• Short-sighted Tuareg leadership dooms independence quest

    With the quickening pace of preparations for a military intervention to remove an al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group from a break-away region of Mali, and disrupt this group’s plan to turn the region into what African leaders call “Africanistan,” the leaders of the MNLA, the Tuareg movement which fought for the independence of the region, said the MNLA would not participate in the operation against the Islamists unless it receives guarantees from outside powers that the goal of the operation will not be to re-unify Mali; the cause of Tuareg independence never had much support among the Tuareg people, and was resolutely opposed by neighboring states; the MNLA refusal to help in removing the Islamists from Azawad all but guarantees that the dream of Tuareg independence will remain just that – a dream

  • More generals defecting, worries about Syria’s chemical munitions

    A few more Syrian generals defected to Turkey this weekend; the latest defections indicate a growing problem for the regime, as those defecting come from parts of the military where loyalty to the Assad family was key to promotion; among the defectors were two Alawite generals who were operations commanders of the Alawite Shabiha militia, one of the military units closest to Assad, a third general, a Sunni, headed the Syrian chemical warfare authority until 2008; last Thursday, Syria began to move chemical munitions from storage facilities to areas closer to the fighting; the United States informed Syria that Washington would view with extreme concern the removal from storage of any more chemical weapons

  • Competition among political forces, not religious fundamentalism, inflames anti-Americanism in the Muslim world

    Historically, domestic political divisions within Muslim politics have fallen between secular elite and fundamental Islamic elite factions, with both groups laying claims to anti-American grievances; that competition is most intense not in the most deeply observant Islamic countries, but rather in countries where divisions between secular and religious factions are sharpest; in those countries, competition between political forces — not religious fundamentalism — appears to spark the greatest anti-American sentiment

  • UN includes Iran in drafting treaty aiming to stop arms proliferation to terrorists, rogue states

    The UN Conference of the Arms Trade Treaty is tasked with drafting an international treaty aimed at stopping arms proliferation to terrorist groups and rogue states; the UN appoints Iran to be one of the vice presidents of the committee; the UN Watch watchdog groups says that appointing Iran to oversee the drafting of a treaty dealing with sending arms to terrorists “is like choosing Bernie Madoff to police fraud on the stock market”

  • U.S., Canada issue a joint statement of privacy principles

    The United States and Canada issue a joint statement about the two countries’ perimeter security approach; the statement aims to reassure Canadians that their privacy rights would not be sacrificed to satisfy the U.S. security demands

  • Mali crisis deepens as Islamists tighten grip over breakaway Azawad

    The al Qaeda-affiliate Ansar Dine extended its control of Azawad, the Mali break-away region, by wresting control of the city of Gao from rival Tuareg forces; Mali’s neighbors announce that they have troop commitments from three west African countries for a military operation against Azawad Islamists; an advance party of European military and civilian security advisors is already operating in northern Niger in preparation for the military campaign, and behind-the-scenes discussions at the Security Council will soon yield a UN resolution authorizing the African Union to sent military forces to Azawad to oust the Islamists and reunify Mali

  • Morsi faces tough decisions

    On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, was declared the winner in Egypt’s first free elections, defeating General (Ret.) Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister; Morsi faces many issues and problems on the domestic front and about Egypt’s regional relations – among them: the role of the military in Egypt’s life, the degree of Islamization in Egypt, the deteriorating the security situation in the Sinai, and Egypt’s regional role

  • Countdown begins to attack on Iran

    On Tuesday in Moscow, the third round of talks between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program ended with the gap between the two sides as wide as ever; there are no plans for more  meetings; this means that on 1 July, a new, crippling round of sanctions will be imposed on Iran; the previous round of sanctions de-linked Iranian banks and companies from the international banking system; the coming round of sanctions – which includes, among other things, the removal of insurance from tankers carrying Iranian oil – will bring an end to nearly all of Iran’s oil sales, sales which account for nearly 80 percent of Iran foreign revenues; planning, in both Israel and the United States, for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities has now shifted to a higher gear; Congress holds hearings on Israel’s Iran-specific military equipment needs

  • Mali’s neighbors ready military operation to oust Azawad Islamists, unify Mali

    Mali’s neighbors, increasingly anxious about break-away Azawad turning into a haven for Islamic militants, worried about waves of refugees fleeing the strict Sharia law imposed in the territory by the fundamentalist Ansar Dine group, and unconvinced of the ability of the fractured and weak Mali government to tackle the situation anytime soon, are planning to seek a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a military campaign by a coalition of west African countries to oust the Islamists and help reunify Mali; the coalition, led by Niger, is seeking French and U.S. logistical and operational support for the campaign

  • Israel not invited to a counter-terror forum in Turkey

    The Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), established by the Obama administration in September 2011, held its first day of discussions in Ankara, Turkey, last Friday; twenty-nine countries have been invited to join the forum, ten of which are Arab or Muslim countries – but Turkey vetoed the invitation of Israel, and the United States accepted Turkey’s position

  • U.S. drones take out al Qaeda’s second in command

    In another impressive coup for the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda, missiles launched from a CIA drone Monday morning killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda’s second in command; the killing of al-Libbi closes a circle: following bin Laden’s death, five high-level al Qaeda operatives were considered as potential successors; since last August, the United States has taken out four of them — Ilyas Kashmiri, Abdul Rahman Atiya, Anwar al Awlaki; and now al-Libi; the killing of al-Libi is but the latest manifestation of how the Obama administration has intensified and expanded the campaign against al Qaeda and its affiliates

  • Break-away Mali region now under al Qaeda-affiliate control

    Following a March 2012 military coup in Mali, Tuareg secessionists in northeast Mali have seized two-thirds of that country — an area larger than France — and proclaimed the Independent State of Azawad; things have not gone as planned: three months after secession, an al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist fundamentalist movement, Ansar Dine, is in control of the vast territory; the Financial Times observes: “[W]hat initially appeared to be a quest for a secular homeland has turned into something much more dangerous, for Mali and far beyond: the possibility of an Islamist-aligned mini-state that could offer a base to the jihadist groups and criminal gangs that roam the Sahara”

  • Talks with Iran: window for peaceful resolution closing

    The second round of talks between the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and Iran over the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program opened yesterday in Baghdad; the time frame for the talks between the six powers and Iran is tacitly accepted by all sides: if the current round of talks fails, and the harsher sanctions on Iran, which go into effect on 1 July, do not persuade Iran, by the end of the year, to cease and desist its nuclear weapons activities, then the path will be clear for a military attack on Iran – by Israel, the United States, or both – sometime during the first three or four months of 2013

  • Sinai Peninsula lawlessness worries terrorism experts

    The other day, Egyptian forces seized a large quantity of weapons near the Libyan border; Egypt says the large weapon shipment was bound for the Sinai Peninsula further to destabilize the area and stir up trouble ahead of upcoming presidential elections

  • Detecting a North Korea nuclear test

    The monitoring tools that scientists have available to them to detect a nuclear test have improved in quality and quantity since North Korea last tested a nuclear weapon in 2009; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has a total of 287 detection facilities available, consisting of 157 seismic monitoring stations, forty-five infrasound stations, sixty-five radionuclide stations, and ten hydroacoustic stations