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Winter 2015

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Tehran Stages Military Drills Near Strait of Hormuz

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) staged a series of military exercises near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, in Tehran's largest show of force in recent years. The wargames, named Great Prophet 9, come as neighboring Arab states prepare to spend billions on countering the threats posed by the Islamic Republic.

Iranian state TV aired footage of the exercise showing dozens of IRGC boats raiding a replica U.S. carrier and firing large caliber weapons and ship-to-ship missiles at the vessel. Knowing the formidable presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the region, IRGC commanders often rely on such asymmetric attacks, overwhelming their enemy with swarms of smaller boats. Meanwhile, other sailors practiced shooting down a drone and planting underwater mines, according to the Washington Post. After the trainings, outspokenly anti-western leaders, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, attended a ceremony to mark the navy's success.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 25, 2015 at 4:29 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

U.S. Jury Finds PA and PLO Liable For Terrorism

A Federal District court in New York City found the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) liable for facilitating terrorist attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004 on Monday. The verdict marks an important milestone over a decade-long legal battle and helps set a precedent for other anti-terrorism cases in the future.

After two days of deliberation, a jury awarded $218.5 million to compensate U.S. victims and their families killed and injured during seven different attacks, including a suicide bus bombing. Prosecutors used bank statements to show how the PA paid wages of officials who organized the killings and that Palestinian leaders supplied "martyr payments" to the families of terrorists. Many plaintiffs in the case chose to testify over the past seven weeks, reciting graphic and emotional memories the about loved ones injured or killed in the attacks.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Putin and Sisi Hold Talks in Cairo

Russian President Vladimir Putin held high level talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo this week as part of a two-day state visit. Putin and Sisi hope to strengthen ties following a deterioration in relations between each of their countries and the United States.

Talks will focus primarily on terrorism and economic cooperation; both countries face challenges posed by radical Sunni insurgents. Separatists in the Northern Caucasus killed 10 police officers in late December, while in Sinai terrorists with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis have sworn allegiance to Islamic State and regularly target Egyptian security forces with suicide bombings, IEDs, and well organized assaults.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 12, 2015 at 10:48 am  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Arab Allies Take New Initiatives Against IS

The United Arab Emirates restarted its attacks on Tuesday, just a few days after the country announced it would deploy F-16s to Jordan. The Emirates' official news agency WAN said Abu Dhabi "reaffirms the UAE's unwavering and constant solidarity" with Amhan. However, even with enthusiasm among its Arab allies, the U.S. still plays a pivotal role in fighting IS.

The UAE quietly suspended air strikes in December, fearing the limited capacity of coalition forces to reach a downed pilot, following the capture of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. To reassure its allies, the U.S. military reportedly repositioned V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and additional troops from Turkey to northern Iraq in preparation for such search-and-rescue missions. But it was the death of al-Kasasbeh that galvanized Jordan and the UAE to increase their offensive positions.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 10, 2015 at 4:29 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Journalist Freed From Egypt Arrives Home

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste returned home to Brisbane, Australia on Thursday, following his release from jail in Egypt. However, two of his colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, remain detained in the country.

Greste was greeted at the airport with much fanfare by family members, supporters, and members of the media. During a press conference he told reporters that Cairo should release his co-workers and that he felt "incredible angst" over leaving them behind. "Egypt has an opportunity to show that justice does not depend on your nationality," Grest said. "If it's right for me to be free, it's right for them to be free." The Australian refrained from sharp criticism of the Egyptian government, trying not to endanger their release.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 5, 2015 at 1:42 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

U.S. National Killed During Attack in Libya

Nine people were killed, including a U.S. security contractor, during an attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli, Libya earlier this week. As one of the worst acts of violence against foreigners in the Mediterranean country since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi the assault highlights the growing reaches of Islamic State's ideology outside of Iraq and Syria.

Several gunman stormed the Corinthia Hotel Tuesday morning firing on foreigners and detonating a car bomb, according to media reports. After hours under siege, the terrorists threw grenades at security forces raiding the hotel, killing themselves in the process. An online jihadist forum named two suicide bombers involved with the assault, suggesting one is Tunisian and the other Sudanese.

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 29, 2015 at 5:13 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Two IDF Soldiers Killed Near Lebanon Border

Two Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday afternoon near the Lebanon border after their vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile. At least seven other IDF troops were injured during the attack at Mt. Dov, making it the most violent confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel since the summer 2006 war.

Israel's military launched retaliatory artillery and airstrikes against Hezbollah operation centers near the border. A Spanish peacekeeper from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed in the crossfire, according to local media.

An IDF soldier rides an armored military ambulance near Israel's border with Lebanon on January 28, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

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By Michael Johnson  |  January 28, 2015 at 2:45 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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