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Iran Arrests Mossad Suspects

According to an article posted on Al-Jazeera English’s website, Iran claims to have detained ten suspects allegedly connected to Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, by infiltrating the agency.  A year ago, a scientist, lacking prominence politically with no clear or apparent (public) links to Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated.  Iran has blamed Mossad for his death and one of the ten espionage suspects has come forth on Iranian television to confess to the killing.  Iranian officials also showcased alleged identification cards and weapons found on the arrested suspects.  Iran has long suspected what it calls a “Zionist” infiltration of its country and showcases a firm belief that Israel’s spy agency has an enduring presence.

The evidence has not been sufficiently presented enough to make an educated evaluation of the incident.  Mossad has a reputation for its sometimes unorthodox methods but the accusations stem from a government with a deep hatred already for the Israeli state and who also despises its very existence.  Without reliable intelligence, however, the culprit and motivations for the assassination of the physicist are still anyone’s guess.  Why was this physicist targeted specifically if he had little or nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program (allegedly)?  What is the evidence that make the ten arrested people suspects?  Iran also accuses Israeli and American spy agencies of being involved in the assassination of two of its nuclear scientists in November.

A starting point for the answers to the multitude of questions revolving around the uncertainty of these events rests on the truth of whether or not Iran’s nuclear program involves the manufacturing of weapons.  If the Iranian nuclear program includes the secret production of nuclear weapons, then the probability of a United States or Israeli involvement in the targeting of nuclear scientists increases drastically.   Israel and the United states view Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to national security in the region.


China’s Economic Muscle

Before his widely publicized state visit to the United States-one characterized by political, economic, military, and human rights criticism-Chinese President Hu Jintao provided two American newspapers with a polemical remark: the US-dominated international currency system is a “product of the past”. His remark has added to the ever-growing criticism of the US’s current monetary, and its major impacts and implications around the globe. Regardless of some modest growth in its economy, the US economic position still remains precarious–one of critical national security importance according to Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Before any one reaches for the economic alarm, it’s important to take into consideration the massive transition China’s yuan–or renminbi (RMB)–would be required to undertake to become the foundation for the international currency system. As President Hu as mentioned himself, the transition would necessarily be a “fairly long process”.

But how long is…long? A decade? Two, three decades? Lets bring this into focus with China’s current state-led strategy.

The present political system in China remains firmly under the Party’s control, and this includes economic policy-making. However, if what President Hu has proposed–a yuan-based international currency system–the Chinese state must allow international investors and financial institutions the freedom, yes FREEDOM, to acquire large amounts of yuans with limited state interference. Until the Chinese state can make the necessary economic reforms, Mr. Hu’s dreams may be short-lived.

All of this is to say that while the US’s present economic situation is of critical national security importance, and China’s economic threats worrisome, we are still decades away from a yuan dominated system. However this does not change that fact that the US must remain acutely aware to improve its economy and debt-standing in the world. US security and economic power are inextricably linked, and a decades looming Chinese threat cannot be minimized.

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U.S. puppet of Pakistan in Afghanistan effort?

Joe Biden stated that U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan possibly later than 2014 if the Afghan people “want it.” The U.S. has rarely taken the Afghan people into account when pursuing new policies, and Hughes argues that it is unlikely that the U.S. will consider them in the future. Instead, American domestic politics and corrupt men in power in Afghanistan and Pakistan will control the withdrawal date of U.S. forces. Politicians in Afghanistan and Pakistan discourage withdrawal as they are benefiting financially from American occupation. Because U.S. economic aid to these countries is tied to security objectives, ensuring instability is in Pakistan’s best interests as it depends upon U.S. economic aid for survival. Financial involvement with Pakistan blinds the U.S. to the fact that its financial investments fail to produce military progress.
The U.S. continues to use its alliance with Pakistan, particularly its relationship with the ISI, to negotiate talks with the Afghan government and the Taliban. The U.S. continues to support Pakistan’s role as a mediator as it ensures American involvement in negotiations. However, Pakistan is using its position of power in an attempt to influence politics in Kabul by creating a joint government under Karzai and the Haqqani network.
The U.S. allows Pakistan to play a dominant role as it hopes that it will speed up the process of creating the regional stability that could put Obama in office for a second term. However, the U.S. is entering into engagements that could unleash even greater instability in the region. Not only is the U.S. neglecting the wishes of the Afghan people by giving the Haqqani network political access to Kabul, which could lead to civil war, but also it is willing to put its relationship with India at risk by sharing intelligence with Pakistan about India’s activities in Afghanistan.

“A Transactional Relationship”

Vice President Joe Biden met with numerous leaders in Pakistan last week. The stated goal of the visit was to broaden and reinforce the importance of the relationship between the two nations, but the immediate goal of the visit has an impending deadline.

Winters in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan are relatively quiet, with the extreme weather hindering major military operations. Last Fall, U.S. forces were able to push the Taliban into the tribal areas of Northern Pakistan. In an attempt to hinder the inevitable return of the Taliban and intense conflict coming in the Spring, the United States is pushing for a Pakistani military offensive against the insurgency.

This exchange underscores the political struggle that defines the Pakistan-U.S. relationship. The reality of the situation is coupled with the pervasive rumors of American military operations taking place in Pakistan. These rumors have been vehemently denied by both Pakistani and American officials, yet it has become increasingly clear that Special Operations Forces are conducting operations against the Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan. All of this indicates the relationship between the two nations is more complex then what is presented through official channels.

The coming year may be crucial for Pakistan-U.S. relations. As the United States continues to escalate operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan becomes embroiled in deep internal conflict, how these factors play out will determine the success of the growing relationship.

Further Reading

Iraqi soldier guns down U.S. troops


According to BBC news reports, an Iraqi soldier killed two American troops during a training session in the al-Ghazlani training camp in Iraq. The Iraqi soldier was said to have, randomly open fired during a training exercise that was in preparation for a final drill, in the upcoming week, where the results of the U.S. training the Iraqi forces would be displayed to U.S. and Iraqi generals. The U.S. military hasn’t detailed the exact circumstances of this particular event and the motive still remains unknown.
Attacks by Iraqi soldiers against U.S. soldiers are not uncommon in northern Iraq, but it is extremely rare. Despite the infrequency of such events with still about 50.00 troops in Iraq, the safety and security of American troops abroad is a point to be noted. Their presence in Iraq ensures the security of the American people, but events like this shed further light on the fact that their own safety is threatened in protecting ours.

Obama and Military Spending: Provisions making it harder to close Guantanamo?

Obama recently signed a defense spending bill into law earlier this month. This bill authorized all the funding for military activities for the 2011 fiscal year. Obama declared that two provisions of the military funding bill greatly challenged the powers of the executive branch. The first provision bars the use of funds to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay into the United States. Obama stated that this provision greatly challenged the executive branch’s authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees. The second provision that Obama objected to was one that barred the use of funds to transfer detainees to the custody or control of other foreign countries unless certain conditions were met. In response to this provision, Obama stated that the provision may “hinder the conduct of delicate negotiations with foreign countries and therefore the effort to conclude detainee transfers in accord with our national security.”

Obama stated that the only reason he signed the bill was because he recognized the importance of funding military activities and the security of the United States . He did however affirm that his administration would work closely with Congress to attempt to repeal the previously mentioned provisions.

Personally, I agree with Obama’s decision to sign the military appropriations bill into law. Though I do not agree with the activities and methods taking place at Guantanamo Bay, I am a realist at heart. I do believe that our country’s defense and security is paramount. I admire his decision to work to repeal these troublesome provisions found in the bill, but I am skeptical that he will be able to repeal them (at least not any time soon).

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions a “short-cut to their demise”

In a Washington Post article, South Korean nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo says he believes North Korea “will come to the point where they can no longer sustain the burden of military expenditures.” With limited natural resources, poor ties to wealthy nations, an overbearing governmental influence on the economy, and a nuclear program that drains a large portion of the government’s coffers, the South Korean government believes that North Korea could eventually collapse under the weight of its desire for a first-world military and nuclear arsenal with the economy closer to that of the developing world.

This creates an interesting situation for the rest of the world. On one hand, economic collapse would be devastating for the North Korean people, but any aid to prevent such a collapse would be controlled by the North Korean government , meaning it would probably be funneled into the military sector and would do no real help for the Korean people.  With such irrational leadership, it would be difficult to make them change their minds on military expenditures, even if they were to acknowledge imminent economic collapse.  Until the North Korean government backs off on military development and buildup, the rest of the world should continue on their present courses for dealing with North Korea.  A radical nation with nuclear capabilities is much less preferable than a failed economy in such a poor country.

The Drug War Moves South

The violence resulting from the drug war in Mexico has killed just over 34,600 in the four years since President Calderon declared an official “War on Drugs.”  The situation in Mexico is a key priority on the US foreign policy agenda, in part because the drug-related violence from our southern neighbor has trickled over the border causing episodes of violece from California to New York.  Much of the horror of the war has been concentrated in the northern regions of Mexico and the Pacific coast so cartels can have better control of key land transit routes and coastal ports.  However, recent developments reveal a strong and growing presence of Mexican drug cartels in the southern regions of the country.  The Zetas reign this territory almost unchallenged.  This cartel is unique in that it has no geographic concentration, so they operate like franchises, sending a member to an area they want to control.  They then recruit local criminals and instill a fear in the people so they will obey.  The Zetas have established criminal networks that now stretch into Guatemala to control Central American transit routes for drugs, migrants, and contraband.  They have made hundreds of millions of dollars from goods coming through Guatemala.  Their violence has also spread across the border into northern Guatemala, and many migrants have been targeted in the violence.  The Zetas were blamed for the death of 72 migrants this past summer, and just last month they were accused again in the disappearance of 40 more migrants.

This expansion of the drug war into the south of Mexico has serious ramifications.  The violence has now spread across mexican borders, north and south.  The drug war is no longer solely a problem for the Mexican government and people because the drug cartels have a strong influence in mulitple countries.  It stretches from the origins of the drugs in South America to the consumer market in the US and even in Europe.  Thus, the cartels have formed a global network that generates huge sums of money that keeps them in control.


Jailbreak in Iraq

Iraqi authorities are now in pursuit of 12 militants who escaped from prison, in the southern region of the country known as Basra. The prison was an old compound used by Saddam Hussein. The men obtained police uniforms, and wore them to walk out the front door, unquestioned and unobstructed. All of the prison guards in the complex have been arrested, as it is obvious some of them aided the escape of the prisoners.

The militants, whom are members of the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq, whose goal is to establish a caliphate in Sunni-dominated regions of Iraq. The group is affiliated with al-Qaeda, which has provided training and funding to the group. The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for numerous bombings through out Iraq, especially in Baghdad, causing massive devastation in the area.

Half of the militants had confessed to being involved with bombings in the Southern Region of Iraq near Basra. This jailbreak puts numerous militants back on the battlefields, meaning more bombings and firefights could break out no only in pursuit of these men, but also in their new freedom, they can now continue to wreak havoc in the region. They already posed a massive threat to security prior to their arrests; now they have extra motivation and one can only wonder what they will be capable of, especially because of their links to al-Qaeda, after escaping prison.

Israeli Style Airport Security in US airports??

Fox news reported on a story about Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s visit to Ben Gurion airport in Israel. The purpose of this visit was to discuss possible changes to US airport security. On her visit, Napolitano toured Ben Gurion airport to observe the current security measures used there. Instead of extensive full body scanners, like those found in the United States, Israel uses manpower rather than machines. What Israel uses is “behavioral profiling of travelers.” Many of those interviewed in the article spoke of how they remember being asked various questions about why they were in Israel or whether they purchased “gifts” while in the country. Israel has found that profiling passengers works better than having the extensive security measures the United States uses.

While Napolitano was impressed by the Israeli airport security, she is convinced it would not be as successful in United States airports. For one, she says, Israel has one major airport, whereas the United States has almost 400 major airports that shuffle millions of passengers in and out on a daily basis. It is easier for Israel to use security methods such as behavioral profiling because with only one airport, the means of security can be more focused. In recent news, Americans have shown their annoyance and dislike of the new full body scanners and “pat downs” along with other new security measures. They say it is an invasion of privacy and see other countries’ methods of security as being better. Napolitano, along with other politicians, believe that the United States’ current security methods are the best fit for the country right now but they do plan to partner with other countries to continue to better American security as the threat of terrorism changes constantly.

While the Israeli security style seems to have worked so far, I do not think it would be effective in the United States. For one, there are too many airports and too many people. It would take an extremely large amount of manpower to use the “behavioral profiling” process. Then, you would have to train people to become profilers, which is more money and time that should not be wasted. Yes, the new airport security scanners and “pat downs” may be something that some see as an invasion of privacy, but it keeps Americans safe. If someone has nothing to hide, then they should not be concerned. In a world where terrorists place bombs in their shoes or hide it in their underwear, I do not think that we as a nation can take anything for granted. Full measures of security are taken to keep Americans safe. As someone who flies at least 8 times a year, I am not concerned with the current US security measures in airports. Personally, I feel safer at the airports, now that I know more people are being thoroughly scanned. I do think it is important for Homeland security to continue looking to other countries for new ways to secure airports and I guess it stands true that you can never be too prepared or too careful.

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