Archive for September, 2011

AL-AWLAKI KILLED IN YEMEN

September 30, 2011

According to UPI on September 30, 2011, a Yemeni security official said Awlaki, a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in an airstrike while traveling between Marib and al-Jawf provinces, areas known to have an al-Qaida presence.

As a leader of the Arabian Peninsula organization, “he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans. … And he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda,” Obama said in a comment.

The president said Awlaki’s death marked “another significant milestone” in the effort to defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.

“Furthermore, the success is a tribute to our intelligence community and to the efforts of Yemen and its security forces, who have worked closely with the United States over the course of several years,” he said.
Awlaki’s “hateful ideology and targeting of innocent civilians” has been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims and people of all faiths, Obama said further.

The action is “further proof that al-Qaida and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world,” he said.

“Working with Yemen and our other allies and partners, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans, and to build a world in which people everywhere can live in greater peace, prosperity and security,” Obama said.

U.S. officials say Awlaki helped recruit Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines transatlantic flight as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

Officials also said the cleric exchanged e-mails with Army Maj. Nidal Hassan, charged in the 2009 shooting deaths of 12 military personnel and a civilian at Fort Hood in Texas.

NEW IRANIAN CRUISE MISSILE THREAT TO ISRAEL AND US WARSHIPS

September 29, 2011

Fox News on September 28, 2011, reported that Iran has begun to mass manufacture a domestically developed cruise missile that reportedly could be used to strike Israel and potentially counter U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.

The missile, called Ghader, which means capable in Farsi, has a 124-mile range and can “sink giant warships,” Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian defense minister, said in an interview on Press TV. He went on to say the missile could be launched quickly and travel at low altitudes.

The exact number of missiles produced is unclear, but they reportedly were delivered to the Revolutionary Guard’s naval division. The country often makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.

Iran’s growing arsenal includes short- and medium-range ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting targets in the region, such as Israel and U.S. military bases in the Gulf. Reports of the mass production comes at a time when there appears to be increasing tension between Iran and the U.S.

On September 27 Iran announced plans to move naval vessels out of the Persian Gulf and into the Atlantic Ocean, “near maritime borders of the United States.”

Iran began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992, under which it produces a large range of weapons, including tanks, missiles, jet fighters, unmanned drone aircraft and torpedoes.

THE COMING SINO-AMERICAN RIVALRY

September 25, 2011

The Kirkus Review on June 1, 2011, reviewed Aaron L. Friedburg’s important new China book (A Contest for Supremacy, 2011).

A stern, carefully worded warning about why the United States should be more wary of China’s meteoric rise.

Friedberg is a forward thinker versed in the “fast-changing politics of post–Cold War Asia,” and he sets forth his argument, amplified from an essay he wrote for Commentary, that a growing Sino-American rivalry is forthcoming and inevitable. China’s economic strength in terms of opening markets has historically been encouraged by the West, and a stable, cooperative exchange of commercial interests has kept the U.S. and China on amicable footing since President Nixon and Henry Kissinger opened the diplomatic door in the early ’70s. The U.S. policy over the past 60 years has passed through phases of containment, alignment and the current uneasy mix of the two, “congagement,” which has been severely challenged since Tiananmen Square and China’s lobbing of dummy missile warheads into the Taiwan Straight during Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election of 1996. With its newfound economic muscle, China will most likely follow the historic precedent of previous hegemons in the throes of intense expansion—e.g., Britain, Germany, Japan—and seek to dominate “its neighbors, its regions, and, if it can, the world.” In a meticulously organized study that often repeats and summarizes its assertions in the fashion of a tutorial, Friedberg lays out the various ongoing arguments for containment or alignment, as well as what he extrapolates Chinese intentions to be—avoid confrontation, build comprehensive national power and advance incrementally. On the other hand, he writes, China is due for a similar bubble burst recently visited on other expanding nations, and he offers numerous intriguing scenarios.

An important cry to heed: China’s peaceful rise cannot disguise its aim to become “world number one.”

NEW SECRET US DRONE BASES

September 21, 2011

UPI on September 21, 2011, is reporting that the United States is widening its drone base in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula to target al-Qaida affiliates in those regions, U.S. officials said.

The Washington Post said the Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign includes assembling such drone bases to go after al-Qaida in Somalia and Yemen.

The report said one such installation will be in Ethiopia, to fight the militant group al-Shabab that controls most of Somalia. At another base, in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month to watch Somalia.

U.S. drones also have been sent from Djibouti to monitor Somalia and Yemen.

These steps come as al-Qaida affiliates become active in Yemen and Somalia, even as the terror group’s core leadership in Pakistan continues to be punished by U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Inclusion of places like Seychelles points to a U.S. campaign to broaden the range of its drone weapons. The Post report said the 85,000-population island nation has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force — officially, used primarily to track pirates in the region.

CONGRESSMAN MIKE ROGERS ON AMERICAN DEFENSE AT THE AEI

September 18, 2011

Congressman Mike Rogers recently delivered a Reaganesque defense of defense at the American Enterprise Institute as reported in The Weekly Standard online on September 16, 2011. Below are a few excerpts from Mr. Rogers’ speech:

Reagan sought to restore America’s place in the world, and pushed the United States to actively oppose Communism and support our allies in that confrontation. He stressed that we be clear-headed about the threats we face, and proud of American strength and exceptionalism. He stressed that with our power and force we strive ultimately for the preservation of freedom and liberty. And he pushed a bigger defense budget so we could best protect the nation and its interests around the world.

I believe we must have a comprehensive view of the threats in the world, and a principled view of the sources and proper uses of American strength and power. So we must not lose sight of the geopolitical conditions that we face.

Of course, the threat of Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups still exists. China continues its rise. Iran and North Korea continue their efforts to become nuclear states. And while the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing a significant period of change, the future stability of the region is not without doubt. We hope that this period will bring extraordinary advancements in freedom and stability for the region. But we must not ignore the new challenges that this change may bring. And we must do what we can to help those countries become more stable and free, not more autocratic.

President Reagan eloquently stated those principles. America cannot be passive in the world. The world is a better place with strong American leadership. We cannot lead from behind; we cannot sit back and rely on the power of our rhetoric alone to encourage peace and prosperity in the world. We need the national will to engage both the threats and the opportunities we face.

We must have the strength of mind and clarity to know our enemies and understand their goals. The world remains a dangerous and uncertain place. Ignoring these threats, or refusing to confront them, will not make them go away. It will only make our opponents stronger and more likely to succeed. But understanding the threats we face is only one element of a strong national defense. We must be prepared to confront those threats.

Future Threats

As I said, America must continue to remain vigilant in a threatening and uncertain world. And we must keep our attention and resources focused on more than just the most immediate threats. China requires our attention. Since 1989, official Chinese defense spending has increased by nearly 13% each year. Although the actual Chinese defense budget is unknown and kept secret, we suspect that they are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years. That investment includes a build-up of conventional and unconventional military capabilities across the board – in land, sea, space, and cyberspace, China is investing and growing.

In addition to its military growth, China obviously maintains an important economic position in the world. It is the world’s second largest economy after the United States and has maintained average growth rates of over 10% for the past 30 years. It also holds over one quarter of the U.S. debt offered to the public.

Much has been written and said about the rise of China to superpower status. I don’t wish to provide a comprehensive answer to the China question – whether we ought to see our relationship as a partnership or one as adversaries. Much will depend on what the Chinese do, and what happens inside their institutions.

What I do believe is that we must be prepared for the potential threat that a rising China poses. We must recognize the changing nature of the geopolitical regime and give ourselves options in the future. We must build and maintain healthy, clear alliances. We must keep a strong American presence in the region. We must understand the Chinese ambitions, intentions, and capabilities, and how they see their future.

China will only surpass us if we let them. But it doesn’t have to happen. If we continue our security investments; if we maintain our leadership around the world; if we allow our market-based economy to flourish once again, China won’t surpass us. As Condolezza Rice recently said: “Too many people ask ‘when’ China will surpass us; but we should be asking ‘if.’

FINNISH POLICE ARREST 2 TERRORIST SUSPECTS

September 17, 2011

Fox News on September 16, 2011, published an AP report that Finnish police had arrested two people on suspicion of financing terrorism and terror recruitment.

The National Bureau of Investigation says the arrests were made on Sept. 7 and that the two suspects have been jailed.

The bureau said in a statement on September 16 that officers confiscated evidence after the arrests in the metropolitan area, but gave no details.

NORTHWEST PASSAGE OPEN AS SEA ICE REACHES LOWEST COVER EVER

September 14, 2011

Arctic sea ice cover fell to its lowest level on record researchers from the University of Bremen reported according to Mongabay.com on September 12, 2011.

Analyzing data from NASA’s Aqua satellite, Georg Heygster and colleagues found that Arctic sea ice fell to a record low of 4.24 million square kilometers on September 8, about 27,000 square kilometers than the previous record set roughly four years ago.

Heygster said this year’s mark is “most probably” the lowest Arctic sea ice extent “since the last climate optimum about 8,000 years ago.” He added that the record could be extended if sea ice continues to melt in coming weeks. Sea ice is no longer melting from the surface; instead if it melting from underneath due to warmer water below.

The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which tracks sea ice using a different methodology, is expected to release an update on sea ice extent later this month. Its last update showed sea ice coverage at 4.3 million square kilometers.

Themelting opened the Northwest Passage to navigation again this summer. The ice retreat has set off a scramble between Canada, Russia, the U.S., Denmark and Norway which are all seeking to claim rights to the Arctic’s rich mineral and gas deposits. Preparations are under way in the Arctic countries for a growing sea traffic through the Northwest and Northeast Passages.

WILL CHINA LAUNCH A NUCLEAR 9/11?

September 11, 2011

On September 9, 2011, China expert Gordon G. Chang on Fox News published a commentary on an unusual comment by former Chinese general Xu Guangyu. It was made in a Hong Kong newspaper. The general recently suggested China was planning a surprise missile attack on the American homeland.

At the end of August, General Xu, in the words of the South China Morning Post, said that “if China could no longer keep secret its missile launches (note: as noted in a Wikileak document), it would not be able to launch a surprise attack on the U.S.”

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we of course have to remember that terrorists can still sting the United States. Yet without nuclear weapons, they cannot land a deadly punch. The Soviets had tens of thousands of nukes, but after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 they saw themselves as status quo players.

The Chinese have hundreds of nukes, and we have assumed we could deter them just as we deterred the Soviets. General Xu’s comments, however, force us to reexamine our assumptions.

Beijing, unfortunately, may be approaching the world much like Moscow did in the turbulent 1950s. For one thing, China’s generals do not look like they share the understandings that have underpinned the concept of nuclear deterrence. Obviously, they have considered the possibility of launching a surprise attack on the United States—otherwise General Xu would not have blurted out his comment.

And his comment was not a one-off remark. Currently servicing Chinese generals have talked in public of initiating a nuclear exchange, thereby abandoning Beijing’s no-first-use pledge. In 1995, General Xiong Guangkai famously mentioned the incineration of Los Angeles. In 2005, the People’s Liberation Army upped the ante when Major General Zhu Chenghu said we should be prepared for the destruction of “hundreds of cities.”

Is this just empty talk? It would seem so, but we don’t really know. We need, therefore, to think through the implications of this distressing series of inflammatory comments, especially at this solemn time, ten years after the deadliest attack ever on American soil.

NEW US DEADLY ROBOTIC DEVICE ORDERED BY ARMY

September 8, 2011

On September 7, 2011, Fox News reported that US soldiers who fly hand-launched drone scouts to spot enemies on the battlefield may soon get a deadly robotic device capable of also delivering a knockout blow.

The U.S. Army has ordered its first batch of small drones that are capable of launching from a small tube, loitering in the sky and then diving at a target upon command.

The backpack-size “Switchblade” drone and its launch tube give individual soldiers a new level of precise control over an explosive weapon. Rather than calling in supporting artillery fire or airstrikes, soldiers can simply launch the Switchblade from out of sight, confirm a target on a live video feed from the drone, and then command the robotic device to arm itself and fly into the target at high speed.

“The unique capabilities provided by the Switchblade agile munition for standoff engagement, accuracy and controlled effects make it an ideal weapon for today’s fight and for U.S. military forces of the future,” said Bill Nichols, deputy product director at the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems project office.

Operators can even call off strikes at the last second after arming the Switchblade. That kind of control allows soldiers to retarget in case an enemy moves out of sight, or avoid collateral damage if a civilian wanders too close.

The drone, created by AeroVironment, is able to fly in both autonomous robot mode or as a remotely-piloted air vehicle. Either way, its small size and quiet electric motor allow it to approach targets without warning. It can even switch off its motor and glide in for a stealthy attack.

“Just as our small unmanned aircraft systems provide game-changing reconnaissance capabilities to ground forces, Switchblade provides a revolutionary rapid strike capability to protect our troops and give them a valuable new advantage on the battlefield,” said Tom Herring, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

AeroVironment received a $4.9 million contract from the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems on June 29. The company publicly announced the deal on Sept. 1.

SEVERAL KILLED IN CENTRAL SYRIA

September 7, 2011

Fox News on September 7, 2011, published report by AP on Syrian Security forces intensifying their crackdown in the flashpoint city of Homs in Syria, killing and wounding several people in fresh attacks amid heavy gunfire, activists and residents said.

There was no definitive total of how many people were killed September 7 in the ongoing shooting in the central Syrian city, but the London-based Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across the country, said seven died.

For days, security forces have been pursuing activists and anti-government protesters in Homs, a hotbed of dissent to President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime.

“All through the night, there was shooting. The gunfire didn’t stop,” a resident of the city told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday. “I can’t tell exactly what is going on because it’s dangerous to go out,” he added, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.

On September 6, security forces opened fire from a checkpoint in Rastan, just north of Homs, killing two people, including a 15-year-old boy, activists said. They said five unidentified corpses, including that of a woman, also were found dumped around the city center.

Mobile telephones, land lines and Internet connections in some parts of Homs were cut off. Many people were staying home because of roads blocked by security forces. Others were too scared to leave.

Assad has unleashed a ferocious crackdown to try to crush the uprising that has posed the most serious challenge to his family’s 40-year dynasty in Syria. The U.N. says more than 2,200 people have died in nearly six months of protests.

The government’s violent crackdown has led to broad international sanctions aimed at isolating the regime, including a ban on the import of Syrian oil, a mainstay of the regime.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon leveled some of his strongest criticism yet at the Syrian regime, saying that Assad must take “bold and decisive measures before it’s too late.”

In another sign of the intractability of the situation, a planned Wednesday visit by Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby to push for an Arab plan to defuse the crisis was called off at the last minute at the request of the Syrian government, two Arab League officials said. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Syria’s state-run news agency said Syria has asked the Arab League chief to postpone his trip to Damascus for “substantive” reasons. It said Nabil Elaraby has been informed of the reasons and that another date will be set later.

Syrian state-media had denied he had an initiative, and analysts close to the regime said the Arab League chief was coming with “American” demands and conditions.