Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Black Market Peso Exchange highlights difficulty in tracing Cartel cash

The Black Market Peso Exchange is a comprehensive money laundering machine, taking advantage of international financial transfers and transnational corporations, whether real or shells, to repatriate huge amounts of cash from drug sales in the US to Colombia, and more recently to Mexico.
“The Black Market Peso Exchange is perhaps the largest, most insidious money laundering system in the Western Hemisphere,” says Raymond Kelly, Commissioner of the US Customs Service. “It’s the ultimate nexus between crime and commerce, using global trade to mask global money laundering.”

The BMPE enables profits from drug sales in the US to be exchanged for pesos in the nation of choice, via an elaborate system of banks, shell corporations, legitimate businesses and cambrios, or cash exchanges.

Drug profits pose an interesting security threat. What can drug kingpins do with stacks and stacks of US currency? Almost anything. Even given the healthy cut that a BMPE broker will take from repatriation of funds, successfully laundered drug profits can be used to intimidate, bribe or kill judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and politicians nearly anywhere else in the world.

Drug profits also pose an interesting economic question. If you are a Mexican businessman, who wants to buy a shipment of American made goods, wouldn’t it be worth your while to talk to your local BMPE broker to negotiate a possible discount? You would designate the American made goods that you want, whether those goods are guns or dishwashers, pickup trucks or stereos doesn’t matter, and have a US BMPE broker purchase the goods in the US with cash, and have them delivered at a healthy discount, as much as 20% off wholesale, in exchange for purchasing them in local, clean pesos. Dirty money gets distributed into durable goods, and clean pesos get picked up and returned to the hangs of drug traffickers.

Simple, effective, and without any real chance of being stopped. Dangerous and profitable. At least it boosts US exports.
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Rising Strife Threatens Tenuous Iraqi Stability

After U.S. troops have pulled out of Iraq there has been problems with keeping the Iraqi parliament united.  Violence and instability have been spreading across the state as Sunni’s and Shiites are warring for control.  The American forces believed that if they pulled out now that Iraqi forces would be able to control the situation in a peaceful manner.  The opposite has actually happened as the country has been acting very unstable, and not representing the peoples needs.  Their is a genuine fear that the Shiite militias will take over the cities again without an American presence being around.  Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken an aggressive stance by arresting several Sunni politicians in the last several weeks.  This crises could not have come at a worse time for the Iraqi people, who believed that finally they had a government that represented them and the social, economic, and religious rights that America had overlooked.

Sunni politicians have boycotted parliament and have even been talking about breaking away from the central government.  Prime Minister Nuri tried to curtail these threats by making one of his own, that he would release information that would connect politicians to terrorist plots.  With all of this pandomonium, Iraq’s stability has gained international attention.  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip had called and asked that officials try to get along peacefully as other nations also are at stake for Iraq’s well being.  There has also been hype that Iran has been pulling some of the strings behind the scenes in Iraq and Southern Lebanon.  Sunnis and Shiites have asked Prime Minister Maliki to reprimand them as well.

– Ben

EU Oil Embargo Against Iran Likely to be Successful?

The international community is taking progressively severe actions against Iran’s nuclear program. This time turning towards “unprecedented” economic sanctions, the European Union (EU), backed by Germany and France, has recently decided to place an oil embargo on Iran, as well as freezing Iran’s assets within its central bank in the EU. The U.S. has already taken economic measures against the country, as well as promoting other countries, such as Japan and South Korea to find alternative oil supplies. They cite the possibility of Iran’s presence in the area as a nuclear power a threat to the region as well as the Israeli state. Iran’s nuclear transparency has been questioned more so recently. Thought the country allowed inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the EU’s nuclear watchdog, to visit nuclear cites last August, Iran hasn’t met other international requests for openness and accountability and continues its uranium enrichment programs.

Nuclear Weapons provide security by creating deterrence from other states. One state having nuclear weapons over the other inevitably gives that state a degree of dominance. Iran has in the past shown weariness to U.S. nuclear compatibilities, especially with the U.S.’s presence in the region. National regimes such as the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have failed to coerce many states to get on board, for example Israel and Pakistan, due to issues of security. Though the EU and the United States see Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons as a threat, Iran may see other states’ possession of nuclear weapons within the region, such as Israel, as a strong threat against its own security.

Will the oil embargo and sanctions change Iran’s policy? It may or may not. Iran may see developing a nuclear program as worth suffering the consequences of economic sanctions. Although around 20% of Iran’s oil exports are bought by EU countries, China, Iran’s biggest trading partner, will likely continue economic support towards Iran and will not impose sanctions. Some have proposed using a policy of carrots and sticks. The sticks have already been imposed through sanctions, but bargaining tools could also be used to create a deal in which Western powers promise to relieve pressure for Iranian regime change if they make efforts to cease their nuclear efforts. This may be a difficult policy however to pursue, due to domestic and political factors. Whichever policy used however, whether continuing to just push economic sanctions or offering deals with Iran, the EU’s IAEA and the US will no doubt continue to monitor Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

-Anna D.

Al-Qaeda’s influence is spreading to the Arabian Peninsula

This article discusses the rising threat of al-Qaeda in Arab Peninsula, and specifically in Yemen. Even since the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a major leader of the al-Qaeda movement in Yemen, al-Qaeda’s presence seems to being continually growing. Like much of the rest of the Arab world, Yemen has experience a series of protests over the last year. In November, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement stating that power would be transferring to the Vice President. However, Saleh has only partially followed through on that agreement and still maintains much of the power. It is also expected that the elections slated for next month will be indefinitely postponed. With the lack in leadership in Yemen, al-Qaeda forces are becoming increasingly prominent. They have largely been chased from their previous bases across the Middle East and it appears as if al-Qaeda is looking to create a stronghold in the Arabian Peninsula, especially in vulnerable countries such as Yemen.


The fact that al-Qaeda is moving their location to Yemen and other Gulf states means that the United States needs to be constantly reevaluating their strategy for dealing with al-Qaeda. If it is the United States’ goal to destroy al-Qaeda, then we need to weary that we are not simply chasing them to newfound safe havens all over the world. The United States also needs to be aware that political instability in Yemen could open (it arguably already has) the door to al-Qaeda insurgents relocating to Yemen. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a message stating that the United States supports the elections that are scheduled for next month. If those elections don’t occur, or they are not considered “ free and fair”, then the United States may want to consider altering their strategy so that al-Qaeda does not gain further influence in Yemen by taking advantage of its unstable position.


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How Far Will an Intelligence Agency go to Secure America?

Accused war criminal Taylor ‘worked with CIA’

US intelligence officials have recently admitted to working with accused war criminal former Liberian President Charles Taylor. This is the man responsible for the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s. He provided RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, in addition to other rebel groups, with the money to recruit and use child soldiers, torture opponents, and smuggle blood diamonds.
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) saw him as an asset because they were interested in information Taylor might have been able to provide the agency with concerning then-Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi.
What is so shocking about this development on the intelligence community is that until 2001, he was still being paid by the CIA (whether he was actually providing them with information or not, the article does not say) and in 2009 DIA officials even helped him escape from jail!

This article reminded me of our discussion during our class about the costs and benefits of security plans. The benefit in this situation was the possible gain of information about a potentially threatening country, Libya. The cost on the other hand was payments and support to a war criminal who both directly and indirectly caused the death of 250,000 people. I am interested to learn more about our intelligence agencies and how they conduct their intelligence gathering. Are they always this radical in conducting their research? Has it improved our national security?


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U.S. Faces New Challenge of Fewer Troops in Europe

The United States is decreasing its military presence in Europe. The Pentagon plans to bring two combat brigades home from Germany, reducing the amount of troops by 10,000, leaving 30,000 troops there. To put this in perspective, during the Cold War there were up to 277,342 American troops in Europe. Some Europeans leaders and analysts disagree with this policy and claim that sustained American troops may be necessary with potential issues with areas such as Russia. Despite these reactions, these NATO allies refuse to increase spending on their national defense.

To continue protecting the area Julianne Smith, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for European and NATO policy says that NATO and the US must “come with some innovating ideas under the rubric of ‘smart defense’…and come up with some innovative approaches on doing more with less in some ways.” Though the government is reducing the Army presence, the Nay plans to add four Aegis-class warships to Spain as part of a system to defend against the threat of a missile attack from Iran. Also as part of this missile-defense system, which is part of NATO’s strategic planning, the US will create a radar system in Turkey and place missile interceptors in Poland and Romania.

The Bush administration planned to withdraw the same amount of brigades, but the current administration waited until now because the troops were needed for the NATO missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It will be interesting to see the continuation of this continued change to “smart defense.” The idea of incorporating more technology, if used correctly, could potentially lower the military budget, but not hurt our military. This could continue to change our foreign policy in key ways.




“The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.” (U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to the Senate)

Sykipot malware is a new(er) type of software detected in cyber-attacks directed more recently toward U.S. service members. Basically the software activates when the victim opens a pdf attachment and allows it to record keystrokes. Another way it activates is by uploading the certificates on the victim’s machine through their CAC card, the attackers then use recommendations to log into machines that are accessible through CAC cards. This basically means that hackers can then use the service members CAC card information to access anything the service member has permissions to. This makes me uneasy because every service member has a CAC card – it is also an identification card and one of the first things every recruit gets upon going to USMC boot camp – and it only takes one person to open the wrong email to leak top secret information. According to several news sources, as well as a lab manager for Alien Vault, Sykipot originated in China and has led many to assume that the Chinese government was involved.

Given that the majority of Americans have computers, cell phone/smart phone, bank accounts that can be managed online, etc. one must ask, how real is the cyber threat and more specifically, how really is the cyber threat from China? Is the DoD psyching us out? Is this cyber espionage or cyber war?

 According to the People’s World article and James Lewis (expert on Chinese cyber espionage) it would not be in China’s interest to invest in a cyber-attack on the U.S. because it would hurt the Chinese just as much economically as it would the U.S. The same article also included the following: “There is also a certain irony to the accusations aimed at China. According to the New York Times, the U.S.-and Israel-designed the “Stuxnet” virus that has infected some 30,000 computers in Iran and set back Teheran’s nuclear program. The virus has also turned up in China, Pakistan, and Indonesia. In terms of cyber war, the U.S. is ahead of the curve, not behind.” In my opinion the U.S. is victim to Chinese cybercriminals but not the Chinese government.


Pakistan’s Shaky Outlook in 2012

In a list detailing the top 10 political risks to define 2012 by Eurasia Group, Pakistan is #6. While not headed into failed statedom, analysts write, the country faces its highest rate of political instability since the tumultuous Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. While its self-described “dysfunctional” economy (with the lowest levels of investment in over 40 years, persistent, double-digit inflation, and a robust federal deficit – all due to misgovernance), tense political climate, and sluggish response to the 2011 floods have weakened the  country’s infrastructure security dramatically, the United States’ slow withdrawal from the region could be a leading factor behind Pakistan’s rising volatility.

According to Eurasia Group, there are three key reasons behind this train of thought. First off, over 30 thousand American troups are expected to leave the region by November. This in turn will create a massive “security vacuum” that will leave the country’s military to deal with Afghan refugees migrating into Pakistani Taliban-controlled regions, which pose a threat to Islamabad. Second, both the dwindling bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan and the U.S. slowdown in the region have put the issue over Pakistan’s development aid package (which totaled nearly $400 mn in FY 2011) into question.  In matters of security, this includes the Coalition Support Funds, a critical reimbursement program for the country’s counter-terrorism cooperation. While Pakistan isn’t “totally dependent on U.S. aid,” a decrease in outside  funds will sting as the government attempts to salvage its economy. Finally, Pakistani officials are fearing that the U.S.’ withdrawal from AfPak may mean that Washington is passing the torch to India, Pakistan’s longstanding rival, which signed a “strategic partnership” agreement  with Afghanistan that has bolstered its presence in Central Asia. India’s interest in building a stronger relationship with Afghan Northern Alliance groups is also cause for concern. “That’s why Pakistan will resist calls from Washington to increase pressure on the exiled Taliban leadership living within its borders this year,” stated an article in Foreign Policy this week. “Because the Pakistani military and security services may calculate that the Taliban will again become their most reliable friend inside Afghanistan.”

It appears, from an outside perspective, that improving Pakistan’s rudderless economy is critical in advancing security measures. Based on Eurasia Group’s analysis, the U.S. should continue to distribute  development aid at its current level  (while an unsustainable economic development strategy) and work to mend icy Indo-Pakistani relations by encouraging economic integration in the region. Neither tactic is likely to turn huge waves, but it’s clear that stabilizing current economic conditions is key before they take a turn for the worst.



Libya and the Struggles of Democratic Transition

The situation in Libya seems worse by the day. After the fall of Moammar Gaddafi, Tripoli fell into the hands of the National Transitional Council (NTC). The NTC has been charged with leading the transition to a new government, a task that now appears more daunting than initially expected. The country is filled with diverse groups of militias who took up arms against the former regime. These rebel factions are still very well armed and increasingly dangerous; they refuse to give their weapons over to the government because the NTC has very little credibility with the Libyan people. This has created a situation in which the government does not have a monopoly over the use of force, which sets the stage for instability and potentially even a civil war.


This scenario, so perched on the brink of conflict, would have major international consequences if it were to get out of hand. Libya has major ties to the West and the East because of its oil reserves. In fact, oil competition is beginning to develop, as Libya’s refineries are just coming back online and countries vie for contracts and rights to the oil. This puts the interests of the NTC and the US in accord with one another. If the US were to win the contracts for Libyan oil, it would be in great shape to reduce dependence on oil from the Gulf. This is particularly important in a geopolitical environment in which Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. The US must, in the short term, find a way to augment the oil that it gets from the Persian Gulf because the volatility of the region makes American access to that oil uncertain.


So how does the US gain access to Libyan oil contracts? By gaining credibility with the NTC. And how does the US gain credibility with the NTC? By assisting the interim government in such a way that gives them the necessary credibility to convince the militias to give up their arms.


The best way to do this is to provide direct democratic aid to the NTC to bolster their transparency and accountability. The Libyan people are concerned that they know too little about the people entrusted to lead them through a successful democratic transition. The US can help the government implement new transparency, governance, and rule of law programs designed to show the militias that they have nothing of which to be afraid. On top of this aid, the US could offer support for training and jobs programs that would give the rebels guarantees of new jobs. This would be a key first step in demonstrating the rebels have something to lose should they continue down the path of lawlessness that is the status quo, and it could give them the necessary incentive to reach peace with the NTC, which would allow Libya’s democratic transition to flourish and give the US a much-needed in with the Libyan leaders who will eventually be contracting out their rich oil reserves.


Patrick McCleary


Read More:–%20Security%20Challenges%20after%20Qadhafi.pdf



NATO Enduring New Threats

Earlier this week an Afghan National Security Force soldier killed four French soldiers that were stationed in Kabul.  All four soldiers were unarmed and non-combative while stationed at a joint military base for French and Afghan soldiers.  French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet was quoted saying they believe the attacker is a member of the Afghan Taliban who was an insurgent infiltrator.  On the other hand International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesperson Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen said, “It is far too early to make a statement of Taliban involvement in general, or in this specific incident, at the present time.”  These types of attacks are known as green on blue attacks referring to the colors of the Afghan Army and NATO forces.  Green on blue attacks have been on the rise in recent years. One of the first occurred in 2009 when an Afghan police officer shot and killed five British soldiers in the Helmand Province.  The worst of these attacks happened in April last year when nine American soldiers were killed by an Afghan Air Force pilot in Kabul.  NATO reports there have been upwards of a dozen of these attacks in the last two years.  These reoccurring infiltrations are creating new tension within the NATO alliance.

These new attacks could pose a couple of serious problems.  Many of the alliance countries are facing domestic pressure to bring home forces sooner than the 2014 deadline.  For example France, who is the fourth largest troop total in the coalition forces, have stopped all military activity and are threatening to pull out earlier after the recent attack.  This would severely hurt the NATO efforts in training and establishing a self-sustaining secure nation.  If the French were to pull out prematurely then a greater cost would fall onto those states still in Afghanistan.  A higher cost on nations could continue to encourage countries to pull their troops and aid before all objectives are completed successfully.  If this were to occur tensions within NATO would surely increase and would threaten the Alliance Forces livelihood.  Another question is who is committing the acts of infiltration.  The answer could pose a significant problem to our relationships with the Afghan forces.  In my opinion it would be best if the attackers were found to be members of the Afghan Taliban.  This would happier our recent talks with the Afghan Taliban, but it is the lesser of two negatives.  If Afghan soldiers were killing alliance forces it would but extreme pressure on all nations in NATO to pull out immediately.  It would also quickly deteriorate our relationship and cooperation efforts with Afghan officials.  Quick and efficient action is imperative to quell these new and rising threats to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.




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