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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Geopolitical Weekly: Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria, April 30, 2013

By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman

The civil war in Syria, one of the few lasting legacies of the Arab Spring, has been under way for more than two years. There has been substantial outside intervention in the war. The Iranians in particular, and the Russians to a lesser extent, have supported the Alawites under Bashar al Assad. The Saudis and some of the Gulf States have supported the Sunni insurgents in various ways. The Americans, Europeans and Israelis, however, have for the most part avoided involvement.

Last week the possibility of intervention increased. The Americans and Europeans have had no appetite for intervention after their experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. At the same time, they have not wanted to be in a position where intervention was simply ruled out. Therefore, they identified a redline that, if crossed, would force them to reconsider intervention: the use of chemical weapons.

There were two reasons for this particular boundary. The first was that the United States and European states have a systemic aversion to the possession and usage of weapons of mass destruction in other countries. They see this ultimately as a threat to them, particularly if such weapons are in the hands of non-state users. But there was a more particular reason in Syria. No one thought that al Assad was reckless enough to use chemical weapons because they felt that his entire strategy depended on avoiding U.S. and European intervention, and that therefore he would never cross the redline. This was comforting to the Americans and Europeans because it allowed them to appear decisive while avoiding the risk of having to do anything.

However, in recent weeks, first the United Kingdom and France and then Israel and the United States asserted that the al Assad regime had used chemical weapons. No one could point to an incidence of massive deaths in Syria, and the evidence of usage was vague enough that no one was required to act immediately.

In Iraq, it turned out there was not a nuclear program or the clandestine chemical and biological weapons programs that intelligence had indicated. Had there been, the U.S. invasion might have had more international support, but it is doubtful it would have had a better outcome. The United States would have still forced the Sunnis into a desperate position, the Iranians would have still supported Shiite militias and the Kurds would have still tried to use the chaos to build an autonomous Kurdish region. The conflict would have still been fought and its final outcome would not have looked very different from how it does now.

What the United States learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is that it is relatively easy for a conventional force to destroy a government. It is much harder -- if not impossible -- to use the same force to impose a new type of government. The government that follows might be in some moral sense better than what preceded it -- it is difficult to imagine a more vile regime than Saddam Hussein's -- but the regime that replaces it will first be called chaos, followed by another regime that survives to the extent that it holds the United States at arm's length. Therefore, redline or not, few want to get involved in another intervention pivoting on weapons of mass destruction.

Interventionist Arguments and Illusions

However, there are those who want to intervene for moral reasons. In Syria, there is the same moral issue that there was in Iraq. The existing regime is corrupt and vicious. It should not be forgotten that the al Assad regime conducted a massacre in the city of Hama in 1982 in which tens of thousands of Sunnis were killed for opposing the regime. The regime carried out constant violations of human rights and endless brutality. There was nothing new in this, and the world was able to act fairly indifferent to the events, since it was still possible to create media blackouts in those days. Syria's patron, the Soviet Union, protected it, and challenging the Syrian regime would be a challenge to the Soviet Union. It was a fight that few wanted to wage because the risks were seen as too high.

The situation is different today. Syria's major patron is Iran, which had (until its reversal in Syria) been moving toward a reshaping of the balance of power in the region. Thus, from the point of view of the American right, an intervention is morally required to confront evil regimes. There are those on the left who also want intervention. In the 1980s, the primary concern of the left was the threat of nuclear war, and they saw any intervention as destabilizing a precarious balance. That concern is gone, and advocacy for military intervention to protect human rights is a significant if not universal theme on the left.

The difference between right-wing and left-wing interventionists is the illusions they harbor. In spite of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, right-wing interventionists continue to believe that the United States and Europe have the power not only to depose regimes but also to pacify the affected countries and create Western-style democracies. The left believes that there is such a thing as a neutral intervention -- one in which the United States and Europe intervene to end a particular evil, and with that evil gone, the country will now freely select a Western-style constitutional democracy. Where the right-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the left-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Libya.

Everyone loved the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. What was not to like? The Evil Empire was collapsing for the right; respect for human rights was universally embraced for the left. But Eastern Europe was occupied by Josef Stalin in 1945 following domination and occupation by Adolf Hitler. Eastern Europeans had never truly embraced either, and for the most part loathed both. The collapse freed them to be what they by nature were. What was lurking under the surface had always been there, suppressed but still the native political culture and aspiration.

That is not what was under the surface in Afghanistan or Iraq. These countries were not Europe and did not want to be. One of the reasons that Hussein was despised was that he was secular -- that he violated fundamental norms of Islam both in his personal life and in the way he governed the country. There were many who benefited from his regime and supported him, but if you lopped off the regime, what was left was a Muslim country wanting to return to its political culture, much as Eastern Europe returned to its.

In Syria, there are two main factions fighting. The al Assad regime is Alawite, a heterodox offshoot of Shi'ism. But its more important characteristic is that it is a secular regime, not guided by either liberal democracy or Islam but with withering roots in secular Arab Socialism. Lop it off and what is left is not another secular movement, this time liberal and democratic, but the underlying Muslim forces that had been suppressed but never eradicated. A New York Times article this week pointed out that there are no organized secular forces in areas held by the Sunni insurgents. The religious forces are in control. In Syria, secularism belonged to the Baath Party and the Alawites, and it was brutal. But get rid of it, and you do not get liberal democracy.

This is what many observers missed in the Arab Spring. They thought that under the surface of the oppressive Hosni Mubarak regime, which was secular and brutal, was a secular liberal democratic force. Such a force was present in Egypt, more than in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, but still did not represent the clear alternative to Mubarak. The alternative -- not as clearly as elsewhere, but still the alternative -- was the Muslim Brotherhood, and no secular alternative was viable without the Egyptian army.

The Difficulties of an Intervention

There are tremendous military challenges to dealing with Syria. Immaculate interventions will not work. A surgical strike on chemical facilities is a nice idea, but the intelligence on locations is never perfect, Syria has an air defense system that cannot be destroyed without substantial civilian casualties, and blowing up buildings containing chemical weapons could release the chemicals before they burn. Sending troops deep into Syria would not be a matter of making a few trips by helicopter. The country is an armed camp, and destroying or seizing stockpiles of chemical weapons is complicated and requires manpower. To destroy the stockpiles, you must first secure ports, airports and roads to get to them, and then you have to defend the roads, of which there are many.

Eradicating chemical weapons from Syria -- assuming that they are all in al Assad's territory -- would require occupying that territory, and the precise outlines of that territory change from day to day. It is also likely, given the dynamism of a civil war, that some chemical weapons would fall into the hands of the Sunni insurgents. There are no airstrikes or surgical raids by special operations troops that would solve the problem. Like Iraq, the United States would have to occupy the country.

If al Assad and the leadership are removed, his followers -- a substantial minority -- will continue to resist, much as the Sunnis did in Iraq. They have gained much from the al Assad regime and, in their minds, they face disaster if the Sunnis win. The Sunnis have much brutality to repay. On the Sunni side, there may be a secular liberal democratic group, but if so it is poorly organized and control is in the hands of Islamists and other more radical Islamists, some with ties to al Qaeda. The civil war will continue unless the United States intervenes on behalf of the Islamists, uses its power to crush the Alawites and hands power to the Islamists. A variant of this happened in Iraq when the United States sought to crush the Sunnis but did not want to give power to the Shia. The result was that everyone turned on the Americans.

That will be the result of a neutral intervention or an intervention designed to create a constitutional democracy. Those who intervene will find themselves trapped between the reality of Syria and the assorted fantasies that occasionally drive U.S. and European foreign policy. No great harm will come in any strategic sense. The United States and Europe have huge populations and enormous wealth. They can, in that sense, afford such interventions. But the United States cannot afford continual defeats as a result of intervening in countries of marginal national interest, where it sets for itself irrational political goals for the war. In some sense, power has to do with perception, and not learning from mistakes undermines power.

Many things are beyond the military power of the United States. Creating constitutional democracies by invasion is one of those things. There will be those who say intervention is to stop the bloodshed, not to impose Western values. Others will say intervention that does not impose Western values is pointless. Both miss the point. You cannot stop a civil war by adding another faction to the war unless that faction brings overwhelming power to bear. The United States has a great deal of power, but not overwhelming power, and overwhelming power's use means overwhelming casualties. And you cannot transform the political culture of a country from the outside unless you are prepared to devastate it as was done with Germany and Japan.

The United States, with its European allies, does not have the force needed to end Syria's bloodshed. If it tried, it would merely be held responsible for the bloodshed without achieving any strategic goal. There are places to go to war, but they should be few and of supreme importance. The bloodshed in Syria is not more important to the United States than it is to the Syrians.

Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another great cartoon...

From our friends at The Liberal Offender:
No comment is needed! :<)

Not good news from the Land of Cheese....

I believe in forgiveness and redemption, for the most part. There are some sins that cannot be forgiven and I put killing a cop in that group. So this is not good to hear.

Man who killed two police officers in 1975 wins release

SUMMIT, Wis. -- After years of attempts, a man who killed two Summit police officers nearly 40 years ago has won release from confinement at Wisconsin mental health institutions.

A six-person jury in Waukesha has found that Alan Randall should still be subject to conditions that will now be set out by the state Department of Health Services in a plan to be presented to a judge for approval in July.

Randall, now 54, killed Robert "Rocky" Atkins and Wayne Olson in January 1975, when Randall was 16. Prosecutors believe he also killed his neighbor several days earlier.

Two years after the crimes, he was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in the officers' murders, and committed to a state mental hospital...

...Schimel said a judge in 1977 added a 10-year probation sentence, to be served if Randall was ever released from mental hospitals, for burglaries and other crimes committed around the time of the slayings. Theoretically, Randall could be sent to prison for that period if he violates conditions, but Schimel said there are questions about the legality of that sentence...
I would say unbelievable but in the 70s in liberal areas like Wisconsin it was far too typical. These people are just sick, they're not responsible for their actions, etc. But this is good.
...Randall's attorney, Craig Powell, said that the state had the burden to show clear and convincing evidence that Randall was a danger, but that most of the evidence was related to the 1975 crimes.

Gee, maybe killing two cops is, in professional jargon, a clue he's a danger to others.

I hate to say it but one got away from justice. My prayers are with the families of Officer Robert "Rocky" Atkins and Officer Wayne Olson. God knows justice wasn't served here.

Now this is what I call DWI work

I've done my fair share of DWI cases while on patrol and I've gotten two in one shift, but this takes it.

Four suspected drunk drivers arrested at same location in Montgomery County

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Investigators said four drunken drivers were arrested at the same location in Montgomery County overnight, and one nearly struck a deputy at the scene.

According to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, deputies stopped a driver on the North Freeway near Oakwood because he was wanted in connection with assaulting his 15-year-old daughter. He was intoxicated when deputies pulled him over, officials said.

After the arrest, the deputy was about to get into his car when another driver approached the scene and slammed into the rear of the patrol car, almost hitting the deputy.

That driver also failed a field sobriety test and was taken into custody. But it didn't end there.

Two other drivers who tried to maneuver around the police barricade at the scene were also arrested for driving drunk. All four suspected drunk drivers were taken to jail.

Nice work Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. And thankfully no one was injured in this cluster of a scene.

Good to know someone in the military is doing well now....

Chesty XIV just got promoted:

Sgt. Chesty XIII (left) relaxes as PFC Chesty XIV, the newest Marine Corps mascot, sits during the ceremony in which the puppy was made a full Marine on Monday, April 8, 2013, at the Marine Barracks Washington.
Chesty XIV Becomes a Full Marine

With his predecessor barking in either approval or protest, the Marine Corps’ new mascot, Chesty XIV, was made a full Marine on Monday.

Top Marine officers urged the new mascot to carry on in the tradition of Sgt. Chesty XIII, while their wives are making sure the puppy is better behaved.

With the entire Marine Barracks Washington force watching, Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, promoted the young bulldog from recruit to Private First Class and pinned on him the service’s symbol, the Eagle Globe and Anchor. PFC Chesty XIV will begin taking on duties during the Marines Friday Night Parade this year. The young Chesty is mostly white with some brindle markings and a small black mark under his left eye, as if he stepped out of a bar fight while on shore leave.

Throughout the ceremony, Sgt. Chesty XIII barked loudly, a sign, according to Marines watching the ceremony, that the bulldog was upset about no longer being the center of attention.

But Gen. Amos offered Sgt. Chesty a ringing endorsement, reminding the audience about how the bulldog had gone nose to nose with Bravo, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s golden retriever, growling and trying to intimidate the higher ranking pooch.

“We saw what Chesty did to Bravo last summer, so Chesty the Marine needs to pay attention to his mentor,” said Gen. Amos.

Sgt. Chesty occupies a peculiar place at the barracks. Marines speak reverentially about his faceoff with Bravo, while many of the wives are determined that PFC Chesty will have better manners.

Bonnie Amos, Gen. Amos wife, has vowed the new mascot must be well-socialized and has been supervising his upbringing....

...Christine Mosser, the wife of Staff Sgt. Jason Mosser and the new Chesty’s caretaker, has taken Mrs. Amos’s direction to heart. PFC Chesty’s best friend is a cat named Dean Martin, and Ms. Mosser said she is training the young bulldog not to fight with other dogs.

“We keep telling him, ‘No Bravo! No Bravo!’” she said

Not getting that nasty faced son of a bitch to fight, good luck Mrs Mosser. Chesty XIV, congratulations and hope you have a long time in service. Chesty XIII, thanks for your service and enjoy your retirement.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hopefully this ends soon.

I started my career in law enforcement in 1998 and Officer Blando was the first Houston area cop murdered after I took the oath. It has been fourteen years since that aweful day and fortuanlly the Harris county jury did it's duty. Now it looks like it will finally look come to a close.
Last-ditch appeals filed for cop killer

As Houston cop killer Jeffrey Williams counts the days to his May 15 execution, his attorneys are launching a last-ditch effort to save his life by asking a federal court to reconsider claims that earlier defense lawyers botched the case.

In a petition filed with a Houston federal court late Thursday, Virginia-based lawyer Jon Sheldon asserts that Williams’ trial attorney failed to adequately investigate the case and, in the trial’s punishment phase, neglected to present testimony that would have shown that the killer — though not mentally disabled — was unable to function in society.

Yes Mr. Sheldon, you are right. Your client is not able to function in society. Society looks down on murderers. Especailly cop killers. So we will insure he will not have to attempt to function in society by eliminating him from the human gene pool.
Sheldon further argues that Williams’ court-appointed appeals lawyer not only failed to aggressively pursue the case and make an ineffective counsel claim but missed a filing deadline that led to his “cut and pasted” appeal’s rejection.

Claims fizzled

To date, Williams’ ineffective counsel claims have fizzled. Now, Sheldon hopes a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Martinez v. Ryan, will prompt the courts to take another look.

The ruling allows reconsideration of a rejected ineffective counsel claim if it is “substantial” and if it can be proved that an appeals lawyer’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. It requires proof that, had legal representation been adequate, the trial’s outcome may have been different.

Williams, 37, was represented in his February 2000 trial by veteran Houston defense lawyer Donald Davis. Months after Williams’ conviction, Davis committed suicide. Williams’ appeals attorney was Jules Laird, a former Harris County assistant district attorney.

Laird on Friday said he filed two petitions on Williams’ behalf, one dealing with constitutional issues of the killer’s initial trial, and a second asserting mental disability claims. “I talked to the family, reviewed the files and did my own investigation,” he said. “... I don’t recall filing late, but if the court says I did, I did.”

Laird said he does not remember whether he raised the issue of ineffective counsel.

I hate to say it but former prosecuters make great defense attornies. Sounds like this waste of sperm has really good council.
Williams’ legal troubles began the night of May 19, 1999, when he drove a stolen Lexus into the parking lot of a motel in the 6800 block of the Southwest Freeway. He was spotted by Troy Blando, 39, a plainclothes Houston police officer assigned to the auto theft detail.

Self-defense claimed

Confirming the car had been stolen, Blando attempted to make an arrest. Williams struggled. As Blando cuffed one of the man’s hands, Williams pulled a pistol and fired a fatal shot. The killer still wore the handcuffs when he was arrested.

Williams claimed he thought Blando was a robber and that he fired in self-defense. Williams, who is black, also said Blando, who was white, addressed him with a vulgar racial term...

Yea Jeff, all robbers identify themselves as police and carry handcuffs. You know something that is really vulgar there Jeff. Murdering another man.

You know what's kinda funny. These big and bad s%^&heads are not so big and bad when the time comes. They ain't so big and bad when the door opens and they cower in the corner screaming "you ain't taking me!!!!!" Then an extraction team goes in, kicks their asses and then actually patches up any injuries. Then they strap him down to the gurney, bring him to the chamber and the needles are put in. And he is put down like the animal he is .

God be with you Jeff. If justice is served on May 15th, you will face a judge you cannot lie to and cannot appeal from.

RIP Officer Troy Blando.

Friday, April 26, 2013

West's Best are Laid to Rest

Caskets sit in front of the stage of a memorial for firefighters who were killed in the West, Texas,  fertilizer plant explosion Thursday, April 25, 2013, at Baylor University in Waco,Texas.

Memorial Service for Fallen West, Texas Firefighters

WACO, Texas (AP) ...The April 17 explosion left a crater more than 90 feet wide and damaged dozens of buildings, displacing many residents from their homes. The Insurance Council of Texas estimates it caused more than $100 million in damage.

The blast came minutes after a fire was reported at the West Fertilizer plant, operated by Adair Grain Inc. Ten of those killed were first responders who sped out to the nighttime blaze.

The memorial service honored those first responders and two civilians who tried to fight the fire and were posthumously named volunteer firefighters. Among the dead were brothers Douglas and Robert Snokhous, West High School graduates who volunteered together for the town's fire department.

It opened with a photo slide show set to country music that was projected onto a movie screen over their 12 flag-draped coffins. It showed images of the men from their childhood, their weddings and other moments throughout lives filled with children and friends. Mourners were given programs with full-page profiles of each of the victims, describing their lives, their values and their faith.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry eulogized the unpaid firefighters and first responders, lamenting that each had a personal story and journey that drew to a close too soon.

"These are volunteers. Ordinary individuals blessed with extraordinary courage and a determination to do what they could to save lives," he said. "They're the ones who proudly said 'not on my watch' in the moments immediately following that explosion."...

...A parade of fire trucks and other first responders' vehicles paraded through Waco en route to the ceremony at Baylor's sports arena. The vehicles entered under an archway formed by the ladders from two fire trucks with an American flag hung between them.

Nearly 10,000 packed the Ferrell Center, more than three times West's entire population of 2,700. Many of the mourners wore the uniforms of police, firefighters and paramedics and wiped tears from their eyes.

Brian Crawford, fire chief in the Dallas suburb of Plano, attended with 11 others from his department even though they live 100 miles from West.

"With these unfortunate circumstances, it's time to show we are all a family," Crawford said. "These were our brothers and they paid the price."...
Rest in Peace Gentlemen. You're in God's embrace and may He be with your families and friends during this time.

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

And this is why unions are an anachronism

Anyone remember this.

Hostess shuttering doors, ending era of iconic brands

Hostess CEO says strike was fatal blow for bankrupt company and that it is too late to fix it. Nearly 600 could lose jobs in Schiller Park and Hodgkins bakeries.

Chris Pruitt, an employee of a Hostess plant in Peoria, strikes with other employees in
front of the Hostess Brands plant in Schiller Park. (Keri Wiginton, Chicago Tribune)

Fear not for the Twinkie. In all likelihood it will outlive us all.

The same cannot be said for Hostess Brands, the bankrupt baker responsible for Twinkies, Wonder Bread and other goods. The company said Friday it has asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to go out of business and lay off 18,500 workers, blaming a labor strike by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

In the Chicago area, Hostess employs about 300 workers making CupCakes, HoHos and Honey Buns in Schiller Park. Hostess also has a bakery in Hodgkins, where 325 workers make Beefsteak, Butternut, Home Pride, Nature's Pride and Wonder breads. The company's connection to Chicago is more than crust or frosting deep: the Twinkie was invented in the Chicago area in 1930....

Like man industries, unions will not make concessions and the results? The workers, whose interest they notionally represent, are unemployed. I wonder what the union leadership is doing right now? I'll bet they are no in the unemployment roll.

Fast forward a half year.
Hostess Reopening Plants, Without Union Workers

The bankrupt assets of Hostess Brands, Inc., the company responsible for Twinkies, Ho Ho's, Sno Balls and Ding Dongs, are being put back to work by a buyout firm. What's not being put back to work are the former Hostess unionized employees.

The unionized workers had been on strike when the company folded late last year.

The company had imposed a contract that would cut its 19,000 workers' wages — 15,000 of whom belonged to the workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) — by 8 percent. (The Teamsters was Hostess' largest union, followed by BCTGM.) The contract would have also cut benefits by 27 to 32 percent.

Hostess filed for Chapter 11 in January 2012. In November 2012, the company announced it would be shutting its doors for good. By that time, it had lost about $1.1 billion, largely due to bankruptcy filings.

But last month Apollo Global Management, LLC, and Metropoulos & Co., which owns Pabst Blue Ribbon and Vlasic pickles, bought the 83-year-old company for $410 million, renaming it Hostess Brands LLC. It is planning to re-open four bakeries over the next two and a half months, in Columbus, Ga.; Emporia, Kan.; Schiller Park, Ill.; and Indianapolis. It is also contemplating a fifth in Los Angeles.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, C. Dean Metropoulos, the company's chief executive, said that between now and September, he plans to inject $60 million in capital investments into the plants, and hopes to hire at least 1,500 workers.

But those workers won't be unionized.

"It appears that they are discharging the union contract in bankruptcy," said Matthew A. Kaufman, a labor attorney in Los Angeles who is not affiliated with the case.

While Metropoulos did not respond to interview requests from ABC News, he told the Journal that he does "not expect to be involved in the union going forward."...

Sixty million put into a more efficient company, over 1500 new employees working and putting more product on the market more efficiently. What is missing? The union.

Unions still serve a purpose but they seemed locked into an eighteenth century mindset of sweatshops, etc. Sorry, the world has moved forward. There is competition and technology that has made production of all types of items more efficient.

I posted last year on how Harley Davidson had to tell it's union either work with us on modernizing our factory in York PA or we're out of here. This union had it's head out of its ass and compromised. Results include the factory still there, employees (granted fewer) still there and Harley Davidson still operating.

To the soon to be employed in for Hostess, and others, have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Deputy Sheriff Chad Christian Key
Grayson County Texas Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Saturday, April 20, 2013
Age: 42
Tour: 4 years
Badge # 20

Deputy Sheriff Chad Key was struck and killed by a drunk driver while directing traffic at the intersection of U.S. Highway 82 and Bethany Road shortly before 10:30 pm.

The driver who struck him failed to stop but was arrested a short distance away. The subject was a habitual drunk driver who was out on bond on a previous drunk driving arrest.

Deputy Key had served as a corrections officer with the Grayson County Sheriff's Office for 3-1/2 years. He had served as a patrol deputy for only two months. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

Security Weekly: Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded, April 25, 2013

By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis

When seeking to place an attack like the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing into context, it is helpful to classify the actors responsible, if possible. Such a classification can help us understand how an attack fits into the analytical narrative of what is happening and what is likely to come. These classifications will consider factors such as ideology, state sponsorship and perhaps most important, the kind of operative involved.

In a case where we are dealing with an apparent jihadist operative, before we can classify him or her we must first have a clear taxonomy of the jihadist movement. At Stratfor, we generally consider the jihadist movement to be divided into three basic elements: the al Qaeda core organization, the regional jihadist franchises, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and grassroots operatives who are radicalized, inspired and perhaps equipped by the other two tiers but who are not members of either.

Within the three-tier jihadist movement there exist two distinct types of operatives. One of these is the professional terrorist operative, a person who is a member of the al Qaeda core or of one of the regional franchises. These individuals swear loyalty to the leader and then follow orders from the organization's hierarchy. Second, there are amateur operatives who never join a group and whose actions are not guided by the specific orders of a hierarchical group. They follow a bottom-up or grassroots organizational model rather than a hierarchical or top-down approach.

There is a great deal of variety among professional terrorists, especially if we break them down according to the functions they perform within an organization, roles including that of planners, finance and logistics specialists, couriers, surveillance operatives, bombmakers, et cetera. There is also a great deal of variety within the ranks of grassroots operatives, although it is broken down more by their interaction with formal groups rather than their function. At one end of the grassroots spectrum are the lone wolf operatives, or phantom cells. These are individuals or small groups that become radicalized by jihadist ideology but that do not have any contact with the organization. In theory, the lone wolf/phantom cell model is very secure from an operational security standpoint, but as we've discussed, it takes a very disciplined and driven individual to be a true lone wolf or phantom cell leader, and consequently, we see very few of them.

At the other end of the grassroots spectrum are individuals who have had close interaction with a jihadist group but who never actually joined the organization. Many of them have even attended militant training camps, but they didn't become part of the hierarchical group to the point of swearing an oath of allegiance to the group's leaders and taking orders from the organization. They are not funded and directed by the group.

Indeed, al Qaeda trained tens of thousands of men in its training camps in Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan but very few of the men they trained actually ended up joining al Qaeda. Most of the men the group instructed received basic military training in things like using small arms, hand-to-hand combat and basic fire and maneuver. Only the very best from those basic combat training courses were selected to receive advanced training in terrorist tradecraft techniques, such as bombmaking, surveillance, clandestine communications and document forgery. But even of the students who received advanced training in terrorist tradecraft, only a few were ever invited to join the al Qaeda core, which remained a relatively small vanguard organization.

Many of the men who received basic training traveled to fight jihad in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya or returned home to join insurgent or militant groups. Others would eventually end up joining al Qaeda franchise groups in places like Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Algeria. Still others received some basic training but then returned home and never really put their new skills into practice.

Most grassroots jihadists fall along a continuum that stretches between the lone wolf and someone who received advanced terrorist training but never joined al Qaeda or another formal militant group.

Whether the two men suspected of carrying out the April 15 Boston Marathon attack knowingly followed al Qaeda's blueprint for simple attacks by grassroots actors, their actions were fairly consistent with what we have come to expect from such operatives. Certainly based upon what we have seen of this case so far, the Tsarnaev brothers did not appear to possess sophisticated terrorist tradecraft.

For example, regarding the bombs employed in the attack and during the police chase, everything we have seen still points to very simple devices, such as pipe bombs and pressure cooker devices. From a bombmaking tradecraft standpoint, we have yet to see anything that could not be fabricated by reading Inspire magazine, spending a little bit of time on YouTube and conducting some experimentation. As a comparison, consider the far larger and more complex improvised explosive device Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo bomber, constructed. We know from Breivik's detailed journal that he was a self-taught bombmaker using directions he obtained on the Internet. He was also a lone wolf. And yet he was able to construct a very large improvised explosive device.
 Also, although the Tsarnaev brothers did not hold up a convenience store as initially reported, they did conduct an express kidnapping that caused them to have extended contact with their victim while they visited automatic teller machines. They told the victim that they were the bombers and then allowed the victim to live. Such behavior is hardly typical of professional terrorist operatives.

Grassroots Theory

As it has become more difficult for professional terrorists to travel to the United States and the West in general, it has become more difficult for jihadist organizations to conduct attacks in these places. Indeed, this difficulty prompted groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attempt to attack the United States by dispatching an operative with an underwear bomb and to use printer cartridge bombs to attack cargo aircraft. In response to this difficulty, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula began to adopt the grassroots into their operational doctrine. They first began promoting this approach in 2009 in their Arabic-language magazine Sada al-Malahim. The al Qaeda core organization embraced this approach in May 2010 in an English-language video featuring Adam Gadahn.

In July 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula launched an English-language magazine called Inspire dedicated to radicalizing and equipping grassroots jihadists. Despite the losses that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has experienced on the battlefield, it has continued to devote a great deal of its limited resources toward propagating this concept. It has continued to publish Inspire even after the magazine's founder and editor, Samir Khan, was killed in an American missile strike in Yemen.

The grassroots strategy was perhaps most clearly articulated in the third edition of Inspire magazine, which was published in November 2010 following the failed October 29, 2010, printer bomb operation. In a letter from the editor in which Khan explained what he referred to as "Operation Hemorrhage," he wrote:

"However, to bring down America we do not need to strike big. In such an environment of security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve fewer players and less time to launch and thus we may circumvent the security barriers America has worked so hard to erect. This strategy of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death."

In Adam Gadahn's May 2010 message entitled "A Call to Arms," Gadahn counsels lone wolf jihadists to follow a three-pronged target selection process. They should choose a target with which they are well acquainted, a target that is feasible to hit and a target that, when struck, will have a major impact. The Tsarnaev brothers did all three in Boston.


Yet despite this clearly articulated theory, it has proved very difficult for jihadist ideologues to convince grassroots operatives to conduct simple attacks using readily available items like in the "build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" approach, which they have advocated for so long.

This is because most grassroots jihadists have sought to conduct huge, spectacular attacks -- attacks that are outside of their capabilities. This has meant that they have had to search for help to conduct their plans. And that search for help has resulted in their arrest, just as Adam Gadahn warned they would be in his May 2010 message.

There were many plots disrupted in 2012 in which grassroots operatives tried to act beyond their capabilities. These include:

- On Nov. 29, 2012, two brothers from Florida, Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, were arrested and charged with plotting attacks in New York.

- On Oct. 17, 2012, Bangladeshi national Quazi Nafis was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation after he attempted to detonate a vehicle bomb outside New York's Federal Reserve Bank.

- On Sept. 15, 2012, Adel Daoud was arrested after he parked a Jeep Cherokee outside a Chicago bar and attempted to detonate the bomb he thought it contained. This was also an FBI sting operation.

But the carnage and terrorist theater caused by the Boston attack have shown how following the simple attack model can be highly effective. This will certainly be pointed out in future editions of Inspire magazine, and grassroots operatives will be urged to follow the model established by the Tsarnaev brothers. Unlike operatives like Faisal Shahzad who attempted to go big themselves and failed, the brothers followed the blueprint for a simple attack and the model worked.

It is quite possible that the success of the Boston bombing will help jihadist ideologues finally convince grassroots operatives to get past their grandiose plans and begin to follow the simple attack model in earnest. If this happens, it will obviously have a big impact on law enforcement and intelligence officials, who have developed very effective programs of identifying grassroots operatives and drawing them into sting operations. They will now have to adjust their operations.

While these grassroots actors do not have the capability of professional terrorist operatives and do not pose as severe a threat, they pose a much broader, amorphous threat. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies generally do not deal well with ambiguity.

There are simply too many soft targets to protect and some of these simple attacks will inevitably succeed. This means that this low-level broad threat will persist and perhaps even intensify in the immediate future.

As we've previously discussed, the best defense against the grassroots threat are grassroots defenders. These include the police and alert citizens who report suspicious activity -- like people testing bomb designs -- a frequent occurrence before actual bomb attacks. The slogan "If you see something, say something," has been mocked as overly simplistic, but it is nonetheless a necessity in an environment where the broad, ambiguous threat of grassroots terrorism far outstrips the ability of the authorities to see everything. Taking a proactive approach to personal and collective security also beats the alternative of living in terror and apprehensively waiting for the next simple attack.

It is also very important for people to maintain the proper perspective on terrorism. Like car crashes, cancer and natural disasters, terrorism is part of the human condition. People should take prudent, measured actions to prepare for such contingencies and avoid becoming victims (vicarious or otherwise). It is the resilience of the population and its perseverance that will ultimately determine how much a terrorist attack is allowed to terrorize. By separating terror from terrorism, citizens can deny the practitioners of terrorism the ability to magnify their reach and power.

Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Douglas Leon Hanna
Washita County Oklahoma Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Age: 44
Cause: Automobile accident

Deputy Sheriff Douglas Hanna was responding to a call at approximately 12:10 a.m. when a pickup truck ran a stop sign and collided with the passenger side of his patrol vehicle.

He was traveling eastbound on State Highway 54A, west of Corn, when the pickup driver entered the highway from County Road 2350. Deputy Hanna's patrol vehicle rolled multiple times, partially ejecting him even though he was wearing his seatbelt. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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: Demystifying U.S. Policy on Syria, April 23, 2013

By Reva Bhalla
Vice President of Global Affairs

The United States is not known for subtlety. This is perhaps unsurprising for a nation buffered by oceans and in possession of the world's largest military and economy. That kind of power carries weight, and that kind of weight does not always allow the United States to be light on its feet. At the same time, Washington does not want to continue slogging around the Middle East, reacting to every crisis that comes its way. While the mixed signals that Washington has been broadcasting toward Syria of late have confounded many, they are not in the least surprising coming from a superpower trying to lighten its load.

Speculation grew in the past week over the possibility of U.S. military action in Syria when U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that around 200 army troops from the headquarters unit of the 1st Armored Division based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, would be deployed to Jordan. Hagel strongly reiterated that this move should not be interpreted as a stepping-stone to a U.S. military intervention in Syria, saying the unit would instead be involved in training Jordanian counterparts to handle growing refugee flows into Jordan from Syria and would improve U.S. preparedness for any security developments involving Syria's chemical weapons.

What Hagel chose not to say in his testimony is also revealing. Theoretically, the headquarters unit would allow the United States to significantly scale up military operations if, for example, the need arose for sizable combat operations to seize Syria's chemical weapons. By itself, however, the U.S. decision to set up a small army headquarters unit in Jordan apart from U.S. special operations forces activity already taking place along the border does not necessarily imply that the Pentagon is moving toward a large-scale military involvement in Syria.

Jordan would present an array of logistical and political challenges as a launchpad for a U.S. invasion into Syria. Despite its tight relationship with Washington, Jordan for good reason has shied away from hosting U.S. military bases. It only very quietly permitted the movement of U.S. special operations forces into Iraq from Jordan in 2003. It faces domestic political dissent and a homegrown Salafist-jihadist presence, meaning Jordan has limits in just how far it can go in publicly aligning itself with a U.S. mission against the Syrian regime. Even as unconfirmed rumors continue to circulate regarding the U.S. deployment of Patriot missile defense batteries to Jordan (in addition to the ones Amman already operates) as a defensive measure to shield the kingdom from any blowback from Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces, it is far more likely that Jordan will face a spate of suicide bombings before it has to worry about ballistic missile strikes from Syria. The same day Hagel announced the army deployment to Jordan, al Assad issued the following warning in an interview: "We would wish that our Jordanian neighbors realize that ... the fire will not stop at our borders -- all the world knows Jordan is just as exposed [to the crisis] as Syria."

The moves in Jordan, while notable, are more symbolic than militarily significant. They signal to the al Assad regime that the meaningful use or loss of control of the regime's chemical weapons arsenal would compel U.S. military action that could uproot what remains of the Alawite regime in Damascus. Washington hopes its cautious efforts to prepare a chemical weapons contingency plan will convince the al Assad regime that a political settlement would be preferable to a pell-mell regime collapse that could draw U.S. soldiers onto Syrian soil. At the same time, the Obama administration is trying to respond to pressure from Congress and elsewhere by showing that it is at least taking some concrete action to aid the rebellion and prepare for contingencies while avoiding drawing the United States into another Middle Eastern maelstrom.

The subtlety of this middle-ground policy may well be lost on its intended audience, however. The U.S. administration has, perhaps deliberately, publicized an internal debate over its Syria policy. Hagel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have advocated extreme caution when contemplating a military intervention, while Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing for increasing aid to the rebels. This is a debate where we would expect the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who understand the military implications quite well, to carry more weight. Indeed, the United States so far has withheld lethal aid from the rebels.

But U.S. restraint in Syria, many will argue, has led to the hijacking of the Syrian rebellion by radical, battle-hardened Salafist-jihadist fighters. So long as the more moderate elements of the Sunni rebellion struggle to get the foreign support they have sought, groups like the Syrian Islamic Front and the even more extreme Jabhat al-Nusra will continue to dominate the battlefield and reap the spoils -- and impose their adherence to their austere interpretation of Islam wherever power vacuums develop, to the endangerment of the wider region.

This argument assumes that the United States could overcome its own history in Iraq and successfully pluck out the most moderate and like-minded rebels to train and equip so that they eventually eclipse the radicals. It also assumes that battlefield successes of more moderate Sunni rebels will create the conditions for an equally moderate, and at the same time representative, government to replace the al Assad regime and mend the rifts left by civil war.

The dangers inherent in these assumptions are embedded in the region's history. The northern Levant experiences generational cycles of civil wars. In 1860, a civil war between Maronites and Druze spread from Mount Lebanon to Damascus in a matter of months. In 1958, Maronite Christians went to war again with Druze and Sunni Muslims in a civil war that drew in the U.S. Marines. In 1975, an influx of Palestinian militants into Lebanon and unsettled scores between Maronites and Muslims drew Syria and Israel into a bloody civil war that lasted through 1990 and left Syrian troops in Lebanon for nearly three decades.

Conflict, no matter how it begins, will always penetrate a deeper power imbalance in the region, whether between French-backed Maronites and Druze in the post-Mandate period or between Alawites and Sunnis today. This is a region where mere family disputes can trigger wars, and where conflicts typically end out of exhaustion. Powers that intervene do so at their own peril and with the unsettling knowledge that any political settlement will fail -- and frequently exacerbate the sectarian power struggles that define this fractious borderland.

This is a history that al Assad has long known and that Washington is learning quickly. In appreciating the unintended consequences of the downfall of the al Assad regime, no matter how much it is despised, the United States is understandably preparing for contingencies and hedging its military bets through a number of subtle and seemingly contradictory moves. It is just that justified pessimism toward the outcome of conflict in the region that in the end will likely continue to drive U.S. restraint.

Demystifying U.S. Policy on Syria copyright STRATFOR.COM

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

6 Facts of Life for Police

From this evening's PoliceOne.Com email, a good summary of the facts of life on the street.
Passion for the Job

Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

Boston bombings: 6 things cops know that most Americans don't

I do not want to be counted among the journalists who — in the necessary chatter of avoiding dead air — weave a thousand speculative stories. But in the wake of the events in Boston last week, here are some observations I offer after nearly four decades in the business.

1.) There is evil in the world.

We can scramble for meaning and theories and existential answers but you don’t have to be a believer in the supernatural to see that some people just want to kill and destroy. Many commentators and reporters centered on the theme of why a person everyone describes as a nice, normal guy could do this.

Study it all you want my friends. No one is immune from the influence of wickedness.

2.) This is why we have seen the militarization of the police.

This week’s events will not silence those who say that SWAT tactics and “military grade weapons” are not appropriate for civilian policing, but it will mute them for a while.

Guess what: you want us to deal with bombers and mass murder? Then give us those tools.

3.) Facts and theories are golden. Conjecture is foolishness.

We don’t try to keep the public in the dark. We just can’t play “expert commentator” and throw out a bunch of possible scenarios.

We deal in evidence. Facts. Rational probabilities.

Trust us and don’t blame us for silence or misinformation. We’ll tell you what is appropriate to be shared at an appropriate time.

4.) Cops are not omniscient or omnipresent. We work within the laws of physics.

The cheers after Tsarnaev’s arrest were preceded by impatient questions of how he had gotten away from “all those cops.”

If we could recruit officers with psychic powers we would.

5.) The applause will fade.

We’ll bask in appreciation while we can, but the next police officer who is murdered will not make CNN headlines.

Jesus was welcomed with shouts of adoration not many days before the crowds turned and called for his crucifixion.

Maybe you won’t forget, but you probably will.

6.) This is what we face every day. Every. Day.

Shootouts with murderers? Well, not many of us have, but all of us are standing in line and ready for it.

You can say, “I’m out of harm’s way because I’m not in a war zone” but if shooters and bombers have taught us anything it is that they can strike anywhere, anytime.

I can’t think of any warrior cop that I know that would have hesitated one minute to go to Boston if called or who thinks that kind of thing couldn’t happen in their patrol area.

K9s Warriors

Anyone who's held a perimeter on a patrol knows what a God send a K9 is. But seeing these dogs in action is even more incredible.

Take a look at SFC Corbin's dog Ax at 12:00. The way Ax looks up at his handler. Talk about love from a being to another.

I've got another book on my "To Read" list...damned, Beth will kick my ass if I order it now.
I don't say this often but thank you 60 Minutes for an excellent article.


From 60 Minutes Overtime, is Ax a hero?

And there is a fine line between bravery and stupidly. Here is a 60 Minutes producers trying his luck with the dog. Spoiler alert, the dog won. In all seriousness, notice how quickly the dog releases when ordered by his handler. Well trained.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A New Hope to kill Obamacare

This is Hail Mary and it would require John Roberts, to a degree, to come out and admit he was wrong last summer with the original Obamacare ruling, but it's right now our only hope.

The Supreme Court may yet rule Obamacare unconstitutional

Many may not be familiar with Article I, Section 7 of the U. S. Constitution that requires that “all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” This means that any law, which extracts money from the American people, can only come from the House. The problem is The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, originated in the U.S. Senate not in the House as constitutionally required. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento, California based foundation, is pursuing the matter before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia...

...In the Supreme Court’s decision of June 2012, it took great pains to establish that Obamacare is not a law passed under the Commerce Clause; this is a tax they ruled. Whether a fine, as the Administration argued throughout the case, or a tax as Roberts insisted, it is an extraction of money from the masses and therefore a tax and therefore must originate from the House, not the Senate. The philosophical switch created by Roberts made the constitutional error far more glaring. By letting origin slide the House looses its clear distinction on the origin of taxes and the people their right of first approval of taxation for generations yet unborn and probably forever...

Let us pray this gets expedited to SCOTUS and ruled correctly before more damage is done.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Officer Down

Patrol Officer Sean Collier
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department
End of Watch: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Age: 26
Tour: 1 year, 3 months
Suspect: One deceased, in custody

Patrol Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed during a large scale manhunt for suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Shortly after reports of shots fired on the MIT campus, Officer Collier was found in his vehicle at about 10:30 p.m. with multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The suspects carjacked a vehicle and led police on a pursuit. During the pursuit, the suspect threw explosive devices from the vehicle at police. The pursuit ended in Watertown, where one suspect was killed and a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police Officer was shot and seriously injured in a gun battle. The second suspect was captured in Watertown the following evening.

Officer Collier had served with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department since January 2012 and had previously worked as a civilian employee of the Somerville Police Department.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

China flexing it's expanding muscle

China has been expanding its ability to project power over the last 20 years. It has recently deployed a diesel powered carrier and is pushing to control more of the world's oil supply.

One of the primary ways the US has projected force since the 30s has been our fleet of carriers. China as of yet cannot project a fleet of ships to challenge US naval dominance. But they are deploying a newly fielded missile to specifically target our capital ships.
China deploys anti-ship missile off Taiwan

China has deployed near Taiwan a powerful missile designed to take out US aircraft carriers as Beijing strengthens its ability to prevent US forces from aiding Taiwan during potential conflict.

The deployment of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile comes as China’s army develops greater long-range and offensive capabilities. Those advances pose a challenge to US forces as Washington looks to build up its military presence in east Asia to balance out China’s rising might.

The DF-21D missile is a particular worry for Taiwan as it relies on US forces to back it up against threats from the mainland, which has not renounced the use of force to take the island it regards as part of its territory.

The missile limits the US’s ability to send aircraft carriers into the strait unchallenged to support Taipei, as it did in 1996 when China conducted missile tests in the strait during the run-up to the island’s first democratic election. Taiwan itself has no aircraft carriers.

News of the missile’s deployment came in written testimony to the head of intelligence for the Pentagon, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, delivered to a Senate committee on Thursday.

Chinese and US military sources have been saying since late 2010 that China has been planning to deploy the missile, but the testimony marks the first time a concrete deployment has been revealed in connection with a particular location. US military officials have said previously that the US lacks a tested way to defend its aircraft carriers against the missile.

That increases the pressure on Taiwan to strengthen its own ability to deter threats from the mainland and illustrates how, despite a reduction in tensions engineered by Taiwan’s president, China’s military continues to prepare for the possibility of conflict.

Taiwan’s military declined to comment specifically on the new missile, but its spokesman Luo Shou-he said the military “has continually strengthened the ability of self-defence to ensure the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.”...

...While the US and Taiwan lack a formal defence treaty that would require intervention, it is widely assumed that such help would be forthcoming. The US is required by its domestic law to help Taiwan defend itself, and it maintains a network of military advisers on the island.

...“This is [China’s] so-called double-handed strategy,” said one officer in Taiwan’s navy. “China maintains an improvement in the relationship across the strait . . . on the other hand it is still sending a very strong message to pro-independence personnel: ‘Don’t do anything stupid, I still have very strong capabilities’.”...

Now the test was conducted by China and we cannot know how well it really went off, but we know the People's Republic will improve their technology as time goes on. As the Nimitz class of carriers are retired and the deployment of the Gerald Ford series is in question, our ability to influence the world is more problematic.

Great to know with our leadership in Washington running multi-trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see and the Chinese helping to finance them, we're actually paying for this.

Nero fiddles along.

Officer Down

Assistant Warden Peggy Sylvester
Opelousas Louisiana Police Department
End of Watch: Sunday, April 14, 2013
Age: 50
Tour: 14 years

Assistant Warden Peggy Sylvester was killed in an automobile accident on Louisiana 31, south of Louisiana 742, at approximately 4:45 am.

She was attempting to pass another vehicle during a period of rain when her department vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree. Assistant Warden Sylvester, who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, suffered fatal injuries.

Assistant Warden Sylvester had served as a jailer with the Opelousas Police Department for three years. She had previously served with the Eunice Police Department for one year and St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office for 10 years. She is survived by her son, two daughters, and parents.
Rest in Peace Sis…We Got The Watch

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

Security Weekly: Mexico's Drug War: Balkanization Leads to Regional Challenges, April 18, 2013

By Tristan Reed
Tactical Analyst

Balkanization of Cartels

Since the late 1980s demise of the Guadalajara cartel, which controlled drug trade routes into the United States through most of Mexico, Mexican cartels have followed a trend of fracturing into more geographically compact, regional crime networks. This trend, which we are referring to as "Balkanization," has continued for more than two decades and has impacted all of the major cartel groups in Mexico. Indeed the Sinaloa Federation lost significant assets when the organizations run by Beltran Leyva and Ignacio Coronel split away from it. Los Zetas, currently the other most powerful cartel in Mexico, was formed when it split off from the Gulf cartel in 2010. Still these two organizations have fought hard to resist the trend of fracturing and have been able to grow despite being affected by it. This led to the polarized dynamic observed in 2011 when these two dominant Mexican cartels effectively split Mexican organized crime in two, with one group composed of Los Zetas and its allies and the other composed of the Sinaloa Federation and its allies.

This trend toward polarization has since been reversed, however, as Balkanization has led to rising regional challenges to both organizations since 2012. Most notable among these is the split between the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Sinaloa Federation. The Sinaloa Federation continues to struggle with regional crime groups for control in western Chihuahua state, northern Sinaloa state, Jalisco state and northern Sonora state. Similarly, Los Zetas saw several regional challengers in 2012. Two regional groups saw sharp increases in their operational capabilities during 2012 and through the first quarter of 2013. These were the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Knights Templar.

The Beltran Leyva Organization provides another example of the regionalization of Mexican organized crime. It has become an umbrella of autonomous, and in some cases conflicting, groups. Many of the groups that emerged from it control specific geographic areas and fight among each other largely in isolation from the conflict between Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation. Many of these successor crime groups, such as the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos are currently fighting for their own geographic niches. As its name implies, the Independent Cartel of Acapulco mostly acts in Acapulco, while Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos mostly act in Morelos state.

The ongoing fragmentation of Mexican cartels is not likely to reverse, at least not in the next few years. Despite this, while Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation continue to face new rivals and suffer from internal splintering, their resources are not necessarily declining. Neither criminal organization faces implosion or a substantial decline as a transnational criminal organization as a result of rising regional challengers. Both Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation continue to extend their drug trafficking operations on a transnational level, increasing both their influence and profits. Still, they will continue to face the new reality, in which they are forced to work with -- or fight -- regional groups.

Los Zetas

In Hidalgo state, a former Zetas stronghold, the Knights Templar have made significant inroads, although violence has not risen to the level of that in the previously mentioned states. Also, the turf war within Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas that began when Los Zetas split from the Gulf cartel in 2010 continues.

In light of Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero's dissent from Los Zetas and the death of former leader Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano, Zetas leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales could face organizational integrity issues during 2013. Signs of such issues appeared in Cancun during the first quarter when some members of Los Zetas reportedly broke from the group and adopted the Gulf cartel name. Besides possible minor dissent, a seemingly new rival has emerged in Tabasco state to counter Los Zetas. A group called Pueblo Unido Contra la Delincuencia, Spanish for "People United Against Crime," carried out a series of executions in Tabasco state throughout the first quarter, but the group's origins and significance remain unclear. No indicators of substantial splintering among Los Zetas have emerged since the Velazquez split.

Sinaloa Federation

Regional organizations continued to challenge the Sinaloa Federation on its turf in western Chihuahua state, northern Sinaloa state and Jalisco state through the first quarter. Intercartel violence in mountainous western Chihuahua continues as the Sinaloa Federation fights La Linea for control of the region's smuggling routes and drug cultivation areas. Los Mazatlecos so far has maintained its control over northern Sinaloa cities, such as Los Mochis and Guasave. It also has continued violent incursions into southern areas of Sinaloa state, such as Mazatlan, Concordia and El Rosario with its ally Los Zetas.

Gulf Cartel

At the beginning of 2012, Gulf cartel territory appeared likely to be absorbed by larger cartels -- essentially signaling the end of the Gulf cartel. Support from the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar combined with fractures within Los Zetas allowed a Gulf cartel resurgence, leading to a renewed Gulf assault on Los Zetas in the northeastern states of Mexico. The resurgence ended with a series of notable arrests during the last quarter of 2012, such as that of former top leader Jorge Eduardo "El Coss" Costilla Sanchez. The arrests triggered additional Gulf cartel infighting, which peaked in March 2013.

The escalated infighting in the Gulf cartel, particularly in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, highlighted the new state of the Gulf cartel: Instead of operating as a cohesive criminal network, the Gulf cartel now consists of factions linked by history and the Gulf label. The infighting began in 2010 after the death of former top Gulf cartel leader Antonio Ezequiel "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas Guillen. The death of Cardenas Guillen split the Gulf cartel into two main factions, Los Rojos and Los Metros. By the first quarter of 2013, infighting had broken out between Los Metros leaders, such as Mario "Pelon" Ramirez Trevino, David "Metro 4" Salgado and Miguel "El Gringo" Villarreal. This suggests the Gulf cartel is further fractured and no longer consists of just two opposing sides. The Gulf cartel may begin acting as a cohesive network during the second quarter after the escalated infighting in March, though this cannot be definitely predicted.

From March 10 to March 19, Reynosa became the focal point for Gulf cartel infighting as Ramirez Trevino escalated his conflict against Villarreal. Ramirez Trevino reportedly expelled Villarreal's faction and its allies from the Reynosa plaza and killed Salgado. This could mean Ramirez Trevino has consolidated control over other Gulf cartel factions. If true, this would represent a substantial shift in organized criminal operations in northeastern Tamaulipas state, where the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar smuggle drugs, people and other illicit commodities through the border towns of Reynosa and Matamoros while Los Zetas maintain a constant interest in fighting for control of the stated cities.

As mentioned during the last annual update, Gulf cartel factions are increasingly reliant on Sinaloa Federation and Knights Templar support to defend the remaining Gulf cartel territory in Tamaulipas state from Los Zetas. This certainly remains true after the first quarter, although the recent shift from Gulf cartel infighting may signal a shift in intercartel dynamics. Since the Gulf cartel in reality consists of separate factions, there is likely a separate relationship between each Gulf cartel faction and the larger criminal organizations reportedly in alignment with them. With Ramirez Trevino now in charge of Reynosa, a city valued by both the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar, his existing relationship with the two organizations will likely influence their strategies for maintaining their interests in Gulf cartel-controlled areas. Additionally, it is not yet clear whether Ramirez Trevino suffered any substantial losses during the March fighting in Reynosa. If he did lose some capabilities fighting Los Zetas in Tamaulipas state, or if he has challenged a faction loyal to either the Sinaloa Federation or the Knights Templar, either organization would likely have to use its own gunmen for defending Gulf cartel-controlled areas or mounting their own incursions into Zetas territory, particularly Nuevo Laredo.

Intercartel violence in the Gulf cartel-controlled city of Reynosa will likely diminish compared to the first quarter of 2013 if Ramirez Trevino has indeed won. This reduction in violence will continue only as long as Ramirez Trevino is able to hold his control over Reynosa. Influence from external organizations, such as Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar, could once again spark violence if Ramirez Trevino's efforts have harmed their trafficking operations through Reynosa or presented a new opportunity to seize control. What, if any, Gulf cartel infighting is ongoing is difficult to gauge.

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion

The severing of the relationship between the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Sinaloa Federation came to the forefront of conflicts in the Pacific states of Michoacan and Jalisco during the first quarter of 2013. The Sinaloa Federation relied on its alliance with the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion in defending the critical location of Guadalajara from Los Zetas and used the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion as an assault force into Los Zetas strongholds, such as Veracruz state.

Although evidence of the rift between the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Sinaloa Federation began to appear in open-source reporting during the last half of 2012, the conflict between the two organizations only became clear when the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion went on the offensive in Jalisco state by attacking Sinaloa Federation allies Los Coroneles, the Knights Templar and the Gulf cartel.

With a now-fully independent Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, the polarization of warring cartels in Mexico has effectively ended. In addition to the existing conflicts between the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Federation must now focus on reclaiming an operational hold over Jalisco state from the now-rival Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. The second quarter will continue to see a conflict between the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Sinaloa Federation-aligned groups in Jalisco state as well as neighboring states like Michoacan.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar experienced intensified conflict during the first quarter from their principal rival, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. In an effort to combat the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, the Knights Templar have allied with other Sinaloa Federation-aligned groups, the Gulf cartel and Los Coroneles, referring to themselves as "Los Aliados" to fight the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion within Jalisco. Violence as a result of this alliance against the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has been most notable in the Guadalajara metropolitan area as well as towns lying on highways 15 and 90, which connect to Guadalajara.

In addition to the Knights Templar offensive into Jalisco state, the group is currently defending its stronghold of Michoacan state. The Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion also has conducted violent assaults against the Knights Templar in Michoacan, particularly on routes leading from Jalisco state toward Apatzingan, Michoacan state. This assault has increased intercartel violence along the border of the two states as part of a tit-for-tat dynamic.

Citizens of Buenavista Tomatlan, Michoacan state, a municipality lying amid territory contested by the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Knights Templar, have recently set up a community police force to counter Knights Templar operations in the municipality. As in some other areas of Mexico, this community police force is a volunteer force that assumed law enforcement responsibilities independent of the Mexican government. The community police, while established to thwart the Knights Templar, have created tension between the communities of Buenavista Tomatlan and the government. On March 8, the Mexican military detained approximately 34 members of the community police force that had been created in February in Buenavista Tomatlan.

The Buenavista Tomatlan arrests occurred after the community police took over the municipal police station March 4 and detained the municipal police chief, who the Mexican military later freed. Notably, the Mexican government claimed at least 30 of the detained community police belonged to the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. If true, this suggests it has made territorial gains to the point of infiltrating the community police. However, there has been no confirmation on whether the accusations are true. Regardless, the community police force of Buenavista Tomatlan has placed its focus on stopping Knights Templar operations in the area, a focus that could only benefit the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's war with its rivals.

Mexico's Drug War: Balkanization Leads to Regional Challenges is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Officer Down

Police Officer Donald Bishop
Town of Brookfield Wisconsin Police Department
End of Watch: Friday, April 12, 2013
Age: 32
Tour: 2 years

Police Officer Don Bishop suffered a fatal heart attack while responding to a burglary call at approximately 11:00 pm.

He suffered the heart attack while driving near the intersection of Jaclyn and Sierra Drives. His patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree. Other responding officers immediately pulled him from the vehicle and began CPR. He was transported to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Officer Bishop had served with the Town of Brookfield Police Department for two years and also served as a part-time officer with the Village of Eagle Police Department. He had previously served as a reserve officer with the Mukwonago Police Department.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

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

We're having a Baconator for our health!

105-Year-Old Woman Claims Bacon Is the Secret to Long Life

First an 101-year-old lady proved to us that four drinks a day is totally OK, and now an 105-year-old is saying bacon is her secret to long life. Say what?

According to HLN, 105-year-old Pearl Cantrell credits her lengthy life to her love for bacon, as she eats the cured pork meat every day, which got her through "decades of hard work."

Naturally, this goes against every other study out there that says that processed meats actually decrease life span. The most recent study found that 4 pounds of uncooked bacon a day would actually kill a human, which is, admittedly, a lot of bacon....

This stat is so screwed up the study must have been federally funded. For a 200 pound man this is daily two percent of his body weight. Hell, you drink too much water you will drown yourself.
...Cantrell has, however, outlived three of her seven chidlren, endured years of physical labor working in a field, and is still up and running (and eating bacon every day). We'll just add it to our list of supposedly life-lengthening foods (including Roquefort cheese, boiled Greek coffee, and wine). The science doesn't back this up, but we can hope.
Thank you Ms Cantrell, in your honor Beth and I will have eggs and bacon this morning...for our health and long life!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

But it wasn't his lack of faith that did him in....

Star Wars actor Richard LeParmentier dies aged 66... 35 years after he was choked by Darth Vader

Star Wars actor Richard LeParmentier has died, aged 66.

He famously played a choking victim of Star Wars villain Darth Vader in 1977 film A New Hope.

TMZ reports that the circumstances surrounding LeParmentier's death are currently unclear.

The actor had appeared in more than 50 movies and TV shows but was best remembered for his role as the arrogant Admiral Motti, commander of Vader's planet destroying Death Star in 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope.

In the infamous scene, Motti mocks Vader's 'sorcerer's ways' and 'sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion.'

This leads to a near-fatal confrontation with the helmeted Vader who crushes his windpipe using 'the force.'

LeParmentier also played a police officer in 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and is reported to have recently been working as a screenwriter for British television.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1946 to British and Irish parents, he moved to the UK in 1974. He was married from 1981 to 1984 to British actress Sarah Douglas, who played the supervillain Ursa in Superman II. LeParmentier also made an appearance in the Christopher Reeve film as a reporter.

He also had roles in James Bond film Octopussy and the TV shows Capital City and We'll Meet Again.

The actor, who appeared at several sci-fi conventions, once said of his famous Star Wars scene: 'I did the choking effect by flexing muscles in my neck. It set off a chain of events, that choking.

'I can't do it anymore because, oddly enough, I have had an operation on my neck and had some 21st century titanium joints put into it.'

Originally, LeParmentier was asked by creator George Lucas to play an unnamed part with only a few lines, but he turned it down, before being offered the role that would launch his career.

He died at his home in Austin, Texas.
I remember as a kid seeing Darth kick your ass with just The Force and thinking "Woo, that's cool!" Thanks for another memorable small piece of the mine and millions of kid's lives. RIP Richard LeParmentier One last time we'll look at that great scene!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Geopolitical Weekly: China and North Korea: A Tangled Partnership, April 16, 2013

By Rodger Baker
Vice President of East Asia Analysis

China appears to be growing frustrated with North Korea's behavior, perhaps to the point of changing its long-standing support for Pyongyang. As North Korea's largest economic sponsor, Beijing has provided the North Korean regime with crucial aid for years and offered it diplomatic protection against the United States and other powers. To outsiders, China's alliance with North Korea seems like a Cold War relic with little reason for persisting into the 21st century. However, Beijing's continued support for Pyongyang is not rooted in shared ideology or past cooperation nearly as much as in China's own security calculations.

Perhaps nothing sums up the modern relationship more effectively than the oft repeated comment that the two countries are "as close as lips and teeth." Far from a statement of intense friendship, the completion of that Chinese aphorism -- "When the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold" -- highlights China's interest in propping up the North Korean regime. North Korea serves as a buffer state for China's northeast, and though Pyongyang can exploit that need, the North Korean leadership harbors no illusion that China is truly interested in the survival of any particular North Korean regime so long as Beijing can keep its buffer.

Whether China is seriously considering a change in relations with North Korea, ties between the two countries are shaped as much by geography and history as they are by choice. The Korean Peninsula abuts China's northeast, along Manchuria. The Yalu River separates North Korea from China, and the area on the western edge of the border functions as a gateway between the two countries along an otherwise largely mountainous border. The geography of the Korean Peninsula, as seen several times in the past, offers little resistance to rapid military maneuvers from north to south or vice versa.

At times, this border area was a troublesome spot for Chinese empires, which had to contend with various invaders and growing Korean military strength. At other times, the peninsula served as a conduit for Chinese culture to Japan -- and intermittently as the main highway for military confrontation between China and Japan. During the 19th century and the expansion of European and American activity in Asia, if foreign countries had dominated Korea, it would have further undermined China's already faltering national security. And during the Cold War, North Korea provided a strategic buffer against U.S. forces in Japan and South Korea, a role it still plays today.

A History of Antagonism

China and North Korea draw heavily from history in assessing each other's strategic positions, as well as their own. China sees North Korea as a useful buffer but one that can draw China into wars and potentially weaken or at least delay China's attempts at achieving its own strategic imperatives. North Korea sees China as a necessary partner, one that through careful manipulation will continue to fund and protect North Korea, but always with the risk of North Korea losing control of its own fate to the Chinese. These are not new ideas -- they draw from centuries of interactions, and both countries take different lessons from that history.

The North Koreans trace their lineage and in part their national philosophy to the Koguryo Kingdom, which lasted from 37 B.C. to 668 A.D., was centered in what is now North Korea and stretched well into modern-day China's northeast. During the seventh century, one Chinese dynasty wore itself out trying to expand into Koguryo, and that dynasty's successor was successful only after briefly allying with the dominant kingdom in what is now South Korea. The Chinese dynasties' moves against the Koguryo Kingdom reflected their concerns about having a strong power on China's frontier, a concern that continues to this day. China and both Koreas still have brief academic spats over the historical affinity of Koguryo, with China claiming it was a Chinese dynasty, in part to justify Beijing's continued oversight of North Korea but also to challenge any potential reunified Korea's claims to the ethnic Korean population that still resides on the Chinese side of the Yalu River.

The Korean Peninsula was also used as an invasion route between China and Japan. During the 13th century, after more than two decades of conflict, the Yuan Dynasty finally beat the ruling Korean kingdom into submission and used Korean shipbuilders, soldiers and supplies to launch two assaults against Japan, both of which ultimately failed. The Japanese, following unification under Toyotomi Hideyoshi some three centuries later, launched a large-scale invasion of Korea on their way to Ming China. The six-year war highlighted one of the weaknesses of Korea's defense -- the Japanese moved rapidly up the peninsula, quickly taking Seoul, Kaesong and Pyongyang. Ming forces rushed troops into Korea to block the rapidly advancing Japanese, who had all but brushed aside the unprepared Korean forces.

The combination of Chinese cannon and mobile troops from southern China, plus the ability of the Korean navy to cut Japanese supply lines, turned the tide, but throughout the intervention, the Chinese and Koreans found little to agree upon. Korea's ruling Chosun Kingdom saw itself as defending Ming China from the Japanese aggressors and demanded the utter defeat of the Japanese and if possible their subjugation. The Koreans further feared China would use the opportunity to leave its forces on the peninsula permanently. The Chinese were willing to settle for the retention of a buffer Korean state and considered accepting Japanese occupation of southern Korea, calling frequent cease-fires during the war that the Koreans saw as too beneficial to Japanese and Chinese interests but not to their own. The intervention during the Japanese invasion, like the later intervention during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, was not based on the interests of the Koreans but very much on the interests of the Chinese.

Despite Korea's concerns about possible Chinese domination, since the seventh century the various Korean kingdoms managed to largely retain their independence by nominally acceding to China's imperial vision and accepting a special relationship with the Chinese dynasties. This allowed China to remain confident in Korea's loyalty on the border and gave Korea a relative assurance that China would not invade it. For both, it was a combination of convenience and necessity that drove relations.

The pattern continued with only a few interruptions into the 19th century, even as China was being worn down by European colonial powers. China vigorously defended Korea's right to remain isolated from the rest of the world. Beijing was not strong enough to use military power to ensure Korea's continued role as a strategic buffer but rather exploited its special relationship with Korea diplomatically. Beijing would alternate between claiming a suzerainty relationship with Korea, making it the only path to dialogue with the Hermit Kingdom, and claiming that despite the special relationship the Koreans set their own foreign policy and China was not responsible for their actions. China's main objective here was to keep Korea out of the hands of foreigners.

Ultimately, China failed. Amid the complex maneuvering between the Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Koreans and others in the early 20th century, Japan took control of the Korean Peninsula. Holding Korea effectively ensured that there was little chance that China or another power could use the territory to stage an invasion of Japan. Possession of Korea also helped the Japanese to seize more of Manchuria, reinforcing to China just how important Korea is to China's national security interests.

Korea as a Strategic Asset

At the end of World War II, China was focused on its internal civil war and was not yet prepared to re-establish a special relationship with Korea. But by 1949, the Chinese Communists had largely emerged victorious at home and the Soviet occupying forces in North Korea had left. North Korea's new Communist government, formed after the Japanese withdrawal and the peninsula's division in 1945, consulted with or perhaps manipulated Moscow and Beijing into offering their political and military backing for an invasion of the South.

At the same time that Pyongyang was preparing its invasion into South Korea, China was preparing a cross-strait invasion of Taiwan. But China's plans had to be shelved. Only days after hostilities broke out between North and South Korea in June 1950, the United States deployed ships to the Taiwan Strait to protect the Nationalist government in Taipei. When the North's forces were halted and pushed back to the Yalu months later, China had no choice but to shift its attention away from Taiwan and enter the Korean War to deal with the much more pressing threat along its border.

The Soviets, concerned that a successful move by Beijing to defeat the Nationalists in Taiwan would then free Beijing to make political overtures to the United States, gained in the Korean War continued animosity between the United States and China. North Korea's actions, while they could have been beneficial for China had they succeeded, instead undermined Beijing's reconquest of Taiwan, locked Communist China into two more decades of contentious relations with the United States and ultimately left China responsible for supporting a faltering state on a critical border. The North Koreans were grateful for Chinese intervention but recognized that, as in past interventions, the Chinese were once again willing to settle for a divided Korea, so long as they could retain their buffer.

Although the North Koreans were able to draw on the emerging Sino-Soviet split after the Korean War to gain economic concessions from the competing Communist powers, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War left the North Korean regime with a stark choice: risk losing control over the country amid attempts at reform and opening (the example of the Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe did little to encourage this path) or accept the risk of a single sponsor state in China. Pyongyang sought another path; it would build a strong domestic deterrent to any military action while also threatening to use that deterrent to try to extract economic concessions out of the Americans, Japanese, South Koreans and anyone else concerned about peace and stability. Pyongyang would also draw on China's continued fear of losing its strategic buffer.

Although largely effective in the past, this policy is beginning to see diminishing returns. North Korea is now even more dependent upon China than before, but China is as much a hostage to the relationship as North Korea is. Beijing has used the various North Korean crises to its own advantage, offering to mediate talks in return for political concessions from the United States or South Korea, playing a very similar game as it did during the colonial era by simultaneously asserting a special relationship with North Korea and denying responsibility for North Korean actions. For China's leaders, this once served as a very useful way of managing regional relations and countering U.S. challenges to Chinese policies, such as currency manipulation. But for China, too, the policy is beginning to lose efficacy, and Washington is increasingly calling on China to either assert itself in dealing with Pyongyang or be sidelined. Washington may even be seeking to circumvent China, turning to India and Mongolia as potential interlocutors.

For China, North Korea remains a necessary strategic buffer, and in a unification scenario, the most China can tolerate is a neutral Korea that leans toward Beijing. For North Korea, Beijing's need for a buffer may ensure that China will defend the North against an attack, but it doesn't guarantee that Beijing would preserve the North Korean regime. Beijing may be just as well served by a more pliant North Korea as by the current government. The Chinese have already intimated that in a collapse or a war scenario, they may seize Pyongyang and hold the northern portion of Korea, effectively taking on responsibility for the management of the buffer zone, even if this is not the optimal solution.

North Korea's continued use of a threatening posture, if it fails to gain concessions and shows China's inability to influence its smaller neighbor, may ultimately be seen by China as detrimental to its own interests. This is the message China is now spreading via its academics and others, both in the domestic media and abroad. In return, North Korea, in commentaries in its state media, has suggested that small powers cannot trust the promises of big powers to defend them, and thus must build their own strong deterrent.

At the rhetorical level, a rift is emerging between Beijing and Pyongyang. Since both countries have new leadership, it is not surprising that they are uncomfortable with one another at this time. Both use North Korea's continued crises for their own advantage, and both see that that approach is not working as well as it used to. During his recent visit to China, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sought Beijing's help in understanding the behavior of North Korea and in reining in Pyongyang's threatening statements and actions. Beijing countered that Washington needs to engage Pyongyang in dialogue but that China itself has not established a close relationship with the new North Korean leadership. The subtext, even before the Kerry visit, was that Beijing itself is growing exasperated with Pyongyang's actions, which are outside the realm of what China considers acceptable, and that Chinese academics, if not the leadership, are now openly discussing a possible break with North Korea and China's near unlimited support of its belligerent neighbor.

This may be another feint. The Chinese once again may be seeking to trade their assistance with North Korea for political concessions elsewhere. And with North Korea less predictable given its new leader, these concessions may have to be higher than in the past. Washington appears to have already anticipated the Chinese counter and has suggested it could reverse some of its recent deployments of missile defense systems to the region if China intervenes with the North. There is some irony in the United States using the North Korean playbook in dealing with China -- Washington essentially escalated the military situation with the missile defense deployment and is now offering to return to only slightly above the pre-crisis status quo in return for political concessions, namely calming North Korea.

North Korea's actions are beginning to invite responses that threaten China's strategic interests, from expanded U.S. missile defense to accelerating Japanese remilitarization to the increased potential for closer Japanese-South Korean military cooperation. If anything makes China begin to question which country has the upper hand in its relationship with North Korea, this may be it.

China and North Korea: A Tangled Partnership is republished with permission of Stratfor.