International cooperation

  • CubaU.S. expects improving relations with Cuba to facilitate return of fugitives

    A 2013 State Department report discredited earlier U.S. claims that Cuba armed separatists in Colombia and Spain, but reaffirmed the country’s role in providing refuge to criminals who have fled U.S. courts (and jails).”We see the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of an embassy in Havana as the means by which we’ll be able, more effectively, to press the Cuban government on law enforcement issues such as fugitives. And Cuba has agreed to enter into a law enforcement dialogue with the United States that will work to resolve these cases,” a State Department spokesman said.

  • IranP5+1, Iran agree on parameters of an agreement over Iran's nuclear program

    A couple of hours ago, the P5+1 and Iran announced the parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and 30 June, and State Department says that they “reflect the significant progress” which has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Many important implementation details are still to be negotiated, and State stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” The number of centrifuges in the hands of Iran will be reduced from the 19,000 they currently have to 6,104 – all of which older, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges – and 5,060 of them will be used to enrich uranium. For the next fifteen years, Iran will not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent.

  • Middle EastArab states to form joint military force to combat Jihadists, Iran’s influence in region

    The leaders of the Arab League announced yesterday (Sunday) that they were forming a joint military force to fight fundamentalist Sunni Jihadist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. It was also clear that the joint force would tackle pro-Iranian Shi’a groups which are helping Iran to expand its regional influence. Arab allies of the United States see the proposed nuclear accord with Iran as a betrayal of U.S. commitment to their security. Egyptian security officials have said the proposed force announced on Sunday would be made of up to 40,000 elite troops based in either Cairo or Riyadh. It would be backed by fighter jets, warships, and light armor.

  • African securityWestern Sahara conflict reaches British court

    Europeans are familiar with efforts, some of them successful, to label agricultural and consumer products produced by Jewish settlers in the West Bank as coming from the Palestinian West Bank, not from Israel, in order to allow consumers to make an educated decision about whether or not they wish to support Israel’s continuing occupation of that territory. A similar effort is now underway in the United Kingdom to label produce coming from Western Sahara. The campaign, launched by campaigners for the freedom of Western Sahara, aims to weaken Morocco’s claim to, and control of, the disputed territory. Morocco, which took control of the territory after Spain, in 1975, ended its colonial rule, regards the Western Sahara as the kingdom’s “southern provinces.” The indigenous Saharawi people want self-determination by establishing an independent state called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

  • Rare earth materialsOvercoming problems, risks associated with rare earth metals

    Numerous metallic elements – called rare earth materials — are regarded as critical: they play an ever more important role in future technologies, but there is a high risk of supply bottlenecks. Small and medium-sized companies are also affected by this, and they are often not sure which of these materials they are dependent on. A recent event at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) aimed to demonstrate ways in which industry and the research community can counter supply risks and the consequence of the ever greater use of these raw materials.

  • IranU.S. curbing intelligence sharing with Israel as discord over Iran talks deepens

    As a result of the growing tensions between the United States and Israel, and what the United States views as an improper use by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sensitive information regarding the nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, the White House last week begun to limit the scope, quality, and depth of the information it shares with Israel regarding the talks with Iran about the Iranian nuclear program. A senior Israeli official said that U.S. representatives continue to meet with and update their Israeli counterparts, but are passing on information about the talks “at a lower resolution.”

  • YemenYemen upheaval hobbles U.S. counterterrorism efforts there

    Following the abrupt resignation of Yemen’s president, prime minister, and cabinet after Iran-backed Shi’a Houthi rebels took over the presidential palace, the United States has halted some counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda militants operating inside the country. The move has dealt a blow to what President Barack Obama recently called a successful counterterrorism partnership between Yemen’s president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the United States. “The [Yemeni government’s] agencies we worked with . . . are really under the thumb of the Houthis. Our ability to work with them is not there,” said a senior U.S. official closely involved in monitoring the situation.

  • European securityBelgium terror raids and Paris attacks reveal urgent need for pan-European security

    By Alistair Shepherd

    In the immediate aftermath of major attacks in Paris, counter-terrorism raids in Belgium saw two suspected terrorists killed and another arrested. These incidents have dramatically raised the sense of insecurity across Europe — and they’ve done so at a time when Europe’s security infrastructure is struggling to cope with the threats it faces. European security agencies, both internal and external, must urgently improve their co-operation and co-ordination. After all, Europe’s security challenges know no borders, and they must be dealt with as such. The recent counter-terrorism operations and arrests across Europe show that security agencies are moving toward quicker and sharper preventative action. What they do not demonstrate is that there is yet any seriously coordinated approach to European security. Achieving that is central to reducing the sense of insecurity across Europe at a frightening and dangerous time. But there is little sign Europe is confident about how to do it without undermining the very freedoms it is trying to protect.

  • EUEU launches a series of counterterrorism initiatives

    Using Europol, which has new authority to collect information on people who have never been convicted of a criminal offense, the EU is planning to create a more centralized intelligence sharing system which will allow security services to monitor and track suspects throughout the union. EU officials are also looking to improve information sharing with Arab countries.

  • Middle East mapsHarperCollins: Israel yok!

    HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has just published the glossy Collins Middle East Atlas, which, the publisher says, was designed for use in Middle Eastern schools. The publisher describes the book as “an ideal school atlas for young primary school geographers,” which “enables students to learn about the world today by exploring clear and engaging maps.” There was only one problem: Israel was omitted from the map of the Middle East: A map of the area shows Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean, with Gaza and the West Bank both labeled, but Israel does not appear. “Way to go Collins!” wrote one reviewer. “While we’re at it, let’s delete Sweden from the map of Europe, Venezuela from the map of South America, and Russia entirely. In fact, let’s all design our own maps of the world and leave out all the countries we don’t particularly care for.” Retreating in the face of a wave scathing criticism, HarperCollins said it would withdraw the book from the market and pulp it.

  • LibyaFrance set to intervene in Libya “within three months”: Diplomats

    Since the November 2011 toppling of Col. Qaddafi, Libya has ceased to exist as a unitary, cohesive state. Different armed militias control different parts of the country, and two governments and two parliaments claim to be the country’s legitimate rulers: The internationally recognized government operates out of Tobruk in northeast Libya, while the Islamist-led Libya Dawn government – backed by Turkey and Qatar – operates out of the capital Tripoli, which Dawn occupied in August. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s defense minister, said on Saturday that “the moment has come” to address the growing unrest in Libya, adding that France could launch a military intervention in Libya within three months. The French defense minister added that the question currently under discussion in Paris is not whether France will launch military strikes against the Islamist militias in Libya, but when.

  • African securityWho killed Dag Hammarskjold? Sweden calls for new inquiry into 1961 death of UN chief

    One of the most intriguing, and unresolved, questions in contemporary African history – and in the history of the cold war – is: How and why did UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold die on 18 September 1961? More often than not, people more directly ask: Who killed Hammarskjold? On 18 September 1961, Hammarskjold boarded a DC-6 airplane to fly to Ndola, a mining town in Zambia, which at the time was called Northern Rhodesia, for a meeting with Mois Tshombe, the leader of mineral-rich Congolese province of Katanga. A year earlier, Tshombe announced that Katanga was seceding from the newly independent Congo. Hammarskjold was flying to meet Tshombe in an effort to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Congo and Katanga – but he never made it. The plane crashed in a heavily forested terrain a few miles from the Ndola airport. Different inquiries conducted in the following fifty years into the reasons for and circumstances of the crash were inconclusive. Last year a United Nations panel concluded that there was “persuasive evidence that the aircraft was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola.” Last Monday, Sweden – Hammarskjold was a Swede — formally asked the UN General Assembly to reopen the investigation into his death.

  • National labsSandia’s Cooperative Monitoring Center: 20 years of work supporting international security agreements

    Sandia National Laboratories’ Cooperative Monitoring Center (CMC) is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of promoting the principles of cooperation and the value of technology in support of international security agreements. Since it was established in 1994, the CMC has worked to address security issues by bringing together policy and technical experts from different nations; showing participants how to use technology and confidence-building measures to solve regional and global security concerns; and creating institutions to promote security in regions around the world.

  • TurkeyTurkey has its own good reasons for not intervening in Kobane

    By Tristan Dunning

    As the Kurdish town of Kobane, just inside Syria on the Syria-Turkey border, continues to defy Islamic State (IS) forces, many pundits have condemned Turkey’s unwillingness to help the People’s Protection Units (YPG) keep the forces of “evil” at bay. The Turkish government, however, has valid reasons not to become embroiled in the defense of Kobane against IS. The defenders of Kobane are members of the YPG, which is the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – a Kurdish group linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The PKK is a movement that waged a decades-long guerrilla war, at a cost of more than 40,000 lives, in pursuit of independent state at the expense of Turkish territorial integrity. The PKK, and the PYD by association, are still listed as a proscribed terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the West, including Australia and the United States. It thus suits Turkey that IS and the YPG/PKK are slugging it out: not only are two of its primary enemies otherwise occupied, but they are weakening each other. The PYD has been accused of collaborating with the Assad regime, and Turkey has no intention of allowing another PKK haven to be set up along its borders. The PYD-YPG resistance is testimony to their courage, but the Western public’s fleeting emotional investment in Kobane isn’t going to flick a magic switch in the Turkish majority’s collective consciousness after decades of separatist conflict.

  • Middle EastU.S. new Syria strategy to seek removal of Assad in parallel with defeat of ISIS

    President Barack Obama’s national security team has been reviewing U.S. policy in Syria after concluding that any meaningful progress in the campaign against ISIS, let alone the defeat of the Islamist organization, may not be achievable without being accompanied by a plan to remove President Bashar al Assad from power. The United States began its air attacks on ISIS in early August as part of an “Iraq first” strategy, the thrust of which has been to emphasize the degradation of ISIS military capabilities in Iraq first, while regarding any operations against ISIS in Syria merely as an effort to influence and shape conditions in Iraq. The administration was hoping that this approach would give the United States time and space to vet, train, and equip an effective moderate Syrian rebel fighting force to take ISIS on. Administration sources now admit that the initial strategy of trying to confront ISIS first in Iraq and then take it on in Syria, without at the same time also focusing on the removal of the Assad clan from power, was a miscalculation which has backfired. The fundamental problem the United States and its Western allies face is that they appear to be willing to use their military might to defend Iran’s allies — the Shi’a regime in Iraq and the Alawite regime in Syria – at the expense of the Sunni majority in Syria and the substantial Sunni minority in Iraq. That perception prompted thousands of Sunni volunteers from around the world to rush to join ISIS ranks, and has led major regional Sunni countries such as Turkey tacitly to support ISIS campaign (the Qatari government, and wealthy individuals in the Gulf States, have been supporting ISIS not so tacitly). Sunnis in the region also note the U.S. apparent acquiescence to three more developments which have enhanced Iran’s sway and influence in the region: the de facto creation of a Shi’a state-within-state in Lebanon under Hezbollah, the takeover last month of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, by the pro-Iranian Zaydi Shiites from the Houthi clan, and the apparent willingness of the United States to allow Iran to retain a residual nuclear weapons-related capability. The cumulative effect of these developments and perceptions has been to cause the regional Arab anti-ISIS coalition to begin to fray, and calls for formulating a realistic strategy to remove Assad from power to grow louder.