• Violence in Syria continues to spread

    The violence in Syria spread, as thousands escape to Turkey seeking refuge; over the weekend Turkey contemplated the idea of sending its military to occupy a small area inside Syria and turn it into a safe haven protected by the Turkish Army, but was talked out of it by the United States; Turkey has now accepted more than 8,000 fleeing Syrians; Syria has closed off an area near the eastern town of al-Boukamal, on the Iraqi frontier; the area was a smuggling corridor for insurgents and weapons into Iraq in the 2000s, and the Syrian government was upset that the area was now used to smuggle arms into Syria to help the anti-government protesters; the number of civilians killed has reached 1,400, and the number of arrested now stands at 10,000

  • Security Council to consider tough Syria condemnation

    UN Security Councils considering harsh condemnation of Syria’s crackdown; draft resolution, advanced by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, will likely run into a Russian, Chinese veto

  • Pakistan phases out U.S.-made border monitoring software

    In 2002 the United States provide sixteen countries with a border-monitoring system called Personal Identification, Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES); Pakistan has now decided to replace the system with a Pakistani-developed system called Integrated Border Management System (IBMS); the government says the reason for the change is the IBMS is more capable, and denies the decision is the result of worries that the United States has access to PISCES-collected information

  • Spiraling violence and Assad's desperate tactics

    The conflict in Syria between anti-government protesters and the Basher al Assad regime escalates; two signs of escalation: the Saudi and Jordanian covert support of the anti-Assad forces is beginning to tell, and the regime, growing ever more desperate, is targeting children for torture and death and busing hundreds of Palestinians living in Syria to the border with Israel as a diversion; the Palestinian issue is a potent issue, and exploiting it for diversion may appear as clever ploy by a desperate ruler; it is not likely to work, though: If Israel manages to keep the level of violence low, and if it finds better — non-lethal — means to deal with repeated attempts of Palestinians from Syria to breach the border, then whatever happens along the border would just not be powerful enough — in terms of TV footage, drama, and the number of people killed or wounded — to offset to growing brutality inside Syria

  • Skeptical Israeli, weakening Assad, predictable UN

    Meir Dagan, who retired in December as head of Israel’s Mossad, is not a sandals-and-beads-wearing lefty; yet, he has emerged as the most persistent critic of the current Israeli leadership’s approach to possible military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities; he says that Israel may be able to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, but Israel will not be able to prevent a massive and sustained Iranian retaliation: Israel’s population and economic centers will be showered by thousands of missiles and rockets from Iran and its two local agents, Hezbollah and Hamas; if necessary, Dagan says, Israel will have to absorb this punishment — and it will be able, painfully, to do so; the emphasis, though, is on “if necessary”; more and more observers have concluded that Assad’s day in power are numbered; Assad is in a no-win situation: if he makes more concessions to the anti-government demonstrators, he will appear weak and alienate the hard-liners in his circle; if he continues to kill dozens of Syrian civilians a week, his already-eroded legitimacy as the ruler of Syria will weakened even more; thirty-four civilians were killed today by live rounds in the city of Hama; in September, the UN will hold a 10-year commemoration of what is known as Durban I — the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa; the Obama administration has decided not to participate in the September event because, Joseph E. Macmanus, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, said, the Durban process “included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism”; the United States withdrew from Durban I ten years ago after Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state, harshly criticized the “hateful language” dominating the conference and the documents it produced, language that “singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse”

  • U.S., Canada harmonize perimeter security approach

    No other two countries in the world have a larger volume of trade between them as do the United States and Canada; in the first eleven month of 2010, for example, that trade between the two countries reached $480 billion; that trade — and, especially, significant growth of that volume of trade — have been hampered by ever tighter security arrangements the United States has been implementing along the U.S.-Canada border since the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the main reason the United States has insisted on beefing up border security is that Canadian immigration and customs laws have been judged to be not up to what the United States would regard as acceptable standards; the U.S. message to Canada was thus straightforward: the higher the security walls around Canada, the lower the security wall between Canada and the United States; Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper agrees, and Canada is now working with the United States on harmonizing perimeter security arrangements; some Canadians are unhappy, saying the deal will result in sacrificing cherished Canadian values and practices

  • Potential China Taiwan deal on rare earth metals

    Taiwan could soon start receiving shipments of rare earth minerals from China in a move that could help bolster its technology and chemical companies; last week, officials from China and Taiwan met to discuss a potential deal that would ease some of China’s export quotas and tariffs on rare earth shipments; the deal with Taiwan would likely do little to affect global prices or trade as Taiwanese companies purchase far less than their Japanese, European, and American counterparts; but some analysts believe the deal would still benefit Taiwanese companies by giving them a competitive advantage

  • Napolitano visits Mumbai in advance of U.S.-India strategic dialogue

    On Wednesday, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Mumbai, India where ten gunmen killed more than 160 people in a November 2008 terrorist attack; Napolitano met with local counterterrorism and law enforcement officials to discuss their policing and counterterrorism strategies; Napolitano’s visit comes as part of a four day visit to India which will culminate in a formal dialogue with India’s top security chief Home Minister P. Chidambaram; the meeting will be the first formal dialogue between the two countries; topics for discussion will include counter-terrorism, but also financial fraud, counterfeiting, and currency smuggling; the high level strategic dialogue is designed to bolster ties between the United States and India by increasing communication and information-sharing practices on terrorism and national security issues; as Napolitano meets with her Indian counterpart, Tahawwur Rana is on trial in Chicago for assisting David Coleman Headley provide intelligence to Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization in their attack on Mumbai; India has been on a heightened state of alert since bin Laden’s death and has increased security along its borders

  • Palestinians catch Israel, Syria, and Hezbollah by surprise

    On 15 May 1948 the State of Israel was born; for Israel this is Independence Day, but for Palestinians the day is naqba (catastrophe in Arabic); this year the naqba commemoration included something new, and perhaps more menacing: hundreds of Palestinians gathered at two spots along the Israeli border, then tried to force their way into Israel; fourteen Palestinians were killed and a few dozens injured in ensuing clashes with the Israeli military; it is easy to accuse the Syrian leadership of allowing the demonstrators to cross into Israel in the hope of inviting an Israeli military reaction which would divert attention from the daily killing of civilians by the Syrian military; it is also plausible to argue that the Iranians, opposing any peace negotiations between the Arab states and Israel, welcomed the clashes along the Israel-Lebanon border; these arguments are plausible, but problematic; the record shows that Syria and Hezbollah have always insisted on complete monopoly over the use of force along their respective borders with Israel

  • Remote bomb detection sensors

    European scientists are embarking on a project to develop a network of state-of-the-art sensors capable of detecting hidden explosives; the sensors will work by detecting the chemical traces of explosive vapors in the air in order to provide early warning to security services and protect vulnerable urban populations from the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), often used by terrorist organizations

  • Crackdown spreads across Syria

    The Syrian security forces have expanded their campaign against anti-government protesters; the number of civilian killed stands at 780, and the experts told the New York Times that the regimes has so far arrested more than 10,000 people suspected of harboring anti-regime sentiments; Sunni neighborhoods in the city of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, have been shelled; the regime continues the tactics of surrounding cities and towns with army unites, and cutting these cities off from power, communication, and the Internet; the Obama administration is edging closer to calling for an end to the long rule of the Assad family; one official said the first step would be to say for the first time that Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule, a major policy shift; meanwhile, international pressure has caused Syria to drop its plans to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council; Kuwait, which was expected to stand in 2013, will take its place

  • Denying foreign aid to countries with outstanding NYC parking tickets

    New York City is home to 289 foreign missions and consulates, and their foreign diplomats have incurred more than $17.2 million in parking fines; these fines were issued due to safety violations, including the blocking of fire hydrants, which put the safety of NYC residents at risk; there is already a law on the books stating that 110 percent of the total unpaid parking fines owed to NYC and the District of Columbia are to be withheld from foreign aid and obligations to the countries at fault, but so far this law has not been enforced; three New York House representatives want to change that, telling other countries: pay your NYC parking tickets or forget about foreign aid

  • Pakistan: duplicitous and impotent

    While most of the attention in the past week was paid to who in the Pakistani government was protecting bin Laden, there is another question that the raid by the SEALs exposed: the impotence of the Pakistani military; since 9/11, the United States has given Pakistan more than $10 billion in military aid; the United States wanted these funds to go to counter-terrorism efforts; the Pakistanis used this money toward conventional equipment geared toward a war with India; the raid exposed the fact that the Pakistanis have not done a very good job at that

  • Enough already: UNHRC leader questions killing of OBL

    The ultimate oxymoron of our time? Easy: “UN High Commissioner for Human Rights”; the UN does not promote human rights or advance human rights because it cannot do so; it cannot do so because the human rights record of most of its members is nothing short of appalling; what do we want these UN members to do: volunteer to vote for and promote the very values they reject and suppress at home? Now the leader of the UN human rights body raises questions about the U.S. killing of OBL; the George W. Bush administration withdrew the United States from the UNHRC; two years ago the Obama administration re-joined that body in the hope of reforming it; it is time — high time — for the administration to admit it made a mistake and withdraw U.S. membership

  • Syria intensifies its repression campaign

    The government of Basher al-Assad has intensified its campaign to suppress the anti-government protests that have challenged the regime. The number of civilians killed by the security forces has risen to 560, with the number of people injured by the live rounds the military is using against the protesters reaching thousands; over the weekend, the government has also launched a campaign of mass arrests