January - June 2012

NATO Forces Kill Top Al-Qaeda Leader
29 May 2012 – USA Today
Shakhr al-Taifi, a high ranking al-Qaeda official who was responsible for leading attacks against NATO forces, was killed on Sunday, May 27th by a NATO airstrike. Al-Taifi was in the Kunar’s Watahpur district of Afghanistan when the attack occurred. This specific location was likely chosen because Osama bin Laden was often reported saying that this region, due to its rough landscape, provided a good hiding place for a large number of operatives. No civilians were reported to be injured from the attack. (Read More)

Three NATO Service Members Died in Helicopter Crash
29 May 2012 – San Francisco Chronicle
A helicopter crash that occurred in Afghanistan on Monday left two NATO service members dead. It does not appear that the crash was the result of an attack, but authorities are still investigating the site of the incident to determine the actual cause. The third NATO service member that died was killed in a U.S.-led insurgency in Afghanistan. No further information concerning the death of the last NATO service member has been released. These fatalities bring NATO’s death count to 172. (Read More)

Despite Efforts by the P5+1 in Baghdad, Iran Officially Refuses to Stop Uranium Enrichment
27 May 2012 – New York Times
Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi, a representative for Tehran, stated that Iran had no intentions of stopping its 20 percent uranium production, despite what was discussed with the P5+1 members last week in Baghdad. Talks between the seven nations fell through due to a misunderstanding concerning the amount of uranium Iran would continue to produce. Although the IAEA has stated that Tehran has enough uranium to fuel reactors for the next two decades, Iran insists that continuing enrichment is essential to addressing the nation’s medical needs. The uranium is being enriched at an underground plant in Qum which will soon become a “zone of immunity”; meaning that no outside attack could penetrate the facility. Shortly after Dr. Abbasi made this announcement, he also declared that Iran would build two more nuclear power plants this year. (Read More)

UN States that Syrian Massacre Thought to be Work of Pro-Government Rebels
29 May 2012 – Washington Post
The human rights office at the UN made a statement today saying that the deaths of 108 civilians, women and children that took place in Houla, Syria was likely the work of shabiha rebels, the Syrian regime’s “hired muscle.” Assad’s regime denies any association with these killings and claims that the culprits were “armed terrorists.” UN investigators are still looking the incident, but the international community is up in arms. A large group of mainly NATO nations are likely to impose even harsher sanctions against Syria as a result of this incident.  (Read More)

Russia Test-Fires Ballistic Missile
24 May 2012 – CNN
Russia successfully test launched a new faster and more powerful ballistic missile yesterday morning. This latest model uses a new type of fuel that increases the launch time of the missile into space, making it less susceptible to an outside attack. Moscow made no secret of the fact that this launch was intended to be a direct political message to NATO and the Obama Administration in particular. Russia claims that this missile is just the first prototype in a line of other weapons that will be built if the U.S. does not respond to its concerns regarding the NATO missile defense system. (Read More)

P5+1 – Iran Talks Make Little Progress Despite High Hopes
24 May 2012 – New York Times
Discussions with Iran concerning its nuclear program, led by top EU foreign policy official Catherine Ashton, have begun to slow down despite the P5 +1’s high hopes for progress. Iranian officials state that the standstill in negotiations has occurred because of the unbalanced nature of the proposed agreement. The West is asking Iran to eliminate 20% of its stockpile in enriched uranium and to fully comply with IAEA inspection regulations. Iran appears to be willing to comply with these provisions, but only if a number of economic sanctions, which are set to be expanded in July, are lifted. P5+1 members have agreed to assist Iran with its shortage of civilian aircraft parts, as well as help with the safe disposal of the enriched uranium, but it appears that Iran will not give in to these offers until Western sanctions are significantly lifted. (Read More)

U.S. Air Strike Against Pakistani Militants Comes at Bad Time for NATO Negotiations
24 May 2012 – Bloomberg
The CIA conducted a drone air strike this morning against an abandoned mosque in North Waziristan that resulted in the death of four Pakistani militants. This attack comes at an awkward time, seeing as NATO is attempting to reestablish relations with Islamabad after an attack on a border crossing left 24 Pakistani civilians dead. Pakistan stated that it would not open supply routes to NATO unless an apology was given for the border attack, but now it is likely that this will not occur unless all drone attacks by the U.S. are stopped.  (Read More)

UN Likely to Replace NATO Troops in Afghanistan after Withdrawal
23 May 2012 – Tengri News
The United Nations is expected to take over peace keeping and governmental development responsibilities in Afghanistan once NATO troops withdrawal from the nation in 2014. Many are skeptic about how well the UN will do in this role, stating that the combination of violent Taliban action and the UN’s limited capacity for influencing domestic politics may lead Afghanistan back to its original failed condition. Others, however, including the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), argue that the UN was created to deal with these types of difficult national transitional phases. Also, the UNAMA has been in Afghanistan even before 9/11, so they are well prepared and well equipped to handle any obstacle that will present itself. (Read More)

Azerbaijan and Iranian Tensions Rising
22 May 2012 – The New York Times
Azerbaijan, a hopeful in the next round of the NATO member expansion, has had increased tension with Iran after the three protests that where held outside the Iranian embassy in its capital city of Baku this past month. Iran claimed that the protesters were holding offensive signs depicting lewd drawings of both Muhammad and former leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei. These events lead Iran to recall its current Ambassador to Azerbaijan until further notice. The combination of supposed terrorist plots, Iran’s current debates with NATO concerning its nuclear program and Azerbaijan’s potential induction into NATO may have the potential of escalating this feud even further. (Read More)

Update on Current State of Libya
22 May 2012 – Foreign Policy
Since the conclusion of the NATO-led coalition in Libya last year, the once unstable nation led by radical Islamist ideology is beginning to pave a way for itself in the international community. Not only will the country have its first free election in almost 60 years this coming June, it’s already beginning to form alliances with some of its close North African neighbors, such as Algeria and Egypt. Seeing as Libya is located in such a tumultuous are, which is undergoing a great deal of political change, the nation may stand to be a neutralizing power against the forces of radicalism in the region. Also, if Libya continues to promote and practice this democratic ideology, it could be a significant Euro-Atlantic ally in the fight against terrorism, piracy, weapons proliferation and other international crimes. (Read More)

Update on U.S.-NATO-Pakistan Supply Route Stand Off
23 May 2012 – Reuters
Although current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was invited to last week’s NATO summit in Chicago in the hopes that an agreement could be reached to reopen Pakistani supply routes into Afghanistan, no arrangement was achieved. As a result of this, a U.S. Senate panel proposed a bill to cut off aid to Pakistan by up to 53 percent in 2013. The bill must still pass through both the Senate and the House before it becomes law, but the likelihood of such a measure passing is high. Islamabad has yet to comment specifically on this proposed law, but continue to state that the supply routes will be closed off from NATO troops until an apology is given for the border raid that occurred last year that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistanis. (Read More)

U.S., NATO Ready Plan to Leave Afghanistan
18 April 2012- USA Today
The US and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year.  Top military and diplomatic officials from the US and NATO allies met Wednesday to finalize the combat handover program and a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and fledgling military after 2014.  At the same time, the nations that have prosecuted a 10-year war against a Taliban-led insurgency are reassuring nervous Afghans they will not be left to fend for themselves. The competing messages aimed at different audiences are both challenged by current events in Afghanistan, where insurgents staged an impressive, coordinated attack last weekend that struck at the heart of the U.S.-backed government and international enclave in Kabul while Taliban leaders boycott peace talks the U.S. sees as the key to a safe exit.  (Read More)

Putin Called NATO ‘Cold War Relic’
11 April 2012- Ria Novosti
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin hit out on Wednesday at the NATO military alliance and said the organization had outlived its purpose.  “NATO is a Cold War era relic," Putin, the current prime minister, told State Duma lawmakers in his final address to parliament before his inauguration as president in May. "It was created in times of a bi-polar system of international relations. But today’s situation is different and it’s not clear what an organization like NATO is for,” Putin added.  But he also said that that NATO often played a stabilizing role in international affairs.  (Read More)

EU Plan to Standardize Punishments Also Could Impact Security Research

9 April 2012- Threat Post
Under a proposal approved recently by a European Parliament committee, the EU would criminalize a wide range of offenses, from launching a database attack to spoofing someone's IP address or illegally accessing accounts. Sentences would be standardized and range from two years to five years imprisonment for attacks that cause considerable damage, such as breaching a power station's network. Additionally, companies that benefit from a breach, whether deliberately or from lack of supervision, could be held criminally liable. The EU proposal may strengthen and standardize illegal hacker activity, but it also targets their tools - some of which are also used legitimately to test data, network or Internet security. (Read More)

Clinton Outlines NATO Summit, Afghanistan Goals
4 April 2012- Military Times
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined the goals of the upcoming NATO Summit during a speech in Virginia on Tuesday, saying the alliance would focus on defining the next phase of transition in Afghanistan.  Clinton also spoke about NATO’s future in an era of fiscal challenges among its member countries and expanding NATO partnerships. More than 50 heads of state will meet in Chicago on May 20-21 to discuss progress on ending the war in Afghanistan and future strategy. The United States hopes to have an agreement with Afghanistan in place outlining its future role in the country before the summit occurs. While in Chicago, Clinton said NATO would work to develop a milestone in 2013 when NATO forces would move from a predominantly combat role to a supportive role, only participating in combat when necessary.  (Read More)

US Keeping Britain in the Dark on Intel Issues
4 April 2012- The Hill
American intelligence agencies are increasingly keeping their British counterparts in the dark on key information, for fear those secrets could end up on full display in U.K. courts.  “The Americans have got nervous that we are going to start revealing some of the information and they have started cutting back, I’m sure, on what they disclose," Ken Clarke, the United Kingdom's justice secretary, said in a Wednesday interview with the BBC. The U.K. is one of the five so-called "I's" countries that share a closer relationship with US intelligence compared to other foreign nations.  The countries included are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  (Read More)

France Rules Out Military Intervention in Mali
2 April 2012 – Khaleej Times
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe made it clear that although the situation in Mali is ‘rapidly deteriorating’, French troops will not be sent into the former colony. France is willing to help with logistics and training but there is ‘no question of putting French soldiers on Malian soil’. France has tried twice to intervene and save its hostages in the region with disastrous consequences. Juppe highlighted the concern he has for the rise of the Islamist group which is becoming the predominant faction in Mali, over that of the Tuareg rebels. Juppe is to head to Dakar for the inauguration of the new Senegalese President which will be followed by a meeting of West African states who will rule on whether to impose sanctions. The main concern is the rise of the military and its movement south.  (Read More)

NATO’s Sea of Troubles: Europe’s Financial Crisis and America’s “Pivot” to Asia Are a Double Blow for the Alliance
March 31 2012 – The Economist
The success of Libya bolstered its credentials, its members remain committed to a point in Afghanistan, and its members have also bolstered the European defense. However, European austerity measures have already heavily curtailed military spending and further measures promise ever more drastic cuts. And while Libya was a success, it did showcase Europe’s lack of preparedness for war as the US provided most of the munitions, aerial refueled, and intelligence. Incidentally, the US is redeploying a significant chunk of its military forces based in Europe to Southeast Asia and Australia. While Chicago’s summit will provide an important forum for frank discussion, against this background, it almost invariably signals an overall decline in NATO importance to the international community. (Read More)

Swedish Defence Minister Tolgfors Quits Over Saudi Deal
29 March 2012 – BBC News
Swedish Defence Minister Tolgfors has resigned ‘at his own request’ over the conspicuous arms deal the country had set up with Saudi Arabia in 2005. The deal which emerged planned for Sweden’s Defence Research Agency to help Riyadh build weapons, including missiles and torpedoes beginning in March. Although the country makes no proclamations of banning arms trade with Saudi Arabia, the secretive nature of the deal has led many to suspect a cover-up has taken place. The opposition Green party has argued that Sweden should not be supporting and arming a ‘dictatorship’. (Read More)

EU Extends Range of its Anti-Piracy Patrols, Allowing Strikes Inside Somalia
23 March 2012 – Washington Post
The EU will incorporate land attacks into its remit when tackling piracy in Somalia. This move signals a massive shift in EU focus, rather than stopping pirates at sea to hunting pirates. Although there is still uncertainty over what the EU means by ‘coastal territory and internal waters’, the EU has stated that it will attack pirate boats moored up along the shoreline as well as land vehicles used by pirates. The EU also announced it would extend its mission to 2014, with Somalia’s transitional government accepting the EU’s offer for greater collaboration. However, there has been a significant reduction in pirate attacks in the last twelve months, it is hoped these measures will keep it that way. (Read More)

NATO Commander: EU Could Not do Libya Without US
20 March 2012 – EU Observer – Nikolaj Nielsen
The US role in the joint EU intervention was irreplaceable. In testimony to European Parliament Tuesday, NATO Major-General Marcel Druart stated that NATO countries relied on US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity. While no troops were deployed, some 9,700 bombing sorties were conducted. European countries cannot hope to match those capacities on their own due to prohibitively high costs.  Additionally, NATO relied almost exclusively on US manufactured smart bombs after the initial few raids and the US Air Force provided most of the mid-air refueling support. Major-General Druart provided amble evidence of US success at leading from behind and also highlighted the European NATO member’s lack of preparation for war. (Read More)

Karzai: NATO Should Scale Back, Hasten Handover
15 March 2012- CBS News
The U.S. campaign in Afghanistan suffered a double blow Thursday March 15 when the Taliban broke off peace talks and President Hamid Karzai demanded NATO troops immediately pull out of rural areas because of anger over a U.S. soldier's alleged killings of 16 civilians.  The setbacks effectively paralyze the two main tracks for ending the 10-year-old war. Part of that exit strategy is to gradually transfer authority to Afghan forces while another tack is to pull the Taliban into some sort of political discussions with the Afghan government.  Karzai also said he now wants Afghan forces take the lead for countrywide security in 2013, a year ahead of schedule. (Read More)

Russia May Let US and its NATO Allies Use Russian Base for Afghan Transit Under New Deal

14 March 2012 - Washington Post
A new deal allowing the United States and its NATO allies to use a Russian air base for transit of troops and military cargo to Afghanistan would help ensure Russia’s own security, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday. If approved, the deal could help repair Russian ties with the United States, which has become increasingly strained over Washington’s missile defense plans in Europe and the Syrian crisis.  The new agreement would for the first time allow alliance members to set up a logistics facility for troops and cargo on Russian territory. Lavrov strongly defended such a deal, saying the success of NATO’s mission is essential for fending off the spread of terrorism and illegal drugs from Afghanistan into ex-Soviet Central Asian nations and Russia.  (Read More)

A Dangerous US Drawdown
13 March 2012 – NY Post
David Cameron’s visit to Washington this week sheds some light on the perception that transatlantic relations are in decline, with the US, shifting its focus away from Europe and to the Far East. The US has decided to reduce forces in Europe by about 15,000 over the next two years. The Pentagon also hopes to close down air force squadrons and bases in Italy and Germany. In Europe the response has been tentative, with many realizing that they have to become less dependent on the US, it is more fear of the speed of decline than of the decline itself. These cuts are also expected to be the first of many to come. With Libya still fresh in the minds of many, Europe showed itself to be an advantage strategically. The absence of the US from Europe may also hasten the arrival of a European Foreign and Security Policy but this would surely usurp NATO, something which the US is unlikely to support. The return of Vladimir Putin is also likely to be an issue which Europe will have to contend with and his vision for a Eurasian Union could also cause friction on Russia’s, and consequently Europe’s, periphery. (Read More)

Is Syria 2011 the Same As Spain 1936?
13 Mar 2012 – Atlantic Council – Arnaud de Borchgrave
Arnaud de Borchgrave compares the civil war in Syria to the Spanish civil war of the 1930's. He questions whether the intra-national conflicts in Yemen, Libya, and Syria are a prelude to a larger conflict between Iran, Israel and others. He cites the fact that in the 25 years between Bashar Assad's father taking power and after the French left, there were 21 coups, pointing out a broader systemic instability not unlike that of Spain before Franco. Borchgrave concludes that if the President keeps the US out of any conflict in the Middle East, the third within a decade, his election chances would crumble but concludes the same result if the President joins any conflict. (Read More)

North Korea Agrees to Curb Nuclear Work; U.S. Offers Aid
29 February 2012 – New York Times – Steven Lee Myers and Choe Sang-Hun
In a flourish of diplomacy, North Korea has agreed to suspend work on its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a package of incentives, including much needed food aid. While North Korea has agreed to a similar deal in the past, it pulled out in a dispute over additional incentives. In addition to providing 240,000 metric tons of food aid, the US will also initiate cultural, educational, and sports exchanges. While the US had previously and publically considered food aid for years based solely on humanitarian grounds, the North Koreans insisted on linking it to the broader deal. This is the first major initiative of Kim Jong-Un since he took over leadership of the country from his late father, Kim Jong-Il. It also comes at a time when tensions have been higher than at other point in recent history. (Read More)

Syria Unrest: 'Humanitarian' Vote Pressed at UN
29 February 2012 – BBC News
A new diplomatic track focusing on humanitarian issues is being drafted at the UN after China and Russia opposed a previous resolution addressing the situation in Syria. The goal of the resolution would be to allow for humanitarian aid access and end the violence. While it will not go as far as the rejected resolution, it will cite the Syrian government as the cause for the crisis rather than call for regime change. Already, China granted its tacit approval of the idea and has quickly attempted to repairs relations with Arab countries whom had asked China to support or at least not veto the previous resolution. While it appears that China have folded and will support this new diplomatic track, it is unclear whether Russia will do the same. (Read More)

Saudi Arabia is Arming the Syrian Opposition
27 February 2012 – Foreign Policy – Jonathan Schanzer
After the UN resolution condemning the actions of Syrian government failed, government forces responded with increased fervor, killing Syrians at a higher rate than before. Annoyed at the lack of international community action, Saudi Arabia appears to have quietly begun armed the Syrian opposition forces. The Saudi Foreign Minister even called the idea “excellent.” Indeed, there are already reports of suitcases full of cash being delivered to the opposition, direct form Riyadh. Even the unruly Saudi clerics are calling for jihad against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Interestingly, Russia and Iran are reportedly arming Asaad’s forces when their ships docked in Syrian ports in recent months. While Saudi efforts are noble, Schanzer argues that previous Saudi armament movements such as support of the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan in the 1980’s resulted in far more serious geopolitical consequences in addition to regime change. (Read More)

NATO Chief Rules Out Intervention in Syria, Iran
29 February 2012 – Daily News & Analysis
The secretary general of NATO Andres Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday in Washington that the Alliance does not intend to intervene in Syria or Iran. Stating that the NATO was monitoring the situation closely and strongly condemns what is going on in Syria, Rasmussen said: "The only way forward in Syria is to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and introduce freedom and democracy." He also said NATO as an alliance is not engaged in Iran, but supports the political and diplomatic efforts by its individual allies to find a solution, as well as urges the Iranian leadership to comply with their international obligations to relevant UN resolutions. (Read More)

Being Strong
21 February 2012 – Foreign Policy – Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin argues that Russian interests are best served by a strong military and should rebuild it to a higher and more efficient standard, committing some 23 trillion rubles ($791.98 billion) to the project over the next 10 years. With a nod to previous small wars in the Caucasus and Georgia, he sees more of those along with regional wars occurring. While he stresses the importance of economy and diplomacy as mechanism to resolve conflicts, he argues that a strong military will strengthen those mechanisms while preserving Russia’s deterrence capability. (Read More)

Czech ‘ultimatum’ to US for cheap F-16s (or missile project) revealed in WikiLeaks’ Stratfor file
27 February 2012 – Czech Position – Brian Kenety
Wikileaks ventures once more into international affairs, this time into the private, international security realm. In an email exchange between Strategic Forecasting, Inc (Stratfor) and the Czech Republic, it appears that the Czechs issued an ultimatum of stark contrasts. If the US does not either build its missile shield against Russia in Eastern Europe or give it steeply discounted F-16’s, it will not support NATO or US positions beyond Europe. If it was given either of those things, it would support US and NATO policy almost unilaterally. The Czech desire for strong US military support stems from its fear of Russia. (Read More)

In Din Over Iran, Rattling Sabers Echo
21 February 2012 – The New York Times – Scott Shane
As Iran advances ever closer towards creating a nuclear weapon, some of the more conservative politicians’ calls for preventative military action have simultaneously increased. According to a recent poll, even more Americans, some 58%, support use of military force in order to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Even now, it appears that Iran and Israel, after years of terse and fiery rhetoric, have engaged in a covert war of assassinations and bombings; Iran suspects that Israel is responsible for the murder of some of their nuclear scientists while Israel suspects Iran is behind recent bomb attacks on Israeli diplomats. For now, the White House appears to be satisfied with its policy of negotiations and tough, highly targeted sanctions with armed conflict well off the radar. (Read More)

UN Votes to Increase African Force in Somalia
22 February 2012 – Associated Press – Edith M. Lederer
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to increase the African Union security force (AMISOM) in Somalia by almost 50%, from around 12,000 to 17,700 in an attempt to place more pressure at al-Shabab, a Somali terrorist organization that recently announced a merger of survival with al-Qaeda. The lack of opposition is unsurprising given that only three states of the 15 member Council are located in Africa and only two, South Africa and Togo, in sub-Saharan Africa. While increasing AMISOM, one of the few successful military operations in the region in decades is helpful, it fails to address the larger problem of the Transition Federal Government of Somalia (TFG). (Read More)

Moscow Declines ‘Friends of Syria’ Invitation
21 February 2012 – RT
Russia will not send any representative to the ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting being held in Tunisia on the 24th February. The US, EU and some Arab states are sending members but Russia declared that the intention of the meeting is unclear and that they were not properly informed on who was attending or the itinerary. Russia was under the impression that opposition groups in Syria were invited to such a meeting whilst members of the Syrian government were not. Russia fears that an international coalition group is in the process of being formed, similar to the one that was used in Libya. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich stressed that the international community should act as friends of the entire Syrian nation not just one part of it. (Read More)

NATO's 'Improper Disposal' of Qurans Inflames Afghan Protesters
21 February 2012 – Christian Science Monitor – Scott Baldauf
In an apparent lack of sensitivity, NATO forces planned to burn Qurans and other cast-off religious materials at Bagram Air Force Base as part of the larger draw down of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Quickly, more than a 1,000 protestors gathered outside the base to voice their disapproval and called for NATO to leave the country. Almost a year ago, Terry Jones, an otherwise obscure Florida church leader, burned Qurans outside his tiny church after threatening to do so for several months. While he claimed that God had directed such action, one could not help but notice how long Jones dragged out the saga for his own personal benefit. That action led to the death of eleven UN personnel in Afghanistan during a protest against such action. While the NATO commander quickly issued a video apology, stating that he would consult religious leaders on proper handling of the religious material, it will likely have little impact as the news of the Quran burning went viral and will only serve as additional fodder for anti-American propagandists. (Read More)

European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012
17 February 2012 – Brookings Institute – Justin Vaïsse
On Friday, the Brookings Institute released their European Foreign Policy Scorecard, which measures the European Union’s effectiveness in the international community. Overall, the report chronicled little positive change from its inaugural 2010 Scorecard and pointed out a sort of backwards slide, arguing that distraction by the Eurozone debt crisis in 2010 had transformed the Union from being the solution to becoming the problem. While the EU enjoyed limited success by intervening in Libya, this victory was undercut when it was exposed how ill-prepared member state forces were for prolonged military action as much of the heavy lifting and resupply was handled almost exclusively by the American military. Ultimately, the report argues that over the past year, a renationalization of EU foreign policy by its individual member states has occurred and harms further attempts at a unified foreign policy originating in Brussels or Strasbourg. (Read More)

NATO Secretary General Praises Greece as a Pillar of Euro-Atlantic Security
16 February 2012- NATO
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen travelled to Athens on 15 February 2012 and met with President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. He also met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Stavros Dimas and Minister of Defense Dimitris Avramopoulos. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the accession of Greece to NATO, the Secretary General hailed the enduring Greek contribution to trans-atlantic security. He also addressed a conference organized by the Greek think-tank Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). (Read More)

Azerbaijani President meets with NATO Secretary General in Brussels
16 February 2012- SIA
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on February 15. Secretary General congratulated President Ilham Aliyev on the election of Azerbaijan as a member of the UN Security Council. He expressed his confidence that Azerbaijan-NATO relations will further enhance. President Ilham Aliyev said our country will increase efforts towards enhancement of the NATO-Azerbaijan partnership. He said Azerbaijan will continue activity towards integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures. (Read More)

EU Urges Russia to Halt Syria Arms Sales
16 February 2012 – RIA Novosti
The EU adopted a resolution strongly urging Russia to stop selling arms to Syria. It also pushed for Russia to get on board with the Security Council’s consensus and reminded Russia of its responsibility to ‘international peace and security’ as a member of the council. Russia is selling jet aircraft, anti-ship missile systems and cruise missiles to Syria. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended the trade, arguing that it will not ‘affect the balance of power in the region’. Russia sees the sale of arms as a continuation of trade and should not be disrupted by the Arab Spring. Lavrov also believes that the weapons that are supplied are not used in the conflict. (Read More)

Syria Uprising Gives Opportunity for Sunni Saudis to ‘Defang’ Shiite Iran
13 February 2012 – Bloomberg – Flavia Krause-Jackson and Nicole Gaouette
Saudi Arabia is attempting to capitalize on the Syrian revolt in order to weaken Shiite Iran. Led by President Bashar al-Assad, Syria is Iran’s most important (and probably only) ally in the region. This comes at a time when Riyadh was recently Bahrain’s most important partner in suppressing Shiite riots in Bahrain. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been at odds, particularly as the Saudis feel threatened by Iran’s nuclear program. In Damascus, the Saudi initiatives aimed at toppling Assad involve primarily money and diplomatic overtures rather than direct military action. (Read More)

NATO Ponders The Long-Term Cost Of Libya
13 February 2012 – Strategy Page
In a post-Libya assessment, European members of NATO were surprised to learn just how dependent they had become on the United States. Publically, the US took a role of learning from behind, a move which was praised widely in international circles in contrast to the domestic constituency. US warplanes flew few offensive sorties but provided almost all of the midair refueling support and aerial intelligence assessments. Particularly of note, NATO members ran out of offensive weapons almost immediately after hostilities began and relied solely on the US for resupply. This operational ir-readiness is in part a result of post-Cold War budget cuts to the defense sector. The assessment comes just as the US announced a drawdown its contribution to European defense in favor a larger presence in East Asia. (Read More)

Pakistan, NATO Hold Border Talks Following Deadly Attack
9 February 2012- Voice of America
Representatives of the Pakistani army, NATO and Afghan forces have met for talks in an effort to improve coordination along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This meeting is to ease tensions between the US and Pakistan after NATO strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year. Last month, Pakistan's army rejected a U.S. military probe into the November 26 cross-border coalition attack. The army said it did not agree with U.S. findings that American forces acted in self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired on by Pakistani soldiers. But tensions seemed to have eased slightly, with Pakistani officials saying in recent days the government should reopen its border to NATO supplies as long as it can negotiate higher fees. (Read More)

U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by Half
8 February 2012—New York Times—Tim Arango
Not long after completing the world’s largest embassy complex, the US State Department has found the complex unwieldy and too large for its needs. Therefore, it is cutting its diplomatic staff by half although it remains to be seen whether the number of private contractors will be cut by a similar proportion. Arango argues that the departure of US troops from the country two months ago contributed to the decline as logistically, it became more difficult to support nearly 16,000 employees living and working in the heart of Baghdad. Sensing an opportunity to support their own sovereignty, the Iraqis have become sticklers for enforcing the law as convoys supporting the mission which previously were whisked through border crossings are now delayed per lack of appropriate paperwork. Interestingly, this move comes on the heels of the publication of We Meant Well, a book that is highly on the US diplomatic presence in Iraq, written by a Foreign Service Officer. (Read More)

NATO Extends Baltic Air Patrols Until 2018
8 February 2012—Associated Press—Slobodan Lekic
Neither Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania have their own fighter jets. Therefore, they rely upon NATO to patrol their airspace with other members’ jets. The extension provides the three Baltic states with a hedge against aggression from their neighbor Russia. While the Baltic states obtained their goal of a six year extension, they did not succeed in making the mission a permanent fixture of NATO defense. It comes at time of high tension in the US-Russian relationship although Moscow has yet to make the patrols an issue. (Read More)

US Sees Europe as Not Pulling Its Weight Militarily
8 February 2012 – Atlantic Council
At a security conference in Munich German Defense minister Thomas de Maiziere professed that although transatlantic relations go through ups and downs, it is in good form at present. However, the sentiment is not reciprocated, many US Atlanticists see the EU as not pulling its weight when it comes to hard power and military might. Europe continues its move towards soft power away from hard power, despite Obama’s shift of focus away from Europe to Asia. Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley referred to the EU as a ‘free rider’. Blaming the reduction of hard power on the economic crisis is not a viable excuse; most EU members are also NATO members and as such have a responsibility to others. It is argued that Libya demonstrated the reliance the EU had on the US and must adjust accordingly. Either EU members stop reducing defense expenditure or they start pooling resources and thus sacrifice sovereignty. (Read More)

Merkel and Sarkozy Share Anger Over Syria Stalemate and Urgency Over Greece

6 February 2012- NY Times
The leaders of Germany and France pledged not to allow Russia and China to block international action to stop the bloodshed in Syria. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said it was a “scandal” that China and Russia vetoed the UNSC resolution that would have condemned the violence in Syria. Both leaders also called for Greece to come to terms quickly with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund on cuts to its budget, or face default on its debts. Merkel made it clear that Europe was losing patience with Athens. (Read More)

U.S. may Hasten its Afghan Exit if NATO Agrees
6 February 2012- Ventura County Star
U.S. Military Advisers plan on the U.S. and its NATO allies ending combat operations in Afghanistan perhaps as soon as mid-2013, a year and a half earlier than previously announced 2014 deadline. The accelerated withdrawal has yet to be approved by NATO officials, and will be agreed

SecDef’s Olive Branch for Europe
6 February 2012 – DoD Buzz – Philip Ewing
At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta assured Europe of the strong American commitment to NATO and European security amidst plans to move two US Army brigades to Asia. He committed the US to the NATO Response Force, going beyond what had previously been somewhat tepid support, as he cited the value a “agile, rapidly deployable, multinational force that can respond to crises.” While the White House reorganizes its diplomatic and military initiatives towards a reinvigorated East Asia policy, cuts to European defense will likely come under scrutiny by still Russia wary Congressional Republicans. (Read More)

US, EU, Arab Allies Explore Assad Exile Prospects
2 February 2012 - The Jerusalem Post
The United States, European governments and Arab states have begun discussing the possibility of exile for Bashar Assad. An official stated as many as three countries were willing to take him as a way to bring an end to Syria's bloody 10-month-old crisis. A European official said EU members were willing to consider the idea of Assad going into exile but that there was "no way we'd have him in our countries." Much depends on UN Security Council’s resolution that would call for Assad to step down. (Read More)

Panetta Faces Tough NATO Meeting after Budget Shift
1 February 2012 - Chicago Tribune
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta previewed a defense budget that calls for slashing American force numbers in Europe. Panetta's budget plans, which call for the removal of two heavy infantry brigades from Europe, have raised concerns about U.S. commitments to European security and whether the United States will have the forces to fulfill its treaty obligation for the region's collective defense. Ian Brzezinski, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, said the European allies would be looking for Panetta to explain what the new U.S. force posture means for the trans-Atlantic alliance. (Read More)

EU: Members Must Share Military Resources To Cope with Change in US Strategy
31 January 2012 – Washington Post
There is a growing concern in the wake of the Libyan intervention that Europe needs to get a better handle on its military and defense by pooling their resources and capabilities. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Lady Ashton believes that following Libya and the austerity measures being place on many EU nations’ defense budget, that co-operation is the ‘only pragmatic way forward’. President Obama announced a new military strategy which would see two out of four military combat brigades moved out of Europe and transferred to the new focus of US foreign policy; the Middle East and Asia. The shortcomings of many EU nations in Libya; the lack of ammunition, the lack of air-to-air refueling and target support highlighted the reliance of EU forces. However, if the US is moving on, so should Europe according to Lady Ashton and the only viable way to do that is to share resources and capabilities. (Read Morel)

Iran Vows to Stop "Some" Oil Sales as Inspectors Visit
30 January, 2012- Reuters
India, the world's fourth-largest oil consumer, said it would not take steps to cut petroleum imports from Iran despite U.S. and European sanctions against Tehran. In a response to those sanctions, Iran’s oil minister Rostam Qasemi claimed that the country would soon stop exporting crude to “some” countries, which remain unidentified. Iranian lawmakers postponed the discussion on a bill that could cut off oil supplies to the EU before the EU-wide ban on Iranian oil takes effect in July. Officials argue that those upcoming sanctions will have no impact on the country. (Read More)

Iran Defiant as EU Imposes Oil Embargo
24 January 2012 – Al Jazeera
An oil ban on Iran was approved in Brussels on Monday, forbidding all new contracts for crude oil and petroleum from Iran to member states of the EU. Washington also announced new sanctions on Bank Tejarat, Iran’s third largest state owned bank. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman has responded by commenting: “Imposing economic sanctions is illogical and unfair but it will not stop our nation from obtaining its rights”. He also stated that ‘The European countries and those who are under American pressure, should think about their own interests. Any country that deprives itself from Iran's energy market, will soon see that it has been replaced by others." (Read More)

NATO Hails 2011 Successes in Afghanistan
25 January 2012 – Agence France-Presse – Lawrence Bartlett
NATO claimed 2011 as a successful year in their annual report card. According to the report, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has forced the Taliban to retreat to its stronghold in the southern part of the country and driven down the number of security incidents. Cited as “outstanding” were successful anti-narcotic operations. The report describes the capital Kabul as being under the control of the ISAF and Afghan government. However, this positive report contradicts a series of high profile attacks carried out by the Taliban in the capitol including a 19-hour siege of the American embassy. The United Nations reported a far bleaker picture of the country than NATO, citing an increase of security incidents. NATO’s operations in Afghanistan are the largest the Euro-American alliance has undertaken outside of Europe. (Read More)

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
24 January 2012 – Deutsche Welle – Dr. John C. Hulsman
For 2012, Dr. John C. Hulsman argues that the United Nations Security Council will remain largely the same as 2011. Three of the five permanent members will hold elections this year. This means that change is unlikely as regardless of the outcome of each election, at for 2012, sweeping foreign policy change is unlikely. Incumbants generally tweak rather than carry out bold, new initiatives while newly elected governments will follow its predecessor’s’ foreign policy, given that it takes time to implement new initiatives and advise institutions on that implementation. Combined with the deadlock that inhibits movement on current major issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab spring, and events in Syria, Hulsman may well be correct. (Read More)

What's Left to Do About Damascus?
23 January 2012 – New York Times – Judy Dempsey
Europe and the US have few options left to deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as government forces violently crack down on protesters. Its sanctions are relatively harsh, from banning top Assad administrators from travelling to the EU or US, to freezing Syrian assets stashed abroad, and to sanctioning Syrian oil products. Yet, Assad’s behavior shows no sign of changing. While military action by the US and EU was successful in Libya, that option is unlikely through the UN Security Council, as China or Russia would likely veto while the NATO expedition to Afghanistan has left member states with the stomach for more. Beyond additional sanctions, the US and EU can do little else to change the situation. The US appears to agree as it prepares to shutter its embassy in Damascus after removing its high profile ambassador. (Read More)

Why Europe Should Be Glad its U.S. Troops Are Leaving
23 January 2012 – The Atlantic – Heather Horn
As part of broader US security strategy, the American military presence in Europe is being drawn down in favor of a largest presence in Asia, particularly in the Persian Gulf. Horn argues that this provides an impetus for the EU to fill the security void with its own security provided by member states. Some eight months ago, Robert Gates expressed his annoyance of the US shouldering the European security burden even more so given the austerity recent European measures’ impact on security budgets. However, it seems unlikely that any one member state will contribute significantly, let alone amongst the entire 27 block as the largest economic powers are handicapped. Other members of the block are either engaged in the NATO conflict in Afghanistan or still rebuilding after the post-Cold War drawn down in Eastern European countries. While valid, Horn’s suggestion appears to have been ignored. (Read More)

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