Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ex-intel chief to Gaddafi wounded, raising more questions about handling of detainees

The former intelligence chief to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was seriously injured Tuesday while in the custody of the National Transitional Council, fueling concerns about the treatment of loyalists to the deposed government.

Just wait, this is only the beginning of the Islamic Jihad taking over in Libya and Egypt.

The Washington Post

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit freed in Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap

Israel has been known for some time as setting the standard for hostage negotiations and counter-terrorism. Therefore, the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (many of whom were convicted of violent crimes) in exchange for one Israeli soldier seems completely contrary to their hardline stance. On the Israeli side, it will be seen by hardliners as appeasement and weakening of their position. To the Palestinians, it has to be a tremendous PR and political game-changer to have won such a large scale release of prisoners for a single Israeli soldier. The article does not make it clear why Israel was so interested in this prisoner or willing to release so many prisoners in exchange for his release. Secretary Clinton gives an oblique comment that she is happy Shalit's ordeal is over which begs the question, she isn't happy for the families of the Palestinians that were returned home?

I usually can come up with some rationale behind foreign policy or military decisions that are left out of the media. In this case, I am at quite a loss for a rational explanation. Sure Israel wants to get back their soldier but at such a steep price? He was only 19 when captured so it is unlikely he possessed some state secret Israel wanted to prevent from being revealed. He has also been in captivity since 2006, meaning he has divulged any secrets by now. It seems beyond reason that the Palestinians could have found some bargaining chip that would allow them to trade one prisoner for 1,000 but it appears that this may have been exactly what occurred.

The only clue may be that this deal was brokered by Egypt, the only Muslim nation to have normal relations with Israel. Israel and Egypt have not been getting along as well since the removal of Mubarak and the Arab Spring. The exchange may been more about appeasing Egypt than Palestine. If so, we may need to be more worried that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad may making a marked return to power in the land of the Pharaohs.

Gilad Shalit freed in Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap

Thursday, October 13, 2011

U.S. Accusations of Iran Plot Face Skepticism

When this story first broke on Tuesday, it sounded very much like a major terror attack against the US had be thwarted. As the story developed, the story became the US thwarted an attempt by Iranians (contracted through a Mexican drug dealer) to attempt an assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US. The plot supposedly involved the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Coprs (Quds Force, an elite unit contained within), which would be like the SEALs or Delta Force plotting an assassination but getting arrested after arriving at the airport. The attempt was amateurish and not indicative of the Quds Force. The question of course is why?

The US and Iranian relations have been strained ever since the Tehran embassy was stormed and American hostages seized in 1979. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. The Shah was deposed and the Ayatollah Khoemeni returned from exile to establish a theocratical government. Prior to these events, Iran was one of the main allies of the United States in the region. To this day, Iran still flies F-14s sold to them by the US. The US was so enamored with Iran that the CIA staged the coup allowing the Shah to assume power.

The 1990s did little to improve US/Iranian relations (remember Reagan was elected in large part because of Carter's inability to get the hostages release). The Bush Administration, hellbent on waging the Global War On Terror (GWOT), saw Iran as part of the axis of evil. Relations became even more strained as the GWOT hunted weapons of mass destruction, Iran's past dabbling with nuclear reactors became a major focus.

President Obama ran on a campaign on bringing the troops home and by implication, end the war on terror. The first signs he was going to keep his promise was when he reduced the troop strength in Iraq...only to immediately increase the troop strength in Afghanistan! Okay, fair enough as the Afghani campaign had been, in the minds of many experts, ignored. But then Secretary Clinton started to make statements about how unacceptable it was that Iran (now being run by Ahmadinejad) was pursuing a policy of acquiring nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad countered that US imperialism was cause for his country to be concerned and take appropriate measures.

If it seemed a stretch that the US would go to war with Iran, when Odyssey Dawn (the air campaign against Libya's Gaddafi) was launched it seemed more like a prelude to attacking Iran than supporting Libyan rebels (another country who used to a US ally in the 1960s). Syria, which benefits from its relationship with Iran, has been going through its own Arab Spring with Assad worried about his future. Unlike Libya, no air support means the rebels have not had as much success. Syria could be prove to be the catalyst to a much broader conflict between the US and Iran.

The attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador seems to be either a clumsy attempt by Iran to incite a conflict or the US looking for zebras whenever they hear hoof beats.

U.S. Accusations of Iran Plot Face Skepticism -

Monday, October 10, 2011

‘Time short’ for eurozone

"Time short" for eurozone according to David Cameron. The European Union was first formed in 1958 by six member countries. What we think of today as the European Union was created by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Today the EU consists of 27 countries.

What I've always found fascinating was the very concept of the EU is contrary to the history of Europe. The continent of Europe consists of some 50 countries which is a rather huge number given the land mass of Europe in comparison to Africa or Asia. Why so many countries? In short, because the various kingdoms and duchies did not trust one another. The lack of trust lead to the agreements that triggered the First World War. France and England did not trust Germany (which did not trust the former) which ultimately lead to World War II.

National pride has always been at the heart of Europeans. Don't believe it? Go watch Germans or Spaniards cheer on their favorite football (soccer to us) team. Pittsburgh Steeler fans don't even come close! Why then try to create an institution of transnationalism pretending that everyone likes and trusts one another?

The Greek economy has failed in a spectacular way and the EU is demanding Germany and France bail out the Greeks. Wars have been started over less and I think the Greek bailout (which would also lead to bailouts of Ireland, Spain and Portugal) would start more riots in Europe. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Denmark that did not join the EU are dealing with declining economies as demand for their goods declines due to the drop of EU based economies. Increased shipping costs are also helping to reduce profits for the Europeans.

Americans know we have nothing to be smug about. Our jobs continue to decline despite huge injections of cash by the Obama Administration to create new jobs. The problem in the United States is not a jobs problem but stagnant growth. Companies will add jobs if there is more demand for their goods or services. However, to simply mandate the creation of new jobs is forcing more of employers to shut down or relocate. Fewer jobs means less tax revenue to offset the cost of two wars that have been waging for a decade. Now we see groups like Occupy Wall Street beginning to surface. They don't know what they want but they know what they don't like. Sounds like a recipe for riots to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Libya, Egypt, Syria

You get distracted by issues at work and things are both but much worse after the Arab Spring.

Seven months later, Gaddafi has been run out of town and rebels are have created a Transitional National Council.  NATO has spent "hundreds of millions," according to a state from NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral Stavridis back in June.  Despite an intense air campaign, it took rebel forces many months to route Gaddafi forces.  We may see and even more dictatorial regime emerge as opposition forces look to oppress former  Gaddafi sympathizers.

Egyptians threw out Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring but again with no real plan as to what to do once he was gone.  A good study might be to ask why the United States stood around while the successor to Anwar Sadat and the leader of the only Arabic country to get along with Israel was ousted.  Well one would have to look a little practice called rendition used by many countries but most recently the United States.  Rendition means moving a suspect (usually a terrorist suspect) to a third country where other means of persuasion can be applied.  Egypt was the preferred destination for those that the US wanted interrogated.  If you think about that for a minute, a country that could interrogate (read, torture) other suspects might have acquired those skills by first using them on their own people.

Oh, Egypt was doing us a favor either.  Most of those that were sent their through rendition were early al-Qaeda operatives (you know, back when we gave Osama bin Laden Stinger missiles to use against the Soviet Union?).  Now the latest is 19 dead in clashes with the government that has taken over in Egypt.  Unlike Libya and Syria, at least 10 percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians and are quite concerned that an ultra conservative Islamic government could take over.

Syrian leader Assad has been fending off rebels almost as long as in Libya but with different results.  While former Libyan leader Gaddafi is on the run, Assad is still very much in control of Syria.  Syria has warned against recognizing the rebels.  Fighting has been intense but unlike Libya, Syrian rebels don't have the benefit of NATO air cover.  Syria receives support and weapons from Iran which could be another reason the West has treaded much more lightly with this outbreak of the "Arab Spring".

What does the world get for all of the violence?  It is difficult to say.  It looks like France may have secured itself a choice seat at the table to discuss Libya's oil (which is around 2 percent of the world's production).  If Egypt becomes more conservative, it means heightened tensions with Israel (security officers on both sides have been killed).  Turmoil in Syria might mean some type of intervention by Iran (either overtly or covertly).  Syria and Turkey have also been exchanging fire.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Secret panel can put Americans on kill list'

(Reuters) - American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.


Was it legal?

From the Palm Beach Post:

The killing of the U.S.-born Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on Friday along with another U.S. citizen and two other Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen is likely to fuel the international controversy over the legality and wisdom of the Obama administration's dramatically increased use of drone attacks.
For several years, U.S. allies have made no public comment, even as U.S. drone strikes have killed twice as many suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban members than were ever imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. But that acquiescence may change, as human rights groups and the media debate the legality and collateral damage of drone attacks. The U.S. drone program has been highly effective in killing senior Al-Qaeda leaders, but the administration needs to better explain and defend its use of drones to avoid losing international support and potentially exposing administration officials to legal liability
The U.S. position, under the Bush and Obama administrations, has been that drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are permitted by the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act, which empowered the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against nations, organizations or persons who planned, committed or aided the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States also believes that drone strikes are permitted under international law and the United Nations Charter as actions in self-defense, with or without the consent of the country where the strike takes place.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Obama impeachment a possibility, says Ron Paul

I don't necessarily disagree with what Ron Paul is saying here. The killing of thousands in the name of the Global War of Terrorism has not made the world safer. The Obama Administration dropped the term "GWOT" from their lexicon, then promptly sent in SEAL Team Six to execute Osama bin Laden. Make no mistake, the unclassified information shows that we knew where UBL (the Bush Administration short-hand) was for long enough plan a raid. We should have captured UBL and prosecuted him, instead he became a bullet-stop and was buried at sea. Historians will be analyzing and debating that for a long time. The case of al-Awlaki adds another component; no matter what he did or helped inspire others to do he was an American citizen. Are we watching the Obama Administration become the trigger-happy vigilantes they accused the Bush Administration of being?

Monday, October 3, 2011


Back in May 2010, the Greeks started demonstrations and protests against austerity measures implemented to counter the debt crisis.  The bailout of the Greek economy created more demonstrations and protests and none have so far created the desired result.

France has strikes and protests on a fairly regular basis.  The French followed suite with the Greeks (plus the Irish, Belgians and Spanish) in protest of exploding deficits created by European Union (EU) policies.  Unlike their non-Gaul friends, the French took protests to a new level.  French rail and airway workers struck shutting down the country for several days.  Like Greece, French workers have threatened rolling strikes to keep the pressure on the government and EU.

Not to be outdone by their Norman neighbors, the British most recently rioted in August when police fatally shot Mark Duggan in North London.  Originally the impetus of this riot was poor relations between police and the local community but as the riot quickly spread, the economic impact became quite evident.  The rioters were looting communities and organized crime had figured out that through social media, they could recruit thugs to help them out.  The police simply could not respond fast enough to a flash mob striking multiple businesses at one time.

Most white Americans are descendants of the same European nations that have experienced riots and protests in the last few years that it seemed the United States (which was founded by a revolution after all) would eventually see some type of protest.  We did not have to wait all that long.

While the news media followed a hunk of space debris falling from the sky, a group called Occupy Wall Street started to stage protests in the financial district.  A core group of around 200 protestors has been able to orchestra demonstrations consisting of thousands of people.  Over 700 were arrested this weekend when the protestors staged a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Protestors have assembled in as divergent areas as Albuquerque, Boston and Los Angeles in support of the core movement in New York.  While exact demands remain vague, interviews indicate people are protesting over financial policies that are leaving more and more Americans in debt.  Two weeks into the protests and the movement shows no signs of abating.

While terrorism takes the front page (see al-Awlaki, while an influential cleric he never did pose a direct threat), the Occupy Wall Street poses a far different problem.  What happens when hundred or even thousands of protestors all organize and demonstrate at the same time?  There aren't enough law enforcement officers in the country to handle such a situation.  Even if there were, where would they process or lock-up all of the demonstrators?  We may be seeing a similar situation developing here in the US that has been going in Europe for the last few years.  Unlike Europe, we have a much larger population which is connected virtually.