Around Town …

  • The Justice Department announced earlier this week that a Texas man has been convicted for providing material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Turns out that this fellow thought he was communicating with the already deceased AQAP operative, Anwar Al-Aulaqi – the Yemeni-American who was killed in a drone attack on September 30, 2011. Some of these fellows are not the sharpest tools in the shed; and that makes them even more dangerous.
  • Meanwhile in New York, we have another tool. The U.S. Attorney announced the indictment of Abi al-Barra for conspiring to provide material support, including personnel, training, lethal substances and explosives, to al-Qaeda.
  • Back to the Soviet future. Over at the Foreign Policy blog, the following post caught my attention: “Can Individuals have an impact?”. Why, of course, but not if it is Ronald Reagan. But do not go looking for his name in the post, it is not there. First priming the revisionist pump by saying that communism’s fall was inevitable, Mr. Michael Dobbs wants readers to know that “[i]n the end, after some hesitation, Gorbachev remained true to his democratic principles. He refused to unleash violence against his own citizens in order to remain in power.” Ronald Reagan, armed with what we call today American exceptionalism, pushed the Soviets to the breaking point and won the Cold War. That’s my story and I am sticking to it (and it also happens to be the truth).
  • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that is worth a read if you or your company do business in the Gulf region. According to the study, the GAO found gaps in end-use monitoring programs of U.S. weapon sales administered by the Department of State and the Department of Defense to ensure that these US arms exported to the region are used as intended. It will be interesting to see how this report, the second in a series, will impact export control reform efforts on Capitol Hill. “Persian Gulf: Implementation Gaps Limit the Effectiveness of End-Use Monitoring and Human Rights Vetting for U.S. Military Equipment,” is available here for download.
  • Borrowing a script from the Cuban and Iranian regime playbook, the Burmese dictatorship is calling for economic sanctions to be lifted. The release of former political prisoner and leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not enough – the regime knows it – in part because it is one of her most useful political tools she and her supporters can use to leverage dictatorship to change its ways. The regime has done little to expand freedoms. As usual, our European partners are going wobbly on the question of sanctions and they are lobbying the Obama Administration to change its tune and it seems to be working. They announced this week a new diplomatic initiative that includes the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to the country in about 50 years. To my friends in the Western Hemisphere, this playbook may be coming to an island near you (just 90 miles from U.S. shores).
  • The Heritage Foundation has published a good summary of the possible negative impacts on defense spending if the Congress fails to get its act together on federal spending. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was a bad idea from its inception; and, in recent weeks, that is proving to be true. They should have stuck with the regular order and forced the Congressional Committee to do their jobs and carry out robust oversight.
  • Yahoo! eyed by Chinese investor: could a CFIUS review be in the offing? According to numerous recent business media outlet reports, the Chinese Internet-based business Alibaba Group, along with other unnamed investors, may be looking to acquire U.S.-based Yahoo! Inc. The Alibaba Group has been heavily subsidized by the Chinese government and has many links to the Chinese military. Any effort by this type of a company to acquire a U.S.-based technology company should be closely scrutinized by the U.S. Government, even if means subjecting the transaction to a review by the Committee on Foreign Investments un the United States (CFIUS). In addition to the 2011 report released by the U.S. Government on the cyber espionage threat, just yesterday the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced that it was initiating an investigation into national security threats posed by Chinese telecom companies operating in the United States. It may want to look at this Alibaba gem as part of that process.
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