Archive for November, 2012

Benghazi attack and Al-Qaeda?

This news report from CNN explains, or attempts to explain, the complicated chain of intelligence that proves that Al-Qaeda was part of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in September. Former CIA Director Petraeus testified on Friday that the attack in September was committed by militants linked to al-Qaeda. Since the incident, there has been a whirlwind of confusion surrounding who initiated and sponsored the attack. Many believed that it was inspired by the protests in Egypt that erupted after a controversial video on Muhammad was made, while other intelligence reports included videos depicting the militant group Ansar-al Sharia in the attack. Petraeus’ testimony, however, has put an end to the conflicting evidence, but will not necessarily end the complications resulting from the conflict. If Al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, it proves that U.S. Consulates and bases are extremely vulnerable to terrorist threats. This attack continues to prove that Al-Qaeda is a veritable source of concern for the United States, not only by an attack on our country but on our bases overseas.


Iranian War Games: Bluster or Aggression?

Iran began massive war game operations this Monday, Nov. 12, which involved thousands of troops, aircraft and surveillance equipment. The country designed the war games to test the Iranian military’s effectiveness against an air attack on “hypothetical sensitive sites.”

An article by U.S. News stated that the wargames, which were planned several months ago, demonstrate to the world that Iran’s air defenses are at the highest state of readiness, according to Omar Lamari, a Stratfor military analyst.

Iran claims that it has a surface-to-air missile system, modeled after the U.S. Hawk system, that can lock on to targets from 50 miles away and hit them from 30 miles.

Intelligence experts, however, doubt many of Iran’s claims. Instead, they believe the wargames are designed as a psychological game to calm citizen’s fears and to stave off a possible attack from Israel or the U.S.

America’s top military commander Gen. Martin Dempsey responded more aggressively to Iran’s actions and included these war games in a long list of recent “disturbing activities,” such as Iran’s recent attack on an unarmed U.S. Predator drone flying in international airspace.

What do you think? Is this Iranian posturing, or should the U.S. include war games among the embittered state’s other hostile actions?

Lessons in International Affairs

Recently, CIA director David Petraeus was forced to resign following an FBI probe of (what proved to be inappropriate) email conversations with Paula Broadwell, his biographer. This type of story is not unique to Washington – a city with a plethora of sex scandals. The Petraeus scandal has, however, created a significant ripple effect throughout the Obama administration.

The replacement of Petraeus is a pressing concern, and must be addressed, at least in the short term until a long-term replacement can be found. Petraeus’ resignation comes at a point of natural turnover for the Obama administration, which prepares to enter it’s second term. There are a couple of  likely candidates for the position, including Michael Morell (current acting director), and John Brennan. Morell has significant CIA experience, including planning of Osama Bin Laden’s take-down, while Brennan is the top white house counter-terrorism adviser who has overseen the surge in drone technology to achieve goals. The scandal has done significant damage however, and has “shaken President Obama’s national-security staff and upended his carefully chosen plans for his military and intelligence team in his second term.”

The FBI is currently conducting a probe of General John Allen, NATO and US commander in Afghanistan. The probe appears to have “uncovered 20,000-30,000 pages of ‘potentially inappropriate’ emails between Allen and Jill Kelly.” Kelly is the same woman who received threats from Broadwell, and whose tipping off of the FBI eventually led to Petaeus’ resignation.  In the wake of this love-triangle turned love-quadrilateral, it appears as if Allen will soon be replaced sooner than hoped in Afghanistan. This is evidenced by Leon Panetta asking Congress to “expedite the confirmation of  his likely successor, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.”

There is also the potential that there a security breach occurred as a result of Petraeus’ affair, due to Broadwell’s unprecedented amount of access to the general. Though officials deny the likelihood of a breach, Broadwell, in a speech a month ago, alleged that the attackers on the US embassy in Benghazi on September 11th were trying to recapture prisoners being held at the US annex – a claim, which though denied by officials, is disturbing given Broadwell’s closeness to Petraeus. The vast amount of information that passed between Petraeus and Broadwell is a huge cause for concern, and, coupled with General Allen’s recently uncovered cache of illicit emails, raises questions about the security of information at the highest levels of US leadership.




What’s next in the Mali Crisis?

The crisis in Mali remains in full swing and so do the efforts to mitigate the issue. ECOWAS, Economic Community of West African States, has agreed to move forward with its plan to send 3,300 troops to Mali to begin a military intervention in the region. The bloc is waiting for approval from the UN Security Council to send troops on the ground. Algeria, the nation with the most military power in the region is skeptical of any foreign assistance, claiming that it will exacerbate the issue. The French, the ex-colonial power of Mali, believes it is imperative to react immediately to the crisis but is not willing to send troops.

The United States’ stance on the issue remains to back ECOWAS. We have also been communicating with Algeria with hopes to persuade them to partake in the intervention considering their military status in the Sahel. However, the argument Algeria broaches is one that an Islamist group has expressed in response to the possibility of a military intervention. Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, has confirmed its plan to violently retaliate against any type of foreign intervention. Ignoring this assertion could be destructive. However, France demands action because of the perceived threat a stabilized Islamist stronghold could bring to Europe and to the international community. If the plan moves forward and military operations fail, anti-Americanism and xenophobia could perpetuate amongst the Islamist groups and redirect its aims, even minutely, to broader targets. Should the United States go on with its course of action?


The Golden Dawn

Something major might be happening in North Korea as satellite images are pointing to them resuming some type of tests. However the information is too new to comment on and I had already prepared this post so I will comment on that as more information unfolds.
The specter of fascism has haunted Europe since the last fascist state fell in 1945 (no Francoist Spain was not a fascist state and I point to Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism for that) and neo-fascist movements have lingered. Almost all have failed to make significant progress in Europe except for the Greek Golden Dawn which has gone from being a marginal party to having potentially thirty percent support amongst the Greek electorate. The anti-austerity, anti-immigrant, and ultranationalist rhetoric of the Golden Dawn have made them a fixture in a Greece under economic and political strain. I could go into further depth about their activities but the article I have linked will suffice.
The Golden Dawn’s current goals seem to be to remove all immigrants and to break free of the EU and all austerity. These are trivial for now but with the party growing more militant and with its support expanding we must consider what a state under Golden Dawn control would want. Greece could never prove a match for the US but it could destabilize the region. One likely goal of Golden Dawn controlled Greece would be a push for Cyprus, which was under Greek control till the 1970s.
So in this vein the US must keep a close eye on what is becoming of Greece. Greece’s historic enemy, Turkey, is also a NATO nation and both have had strained relations in the past. The possibility of an ultranationalist Greece is emerging and the US must be ready to clean up whatever mess comes about in the region.

Ryan Thompson

Obama Gets Reelected, Defense Shares Drop

When Obama won reelection, US defense shares dropped sharply. If Romney had won, his promises to prevent sequestration probably would have caused the shares to increase in value. Obama’s victory, however, is not likely to have a long term negative impact on the US defense stocks due to efforts to delay or find alternative, bipartisan, solutions to sequestration. Defense contractors claim the uncertainty of the budget is negatively impacting investment. The Pentagon is adopting responsive measures to help promote exports of US technology.

The bipartisan rhetoric being used to address the budget and sequestration issue is going to improve security because more effective communication and cooperation will produce stronger alternatives to current policies. -WD

Iraq And The Days To Come

With Iraq’s economy rising, tensions with Iraqi Kurdistan in the north, outside actors vying for interest, and violence spreading throughout the region, many critics are speculating about the future of Iraq in years to come. As Iraqi oil exports continue to increase so does control over those exports. Russia, Iran, US, as well as Iraqi Kurdistan all are looking to carve out oil from Iraq making it a very tense environment with the possibility of increased tensions in the future. Also Iraq geographically is positioned in the middle of a period of turmoil throughout that region. Fighting in Syria that will more than likely spill over as well as longstanding tensions with Iran have critics predicting Iraq will have dark days ahead of it. However with progressive growth in the economy, critics see it as a possibility to reassert itself in the region once again.

An economic boom for Iraq looks like a promising start for this country on the road to recovery. I think that the US and its established ties with this country will see it through any tough times it may see. The article forecasts oil tensions as well as a possible conflict with Iraq both i believe the UShave heavy interests in. First, oil is a if not the priority for the US and any interruptions in its supply would have serious consequences for us. Second, The US perception of Iran has been negative for awhile now due to an unfriendly regime with the potential to create a nuclear bomb. I believe that any attack by Iran in general would trigger a response by the US.


China and Coal – The Love Affair

According to analysis of current trends in the global energy markets, coal use is set to increase substantially in the near future, driven by rapidly growing demand in developing countries. At the forefront of this expansion of one of the world’s ubiquitous, cheapest, and pollutant-heavy energy sources is China’s rapid economic expansion. Analysts predict China will see an increase in its annual demand for coal by 700 million tons by 2016. At the same time, global annual demand is predicted to increase from 7.9 billion tons this year to 8.9 billion tons in 2016, meaning that China will account for 70% of the huge growth in demand. This growth in demand will probably make coal the most common source of energy on the planet.


China’s rapid economic growth in recent history has shaken up the geopolitical order substantially. It now possesses a huge and growing profile in energy markets worldwide, something that this article contends is likely to shape energy markets and policy the world over for the foreseeable future (e.g. the U.S. developing West coast coal exporting infrastructure to tap into this growing demand as domestic use threatens to decline). China’s growing reliance on cheap, dirty energy is a concern to at least two dimensions of security: energy security and environmental security. Coal, despite its relative ease of extraction and ample supply, is not renewable, meaning that China will eventually need to come up with another economically feasible way of providing energy to satiate its massive domestic demand. Additionally, China already suffers from severe environmental degradation as a result of its breakneck development. This has become the source of growing unrest, with many public protests halting future construction projects throughout China due to the environmental threat they pose (e.g. the canceling of a copper plant in the city of Shifang in July due to large-scale public resistance). In sum, reliance on cheap coal means many more things than simply cheap energy prices, something that China’s incoming leadership should keep in mind.

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-William Kyle

Al-Shabaab extending to Puntland

Al-Shabaab has wreaked havoc in Somalia for quite some time now, but its recent move into the peaceful, Puntland region has caused more concern about the group. Earlier this month, the terrorist group Al-Shabaab officially established ties with Al-Qaeda, making them a much larger threat than before. On November 9th, Puntland’s President stated that Al-Shabaab forces have been making their way into the region and creating tension in the “relatively peaceful” area. Puntland is located in the mountainous, northern area of Somalia and described as being “semi-autonomous” and has been able to avoid the conflict created by Al-Shabaab in the south. Known for its natural resources and oil, many oil companies have looked into investing in and exploring the area. However, if Al-Shabaab sets up a base in Puntland, the region lose the investments of oil companies and the militant group will gain access to the Gulf of Aden, providing a method of weapons shipments.

The fact that Al-Shabaab has established ties with Al-Qaeda is extremely threatening because this tie increases the regional influence of Al-Qaeda, making it harder to combat international terrorism. Al-Shabaab’s move into Puntland is also a cause for concern because it shows the resilience of the militant group and their ability to adapt. The move also shows that the group is not interested in the economic welfare or peace of the country. Al-Shabaab is willing put the economic welfare of the Puntland at risk by setting up a base from which to transport arms, which will invariably bring violence to the peaceful region.


China’s Telecom Ties to CCP

This article discusses the issue of China’s telecom industry being tied to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.  China’s company’s Huawei (second largest maker of telecom gear in the world) was founded by Ren Zhengfei who was a PLA officer and a CCP member.  The threat the United States House of Representatives Intelligence Committee believes is that the Chinese companies will place a “Trojan horse” in telecom equipment sold to the US.  The companies are not state run and the companies responded to the accusations as  “groundless”.

From my study of China I have found that the PRC and the CCP has their hand in nearly ever aspect of China.  If the CCP and PLA wanted to place a “Trojan horse” in equipment sold to the US and keep it a secret I believe they could accomplish the task.  Although there may not be evidence I don’t think it is unreasonable for the Intelligence Committee to have its suspicions. Although making claims without evidence might be reckless.  “Can you imagine if China started asking U.S. companies coming to China what their relationship was with the Democratic or Republican parties? It would be a mess,” -Commerce Minister Chen Deming.–finance.html

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