Archive for February, 2011

Silent Iran Protests

Iran recently has been subject to quiet protests following last week’s large organized protest.  According to sources, this week’s protest was equally large and the unique quality about this one was the fact that the protesters, for the most part, were silent in their showcase of defiance.  Much of this silence was rooted in the fear of violence between security forces and protesters.  Slogans were few in number and the threat of retaliation for vocal dissent was on the minds of the protesters present.  There were again reports of beatings and the releasing of tear gas on the more vocal of protesters.  State media in Iran has also played an enormous part in trying to ease the protests and to dissuade citizens from partaking in them.

The Iranian government has been extremely forceful in its crackdown of opposition to the government.  Protests are been quashed swiftly and scare tactics are being employed by the government to stop the large gatherings of opponents.  How large the actual dissenting population is cannot be known with the severe lack of reliable information flowing in and out of Iran.  The main source for the protests and other occurrences in the country are perpetuated by social networking websites.  With recent events in the Middle East, including protests in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, it is a wonder how far the protests in Iran will be taken.  An interesting thing to take of note of is related to what a new government would mean in terms of the Iranian nuclear program.  Political opposition leaders have stated before their willingness to hold talks with President Obama.  This possibility for diplomacy in the midst of a government change could be a pivotal factor in the issue of stopping Iran’s enrichment of uranium.


Facebook: Terrorism Recruitment?

A report published by the Center of Strategic and International Studies has shown that terror networks around the globe are now using social media to enhance and further their goal of global jihad. The use of Facebook, Twitter, and other similar websites has extended the recruiting arm of such groups, and allows them to spread their influence through out the globe. This creates a shadow network, allowing groups like al-Qaeda to seemingly be everywhere at once, whilst remaining physically hidden.

The use of the internet and social media to disseminate information and propaganda has made the job of recruitment a lot easier for imams and others looking to persuade potential members. Now, instead of constant sit downs and perfervid speeches, these people can simply post their messages on message boards or send it out, worldwide. This makes it a lot more simple to contact people of influence who can help their cause or reach isolated people who are in need of camaraderie.

This threat of potential radicalization of any one with an Internet connection is a huge threat to security, and the US must work together with internet providers and social sites to prevent these posts from staying up or effectively reaching their targets.

The link to the full report by CSIS is at the bottom of the following webpage:


Piracy in Arabian Sea Hits Home for U.S.

On February 18, a private yacht captained by Scott Adam (California) was hijacked by Somali pirates. Negotiations were taking place between the pirates and the US Navy, which had sent warships to track the yacht back to a Somali port, when US forces hear gunfire, board the vessel and kill two pirates, before finding the four hostages shot dead.
To complicate matters, the surviving Somali pirate crew claims that it was the US Navy which attacked first and spurred the pirates to kill the American hostages.
The United States has been directly affected by Somali pirates with the hijacking of a few ships in less than two years. But the hijacking of other merchant vessels effects the US and the Global economy. BBC cites a U.S. study that estimates between $7 billion and $12 billion lost to maritime piracy a year.
The BBC also points out that the US is gaining experience prosecuting convicted pirates in US civilian courts. Thee does not seem to be much controversy about the US being able to prosecute a criminal from another country, but should there be exceptions for countries with no government and, therefore no capacity to hold a trial? International courts are available but why aren’t they being used? The way each nation approaches the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden seems to be ad hoc and unsynchronized. Without cooperation, attacks are eminent and more civilians will be captured and/or killed.

Iranian Ships in Suez Canal

Iranian ships, that claim to be defending cargo ships against Somalian pirates, have been spotted in the Suez Canal. Some speculators believe that the increase in Iranian presence could be linked to the end of the Mubarak regime in Egypt since Mubarak’s government was a long term ally to Israel and the end of his regime has left Israel vulnerable, with no allies in the region.

Regardless of Iranian intentions, the presence of their ships in the Suez Canal is likely to threaten Israel’s security even more now after the loss of a long term ally in Mubarak’s government. This insecurity could lead to further tensions and conflict within the region.


The Truth Revealed: Deep Cover in Lahore

The diplomatic crisis that I briefly covered in my last post has taken an interesting turn. It was revealed that Raymond Davis, the man incarcerated on murder charges in Pakistan, was a covert C.I.A. operative stationed in Lahore. His objective was to secretly track insurgent activities in Pakistan. The United States is not officially at war with Pakistan so the C.I.A. has taken an expansive role in covert operations in the region.

Though the status of Mr. Davis was known to Pakistani officials, revealing this fact can only further infuriate the nation’s populace. An anti-American sentiment has grown in the past few weeks, a fact that has worried the pro-American government in Pakistan and dictated their immediate response to the crisis. Instead of bending to the wishes of the United States and releasing Mr. Davis, the state has refrained from pushing the Lahore province where he is incarcerated. This also further emphasizes the almost non-existent central power in Pakistan.

In addition to these developments, the nature of the crimes may have taken a turn with the official police report being released in the province. In the American retelling, Davis kills the two men in self-defense and narrowly escapes harm. The report from Pakistan seems to rule out self-defense, with Davis killing the men then stopping to take a picture before leaving the scene.

The upheavals throughout the region continue to hold the headlines but this crisis in Pakistan has the possibility of greatly affecting the relationship between these two crucial allies.


Further Reading

Civilian Casualties Undermining Progress in Afghanistan

American troops and Afghan officials carried out a three- to four-day operation starting last Thursday in the dangerous mountains of the Ghaziabad district in Afghanistan. Conflicting reports concerning 50 civilian deaths, mostly women and children, emerged from American military officials and from President Karzai’s officials.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning, Apache helicopters started firing on alleged insurgents who were gathered to attack U.S. and Afghan troops. According to a U.S. military spokesman, the insurgents fled down the hill, away from any houses. In the following hours, the Apaches fired guns, rockets, and Hellfire missiles at the insurgents who were being tracked by drones. The spokesperson said there was no reason to believe that women and children were among the fighters as there were no structures near the battle.

The U.S. military has gathered reports indicating that insurgents talked about contacting government officials to tell them that civilians were being killed to stop the apaches from firing. Petraeus claimed that some pro-Taliban parents created the civilian casualty claim to pressure international forces to stop the operation by burning the hands and legs of their children and blaming it on U.S. operations. He implied this when he met with the national security council, which angered most members of the council.

This example demonstrates the political challenges that the U.S military faces in Afghanistan. Alleged civilian casualties in remote areas are difficult to prove, and Karzai’s government has recently struck down on the U.S. led coalition for killing noncombatants. Claims of civilian casualties not only hurt the U.S. led coalition’s chances of reaching out to the populace, but such claims are undermining the security and stability effort in Afghanistan. The coalition originally helped set up Karzai’s “puppet” government, and now Karzai is challenging the way that the coalition handles operations. The United States already relies heavily upon Pakistan for involvement in negotiations concerning progress in Afghanistan, and if it loses the semblance of support from Karzai, efforts by the United States to achieve security and stability in the region may prove futile.

Gates Warns that Cuts in Funding could Affect US Gains in Iraq

Secretary Gates warned last Thursday that if the Pentagon does not get the funding that it has asked for that there could be major problems arising in Iraq. He was particularly referring to the troop withdraw the Iraqi government is requesting of the US by the end of the year. Gates has stated that instead of maintaining a military presence their, the US has decided to take a more pronounced role in police training and at the embassy in Baghdad. He  said that if these personnel do not have the equipment needed to keep themselves safe (an increase in helicopters and armored vehicles). Gates feels that if these interests are not protected then the US has a good chance of losing all the advancements it has made in the country.

I feel the US must maintain the advancements it has made in Iraq, and if that means beefing up some of the defense spending to secure safety for civilians from the State Department, then I say we better follow through with Gates’ advice. Though I do not like the fact that we would be spending more money, I do feel that this is a very delicate situation that needs to be handled carefully and appropriately. Funding must go into securing Iraq and preventing the formation of a power vacuum.


The Drug War Grows Younger

Mexican police recently detained a group of teenagers after a a shootout in Ciudad Juarez.  The teenagers led police on speed chase through the city while shooting several rounds into the police car.  Ten pounds of marijuana as found in their pickup truck after they were arrested.  This group of teenagers consisted of three 15 year olds and two 17 year olds.  Arrests of drug-related suspects under the age of 18 is an evergrowing trend that is now prominent throughout all of Mexico.  With this comes the rise of drug-related victims under the age of 18 as well.  Last year, police arrested a 14 year old boy who they claimed was working as an assassin for a drug gang in central Mexico.  In the Gulf state of Tabasco, two 18 year olds were found shot to death on the side of the road next to a hand-written sign that read, “This is what happened to me for being a snitch and an informer, and believing the army could protect me.” 

This trend shows how consumed the country is by these drug cartels.  Their influence stretches far and wide, spreading their violence throughout the mexican states, and now their people.  Surviving in Mexico has become the key priority for its citizens, and many citizens turn to the cartels for safety.  The young population is growing up experiencing this as a way of life.  It is vital that the military, police, and government prove to its people that they can protect them and meet their needs, thus taking some power away from the cartels.


Westerner stands in Iraqi Trial for the 1st time after US-Iraqi security agreement

       Danny Fitzsimons from Rochdale is being held on trial in Iraq, for the killing of two of his colleagues in August 2009. The killing took place when all three had been working for the British Security firm ArmorGroup, based in the Iraqi capitals green zone. Fitzsimons states that he shot the men out of self -defense when an altercation broke out.

      Fitzsimons is the first westerner to stand for trial in Iraq, after a 2009 US-Iraqi security agreement lifted immunity on foreigners. There are two security issues on display here. One, what kind of treatment will Fitzsimons be given in the Iraqi courts? Iraq’s dissatisfaction with it’s previously western occupiers is no secret, it is to be seen if this distaste will play out in their decision or if they will conduct a fair trial. Chances are that because this is Iraq’s first opportunity to hold this type of power, they will make a decision that will represent their position towards the West right now.  The Second issue to examine is if there will be any backlash from Britain against the U.S. Fitzsimons is a British citizen and because of a U.S security agreement with Iraqi’s his immunity has been threatened. Though chances of Britain showing animosity towards America is not high, after the Iraqi courts make a decision it is possible that their position may change.

~ Priyanka 


Does China know the Canadian budget??

According to sources in the Canadian government, as well as several news organizations in Canada, hackers infiltrated Canadian government computers. These two computers were allegedly located in the Treasury Department and housed the information on the new budget proposals that have yet to be unveiled in Parliament. Members within the Treasury Department have cited how significant this hacking effort was, because it specifically targeted financial documents that can be found within these computers. As is typical of the Chinese government, they have denied any involvement in the cyberattacks on the Canadian computers. One of China’s Foreign Ministers told Reuters, “What you mentioned is purely fictitious and has an ulterior motive.”

While it seems likely that the Chinese government is lying, there are some who believe that the story the Canadian government is telling is a little bit fishy. An expert on other Chinese cyberattacks noted that the Canadian government’s uncertainty on the origins of the attack and the fact that they are not divulging how much information was stolen is odd. He says that it would be rather easy for Canada to track down the origins of the hackers and that they should not be loathe to divulge how much information was in fact stolen.

While this was not an attack on the United States, I think it shows just how vulnerable important facets of any government are to cyberattacks. It was not coincidental that these attacks happened less than a month before the Canadian budget is to be unveiled. And, if the attacks can be traced to the Chinese government it would interesting to see how that could effect Chinese-Canadian relations.


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