Archive for November, 2012

Power Moves in Egypt

Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi imposed a “dictatorial decree” that made his decisions impervious to judicial review.  Morsi’s administration claims that the suspension of judicial review was a pro-democracy move to protect the new constitution from older, former pro Mubarak judges that would oppose Morsi.  This move by Morsi brings up doubts about the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to compromise within the new democratic system.

The Judges club, associations of around 1000 Egyptian judges, and other secular opposition groups have called for a judicial strike. Also in protests at the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo a protestor was killed and forty others were wounded.  This opposition within the new democracy and the questionable actions of Morsi led to questions about democracy being a stable platform for government in Egypt. For now the opposition isn’t wide spread enough to over turn the government, but what if Morsi goes father to push what he wants for Egypt? Instability is the last thing the region needs as the Israel/Palestine conflict increases.


Al-Qaeda Concerns in Morocco

Recently, the Moroccan Interior Ministry announced it had broken up a militant cell training young men to fight for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a branch of the Al-Qaeda network. This cell had been training young men with the intent of sending them to Mali. Previously, this cell had trained and sent men to fight for AQIM and an ally of Al-Qaeda, The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. According to the article, various European leaders have become increasingly concerned with the prospect of Mali becoming a starting point for international terrorism on European countries.

The article also discusses a how police quelled a riot by Salafis in a Moroccan prison. The Salafis in this particular prison were rioting because of the poor living conditions and the police broke up the riot with force. A prisoner was tortured and harmed by other prisoners and guards during the protest. The article explains that Salafis, while outside of the political administration of Morocco,  have a huge influence over the lower classes and poor population. They also hold similar strict views on religion and conduct that Al-Qaeda also holds.

This article points out how two major events can lead to one possible national security threat. In the first part of the article, the militant cell was broken up by Moroccan authorities. If AQIM is able to garner support and militant cells can train and send new soldiers to Mali, or other parts of Africa, this could develop into a new threat to European states and also to American interests. The United States has such close ties with Europe that there is no way that it could turn a blind eye if Mali became a base for AQIM. The prison riot and the vast population of Salafis in Morocco, which is an ally of the West, shows another threat to European and American values. The article ended by saying that Morocco’s King Muhammad is allowing more Islamist leaders to take part in the politics of the country. Salafis already have a strong hold on the poor Moroccan population, therefore, giving them a place in the government could lead to domestic upheaval and possibly a coup of sorts. In general, this article shows that possible risks of international terrorism and how it could become more prevalent in Africa.


Secretary Clinton to Talk With Israel, Egypt

Shortening her Southeast Asia trip with President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton has gone to the Israeli region to foster negotiations and try to prevent an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.  Such an escalation by Israel would harm its standing in the world and seriously test its relationship with the new Egyptian government.  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is already under serious domestic pressure to vacate Egypt’s 1979 peace agreement with Israel.  A ground war in Gaza would only increase this pressure and would harm the United States relationship with Egypt.  Additionally, a ground war may threaten nearby Turkey, a NATO ally, thus further complicating the United States role in the ongoing crisis.

Though the US seeks to avoid a ground invasion and foster a longer term solution than a simple ceasefire, Clinton is only scheduled to meet with Israeli and Egyptian leaders; Hamas is being excluded from US fostered negotiations.  This is hardly surprising, considering that the US and Israel have both identified Hamas as a terrorist organization.  Additionally, Hamas’ ties with Iran would further complicate negotiations (i.e. Hamas’ cooperation may become contingent upon the US meeting Iranian demands-not a good negotiating position for the US).  However, it would seem that any lasting solution, whether in the long term or the short term, will require Hamas cooperation, which is very unlikely to occur when they are not consulted in the negotiations.  The US cannot expect to prevent an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza if Hamas continues to attack Tel Aviv.  Nor can Hamas be expected to stop attacking Tel Aviv until it has some assurance that the bombing of Gaza will cease.  Perhaps the US could work through the Fatah Palestinians in the West Bank to extend the conversation to Gaza, but Gaza-West Bank relations have been sour since 2007.  It seems unlikely that Secretary Clinton’s trip has a hope of success if the US does not confront and perhaps reevaluate its relationship with Hamas.


DPRK Missile Program Still On

North Korea is rumored to have continued with its missile testing despite stating that it would not do so. Satellite images are showing that the test sites are still functioning even though Pyongyang is saying otherwise. Also in the news is that North Korea may be aiding the Syrian government. It has been released that they were shipping missile components in May.
The continued tests show North Korea does not wish to concern itself with the promises it makes. Just like almost everything else the North has promised it has reneged. Despite this the actual threat of these missile tests are not that large. The DPRK has yet to produce a missile which could harm the continental US and it seems unlikely it will be capable of making one now. Also even if the DPRK can produce a missile which could reach America’s shores there is no way they would be aggressive with it. The North knows that if they attack us it will be the end of them and so these missile tests are not a major concern.
To deal with there is not much the US can do other than to continue to lay sanctions on the reclusive state. It can also pressure its protector state, China, to maybe do something about the DPRK. In any case the North has once again gone against what it promised and has shown its childish disregard for its neighbors and oaths.

About the missile parts to Syria

Ryan Thompson

Cutbacks in Aid Could Have Unexpected Consequences

Britain’s recent announcement of a cease in all aid to India points to a significant global trend: developed countries are withdrawing their aid from developing economies in favor of giving their money to the poorest countries. This stems from the economic downturn facing the Global North and an attempt by these countries to trim out unnecessary spending. Development experts worry that a decrease in funds to these countries will mean a polarization in their societies between the “haves” and “have-nots”, because although countries like India have swiftly developing economies, there are still pockets of desolate poverty that exist within the country.


The withdrawal of aid from developing, or “semi-periphery”, countries such as India is a security issue for a multitude of reasons. These are countries with a decent level of technology, and some of them, such as India and Pakistan, are nuclear-capable. This means that any uprising within these countries based on a class divide brings with it the possibility of a large, armed conflict. Aid is a placating force at its best, and has never been wholly effective at development, but it has been effective at providing people with their basic needs. When those needs are no longer met, the world is looking at a crisis of angry people with access to technology who won’t stand for sub-par living conditions anymore, and the possible creation of enemies. Foreign aid is constitutes less that 1 percent of the U.S. budget, and is one of the most important things we spend money on.


Iraq Scraps Plan To Drop Food Rationing

In 1991, Saddam Hussein implemented the corruption ridden food distribution system due to sanction put in place against them due to the invasion of Kuwait. Today the system is still in place despite its flaws. The government just recently tired to scrap the system for a cash handout program but it was severely rejected by the majority of the population. Iraqi residents fear that a new cash system will not only have the same corruptions seen in the food program but also the loss of the food handouts in exchange for cash will ultimately decrease their spending power. They believe that without food handouts merchants will jack up prices for food with the new found government money and they will be worse off than they already were. Another reason the government decided to scrap the program was due to political reasons due to their being an election next year and that this new program would be hugely unpopular. This withdraw also draws a huge cloud over the government in future endeavors for reform, due to the many popular Shia clerics who are slow to have economic change and move from their own ways, creating quite a dilemma for the Iraqi government.

The problem that many have with this and other initiatives that the Iraqi government tries to pass is that largely they are inefficient in that they do not give the right necessities to the people who need them. Also the level of corruption in programs like these is huge and shies Iraqi citizens from venturing forth into wanting to adopt new programs. However it is not as simple as sitting down and drawing up new plans. The government of Iraq needs to more effectively involve the people of IRaq and commit and take responsibility for programs so that Iraq may move forward.


Sudanese Voice Support for Palestinians

Sudan’s Islamic Movement voiced support for the Palestinian cause and their goal of returning Palestinian rights in light of the resumption of conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.  Part of Sudan’s ruling establishment, the Islamic Movement counts many of the country’s top political elite among its members, including President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and many of its policies reflect official government position.  Highlighting the opening of the conference was Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who was given a hero’s welcome by conference attendees, which included leaders of Islamist groups that recently came to power in countries across the Middle East.  The Islamic Movement’s declaration comes at a delicate time in the relationship between Israel and Sudan.  An attack on the Yarmouk arms factory that killed four people outside Khartoum last month was blamed on the Israelis, which they have yet to comment.  On the other side, the Israelis accuse the Sudanese of allowing weapons to funnel into Hamas-controlled Gaza, the site of fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamist groups.

The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is enough of a concern for the United States and an additional conflict between Israel and Sudan would be against our interests in the region.  The United States will continue to stand with Israel, its main ally in the region, against its adversaries.  We should, however, continue to monitor proxy conflicts happening across the region, specifically between Israel and Iran, which many consider the airstrike in Khartoum a result.  An additional aspect to consider is that in the short-term, using Israel to fight proxy wars against Iran and other regional adversaries might be useful, but in the long-term might cause more problems for the Israelis and for the United States.  Finding the right balance between siding with Israel and protecting our own interests in the Middle East is going to be a main foreign policy challenge for President Obama in his second term.


New Leadership and China’s Internal Security State

China’s incoming leadership appears to have curtailed the influence of the country’s sprawling security apparatus at the highest levels of government. The Party’s Politburo Standing Committee (the most senior leadership body in the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s leaders) was cut down from nine to seven members at the 18th Party Congress last week. One of the seats cut was that of the former head of the party’s Politics and Law Commission, a powerful bureaucratic entity that oversees police, prosecutors, judges and spies in the pursuit of internal stability.

With the outgoing premier Hu Jintao and newly appointed (ostensibly elected) General Secretary Xi Jinping espousing the importance of fighting corruption within the Communist Party in the past few days, the move to limit the influence of China’s powerful security apparatus can be seen as a move to bolster the power of the judiciary, which is currently subservient to party interests rather than being independent. The question then becomes if this changing of the guard and redistribution of political influence represents an opportunity cost to the Chinese state – does a politically less empowered security apparatus entail a higher risk for social instability in the country? Apparently China’s leaders feel that the internal security state has grown too strong and needs to reigned in. But for all their talk of impending unrest and potential regime collapse should the status quo in Chinese society continue, curbing the regime’s mechanisms for social control should be accompanied by real reforms reduce corruption and enhance regime legitimacy if the country is to remain stable (something that the CCP has historically dealt with insincerely and halfheartedly). This may prove to  just be the latest example of the growing gap between China’s political inflexibility and the scope and nature of the problems the state is now facing. Growing out of that gap are serious security concerns for both the Chinese regime and the Chinese people.


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-William Kyle

Food Leads to North Korean Fall?

There is rising concern that a food shortage in North Korea will lead to unrest within the country.  During the 1990’s there was a famine that killed nearly 2.5 million people within North Korea and resulted in the some of the first rumblings of a military coup.  The famine was eventually brought under control and the people were kept under control through propaganda, which convinced them situations were similar in South Korea and China.  There is more connection with the outside world in North Korea now then there was in the 1990’s.  This could lead to wider spread discontent with the government and a possible coup.

If there was a coup in North Korea and power changed hands there is a good chance that weapons and weapons systems would be lost or end up in the hands of the “wrong people”.  This is a serious threat to the region and the international community.  The combination of changing Chinese leadership, conflicts over territory in the region, and now a possibly unstable North Korea lead to a very uncertain future for the Asian Pacific region.



Help Wanted, Apply Within

The Department of Homeland Security has recently announced that it intends to hire up to 600 new cybersecurity professionals. The issue? Good luck finding them. While a few critics would disagree, the general consensus is that the skill level is currently out there. The problem is that the candidates do not fit the government’s hiring profile. Those with the computer skills and focus to meet the DHS’s needs are not their typical employee. Many cyber experts have ADD, OCD, or autism-not ideal government employee profiles. Secondly, DHS lacks the “cool factor.” Cyber experts could go to private companies that may far more money and allow them much greater creativity to create and do things than the government would. Lastly, the government wants people with college degrees. However, many university programs are 2-3 years behind the curve. Many computer aficionados don’t see the appeal of spending the time or money or a piece of paper that does not really allow them to gain anything extra.

If DHS does not loosen it’s hiring standards, or find some other way to appeal to cyberscecurity experts, then the US is in trouble. A lack of a cybersecurity force not only prevents the US from strengthening defensive barriers, but also halts the progression of an offensive strategy. The US is currently seeking to develop strong offensive cyber capabilities but it can not do that understaffed.


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