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August 31, 2010

Dry Run: Al-Soofi And The Jihadi 'Unmanned' Aerial Drone

As details emerge from the case of a terrorist dry run involving US airliners, the terrorists' probing of security systems reveals the tactic. Unlike the 9/11 tactic of hijacking non-stop coast to coast flights laden with fuel and driving them into buildings, the new approach appears to be the jihadi equivalent to unmanned aerial drones. Unmanned, that is, by the terrorists - as was the case in the Lockerbie bombing of a US-bound 747 over Scotland. ABC News reveals that the terrorists used connecting flights in Chicago where they went to Amsterdam on one flight while they sent their slipped luggage to Washington, DC's Dulles airport.

Once in Chicago, officials say they learned al Soofi checked his luggage on a flight to Washington's Dulles airport for connections on flights to Dubai and then Yemen, even though he did not board the flight himself.

Instead, officials say, al Soofi was joined by the second man, Al Murisi, and boarded the United flight from Chicago to Amsterdam.

They apparently did not have assistance from a planted mole baggage handler at the airport, but instead checked their luggage as any other passenger.

The question is, if the bomb configuration sans explosives made it through whatever screening was performed, would the presence of an explosive have made a difference? The flight to Dulles was not unloaded of al-Soofi's luggage until it had landed, refueled, reloaded and left the gate for its connecting destination of Dubai.

The flight was ordered back to the gate at Dulles only after it was learned that Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al-Soofi and his cohort Hezem al-Murisi were not on the Dubai-bound flight with their loaded luggage. It is important to note that this was not noticed or acted upon at Chicago, the first leg of the luggage sans its terrorist owners.

August 30, 2010

Hizballah & Syrian Army Set Up Joint War Room

It's not good news, per se, but it should indeed serve as a clarifying development for those either unaware or in willful denial (a list that includes at least a few coddling Washington politicians.) MEMRI has found that Kuwait's Al-Rai daily newspaper is reporting that Hizballah and the Syrian Army are cooperating at unprecedented levels and have set up a joint war room and delineated sectors of responsibility for war with Israel.

...the sides have established a joint war room, and have determined which will be responsible for missile attacks on different Israeli targets, and have shared intelligence about Israeli military bases and troop concentration areas.

The sides also have agreed to build an aerial umbrella, to restrict the movements of the Israeli air force, and have determined sectors of responsibility for the naval arena.

This seems yet another sign that the next hot conflict with Israel, unlike the 2006 Summer War, may well be for "all the marbles" in the eyes of Hizballah, Iran and Syria.

Hizballah effectively owns south Lebanon and, like the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and others, has significant leadership offices in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Consider this in context with US and Israeli protest over Russian missile sales to Syria. (See the DailyBriefing of August 30, 2010.)

UN Blames Lebanon For Israeli Border Clash

The news spread quickly that the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the Blue Hats' (UNIFIL) mission in Lebanon for another year. But the word virtually unheard is that the same order voted upon unanimously also squarely blamed the Lebanese army for an August 3 border clash in which four were killed, including an Israeli officer.

After a unanimous vote by the 15-nation Security Council to extend UNIFIL's mandate for another 12 months, Israel's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Haim Waxman, quoted what he said was a U.N. report on UNIFIL's investigation.

"The Lebanese Armed Forces opening fire, which triggered the exchange, constitutes a serious violation of resolution 1701 and a flagrant breach of the cessation of hostilities," Waxman quoted the UNIFIL report as saying.

"At the time of the initial Lebanese Armed Forces fire, the Israeli Defense Forces troops were positioned on the Israeli side, south of the Blue Line."

While Australia's Sydney Morning Herald could only bring itself to headline that the "UN deplores" the Lebanon-Israel clash earlier this month, it's quite clear that the Security Council collectively without dissent or abstaining votes finds fault not with Israel - news in and of itself - but with Lebanon's army, as reported by Reuters.

Chicago-Amsterdam Terror Dry Run?

FOXNews reports a possible terrorist dry run to probe systems by two "Detroit area men"who were arrested in Amsterdam upon landing.

The two men did not have prohibited items on them, a law enforcement official told Fox News, saying that although knives were found in their checked luggage, such checked items aren't prohibited. The individuals also were not on the no-fly list, nor were there any active warrants for their arrest.

"Suspicious items were located in checked luggage associated with two passengers on United Flight 908 from Chicago O'Hare to Amsterdam," the Transportation Safety Administration said in a written statement. "The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves."

FBI agents in Chicago are assisting Dutch investigators as needed, an FBI spokesman told Fox News. Several non-functioning cell phones also were found taped together in a piece of checked baggage of one of the men, the FBI said.
London's Telegraph identifies the men, one from Yemen and one from parts unknown.
Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al-Soofi, who was to believed to be from Yemen, and Hezam al-Murisi, whose nationality was not known, were detained at the request of the American authorities. Al-Soofi began his journey in Alabama where airport screeners stopped him because of his "bulky clothing", according to ABC News. They discovered he was carrying $7,000 in cash.

Bulky clothing in summer and cell phones taped together, perhaps to simulate bomb triggers, by Middle Eastern men on an American flight.

If it walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are it's a duck.

John Bolton: Presidential Run?

Jamie WeinStein of The Daily Caller spoke to John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, about the current wrecking ball foreign policy actions of the Obama administration and ...wait for it... a suggested Bolton bid for the White House in 2012.

With regard to President Obama's conduct of aspects of the War on Terror, Mr. Bolton phrased it admirably concisely and clearly. The following from him gets our resounding endorsement.

"Well, certainly he has done things that have been unexpected in Afghanistan and certain aspects of the War on Terrorism. I think those are steps he has taken because it has been impossible - even for him - to avoid taking them," Bolton proffered. "For example, much of what he has done in terms of interrogation or Guantanamo Bay or aspects of the War on Terrorism are things that are driven either by the imperative of defending executive branch prerogatives under the Constitution or because he has come to realize that the Bush administration looked at a lot of alternatives and couldn't find any. So it is not that he has done these things happily or willingly."

Well put. On a persistent line of questioning regarding suggestions that he run for president in 2012, Allahpundit at Hot Air probably gets it right in deciphering Bolton's responses.

He's not saying he'd run to win, as I read him, rather that he'd run to make sure that foreign policy features prominently at the debates and to drag the big cheeses like Romney and Palin to the right. Although (a) I doubt there's much daylight between the 'Stache and the cheeses on most FP issues (his enthusiasm for attacking Iran's nuclear program might be, shall we say, somewhat more robust than theirs), and (b) in theory Ron Paul's presence at the debates last time should have forced the field a bit to the left on war and a bit to the right on spending and yet I can't remember any of them saying or doing anything differently to pander to his followers. Where a neoconservative dark horse candidacy might become important (whether it's Bolton or Liz Cheney or someone else) is if Afghanistan deteriorates further and the right starts to split on whether to stay or go.

The most invaluable aspect of John Bolton is not his knowledge of world affairs and historical context, but rather, it is his clarity and direct communication. No one ever leaves a conversation with John Bolton wondering what the facts are or where he stands on an issue. This is dangerously rare these days in foreign policy circles in an era of American conflict.

August 28, 2010

The Reality of the Nightmare in Mexico

For more months than I care to recount, I've been commenting on the obliteration of order in Mexico. There have been long debates of whether it is a "failed state" or whether it is "simply" dealing with internal violence brought on by, yes, according to critics and people who like to blame "US," "American's appetite for narcotics" that creates the demand for the cocaine and marijuana and the rest being foisted upon us by the cartels.

A few short comments:

It is an innocuous headline, Grenade Explosion Injures 16 At Mexican Bar, but this grenade explosion happened in Puerto Vallarta. While the subhead mentions that PV is a resort town, this incident leads to a conclusion that not only has the cartel arsenal expanded to the use of grenades (it should be remembered that a grenade was found in a raid in Pharr Texas a few months ago) and IEDs (car bombs), but that the tactics of the cartels now ignore collateral damage of innocent people. Mexico fights not just a battle against the cartels, but clearly, narco-terrorists. This is the State of Jalisco.

Many people have already read about the horrendous massacre of Central and South American migrants killed in a ranch in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Now we learn that Roberto Suarez the investigating official has turned up dead (on the side of a road). It is being reported that these people were killed because they refused to work for the cartels. This is the State of Tamaulipas

A few months ago, there was a shocking, but not surprising report of patients in a drug rehabilitation facility being killed by cartel hitmen. Sure, this was a "hit" on drug henchmen by other drug henchmen, but invading a hospital to kill is an accelerating trend showing that no place is immune from the violence and retribution. This was in the city and State of Chihuahua. Of course, Chihuahua is where the killing field of Juarez is located.

Gun fire across the border, people being killed by grenades in resort town bars, killings in drug rehab centers, police and government officials being killed. Presidente Felipe de Jesús Calderón speaks of his war against the cartels and claims some high ground in instructing the US Congress about policy. Yet he and his policies have been ineffectual.

An on-going series in the Los Angeles Times continues to cover the drug war in Mexico , and shows how extensively the drug war has impacted the country's geography.

1-Drug War Map.PNG

View full image

Yes, it is a war. It remains an internal war in the country just south of our border. Mexico needs to deal with its very serious internal security problem. That the violence is accelerating and the tactics broadening is the concern of the United States, and especially our citizens living on or near the border. It is a war, but stop blaming "US" for it.

August 20, 2010

Existential Consequences: US, Iranian Nukes & Israel

An article in the New York Times was originally headlined "U.S. Persuades Israel That Iran's Nuclear Threat Is Not Imminent." The New York Times smartly reconsidered that phrasing and altered the headline to read "U.S. Assures Israel..."

"Persuades" is a strong term, as its usage presumes insight into the thinking and minds of Israel, her government and her defense command. It is a leap to say that the United States government has persuaded. It is more appropriate to say only what we know, which is to say that the United States government - or parts of it - have "assured" Israel. That much we can measure without psychological presumption. However wise the headline alteration, the opening paragraph does still read that the United States has "persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year -- and perhaps longer" to develop a nuclear weapon.

As to the veracity of the assertion that Iran is a year off from a nuclear device, or perhaps more, that's probably about right. Furthermore, Israeli intelligence and the IDF almost certainly know the details behind it as well or better than the United States.

It is highly unlikely that the United States intelligence services are educating Israel on the nature or condition of the Iranian threat or its nuclear program. It is, however, highly likely that the United States political establishments are pleading with Israel - or perhaps using stronger, more forceful language - in order to control how the Jewish state reacts to the emergence of Iran's progressing nuclear gambit.

It is not lost on Israel that even the optimistic outlook of a year brings an intensely compacted margin of error than previous estimates in the past which initially gave a decade or more in Iranian nuclear weapons development prediction. Those years are gone.

And for Israel, the margin of error carries existential consequences. Ponder that soberly for a moment. For anyone, including top echelons of governance, believing that America has "persuaded" Israel is both naive and foolishly presumptive from the relative personal safety of distant shores.

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