said he had instructed the army “to be extremely vigilant and take all necessary measures to protect Lebanese civilians” should the Israeli maneuvers prove to be a ruse. Hezbollah official Nabil Kuak added, “We monitor all of the Israeli exercises and we aren’t afraid of them.” Read more ..
The Andes Crisis
|Eduardo Szklarz||April 7th 2008|
Cutting Edge Buenos Aires
The recent crisis between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela has led to the highest tension in Latin America since the armed conflict between Ecuador and Peru in 1995. Although the episode ended in a handshake at the March 20th Rio Group Summit in Santo Domingo, the showdown reinforced the great political and security challenges faced by the entire Andes region.
Certainly, the new Andean crisis exposed shortcomings in the leadership of the main regional power, Brazil. While the Brazilian Foreign Ministry generally plays a crucial role in mediating such conflicts, this time the Brazilians could not overcome its fear of a three-state war, or successfully mediate.
"This conflict represents one of the greatest historical defeats for Brazil in its project for South-American integration," asserts Argentine political scientist Juan Gabriel Tokatlian. "Brazil could not anticipate the dispute and seems unable to put a brake on it."
Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may be losing the chance to build his cherished South-American Community of Nations (SACN). On one hand, his distrust towards Colombian president Álvaro Uribe's policy of "democratic security" has only reinforced Colombia's perception that the United States is the still only partner capable of solving 40 years of armed conflict. On the other hand, Lula's indulgence towards Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez has proved counter-productive. Read more ..
Inside the Islamic World
|Joseph Grieboski||March 31st 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Last June, standing shoeless at Washington's 50-year-old Islamic Center, President George W. Bush announced an important new diplomatic initiative: for the first time ever, the United States would send a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a global, 57-member organization of Muslim nations. It was a welcome move in advancing Muslim-Western understanding.
OIC member states welcomed the idea of a U.S. envoy. Appointing an envoy was meant to "demonstrate to Muslim communities our interest in respectful dialogue and continued friendship," the President said. But his interest in this historic special envoy seemed to have withered until eight months later.
On February 27, 2008, President George W. Bush announced that Texas technology entrepreneur Sada Cumber would be the first U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Asked about why it took so long, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, "The president wanted to find the right person and he found that in Sada Cumber."
Make no mistake about the OIC's power: it represents Muslims from Guyana to Pakistan to Indonesia, making it the United Nations of the Islamic world. With a secretary-general and several organs, the Conference is the venue where members coordinate humanitarian aid and pen economic, social and political agreements. Read more ..
Radical Islamic Threat
|Walid Phares||March 24th 2008|
In an audiotape posted on Internet, Osama Bin Laden threatened Europe with punishment because of its “negligence in spite of the opportunity presented to take the necessary measures” to stop the republishing of the Danish cartoons. It also menaced the Vatican with retribution for an alleged role in incitement "against religion." This al Qaeda warning would have been normal in Salafi Jihad logic. This radical movement obviously considers the drawings as an ultimate insult to Muslims and would unleash extreme violence in retaliation. Actually one would have expected al Qaeda to strike back “for the cartoons offense” a long time ago. In fact, this particular audio is intriguing precisely because it is too “political,” read too sophisticated. Bin Laden’s school of Jihadism would have smitten first, explained later. So why is this message more peculiar than previous ones? What can we read into it? In short, I see in it the imprints of Jihadi "politicians” and strategists in international relations and deeply immersed in the diplomatic games across the Mediterranean. Even though it is indeed the voice of al Qaeda’s master, nevertheless one can see increasingly the impact of political operatives on the movement’s public statements. Here is why:
A raw al Qaeda reaction to the “infidel cartoons” would have been a strike back into the heart of the enemy with simple harshness and highly ideological brutality. But the audio tape has other points to make than just about the drawings. The message is heavily targeting Europe, while using the “cartoon Jihad” as a motive. Bin Laden, and the war room behind him are concerned about the rise of tough national leaders on the continent: Sarcozy, Merkel, Brown and a possible reemergence of Berlusconi's Party. In many spots in Europe, citizens are rejecting the Jihadi intimidations and becoming vocal about it. France is going to Chad, Germany has ships in the Eastern Mediterranean and Spain is arresting more Salafists. But the traditional apologists towards the Islamist agenda in Europe, remain strong. Al Qaeda wants to use the apologists against the “resistance.” What better than threatening to strike at Europe’s peace if its liberal values are not altered? In essence this is Bin Laden’s message: Read more ..
The Widening Gaza War
|Martin Sieff||March 12th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Hamas Missiles Are Readied|
Israel has arguably the finest and most intensive cutting edge anti ballistic missile systems in the world. But it is a primitive rocket technology that was apparently obsolete 60 years ago that has thrown it into a strategic dilemma.
For Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement continues to defy the indecisive government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by firing ever more low tech Qassem rockets at the development town of Sderot.
Sderot is clearly within the Green Line that marked the limits of Israel before the 1967 Six Day War. But that has not stopped Palestinian groups in neighboring Gaza from keeping up a regular bombardment of relatively low-tech but still potentially lethal Qassam missiles at it for more than six years. During that time more than 6,000 Qassams have been fired from Gaza. The volume and rate of fire has dramatically speeded up since Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, seized total power in Gaza from the Fatah movement that controls the Palestinian Authority. Read more ..
|Shoshana Bryen||March 3rd 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
The big, much-ballyhooed "human chain" across Gaza was a big bust - an interesting bust, but a bust nonetheless.
About 20,000 Gazans took part, less than half the number Hamas called for and fewer than participate in a good Gaza funeral. Media reports attributed the low turnout to the rain – and indeed, there is nothing quite as nasty as cold February rain in a Mediterranean city.
There is, as usual, a contrarian’s view – a more hopeful one.
The Hamas principle was women and children first. Not into the lifeboats or out of the burning building, but first to face the beefed-up Israeli military forces on the other side of the Gaza border. Maybe Gaza’s women and children didn’t want to go first, and so they didn’t go at all. Maybe, absent the ability to shop as they did when they burst through the Egypt/Gaza border, they stayed home. Maybe, one can hope, some of Gaza’s men were uncomfortable or humiliated to be told to march behind the women and children and so they stayed home.
Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist and everyone there has been set against everyone else. Israel faces daily shelling with ever more precise rockets, and Gilad Shalit remains a prisoner of Hamas in violation of international law. But beyond that, the manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore was abducted and killed; the YMCA library, which had been a resource for Muslim as well as Christian high school students, was burned to the ground; Hamas TV encourages children to hate and kill (recently they were encouraged to "bite and eat" Danish people); gangs of Hamas teenagers are encouraged to fight gangs of Fatah teenagers. Gaza is an outpost of bloody misery and anarchy – last year’s civil war ousted Fatah leadership, but a great many Fatah members remain stranded there. Read more ..
The Gaza Problem
|Mitch Bard||February 20th 2008|
Cutting Edge contributor
Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005 with the expectation that the Palestinians would take the opportunity to build the infrastructure for a state and demonstrate their willingness to coexist with Israel. Instead of trading land for peace, Israel traded land for terror. Israeli citizens in southern Israel have been targets of a steady barrage of more than 2,400 rockets. The media has largely trivialized these attacks, giving the false impression that these are little more than firecrackers that pose no threat to Israeli lives rather than lethal, high-explosive rockets meant to terrorize and kill innocent Israeli men, women and children.
By focusing on the quantity of rockets, the media also minimizes the impact on the communities under siege and the lives of individual Israelis who suffer from each attack as well as the cumulative stress of the ongoing bombardment. The human cost of these unprovoked attacks can be seen in the hospitals and cemeteries where the dead and injured lay. The psychological harm, however, is not visible. The Israeli Center for Victims of Terror and War found that 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children in the town of Sderot, the principal target of Palestinian terror attacks, have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Here are some of the most recent stories of the people affected by the terror war in Sderot and the surrounding communities: Read more ..
|Walid Phares||February 4th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Flag of Islamic Jihad|
The post 9/11 era has changed the rules of engagement for national security experts and for those who can read the mind of the Jihadists, when it comes to US Presidential elections. While the principle was that the counter Terrorism community should let the voters chose their candidates and select their chief executive first, then offer the expert advice to the President later, unfortunately for that principle, things have changed.
Indeed, since the attacks against New York and Washington and the engagement of the nation in the war with Jihadism since 2001, the selection of the US President can fundamentally affect the survival of the American People. Who would occupy the White House in 2009 will have to make decisions for four to eight years with cataclysmic consequences on the physical security and the freedom of 300 million citizens in this country and eventually on the free world as a whole: For the leader of the most powerful democracy in the world has to be able to know who the enemy is so that all resources are put into action. Short of this ability to be very clear and precise on the nature of the danger and the processes to address it, a next US President could cause a major disaster to this nation. Read more ..
America's Islamic Strategy
|Walid Phares||December 14th 2007|
Over the past few months a number of Western leaders, including senior United States figures, have lent their support to separating the province of Kosovo from the Republic of Serbia, based on the fact that a majority of the inhabitants in the province, ethnic Albanians, wishes this to be done.
The U.S Secretary of State and top European diplomats have been working on the assumption that the ultimate outcome of the crisis should be to see another new Republic emerging in the Balkans from the rubble of former Yugoslavia. Their participation in the UN-sponsored negotiations, along with Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Russia, has been heading toward the endpoint of breaking one nation state's territory into two states, ignoring the historical context, consequences, and important principles, with far-reaching unpleasant consequences when these principles serve as precedents elsewhere.
Underlying all of this is a not-so-hidden agenda: an anticipated so-called diplomatic dividend for pleasing the Muslim world. A prominent US legislator declared over the summer that granting Kosovo its independence would please the Muslim world and would show that America is not anti-Islamic. The Kosovo affair has this assumed extra importance in this precarious post 9/11 era, as a token. But it risks kindling a chain reaction of explosive crises around the world. Read more ..
|by Walid Phares||September 4th 2007|
Cutting Edge Contributor
|Iran's Revolutionary Guard|
Placing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) on the official U.S. terror list is not unlike what it would have been to so-target the SS, and by association the Nazi regime and the German war machine during World War II.
To name the 125,000-strong Pasradan a “terrorist organization” [the first state military branch to be so designated] was a master stroke of effective symbolism. We can already see the uncomfortable, worldwide reaction as exhibited by the spokespersons of the Khomeinist elite, including the Arab-speaking apologists for Tehran.
Speaking on Al Jazeera and other Arab media, pro-Iranian commentators reacting to the news boasted about the omnipresence of the Pasdaran across Iran and asked, "How will the U.S. make a distinction between the Guards and the people." In fact, such comments betray the fear Iranian leaders have had at this point.
Clearly, Iran's leaders are embarrassed in front of their masses; embarrassed that a global power officially considers the most-powerful organization within the regime to be nothing more than “terrorists.” The impact of this decision has barely begun, and will snowball in terms of the psychological impact it will surely have on the ordinary Iranian citizen. Read more ..
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