• Palestinian missteps; Assad may need a mid-course correction

    Over the past four years, since Salam Fayyad became prime minister of the Palestinian Authority on 15 June 2007, the Palestinians have made steady progress toward realizing their dream of self-determination; Fayyad openly said that his plan was to emulate the way the Zionist movement, from the turn of the last century until the declaration of Israel’s independence in 1948, worked diligently to build the economic, social, political, and educational infrastructure of the state so that when the state did come it would have solid foundations; he has been successful, adding to his success the fact that the level of mutual confidence and cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli security services has never been higher; in September, the UN will recognize Palestine as a state and accept it to membership; all these achievements may be derailed by the dramatic announcement on Wednesday of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation; further north, in Syria, the Assad regime is using ever-increasing violence to suppress the anti-government protests; the question is what will happen first: the end of the protests, or the refusal by the military to continue to kill 100-200 unarmed civilians a week

  • Syria is set to join the UN Human Rights Council

    The Syrian regime has intensified its campaign against anti-government protesters; some 400 protesters have been killed so far and many hundreds have been wounded by live rounds the Syrian police and military use against the protesters; dozens of people suspected of harboring anti-regime sentiments have disappeared — apparently abducted by secret service agents and sent to remote prison camps; the military has surrounded several cities in a move reminiscent of Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez, who, in February 1982, ordered the destruction of the city of Hama in a scorched-earth policy against the Muslim Brotherhood; the grim news from Syria notwithstanding, the UN is scheduled to vote on 20 May on Syria’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council; the United States will vote against Syria’s membership, but the majority of the members of the UN will support it

  • The (re-)emergence of the Main Battle Tank

    Many eulogized the Main Battle Tank as a relic of the past; armies no longer fight other countries’ armies, but rather non-state actors — often in urban setting; moreover, these sub-national organizations are equipped with sophisticated anti-tank weaponry which makes the employment of heavy armor costly (as Israel learnt in its war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006); this is changing, though, as armies retrofit their tanks to make them relevant for asymmetrical warfare

  • Anti high-seas piracy coalition launches public campaign

    2,000 Somali pirates are hijacking the world’s economy” — this is the motto of a new coalition of maritime transportation organization which has launched a public campaign to encourage governments to take more active measures to tackle high-seas piracy; the Save Our Seafarers campaign has a Web site and will take out ads in leading world newspapers

  • U.S. deploys UAVs to Libya

    In response to NATO’s air dominance over Libya, the Libyan military and the foreign militias Gaddafi has recruited from other African countries have changed their tactics; they now ride around in pick-up trucks dressed in civilian cloths, thus making it difficult to identify them from a high-flying aircraft; also, in addition to shelling cities and other locations where the anti-Gaddafi forces congregate, the pro-Gaddafi forces have engaged in urban warfare; they place snipers on balconies and roof-tops to terrorize the pro-rebel population at the same time that small units, operating in the streets, ambush and engage the disorganized rebel forces; the UAVs are meant to provide NATO commanders with better information on what is going on streets and between buildings; Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the use of drones will give the edge to the international forces in crowded urban areas, where they are struggling “to pick friend from foe”

  • ME turmoil offers tough choices for Western democracies

    The West should be more discriminating and judicious when it comes to supporting this side or that in the current turmoil in the Middle East, and judge each case on its merits; we should, in other words, pick and choose rather than automatically assume that all anti-government protesters are good and all governments, even if less than perfectly democratic by our standards, are bad; always siding with anti-government protesters is easy, but also politically and morally shallow; picking and choosing is more demanding because to do that one must familiarize oneself with complex situations

  • Experts call for rules of the road for drone use in the Americas

    More and more Latin and Central American countries are using UAVs for domestic policing missions; these drones are employed as a high-tech answer by government to problems such as drug trafficking, gang violence, deforestation, and other illegal activities; experts say that Latin American countries should collaborate in developing a code of conduct that will prevent the arming of drones and assuage civilian concerns

  • Bill prohibits joint U.S.-China scientific activity

    Language inserted into the 2011 spending bill would prohibit any joint scientific activity between the United States and China that involves NASA or is coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), the author of the prohibition, says: “China is spying against us, and every U.S. government agency has been hit by cyberattacks —- They are stealing technology from every major U.S. company. They have taken technology from NASA, and they have hit the NSF computers. —- You name the company, and the Chinese are trying to get its secrets”

  • Campaign in Libya likely to be a drawn out affair

    NATO campaign has so far failed to yield the desired results, for four reasons: new tactics by Gaddafi’s forces and militias have negated NATO’s air superiority; NATO members are divided among themselves as to the ultimate goals of the campaign and its immediate tactics; the rebel forces are utterly ineffective as a military force; and the rebel leadership is divided in incoherent; unless all these factors change — that is, NATO finds a military response to Gaddafi’s ever-changing tactics; NATO members become more unified in their approach; the rebels develop into an effective military force; and the rebel leadership become more unified — it is not likely the campaign will end any time soon; this does not mean it will not succeed, though, as Gaddafi and his regime are under a tight economic and arms embargo, and he is likely to get weaker over time, even if it is a long time

  • Syria's wrong numbers; ME democratic hard test begins now

    In instructions to Syrian security forces engaged in suppressing the anti-government protests, the government cautions that when security forces and snipers enter protest areas, “the number of people killed must not exceed twenty each time, because it would let them be more easily noticed and exposed, which may lead to situations of foreign intervention”; the Syrian regime may have a naive view of Western public opinion; killing twenty-one or twenty-two, rather than “only” twenty, pro-democracy Syrian activists a day would be enough to draw the attention of Western public opinion to the machinations of the Syrian regime? Would that it were true!

  • Military stalemate, growing humanitarian crisis

    The Libyan air force no longer exists, Libya’s air defense are crippled, and much of Gaddafi’s heavy armor has been destroyed; still, the leaderless, disorganized, ill-equipped, and untrained rebels cannot take military advantage of the situation; the stalemate is creating a growing humanitarian crisis: almost half a million people had left the country since the crisis began, about 330,000 people have been internally displaced, and the UN estimates that as many 3.6 million people could eventually require humanitarian assistance; on the diplomatic front, though, the rebels, for the first time, participated in a high-level diplomatic meeting in Doha — the summit of the newly formed Contact Group on Libya, which called on Gaddafi to stand down

  • Pakistan asks U.S. to reduce covert presence in country

    In a move which is going to hamper the U.S. ability to operate effectively against militants in Pakistan, Pakistan has let it be known that it wants about 335 U.S. personnel, CIA officers and contractors, and special operations force personnel to leave Pakistan; this would account for 25-40 percent of CIA staff in the country; tension between the two countries has been rising for a while, and it came to a head earlier this year when a CIA operative panicked during a covert operation and killed to innocent bystanders; the operative was released after the two families, who received $2.3 million in blood money from the CIA, asked the court to let him go; the Pakistani government, however, wants the U.S. covert footprint reduced and covert activity, including the use of drones, curtailed

  • Gaddafi government accepts AU peace plan

    The disorganization and lack of military effectiveness of the anti-Gaddafi rebels have led coalition leaders to conclude that the opposition can overthrow Qaddafi even with air support, and some are weighing options such as arming the fighters even while attempting diplomatic solutions; such a solution may be offered by an AU “road map” to peace in Libya which, according to AU sources, Gaddafi has accepted; trouble is, Qaddafi enjoys substantial support from countries of the AU, an organization that he chaired two years ago and helped transform using Libya’s oil wealth, so it is not clear whether rebels would accept the AU as a fair broker, and the AU plan as a fair plan

  • Ambassador Shaikh Abdul-Aziz of Bahrain

    Ambassador Shaikh Abdul-Aziz, a veteran diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the government of Bahrain, sat down with Homeland Security NewsWire’s executive editor Eugene Chow to examine the current state of affairs in Bahrain; the ambassador discusses the effect of protests on Bahrain’s economy, the source of the current sectarian strife, and what a political solution to protestors’ demands might look like; “A political solution must be reached,” he says

  • On sleeper cells, smell test, and big numbers

    Whether or not Gaddafi has the means, or the intention, to launch a terror campaign inside the United States in retaliation for U.S. attacks on his military remains to be seen; another country, however, has not shied away from such actions: Iran; just one example: in the early 1990s, in response to Israeli attacks on Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon, Iranian agents blew up the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires; scores were killed and hundreds wounded; there are many other examples for the Iranian penchant for such actions; if the United States attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities, then an Iranian terror campaign against targets inside the United States would be one of the ways in which Iran would retaliate for such attacks