Beyond the Cusp

March 30, 2016

Not as Simple as America Safe Europe Not

 

There has been much discussion over the lapses in security follow-through by Belgium Security Forces which may have contributed to both the Paris attack and the more recent Brussels bombing as Molenbeek neighborhood produced both terror cells and much of the planning for both attacks were carried out there. Additionally, the leader of the Paris attacks was captured by Police in that same area. We have heard that Turkey had deported a number of Belgians who had been arrested attempting to enter Syria presumably to join the Islamic State and that the Belgian authorities did little if any follow-through and allowed these people to slip from view of enforcement personnel. There was told that the United States and Israel had both warned Brussels of the coming attack with some information pointing to Molenbeek and bombing of the airport and main subway station, the exact targets. Still, the Belgians did little if anything.

 

From this one might think that the situation in Belgium in general and in Brussels particularly was excessively lax considering the warnings received. What many may not have caught is that much of Europe and the world are similarly not well protected from terrorism. Egypt had a Russian jet loaded with a bomb explode over the Sinai and just this week had another aircraft hijacked by a disturbed individual. Though the hijacking was not technically terrorism, the people suffered through an ordeal which for all intents and purposes was an act of terror. The number of attacks across Europe since 9/11 has far outstripped that of the United States, a fact that almost every news coverage stressed, especially those based in the United States. This begs a few questions as to what are the differences between Europe and the United States which might account for this difference.

 

Could it be as simple as availability as most terrorists can walk to Europe from the Middle East or Northern Africa (MENA) where the United States would take a deal of swimming. That makes entry into the United States more regulated despite its presumed porous southern border with Mexico. One fact many are not aware of is that the southern border of Mexico is heavily guarded and short of bribery one does not cross without proper authorizations which in a strange manner makes that porous southern border of the United States a little safer. But there is a greater difference and it has to do with dividing the authority and assignment for responsibility to prevent terrorist strikes. The fact that the United States has an overriding security apparatus which operates nationally while each state operates locally makes all the difference. When one police force in Europe gets any evidence of a terrorist cell operating within their area, they would hopefully monitor them. But what if their plans are being sent cryptically to a cell the other end of Europe, what would the interaction appear as. Would it be as the Turkish, Israeli and American security warned the Belgians. Even with warnings, would there be in existence the infrastructure in their police to handle such intelligence. Very likely not and this needs to be made evident to those in the United States of their good fortune for being a republic binding the fifty states together in cooperation with set rules and assignments and this is their security which is lacking in Europe.

 

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine the United States never did become one nation and instead became fifty nations just as Europe has different nations. There would be different languages spoken in some of the nations due to the primary immigrants and no universal English preferred as was the case for over two centuries. How well would the individual nation states be at handling security? Would they have in place a unified method of securing their airports? Would they have the funding for expensive scanners and detectors for every air terminal? What would they do with individual bits of information from the many varied individual nation states to figure out a grand scale the targets for terror strikes? Remember that the United States had the CIA, the FBI, Military Intelligences, all the individual state, county, city and rural police. All together they might have been able to piece together the 9/11 attacks and prevented them. They had all the pieces and even the computer of one of the conspirators along with all their levels of security and they missed it! Europe has no overriding law enforcement which can operate freely and without any interference from local authorities. Don’t even try to claim INTERPOL which puts out its Ten Most Wanted lists and attempts to coordinate two hands clapping patty-cake from two people across the room from each other, it does not mesh well.

 

 

INTERPOL shield

 

 

That is the problem in Europe, no coordinating body which can gather all the information and coordinate efforts. Even if INTERPOL had the smoking gun they would still require local police and security personnel to act to prevent any catastrophe. There was one article which got the solution correct, but it will require the nations of Europe to make a decision. Will the nations of Europe actually make an effort to cooperate if an overseeing agency is activated and placed responsible for tracking all things terror related and to whom these individual police and security agencies would necessarily need to report all leads and respond to any inquiries. Without their agreement in advance there is no reason for going through the actions as full coordination and cooperation is the key to success, just as it works, mostly, in the United States. What would rankle the nerves of the Europeans the most is that the overriding group would be NATO and would necessarily coordinate with Israeli security services in order to gain the whole picture. There would also be coordination with Egypt, Jordan and any other government willing to share solid and good information and intelligence. We all know that the European will do almost anything not to appear to react as Israel acts. They view the Israelis as paranoid lunatics who howl at the full moon and other imaginary threats. The Europeans are convinced that through respect and deference they can avoid terrorism like has been levelled against Israel, justifiably by most European thinking. Well, that same snake which the Europeans have been financing for decades has finally come home to roost and is killing Europeans and not just Jews. The time has passed where Europe needed to awaken to the threat levels they are facing and it is not too late, but it is imperative that action start and start soon to fight this rising menace. Either Europe will learn from the United States for coordinating across state lines and from the Israelis on how to implement smart security.

 

A final note on air safety. We have done our share of international flying in the past five years and have seen differing levels of security in the United States and elsewhere. We also have had more than sufficient relations with others including one friend whose plane landed in Brussels minutes after the terror attack, their ordeal was harrowing at best and maybe, just maybe, their luggage will find them again some day in the not too distant future. United, American, Southwest and whatever airlines you care to mention with one exception rely on whatever security the airport at which they fly from provides. That is pure insanity as that does not guarantee a level of expertise or efficiency that provides a safe environment for their passengers and employees. Many of these airlines met with Israeli representatives who described the means by which very few El Al aircraft has ever been successfully hijacked. The solution explained by El Al have always been regarded as the best methods for protecting passengers and aircrews but also too expensive and man-hour intensive to be utilized by these other major carriers. They claim passengers would refuse to pay the extra required for such screening while El Al does the multi-layered screening of passengers and background test their crews leading to the safest flying experience possible. Even further, the El Al aircraft are fit with Elbit Systems C-MUSIC anti-missile Protection systems, and that alone is worth the price of the fare.

 

 

 

 

The people at El Al take these incidents very personally. One of the most daring and astonishing stories is well worth reading titled How to thwart a gunman at 29,000 feet, by the only pilot who ever did. Please take the time and read this true story of one pilot who asked the right questions and used every bit of resources he had to foil an armed hijacking using guile, skill and a large dose of chutzpah. Meanwhile, if Europe is going to get a handle on the terror threat they prefer to pretend is not real, they are going to have to accept facts and deal intelligently with the threat and find a means for a coordinated effort by whatever means. NATO is simply the best suited with its current configuration and technical abilities and was designed to protect Europe from threats, that may as well include current terror threats, and let us all realize that maybe the Israelis actually know what they are dealing with and one might learn a thing or two.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 24, 2016

FBI Makes Hating Apple Hard to Do

 

Apple is going to take their case to a higher source and they may need to appeal to an even higher intervention as the court has joined the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) ordering Apple to provide what they refer to as a ‘key’ which the FBI could use to defeat the security encryption system which allows users to encrypt their data keeping it private only available to somebody who knows the security code. The encryption has the added feature that it makes the time before another code can be entered longer and longer as incorrect codes are entered and erases all the information after a number of wrong guesses have been entered. Let me admit right up front that I have avoided Apple products in favor of LG whose phone and pad I use while our proof-reader does love her antique i-phone which does not have the encryption option as the hardware only was installed starting with the newer units, we won’t say which as we ought not anger the proof-reader. Still, we both agree with Apple that they should not be forced to give the FBI a generalized code or any method which could be utilized on any other i-phone but there will be almost as many arguments as there are people and that is something right down our alley, taking a side and then defending it.

 

The first thing we need to take a look at is who the judge is in this case. Sheri Pym was originally a United States District Court for the Central District of California who was then appointed to sit as a United States Magistrate Judge on April 15, 2011. The duties of Magistrate Judges include conducting preliminary proceedings in criminal cases, the trial and disposition of misdemeanor cases, conducting discovery and various other pretrial hearings in civil cases, the trial and disposition of civil cases upon consent of the litigants, and other matters as may be assigned. Magistrate Judges are appointed for a term of eight years, and can be reappointed to additional terms. This is a Judgeship as part of the United States District Judge which appears to have been a position where the court system itself recommends who they believe is capable and meets a set of criteria to become this particular level of District Court Judge. Judge Pym prior to her appointment served as an Assistant United States Attorney and Chief of the Riverside branch office of the United States Attorney’s Office, doing mostly criminal prosecution work. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she was an associate at Milberg Weiss LLP in San Diego, where she represented plaintiffs in class actions involving consumer fraud, wage and hour violations, securities fraud, and tobacco litigation, and also worked in the firm’s appellate department. From what we have been able to ascertain this position is one where the appointment is more of a promotion than it is an appointment the President would necessarily take the time to review anything more than the recommendation of the office promotion recommendations and sign off and the United States Senate would receive this as likely a group of such appointments and routinely sign off, yes that requires their voting on the appointment, more than they would labor and debate possibly calling Judge Pym to appear in Washington D. C. for hearings as they would an appointment to the Federal Court of appeals. If anybody has additional information preferably with links and sustaining documentations we would very much appreciate such information made in the comments below and we thank our readership for any such assistance they can provide.

 

Now to the case itself and what we could discern as the reasoning. Where it is understandable that the FBI would really love to have access to every last bit of information they can get their hands on in any and every case, especially those where they have a target and need to find a case to present; it is also understandable that they really would like to get into the cell phone with the minimal hassle and time invested of anyone suspected of being attached to a criminal enterprise which in this instance includes terrorist activity. The FBI also has previously run into instances where i-phones have been encrypted and they likely lost vital information and time attempting to get past the Apple encryption system and also after making several attempts to get past the encryption lock had the phone wire and destroy any information the i-phone may have had within including the all-important phone logs including phone numbers which might break other cases or cement their current investigation. In this instance the iPhone 5c was a work phone used by Syed Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, murdered fourteen people in San Bernardino, California last December. This is a solid reason for desiring to get past the encryption without erasing the very data the FBI seeks in this case, which considering the terrorists were killed, means seeking deeper contacts and potential ties with terror cells or other links which the FBI may already be investigating. There is not known information contained in the i-phone so this is not the ticking time-bomb situation though our bet is this was part of the FBI argument that they might in the future have just such a situation and going through having Apple gain entry into the i-phone might take longer than they would have.

 

 

This July 27, 2014 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik, and Syed Farook as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago

This July 27, 2014 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
shows Tashfeen Malik, and Syed Farook as they passed through
O’Hare International Airport in Chicago

 

 

This leads to a simple question, what was the critical piece of law, writ, judgement, precedent or other critical information on which this case is relying for its reasoning and/or precedent. According to the information we found, the particular was the All Writs Act, a law stretching back over two centuries. All Writs Act of 1789 (United States Code › Title 28 › Part V › Chapter 111 › § 1651) reads:

(a) The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.
(b) An alternative writ or rule nisi may be issued by a justice or judge of a court which has jurisdiction.

When reading the notes and supplemental information we believe we found the specific application utilized by Judge Sheri Pym to back her decision and granting her the power to require Apple to comply. It reads as follows:

“The Supreme Court and the district courts shall have power to issue writs of scire facias. The Supreme Court, the circuit courts of appeals, and the district courts shall have power to issue all writs not specifically provided for by statute, which may be necessary for the exercise of their respective jurisdictions, and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

 

This reads, if we are not mistaken, such that a judge can pretty much make up their own precedent by simply not being capable of finding any ruling or law pertaining to the case before them. Something tells us that this reasoning is not going to stand upon further review and that this case will be appealed by either side until the Supreme Court has decided or refused allowing the decision of the lower court to stand, in this case the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (oft referred to as the Ninth Circus due to loopy decisions overturned subsequently by the Supreme Court, particularly in recent history). The fact that this law stretches back almost to if not actually to antiquity when it comes to United States law and is likely enacted to give cover to judges to use sparingly, and since it was referred to regularly as the “judge invoked a little-know law,” we feel comfortable thinking that this one is on the chopping-block when it reaches the Supreme Court in Washington D. C. which is where numerous old laws either came to die or received a supercharging and left Washington D. C. with a whole new set of super powers. We can only hope this little known law receives the death penalty and is quickly executed. Allowing a judge, any judge, to make things up on the fly is far too dangerous a power. Just because there is no law applicable to a situation should never be the reason empowering a judge to invent powers to a law, or are these super powers, just to make their decision they would like to make applicable in a case. Do not get me wrong, Apple is one company among a list of companies which I would support almost any reasonable, key word here, reasonable, judgment with which to knock them down a peg, but even I cannot fathom allowing this power to be resurrected and allowed to stand in a society as litigious as the United States or we will have United States District Judges all over the nation adding turbochargers and then superchargers to what they see as underpowered laws which need heavier application which they just want so bad they can taste it. We can taste that too; and it is called tyranny, a tyranny, warned about by the Greek philosopher Alontesquieu who cautioned, “There is no tyranny, than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” This should be written on a nicely framed gavel holder which includes and amply sized gavel even for the most insecure or overbearing judge may require or feel the need with this inscription placed under a strong and shatter-proof glass on every judge’s dais so they may read it every time they raise that gavel.

 

 

Greek philosopher Alontesquieu who cautioned; “There is no tyranny, than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

Greek philosopher Alontesquieu who cautioned;
“There is no tyranny, than that which is perpetrated
under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

 

 

What this case will eventually fall under is the letter of the law and not how far out of shape such law can be twisted, folded, bent, widened or supercharged and it will likely be found as falling in antithesis to Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights. Amendment IV reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So, where do cellphone data fall on this lovely right deemed so important to the safety and protection from government run wild with a hunger for absolute power came for protection? That requires deciphering what information a cellphone may contain and where such items might belong by seeking their earlier non-digital age counterpart. Our cellphones keep our phone numbers, e-mail addresses, potentially actual addresses and other pertinent and deemed quickly recoverable information on each entry we place in the cellphone. The complexity and depth of information may vary, but generally this replaces our personal phonebooks which most definitely are protected as being both papers and effects thus requiring a warrant for any law enforcement officer, even an FBI agent, to acquire before accessing such information. The argument that both Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook are currently deceased (never underestimate the ever increasing power of medical science) and thus do not have the right to such protection and as they obviously had perpetrated a heinous crime of murdering fourteen innocent victims, there should be no great hurry requiring any urgent access. This is even more obvious as the FBI has had possession of their cellphones likely for close to two months, so instant access is not required here. The FBI could take the cellphone(s) in question down the road to Apple and have them access all the data in the cellphone(s) and leave them fully open and with the encryption access decommissioned permitting easy access to all the information within the cellphone(s) available to the investigators as they proceed with their case investigations. The ‘key’ the FBI is requesting could be utilized on any i-phone which is encrypted to gain access nearly instantly and thus be able to take anyone’s i-phone 5 or better running iOS 8 or later version software and gain full and complete access to the information on such a device, i-phone or i-pad. Giving the FBI such a tool would subsequently be demanded by every Federal Agency in order to supplement their investigative arms in accessing i-phones or i-pads including the personal devices of their employees. Once again they would not need to have any pressing need for the information requiring such easy access but they would still desire having such power.

 

Imagine how quickly they could run down that entry on-line which a supervisor found insulting or out of line and desired to know from whose i-phone such a post was sent. The reasoning excuses would be endless. Then State Police, city police, county police, homeowners associations, who knows where such would stop, the leader of a quilting society, who knows. This judgment will have far reaching implementations galore if it is allowed to stand. Apple should even be granted protection from having to divulge this key until the final appeal date has been passed or the Supreme Court has ruled or lower court decision allowed to stand simply to protect this proprietary information from being compromised. I am sure it would irreparably damage i-phone should this ‘key’ become available to hackers as this would quite possibly give them access to records which may include a person’s passcodes for their every account on-line or at the ATM or wherever they kept user name and password information, vital information. So, we have established the fact that this is a phonebook on steroids, but still a phonebook. What else do we keep stored on our phones, especially i-phones or i-pads? Well, there are the photographs, though they are now called images. Well, our yearbooks, photo albums and the like are definitely papers and effects. We keep our schedule and any alarm settings such as your not so friendly wake-up your phone provides every day, in the case of i-phones every day needed or not, with a wake-up alarm of your choosing, mine is a lullaby. These too are amongst your effects. If your home security system is linked to your i-phone or i-pad that counts as giving them access to your house, another little pesky item so very protected by Amendment IV.

 

All the items kept on our phones, tablets and any other mobile electronic devices and the access they provide to items requiring a passcode or possible entry to our homes and vehicles (oops, vehicles are not protected and by a decision ruling that because they are mobile and could be used to conceal items pertinent to the case at hand and as they could be used to take evidence beyond jurisdiction of the law enforcement at hand, they can be broken into even without our permission, but they would not require our phone or tablet to pry open the trunk of our vehicle) safety boxes with electronic locks, safes, refrigerator (some of us have wives assisting with our diets, who me?, no, I’m just cuddly plump) and whatever else requires a passcode or electronic key which our phone or tablet provide. All of these items are things which require an individual warrant to gain entry and so should our electronic devices. There are reasons that would actually go into areas under Amendment V which does not allow for law enforcement to force us to incriminate ourselves. This comes in to play as say the police have a warrant to search your home for a stolen watch, a Rolex just to make it grand theft Rolex (maybe there is a game in there somewhere and maybe a movie series with a future Rolex which is also a time machine) and they have a warrant to search for that item and they find your slightly less than legal cable set up stealing your neighbor’s signal. Technically they cannot arrest you and use that evidence as it was not included in the warrant, though you would be wise to ‘repair’ that little hook-up and fast because there may be another warrant or an angry cable enforcement officer (like they have such things) visiting you and your neighbor real soon. The law is not made to trap the average person for minor transgressions, which falls under peer pressure to keep one within acceptable bounds. We could call that the oral code as versus the written code which is the police’s domain. Anything on your i-phone or i-pad is protected under Amendment IV and thus entries usually requires a warrant which requires probable cause and a whole host of other information and are about as difficult to attain as an ice cream sundae. For a warrant you fill out the form and submit it to a judge whose position is to review and approve or deny the law enforcement a warrant while an ice cream sundae requires one to visit an establishment, order one (fill out the required forms) and wait for it with a requirement that you will pay for the ice cream sundae before leaving or there may be a warrant in your not too distant future.

 

In conclusion, the FBI is requesting a general tool to gain data in a particular investigation where they have another option of having the lock removed on the particular item which they desire to inspect its contents. The item is locked not unsimilar to a safe in ones purse or pocket (pretty neat or at least we thought so). This electronic lock can be bypassed by the company which makes the items in question. The contents of the locked item all come under the qualities and qualifications legally as being persons, papers and effects as defined by Amendment IV giving them Constitutional protection. Where a specific entry is possible and Apple would and has provided such assistance in the past but this has proven for too laborious for the FBI to pick up the phone and make an appointment, often so far in the future as to resemble, ‘How long would it take you to get here or would you prefer our technician to come to your location in case you have any other difficulties, officer sir’ kind of laborious efforts. So, instead of going through almost five easy peasy chocolate smoothie steps, the FBI is asking that the courts demand for Apple to give them the ‘key’ which could then be used on any i-phone or i-pad using iOS 8 or later version software and gain full and complete access to the information on such a device. Sure, and here are the electronic ‘keys’ to the ICBM missile silos, are there any other items we could grant you today officer, Sir? So, the judges in the case, Judge Sheri Pym, researched the books, had her clerks research and find some two-hundred-twenty-seven year old statue and blow a century and a half off the records as it has not been used in a while, finding the All Writs Act on which to base her decision. The All Writs Act says, in synopsis, that if a judge cannot find an actual law but finds instead some Federal Code or Law which has yet to be defined as they wish to twist and otherwise mutilate, spindle, bend and otherwise slice and dice and rearrange the letters to finally produce something which they can use, then go for it, you go judge. Judge Sheri Pym made just such a leap of legalistic gymnastics to order Apple to sacrifice one of their selling points by handing over to the FBI a key which can be used to circumvent the passcode effects of both erasing all information thus protected after a set number of incorrect entries and remove the ever lengthening delay before one can enter their next guess so that the FBI can use a password entry device which inputs passcodes at a blindingly mind-numbing speed thus being capable of, if left at its fastest speed and all other limiting or defeating software or hardware limitations probably defeat any code or password of up to twelve characters in under two minutes. As they are describing their request, all they want is to be able to use this code breaking machine on any i-phone or i-pad using iOS 8 or better as it would be so helpful in this case they are currently working on. Never mind that they could have had Apple open the device for them without any muss or fuss but no, they want the power, the power to defeat everybody’s Apple product on the planet as they are the all and powerful Oz, sorry, only the FBI so we are dealing with the little man behind the curtains already and he wants the power for Oz, where Oz is the great and powerful Federal Government and it had 535 little men and women standing behind the curtains called the Capital Dome on picture taking day. Let us hope that this decision gets flamed at the next level and that hold all the way to the top even if that top is the Supreme Court and may we live to read about that case. Remember, it should end up under Amendment IV with a possible assist from Amendment V and Apple should win. Drat!

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 3, 2013

What Good Will Result from all these Investigations?

The one thing we can all agree is that we sure have sufficient scandals, deceptions, and lies coming from various agencies in the Administration as well as from Cabinet Secretaries. The list includes Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting conservative and pro-Israel organizations, FBI spying on media outlets and reporters, and the combined force of the Justice Department and the FBI charging a Fox reporter with treason in order to subpoena his and his parents’ emails and phone records. The good or bad news, depending on your political leanings, is that these investigations will result in partisan posturing and sniping but nothing more. There might be Impeachment charges but no conviction is possible. The only real positive is that as long as these investigations continue the Congress will be kept sufficiently busy thus having the side effect of preventing their proposing new legislations or doing other damages to our society. The main drawback is the news will be full of self-righteous politicians from both parties giving their slant on the hearings ad-nauseum. Both sides will accuse the other of blowing things out of proportion or obstructing the investigations. One side will claim the other side is exaggerating the seriousness and claim everything is old news and no longer of any real importance while the other side will talk in solemn tones attempting to portray everything in dire terms full of foreboding. Of all the questions and suspicions from all these presumably end of the world ending scandals there is only one I really wish to demand an answer for. That question is with who did the stand-down orders for the numerous units who were ready, and in two cases were boarding aircraft to transit to Benghazi, even while the firefight was still ongoing and our people were still screaming for backup informing whoever was monitoring that they had laser-painted the targets that threatened them. The person or people responsible for leaving our people out to die in Benghazi are even more reprehensible than those who were responsible for arranging for the security of the Consulate and other facilities, especially on the anniversary of 9/11. Both sets of people should be held criminally responsible and face charges and if they are in the military they deserve a General Court Martial.

 

In the meantime, these hearings which have the total attention and taking up the time of the Congress will very possibly allow President Obama to take actions in Syria that have the potential to lead to a wider conflict. The visit by Senator McCain to the Rebels inside Syria as well as in Turkey was very similar to the lead up to the imposition of the No-Fly Zone being imposed over Libya. As we might remember, that No-Fly Zone escalated well beyond simply preventing Gadhafi from using his airpower and included bombing of his assets on the ground starting initially with targeting armor and eventually attacking the bases, especially those around the government headquarters in the Libyan Capital City of Tripoli. There were even reports of troops on the ground in Libya though most reports limited these to being British Special Forces. Taking such steps in Syria against Bashir al-Assad carries with them the potential for serious escalations as a response. There have been warnings from the Russians as well as the Iranians, both who have threatened severe consequences should the United States or NATO interfere in the Civil War ongoing in Syria. Whether Congress would take note of such an intervention being prepared with so much of their attentions focused so completely on the investigations leaves some doubts. Such an oversight could prove to be disastrous should President Obama choose to intervene in Syria. The fact that there are all these investigations being held by the Congress, the President might believe that by joining a European sponsored intervention in Syria where he could again claim to be leading from behind, that such a move would divert the attentions of the press and the people from the scandals. Such a move would be similar to the “Wag the Dog” scenario that many accused President George W. Bush of employing when he invaded Iraq. The major difference is that when President Bush invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein there were no threats from Russia or Iran such as President Obama has been given should he interfere in Syria. Where it is unlikely that Russia would respond using direct military force, they would very likely supply al-Assad with the S-300 antiaircraft missile systems earlier than currently scheduled. The S-300 missile system should not be taken lightly as it is one of the preeminent antiaircraft systems in the world today. Iran, on the other hand, would be very likely to take actual military steps in responding to any United States or European intervention in Syria. Such actions that Iran might take would include options of attacking United States assets remaining in Iraq, the United States fleet in the Persian Gulf, missile attacks on Israel, and terrorist attacks on American, European and Israeli targets worldwide. Any of these responses could easily result in a broader conflict which then might spiral completely out of control and ending who knows where. The Middle East currently resembles the driest tinderbox of recent memory and is just waiting for the right spark which would result in an all-encompassing conflagration. That is a threat which would be best untested.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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