Transnational Threats:


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Threat Convergence in South Asia

Published October 14, 2011 | By Ryan Costello

Revelations from the 2004 exposure of the A. Q. Khan network have highlighted the importance of this region in global nonproliferation efforts. While terrorism is by no means constrained to the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, the confluence of intent, knowledge and materials is found in this region. It remains uncertain if all nodes of the Khan network have been identified. Other leading Pakistani scientists have demonstrated a willingness to share nuclear knowledge if not material capabilities.

Al Shabaab and the Food Crisis

Published September 1, 2011 | By Annie Janus and Kendall Lawrence

Al Shabaab, a hard-line militia group, controls most of southern Somalia and, until recently, a large swath of Mogadishu. Though the exact origins of al-Shabaab are unknown, most scholars believe that the group started as a military faction of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which took over Mogadishu and large parts of the south after intense factionalized fighting in 2006. Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency against Somalia''s transitional federal government (TFG) and its Ethiopian supporters over the past five years. The full name of the group is Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) meaning ‘Movement of Striving Youth.’ The fighters are a mix of local and foreign youth, attracted to the group by its claims to be the defenders of Somali dignity from outside invaders while it also calls for a broader global jihad.

The Food Crisis: Origins & Threats

Published August 19, 2011 | By Annie Janus

The world is facing its second food crisis in three years. In 2008, soaring food prices led to widespread famine, political instability, and violent riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Recently, food prices have resurged, placing pressure on many countries as they reached record highs earlier this year. The sharp increase in food prices presents many far-reaching threats. In addition to humanitarian concerns, hunger is an instant source of instability. Due to the intense pressure spiked food prices have placed on many countries, food riots have recently erupted Algeria, Jordan, and Tunisia. Unless the situation improves, the international community is at risk of the widespread protests, land grabbing, and political upheavals that plagued the 2007-08 food crisis.

Briefing: Conventional Weapons

Published May 20, 2011 | By Kendall Lawrence

Conventional weapons continue to proliferate around the globe at an astonishing rate, representing a threat to civilian populations. The term, ‘conventional weapons’ generally refers to weapons that are in wide use and are not weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. They include small arms and light weapons, sea and land mines, as well as (non-nuclear) bombs, shells, rockets, missiles and cluster munitions. Their use during war is governed by the Geneva Conventions and other agreements and conventions. Conventional weapons are widely used in conflict around the globe. They are used by both state and non-state actors, though trade is tracked on the state level.

North Korean WMD Trading Relationships

Published April 26, 2011 | By Jonas Vaicikonis

North Korea threatens world security by hastening the spread of nuclear weapons and related technologies to state and non-state actors interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. The North uses two pathways to acquire banned nuclear equipment for itself and for others: through state-to-state contact and through its network of individuals engaged in illicit trade. Both pathways pose a danger to the international community, but it is increasingly North Korea’s collaborations with other states interested in nuclear weapons technology that threaten the global nonproliferation regime.

Nuclear Meltdowns

Published April 19, 2011 | By Ryan Costello

Concerns regarding the safety of nuclear energy, particularly after the meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, have hindered its continued development over the past few decades. However, increasing energy demand and fears of climate change have led to a “nuclear renaissance” in which states have increasingly pursued nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source. Given the evolving nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the future of nuclear energy is once again in doubt because of concerns about safety and health risks. When discussing the potential hazards of nuclear power, it is useful to bear in mind the cost of burning fossil fuels, such as coal. The burning of coal is a primary contributor to global warming, and it emits numerous hazardous air pollutants that likely result in thousands of deaths annually. Furthermore, around the globe thousands of coal miners die each year in mine accidents. Thus, the death toll from fossil fuels is higher than that of nuclear power.

The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power

Published March 29, 2011 | By Ryan Costello

The ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has renewed international concern regarding the safety of nuclear energy. In Germany, domestic pressure has forced Chancellor Angela Merkel to temporarily close seven of the nation’s seventeen nuclear power plants. In addition, China has announced that it will suspend new plant approvals until safety regulations are reviewed. As nations around the world reexamine their nuclear energy policies, it is helpful to examine the pros and cons of nuclear power.

Counterterrorism and Nuclear Security in Pakistan

Published February 1, 2011 | By Ryan Costello

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and materials represent a significant proliferation risk that could become a target for terrorist groups operating within the country and in neighboring countries, such as Afghanistan. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and materials exist in the context of state instability and fragility, the legacy of the A.Q. Khan network, and alleged ties between the government and Islamist militants. The possibility that terrorists could obtain nuclear weapons or materials, either through an assault on nuclear facilities or with internal assistance, should not be underestimated.

The Crime-Terrorism Nexus: Risks in the Tri-Border Area

Published May 1, 2009 | By Patricia Taft, David Poplack and Rita Grossman-Vermaas

existing regional criminal networks in the Tri-Border Area have the potential to facilitate acts of WMD terrorism through: formal and informal financial networks, communications infrastructure, the provision of safe havens and identity “laundering,” and tested routes for the smuggling of personnel and materials throughout the hemisphere. Therefore, the Tri-Border Area may offer a rich enabling environment that could support a WMD terrorism scenario anywhere in the world—one characterized by corruption; gaps in the capacities of state intelligence, border security, and immigration control services; large legitimate economies and trading networks; sophisticated nuclear technology and expertise; and the presence of transnational criminal networks that overlap with the membership and activities of radical movements and terrorist elements.