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India and Pakistan

India Accuses Pakistan of Killing 5 Soldiers in Kashmir

August 6th 2013

Indian Soldier Killed in Kashmir

India has accused Pakistan of killing five soldiers and injuring another in an attack along the disputed Kashmir border. The attack could set back efforts by the two rival countries to resume a stalled peace dialogue.

Indian army officials said Tuesday Pakistani soldiers entered the Indian side of the Kashmir border and ambushed a military post around midnight. They called it a “gross violation” of a 2003 ceasefire. 

The Pakistani army denied involvement and dismissed the Indian allegations as baseless. In New Delhi, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament that about 20 heavily armed men wearing Pakistani army uniforms launched the attack. 

“We strongly condemn this unprovoked incident," Antony said. "Government of India has lodged strong protest with government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels. I assure the house that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps.” Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

WSJ: Iran Adding Plutonium Path to Nuke Program

August 5th 2013

Iran Missiles

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Iran may be embarking on the worrisome plutonium path to nuclear weapons. WSJ report Jay Solomon wrote:

"Iran could begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer, U.S. and European officials believe, using a different nuclear technology that would be easier for foreign countries to attack. The second path to potentially producing a nuclear weapon could complicate international efforts to negotiate with Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, who was sworn in Sunday in Tehran. It also heightens the possibility of an Israeli strike, said U.S. and European officials. New Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, seen after his swearing-in at the parliament in Tehran on Sunday, called on the West to drop sanctions." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

GOP, Democrats Support Closing US Embassies

August 4th 2013

Embassy Attacks 9-12-12

U.S. lawmakers and former high-ranking officials say the closing of more than 20 American embassies and consulates and the issuance of a global travel alert are both extraordinary and appropriate responses to credible terrorist threats.

Republican lawmakers are often critical of President Barack Obama’s decisions. Not so when it comes to current embassy closings and a global travel warning. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Michael McCaul, spoke on the CBS Face the Nation television program.

“We are on a high state of alert," he said. "I think the administration’s call to close these embassies was actually a very smart call.” U.S. actions can cause terrorists to rethink their plans, according to McCaul. “When you let them [terrorists] know what you know, you put them on their heels, and they often times back down,” he said. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Obama, Yemen Leader Discuss Counterterrorism, Reconciliation

August 2nd 2013

Yemeni terrorists

U.S. President Barack Obama and Yemen's president, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, held talks at the White House Thursday on the political reconciliation process in Yemen, counterterrorism cooperation and economic assistance.

Hadi's visit to Washington came at a pivotal time as Yemen continues difficult national negotiations for political, economic and other reforms.

Since 2012, after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down following mass demonstrations, Hadi has overseen a National Dialogue involving more than 500 delegates from across Yemeni society.

Obama has said the process could serve as a model for peaceful transitions and after their talks, on Thursday he praised progress achieved so far. "Because of his leadership, he has been able to initiate a national dialogue that can potentially bring the parties all together in Yemen, and produce a constitution and a transition to a fully democratic government that can serve the interests of the people," said Obama. Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

More Missile Launches Expected from Maverick North Korea

July 31st 2013

Launch with Un insert

Specialists following North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile development concur the reclusive state is nearly certain to continue launching long-range rockets which may be intended to improve its capability to fire weapons of mass destruction.

A North Korean official in Pyongyang last week told VOA News that another launch of the Unha series vehicle will occur “soon” as part of the country's “peaceful use of space.” He did not elaborate.

The latest in the series, the Unha-3, carried the apparently non-functioning Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star) satellite into a low Earth orbit on December 12, 2012. A floral exhibition, which closed Tuesday in Pyongyang, included several small-scale models of larger “Unha-9” rockets among the flowers, reinforcing the message that North Korea wants its people and the outside world to believe there will be additional launches. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Reading Between The Red Lines Of U.S.-Afghan Security Talks

July 30th 2013

Afghanistan Fighters

A months-long effort by the United States and Afghanistan to hammer out a long-term security arrangement has so far achieved one obvious result -- each side has established clear red lines.

Read between those lines, however, and there appears to be enough common ground for each side to get what they want.

Going by the positions publicly taken by the two sides, they are at polar opposites on the terms of a continued U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

Afghan officials have said that if U.S. troops are to remain, they must answer to Afghan law. Upping the ante, officials as high up as the president have called for U.S. troops to pick up and leave entirely.

U.S. officials, eyeing the end of the current campaign in 2014, have made clear that they want a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place to protect U.S. troops from prosecution in Afghanistan. With no SOFA agreement, according to the message being sent from Washington, the "zero option" of leaving no troops behind is a very real possibility. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

There's a Storm Brewing in the Pentagon's Budget

July 29th 2013

B-2 Bomber

The House of Representatives debated and passed the 2014 defense spending bill this week. The White House has threatened to veto the bill for a variety of reasons, but one stands out: the unsustainable cost of military and retiree benefits.

The president's advisers are encouraging Congress to help them restrain internal cost growth on priorities like health care for troops. But Congress is moving in a different direction.
Reining in defense personnel benefits, pay and compensation is a small but important step to restoring fiscal health to the military's budget. While most are familiar with sequestration's cuts weighing on those in uniform, fewer – including those in Washington – are familiar with the budgetary storm brewing below the surface of the Pentagon topline. Internal cost growth on non-warfighting overhead like excess bases, the size and composition of the overall Pentagon workforce and excess or redundant headquarters and staff all threaten to crowd out other critical spending on military readiness, innovation and modernization. Read more ..


The Edeg of Genocide

American Bosnian Discovered to be Wanted War Criminal

July 28th 2013

Mass Grave, Srebrenica

A naturalized U.S. citizen living in Vermont was taken into custody by special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday charging him for obtaining his American citizenship through fraudulent means, according to a federal indictment.

According to law enforcement officials, 54-year-old Edin Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, while undergoing the application process for legal immigrant status and subsequent citizen status hid his record of crimes committed during the war in Bosnia.

According to the indictment filed in federal court, Sakoc of Burlington, Vt., committed the crime of naturalization fraud by giving false information about his commission of crimes and his participation in the persecution of Bosnian Serbs during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Read more ..


Edge of Islam

Muslims Attack French Police for Enforcing Burqa Ban

July 26th 2013

French Muslim protesters

Muslims say they are upset over police who are enforcing the secular laws of France.

Police in the suburbs of Paris are working to restore order after hundreds of Muslims went on a rioting spree to protest the simple identity check of a Muslim woman who was wearing a full-face Islamic veil.

It is against the law to wear the face-covering niqab or the body-covering burqa in public spaces in France; violators are subject to fines of up to €150 ($200).

The latest round of violence erupted the evening of July 19 in Trappes, a gritty suburb situated 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Paris. Trappes has 30,000 inhabitants, many of whom are Muslim immigrants. Police say a crowd of possibly 400 Muslims gathered outside the Trappes police station in response to the arrest on July 18 of a man who had assaulted a police officer during an identity check on his wife, who was entirely veiled. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Global Arms Markets as Seen Through the Syrian Lens

July 25th 2013

Machine Gun Bunker

The many and diverse efforts to arm the various actors in the Syrian civil war are really quite amazing to watch. These efforts are also quite hard to decipher -- and intentionally so -- since many of the arms transfers occur on the murky gray and black arms markets. Indeed, it is quite doubtful that anyone, whether Syrian intelligence, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service or the CIA really has a complete picture of all the channels used to funnel arms into the conflict. Certainly, I cannot hope to catalogue all of them here. However, the efforts to arm all of the factions fighting in Syria do provide a great opportunity to discuss the global arms trade and its various facets.

To understand the global arms markets we must first understand some critical things about the nature of weapons. First of all, it is important to realize that weapons are durable goods. While certain types of weapons and weapon components have a limited shelf life -- such as battery-coolant units for the FIM-92A Stinger missile -- numerous other weapons remain functional for many decades. Read more ..


Broken Intelligence

Sending Snowden to One of the Bolivarian Countries May Do Serious Harm to American Interests

July 24th 2013

Snowden

Four members of the Bolivarian Alliance—Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua—have offered asylum to the National Security Agency (NSA) leaker, Edward Snowden. Snowden is believed to be in Russia, where he has repeatedly asked for asylum, which has not been granted by the Russian authorities. Meanwhile, Snowden has not responded to the offer by the four Latin American countries. At the same time that the United States was applying pressure on them not to provide asylum, the South American common market (Mercosur) adopted a resolution in support of Venezuela‘s, Bolivia’s and Ecuador’s right to provide asylum to Snowden while rejecting American pressure on these countries not to do so.

The Snowden case has had an impact not just because of the sense that the U.S. is bullying these Latin American countries not to accept Snowden but also because of the espionage activities that the NSA carried out in the continent.

It is important to stress a few important points. If any of these four Latin American countries consents to harbor Snowden, it would constitute a geo-political danger more serious than if the Russians had taken him. These four countries have an anti-American ideology and resent the fact that Latin American countries were targets of American surveillance. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Hezbollah Continues to Incur Heavy Losses in Syrian fighting

July 23rd 2013

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

The number of losses Hezbollah has suffered during its involvement in the Syrian civil war is immense, especially during the final battle for Al-Qusayr, this according to a report released by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC). The assessment of the ITIC is that Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war has cost the terror organization almost 180 deaths and several hundred wounded. This assessment is based on ITIC having located 82 names of operatives recently killed, in addition to 96 names previously found. The numbers continue to rise as the fighting ensues.

Most of the Hezbollah operatives killed (120)  met their deaths during the campaign for Al-Qusayr, the majority of them (114) in the final battle that began on May 19, 2013, and ended on June 5, 2013, with the takeover of the city by Assad's forces and the Hezbollah. Read more ..


The NSA Effect

NSA Revelations Could Provide Ideal Cover For Authoritarian Governments

July 21st 2013

NSA

Recent revelations about the National Security Agency's (NSA) Internet surveillance program have caused waves in the United States, raised concern among Washington's allies, and sent the Obama administration scrambling for explanations. And they could be a godsend to authoritarian regimes around the world.

Internet experts say Washington's covert program to track the online activity of foreigners by tapping into the servers of Facebook, Google, Skype, and other U.S. companies could play directly into the hands of repressive regimes. The revelation could provide them with potentially powerful justification for existing programs that restrict online freedoms -- as well as cover for implementing new measures.

Ronald Deibert, the director of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, one of the world's foremost research centers on how cyberspace, global security, and human rights interrelate, says the United States has now largely ceded the moral high ground on Internet freedom. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

IDF Deploys Iron Dome Battery to Defend Eilat

July 19th 2013

Iron Dome sunset

After Israel gave its consent last week to allow Egyptian military forces into Sinai in order to pursue Islamists, the IDF has placed an Iron Dome battery near Eilat. Last weekend, several rockets were reportedly fired at Israel's southernmost city as Islamist groups, fleeing Egyptian troops, took refuge in remote areas of the Sinai near Israel's border, and took the opportunity to attack Israeli targets.

With the summer tourist season in full swing and Eilat hotels and resorts packed to capacity, the last thing the army and government needs is a panicky run for the exits if Sinai terror groups decided to attack again – hence the placement of the Iron Dome system, which has been proven to intercept the type of short-range Kassam rockets and missiles that Sinai terrorists have fired at Israel. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Stakelbeck Interviewed on the Brotherhood

July 18th 2013

The Brotherhood

With Mohamed Morsi out and Egypt’s future unclear, Erick Stakelbeck, author of the new book The Brotherhood: America’s Next Great Enemy, talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about what the “Arab Spring” turned into and where Egypt may go from here, with a warning for the United States.
 
Buy Erik Stakelbeck's the new bestseller
"The Brotherhood: America's Next Great Enemy."


KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Is there anything about what’s going on in Egypt right now that surprises you?

ERICK STAKELBECK: I’m a bit surprised that it took the Egyptian military a full year to finally step in and pull the plug on Morsi’s disastrous, aggressively Islamist tenure. Beginning in August 2012, when Morsi suddenly and boldly sacked Egypt’s longtime defense minister and other top generals, and continuing through that November, when Morsi seized dictatorial powers and then rammed through a nakedly sharia-driven constitution, it was obvious that he and the Brotherhood (aided by a freshly minted, Islamist-dominated parliament) were going “all in” on their dream to transform Egypt into a draconian Islamic state. In the process, they dropped their longtime strategy of stealthy gradualism and made their nefarious intentions for Egypt abundantly clear to the world.

All the while, the Egyptian military brass largely stayed silent, even as Morsi attempted to stack its ranks — and those of Egypt’s military academy — with Islamists. Why the military waited so long to turn back the MB tide is unclear. As NRO’s Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, top general Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who was handpicked by Morsi, may himself have Islamist tendencies. But Morsi’s ham-handed, polarizing, and tactless methods of going about the Islamist project in Egypt had to be red flags for al-Sisi and other possible sympathizers in the military (as was the looming possibility of famine and starvation among segments of the Egyptian populace). The final tipping point for the military was clearly the demonstrations — the largest in human history — against Morsi and the Brothers during the first week of July. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

How U.S. Military Power Holds the World Together

July 18th 2013

B-1 Bomber

Nations, like nature, abhor a vacuum. It must be filled. How it is filled, by whom and with what are the challenging questions. Unlike nature, which seeks to fill a vacuum with whatever is handy and can be stuffed or sucked into the space available, nations rely on power, relationships and institutions to fill vacuums that arise in the international system. Political vacuums can readily be filled by raw power and the domination of the strong over the weak. Or they can be filled by the rule of law and a community of nations.

Twice in the last 60-plus years the United States chose to fill the vacuum caused by the collapse of old institutions, relationships, and power centers. After World War II, along with key allies, the U.S. created an entirely new international order with a set of democratic institutions and international agreements that have endured to this day. America, again in concert with many allies, also built a security apparatus and military machine of global reach and power unlike any seen in peacetime. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States did not simply declare victory and go home. Rather, even while reducing the size of its military, America chose to remain in the world, forward deployed, and committed to maintaining and even expanding long-established alliances and security relationships. As a result, the world was able to weather difficult and dangerous transitions and create or maintain a viable international system. In both cases, nations, including America's former adversaries, had the opportunity to become part of that system and to flourish. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Lawmakers Question Collection of Americans' Phone Records

July 17th 2013

NSA

Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary have questioned why the National Security Agency is collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, when the majority of the calls are not relevant to any terrorist investigations.

The focus on Capitol Hill is shifting away from the former contractor who revealed the surveillance programs, Edward Snowden, to privacy and civil liberty concerns.

Edward Snowden, who has now applied for temporary asylum in Russia, unleashed a firestorm of controversy in the United States and abroad when he revealed massive phone and email surveillance programs conducted by the NSA. The House Committee on the Judiciary focused on the program authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was designed to prevent another major terror attack on the United States after September 11, 2001. Under Section 215, the NSA has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans and can store them for five years. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Huge Drone That Could Not Be Grounded

July 16th 2013

MQ-1 Sky Warrior drone

With large budget cuts looming in the next decade, top Air Force officials knew last year they needed to halt spending on some large and expensive programs. So they looked for a candidate that was underperforming, had busted its budget, and wasn’t vital to immediate combat needs. They soon settled on the production line for a $223 million aircraft with the wingspan of a tanker but no pilot in the cockpit, built to fly over vast terrain for a little more than a day while sending imagery and other data back to military commanders on the ground.

Given the ambitious name “Global Hawk,” the aircraft had cost far more than expected, and was plagued by recurrent operating flaws and maintenance troubles. “The Block 30 [version of Global Hawk] is not operationally effective,” the Pentagon’s top testing official had declared in a blunt May 2011 report about the drones being assembled by Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, Calif. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Brazil Takes No Chances in Security Preparations for Papal Visit

July 15th 2013

Brazilian firebase

The Brazilian military will deploy more than 13,000 troops during Pope Francis’s July 23-28 visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day (WYD) — an event likely to attract 1.5 million to two million people.

The Coordination Center of Area Defense (CCDA/RJ) will manage defense and security actions in Rio and in the “Campus Fidei” [Field of Faith], venue for the closing vigil and Papal Mass, which is located in the Guaratiba region, about 70 kilometers west of central Rio.

Gen. José Alberto Costa Abreu, coordinator of the CCDA/RJ and commander of the First Army Division, said the recent Brazilian protests did not change WYD security planning. Read more ..


The Way We Are

US Public Split Over NSA Surveillance

July 15th 2013

computer keyboard woman hands

An Internet privacy group has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look into the government’s surveillance of phone records over the past seven years. Polls show Americans are divided over this issue. 

The American public is split over whether the National Security Agency, or NSA, should continue phone and email surveillance to stop terrorists. Some say the concerns are overblown; others maintain that what people do in the privacy of their homes and on the Internet should be their business and nobody else's.

A recent Quinnipiac survey shows a reversal in public opinion. Three years ago, Americans overwhelmingly supported anti-terrorism actions over civil liberties. Pollster Peter Brown says a slight majority now think those efforts are eroding freedoms. "That’s a really big change and it’s significant,” says Brown. Read more ..


Egypt on Edge

A Flood of Democracy will Overcome Egypt's Jihadists

July 14th 2013

Anti-Morsi Protests June 2013

As soon as the Egyptian military asked President Mahmoud Morsi to step down and dismantle his Islamist regime, millions in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns celebrated the end of what they felt was a dangerous, fascistic regime. But despite an overwhelming popular support for the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, some U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama and later joined by Republican senator John McCain, expressed their rejection of the move because they argued it was “directed by the Egyptian military against a democratically-elected government.”

Awkwardly, the United States executive branch, along with some of its supporters in the legislature, sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be hardcore Islamists, against a wide coalition of democratic and secular forces which called on the military to help them against what they perceived an oppressive regime.

Why would Obama and McCain end up backing the Muslim Brotherhood while the liberals and secular forces of Egyptian civil society rise against the Brotherhood? The chaos in Washington has several roots but one global fact is clear: U.S. foreign policy has lost momentum in the Arab Spring. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

No Taliban Reprieve During Ramadan In Afghanistan

July 13th 2013

Taliban soldiers

As Afghanistan welcomes Ramadan in the spirit of worship and forgiveness, the Taliban has vowed to step up its campaign of violence during the holy month.

This is a reversal from the norm in Afghanistan, where the near-continuous fighting traditionally slows during Ramadan. But this summer, which has already seen a worrying uptick in violence, the militant group has pledged no letup.

Ramadan carries extra religious significance for the Taliban, which claims that jihad provides more rewards during the period of religious observance considered one of the five pillars of Islam. According to Islamic teachings, Allah multiplies any good deed during Ramadan by 70. "During the holy month of Ramadan, jihad has major rewards," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in an e-mail statement sent out on July 5. "Mujahedin will continue to employ all their fighting techniques to mount attacks on the enemy." Read more ..


The EMP Threat

Focus on Hacking Neglects Existential Threat of EMP Attack

July 13th 2013

EMP

A recent study by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board concludes that cyber warfare poses such a serious ³existential threat² to the United States that Washington should be prepared to retaliate against an all-out cyber attack with a nuclear response. At least 33 nations are developing cyber attack and defense capabilities and integrating this new dimension of warfare into their military organizations, according to a United Nations survey.

Skeptics claim that the catastrophic scenarios envisioned for cyber warfare are grossly exaggerated, in part to justify costly cyber programs desired by the Pentagon and defense contractors. However, it is not widely understood that foreign military doctrines define cyber warfare as encompassing kinetic attacks, including electromagnetic pulse attacks that do represent an existential threat to the United States. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Attack on Hezbollah's Beirut Stronghold

July 12th 2013

Damascus Car Bomb 11-28-12

More than 50 people were injured Tuesday in a car bombing targeting Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut representing the largest attack against the powerful Lebanese Shi'a Islamist militant organization in its near 30-year history. While no parties have stepped forward to claim responsibility for the explosion, the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star declared Israel had a hand in the incident. More significantly, discrepancies permeate the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) response to the bombing. While the group's mainstream leadership denied any involvement in the affair, an FSA battalion issued a Facebook statement declaring it had conducted the attack and vowed to continue such operations until Hezbollah ceased its backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Read more ..


Israel's Next Northern War

IDF: Hezbollah Weapons Cache Exceeds 60,000 Rockets

July 12th 2013

Rockets

On the seventh anniversary of the start of the month-long Second Lebanon War, marked Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has dramatically expanded its arsenal of weapons, exceeding 60,000 rockets and missiles in 1,000 military facilities, making the terrorist group capable of striking any part of Israel with continuous, precise attacks.

The organization’s missiles endanger Israel’s entire population, the IDF said. Hezbollah’s upgraded stockpile can strike at any of Israel’s civilian centers, including its southernmost city of Eilat. Thousands of missiles can strike targets within 40 kilometers, placing Israel’s northern region at risk of a devastating attack.

Seven years ago today, Hezbollah terrorists abducted two IDF soldiers in an unprovoked assault on Israel’s northern border. The attack sparked the Second Lebanon War, a month-long conflict in which Hezbollah fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syrian Opposition Complains About Congressional Delay on US Arms

July 11th 2013

Syrian Fighters

The U.S.-backed Syrian opposition coalition is calling out Congress for blocking U.S. arms from reaching Syrian rebel fighters.

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces issued a statement Thursday urging the House and Senate Intelligence committees to allow the arming of Syrian rebel groups “without delay.”

“The urgency of delivering these arms cannot be overstated as the regime continues to intensify its attacks on civilians and opposition forces in Homs, Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria,” said Najib Ghadbian, the coalition’s special representative to the United States. The congressional Intelligence committees last month voted to block the Obama administration from providing the military aid to the opposition over fears that that weapons would wind up in the hands of al Qaeda-affiliated groups. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Defense Cuts Bite into IDF's Operational Platforms

July 10th 2013

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

The Israel Defense Forces has begun implementing government-mandated cuts to its budget, announcing Tuesday that several of its operational platforms will be reconfigured, while others will be retired in an effort to slash its expenditures.

The defense establishment has been asked to slash some 22 billion shekels ($6 billion) from its budget over the next three years.

As part of the operational restructuring, the Israel Air Force will shut down one of its veteran squadrons, as well as fuse two other squadrons into one. One of the IDF's ground units will be shut down as well, and several brigades will be reconfigured accordingly.

IAF Chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel met Tuesday with the servicemen assigned to the squadron that is scheduled to be dissolved and broke the news to them.

"The IAF would rather forfeit a jet than cut back on flight hours. We would rather have well-trained pilots and advanced equipment than hollow capabilities," a senior IAF officer said. The IDF has yet to finalize the restructuring of some of its ground units, but a military source familiar with the issue said the army would retire outdated tanks and other equipment whose operational relevance had significantly reduced over the years, ahead of making any changes that would affect personnel. Read more ..


The Middle East on Edge

Iran's Incoming President and the New Middle East Cold War

July 9th 2013

Hassan Rowhani

The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran has generated a boomlet of optimism, not only about the prospects for a deal on the nuclear question but also about the chances for a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia regarding the increasingly intense and increasingly sectarian regional struggle for influence. President Rouhani himself went out of his way to signal his willingness for a new relationship with Riyadh. Even Saudis skeptical about Iranian intentions are encouraged by the new Iranian president.

One source of this boomlet was Rouhani’s involvement in a past, successful effort at improving Saudi-Iranian relations. As a top aide to former President Rafsanjani, Rouhani negotiated directly with the Saudis in the mid-1990’s in an effort to improve relations after the Iran-Iraq War, where Riyadh supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq against Iran. That effort continued under President Khatami, who was elected in 1997, culminating in the signing of an agreement to cooperate on criminal issues like smuggling and drug trafficking during a visit to Tehran by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif in April 2001. Note that this was a bilateral agreement on criminal matters, not a security alliance or even a common understanding of regional international politics. It represented an improvement in bilateral relations, but not a meeting of the minds on foreign policy. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

The Nile of Democracy Will Flood Egypt's Jihadists

July 8th 2013

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

As soon as the Egyptian military asked President Mohammed Mursi to step down and dismantle his Muslim Brotherhood regime, millions in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns celebrated the end of what they felt was a dangerous fascistic regime. But despite an overwhelming popular support for the ousting of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) from power, some U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama and later joined by Republican Senator John McCain, expressed their rejection of the move because they argued it was “directed by the Egyptian military against a democratically elected Government.” Awkwardly, the United States executive branch, along with some of its supporters in the legislature, sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be hard core Islamists, against a wide coalition of democratic and secular forces which called on the military to help them against what they perceived an oppressive regime.  Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Egyptian Army Defends Shooting of Pro-Morsi Protesters

July 8th 2013

7.2.2013 Egypt Protests

Shootings in front of a military facility Monday in Cairo have left dozens of people dead and dozens more wounded, according to an Egyptian health ministry official.  Reports about who ignited the shoot-out are conflicting, with Muslim Brotherhood supporters accusing the army, and army officials insisting it was a “terrorist attack.”

Witnesses said the shootings began just before the end of dawn prayers Monday.  The Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators and the Egyptian Army each accused the other side of starting the violence.

The Health Ministry said Monday at least 51 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the early flare-up near Republican Guard headquarters.  Military officials said one soldier was among the dead and several more were in critical condition. Pro-Muslim Brotherhood doctors at a field clinic held a news conference in which they claimed the army had used excessive force. Clinic doctors said they treated more than 400 serious wounds, including 150 gunshot wounds. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Report: Hamas Weakened by Leadership Change in Egypt, Qatar

July 5th 2013

Hamas at Press Conference

Terror group Hamas will be weakened by this week’s “second revolution” in Egypt, as millions of Egyptians forced President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power, and by the inter-generational transfer of power in Qatar, where Hamas leadership has been based, Al-Monitor reported in two articles, citing unnamed officials and policy experts.

The Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, shares its ideology with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, although the two groups are not formally linked; with the Brotherhood’s loss of power, analysts believe Hamas will also suffer. Al-Monitor referenced news reports that some 7,000 Hamas militants were thought to be in Egypt to support the Brotherhood, although Egyptian and Hamas officials denied those claims. Al-Monitor reported that, like Hezbollah, Hamas is accused in Egyptian courts of organizing the jailbreak of several senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including former president Muhamed Morsi, in 2011. Read more ..


The Edge of Crime

Fluorescent Fingerprint Tag: Increase IDs Prints from Bullets and Knives

July 4th 2013

Fingerprint

Neutron scattering at ILL and ISIS delves inside new crime scene forensics technique developed by the University of Leicester; research to address the fact that only 10 percent of fingerprints taken from crime scenes yield identifications usable in court.

Wednesday 28th June 2013, Durham: A new way of detecting and visualizing fingerprints from crime scenes using colour-changing fluorescent films could lead to higher confidence identifications from latent (hidden) fingerprints on knives, guns, bullet casings and other metal surfaces. The technique is the result of a collaboration between the University of Leicester, the Institut Laue-Langevin and the STFC's ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source, and will be presented today at the Royal Society of Chemistry's Faraday Discussion in Durham.

When your finger touches a surface, it leaves behind deposits of sweat and natural oils in a pattern that mirrors the ridges and troughs found on your fingertips. The odds of two individuals having identical fingerprints are 64 billion to 1, making them an ideal tool for identification in criminal investigations.

The greatest source of fingerprint forensic evidence comes from latent fingerprints, i.e. those not immediately visible to the eye, because they are less likely to be 'wiped'. However, visualizing these prints with sufficient clarity for positive identification often proves difficult. Despite the availability of several enhancement techniques, only 10 percent of fingerprints taken from crime scenes are of sufficient quality to be used in court.

The classical approach to enhance latent print visibility is to apply a coloured powder that adheres to the sticky residue and provides a visual contrast to the underlying surface. However, these techniques require significant preservation of fingerprint material and are therefore vulnerable to ageing, environmental exposure or attempted washing of the fingerprint residue. Read more ..


Egypt’s Second Revolution

Military Coup Bodes Ill for Egypt’s Future Stability

July 3rd 2013

Cairo, 2 July 2013

Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced July 3 that the country’s president, Mohammed Morsi, had been removed from office in the wake of popular unrest. In a short media statement, al-Sisi, who was flanked by the three armed services chiefs, opposition leaders, the sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque and the pope of the Coptic Church, announced that Adly Mansour, chief justice of the Constitutional Court, has replaced Morsi as interim president. He also announced that the constitution has been suspended. Mansour’s appointment is notable in that one of the key demands of the Tamarod protest movement was that he become president. The provisional government will be holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.

The arrangement was made without the involvement of Morsi, whose whereabouts remain unknown, or of anyone representing the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has effectively been thrown out of power, must now figure out how to respond. The group probably will not respond violently, but it will engage in civil unrest that will lead to violence. Though the Brotherhood is unlikely to abandon the path of democratic politics, Morsi’s ouster will lead elements from more ultraconservative Salafist groups to abandon mainstream politics in favor of armed conflict. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Popular-Driven Coup in Egypt

July 3rd 2013

Egyptian Mil. Police Alexandria

Egypt's army took power from President Mohamed Morsi and suspended the constitution. Army tanks are surrounding the presidentail palace, and Morsi's whereabouts are unknown. The head of the constitutional court will be sworn in to run the county's affairs, form a technocrat government, and call for early elections, the Army chief said. In a live televised statement, Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the action was taken to resolve the political crisis in Egypt. Al-Sisi said the move had to be taken after Morsi refused the military's unlimatum to reach an agreement with Egypt's opposition. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Why Would Anyone Want To Become An Afghan Police Officer?

July 3rd 2013

Afgan Police

Just how dangerous it is to be a police officer in Afghanistan was brought home this week when the Interior Ministry released figures showing that nearly 300 local and national police officers were killed in the span of just one month. That's a jump of 20 percent over the same period last year, as the Taliban stepped up attacks on Afghan security forces.

With risks like these, who would want to join the ranks of the police force? Interviews were conducted with three police officers working in different parts of the country (none of whom wanted to be photographed for this story).

'ONE INCIDENT CHANGED MY LIFE'

Jan Muhammad, 31, Spin Boldak, Kandahar Province
"I've been serving as a police sergeant for the past three years in Spin Boldak, one of the most volatile areas in Kandahar. Military operations, witnessing deaths and injuries, and facing constant threats of roadside bombs have become an everyday reality for me. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria Weighs War, Amnesty for Boko Haram

July 2nd 2013

Boko Haram

As the Nigerian government battles Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast, officials are also grappling with how to end the fighting and what to do with the rebels once peace is restored.  New York-based Human Rights Watch says when the battle is done there will be no peace without justice.  But some Nigerian leaders say the battles will never end without compromise.

How to stop Boko Haram insurgents from killing people has become a national debate in Nigeria.  The most common answers are: crush them with military might or, find out why they are killing people and negotiate a peace deal.
The Nigerian government is currently trying both approaches.

Three northeastern states have been locked down in a state of emergency for more than six weeks now and thousands of troops have been deployed.  Meanwhile a presidentially appointed committee is trying to get Boko Haram leaders to come out of the shadows and talk. “Constructive discussion that will lead to dialogue.  Dialogue that will lead to peaceful resolution of the security challenges in the north," said Amnesty Committee Chair Kabiru Tanimu Turaki explaining how the process will work. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Reading the Tea Leaves in Instanbul

July 1st 2013

Taksim Gezi Park protests

Rebellion has shaken Turkey since May 31: Is it comparable to the Arab upheavals that overthrew four rulers since 2011, to Iran's Green Movement of 2009 that led to an apparent reformer being elected president last week, or perhaps to Occupy Wall Street, which had negligible consequences?

The unrest marks a deeply important development with permanent implications. Turkey has become a more open and liberal country, one in which leaders face democratic constraints as never before. But how much it changes the role of Islam in Turkey depends primarily on the economy.

China-like material growth has been the main achievement of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the party he heads, the AKP. Personal income has more than doubled in the decade that he has been in power, changing the face of the country. As a visitor to Turkey since 1972, I have seen the impact of this growth in almost every area of life, from what people eat to their sense of Turkish identity. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Iran's Foreign Legion: The Role of Iraqi Shiite Militias in Syria

June 28th 2013

Syrian Fighters w/RPGs

As the war in Syria drags on, external actors may play an increasingly important role in tipping the balance through material support and sponsorship of individual armed units. One of the most significant international brigades currently fighting on the Assad regime's side is the Damascus-based Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA), a collection of predominantly Iraqi Shiite fighters organized and supported by the Qods Force, an elite branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Though relatively small in size, LAFA could have a strategic impact on the war's course. More broadly, its expansion marks a potentially dangerous turn for the region, giving Tehran a transnational Shiite militant legion that it could use to bolster its allies outside Syria. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egyptian Government Braces for New Protests

June 27th 2013

Jump at Cops

In a display of widespread public dissatisfaction with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the nation's first elected leader, opposition groups plan to hold anti-government protests on June 30, the one-year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration. With increasing demands for his ouster following economic difficulties and executive overreach, government officials have been preparing extensive security measures in the weeks leading up to the potentially volatile demonstrations.

Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced last week that tunnels and ferries on the Suez Canal would be shut down, blocking jihadists from capitalizing on the protests, effectively sealing off the Sinai Peninsula from the rest of Egypt. Furthermore, clan chiefs in Sinai have joined together to ensure the protection of public property. The dramatically increased security is intended to avert a repeat of the chaos during the 2011 protests that forced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.  Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Shabab Leader 'Captured' in Somalia

June 26th 2013

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys

Somali officials say they have captured a leading al-Shabab commander designated a terrorist by the United States. The new development underscores a growing rift within the group. Local officials in central Somalia say Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was captured in a coastal area around three in the morning.

A spokesman for the Himin and Heeb administration, which controls the region, said the militant commander was apprehended without a fight. “After long negotiation with him and his fighters we were successful to convince him to hand himself to the authorities,” said spokesman Mohamed Omar Hagafey The spokesman added the administration is now discussing a handover with the Somali federal government. Read more ..



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