Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Merkel's flight denied permission

Angela Merkel's flight to India was delayed as her flight was denied overflight of Iranian airspace. It appears this was in retaliation for the European Union's (EU) extension of economic sanctions against Iran for failing to continue talks about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. According to Fox News, Chancellor Merkel said "this action shows a disrespect for Germany and we will not accept it".

The whole incident was only reported as a ticker item on Fox News. However, the emotion of both Iran and Germany can spell further deteriorations in that region. We have two very proud cultures snipping at other. First, we have the Persians (now known as Iran) re-asserting itself as a world player only to be smacked down by the upstart Europeans and Americans. Second, Germany is a proud race of warriors who seem to be re-emerging on the world front. In the past, Germany was reluctant to send combat forces into conflicts. That reluctance seems to be diminishing opening the door for two proud cultures to start staring at one another with more than diplomatic actions in mind.

Update, here is an article on the report.

Pentagon: Cyber Attacks Can Count as Act of War - FoxNews.com

Cyberwarfare units were just standing up as I was retiring in 2007. The question always seemed to be was "cyber" a war in the same way as tanks and bombs? In one sense, absolutely as the Stuxnet showed you can attack a country's entire power grid and cripple their economy. Through cyber you can shutdown the cooling systems of a nuclear power plant creating a Chernobyl or Fukushima scenario via proxy. If "cyber" can be a war then what response is justified? Even a cyber counter attack against the host nation may be too much. For example, what if the hacker resides in France but his allegiance is to Al Qaeda?

Now apparently the Pentagon wants to do what it does best; blow stuff up and kill people in retaliation for cyber attacks. The first problem is what do you bomb? If they attack our nuclear power plants but have none of their own, do go after their crops? Let's pretend the terrorist is a member of the Islamic Brotherhood and is from Egypt. He is living in Indonesia and launches his attack from there using a code designed in part by Iran. The answer to the question is not clear cut and can rapidly lead to escalation. It also means we may have to rethink the traditional terms like "enemy" and realize a few hackers could successfully attack a whole country.


14 dead in Germany as cucumber crisis grows

More than two weeks after the food poisoning outbreak was first reported in northern Germany, the number of confirmed and suspected cases has reached 1,200, according to media reports.

The magnitude of this outbreak seems excessive to be simply an accident of poor hygiene. Yet no one seems to be talking about the possibility of this being a terrorist attack of some kind. Food supplies afford a terrorist a double strike. First of course is the fear of the food supply being contaminated with something that could make your very sick or kill you. The second strike is the impact to the economy as farmers and grocers are left with unsold produce.

Holland, Spain and Germany are still very much agrarian economies and the impact will be severe. Our food systems are still one of the easiest to target. Produce especially can be contaminated along many different points along the transportation route to the store. Governments do not have the resources and infrastructure to protect all of the produce coming out of countries such as the United States. Buying local or growing your own greatly reduces the possibility of contamination but restaurant chains still will buy bulk produce from outside the local area. More outbreaks will occur with the increase volatility in the Middle East. This is not to say Middle Eastern or Islamic groups are responsible but unrest in that region provides the perfect cover for other groups such as domestic terrorists.

Yahoo! News

Monday, May 30, 2011

Israel Minister: Strike on Iran Could Be Necessary - FoxNews.com

Let's review; as a result of the 1967 war Israel nearly tripled its territory. As the United States discovered with Native Americans, placing indigenous people on reservations or encampments creates resentment. This is not to excuse the tactics of Palestinian terrorists. On the contrary, their tactics are as much a reason why they are still a displaced people as any Israeli policy. My point was to put their actions into context.

Presiden Obama stated two weeks ago that the pre-1967 borders are the starting point for negotiations. His comments were not embraced by Israel or American Jews. Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared before Congress to basically say the Israeli borders are staying right where they are at.

Now with Iran taking over as the head of OPEC comes the news of the need for a strike. Iran has not overtly threatened the United States but the Secretary of State has consider the potentiality of nuclear weapons in Iran to be unacceptable. It now begs the question if the United States and Israel are collaborating in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program?


Obama nominates Dempsey to chair Joint Chiefs

It will be interesting to see the direction of the war in Afghanistan with an Army general taking over as the Chief of the JCS and Leon Panetta becoming the Sec Def. I'm not hopeful this means a swift end to combat operations.

Obama nominates Dempsey to chair Joint Chiefs

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya

The US troop withdrawal from Iraq created a corresponding increase in violence. The killing of Osama bin Laden has generated a similar increase with reports of a bomb blast killing 7 US troops. Earlier this week, China stated that it would not tolerate any US military action in Pakistan. At the same time, China and North Korea renewed their vow to maintain their support for one another even as leaders change in future years.

While the Untied States continues to remain silent about the future of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), the rest of the Middle East continues to rather violently reinvent itself. Yemen is the latest for the Day of Rage. Islamic militants have seized a coastal city and Yemen appears to be the latest to have a major change of government led by rebels.

The French are helping to lead change in Libya by bombing Qaddafi's compound. British, French and other Nato forces were on Saturday night preparing a two-pronged blitz to try to finish off Col Gaddafi as already slender hopes for a peaceful resolution to the Libyan crisis faded. All the while, NATO and the US really has no idea who will take over after Qaddafi. The US and European track record for selecting and installing new leaders in the range is less than impressive.

September will mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. For some reason, the tenth is more poignant than the ninth much as the 25th will be more poignant than the 24th. Given that, this is the year that we could see a renewed effort to execute a major terrorist attack in US soil. The Middle East is now more unified (despite the violence) than it ever has been and along with the US killing of Osama bin Laden, an attack seems more likely than ever.

According to Osam bin Laden's files, he was plotting an attack on our railroads. Anything from passenger rail to freight carrying hazardous chemicals or nuclear fuel rods could be a target.

Less we forget, several politician (including Arnie) have demonstrated a complete contempt for their responsibilities while in office. Gov Schwarzenegger's policies have led over 37,000 prisoners to be set free from prisons. Corrupt politicians are always a good motivation for protest and rebellion. We need to also be concerned about an attack from a domestic group fed up with the state of US politics.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Middle East & North Africa - Iran sets stage for tense Opec meeting

Ah, the plot thickens; Iran's Ahmademijad is the first head of state to run OPEC since he temporarily place himself as oil minster. OPEC has a rotating presidency and it is now Iran's turn. Saudi Arabia has increased production to offset the drop from Libya but the Saudis are skittish. Crude oil price rose to $125 a barrel in April but dropped to $112 on Wednesday. The fall is the biggest on record. Given the US military involvement and less than warm relations with Iran makes this meeting especially critical to US energy needs.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

US alarmed by David Cameron's push for early Afghanistan withdrawal

Killing Osama bin Laden will have many effects on the future for both the US and al Qaeda. If the United States reason for invading Afghanistan was to battle the Taliban who were protecting Osama bin Laden, then the his death conceivably means there is no more reason to have troops there. Simplistic perhaps but follow the logic for a moment.

David Cameron wants to bring UK troops home now. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been politically disastrous for British prime ministers. A report last year had estimated combat operations in Afghanistan cost the UK approximately 20 billion British pounds (roughly $32 billion at today's exchange rate). There have been over 350 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Part of the reason NATO troops were brought in was the UK desire to draw down forces as far back as 2004. British forces are also committed to Odyssey Dawn, the no-fly zone in Libya. Cameron knows his political life depends on making good on his promise to bring UK troops home and with Osama bin Laden dead, there is little incentive to stay.

For the US, this means a split with a major ally at a time when al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah are renewing their efforts for attack. A split could be seen as an opportunity to strike at over-committed US forces. The recent scandal of IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) has most of Europe suspecting a US conspiracy to discredit DSK and thus pullout of the IMF. The US is losing much of its European support. The loss of support may embolden a terrorist attack.

Politically for both the UK and US maintaining troops in Afghanistan has become a hard sell. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and the potential for Taliban operatives to gain control is an unacceptable option for those in the Beltway. The average American is much more concerned about why gas prices remain high despite a drop in crude oil. The turmoil in Syria could renew the 1967 war with Israel. If a conflict erupts, the US may have to go in alone to support Israel and that could be exactly the move pan-Islamist have been needing.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Violence, Syria, and Nakba Day

Israeli troops today clashed with Arab protesters along three hostile borders, including the frontier with Syria, leaving 16 people dead and dozens more wounded in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations marking a Palestinian day of mourning for their defeat at Israel's hands in 1948.

Along Israel's border with Syria, thousands of protesters stormed the fence and hundreds burst through, pelting soldiers with stones, the military said. Soldiers guarding the border opened fire to stop them. Dozens were wounded and four were reported killed.
-- Daily Mail Online

Nakba ("the catastrophe") Day is an annual day of commemoration for the Palestinian people of the displacement that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948. The prior unrest in the Middle East has marked this year's commemoration with a high level of violence. The violence may be one of the reason Osama bin Laden was killed even though by some accounts the US knew about his whereabouts for over a year. The unrest in Syria would eventually create a threat to Israel. Syria receives support and funding from Iran. Israel could retaliate with a strikes on either country (or perhaps both). The US may now need to shift focus away from Libya to the border region between Israel and Syria. Unlike Libya, establishing a no-fly zone will not be the answer.

The United States could not justify having three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) all going at the same time. Iraq has had a cessation of combat operations (but apparently rebel forces did not get the memo). Libya continues to show that airpower alone does not win conflicts, Desert Storm not withstanding. Any US involvement will risks re-igniting accusations that Israel controls US interests in the Middle East. The al Qaeda can use this to re-energize their efforts perhaps leading to attacks on US soil.

Mail Online

Sunday, May 15, 2011

War Powers Act

The War Powers Act of 1973, passed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, puts limits on the ability of the President to send American troops into combat areas without Congressional approval.

Under the act, the President can only send combat troops into battle or into areas where ''imminent'' hostilities are likely, for 60 days without either a declaration of war by Congress or a specific Congressional mandate.

The President can extend the time the troops are in the combat area for 30 extra days, without Congressional approval, for a total of 90 days.

The act, however, does not specify what Congress can do if the President refuses to comply with the act. Congress could presumably suspend all funds for such troops and override a Presidential veto.
-- N.Y. Times

Libya is the latest example of a President ignoring the War Powers Act. Turning command of Odyssey Dawn over to NATO seemed to imply US forces would be pulling out. Now National Security Advisor Tom Donilon has stated that US will continue military operations so long as Qaddafi continues attacking his own people. The statement does not even try to pretend the US is in a supporting role, it makes very clear the US is leading the way. It is almost as though killing Osama bin Laden has fueled the Obama Administration's desire to take out another terrorist leader (albeit one who also happens to be the rightful leader of a Muslim nation).

The problem is what happens after Qaddafi is either killed or steps down? We see with al Qaeda an almost renewed zeal in their commitment to attack the United States. We discover later that killing Osama bin Laden only solidified al Zawahiri's position as the undisputed leader. Getting rid of Qaddafi may allow an ever more despicable despot to have access to Libya's oil and wealth. The US track record for picking and supporting new regime leaders is unimpressive at best. From the Shah of Iran (backed by the US and implementer of the SAVAK) to the ineffectual Hamid Karzai, the US seems unable to understand the situation and find the right leader. Many would argue that is because the US is more concerned with how they will get along with the leader versus his domestic policies. No, that wasn't a politically incorrect statement. The US has not backed any female leaders of countries to replace ousted despots (at least not that I know. If you know of one, please post a comment about it).

The War Powers Act was in response to Nixon and his execution of the Vietnam War. In short, the WPA is an attempt to curb the President's ability to leave forces engaged in combat for extended periods of time costing the taxpayers money and using up critical military resources that may be desperately needed elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

FARC files 'show ties to Chavez'

Given all of the news about the Middle East, it is easy to forget about our neighbors to the south:

Colombian FARC guerrillas may have tried to assassinate rivals of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, and trained his supporters in urban warfare, according to a report examining documents seized from a rebel camp.

The study of the files, obtained during a 2008 raid inside Ecuador, also showed that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) contributed some $400,000 to the election campaign of Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador.

Most of the terrorist groups in Central and South American are Marxist and politically left. It is no stretch for FARC to be a supporter of Chavez. These terrorist groups are especially anti-American and may it beneficial to partner with al Qaeda or Hezbollah to attack American targets.

Al Jazeera English

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Who's the next Osama?

From AFA Daily Digest:

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, who's taken his place as the leader of al Qaeda? That's not such an easy question. "I wouldn't want to speculate at this time. I mean, there are a number of senior al Qaeda officials who could, in theory, step up," a senior US intelligence official told reporters at the Pentagon last week. He added, "Ayman al Zawahiri is obviously the presumed successor, but there are strong indications that he is not popular within certain circles of the group. So, I believe, it's an open question as to who will take over for Osama bin Laden." Last week, al Qaeda issued a statement acknowledging bin Laden's death, reported Reuters. The statement made no mention of Zawahiri or a possible successor.

Clinton: US doesn't see China as threat - Yahoo! Singapore Finance

China is on par to outpace the US economy, and by some estimates, become the world's largest economy by 2050. China recently unveiled a stealth fighter that is more affordable than anything the US is currently producing. In the past, the US military faced potential opponents armed with Soviet technology. The technology was usually a generation behind the American technology. Now the US military is still facing adversaries armed with Russian made weapon systems but increasing Chinese high-tech weapons are present as well. In the case of Iran, if the US does conduct some sort of military operation in the Persian Gulf the US Navy will be facing Chinese anti-shipping missiles from Chinese made destroyers. Iran could conceivably receive the Dong Feng 21D which has a range of over 900 miles and is designed to take out aircraft carriers. These new Chinese weapons mean a continued economic boom for China along with its energy and manufacturing sectors. Secretary Clinton may not see China as an economic threat simply because there is not much the US can do about it.

Yahoo! Singapore Finance

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let the games begin

The announcement of bin Laden's death has created an increased in threats, both real and fake. Here are just a few of the headlines from today;


"Four people were arrested after a suspicious incident at Denver International Airport.

The incident happened Saturday morning at the south end security checkpoint. Airport personnel noticed someone videotaping the security lines. Police then confronted the person with the camera and the three people in line who were being taped. Two of those people did not have IDs or boarding passes.

Police arrested the man with the camera and the three people in line. Police say they don’t know what the group was doing. They were arrested on suspicion of interfering with a transportation facility


"The Mockingbird DART station and the surrounding area, including the Angelika Theater, were evacuated Saturday after a police dog alerted authorities to a passenger onboard with two suspicious packages, a spokesman said.

Riders traveling through downtown stations reportedly expressed alarm after a man asked them for help carrying a duffel bag and a large box.

Bomb technicians with the Dallas Police Department determined the packages were not a threat about two hours after the evacuation, said DART spokesman Morgan Lyons


"An airport spokesman said a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to San Diego was diverted to Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday morning after authorities investigated a “potential security threat.”

A friend of three of the passengers on Flight 1706 told WWJ that the plane was evacuated after a threatening note was found in the bathroom.

Delta Flight 1706 passenger Tim Cole described what the captain told passengers before the plane was diverted.


"A suspicious package, discovered May 5 in a mailbox behind U.S. Bank, on Mose Drive, was found to be a box, containing a defective cell phone and charger, which was intended to be returned to the phone company.

According to White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe, he was informed of the suspicious package, at approximately 3:15 p.m.

Explosive experts with Tennessee Bomb and Arson, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation were called to the scene to examine the package


"Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for better rail security now that the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound has turned up plans to attack trains in the U.S.

“Anyone, even a member of al-Qaida could purchase a train ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question asked,” Schumer said. “So that’s why I’m calling for the creation of an Amtrak no ride list. That would take the secure flight program and apply it to Amtrak trains

Al Qaeda and al-Zawahiri have vowed to intensify their efforts to attackt the US. Of course this does not stop other groups from making threats or planting bombs. The summer should be a very interesting.

“The first time the captain came on, he said that there was a threat. The next time he came on to give us more details he said that there had been a note left in one of the lavatories,” he said.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Evidence at bin Laden's home raises nuclear concerns

During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA provided Stinger missiles to the Majahideen (the forerunner to Al Qaeda). The Mujahideen may have fought in Afghanistan but were based in Pakistan. When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, Pakistan sold the remaining Stinger missiles to North Korea. This most likely was in hopes the North Korea could reverse engineer the batter packs on the Stingers that were running low. It would seem that Pakistan may have also received assistance from North Korea with their nuclear weapons program.

According to the Washington Times article, Pakistan has over 100 nuclear weapons. There is the possibility that Al Qaeda has infiltrated the Pakistani military. It seems more certain since reports are indicating bin Laden was in his house for over 6 years, right next to the Pakistan military academy. It would be the equivalent of John Dillinger getting an apartment next door to J. Edgar Hoover's office and the FBI not knowing it.

The jubilation over bin Laden's death masks the ascension of his number two, al Zawahiri. He was perhaps the sole reason Al Qaeda was quick to collaborate reports of bin Laden's death. He was basically saying, "the king is dead, long live the king". The death of bin Laden now gives al Zawahiri to reunify the split between his faction and those that remained loyal to the former leader.

Rather than facing clear skies ahead, the United States is facing two new and unpredictable situations. One is a nuclear armed Al Qaeda in Paksitan. The other is the situation in Iran. Ayatollah Khemenei has called for Ahmadimejad to step down, which for now looks like it won't happen. If tensions continue to mount in Iran, this could erupt in another internal conflict with Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program going to the victor.

Washington Times

Friday, May 6, 2011

"apostasy from God"

A question generated by Usama bin Laden's killing is does this mean the end of combat operations in Afghanistan? If so, then the troops can either be sent home or redeployed elsewhere. The most likely scenario would seem to be some type of advising or constabulary role in Libya (as a side note, Qaddafi has to be very nervous after the news of UBL). But now a new specter has arisen.

Most of the news on Iran has focused on Ahmadinejad and his efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran has also made several statements reasserting its ownership of the Persian Gulf. All of this would seem to indicate that Ahmadinejad was in a fairly strong position within Iran and was thus able to posture with the ability to execute if needed.

Now comes a story from The Guardian which sheds new light on the problems between Ahmadinejad and the cleric Ayatollah Khamenei. At first look, this would appear to be a predictable squabble between a bureaucrat and a theocrat. However, there is something even more surprising at the core of the two leaders problems.

Ahmadinejad believes the imminent return of the Hidden Imam Mahdi – the revered saviour of Shia Islam, whose reappearance is anticipated by believers in a manner comparable to that with which Christian fundamentalists anticipate the second coming of Jesus. Mahdi is believed to be the ultimate savior of mankind and the final Imam of the Twelve Imams. The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the Twelver branch of Shī‘ah Islam.

The reaction by the Ayatollah and his supporters is to charge Ahmandinejad and his staff with sorcery. This means Iran could itself in the midst of an internal conflict as the Twelvers and Ayatollah battle for control of the country. If Iran has nuclear weapons, the winner would thus have control. A theocracy with nuclear weapons could become a major threat in the region. The US may end up in a conflict with Iran over an internal religious conflict.

Ahmadinejad allies charged with sorcery |The Guardian

Monday, May 2, 2011

More on Osama Bin Laden killing

From AFA Daily Report;

US Special Forces Kill Osama Bin Laden: US special forces on Sunday killed Osama bin Laden, head of the terrorist network responsible for the 9/11 attacks, in a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, north of Islamabad, President Obama announced Sunday night in an address to the nation. "Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children," said Obama. A small US military team "carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability." None of them was harmed, he said, noting that they "took custody" of bin Laden's body as proof of his death. "[A]s a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed," stated Obama. "And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done."

In response, the Guardian is reporting the Taliban is vowing to avenge the killing of Osama Bin Laden;

A Taliban commander in Afghanistan has promised that his fighters would mount attacks to avenge the killing by US forces of Osama bin Laden.

The commander, who gave his name as Qudos and operates in the northern province of Baghlan, said: "The killing of Osama bin Laden will bring no change to jihad. Osama is the leader of al-Qaida and he is a powerful man in jihad. Losing him will be very painful for the mujahideen, but the shahadat [martyrdom] of Osama, will never stop the jihad. We will continue our fight until we liberate our lands from the Kafirs."

Guardian article

Sunday, May 1, 2011

UBL dead?

Just heard as I was getting ready for bed that the US has his body, Osama Bin Laden is dead. President Obama to give a press release. The timing seems to coincide with increased criticisms about Afghanistan. The way to declare war with Iran is now clear. The next few days should be interesting.

The Persian Gulf

The study of geography is most often the best way to under political motivations. The swath of political unrest and destabilization now spreads from Morocco to Yemen. Two countries that have remained relatively stable in the region are Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia wealth is based on oil and it needs to keep oil production up in order to reap the benefits of higher gas prices. Political unrest is not in the Saudis best interest and as such, they have kept things quiet. Bahrain has been getting assistance in putting down their rebels with the help of Saudi Arabia.

In order for Saudi Arabi to move their oil, they have to use the Persian Gulf. The name implies who owns it but as you may or may not know, Persians are not Arabs and Arabs aren't Persians. Modern Arabs and Iranians consider themselves descendants of two powerful but distinct empires; the Arab Empire and the Persian Empire.

If you look at the map, you see Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman on one side and only one country on the opposite; Iran (Persia). The Iranian Navy is believed to possess sixty C-802 missiles aboard 15 Chinese and French missile boats. The C-802 is a Chinese manufactured cruise missile similar to the Exocet and marketed for use against naval escort vessels. The C-802 is characterized by `mighty attack capability, great firepower.' It has a range of 120 km [75 miles] and a high explosive warhead of 165 kg [363 lbs.].

Given this capability, the following report on Breitbart is all the more chilling;

He (Gen Firouzabadi) also denounced "plots" by the Gulf Arab petro-monarchies to "carve out an identity for themselves by rejecting the identity of others," referring to Iran.

"The Persian Gulf has always, is and shall always belong to Iran," the general said.

Firouzabadi, speaking on the annual "National Day of the Persian Gulf", also condemned the regional Arab monarchies for refusing to call the waterway between Iran and its Arab neighbours by its "historical name."

"With the arrival of the British and later the Americans in the region, plots were hatched to try and change the name with fake identities... to distort the history and identity of the Persian Gulf," Firouzabadi said.

Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilise Arab regimes in favour of popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.

Shiite-dominant Iran has strongly criticised Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Sunni-ruled Bahrain aimed to help crack down on a Shiite-led uprising there.

Iran says it gives "moral support" to Bahrainis but is not involved in the protests there.

Bahrain and Kuwait have in turn expelled Iranian diplomats, accusing them of espionage.

Iran has in the past claimed Bahrain as part of its territory, and it controls three islands in the southern Gulf that are also claimed by the United Arab Emirates.