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Egyptian Revolution?

In my opinion, one of the most intriguing parts of the panel were Dr. Kramer’s comments claiming that the uprisings in Egypt are not technically part of a revolution.  Even if protesters are seeking regime change, no real leaders among the resistance have emerged with the goal of replacing Mubarak’s establishment.  Since the entire government is based around Mubarak’s political party, there are few groups that are in a position to step up and claim actual leadership.

This potential power vacuum could create two possible security situations in the near future: internal anarchy in Egypt or the promotion of a leader that is hostile to regional interests.  Without a leader, the situation could very easily turn violent.  With the military in control, they may decide to put an end to protests violently which would obviously cause immediate issues with human security and could create refugee flows south or west into Africa, east into the Middle East, or even north into Europe.  The possibility of a radical leader taking advantage of the chaos might push regional tensions to the breaking point.  With genocide and potential civil war in Sudan to the south and Qaddafi’s oppressive Libyan regime to the west, it would be easy for Egypt to provoke its neighbors.  The relaxed tensions with Israel under Mubarak may snap if a radical Arab leader comes to power.  Only time will tell who will step up and what it will mean for Africa and the Middle East.


Egypt Panel

What struck me the most throughout the entire panel discussion was the emphasis all of the members put on the spread of protest and unrest. Not one of these incidents occurs in isolation from the others, instead they feed off of one another. I think this facet of what is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and other countries strikes me as being the most relatable to our discussions. The fact that these types of demonstrations are not just limited to one country- but that they can spill over and directly influence others is a problem of both security and conflict. While this may not be an immediate problem for the United States’ security, I’m sure leaders who find themselves in a similar organizational situation are looking for ways to extinguish revolutionary sparks in their own country.

Additionally, there was a mention of how important it is for these elections to happen sooner rather than later. The people involved in these protests want to see substantive change and receive some sort of compensation for their efforts. If, however, they do not receive any kind of recognition, these protests might turn into prolonged conflicts. Furthermore, there is a chance they could turn into more violent and radicalized problems that might pose a challenge to United States interest.


Somali Pirates Release Vessel

On February 10, a South Korean fishing vessel, and her crew, was released by Somali pirates after about four months of captivity. A EUNAVFOR warship secured the vessel and crew after a request for assistance from the South Korean government. None of the former captives were very badly injured and after some quick maintenance by the assisting warship, the Golden Wave was escorted to a Kenyan port.
The Golden Wave had been used as a “mother ship” from which the pirates launched some of their attacks. According to the captain of the Golden Wave, no ransom was paid for the release of the crew or vessel.
It is difficult to say why the pirates would give up a ship and her crew for nothing. Maybe the vessel was in too poor shape after months tooling around the Gulf of Aden. Or possibly there was no hope for a ransom from South Korea for the captured ship (most of the ship’s crew are native Kenyans). Whatever the reason, it is relieving to see a formerly captured ship be released with very little or no harm done to the hostage crew.

Nukes in Japan

A nuclear security training site was launched in Japan on February 10, 2011 according to the press. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said it was going to focus on training scientists of developing nations about the early stages of developing nuclear weapons. The things would hi-light training on nuclear counter terrorism,  and atomic material safe guards. This could potentially be dangerous because Japan is training countries who are not allies of the Nuclear proliferation treaties and talks.

US Counterterrorism fear Dirty Bombs and biological weapons

US Counterterrorism officials have been talking about the one thing nobody wants to talk about: the possibility of a biological terror attack on U.S. soil. Officials claim that terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda are more likely to use biological weapons rather than nuclear weapons. It is much easier for terrorist groups to put together a “dirty bomb,” one that could be detonated and disperse radioactive material. Terrorist groups are also showing more interest in biological weapons, especially terrorist cells based out of Yemen. North Korea was also mentioned as being a potential threat in the area of biological weapons, but at the moment, North Korea is taking the necessary steps to talk through issues. The Patriot Act also surfaced during this discussion. Counterterrorism officials claim if the Patriot Act is renewed, it will be easier to detect terrorists who may potentially plan to attack the US via biological weapons. The Patriot Act makes it easier for CIA and other agencies to get wire taps on potential terrorists, stopping them before catastrophe strikes, but without the act, it will be virtually impossible in the legal sense to investigate possible terrorist threats.

This whole discussion reminds me of our talk on terrorism last Thursday in class. I definitely think it is more likely for terrorists to use biological weapons rather than nuclear bombs against potential targets. It is very unlikely that al-Qaeda would be willing to spend the time and money developing a nuclear bomb, or even allying with a country with a nuclear program. More people seem to talk about terrorists using a nuclear bomb because it grabs people’s attention, but in reality, terrorists want something that is simple and easy to create and use to cause chaos. With that in mind, US Counterterrorism agencies need to begin to find ways to either prevent a biological attack or educate the public on what the possible scenarios are and safety measures. In relation to the Patriot Act, I am finding it hard to believe that this act is the only one that can give intelligence agencies permission to wire tap potential terrorists, etc. There must be some other laws or policies that give officials the means they need to perform counterterrorism measurers in relation to potential threats.


Iranian Protests Take Place

Following the protests in Egypt and Tunisia recently, there have been calls by opposition supporters in Iran to hold protests against the government.  On Monday, February 14, 2011 thousands took to a collective protest in the streets of Tehran to protest against the current government in power.  Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition leader from the 2009 election against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still under house arrest while rumors float whether another presidential hopeful, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and his wife were a part of the protest or whether they were prevented by security forces from leaving their home.  Mousavi was the leader of Green Movement, the reformist protests aimed at taking Ahmadinejad out of power to protect the constitutional rights of the Iranian people; this movement has developed into an organization called the Green Path of Hope which continues to work for a the same collective cause.  The protesting was said to be countered by up to 10,000 security forces troops who dispersed the protesters by allegedly firing tear gas and paintballs at them.  There were reports of clashes between protesters and security forces with beatings and arrests also allegedly occurring.

The question is how effective or strong are these counter-government protests and is this, in fact, a reflection of a widespread dissatisfaction of citizens with their government.  The resolve of the Iranian government, as displayed by the 2009 protests, was strong and unwavering and the opposition was countered more firmly by force than what we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia.  The Iranian government’s authoritarian approach to government would make it difficult for there to be uprisings as large as what have been seen in Egypt and Tunisia.  An interesting question for a change in power in the Iranian government would be what would happen to the Iranian Nuclear Program?  The presidential opposition to Ahmadinejad cited a stronger willingness to open talks with President Obama which would open up a wider range of communication and the prospect of diplomacy itself.  This could make negotiations easier and could ease tensions between the two countries as compromises could possibly be more realistic.  However, it is uncertain how and if this will take place.


al-Qaeda Sleeper at British Airline

Earlier this February, an al-Qaeda sleeper agent working in IT for British Airways was obtaining information about the airline with intentions to create a devastating attack. Rajib Karim was arrested in Newcastle, England, after his plot to blow up an airplane over the Atlantic surfaced and British authorities moved in. Karim, 31, a native of Bangladesh, came to the UK in 2006 with intentions for a “spectacular attack.”  Karim assimilated into his area, joining a local football club (soccer to you) and kept his extremist views under wraps.

Once he began working for BA in 2007, he began to exchange plans and information with al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He and his brother began to plan the logistics of an attack, with al-Awlaki making a US attack a priority. Karim is currently on trial.

One of the largest issues this event may raise in the airline field is the new distrust created toward Muslim co-workers. Knowing one of their fellow workers plotted to commit an attack will probably have backlash through out the airline community, including more intensive background checks and restrictions on employees to access data.


North Koreans walk out of talks

Military talks between North and South Korea ended suddenly Wednesday afternoon when the North Korean delegation literally walked away from the table.  These preliminary talks were the first since last year’s attacks on the South.  South Koreans were hoping for an explanation of the attacks during these talks but the abrupt ending left both sides unsatisfied.    The North Korean government is blaming the south for the sudden end of the talks, calling their delegation “scoundrels” and “traitors” who are trying to avoid the resumptions of group talks with the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the US.

While we may never know what was actually said in the talks, I think it’s a little suspicious, but not outside the norm, for the north to pin the blame on the south even if one or both sides are to blame.  I think the best idea would be for the six nation talks to resume so there will be outside parties to moderate the talks and help to prevent defection from either side.

Robert Gates says the Defense Budget Cannot Go Any Lower

Robert Gates has urged Congress, which still has yet to pass a budget for the 2011 fiscal year, to provide the Pentagon with at least $540 billion. Currently, Congress is in the middle of a debate that will determine whether or not Congress will continue with a resolution that keeps the defense budget at the same rate as last year. Gate feels that a crisis could ensue if lawmakers decide to continue with the resolution because the DOD would be short by about $23 billion. Gates stated that the Pentagon can survive off of $540 billion this year, but at the same time emphasized that “the U.S. military may not be able to properly carry out its mission, maintain readiness and prepare for the future.”

While Gates is seeing some support from lawmakers, such as Rep. Buck McKeon (Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee), he is also getting scrutinized by other congressmen as well as analysts. Gordan Adams feels that being families have had to learn to cut back on spending in recent years, the government should have to as well.

I agree with Adams’ argument, that because many US families have had to learn to deal without extra funds the past two years that the government should have to learn to cut back on items that are not completely necessary. There are plenty of military vehicles and equipment that our country could afford to do without. By trimming some unnecessary weight from the defense budget, our country could begin to lift itself out of debt. However, I also wish to point out that if the budget is cut by $23 billion, some contracts will not be fulfilled that the US has made with specific industries. On top of that, some soldiers may not be able to get paid, which would most definitely result in a crisis. At this point I feel that Congress just needs to pass something so that the DOD can adjust its budgetary needs accordingly.


Napolitano’s “Warning” to Mexican Drug Cartels

In a speech last week at the University of Texas at El Paso, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave a warning to the drug cartels that have converted Mexico into a narco-state.  She said, “Don’t even think about bringing your violence and tactics across this border. You will be met by an overwhelming response. And we’re going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you.”

What? Is our secretary of Homeland Security really saying this? The mexican drug cartels are already in the US, and have been for some time.  The FBI reports that the cartels distribute drugs in 2,500 US cities and towns, and with the drugs comes the brutal violence that has already shaken all of Mexico.  This violence affecting US citizens includes kidnappings and murders of people associated in any way to the cartels’ operations.  Many US citizens have been kidnapped and held for ransom after being taken across the mexican border. There have also been reports of border Patrol agents and police officers being killed, in addition to civilians.  In March 2010, an Arizona farmer was found shot to death (along with his dog) on his own ranch.  The police found foot prints at the scene and followed them for 20 miles to the mexican border. They then concluded that this murder was an act of retaliation by the drug cartels because the farmer’s brother had called police only a day before to report drug smuggling activity on the ranch. That phone call resulted in eight arrests and the seizure of 290 pounds of marijuana.

This “spillover violence” is not the only form of presence the cartels have in this country.  In addition to using US land to smuggle drugs in from Mexico, they are growing huge amounts of marijuana in US national parks.  Estimates show that the cartels produce 30 tons  of pot in US national parks every year.  In 2008, US officials confiscated or destroyed 7.6 million marijuana plants from 20,00 outdoor plots.  These pot farms spread from California to Virignia.

The US government must recognize the severity of the situation and combat it with a strong and effective policy. The presence of the cartels in this country cannot be ignored because their operations and networks will only continue to grow.  It is a bad sign that the US government has not even identified the problem of the cartels’ influence in the US.  The drug war in Mexico is not only a problem within the mexican borders, and the US will eventually have to act to combat these cartels within its own borders. Why not start now and prevent their expansion?


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