Thursday, December 5, 2013

Increasing signs of danger from different quarters..does "west" need to change how we protect and defend?

With the Shiite Hezbollah's conflict with Saudi Arabia boiling over into public view (see Aryn Baker's piece in Time excerpted below), the finding of a stolen truck in Mexico containing nuclear materials that could be made into a dirty bomb (see Mexico: Stolen radioactive material found, from CNN excerpted below) the recent attempt on the Yemeni Defence Minister's life, and the well known eagerness and determination of the Islamic terrorists affiliated with AlQaeda  to bring open hostility to their enemies, Jews and Christians everywhere and especially to threaten Israel's very existence, is it any wonder that many normal, self-respecting citizens of many countries are growing tired of the news and also not so secretly fidgeting and fussing a little more.
These are times of proverbial wall-to-wall news and information coverage, too much for any  person to absorb, to make sense of and to reflect upon in any comprehensive way.  We are able to see that Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims do not have much respect for each other, and that their "internal" (that is within the faith community) divisions have critical overtones in the public domain, since both sides of that conflict consider their faith an intimate matter for public debate and public policy (as opposed to any passing reference to preserving the separation of church and state). We can see that this conflict has opened its bleeding tumors in various hot-spots on the globe, almost like a metastasizing cancer that moves throughout the human body, attacking different organs, cells and systems. There is not a single "western" city that would be rendered immobile with the attack of a dirty bomb planted in some unsuspected location, without a public announcement, by some misguided terrorist seeking to carry out "the will of Allah" as he sees it. And there is not a single "western" city that is immune from such an attack, most are singularly unprepared for such a diabolical calamity.
One of the most significant ironies is that the Saudi's have been one of the primary funding sources of AlQaeda, one of the most hated of the many-headed monsters we commonly refer to as the enemy.
So, from a foreign policy perspective, is the "west" (meaning the U.S., the UK, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and their allies) able and willing to "take sides" between such militant combative enemies? If we support Hezbollah's war against Saudi Arabia, are we overturning decades of history during which we proclaimed the Saudi's were our "good friends" (mainly because of their rich oil reserves) and yet, the Saudi's are also fearful of Iran, another Shiite stronghold, one of the most vocal and virulent opponents of Israel, the proclaimed ally of the west. So while the Shiite's and the Sunni's fight for hegemonic control of the Middle East, is there another somewhat hidden agenda in the Islamic world that seeks to impose Islamic law around the world? And are these minor skirmishes merely a foreshadowing of further acts of terrorism, similar to the Boston marathon bombing.
As the "west" seeks to protect itself and its people from secret yet deadly attack by Islamic terrorists, and those same terrorists seek to gain hegemonic advantage with their Islamic enemies, are we inadvertently adding fuel to the rage among the Islamic world and the recruitment programs of the terrorists with our drone attacks, our inadvertent support for "rebel fighters in Syria" given that our support can and does easily fall into the hands of AlQaeda sympathizers, our defense (with icy silence) of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, and our public pursuit of the destruction of poisonous gases and other weapons of mass destruction, while the killing, and the bombing and the conflict continue to spread?
Is there not a real danger that, like a huge aircraft carrier, the "west" is an nearly immovable object in a sea of conflicts for which its defences were not designed, yet while it can provide take-off and landing for smaller helicopters and other aircraft, it cannot get down and dirty in every skirmish because the resources, the planning and the skills of the now outmoded defence departments make that incompatible with the realities of the micro-wars that seek to take over our mind-set and our budgets? Are the terrorists with their home-made devices and their potential access to nuclear materials for a dirty bomb, not merely out-flanking our more elaborate and more technologically advanced and more gigantic strategies by their mobility, their availability and their individual and cheap applications? Are we not perhaps engaged in another David and Goliath-type conflict...with David being the Islamic terrorists and Goliath being the "west's apparent invincibility, and dumbness, especially when faced with such complex and moving and determined (they work for Allah, not some national defence department) enemies? Maybe our foreign policy experts and our national security experts need to rethink our approach to defence and security, in the light of these seemingly "micro" irritants that could easily morph into a macro gestalt, given the time frame of eternity among the Islamic terrorists.

Hizballah’s War of Shadows With Saudi Arabia Comes Into the Light

As the sectarian violence of Syria's conflict spills over, the proxy struggles between Lebanon's influential Shi‘ite organization Hizballah and the staunchly Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have turned into open war

By Aryn Baker, Time December 4, 2013
Speeches by Hizballah head Hassan Nasrallah are usually predictable affairs. Each time he speaks, be it in front of the podium or from a secure, undisclosed location, the bearded, turbaned and bespectacled leader blends fiery rhetoric, anti-Western exhortations and bombast in a familiar pattern designed to inspire his followers, fire up new recruits and strike fear into enemy Israel. But in an interview with Lebanese TV station OTV late on Tuesday night, he went radically off script, zeroing in on a new target for his rhetorical darts: Saudi Arabia.
Nasrallah rarely mentions Saudi Arabia by name, only referring to the monarchy in vague terms in order to maintain plausible deniability. But that all changed on Tuesday, when he accused Saudi agents of being behind the suicide-bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last month that claimed 23 lives. (The assassination of a senior Hizballah commander on Wednesday, though the assailants remain unknown, deepened the group’s sense of embattlement.) In doing so he has openly declared a war that has long been fought in the shadows, first in Lebanon where Hizballah-allied parties are at a political impasse with the Saudi-backed Future Movement of Saad Hariri, and now in Syria, where Hizballah, with Iranian assistance, is fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad against Saudi-backed rebels. “This is the first time I have ever seen such a direct attack [by Nasrallah] against Saudi Arabia,” says Lebanon-based political analyst Talal Atrissi. “This was the formal declaration of a war that has been going on in Syria since Saudi first started supporting the rebels.”
Read more: Hizballah Leader Nasrallah Declares War on Saudi Arabia |

And this from the CNN website:

Mexico: Stolen radioactive material found

By Rafael Romo. Nick Parker and Mariano Castillo, CNN, December 4, 2013 
-- A pair of thieves in Mexico may have stolen more than they bargained for when they targeted a truck this week.
The stolen vehicle was carrying delicate cargo -- a radioactive element used for medical purposes that also can be used to make a so-called dirty bomb.
Mexican authorities said they found the stolen truck and recovered likely all of the radioactive cobalt Wednesday in a remote area about 40 km (25 miles) away from where it was taken.
The suspected thieves are still on the loose, though authorities expect they could turn up at a clinic suffering symptoms of radiation exposure.
The container holding cobalt was found about a kilometer away from the truck and had been opened, said Juan Eibenschutz Hartman, head of Mexico's National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards.
There was less than 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of the hazardous material inside.
Authorities are guarding the area and have set up a 500-meter perimeter around it, Eibenschutz said. They are evaluating whether any residents were exposed.
Cleaning up the area could take weeks, he said, because they don't have robotic equipment they would need to quickly collect the dangerous cobalt. They're coming up with a plan and considering asking for help from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United States or Canada.
The IAEA announced the theft on Wednesday.
Mexican authorities told the IAEA that the truck, which was transporting cobalt-60 from a hospital in Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage center, was stolen Monday in Tepojaco, near Mexico City.
An early theory is that the thieves were unaware of what exactly they had taken.
"At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded," the IAEA said. "However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged."
But Eibenschutz said the truck wasn't properly set up to transport the radioactive material, since it didn't have a GPS for tracking or other necessary equipment.
Cobalt-60 is used in radiotherapy and in industrial tools such as leveling devices and thickness gauges. Large sources of cobalt-60 are used to sterilize certain foods, as the gamma rays kill bacteria but don't damage the product, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If released into the environment, the radioactive material can harm people.
And experts consider cobalt-60 one of the "candidates" for making dirty bombs.
Bombs made with cobalt-60 "pose a threat mainly because even a fraction of a gram emits a huge number of high-energy gamma rays; such material is harmful whether outside or inside the body," according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service.
In a speech last year, the IAEA director warned that such a dirty bomb "detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences."
Preliminary information suggests that the thieves did not know what the truck's cargo was when they stole it, said Jaime Aguirre Gomez, deputy director of radiological security at the National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards.
The shielding that protects the cobalt-60 is designed so that the radioactive source is difficult to extract, Aguirre said. The casing is designed not to be opened or perforated easily.

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