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The EMP Threat

The Threat from the Gulf of Mexico

December 31st 2013

Minneapolis skyline

If you live near the Gulf of Mexico, you are the front line to an emerging existential threat to all Americans. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the U.S. could kill 60-90 percent of all Americans. Though efforts in 2013 made progress in gaining awareness of this key problem, much remains to be done to get the powers that be to address this well-known threat that could be launched by Iran or terrorists from a ship in the Gulf. 

It is a fact that the EMP created by a single nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles above the United States could lead to the death of several hundred million Americans. This kind of attack could be delivered by Iran or terrorist groups. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Five Weeks After Obama's Nuclear Deal with Iran

December 30th 2013

Simurgh booster

As the P5+1 nuclear negotiation with Iran was taking shape, Secretary of State John Kerry was irritated by the discomfort shown by Congress, Israel and the Gulf States of both Iran and of the Administration's decision making process. "We are not blind and I don't think we're stupid," he told "Meet the Press" on 10 November.

On 24 November, with the deal done, he crowed on CNN's "State of the Union," "I believe that from this day, Israel is safer." He added, "We are going to expand the amount of time in which they can break out… have insights to their program that we didn't have before. Israel, if you didn't have these things, would be seeing Iran to continue on a daily basis to narrow the breakdown (sic) time." Read more ..


South Sudan on Edge

U.S. Commits Troops to South Sudan

December 30th 2013

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According to comments made by two unnamed military officials on December 23, approximately 150 U.S. Marines will soon be sent to South Sudan. The troops will provide additional security for the U.S. Embassy in Juba and help evacuate Americans following an eruption of violence in the world's newest nation. Soldiers will also be sent to neighboring states to ensure the safety of American missions and displaced citizens.

The announcement comes after three American Osprey CV-22 were attacked after trying to evacuate U.S. citizens from the central city of Bor. During the incident gunfire injured four U.S. troops as they approached a UN base where the Americans had gathered for protection. A subsequent government mission successfully removed all Americans from Bor without further incident.

Fighting broke out in South Sudan on December 15th after a coup attempt against the President Salva Kiir. The country's military then split along ethnic and political lines, with many ethnic Dinka adhering to President Kiir and ethnic Neur following former Vice President Riek Machar. Rebels lead by Machar, the alleged coup leader, quickly consolidated power in much of the country. Most notably, the central government no longer controls the northern regional capital of Bentiu. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Linking the Syrian Conflict to the Iranian Nuclear Agreement

December 29th 2013

Iranian clerics

Back in 2006, during a particularly low point in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group issued a report in which the central contentious proposition was that "all key issues in the region are inextricably linked." Accordingly, to stem the deterioration in Iraq and "achieve its goals" in the Middle East, the report posited the U.S. would have to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Seven years on, while the conceit linking Iraq to the Arab-Israeli peace process is no longer relevant, the concept of linkage appears to be making a comeback -- this time in the context of Iran and war in Syria. During a recent trip to Lebanon, a concern I heard repeatedly voiced was that if Tehran played ball and signed onto a nuclear deal, the Obama administration might be prepared to acknowledge Iranian interests in Syria and drop its demand that President Bashar al-Assad step down. Read more ..


America and Qatar

U.S. Signs Defense Agreement with Qatar

December 28th 2013

SS Independence

Qatar signed a ten-year Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the U.S. Tuesday that allows Washington to continue keeping American troops in Qatar and launch military operations from there. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Qatari Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah to sign the deal. Marking just one stop in Hagel's visit to the region, he reassured Arab allies of ongoing U.S. support, despite dismay among the Gulf States over American policies regarding Iran and Syria.

Currently, the U.S. government keeps over 35,000 civilian and military personnel in and around the Gulf. Qatar's central location, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, allows the U.S. easier access to the entire region. The presence of American military forces in the country also provides Sunni Qatar with guaranteed defense and national security against threats from Shiite Iran.

Despite this renewal of cooperation between Washington and Doha, Western countries have scrutinized Qatar's abuse of human rights. As one of the richest countries in the world, Qatar also has the highest ratio of migrants to citizens. Foreign workers face abusive working conditions, dreadful living standards, and low wages, according to international human rights organizations. Activists have demanded an end to worker exploitation, especially as the emirate accelerates construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, local officials claim laws are already in place protecting workers from mistreatment. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Military Conscription May No Longer be Optimal for Turkey

December 27th 2013

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A large, conscripted military may no longer be the most appropriate way for Turkey to protect its interests and defend against external threats. Ankara appears to have acknowledged as much Oct. 21, when it voted to reduce the length of time conscripted soldiers are required to serve. The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, will effectively shrink the military by 70,000 members. This is no small diminution, considering that Turkey, with its 750,000 soldiers, has the second-largest military among NATO members. Political and economic considerations may have informed Ankara's decision, but ultimately the move was made to reflect the changing geopolitical conditions under which Turkey now finds itself.

Historically, Turkey's location and geography has necessitated a robust military. Located at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, the country was critical terrain during the Cold War. In 1952, Turkey became a member of NATO, serving as the southwestern bulwark against the Warsaw Pact. It mustered a large standing military by establishing compulsory service for all Turkish men. Though the Cold War ended two decades ago, Turkey has maintained this practice. Read more ..


Broken Government

Obama Administration Seriously Underestimates Cost of Nukes

December 27th 2013

The Obama administration's plan for maintaining and upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal will likely cost around 66 percent more over the next decade than senior Pentagon officials have predicted, according to a new assessment by the independent Congressional Budget Office.

Under the administration’s plan, operating, maintaining and upgrading the nuclear stockpile will cost a total of $355 billion from 2014 through 2023, said the CBO report, published just before the holidays and shortly after Congress finished action on a 2014 budget bill that restored some planned Pentagon spending cuts.

James Miller, the Pentagon’s outgoing policy chief, had said in 2011 congressional testimony that the 10-year tab would be around $214 billion, or an average of $21 billion a year, an amount he pegged at around 3 percent of the Pentagon’s likely overall budget for that period. Read more ..


Iraq on Edge

Bombs Targeting Christians Kill 35 in Iraq

December 25th 2013

Iraqi church bombed

Christmas Day bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital killed at least 35 people and wounded more than 50 in an area where many Christians live.  Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako said, however, that he does not believe Christians were the specific target.

Workers swept shards of glass and rubble from two bomb blasts at a Baghdad market in a neighborhood with a large Christian population.  A third bomb exploded near a church but well after the day's Christmas service had ended.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako said he had finished the service at the Saint John Church in Dora more than an hour before the bomb went off near the church and a police station. "Today, at nine o'clock we had a Mass and the Mass was finished at 10.  At 11:15 there was an attack against a police post in the area and poor people in the area.  Among the dead there were no Christians. It had nothing to do with the church," he explained. Read more ..


Broken Government

Leaker Snowden says 'Mission Accomplished' regarding NSA

December 24th 2013

Edward Snowden says his “mission’s already accomplished.” In an interview with The Washington Post from Moscow, Snowden said he believed he had won his fight with the U.S. government and said that he didn't defect from his country, he defected from his government.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

“If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”

Snowden made the comments in 14 hours of interviews he conducted recently with Post reporter Barton Gellman, one of the first journalists Snowden began leaking National Security Agency documents to in June. Read more ..


South Sudan on Edge

Marines Deploy to Africa Amid Surge in South Sudan Violence

December 23rd 2013

Joint Task Force Bravo in Action

About 150 Marines arrived in Djibouti on Monday to be ready to quickly protect U.S. interests amid the growing South Sudan violence.

U.S. Africa Command said the Marines were deployed from Morón Air Base in Spain to the U.S. base in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier, so they could better guard against potential threats to U.S. personnel and facilities in South Sudan.

“By positioning these forces forward, we are able to more quickly respond to crisis in the region, if required,” an AFRICOM spokesman said in a statement. “One of the lessons learned from the tragic events in Benghazi was that we needed to be better postured, in order to respond to developing or crisis situations, if needed. These precautionary movements will allow us to do just that.” AFRICOM said that Marine deployment to Djibouti was made with full knowledge and cooperation of the Djibouti government. Read more ..


The US and Israel

Israel’s Strong Stance on Iran Has Helped the U.S.

December 22nd 2013

Hillary Clinton in blue

Israel’s vocal criticism of the international community’s dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue is actually beneficial to the United States, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently, according to Israeli daily Ma’ariv.

This surprising announcement was made during a private meeting in Washington over the weekend, the paper reported. Clinton’s statement contravenes the official U.S. policy to date, which has been to repeatedly and bluntly reject Israel’s vociferous objections to the substance of talks held in Geneva between Iran and world powers – convened in order to find a peaceful way to convince the Islamic Republic to curb its nuclear activity.

According to Clinton, as cited by Ma’ariv, Israel is perceived as a close ally of the United States and therefore Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated warnings of possible military action against Iran are taken seriously. Clinton also noted that Israeli criticism helps the U.S. in its dealings with Russia and China – two countries with relatively warm relations with Iran. Read more ..


The US on Edge

Are Americans Fighting in Syria a Future US Security Threat?

December 21st 2013

Jihadist

The recent arrest of a young American who was on his way to Syria to allegedly join Jihadist fighters seeking to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad may add to worries among U.S. law enforcement circles. Basit Javed Sheikh, a 29-year-old Pakistani immigrant living in North Carolina, was arrested as he attempted to board the first in a series of planned flights to Syria. He had told an FBI informant on Facebook that he was going to join the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in Syria.

In a recent background briefing for reporters, U.S. intelligence officials said dozens of Americans have joined the thousands of other foreigners who have flocked to Syria to fight against al-Assad’s forces. Intelligence officials say that more Americans will likely follow as the conflict continues and they worry that these ‘American jihadists' could pose a grave threat once they return to the U.S.  Who are these American fighters?  Should the U.S. be concerned—or are these fears overstated? Read more ..


Defense Edge

Senate Passes Defense Bill Authorizing $607 Billion in Spending

December 20th 2013

The Senate on Thursday evening passed the $607 billion Defense authorization bill that will reform the way the military handles sexual assault cases and loosen the restriction on transferring Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries.

The Senate sent the bill to the president’s desk for the 52nd straight year in a 84-15 vote, after some legislative maneuvering was needed to extend the streak and quickly get a compromise bill through both chambers this month.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $527 billion in base defense spending and $80 billion for the war in Afghanistan.
Twelve Republicans and three Democrats voted against the legislation, including Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), and potential 2016 hopefuls Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Read more ..


CAR on Edge

African Union Wants to Stabilize CAR Security Situation

December 18th 2013

African Rebels and Guns

The African Union (AU) says it wants to help stabilize the security situation in Central African Republic (CAR) to help stabilize the country, which has been wracked by violence recently according to AU spokesman, El Ghassim Wane.

Wane says the AU supports all efforts including dialogue between the transitional government and militia groups to resolve the security challenges the CAR faces.                      

Interim President and former rebel leader Michel Djotodia said officials of his administration are in contact with militias to address the security situation in the country. CAR has faced increasing sectarian violence including torture and killings following the overthrow of President Francois Bozize last March.

“The priority for us currently is to improve the security situation in light of the recent incidence in Bangui, [where] hundreds of people were killed. And it is important that every effort is made to bring the situation under control so as to facilitate the political foundation,” said Wane. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Yemeni Government Bans U.S. Drone Strikes

December 17th 2013

 The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

Yemen's lawmakers on Sunday gave their thumbs up to banning U.S. counterterrorism operations using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. The ban comes just after the United States pumped more resources into the Yemeni military and police forces to fight terrorists. The Yemeni government reacted to reports that collateral damage in the battle against Islamists included dozens of civilians killed by drones, according to Middle Eastern news organizations. Yemen's leaders said that protecting innocent civilians from airstrikes is necessary to preserve justice and that nation's sovereignty.

The Yemeni parliament's decision on Sunday comes just three days after a U.S. UAV accidentally attacked a Muslim wedding convoy on Thursday, an attack that left 18 civilians dead and 21 others wounded.

Read more ..

North Korea on Edge

Is North Korea Imperiled?

December 16th 2013

Kim Jong Un

Yesterday’s brutal, abrupt execution of the second ranking ruler of North Korea, Jang Song-thaek, culminated a stunning week in Pyongyang, perhaps the world’s most isolated and repressive capital. For much of its history, North Korea has posed acute threats to the outside world. It is the most militarized regime on earth and in recent years has repeatedly threatened South Korea and persisted in the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, while sustaining a highly repressive course toward its own citizens.

However, the execution of Jang, by marriage a member of the ruling Kim dynasty, represents a very different threat to the system’s viability. For decades, North Korea (though mired in economic dysfunction and international isolation) has sought to maintain a façade of unity within its ruling elites. On Sunday, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, presided over an enlarged session of the Party Politburo, where Jang was accused of a wide array of crimes, including the building of a “factional group” within the leadership and a variety of lesser sins. At the staged trial prior to his execution, Zhang was explicitly charged with plotting the overthrow of the Kim regime. Though Jang was not as close to Kim Jong-un over the past year, he seemed the indispensable fixer of the North Korean system, and among the handful of senior politicians who had meaningful international experience, most notably with China. Read more ..


Afghanistan and Pakistan

Despite Tensions, Some Signs of Progress in Afghan-Pakistan Relations

December 15th 2013

Afghanistan Spec Forces

While Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to disagree on many key issues, they reported progress in their bilateral relations in 2013. Close cooperation between the two neighbors is considered crucial for ending the Afghan war as NATO prepares to wind up its combat mission by the end of next year.

Pakistan’s alleged links to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan have been a major source of tension ever since the Islamist group was forced from power in Kabul in 2001.

Many Afghans say Islamabad supports some militant groups to retain influence in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops withdraw. Pakistani leaders have repeatedly dismissed the allegations. Read more ..


North Korea on Edge

North Korea Could Be in Store for a Purge - and Destabilization

December 14th 2013

Kim Jong Un

A striking feature of North Korean communism has been the remarkable measure of physical security enjoyed by the uppermost reaches of this brutal and repressive regime.

Elsewhere in the communist world, the highest tiers always enjoyed physical comforts. But the tumultuous, cut-throat nature of communist politics meant that their physical fate, up to and including cause of death, remained perilously contingent. (As the Bo Xilai affair in China underscores, this is still the case under “reform socialism.”) By contrast, North Korea’s “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung laid down a system of dynastic succession that protected not only the revolutionary royals but also those aristocrats closest to them.

Consider the case of Choe Kwang, chief of the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army in the late 1960s. In 1968, Kim Il Sung personally denounced Choe for “anti-party activities,” and the man disappeared. Under Stalin or Mao, those particulars would have been a death sentence. Yet Choe — whose family had close connections to the Great Leader’s — not only lived but went on to prosper. By the late 1980s, Choe was once again chief of the army general staff. By 1997, when he died of natural causes, he had been elevated to defense minister. Read more ..


America and Qatar

U.S. Signs Defense Agreement with Qatar

December 13th 2013

B-2 Bomber

Qatar signed a ten-year Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the U.S. Tuesday that allows Washington to continue keeping American troops in Qatar and launch military operations from there. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Qatari Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah to sign the deal. Marking just one stop in Hagel's visit to the region, he reassured Arab allies of ongoing U.S. support, despite dismay among the Gulf States over American policies regarding Iran and Syria.

Currently, the U.S. government keeps over 35,000 civilian and military personnel in and around the Gulf. Qatar's central location, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, allows the U.S. easier access to the entire region. The presence of American military forces in the country also provides Sunni Qatar with guaranteed defense and national security against threats from Shiite Iran.

Despite this renewal of cooperation between Washington and Doha, Western countries have scrutinized Qatar's abuse of human rights. As one of the richest countries in the world, Qatar also has the highest ratio of migrants to citizens. Foreign workers face abusive working conditions, dreadful living standards, and low wages, according to international human rights organizations. Activists have demanded an end to worker exploitation, especially as the emirate accelerates construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, local officials claim laws are already in place protecting workers from mistreatment. Read more ..


Edge of Piracy

Random Cash Resulting from African Piracy

December 12th 2013

Nigerian Pirates

Somalia-based pirates off the coast of the Horn of Africa have made close to a half-billion dollars in their abduction-for-ransom operations that have an adverse impact on global shipping, according to a new report released in Europe on Saturday.

The report, titled "Pirate Trails," was a joint project conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and INTERPOL. The researchers gathered data and evidence through interviews with former pirates, government officials, bankers and others involved in countering piracy in order to investigate the flow of the ransom cash paid to Somali pirates operating off the African coast in the Indian Ocean.

“The vast amounts of money collected by pirates, and the fact that they have faced virtually no constraint in moving and using their assets has allowed them not only to thrive, but also to develop their capacities on land,” said the Chief of the Implementation Support Section in the Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking Branch at UNODC Tofik Murshudlu. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Tijuana Will Use High-Flying Drones Made-In-USA

December 12th 2013

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If Tijuana's new municipal government has its way, drones will fly over the northern Mexican border city in 2014. In an interview with the Mexican press, Mayor Jorge Astiazaran Orci, a member of President Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party who took office at the beginning of December, said his administration is working with a California firm to deploy small drones as a means of fighting crime and carrying out other public safety tasks like detecting fires.

“It’s a strategy against delinquency. The public complains about home burglaries and robberies on mass transportation,” Astiazaran said. “These aircraft are very inexpensive compared with other types of technological instruments.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

9/11 Link To Saudi Arabia Is Topic Of 28 Redacted Pages In Government Report-- Congressmen Push For Release

December 11th 2013

Since terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, victims' loved ones, injured survivors, and members of the media have all tried without much success to discover the true nature of the relationship between the 19 hijackers - 15 of them Saudi nationals - and the Saudi Arabian government. Many news organizations reported that some of the terrorists were linked to the Saudi royals and that they even may have received financial support from them as well as from several mysterious, moneyed Saudi men living in San Diego.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any connection, and neither President George W. Bush nor President Obama has been forthcoming on this issue. 

But earlier this year, Reps. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., were given access to the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry (JICI) of 9/11 issued in late 2002, which have been thought to hold some answers about the Saudi connection to the attack. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

In the Cyber Domain, the Best Defense Is Defense

December 10th 2013

Downtown LA Neighborhood

The media's pre-occupation with Edward Snowden's stolen NSA documents contributes to furthering our vulnerability to cyber attack, if only because it sucks the air out anything else reported. If the damage caused by stripping the U.S. of its national secrets isn't enough, headlines with new revelations.

Since the media thrives on bad news, it could raise the public's awareness by changing their focus from Snowden to exposing the lack of protection of the civilian infrastructure.

This Administration, which famously failed to create a working website for ObamaCare, has done little, if anything, to build a solid, fast-responding defense mechanism to shield the country's infrastructure from being hacked. A constant diet of headlines exposing these failures should not only sell more newspapers, but also create a public outcry, hopefully pressuring the government into action. Read more ..


Broken Government

Evidence Emerges that NATO Allies Assisted in NSA Eavesdropping

December 9th 2013

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NSA Building

National Security Agency (NSA) chief General Keith Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified on October 29 that the collection of European phone records occurred as part of a NATO intelligence sharing program. Washington gathered these phone records with help of allies in the region, according to the intelligence officials.
U.S. surveillance programs had already faced increased criticism set off by reports that the NSA had monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone and those of up to 34 other world leaders.

This was followed by media reports that the NSA had collected millions of French and Spanish phone records and intercepted millions of calls, stirring outrage and intense criticism from Europe. French President François Hollande voiced a diplomatic protest in a phone call with President Obama during the week of October 20-26, saying that espionage should not occur between allies and friends. Spain's prosecutor's office said it had opened a preliminary investigation on the NSA's surveillance techniques. Read more ..


The Ukraine on Edge

Ukraine Police Move Against Pro-Europe Demonstrators

December 9th 2013

Ukraine

Ukrainian riot police moved Monday to curb pro-European demonstrators in Kyiv by dismantling barricades set up by protesters outside government building and storming the headquarters of the largest opposition party.

The actions came a day before a senior EU official is to visit. Police broke doors in the headquarters of the Fatherland Party run by Yulia Tymoshenko. She is a former prime minister who narrowly lost the 2010 presidential election and was later put on trial for abuse of power and jailed.

Monday’s crackdown looked like an attempt to roll back opposition gains made Sunday during a demonstration by hundreds of thousands in the nation’s capital.

In that protest, masked militants from Svoboda, or Freedom Party, used steel cables to pull down a Soviet-era Lenin statue. The statue has stood in central Kyiv for 66 years. The fall decapitated the statue, then young men took turns bashing the polished granite into pieces.  Protesters grabbed chips as souvenirs.

Monday’s police action appeared designed to restore access to government offices downtown without causing major bloodshed. On Tuesday, President Viktor Yanukovych plans to welcome EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for a two-day visit. Ashton plans to meet with government officials and opposition leaders in an effort to defuse the political standoff. Read more ..


The Media Edge

Donnelly's Law and the Analysis of Breaking News

December 7th 2013

Click to select Image

In Stratfor's Security Weekly, Tristan Reed and I provided a little bit of an "inside baseball" look at how we analyze the transnational criminal cartels in Mexico. We tried to explain some of the challenges that analysts face while analyzing a human network -- Los Zetas in this instance -- that is by its very nature a criminal and clandestine organization.

But cutting through the misinformation and disinformation surrounding murky human networks is not the only difficult task Stratfor analysts are faced with. Indeed, perhaps one of the most difficult things we are asked to do is untangle, decipher and contextualize breaking events for our readers and custom intelligence clients. Sometimes we are able to do so pretty well -- a rapid reaction piece I wrote on Sept. 14, 2012, "Understanding What Went Wrong in Benghazi," continues to be a highly read analysis. Read more ..


US and the Ukraine

The U.S. Approach to Ukraine in Turmoil

December 6th 2013

Ukraine homeless

Ukraine has plunged into political turmoil following President Victor Yanukovych’s decision to delay signature of an association agreement with the European Union and the authorities’ use of force to break up a peaceful demonstration on November 30. The main players now are Mr. Yanukovych, opposition leaders and the many thousands of citizens on the street. The European Union and Russia are the outside players that can exercise the most influence, while the United States sits more in the background. That is understandable. And in the current situation, it may not be a bad place for Washington to be.

As the crisis has played out in Kyiv over the past two weeks, the European Union has taken the lead as the voice and face of the West. That is appropriate. At the core of the debate in Ukraine is whether and how quickly the country will move to align its norms with—and join a free trade area with—the European Union. Right now, Europe has great attraction for many Ukrainians, who envy European living standards and its rule of law. Moreover, the European Union acquitted itself well in mediating a settlement during the Orange Revolution in 2004. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Kissinger and Schultz Sound the Alarm about Obama's Iran Deal

December 4th 2013

For 10 years, U.N. resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agency directives called for a full halt to all of Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium production, and unconditional compliance with nuclear inspections, but now, what “was previously condemned as illegal and illegitimate has effectively been recognized as a baseline,” former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz wrote in an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal on December 4.

“And that baseline program is of strategic significance. For Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is coupled with an infrastructure sufficient to enrich it within a few months to weapons-grade, as well as a plausible route to producing weapons-grade plutonium in the installation now being built at Arak,” the two experts in statecraft wrote of the recent agreement reached between wold powers and Iran. Read more ..


Nuclear Future

'Dangerous' Radioactive Material Recovered in Mexico

December 4th 2013

A truck carrying “extremely dangerous” radioactive material was reported stolen in Mexico Wednesday, according to nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency. Mexico told the IAEA the truck was carrying cobalt-60 teletherapy from a Tijuana hospital to a radioactive waste storage unit. The material is used in medical treatments.

The truck was found on December 4, according to NBC News, which reports it’s unclear if the material was still in it. The truck was first stolen Monday in a town near Mexico City, the IAEA said.

When it was stolen, the radioactive material was properly shielded, the report says. The source, however, could become “extremely dangerous” to people if the shielding is removed or if it is damaged. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran's Deep-Water Navy to Extend to the Atlantic Ocean

December 3rd 2013

Click to select Image

Iranian Naval Admiral Afshin Rezayee on Tuesday said Iran’s Navy plans to deploy warships in the Atlantic Ocean, the semi-official FARS News Agency reported.

Commander of the Navy’s Fourth Naval Zone, Admiral Rezayee said, “The previous flotillas of warships were sent to the Mediterranean Sea and passed the Suez Channel and even sailed through the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea. Now we intend to enter the Atlantic Ocean and this will be materialized after dispatch of the next flotillas of warships.”

Rezayee said the warships are sent to international waters for a three-month stretch, and this would be Iran’s 29th flotilla, which would include two logistic and combat warships, as well as one subsurface vessel. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's Violent Narcoterrorist Zetas Remain a Threat to the World

December 1st 2013

During the question-and-answer portion of our quarterly Mexico Security Monitor webinar, we were asked a question pertaining to the current status of Los Zetas. The question was something to the effect of: "Some Mexican media outlets and analysts claim that Los Zetas have been dismantled as an organization and are now little more than a 'ragtag operation.' Why do you disagree with that assessment?"

This question apparently came in response to our quarterly cartel report (an abbreviated version is available here), in which we wrote that despite the leadership losses suffered by Los Zetas, including the arrest of their leader, Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, there were no signs that other leaders were challenging the current leader and Miguel's brother, Omar Trevino Morales. We also wrote that we believed Los Zetas have maintained their operational capabilities in terms of drug smuggling and other criminal activity, and that they have retained the ability to defend their operations and to continue conducting offensive operations deep in their rivals' territory. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Are Americans Fighting in Syria a Future US Security Threat?

December 1st 2013

Security Against Terrorism

The recent arrest of a young American who was on his way to Syria to allegedly join Jihadist fighters seeking to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad may add to worries among U.S. law enforcement circles. Basit Javed Sheikh, a 29-year-old Pakistani immigrant living in North Carolina, was arrested as he attempted to board the first in a series of planned flights to Syria. He had told an FBI informant on Facebook that he was going to join the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in Syria.
 
In a recent background briefing for reporters, U.S. intelligence officials said dozens of Americans have joined the thousands of other foreigners who have flocked to Syria to fight against al-Assad’s forces. Intelligence officials say that more Americans will likely follow as the conflict continues and they worry that these ‘American jihadists' could pose a grave threat once they return to the U.S.  Who are these American fighters?  Should the U.S. be concerned—or are these fears overstated? Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Reading Karzai's Mind

November 30th 2013

Obama - Karzai

A contentious security deal between Afghanistan and the United States looked all but signed.

The Loya Jirga, a key national gathering of Afghan elders, had given its unanimous backing. All that was left was for both parliament and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to approve it.

But Karzai has stubbornly refused to sign the deal, a move that has infuriated Washington and baffled many Afghans. Here are several reasons why Karzai might be dragging out the process:

Reason No. 1: Karzai Thinks He Has Leverage
Karzai has played a high-stakes game over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) -- making new demands, breaking promises, criticizing Washington, and defying the wishes of the Loya Jirga.

He says he will only sign the deal after April’s Afghan presidential election -- and only if his new terms are met. These include the release of all Afghan prisoners held in the U.S.-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay and a complete halt to controversial U.S. raids on Afghan homes. Read more ..


The War on Terror

The Lucrative Business of Funding Terrorism in North Africa

November 28th 2013

Financial resources and funding methods of the North African terrorist organizations have been largely influenced by two factors. The first is their longtime strategic and tactical independence. Despite the fact that several of these organizations emerged in the aftermath of the Afghan conflict, including the historical GSPC – Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (now AQIM), the LIFG and the MICG to name a few, they have mostly followed a regional agenda since their inception.

While traditional financial resources have declined, post 9/11, including support from charities and individual donations, these groups had already shifted to more local sources of revenue generated from various traffics in the Sahara and Sahel regions, the most common being cigarettes, cars and arms. This is not say that charities have disappeared. Qatari and Saudi charities are active in Mali and provided support to the jihadists, especially to Ansar Dine and the Mujao.

Drug trafficking is repeatedly mentioned as a source of revenue for these groups, but various investigations reflect the fact that none of them were directly involved in this traffic. Instead, they indirectly benefited from drug trafficking by receiving payments, protection money, to allow dealers to freely move in the regions they controlled. Read more ..


Broken Government

Dangerous Chemical Weapons Stockpiles Coming to the U.S.

November 25th 2013

The Panamanian government announced an agreement November 21 between the United States and Panama that could involve the disposal of old chemical weapons in the state of New Mexico. Panamanian Chancellor Fernando Nunez Fabrega told the international press that old weapons will be removed from San Jose Island and buried in the desert of New Mexico in 2014.

“In this way, Panama will be free of bombs without exploding them on the island of San Jose, and this place will regain its tourism value,” Nunez said.

Located in the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles off the coast of Panama, San Jose Island was used by the military forces of the United States, Great Britain and Canada to test and store both conventional and chemical weapons during the World War Two and Vietnam War eras. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

NSA Infected 50,000 Computer Networks with Sleeper Software

November 24th 2013

Fiber Optics

The American intelligence service - NSA - infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information. Documents provided by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden prove this. A management presentation dating from 2012 explains how the NSA collects information worldwide. In addition, the presentation shows that the intelligence service uses ‘Computer Network Exploitation’ (CNE) in more than 50,000 locations. CNE is the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware, malicious software.

One example of this type of hacking was discovered in September 2013 at the Belgium telecom provider Belgacom. For a number of years the British intelligence service - GCHQ – has been installing this malicious software in the Belgacom network in order to tap their customers’ telephone and data traffic. The Belgacom network was infiltrated by GCHQ through a process of luring employees to a false Linkedin page. The NSA special department employs more than a thousand hackers. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

A Growing Infiltration of Islamists in Spain's Military

November 22nd 2013

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An investigation initiated by the CIA and FBI in 2009 revealed that at least 100 Islamic extremists had infiltrated the U.S. military, and that some of these individuals had been in touch with Islamic radicals who had infiltrated military units in Spain, as well as Britain, France and Germany.

The military is an attractive employment option for many young Muslims born in Spain, where the unemployment rate is stuck at 27%, and the jobless rate for individuals under 25 exceeds 60%. Often, a stint in the military opens doors for civilian jobs with national or local police or other security-related occupations.

The Spanish military is quietly monitoring its Muslim soldiers in an effort to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism within its ranks, according to a classified Defense Ministry document that has been leaked to the Spanish media. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

A Shrinking Turkish Military and How it Affects Regional Security

November 21st 2013

A large, conscripted military may no longer be the most appropriate way for Turkey to protect its interests and defend against external threats. Ankara appears to have acknowledged as much Oct. 21, when it voted to reduce the length of time conscripted soldiers are required to serve. The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, will effectively shrink the military by 70,000 members. This is no small diminution, considering that Turkey, with its 750,000 soldiers, has the second-largest military among NATO members. Political and economic considerations may have informed Ankara's decision, but ultimately the move was made to reflect the changing geopolitical conditions under which Turkey now finds itself.

Analysis

Historically, Turkey's location and geography has necessitated a robust military. Located at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, the country was critical terrain during the Cold War. In 1952, Turkey became a member of NATO, serving as the southwestern bulwark against the Warsaw Pact. It mustered a large standing military by establishing compulsory service for all Turkish men. Though the Cold War ended two decades ago, Turkey has maintained this practice. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Iran's Nuclear Narrative Needs to Be Challenged

November 20th 2013

Iran Long-Range Missile

The International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on Iran's nuclear program, released November 14, has generated a profusion of optimistic news reports and editorials. According to the IAEA, Tehran has not increased the number of centrifuges installed at declared installations or put more advanced centrifuges into operation, and its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride remains below a crucial red line. Meanwhile, work has been proceeding slowly at the Arak reactor, which will be capable of producing plutonium, an alternative nuclear explosive. And three days before releasing the report, the IAEA announced that Iran had agreed to give the agency access to information on some previously blocked aspects of its nuclear program.

Much less emphasized in the report, and the coverage of it, are the IAEA's persistent suspicions of Iran's true motives, as detailed under the heading "Possible Military Dimensions." As page 10 of the thirteen-page report noted, "Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related organizations, including activities related to the development of a payload for a missile." The agency also received information indicating that Iran has carried out activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." The report deemed this intelligence to be "credible," noting that the IAEA has obtained more information since November 2011 that "further corroborates" its analysis. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorist Sent Coded Message via official PA TV to Kidnap Israeli Soldier

November 19th 2013

Mahmoud Abbas and Yassir Arafat

In September 2013, Israeli soldier Tomer Hazan was kidnapped and murdered by terrorist Nidal Amar. According to the indictment submitted last week, the murderer's brother, Nour Al-Din Amar, who is already imprisoned in Israel for terrorist activity, had asked his brother Nidal to kidnap an Israeli soldier and hold him hostage in order to secure Nour Al-Din's release. The indictment stated that the murderer, Nidal Amar, passed a coded message to his brother in prison prior to the murder via official Palestinian Authority TV, informing him of his intention to kidnap a soldier for use in negotiating the brother's release. Palestinian Media Watch checked its recordings of the PA TV program For You, which regularly broadcasts greetings from Palestinians to security prisoners in Israeli prisons, and has indeed found the coded message. During a broadcast in May 2013, the host read a letter from Nidal to his imprisoned brother, in which he indicated in code his plan to kidnap a soldier: "The calf will soon be in the cage, and we'll celebrate the freedom of all prisoners."
Read more ..


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