President Abbas: An Obstacle to Any US Peace Plan

Palestinian President Abbas is said to be in control of the success of the Trump Administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plans if and when they are announced. He feels that President Trump’s decision to place the US embassy in Jerusalem and defund UNRWA have taken sensitive topics off of the negotiating table and that Gaza is the last obstacle for announcing the long awaited peace plan. Palestinians fear that the Trump administration will create a mini state for Palestinians consisting of Gaza and a maybe little more land. However, the militant group Hamas has control over the Gaza strip of which Abbas wants control. Abbas has gone as far as cutting salaries of former government workers and cut fuel subsidies to put pressure on Hamas. No matter what though, President Abbas has already said he won’t accept a peace plan from the US.
This is a security issue for Palestinians in Gaza as well as for the United States and Israel. If the situation in Gaza continues to escalate, there may be even more harsh political strategy aimed at the Hamas group by President Abbas. Israel will continue its blockade of the region and there will surely continue to be attacks on the Gaza Strip. This will make President Trump’s efforts at creating a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians even less likely which will maintain the already hostile environment between the two groups. If the United States continues to take issues that are important to President Abbas and the Palestinians off of the negotiating table, President Abbas will clearly not negotiate as made evident in his statement saying he is already not willing to negotiate an American peace plan.


Germany arrests 7 suspected far-right extremists in Chemnitz

Seven men have been arrested by German police on suspicion of forming a “far-right terrorist organization” in the eastern city of Chemnitz. The group is suspected of planning to carry out attacks against foreigners and political enemies. 6 of the 7 men were German citizens, ranging in age from 20 to 30 years old. The alleged group these men had created called themselves “Revolution Chemnitz”. Prosecutors claim that the men wanted to carry out “violent and armed attacks against foreigners and political enemies” as part of plan to overthrow Germany’s democratic order. German Justice Minister Katarina Barley cited the arrests as further evidence of the threat posed by far-right extremists, after the conviction of members two other far-right extremist groups, the Freital Group and the National Socialist Underground group, earlier this year. This could pose a large security threat for the country of Germany and its government. This could also become a problem for the German citizens who do not fall in line with the beliefs and viewpoints of these far-right extremist groups, who would most likely resort to using force and violence against these people.

– Annemarie A.

Disarming the Police Force

Within the past week federal and state authorities in Acapulco disarmed the entire police force for it connection with drug cartels. The responsibilities of the force will now be overseen by soldiers, marines, and state police.This interception of the Acapulco police force comes after many officers did not pass background checks and the enforcement of law in the area dropped a significant amount. Mayor Aguirre ran on a campaign that condemned the police force stating that they are “totally out of control”, yet under his governance the same issues of corruption have led to the disarming of the force.

Additionally, the moniker ‘Mexico’s murder capitol’ and the disarming of the police force informed the US embassy in Mexico to send out an alert to US citizens, issuing a travel alert due to the increase of violent crime, homicide, kidnaping, etc. While there is a full cooperation with the municipal government, there is no other real plan in place when it comes to a plan to bring stability back to the area in terms of law enforcement. Even before this disarmament the police were on strike back in 2014, protesting wages. The series of event might suggest a connection between the economic realities of law enforcement and how that contributed to cartel connection. However deep that connection might be the disarming and change in law enforcement still has not changed the lack security for its citizens and still plays a part in the larger trend of immigration patterns due to the seeking of asylum.


New Potential NATO Member

It seems that NATO will be potentially be gaining a new member in Macedonia in the near future. Macedonia will hold a referendum Sunday to become a member of NATO which would expand NATO’s influence in the Balkans. To do this the referendum asks if citizens would like the nation to change its name which has been blocking its ability to join. It is cited that the reason for this is due to the fact that joining NATO seems to be the best way for the nation to keep secure and guarantee themselves some sort of protection from Russia.

At the time this blog has been written, Macedonia has in fact voted to join NATO.


With Macedonia voting yes in the referendum, this adds more power in the Balkans to NATO. While this most likely not shift power in the region in any major way, Russia will not be happy with this move and could potentially take more aggressive actions in Ukraine and Jordan in order to try to balance power. NATO should move forward carefully.

Car Bombing in the Capital

In the Somalian capital of Mogadishu a suicide bombing occurred on the first of October 2018. The bombing was a car bomb, targeting a European Union convoy in the city. Surprisingly, no casualties were listed despite the blast occurring within the city. Only the suicide bomber died in the attack, which targeted Italian troops and vehicles, only damaging the vehicle. The Al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization Al-Shabaab has taken credit for the bombing. Al-Shabaab’s goal is to overthrow the present pro-western government in order to replace it with a strict religious government that enforces Sharia Law. The European Union is one of Somalia’s largest financial backers, making European convoys and citizens prime targets for raids and terrorist attacks by both Al-Shabaab and ISIS.

The European Union can not do anything to prevent the terrorists acts of Al-Shabaab other than either maintain the status quo without angering the local populace or leave Somalia potentially resulting in the government’s collapse. If the Somalian government were to collapse, either Al-Shabaab or ISIS would immediately take power, resulting in the creation of an extremist Islamic state that would openly support terrorism throughout the world. In order to prevent this from occurring the European Union should continue it’s currently policy of financial support while military supports is still being provided by several nations in order to limit the influence of Al-Shabaab and ISIS.


Hack Attack: Election Year

Hackers are warning that certain voting machines pose serious risks to US security. One ballot machine in particular, the M650 electronic ballot scanner, is used for voting in 23 states. In August at the Def Con conference in Las Vegas, a  “Voting Village” was established where participants could attempt to uncover vulnerabilities in US election equipment by hacking into various computer systems. The results of this event was published in a 50 page report released by the conference organizers. Details of the report include the discovery that the M650 can be remotely hacked, and how this flaw was discovered in 2007 but no fix or upgrade was developed. Additionally, the report found that AccuVote TSx system, currently used in 18 US states, uses a smart card reader for users to cast votes that can be easily disconnected and “disrupt the election process”.

“Over 15 years we have studied numerous election systems and voting machines across the world, and every single one has been found to have severe vulnerabilities,” said one of the authors of the report, Harri Hursti.

Election security has been a large concern this year, considering the upcoming mid term elections. However, on Tuesday it was announced that a proposed election security bill, known as the Secure Elections Act, would not be passed by Congress before this years elections. To add fuel to the fire, earlier this year, an amendment to increase spending on election security measures was effectively blocked by Republican senators. It seems like the advice of cybersecurity researchers and experts is being ignored, and that elections will be more vulnerable than ever. Voting systems across the US are already inconsistent state by state, and this is already problematic but will be made even more problematic with security issues.



An Explanation of International Competition Over Energy

The 2017 article “The Great Games Never Played: Explaining Variation in International Competition Over Energy”  by Omar S. Bashir in the Journal of Global Security Studies attempts to explain why and when States compete with one another over energy resources. Competition in this context does not refer to physical conflict or war, rather, it relates to trade conflicts/disputes and political or economic maneuvering that is intended to gain the advantage over an enemy. Bashir begins with outlining three concepts/variables that are important to this evaluation: Power Over Supply (A states ability to reduce the supply of, or raise prices on, a resource it controls), Power Over Revenue (A states ability to withhold or hold hostage the energy-related revenue within a target exporting state) and finally, Power Through Relative Gain (When a state gains a disproportionately large advantage over its rivals in relation to energy). If there is no adverse change in a states ability to pursue its political goals because of a change in any of these three variables, then there is no competition. However, if there is a change related to these three variables that affecs a states political goals, does the change create a dominantly positive energy-related effect that is unrelated to power? If so, then there is no competition. If not, is a reaction to the change on the part of the state cost prohibitive? If it is not cost prohibitive, then there is competition. If it is cost prohibitive, then there is no competition.

This article, while not perfect, is an interesting look into states competition in relation to energy security. It attempts to specifically outline and chart the causes and likelihoods that causes states to compete over energy resource. As Bashir says, this view is primarily based in realism (focusing primarily on energy in relation to political power) but also allows for a variation on states’ underlying preferences, as a liberal theorist would.

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–John Reinboldt, 10/1/2018

USAID and Relief to Indonesia

Katherine Bartles

This past weekend, Indonesia was hit by a tsunami and a 7.50 magnitude earthquake. As of Sunday, there were 832 confirmed deaths. In response to the natural disaster, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance released a statement saying it would work with Indonesia to decide how to best provide the supplies and aid needed for recovery. In addition to the USAIDs pledge of assistance, the EU will be providing a minimum of $1.7 million in “emergency humanitarian assistance”.

The fear that comes from any relief effort in the wake of a natural disaster is that there will be several problems coming from the lack of efficiency. Currently, a large amount of volunteers with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations are having difficulty entering into the area due to the Indonesian military, and the workers who are already there are not being dispersed evenly. Because the area was hit by a tsunami, making the air very wet, the threat of spreading of infectious diseases is rising. This means that the victims of the area, who are already displaced and being cared for in refugee camps, may need to be relocated again if infectious diseases do spread.

Why is this related to U.S. national security? Although this might not impact the U.S.’s national security directly, it does have an impact on our relations with the international community. If something in the future were to happen to the U.S., say a large natural disaster or something where the U.S. would need assistance from other countries, the international community would be more likely to help if the U.S. has also done its part in aiding other countries. Participating in relief can bolster our national security indirectly because we can guarantee aid and assistance from other countries if needed.

Wait, Taiwan could defeat China 1v1?

This article combined the findings from two recent studies to form a ‘what if’ scenario about a hypothetical invasion of Taiwan showing that the island nation could actually win such a conflict. If a war were to happen, the PLA would first begin with a hellfire of missiles across the straits coupled with targeted assaults by special forces. The goals are twofold: to destroy Taiwanese airfields so China can secure air domination and to paralyze the country’s leadership and communications. Phase two: massive amphibious invasion supported by Chinese aircraft. The final step is to take control of the island, institute martial law, and prepare the island for possible counter-attack. The whole thing should take two weeks. That’s the PLA’s plan anyway.

The new studies show that Taiwanese, Japanese, and American leadership will have a minimum of  30 days to prepare for any cross-strait assault due to the incredible nature of such an undertaking. Can’t really hide that stuff. This would give the Taiwanese lots of time to do things like, call up reservists, mine the potential landing sites (which are all known and already heavily fortified), booby trap the entire island, etc. Similarly, phycological warfare operations will increase, targeting the average PLA grunt.

What this ultimately forms is a type of deterrence and while the article was interesting, it still seems like if China really wanted to take the island they could. It would just hurt… a lot. The author also did point out recent Taiwanese polls that showed over 65% of residents had no faith in the Taiwanese’s military to protect them. Demoralization works both ways. In any case, I can’t help but feel this article and studies were more or less irrelevant. Lately I’ve seen article after article about China using soft power to influence Taiwan, not military force. I suspect that in the end it will be activities like connecting sewage systems and merging the two economies that will determine the success of a Chinese invasion.



Ukraine and Russia take their conflict to the sea

The civil war in Ukraine has entered its fifth year, but so far it has been restricted to land only conflict. Now, it is in a dangerous position to become a sea conflict as well. The annexation of Crimea by Russia cut off Ukraine from its most important naval base and port city of Sevastopol, which made Ukraine move its main naval base to the city of Odessa. Recently, Ukraine’s president Poroshenko announced plans to build a naval base in the Sea of Azov, which Russia and Ukraine both share per the 2003 agreement. Russia built a bridge across the Kerch Strait, which connects Crimean Peninsula and mainland Russia, while it also connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Russia built this bridge and occasionally uses it to cut of the Ukrainian shipments through the Sea of Azov, which is starting to take a serious toll on its maritime economy. Around 80 percent of Ukraine’s exports pass through this body of water. The bridge is too low for the Panamax vessels, which accounted for 23 percent of all ship traffic in the area in 2016. The cargo flow dropped by 27% in the port city of Mariupol, while in another port city of Berdyansk it dropped even more – 47%. Ukraine cannot compete with Russia in the size of its navy, because it only has 66 combat naval units and 11,000 servicemen, while Russia boasts about 2,800 vessels and 25,000 servicemen, as well as a much better-quality equipment. Russia also stationed around 40,000 troops in Crimea.

United States criticized Russia’s actions in the Sea of Azov but has not made any concrete actions to support Ukraine. Although, it does not seem plausible that US would try to start a naval conflict with Russia because of Ukraine. At the same time, there is potentially a financial way that US can help Ukraine to offset the loss of profits, because of Russia’s mini-blockade of its shipments. It is important to not let this get out of hand, because a wrong move by any party in that region could quickly escalate this conflict into something more problematic. Russia’s pressure on Ukrainian economy is evident, but it is important to make sure that Ukraine does not respond with force, because it would definitely lose that battle based on current strengths of both countries’ navies.


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