|Gal Luft and Anne Korin||October 16th 2013|
The first U.S. energy secretary, James Schlesinger, observed in 1977 that when it comes to energy, the United States has “only two modes -- complacency and panic.” Today, with the country in the middle of an oil and gas boom that could one day crown it the world’s largest oil producer, the pendulum has swung toward complacency. But 40 years ago this week, panic ruled the day, as petroleum prices quadrupled in a matter of months and Americans endured a traumatic gasoline shortage, waiting for hours in long lines only to be greeted by signs reading “Sorry, no gas.”
The cause of these ills, Americans explained to themselves, was the Arab oil embargo -- the decision by Iran and the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut off oil exports to the United States and its allies as punishment for their support of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. And the lessons they drew were far-reaching. The fear that, at any given moment, the United States’ oil supply could be interrupted by a foreign country convinced Washington that its entire approach to energy security should center on one goal: reducing oil imports from that volatile region. Read more ..
|Russell Berman||October 15th 2013|
House Republicans said they hoped to vote Tuesday on a new fiscal plan, but doubts immediately sprouted up over whether they can muster the votes to pass it.
The new House GOP plan would modify an emerging Senate fiscal deal that would end the government shutdown, fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7.
It would do so by delaying ObamaCare’s medical device tax for two years and scrapping the law's tax subsidies for members of Congress and top Cabinet officials, lawmakers and aides said.
Republican leaders presented the plan to House members with just two days to go before a Treasury Department deadline for lifting the nation’s borrowing limit and avoiding a potentially catastrophic default on the nation's debts. Senior House Republicans had hoped to jump out in front of the Senate plan, but a two-hour, closed-door Republican conference meeting that began with a collective rendition of “Amazing Grace” ended without consensus, and lawmakers said conservatives were demanding changes to the plan. Read more ..
|Justin Sink||October 15th 2013|
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday warned congressional leaders are “far from a deal” to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown.
"We're encouraged by the progress that we've seen in the Senate, but we're far from a deal at this point," Carney told reporters. "So we hope that progress continues."
The White House spokesman said that "we certainly believe there's a potential there for a resolution" and that President Obama was "pleased with the progress" toward a bill in the Senate.
But he also cautioned that "we are very close to a very important deadline." The Treasury Department has said that the nation will hit the debt ceiling on Thursday, leading to the danger of default if Treasury's $30 billion cash balance proves inadequate. Carney's comments came shortly after the White House rejected a proposal floated by House Republican leaders that would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. Read more ..
|Justin Sink||October 14th 2013|
President Obama will meet top congressional leaders on Monday at the White House amid signs that senators could be nearing a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
Obama will meet with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at 3 p.m., a White House official said. Vice President Biden will attend as well.
Reid and McConnell, who took the reins of the fiscal talks over the weekend, huddled for 30 minutes on Monday morning. Asked after the meeting whether Senate leaders would have an agreement to present to Obama, Reid said, “[I] sure hope so.” “We’re working on everything,” Reid said when asked about the scope of the negotiations. “We continue to work on it. It’s not done yet.” Read more ..
India on Edge
|Gardiner Harris||October 12th 2013|
A monstrous cyclone that may be among the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal started to bear down on the eastern coast of India on Saturday with heavy rains and high winds.
Indian authorities warned late Saturday morning that the storm, called Cyclone Phailin, would probably make landfall by 6 p.m. Saturday near Gopalpur, Odisha, a largely rural area. They called Phailin a “very severe cyclonic storm” with sustained winds of 136 miles per hour and gusts reaching nearly 150 m.p.h.
Some 440,000 people have already been evacuated from the path of the storm, M. Shashidhar Reddy, vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Saturday afternoon. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Michael Johnson||October 10th 2013|
Armed militiamen abducted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at dawn on Thursday from the Tripoli hotel in which he lives. After six hours, the gunman released Zeidan unharmed, but the kidnapping further underscored Libya's lawlessness since the 2011 revolution - with an odd political twist.
The Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) militia, which is paid by the government to provide security for government officials, said it had captured the PM under direction of the Libyan Prosecutor General. The LROR spokesman said the arrest came after a report that Prime Minister Zeidan knew in advance about the U.S. raid against Abu Anas al-Libi last weekend in Benghazi. Justice ministry officials have denied involvement in Zeidan's arrest, but the LROR remains close to the ministry. Read more ..
|Ian Swanson||October 10th 2013|
House Republicans are discussing a six-week extension of the nation’s debt limit as a way to buy time for more negotiations with President Obama. It is not clear if the hike Republicans are considering to the $16.7 trillion debt limit would be completely "clean," meaning it would not demand concessions from Democrats.
A clean hike would mark a significant concession to the White House. But the legislation would not end the government shutdown, which could give Republicans continued leverage in the fight. Stocks soared on the news, with the Dow Jones average rising more than 180 points in early trading. The administration had set an Oct. 17 deadline for raising the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday warned senators a new recession could set in if the limit is not raised. Read more ..
|Russell Burman and Erik Wasson||October 9th 2013|
House conservatives are discussing a two-step plan outlined by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to lift the debt ceiling and reopen the government long enough for Congress to pass long-term entitlement reforms.
Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, presented the idea Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Lawmakers leaving the confab said the influential group had not reached a consensus position on the debt ceiling or an end to the government shutdown.
The plan appeared to be a more detailed version of a proposal that Ryan made Wednesday in an op-ed he penned in The Wall Street Journal. He called for “modest” structural changes to Medicare and Social Security to resolve the fiscal crisis. The article made no mention of delaying or defunding President Obama’s healthcare law, which had been a central Republican demand leading to the government shutdown nine days ago. Read more ..
|George Friedman||October 8th 2013|
It originated in a political dispute. U.S. President Barack Obama proposed and Congress approved a massive set of changes in U.S. healthcare. These changes were upheld in court after legal challenges. There appears to be significant opposition to this legislation according to polls, but the legislation's opponents in Congress lack the ability to repeal it and override a presidential veto. Therefore, opponents attached amendments to legislation funding government operations, and basically said that legislation would only be passed if implementation of healthcare reform were blocked or at least delayed. Opponents of healthcare reform had enough power to block legislation on funding the government. Proponents of healthcare reform refused to abandon their commitment for reform, and therefore the legislation to fund the government failed and the government shut down. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Justin Sink||October 7th 2013|
President Obama dared Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday to prove there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a “clean” bill to reopen the government. "The House should hold that vote today," Obama said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday. "If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, they should prove it."
The move is in response to Boehner’s assertion Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a government funding bill without additional concessions to Republicans, and is meant to raise public pressure on the Speaker to end the shutdown.
The White House immediately questioned Boehner's comments, noting media reports that more than 20 Republicans had voiced a willingness to vote for that type of bill. Most Democrats in the House also say they would vote for a clean government-funding bill. On Monday, Obama said his "very strong suspicion" was that "there are enough votes there." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Kimberly Dozier, Abdi Guled And Jason Straziuso||October 6th 2013|
In a stealthy seaside assault in Somalia and in a raid in Libya's capital, U.S. special forces on Saturday struck out against Islamic extremists who have carried out terrorist attacks in East Africa, snatching a Libyan al-Qaida leader allegedly involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies 15 years ago but aborting a mission to capture a terrorist suspect linked to last month's Nairobi shopping mall attack after a fierce firefight.
A U.S. Navy SEAL team swam ashore near a town in southern Somalia before militants of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. The raid on a house in the town of Barawe targeted a specific al-Qaida suspect related to the mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told AP. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Carlo Munoz||October 5th 2013|
The Pentagon has ordered roughly 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the worker recall in a department-wide memorandum issued Saturday.
After consulting with the Justice Department and Department of Defense legal counsel, Hagel noted furloughed employees could be brought back to the Pentagon, while still complying with federal guidelines governing the shutdown, according to the memo.
Civilian workers at DOD shown to play a role in the "morale, well-being [and]...readiness" of U.S. forces could be brought back, under federal rules, Hagel wrote. Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale is scheduled to hold a briefing on the details of the recall later today. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Harold Rhode||October 3rd 2013|
Iran's new president Hassan Rohani, who for years led-on the West as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, skillfuly demonstrated by his conduct during his visit to New York, and speech at the U.N. General Assembly, that Iran didn't veer off the path laid by the Mullahs and the Supreme Leader.
This analysis identifies patterns exhibited by the Iranian government and the Iranian people since ancient times. Most importantly, it identifies critical elements of Iranian culture that have been systematically ignored by policymakers for decades. It is a precise understanding of these cultural cues that should guide policy objectives toward the Iranian government.
Iranians expect a ruler to demonstrate resolve and strength, and do whatever it takes to remain in power. The Western concept of demanding that a leader subscribe to a moral and ethical code does not resonate with Iranians. Telling Iranians that their ruler is cruel will not convince the public that they need a new leader. To the contrary, this will reinforce the idea that their ruler is strong. It is only when Iranians become convinced that either their rulers lack the resolve to do what is necessary to remain in power or that a stronger power will protect them against their current tyrannical rulers, that they will speak out and try to overthrow leaders. Read more ..
The New Libya
|Jim Kouri||October 2nd 2013|
Read more ..
Widespread torture of jailed Libyans by so-called Brigades is routinely occurring in detention centers throughout the North African nation, according to a report released by the United Nations' Geneva office on Oct. 1, 2013. The Libyan Brigades is merely a new term to describe the country's numerous militias. Libyan detention facilities being run by independent Brigades began during the 2011 revolution that culminated in the overthrow of the dictatorship of Moamar Khadhafi. The U.N. report urges the Libyan government headquartered in Tripoli to control all of the detention or prison facilities within the country.
Tuesday's report was issued by the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Battle for Syria
|Avi Jorisch and Victoria Cavaliere||October 1st 2013|
The implications were chilling. In the summer of 2012, as murder and mayhem reigned on both sides of Syria's civil war, someone—likely from the opposition—released a list of 32 names on Facebook. These weren't people invited to a wedding; they weren't members of the Syrian national soccer team; and they weren't guests for a weekend jaunt to a fancy seaside resort in Latakia. These were people someone wanted dead.
"This is a last warning," the list read. "If you don't stop executing your criminal projects against the Syrian people and announce your defection from the regime by July 20, 2012, we'll start giving away specific details on each and every one of you to the FSA [Free Syrian Army]."
The details included names of neighborhoods where people lived and the models of cars they drove. "Janan Lhussein," one entry read. "Resides in Assad's suburb and drives a white Kia Forte." Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton||September 30th 2013|
Congress took another step toward a government shutdown Monday as the Senate voted 54-46 to strip language from a House funding bill that delayed ObamaCare by a year.
Senate Democrats called on House Republicans to pass a clean government funding resolution and warned the GOP would take the brunt of the public backlash if government services become severely curtailed.
Democrats also eliminated language allowing employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage of contraception if doing so violates their moral or religious principles.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needed only a simple majority vote to cut the House language delaying ObamaCare and repealing the medical device tax because the amended stopgap came from across the Capitol as a message to the Senate. Monday's vote was strictly on party lines. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|David Schenker||September 28th 2013|
Most of the attention these days is on Syria, but there is also a growing problem in Egypt with global implications. Nine Egyptian policemen were wounded by a bomb in the northern Sinai Peninsula on Monday. The week before, suicide bombers killed nine soldiers in the peninsula. Shootings, kidnappings and bombings -- roadside, car and suicide -- have become routine occurrences in Sinai. And the burgeoning Islamist insurgency is spreading to other parts of Egypt. In early September, the interior minister narrowly survived a car-bomb attack in Cairo reportedly perpetrated by a Sinai-based jihadist group.
Already reeling from more than two years of civil insurrection, a spike in crime, an epidemic of sexual assault and the military's killing in August of nearly 1,000 Islamists protesting the coup that removed the elected Muslim Brotherhood president from office, the insurgency is bad news for Egypt.
But things could get worse. Read more ..
|Russell Berman and Molly K. Hooper||September 28th 2013|
House Republicans plan to attach a one-year delay of ObamaCare and a repeal of its medical device tax to a stopgap spending bill on Saturday, a move that could ensure much of the federal government shuts down on Tuesday.
GOP leaders set a second conference meeting for 8:30 p.m. on Saturday to update their members on the timing of the vote, which was expected late at night. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) outlined the maneuver to Republicans in a closed-door conference meeting on Saturday; members could be heard cheering outside the room in a Capitol basement.
Republican lawmakers inside the meeting chanted, "Vote! Vote! Vote!" after hearing the plan, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said. Republicans exiting the meeting applauded Boehner's decision and said the ball was in Senate Democrats' court. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Rosanne Skirble||September 27th 2013|
Scientists are more certain than ever that the planet is warming and that humans are to blame. That’s the finding of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The assessment will help inform policy makers and the public as they consider what action to take on climate change.
One hundred and ten governments adopted the scientific consensus that, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
At a news conference in Stockholm Friday, World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Michael Jarraud underscored the importance of the finding. “It should serve as another wake-up call that our activities today will have a profound impact on society, not only for us, but for many generations to come,” Jarraud said. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Rebecca LaFlure and R. Jeffery Smith||September 25th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
For years, hundreds of thousands of contractors seeking regular access to key Navy installations have merely paid a fee and typed identifying information into ATM-like machines installed on those bases. They were then able to gain temporary access without first going through a background check, even though Navy and White House regulations require such checks be completed beforehand.
Known as Rapidgate, the access control system is now in operation for contractors, vendors, service workers, and suppliers who regularly pass through not just Navy checkpoints — but also those at more than 150 military and government installations around the country, including the Washington Navy Yard, the site of the Sept. 16 shooting rampage.
Last week, an internal Pentagon report called into question how the Rapidgate system became so widely used by the Navy and urged its immediate cancellation at those sites, saying it provides a false sense of security that puts government personnel at risk. The Navy, it said, had contracted for the system through irregular acquisition practices. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Charles Recknagel||September 23rd 2013|
The Islamist fundamentalist Al-Shabab group in Somalia is little known outside Eastern Africa. But its attack on a Nairobi mall reveals it to be one of the strongest and most capable Al-Qaeda affiliates.
What Is Al-Shabab?
Al-Shabab, which means "The Youth" in Arabic, emerged in war-torn Somalia in 2006.
It is a radical Sunni group, which, at its peak of power, ran much of southern Somalia but has now been pushed back into rural areas by African Union forces, predominantly Kenyan, which are trying to stabilize Somalia and support its weak government.
The group enforces strict Shari'a law in the areas it controls, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of thieves.
Al-Shabab has twice struck back at neighboring countries supplying forces to stabilize Somalia. It coordinated a bombing attack against Uganda that killed 76 people in Kampala in 2010. Now it is claiming responsibility for this week’s attack on a mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which has killed at least 69 people. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Bernard Banks||September 22nd 2013|
Israeli forces on Sunday joined Kenyan efforts to end a deadly siege by Somali militants at a Nairobi shopping mall, a security source has told AFP. "The Israelis have just entered and they are rescuing the hostages and the injured," the source told AFP on condition he not be named. In Israel, foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson refused to confirm or deny that its forces were involved. "We don't make a habit of commenting on security cooperation of any kind that there may or may not be," he told AFP. The attack on the part Israeli-owned upmarket mall has left at least 59 dead and around 200 wounded, Kenyan officials said. The intervention came 26 hours after gunmen walked into the complex, tossing grenades and spraying gunfire at shoppers and staff. Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack. Read more ..
|Dan Levin||September 20th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Contributor
An historic gala will soon unfold in New York, when on October 15, 2013, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations holds its fiftieth anniversary commemoration. The so-called “President’s Conference” is the pivotal Jewish communal organization in the United States. The October 15 gala night will honor past presidents of the pivotal Conference, each of whom has had to juggle a demanding personal and communal identity. The select group includes Melvin Salberg, Amb. Ronald S. Lauder, Alan P. Solow, Richard B. Stone, Harold Tanner, James S. Tisch, June Walker, and Mortimer B. Zuckerman. The body has been led for four decades by executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, who will be honored in a special tribute. Hoenlein has eloquently enunciated the Jewish communal voice like none other in America.
Many people do not know the President’s Conference by name—but it has played a key role in American and world Jewish history. From mass public events to private diplomacy, the Conference has been in the forefront of mobilizing support for Israel and educating the public in times of war and conflict, and in the pursuit of peace.
Today, the Conference of Presidents remains American Jewry’s recognized locus for consensus policy, collective action, and maximizing the resources of the American Jewish community. When events in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere affect the American Jewish community, the Conference of Presidents take the lead to explain and analyze issues, provide a link between American Jewry and the U.S. government, and marshal a coordinated community response.
The pivotal and authoritative advocate for organized American Jewry for more than half a century, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Fund advances the interests of the American Jewish community, sustains broad-based public and diplomatic support for the State of Israel and addresses the critical concerns facing world Jewry. Read more ..
Germany on Edge
|George Friedman||September 19th 2013|
Germany's economic performance is tied strongly to external developments because of the country's reliance on exports. According to Eurostat, exports were equivalent to nearly 52 percent of Germany's gross domestic product in 2012. Europe is Germany's largest customer, so the German economy depends on the strength of the European consumer base. Germany's political and economic stability largely depends on its access to foreign markets, hence its unwavering support for the eurozone and the free trade agreement within Europe.
So far, German exports have mostly survived the tumult of the European crisis. This is partly because German businesses diversified their export markets relatively successfully. Since 2007, exports to the European Union and the eurozone have declined in favor of other countries, particularly Asian countries and the United States. In fact, the United States is the second-largest destination market for German exported goods. In 2012, nearly 30 percent of all the European Union's exported goods to the United States came from Germany. Roughly 16 percent of German goods exports went to Asia, with China being Germany's fourth-largest export market. Read more ..
The Edge of Violence
|Jonathan Easley||September 16th 2013|
At least twelve people, including a gunman, were killed in shootings on Monday in and around the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Gray said at a news conference Monday afternoon that there was no known motive for the rampage, but authorities do not have any reason to think that it was a terrorist event.
Washington Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier initially said there could be two shooters still at large. “We potentially have two other shooters that we have not located at this point,” she said, adding that “this is not confirmed.”
Lanier described two men who were wanted for questioning, one a white male between 40 and 50 years old, wearing a tan naval uniform, and one a black male of about 50 years of age, wearing an olive-colored military uniform. The second suspect is approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds, she said. Read more ..
|Michael Beckel and Alan Suderman||September 15th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
New York City businessman Troy White today pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., to one misdemeanor count of failing to file corporate tax returns that showed $608,750 paid for services performed to clandestinely support Democrat Hillary Clinton during her unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Clinton was not identified in court records, but Lyn Utrecht, a lawyer for the Clinton's 2008 campaign, later released a statement confirming the fact.
White's firm, Wytehouse Marketing, Inc., which specializes in "marketing in urban areas through the use of 'street teams,'" was utilized starting in February 2008, ahead of the Texas two-step primary and caucus in which Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the Democratic nomination.
Court documents show that White's firm was ultimately paid not by the Clinton campaign, but rather by an unnamed D.C. businessman who used two companies to bankroll payments to White through Belle International, Inc., a D.C.-based firm owned by Jeanne Clarke Harris. Harris pleaded guilty last year on corruption charges related to an alleged "shadow campaign" that helped elect Democratic D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
The unnamed businessman is widely believed to be Jeffrey Thompson, a staple in D.C. local politics and a close associate of Harris. Thompson ran an accounting firm that federal prosecutors have called an “assembly line for illegal campaign contributions.” He has not been charged with any crime but is under federal investigation for allegedly steering hundreds of thousands of dollars into the off-the-books campaign to elect Gray. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Natasha Pinol||September 14th 2013|
New data from NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been hurtling away from the Sun since it was launched in 1977, indicates that the spacecraft has indeed left the comfort of the heliosphere—the bubble of hot, energetic charged particles surrounding the Solar System—and entered into a region of cold, dark space, known as interstellar space. Based on these new measurements, which show that plasma densities around the spacecraft are consistent with theoretical predictions of the interstellar medium, researchers suggest that Voyager 1 arrived in this cold, unexplored interstellar region on or about 25 August, 2012.
The Voyager 1 spacecraft uses myriad instruments onboard to send data back to Earth, and scientists have been waiting for certain measurements—namely, a drop in solar particles and a spike in galactic ones—to alert them to Voyager 1's passage through the heliopause, or the boundary between solar plasma and the plasma of interstellar space. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Bernard Banks||September 13th 2013|
from NASA and agencies
For five years, a scientific expedition tried reaching Pine Island Glacier ice shelf in a remote, wind-ridden corner of Antarctica. The obstacles to get to the ice shelf were extreme, but the science goal was simple: to measure how fast the sea was melting the 37-mile long ice tongue from underneath by drilling through the ice shelf.
The international team, led by NASA's emeritus glaciologist Robert Bindschadler and funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, had to abort their mission in 2007 due to logistical challenges after becoming the first people to ever land on the ice shelf. On their next try, in 2011, bad weather prevented the scientists from reaching the ice shelf until it was too late in the field season to carry out their science. It wasn't until December 2012 that the team was finally able to install scientific instruments. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|J. Millard Burr||September 12th 2013|
The American Center for Democracy
In a thought provoking essay titled "The P-Word" published in the American Thinker blog, Ben Cohen offers a précis of the history of a multi-ethnic multi-cultural Middle East. He suggests that a solution to the present Syrian cataclysm would be "to partition Syria into separate states which would allow the different sides to live under laws and governments of their own choosing;" a large Sunni Arab state controlling the vast majority of Syria, with small Alawite, Druze, and Kurdish states controlling the rest.
Cohen notes that Druze are concentrated in the south and Assad's own Alawite minority along the coast near Latakia. He notes, almost en passant, that the Kurds concentrated in Syria's far northeast could be "given a small area in the north where they could live according to their customs and make Kurdish the official language. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Walid Phares||September 11th 2013|
Cutting Edge Terrorism Analyst
When the second jet slammed into the north World Trade Center Tower in Manhattan, I immediately told students standing next to me, “It’s a jihad Ghazwa ... they have chosen the Yarmuk option.” The eyes of a few students around me opened wide. That Tuesday morning the world was changing at a record rapid pace—and yet in a sense it was moving in slow motion for most Americans.
During that agonizing half hour from 8:45 A.M. to 9:15 A.M., my students, my colleagues, and I belonged to two different worlds. In the corner of the campus where I was teaching on that day of infamy, I felt very much alone: What I had known, researched, and watched building year after year was finally here, ravaging my new homeland. I was as shocked as anyone, but unlike many I was not surprised. What had come to pass was something I had studied and tried to warn others about for more than two decades. It made me more determined to impact the future of what I knew was coming from that point on. Read more ..
|Olli Heinonen and Simon Hederson||September 8th 2013|
The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran, which the organization's board of governors will discuss in Vienna next week, shows that Tehran has continued to build its nuclear capabilities, particularly its capacity to suddenly break out from its treaty commitments and build a nuclear weapon if it so desired. Although Iran denies having a nuclear weapons program, this growing potential to dash toward a bomb will likely complicate diplomatic discussions in the next few weeks, especially after President Hassan Rouhani's expected September 23 arrival in New York for a UN General Assembly meeting. Iranian officials are also scheduled to meet with the IAEA in Vienna on September 27.
Interpreting the significance of the IAEA's August 28 report has proven difficult for non-experts: for example, compare the recent New York Times headline ("Iran Slows Its Gathering of Uranium, Report Says") with one from the Financial Times ("Iran Boosts Advanced Uranium Enrichment Capacity, UN Report Shows"). The core of the report -- which covers developments across the whole range of Iran's known, declared nuclear activities since the previous report in May -- is the series of sections assessing Tehran's progress on uranium enrichment, its construction of a reactor that could produce plutonium, and its degree of cooperation (or lack thereof) in explaining the program's "possible military dimensions." Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|R. Jeffrey Smith||September 7th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
The U.S. Agency for International Development is propping up Afghanistan’s national health care system with millions of dollars in direct assistance even though its effort lacks the sort of controls and oversight needed to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, according to the U.S. government’s chief auditor of financial assistance to the country.
The funds are being disbursed to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health for doctor’s salaries, immunizations, prenatal care, hospitals, rural health care facilities and other urgent medical needs. They constitute a small but critical portion of the more than $90 billion Washington has pumped into the country since 2001, the lion’s share of which has gone to direct assistance for the Afghan military and police forces. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Carlo Muñoz||September 7th 2013|
The majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serving in Congress are lining up against President Obama's plan for military action in Syria. Of the 16 veterans of those two conflicts serving in Congress, only GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) have publicly supported the White House's plan.
Three other members — Iraq War veterans and Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) are undecided. A fourth, Scott Perry (R-Pa.), said he hasn’t made up his mind either, though he told a town hall this week he wasn’t inclined to support a resolution authorizing force.
Ten of the remaining members have announced their opposition to a military strike. Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Bernard Banks||September 5th 2013|
A bomb exploded near a convoy carrying Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Wednesday in Cairo, an attack authorities are calling an assassination attempt. Several people were wounded but officials say the minister was unhurt. Ibrahim was leaving his home in Cairo's Nasr City neighborhood when the blast struck near his convoy. Authorities initially pointed to a car bomb, but later said they suspected an explosive was thrown from a nearby building.
State media described the attack as a failed assassination attempt, though there is no word on who is responsible. Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag condemned the assassination attempt on Ibrahim. "The bombing allegedly targeting the minister of interior today is regrettable and the alliance strongly condemns it,'' Darrag said in a statement on behalf of the "Anti-Coup Alliance'', led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Resident Raouf Mahmoud, who lives close to the minister, said he was parking his car when he heard a "massive explosion."
"People were running randomly. And just after that there were two cars or three cars, black BMW's from the security guard cars, they were on fire," he said. "Just after that, like three or four minutes, gunshots."
Hours later, Ibrahim appeared unharmed on state TV to denounce the attack as a "cowardly assassination bid". Security guards and a child were among the injured in the attack, which took place near his home in Nasr City.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Muslim Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag said the group "strongly condemned" what happened. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Carlo Muñoz and Ian Swanson||September 4th 2013|
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 10-7 vote has approved a resolution authorizing military force against Syria. The panel first voted to expand the use-of-force resolution by specifying the goal of U.S. military intervention in Syria should be to bolster the Free Syrian Army. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 10-7 vote has approved a resolution authorizing military force against Syria. The panel first voted to expand the use-of-force resolution by specifying the goal of U.S. military intervention in Syria should be to bolster the Free Syrian Army.
Justin Sink adds:
President Obama on Wednesday said he didn’t set a red line on Syria — the world did. He also said it wasn’t his credibility that was on the line if there was no response to what his administration contends was a chemical attack by Syria’s government that killed more than 1,400 people, including more than 400 children. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Ben Geman||September 1st 2013|
McCain criticized Obama for setting a red line, and then not backing it up. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said President Obama thrilled Iran and Syrian President Bashar Assad by seeking approval for Congress for a military strike on Syria. McCain argued Obama had made himself look weak by first promising tough action in response to the use of chemical weapons, and then pausing to ask Congress for approval. “[Syrian President] Bashar [Assad] and his people are euphoric. The Iranians are happy. When the president of the United States said that it was a red line, he didn’t say that it’s a red line and by the way I am going to have to seek the approval of Congress,” McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
McCain did not say how he would vote on Obama's request for approval, and reiterated that he believes the administration lacks a broader, coherent plan for addressing the Syrian crisis. In a statement on Saturday, he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) signaled they could oppose Obama's call to action. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Ben Geman||August 31st 2013|
President Obama announced Saturday that he’s seeking congressional authorization for a limited military strike against Syria over the Bashar Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Syria.
Obama said he had made the decision that military action was justified by U.S. intelligence showing the use of chemical weapons. He also said he had the authority under his executive powers to launch an attack, but argued seeking the blessing of Capitol Hill was a better route.
“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “The country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective,” Obama said. Obama said congressional leaders have agreed to schedule a debate and vote when Congress comes back into session. It is unclear whether Congress would grant authorization for a strike. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Kate Pound Dawson||August 30th 2013|
U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday he has not made a final decision on attacking Syria, but made clear he thinks doing so would be in the interest of national security.
Syria has become a threat to the United States, he said, "by violating well established international norms against the use of chemical weapons, by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region, like Israel, and Turkey and Jordan, and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future, and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us."
Speaking briefly at the White House, Obama said he has consulted with the U.S. military, members of Congress and U.S. allies, as well as the wider international community. He also made clear his frustration with the United Nations' inability to agree on a course of action against Damascus. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
Center for Public Integrity
In the 12 years since American troops first deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 2.6 million veterans have returned home to a country largely unprepared to meet their needs. The government that sent them to war has failed on many levels to fulfill its obligations to these veterans as demanded by Congress and promised by both Republican and Democratic administrations, a News21 investigation has found.
Many of these combat veterans, returning from war with what will be lifelong illnesses and disabilities, are struggling to get the help they were promised in the form of disability payments, jobs, health care and treatment for such afflictions as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, physical disabilities and military sexual trauma. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Noah Shachtman||August 28th 2013|
Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.
But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?" Read more ..
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