Lone Wolf Bio-Terror: Are We Prepared?

It’s no secret that the lone-wolf threat to Europe is bad, and worsening. However, it’s not just an increasing number of lone wolves, but the variety of tactics they’ll employ in terror’s service that makes prevention a challenge. 

It’s no secret that the lone-wolf threat to Europe is bad, and worsening.

According to Britain’s Security Minister and top counter-terrorism officer, Ben Wallace, it is likely that a biological or chemical terror attack is on the horizon. At a security conference in London, last Tuesday Wallace warned, “The only limit to the ambition of our adversaries is their imagination.

Chemical and biological weapons are getting closer.

Chemical and biological weapons are getting closer. They have developed and worked on a better arsenal. We have to be prepared for the day when that comes to our streets.” Implicit in his remarks was the notion that counter-terror specialists, as well as governments, must be equally imaginative in their pro-activity.

One major challenge governments face in trying to thwart chemical and biological attacks is the scale. If one person releases tiny amounts of a chemical agent like Anthrax, it could have implications for hundreds, or, millions of people. Traffic flow disruptions, water supply tainting, exposure areas untouchable, these are just some of the possibilities. 

Governments and private contractors have little experience with bio-terrorism. If terrorists were to release biotoxins in civilian areas, the damage could be enormous.

A terrorist need only infect one person, who could then infect her (sic) social circles. Epidemic exposure rates could be a reality faster than you can say Cipro, bringing repercussions on a global scale. The terrorists would need to do very little. The disease would naturally spread at a velocity that grows exponentially.

The probability of these attacks is increasing, and it’s time that governments took note. Currently, there is no international system in place specifically to combat chemical and bio-terror.

If a terrorist infected someone with a biological agent in New York, and then that person flew to Germany infecting people in Berlin, German and American authorities would have no pre-existing framework within which they could cooperate, info-share about how to stop the disease’s transmission, and help those infected. 

The international community will have to work together with maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, it seems governments, unlike terrorists themselves, have a fixed view of terrorism.

It is critical that such a framework is in place before the scenario unfolds. In the event of a biological or chemical terror attack, time will be of the essence. The international community will have to work together with maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, it seems governments, unlike terrorists themselves, have a fixed view of terrorism.

Governments use major resources to plan for shooters, suicide bombers, and other common acts of terror. Diversifying those resources and intensifying the focus on biological and chemical terrorism could, in the future, save countless lives.

Assad Ascendant: Russia Sells Syria Missile Defense System

On Tuesday, October 2nd Russia’s Defense Minister confirmed delivery of a long-range surface-to-air missile defense system to the Syrian army. Russia has long backed Bashar al-Assad. The delivery of the system comes in response to a recent incident in which the Syrian army accidenally shot down a Russian plane, killing all 15 Russian servicemen on-board.

Russia and Syria noted that the accident was a consequence of Syria’s outdated defense system. The new system would be part of upgraded security measures to improve tracking and reliability.

It will take three months to train the Syrian army to use the equipment, but once trained it will improve its stature domestically as well as regionally. Israel and the US oppose the move. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called it a, “…serious escalation.”

Israel worries the new system will make it harder for them to fight Iran from Syrian territory.

Israeli officials expressed concern that the sale would embolden Iran’s movement of arms across Syria. Israel has used Syrian airspace to launch missiles at Iranian entrenchments in Syria as Russia and Syria looked the other way. Israel worries the new system will make it harder for them to fight Iran from Syrian territory.

Tensions between Russia and Israel flared over the shooting incident when Russia initially blamed Israel. With regards to the new missile defense system, Israel argues consistently that providing weapons to irresponsible actors inflames regional chaos. Israel promised to continue thwarting Iranian ambitions in Syria, with stealth fighters that are known to be undetectable.

The loud US and Israeli pronouncements about Syrian missile defense systems notwithstanding, that genie is out of the bottle: the S-300 launchers arrived in Syria already. The mere presence of the system has escalated tensions and shifted power; regional peace looks more distant now.

Despite this development, there are indicators — such as coordinated efforts to fight extremists like ISIS, and recent elections — that provide hope


Despite this development, there are indicators — such as coordinated efforts to fight extremists like ISIS, and recent elections — that provide hope. Does a tinderbox like Syria need more weapons? What happens to the regional power balance? Does Russia’s gift to Assad provide him with new leverage over Israel? Or, does it impel all actors to act more responsibly in pursuit of peaceful coexistence?

S-300PMU Specifications

Each launcher vehicle carries four missile containers (two missiles per target).
A full battalion includes six launcher vehicles with 24 missiles, plus command-and-control and long-range radar detection vehicles
Special feature: Fires two missiles vertically within three seconds, making it versatile and accurate
Capability: Russian 48N6E are the standard missiles fired from S-300PMU launchers. They have a range of 5-150km (3-93 miles) at a maximum altitude of 27-30km (17-19 miles).
Response time: Vehicle stopping to missile firing is five minutes.

Colombia After FARC

Leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia patrol a roadway near to San Vicente de Caguan in January 1999. The conflict with the FARC has killed nearly a quarter million people.

The 21st-century has been one of the more peaceful epochs in human history. People are bombarded with violent images and tragic news, but this century has borne witness to dramatic peace. Rampant violence defined epochs from Pax Romana to the Middle Ages through the Napoleonic Era.

World Wars and the Cold War marred the 20th-century. In this century, international wars have diminished. And in the shadows, violence has oriented to non-state actors and civil conflicts. The young 21st-century saw the end of two conflicts which had lasted for decades: the Korean War and the Colombian Civil War between FARC, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the government. This piece, in keeping with themes regarding Latin America, will discuss outcomes of the Colombian peace deal.

The Peace Accord in Colombia was signed on November 24th, 2016 and it won incumbent Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos a Nobel Peace Prize. Talks had developed over four years, beginning in Oslo, Norway and Havana, Cuba in 2012. In the short-term, the peace-talks resulted in disarming many FARC members, a decrease in violence, and a more coordinated political system wherein FARC has legitimate representation. More than 12,000 former combatants have pledged to return to society. Businesses such as Coca-Cola and Cemex have agree to hire former insurgents and run re-integation programs. The internal displacement rate has been reduced by a multiple of 30, and casualties have dropped from 3,000 at the beginning of the peace accords, to 10 at the end.

The death toll has climbed to more 120 human rights defenders in 2017 alone.

We can rightfully call this a success. But Colombia’s situation remains touch-and-go at best. When FARC agreed to the deal, other insurgent groups increased their presence, particularly in the countryside. Small groups such as the National Liberation Army (FNL), refused to negotiate with the government and remain active in such areas. Said groups have filled the power vacuum left when the government failed to extend its presence to areas where FARC controlled territory.

The struggle for control has led to conflicts between the smaller groups and the local population. Unfortunately, native, afro-Colombians, and human rights defenders have suffered disproportionately. Consequently, such populations are protesting peace accord details and urging the Colombian government to step in. The death toll has climbed to more 120 human rights defenders in 2017 alone.

The Santos government earned criticism when it failed to bring the peace deal before a plebiscite, and instead presented it to the Colombian Congress.

Another challenge lies in understanding the proposed agrarian reforms. Land rights have been at the heart of the Colombian conflict since the 1950s. FARC often loomed in the jungles so companies could not grab land belonging to indigenous communities. Newly elected president, Ivan Duque Marquez, sees the land restitution part of the Peace Accord as an attempt to bring socialism to Colombia. However, Marquez and his party have opposed the Peace Accord since the start.

Former FARC guerrillas Nasly Rodriguez and Gregory Villarraga – shown at a Bogota art gallery with their baby daughter — are among the many families who have had to adapt to new jobs and lives after the rebel group’s demobilization last year. CARLOS VILLALON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Given Venezuela’s turmoil, many rightfully fear that socialism will take Colombia down the same path. Finally, the Santos government earned criticism when it failed to bring the peace deal before a plebiscite, and instead presented it to the Colombian Congress.

The situation in Colombia reminds us that peace is not achieved by signing papers. Rather, it’s earned through sustained hard work, dialogue, and mutual trust. Making peace is a delicate process that requires more than stopping armed conflicts. Creating a sustainable peace requires political will and follow-through, working within existing institutional structures, and coordinating with civil society organizations.

Santos failed to exercise the requisite will and follow-through. He did not promptly increase the State’s presence in conflict zones. Additionally, the government failed to act in the interests of marginalized and vulnerable populations. It failed to provide indigenous and poor, rural farmers with necessary aid. Finally, there was a failure of proper public consultation, which is vital for democracy. Other nations should learn from Colombia’s mistakes, and the next peace process, wherever it occurs, should be a model of inclusivity, transparency, and be approved of by its population. Political will should carry the day from conflict zone to reconstruction.

Roberto Malta is a Brazilian born, George Mason University student pursuing a B.A. in Global Affairs, with minors in History and Economics.

Lingering Consequences of the Paraguayan War

One of Latin America’s darkest periods began in 1865 — around the time that the American Civil War was drawing to a close — but its wounds still have not healed. The mid-19th century Paraguayan War saw its namesake on one side and a triple alliance of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay on the other. Latin America looked quite different then. It has long been a place in flux politically, economically, and geographically speaking. But, this conflict altered rudimental perceptions of the continent. Its scars in South America run deep.

In 1862, just three years before the start of the war, Solano Lopez became the country’s second president.

In 1865 Argentina was a newly independent nation. It won its independence in an 1810 war with Spain led by Jose de San Martin. Uruguay was part of Argentina, as part of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, which was then conquered by Brazil and became independent in 1824. This, at the conclusion of Brazil and Argentina’s war for it. Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1822 but kept its royal family as it became an Empire. It often intervened in the domestic affairs of its South American neighbors.

Paraguay of today versus Paraguay of 150 years ago is a study in contrasts. It became independent from Spain in 1811. It instituted a military junta to control the country. Paraguay developed an economy, arguably becoming the most advanced South America country at the time. It used British support and know-how to develop industry and improve infrastructure. In 1862, just three years before the start of the war, Solano Lopez became the country’s second president.

Wikipedia: Brazilian Soldiers at the end of the war, including Corporal Chico Diabo (sitting down, third from left), who killed Paraguayan dictator Solano Lopez.

Paraguay like its 19th-century industrialized society peers needed access to production inputs, labor, and ports from which it could ship products. As a landlocked country, Paraguay’s only choice to gain access to the sea was to expand. Thus, Lopez started his expansionist plan and in 1865 attacked Brazil and Argentina with great success. The two attacked nations organized a joint war effort, and with Uruguay, created the Triple Alliance. Initially, the commander of their armies was Argentinian President Bartolome Mitre.

Brazil and Argentina annexed considerable portions of Paraguayan territory in the peace treaty following the end of the war.

Wikipedia: Battle of Riachuelo by Victor Meirelles, the turning point of the Paraguayan War

During the war’s first phase Paraguay was on the offensive. In February 1867 Mitre stepped down as the allied commander. He was replaced by Brazilian Army commander Luis Alves de Lima e Silva, aka the Duke of Caxias. Caxias was nominated Brazilian commander in October of the previous year. His first command halted the Brazilian army’s advance. Thereafter, he completely reorganized and restructured the allied military. Consequently, when he restarted the offensive in July 1867, the allied forces won one victory after another. This momentum allowed them to take Asunción, Paraguay’s capital, in January of 1869, defeating the Paraguayan forces. With the war seemingly won, Caxias — who was old and tired — relinquished his command of the allied war effort.

The Triple Alliance governments were unsatisfied and continued the war. They nominated the Count D’Eu, Brazilian Emperor Peter II’s son-in-law, to command their military forces. While Lopez refused to surrender, his resistance didn’t amount to much. With the army depleted, women, children and the wounded were left to fight on. What followed is one of the darkest moments in Brazilian history. Argentina and Uruguay decimated the Paraguayan population and destroyed the country. Brazil and Argentina annexed considerable portions of Paraguayan territory in the peace treaty following the end of the war.

This conflict altered rudimental perceptions of the continent.

The effect on Paraguay cannot be overstated. The most harrowing statistics indicate that 60% of Paraguay’s population, and 90% of its men, fell victim to combat, disease, or starvation. Paraguay was set back decades in its development and industrialization. This lag remains responsible for current economic and social problems.

The war is infrequently discussed outside of South America, but it’s a terrible chapter which reshaped its power balance ever after. Paraguay struggles with criminality, bootleggers, and drug traffickers to this day. It is poorer and less developed than its neighbors. It’s a lesson in the comprehension of a nation’s struggle. Often undermining characteristics result from occurrences decades or even centuries in the past. It is a vital reminder to keep human rights in the fore, and not forget its victims, lest they reoccur. Meanwhile, the wounds are far from healed, Paraguay may never recover fully, and it resurfaces often in relations between the four countries.

Roberto Malta, is a Brazilian born, George Mason University student pursuing a B.A. in Global Affairs, with minors in History and Economics.

Brazilian Elections

There is a growing uneasiness among Brazilians against Bolsonaro, who has expressed nostalgia for Brazil’s military dictatorship [Amanda Perobelli/Reuters]

Last Monday, October 8th, 2018, saw the first round of Brazilian general elections. Paraphrasing one of the presidential candidates, Joao Amoedo, what was supposed to be an election of hope, quickly became an election of fear.

The country is enduring the worst economic crisis of the 21st century, as well as a political crisis, with many leaders being jailed for corruption.

The astonishing rise of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro completely changed the political landscape of Brazil. Since 1994 the only parties to win a presidential election had been the Brazilian Social-Democracy party (PSDB), with former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso winning two terms, and the worker’s party (PT), with Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff winning two terms each.

The current president, Michel Temer, took office following Roussef’s impeachment. With his approval in the single digits, it was too low for him to even consider running for president.

Brazil nearly escaped the 2007 recession without a scratch because its economy is based mostly on the export of commodities like soy. However, as prices dropped, the Brazilian economy felt shock-waves. An economy that had been thriving suddenly was no longer. And its people were horrified by the succession of corruption scandals publicized by the media and federal police.

Brazil is hardly immune to processes affecting the rest of the world. This is especially regarding the rise of extremist, right-wing candidates. This has played out in Europe, Asia, and even the United States. Jair Bolsonaro represents the Brazilian iteration of this phenomenon. Bolsonaro, a former Army captain and longtime representative who defends easier access to guns and a tougher stand on criminality, has been known to proclaim that the only good criminal is a dead criminal.

Opposing him in the run-off is Fernando Haddad, former Education Minister and former Sao Paulo mayor who was decisively voted out two years ago. Haddad is a member of PT, which has been involved in corruption scandals. Much of its old guard is jailed, including Lula, or gone turncoat on their colleagues in exchange for reduced sentences. Politically, his proposals are left-leaning and he would continue the social programs started under Cardoso’s government and amplified by Lula, albeit in a worse economic context.

On one side, there is a career politician who pines to return to brutal military dictatorship and makes claims that are dangerous to minorities. On the other side is a young politician intending to apply the same social reforms that worked when the country was economically prosperous.

Parallels can be traced to the American presidential election two years ago. Donald Trump was elected even though he was opposed by the media and never held political office. Bolsonaro is also seen as an outsider. But he has been in politics since he left the Army, and he has little to no accomplishments to show it. Haddad is closer to the figure of Hillary Clinton. He is relatively new to the executive field, but he represents the succession of Lula’s ideals. Lula has been in politics since before the re-democratization of Brazil in 1985.

Most alarmingly, Bolsonaro frequently defends the Brazilian military dictatorship of 1964-1985. He often praises torturers, and he favors minority repression. Brazil is a relatively young and fragile democracy. A shock like this could prove a mortal wound. Poland and Hungary show the effects of extreme-right governments on democracies. In the former, the image of Lech Walesa, one of the leaders of the democratic process in the 1980’s, is constantly attacked. Civil and political rights are suppressed.

Democracy is under attack the world over more than any time since the Cold War. Brazilians can stop it from reaching their country again.

In summary, democracy and its institutions in Brazil are at stake. On one side, there is a career politician who pines to return to brutal military dictatorship. This is someone who makes claims that are dangerous to minorities. On the other side is a young politician intending to apply the same social reforms that worked when the country was economically prosperous. This, while his party is involved in numerous corruption scandals. Paraphrasing Mario Vargas-Llosa, this is like choosing between Cancer and AIDS. However, as humans living in a western society, democracy and human rights should come before all else.

October 28th will see the run-off that pits Bolsonaro against Haddad. The hope is in the next 20 days Haddad will change his plans and appeal to moderate Brazilians. And these Brazilians will accept a worker’s party under a coalition government plan to oppose Bolsonaro’s authoritarianism and populism.

Democracy is under attack the world over more than any time since the Cold War. Brazilians can stop it from reaching their country again. They can opt to preserve its institutions and respect for all of its people. All we can do is hope that they do so.

-Roberto Malta is a Brazilian born George Mason University student pursuing a B.A. in Global Affairs, with minors in History and Economics.

Counter Terrorism Strategy in Waziristan

WANA, PAKISTAN, Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

In recent months, Waziristan has been awash in terror attacks since the Pakistani military began new operations in the region. Ostensibly, the offensive is meant to root out TPP fighters, but physical action typically only treats the symptoms of the disease and not the cause. Without getting to the root of the problem, violent terrorism of this sort will generate here again and again.

Examine, for instance, an incident on April 27, 2018, in which a wedding in Waziristan was attacked and four people were killed, with dozens more injured. Reports are unclear who was responsible, the perpetrators identified simply as militants. Another source asserts that the TPP claimed responsibility for previous attacks, but not this one specifically. Disturbing a sacred, social rite like a wedding is significant on an anthropological level. There are many factors that allowed this to happen. They all signify that terrorist activity has become normalized, even occurring around such community activities.

Terrorist organizations tap into local sentiments to recruit on individual and community levels

Any viable solution to counter terrorism must treat it long-term, and it must learn to do so by studying how terrorism became so virulent in the first place. This is not an isolated phenomenon, working independently of other systems in place. It is part of the place and people in such a way that groups like TPP can use local systems of thought to get their way. This is evident in how terrorists recruit individuals as well as sway policies and politicians to their agenda. There is a deeper phenomenon at play, and the only way to counter it is to study it and determine what makes it work.

Obviously, religion ties in deeply with TPP and similar organizations’ activities. Experts have documented how organizations use Islam to recruit fighters and operatives and, more importantly, maintain their dedication. Terrorist organizations are canny this way because they tap into local sentiments to recruit on an individual and community level. There is a heady mix of patriotism, freedom-fighting, rebellion against Western influence and authority, anger, and religious cause. They use all of these things not to convince people that what they are doing is right, but rather to make them fear it would be wrong not to support them. This is a huge part of why these groups keep growing. Beyond the regular scare tactics (i.e. forcing people to do their bidding under threat of injury or worse), using culture and religion to legitimize themselves means that their idea will never die.

Changing how we talk about terrorists is cost-effective: it takes little to do, but it has long-term effects on how they are treated and thought of

Terrorists take advantage of cultural and religious tensions to further their agenda and legitimize violence. Therefore, a way to counter them is to delegitimize their cultural and religious agency. In terms of policy, Pakistan’s government and media can do this easily. Change the discussion. Any engagement with or treatment of terrorists should identify them as violent criminals, not “Islamic extremists” or “insurgents.” These terms provide legitimacy in the most dangerous of ways. Destroy their legitimacy to combat them. Cut all their links with any local dynamic.

This solution is straight-forward and possibly effective. Changing how we talk about terrorists is cost-effective. It takes little to do, and it has long-term effects on how terrorists are treated and thought of in public and private. Terrorism is a threat to millions of lives. Not the least in vulnerable rural communities. As such, Pakistan must use every weapon it has, including its words.

From there, such policies can extend to even more conspicuous efforts. Ones such as delegitimizing terrorist ideas in schools, in mosques, religious classes, in public and online forums. Leverage local systems of thought and action to do this, the same way that terrorists spread their ideas. Use these means not to normalize violence, but to normalize peace.

An Overview of SE Asian Extremism: Thailand

One of the regions people don’t usually think of related to extremism is Southeast Asia.  Yet, extremism is prevalent there, and like many other types of extremism, it is rooted in religious and ethnic challenges.  In this series of articles, I will provide an overview of extremism in Southeast Asia, starting with Thailand.

When people talk about Thailand, they often think about peaceful beaches, Buddhism, and even rice fields. Although these images are real,  Thailand is a religious and ethnically diverse country, which has led to some security challenges, particularly in Southern Thailand.

By the 1990s, more violent organizations like Patani Islamic Mujahideen Movement and Islamic Front for the Liberation of Patani were founded and vying for power

According to the US State Department, 10% of the Thai population is Muslim, with most of the Thai Muslims living in Southern Thailand.  Starting in the 1990s, the 3 provinces in southern Thailand—Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, experienced violent ethnic and religious insurgency, with tensions escalating in recent years.  These 3 provinces are predominately Malay Muslims residents, who share a different religious culture than the rest of Thailand. Beyond religion, the Pattani province was originally an independent Sultanate, conquered by Thailand in the 1700s, creating long-standing political tension.

The historical, religious, and ethnic tensions between Malays and Thai were further heightened as Southern Thailand was left behind in economic development creating yet another division. Separatist groups from all three provinces share one goal —an Islamic Malay state centered in Patani.

The 1960s saw the founding of the Malay separatist movement in Thailand, with the National Revolution Front and the Patani United Liberation Organization.  These early organizations were peaceful groups that sought Patani independence. However, as the situation on the ground remained difficult for the people in Southern Thailand, the organizations became more extreme. By the 1990s, more violent organizations like Patani Islamic Mujahideen Movement and Islamic Front for the Liberation of Patani were founded. In no time flat, they were competing for power. Although these organizations were new and relatively weak compared to the earlier organizations, they chose to launch terrorist attacks to quickly build their profile and relative power.

In the beginning, the attacks were all targeted toward Thai government officials, police, teachers, and other establishment individuals.  However, starting in 2004, the violence escalated, with a January armory raid in which 364 weapons were stolen.  Many of the weapons were M16 rifles. Later that year, separatist groups attacked 11 military and police facilities in southern Thailand to steal additional weapons.  During this time, the extremist organizations also attacked the Buddhist population in the Southern provinces, killing two elder monks in Yala. Additionally, from June 27 to July 5, 2004, five bomb attacks destroyed Buddhist-owned rubber plantations in Yala.  These extremist groups were purposefully driving tensions and divisions between Malays and Thais in the region.

Starting in 2004, there was a rising number of attacks and casualties

The violence continues today. According to ACLED, there were already 72 incidents in 2018.  In September this year, attackers hit an army patrol in Pattani, killing two soldiers and wounding  four others.  While earlier in the year in Yala, separatists launched a bomb attack on a market, killing 3 and injuring 24. These endless attacks lead to high casualties and continued distrust across religious and ethnic lines.  According to the Bangkok Post, from 2004 to 2015, extremist insurgency groups killed more than 6,500 people, with Muslims the majority of those killed.

There are three trends that suggest rising conflict in the region. First, the number and intensity of violent attacks are increasing. The extremist groups have become more experienced with attack tactics, and thus more deadly. Under the attacks in the 1990s, the separatists were limited in scope.  However, as noted, starting in 2004, there was a rising number of attacks and casualties. The groups became more sophisticated and knew where the weak points of the government were and where they could most easily obtain weapons. The attacks on military facilities in 2004 is direct proof.

The proposal included the introduction of Islamic law in the region, teaching Malay in school, and providing more religious freedom

Second, the groups were becoming more connected with other outside extremist organizations in Southeast Asia, such as Jemaah Islamiyah. These groups provided training, tactical, and financial support. Officials believe Jemaah Islamiyah is behind some of the attacks. Additionally, the groups have become more extreme in ideology. The separatist groups initially did not target other religions, but have moved beyond that mandate and have since 2004 targeted Buddhist temples, and even monks. 

In response to the increasing violence, the Thai government has offered some solutions. In 2006, the National Reconciliation Commission, led by Anand Panyarachun, proposed a solution to the Southern insurgency.  The proposal included the introduction of Islamic law in the region, teaching Malay in school, and providing more religious freedom. However, the Thai government rejected it. Prem Tinsulanonda, council member and former minister, said, “We cannot accept that [proposal] as we are Thai. The country is Thai and the language is Thai… We have to be proud to be Thai and have the Thai language as the sole national language.”

Currently, the 4th Army of Thailand is in the region and in charge of security, with more than 25,000 troops under their command. Outside of military presence, the Thai government has also tried to create a more inclusive policy to reduce violence. For example, the Thai government explained that the white in the national flag is not simply a representation of Buddhism, but a representation of all religions. Also, broadcast TV shows images of Malay people.  More officially, peace talks between separatists and the Thai government began in 2013. Supporting these talks and the peace process, the Thai government also promoted a community-based program to reduce violence, which focused on the power of neighborhoods to report violent actions. The program has allowed for faster response to such violence.

The separatist’s goal remains the formation of a sovereign Southern Thailand. The Thai government has welcomed talks under the structure of the current Thai constitution. Thus, an independent Southern Thailand is still far away.

Nuclear Terrorism: Threat Profile and Potential Impact

The typical profile of a terrorist attack may include gunmen storming a government building or a suicide bomber detonating his explosive vest in a crowd of festival attendees. However, arms wonks, policy makers, and scientists have long been attuned to a more sinister threat: a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive outfitted with a radiological contaminant such as strontium or cesium, which kills not only through explosive force but radioactive contamination as well.

Terrorist groups can create dirty bombs without much scientific expertise–the difficulty is not in designing the weapon but acquiring the radioactive material. However, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, radiological sources are common in commercial or medical devices and are often poorly secured and vulnerable to theft. In fact, as early as 1998, nineteen tubes of radioactive cesium were stolen from a hospital in North Carolina and were never recovered. Poorly secured nuclear facilities in Russia and former Soviet states are also at threat for theft of nuclear materials, with facilities in a number of Russian provinces and Georgia reporting theft.

A Center for Nonproliferation Studies outlined four possible threats of nuclear terrorism. These include the theft and detonation of an intact nuclear weapon, the theft or purchase of radioactive material and subsequent construction of an improvised nuclear device, attack against nuclear power plants, and the construction and detonation of a dirty bomb. Some sources have stated that nuclear terrorism may already be a reality: documents found in Herat, Afghanistan have indicated Al-Qaeda has been in possession of a dirty bomb since 2003, and radioactive contaminants before then.

In 2017, Indonesian militants acquired low-grade radioactive Thorium-232, which they hoped to transform into more potent Uranium-233. This uranium would then be combined with a homemade explosive to produce a dirty bomb. When ISIS conquered Mosul in 2014, radioactive Cobalt-60 was housed on a university campus in the city, ripe for the taking.

While the terrorist group proclaimed they had seized radioactive material and took over laboratories at the same university, Iraqi government officials later discovered they had not touched the Cobalt-60. Terrorist groups have long been aware of the deadly capabilities of a nuclear attack and have sought to plunder, purchase, or create dirty bombs with which to carry out nuclear attacks. At the same time, governments and nuclear scientists are aware of the threat posed by terrorists to nuclear facilities and actively work to upgrade security systems to combat it.

Despite efforts by a number of terrorist groups to obtain radioactive material and build a nuclear bomb, some experts believe the threat of nuclear terrorism is overblown. A number of explanations for terrorist nuclear abstinence have been proposed. These include the difficulty of carrying out such an attack, the disruptive impact of counter-terrorism efforts, and the potential for a nuclear attack to undermine the terrorist cause rather than advance it. Since the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks to date have been simplistic strikes such as those utilizing knives, conventional explosives, or vehicles, a RAND Corporation analysis concluded, “Governments would be better off focusing their efforts on combating the spread and use of conventional weapons,” as opposed to countering nuclear terrorism.

Even assuming a terrorist group was able to carry out a dirty bomb attack, its impact may be limited. While the public may imagine dirty bombs as capable of killing hundreds or thousands of people, the death toll would more likely be limited to fewer than 100 people. If impacted civilians leave the area quickly, remove contaminated clothing, and shower to wash off radioactive debris, a dirty bomb does not pose much of a threat. However, the economic, psychological, and social costs of a dirty bomb would be much larger. As such, governments must be prepared for the long-term impact of a nuclear terrorist threat more than an initial attack. Costly, long-lasting decontamination efforts may be necessary depending on the level of radioactive contamination, and the public may be afraid of returning to the attack location, causing economic and social disruption.

Nuclear terrorism is a threat that has been underappreciated by the general public, but it has been recognized by counter-terrorism experts, governments, and scientists for some time. While the likelihood of a nuclear terror attack may be slim and the initial deadly effects small, the long-term threat of a dirty bomb attack means governments must upgrade nuclear security efforts at hospitals, power plants, and other facilities containing nuclear materials. Although prior thefts of radioactive material have not yet resulted in nuclear terrorism, it is only a matter of time before a dirty bomb or other nuclear threat becomes a reality.

Profile: Brazilian Journalist Tim Lopes

O filho de Tim Lopes, Bruno Quintela, com a avó e mãe do jornalista, dona Maria do Carmo Leia mais<\/a>

The media alerts us to human rights violations and wars between the oppressed and their oppressors. An under-reported story, however, is how journalists, photographers, and radiographers put their lives on the line to tell us the stories that must be told.

Many of them die in the process of doing so: Robert Capa, a Hungarian war photographer, took some of the best-known photographs of World War II. Capa shot the D-Day landing at Normandy. He died when he stepped on a landmine in the Vietnam War. Paraguayan journalist Candido Figueredo has covered his country’s criminal organizations for years. Figueredo has received numerous, credible death threats and has lived under government protection for 13 years.

Tim Lopes was a Brazilian journalist who was killed while covering drug traffickers. Arcanjo Antonino Lopes do Nascimento, aka Tim Lopes, was born in November 1950 in Pelotas, in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. When he was eight years old, his family moved to the Mangueira favela in Rio de Janeiro.

Lopes had a humble upbringing. However, that did not stop him from studying journalism at the Faculdade Helio Alonso (FACHA). He won the coveted Premio Abril de Journalismo award twice early in his career in 1985 and 1986.

Lopes was an investigative journalist who preferred to do fieldwork on the street over sitting in an air-conditioned office. In pieces like the newspaper O Dia’s Funk: Sound, Joy, and Terror, Lopes openly criticized the drug traffickers in Rio’s Favela. However, he also went after those he saw in the municipal government ceding control to the criminals.

In 1995, Lopes joined Rede Globo, Brazil’s largest broadcaster, and began a career in broadcast journalism. Lopes kept his focus on fieldwork, specifically on the impact of those who grew up in the favelas as he did. He excelled at the network and within a year Lopes was a producer. Lopes and his team were awarded the Premio Esso, which is the Brazilian equivalent to a Pulitzer Prize. This was for a 2001 piece on drug traffickers. Lopes exposed traffickers openly selling cocaine in Rio de Janeiro’s streets. His work often included hidden cameras and disguises.

In June of 2002, Lopes left his middle-class apartment in Copacabana and stopped at the Rede Globo office. He continued to the Vila Cruzeiro favela to work on a piece about prostitution amongst minors. The local population had pleaded for Lopes to write such an expose. Lopes was filming when traffickers who had spotted his hidden camera approached and beat him. They kidnapped him, taking him to the Morro do Alemao, another favela where he had made enemies throughout his career.

There, he was tortured and condemned by a trafficker’s court. After being dismembered alive, Lopes was executed by being put inside car tires that were then set on fire, a method known as the microwave. The police listed the 51-year-old journalist as disappeared until an anonymous tip led police to a secret grave. There, a piece of Lopes’ rib was found, along with his wristwatch, crucifix, and camera.

Lopes left behind his wife Alessandra and their sons Diogo and Bruno. He also left behind many grieving coworkers and friends. Lopes received a proper send-off during Rede Globo’s Jornal Nacional, Brazil’s most popular news broadcast. Ending the show in silence was the habit when covering gristly developments. But anchor and chief-editor William Bonner led the newsroom in a standing ovation for Lopes and his work. To the last, they prevented the drug traffickers’ violence from having the last word. They proclaimed that journalists’ work would continue.

Tim Lopes’ life and legacy reflect his work. In life and in death he brought attention to the crimes and brutality of drug traffickers and government inaction. In the arduous work of improving the security of a city like Rio de Janeiro, his journalism led to action against drug traffickers. Lopes became nationally known after his death and a national conversation ensued. Lopes’ name is alive in the Newseum, in Washington D.C. There, he is commemorated among too many other journalists like him who were murdered in pursuit of career and moral commitment. In 2012 President Rousseff posthumously awarded Lopes the Premio Direitos Humanos, Brazil’s highest human rights prize. His death was an indictment of the favelas’ brutal realities – a testament to the terror that reigned there.

His life, however, proved no matter how humble one’s origins, no one has to join the criminals. In fact, one’s living could be made fighting them. Tim Lopes’ was a vital contribution to Brazilian society. His fight against drug traffickers led to better living conditions. Though our eyes may tear up, let’s not linger in the sadness following deaths like his. Let us, too, follow Bonner’s lead and give a standing ovation. We thank them for their vitally necessary work, their positive impact on society, and their inspiration for others to follow their path. That is how we make better and more peaceful societies and as a result, Lopes and his colleagues smile in Heaven for the survival of their work and legacy. 

The Complexo do Alemão. For many years these hilltops were used by leaders of drug trafficking gangs as sanctuary from law enforcement; they now feature the stations of a gondola transport system connecting the Complexo (operational since July 2011).

No-Deal Brexit: Implications for Transnational Security

Anti-Brexit demonstrators wave EU and Union flags opposite the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

 As the threat of a no-deal Brexit looms closer, it is becoming increasingly clear that such a scenario would significantly hamper counterterrorism efforts in both the United Kingdom and Europe.

As an EU member, the UK is party to European institutions such as the European Arrest Warrant, a system of warrants valid throughout the European Union, and Europol, the EU-wide law-enforcement body that combats terror and organized crime. The UK also receives additional European data including fingerprints, DNA, and passenger flight information. Should it leave the EU without a deal establishing a continued partnership on such initiatives, it will lose access to European intelligence and risk becoming unaware of potential terrorist threats within their own borders.

This will adversely impact Europe as well. For every suspect arrested on a European Arrest Warrant, British authorities arrest eight EAW suspects from other states, so the benefit to European countries from British forces is huge. Given the extensive travel between Europe and the UK, it is critical that the two cooperate on intelligence so that no criminal may slip through borders unnoticed. Should this cooperation end, it is likely dangerous individuals will cross between Britain and Europe without notice.

If no deal codifies the partnership between British and European law enforcement, then both the EU and the UK are in an extremely risky position. To avoid the possibility of turning the UK into a de facto safe haven for European criminals, a no-deal Brexit must be avoided, and the UK must negotiate a continued partnership with the European Union.