Archive for September, 2020

U.S. Commandos Use Secretive Missiles to Kill Qaeda Leaders in Syria

US special operations forces used a special type of missile to kill a high ranking terrorist of an Al-Qaeda affiliated group. The missile is used to avoid civilian casualties, as its explosive warhead is replaced by long blades, designed to cut or crush the victim’s vehicle. The strike happened in northwestern Syria, which is important because it crosses the unofficial dividing line between Russian and U.S forces the the Euphrates River acts as. The U.S. has crossed this dividing line on prior occasions to conduct its shadow war with Qaeda groups, but usually, the Russians ignore it.

This special form of hellfire missile, called the ninja hellfire missile, was developed under President Obama as a response to high civilian casualties from middle eastern wars as a result of conventional missile strikes. This form of missile seems to solve this problem, but it makes it more difficult to take out groups of terrorists at the same time. It is also important to take note of the heightening tensions between the U.S. and Russia in Syria given recent events. The U.S. must be careful to not upset Russia too much while conducting this shadow war, but in my opinion should continue it given the size of the threat that a resurgence of Al Qaeda would provide.

Connor Quin

Pakistan Threatened by Climate Change

Pakistan faces many dangers from the changing climate. In recent years, the storms during monsoon season have become stronger. Monsoons in August dropped 19 inches of rain around the city of Karachi. The storms destroyed thousands of homes and killed over 100 people. Monsoons have become unpredictable and reach larger regions of land for longer periods of time. Pakistan also faces increasing temperatures. Over the summer, the city of Jacobabad recorded temperatures at 124 degrees, making it the hottest city in Asia. The high temperatures caused frequent electricity blackouts, making it harder to cope with the extreme temperature. The heat also brought in many plagues in the rural areas of Pakistan. The government had to declare a national emergency because of the number of crops destroyed by locusts. The plagues caused a loss in $2.5 billion. The glaciers in the Hindu Kush and other regions in Northern Pakistan are melting at an increasing rate. In the coming years, the melting will cause landslides, heavy flooding, dam bursts, and erosion.

Climate change has already taken a toll on Pakistan. The World Bank estimates that 15 percent of GDP in the Sindh province, containing Karachi, is lost each year due to environmental damage. The Sindh Province generates over half of Pakistan’s revenue, so the damages to its GDP greatly affect the overall state of the country’s GDP. With a weakened economy, Pakistan’s ability to participate in its arms race with India is very weakened. The storms and temperature have also caused millions of Pakistanis to migrate from disaster areas. Adding to the damage is the lack of significant infrastructure and health programs in the country to aid those suffering from the storms or heat.

The changing weather also makes it more difficult for the military to protect the country as the environment continues to change. The hazardous conditions from climate change can make Pakistan more vulnerable to outside attacks. Terrorist groups or other actors could take advantage of the chaotic and dangerous situations created by the worsening weather. Although Pakistan is only responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is one of the countries at greatest risk to climate change. Pakistan faces many threats from climate change, but it also must depend on the rest of the world to change their environmental policies to improve the situation in Pakistan. However, there is plenty of room for improvements on infrastructure and healthcare.

Chester Pruitt

Honduras breaks Their Silence

This past week Honduras broke their silence on their stance on the Israeli- Palestinian Crisis via social media. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez took to twitter to publicly announce negotiations between Honduras and Israel over the relocation and establishment of embassies. President Hernandez announced that as a means to strengthen the strategic alliance between the two, Honduras will move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem and Israel will open a diplomatic office in Honduran Capital, Tegucigalpa, by the end of the year. 
Prior to this move Honduras, like many others, has conducted most of its diplomatic negotiations with Israel in Tel Aviv as a means to keep the peace. However, this decision to relocate the Honduran embassy has completely changed that. Since the status of this disputed city has yet to be reached in an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and given that Honduras chose to break from their policy of neutrality so publicly, this could increase hostilities between the Palestinians and Israel. In addition, with the many other countries now backing Israel, Honduras move will serve to increase tensions and polarization. 

-Natalie Vazquez

Palestinian President Abbas Seeks UN Interference

Recently, several Middle Eastern states have normalized relations with Israel, leaving Palestinians authorities feeling hopeless in their struggle to attain and maintain their own land. With the shift in power dynamics, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked the United Nations to step in and hold an international conference between all states involved to settle the dispute. This seems to be the last chance the Palestinians have to broker any kind of deal that secures them land and a semblance of sovereignty as the Israeli government gains more power and allies relative to Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority has to turn to the international institution that put them in their current position to counter Israel’s major power ally, the US.

The US continues to encourage normalization between Middle Eastern states and Israel. Their continued brokerage of deals in the Middle East increases their legitimacy as a major power player in the region. As the US bolsters Israel’s standing in the region, their alliances grows stronger, and the chance that Israel will be able to help the US if the time comes, increases. The Palestinian Authority probably is not a big threat to the US or Israel. The US and Israel, as well as their allies, are members states and have a say in whether to convene a conference of not.


Trump Administration at Odds w/ Allies

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Cabinet members announced new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s Defense Ministry and its ballistic missile program, as well as the leader of Venezuela’s regime, Nicolás Maduro, for allegedly helping Iran’s weapons programs. However, U.S. allies are not accepting of this news. In 2018, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, but his administration argues that the U.S. still has the right to force the “snapback” of the U.N. sanctions. Britain, France, and Germany said Sunday that the U.S. no longer had the legal authority to force the reimposition of U.N. sanctions. Russia and China also rejected the unilateral move by Washington. This clearly is an issue on all ends because the U.N. has even decided that it will not be backing the U.S, but it sounds as if even Iran is brushing these “sanctions” off. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking from Iran, told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The United States has exerted all the pressure it could on Iran. It had hoped that these sanctions would bring our population to its knees. It didn’t.”
This is one example of how the decisions from Washington have directly affected relationships with our allies.

Alexis Rudisel

Concerning Ukraine and the Poisoning of Alexei Navalny

On August 20th 2020, Russian anti-corruption and opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned and has been in the hospital ever since. It has been argued that the response from the international community against Russia could create a prefect opportunity for Ukraine to finally get the true, hard power, international support they need to secure Crimea and their own autonomy. ( However, I do not think that this poisoning will cause any more support for Ukraine and I do not think it represents the last straw that the international community has for Russia. At this point Ukraine’s outlook for autonomy is seeming grim. Despite supportive statements from all around the international community, little real action has been enacted.

NATO has called it an attack on democratic rights and Germany has been the greatest backer of this poisoning claim. Donald Trump has said that there is no proof of the poisoning but that he would be angry if it were true. The EU has backed Germany’s claim and has called for a joint international response. ( It seems that the poisoning, however, has not had such a lasting affect. The article linked above was written on the fourth of September and since then, not a lot of international uproar has ensued. It seems that Ukraine’s opportunity to ‘strike while the iron is hot’ is coming to a close. I do not think that much hard power support will be used from other countries especially considering Donald Trump’s reaction to the poisoning. Without US action, most states are even more hesitant to intervene with any Russian conflict. Unfortunately, Russia knows this and will continue to wear down Crimea as long as the US keeps a passive approach in their promise to back Ukraine. The reality is, EU and the USA care very little about the Russian conflict in Ukraine. And it will remain that way until it leaks over past multiple boarders and closer to home for the EU.


NATO Exercises in the Baltics

NATO member-nations recently took part in a multinational air defense exercise, Tobruq Legacy, which was held in Lithuania. This exercise combined modern Western defense equipment with Soviet-era equipment to strategize and practice for a possible future conflict in the area. According to the commanding general for the 10th Army Air Missile Defense Command, the exercise was supposed to train and prepare soldiers for defense situations that would be unique to the Baltic area. Tobruq Legacy took place in Lithuania where soldiers were met with curious civilians and, on one occasion, the smell of fertilizer manure for 12 hours as a farmer continued about his work while soldiers were training on his land.

Military exercises have been an important factor in military training for centuries. Exercises have been critical for training troops and preparing them for real life situations that they could face in war. Exercises have also been used as a show of force to demonstrate a nation(s)’ military might. However, I wonder if exercises like Tobruq Legacy still maintain the same amount of usefulness that they once did. We are now in an age of hybrid warfare where conflicts are more likely to be fought online and through drones. Should there still be so much emphasis on these boots on the ground scenarios?

Emily DePersio

China is Avoiding Importation of Frozen Food from Countries with COVID Outbreaks

After several incidents of imported seafood coming back positive for traces of COVID, the capital has ordered that importers need to avoid receiving frozen food from those countries who are having outbreaks. The Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau stated that this proves the risks of contamination. China has already mostly ridden of domestic transmission of COVID, but they are on high alert for re-contamination. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the chances of getting COVID through food is low, yet China is still taking it as a serious risk. These limitations on imports did not start suddenly. In June, China suspended imports from Tyson food plants in the United States. In August, chicken from Brazil tested positive for traces of COVID. These two incidents caused the country to screen imports more thoroughly, causing them to suspend food imports from 19 countries by September 7th. These precautions show that China is worried about their health security. The risk of a new outbreak in the country after being able to minimize transmission rates and ways would be a setback.

Although the WHO said that there is a low chance of contracting COVID through food, I think that the steps that China has been taking to prevent a new outbreak are applaudable. The United States is now able to start pin-pointing where COVID cases are coming from in the country, but I do think that they should look at China for alternative ways to stop re-contamination coming into the country from other areas.


Will Boko Haram Survive Decapitation Strikes?

On Thursday, September 24th, the Nigerian military claimed that is has killed top leaders of the terrorist organization, Boko Haram, in Borno State, a state located in Northeastern Nigeria. The Nigerian military also stated that Boko Haram campsites and refuge were destroyed in the military operation. Despite the significance and success of capturing and killing top commanders under Boko Haram, we discussed in class how terrorist organizations can survive decapitation strikes if they are bureaucratized and popular. I believe that it is too early to declare the fate of the terrorist organization after these decapitation strikes against their top officials. In my opinion, only time will tell if Boko Haram is organized and popular enough to maintain a presence deemed threatening to the region and national security. If Boko Haram lacks an organized hierarchy with clear division of responsibilities and rules and also lacks popular support that generates money, recruits, military supplies, etc, they are likely to become unstable and less threatening. If Boko Haram can recover from the loss of top officials effectively and efficiently and maintain some bureaucratic structure or popular support, they will continue to be an effective terrorist group. If this is the case, I expect their recuperation to cue the international community to make Boko Haram a top priority in their foreign policy agendas and take the organization more seriously.

Anna Longacher

Germany not doing enough to Combat Terrorism

In an interview with German news outlet Bild on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is not doing enough to fight the Islamic Republic of Iran’s terrorism.” Pompeo was referring to the reimposes of UN sanctions on Iran in August. When the United States announced the sanctions, “they expected that all UN Member States comply with their obligations to implement the measures fully”. The German government being a member state of the UN has agreed that they don’t want Iran to buy and sell weapons yet have no alternative plan to prevent these kinds of transactions from occurring. According to German local domestic intelligence services, Iran’s regime has used German territory for surveillance and assassination operations targeting Iranian dissidents, pro-Israel advocates, and Israeli and Jewish institutions. Germany is not the only European country that does not have active preventative measures against Iran weapons.

The presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Germany leaves a pressing concern for the United States. Chancellor Merkel’s open border migration policy does not give security officials much confidence in Germany’s stance on ‘not wanting Iran to buy and sell weapons.’ Instead, the migration policy allows for a hotspot for the Islamic Republic of Iran to get a hold of weapons if there is no strict enforcement against the transaction, increasing the likelihood of terrorist activity.

Ashlee Warren

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