Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Imperial Japanese Navy, not quite, but The Rising Sun in back into power projection.

Japan is starting to field helicopter carriers and seeing the neighborhood, that is logical. China is passing a 300 ship navy, just fielded a carrier (purchased from the Russians) and is working on producing their own. North Korea, enough said.

Both of the nations I mentioned have reasons to fear Japan, but Japan has more reasons to fear them right now. The big question is when will Japan decide to join the nuke club. They make the decision to do so they will be operational within 6 months. China may be good at copying other people's stuff, but Japan can make this happen on its own.

And seeing the United States is now showing leadership at this moment, this is a wise act on the Japanese.




Japan's Latest Destroyer Sure Looks Like An Aircraft Carrier

Japan has inducted into service its largest warship since WWII, the 814 foot long Izumo. The activation of such a large ship, dubbed a 'Helicopter Destroyer,' has regional powers and academics alike questioning the limits of Article 9 in Japan's Constitution.

Clearly the Izumo, which is about the size of Italy's new Aircraft Carrier Cavour, is an aircraft carrier itself. Seeing that aircraft carriers are widely considered offensive weapons, something Japan's own constitution prohibits, this ship, and even its smaller Hyuga Class Helicopter Destroyer cousins, may be proof that Japan is moving back to an expeditionary military posture.

Japan's change is defense posture, although subtle (at least as subtle as slowly building larger and larger aircraft carriers while still calling them destroyers can be), is not unusual in the region as China has grown much more brazen and brash when it comes claiming, and even building, territory in the region.

As a result of China's growing dominance, a military arms race is gaining speed in the region. This movement has been even more charged as China gains more and more unique technological capabilities that will help it make good on its various territorial claims in the future.

Japan's own major dispute with China surrounds the uninhabited but strategic Senkaku Islands. This has resulted in intense diplomatic tensions between the two nations, as well as overlapping and conflicting air identification zones and nearly continuous aerial intercepts as a result, which also come at a great financial cost.

Having an aircraft carrier to project power in a region that is becoming increasingly volatile is not such a bad idea, but the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force will shy away from saying that the Izumo is an aircraft carrier at all. They say it will primarily be used for anti-submarine warfare and disaster relief. It can certainly do those missions and do them well, but you don't build this big of a flattop to for hunt submarines around a few Destroyers, Frigates and logistical ships while on deployment.

There is no reason the Izumo cannot deploy dozens of JGSDF AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, heavy and medium assault helicopters or even the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter one day. Seeing as Japan already has the F-35A on order, and there have been no claims saying the Izumo's design precludes it from accepting the short takeoff and vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter in the future, it remains a real possibility.

Aside from possibly signalling a departure from Japan's core self defense principals that were ratified post World War II, the fielding of Izumo and her yet to be delivered sister ship, is just one of many signals that underline the fact that the Pacific Theater increases in geopolitical volatility by the day. As a result, major powers are putting their money where their insecurities lay in order to deter future aggression and to provide a way to respond to territorial threats should that deterrence fail.

Officer Down


Patrolman George S. Nissen
Stone Park Illinois Police Department
End of Watch: Thursday, March 12, 2015
Age: 51
Tour: 27 years
Badge # 33

Patrolman George Nissen succumbed to injuries sustained 10 years earlier when he was assaulted while attempting to break up a large fight on February 13th, 2005.

He had responded with other officers to the disturbance at a bar at 1622 North Mannheim Road. As Patrolman Nissen approached one of the subjects in the fight he was attacked and thrown to the ground, striking his head on the pavement.

He initially believed he was okay but a short time later during his shift he began to feel ill. He was taken to a local hospital the following day where it was discovered he had suffered a concussion, which resulted in several surgeries. He suffered a serious complication during one of the surgeries which resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic and unable to speak. He passed away as a result of his injuries on March 12th, 2015.

Patrolman Nissen had served in law enforcement for 27 years, having served with the Stone Park Police Department and Northlake Police Department. He is survived by his daughter and four brothers. One of his brothers served with the Northlake Police Department.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

A complete idiot, and to think it's only gotten worse with John Kerry (who by the way, served in Vietnam)

Mrs. Bill Clinton will give blonds a bad name.



She actually said the reason for so many casualties was because "Hamas puts its missiles, its rockets in civilian areas; part of it is because Gaza is pretty small and it’s densely populated.” She also said "They put their command and control of Hamas military leaders in those civilian areas..."

No there does Mrs. Bill Clinton mention that Hamas has in its charter "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

But she is showing her ignorance of the laws of war and that combatants are not to use civilians as shields for their armed forces. And she is a Ivy League trained attorney.

Prehaps Mrs. Clinton should realize this will go on until the PLO is defeated by Israel. As an aside, Mrs Clinton, will you demand that their is an accounting of the billions in aid given to the Palestians over the decsdes but for some reason they still live in tents. And the PLO leadership lives in mansions.

Maybe Mrs. Clinton you should remember this statement from a brave woman who is something you will never be. A leader.

“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

Golda Meir

God, where is today's Halberstam writing about the latest version of The Best and the Brightest!







Officer Down


Police Officer Burke Rhoads
Nicholasville Kentucky Police Department
End of Watch: Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Age: 35
Tour: 7 years
Badge # 574

Police Officer Burke Rhoads was killed in a vehicle collision at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Rogers Road, in Garrard County, at approximately 7:00 am.

He was en route to Eastern Kentucky University to take a training course when another vehicle turned in front of his patrol car. The collision spun the patrol car around into oncoming traffic, where it was struck a second time from the rear.

Officer Rhoads was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

Officer Rhoads was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the Nicholasville Police Department for seven years. He is survived by his wife, daughter, and two sons.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Bringing the courts under control

Typical of a liberal, they want rule by our betters.

Once of the ways liberals try to set in stone their agenda is through the courts. Abortion anyone? There is nothing in the Constitution about birth control, abortion, etc, but between Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, they established a federal mandate for abortion where none exist and forbade the people of this country, though their elected representatives from having significant input. Whereas it was a decision to be made by the state legislatures it was now a directive from the courts.

Now liberals have a selective view of the what is in the Constitution, such as the 2nd Amendment is a "collective right" for the states (even though it says "right of the people"). And one thing they seem to not like is the fact Congress can set the appellate jurisdiction of the federal court system.
Ted Cruz Threatens To Take Away The Supreme Court’s Power To Decide Marriage Equality Cases

BY IAN MILLHISER

In the likely event that the Supreme Court brings marriage equality to all 50 states this summer, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants to strip the entire federal judiciary of its power to hear cases brought by same-sex couples seeking the right to marry, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Cruz’s remarks came during a speech in Sioux City, Iowa, where the tea party senator also praised the original, more discrimination-friendly version of Indiana’s new “religious liberty” law, and claimed that a cabal of liberals and big business endorsed a “radical gay marriage agenda” which says that “any person of faith is subject to persecution if they dare” disagree with marriage equality.

Jurisdiction stripping is a controversial idea that has occasionally been proposed by social conservatives seeking to neuter court decisions that they disapprove of. In 1981, for example, lawmakers introduced a total of 22 bills seeking to remove the Supreme Court’s power to hear cases involving “prayer in the schools, abortion, school busing, a males-only draft and state court rulings.” Reacting to Sen. Jesse Helms’s (R-NC) proposal to eliminate the Court’s authority to hear school prayer cases, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) claimed that the bill was akin to “outlawing the Supreme Court.”

Yet, while successful court-stripping proposals are extraordinarily rare, and legal scholars disagree on whether stripping the Supreme Court of its full authority to hear an issue is even constitutional, there is a plausible legal argument supporting such proposals. The Constitution provides that “[t]he judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Thus, because lower federal courts are creations of Congress, federal lawmakers have the power to define the scope of these courts’ power, and a bill stripping lower federal courts of their authority to decide a question would most likely be constitutional.

Attacks on the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction are more controversial, but they also have a plausible basis in the Constitution’s text. According to Article III of the Constitution, in most cases, “the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.” Proponents of jurisdiction-stripping claim that this power to make “exceptions” to the justices’ jurisdiction includes the power to eliminate their power to decide certain questions.

Congress actually did engage in jurisdiction stripping on at least one occasion, and the Supreme Court upheld its decision to do so. During Reconstruction, a military commander jailed a newspaper publisher accused of publishing “incendiary and libellous” articles. Though the publisher sought an order from the Supreme Court requiring his release, Congress stripped the justices of jurisdiction to hear the matter in March of 1868. That December, a unanimous Court held in Ex parte McCardle held that this jurisdiction stripping bill bound the Court....

So Mr. Millhiser wants to say here is the Congress should not use it's power (in "marriage equity" cases) to control the courts. But I wonder if he would have the same issue if a Democratic Congress would push through a measure to stop appeals of against Obamacare or the blatantly unconstitutional "executive amnesty"?

One of the great issues since the Progressive Era started in the early 1900s is the ceding, by Congress (and to a lesser extent the President) their their legislating powers to the bureaucracy and the courts. Agencies such as the EPA, OSHA and FCC issues regulations with the force and penalty of law and the people have no input. Conveniently gives the members of the congress an excuse that they are not at fault for the EPA shutting down coal fired plants based on fiction such as "global climate change" (I think that's the current term for it) and gives them time to concentrate on the important things. Such as hearings on if baseball players shot themselves in the ass with steroids.

The process of reestablishing the republic will be hard and long, but one of the first steps will be to exert Congressional control over the courts and the bureaucracy. The EPA, OSHA, etc should not be able to issue regulations without the approval of a majority of the congress. And the courts needs to "...defer to the legislature where the Constitution is silent.", in the wise words of Robert Bork. And maybe the members of that body will spend more time actually attending to the people's business, as opposed to be content to a government on autopilot.

Long range Iris Scanner.

Yesterday I posed on gangs using biometric data to look for the "good guys". Here is something from this morning and it's rather sobering.
Iris Scanner Identifies a Person 40 Feet Away



Police traffic stops are in the news again, tragically, sparking a new round of discussion on whether and how to outfit police with cameras and other technology.

For several years now, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Biometrics Center have been testing an iris recognition system that can be used to identify subjects at a range of up to 40 feet.

Like similar biometric technologies — fingerprint or facial recognition systems — the Carnegie Mellon project uses mathematical pattern-recognition techniques. The technology captures images from a live photographic or video feed and runs them through a database to find a potential match.

Like fingerprints, every iris is unique — thanks to enormously complex patterns that remain the same throughout a person’s lifetime. High-resolution cameras can capture images of the iris from a distance using light in the near-infrared wavelength band.

In the realm of law enforcement, iris recognition could be used to identify suspects at long range in various lighting conditions. The system can even be used to capture images through reflections in a mirror.

The CMU team recently posted a video successfully testing the system in a typical traffic stop scenario. Using the long-range iris scanner, the system was able to identify the driver of a vehicle by capturing an image of the eye via the side-view mirror....

This is early in development but significant. We already have license plate readers on police vehicles that can read a plate, query a database and alert an officer for hits (e.g. stolen vehicle, warrants, etc). Think a scanner for checking the iris data of a room full of people could be that far fetched.

What if gangs can develop an online database of LEOs? Radical thought, but not that far fetched. Most officers on the street will have regular interaction with the public. If someone is publicly filming them, can this information be developed? Hell, many officers put it out themselves via Facebook, etc. Of if the police have it in their database, it can be hacked. Once it's in a system it's there for life. Conceivable you could obtain a rookie's iris data, place it into a database and then hold it. Five years later Officer Rookie has moved from patrol to undercover narcotics. And they know who he is.

Yes, I'm taking a few liberties with this, but 40 years ago DNA identification was not even science fiction. Plus we may be able to develop countermeasures to prevent data harvesting. A brave new world we must confront.

And this is a problem why?

I found this in this morning's Houston Chronicle (actually from the Washington Post) and it's interesting.

Kansas bans welfare recipients from seeing movies, going swimming on government’s dime
There’s nothing fun about being on welfare, and a new Kansas law aims to keep it that way.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed House Bill 2258 into law Thursday. The measure means Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state’s dime.

Those are just a few of the restrictions contained within the law that aims to tighten regulations on how poor families spend their government aid. It will go into effect July 1.

The measure — called the HOPE Act by supporters — “provides an opportunity for success,” Brownback said in a statement after signing the bill. “It’s about the dignity of work and helping families move from reliance on a government pittance to becoming self-sufficient by developing the skills to find a well-paying job and build a career.”

State Sen. Michael O’Donnell, a Wichita Republican who has advocated for the bill, said the legislation was designed to pressure those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to spend “more responsibly.

“We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” O’Donnell, vice chair of the state senate’s standing committee on public health and welfare, told the Topeka Capital-Journal earlier this year. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

That, according to the legislation, means limiting spending on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics. The measure — which limits TANF recipients from withdrawing more than $25 per day from ATMs — also forbids recipients from spending money at a:

…theme park, dog or horse racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented business or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted...”

Well, being on welfare is not supposed to be fun so what is the issue here? It is supposed to be a bridge to help you when you're down on your luck (i. e. lost your job). It is supposed to provide temporary assistance, not be a career choice. Well, maybe that is not how some see it.


Some people don't have issues with this. I think we call them Democrats.
“I just think we are simply saying to people, ‘If you are asking for assistance in this state, you’re sort of less than other people and we’re going to tell you how and where to spend your money,'” state Rep. Carolyn Bridges, a Wichita Democrat, said during a House debate, according to the Associated Press...

...Since then, the measure has drawn national attention. Jon Stewart contrasted the bill with another Kansas bill Brownback signed that relaxes some restrictions on gun owners. “You’re poor, but you’re still an American,” Stewart said.

Under the new welfare law, TANF recipients can still spend their benefit money on guns, the Wichita Eagle reported.

“The list has attracted attention because it feels mean-spirited,” Shannon Cotsoradis, head of advocacy group Kansas Action for Children, told AP. “It really seems to make a statement about how we feel about the poor...”

I actually agree with the gun issue (assuming this is true...we are talking the Washington Post and Jon Leibowitz here) but the rest is not an issue. Since when did expecting yourself (if not actually disabled) to support yourself and your family somehow evil and the breeding (Yes, I use that word intentionally) of one generation after another to simply exist and vote is not wicked. But let's be honest here, the Democrats need an underclass to keep them in power. Not to mention if you can afford body art, alcohol, etc, you really don't need public assistance.

Thank you Kansas, now if you could get ride of that idiot Senator and spread this idea to California, New York, New Jersey...

Officer Down


Deputy Sheriff Johnny Gatson
Warren County Mississippi Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Age: 58
Tour: 3 years
Incident Date: 2/23/2015

Deputy Sheriff Johnny Gatson died as the result of injuries suffered a single vehicle crash that occurred on February 23rd, 2015.

He was traveling on Oak Ridge Road when his patrol car struck a patch of black ice, left the roadway, and struck a tree. The collision caused him to suffer a fractured leg. He was treated and later released from the hospital. He was recovering at home when he began experiencing shortness of breath and became unresponsive.

He was transported to a nearby hospital where he passed away. It was later determined that he had suffered a pulmonary embolism as a result of the injury to his leg.

Deputy Gatson was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the Warren County Sheriff's Office for two years. He had previously served with the Canton Police Department and Simpson County Sheriff's Office. He is survived by his wife.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Security Weekly: Mexico's Drug War Update: Tamaulipas-Based Groups Struggle, April 16, 2015

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

Mexico City continues to demonstrate that it does not discriminate among the numerous crime groups operating in its territory, despite earlier popular perceptions that it selectively targeted crime groups while ignoring favored rival criminal groups. Since 2013 — the first full year that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto occupied the presidency — Mexico's military and law enforcement have targeted the top-tier leadership from each of Mexico's major regional organized crime umbrellas, based in Sinaloa state, Tamaulipas state and the Tierra Caliente region.

From 2013 through 2014, Mexico's security forces killed or captured top-level crime bosses from all regions. Figures who fell during this offensive included top leaders from the Sinaloa Federation, the Juarez cartel, the Tijuana cartel, Los Zetas, the various Gulf cartel gangs and the Knights Templar. The trend continued into 2015 with the March 5 arrest of top Los Zetas leader Omar "Z-42" Trevino Morales, the Feb. 27 arrest of top Knights Templar leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez and the April 10 arrest of top Sinaloa Federation trafficker Cesar "La Senora" Gastelum Serrano.

As with any arrest of a high-level crime boss, the leadership losses seen during the first quarter increase the chances of major organizational disruptions within each respective criminal organization. For the Knights Templar, which has been all but dismantled since all of its founding leaders were killed or imprisoned, and the Sinaloa Federation, which began decentralizing as early as 2012, this would only cement an already established decline and create a void for smaller, less centralized crime groups to fill. But the arrest of Omar Trevino and of several other ranking Los Zetas members during the first quarter will challenge the Zetas' integrity, even though the group largely managed to evade targeted operations in 2014.

Still, with federal troops conducting campaigns in multiple regions, resource limitations have prevented targeting every group at once in some cases. This has been seen with groups in Tierra Caliente: There, Mexico City has focused primarily on the Knights Templar and, more recently, on the Guerreros Unidos, while the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has thus far evaded significant government pressure. This has opened up opportunities for the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion to expand at the expense of Tamaulipas-based organized crime — and perhaps even for the formation of a fourth regional umbrella group.

A Geographic View of the Cartel Landscape

As indicated in our 2015 Cartel Annual update, Stratfor now divides Mexican organized criminal groups into the distinct geographic areas from which they emerged. This view is not just a convenient way of categorizing an increasingly long list of independent crime groups in Mexico, but rather it reflects the internal realities of most crime groups in Mexico. Leaders from groups such as Los Zetas, the various Gulf cartel successor groups and the Velazquez network climbed the ranks of organized crime through communities based in Tamaulipas state; the criminal brand names that seemingly divide the leaders from each stated group are misleading.

In fact, at one point or another, leaders from each group (both past and present), such as Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero, Omar and Miguel Trevino Morales, and Juan "El 98" Francisco Carrizales worked with one another. Each of their criminal careers began in Nuevo Laredo. Whether fighting or allied with one another, leaders from the various Tamaulipas-based crime groups share much in common. The same dynamic applies to leaders from the other two major umbrella groups in the Tierra Caliente region and Sinaloa state. It is the interconnected nature of both rival and allied crime groups that makes categorizing organized criminal groups by regional umbrellas useful.

Thus, though a group like the Knights Templar suffered rapid leadership losses in 2014 and 2015, other crime bosses from the Tierra Caliente region seamlessly absorbed the criminal operations left behind without an eruption of territorial conflict in most cases (though ongoing rivalries between individual Tierra Caliente groups continued). This dynamic enables the regional umbrellas to maintain a more constant trend of expansion and continuity of activities, even when individual groups within suffer significant losses.

Setbacks to Tamaulipas-Based Groups

By contrast, leadership losses in 2015 significantly impacted all organized criminal groups based in Tamaulipas state. There, Gulf cartel successor groups operating east of Los Zetas' area of operations continue to fight each other while federal troops aggressively pursue them. As with each quarter of 2014, leaders of Gulf cartel successor groups were frequently captured or killed throughout 2015. The comparatively small footprint of each Gulf cartel gang means there are far more leaders to target, all of whom are much less resourceful in evading the authorities than leaders from much larger transnational criminal organizations.

Examples include the April 4 arrest in Tampico of Alfredo "Comandante 58" Martinez Aguilar, a former operator for former top Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen, and the Feb. 15 arrest in Matamoros of Gulf cartel leader Jorge Omar Aguilar Gallardo and two of his accomplices, including his accountant. Meanwhile, the Velazquez network suffered significant leadership losses during the first quarter of 2015 with the arrest of Juan Daniel "El Talibancillo" Velazquez Caballero, one of the top-tier leaders of the Velazquez network and the brother of former top leader and founder Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero.

Because Mexico City was successful in pursuing Tamaulipas state crime bosses from all major crime groups based there, these groups are unlikely to expand during the remainder of 2015. In fact, should organizations like Los Zetas and the Velazquez network prove unable to adapt to leadership losses, the overall territory in Mexico controlled by Tamaulipas organized crime could shrink by the end of 2015. This would open up room for either of the other two regional umbrellas to expand, or for the formation of a new regional umbrella comprising former Tamaulipas organized crime elements now based in southern Mexico, around Veracruz and Tabasco states.

A rapid succession of arrests has significantly compromised Los Zetas. In addition to the arrest of the group's top leader, other notable arrests include the March 14 arrest of Los Zetas regional boss Daniel Menera Sierra in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Nuevo Leon state; the March 14 arrest of Severo Gonzalez Lunas, an alleged financial operator for Los Zetas in Coahuila state; and the March 12 arrest by U.S. authorities of Jose Manuel "Z-31" Saldivar Farias in Laredo, Texas. Authorities have also captured numerous other Zetas members and lower-ranking leaders since March 4, mostly in operations in northeastern Mexico, particularly Coahuila and Tamaulipas states.

Our Cartel Annual Report forecast that Los Zetas were expected to resume their geographic expansion in 2015. Despite the recent arrests of their leaders, Los Zetas have in fact renewed their efforts to reclaim territory lost to the Velazquez network in Zacatecas state in 2015. Violence emerging between the two groups in many areas of the state where signs of Los Zetas operations had previously disappeared show that Los Zetas have begun returning to lost territory. However, the substantial arrests of Zetas leaders in the first quarter will make further Zetas expansion difficult.

Typically, when one crime group's operational capabilities decline — whether because of emerging internal rivalries or leadership losses — another group within the same regional umbrella vies for the first group's territory or criminal operations. But given the blow to Los Zetas from the recent arrests, and given that all Tamaulipas crime groups either continued or began facing significant pressure from authorities, it is unclear whether the Velazquez network or any of the Gulf cartel successor groups could effectively absorb any lost Zetas territory. This makes it more likely that an outside group will expand into territory controlled by a Tamaulipas-based crime group.

Opportunities for Tierra Caliente Groups and a New Umbrella

Tierra Caliente-based organized crime is the most likely to take advantage of continued setbacks to Tamaulipas-based organized crime. Though the frequency of fighting between the two regional umbrellas declined in 2014, active turf wars remain in places like Guanajuato, northern Jalisco, Veracruz and Tabasco states. Tierra Caliente groups such as the Knights Templar and Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion have been particularly active in fighting Tamaulipas crime groups since 2012, particularly Los Zetas and the Velazquez network, in regions such as the Bajio and the southeastern coast of Mexico. The group most likely to expand into Zetas' turf is the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which has operations in Veracruz, Veracruz state, dating back to 2011.

But a fourth regional crime umbrella might emerge to challenge the Tamaulipas-based umbrella by the end of 2015. Currently, Tamaulipas state crime bosses control Los Zetas, but Zetas leaders from outside the state have emerged since 2014 as possible contenders for authority over their respective operations. Notably, Jose Maria Guizar Valencia, who goes by both "El Charly" and "Z-43," oversees Zetas operations in southern Mexico and hails from Tabasco state.

The combination of Los Zetas' Tamaulipas-based leadership suffering rapid losses during the first quarter, all other Tamaulipas-based crime groups facing pressure from authorities, and the existence of a strong crime boss in Guizar Valencia with separate (albeit possibly subordinate, at present) operations raises the chances of a new regional crime group emerging. In this case, control of some geography and operations once under crime groups in Tamaulipas could shift to the south. The geographic advantages of Guizar Valencia's area of operation for organized criminal activities helps explain his growing role within Los Zetas and possible emergence as the overseer of a distinct crime group.

Like many Mexican crime groups, a significant portion of Los Zetas' drug trafficking operations relates to land routes entering Mexico from Central America. This means control of the drug trafficking routes in Mexico's southern region provides significant leverage for any crime boss within Mexico's organized crime landscape. Guizar Valencia's operations in Tabasco and Veracruz states also means he likely oversees a significant portion of maritime routes connecting to Mexico's east coast, whose states also play a critical role in smuggling migrants into the United States and in expanding fuel theft.

The fate of Tamaulipas organized crime for the remainder of 2015 is not yet sealed. Groups like Los Zetas have proved resilient to aggressive government action before. Meanwhile, Mexico City continues to pursue all high-level crime bosses regardless of group affiliation or region. Just how Tamaulipas organized crime and other regional crime umbrellas adjust during the second quarter to the losses in Tamaulipas during the first quarter remains to be seen. Should the operational tempo of government operations targeting Tamaulipas organized crime leaders continue or even increase during the second quarter, the continued expansion of Tamaulipas organized crime in Mexico and elsewhere in the world will finally stall by the end of 2015 — perhaps even fragmenting into separate regional crime umbrellas as part of the continuous Balkanization of organized crime.

COPYRIGHT: STRATFOR.COM

Officer Down










Deputy U.S. Marshal Josie Wells
United States Marshals Service, U.S. Government
End of Watch: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Age: 27
Tour: 4 years

Deputy U.S. Marshal Josie Wells was shot and killed as he and other members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force attempted to serve an arrest warrant on a double-murder suspect at the Elm Grove Motel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Shots were exchanged as the team attempted to take the man into custody and Deputy Wells was struck. He was transported to a local hospital by another deputy marshal but succumbed to his wounds a short time later. The subject was shot multiple times and died the following day.

Deputy Marshal Wells had served with the United States Marshals Service for four years and was assigned to the Southern District Office in Mississippi. He is survived by his expectant wife, parents, three brothers, and four sisters. His father and three brothers are all law enforcement officers.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Geopolitical Weekly: Coming to Terms With the American Empire, April 14, 2015

By George Friedman

"Empire" is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences.

World War II and the Birth of an Empire

The United States became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American War, the United States intentionally took control of the Philippines and Cuba. It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire, but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the subsequent period of isolationism and the Great Depression.

The genuine American empire that emerged thereafter was a byproduct of other events. There was no great conspiracy. In some ways, the circumstances of its creation made it more powerful. The dynamic of World War II led to the collapse of the European Peninsula and its occupation by the Soviets and the Americans. The same dynamic led to the occupation of Japan and its direct governance by the United States as a de facto colony, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as viceroy.

The United States found itself with an extraordinary empire, which it also intended to abandon. This was a genuine wish and not mere propaganda. First, the United States was the first anti-imperial project in modernity. It opposed empire in principle. More important, this empire was a drain on American resources and not a source of wealth. World War II had shattered both Japan and Western Europe. The United States gained little or no economic advantage in holding on to these countries. Finally, the United States ended World War II largely untouched by war and as perhaps one of the few countries that profited from it. The money was to be made in the United States, not in the empire. The troops and the generals wanted to go home.

But unlike after World War I, the Americans couldn't let go. That earlier war ruined nearly all of the participants. No one had the energy to attempt hegemony. The United States was content to leave Europe to its own dynamics. World War II ended differently. The Soviet Union had been wrecked but nevertheless it remained powerful. It was a hegemon in the east, and absent the United States, it conceivably could dominate all of Europe. This represented a problem for Washington, since a genuinely united Europe — whether a voluntary and effective federation or dominated by a single country — had sufficient resources to challenge U.S. power.

The United States could not leave. It did not think of itself as overseeing an empire, and it certainly permitted more internal political autonomy than the Soviets did in their region. Yet, in addition to maintaining a military presence, the United States organized the European economy and created and participated in the European defense system. If the essence of sovereignty is the ability to decide whether or not to go to war, that power was not in London, Paris or Warsaw. It was in Moscow and Washington.

The organizing principle of American strategy was the idea of containment. Unable to invade the Soviet Union, Washington's default strategy was to check it. U.S. influence spread through Europe to Iran. The Soviet strategy was to flank the containment system by supporting insurgencies and allied movements as far to the rear of the U.S. line as possible. The European empires were collapsing and fragmenting. The Soviets sought to create an alliance structure out of the remnants, and the Americans sought to counter them.

The Economics of Empire

One of the advantages of alliance with the Soviets, particularly for insurgent groups, was a generous supply of weapons. The advantage of alignment with the United States was belonging to a dynamic trade zone and having access to investment capital and technology. Some nations, such as South Korea, benefited extraordinarily from this. Others didn't. Leaders in countries like Nicaragua felt they had more to gain from Soviet political and military support than in trade with the United States.

The United States was by far the largest economic power, with complete control of the sea, bases around the world, and a dynamic trade and investment system that benefitted countries that were strategically critical to the United States or at least able to take advantage of it. It was at this point, early in the Cold War, that the United States began behaving as an empire, even if not consciously.

The geography of the American empire was built partly on military relations but heavily on economic relations. At first these economic relations were fairly trivial to American business. But as the system matured, the value of investments soared along with the importance of imports, exports and labor markets. As in any genuinely successful empire, it did not begin with a grand design or even a dream of one. Strategic necessity created an economic reality in country after country until certain major industries became dependent on at least some countries. The obvious examples were Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, whose oil fueled American oil companies, and which therefore — quite apart from conventional strategic importance — became economically important. This eventually made them strategically important.

As an empire matures, its economic value increases, particularly when it is not coercing others. Coercion is expensive and undermines the worth of an empire. The ideal colony is one that is not at all a colony, but a nation that benefits from economic relations with both the imperial power and the rest of the empire. The primary military relationship ought to be either mutual dependence or, barring that, dependence of the vulnerable client state on the imperial power.

This is how the United States slipped into empire. First, it was overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful. Second, it faced a potential adversary capable of challenging it globally, in a large number of countries. Third, it used its economic advantage to induce at least some of these countries into economic, and therefore political and military, relationships. Fourth, these countries became significantly important to various sectors of the American economy.

Limits of the American Empire

The problem of the American Empire is the overhang of the Cold War. During this time, the United States expected to go to war with a coalition around it, but also to carry the main burden of war. When Operation Desert Storm erupted in 1991, the basic Cold War principle prevailed. There was a coalition with the United States at the center of it. After 9/11, the decision was made to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq with the core model in place. There was a coalition, but the central military force was American, and it was assumed that the economic benefits of relations with the United States would be self-evident. In many ways, the post-9/11 wars took their basic framework from World War II. Iraq War planners explicitly discussed the occupation of Germany and Japan.

No empire can endure by direct rule. The Nazis were perhaps the best example of this. They tried to govern Poland directly, captured Soviet territory, pushed aside Vichy to govern not half but all of France, and so on. The British, on the other hand, ruled India with a thin layer of officials and officers and a larger cadre of businessmen trying to make their fortunes. The British obviously did better. The Germans exhausted themselves not only by overreaching, but also by diverting troops and administrators to directly oversee some countries. The British could turn their empire into something extraordinarily important to the global system. The Germans broke themselves not only on their enemies, but on their conquests as well.

The United States emerged after 1992 as the only global balanced power. That is, it was the only nation that could deploy economic, political and military power on a global basis. The United States was and remains enormously powerful. However, this is very different from omnipotence. In hearing politicians debate Russia, Iran or Yemen, you get the sense that they feel that U.S. power has no limits. There are always limits, and empires survive by knowing and respecting them.

The primary limit of the American empire is the same as that of the British and Roman empires: demographic. In Eurasia — Asia and Europe together — the Americans are outnumbered from the moment they set foot on the ground. The U.S. military is built around force multipliers, weapons that can destroy the enemy before the enemy destroys the relatively small force deployed. Sometimes this strategy works. Over the long run, it cannot. The enemy can absorb attrition much better than the small American force can. This lesson was learned in Vietnam and reinforced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is a country of 25 million people. The Americans sent about 130,000 troops. Inevitably, the attrition rate overwhelmed the Americans. The myth that Americans have no stomach for war forgets that the United States fought in Vietnam for seven years and in Iraq for about the same length of time. The public can be quite patient. The mathematics of war is the issue. At a certain point, the rate of attrition is simply not worth the political ends.

The deployment of a main force into Eurasia is unsupportable except in specialized cases when overwhelming force can be bought to bear in a place where it is important to win. These occasions are typically few and far between. Otherwise, the only strategy is indirect warfare: shifting the burden of war to those who want to bear it or cannot avoid doing so. For the first years of World War II, indirect warfare was used to support the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union against Germany.

There are two varieties of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan. The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations. We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States moves between the four major regional powers — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — supporting one then another in a perpetual balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes in parallel with Iranian ground forces. In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi air strikes against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.

This is the essence of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.

Building a System of Balance

We are now seeing the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance. A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The trick is to create situations where other countries want to do what is in the U.S. interest.

This endeavor is difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape other countries' behavior. It isn't the U.S. Department of Commerce but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid. The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used, they brought overwhelming power to bear.

The Responsibilities of Empire

I have been deliberately speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its power carelessly.

It is true that the United States did not genuinely intend to be an empire. It is also true that its intentions do not matter one way or another. Circumstance, history and geopolitics have created an entity that, if it isn't an empire, certainly looks like one. Empires can be far from oppressive. The Persians were quite liberal in their outlook. The American ideology and the American reality are not inherently incompatible. But two things must be faced: First, the United States cannot give away the power it has. There is no practical way to do that. Second, given the vastness of that power, it will be involved in conflicts whether it wants to or not. Empires are frequently feared, sometimes respected, but never loved by the rest of the world. And pretending that you aren't an empire does not fool anyone.

The current balancing act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out, but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.

Coming to Terms With the American Empire is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Iris Scans, Facial Recognition and other two edges swords

Back in the mid 2000s I remember an article on a USMC Reserve major and the trouble his unit had with creating a database of possible hostiles in Iraq. Now he's went home on his leave and meeting with the people at his civilian business, the developed an iris reader and the software to establish an online database. Helped to identify the bad guys by letting us know who was lying about themselves when stopped. This idea spread to civilian law enforcement and other intelligence operations. However, it looks like the bad guys are also using it. And that can make undercover operations difficult.
To Catch a Spy

In the age of iris scans and facial recognition software, biometrics experts like to point out: The eyes don’t lie. And that has made tradecraft all the more difficult for U.S. spies.

After billions of dollars of investment — largely by the U.S. government — the routine collection and analysis of fingerprints, iris scans, and facial images are helping to ferret out terrorists and immigration fraudsters all over the world. But it has also made it harder for undercover agents to remain anonymous.

Gone are the days of entering a country with a false passport and wearing a wig and a mustache to hide your true identity. Once an iris scan is on record, it becomes nearly impossible to evade detection.

“In the 21st century, you can’t do any of that because of biometrics,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

On top of that, ever-present closed-circuit TV surveillance and Internet-tracking tools combine to make life even more dangerous for undercover agents. As such, the erosion of anonymity is forcing the U.S. intelligence community to rethink how it does business.

“You have to take many more security measures to be able to prepare someone to operate in an environment in which you can no longer physically hide,” Flynn said in a recent interview with Foreign Policy.

A senior Defense Department official said the policies have changed decisions about who can travel where — and how often. “It limits your movement,” said the official, who was not authorized to be named in discussing tradecraft and spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the CIA, the concerns have prompted a new era of cyber-espionage to compensate for the emerging limits on clandestine operations.

“Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging,” CIA Director John Brennan said in March in announcing a major internal reorganization of the agency. It includes the creation of the Directorate of Digital Innovation, and in a memo to staff, Brennan called on the CIA to “embrace and leverage the digital revolution.”

...Today, even criminal and terrorist organizations are using biometric systems to track their own members, Flynn said.

When it comes to counterterrorism and border security, collecting biometric data has become commonplace across the world. That wasn’t the case before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when border agents didn’t bother with biometrics, said Terry Hartmann, vice president for security solutions and industry applications at Unisys, an information technology company.

“And now routinely, all countries are collecting as a minimum facial images of people crossing the border,” Hartmann said. “Many countries are collecting fingerprints as well. Some are collecting iris scans.”

During the war in Iraq and still in Afghanistan, the U.S. military collected biometric information from millions of people, from suspected insurgents to people applying to work on U.S. bases to everyday citizens. By lifting latent fingerprints off unexploded and sometimes even exploded handmade bombs, the military created a database of suspected insurgents and extremists in hopes of apprehending them at checkpoints and border crossings.

The United States also is collecting biometrics from Syrian rebels whom U.S. troops are training to fight the Islamic State, according to U.S. Central Command. The rebels’ information is being used in preliminary background checks and could be stored for future reference as well, should they ever be needed in terrorism investigations.

“All of the things that make it difficult to keep your identity from being disclosed also make it that much easier for us to discover others,” said Roger Mason, who served as assistant director of national intelligence for systems and resource analyses before joining Noblis, a nonprofit science and technology organization....

...Facial recognition technology has vastly improved, with analysts now able to match images that are less than perfect. And with computer power increasing, the speed of analysis is much faster.

“Irises have gone from being a curiosity to being a mainstream biometric,” Hartmann said.

Another part of the field that is quickly growing is the collection and analysis of DNA swabs, which can come from the inside of one’s cheek, a hair follicle, or even a discarded cigarette. Because DNA matches take hours to develop, it currently is not a viable biometric for fast-moving border security checks.

DNA is used in law enforcement, and the Defense Department has collected samples on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. And, Hartmann predicted, it won’t be too long before DNA technology catches up and can be more widely used.

“It’s a lot faster than it was 10 years ago,” Hartmann said. “It took days to weeks to get a result. Now, we’re talking hours. In 10 years’ time, we’ll be talking minutes.”

While the technology has been advancing rapidly, there have only been a few rare glimpses into how biometrics collection is changing the world of clandestine operations....

...But the best-known example of the new spy world is the 2010 assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. His killing was considered a fiasco for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad because its spies’ covers were completely blown — thanks to biometrics and surveillance technology.

The Israeli agents made a handful of mistakes throughout the mission. But crucial to their exposure was new border security and surveillance technology.

Investigators ultimately identified 27 Israeli agents involved in the killing by piecing together photographs inside fraudulent passports, immigration records, credit card receipts, and high-resolution closed-circuit TV footage inside the airport and various hotels.

The Mossad agents had forged passports by copying the authentic ones of dual Israeli citizens from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, and Australia, provoking widespread anger from those countries...

...As DNA and other biometric collection and analysis become more routine and more sophisticated, officials and experts said it is only going to become more dangerous for spies to operate...

And for undercover law enforcement. Or snitches working for us inside of criminal organizations.

I remember going into a disturbance call where several undercover officers were there and they were all covering their faces for obvious reasons. However, this may not help soon enough. If this can stop an intelligence operations like the Mossad, it will stop local cops.

Officer Down









Police Officer Brennan Rabain
Prince George's County Maryland Police Department
End of Watch: Saturday, March 7, 2015
Age: 26
Tour: 1 year
Badge # 3912

Police Officer Brennan Rabain was killed in a single vehicle crash while attempting to make a traffic stop in the 9500 block of Greenbelt Road at approximately 3:30 am.

It is believed that Officer Rabain's vehicle hit a patch of black ice, causing his patrol car to leave the roadway and strike a fence.

Officer Rabain had served with the Prince George's County Police Department for one year. He is survived by a 3-year-old child.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You know this is too weird to not be true

Yes, he looks like he molest trees.
Florida Man High on Flakka Assaults Officer, Molests Tree

A Florida man believed to be high on flakka, a drug that authorities say is sweeping the state, attacked a Brevard police officer after twice being shocked with a Taser while he repeatedly saying he was God, according to officials.

Kenneth Crowder, 41, of Melbourne, was arrested Friday on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting with violence and assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer.

According to a Melbourne police report, Crowder was spotted by witnesses running naked through a Melbourne neighborhood, yelling that he was a god before committing a sexual act on a tree.

A Melbourne police officer went to the area and confronted Crowder, who was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt, officials said.

Crowder walked toward the officer in an aggressive manner and identified himself as God, according to police.

The officer used a Taser on Crowder, but he pulled the probes out of his body and continued to fight, police said. Crowder was shocked a second time, but he again pulled out the probes and went at the officer with clenched fists, according to police.

The officer punched Crowder in the face and a scrum ensued, with Crowder saying that he was Thor and trying to stab the officer with the officer's badge, police said.

Other officers arrived and helped subdue Crowder, who was handcuffed and shackled, police said.

Flakka is the a variation of synthetic substances known as bath salts and delivers a cheap, powerful high while acting as an amphetamine, according to officials. The drug can be snorted, smoked or taken by mouth and can cause violent behavior, officials said.

"We have spoken to some medical professionals here and they are starting to see an increase in its use (in Brevard County)," Melbourne police spokesman Dan Lynch said. "It's already in South Florida, and we think it's coming here."...
I've had to deal with suspects on narcotics like this and as much as I make a joke of this, these people are dangerous. Intermediate weapons like Mace and Tasers are often not effective, they will not feel pain and their strength is superhuman. Be careful out there guys.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Officer Down



Lieutenant C. Scott Travis
Bullitt County Kentucky Detention Center
End of Watch: Thursday, March 5, 2015
Age: 55
Tour: 11 years
Badge # 815

Lieutenant Scott Travis suffered a fatal heart attack while clearing snow from the walkways in front of the Bullitt County Detention Center during a heavy snowstorm.

He had cleared the snow shortly before midnight in preparation of shift change, before clearing snow from around several vehicles of fellow officers. He then drove several officers home and returned to the detention center where he complained of chest pains. He refused medical attention and then drove home where he collapsed.

Lieutenant Travis had served with the Bullitt County Detention Center for 11 years. He is survived by his mother and eight siblings.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh. 

Another reason someone with a blade is deadly

I've referenced this post on what a man, armed only with a knife, can do to an officer armed with a pistol:




Well, another example of what a man with a long knife can do to four crooks.
Four Burglars With Pistols Went Up Against One Homeowner With a Samurai Sword — Graphic Photos Show Who Won

Never bring a knife to a gunfight?

That advice doesn’t always hold true.

A homeowner in Cordoba, Argentina, defended his house against four armed burglars Friday night, the Mendoza Post and Daily Mail reported.

The homeowner’s defensive weapon of choice: a katana, the sword preferred by Japanese samurai.

The damage he inflicted on the burglars was ghastly.


The Daily Mail reported that the homeowner, 49-year-old Dias Costa, was asleep with his wife Christina when they heard the break-in around 3:30 a.m.

The four burglars had two pistols between them, the Daily Mail reported, but Costa hacked and slashed his way through the group and sent them fleeing.

Absconding with a few hundred dollars worth of stolen goods, the criminals piled into a car.

The driver, losing blood, quickly crashed it, according to reports.


Four people, three men and one woman, were arrested after seeking treatment for their severe sword injuries, the Post reported.

Meanwhile the Costa family, fearing retaliation, has moved in with relatives, according to the Daily Mail.

The Costas’ case is not the first time a katana has been used for modern-day defense: Two years ago, a Mormon bishop helped a woman fight off a stalker armed with a samurai blade.

Four men, armed with pistols, broke into a house and this was the result. Thankfully this is not in California or New York, he would be charged with aggravated assault. Good work Mr. Costa.

Security Weekly: AQAP Gains as Yemen Implodes, April 9, 2015

By Scott Stewart

Early April 2, a convoy of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters descended on Mukalla, Yemen's fifth-largest city and the capital of Yemen's Hadramawt province. The gunmen stormed the central prison on the northern outskirts of the city and reportedly released some 300 inmates, many of who were AQAP members, including senior military commander Khalid Bartafi. AQAP fighters then moved into the city and seized control of the port, the central bank and several government buildings, including the presidential palace. Bartafi later posted photos of himself in the presidential palace to Twitter.

The next day, the militants turned their attention to nearby military facilities. The soldiers defending the headquarters of Yemen's second military zone and a Special Security Forces base fled after putting up minimal resistance, and AQAP fighters were able to loot weapons stores.

Such raids are not new to Mukalla: AQAP captured the second military zone's headquarters in September 2013. During the group's period of rapid expansion in 2011, it also attacked the central prison and released some 40 AQAP fighters. The jihadist group is continuing to capitalize on Yemen's power vacuum to expand its reach in the country.

A Much Needed Boost

The raid on Mukalla scored AQAP a terrorist trifecta — fighters, weapons and cash — that will greatly benefit its efforts to expand its power base in Yemen. On the manpower front, in addition to releasing foot soldiers, the group recovered Bartafi, a senior military commander who was instrumental in the group's 2011-2012 campaign that captured large chunks of the country. The group also seized large quantities of small arms, light weapons, ammunition and heavy weapons such as armored vehicles and artillery pieces. The New York Times cited a Yemeni official who said the amount of cash looted from the central bank was in the tens of millions of dollars. The windfall will go a long way in paying salaries, buying weapons and purchasing good will from some Yemeni tribes.

Some reports indicated that tribal leaders in Hadramawt were assembling a force to push AQAP out of Mukalla, but the group still controls much of the city. Also, despite the large concentration of AQAP fighters and vehicles in and around Mukalla, coalition aircraft have completely ignored AQAP targets. Instead, coalition aircraft continue to focus on hitting Yemeni military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and al-Houthi militias, a decision that benefits AQAP because it weakens its two most dangerous enemies. In fact, several media outlets reported that AQAP militants stormed and captured a Yemeni border post near Zamakh wa Manwakh on April 6, indicating that the group may again be attempting to seize and control a large portion of Yemen as it did in 2011.

The bounty and publicity that came with the capture of Mukalla could not have come at a better time for AQAP. The group has suffered heavy losses on the battlefield and from airstrikes launched by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles since January 2012. Also, the Islamic State had begun to supplant AQAP as the most sensational jihadist group in the country. A wave of Islamic State suicide bombings targeting three mosques frequented by al-Houthis in Sanaa and a government building in Saada killed at least 137 people and wounded hundreds more, garnering worldwide attention. More important, the attacks demonstrated that Islamic State members were willing to take deadly action against the al-Houthis, while AQAP fighters were mostly on the defensive. Many younger AQAP fighters were beginning to grumble about the group's lack of success compared to the Islamic State's gains in Iraq and Syria. Some of them even defected, pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State.

In this context, AQAP's capture of Mukalla and nearby military installations was a much needed boost for the group. Battlefield success combined with the release of jihadist prisoners and the infusion of cash and weapons should help AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi and his deputies stem dissent and defections of rank-and-file members.

The Saudi Calculus

Few have benefitted from the bloody and destructive war destroying most of the infrastructure of Yemen's western cities from Saada in the north to Aden in the south — except for AQAP. When Riyadh chose to attack AQAP's enemies on the ground in Yemen, they certainly knew the jihadist group would benefit. Indeed, while AQAP also opposes the various factions of the southern secessionist movement and the forces loyal to embattled President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi, none of these groups have been as effective in fighting AQAP as the al-Houthi militias and the Saleh-loyalist units, many of which were trained by the United States.

Why, then, did Saudi Arabia choose to intervene in Yemen's civil war? First of all, this is not the first time it has done so. Following the 1962 Nasserite coup that overthrew the Zaidi Mutawakkilite Kingdom, the Saudis feared they would be the next country the Nasserites targeted. So they intervened on the side of the monarchists, ensuring that the war would be long and bloody, but stay south of the border.

Also, besides military incursions, Riyadh has long meddled in the affairs of its impoverished neighbor by providing money and weapons to tribes and other political actors supportive of Saudi interests. Quite often, such payments went to or through Saleh, who ruled north Yemen from 1978 to 1990 and the united Yemen from 1990 until 2012. Saudi Arabia also intervened on Saleh's side in the 2009-2010 war against the al-Houthis (the sixth such flare-up since 2004).

However, the real driver of Saudi Arabia's involvement in Yemen is its need to strike back against Iran — or at least appear to strike back against Iran — after Tehran and Washington agreed on the framework of a nuclear deal, which is the first step in a broader rapprochement between the two countries. Saudi Arabia sees the improving relationship as a substantial threat to its geopolitical situation, which is based on the promise of U.S. protection. The United States is again pursuing a balance of power strategy in the region. With Iran involved militarily in Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia believes it needs to do something to flex its growing strength and showcase its military power.

The Saudi solution was to a select the weakest target: Yemen, which is far easier for Saudi Arabia to attack than Hezbollah, the Syrian government or Iran itself. Intervening in Yemen also provided an opportunity for Riyadh to display its ability to build a pro-Saudi regional coalition. However, Saleh and the al-Houthis proved resilient, standing up to two weeks of airstrikes and showing no sign of capitulating.

As we've previously noted, however, the Yemeni conflict is not sectarian in nature, nor is it a regional one. It is really more of an internal power struggle for control of the country. Nonetheless, forces have worked to make Yemen's struggle appear sectarian. Ironically, one of the first to cast the fight against the al-Houthis as a sectarian struggle was Saleh, who is now aligned with the al-Houthis.

Following his first conflict with the al-Houthis in 2004, Saleh repeatedly attempted to convince the U.S. and Saudi governments that Iran was backing the al-Houthis and that they should respond by supporting Yemen's efforts to destroy the rebels. Saleh even asked U.S. officials for intelligence he could use to kill al-Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi. However, as numerous State Department cables from 2004 to 2010 demonstrated, the United States was not convinced by the claims of Iranian support, and Saleh and his ministers were unable to show proof of Iranian or Hezbollah connections.

In addition to Saleh, Iran also attempted to portray the al-Houthi conflict as a sectarian struggle to increase the perception of their regional reach and clout in the hopes of intimidating rivals. In fact, Iranian sources in the region even provided Stratfor with false information inflating Tehran and Hezbollah's involvement with the al-Houthis.

It is impossible to be sure whether Saudi Arabia really believes Saleh and Iran's false claims, or if they are merely using them to justify flexing their muscles in Yemen. Either way, Saudi Arabia's destruction of weapons depots it gave to Yemen to help Saleh fight the al-Houthis is an ironic turn of events.

A Dangerous Snake

In the end, Saleh cannot win in Yemen. A man who was once known as being able to "dance on the heads of snakes" because of his prodigious and precarious efforts to balance all of Yemen's competing interests against one another is seeing everything come crashing down around him. Still, Saleh pursues only his own interests and will quickly turn on an ally if doing so benefits him. He has used the conservative tribes and the jihadists against his enemies in the south — for example, during the civil war in 1993-1994 — but also repeatedly against the al-Houthis during the six wars he fought against them. In addition to using the jihadists to attack his enemies, Saleh also used them as a boogeyman to secure funding, weapons and training from the United States.

Since being deposed in 2011, Saleh has been deeply bitter, using his old enemy, the al-Houthis, to lash out against the al-Ahmars, a powerful family that leads the Hashid tribal confederation that started the civil war that ultimately forced Saleh to step down. He has also sought revenge on those he believes are responsible for his misfortune, including Hadi and the interests of the foreign powers. Furthermore, like some sort of comic book villain, Saleh is also seeking vengeance over the June 2011 assassination attempt that nearly killed him and left him scarred.

Yemen continues to deal with a resurgent jihadist group, a vitriolic and manipulative former president, and a wide array of miscellaneous tribal leaders and warlords. Airstrikes and intense urban combat compound the situation. For the past several decades, Yemen has teetered on the precipice of disaster because of endless civil wars, tribal insurrections, jihadist movements, a failing economy, overpopulation, hunger and water shortages. Now the Saudi-led coalition appears to have finally pushed Yemen over the edge and into the void. Like Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria, putting Yemen back together again will be difficult and take time. In the instability, AQAP will thrive.

Russia Nervously Eyes the U.S.-Iran Deal is republished with permission of Stratfor."">AQAP Gains as Yemen Implodes is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Geopolitical Weekly: Russia Nervously Eyes the U.S.-Iran Deal, April 14, 2015

By Reva Bhalla

When a group of weary diplomats announced a framework for an Iranian nuclear accord last week in Lausanne, there was one diplomat in the mix whose feigned enthusiasm was hard to miss. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left the talks at their most critical point March 30, much to the annoyance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who apparently had to call him personally to persuade him to return. Even as Lavrov spoke positively to journalists about the negotiations throughout the week, he still seemed to have better things to do than pull all-nighters for a deal that effectively gives the United States one less problem to worry about in the Middle East and a greater capacity to focus on the Russian periphery.

Russia has no interest in seeing a nuclear-armed Iran in the neighborhood, but the mere threat of an unshackled Iranian nuclear program and a hostile relationship between Washington and Tehran provided just the level of distraction Moscow needed to keep the United States from committing serious attention to Russia's former Soviet sphere.

Russia tried its best to keep the Americans and Iranians apart. Offers to sell Iran advanced air defense systems were designed to poke holes in U.S. threats to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Teams of Russian nuclear experts whetted Iran's appetite for civilian nuclear power with offers to build additional power reactors. Russian banks did their part to help Iran circumvent financial sanctions. The Russian plan all along was not to help Iran get the bomb but to use its leverage with a thorny player in the Middle East to get the United States into a negotiation on issues vital to Russia's national security interests. So if Washington wanted to resolve its Iran problem, it would have to pull back on issues like ballistic missile defense in Central Europe, which Moscow saw early on as the first of several U.S. steps to encircle Russia.


Delegates to the Iranian talks in Lausanne from China, France, Germany, the European Union, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States speak to the media on April 2. (THOMAS TRUTSCHEL/Contributor via Getty Images)

Things obviously did not work according to the Russian plan. As we anticipated, the United States and Iran ultimately came together in a bilateral negotiation to resolve their main differences. Now the United States and Iran are on a path toward normalization at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying simultaneously to defend against a U.S.-led military alliance building along Russia's European frontier and to manage an economic crisis and power struggle at home. And the situation does not look any better for Russia on the energy front.

Russia Stands to Lose Energy Revenue

The likelihood of the United States and Iran reaching a deal this summer means that additional barrels of Iranian oil eventually will make their way to the market, further depressing the price of oil, as well as the Russian ruble. To be clear, Iranian oil is not going to flood the market instantaneously with the signing of a deal. Iran is believed to have as much as 35 million barrels of crude in storage that it could offload quickly once export sanctions are terminated by the Europeans and eased by the United States via presidential waiver. But Iran will face complications in trying to bring its mature fields back online. Enhanced recovery techniques to revive mothballed fields take money and infrastructure, which is difficult to apply when oil prices are hovering around $50 per barrel. Under current conditions, Iran can bring some 400,000-500,000 barrels per day back online over the course of a year, but this will be a gradual process as Iran vies for foreign investment in its dilapidated energy sector.

U.S. investors will likely remain shackled by the core Iran Sanctions Act until at least the end of 2016, when the legislation is set to expire. However, European and Asian investors will be among the first to begin repairing Iran's oil fields, as long as Iran does its part in improving contractual terms and the economics make sense for firms already cutting back their capital expenditures.

Europe's New Options

The rehabilitation of Iran's energy sector, however gradual a process that may be, will complicate Russia's uphill battle in trying to maintain its energy leverage over Europe. Russia is a critical supplier of energy to Europe, currently providing about 29 percent and 37 percent of Europe's natural gas and oil needs, respectively. An additional 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas available for export from the United States within the next five years will not be able to compete with Russia on price because of the low operational and transport costs of Russian natural gas. Even so, the United States will still be creating more supply in the natural gas market overall to give Europe the option of paying more for its energy security should the political considerations outweigh the economic cost. The Baltic states are already working toward this option, with Lithuania taking the lead in creating a mini-liquefied natural gas hub for the region to try to reduce, if not eliminate, Baltic dependence on Russia. This year, Poland is debuting its own LNG facility, and the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana is scheduled to bring the first LNG exports from the Lower 48 to market, with shipments already contracted for Asia.

In Southern Europe, the picture for Russia is more complicated but still distressing. Aside from the significant issue of cost for energy companies already cutting their capital expenditures, Turkey's veto on the transit of LNG tankers through the Bosporus effectively neutralizes any LNG import facility project on the Black Sea. But Europe is proceeding apace with the much more economically palatable option of building pipeline interconnectors across Southeastern Europe. This does little to dilute Russia's control over energy supply, but it does strip Moscow of its ability to politicize pricing in Europe. Pipeline politics in Europe have allowed Russia to reward — and punish — its Eastern European neighbors through pricing contracts. However, Brussels is more thoroughly examining contracts signed by EU member states for this very reason and in line with one of the main tenets of the EU's Third Energy Package, which seeks to break monopolies by splitting energy production and transmission and to implement fair pricing. Meanwhile, the construction of interconnectors allows member states to influence pricing downstream from Russia.

This gambit has been on display over the past year in Ukraine. Kiev depended heavily on its neighbors in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary for reverse flows of Russian natural gas at discounted rates to stand up to Russia's energy swaggering. Though Russian natural gas will still be flowing primarily through these pipelines, the expansion of interconnectors will open up options for non-Russian natural gas from the North Sea and from LNG terminals in Northern Europe to make their way southward to embattled frontline states such as Ukraine.


Russia thought it would be able to keep a hook in Southern Europe through the construction of South Stream, a mammoth pipeline project with a $30 billion price tag and 63-bcm capacity that sought to cut Ukraine out of the equation by moving natural gas across the Black Sea and through the Balkans and Central Europe. The combination of plunging energy prices and growing EU resistance to another pipeline that would allow Russia to draw political favors sent this project to the graveyard, but Russia had a backup plan. The Turkish Stream pipeline would make landfall in Turkey after crossing the Black Sea, before using the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline to feed Southern Europe through the web of interconnectors and pipelines already in development. On the surface, Moscow's plan appears quite brilliant: Use the very infrastructure that Europe was already counting on to diversify away from Russia and then, when the political skirmishing over Ukraine eventually settles down, reinsert itself into Europe's energy mix via a willing partner like Turkey.


Post-South Stream Options
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But the plan remains full of holes. Someone needs to pay for the main pipeline expansion between Russia and Turkey, and both countries will struggle to find private investors in this geopolitical and pricing climate. Moreover, there is no indication that the Europeans will be willing to take additional Russian natural gas from a yet-to-be-built Turkish Stream when a perfectly good pipeline running from Russia to Eastern Europe already exists. Russia does not have the option of refusing natural gas shipments when it is already desperate for those energy revenues. In the end, this is a Russian bluff that the Europeans will not be afraid to call. When Putin agreed to a three-month natural gas deal with Ukraine last week (with a huge discount to boot, at $247.20 per thousand cubic meters), he likely did so realizing that Russia playing hardball with Ukraine on energy would only spur further investment and construction into pipelines and connectors in Southeastern Europe that would accelerate the decline of Russia's energy influence in Europe. The best he can hope for is to slow that timeline down.

Not only will Russia's pricing leverage wane in Europe over the long term, but its influence on Europe's energy supply also will decrease over the longer run. Azerbaijan was the first southern corridor supplier to Europe circumventing Russia and is now expanding that role by bringing natural gas from its Shah Deniz II offshore fields online for export. Turkmenistan is still vulnerable to Russian meddling but has been increasingly willing to host Turkish and European investors looking to build a pipeline across the Caspian to feed Europe. Whether these talks translate into action will depend on the Turkmen government's political will to stand up to Moscow, not to mention legal battles over the Caspian Sea. But while the lengthy courting of Ashgabat by the West continues, a rehabilitated Iran is now the latest addition to the list to join the southern corridor.

Russia's Influence Wanes in the Middle East

Just a day after the Iranian nuclear framework deal was announced, Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti published a story quoting Igor Korotchenko, the head of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade, as saying it would be a "perfectly logical development" for Russia to follow through on a sale of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran if the embargo is lifted. Korotchenko noted that specifications to the deal would have to be made as "the United States is watching very closely" to whom Russia sells these weapons. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also made a point to say the U.N. arms embargo against Iran should be lifted as part of the nuclear deal. These well-timed statements likely caught Washington's eye but probably did little to impress. The S-300 threat mattered a lot more when the United States needed to maintain a credible military deterrent against Iran. If the United States and Iran reach an understanding that neutralizes that threat through political means, Russian talk of S-300s is mostly hot air.

This was a small yet revealing illustration of Russia's declining position in the Middle East. For many years, the Middle East was a rose garden for the Russians, filled with both sweet-smelling opportunities to lure Washington into negotiations and ample thorns to prick their American adversary when the need arose. Russia's support for the Syrian government is still relevant, and Moscow will continue to court countries in the region with arms deals out of both political and economic necessity. Even so, bringing down the Syrian government is not on Washington's to-do list, and countries like Egypt will still end up prioritizing their relationship with the United States in the end.

Russia's influence in the Middle East is fading rapidly at the same time Europe is starting to wriggle out of Russia's energy grip. And as Russia's options are narrowing, U.S. options are multiplying in both the Middle East and Europe. This is an uncomfortable situation for Putin, to be sure. But a narrow set of options for Russia in its near abroad does not make those options any less concerning for the United States as the standoff between Washington and Moscow continues.

Russia Nervously Eyes the U.S.-Iran Deal is republished with permission of Stratfor.