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Religious Freedom

Churches Under Attack in Muslim Lands as Mosques Flourish in the West

March 22nd 2010

Islamic Topics - Islam vs Copts

On March 12, 2010, a group of some 2,000 Muslims, whipped up by a local Imam in Mersa Matruh, a Mediterranean port city in Egypt, attacked a group of some 400 Coptic Christians.

The supposed reason for swarming the oft-persecuted Copts was a rumor that they were building a church. The sad thing was that they were only building a hospice. Worse was that Egyptian Security authorities, according to reports, arrested 13 Copts, including four minors between 13 and 17. Only a dozen of the 2,000 Muslims rioters were arrested.

The Imam preached against the Copts, calling for Jihad against the Coptic “Infidels.” Soon, Muslims swarmed around the Copts, forcing them into the building to protect themselves only to see some twenty-three wounded, two of them seriously. Following their escape into the hospice, the crowd proceeded to vandalize and burn their cars, Coptic shops, and even private homes, causing untold damage to that persecuted community's lives.

The Coptic Church has existed in Egypt for 1900 years. According to the website, TourEgypt.net, “Today, Copts form almost 13 to 15 percent of Egypt's population, though they are not ethnically distinct from other Egyptians as they are fully integrated into the body of the modern Egyptian nation.” If being “fully integrated” means enduring constant persecution by the authorities and harassment and sectarian murders by their Muslim neighbors, then perhaps the meaning of the term has changed. Read more ..


India on the Edge

Is India's Economy Weakening?

March 15th 2010

Asia Topics - India Highway congestion

The conventional wisdom concerning the Indian economy has two tenets: 1) India has weathered the financial crisis exceptionally well; and 2) India is still undergoing liberalizing reform. Both of those tenets, though, can reasonably be questioned. Reported Indian GDP growth fell to 6.0 percent in the October-December quarter of 2009, lower than the 6.2 percent in the same quarter of 2008. By itself this decrease is not important, but it comes at a time of high inflation and a dangerously large budget deficit. Under such circumstances, 6 percent growth is not much of an accomplishment. More telling for the long term, this year's budget means the current Congress Party government has further cemented its legacy as reformers in name only.

America's ability to alter this legacy is limited. However, the emerging U.S.-India partnership requires each nation to be direct. Economic negotiations with India should be regarded in part as a means to encourage market reform.

Indian Growth in Context

Three years ago, an economy exhibiting 6 percent real growth, nearly 9 percent inflation, and a consolidated national budget deficit exceeding 12 percent of GDP would have been rightly deemed as heading for serious difficulties. The obvious response is that India should be judged in the context of the financial crisis. However, it is not clear that the economy has actually improved as the global crisis has eased.
Read more ..


Arab World Elections

After Iraq's Elections: A New Government by September?

March 8th 2010

Iraq - Iraq Election 2010

Iraq's parliamentary elections have proven to be the most competitive in recent Iraqi history. Hundreds of parties and other entities fielded thousands of candidates for 325 seats. The contest has been heated, vibrant, and, at times, controversial and violent. Yet the ups and downs associated with the campaign season will pale in comparison to the immediate postelection period. Following the December 2005 elections, the new government took six months to form, and the process will likely take longer this time. As the Obama administration continues to draw down U.S. forces to 50,000 troops by August, it will need to remain patient with a process that will have a tremendous impact on the future of bilateral relations and Iraq's democratic consolidation.

Constitutional Factors

Iraq's constitution contains no provisions for how the country is to be governed in the period between elections and government formation. Determining the status of the transitional government—and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's role in it—will therefore be the first challenge. If a new government is not formed quickly, the only way to avoid a constitutional crisis will be for the federal supreme court to issue a decision on the issue. Unfortunately, Iraq is unlikely to take such a step until a crisis has already developed. In short, resolving the transitional issue alone could cause a substantial delay in government formation if the political wrangling is heated enough. Read more ..


Sexual Assault on Campus

'Undetected Rapists' on Campus: A Troubling Plague of Repeat Offenders

March 1st 2010

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

Elton Yarbrough was a young man seemingly on his way up: An economics major at Texas A&M University; a member of the university’s military cadet corps; a musician in the marching band; the pride of little Palestine, Texas; and soon to be an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

But police say he was also one other thing: A serial rapist.

The one-time Texas A&M senior is now sitting in a Texas prison until at least 2015 for felony sexual assault. Five women, including four female A&M students, testified Yarbrough raped or sexually assaulted them between 2003 and 2006, although he was only tried on one assault charge. Yarbrough says he is innocent.

Yarbrough is one of six alleged serial offenders at colleges across the country found during a year-long investigation of sexual assault on college campuses. The six were accused of assaulting multiple women in court records, campus records or other public documents.

However, students who reported being raped by fellow students told of at least five other men whom they suspected of, or had heard of, assaulting other women. Those men probably look a lot like Yarbrough did to Texas A&M administrators and to his fellow students: A promising young student with an outstanding resume of achievements. As one of his accusers would later write in a statement read at a university judicial proceeding, “If you cannot trust another student with a record which appears as impeccable as Elton’s, then who can we really trust in life?”
Read more ..


Edge of Homeland Security

Homeland Security Bets Billions on Better Communications-- But Are First Responders Better Off?

February 22nd 2010

Transportation Topics - Fire Engine

When a cop or a fire fighter pulls out a radio in a television police drama, his message goes through, whether he’s in the basement of a building or deep in a forest. In the real world, clear communication is rarely so easy, particularly among first responders from different disciplines and jurisdictions. This reality was dramatically brought home at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when crucial observations from the police department’s helicopters did not reach fire chiefs, commanders lost radio contact with responders who ascended the towers, and brigades in the north tower did not hear calls to evacuate.

Since then, an unprecedented amount of federal money has been spent on communications gear and technology, expenses traditionally borne by state and local governments. The goal is to fix the communication problems faced on 9/11 — to create “interoperability” that allows first responders from different disciplines and jurisdictions to communicate. From 2004 to 2008, the only years for which detailed figures are available, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved more than $4.3 billion in grant money to improve interoperability among first responders nationwide. DHS officials have said that more grant money has gone to interoperability than to any other initiative, and it continues to be a major focus for DHS grant programs, while also drawing funding from the economic stimulus package.
Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Setback for Iran's Opposition as Khamenei's Hardline Reinforced

February 15th 2010

Iran - Ali Khameini2
Ali Khameini

A few hours after the official demonstration marking the February 11 anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated, "Was the presence of tens of millions of motivated and aware people in the festival of the thirty-first anniversary of revolution enough to awaken [to their mistakes] the internal enemies and deceived individuals who sometimes hypocritically speak of 'the people'?" Khamenei had spent months worrying that the opposition Green Movement would hijack the anniversary. Yesterday, he seemed to regain his self-confidence by proving that he could manage Tehran's streets. In light of this development, how will the Supreme Leader deal with both Iran's political crisis and the nuclear dossier?

What Happened on February 11

By controlling a huge city like Tehran on such a sensitive day, Khamenei proved his operational capabilities as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. A few days before the anniversary, the regime clamped down on all communication channels, from internet to cell phones to satellite television, interrupting them or placing them under surveillance in order to diminish the opposition's ability to organize protests. It also raised the level of intimidation, making daily arrests of political and student activists as well as ordinary people and publishing wanted posters of individuals who had participated in the December 2009 Ashura demonstration. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Serious Play: Think Tank War Games Explore Options on Iran

February 8th 2010

Israeli Military - Israeli Jets Parked

What if Iran's hardline leadership emerges from the current confrontations at home strengthened and emboldened? If so, the nuclear issue will be back with a vengeance. And three recent war games focused on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue suggest that the prospects for halting the regime's progress toward nuclear weapons are not good.

The games -- conducted by highly respected Western think tanks -- explored various strategies for preventing the Iranian nuclear threat from becoming real. The results, unfortunately, were uniformly negative. Given that these were serious games played by serious people, officials who deal with the nuclear problem as a matter of real policy would be wise to seriously consider their implications.

Purpose and Utility of War Games

Games are strategic planning tools that have proven especially useful in international conflict situations. A war game begins with a defined scenario and evolves through a series of actions to a final situation or outcome. Individuals or teams simulate key decisions by national leaders in a role-playing environment. Meanwhile, an objective, independent team acts as a referee, setting up the initial scenario and adjudicating the play turn by turn. The result is not a prediction of the future but rather a plausible, perhaps even likely, outcome that can be of great value in planning and forecasting. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

America Deploys Weapons in Gulf as Iran Sanctions Near and Tensions Mount

February 1st 2010

Military - Patriot Missile

Washington has ordered the Pentagon to rapidly ramp up its approach to defending its Persian Gulf allies against potential Iranian missile strikes, increasing the capability of 8 land-based Patriot defensive missile batteries in four Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. These four are: Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.  In addition, the U.S. Navy is increasing its presence in the region and now says it has the capacity of shoot down hostile missiles in mid-air as effectively as Patriot batteries do.

At the same time, the U.S. Air Force is continuing to fast-track modifications of a Super Bunker Buster--formally known as the GBU-57A/B at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Modifications would allow it to be carried in the bay of a radar-evading B2a Stealth Bomber, according to Eglin base sources. The B2a is one of only two airplanes that can carry the 30,000 pound bomb which is designed to cause massive concussions more than 200 feet below the earth where Iran is thought to have burrowed its nuclear program. Details of the accelerated project were reported by The Cutting Edge News last September. Read more ..


The Edge of Lobbying

Why 650 Local Governments Use Lobbyists To Get Cash for Buses, Trains, and Roads

January 25th 2010

Transportation Topics - Broken Road

Last September, city fathers in Dubuque, Iowa, lured three members of the White House cabinet to the banks of the Mississippi River on the same day they welcomed officials from one the world’s biggest corporations, IBM. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, accompanied by a host of aides, all climbed aboard the city’s green trolley car. Among their stops: Dubuque’s renovated harbor area, and then the historic millwork district — once the nation’s largest — and the nearby Roshek building, a depression-era department store undergoing a grand remodel.

Meanwhile, Dubuque’s private sector guest, IBM, was over at the convention center announcing plans to make the city a living laboratory for its Smarter Planet program. Up to 1,300 new IBM employees will begin fielding tech service calls later this year at the Roshek building, and the company hopes those workers will also be able to enjoy the fruits of a sweeping partnership between IBM and its host city — a partnership aimed at creating an integrated transportation system involving smart new bus routes, pedestrian-friendly streets, and arterial roads to take trucks out of neighborhoods. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Fighting al-Qaeda: The Role of Yemen's President Saleh

January 18th 2010

Yemen Topics - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh3
Yemini President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemen's reemergence in the headlines as a crucial player in the fight against al-Qaeda raises questions about Washington's next steps. What sort of relationship will the Obama administration have with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longtime leader of what could be the world's next failed state? Saleh spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone on December 17, 2009, and later met in Sana with General David Petreaus, the head of U.S. Central Command, on January 2. But the lessons of Saleh's relationship with the Bush administration suggest that close ties can be matched by sharp policy differences.

Saleh's Bloody Background

Apart from Muammar Qadhafi of Libya, Saleh is the Middle East's longest-serving leader. Now a field marshal by rank, he first came to prominence in 1977 as a thirty-one-year-old major during political turmoil in what was then North Yemen (which united with South Yemen in 1990.) The country's military leader at the time, Ibrahim al-Hamdi, was assassinated, as was his brother, by unidentified gunmen who riddled their bodies with bullets. An Arab newspaper described it at the time as a well-planned coup, naming Saleh as a conspirator along with his mentor, Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Ghashmi, the deputy commander-in-chief of the army who became North Yemen's new leader. Al-Ghashmi himself survived an assassination attempt five days after taking power but was subsequently killed in June 1978 when the briefcase of a special envoy from South Yemen exploded in his office. A month later, Saleh was voted into office by the quasi-parliament as president and commander-in-chief; he survived yet another assassination attempt only months later. Read more ..


Inside Latin America

Nuclear Security Issues in Latin America and the Caribbean Under the Radar

January 11th 2010

Latin American Topics - Peru Mining

Globally, nuclear power has become an increasingly important source of energy, accounting for about 15 percent of the world’s electricity supply. When it comes to Latin America, 3.1 percent of electricity comes from this source. However, the nettlesome security issues resulting from utilizing nuclear energy sources largely have been ignored.

On March 2008, Colombian authorities discovered that the FARC insurgent movement managed to obtain (it was never clarified from where) 9 kilograms of depleted uranium. Then, in early 2009, the Argentine media reported that an employee of the Baker Atlas Company oil-drilling operation in Neuquén had stolen a canister of nuclear substance Caesium-137, demanding up to $500,000 in ransom payments from Baker Atlas.

Meanwhile, if Brazil successfully completes the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine — a national security goal since the era of the country’s brutal military junta (1964-85) — the repercussions for regional geo-security could be profound. Reports suggest that countries such as Venezuela and Chile are also currently assessing the benefits of nuclear energy. One can add to this growing list of nuclear issues the ongoing transshipment of nuclear waste from Europe to Japan via the Caribbean and Panama Canal.
Read more ..


Edge of Economic Recovery

2010—Grim Economic Predictions For What May Be the Tipping Point Year

January 4th 2010

Economy - Out of Business

For the last week or two “experts” and pundits have been making their forecasts for 2010. I always take these forecasts with a grain of salt. The people making the forecasts generally have some skin in the game and will tailor their forecast to benefit their particular agenda or investment portfolio. I pride myself on dishing out punishment to both political parties and most investment shills. I will take on the thankless task of predicting the future. Below are my prognostications in the areas of the economy, domestic politics, global geopolitics, and the investment markets.

To date, the Federal Reserve has printed well over a trillion dollars in an attempt to evade a deflationary collapse, including a $700 billion bank bailout and a $787 billion stimulus package. And then there was $3 billion wasted on Cash for Clunkers ($24,000 per vehicle), $28 billion squandered on the $8,500 homebuyer tax credit, and an artificial suppressing of interest rates to 0 percent with $300 billion of mortgage-backed securities purchased by the Federal Reserve and Treasury. And all we’ve received is a 2.2 percent increase in GDP? The fourth quarter of 2009 will show a positive GDP as government spending and Federal Reserve quantitative easing have continued at a rapid clip. As the government stimulus winds down in the first half of 2010, the true weakness of the economy will reveal itself. I expect a double dip recession commencing by June of 2010. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Five Climate Lobbyists for Every Member of Congress—Representing Soup to Nuts

December 28th 2009

Environment Topics - Smokestacks

The next round of the battle over climate change policy on Capitol Hill will involve more than the usual suspects. Way more. Watch soup makers face off against steel companies. Witness the folks who pump gas from the ground fight back against those who dig up rock. And watch the venture capitalists who have money riding on new technology try to gain advantage in a game that so far has been deftly controlled by the old machine.

In short, even though President Obama pledged to the world at Copenhagen that the United States is committed to action on global warming, the domestic politics are only growing "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice might say from Wonderland. An analysis of the latest federal records by The Center for Public Integrity shows that the overall number of businesses and groups lobbying on climate legislation has essentially held steady at about 1,160, thanks in part to a variety of interests that have left the fray. But a close look at the 140 or so interests that jumped into the debate for the first time in the third quarter shows a marked trend: Companies and organizations which feel they've been overlooked are fighting for a place at the table. Read more ..


The Edge of Terror

London Braces for Mumbai-style Terror Attack

December 21st 2009

Terrorism - Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard has warned commercial organizations in London to brace for a Mumbai-style attack, according to British media reports. Approximately two weeks ago, mincing no words during in a classified briefing in the City of London, detectives from SO15, the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, reportedly declared: “Mumbai is coming to London.”

During the November 2008 bloody urban warfare “commando-style” Jihad raid in Mumbai by 10 gunmen, 174 people were killed and more than 300 injured over three days of attacks on hotels and cafes.

One London anti-terror squad detective warned of a shooting and hostage-taking raid “involving a small number of gunmen with handguns and improvised explosive devices.”

The blunt declaration has underlined a belief in the UK that a terrorist cell already in the country may be preparing an attack on London early next year. The declaration and warning was transmitted through a “security forum” set up by police to provide business leaders, government and the emergency services officials and others with counter-terrorism insights. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Robbing the Cradle

December 14th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Mesopotamia—now known as Iraq--enjoyed a 2,000-year head start on Western civilization. What happened?

Part of the answer lays millennia before our current turbulent times. Understanding this pivotal land and its peoples is necessary.

A single ancient people did not monopolize the historic territory between the Tigris and the Euphrates to create one cohesive, shining civilization as a beacon to others. Mesopotamia was in fact a diverse, often contentious, network of competing city-states. At different times, in different centuries BCE, cities such as Uruk, Lagash, and Eridu in the south, and Kish, Nippur, and Sippar in the midsection, as well as Assur, Nineveh, and Nimrud in the north, each flourished and made their mark. These city-states were ruled by their own kings, developed their own gods and cults, spoke their own languages and dialects, and manifested their own distinctive cultures.

A succession of disparate groups came from near and far to conquer the developing prize of Mesopotamia, and each conqueror was in turn conquered. The Semitic Akkadians arose among the original Sumerians, for whom Sumer was named. In the third millennium BCE, the Akkadian king Sargon created history’s first “empire,” extending his political reign, military dominance, and commercial primacy from western Persia, through Syria, to what is now eastern Turkey. But Sargon’s almost 150-year dynasty was overrun by the Guti mountain people. The Guti ruled until the Sumerians regained supremacy, only to be succeeded by Amorites from the west, and then the Elamites from the Zagros Mountains. Other invaders included the Indo-European Hittites from Anatolia and the obscure Hurrians and Kassites.

These invading and pervading groups destroyed and built up the city-states between the two rivers, as well as those in surrounding lands. During Mesopotamia’s golden millennia, each of these dynasties and empires, no matter how transient, purloined or planted something valuable, advancing the ever more complex culture growing atop the ancient Sumerian foundation. Over 3,000 years—perhaps 120 generations—the region became not a cradle but a veritable engine of civilization, energizing the entire Fertile Crescent, that is, the lands from the Nile Valley up through Palestine and Syria into the Tigris-Euphrates valley and beyond. Read more ..


Sexual Assault on Campus

Sexual Assault on Campus Often Shrouded in Secrecy

December 7th 2009

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

Three hours into deliberations by the University of Virginia’s Sexual Assault Board, UVA junior Kathryn Russell sat with her mother in a closet-like room in sprawling Peabody Hall. Down the corridor, two professors and two students were deciding her fate. Russell was replaying in her mind, endlessly, details of her allegations of rape when, she remembers, Shamim Sisson, the board chair, stepped into the room and delivered the order: You can’t talk about the verdict to anyone.

That stern admonition was a reminder of the silence Russell had been keeping since, she says, she struggled to break free from a fellow student’s grip in her dorm. That’s the account she gave local authorities, who declined to prosecute. And that’s what, in May 2004, she told the UVA Sexual Assault Board, whose decision she’d considered “my last resort.” Read more ..


Brazil on the Edge

Brazil Caught Between Oil, Politics, and Carbon Growth

November 30th 2009

Environment Topics - Sao Paolo Pollution
Sao Poalo

"This is the second independence of Brazil," declared an enthusiastic President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as he raised the first barrel of oil extracted from the Tupi Basin, a vast reserve of crude recently discovered under the salt layer of the Atlantic Ocean some three miles deep and 200 miles off the São Paulo coast.

That was on May 1, the Labor Day holiday in Brazil. Months before, in the same place, Lula had soaked his hands in oil and stamped them on the backs of jumpsuits worn by his aides.

Brazil lives a paradox. On the one hand, it is the tenth largest economy in the world and an emerging regional leader with a highly popular president. On the other, it ranks 75 in human development based on measures of literacy, education, and life expectancy. It is home to the biggest chunk of the Amazon rain forest, once called the "lungs of the world," but it is also responsible for mass deforestation, an environmental, social, and economic scourge that is blamed as a factor in global warming. The country's continued economic development requires more and more construction—growth that will only increase demand for energy and thus carbon emissions. This puts Brazil under pressure from all sides in relation to global climate change: from political opponents and supporters, businesses and NGOs, the federal capital Brasília and the states. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Is India "the Next China" as It Confronts Climate Change?

November 23rd 2009

Environment Topics - India Air Pollution

The image of the new India is that of a nation on the move: rapid economic growth, a rising middle class, big infrastructure projects, and global business deals. All these suggest that India may be the next China, the next economic superpower to emerge from the developing world.

But there is another side to the world’s largest democracy: About 60 percent of Indians live on less than $2 per day. Over half the country’s billion-plus people lack formal access to electricity. In some of India’s more crowded states, like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with a combined population of 250 million residents, have no electricity for a good part of the day. Villages in much of India’s outback are not connected to a power grid at all.

It is against this stark backdrop — against the pressing national imperative to reduce poverty and improve education and healthcare — that India grapples with how to address climate change. For years, the Indian government has viewed global warming through this domestic lens, arguing that mandated caps on greenhouse gas emissions would stunt its explosive economic growth and that, in any case, the industrialized world should bear the responsibility of relieving a problem it started decades ago. Read more ..


Iran in the Middle East Conflict

Israel’s Interception of The Francop and the Iran and Hezballah Axis

November 16th 2009

Israel Topics - francop02
The Francop

On November 3, 2009, Israeli naval forces intercepted an Antigua-flagged cargo ship approximately 100 miles off Israel's coast. The ship, the Francop, was brought to the port of Ashdod and searched, leading to the discovery of some 500 tons of weapons reportedly from Iran. Israeli officials believe the cargo was bound for Hezbollah via Syria. While Iran has been sending arms to Hezbollah through Syria for years, this case has important military and political implications.

Iranian arms supplies underwrite Hezbollah's political position in Lebanon, increase the risk for a conflict with Israel, and ensure that any such conflict will be more intense and lengthier than if Hezbollah lacked such support. This most recent affair also shows Iran's willingness to risk embarrassing exposure in its support for Hezbollah, even as it engages in sensitive negotiations with the international community over its nuclear program. This underlines the strategic nature of the Iran-Hezbollah relationship and the importance Iran attaches to Hezbollah as a component of its own deterrent arm. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

Climate Lobby Goes Global as Copenhagen Showdown Looms

November 9th 2009

Energy / Environment - Pollution Made in China

In the poor, but mineral-rich mountains of the eastern United States known as Appalachia, coal millionaire Don Blankenship hosts a rally for “Friends of America” to hear country music and “learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs.”

On the other side of the globe, with an eye on his venture in an Australian port town known both as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a smokestack industry haven, aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska battles that nation’s program to address climate change as “destructive for jobs, destructive for new and existing investment.”

And in China, ambitious renewable electricity plans look like an important step toward tackling global warming, but progress lags due to built-in and deeply entrenched favoritism for cheaper fossil fuel. “There’s no need for anyone to get over-excited,” says Lu Qizhou, the government appointee who heads China’s big power industry group. Change from the coal-fired energy system will be slow and won’t outpace “the market’s ability to cope.” Read more ..


Inside Saudi Succession

Possible Scenarios for the Succession of the Saudi Throne

November 2nd 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

It is not clear who will succeed King Abdullah upon his death. The picture is complicated by the advanced age and poor health of Saudi Arabia's senior princes and the unpredictable order in which they will die, the lack of knowledge regarding how the remaining sons of Ibn Saud will form a consensus, and the unknown extent to which the newly formed Allegiance Council will have a role. All twenty surviving sons of Ibn Saud are older than sixty-five--past what would be considered normal retirement age in most parts of the world. Of these sons, eight are in their seventies and six are in their eighties.

With an established precedent in the kingdom for age-based seniority, multiple transitions could occur within a short period of time, a state of affairs reminiscent of the last years of the Soviet Union. Whether the system can tolerate the deaths of successive kings at such close intervals is questionable, given the politics involved in deciding on a new crown prince and heir apparent at the same time.

This complicated future can be most simply described by variety of scenarios, some of which overlap.

Scenario 1: Crown Prince Sultan dies before King Abdullah.

Despite official reports that he is in good health, Crown Prince Sultan is widely believed to be mortally ill and unlikely to live beyond the end of the year. If Sultan died before Abdullah, the king would find himself under enormous pressure from his senior brothers to appoint Interior Minister Prince Nayef as crown prince. Theoretically, such a move should be endorsed by the Allegiance Council, but it is far from clear that this would happen. With King Abdullah turning eighty-six this year and Nayef reportedly suffering from leukemia at seventy-six, this new leadership partnership would not last long. If Abdullah were to die next, Nayef would become king. Read more ..


Inside Islam

How Did the Arabs Begin?

October 26th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Just who were the Arabs and how did they begin?

Mesopotamia’s original peoples were an indistinct amalgam of Sumerian, Semitic, Indo-European, and other groups. The Arabs as a group were generally thought to be the scattered people who spoke a similar Semitic language and who, with few exceptions, dwelled stateless in the nearly empty desert far to the south that came to be known as the Arabian Peninsula. By legend and tradition, the Arabs were the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, who roamed the wilderness.

One of the earliest references to Arabs is found in the Old Testament, dating to about 900 BCE, when Chronicles II records that “the Arabs” offered tribute to Israel’s King Solomon. In 853 BCE, King Ahab of Israel sealed an alliance with “Gindibu the Arab,” who provided 1,000 camels, according to an Assyrian inscription. Two very different but related Arab groups arose. The first were the nomadic and colorful Bedouins, roving with their extended families and tending flocks in tow. The second group settled in oases on the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula and along the northern fringes of the Arabian Desert. Bedouins were especially known for adventurous caravans that fearlessly plied the deserts across the Mideast and northern Africa. Everywhere, they established formidable reputations as both traders and raiders. Bedouin travelers interacted with the Hebrews in Israel, the Babylonians in Mesopotamia, the Egyptians, and the Greeks. In fact, the Greeks were among the first to refer in written records to the desert peninsula as “Arabia.”

Proud and passionately independent, even the earliest recorded Arabs despised any attempt to dominate them. One poet wrote, “The worst evil that can befall a people… is that their necks are bent.” As a warning against any attempt to infringe their freedom, Bedouins were fond of ghazu, that is, audacious marauding, killing the men in other settlements, kidnapping their wives, and stealing their animals. Read more ..


Edge of the Road

America's Transportation Bill is Still A Broken Road

October 19th 2009

Transportation Topics - Route66 500px

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower sought to build an interconnected national transportation network bigger than any region or state could possibly construct alone. Recognizing every legislator's desire to deliver funds to local projects, the Bureau of Public Roads shrewdly decided to bind scores of them together in a comprehensive illustrated guide to help sell Eisenhower's vision. Quickly, "The Yellow Book" found its way to the desks of the U.S. Congress, satisfying districts throughout the country while creating an interstate highway system that, according to President Bill Clinton, "did more to bring Americans together than any other law of this century."

Decades later, though, America's surface transportation system—like the funding and policy decisions behind it—desperately lacks any sort of national vision. More than a hundred disparate federal programs constitute a maze through which billions of dollars pass in and out of Washington each year, chaotically making their way back to America's cities and towns. Read more ..


Inside Saudi Succession

Factors Affecting Saudi Succession are a Family Affair

October 12th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

The process by which government decisions are made in Saudi Arabia remains obscure despite continual analysis by diplomats, oil executives, foreign business executives, and others. The more well-informed analysts believe that the number and identity of the princes and nonroyal participants varies, depending on the issue. Important decisions are made by the king alone but usually once he feels a consensus has been reached. (The ulama-the senior Muslin clergy—have a leading role in making religious decisions, but since they depend on the king for their appointments, they are probably reluctant to oppose a royal family consensus. They can dither, however; when the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized in 1979, the ulama reportedly took thirty-six hours to approve the use of military force.)

When consensus remains elusive, decisions are delayed. This was the case in the late 1990s when Crown Prince Abdullah was seeking to involve foreign companies in the development of the kingdom's natural gas resources. The decision was postponed and the proposal eventually dropped after opposition from the petroleum company Saudi Aramco and the Saudi ministry of oil, assumed to be backed by Abdullah's rivals in the royal family. (The exception that proves this rule is said to be Kind Fahd's decision to ask for U.S. military support after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Other senior princes, including then Crown Prince Abdullah, wanted time to consider other options, but they were overruled by Fahd.)

This decision-making process owes its origins to the traditional way decision are made in nomadic Bedouin Arab tribes—the so-called bedoucracy—in which the ruling sheikh consults with the elders of the tribe. The process is not one of equality, but it generally ensures loyalty and acquiescence rather than protest and revolt. Read more ..


The Edge of Lobbying

Thousands of Special Interests Rush in to Influence New Transportation Bill

October 5th 2009

Transportation Topics - Highways

Speaking from a lofty perch not unlike the one he occupies as ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, Florida Representative John Mica looked out upon a sea of familiar faces last month at a suburban Dallas hotel. Mica was addressing the 12th Annual Transportation and Infrastructure Summit.

The conference drew more than 1,100 participants, including many veterans of transportation lobbying wars past and present. Among them: the CEOs of three of America’s freight railroad giants, directors of some of the West’s largest transit agencies, and representatives from engineering giants like Kansas City-based HNTB.

“I’ve had a chance to hear from some of you,” Mica told the luncheon crowd of transportation pros as they picked at a dessert of tiramisu, “but not all of you. … I need your ideas.”
“We don’t know if we can succeed,” he went on. “We know we can’t succeed without you getting involved.”

And with that the legislator pointed a finger back at the transportation lobby — a lobby that spent at least $45 million in Washington in the first half of this year, mostly to “help” Congress craft a new transportation bill. That lobby is composed of almost 1,800 entities of all stripes, and they are employing at least 2,100 lobbyists with intimate knowledge of transportation politics to make their cases.

Over the past two decades, this is the way federal transportation policy has largely been made in America — by a quasi-private club of interest groups and local governments carving out something for everyone, creating a nationwide patchwork of funded bypasses, interchanges, bridges, and rail lines with no overarching philosophy behind it. “Applying patches to our surface transportation system is no longer acceptable,” Read more ..


Confronting the Transfer Agreement

The Transfer Agreement- Why Zionists Made the Deal with the Nazis

September 28th 2009

Book Covers - The Transfer Agreement

On the afternoon of August 7, 1933, at 76 Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, on a day when well-dressed Jews in Germany could not step into the street without fear, when laboring kibbutzniks in Palestine proudly swept the midday perspiration from their foreheads, when anxious German businessmen worried the next telegram would cancel yet another order for increasingly unsellable Reich goods, when Nazi organizers throughout Europe gleefully reviewed statistics on Jewish populations and Jewish assets within their midst, when Polish blackshirts viciously beat Jews in town squares, when ordinary jobless Germans wondered where they could find enough money for the next meal, when young Jewish boys in German schools were forced to stand painfully before their classmates as examples of detestable vermin, when defiant Jews across America and England raised their fists in anger proliferating their punishing anti-German boycott, when Jewish Palestinian exporters wondered nervously whether their biggest customer Germany would retaliate, when thousands of homeless German Jews existed as refugees and some in concentration camps, when the prospects for Jewry in Europe seemed over, on this fateful day in the first summer of the Hitler regime, an official delegation of four German and Palestinian Zionists and one independent Palestinian business man were ushered into an Economics Ministry conference room. The Jews had been authorized by a combine of Jewish and Zionist bodies to negotiate with the Third Reich.

After hours of wrangled debate, Hans Hartenstein, Director of the Reich Office of Currency Control, was about to call the meeting to an inconclusive close when a messenger from Deutsche Reichpost delivered a telegram from the German Consul in Tel Aviv. The telegram advised Hartenstein that a coalition of official and commercial Zionist interests in Palestine was the best way to break the growing Jewish-led worldwide anti-Nazi boycott that was crippling the Hitler regime in its first months. A deal with the Zionists would be necessary.

And so it was done. The Transfer Agreement was created. Read more ..


Iran's Nuke and North Korea's Nukes

Super Bunker-Buster Bombs Fast-Tracked for Possible Use Against Iran and North Korea Nuclear Programs

September 21st 2009

Military - MOP GBU57
GBU 57 A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator

The Pentagon is accelerating by three years plans for a super bunker buster, the GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator or MOP, a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder or more than 20 feet base to nose, weighs 30,000 pounds. Some 18 percent of its total weight is comprised of explosives. Guided by a precision GPS system, the MOP can penetrate an unprecedented 200 feet down before exploding with devastation into an underground bunker, such as those buried in Iran and North Korea currently used to shield rogue nuclear programs. Now Congress has quietly advanced $68 million into the 2009 budget to accelerate the purchase and deployment of ten such super bunker busters making clear they are for possible use against the regimes in Iran or North Korea. Pentagon planners are rushing to beat by months the latest June 2010 deadline for just four such bombs, and have been subsequently directed to increase the number of MOPs to at least ten.

In early July 2009, the Defense Department told a Congressional committee that the MOP was the "weapon of choice" for an “urgent operational need” enunciated by both the U.S. Pacific Command, tasked with North Korea, and the Central Command, tasked with Iran. In doing so, the Pentagon accelerated the program by three years. Read more ..


Inside Saudi Succession

Saudi Sucession--a Desert Legacy

September 14th 2009

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2
King Abdullah

The modern state of Saudi Arabia was founded by King Abdulaziz (Ibn Saud) in 1932. From a Saudi perspective, however, the kingdom is far older – certainly older than the United States – despite occasional interruptions in Saudi rule and even though the Western notion of sovereign independence was not achieved by the Saudis until this century.

As founder of the modern Saudi state, Ibn Saud could trace his forebears to the middle of the fifteenth century, when they arrived in the center of Arabia from the Hasa region to the east. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, his ancestors had become local rulers of an area centered on the settlement of Dariyah, near modern-day Riyadh. The identified patriarch of the family was Saud bin Muhammad, who was succeeded as sheikh (local ruler) upon his death in 1725 by his son Muhammad, who is usually described as the first ruler of the al-Saud dynasty. (King Abdulaziz was given the name Ibn Saud by the British, recalling this ancestor, Muhammad bin Saud, or Ibn Saud)

In 1745, Muhammad bin Saud, who had already achieved a reputation as a tough fighter in defending the local date palm plantations from marauding tribes, gave refuge to a Muslim scholar from a nearby village who had been expelled for preaching an Islamic orthodoxy that criticized local practices. The scholar was Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, and his strict interpretations of Island ("Wahhabism") found favor with Muhammad bin Saud. Read more ..


Terror in America

Facing Homegrown Radicalization

September 7th 2009

Terrorism - American Hezbollah

Last month, Kamal Hassan, a Somali-American living in Minnesota, pled guilty to training and fighting with al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia. In July, two other Somali-Americans in Minnesota pled guilty to similar charges, with the FBI continuing to investigate more than a dozen others who may have traveled from the United States to Somalia. The FBI also recently arrested seven individuals in North Carolina on terrorism-related charges, including one who had spent time in Afghan training camps.

These and other recent events have raised new concerns in the United States about the threat of homegrown radicalization. As U.S. attorney general Eric Holder acknowledged in a July speech, the "whole notion of radicalization is something that did not loom as large a few months ago...as it does now." While the U.S. government has focused primarily on Europe as a source of potential terrorists, Washington should also look to the continent as a model in confronting homegrown radicalization.

A Troubling Phenomenon

During his first major speech in July, White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan provided an overview of the current administration's approach to protecting American citizens from violent extremism and terrorism. Although Brennan emphasized President Barack Obama's new partnership with Muslim communities and the administration's commitment to defeating al-Qaeda's capacities overseas, little was said about homegrown Islamist radicalization. This fundamental issue has long been downplayed by U.S. federal authorities and counterterrorism experts, who believe that Muslims and Arabs are generally better integrated into U.S. society -- as opposed to their counterparts in European society -- and are thus less vulnerable to the al-Qaeda narrative. Read more ..


Petropolitics

Libya under Spotlight as Oil Deal for Lockerbie Bomber Deal Comes to Light

August 31st 2009

Arab Topics - Muammar Qaddafi
Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Qadhafi

Numerous celebrations in Libya have recently marked the fortieth anniversary of the September 1 revolution spearheaded by Muammar Qadhafi. For the Great Leader, these events are an opportunity to demonstrate the achievements of the Jamahiriyya and to further legitimize his rule. At the same time, the release and triumphant reception of terminally ill Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, convicted of murder for the Lockerbie air disaster, as well as the recent crisis in Swiss-Libyan relations, serve as a warning about Libya's leveraging of its hydrocarbon riches to achieve policy goals.

Important also to U.S.-Libyan relations is Qadhafi's upcoming visit to the United States, where he will address the United Nations General Assembly on September 23 -- which Libya is scheduled to chair -- and attend the UN Security Council meeting. This visit is widely expected to have awkward moments -- beginning with Qadhafi's plan to pitch a tent at the Libyan diplomatic compound in Englewood, New Jersey, home state to a number of families of Lockerbie victims. Beyond this, Qadhafi's visit may also have wider-ranging consequences.

Al-Megrahi's Return -- a Libyan Success?

For the United States, al-Megrahi's release and reception were, as President Barack Obama noted, "highly objectionable." For Qadhafi, however, al-Megrahi's release represented a domestic success, demonstrating to Libyans opposed to renewed U.S. ties that although Libya has given up its nuclear weapons programs, it is no puppet of the West. Read more ..


Eugenics in America

Government Death Panels and Mass Murder was Always an Option in 20th Century America's War Against the Weak

August 24th 2009

Book Covers - War Against the Weak

This article is based on the award-winning bestseller War Against the Weak--Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race  (Dialog Press). Buy it here

The summer of 2009 has been rife with misplaced fears about government death panels arising from proposed insurance reform. These fears are not based on anything in the proposed legislation. But government death panels and mass euthanasia were always a public option during the first decades of the twentieth century. This campaign to exterminate all those deemed socially or medically unworthy was not conducted by the worst segments of our society but by the elite of the American establishment. They saw themselves as liberals, progressive, do-gooders—and even utopians— trying to create a more perfect society.

The mission: eliminate the existence of the poor, immigrants, those of mixed parentage, and indeed anyone who did not approximate the blond-haired blue-eyed ideal they idealized. This racial type was termed Nordic, and it was socially deified by a broad movement of esteemed university professors, doctors, legislators, judges and writers. They called themselves eugenicists. This widely accepted extremist movement was virtually created and funded by millions in corporate philanthropy from the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune through a complex of pseudoscientific institutions and population tracking offices at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. From there, leading academics supported by big money lead a termite-like proliferation of eugenics into the laws, social policies and curricula of the nation. During these turbulent decades, eugenics enjoyed the active support of the government, especially the U.S. Department of Agriculture which wanted to breed men the way they bred cattle, and many state and county offices.

Indeed, Eugenics was enacted into law in some 27 states during the first decades of the twentieth century, and then exalted as the law of the land by the U. S. Supreme Court. In a famous 1927 opinion, revered jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes compared social undesirables to bacteria to be wiped out. The sanctioned methods to be used were nothing less than a combination of pseudoscientific raceology, social engineering, ethnic cleansing and abject race law, designed to eliminate millions in an organized fashion. More specifically, the American eugenics movement sought to continually subtract the so-called “bottom tenth” of America. These were to include Blacks, Native Americans, Southern Italians, East Europeans, Jews, Hispanics, the poor, criminals, the intellectually unaccepted, the so-called “shiftless,” and many others. The drive for perfection even included excising the existence of Appalachians with brown hair, frequently rounded up by county officials for confinement. When this effort began in the early twentieth century, some fourteen million Americans were targeted for elimination. Read more ..


Afghanistan on the Edge

Coalition Struggles with Narco-Terror Afghanistan’s Opium Trade

August 17th 2009

Afghan Topics - Afghan Poppy Fields

It is almost decision time again for Coalition forces in Afghanistan. In village after village, men will be plowing their fields in readiness for planting the second annual opium crop in November. The first crop has already been harvested, and the temporary respite from attacks, caused by the Taliban granting furloughs to their fighters to help gather the illicit harvest, will be briefly repeated as many head back to the family farm to broadcast the poppy seed across their fields in scenes reminiscent of medieval European agriculture. The difference, of course, is the presence of hi-tech, unmanned Predator drones flying silently high above the ground, searching for Taliban activity.

Currently, according to DEA estimates, Afghanistan is responsible for production of between eighty-five to ninety percent of the illegal heroin consumed worldwide, with the remainder divided between the so-called Golden Crescent area of northern Burma, Laos and Thailand as well as, increasingly, Colombia. For the time being, Afghanistan remains the mother lode when it comes to illegal opiates. Read more ..


Inside Latin America

Colombian Trade Unions--A Target for Death Squads as American Corporations Prosper

August 10th 2009

Latin American Topics - Colombian Death Squads

Luis Adolfo Cardona worked as a forklift operator at an American-owned bottling company that packages 50,000 cases of Coca-Cola’s famous fizzy beverages a month. On an unassuming morning, Cardona narrowly escaped death when right-wing paramilitary troops attempted to kill him. Unfortunately, not all labor union activists are so lucky.

Isídro Segundo Gil, the gatekeeper and the union’s chief negotiator at another Coca-Cola bottling plant in the small, rural town of Carepa, Colombia, was gunned down by a band of paramilitary insurgents on December 5, 1996. After shooting Gil ten times, the armed men sped away from the premises on motorcycles. Not even a few hours had passed before the militants were back. They attempted to kidnap another union leader, who just barely got away, and then set fire to the union’s offices later that night. The armed group returned a week later. The workers were then gathered in the cafeteria and given an ultimatum—either quit or be killed. Read more ..


Inside Washington

Blue Dogs Cash In

August 3rd 2009

Politics - Blue Dog Coalition

Whether the subject is health care reform, climate change, or pay-as-you-go budgeting rules, almost everyone, it seems, suddenly wants to talk with the Blue Dogs. President Obama’s White House meeting with members of the fiscally conservative Democratic coalition earlier this week is but the latest indication that the Blue Dogs — 52 members strong — have deftly turned themselves into a key voting bloc at the nexus of power. With them, the Democrats do not need a single Republican to back their legislation; without them, the Democratic agenda would be in serious peril. And as their clout has expanded, fundraising has grown accordingly, not just from traditionally Democratic contributors, but from unexpected quarters as well.

The numbers are stunning. Nearly 54 percent of the Blue Dog PAC’s contributions this year have come from three sectors: health care PACs, energy PACs, and financial services PACs. As the Blue Dog Coalition’s clout has grown, their fundraising has mushroomed. In the first half of 2009, their PAC raised over $1.1 million — more than in all of 2003-2004. The Blue Dog PAC’s fundraising his increased in each complete cycle, taking in $2,636,273 in contributions in 2007-2008 (up from $1,239,516 in 2005-2006). Read more ..


Arabs and the West

Original Mideast Peace Plan Recognized Jewish State in Return for Arab Nation in Syria

July 27th 2009

Book Covers - Banking on Baghdad

This article is based on the Banking on Baghdad--Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict (Dialog Press). Buy it here

Every day, politicians and pundits talk of another chance at Mideast peace missed, delayed or subverted. The focus is always on Palestinians and Israelis as the keystone to a global settlement with the West and across the region. But in the original peace arrangement between the Jews, Arabs and the Western powers, it was not settlements and Jerusalem that were at the heart of the problem. In fact, the Arabs originally agreed to a Jewish state complete with massive Jewish immigration. For Arabs, the prize was not Palestine, it was Syria.

This is the story of how the original Middle East Peace Plan crafted among all sides in the aftermath of World War I was subverted—not by Jews or Zionists, but by the French.

It begins at the Paris Peace Conference, on January 1919, in a flag-bedecked, battle-scarred—but victorious—Paris. There, the great top-hatted Allied men of vision and illusion gathered to remake the world and invent the post-Ottoman Middle East. At those fateful meetings, the Arabs and Jews formally agreed to mutually endorse both their national aspirations and live in peace.

This was the deal: The Jews could have an unrestricted Zionist state in Palestine. The British could have Iraq and its fabulous, albeit still undrilled, oil. The Arabs only wanted Syria and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the Arabian Peninsula.

During the first days of the League of Nation’s Paris Peace Conference, Faisal, accompanied by T.E. Lawrence, widely dubbed "Lawrence of Arabia," met in Paris with Zionist Organization president Chaim Weizmann. Following up on meetings the two leaders had held the previous June in Aqaba, Faisal signed an enlightened and tolerant nine-point agreement endorsing the Balfour Declaration and inviting the Zionists to coexist in Palestine. The text includes great specificity about mutual national aspirations. But the chief goal of the Arabs for an Arab national state at that time was not Palestine—but Syria. The text: Read more ..


Edge on Homeland Security

Eighty Congressional Committees Now Oversee Tangled Homeland Security Mess

July 20th 2009

Politics - Capitol Building at night

Tom Ridge, the Department of Homeland Security’s first secretary, testified before the 9/11 Commission on a May morning in 2004. Ridge spoke before a hall packed with emotional New Yorkers, about two miles from the site of the World Trade Center. His subject, however, was Washington.

When Commissioner Tim Roemer asked for suggestions on improving DHS, Ridge brought up an institution in which both he and Roemer had served: Congress. It would be helpful, Ridge said, if Congress took a look at the number of committees that had power over DHS.

"I think we could be even more effective in what we’re doing," he began, "if there was some means of reducing, frankly, the multiple layers of interaction that we encounter every single day."

"Well, sir, you’re very polite about it," Roemer responded. "It is absolutely absurd that Congress would require you to report to 88 different subcommittees and committees when we’re supposed to be fighting al-Qaeda."

Five years ago, the 9/11 Commission, a congressionally mandated panel investigating al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks, made 41 recommendations on such topics as improving screening at airports and creating a director of national intelligence. Commissioners say Congress and the executive branch have enacted 80 to 90 percent of their suggestions. The recommendation that Congress "create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security" is a notable exception. Read more ..


America and Iran

U.S.-Iranian Military Clashes in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s - The Inside Story

July 13th 2009

Energy Topics - Burning Oil Platform

In the 1980s, the United States faced significant security challenges in the Persian Gulf. The Islamic Revolution in Iran had replaced Washington’s ally, the Shah, with a decidedly hostile regime in Tehran. In September 1980, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein seized upon the chaos in Iran by sending Iraqi forces to capture the oil resources located across the border in southern Iran.

However, Iran fended off the assault and drove Saddam’s forces back into Iraq, where the fighting bogged down. Despite repeated offensives costing hundreds of thousands of lives, the Iranians were unable to defeat Iraq, and the war stalemated into a bloody struggle, eerily reminiscent of the First World War.

Fearing an Iranian victory and the export of its Shiite  revolution to Iraq, the pro-Western Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—provided Iraq with US$25–$65 billion in assistance. Kuwait allowed weapons destined for Iraq to transit its ports; in one week alone, ships arrived at Kuwaiti harbors delivering nearly a brigade’s worth of T-72 tanks. In 1984, the Iran-Iraq War spilled into the Persian Gulf: In an attempt to force Iran to accept a ceasefire, Iraq initiated the so called Tanker War by attacking Iranian oil tankers.  Iran responded by attacking ships destined for Iraq’s financial supporters, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Inside NYPD's Counterterrorism Operations

July 6th 2009

Crime Topics - NY Cops

The NYPD has a highly developed counterterrorism program, due in large part to the strong support of city and department leaders such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who are both committed to having a strong counterterrorism program that effectively complements federal efforts. Our department is by far the largest police department in the country. While most police departments have only a few hundred employees, the NYPD has 53,000 men and women plus an operating budget of $4 billion. In addition, the city currently has a very low crime rate. All of these factors make it relatively easy for the NYPD to devote significant resources to counterterrorism.

To say that the NYPD is filling in the gaps in federal counterterrorism efforts is not a criticism of the federal government, which is very good at acquiring information on individuals connected to overseas terrorist organizations. Rather, our department has something the federal government lacks: plenary police power, which gives the department a broad ability to maintain public order, and a unique and important role in overall counterterrorism efforts. The NYPD counterterrorism bureau comprises several main elements. Read more ..


Financing Terrorism

Terrorism and Tobacco--How Cigarette Smuggling Finances Jihad and Insurgency Worldwide

June 29th 2009

Palestine Topics - Gaza Tunnel Smuggler

For centuries, blue-turbaned nomadic Tuareg tribesmen have led caravans of camels across the expanses of the Sahara. Laden with millet and cloth from Africa’s West Coast, the caravans traveled unmarked paths to trade for salt and dates in Timbuktu, across the sand plains of Niger, and into the mountain oasis of the Algerian south.

Smugglers take the same routes today — driving SUVs along paved roads or with guidance from the Tuareg and satellite phones — to move weapons, drugs, and, increasingly, humans — through the Sahara for transport across the Mediterranean Sea. The paths are no longer known as the Salt Roads of the Tuareg, but as the “Marlboro Connection,” named after the most lucrative contraband along this 2,000-mile corridor.

Among those who control this underground trade is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an Algeria-based terrorist organization widely believed to have been backed by Osama Bin Laden. Descended from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French acronym, GSPC) the group has hundreds of members and is blamed for a bloody campaign of bombings, murders, and kidnappings across North Africa and Europe. The lead smuggler, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, 37, is blamed for the 2003 kidnappings of 32 European tourists and the 2006 murder of 13 Algerian customs officials. “They are a significant threat,” says Lorenzo Vidino, author of Al Qaeda in Europe. “Of all Islamic terrorist groups, they have the most extensive and sophisticated network in Europe… And among their activities, smuggling is particularly important.” Read more ..


North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Missile Threat Against Hawaii and Alaska Has Been Expected for Ten Years—Iran Regime a Full Partner

June 22nd 2009

Korea Topics - Gates Inspecting Missile
Defense Sec. Gates Inspects Alaska Silos

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

In a frantic race with high winds, bone-chilling ice storms and rattled political nerves, the American defense establishment has been rushing to meet the threat now faced by Hawaii, Guam, Alaska and possibly the West Coast of the United States mainland—an advanced North Korean Taepodong-2 missile. The now-contested regime of Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a full partner in the development.

Bellicose and prone to tantrums, North Korea’s bizarre strong man Kim Jong-Il has ordered a missile test of the new advanced Taepodong-2 missile, apparently in the direction of U.S. territory. Hawaii, Guam and Alaska are in the crosshairs. The defense establishment is convinced the decisive moment will once again come provocatively on America’s national holiday, July 4. This moment has been coming for more than a decade, and the Pentagon, North Korea and Iran have been preparing for it.

Alarm first sounded in 1999 when American defense officials realized that the Taepodong 1 missile, which doubled as an Iranian Shabab, was just the first phase of a decade-plus program by North Korea and Iran to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Named for the Taepodong village where it is developed, the long-range Tae-pondong-1 was capable of 2,000 km, enough to threaten its neighbors. But the new Taepodong-2 could achieve double that range, more than 4,000 km—most of the way to Hawaii—and was, therefore, approaching the status of ICBM. With the right wind conditions, this newer missile when further developed could reach the outer territories of the United States. If armed with a reduced-weight payload, and favorable weather conditions, a properly guided TD-2 could reach the United States, perhaps far inland, American defense planners feared. Read more ..



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