Archive for April, 2013

The Growing Danger of Al-Qaeda in Iran

As the most recent terrorist attack on the American Continent was thwarted earlier today, Canadian Officials have linked the would-be terrorists to al-Qaeda in Iran. That’s right, al-Qaeda in Iran. Off the bat, this pairing of Sunni and Shia extremists seem highly unlikely. However, al-Qaeda does have outposts in Iran, and this shelter is proving to be the next breeding ground for al-Qaeda to thrive. Though their religious views diverge sharply, al-Qaeda has seen a growing presence in Iran based purely on their mutual enemies, Israel and the United States.

As the drone programs have successfully stomped out top al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen, Pakistan, and Northern Africa, Iran remains one of the few untouched sanctuaries for al-Qaeda leadership, funds, and training facilities. This dangerous partnership, though not as fully pronounced as Pakistan, has the potential for future proxy attacks sponsored by Iran on American and Israeli targets. The two are not working in complete harmony, however, as al-Qaeda remains independent of Iran’s leadership and Iran for now has merely tolerated the terrorist group’s presence.

The Obama Administration needs to pay particular attention to al-Qaeda in Iran. Drone strikes, while successful in countries like Pakistan (our less than friendly ally), won’t necessarily be as easy in Iran. Violating Iranian sovereignty with drone strikes could set off more problems than it solves, especially with Iran’s grip on the Strait of Hormuz and their ever evolving nuclear program. Iran may be seen as a pariah state, but more cooperation is needed between governments to stomp out this threat. The US cannot rid Iran of al-Qaeda alone, and certainly not with the same tactics it employed in other countries. As today’s thwarted attacks have shown, Iran’s harboring and sponsoring of terrorist activity cannot be tolerated, and if nothing is done, Iran might be the seemingly unlikely location of an al-Qaeda revival.


No Bunker-Buster Bomb in Israel’s Weapons Deal With U.S.

Today the U.S. and Israel made a deal on a new arms trade agreement. The agreement, however, will not supply Israel with bombs capable of “busting bunkers”. These bombs, if Israel owned them would probably be used to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Even if Israel had the bomb,they wouldn’t be able to use it. They would need B-2 bombers to carry the weight of the bomb anyway. Mr. Hagel, the defense secretary said that Israel has the right to defend itself however it sees fir , but it should defend its national security by any means other than military action. The Israelis, on the other hand, feel as though they need bunker-bombs to protect themselves from Iran.

The United States’ decision not to sell bunker-busting bombs to Israel was in its own strategic interests. The United States can not be dragged into a nuclear conflict. Though Iran has not been proven to possess nuclear weapons capabilities, nobody knows for sure now far their nuclear program has come in recent years. If Israel were to launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, retaliation would be expected and the United States would be dragged in to protect their ally. Again. it was smart of the United States not to sell bunker-busting bombs to Israel. If they had sold the bunker-busting bomb to Israel they may have felt the pressure to also sell a B-2 bomber to Israel. This amount of military equipment would increase tensions between Israel and other allies in the region.


Al Qaeda Releases Warning to France and others on North Africa

Al Qaeda has vowed vengeance on those who have waged war in Mali on AQIM. The 28-page press release stated that all who have participated are fair game for attacks, that the group is an important part of world affairs. Al Qaeda also used the release as a recruitment tool. The group clusters together French soldiers and African soldiers, saying that both are targets for attacks.

The purpose of this release was for Al Qaeda to respond to French regaining most control of Mali, to remind the public that the core leadership had not been eliminated and for recruitment. If anything, this is mostly to let the world know that it will not stop fighting and that it is not weakened in an attempt to retain credibility. How much damage it can do in the coming months to French and African interests and soldiers will remain a question, and influence how much a country wants to be involved.


Syrian Electronic Army

The Syrian Electronic Army is a network of Syrian regime supporters who have been waging a mini cyberwar. Mostly they tend to attack websites and hijack twitter feeds of groups such as Human Rights Watch and NPR. In their largest attack to date, they’ve hijacked four NBC linked Twitter accounts, including that of 60 Minutes. In addition, they captured the FIFA twitter account. From these accounts they have tweeted everything from pro-Assad propaganda to anti- US government conspiracy theories concerning the Boston bombing incident. While capturing a few twitter accounts is not the most impressive thing in the world, the fact that it is a group comprised of professional hackers and volunteers who may or may not be receiving compensation raises a few eyebrows. If they are paid, who is paying them? Is it the Syrian Regime? What are their aims? Just propaganda spreading? Do they intend to expand the type of hacking that they do? Further, since the twitter attacks and propaganda don’t differentiate between the opposition and those who back them as intended targets, would US government sites and databases be vulnerable in the future? Obviously, the groups capabilities are low now, but it remains to be seen what they may do in the future.


CISPA 2013

Around this time last year, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (or CISPA) was a very protested piece of legislation. Hundreds of thousands of inviduals signed online petitions and called their representatives in Congress in an attempt to block the bill from passing. To name a few, internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Google rallied behind the cause and “blacked out” their websites in protest of CISPA. This was roughly a year ago and the same event was supposed to occur today. Didn’t notice anything did you?

That is because the internet giants that gave the movement against CISPA so much sway have switched their position. The same companies that so vehemently opposed the passage of CISPA last year are now shifting their weight to support the bill. That is because the companies wanted and have now received  the protections that they were looking for. CISPA protects the companies from being held liable and lets them pass on information to the government, thus relieving them of responsibility.

With this shift in power the potential for CISPA to pass is becoming a more real possibility  However, with the White House currently still refusing to sign the bill for lack of protection of private information, the next few weeks will prove interesting.



Hagel: Israel has right to decide on Iran strike

In the most recent stage of Obama’s diplomacy blitz to Israel, Sec Def. Hagel was sent on a visit to Jerusalem, with a clear message: “Israel has the right to decide for itself whether to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.” Hagel went on to say that “Israel is a sovereign nation and every sovereign nation has the right to defend itself and protect itself. Israel will do that. It must do that.” This comes after a recent arms deal between the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that includes 25 F16s for the UAE and “Stand Off  Weapons Systems” for both nations.

This is a marked departure from traditional Obama rhetoric.  When Obama has spoken about Israel in the past, he has been encouraging peace and negotiation. Now it seems as though he is removing the restraints that he put in place to prevent a war between the two countries. Could this be a sign that war is inevitable, or is it just Obama trying to cozy up to a long time friend of the US that he scorned during his first term?


G8 addresses the issue of Rapes in the DRC

The G8 last week allocated  $435 million to help fight sexual crimes in the war zone.  William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary spearheaded the effort to bring awareness to the problem and provide funds to address the problem.

Mr. Hague, however, argues that the money will more than likely be wasted by western NGO instead of being used to hunt down the perpetrators of these crimes and their many victims. This, is in my opinion endemic of the problem with the DRC, especially as the western world gets more involve with financing the recovery of the country.  Western governments are willing to finance the rebuilding of the country, they are even willing to address issues such as sexual crimes in war zones, however, they are not willing to physically take charge and implement change.

Unless the G8 monitors the NGO’s assigned to administer this program, and unless the cost of administering the program are not kept at a reasonable level, the western world will miss the opportunity to address, eradicate, and educate scores of victims, soldiers, and police officers in the country.


Has There Been Progress?

This past Friday a Nigerian peacekeeper, from the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), was killed. His death, and that of two others, was a result of an attack on the agency’s base in Muhajeria in Eat Darfur. The United Nations has begun its investigation and is currently working with the government of Sudan. The UN also states that “any attack on international peacekeepers is a crime under international law.”

The towns of Muhajeria and Labado have been areas on intense fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the rebel factions Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM). Currently the town is under the control of the SLM-MM. This violence has led to the displacement of thousands of civilians including the estimated   18,000 seeking refuge at the UNAMID base in the area. These towns are strategically important because they are along the main trade route for supplies and humanitarian aid from Khartoum to Eastern and Southern Darfur. The attack this week comes as the SAF takes control of the area.

This episode show yet again that although progress might be happening in Darfur the region is far from stable.


Drone Medal Canceled

The proposed Distinguished Warfare Medal has been canceled. Intended to recognize the contributions of servicemen and women in the fields of drone operations and cyber-warfare, the medal sparked a controversy as opponents felt it diminished or insulted frontline combatants. Instead, a device will be added to existing medals.

As mentioned in a prior post on the subject, this is a tiny controversy with (potentially) huge security implications. While negative reactions to a virtual combat award are understandable, we as a nation should also strive to recognize the contributions of our military while adapting to changing technologies. If virtual warfare — drone and cyber operations — is relegated to a sort of “second class combat” in spite of its increasing value, then we are, intentionally or unintentionally, discouraging military personnel from joining these fields while creating a systemic bias against them.

War changes. Technology changes. We, too, must change.

— Dave III

Previous drone medal post.


North Korea diplomacy effort grows, but sides are still far apart

(CNN) — A week of critical diplomacy is set to begin in Washington, Beijing and Pyongyang. But the sides are so far apart, at least in public declarations, it is impossible to predict where any diplomatic efforts will lead.
North Korea continues to hold fast to the position that its nuclear and ballistic missile programs are non-negotiable. Pyongyang’s official news agency says the North wants U.N. Security Council sanctions lifted. The sanctions were put in place after North Korea launched a three-stage rocket last December that put a satellite in orbit. More sanctions were added when the North conducted its third underground nuclear test in February.
The U.S. and South Korea insist that a verifiable path to dismantling those programs must be on the table for any negotiating process to begin.

South Koreans are increasingly saying they may need a nuclear deterrent to counter Pyongyang’s threats. But for obvious reason China has opposed those to these threats of the nuclearization the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s aging war machine North Korea blames U.S., South Korea
Looking at the North’s rapidly growing nuclear threat, some “South Koreans admit that after years of dismissing all the bombastic rhetoric from Pyongyang, real fears are emerging.” China is feeling more wanted than ever. The North Koreans have signaled their readiness to meet with anyone from Beijing. The U.S., Japan and South Korea have repeatedly and publicly declared that China holds the key to reining in the North.


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