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Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase
Source: Pew Research Internet Project

Experts believe nations, rogue groups, and malicious individuals will step up their assaults on communications networks, targeting institutions, financial services agencies, utilities, and consumers over the next decade.

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Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Alternative Futures for Syria: Regional Implications and Challenges for the United States
Source: RAND Corporation

The civil war in Syria poses a thorny problem for U.S. policymakers. The conflict has morphed from a popular uprising against an autocratic regime into a multi-sided battle involving government forces, pro-government militias, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, secular/moderate rebels, Kurdish separatists, traditional Islamist rebels, nationalist Salafi-jihadist rebels, and the transnational Salafi-jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) movement. Most neighboring states and several Persian Gulf states have sent arms and money to one or more of the factions in this war. Iran and Russia have consistently supported the Assad regime, including providing advanced weaponry, since the onset of the conflict. The outcome of the conflict will affect Middle East stability and regional political dynamics for years — perhaps decades — and could exacerbate a wider Shi’a-versus-Sunni sectarian conflict in the region.

Momentum has shifted several times during the course of the conflict. Defections from the Syrian army, rapidly growing rebel ranks, and the regime’s loss of key ground convinced many observers early on that the Assad’s demise was only a matter of time. The Assad regime has exploited rebel weaknesses and its own superior weaponry and external support to shift the momentum once again in its favor. The lineup of antagonists is complex and confused. While still seeing the Assad regime as an adversary based on its patron-client relationship with Iran and its implacable hostility toward Israel, U.S. decisionmakers are also dealing with the threats caused by the dramatic recent gains made in Iraq by ISIS and the influence it wields within the Syrian rebel movement. To examine these challenges, this perspective draws on a December 2013 RAND workshop to assess four possible future scenarios for the conflict in Syria: prolonged conflict, regime victory, regime collapse, and negotiated settlement. The authors update and reassess these scenarios based on developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 and explore the implications that each has for Syria, the region, and the United States.

New From the GAO

October 21, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Combating Terrorism: Strategy to Counter Iran in the Western Hemisphere Has Gaps That State Department Should Address. GAO-14-834, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-834
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666199.pdf

2. Federal Paid Administrative Leave: Additional Guidance Needed to Improve OPM Data. GAO-15-79, October 17.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-79
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666565.pdf

Home Is Where They Have To Take You In: Right to Entry For U.S. Citizens, CRS Legal Sidebar (October 16, 2014)

October 20, 2014 Comments off

Home Is Where They Have To Take You In: Right to Entry For U.S. Citizens, CRS Legal Sidebar (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congressional interest in revoking passports for U.S. citizens who have gone abroad to fight for foreign terrorist groups is partly motivated by concern about preventing such persons from returning to conduct terrorist activities in the U.S. Advocates of revoking a passport for a U.S. citizen who is outside the U.S. believe that this would prevent the person’s reentry into the U.S. Contrary to a common misconception, however, the denial or revocation of a passport does not signify or cause a loss of citizenship. A passport only documents a person’s status as a U.S. citizen; it does not literally embody the citizenship itself. Moreover, federal courts have recognized a U.S. citizen’s right to enter the U.S., even without a passport.

See also: (No) Papers, Please: No Passports for U.S. “Foreign Fighters”, CRS Legal Sidebar (October 10, 2014) (PDF)

UN — Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

October 17, 2014 Comments off

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (PDF)
Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The present report in the fourth annual report submitted to the General Assembly by the current Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freesoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson.

The key activities undertaken by the Special Rapporteur between 17 December 2013 and 31 July 2014 are listed in section II of the report. In section III, the Special Rapporteur examines the use of mass digital surveillance for counter-terrorism purposes and considers the implications of bulk access technology for the right to privacy under article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges, CRS Insights (October 1, 2014)

October 8, 2014 Comments off

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On August 18, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced the complete destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons (CW). Despite this significant achievement, serious challenges relating to Syrian CW remain. In early September, the Syrian regime announced previously undeclared chemical weapons research facilities, raising questions about what else it might be concealing. Repeated reports have alleged chlorine gas attacks by the Assad regime. Moreover, press reports speculate that insecure chemical weapons stocks in Syria and Iraq may have gotten into the hands of the Islamic State (ISIL). Most of these questions cannot yet be answered definitively, but the fate of Syria’s CW capabilities warrants continued attention.

CRS — Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (October 1, 2014)

October 8, 2014 Comments off

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a priority of U.S. policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. However, a common enemy has emerged in the form of the Islamic State organization, reducing gaps in U.S. and Iranian interests somewhat.

During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. officials identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as a significant threat to U.S. interests and allies. A perceived potential threat from Iran’s nuclear program came to the fore in 2002, and the United States orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to try to compel it to verifiably confine that program to purely peaceful purposes. The pressure has harmed Iran’s economy and might have contributed to the June 2013 election as president of Iran of the relatively moderate Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned as an advocate of ending Iran’s international isolation. Subsequent multilateral talks with Iran produced an interim agreement (“Joint Plan of Action,” JPA) that halted the expansion of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for modest sanctions relief. In advance of a November 24, 2014 deadline for the JPA to expire, the search for a “comprehensive solution” on the nuclear issue remains impeded by substantial differences over Iran’s long-term capacity to enrich uranium Talks to try to finalize a comprehensive deal began September 18 and will continue until that deadline.

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