Archive for the 'Terrorism' Category

How Syria is Iran’s route to the sea

Posted by on Oct 24 2012 | Counter-Terrorism Policy, Iran, Israel, National Security, Presidency, Press, Terrorism

“Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” So said Mitt Romney at the Monday debate. The Associated PressThe GuardianThe Telegraph, New York, U.S. News,  Brad DeLong, Rachel Maddow’s Maddowblog,  Comedy Central, and The Daily Kos promptly seized the opportunity to show off their superior geographical knowledge, pointing out that Iran has a coastline. The explicit or implicit explanation was that Romney does not even know basic geography. “Romney Flubs Geography” announced the A.P. headline on the Washington Post website. Readers in search of more sophisticated coverage  might have turned to Yahoo! Answers:

Q. Why did Romney say that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea”? …when 1) Iraq stands between Syria and Iran, and 2) Iran already has the Persian Gulf, not to mention the Indian Sea?

A. Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.

Fact-checkers who actually investigate the facts might have started with expert websites such as StrategyPage. A 2006 article titled Syrian Delivery System for Iranian Nukes details the extensive seaborne smuggling operations carried out by Syrian companies operating out of Syrian ports. The article concludes:

Iran was generous with its “foreign aid” because Syria provided support for terrorists Iran backed. Now Iran is keen on getting nuclear weapons. The first ones Iran will get will be large and delicate. The only feasible intercontinental delivery system will be a ship. A ship that is accustomed to moving illicit goods.

Stratfor, which is an outstanding site for the collection and analysis open source intelligence, has the following reports involving Syria/Iran sea-related collaboration: An Iranian ship at the Syrian port of Tartus (also spelled “Tartous”) picked up Syrian oil for delivery to China, to evade the economic sanctions on Syria (Mar. 30, 2012). Iran warships docked at the port of Latakia in early 2012 (Feb. 18, 2012), and in early 2011 (Feb. 22, 2011; Feb. 24, 2011). During the 2011 visit, the Iranian navy’s commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, announced that Iran was ready to help Syria improve its port facilities, and to collaborate on technical projects with Syria. (Feb. 26, 2011). (All the Stratfor articles are behind a paywall.)

So in short, Syria is Iran’s route for the projection into the Mediterranean Sea (and from there, the Atlantic Ocean) of conventional naval power, and, perhaps soon, of nuclear weaponry.

Post-debate, the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler at least made a start towards a serious factcheck of the Romney quote. He published an updated and condensed version of a longer piece he had written last April about Romney’s repeated use of the phrase.

In the April piece, Kessler wondered what difference Syria made, since Iranian ships can enter the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. True, but anyone with even a mild knowledge of naval affairs could explain the utility of a Mediterranean port, as a opposed to a Persian Gulf port, for ships operating in the Mediterranean. In April and in October, Kessler wrote:

We also checked with other experts, many of whom confessed to being puzzled by Romney’s comments.  [DK: Kessler should have named all the "other" experts, and should also have included the explanation of at least one of the experts who was not among the "many" were were confused.] Tehran certainly uses Syria to supply the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, but that has little to do with the water. The relationship with Syria could also effectively allow Iran to project its power to the Mediterranean and the border with Israel. But does that really mean, “a route to the sea”?

The last two sentences are really the buried lede of the story: Romney is raising a very important issue (Syria as the base for the projection of Iranian naval power), but Romney is not explaining himself in a manner which the less well-informed members of the public (e.g., the sources linked in the 1st paragraph of this post) can understand. If Romney were a better communicator, he would have laid out the facts in greater detail, as Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill did in their own time, when warning their countrymen about the military dangers of aggressive totalitarian regimes. As Kessler wrote in April, “If Romney is elected president, he will quickly learn that words have consequences. Precision in language is especially important in diplomacy, and here Romney used a phrase that left people befuddled as to his intent and meaning, especially since he did not even make a distinction between the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.”

If you’re a journalist or a commentator, there’s no reason be ashamed just because a Washington Post writer reported a story much better than you did. But when you find yourself being outclassed by Yahoo! Answers, perhaps it’s time to rethink your assumptions that you’re much smarter and better informed than Mitt Romney.

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VIDEO: Kopel on How to Protect College Campuses

Posted by on Sep 24 2012 | guns, Kopelization, PPC, Second Amendment, Terrorism, U.S. Constitution, Video, War on Terror

Independence Institute Research Director, Law Professor, and Second Amendment expert Dave Kopel spoke at the University of Colorado at Denver on Sept. 11, 2012. The anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is a good time to consider how to enhance protection against all forms of terrorism through policy changes which safeguard civil liberties. One of the best such changes is removing restrictions against licensed carry on campus, because such restrictions make colleges into safe zones for mass murderers and other criminals.

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Dave Kopel at CU-Denver Tomorrow!

Posted by on Sep 10 2012 | Events, guns, PPC, Second Amendment, Terrorism, U.S. Constitution

Want to hear the country’s foremost authority on the Second Amendment? Independence Institute Research Director, DU Law professor, and Second Amendment expert Dave Kopel is speaking on terrorism, the right to bear arms, and licensed carry on college campuses tomorrow at CU-Denver. He’ll also be fielding Q and A on gun control so bring your questions.

Details: Tuesday, September 11th from 12:30 to 1:30 at CU-Denver.
Room: Tivoli 320.
Topics: Terrorism, the right to bear arms, and licensed carry on college campuses.
Here is the Facebook event page.

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Defense bill will allow President to indefinitely detain American citizens

Posted by on Nov 30 2011 | Counter-Terrorism Policy, obama, Terrorism, War on Terror

H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, has already passed the House, and is currently before the Senate. One section of the bill gives the President the authority to detain indefinitely American citizens, picked up on American soil, because they are allegedly supporting the enemy:

SEC. 1034. AFFIRMATION OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH AL QAEDA, THE TALIBAN, AND ASSOCIATED FORCES.
Congress affirms that—
(1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
(2) the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 23 1541 note);
(3) the current armed conflict includes nations, organization, and persons who—
(A) are part of, or are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
(B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and
(4) the President’s authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 11 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority to detain belligerents, including persons described in paragraph (3), until the termination of hostilities.

Yesterday the Senate rejected an amendment by Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have stricken the detention provisions, and required the Executive branch to submit a report (within 90 days) on the the legal and practical issues involving detention, and required Congress to hold hearings on the detention within the next 45 days after receipt of the report.

The bill also includes provisions to prevent civilian trials of prisoners currently held at Guantanamo. The Obama administration is threatening to veto the bill, although the objections appear to involve Guantanamo-type issues, and not the expansion of the executive’s detention powers. [Note: The bill version quoted above is the version as passed by the House and sent to the Senate. It is the latest version available on Thomas. The numbering for some sections may be different in earlier versions of the bill.] Kudos to Senator Udall, one of the few genuine civil libertarians in Congress, for taking the lead on this issue.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that, according to Senator Carl Levin, it was the Obama administration which told Congress to remove the language in the original bill which exempted American citizens and lawful residents from the detention power. See the C-Span video of the debate on the floor of the Senate, at 4:43:29. This is not the Obama I caucused for in Feb. 2008.

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Kopel on the Patriot Act

Posted by on Sep 15 2011 | Civil Rights, Counter-Terrorism Policy, Kopelization, PPC, Terrorism

Our resident Constitutional Law and Second Amendment expert Dave Kopel weighed in on the hot issue of personal liberty vs. national security in this issue of La Voz (Colorado’s #1 Hispanic publication). With the passing of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just days ago, the Patriot Act has taken center stage once again. Take a look at what Dave thinks about the national security measures we’ve taken in the last 10 years.

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The Clinton Terror Bill

Posted by on Apr 19 2010 | Terrorism

(David Kopel)

Former President Bill Clinton is back to practicing one of his core competencies: exploiting the 1995 mass murders in Oklahoma City for political advantage in order to suppress criticism of himself and his political allies. Accordingly, some persons might be interested in reviewing the multiple severe injuries that President Clinton inflicted on the Constitution in his “anti-terrorism” bill and his public relations campaign for the bill, a topic which I explored in a 101 page article in a 1996 special memorial issue of the Oklahoma City Law Review.


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