Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Stratfor: Time Is Working Against the Islamic State

Summary: Slowly it the obvious becomes apparent that the hype about the the Islamic State was (like that about the USSR and al Qaeda) bogus, that it is neither a potential superpower nor going to sweep beyond is based in the Sunni Arab areas amidst the wreckage of Iraq and Syria. Here Scott Stewart of Stratfor reviews the evidence.


Time Is Working Against the Islamic State

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 5 November 2015

At this time last year, a string of leaderless resistance-style attacks by grassroots jihadists in the West was making people very nervous. And their concern was understandable: In late October 2014, the tempo of attacks by grassroots jihadists in the West reached its highest point in history. The spike in activity largely stemmed from a statement made by Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani a month earlier, urging individuals in Western countries to:

“… single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

The wave of violence continued through the end of 2014 and into 2015, as assailants struck in Australia and in France in December, followed closely by the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January and the Copenhagen attack in February. But since that time, it has become clear that the momentum of the attacks has slowed, and that grassroots jihadists have not been able to keep up a consistent tempo of striking multiple times each month. In other words, the violence taking place in October last year was an anomaly, not the start of an emerging trend. The question is: Why didn’t the movement gain more traction?

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Stratfor: The Coming Age of Cyberterrorism

Summary: For five years readers of the FM website have learned the facts and myths of cybersecurity and cyberterrorism. Now CEOs are fired for big security breeches, wild headlines stoke the public’s fears — and Stratfor declares the “coming age of cyberterrorism”. Their analysis, as usual, gives a solid introduction to this important subject.


The Coming Age of Cyberterrorism

By Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 22 October 2015

The Islamic State is trying to hack U.S. power companies, U.S. officials told a gathering of American energy firms Oct. 15 {CNN: “ISIS is attacking the U.S. energy grid (and failing)”}. The story quoted John Riggi, a section chief at the FBI’s cyber division, as saying the Islamic State has, “Strong intent. Thankfully, low capability … But the concern is that they’ll buy that capability.”

The same day the CNNMoney report was published, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the arrest of Ardit Ferizi — a citizen of Kosovo and known hacker, apprehended in Malaysia — on a U.S. provisional arrest warrant. The Justice Department charged Ferizi with providing material support to the Islamic State, computer hacking and identity theft, all in conjunction with the theft and release of personally identifiable information belonging to 1,351 U.S. service members and civilian government employees stolen from the servers of an unnamed U.S. retail chain.

According to the Justice Department, Ferizi provided the stolen personal information to the Islamic State’s Junaid Hussain (aka Abu al-Britani) who was subsequently killed in an airstrike in the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syria.

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Stratfor: a Grand Bargain remains elusive in Ukraine

Summary: Stratfor provides a status report on the Ukraine civil war, a festering boil in the heart of Europe and spark that hawks on both sides are using to restart the cold war. These conflicts usually end in diplomacy; that point seems far away.


For Ukraine, a Grand Bargain Is Still Elusive
Stratfor, 14 October 2015


  • Because of political considerations, Kiev will not fully submit to separatist and Russian demands for amnesty and “special status” powers in eastern Ukraine.
  • Europe will encourage the Ukrainian government to be accommodating, but the United States will push for a hard-line approach.
  • Russia will keep its options open and will not abandon the possibility of ramping up militant activity if Kiev and the West are uncooperative.


After a year of slow-burning conflict in eastern Ukraine, the relationship between Kiev and Moscow seems to finally be improving. Fighting on the ground has dissipated, there have been positive developments in talks over the past few weeks and both sides began to pull heavy weaponry back from the line of contact in early October. Moreover, Russia and Ukraine have agreed on a temporary natural gas deal and will begin direct negotiations on Kiev’s terms of repayment for a bond that matures in December. And in a major concession to Kiev and its Western backers, the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk announced Oct. 6 that they would postpone local elections.

These developments signal progress toward ending the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. However, a broader settlement will still be difficult to achieve and is unlikely to be reached before the end of the year.

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Learning about the police to understand why they so often act badly

Summary: Modern technology gives us unprecedented tools with which to run America, but only if we have the necessary clear vision. These tools work equally well to feed our delusions about the world. Our response to revelations about police behavior suggests that many Americans have chosen myths over truth.

Police Corruption

See the magnitude of the problem

I have long suspected that we no longer watch TV shows just for entertainment, but also to re-enforce our delusions about the world — a retreat to fantasy as we have disengaged as citizens. A comment to “The Castle season opener shows our divorce from our police” nicely illustrated this, by someone who claims an MS degree in physics.

99.999% of all police work can be perfectly proper, but that 0.001% of bad behavior is what shows up on YouTube.

Applying that fraction to the 34,450 officers of the NYPD means that they have 0.3 bad cops. That’s probably low by a factor of ten thousand. His rebuttal…

OK, make it 99.99%. Or 99.9%. Or 99%.

That gives us 3.4 bad cops in the entire NYPD. Or 34. Or 340. Here we see the clouded vision of Americans at work, as citizens learn about the police by watching “Blue Bloods“. Fortunately we need not rely on TV police procedurals for information. There are studies of police corruption, such as those cited in “Corruption in Law Enforcement: A Paradigm of Occupational Stress and Deviancy” in the Journal of the Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Footnotes in the original.

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Stratfor: The Loyalist Offensive Begins in Syria, with Russia’s help

Summary: As regional and global powers search for a solution to the Syrian civil war, fighting on the ground appears to be on the verge of worsening. Both loyalist and rebel forces are preparing for two new offensives within the coming months that will greatly influence the trajectory of the conflict ahead. This report by Strafor looks at the combined Russia – Syrian government offensive.

Russia’s military deployment to Syria was carried out with the permission of Damascus, and is “completely legal and legitimate under international law.” “The difference with Russian presence and presence of all these special forces that are now operating in Syria is that the US was not asked by the legitimate Syrian government to interfere and they were in breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

— Dirk Adriaensens (actiist, bio here).


In Syria, the Loyalist Offensive Begin

Stratfor, 8 October 2015

The Syrian government’s long-expected offensive against the country’s rebel forces has begun. On Oct. 7, loyalist troops advanced against rebel-held positions in northern Hama with the support of numerous Russian airstrikes as well as both rocket and tube artillery fire. Initial reports from the battlefield suggest that the rebels, primarily the Free Syrian Army, are putting up an effective defense in spite of heavy shelling. The rebels’ liberal use of improvised explosive devices and anti-tank guided missiles has taken a heavy toll on loyalist armor; several reports say rebels destroyed 17 armored fighting vehicles on the first day of the fight, and combat footage has confirmed the destruction of at least nine vehicles.

Despite the initial setback, the loyalists’ Russian-backed offensive has only just begun. Already there have been heavy airstrikes in the Al-Ghab plain, signaling the spread of the offensive to other areas of Hama. Loyalists are also preparing to assault the northern Homs pocket and to push toward the Kweiris air base, where several allied groups are still engaged in fighting with Islamic State forces.

Russian airstrikes in Syria

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Stratfor shows that the Russians Are Coming – to Syria

Summary: The United States has almost 800 bases in 70 nations around the world, so it’s natural that Russia building a base in Syria would spark hysteria among Americans. So rather than pay attention to our special operations units, active in 135 nations this past year, let’s focus on the Russians in Syria. Stratfor provides the satellite photos and analysis that tell you what you need to know. Use the knowledge wisely.


Explaining Russia’s True Presence in Syria

Stratfor, 25 September 2015

Stratfor has been closely tracking the Russian buildup of military power at Bassel al Assad air base in Syria, charting the uptick of forces throughout September. Aside from the air assets and defensive ground capacity identified at the air base, reports indicate potential Russian activity at several other locations across the Syrian coastal region.

Widely circulated satellite photography dated Sept. 13 revealed construction at the Istamo weapons storage facility and the appearance of tents at the al-Sanobar military facility south of Latakia. Though this led to conclusions of a possible Russian military presence at those facilities, more recent and detailed imagery provided by our partners at AllSource Analysis seems to contradict this assertion.

Satellite imagery of the al-Sanobar military complex from Sept. 23 does not show any sign of a notable Russian military presence. The tent camp that was present in the Sept. 13 imagery is nowhere to be seen. Also, no particular Russian military equipment or vehicles can be identified.

Russian forces likely move through the area frequently because of their continued activity at the port of Latakia, the activity at the nearby Bassel al Assad air base, and the transit of Russia advisers and trainers to the Syrian front lines, where they are embedded with military units. Because of this, it is possible that the Sept. 13 imagery caught a temporary encampment of Russian forces operating in the Syrian coastal area, as opposed to a more sustained deployment of combat forces to the al-Sanobar complex.

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A big month for police violence. Will they reform? Lessons either way.

Summary: Seven big incidents during the past 30 days! This post looks not just at what’s happening, but at the likely consequences. Unless they respond effectively, this growing flood of videos will inevitably redefine the image of police in the minds of many America, with ugly results. Unfortunately they, like so many of our institutions, appear dysfunctional in this most vital sense.

“There are two fairly standard approaches to political power used by those who seek it. Some seek power with the assumption that the citizenry are the source of legitimacy and are to be treated with respect. Others concentrate on identifying whatever insecurities there are within the citizenry and on exploiting them.”

— John Ralston Saul’s Reflections of a Siamese twin: Canada at the end of the twentieth century (1997).

Ahmed Mohamed


A busy month for America’s police

Video shows Philadelphia police officer threatening to have car towed unless driver for donates to police fundraiser., AP: incident occurred in August. Also see the NYT story.

Video Suggests Suspect in San Antonio Shooting Had Hands Raised When Shot“, New York Times: on August 28. Also see the second video of the incident.

Retired tennis star James Blake tackled by officer, without warning, while standing outside hotel. He resembled suspect of credit card fraud (a nonviolent crime), ABC News: September 11.

Video shows 4 Stockton police officers tackling a 16-year-old boy to the ground for jaywalking (it’s an infraction in California, not even a misdemeanor), LA Times: on September 15. See the video: “9 cops detain 1 US teen for refusing to use sidewalk (VIDEO)“. This article describes the beating.

Ahmed Mohamed interrogated by 5 police for building a clock and saying it was a clock. Taken away in cuffs, fingerprinted, suspended from school for 3 days: on September 15. His parents were not allowed to be present during police interrogation (and no attorney).

Cop Beats Unarmed Woman with a baton, Pulls Gun On Witnesses, ThinkProgress: on September 18. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer arresting woman on a bus for theft.

Policeman harasses and cuff man for suspiciously eating a hamburger in the parking lot of an apartment building (plus an illegal search), AlterNet: on September 19.

This is probably an incomplete list of incidents during these few weeks, showing the usual mix of brutal of small but telling incidents plus an execution.

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