• As Syrian Druze plight deepens, Israel’s regional strategy emerges

    On Tuesday morning, Druze on the Golan Heights attacked an Israeli military ambulance carrying two wounded Syrian rebels to a hospital in Israel, killing one of the wounded rebels. Israeli Druze – and the Druze on the Golan Heights – want Israel to help their fellow Druze in Syria, who until recently had been loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, but Israel’s tacit understanding with the Sunni rebels, including the Islamist Nusra Front, indicates that Israel supports those groups in Syria which are supported by the major Sunni states in the region. There used to be a time when Israel allied itself with countries and groups on the geographic, ethnic, and religious periphery of the Middle East – what David Ben Gurion called the Periphery Alliance – but times have changed, and Israel now is seeking a modus vivendi with the region’s Sunni powers. The Druze may be paying the price of this change in Israel’s strategy.

  • How anthrax spores grow in cultured human tissues

    Cultured human lung cells infected with a benign version of anthrax spores have yielded insights into how anthrax grows and spreads in exposed people. The study will help provide credible data for human health related to anthrax exposure and help officials better understand risks related to a potential anthrax attack. The study also defined for the first time where the spores germinate and shows that the type of cell lines and methods of culturing affect the growth rates.

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  • U.S. drones kill ISIS leader tied to 2012 Benghazi attack

    The Pentagon said that a U.S. drone strike in northern Iraq on 15 June killed Ali Awni al-Harzi, a Tunisian Islamic State operative who was involved in the 11 September 2012 Benghazi attack. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said al-Harzi was killed in Mosul. A video taken the night of the attack in Benghazi showed him at the consulate, making him a person of interest, U.S. authorities said.

  • House Homeland Security Committee to release monthly Terror Threat Snapshot

    House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) on Friday released a new Committee product called the Terror Threat Snapshot. McCall said the snapshot is a new, regular monthly feature which tracks “the escalating and grave threat environment” facing the United States. The Terror Threat Snapshot will be kept up to date on the Committee’s Web site. Additionally, monthly summaries will be available.

  • Some world regions achieve historic peacefulness, others spiral into deepening violence

    Peacefulness in Europe has reached an historic high while the Middle East is spiraling into deepening violence, according to figures outlined in the 2015 Global Peace Index, unveiled last week. The latest Global Peace Index reveals an increasingly divided world: many countries achieve historic levels of peace, while strife-torn nations continue to degrade into violence. The impact of violence on the global economy reached US$14.3 trillion or 13.4 percent of global GDP in the last year, equivalent to the combined economies of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Almost 1 percent of the world’s population is now refugees or internally displaced (IDPs), the highest level since 1945, and numbers are expected to increase.

  • Evidence of war crimes by Israel, Palestinian militants in summer 2014 war: UN report

    A UN investigative panel looking into the summer 2014 Israel-Hamas war has found “serious violations of international humanitarian law” which “may amount to war crimes” by both sides. The report was released early on Monday in Geneva by a commission of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It says that “impunity prevails across the board” regarding the actions of the Israeli military in Gaza, and urged Israel to “break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable.” The commission found that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad employed methods of “inherently indiscriminate nature” by using rockets and mortars to fire at Israeli civilians.

  • Number of terrorist acts in 2014 increased 35%, fatalities increased 81%, compared to 2013

    On Friday the State Department is issued the Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, an annual report mandated by Congress. The report’s statistical annex, which was prepared by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START), shows that the number of terrorist attacks in 2014 increased 35 percent, and total fatalities increased 81 percent compared to 2013, largely due to activity in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Iran continued to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, principally through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.

  • Mali, Tuareg rebels sign historic peace agreement

    The Tuareg-led rebel coalition in northern Mali on Saturday signed a historic agreement with the government of Mali to end decades of conflict and war between the independence-seeking Tuareg and the central government in Bamako. Since 1960, when Mali gained its independence from France, the Tuareg launched four bloody wars in an effort to gain their independence, but were defeated each time. The pact signed Saturday between the Tuareg and the Mali government was brokered by Algeria – it is called the Algiers Accord – and it aims to bring stability to the country’s northern region.

  • Iraqi commander ordered troops out of Ramadi unnecessarily, leading to city’ fall

    The capture of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, by Islamic State militants made headlines, and was perceived used by ISIS’s savvy media machine as a demonstration of the organization’s military capabilities, but military analysts say the jihadists took over the city because an Iraqi commander unnecessarily ordered his forces to withdraw. “Ramadi was lost because the Iraqi commander in Ramadi elected to withdraw. In other words, if he had elected to stay, he would still be there today,” says a British army’s brigadier. U.S.-led efforts to build up the Iraqi military so it can retake Ramadi and Mosul are stalled because not enough Iraqis enlist.

  • Global conflicts on the rise

    Forty armed conflicts were active in 2014, the highest number of conflicts since 1999 — and an increase of 18 percent when compared to the thirty-four conflicts active in 2013. New data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) shows an increase in both the number of active conflicts but also in the number of battle-related deaths in these conflicts.

  • GW launches Program on Extremism

    The George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security on Tuesday announced the establishment of the Program on Extremism, which GW says is a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at providing analysis on and solutions to countering violent and non-violent extremism. The program will focus on various forms of extremism, mainly in the United States, with the goal of conducting groundbreaking research and developing policy solutions that resonate with policymakers, civil society leaders, and the general public.

  • Assad’s one-before-the-last stand

    In the last few weeks, Syrian military units have begun to build what military analysts describe as “Maginot Line” east of Damascus in a last-ditch effort to defend the capital from the forces of the Southern Front, which threaten the capital from the south, and from Islamic State, which threatens the city from the east. The line consists of small military outposts, earthen berms, and approach roads. It is being built about fifty miles east of the Damascus International Airport, located east of the capital. The mini-Maginot Line being built east of Damascus is an admission by the Assad regime that battle for Syria is over. It is not yet clear who will control Syria, but it is clear it will not be Assad and the Alawites. Their forty-five years in power are over. The question for Assad, rather, is who will control Damascus and the Alawite region. The building of the line east of the capital is an indication that Assad is getting ready to fight for the control of the capital, but the battle for Damascus may be a delaying tactics, aimed to gain time for the preparations for the ultimate battle – the battle over the Alawite region. It will be a battle over more – much more — than the fate of the Assad regime. It may well be a battle over the very fate of the Alawites.

  • U.S. air strike kills Mokhtar Belmokhtar, jihadi leader in North and West Africa

    The United States has said that a weekend air strike in Libya killed jihadi leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Belmokhtar was the mastermind behind the attack on a gas plant in Algeria in 2013 which killed forty hostages. His killing means that after a slow start, the United States has built up impressive intelligence-gathering capabilities in the vast, sparsely populated area which encompasses Libya, Algeria, and Morocco in the north, and the western part of the Sahel region to the south – including Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. Belmokhtar was loyal to al Qaeda, and in April he made headlines by publicly refusing to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State.

  • U.S. kills al-Qaeda’s second-in-command

    A U.S. drone strike in Yemen on 9 June killed Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda’s most powerful regional organization. Analysts say the killing of Wuhayshi, nicknamed Abu Basir, is a blow to the organization. He was a charismatic and capable organizer who was focused on continuing al-Qaeda’s tradition of hitting Western targets, preferably in a headline-grabbing spectacular fashion. Wuhayshi, who fought in Afghanistan, accompanied Osama bin Laden as they fled the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to the caves of Tora Bora in Pakistan. He served as OBL’s secretary and close aide. He was imprisoned in Yemen for a couple of years but escaped and helped found AQAP in 2009, rising to the leadership of the group.

  • Israel urges U.S. to send military aid to Druze in Syria

    Israel has asked the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was visiting Israel last week, to help persuade the White House to rush aid to the Druze in Syria, where the retreat of the pro-government forces and the collapse of the Syrian army have exposed the Druze to attacks by both moderate Sunni rebels and Islamic State militants. Israel said it would be willing to extend humanitarian aid to the residents of Khadr, near the Israeli border, but that intervention to assist the Druze in the Jabal al-Druze region, deeper in Syrian territory, was not in the cards because it would amount to an intervention in the Syrian civil war. About 450,000 of Syria’s 700,000 Druze live in the Jabal al-Druze area.