• Solar stormsNew urgency in preparing for solar storm Big One

    The specter of a geomagnetic solar storm with the ferocity to disrupt communications satellites, knock out GPS systems, shut down air travel and quench lights, computers and telephones in millions of homes for days, months, or even years has yet to grip the public as a panic-inducing possibility. But it is a scenario that space scientists, global insurance corporations and government agencies from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to NASA to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) take seriously, calling it a “low probability but high-impact event” that merits a substantial push on several fronts: research, forecasting, and mitigation strategy.

  • European securityU.K. could lose access to terrorism, crime databases if it leaves the EU: Europol

    Rob Wainwright, the director of the EU’s police agency Europol, said that if Britain left the EU, it could lose access to important databases of terror and criminal suspects needed to fight ISIS. Wainwright said databases provided “daily” benefit to UK police in protecting borders. Leaving the EU would put intelligence cooperation in danger, he said.

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  • ColombiaJohn Kerry to meet leaders of Colombia’s FARC guerillas in Cuba today

    Secretary of State John Kerry will meet today (Monday) in Havana with the leaders of the Colombian Marxist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC has been fighting successive Colombian governments since the early 1960s, and is in control of an area the size of Switzerland in the mountainous jungles of central Colombia. In 1997 FARC has been designated a terrorist group by the State Department. Since last fall, the Colombian government and FARC, with the support of the UN, have been negotiating a peace pact.

  • Middle EastSaudi Arabia leads effort to create a Muslim NATO-like alliance

    Saudi Arabia has approached thirty-four Muslim-majority countries with a proposal to create a NATO-like military alliance of Islamic countries to combat terrorism. The proposed alliance would not be formed to confront any country in particular, but rather would be put together for the purpose of combatting terrorism. It is unclear whether Iran will be invited to join the new alliance.

  • Middle East mapAussie stationery chain pulls world globe which names Palestine, omits Israel

    The Australian stationery chain Typo has stumbled into one of the world’s most contentious issues – and had to pull a line of globes which named Palestine but omitted the label “Israel.” Israel’s name was not omitted altogether: The globe was designed so that Israel and twelve other small countries were represented by a number on the map, corresponding to a number in a legend at the base of the globe. The globe sparked charges of anti-Semitism, but the company’s decision to halt production of the globes has led to boycott threats by Palestine advocates.

  • Intelligence sharingCanada’s intelligence agency halts intelligence sharing with international partners

    Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the country electronic signals intelligence agency, said it has stopped sharing intelligence with several close international partners after disclosing it had illegally collected the communication metadata of Canadian citizens in the process of eavesdropping on foreign communications. In a report to parliament last Thursday, CSE said the breach was unintentional, and that it had been discovered internally in 2013.

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  • IsraelAdelson offered to pay for Iron Dome’s development

    In 2013, shortly after Congress had passed a funding bill for the joint Pentagon-Israel Iron Dome missile defense system, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), then the Senate’s majority leader, received a call from one of his constituents, the gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson asked Reid to convey to the White House a most unusual offer: He, Adelson, was willing personally to contribute $1 billion of his own money toward the development costs of Iron Dome.

  • IsraelIt’s too late for a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine

    By Padraig O'Malley

    Many obstacles stand in the way of a two-state solution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. The current wave of violence has cemented additional layers of distrust of Palestinians to the ones Jewish Israelis already harbor. The hatred is calcifying. Reaching a two-state solution is essential: Within a few years there will be more Palestinians than Jews “between the River and the Sea,” and without a Palestinian state, Israel will either have to give the right to vote to Palestinians or become an apartheid state like South Africa once was. Demographic changes taking place within Israel’s Jewish population, however, may make the implementation of a two-state solution, if it is miraculously agreed to by the two sides, impossible to implement. The most important structural change is that Israel is steadily becoming more religious, which is leading to a decline in the overall level of education and economic productivity of the Israeli population. Allied to the increasing propensity to religiosity among Israeli Jews are trends in the composition of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a change that raises questions about the reliability of the army. The IDF is increasingly a religious army, recruited from the settler community in the West Bank. Best estimates are that if a two-state agreement is somehow reached, about 100,000 settlers would have to be evacuated from the West Bank under any such agreement. Could the IDF be relied upon to evacuate Jerusalem and West Bank settlements — as they did in Gaza in 2005 — with battalion commanders who are increasingly religious, and with religious soldiers who, in any event, are more likely to obey their rabbis’ instructions than their commanders’ orders? With every passing year, using the IDF to evacuate settlers from the West Bank will become more problematic, and evacuation less likely — which means that reaching, and implementing, a two-state solution is becoming less likely as well.

  • SyriaCould an end to Syria’s civil war be in sight?

    By James L. Gelvin

    None of the previous attempts to resolve the conflict among the warring parties in Syria through negotiations, such as the Geneva II talks in the beginning of 2014, has had a happy ending. And, in retrospect most observers would go so far as to say that they were doomed to failure. But if, until now, there was zero chance for all principals, both external and internal, to work out a settlement, there currently exists a slender — a very slender — chance for success. A word of caution: Just because most of the parameters are in place does not mean an agreement will be reached. The “Clinton Parameters” — so-called because they were put forward in a last-ditch attempt at a solution by Bill Clinton in 2000, the last year of his presidency — are widely acknowledged to be the basis for any Israeli-Palestinian peace. They have been on the table for a decade and a half, and a resolution to that conflict is nowhere in sight.

  • RefugeesMerkel: Germany will “drastically reduce” number of refugees arriving in Germany

    German chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that she wanted to “drastically decrease” the number of refugees coming to Germany, indicating she would willing to compromise with critics within her own conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). These critics have charged that her open-door policy posed security risks to Germany and would expand the government welfare rolls.

  • Quick takesFrench backlash, Egypt: no terrorism in plane crash, Libyan unity government

    The French right-wing Front National failed to translate its gains in the first round of France’s regional elections a week ago into any victories in the election’s second round on Sunday; Angela Merkel, facing growing opposition from within her party to her open-door refugee policy, said she would limit number of refugees arriving in German; Turkish prime minister Erdogan says the Middle East “would benefit greatly from normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations; the two rival Libyan governments are set to sigh a historic peace accord in Morocco on Wednesday. 

  • SurveillanceRuling shows Europe still vexed over NSA spying, leaving U.S. companies in legal limbo

    By Caren Morrison

    For over fifteen years, the Data Transfer Pact between the European Union and the United States, more commonly known as Safe Harbor, had ensured that companies with EU operations could transfer online data about their employees and customers back to the United States despite stark differences between U.S. and European privacy law. Earlier this month, U.S. companies operating in Europe got some unwelcome news: Safe Harbor had been ruled invalid. The European court’s ruling has serious implications for these companies’ business models and profitability, leaving many scrambling to find solutions. But it also exposes a fundamental cultural rift between the U.S. and Europe’s conceptions of privacy – one that a new agreement won’t be able to paper over.

  • ClimateU.S. should lead climate change fight to bolster global stability: U.S. defense, diplomacy leaders

    Forty-eight former U.S. leaders, both Republicans and Democrats – among them secretaries of state and defense, national security advisers, leaders of the intelligence community, diplomats, generals in all four branches of the armed services, senators, and members of the House of Representatives – have published an open letter in the Wall Street Journal which called on U.S. political and business leaders to “think past tomorrow” and lead the fight on climate change. The U.S. security establishment has long recognized the threat posed by climate change to U.S. national security, defining climate change as a “threat multiplier,” adding fuel to conflicts. Security experts and military leaders no longer regard climate change as only a threat multiplier, but rather as s serious danger on its own – with droughts, sea-level rise, food shortages, and extreme weather events triggering migration and armed conflicts.

  • SyriaRussia will soon begin to pay a steep price for Syrian campaign: Ash Carter

    Moscow will soon begin to pay a steep price – in the form of reprisal attacks and casualties — for its escalating military intervention on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has warned. Earlier this week, fifty-five leading Muslim clerics, including prominent Islamists, urged “true Muslims” to “give all moral, material, political and military” support to the fight against Assad’s army as well as Iranian and Russian forces. “Russia has created a Frankenstein in the region which it will not be able to control,” warned a senior Qatari diplomat. “With the call to jihad things will change. Everyone will go to fight. Even Muslims who sit in bars. There are 1.5 billion Muslims. Imagine what will happen if 1 percent of them join.”

  • IranIran not invited to a UN summit on ISIS because U.S. designates it as a state sponsor of terrorism

    The United States did not invite Iran to Tuesday’s UN summit on combating Islamic State and other violent extremist groups because the Department of State still designates Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. It is not likely that Iranian president Hassan Rouhani would have participated in the summit even if Iran were invited. Observers note that the fact that Iran has not been invited to a meeting to discuss a coordinated strategy to defeat ISIS, a Sunni militant group Iran regards as an enemy, is yet one more illustration of the institutional and political obstacles to U.S. cooperation with Iran beyond the nuclear deal the two sides agreed to in July.