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Tag Archives: government

IRS Won’t Explain Why Agents Need AR-15’s For ‘Standoff Capability’

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been buying up a vast collection of AR-15 assault rifles for agents and training them in the proper use of those weapons. In May 2013 U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) questioned why the federal agency needs to arm its agents with assault rifles. Duncan asked about the AR-15 situation after he traveled to a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Maryland and witnessed a handful of IRS agents using AR-15s at an indoor 100 yard firing range.

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US Domestic Drone Use Sidesteps Warrants for Thermal Imaging

Demand for the use of surveillance drones by law enforcement is growing rapidly, but the rules for their use haven’t yet caught up with that demand, engendering fears of unwarranted searches. Drones are equipped with powerful video cameras and infrared (thermal imaging) devices capable of seeing through roofs, but they can also be fitted with radar speed-cameras and other miniaturized equipment capable of performing chemical analyses, environmental sampling, industrial emission monitoring, radiation detection, and much more.

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Britain to make permanent redeployment east of Suez?

Britain and America’s support for the removal of long-established dictatorships in Egypt and Libya only served to create a dangerous political vacuum in North Africa that is being actively exploited by Islamist groups hostile to the West. And it is the dawning realisation that a similar fate could befall the kingdoms of the Gulf that has persuaded Britain to adopt a more nuanced approach. Indeed, according to senior Bahraini officials who travelled with the royal party this week, one of the main items on the Downing Street agenda was Bahrain’s desire to sign a billion-pound arms deal with Britain to supply 12 state-of-the-art Typhoon fighters.

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Sensors Report Gunfire Directly to Police in 70 U.S. Cities, No 911 Call Needed

ShotSpotter, the dominant gunfire detection technology on the market, gathers data from a network of acoustic sensors placed at 30-foot elevation under a mile apart. To cut costs, most cities use the sensors only in selected areas. The system filters the data through an algorithm that isolates the sound of gunfire. If shots are fired anywhere in the coverage area, the software triangulates their location to within about 10 feet and reports the activity to the police dispatcher.

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Iraqi Kurdistan ‘opens’ official crude oil trade route via Iran

Iraq’s Kurdistan region has started to export crude oil by truck to an Iranian port for shipping to Asia, industry sources say, using a trade route that is likely to anger both Baghdad and Washington The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has reportedly approved a second route for crude through Iran after Turkey, although a KRG official denies any crude was going through Iran yet. Iraq’s Kurdistan region is exporting crude oil by truck to an Iranian port for shipping to Asia, industry sources say, using a trade route that is likely to anger both Baghdad and Washington.

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Burma military continue offences in Kachin and northern Shan states

Government troops exchanged fire with Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) battalion 36 in northern Shan state last Sunday. According to Naw Bo Jar, a KIA military commander, government troops began their offensive at midnight inciting a conflict that lasted three hours and resulted in at least four KIA fatalities in Monggo area in Muse Township. At the time of press it was unknown if any government soldiers were killed.

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Analysis: Tunisia eyes ‘Egypt scenario’ after assembly freeze

The suspension of Tunisia’s transitional parliament could bring the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings closer to an “Egyptian scenario” in which the secular opposition topples an Islamist-led government, analysts and politicians say.

The biggest shock to the ruling Ennahda party, the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, may be that the latest blow came from one of its own secular allies – a sign of rising polarisation between Islamist and secular forces.

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Thailand protesters mass outside parliament

Around 2,000 Thai anti-government demonstrators converged near parliament Wednesday in an opposition-led rally against a controversial bill offering amnesty for political violence in the divided nation.

Hundreds of riot police carrying shields and batons barricaded the approaches to the legislature with concrete blocks and barbed wire to stop demonstrators reaching the building in the historic area of Bangkok. The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been braced for several days for the rally.

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Cypriot depositors prepare legal battle over EU bank bailout

Within one week in June, Cypriot Andrew Georgiou suffered a massive heart attack and his father was diagnosed with leukaemia, just as they were fighting to recover much of their life savings wrapped up in the country’s EU-led bailout.

A victim of Cyprus’s chaotic financial rescue, Georgiou cannot be sure his stressful legal battle for the lost money wrecked his family’s health. But, as he said with grim understatement, “it sure as hell didn’t help”.

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U.S. fretting over Japan’s desire to militarily strike enemy bases

The United States has expressed concern about Japan’s desire to acquire the ability to attack enemy bases in an overhaul of its defense policies pursued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a government source said in Tokyo. One of the American officials attending bilateral talks on foreign and defense policy cooperation late last month in Tokyo asked the Japanese side to consider the possible negative fallout on neighboring countries if Abe’s administration embarks on such a policy shift.

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The new Stasi: Your boss and your neighbors join the surveillance state

On Thursday I wrote about the curious story of Michele Catalano and her husband who live on Long Island and were unexpectedly visited by the police. The team of six policemen asked to search the Catalano’s house and asked pointed questions such as “Do you have any bombs?” (to which terrorists always answer “yes”), “Do you own a pressure cooker?”, and “Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker bomb?”

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Japan navy unveils biggest warship since WWII

Japan unveiled its biggest warship since World War II, a $1.2 billion helicopter carrier aimed at defending territorial claims, drawing criticism from regional rival China which accused its neighbour of “constant” military expansion. Japan plans to use the helicopter carrier, named Izumo and expected to go into service in 2015, to defend territorial claims following maritime skirmishes with China, which has demonstrated its own military ambitions in recent years. Tokyo is also locked in a separate territorial dispute with Seoul.

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Bangkok braces for political street protests

As many as 2,000 protesters calling themselves the People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime turned up Sunday for a peaceful rally in a Bangkok park. But bigger and more militant protests are expected when parliament on Wednesday begins debating an amnesty bill that would cover people arrested for political activities since the 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin for alleged corruption and disrespect to the monarchy.

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China plans cross-strait highways without approval from Taiwan

Beijing drafts plan for symbolic bridge, but lacks approval from Taiwanese authorities. The mainland government has recently approved a national road project that includes two cross-strait highways linking both sides of the Taiwan Strait. If completed, the project would be a literal and figurative bridge between the mainland and Taiwan and would mark a major milestone in cross-strait relations. However, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top cross-strait policy planning body, said the project had been “unilaterally worked out by mainland authorities”.

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Spain studies retaliatory measures against Gibraltar

Spain is studying retaliatory measures against the British territory of Gibraltar in an escalating dispute over fishing grounds, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in an interview. The minister said Spain was mulling a 50-euro border-crossing fee and tax investigations of thousands of Gibraltarians who own property in Spain. A border fee would affect tourists and Gibraltarians who cross the border for work. Spain was also considering closing airspace to planes heading for the airport in Gibraltar and changing rules to wring taxes from on-line gaming companies based in Gibraltar, he said.

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Nicaragua Buying Gunboats For Its Waters

The purchase of six gunboats that Nicaragua is negotiating with Russia is quite a concern to the Government of Costa Rica as they would be used to patrol its seas and exclusive economic zone. When you take a money amker out of the hands of the Costa Rican government they get angry. According to a publication of the New Journal of Nicaragua, the new frigates for the Nicaraguan Navy will be prepared in the Fair-Nevsky Shipyard inSt. Petersburg, and have a strong ability to attack in case of conflicts.

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Rival factions in Yemeni army clash in capital

Soldiers once loyal to Yemen’s ousted president Saleh, protesting against what they say is neglect by the new leadership, clashed with a rival faction of the military in Sanaa on Friday, police and witnesses said. The hundreds of soldiers protesting were former members of Yemen’s elite Republican Guard, which was run by Saleh’s powerful son and which Saleh’s successor, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, abolished last year in a bid to unify the army. Yemen’s military remains divided between allies and opponents of Saleh, who stepped down in a Gulf-brokered deal in 2012 after a year of protests against his rule, but still looms large in Yemen.

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GCHQ: inside the top secret world of Britain’s biggest spy agency

Teams of analysts at GCHQ now have the authority and the technical capacity to tap directly into the nervous system of the 21st century and peer into the lives of others. Dig deeper into the drily worded, acronym-filled files, and there are other insights about the challenges faced by GCHQ, and its own anxieties about meeting them. GCHQ has been tasked with finding the solutions, mindful that the potential rewards are high; never before has the agency had the opportunity to build such a complete record of someone’s life through their texts, conversations, emails and search records.

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Bangladesh Forces Executed Protesters in ‘Cold Blood,’

In many cases the police and paramilitary units used non-lethal methods in responding to rallies and violence by supporters of Islamic parties, the New York-based advocacy group found. In other instances they resorted to “excessive force,” shooting demonstrators at close range, and beating others to death, according to witness testimony. More than 150 people were killed, including seven children, and at least 2,000 others were injured in clashes between February and early May, Human Rights Watch said after interviewing 95 victims, witnesses, journalists, lawyers and human rights workers. Police officers were among those who died, it found.

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U.S., South Korea Discuss Delaying Wartime Command Transfer

High-ranking U.S. and South Korean armed forces officials on Tuesday discussed plans to return to Seoul command of its own troops during wartime, Yonhap reported. The command transfer is presently planned to happen at the end of 2015. However, Seoul earlier this month requested that it be delayed — for the second time — amid concerns that South Korean military capabilities are not yet at the desired level. North Korea’s rising nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities also are said to have played a role.

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Russia’s Middle-East End Game, at the Hands of the Post-Soviet Grandmaster

Vladimir Putin, now in power for over 13 years, has a history with the United States, his one-time opponent on the global chessboard. He began by mending ties with NATO, broken during the Kosovo conflict, and then actually applying for membership in the alliance that once faced off against the Red Army. In the wake of Sept. 11, Putin not only called George W. Bush, but also gave practical and substantive support to U.S. operations in Afghanistan—and tolerated a large U.S. military presence in former Soviet Central Asia.

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Resource-rich Mongolia an outpost of the wild, wild east

Mongolia’s fairytale economic boom is developing cracks. The failure of the country’s fifth-largest bank and delays to the development of its giant copper mine underscores fears that its growth potential is built on shaky foundations. Yet greater economic realism may ultimately be welcome. The surprise insolvency of Savings Bank, which controlled about 8 per cent of Mongolia’s banking assets, has rattled the country’s economic cheerleaders. The central bank closed down the lender and transferred its deposits to a state-owned rival after it ran up bad loans worth $109-million (U.S.) – more than twice its capital, according to Fitch Ratings.

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Pentagon propaganda websites under fire

Pentagon propaganda websites aimed at countering terrorism in foreign countries would be shut down under a Senate measure sponsored by the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, according to his office. The Pentagon’s Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI), a U.S. Special Operations Command initiative, operates 10 websites around the globe. Sen. Carl Levin’s committee voted to eliminate its $19.7 million in funding in the National Defense Authorization Act.

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Japan shown U.S. military facilities to confirm ‘nuclear umbrella’

Washington welcomes visits to its nuclear weapons facilities by Japan as a way to provide “firsthand knowledge” of the U.S. nuclear posture and reassurances of its nuclear deterrent, a former senior U.S. defense official says.

“The nuclear umbrella is a centerpiece of the U.S.-Japan security alliance,” Bradley Roberts, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said in a written response to The Asahi Shimbun’s questions in early July.

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One-Child Policy ‘Weakens China’s Military’

China’s draconian “one-child” population controls are affecting the country’s military readiness, according to an article circulating in state-run media. The article, originally attributed to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun but picked up by China’s official Xinhua news agency, reflects current thinking in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which fears an aging population will shrink the pool of potential military recruits, analysts said. PLA strategists are also concerned that China’s new generation of “little emperors,”.

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Joint Intelligence: Pine Gap, Australia’s most secretive location

Pine Gap is a secretive facility nearly 20km south-west of Alice Springs which has been there since 1970. Run by both Australia and the United States, its official name is the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, even though our government really hates to admit it exists.
Pine Gap is essentially a satellite tracking station, situated in the middle of nowhere because that makes it hard for other countries to intercept the signals emitted from within. It is thought that the US controls all of its spy satellites from Pine Gap, and that the US and Australia “listen to Asia” from the 14 antennae concealed beneath white domes at Pine Gap.

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Tunisia on brink of internal conflict after assassinations

There are concerns as the political upheaval grows, elements of the former regime of Zein Abidine Ben Ali, driven from power in January 2011, retain considerable influence and maintain ties with the labor unions and the internal security forces and could try to stage a comeback.

The cause of Tunisia’s slide toward anarchy was the assassination Thursday of secular opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi, a member of the 217-seat parliament who represented the central city of Sidi Bouzid, his hometown.

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Egypt’s new top general stirs echoes of Nasser

Egypt’s army is recasting the country’s political drama, giving a popular general the starring role in a change with echoes of the past that could undermine democracy in the Arab world. Even though Sisi has a popular mandate, the army’s manoeuvring, coupled with the resurgence of the security apparatus, raises questions about the prospects for democracy in the Arab world’s biggest nation. In one incident alone, 80 Mursi supporters were killed in the streets of Cairo on Saturday.

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In Myanmar, internal spy network lives on

It’s been two years since Myanmar’s new government promised its people a more open way of life, but still they come, plainclothes state intelligence officers asking where former student activist Mya Aye is and when he’ll be back.

Politicians, journalists, writers, diplomats, too, find themselves being watched: Men on motorcycles tailing closely. The occasional phone call. The same, familiar faces at crowded street cafes. “It’s not as bad as it used to be,” said Mya Aye, who devotes much of his time today campaigning for citizens’ rights, “but it’s really annoying.

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Philippines to move air force, navy camps for faster access to disputed South China Sea areas

The Philippines plans to relocate major air force and navy camps to a former U.S. naval base northwest of Manila to gain faster access to waters being contested by China in the South China Sea, according to the country’s defense chief and a confidential government report. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Sunday that as soon as relocation funds are available the government plans to transfer air force and naval forces and their fleets of aircraft and warships to Subic Bay, which has become a busy free port since the 1992 departure of the U.S. Navy.

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Bahrain: The Arab Spring Protests You Don’t Know About

I am astonished by how little the media has covered the ongoing protests in Bahrain, Kuwait, and eastern Saudi Arabia. You would think that the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states would be under a microscope, because what happens there immediately affects oil prices. But large media corporations have opted not to cover events in these countries, so as not to cause market panic. And there is a lot to panic about. The Arab Spring, or something like it, in Bahrain is all about Sunni-Shia tensions. Bahraini Shia make up almost 70% of the country’s total population.

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U.N. mulls use of mercenaries for international interventions

United Nations is assessing private military and security companies and their commitment to international norms, an envoy said from New York. The United Nations announced a panel discussion on the use of mercenaries and private security companies is scheduled next week at the U.N. headquarters. Group director Anton Katz said the United Nations has an opportunity to influence the standards and behavior of the private security industry in a way that puts it in line with international human rights laws.

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Malaysia’s rich natural resources are standing in the way of an Arab Spring

A long time corrupt, disconnected ruling party? Check. Contentious elections? Check. Allegations of voter fraud? Check. Ethnic and religious fault lines? Check. On the surface, two months after the closest election in Malaysian history, one in which the opposition coalition actually received more votes, the situation looks ripe for an uprising along the lines of Egypt or Tunisia, or even nearby Indonesia and Thailand. Instead, the country seems destined for more years of unequal, resource-driven, racially divisive policies.

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Neighbourhood Watches as Azerbaijan Arms Up

Azerbaijan’s rapid arms build-up is cause for concern in the region, with some defence analysts warning that it heightens the risk of renewed conflict. President Ilham Aliyev frequently boasts of the amount of money his oil-rich state can afford to spend on weaponry. Appearing at a military parade in Baku on June 26. he took the opportunity to remind everyone that at 3.7 billion US dollars, annual defence expenditure is nearly twice the size of neighbouring Armenia’s entire government budget. A decade ago, Azerbaijan’s defence budget stood at 160 million dollars.

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Bulgarian Anti-Government Movement Turns Ugly As Protesters Trap 100 People In Parliament Building

The protesters denounced what they perceive as entrenched corruption in the government, while chanting “Mafia!” and “Resign!” They also demanded the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski. “They threw stones … at the bus, and they call it a peaceful protest,” Bulgarian Socialist Party deputy Anton Kutev, one of the scores trapped inside the building, told BNT1 state television. On Tuesday, Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev issued a statement asking the demonstrators to be “peaceful and civilized.”

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Vulnerable Military Satellites Creating a ‘Maginot Line’ in Space

While the possibility of anti-satellite weapons, jamming and cyber-attacks aimed at the U.S. military’s fleets of communication satellites is making them vulnerable to adversaries, declining defense budgets constitute an equal threat to the space architecture the services rely upon, according to a report released July 24. Like the Maginot Line that gave the French a false sense of security prior to the German Blitzkrieg in World War II, the U.S. military has assumed since the end of the Cold War that no one would dare launch an physical attack on its satellites because that would violate international norms.

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Is the U.S. Ramping Up a Secret War in Somalia?

The Obama administration earlier this year expanded its secret war in Somalia, stepping up assistance for federal and regional Somali intelligence agencies that are allied against the country’s Islamist insurgency. It’s a move that’s not only violating the terms of an international arms embargo, according to U.N. investigators. The escalation also could be a signal that Washington’s signature victory against al-Qaeda’s most powerful African ally may be in danger of unraveling.

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Ten reasons why Egypt is vital to US economy and security

How many bargains you get when shopping depends on Egypt’s Suez Canal being open for business. Between 8% and 12% of all international trade goes through Egypt’s Suez Canal, which cuts thousands of miles off ship journeys from Asia to Europe and to the North American East Coast. We can call it 10% of world trade on a rolling average (trade is still down after the 2008 crash). But note that if the Suez Canal were to be closed by the country’s turbulence, it wouldn’t just affect that ten percent– the impact on prices of many commodities would be across the board.

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Qatar’s Geopolitical Gamble: How the Gulf State May Have Overreached

Nearly three weeks after Egypt’s military forced the country’s President Mohamed Morsi out of office and jailed him and officials of his Muslim Brotherhood party, the explosive reaction on Cairo’s streets has brought death and turmoil—and in another country more than 1,200 miles away, an uneasy sense of loss. Qatar, the tiny gas-rich peninsula in the Arabian Gulf, had poured nearly $5 billion into Morsi’s government in its one short year in office, propping up Egypt’s teetering economy, and investing—or so it thought—in a lasting relationship with the Arab world’s most populous nation.

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Malawi could become Africa’s largest rare earth producer

A total of $829 million has been raised to explore Africa for metals and minerals over the last two years. While some 65% of drilling on the continent targets gold, rare earths are the fifth most popular prospect after iron ore, copper and coal attracting five companies spending $42 million during the two years to end-May 2013. The renewed interest in Africa’s rare earths come despite dramatic falls in the value of the 17 elements used in a variety of high-tech, green and consumer electronics industries.

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The Markets’ Worst Kept Secret

Here’s what your stockbroker and the media aren’t telling you: the world is more indebted now than it was at the height of the financial bubble in 2007. That’s right. Despite the extraordinary government intervention of the past six years. Despite continuing optimism of a recovery. Despite the reassuring words of central bankers. We’re worse off in debt terms. Interest rates can’t rise above GDP rates, otherwise debt to GDP ratios will climb further. If they do, you can expect more money printing, budget cuts and tax rises.

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India’s Intelligence Apparatus(RAW) Conducts Secret Wars Against Geopolitical Foes

The doctrine of the Indian secret agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is based on the principle of waging continuous secret battles through its agents. Since its creation in 1968, RAW has assumed a significant status in formulation of Indian foreign policy. RAW’s operations against the regional countries are conducted with great professional skill and expertise, which include the establishment of a huge network inside the target countries. It has used propaganda, political dissent, ethnic divisions, economic backwardness and criminal elements to foment subversion and terrorism to weaken these states in consonance with Indian regional ambitions.

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China’s Flying Propaganda Weapon Will Blow Your Mind

“When carrying out a mission, the airplane will use its own ‘programs’ to forcefully overpower enemy television stations, radio stations and wireless communication networks, interfere with the enemy’s propaganda dissemination programs, affect the enemy’s military-civilian morale, and create rumors and confusion, thus causing the enemy, from government to everyday citizens, to have ‘nervous breakdowns’ and achieving their goal of rendering them helpless and unable to fight.”

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Are there really two PRISMs, or just one PRISM with NATO involvement?

On Wednesday Bild published a major scoop, based on a document that was apparently sent by NATO to all the regional commands in Afghanistan back in 2011. This document laid out instructions for cooperation under a program called PRISM, which involved monitoring emails and phone calls, with access regulated by the U.S. Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS). This document naturally made its way to the Germans, who are somewhat controversially deployed in Afghanistan and, as Bild framed it, this meant the German government is lying about its PRISM ignorance.

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Syria no-fly zone requires ground control

Britain’s outgoing army chief has warned that attempts to impose a no-fly zone over Syria would be unsuccessful without establishing ground control, in an interview published in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph. Britain is at the forefront of international efforts to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and has promised to supply rebels with equipment to protect them against chemical weapons attacks. But in his interview with the Telegraph, general David Richards said: “If you wanted to have the material impact on the Syrian regime’s calculations that some people seek, a no-fly zone per se is insufficient.

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India to deploy 50,000 additional troops along China border

Boosting Army’s war fighting capabilities along the line of actual control (LAC), the government on Wednesday has given the go ahead to the creation of a corps including deployment of 50,000 additional troops along the China border at a cost of around Rs 65,000 crore. The Cabinet committee on security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cleared the proposal in its meeting, sources told PTI. The 1.3 million-strong Army is expected to raise the new corps’ headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal.

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Cyprus resists international pressure to sell gold reserves

Cyprus is resisting pressure from the European Commission (EC) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to sell its gold reserves to finance its “bailout.” Yesterday the Cypriot Finance Minister said that a sale of its gold reserves was not the only option under consideration to pay down its debt and that other alternatives were being considered. Cyprus has 13.9 tonnes (c. 447,000 troy ounces) of gold reserves which are worth some 436 million euros at today’s market prices.

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US influence in Egypt: Conflicting interests

This history of double standards shadows the recent events in Egypt and Washington. When a country’s military sends tanks into the streets, deposes an elected President, suspends the constitution, shuts down television stations, and arrests the leadership of the ruling party, the usual word for it is “coup.” But, in the days since all this came to pass in Egypt, the Obama Administration has gone to great lengths to avoid calling it by its rightful name-Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said that the events of July 3rd and afterward were under “review”-for the obvious reason that, under the law, it would mean the end of $1.5 billion in U.S. military and economic aid.

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Bouteflika: Ageing Algeria leader overshadowed by army

The man with the keys to the North African nation’s vast energy wealth, Bouteflika has always fought to roll back the power of the unelected military and intelligence leaders who have played a decisive role in politics since independence. “I’m not three quarters of a president,” he said following his election in 1999, addressing critics who saw him as another puppet of the army chiefs. But as one political opponent who requested anonymity put it, the secretive “pouvoir” as they are known, and the DRS intelligence agency in particular, is “the only real power in Algeria”.

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Unified capabilities: The IP-enabled battlefield of the future

The Defense Department’s CIO has called for the enterprisewide implementation of unified capabilities to be fielded to DOD components by fiscal 2016. UC includes a broad set of voice-, video- and data-sharing capabilities that promise to enable unprecedented joint collaboration among the military services, combatant commands and defense agencies. IP-based solutions will enable DOD users to better collaborate via instant messaging, chat and Web-based conferencing, among other applications.

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Japanese move to nationalise isles likely to raise tension with China

Japan may nationalise hundreds of unclaimed islands off its coast in a bid to bolster its territorial claims, reports said, in a move that could complicate already simmering relations with China over existing maritime disputes. Quoting government sources, the Yomiuri newspaper reported yesterday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government was planning to set up a multi-agency task force to identify around 400 islands that are not already explicitly identified as Japanese territory and confirm their ownership and the names of the islands.

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Why Burma could become another Rwanda

After the genocide that tore apart a nation and killed 800,000 in Rwanda, the world said never again. But nearly 20 years later, we find ourselves on the brink of another campaign of destruction against an entire people. Yet once again it is being greeted with silence.

In Burma, ethnic cleansing is happening. We have seen more human rights violations and attacks on Rohingya minorities in the past two years than in the last 20. Mobs have attacked our villages, driving us from our homes, children have been hacked to death, and hundreds of my people have been killed by members of the majority.

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Amphibious warfare, first-strike options eyed in defense policy revamp

The Defense Ministry will explain its plans to boost the amphibious and pre-emptive strike capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces. The move underscores the focus the ministry is putting on defending the nation’s outlying islands as tensions with China continue to simmer over the Senkaku Islands dispute. The SDF currently does not have a military branch equivalent to the U.S. Marine Corps. SDF personnel are mainly tasked with landing on enemy-controlled terrain by air or sea ahead of other forces

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Russian Military on Alert After Suspected Israeli Airstrike Destroys Russian Missiles in Syria

Tens of thousands of Russian troops have been placed on alert after a suspected Israeli airstrike destroyed advanced, Russian missiles recently delivered to Syria. In a July 13 report from ITAR-TASS, The Russian Defense Ministry has announced what is being described as “the most ambitious [check alert] in the history of post-Soviet test readiness.” The alert, according to the ITAR-TASS report, involves more than 80,000 troops, around a thousand tanks and armored personnel carriers, some 130 aircraft and 70 naval vessels.

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Gwadar to Kashgar: Implications of new ‘Silk Route’

The much-publicised agreement to speed work on developing a 2,000-km trade corridor linking Gwadar Port on Pakistan’s Makran Coast to Kashgar in China’s Xingjian province has been called a “game changer” by Sharif. While credit must be given to the Pakistan premier for his plans to speed up this ambitious project — perceived as pivotal to the country’s economic prosperity — there are several underlying factors, especially security and political differences within Balochistan, that will have to be incorporated in policy formulation for the corridor’s implementation.

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U.S. government pays big to snoop

How much are your private conversations worth to the government? Turns out, it can be a lot, depending on the technology. AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 “activation fee” for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that, according to industry disclosures made last year to Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.).

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S&P amazingly says no one should believe its ratings are independent and objective

Today US rating agency Standard & Poor’s told a court of law that it figured every reasonable investor would know its promise to objectively rate securities was mere “puffery,” like a used-car salesman who tells you the last owner of your car was an old lady who only drove it on Sundays.

The US government thinks that S&P (a unit of McGraw Hill Financial) should pay $5 billion in penalties for giving safe ratings to risky securities while it had cozy relationships with people creating them.

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Greenland and the Arctic: Still a role for the EU

Greenland, a territory of 2,166,086 km² inhabited by less than 57,000 persons, which got Self Rule within the Kingdom of Denmark in 2009, has everything to attract major powers. Greenland has already become a meeting place for American, European and Asian interests in the Arctic. It is also a strategic territory and a key to future developments in the Arctic. In order to handle such a rising international interest, one of Greenland’s main challenges is capacity building. Greenland has talents, but too few to handle such an interest.

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The Biggest African Conflict You’ve Never Heard Of

As the military’s assault against Boko Haram and civilians in northern Nigeria continues, so too does the ongoing and underreported conflict in the villages around Jos, the capital of Plateau state in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. As in other parts of the Sahel stretching from Khartoum to Dakar, rivalries between ethnic groups, settlers and indigenes, herders and farmers, and religious groups overlap to create a kaleidoscope of insider and outsider identities. Resulting conflicts, in turn, create openings for international jihadist Islam, as in other parts of the Sahel.

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‘Middle-class revolution’ fuels Pentagon war plan

The new middle class is “much more likely to engage in political activism to get their way.” Not just protests and civil unrest but revolutions — the kind predicted by the Pentagon a decade ago. This “threatening gap between rapidly rising expectations and a disappointing reality” will have enormous implications for China’s stability. Reading “Middle-Class Revolution” and other Fukuyama works, it is obvious that the “Pentagon 2020” war scenario is accelerating everywhere — across Asia, India, Africa, Europe, South America and the United States — fueled by capitalists who only see population growth as an opportunity for new consumer markets.

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On The Threshold Of A New Era Of Global Inflation

You have been hoarding money. You purchased real estate. You’ve invested in Swiss francs. All of this you’ve done to stave off the spectre of inflation, because we’ve watched how national banks have been printing money for years, as never before. And then last week the European Central Bank announced that record-low interest rates would be staying low for years to come. In the opinion of the many currency depreciation prophets out there, that means that sooner or later we’re looking at a second 1923 — an era of hyperinflation, and we’ll soon be using billion or trillion Euro notes.

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Japan Ready to Declare: We’ll Go First

Japan has no intention to go it alone in defending its territory or national interests from growing threats in the Asia-Pacific region. But an annual defense review released Tuesday and other recent developments signal an increasing willingness on the part of Japan to go it alone, first.

Japan plans to establish a new National Security Council that would streamline how and when Tokyo would use military force, appoint a senior officer to command troops from all three armed services, and formally designate a Marine Corps-like force to defend its vulnerable southwest islands.

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Cyprus, the Mediterranean Pivot

The declared objective of the government of Nicosia is to use the geo-strategic position of Cyprus, between Europe and the Middle East, to make the country a true energy hub, with a central role in commercial transit and in the provision of European energy.

In recent years the Eastern Mediterranean has increased its own strategic importance at an international level following significant discoveries of hydrocarbons. In this region the recent offshore findings of natural gas are radically changing its geostrategic and economic status.

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Euromed Survey places Egypt as a key power in the geopolitical redesign of the Mediterranean

Egypt’s evolution after the armed forces removed President Morsi from office will be a determinant in the geopolitical definition of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, according to the Euromed Survey presented by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) today.

The survey was released at an event in Brussels with representatives of research centres, the European Commission, the European External Action Service, the European Parliament and diplomatic delegations. The Survey, which has been conducted annually since 2009, is funded by the European Union.

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Secret move keeps bin Laden records in the shadows

The top U.S. special operations commander, Adm. William McRaven, ordered military files about the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout to be purged from Defense Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.

The secret move, described briefly in a draft report by the Pentagon’s inspector general, set off no alarms within the Obama administration even though it appears to have sidestepped federal rules and perhaps also the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

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Egypt’s army chief El-Sissi trained at US Army War College

With unrest in Egypt, U.S. military officials looking for insight might test the ties they formed with the Egyptian defense minister, Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, when he was a student at the Army War College.

“In this little historical Pennsylvania town, the most important school in the world operates under the radar,” said retired Col. Stephen Gerras, a professor of behavioral science at the Carlisle Barracks.

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Somali American caught up in a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign

After Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia. Packed with news and controversial opinions, it rapidly became a magnet for Somalis dispersed around the world, including tens of thousands in Minnesota. The popularity of the site, also attracted the attention of the Defense Department. A military contractor, working for U.S. Special Operations forces to “counter nefarious influences” in Africa, began monitoring the Web site and compiled a confidential research dossier about its founder and its content.

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FISA Expands NSA Powers In Deep Secret

In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say. The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny.

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Has Africa Arrived at the Era of the “Good Coups?”

The African Union, proud of its zero tolerance for coups on the continent, advertises this policy as part of what is termed shared democratic values, which all countries are expected to incorporate into a common set of constitutional convergence principles. These principles is expected to automatically elicit joint action when power is seized through unconstitutional means. I am not convinced by the argument that a coup could ultimately good for democracy. The argument that the military was merely enforcing the will of the people and safeguarding democracy from its real opponent, who, in this thinking, was Morsi is nonsensical.

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Morocco-Algeria ties hit new lows

An outburst of hostile rhetoric between Morocco and Algeria reflects a historic animosity rooted in irreconcilable differences over Western Sahara, with analysts saying political factors are reinforcing the deadlock despite some much-needed cooperation.

The decades-old rivalry between the Maghreb neighbours has resurfaced after Algeria’s ageing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 13 years, suffered a mini-stroke and with Morocco’s coalition government on the brink of collapse.

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In Okinawa, Talk of Break From Japan Turns Serious

Higa and others admit that few islanders would actually seek independence for Okinawa, the southernmost Japanese island chain, which is home to 1.4 million residents and more than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops and sailors based in Japan. But discontent with the heavy U.S. presence and a growing perception that the central government is ignoring Okinawans’ pleas to reduce it have made an increasing number of islanders willing to flirt publicly with the idea of breaking apart in a way that local politicians and scholars say they have not seen in decades.

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The Real Coup: Egypt’s ElBaradei Named Interim Prime Minister

Just days after Morsi’s removal from office by the Egyptian armed forces, there is a remarkable replacement: Mohammad ElBaradei, the lone leadership figure with deep Western appeal — and the resume and ideology to match.

There’s no doubt that ElBaradei represents the smallest and least powerful of the main factions supporting big reform in post-Mubarak Egypt — the others being Team Muslim Brotherhood and Team Army.

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CNPC to take $5bn stake in huge Kashagan oilfield

China National Petroleum Co is set to acquire a stake in Kashagan, a huge oilfield in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, according to a senior executive in the Kazakh state oil company, in a deal worth $5bn.

It would represent the largest overseas acquisition by CNPC and reinforce China’s dominant position in Kazakhstan’s oil industry. Chinese groups already account for more than a quarter of the country’s oil and gas production.

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Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Are Being Rounded Up in Egypt

The day after President Mohammed Morsi was forcibly removed from office by the military, it appears Egypt’s new leaders are hunting for his Muslim Brotherhood pals and arresting the Islamist political party’s top officials. According to reports from Reuters, the Associated Press and the AFP, Egyptian authorities issued arrest warrants for the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader Mohammed Badie, his first deputy Khairat El-Shater, and around 200 other Brotherhood members on Thursday. The Associated Press reports Badie has already been detained in a coastal city close to the Libyan border and is now being flown back to Cairo.

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Turkey plans legal reform to prevent coups

The Turkish government has plans to make a slight change to its laws to prevent coups. The contentious point in the constitution – Article 35 – has been used as justification by instigators of past coups.

Since 1960, there have been four military coups in Turkey that threw out elected governments. The last time a coup threatened the government in Turkey was 2007, when the military had a stand-off with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, the government is considering a historic step: changing Article 35 of the Turkish military’s internal laws.

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Homeland Security Considering Arming Border Drones With ‘Non-Lethal Weapons’

According to a Customs and Border Protection report obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the agency has considered adding weapons to its Predator drones that currently serve as the agency’s eyes in the sky on the lookout for undocumented immigrants and drug trafficking coming across the border.

A section of the heavily redacted 107-page report that deals with the equipment mounted on the drones states that “Additional payload upgrades could include expendables or non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize [targets of interest].”

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Portugal and Greece are now vying to be this week’s crisis in Europe

Portugal’s governing coalition today saw its second major loss in two days, as Paulo Portas, the foreign minister and leader of the Democratic and Social Center-People’s Party (CDS-PP), tendered his resignation.

Meanwhile, EU authorities have given Greece three days to deliver on promises it’s made to the troika—the group composed of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank, and representatives of European countries, which is monitoring the euro debt crisis.

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NATO asks Hungary to increase military capacity

NATO has asked Hungary to establish and further develop capabilities during the period 2014-2028 in a way that coincides with Hungary’s national military strategy, Defence Minister Csaba Hende said on Tuesday.

Hungary should develop an infantry unit by 2023, set up a new helicopter fleet, strengthen special operational capabilities and develop stabilisation and reconstruction capabilities – all in line with its national interests, he told a meeting of military and air attaches in Budapest.

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Europe’s Creeping Bank Run: Bail-in fears grow for big depositors in euro periphery

Preventing capital flight from banks in crisis-hit countries has been a priority for eurozone policy makers. But have they just shot themselves in the foot? At the height of the region’s debt problems, the amounts held by foreigners in banks in Spain, Italy and other eurozone “periphery” countries shrunk worryingly. Recent months have seen signs of improvement – thanks to a pledge by the European Central Bank to prevent a eurozone break-up, as well as government efforts to boost confidence in the banking system.

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Russia and China building their gold reserves

Western economic commentary on China and Russia is usually colored by monetarist assumptions not necessarily shared in Moscow and Beijing. For this reason, Russian and Chinese fiscal and monetary policies are misunderstood in financial markets, as well as the reasons their governments buy gold.

China has been notably relaxed about her own people acquiring gold, and the government itself appears to be absorbing all of China’s mine output. Russia is also building her official reserves from her own mine supply. The result over time has been the transfer of aboveground gold stocks toward these countries and their allies. The geo-political implications are highly important, but have been ignored by western governments.

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Beijing deploys special force to quell Xinjiang violence

Beijing sent paramilitary police into the streets this weekend and dispatched its top law enforcement official to the northwestern province of Xinjiang in a high-profile show of force after a week when at least 35 people died in the worst sectarian violence since large-scale unrest in 2009.

Eyewitnesses in the capital, Urumqi, where a large security force presence was deployed on Saturday, said the situation had calmed by Sunday and travellers returning from areas affected by the violence reported no unrest and only slightly heightened security along the way.

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North Korea deploys new guns along border: Report

North Korea has deployed new rocket launchers along its border capable of hitting targets beyond Seoul, a report said Sunday. Artillery units from the North were spotted replacing older multiple rocket stations with an upgraded version of the 240mm guns, Yonhap news agency said. The agency quoted an unnamed government official as saying the new multiple rocket launchers with a maximum range of 70 kilometres (42 miles) could extend their reach beyond the South Korean capital. The South’s defence ministry declined to confirm the report.

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Millions of Egyptians want to overthrow their president

By collecting millions of signatures, opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi are pressuring his Muslim Brotherhood. Organizers have planned a large protest for June 30, which could turn violent. This anger toward the president and the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood has found an outlet in the two-month old “Tamarod” campaign, the goal of which is to raise 15 million signatures against the president. In 2012, Morsi was elected with only 13 million votes. The campaign’s initiators hope to force the president to resign this way.

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Will These Youth Protests Spread to Asia’s Corrupted Democracies?

The youth riots in Brazil, Chile, the European Union, the Arab Middle East, Turkey, and even the “Occupy” movement in the West all reflect what political theory broadly calls the “legitimacy crisis” of modern democracy – the notion that participation in democratic politics does little to change the actual process of government, that elites are dug-in and immoveable, that cronyism is endemic, and so on. Young voters particularly become cynical of the formal electoral process, either dropping out in disdain, or expressing their grievances “extra-parliamentarily”, i.e., on the street.

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Syrian currency slide sparks invention

Syrian companies and citizens are stockpiling goods, ripping up old market rules and switching away from dollar-priced imports, in an effort to combat the threat posed by the tumbling currency to their livelihoods and savings.

As the Syrian pound plunges to less than a quarter of its prewar value against the dollar, the ever-harsher financial problems facing the population are spawning increasingly inventive responses to limit the damage.

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Detroit’s Default May Spark U.S. Death Spiral of Debt

Debt is deadly, and it’s made even worse with rising interest rates that can prevent you from eliminating the load. What happens with rising interest rates is that more of the payments go toward the interest and less to the principal. In fact, it’s what I call a death spiral of debt that worsens as rates move higher.

When individuals face excessive debt, often the solution is to reduce spending and adhere to a strict repayment program. But when governments build up massive debt loads, there is no definitive solution, and it becomes problematic.

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Malaysia Clashes Stoke Fear of Myanmar Spillover

Myanmar migrant Yaza Min came to Malaysia several years ago seeking a better life but instead has hidden for more than three weeks in a temple, fearing for his safety as Muslim-Buddhist violence back home spilled over.

Secretarian bloodshed between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims erupted in Myanmar a year ago, leaving about 200 people dead, up to 140,000 homeless, and raising fears of wider instability in the region as refugees flee the country. Recent incidents in nearby Malaysia and Indonesia are feeding those concerns.

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Another Flash of Violence in Xinjiang and China’s PR Strategy

This morning, Xinjiang made it into the news again with another violent clash. In Lukqun township, outside the city of Turpan, protesters attacked a police station, government offices, and a construction site. The mob apparently carried knives in the attack and set police cars on fire, which caused the death of nine security personnel and eight civilians. Information about violent incidents in Xinjiang is always difficult to ascertain. The news is strictly controlled by the Chinese government and foreign media coverage usually consists of state media reports.

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Cyprus signs LNG deal with US-Israeli partnership

Cyprus inked a deal with a US-Israeli partnership on Wednesday to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the island to exploit untapped energy riches. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Cyprus and a partnership comprising US-based Noble Energy International and Israeli companies Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration to build a LNG facility at Vassiliko near the southern resort town of Limassol. The almost bankrupt Mediterranean island is hoping its untapped offshore energy resources can pull it back from the financial brink.

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Proxy Wars: Forget Nato v the Taliban. The real Afghan fight is India v Pakistan

The hostility between India and Pakistan, ongoing for more than 60 years, lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan. Most observers in the west view the conflict as a battle between Nato on one hand, and al-Qaida and the Taliban on the other. In reality this has long since ceased to be the case – we think this is about us, but it’s not. Instead our troops are now caught up in a complex war shaped by two pre-existing conflicts: one internal, the other regional.

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Amid Rising Dissent, Vietnam Cracks Downs on Bloggers

On blogs and social media, agitated Vietnamese are bypassing their authoritarian government’s monopoly on mass communication, reporting on its failings and galvanizing discontent with its rule.

Faced with economic trouble, infighting and unprecedented public criticism, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party is cracking down on dissent. Forty-six bloggers or activists have been sentenced to jail so far this year, surpassing the total of 40 in the whole of 2012.

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Insider Reveals: ‘Mursi wanted to announce state of emergency’

Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi suggested in a private meeting with security officials the announcing of a state of emergency if security matters got out of hand during planned opposition protests next week, Gulf News has learned.

The defence and interior ministers left a high profile meeting with Mursi regarding security plans on Wednesday in frustration and disappointment, turning down a suggestion by the president to declare a state of emergency if violence got out of control, government sources told Gulf News.

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Brazil Intelligence Agency Monitors Social Networks To Thwart Unrest

The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) began to monitor social networking sites on 700 subjects, defined by the agency, in order to keep the government informed about demonstrations and organized movements in the country.

Abin is not the first intelligence agency in the world to create a system of monitoring Internet networks. Thus, to prevent any future unpredicted aggressions Abin created a monitoring system called Mosaic, which filters the posts on community networks.

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Syria’s oilfields create surreal battle lines amid chaos and tribal loyalties

The hard edges of Syria’s frontlines – dogmatic, revolutionary, Islamist or pure murderously sectarian – almost melt away outside the oilfields. New lines emerge pitting tribesmen against battalions, Islamists against everyone else, and creating sometimes surreal lines of engagement, where rebels help maintain government oil supplies in return for their villages being spared from bombardment and being allowed to siphon oil for themselves. “There is chaos now,” Abu Zayed said. “The Free Syrian Army is chasing loot, and they don’t care about civilians.

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U.S. has no ‘plan B’ for Bahrain naval base: officer

The US military has failed to prepare a realistic “plan B” if political turmoil forces the closure of a vital naval base in Bahrain, a naval officer argues in a report released Monday.

The Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain is the most US important maritime base in the Middle East but senior officers have become complacent about its future, Commander Richard McDaniel asserts. “Surprisingly, military leaders have no ‘Plan B’ if strategic access in Bahrain is jeopardized,” McDaniel wrote, in a paper published by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

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The 9 Largest Private Armies In The World. What Are They Fighting For?

Ever wonder what the largest private armies in the world are? Even though nowadays many countries are struggling to protect peace, there are several official “war” conflict zones on Earth. In many cases, major countries can interfere with their own troops. However, in order to prevent the risk of losing soldiers from a national army, or in case a country doesn’t have enough of a military force, a government can hire mercenaries. Mercenaries are soldiers who are fighting in exchange for a gain or material compensation.

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Dirty Tricks: Saakashvili says secret arms caches were created on his instructions

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said that secret arms caches were created across the country on his instructions. The state security service of the Georgian Interior Ministry announced a week ago that it had found secret caches of weapons, drugs and videotaped acts of torture hidden in Samegrelo, western Georgia, set up by high-ranking ministry officials under the previous government.

The police said the find also includes an archive of photographs and personal files of opposition members “who were to be framed and arrested if the pro-presidential United National Movement won the October 1, 2012 parliamentary elections.”

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Egypt’s defense chief warns of military intervention if Morsi, opponents don’t reconcile

Egypt’s top ranking defense official warned Sunday that the military was “ready to intervene to stop the violence” ahead of scheduled mass protests to mark the one-year anniversary this week of Mohammed Morsi’s inauguration as Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah el Sissi’s comments were the most forceful to date by a senior official of Egypt’s revered military in response to months of unrest and seemed to threaten the possibility of a military coup if protests lead to bloodshed or, as el Sissi described it, “uncontrollable conflict.”

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Arming Syrian rebels could create a legacy as harmful as Sykes-Picot

As the West begins to gear up for the centenary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Middle East is being convulsed as never before by the legacy of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. Look no farther than Syria, where one part of that legacy – the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence even while the Great War still raged – is coming to a brutally violent end. Likewise, the current turmoil in Turkey is, at least in part, a consequence of “neo-Ottoman” overreach by Erdogan’s government.

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United States will modernize the Saudi Arabian National Guard with military equipment

The continuation of services under the Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program is an evolution of Saudi Arabia as an effective defensive force with the advice, assistance, and training of the U.S. Army. The Modernization Program ensures necessary training, logistics, support, doctrine development and force integration for the continuing expansion and use of their weapon systems. These services will remain the cornerstone of an effort to upgrade and enhance the infrastructure of this organization.

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