Executive Summary

There were several interesting papers published by Washington’s think tank community, including some by CSIS on the Gulf region.

In response to Obama’s executive order enhancing cybersecurity, the Monitor analysis looks at the threat and how it could impact America.  Could a cyber attack be the modern equivalent of a Pearl Harbor?  The analysis says, yes.  However, much of the American economy is not closely linked to the internet and would continue to produce food and other goods in any event.  How the government will respond will also be critical.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The FPRI looks at the militarization of American foreign policy.  They note, “This shift in focus has raised concerns about the “militarization of U.S. foreign policy,” which began in the 1990s with the recognition that combatant commanders are as much policy entrepreneurs as they are war fighters.  Generals like Tony Zinni or Wesley Clark epitomized the new breed of warrior-diplomat who directly engaged with foreign heads of state.  Far from rogue generals, these military leaders were directed by President Bill Clinton to engage with the world and promote security by assisting partners and assuring allies in a security environment freed from the Cold War dynamic. President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama continued the practice of using the military to assist almost every government of the world.”

The Center of American Progress focused on the devastating effects that Sequestration will have on America’s military presence globally, particularly in the Middle East. The Think Tank refers to the views of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta along with data proving that sequestration will limit our naval presence in the Middle East and will impact other branches of the military in the region. In conclusion, the think tank argues policy makers must avoid sequestration and seek a more appropriate budget solution.

The Heritage Foundation looks at Obama’s cybersecurity executive order.  They warn, “regulations tend to promote an attitude of compliance, not security, and in the case of cybersecurity, this means compliance with outdated regulations. With technology and cyber threats constantly evolving, regulations will always be stuck in the past.   Finally, mandatory regulations will go a long way toward souring any public-private partnership that the EO seeks in earlier sections. After all, a partnership does not usually involve forcing one side to do what the other one wants.”

There was an Interesting analysis at the Aspen Institute on February 20th regarding how to strengthen US-Lebanese strategic relations. The discussion at the Institute concluded that we must continue to fund 76 million to Lebanon annually because it serves as a strategic friendship in the Middle East. If the US helps build the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), they will be capable of protecting the State which will weaken Hezbollah’s legitimacy. This will pressure Hezbollah to become a political organization rather than militant. The discussion also concluded that Hezbollah and the axis of resistance (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas) have been weakened by the Arab Spring and it is the best time to support the LAF to weaken Hezbollah further.

The Washington Institute looks at the Hezbollah connection in Syria and Iran.  In recent days, U.S. and Mideast officials have reported that Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, are making military preparations for the sectarian chaos likely to engulf a post-Assad Syria. Counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt says that Hezbollah has closely aligned itself with Iran’s Quds Force, an elite paramilitary group linked directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while fighting alongside the Assad regime. In recent years, the partnership between Hezbollah and Iran has tightened to the point that the group’s allegiance to Khamenei is paramount, he says. “What we see now is that Hezbollah is going to do things today that are in Iran’s interest even if they expressly run counter to the interests of Lebanon and Hezbollah’s own interest there.”

The Institute for the Study of War looks at the Syrian Army, its order of battle and doctrine as the civil war began.  This report precedes the Institute for the Study of War’s upcoming report, The Assad Regime: From Counterinsurgency to Civil War, which will examine the ways in which Assad has deployed his forces in the ongoing campaign against Syria’s opposition.  They note, “At the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Syrian Army was one of the largest and best-trained forces in the Arab world. Organized according to Soviet doctrine, it was oriented to project power into Lebanon and to defend against a potential Israeli invasion. Despite its relatively poor combat record against the Israelis, the Syrian Army had earned a reputation as disciplined and motivated force. The Army’s cohesiveness and continued logistical capacity in the current uprising is consistent with this reputation.”

JINSA asks how America should respond to the problems in Egypt.  They suggest, “What should the United States do? If there are no good alternatives, America should choose the least bad alternative. U.S. policy should be guided by self-interest. It may not be in the world community’s power to avert Egyptian state failure, short of a massive and continuing commitment of financial aid that seems outside the realm of political possibility. At a minimum, America should seek to prevent Egypt’s crisis from turning into a regional security disaster, while maximizing its influence over Egyptian institutions and prospective governments.  In summary: the United States should do its utmost to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of political instability in Egypt, and to pre-empt any regionalization of the country’s crisis.”

The CSIS looks at Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the era of the Arab Spring.  They conclude, “The Arab Spring uprisings have presented Saudi Arabia and Qatar with opportunities and challenges. In keeping with the styles and ambitions of their respective leaders, the latter has been more entrepreneurial and vigorous, while the former has been more tentative and circumspect. Qatar’s population is small and easy to control, whereas Saudi Arabia’s is big and diverse, and its leadership stands to lose a lot more from the winds of revolutionary change… however, the policies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia have generally been consonant. One can see this in their strategies toward Bahrain, Yemen, or even Iran. They differ most glaringly when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Saudis distrust and which the Qataris embrace.”

The CSIS looks at securing the Arabian Gulf with enhanced cooperation.  They conclude GCC has the potential to become a far more effective security structure, improving every aspect of Arab Gulf state security.  “The Arab Gulf states are now spending vastly more on military and internal security forces than Iran and are spending far more on military modernization. In case after case this money is being spent without cooperation, and without the necessary interoperability, integration, and focus on key mission priorities. Economies of scale are not being achieved, training and readiness suffer, vulnerability increases, and both deterrence and defense lose credibility.”

The German Marshall Fund looks at Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  They note, “To his credit, Karzai has taken ownership of the conflict and pushed the international community toward doing less itself and more on increasing efforts to build Afghan capacity.  He has secured “strategic partnerships” with the NATO alliance and bilateral agreements with several nations.  But there is another Karzai: one who makes provocative and sometimes inaccurate statements that call into question the intentions and efforts of the international community. Karzai has unforgivingly attacked NATO over the issue of civilian casualties, and decried international economic and development aid as the sole cause of corruption in Afghanistan. He has claimed that it is the bureaucratic obstinacy of the coalition, and not any internal Afghan deficiencies, that have stunted progress in the fight against the insurgency. This is hardly the language of “cooperation and teamwork.”

The Washington Institute focuses on the internal divisions the Iranian government is facing, showing division and unable to agree on many things. Disagreements and divisions in Tehran have become out of control to the extent even Ayatollah Khamenei cannot stop the infighting. Internal differences in Iran are evident in light of the upcoming meeting with the p5+1 in Kazakhstan. In conclusion, Khamenei claims the enemies love our disunity when in reality, the world would love Iran to make a decision: “Either accept a generous offer to resolve the nuclear issue or be prepared for the consequences.”

The National Iranian American Council focuses on a legislation that is being pushed by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 10 of her colleagues to create a special envoy who would lead in working a diplomatic solution with the Iranian government. The legislation also pushes for the President to exhaust all diplomatic options and lifts the State Departments “no contact” policy with Iran, which prevents US officials from having any contact with Iranian officials.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies focuses on new ways to isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran economically from the rest of the world. Current US financial sanctions can only go so far. It is being suggested that the focus of US strategy should be Target2, an interbank payment system for transactions throughout the European Union. Current US financial sanctions have already forced Iran to convert billions of dollars of foreign exchange reserves into Euros. Iranian officials have great access to the Target2 system and in conclusion, “Euros are Iran’s principal hedge against the impact of sanctions.” The international community has a small chance to make sanctions work. Target2 system can play a major factor in our success in isolating Iran.



Can a Military Coup Occur in the GCC Countries?

Can a Military Coup Occur in the GCC Countries?


A Guide to the Military Coup


Earlier this year, an unsuccessful military coup was staged in Qatar against the US-backed Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, according to Saudi-financed Al-Arabiya TV channel” April 17, 2012. Furthermore, a number of high-ranking military officers rose against the Qatari Emir, it added, triggering fierce clashes between some 30 military officers and US-backed royal guards outside the Emir’s palace. The coup was foiled following the arrest of the officers involved. American helicopters have reportedly transferred the Qatari Emir and his wife to an unknown location. Meanwhile, informed Kuwaiti sources said that mediated recent disputes between Saudi Arabia and Qatar have unveiled a new series of disagreements between the officials of the two Persian Gulf states. The revelation of Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani’s secret phone conversation on the internet intensified internal conflicts between the two Arab states. In a telephone conversation, the Qatari premier envisioned a definite overthrow of the Saudi regime, saying Qatar will step in the al-Qatif and al-Sharqiya regions one day and Saudi Arabia will be disintegrated (Ibid). The Qatari Emir came to power following a US-backed coup against his father in 1995.

This news has been reported by “The News Tribe” website on April 17, 2012. There are rumors that this site has association with former U.S. intelligence officers. The scenario advanced by the story could not be verified but the rumors continued lately after reports of deteriorating health conditions of the Emir. ( )

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), in August 26, 2012, highlighted new health concerns of the Saudi Monarch and the royal family. They note, “Having Crown Prince Salman stand in for the monarch is no particular relief. Although he serves as defense minister and is, at seventy-six, significantly younger than Abdullah, some have expressed concerns about his own health and his ability to focus on detail. An additional worry is that the House of Saud has no obvious crown-prince-in-waiting behind him. The need for such a candidate has become more urgent in the past year given the deaths of no fewer than two crown princes. Saudi foreign policy capacity is already strained due to the ill health of longtime foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. In his absence, the kingdom is being represented at this week’s Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran by the king’s son and deputy foreign minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah.”

The uncertainty surrounding the transition to a new and young generation of rulers in Saudi Arabia raises the possibility of non-peaceful or orderly change of power, including military takeover.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, with the exception of protests in Bahrain and Oman, have largely escaped the popular uprisings which swept across Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya and Yemen throughout the first half of 2011.

Demonstrations in Bahrain were brutally put down with Saudi military help, however, some continued sporadically. Across the narrow water way separating the two countries, a series of confrontations occurred in the city of Qatif (eastern coast) between local residents and Saudi security forces. Its residents have long suffered repression and neglect, reflecting discontent with the dire economic conditions. This situation might also have been fueled by the clashes in Bahrain, to the east, where a similar situation is prevailing.

According to a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the sweeping unrest has forced the GCC governments to spend $150 billion, in the first half of 2011, to appease widespread discontent of its populations.

Clear signs of unrest are evident in the GCC states. They have vast populations of underpaid workers, from Pakistan and India, and are governed by ruling families with little consideration for democracy. Bahrain has a Sunni ruling family, but the majority of its citizens are Shi’a. Saudi Arabia has a repressive regime ruled by old and ailing sons of the nation’s founder Ibn Saud. Furthermore, there is growing unrest on the southern part of the peninsula in Yemen.

Given these troubling factors, the Center for American and Arab Studies has produced a special report on the possibility of a military coup in the GCC countries. It looks at the type of coups that pose the greatest threats to the GCC nations, history of coups in the GCC, social factors, issues of civilian control, population’s satisfaction “or lack thereof “with the current government, military capabilities, and outside factors.

Right wing extremism in America




Last month the Wall Street Journal reported on an operation launched earlier this year to target veterans who are members of “militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups.”(1) Operation Vigilant Eagle was launched in February, “two months before a memo giving a similar warning was issued on April 7 by the Department of Homeland Security.” It is described as collaboration between the FBI and the Pentagon.

As Infowars points out,(2) the DHS document in question was originally created in 2007 under the Bush administration and dusted off and revised under the Obama administration.

Documents outlining Operation Vigilant Eagle cite a surge in activity by white supremacists and “militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups.” According to the Wall Street Journal, a February 23 draft memo from FBI “domestic counterterrorism leaders” cited an “increase in recruitment, threatening communications and weapons procurement by white supremacy extremist and militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups.”

The aim of the FBI’s effort with the Defense Department, which was rolled into the Vigilant Eagle program, is to “share information regarding Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans whose involvement in white supremacy and/or militia sovereign citizen extremist groups poses a domestic terrorism threat,” according to the Feb. 23 FBI memo.

Disclosure of the DHS memo has sparked controversy among some conservatives and veterans groups. Appearing on television talk shows, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the assessment, but apologized to veterans who saw it as an accusation.

“This is an assessment of things just to be wary of, not to infringe on constitutional rights, certainly not to malign our veterans,” she said on NBC’s Today Show.

The documents outlining Operation Vigilant Eagle cite a surge in activity by such groups. The memos say the FBI’s focus on veterans began as far back as December, during the final weeks of the Bush administration, when the bureau’s domestic counterterrorism division formed a special joint working group with the Defense Department.

A Feb. 23 draft memo from FBI domestic counterterrorism leaders, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, cited an “increase in recruitment, threatening communications and weapons procurement by white supremacy extremist and militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups.”

The FBI said in the memo that its conclusion about a surge in such activities was based on confidential sources, undercover operations, reporting from other law-enforcement agencies and publicly available information. The memo said the main goal of the multipronged operation was to get a better handle on “the scope of this emerging threat.” The operation also seeks to identify gaps in intelligence efforts surrounding these groups and their leaders.

Michael Ward, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview that the portion of the operation focusing on the military related only to veterans who draw the attention of Defense Department officials for joining white-supremacist or other extremist groups.

“We’re not doing an investigation into the military, we’re not looking at former military members,” he said. “It would have to be something they were concerned about, or someone they’re concerned is involved” with extremist groups.
Mr. Ward said that the FBI’s general counsel reviewed the operation before it began, “to make sure any tripwires we set do not violate any civil liberties.”

Some Republican lawmakers, talk-show hosts and veterans groups complained after the internal DHS assessment cited the potential for the same extremists groups to target returning combat veterans for recruitment. The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, also echoed the concerns.

The separate DHS assessment, leaked after being sent to law-enforcement agencies, said the “willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.” Veterans could draw special attention, the report said, because of their advanced training.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said he was offended that veterans were characterized as potential domestic terrorists.

Amy Kudwa, a DHS spokeswoman, stated that the report was issued before an objection about one part of the document raised by the agency’s civil-rights division was resolved. She called it a “breakdown of an internal process” that would be fixed.

The FBI documents show the bureau was working with investigators inside the nation’s uniformed services “in an effort to identify those current or former soldiers who pose a domestic terrorism threat.” The other agencies working with the FBI are the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Documents detailing the operation are unclassified, but were meant for internal distribution only.
The leaked memos represent, for the first time, an acknowledgement by U.S. security officials of the potential danger emanating from domestic terrorism. It should bring some comfort to Muslims and Arab Americans, who were at the receiving end of vicious campaign since Sept 11, accused by most officials and media as the only source of potential terrorism in America. This campaign has not slowed down, and most security and intelligence bureaucracy still oriented to target and monitor Arab and Muslim communities in the United States.

Militia Movement

Unlike most countries, which either use the military or law enforcement to combat civil unrest, the United States has legally recognized the role of the militia to control civil unrest or oppose outside invasion. This principle is found not only in the US constitution, but in the constitutions of all 50 states.

The militia is a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, or emergency law enforcement in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. In most states, it includes the entire able-bodied population of a state that is available to be called to arms.

Although a militia can be called up by the federal government or state governors, it can also consist of regular citizens who call themselves up. This tradition began in America during the early days of colonization, when English colonists, pushing inland from the Atlantic Coast in what is now the northeastern United States, were more land hungry than the French traders, since many of them hoped to establish new lives as farmers. In 1607, with the help of Chief Powhatan and his daughter, Pocahontas, the English founded their first successful American colony at Jamestown in what is now Virginia. However, conflict between Indians and colonists “who wanted land to grow tobacco as a cash crop “eventually destroyed the Powhatan Confederacy. Warfare between Native Americans and English colonists also occurred in the years after the Plymouth Colony was founded in 1620 in present-day Massachusetts. Although these colonists were subsistence farmers rather than cash-crop farmers, their desire for land sparked a series of conflicts that ultimately led to the destruction or displacement of many New England tribes.

. The British had few regular military forces in the American colonies and defense was left up to these militia units, made up of all the able bodied men of the community.

Consequently, the traditional American definition of a militia is any group of able bodied citizens engaged in a defensive action. The National Rifle Association past President Sandy Froman found it politically expedient to claim, that the first action taken against the terrorists of September 11, 2001 was a militia action taken by the passengers of United flight 93.
However, the history of the militia movement is spotted. Although the American militia was responsible for the heavy causalities suffered by the British Army during the first battle of the American Revolution, Lexington and Concord, their record is generally less spectacular. Although militia units fought in the Revolutionary War, they were generally unreliable and the final victory was due to regular army troops trained in the European way of warfare. Militias called up in later wars were also found to be less reliable than trained regular forces.

In addition to the organized militias that can be called up by the state and federal governments, there is also the unorganized militia, which can be any group of American citizens who come together for defense or law enforcement. This definition of the militia was made explicit in the recent Supreme Court ruling on District of Columbia vs. Heller,(3) which reaffirmed the colonial definition of the militia.

It is this concept of unorganized militias that has grown in the last twenty years. The Constitutional Militia Movement, as it is known is an outgrowth of the republican militia tradition that believed an armed populace was supposed to be kept organized and ready to function to safeguard against the tyranny of government and standing armies.

The movement gained strength in the 1990s in response to resentment of the federal government, the passage of the Brady Act in 1993, and the Assault Weapons Ban a year later. Those laws also helped to drive more moderate gun owners into sympathy with some of the Militia movement’s positions. The FBI’s shooting of Vicki and Sam Weaver at Ruby Ridge also alienated many in the gun rights movement. Some members of the Militia movement viewed this as an attempt by the government to disarm the American people. Many people joined militias because they saw it as a way to protect themselves, their families, and their rights from an intruding government.

This militia movement was the breeding ground for extremists like Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. However, the outrage of the Oklahoma City bombings forced many militia groups to oust radical members. This combined with scrutiny by law enforcement caused many militia groups to disband or go underground.

The militia movement has never recovered from the scrutiny it received in the 1990s. The only group that has recently gained national prominence and could be considered a militia is the Minutemen group that has patrolled the border with Mexico. Although several human rights groups closely monitored their movements along the border, the Minutemen limited their operations to merely observing illegal immigrants entering the country and reporting their positions to federal border patrol agents. As the immigration issue has cooled, interest in the organization has died down and members have drifted away.

Although there has been talk that the Obama Presidency may mark the return of the militia movement, the first 100 days of the Obama Administration has seen no evidence of a resurgence of militia units. However, conservative concerns about Obama’s positions on gun ownership, economic policy, and the power of the federal government may change that in the next year.

The Second Amendment and the American right to own Firearms

No other nation in the world sees the right to own a firearm as Americans do. According to the United Nations, 39% of all American households have a firearm and there are 9 firearms for every 10 Americans. Every month Americans legally purchase enough firearms to arm the Indian Army. In addition, there are 3.5 million Americans that are licensed to carry a concealed firearm wherever they go.

The American Bill of Rights enumerates many rights ” freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, right to jury trial and the right to be secure from government seizure of property. Yet, none of them have created the political controversy as the Second Amendment, which guarantees Americans the right to keep and bear arms. President Clinton admitted that the Assault Weapons ban helped deliver the Congress to the Republicans in 1994 and Al Gore admitted that his support for gun control led to his defeat in 2000.
Although gun ownership has been an accepted right for most of America’s history, restrictions began to appear in the 1960s after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. By the 1970s, gun control had become an issue for the left wing. By the early 1990s, two laws had galvanized American gun owners ” the Brady Act, which required a criminal check for guns sold by firearms dealers, and the Assault Weapons Ban, which made the manufacture of certain semi-automatic weapons illegal. The result was a surge in support for Republicans, which contributed to the first Republican control of Congress in forty years.

To understand the American fascination with guns, its strong political influence, and how it energizes the right wing base, one must understand American history.

Firearm ownership is strongly tied to the battle for American independence. The first battle of the American Revolution, Lexington and Concord, was a battle to protect an arsenal of privately owned firearms from confiscation by the British Army. Although the British did destroy the heavier cannon, the militias, with their privately owned firearms inflicted terrible damage to British soldiers on their retreat to Boston. And, although regularly trained military units with government owned firearms were eventually the key to defeating the British in the war, the average American with their own firearm did contribute and in the process became part of American legend.

This victory over the British reinforced the belief of the founding fathers of the American Revolution that private ownership of firearms is the final guarantee of freedom over tyranny. This is evident when one reads the debates surrounding the development of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many of America’s founding fathers were concerned about the tyranny of government and wanted to guarantee that Americans could overthrow a tyrannical government just as they had recently defeated the British.

Consequently, the Second Amendment has a central place in the hearts of many conservatives. It is seen not only as a guarantee of the right to own guns, but also the implicate right to overthrow a tyrannical government if necessary. Therefore, when the left wing advocates government restrictions on guns, especially in conjunction with passing legislation that gives more power to the central government, it is seen as an attack on American freedoms by many conservatives.
Despite the enormous financial crisis facing president Obama, no other issue poses more potential problems domestically for the Obama Administration than the Second Amendment issue. Although Obama has said that he has no plans to restrict guns, he is on record opposing gun ownership. He has also appointed many anti-gun proponents like Attorney General Holder. Many Second Amendment supporters think he is merely awaiting a shooting tragedy before going ahead with his anti-gun agenda.

No other issue can galvanize the right wing and radicalize conservative opposition to Obama as the gun issue. Attempts to restrict the types of guns that can be owned could reenergize the militia movement and will definitely cause friction with several states as they reassert their sovereignty and separation of powers from the federal government.

State Sovereignty and Federalism

Although many are aware of the checks and balances between the office of the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court, there is another set of balances in the US Constitution that will be the biggest threat to the Obama Administration in the next four years” state sovereignty.

Again, understanding state sovereignty and federalism requires understanding early American history. When Britain finally recognized American independence, the United States was a loose confederation of 13 states, which had ultimate sovereignty within their borders. In order to gain ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, a balance was struck between states’ rights and federal rights. In fact, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution specifically stated that rights not granted to the Federal government in the Constitution belonged to the states or the people. However, over the decades, the 10th Amendment was more honored in the breach than the observance. However, the Supreme Court has regularly ruled that states do have considerable powers and many parts of federal law, including parts of the Brady Act that restricted gun ownership, were overthrown because they intrude on state powers.
This power has been used by both sides of the political spectrum. States like California, which are controlled by the left leaning liberals wing ( in the American political context), have used state sovereignty to impose stronger environmental regulations than those mandated by the federal government. And, during the Bush Administration, many Democratic Party controlled states passed laws to negate federal regulation.

Unlike many other movements like the militia movement, the issue of state sovereignty is an official one and has found considerable support amongst many elected officials at the state level who are concerned by growing federal control. Already, 9 states: Washington, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, California, and Georgia have all introduced bills and resolutions declaring sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. In most cases, these are resolutions, which do not have legal enforcement provisions. However, Montana has taken steps to directly challenge federal gun control laws.

Montana recently passed a law that states that firearms manufactured in Montana, and sold in Montana don’t have to comply with federal firearms laws.(4) Since the Constitution says that the federal government only has power in regulating interstate commerce and the Supreme Court has affirmed that provision, Montana maintains that federal firearms laws have no validity within the state. The law also has legal power because it orders the state attorney general to defend any Montana citizen charged by the federal government for firearms violations. The first challenge to federal power is expected in months and will challenge the right of the federal government to require licenses for the manufacture of firearms.

As the Obama Administration makes more changes to federal law, expect the state sovereignty movement to gain strength as elected state officials reaffirm their rights. Unlike the previous issues discussed in this paper, this isn’t as much a threat from a small extremist element as much as it will be a reaction from voters to events in Washington.


If state sovereignty is the first step in rejecting federal control, then succession is the last step. The issue was brought to the forefront recently when the governor of Texas stated that Texas had the right to succeed from the United States if it so desired.

Succession has been threatened by both left and right wing radicals. In 2004, many liberal extremists, who saw the East and West Coasts vote for Kerry, advocated succeeding from the United States. It was just one of many proposals that have been mentioned over the history of the US.

Understanding the concept of succession requires going back to America’s founding. The first official US document, the Declaration of Independence, claimed the right to withdraw from an unpopular government (in this case, the British Empire). Although the US Constitution doesn’t address the issue of a state leaving the union, it was generally understood that since the states willingly joined the United States, they could willing leave it.

Although there were many stillborn attempts to succeed, it took the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to cause several states to declare their independence from the United States. The resulting Civil War settled the matter in fact, but not under law. In fact, Confederate States President Jefferson Davis later noted, “A question settled by force of arms remains forever unsettled.” Given America’s founding documents and international law respecting the rights of peoples to live under their own control, there is a legal case for succession, even if there is no practical case for it.

Although a noted Russian historian has predicted the breakup of the United States in the near future, it remains very unrealistic. The mobility of the American people has eliminated the strong attachments to a specific state seen in previous generations. This precludes the popular support from the electorate necessary for a state legislature and governor to actually consider succession. And, commerce has tied states too closely together to make separation economically practical. Succession, while a pipe dream for extremists on both sides, is impractical.

The Potential Right Wing Extremist threat to the US

Having reviewed several threats, it’s time to assess their potential to cause violence. It’s important at this time to also separate political disagreements with the Obama Administration from the threat of violence. For instance, the National Rifle Association, which has about 5 million members strongly opposes the Obama Administration’s gun control stands, but it does not advocate violence and in fact works closely with many pro-gun Democrats like Congressman John Dingell.

Obviously, the biggest threat of violence comes from succession, provided that succession causes a civil war. However, the threat of that occurring is minimal as recent polls showed that few Americans favor succession and succession would require the vote of a state’s legislature.

The state sovereignty movement offers the least potential of extremist violence. Sovereignty movements require the election of a majority of legislators in a given state.

State sovereignty, however, does offer a serious political challenge to the Obama Administration’s policies. Since the Constitution and court cases by the US Supreme Court have affirmed state sovereignty in many cases, federal regulations could be challenged by several states. However, since these challenges will take several years to work their way through the legal system, the final outcome is uncertain.

We now come to the biggest threats of violence” gun issues and the militia. As stated earlier, gun issues don’t directly cause violence, but they do radicalize the conservative base and cause the creation of groups that do espouse violence. Although these groups may not actually be militias, we will treat them as such for the course of the paper, since it could be argued that they are unorganized militias.

The unfavorable publicity of militias from the 1990s and the extensive law enforcement attention they received will preclude the highly visible militia units we saw 15 years ago. Units will probably try to emulate the more successful methods of environmental groups like Earth First or animal rights activists, which are so decentralized as to make law enforcement’s job harder.
Right wing extremist groups will also learn lessons from the Oklahoma City bombings. The deaths marginalized militia groups and destroyed their support amongst average citizens. Consequently, any similar attacks would only hurt their cause.

Attacks would be more likely to follow left wing radical extremist tactics of attacking property and limiting human death and injury. Earth First radicals focused on attacking construction equipment and expensive housing developments, which attracted less attention and criticism.

Right wing extremists might be more likely to attack federal property in ways designed to limit human causalities but cause problems for the government. Targets might be picked that would attract support or at least apathy. A strike against IRS computers would likely be seen in the same way as the environmental radicals who damage heavy equipment that is scheduled to destroy a pristine environment.

How the Obama Administration responds to these attacks will determine how successful they will be in stopping right wing extremism. The heavy handed tactics of the government at Ruby Ridge and Waco only radicalized many right wing extremists and led to the Oklahoma City bombing.

The Obama Administration may not like states that exercise their sovereignty to oppose administration initiatives. However, the legally passed laws of popularly elected politicians can’t be considered right wing extremism or a threat of violence. Similarly, the majority of Americans believes in the right to keep and bear arms, but do not espouse violence or the forcible overthrow of the government. Nor, can the belief in the right own firearms be considered a right wing extremist belief.


Recently The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), issued an intelligence assessment titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The political fallout from the report was immense and included calls for the resignation of DHS secretary Janet Napolitano. The President of the non-partisan American Legion, the largest organization of veterans angrily called for an apology for insinuating veterans were more likely to commit extremist actions.
The report also caught the Obama Administration by surprise. White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned.”

The White House response and the comments from the American Legion demonstrated the lack of specific information provided in this report. Rather than draw on recent events of right wing extremism, the report used events from 15 years ago and suppositions to draw its conclusions. For instance, in its key findings, it said, “The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.”(5)

Although there was no specific threat, DHS announced that it would focus law enforcement resources on the, “political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization.”(6) This despite FBI guidelines that specify, “In its efforts to anticipate or prevent crime, the FBI must at times initiate investigations in advance of criminal conduct. It is important that such investigations not be based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment or on the lawful exercise of any other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” By announcing that it was looking at political factors, it allows for the political manipulation by various groups of the document. In fact, even the liberal paper, the Boston Globe noted, “Homeland Security has a responsibility to keep law enforcement officials aware of potential threats. But it must not tie their hands by making them look like the arm of a political machine.”

Also it invited more scrutiny of previous government actions, like the arrest of 12 people that were accused of being members of a private Arizona militia unit, called the Vipers and plotting for more than two years to bomb government offices in the Phoenix area. The bombing charges were later dropped.

Dissecting the report

Despite the attempt by many conservatives to focus on the political nature of the report, it’s important to look at the information in it and analyze the threats posed by various groups.

In terms of controversy, the claim that veterans might be recruited into extremist groups was the one that raised the biggest storm. The memo stated, “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” (8) It then noted, “After Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, some returning military veterans”including Timothy McVeigh “joined or associated with rightwing extremist groups.”

The fact is that there is a current operation called Vigilant Eagle that looks at returning veterans and their tendency to join extremist groups. According to the FBI, at least 19 Iraq or Afghanistan war vets (from 203 vets identified) have joined the “extremist movement”. The potential danger can be surmised when we recognize some statistics. More than half of America’s 1.4 million active-duty military personal have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and there are roughly 23 million veterans in the United States.(9)

The report also looks at several other groups that could fall under the rubric of right wing extremism. The report noted, “Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”(10) It also noted “Many right-wing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling.(11)

The threat, then, is focused on hate oriented groups. . The report notes, “The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.”

Although there are several racist, extremist groups in the United States like the Ku Klux Klan, the report didn’t delve into the specific threat they pose or recent activities they pose to Americans. Nor, did they investigate several neo-Nazi groups that espouse violence and the overthrow of the US government.


Recruitment of Military Experience into White Supremacist Extremism (12)

Military experience “ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces” is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color. FBI cases also document instances of active duty military personnel having volunteered their professional resources to white supremacist causes.

Some veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined the extremist movement. However, they have not done so in numbers sufficient to stem declines among major national extremist organizations caused by the deaths or incarcerations of significant leaders and disruptive in-fighting. Nor has their participation resulted in a demonstrably more violent extremist movement. Post-9/11 activities by current or former military personnel involved in the extremist movement span the range of activities engaged in by their extremist compatriots who lack military experience, and include weapons violations, physical violence, paramilitary training, intelligence collection, drug violations, fraud, threats, and arson.

Warfare and White Supremacist Extremism

Warfare against those opposing white supremacy or the creation of a separate white homeland is commonly anticipated within the white supremacist extremist movement and motivates its leaders to recruit those with military experience. The beliefs inspiring this anticipation of racial warfare include the following:
• Several white supremacist extremist groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations, adhere to Christian Identity teachings, which anticipate the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ based upon idiosyncratic interpretations of the Bible. One interpretation anticipates God will use the chosen race (white Christians) as a divine weapon against the forces of evil (nonwhites and Jews) in a purifying race war preliminary to Christ’s establishing God’s kingdom on earth.
• The Creativity Movement espouses the concept of RAHOWA (“Racial Holy War”) for survival of the white race. Creativity literature claims RAHOWA is the inevitable and only solution for sustaining the white race “described as the supreme act of creation”against non-white peoples.
• Neo-Nazi groups idolize Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany. Of these groups, the National Socialist Movement patterns its organizational structure after the German Army of the Hitler era in anticipation of war against the US Government, people of color, and Jews. Among skinhead groups, Blood and Honour, USA, advocates establishing white superiority through war against those opposed to National Socialism.
• Odinism, as interpreted within the extremist movement, perceives a threatened destruction by Jewish conspiracy of pre-Christian Northern European cultures and ethnicities. Odinism has a broad following among racist skinheads and has open sympathies with National Socialism, which historically embraced Wotanism as an aspect of Aryan culture during the German Nazi era. Odinists believe evil temporarily dominates the current age, during which the faithful prepare for the nihilistic battle of Ragnarök (“doom of the gods”) preceding a purified new world.

Presence and Activity of Those with Military Experience in the Extremist Movement

A review of FBI white supremacist extremist cases from October 2001 to May 2008 identified 203 individuals with confirmed or claimed military service active in the extremist movement at some time during the reporting period. This number is minuscule in comparison with the projected US veteran population of 23,816,000 as of 2 May 2008, or the 1,416,037 active duty military personnel as of 30 April 2008. It is also a small percentage of an estimated US white supremacist extremist population, which, based on FBI investigations, currently numbers in the low thousands. However, the prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.


Around the same time the Bush administration’s DHS produced the “rightwing extremism” document, the FBI received a request to work on a similar report. “Fox News’s Catherine Herridge revealed that the report, along with an earlier report on radicalized left-wing groups, was actually ‘requested by the Bush administration’ but not completed until recently,” Think Progress reported on April 15.


While the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith purports to be a Jewish civil rights organization, in reality the ADL is a Zionist advocacy group which conducts extensive surveillance on individuals and groups across the political spectrum. The San Francisco district attorney accused the ADL of conducting a national “spy network” after a 1993 raid on the organization’s San Francisco offices uncovered computer files [including stolen confidential police documents containing personal information] on 9,876 individuals and more than 950 groups. Noam Chomsky decried the ADL’s “Stalinist-style mentality and behavior” after a detailed 150-page report on his activities was leaked to him by someone within the group. While the ADL denies engaging in illegal activities, they boast of their “nationwide fact-finding infrastructure.” According to their web site, they specialize in gathering, analyzing and disseminating intelligence on extremism to law enforcement agencies in order for them to combat “serious threats”.

The report also shows striking similarities with organizations that supposedly track extremist groups, but have radical agendas. One such group is the Anti-Defamation League, which has been a strong opponent of American’s right to bear arms. (13) Comparisons to the concerns of the ADL and verbiage in the report indicate that much of the report may have been generated by the ADL rather than DHS. One example in that press release was the statement, “Gun violence and the caching of dangerous weapons are commonplace among extremists. If states lose the right to regulate firearm ownership, it would help violent bigots in their efforts to create an America based on hate and intolerance.” This was surprisingly similar to statements in the DHS report like, “The high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by rightwing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement.” (14) Another ADL quote, “Some extreme movements may focus around a single, narrow issue, such as abortion,” is nearly exactly the same wording as that found in the DHS report. Obviously, there is a question if the report is a serious intelligence report by the government or a rehashing of the ADL agenda.


1. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Department of Homeland Security.
3. Supreme Court of the United States ruling. District of Columbia et al. v. Heller. No. 07-290. Pg. 2
4. Montana House Bill No. 246, introduce 2009.
5. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Pg 2.
6. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Page 8
7. “Raiding the Vipers Nest. Reason Magazine, December 1996.
8. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Pg. 2
9. (Right) Winging it at DHS. National Review Online. Jonah Goldberg, April 17, 2009.
10. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Pg. 2
11. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Pg. 5
12. White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11. JULY 2008
13. Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Pg. 2
14. ADL to Supreme Court: States Should Regulate Firearms, January 11, 2008.

Erdogan’s Middle East Diplomacy: A New Nasser in the Making?

Erdogan’s Middle East Diplomacy: A New Nasser in the Making?


On January 9 Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asked Erdogan to send a special envoy to Egypt to join in the cease-fire negotiations between Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas officials. A delegation under the leadership of Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser, was sent to take part in the negotiations. Positive developments prompted the Turkish delegation to make an unplanned visit to Damascus to meet with the Syrian foreign minister and Hamas officials. The Turkish delegation’s contacts reportedly “have made significant contributions to the cease-fire process and developments concerning this issue are moving in a positive direction” (Today’s Zaman, January 13). Hamas’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, “Turkey’s suggestions for the cease-fire were the most constructive and balanced so far” (Zaman, January 13). Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos announced that Hamas had finally agreed to the Egyptian plan (Yeni Safak, January 15).

In addition to Turkey’s diplomatic presence in Middle Eastern affairs, Erdogan’s condemnation of Israel has made him especially popular among ordinary Arabs. The Turkish press reported that a big anti-Israel demonstration was held in Damascus and participants chanted “Arab leaders, traitors; hello to Tayyip Erdogan” (Yeni Safak, January 15).

Erdogan’s censure of Israel made headlines across the Arab world. It was reported by Al Jazeera, and Arab readers enthusiastically supported Erdogan’s position, saying:

“Erdogan is not a man of words; he is a man of action. Erdogan! I thank you for your courage at a time when everybody prefers to keep silent,” wrote Ramadan Ahmet Muhammad, a regular reader of Al Jazeera news. Another enthusiastic reader, Muhammad Ataullah Uthman, said he raised his hat to Erdogan’s remarks and called for the Turkish prime minister to continue efforts to gather all Arabs and Muslims under the flag of Turkey. Khalid Ahmed al-Aydi says, “Oh God! Help Islam and the Muslims with this bold man. He is not afraid of anyone but God. Help him in his efforts for the Muslim community and a strong Turkey. I would like so much for all Muslims to be united under the flag of this man against the enemies of Islam” (Today’s Zaman, January 9).

Just as popular Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser had won the support in the streets across Arab world with his anti-imperialist rhetoric in 1950s, Erdogan is winning popularity among Arabs with his anti-Israel oratory. Erdogan’s popularity was not limited to the man in the street, however. Arab intellectuals have also shown their support for Erdogan’s efforts and statements about the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Syrian Journalist, Husnu Mahalli, who writes for the Turkish daily Aksam, said that with his point of view, Erdogan would receive 90 percent of the vote if he established a party in Syria or Egypt (, January 10). Jordanian columnist Hamadeh Faraneh said:

Arabs were moved on two fronts: By the sensitivity the Turkish nation showed to the passion of the Palestinian people and by the historical and official stance of the Turkish government in the face of Israel and its readiness to help the Palestinian people, both materially and spiritually. Today, Turkey overcame the memories of World War I. I can say that since World War I, Turkey’s image in the Arab world has never been better (Today’s Zaman, January 7).

Khalaf Ahmed Al Habtoor, a columnist from Lebanon’s The Daily Star, wrote:

Few heroes have emerged on the diplomatic level during the Gaza conflict; and, sadly, the Arab world hasn’t managed to produce even one. Turkey’s position on Gaza has been clear and crisp, in sharp contrast to our own regretful diplomatic paralysis. I salute Mr. Erdogan for his unequivocal message to Israel, his country’s long-time ally. Speaking on January 4, he said, “God will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.” I suspect these courageous words have reverberated in the minds and hearts of all Arabs as they did within my own. Unlike Turkey, at the start of Israel’s campaign some Arab governments contented themselves with blaming Hamas for Israel’s bombs. Instead of standing together against a country that occupies, oppresses, and murders our fellow Arabs, our leaders chose either to discredit the victims or virtually ignore them (The Daily Star, January 13 )

It should be noted that the positive change in the Arab view toward Turkey began with the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s new Middle East policy initiatives. With these initiatives, the Erdogan government has attempted to deepen its influence in the countries of the Middle East. The efforts of the AKP government have started producing warm feelings toward Turkey among the Arabs. Al Ahram Weekly recently stated that “while it may have been the case that Turkish secularists have been more or less aloof to the concerns and issues of the Middle East, the tendency [among Arabs], now, is to see Turkey as no more than the Justice and Development Party, as though this were not [just] one among several other political parties in Turkey” (Al Ahram Weekly, December 3-9, 2008). It seems that his recent statements against Israel and his sincere stance on the Palestinian issue have helped make Erdogan a hero, if not a new Nasser, in the Arab world. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will help Turkey become an active diplomatic player in Middle Eastern affairs.