• Multinational control of enrichment “the only realistic way” to reduce nuclear risks

    Within the next two weeks, or soon after, the United States and five world powers hope to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for a relaxing of international economic and financial sanctions. What, however, happens in ten years when some of the key restrictions being discussed begin to phase out? One of the biggest concerns is Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which uses high-speed centrifuges to produce uranium enriched to a level appropriate for nuclear power reactor fuel. Enrichment plants like this can be quickly reconfigured to produce “weapon-grade” uranium. A new report suggests that “Reducing proliferation risks by ending national control over dangerous civilian nuclear activities is an important idea with a long history,” in the words of one of the report’s authors. “As civilian nuclear technology keeps spreading, multinational control may offer the only realistic way to stop the spread of nuclear weapons capability.”

  • Iraqi commander ordered troops out of Ramadi unnecessarily, leading to city’ fall

    The capture of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, by Islamic State militants made headlines, and was perceived used by ISIS’s savvy media machine as a demonstration of the organization’s military capabilities, but military analysts say the jihadists took over the city because an Iraqi commander unnecessarily ordered his forces to withdraw. “Ramadi was lost because the Iraqi commander in Ramadi elected to withdraw. In other words, if he had elected to stay, he would still be there today,” says a British army’s brigadier. U.S.-led efforts to build up the Iraqi military so it can retake Ramadi and Mosul are stalled because not enough Iraqis enlist.

  • Global conflicts on the rise

    Forty armed conflicts were active in 2014, the highest number of conflicts since 1999 — and an increase of 18 percent when compared to the thirty-four conflicts active in 2013. New data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) shows an increase in both the number of active conflicts but also in the number of battle-related deaths in these conflicts.

  • GW launches Program on Extremism

    The George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security on Tuesday announced the establishment of the Program on Extremism, which GW says is a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at providing analysis on and solutions to countering violent and non-violent extremism. The program will focus on various forms of extremism, mainly in the United States, with the goal of conducting groundbreaking research and developing policy solutions that resonate with policymakers, civil society leaders, and the general public.

  • Assad’s one-before-the-last stand

    In the last few weeks, Syrian military units have begun to build what military analysts describe as “Maginot Line” east of Damascus in a last-ditch effort to defend the capital from the forces of the Southern Front, which threaten the capital from the south, and from Islamic State, which threatens the city from the east. The line consists of small military outposts, earthen berms, and approach roads. It is being built about fifty miles east of the Damascus International Airport, located east of the capital. The mini-Maginot Line being built east of Damascus is an admission by the Assad regime that battle for Syria is over. It is not yet clear who will control Syria, but it is clear it will not be Assad and the Alawites. Their forty-five years in power are over. The question for Assad, rather, is who will control Damascus and the Alawite region. The building of the line east of the capital is an indication that Assad is getting ready to fight for the control of the capital, but the battle for Damascus may be a delaying tactics, aimed to gain time for the preparations for the ultimate battle – the battle over the Alawite region. It will be a battle over more – much more — than the fate of the Assad regime. It may well be a battle over the very fate of the Alawites.

  • Violence and corruption scandal at CBP: FBI clean up or cover up? Pt. 6

    It has been more than a year since James F. Tomsheck, the senior executive at Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs (CBP IA), was unceremoniously reassigned to a new position at CBP. In response to his demotion from assistant commissioner at CBP IA, Tomsheck lambasted CBP leadership with charges of rampant mismanagement and accused CBP employees of widespread violence and corruption. Have these systemic problems within the largest federal law enforcement agency in the land been resolved, or have the FBI, CBP, and DHS senior leadership chosen to ignore these problems? Is there reasonable public accountability for the alleged criminal behavior at CBP and CBP IA, or are the alleged victims — all the honest, hardworking CBP employees, and the general public — still in the dark about both the hard facts and the consequences of this unprecedented scandal? In short, has there been a clean-up or a cover up?

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  • U.S. air strike kills Mokhtar Belmokhtar, jihadi leader in North and West Africa

    The United States has said that a weekend air strike in Libya killed jihadi leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Belmokhtar was the mastermind behind the attack on a gas plant in Algeria in 2013 which killed forty hostages. His killing means that after a slow start, the United States has built up impressive intelligence-gathering capabilities in the vast, sparsely populated area which encompasses Libya, Algeria, and Morocco in the north, and the western part of the Sahel region to the south – including Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. Belmokhtar was loyal to al Qaeda, and in April he made headlines by publicly refusing to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State.

  • U.S. kills al-Qaeda’s second-in-command

    A U.S. drone strike in Yemen on 9 June killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda’s most powerful regional organization. Analysts say the killing of Wuhayshi, nicknamed Abu Basir, is a blow to the organization. He was a charismatic and capable organizer who was focused on continuing al-Qaeda’s tradition of hitting Western targets, preferably in a headline-grabbing spectacular fashion. Wuhayshi, who fought in Afghanistan, accompanied Osama bin Laden as they fled the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to the caves of Tora Bora in Pakistan. He served as OBL’s secretary and close aide. He was imprisoned in Yemen for a couple of years but escaped and helped found AQAP in 2009, rising to the leadership of the group.

  • Chicago, center of fracking oil shipments, debates rail safety

    Chicago is home to the busiest crossroads of the nation’s rail network, and the country’s boom in oil fracking has led the city to see not only a massive increase in crude oil transferred by rail in the region, but also debates about the public safety of such an influx. The Windy City has experienced a 4,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008, with many of the densely packed suburbs surrounding the city located very close to rail lines and switches.

  • Underground explosives tests help U.S. detection capabilities

    Three weeks ago, a National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) led-team successfully conducted the fourth in a series of experiments designed to improve the U.S. ability to detect underground nuclear explosions. The Source Physics Experiment (SPE-4 Prime) is a fundamental step forward in the U.S. effort to improve arms control verification, and will eventually be used to assure compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

  • Israel urges U.S. to send military aid to Druze in Syria

    Israel has asked the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was visiting Israel last week, to help persuade the White House to rush aid to the Druze in Syria, where the retreat of the pro-government forces and the collapse of the Syrian army have exposed the Druze to attacks by both moderate Sunni rebels and Islamic State militants. Israel said it would be willing to extend humanitarian aid to the residents of Khadr, near the Israeli border, but that intervention to assist the Druze in the Jabal al-Druze region, deeper in Syrian territory, was not in the cards because it would amount to an intervention in the Syrian civil war. About 450,000 of Syria’s 700,000 Druze live in the Jabal al-Druze area.

  • Syrian Druze facing uncertain future

    The broad retreat of the pro-government forces in Syria in the face of increasingly more effective attacks by both Islamic State and moderate anti-regime rebels, have placed the Druze in Syria in a difficult position. The disintegration of the Syria military has forced the regime to abandon areas it regards as less essential to the future of the Alawite community, to which the Assad family belongs. The realization that Syrian government forces are no longer capable of, or interested in, defending them, has triggered urgent debates among Druze leaders about how best to protect the interests – and lives — of the half million Druze who live in Syria. Some Druze leaders still advocate staying close to the Assad regime, which traditionally has been hospitable to the Druze, but the majority of the Druze in Syria – and, importantly, the Druze leadership in Lebanon – are calling on the Druze in Syria to reach out to Sunni insurgents in an effort to reach an accommodation with them in anticipation of a post-Assad Syria. There are also Druze leaders who call for members of the community to mobilize and create a Druze militia in order to repel the approaching Sunni rebels. The Israeli government and military, however, have this week quietly decided not to use, or threaten to use, military force to defend the Druze. If ISIS fighters take the lead in pushing into areas heavily populated by Druze, and if the militants exhibit the same murderous tendencies toward the Druze that they showed in Iraq toward the Yezidis and others, then a humanitarian catastrophe will be unfolding on Israel’s doorstep, forcing Israel to make decisions it has so far resisted.

  • U.S. surveillance policies cost U.S. tech sector more than $35 billion in sales

    New report says the U.S. tech industry has under-performed as a result of concerns about the U.S. government’s electronic surveillance. The report estimates that the total economic impact on the U.S. tech sector of U.S. surveillance practices exceeds $35 billion annually. The report recommends policymakers level the playing field for the U.S. tech sector by implementing a series of reforms such as increasing the transparency of its surveillance practices, opposing government efforts to weaken encryption or introduce backdoors in software, and strengthening its mutual legal assistance treaties with other nations.

  • Snowden fallout: Revelations forced U.K. to pull out agents from “hostile countries”

    The British security services had to pull out agents from “hostile countries” as a result of information the Chinese and Russian intelligence services obtained when they gained access to the millions of top-secret NSA files Edward Snowed was carrying with him when he fled to Honk Kong and then to Russia. Snowden assured journalists who interviewed him that the Chinese and Russian intelligence services would not be able to access these files because he encrypted them with the highest encryption methods available. Security experts commented that he was either naïve or disingenuous – because he must have known, or should have known, that the cyber capabilities these two countries would make it relatively easy for them to crack the encrypted files he was carrying with him. We now know that these security experts were right.

  • ISIS's new recruits more than make up for militants killed by coalition forces

    For almost every Islamic State militant killed by U.S. and coalition forces, a new fighter is recruited by ISIS supporters in the Middle East or abroad. U.S. officials have boasted that the coalition’s airstrikes are inflicting great harm on ISIS, using a series of different numbers to support their case. Experts say focusing on the enemy body count ignores some trends that are not in favor of coalition forces. “The strength of ISIS continues to grow, so they’re getting more in from recruits than they are losing through casualties,” says one expert.