Archive for April, 2014

Gaza Militants Fire Rockets

Source: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Source: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Seven rockets were fired Monday morning from the Gaza Strip, landing in southern Israel. The fired rockets prompted Israeli airstrikes that hit a Hamas training site. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, two Hamas security officers were injured by one of the Israeli airstrikes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated Monday evening, “Our policy is clear — to respond immediately and with force. We harm whoever comes to harm us. That is how we have acted and how we will continue to act.”

With this attack, I don’t have a doubt that Israel will use this against the Palestinians if the peace talks continue, which I also doubt will ever be successful. Palestine is split into two, there is no way of resolving the conflict if Hamas is not taken into consideration. I understand they are a terrorist group, nonetheless, they represent half of the Palestinians.

– Fatima

Source: The New York Times

US demands Russia follow International Accord

The United States has demanded that Russia abide by the International Accord that pro-Russian forces leave occupied buildings in Eastern Ukraine. This statement comes as Vice-President Biden visits Ukraine in an effort to consolidate western support for the current government. While this is an important visit for the Ukrainians, it does not really affect the Russians or pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. This is another empty statement by the US and its allies that shows how little the West actually cares about Ukraine. The administration should stop making empty threats.

Joshua

http://www.sunherald.com/2014/04/21/5511326/us-russia-has-days-not-weeks-to.html

Nonlethal Military Aid…Agaaaain?

Article – Yes boys and girls it’s that time again. Time for the U.S. to send more nonlethal military aid to a conflict that we have nothing to do with.

At least that’s what Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Phillip A. Karber, former NATO commander have advised the U.S. do in Ukraine in a recent report. The issue of nonlethal military aid is a bit controversial with our continuing use of it in the Syrian civil war. But that is controversial only because we are essentially choosing sides in a civil war that we have no role in. It wouldn’t be controversial if we were sending it to an ally who has been attacked and who’s military is undermanned against a stronger force, and who has lost some of it’s territory to a surprise attack…oh. That is the situation in Ukraine, but we have been holding back nonlethal military aid. The stakes seem to be different if you are opposed to a dictator like Bashir Al Assad who has used chemical weapons to kill his own people, than Russia. A nuclear armed state with a massive military who can roll over Ukraine by the time dawn turns to dusk.

I don’t see the U.S. kicking this into high gear, we seem to be on the diplomatic path, and I couldn’t agree more with that strategy choice.

-David

Cardinal McCarrick Promotes Pace in the Central African Republic

Cardinal_Theodore_E_McCarrick_CAR-255x255

 

Cardinal McCarrick met with key religious leaders such as Imam Mohamed Magid of the Islamic Society of North America, and Pastor Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals as part of a US State Department delegation to religious leaders in the country. While the trip only lasted one day, as the threat to the leaders security was high, they met with several citizens and religious leaders within the community of the capital city, Bangui. Two great things came from this short excursion to the CAR. This was a multilateral approach to the predominantly religious conflict in the CAR and this was also a US led operation. The second thing to take note of, is that much of the country is tired of the constant fighting and killing that has been on the rise since last September. As each religious leader talked amongst their fellow followers they uncovered that both Christians and Muslims are becoming more open to moving away from vengeance and towards a peaceful resolution. Cardinal McCarrick stated that different religions  found peace with each other in the US and how that should be an example for the CAR to follow. I believe that with the aid of religious and humanitarian leaders combined with the continuing efforts of the peacekeeping force there is still a possibility that the CAR can heal from its near genocidal exposure. After peace is made at the ethnic level and the people of CAR see themselves as well as their neighbors as citizens of the CAR, the nation can be on its way to future development and stability.

-Scott McPeek

Link: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-mccarrick-promotes-peace-during-visit-to-central-african-republic/
 

Extortion funds militants in northern Iraq

This NPR article tells a very interesting story of a phenomenon currently afflicting Iraq an Syria. Militants have been threatening small business owners and requiring they pay protection fees in order to preserve their own livelihood. These practices have made ISIS a top payer in te region, funding the group well enough to maintain it as a major player.

This issue shows groups like ISIS for what they truly are, gangsters. However, it is so effective that this has undermined authority in the region. If Iraqi securiTy forces and the government cannot reign in this kind of practice they will not be able to legitimize themselves in the eyes of northern Iraqi citizens. This will be instrumental in pacifying the population and could be used as a ttool for winning over the population.

 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/04/21/304542370/for-extremists-in-syria-extortion-brings-piles-of-cash-from-iraq

U.S. Drones Kill 55 Al-Qaeda Members in Yemen

In an “unprecedented” joint aerial campaign with the U.S., a al-Qaeda training camp was targeted in the south of Yemen. The operation ran from this past Sunday (4/20) into today Monday (4/21) and targeted a “sprawling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) training camp in the rugged mountains of Mahfad between Abyan, Shabwa and al-Bayda provinces”. The first initial missile strike was aimed at a vehicle near the Shabwa province carrying three men and was confirmed as a direct hit and killed all three targets. Shortly after, US drones targeted the training camp and killed the remaining 52 in multiple strikes with the help of Yemeni MiG- 29 fighter jets. The successful operation also resulted in killing 3 senior al-Qaeda members.

While successful in their operation, senior officials and the U.S. government consider Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch , AQAP, to be the most active branch in the world and is responsible for multiple failed plots against the U.S. and has recently stated in a video that they will attack any and all Western “crusaders” wherever they are. Personally, I think it is great that 55 al-Qaeda members were killed in a successful joint aerial campaign. The destruction of a major AQAP training camp will dampen their short term abilities to train new recruits and decrease their morale overall. Strikes like these will not win the war on terrorism, but slowly destroying their camps and bases of operations/ leaders will certainly slow if not shortly halt their operations or destroy them all together. This is definitely a win for the United States.

Al Jazeera

-Andrew C.

More on North Korean (lack of) Human Rights

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/17/us-northkorea-un-idUSBREA3G2DC20140417

A few weeks ago I posted about the letter sent to N. Korea from the inquiry that was done as to the horrendous human rights. China shrugged it off and Kim Jong-un said it was completely fabricated. Well this article points out that the UN inquiry chief wants North Korean officials tried in the ICC. Since N. Korea isn’t a part of the ICC, however, it can only be tried if the UNSC authorizes the action.

We all know that this isn’t going to happen though. China will most likely veto the motion and after the recent move by Russia (they agreed to slash 90% of North Korea’s debt…but thats a whole other blog post) they may veto the move as well. Unfortunately I don’t see the situation in North Korea improving anytime soon.

-Josiah

Saudi military spending

There’s a lot of buzz from the media on the SIPRI statistic on Saudi Arabian defense spending from last week:

Saudi Arabia’s spending rose by 14% from 2012 to 2013, and is at $67 billion USD

Saudi Arabia has become the world’s fourth largest military spender. Regionally, the Middle East increased military spending by four percent in 2013, reaching an estimated $150 billion. The National reports that this statistic is likely to be higher than estimated, as there is no available data for the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Qatar, Syria, and Yemen. Sam Perlo-Freeman, director of SIPRI’s military expenditure program, said the missing data meant the estimated Middle East military spending was “highly uncertain”. The biggest increase in spending from this region is from Iraq, with a 27 percent increase in military spending .

Saudi military spending has more than doubled in 10 years, says the SIPRI report. Perlo-Freeman explained world increasing, saying that  “while in some cases it is the natural result of economic growth or a response to genuine security needs, in other cases it represents a squandering of natural resource revenues, the dominance of autocratic regimes, or emerging regional arms races.” SIPRI suggested that the increases are not only due to tensions with Iran, but to deter internal opposition and maintain a strong and loyal military. While the United States has traditionally defended sea-lanes around the Arabian Sea, it is possible that the Saudis are worried about the U.S. ‘pivot to Asia’ (elsewhere in Asia…), and are investing in their own military to protect Saudi oil trade. Under Russia, Saudi Arabia is the second highest oil producing country in the world.

Mustafa Alani, Director of Security and Defense Studies at the Gulf Research Centre said that Saudi Arabia wants to update its weaponry, saying that “Saudi Arabia’s current military hardware is about 20 years old and the regional threats are increasing, ” and “There is an unstable Iraq in the north, an unstable Yemen in the south and Iranian hegemony and intimidation.”

-B.F.

Iran claims to produce less plutonium to ease Western worries.

The  Iranian government announced that they will redesign the Arak water reactor to produce less plutonium for their “peaceful” nuclear program. According to the article the Arak reactor will produce one fifth of the initial planned plutonium production that the reactor was built to produce. Iran hopes that this action will ease the economic sanctions placed on them and decrease tensions between Iran and other world powers. Personally I still believe Iran will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons and even thought they will be producing less plutonium, they will still be producing radioactive material. The only action the United States and other world powers should reduce the sanctions against Iran should be when Iran offers to completely shut down their nuclear programs, anything else should not be acceptable.

-Andy SG

http://www.chron.com/news/world/article/Iran-vice-president-says-row-over-reactor-resolved-5414911.php

Elections Continue

As the votes continue to be counted after Afghanistan’s recent presidential election, it is becoming more and more apparent that candidate Abdullah Abdullah may have won the race.  He now has 44% of the vote with about half of all the votes that have been counted so far.  Abdullah’s victory is not certain however and if he does not acquire a majority, runoff elections will take place in late May.  This could pose a security threat to Afghanistan as it gives the Taliban another opportunity to attack the country’s new democracy.  Taliban attacks were relatively light during this most recent round of elections but warmer weather at the height of the fighting season may allow them more action if more elections were to occur in May.  As these elections drag on, the commission in charge of regulating the election has expressed growing concerns that fraud may be an issue.  The electoral commission said however, that it would still be weeks before they could rule on the issue.  This situation is indicative of part of what is wrong with Afghanistan.  A central government that is so ineffectual that it cannot conduct a swift clean election does not have much potential to rule competently.

Christian

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27096373

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