Archive for November, 2014

Iraq’s Greatest Threat: An Economic Collapse

Iraq needs Kurdish oil income to avert budget collapse

Isis is not Iraq’s only threat. Iraq may be on the verge of an economic collapse.  Iraq’s economy is not only shrinking but also acquiring a larger fiscal deficit.  The private sector which includes 4 millions people has been crippled.  Politicians and analysts worry that Iraq’s crippled economy will undermine the countries ability to fight off ISIS.  The Iraqi state is also struggling to pay for the country’s nearly two million internally displaced refugees. Iraq’s economy is forecasted to shrink by 2.75% in 2014.

Under Nouri al-Maliki, the government overstated its oil revenue expectations and carried forward burdensome financial commitments. Even though the national budget had not been passed in Parliament, al-Maliki spent money illegally. Apparently around 65 percent of Iraq’s planned budget has already been spent.  Under the new leadership of al-Abadi, the government still hasn’t approved of the 2014 budget proposal. Prime Minister al-Abadi did announce that his government would be implementing a set of austerity measures. Plans to hire some 37,000 new government employees, including doctors and teachers, have been ditched. Without a budget proposal for 2014, Iraq’s economic future sheds a dim light.

A majority of Iraq’s economy is based on oil sales.  Today’s falling oil prices ($80 a barrel) hurt Iraq tremendously. ISIS has been a major problem for Iraq’s oil industry.  The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline that runs through Turkey has been shut down since March due to repeated attacks from ISIS. It is estimated that shutting down this pipeline alone has cost Iraq U.S$ 1.2 billion per month.

An economic collapse in Iraq would be detrimental to the Obama administration’s mission against ISIS.   The U.S needs a strong Iraqi government to cooperate in fighting ISIS. The U.S needs to further protect Iraqi oil interests as well as help Iraqi forces regain lost oil refineries primarily in the North. We also need to push Iraq to pass a budget proposal. Further unbudgeted spending will hurt Iraq going into 2015.


NATO hosts Cyber games

“The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the alliance cyber defence capabilities both at the NATO level and at the national level,” Luc Dandurand, deputy director of the exercise said. The countries and agencies who participated learned to work together, exchange information, and test new systems and protocols. NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said “Cyber attacks is not something that ‘might’ happen. Most attacks we are preparing for are for the future. Cyber attacks is something that is happening every day.” NATO is servers detect about 200 million suspicious cyber events a day and about five significant attacks each week. The cyber threats and attacks against NATO has increased since Russian aggression increase against Ukraine.

NATO hosting this event demonstrates the present danger of cyber warfare and the importance of cyber security. For those claiming this is a threat for the future, looks like the future is here. It seems NATO is treating cyber threats like terrorism threats, it is not only one countries problem but all the countries in the alliance problem. For their continued security, it is important for them to be able to handle the present dangers of the world. This is important to the United States security because the US is part of NATO, so a threat or attack against either the US or other NATO countries and involves and is a concern for the US. Cyber security and warfare is evolving and NATO should continue to treat it is a viable threat by being prepared.

– Faith


Military Presence in FARC Area Delays Hostage Release


Choco Province, Columbia. (Source: wikimedia commons)


The BBC reported yesterday that the FARC is warning the Colombian government that the release of General Alzate and other hostages may be delayed due to an increased military presence in the region. FARC originally stated the hostages were due to be handed over Tuesday but because of “massive troop deployments” they say this might not be the case.

The group seemingly captured the General, another soldier, and a lawyer because they were unhappy with the state of affairs between the rebels and the Columbian government.

Reporting goes on to say that Columbian officials will likely suspend military operations for a maximum of 48 hours, that the Red Cross may be called in to mediate the release process, possibly being flown in and out of the area by helicopter, or taken the same way by boat. It is unclear when this will happen.

Peace talks began in Cuba two years ago but the central government refused a ceasefire arguing it would only allow FARC time to reorganize and reequip.

Regardless of whether the hostages are released, the event is likely to spark a renewed effort by the military to combat FARC presence in the Choco province among others. Renewed effort means more military spending, and more assets procured from the United States to fight in the more remote areas outside of traditional military control.



A Sign of Desperation?

In light of the recent uptake in reports of a possible ISIS and al-Qaeda alliance let’s look a little more closely at why the two groups might join together. The article I will be referring to in this post assumes that the rumors of cooperation between the two groups are true. The US lead coalition has been bombing both ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates al-Nusra and the Khorasan group. These bombings have been dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve. It has been said that because of these bombings the groups have opted to set aside their rivalry and band together to fight their common enemy, the United States. This would be a strategic alliance that would allow the groups to temporarily set aside their ideological differences so they can confront their problem with the US. Does this mean that the US strategy against ISIS, which has been expanded to include al-Qaeda in Syria, is flawed?

The airstrikes are meant to cripple both groups and keep them from establishing more control in the region as they try to establish their caliphates. The two groups have different methods to accomplish this goal, which is the main reason they separated in the past. It also supposed to help protect the Syrian citizens in the long run. In light of the most recent set of strikes against the groups it seems they may now be able to put aside their differences in order to keep from getting “degraded and destroyed” by the coalition. However, if they are forming an alliance, does this mean the plan to “degrade and destroy” the groups has in fact failed then? Maybe, maybe not. If the two groups turn their focus to defending themselves against the US and the coalition it means they are less focused on terrorizing and brutalizing Syrians. Helping the Syrian citizens is part of why we are attacking these groups, so although the alliance may temporarily make the groups stronger we may have partially succeeded in helping to save civilians. Plus if they are working together it might actually be easier to locate them and to then bomb them.


The News Hub

Squeezing the Islamic State’s resources

The single largest source of the Islamic State’s money lies in the group’s oil wealth.  The American led coalition is focusing its efforts on eliminating funding for ISIS by retaking territories containing large oil wealth.  The U.S is also attempting to find ways to prevent ISIS from selling its oil on the international market.  The challenge is figuring out how much oil the group is pumping, refining, and selling in international black markets.  At the height of the Islamic State’s power, it was estimated that the group produced as many as 80,000 barrels a day.  It’s believed that their oil earnings are as high as 2 million a day.

In the last few weeks, ground offensives by Iraqi and Kurdish militaries as well as airstrikes have hurt ISIS’s oil profits. The most effective strategy has been airstrikes against mobile refineries which have hurt ISIS’s ability to turn crude into “easily transportable products that can be smuggled to nearby Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and even Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.” At least 22 mobile refineries have been destroyed.  Also, ground forces have pushed ISIS out of some of the oil-rich areas, including Baiji last week.  The U.N.  Team is leading investigations on the consumers of ISIS’s stolen oil.  Any tanker headed into or out of the Islamic State will be seized.

U.S led airstrikes against ISIS’s oil production is incredibly important in defeating this group.  Without oil resources, ISIS will be largely underfunded and many of supporters will most likely defect.  The U.S should focus its airstrikes on ISIS’s oil production.  This has been the most effective strategy yet.


Syrian children risk lives everyday

The conflict from the Syrian Civil War is made up of more than attempting to overthrow a regime. There are not only mass killings by the government but ruins with the economy, a lack of aid being given to injured people and now almost no education. The most affected group from this awful conflict is undoubtedly the children of Syria. They grow up in an unstable environment without a safe place to call home. Most children do not have both parents to try and guide them through their ever-changing surroundings. It was reported that an elementary school was bombed, although the group responsible has not yet been identified. The impact from the civil war has now carried over into the lives of the many of innocent civilians. Children who will be the future leaders of the country are no longer being given necessary opportunities to grow and learn. A startling statistic of 2.8 million Syrians are out of school as a result of the conflict (Montgomery).  This has led to children learning in makeshift classrooms in areas such as basements. Even stepping outside is problematic and children are taking their lives into their own hands. Not having schools in place for children means that kids no longer have anything exciting to look forward to. Instead of going to school the kids now will be forced into work.

The one issue that is almost universally agreed on is protecting the innocence of children. With that said the international community must act now to step in and protect this kids who have no means to defend themselves. The parents do not have the essential resources and the country is being torn apart not only from the civil war but also from ISIS.  The children subjected to the destruction and violence around them will be traumatized for a very long time. Therefore as an essential human right to live in peace and have the access to education the United States should step in as a leading country to support the aid of these children through trauma counseling and the re-institution of education. The country of Syria is in complete chaos and is in need of the dedication of just a few countries to ensure the safety of its civilians and children.


Finland and Russia

Finland is becoming more concerned over Russia’s actions in the region.  Russia has been doing military exercises in Finnish airspace and chasing down research vessels.  According to the Finnish president, these incursions were “‘testing how we’d react'” and that scrambling their jets were “strong enough to ward off further Russian aggression.”  Finland is concerned that EU protection will not be enough and may want to attempt to join NATO.  A Kremlin advisor claimed that if Finland, as well as Sweden, joined NATO.  Sweden also has a problem when Russia did an air assault simulation on Stockholm and the Swedish military failed to respond.

The Finnish are in a unique situation.  They seek the security of the west, but trade relations with its neighbor Russia.  In the article, Elisabeth Rehn says they like the Russians, but fear their leadership.  So they are in a position where they want security high to deter action from Russia while keeping trading with them.


-Zachary Truex

Artcile: Washington Post

Unidentified Jet Attacks Major Libyan Airport

Earlier today an unidentified fighter jet carried out an air strike on Mitiga airport in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. While the full extent of the damage is currently unknown, it still raises the Libyan conflict to a high stage of violence. The use of more advanced conventional weapons on both sides could exacerbate the situation into a deeper civil war.

The 2014 Civil War began when a Libyan general led an operation on behest of the central government to rid the country of Islamist militias that still control large swaths of land. Since the Revolution local/tribal militias, rebel groups and foreign militants have stayed in their respected zones of influence and retained control over many spots of land across Libya. Directly following the fall of Qaddafi, the new central government was too weak to fully control the entire country. People turned to the armed groups already in residence, and Libya became a patchwork of mini-fiefdoms and territories.

The Libyan government campaign began as a purely military Operation Dignity to recapture Benghazi from the (previously anti-Qaddafi rebel) Islamist militants. Afterwards the military dissolved the main legislative body, which was mostly controlled by Islamist party members, and held new elections. The new elections saw the Islamist groups lose massive support, which prompted them to counterattack.

Libya has gotten completely out of hand. The gateway to Europe is burnt and broken, ripped apart by years of violence and civil strife. No European power is intervening. Why is that? When things are so much worse now than during the Revolution, why is no European power attempting to rectify the situation they arguably caused?


– Sacha Brenac

Merger Allows for Boost in Ebola Vaccine Development

As of now, there are two major Ebola vaccine development programs working hard to create a vaccine for the deadly virus. One of the programs is led by a well-known pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. The other is smaller, Iowa based company that now has the help of another well-known company, Merck. This well hopefully speed up the progress in regards to discovering a vaccines for Ebola. I think it is obvious by now, what an Ebola vaccine would mean. Not only is it important for the health security of the United States but it would also be beneficial around the globe. The article lets us know that the U.S. Defense Department is already providing funds to the Merck program. But when taking into consideration the article I posted a couple of weeks ago about the six billion dollar plan, I do not recall any funding going towards finding a vaccine. The six billion dollar plan would piggyback off of the clinical trails but not so much the actual creation and cost of creation of the experimental vaccine itself. I think that the $6 billion plan should incorporate developing vaccines better since the WHO stated that $6 billion is a lot more than what will be needed to accomplish the current goals of the plan.


Westerners Join in the Fight Against ISIS

More and more westerners are joining up with Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS. Fighters from the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, and other western nations are traveling to Syria and Iraq to aid in the effort to destroy the extremist group. Many of these fighters come from military backgrounds. There are two American fighters who were in the U.S. Army, one having toured in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are around six Canadian special forces veterans, a Canadian-Israeli woman fighting for the Kurds, as well as a father and son duo from Germany. There are also two biker gangs, believe it or not, who have been given the green light to fight ISIS. One of the gangs is from the Netherlands and the other from Germany.

Just like those foreign fighters who journey to fight with ISIS, these anti-ISIS fighters are powered by similar motivations. The sense of fulfilling one’s duty, the adrenaline rush from the thrill of the fight, a sense of purpose or identity, all of which are characteristics shared with ISIS foreign fighters. However, western nations are discouraging their citizens to take up arms against ISIS, but many western governments are avoiding prosecuting them. The UK has implemented new anti-terrorist laws which allow for the revocation of citizenship from those British jihadists returning from Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron stated, that there is a “fundamental difference” between them and those fighting for the Kurds, and pledged that the British border staff would be able to tell one from the other. “UK law makes provisions to deal with different conflicts in different ways – fighting in a foreign war is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual’s own activities.” U.S. law enforcement officials state that it is illegal for an American to join a Syrian militia, despite all of the online support for the American fighter Jordan Matson.

ISIS looks at these people as if they were candy. ISIS’s possession of western hostages gives the group the fuel to retaliate against Western nations. These people are potentially feeding that fuel. ISIS will undoubtedly behead any of the western individuals, if caught, since their only source of power against the western nations is to release a video of a westerner being beheaded. Those individuals that travel from the west to Iraq and Syria risk the threat to their safety and lives. The U.S. and other western nations face the potential threat of these anti-ISIS fighters falling in the hands of ISIS. I believe that what these fighters are doing is a good thing, but I do not think that they should be prosecuted for their actions. I feel like being in that brutal and violent environment is punishment enough.



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