Top al Qaeda commander killed in Afghanistan

written by Jake Hollander
I know you’re probably in shock that this article ISN’T about the election, but it’s still important.
On October 23rd, 2016, Al Qaeda’s number one in Afghanistan, Farouk al-Qatani, was killed in Kunar Province by a U.S. airstrike. A Pentagon spokesperson announced that the airstrike killed the terrorist on November 5th.
Among other things, al-Qatani was one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous leaders, described by former CIA acting director Michael Morell as “a US counterterrorism expert’s worst nightmare,” as well as “one of the few al Qa’ida leaders…[he worries] might have what it takes to replace Bin Laden.”(313)
The specific area he was hiding in Kunar was near Nuristan Province, an area that is one of the most inhospitable places that humankind has settled.
Since major events such as the formation of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the death of Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda has split into a series of factions, some of which at war with the others. The two most dangerous are Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS, the later of which is fighting the other Al Qaeda factions. A close runner-up in terms of lethality is Jabhat al-Sham, formerly known as Al Qaeda in Syria. It split with intent of winning the hearts and minds of the Syrian resistance, and integrating itself across the spectrum of rebels. Following that are less dangerous groups, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, located in North Africa and has been seriously damaged by French intervention efforts. Another one of the smaller groups is the one al-Qatani belongs to: Designated Al Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL), it is located in Afghanistan and Pakistan, headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, and is the original organization formed by Osama Bin Laden. Without al-Qatani, it is all but neutralized.
But that doesn’t mean that the other Al Qaeda factions are done either. There is a lot more work to do to counter global terrorism, and while airstrikes can cause serious setbacks and prevent them from launching sophisticated, comprehensive attacks, there are a variety of means necessary- law enforcement, intelligence operations, humanitarianism, trade, and education and others- before the U.S. can truly say it has defeated terrorism.

Source: The Great War of our Time by Michael Morell

Insight on NYC Cyberattack of 2013

 Ravin Nanda, Condord-Carlisle High School ’19

The Justice Department has finally determined the cause of the New York City cyberattack in 2013: Iran. In 2013, hackers accessed the Bowman Avenue Dam, that’s used for flood control. The intrusion enabled the hackers to probe the system, forcing the department to conduct an investigation.

The official determined that Iran was responsible for the attack, and that an indictment is supposedly to be handed down in the U.S. attorney’s office back in New York. They are still unsure whether or not specific people in the Iranian Government should be charged, or if the department should publicly accuse Iran, tarnishing its name. Mark Toner from the State Department openly stated that Iran would not be charged, but, “I would say broadly that we obviously take all, seriously all such malicious activity in cyberspace. We’re going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal to deter, detect, counter and mitigate that kind of activity.”

There has been no further acknowledgement by the Iranian Government.  What does this mean?

As the US and Iran have not always held a strong relationship, so the implications that this holds puts an even bigger burden on the weak relationship, potentially causing more and more problems. The ball is in America’s court right now, so whatever they decide to do, they should tread lightly; based on history, Iran doesn’t take things too lightly.

The Legacy of Sanctions on the Russian Threat

George Chai, Syosset High School ’17

With the rise of Putin’s aggressive policy action, particularly in Crimea and Ukraine, the threat the Russian State poses to the United States’ globally is growing exponentially.  One of the main courses of action that the West has imposed on Putin’s regime is economic.  The role of a sanction is to essentially barrier all trade between one country and another.  Through this analysis, we’ll see how extensive these economic sanctions are and if they are truly defeating the danger Russia is bringing back from another cold time.

The first kind of thinking that Western policymakers had in mind when constructing the idea of imposing an economic sanction was purely structural.  They believed that breaking down Russia’s trading and economic roots would be the best way to calm the aggressive state.  The sanctions could possibly accomplish this because of two reasons.  The first is due to high taxes.  According to Alexei Lossan of RBTH, Russia was forced to increase their taxes as a result of economic sanctions, in order to maintain stability. A huge example of their actions is that sales taxes in Russia were utilizes once more to drive in some more governmental revenue. This ultimately causes a decrease in things like foreign direct investment – which is crucial to Russia’s economy.  According to Roberto Mauro of the IMF, high taxes persuade countries to not invest in other countries because higher taxes translate into less output on the overall investment

Secondly, economic sanctions create uncertainty.  Jason Letzian of the University of Wisconsin touts that sanctioned countries scare off foreign investors because these countries tend to have even more piled on sanctions from other countries as a result of one initial sanction.  This uncertainty is economically devastating to any sanctioned country.  Moreover, Letzian concludes that the mere idea of economic sanctions could preclude foreign direct investment from other countries.  The Russian Central Bank found that there was an increase of 250% foreign direct investment flowing out of Russia due to these economic sanctions.  Additionally, the Moscow Times found that there was a 40% in foreign direct investment coming into Russia since the imposing of sanctions.  Conclusively, Trading Economics estimates that this loss in FDI becomes a 5% reduction in Russia’s overall economy per year.  By crippling and hindering the Russian economy, policymakers of the West believe that this would stop the Russian state.  However, while this may work in the short term and eventual long term, there is still a flip side to this debate.  

The opposite side of the discourse on the effectiveness of economic sanctions lies in Russia’s response to these Western actions.  As a result of the cut off trade to the West, Russia has actually turned to the Far East to countries like China for new trading relationships.  Chris Weafer, of the Moscow Times, comments that, “Another effect of the sanctions and, in particular, the political reset with the U.S. and EU is the so-called pivot East.” Indeed, the leaders of each country actually came together and signed a natural gas export contract worth over $8 billion dollars.  The effect of this is a newly established Sino-Russian power in areas such as Asia and Eurasia.  Ultimately, the big idea and implication of the effect is that we see the rise of bigger powers that the West initially wanted to limit in the first place.  The point of an economic sanction is limit, but rather, the response by Russia to the sanctions has empowered the state to a certain degree.

With these words in mind, it is crucial to understand that these international affairs continue to impact every nation every day and that anything could change within a day’s worth of events.  This analysis simply gives a perspective of a student and only time can tell the actuality of the state of affairs between Russia and the West.

Trump: The World Speaks Out

Ravin Nanda, Concord-Carlisle High School ’19


Donald Trump may still lead in the Republican Polls, but his radical comments have sparked an outrage among many of the world’s citizens – including aspiring world leaders, computer hacking organizations and Prime Ministers. This past week, the UK’s prime minister, David Cameron, signed a petition banning Trump from entering the UK, reaffirming the importance of excluding people who may “radicalize or encourage extremism.” While politicians are getting heated about Trump’s controversial comments, back in the US, Anonymous Hacking Group just declared a war on Donald Trump. “This policy is going to have a huge impact. This is what ISIS wants. The more Muslims feel sad, the more ISIS can recruit them….think twice before you speak anything. You have been warned Mr. Donald Trump.” Whilst Trump’s lame excuses always revolve around his comments as mere “jokes,” most Americans actually oppose his policies. Similar to Anonymous’ statements, Malala Yousafzai stated, “the more people speak about Islam and go against Muslims, the more terrorists we create. So it’s important that whatever politicians say, whatever the media say, they should be really, really careful about it. If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims because it cannot stop terrorism. It will radicalize more terrorists.”

From hacktivist groups to education activists, Trump’s fan pool continues to decrease. Many people have been wondering how good of a president Trump would actually make. But with his discriminatory policies and racist ideals, how can anyone with such a closed mindset be the face of America, a country that stands for acceptance and equality?

Yossi Cohen to be New Mossad Head

Jake Hollander, Amity High School ’17

On December 7th, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu named Israeli National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen as the successor of Tamir Pardo, the outgoing Ramsad, or head, of the Israeli spy service, the Mossad.

The Israeli Mossad is one of five Israeli intelligence agencies, and it specializes in intelligence gathering abroad, as well as covert diplomacy and operations. Starting in the 70s, it focused on targeted killing of enemies of Israel abroad. Israel has faced terrorists launching horrific acts of violence since its inception. As a result, in 1972, after the Munich massacre, the Mossad’s operations unit, Kidon, began a targeted assassination operation known as Wrath of G-d, where Israeli operatives executed all the leaders of a terror group called Black September. To this day, Mossad has focused on direct action to destroy terror threats. It has kidnapped former high-ranking Nazi Adolf Eichmann, assassinated the operations chief of Hezbollah, and has even killed General Suleimani, who, when he was alive, was Syria’s most powerful general. Recently, it gained worldwide attention for launching what can be best described as a covert war on Iran’s nuclear program, intended to destroy Israel by way of WMDs.

After completing compulsory military service in the IDF, Cohen joined the Mossad, working in its Tzomet division, which utilizes spy rings and human resources to gather intelligence, and became its head for 5 years. After that, he became deputy director of the Mossad, which he held until 2013. Then, he became Israeli National Security Advisor, a position largely considered an interim as Netanyahu groomed him for the role. The fact that Cohen received Netanyahu’s trust alone is impressive, as the former Sayeret Matkal (IDF special operations unit) commando is infamous for his untrusting nature.

Cohen is largely considered to be more charismatic than his predecessor, Netanyahu’s friend from his Sayeret Matkal days, as well as more willing to use covert operations. The Model (the rather handsome and swanky dressed soon-to-be Ramsad’s codename) is certainly expected to be quite different from the myopic and unimaginative Tamir Pardo,

In today’s complex spying, Cohen will need to have a bird’s-eye view of everything Mossad does,” says Ronen Bergman Yediot Ahronoth’s Mossad expert and senior intelligence and military correspondent. He will need expertise in cyber warfare, economic warfare, covert ops, signals intelligence, enemy terror groups and nations, and, finally, in today’s age of cooperation, among foreign intelligence organizations, particularly potential allies in the fight for intelligence, who to trust, apart from the only agency the Mossad already trusts, our CIA.

While it is unclear how Cohen will differ from Pardo in terms of leadership, he has his work cut out for him. Israel is surrounded by enemies from all sides. Iran has promised to obliterate it from the map with nukes. Hezbollah, its terror proxy, maintains thousands of rockets and even Iranian-made combat drones. Hamas, a Gaza-based terror group, has launched thousands of rockets in attempts to slaughter Israeli citizens. The Sinai has become a terror hotbed. And ISIS has promised to go after Israel after it consolidates its territory in Iraq and Syria. Israel, the tiny nation that is America’s only dependable ally in the Middle East, and the only democracy in the region, needs its spies now more than ever, and Cohen will have to stand up to the task.


Spotlight Santorum: Rick Santorum’s Popularity Is Disturbing

Spotlight: Santorum

Rick Santorum’s Popularity Is Disturbing.

By Ben Ellenberg

There’s no candidate in Rick Santorum. After the Obama campaign announced the relocation of some of their opposition research away from Mitt Romney in order to focus on Rick Santorum, the ex-senator’s rise seemed validated. When the President starts doing research, you’ve certainly struck a nerve. And yet, the announcement feels less than genuine. If anything, the announcement was another attack on Mitt Romney, a degredation of his viability as a real presidential challenger. Romney is certainly still priority number one in the Obama camp, but by shifting focus onto Santorum, Obama’s campaign is attacking the one truly strong political attribute that Romney has; he’s a serious candidate.

That’s always been a staple of Romney. No flash, no wit or charm, just a steadfast commitment to win in the most bland and efficient way possible. So far, that’s worked. Romney has never had the same pious fanbase as Ron Paul, he’s never gotten the flurry of attention that Herman Cain or Rick Perry received, and he’s never come close to the rhetorical powerhouse that Gingrich employs at debates. Yet, Romney supporters will tell you they support him because he’s the only serious politician in this race.  However, if the Obama campaign’s announcement is to be taken at face-value, Romney is not alone anymore. If Romney weren’t alone in that lofty political perch, he’d be left with no qualities.

Now, surely the announcement is not to be taken at face-value. Santorum represents only the loudest of the GOP. Santorum appeals to those fringe Conservatives more interested in the moral decline of the American family than anything about auto-bailouts, bank defaults, or debt-cielings. That’s how Santorum’s campaign always seemed destined to play out. Santorum would spread his message and then fade, eventually becoming a Fox News commentator. However, his polls jumped, and voters caught a bad case of brand-recognition. Before anybody could believe it, Santroum had won enough states to scare Romney into attack mode.

There’s something incorrect about Santorum’s rise. If Rick Santorum, the man who compared homosexual relationships to bestiality, can rise in the polls to rival Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, what does that mean? Could Ron Paul be next? Might Donald Trump throw his hat into the race and win California? Anything seems possible right now. This candidate is much more than just some leftover Anti-Romney voting. Santorum is too radical to be a Conservative push against Romney. There’s not enough championing of Santorum as an alternative or as a populist. Santorum isn’t the people’s candidate this time, not like Rick Perry or Herman Cain. Santorum is the religious candidate, the one who is campaigning to change the world, not just to change the policies. No, Santorum isn’t another disingenuine effort to find anyone other than Romney, even if he’s received a boost because of his new status as a challenger.

Instead, Santorum seems oddly genuine. Herman Cain always seemed like he was riding the popularity wave and Gingrich was hammering away at debate moderators for poll numbers until they dried up. There was never any substance to the way those candidates were popular. Santorum’s popularity comes from his family-values stance. Whenever Romney tried to be Conservative, it felt just like everything else that he’s ever done: fake. Nobody can listen to Romney talk about good Conservative values when he flaunts his experience as Governor of Massachusetts; those things don’t mix. However, Santorum is an honest-to-goodness Conservative. When he says he doesn’t support an expanded women’s role in the military, he means it. When Rick Santorum claims that “[i]f the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery,” he’s truly saying what he thinks is good and correct and responsible. There’s something very distrubing in the earnestness of Santorum. Maybe it’s that he condemns homosexuality with the same sort of flustered confusion and disgust that a middle-school teacher uses to explain why you can’t eat glue. Maybe it’s that he’s popular because he’s speaking his mind, and by the transitive property, that means his mind, and the thoughts therein, are popular to whoever is being polled.

More than that, Santorum’s rise is an instance of desperation mixing finely with the answering of hopes and prayers. All of the Republicans wishing for someone genuinely committed to the morals that they think their Christian country has strayed from have found their savior in Rick Santorum. At the same time, all of those Republicans wishing that the party could consolidate behind anybody else but Mitt Romney have found a new candidate whose popularity did not originally arise from his lack of the name Mitt or last name Romney. Those two groups; both of them loud and restless, seem to have found the same candidate at the same time. Gingrich received their affections at different times, while Herman Cain and Rick Perry split the groups, with Perry receiving the moralists and Cain getting the contrarians.

Santorum will now be campaigning with the power of those two camps. What that means is yet to be seen. With a victory in Minnesota, Santorum will be a powerhouse, having dethroned Romney in his home state. With a loss, he’ll have to lick his wounds and limp through debates until he can try again in Washington. A win in Arizona won’t do it. Santorum needs a show of force again. Can the unity of these camps, the contrarians and the moralists, defeat Romney? Can they stay united behind Santorum? The real question now stands on Santorum’s leadership of these supporters, and if his debates, speeches, and general track record can say anything more than I already have, it’s that there’s no candidate in Rick Santorum.

Middle-East Mulligan: The Hypocrisy of a Western Push for an Arab Spring Reset

Middle-East Mulligan

The Hypocrisy of a Western Push for an Arab Spring Reset

By Ben Ellenberg

            There seems to be a feeling that the Arab Spring has failed. Democracy was not won in the tumultuous region, those protestors in Libya, Egypt, and even Tunisia have no received what they so very much require: freedom. In part, that is true. Certain rights certainly do not exist in these nations.  Religion has found its way into politics. The military has uncomfortably extensive power. How could we possibly declare these places democracies? Well, our own government is not far off from what we’re criticizing.

Let’s address each issue. First off is human rights, a crucial element to any democracy. America, a hotbed of opinions on the Arab Spring, does not have a sterling track record in that department. Slavery is a not-so-distant memory, while the struggle for civil rights of the African American is a fresh conflict. Even in more recent memory are prisoner-abuse scandals like the infamous Abu-Dhabi photo leak or the water-boarding debate decidedly settled by the Bush-Cheney administration. However, the human rights concerns in the Middle-East are not unwarranted. Rights for homosexuals, women, and minority religions will be tested. Yet these are not solely in those states undergoing revolution. Saudi Arabia, a close American ally, has very recently passed a decision allowing women to vote in elections in 2016. Human rights considered essential in America have not been fought or cried for in Saudi Arabia with the same vigor or publicity as with the Arab Spring nations.

Many have been quick to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and the Islamist Nahda party of Tunisia, both ruling majorities in the respective parliaments. The reasons for such denouncements stem for cries of theocracy inherent in allowing them to govern. However, who are we to talk? Consider the ability of a non-Christian candidate in America to become President. Mitt Romney ran the gauntlet because of his Mormonism, and Barack Obama faced fierce opposition because his name didn’t even sound Christian enough. When Rick Santorum campaigns for the highest office on an evangelical Christian platform, we are no better to fear the involvement of religion in politics. When Blue Laws, laws left over from a time of religious fervor, regulating Sunday activities, still exist in my home state of Connecticut, the United States of America does not get to criticize religion in the Tunisian or Egyptian Parliament.

Another critical issue at play in the Arab Spring nation building has been military power and involvement. In Egypt, the military was crucial to the deposition of Mubarak, and now they rule in a transitional role until a normal government is created. There is concern, rightfully so, that the military will give up its power. Unrestricted, or at least far-reaching, military power is a legitimate concern for a fledgling democracy. Yet America faces a similar issue. The involvement of Para-Military Contractors has many worried that America is too heavily invested in and lobbied by these companies to effectively reduce their militarization. Add to that mounting fears raised by a recent line in the National Defense Authorization Act that seemingly gives the Commander-In-Chief the ability to detain U.S. Citizens without Habeas Corpus, and military power in the government has never appeared so very ominous.

Obviously, there are differences. For better or worse, The United States of America has proved itself to be a functioning democracy. Without fail, presidents and congressmen have taken office and left it for as long as the nation has existed. In lands like Tunisia, democracy in a true electoral sense is still in a trial period. These next years will be crucial, and nothing can go wrong. America can sustain setbacks because democracy is so ingrained in the culture. However, countries that have been under dictatorships do feel the same entitlement. In ways, the feeling that democracy needs to be earned and fought for is stronger than the sense that it is given. That urge to fight for it could be what drives Egypt or Libya or Tunisia to freedom.

I am not arguing that those people are not capable of freedom. I am arguing that we need to understand what freedom means. The Arab Spring has overthrown dictatorships. Now, the rest of the world needs to be prepared for what the people want. If religious parties are voted into power, we must understand that this is democracy at work. There’s no need for another revolution yet, everyone just needs to let the process work.