Strategic Intelligence Summary for 8 March 2018

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Strategic Intelligence subscribers.


In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (4,964 words)

  • Islamic State trying to rebound in the Philippines
  • Saudi crown prince looking to build a domestic military industrial base
  • Is the Congo set to explode?
  • Germany’s Merkel admits her country has ‘no-go zones’ (thanks to Muslim migrants)
  • U.S. Navy awards $150 million contract for high-energy lasers for warships
  • Israeli ground forces building drone air force
  • Pentagon preparing for space war
  • NATO-Russia: The first proxy war of the U.S.-Russia Cold War continues in Ukraine
  • Middle East: Is the Iranian theocratic regime in danger of losing power?
  • North Korea: What if North Korea ‘bloodies’ our nose first?
  • U.S.-China: Pentagon tailors U.S. forces to counter China’s growing nuclear threat
  • Mexican police in state of Veracruz charged with using death squad tactics against drug cartel figures
  • Mexican citizens fear new state security law empowering military in police role

In Focus: While the Middle East continues to simmer with tension, there have been no new threat indicators this week to suggest that a new conflict is imminent. Quite the opposite, in fact. We could be entering a period of great political change in Iran, as we note in this summary, but that in and of itself may carry a higher risk of conflict. Meanwhile, China’s investment in expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal has gotten the attention of the Pentagon, which has crafted a response and is shaping U.S. force structure to meet the emerging threat. There is some speculation that amid North Korea’s talk of denuclearization it could be Pyongyang is readying its own preemptive strike against U.S. and South Korean targets, while the Trump administration’s decision to send lethal aid to Ukraine may mark the beginning of the first U.S.-Russia proxy war of the new Cold War era.

Welcome to this week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary and as always, thank you for subscribing We welcome your feedback. — JD


Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

PIR4: What is the current security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and south of the border?


PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

Islamic State trying to rebound in the Philippines

In November of last year, Filipino troops credited the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence with helping them defeat a faction of Islamic State fighters who began a rebellion in the southern island of Mindanao over the summer. But now ISIS appears set to make a rebound in the Philippines. Fighters trickling into the country from Syria and Iraq are once again posing a danger to the Filipino government by taking advantage of the country’s disparate geography and the failure of Manila to provide basic services to remote areas of the country, including security. As such, jihadists seeking to spread Islamic terror throughout the region are turning the Philippines into a long-term launching pad for regional operations. [source] Analysis: If there is one good thing to come of this, it is that the Islamic State presence is helping to strengthen the U.S.-Filipino security alliance, which was in danger of deteriorating as President Rodrigo Duterte began moving towards China. But Beijing hasn’t lifted a finger to assist the Filipinos; Washington has assumed that task, and Duterte is liable to remember that — and be grateful for the assistance — for some time.

Saudi crown prince looking to build a domestic military industrial base

As part of his bid to remake the Saudi Arabian economy and diversify it away from near-completed dependence on oil revenue, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has begun an effort to build a domestic military production capacity. After cracking down on corruption within the ranks of the country’s governing and business elite, Salman turned his attention to the military. He is extending his authority over the kingdom by purging top brass as he attempts to refocus efforts in the proxy war with Iran in Yemen. Meanwhile, his “Vision 2030” calls for a new defense era which includes the development of a domestic defense industry, in partnership with some of the world’s biggest defense contractors — a relationship that could be worth billions in new contracts. (Among Salman’s changes to the military: For the first time military jobs to the rank of soldier will now be open to women.) “Saudi Arabia is seeking a degree of military self-sufficiency by developing a local defense industry and putting in some of the building blocks it would need should it decide that it needs a nuclear capability,” said James Dorsey, a Middle East specialist at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. U.S. President Donald Trump’s opposition to Iran gives the Saudis a “window of opportunity,” he said. [source] Analysis: Salman wants to boost the country’s domestic military procurement from 2 percent now to 50 percent, with an eye towards generating $10 billion in sales by 2030. The Saudis are in a regional ‘battle’ for dominance in the Middle East with Iran; as the Iranians have developed their own domestic defense industry, the Saudis have lagged. Salman seeks to level the field.

Is the Congo set to explode?

In late February, Rwandan soldiers crossed into The Democratic Republic of Congo and killed five Congolese soldiers, according to Congolese military officials. Gen. Bruno Mandevu said the clash had occurred in the Virunga National Park, on Congolese territory, but Rwandan government officials deny the incident (but military officials don’t). Mandevu said that initially, his troops believed they were fighting one of the many rebel groups that operate in the region. However, some now believe that this latest cross-border incident could spark a deeper, wider conflict. Rwanda twice invaded its much larger neighbor in the 1990s. Rwandan army spokesman Col. Innocent Munyengango confirmed the clashes and said his troops acted in self-defense. “Congolese encroached on our base and attacked us. Our soldiers had to defend themselves,” he said. [source] Analysis: In the 1990s Rwanda’s invasion of the DRC brought in other African nations, with nine eventually taking part in the fighting. It was called Africa’s ‘world war’ due to the large number of countries at war. The cost: Between 2.7 and 5.4 million killed. The problem is that Congo is poorly governed and full of rebel groups. Throw in the fact that as the sub-Sahara’s largest country is also resource-rich, giving internal groups and outside actors very interested in controlling the reins of power. Plus, the U.S. has economic, humanitarian, and political interests in helping manage the plethora of conflicts within the DRC’s borders.

Germany’s Merkel admits her country has ‘no-go zones’ (thanks to Muslim migrants)

In comments to German media, Chancellor Angela Merkel stunned some lawmakers and other officials when she candidly stated that she favors a zero-tolerance policy on crime, which she said includes so-called ‘no-go zones’ in the country, or “areas where nobody dares to go.” Previously, German officials had claimed that no such zones existed in the country, that citizens and visitors alike were free to travel wherever they pleased and without any fear of violence. And while some media outside of the country has reported otherwise for some time, Merkel has now stated publicly that parts of the country have become too dangerous to travel. “There are such areas and one has to call them by their name and so something about them,” she said. [source Analysis: Unsaid by Merkel and scores of other European leaders whose nations have similar zones is that they are impassable and dangerous due to the presence of Muslim migrants. Germany was first in opening its doors to millions of displaced Muslim migrants from the war-torn Middle East; France did so as well. So has Sweden. And now each of them has sizable Muslim populations that are increasingly brazen in exerting their cultural tendencies, which do not comport with Western-style democratic societies. Women are particularly vulnerable. 

Analysis: Some of this head-in-the-sand mentality is understandable. Europe destroyed itself twice in the last century; Germany’s is a history of Nazism and the worst nationalism-linked atrocities in the modern era. Germany has some of the West’s strictest laws to protect minorities, and they have been broadly applied as the country becomes inundated with a wave of Muslim refugees. So while everyone knows there is a growing problem with the growing Muslim population, nobody can say anything about it directly. They have to dance around the issue like Merkel did.


PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries? 

U.S. Navy awards $150 million contract for high-energy lasers for warships

The Navy has awarded a $150 million to defense contractor Lockheed Martin to begin development of a high-powered laser the service can integrate onto its warships, with the goal of deploying systems aboard a destroyer by 2020. The Navy is interested in the Helios system, which stands for High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance system. It is designed to “counter unmanned aerial systems and small boats,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. The objective is to utilize the system to protect ships and carrier battle groups from small weaponized drones, missiles, and even ships that threaten the fleet. “Laser weapons systems have been desired for decades,” Rob Afzal, a Lockheed Martin senior fellow, said. “One of the missing pieces to actually deploying laser weapons was that we didn’t actually have a laser that was powerful enough and small enough and efficient enough. The company will deliver two systems to the Navy; one that can be integrated into Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and another version to be tested at the White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico. Lockeed-Martin has previously received contracts to deliver a 60-kilowatt laser to the Army for use on trucks, and the Air Force to develop a high energy laser for testing on a fighter jet by 2021. [source]

Israeli ground forces building drone air force

The Israel Defense Force is essentially building a “drone air force” as the IDF’s ground forces increasingly integrate them into their operations, especially along the tense border with Syria. There have been clear tactical benefits of deploying this drone air force, reaching “the status of a real revolution,” according to one American security media report. “In today’s combat, the low and middle levels of forces commanders need the intelligence information in a matter of seconds not minutes. The Air Force cannot supply this data to these command levels. The only problem I see is the need to coordinate the many aerial platforms that will fill the combat zone,” Brig. Gen. (Res.) Miki Bar, former head of the IAF’s helicopters group and former commander of the IAF’s Palmahim air base, said. The ground forces’ increasing use of drones is encroaching on the air force’s traditional role in managing drone operations, but Bar does not believe the ‘revolution’ in ground-forces use can be stopped. That’s because drones have become so important to the army that it only makes sense they expand their use of drones during ground forces operations. [source]

Pentagon preparing for space war

The Defense Department is gearing up to go to war should an adversary attack U.S. space-based assets like communications and military satellites. In recent testimony before the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, Undersecretary for Defense Policy John Rood told lawmakers that the Trump administration’s new policy calls for launching military and other operations in response to such attacks. He said that space-based systems are vital for “our prosperity, security, and way of life.” He also noted that the Pentagon’s space assets “are critical for effective deterrence, defense, and force projection capabilities.” He added: “Due to the critical importance of these assets, the national security strategy states, ‘any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.’” [source] Analysis: The Pentagon requested $12.5 billion for FY 2019 to construct a “more resilient defendable space architecture” — bureaucratese for ‘we want to build better defenses for our space-based assets.’


PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

NATO-Russia:

The first proxy war of the U.S.-Russia Cold War continues in Ukraine

Four years after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and after repeated calls for arms from the government of Ukraine, the Trump State Department has cleared its first lethal aid package to the Ukrainian military.

In a statement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced March 1 that it had approved a $47 million package for delivery of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 Javelin Command Launch Units with the goal of helping “Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements.” The missiles are coming from existing Army stocks and are not being manufactured specifically for Ukraine, though it is assumed that the missiles and systems being sold from existing stocks will be replenished.

Kiev has been seeking lethal aid from the U.S. since Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region began an insurgency after Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014. The Obama administration had considered sending lethal aid but backed off over concerns that doing so would only worsen the fighting and increase casualties.

Late last year, the Trump administration said it would send lethal aid to Ukraine with State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying, “U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself.” [source]

Outlook: Regarding the Obama administration’s inaction, the one thing that would increase casualties in the region would be to continue ensuring that Ukrainian forces were under-equipped and vulnerable, while the Russian-backed separatists were continuing to receive more advanced arms from Moscow. [source] Lots of voices say the opposite, but think about it: If you face a stronger enemy, is that going to make you more or less likely to attack?

Then again, arming one side by one faction could very well lead to the arming of the other side by an opposing faction; it’s a chance you take. That very well may be what’s about to happen.

President Putin warned the U.S. last fall when Washington first began considering lethal aid for Ukraine and hinted pretty strongly that it may lead to more arms for the separatists. “self-proclaimed republics have enough weapons, including those they have seized from the opposite side,” the Russian president said, referring to the separatists as self-proclaimed republics. “It is hard to say how the self-proclaimed republics may react to the supply of U.S. weapons to the conflict zone,” he said. “They might deploy weapons to other areas of the conflict that are sensitive for those who create problems for them.” [source]

As the war in Yemen has become a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the Syrian conflict is morphing into a proxy war between Iran and Hezbollah on one side and Israel and the U.S. on the other, the civil conflict in Ukraine may become the first proxy war a new cold war Moscow and Washington.

The thing is, proxy wars sometimes become direct conflicts. And clearly, Russia has a national interest in keeping Ukraine, the Crimea, and other parts of western Europe under its influence. Equally, NATO has an interest in keeping Russia at bay.

Cold War II is officially underway. Like the first, this one could turn also hot at some point, and it may unless the U.S. and NATO provide substantially more military aid to an under-powered Ukrainian military. Weakness invites the enemy; strength achieves deterrence.

Middle East: 

Is the Iranian theocratic regime in danger of losing power?

As evidenced by recent protests throughout Iran that centered primarily on economic issues but also issues of democracy, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the Iranian regime that is stronger today than at any time since the 1979 revolution.

Then as now, much of the unrest is fomenting within Iran’s lower class.

Over the years, Iran’s political institutions have managed to be resilient, so many Western observers are dismissing the most recent protests as little more than an anomaly, mostly because they appear to lack leadership, were scattered and lacked a political endgame.

But some Iran watchers say those analysts are missing the bigger picture: The foundation of the theocratic regime is beginning to display deep stress lines that leaders are finding more and more difficult to hide from the people. At the same time, Iranians appear to be losing their previous fear of the regime as the mullahs have failed to build the kind of welfare state that addresses the people’s basic needs — promised as part of the 1979 revolution.

“While protests were harshly suppressed over the allegedly fraudulent 2009 presidential election, that crackdown was aimed at the more liberal, cosmopolitan voters of north Tehran – a relatively thin sliver of the Iranian population that was protesting an important but fairly esoteric principle: that their votes didn’t count,” notes one expert.

But the more recent protests began where the revolution started: Mashhad, the hometown of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. There, crowds of protestors consisted primarily of lower-income, lower-class Iranians that have up to now been the regime’s bedrock supporters.

Today protests are much more sporadic and smaller, but they are continuing and that’s the point. In years past, protests would have fizzled by now or would have been violently put down. Every day a new protest begins, it demonstrates that regime has been unable to provide reasonably priced basic needs and commodities — food and fuel, for example — and frustration is growing. [source]

Outlook: The commentator cited above — former CIA senior leadership analyst John Nixon — notes further that the level of frustration is growing beyond ordinary Iranians’ fear of reprisal from the regime, which is what led to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-allied shah.

Corruption is rampant throughout the halls of economic and political power in Iran, and the people are well aware of it — and they resent the leadership’s unwillingness to confront it. Lower-class Iranians from which the regime draws most members of the state security establishment also resent the fact that they must bear the brunt of economic hardship while the government diverts resources to support military campaigns throughout the region, most notably in Syria and Yemen. Also becoming more prevalent is “the younger generation’s growing fascination with Iran’s pre-Islamic past,” Nixon writes.

We may be witnessing a critical point in Iran’s history. The frustration over military spending means that one of the more traditional methods an authoritarian regime in trouble often resorts to — war as a distraction — may not be an option for the theocratic leadership. But that doesn’t mean that the supreme leader wouldn’t choose it anyway, and if he did, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the target would be Israel.

A regime in trouble can be unpredictable. What doesn’t outwardly make sense to observers may make perfect sense to embattled leaders. Distracting a restive population with war is an age-old tactic. What’s more, Iran’s Islamic leadership has been preparing for a showdown with who they see as their arch-enemy, the Jewish state, for decades.

They may choose war over internal instability, opting to ‘unify’ the country against the ‘common enemy’ of Israel.

North Korea:

What if North Korea ‘bloodies’ our nose first?

Now that the Olympic Games in South Korea are over, as we mentioned in last week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary, we expect tensions to ramp up again on the Korean peninsula, and sooner rather than later.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in continues to hope that he and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, can build on the goodwill expressed during the Games and use it to begin new talks between both countries that could lead to some diplomatic breakthroughs.

Despite that goodwill, North Korea most likely has no interest in entering into serious talks with South Korea and the United States, especially as Washington continues to insist the only point to talks would be if they involved denuclearization — something that is a non-starter for Pyongyang. So the ‘goodwill’ operation, which included Kim sending his sister, Kim Yo-jong, to South Korea to the Games, was most likely just the latest attempt to buy time to continue developing his nuclear and missile programs.

Which is getting harder, by the way. True to his word, President Trump imposed tough new sanctions against North Korea last month — the “largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime,” the president told attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “The Treasury Department will soon be taking new action to further cut off sources of revenue and fuel that the regime uses to fund its nuclear program and sustain its military by targeting 56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses that are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions.”

The White House has not ruled out talks, but again, the nuclear issue is first and foremost on the agenda for Washington. “We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end,” the administration said last month. [source]

Then there is this: One report I read this month claimed that Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to meet in secret during the games with sister Kim, but Pyongyang canceled at the last moment, allegedly because Pence had visited memorials to victims of North Korean attacks against the South, as well as defectors from the North, while calling out Kim’s human rights abuses. [Source: Inbound; 26 Feb. 2018 edition (email)]

If Pyongyang is so sensitive about such truths, how likely are talks regarding denuclearization?

Outlook: That depends on your point of view. As Early Warning analyst Mike Shell noted in his 7 March report, Kim appears at least somewhat willing to discuss denuclearization in exchange for guaranteeing survival of his regime. [source] Of course, as he pointed out, the modus operandi for North Korean leaders is to ramp up pressure, extract concessions from South Korea and the U.S., neither of which has been anxious for war, and buy some time as the nuclear program development continued in the background.

It’s possible that if Kim could extract a promise of regime continuity he would denuclearize. But it just doesn’t ring true; so much of North Korean society is built around the creation of a nuclear weapons capability. Past open-source reporting has documented how ingrained into North Korean society is this quest. Also, past open-source reporting has revealed how much faith and confidence Kim has in his nuclear scientists. [source]

So this leaves open the possibility that North Korea is already planning its next move; what if it’s a limited attack?

Recent reporting claimed that as the North continues developing and testing its weapons programs it was possible the U.S. was considering a “bloody nose” strike that would be serious enough to demonstrate American resolve and capability but fall short of total destruction.

Could Kim do something like that himself? He might if he thinks that the U.S. is serious about it.

American Defense and diplomatic officials have pushed back against ‘bloody nose’ reports, including Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Susan Thornton, who said recently she knows of no plan to launch such a strike. (It’s important to note she also told media that Pyongyang would be forced to give up its nuclear weapons “one way or another.”) [source]

Such bellicose warnings are nothing new from the U.S. but that’s the point: With additional sanctions now that are expected to squeeze Pyongyang’s supply of hard cash even further, it’s possible that Kim could decide that he must act first because the U.S. is a threat to his rule.

Michael P. Dempsey, the national intelligence fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellowship sponsored by the U.S. government, and a former acting director of national intelligence, believes Kim may consider a number of options.

“Under this scenario, Kim may consider a range of aggressive options, including a new round of advanced missile and nuclear tests, a preemptive cyberattack against the United States or South Korea, a series of limited (and potentially covert) attacks by North Korean special forces in Seoul, or, at the far end of the scale, a preemptive military strike against U.S. military logistics hubs in the South,” he writes. [source]

U.S.-led sanctions, bellicose warnings, and military buildup in the region, combined with unprecedented assistance from China — which has grown increasingly frustrated with the behavior of its erstwhile ally — has changed the paradigm in the region. Kim may sense this and figure his best bet is to strike first, especially if he believes he’s in danger of seeing his regime destroyed.

South China Sea:

Pentagon tailors U.S. forces to counter China’s growing nuclear threat

The Department of Defense’s most recently completed Nuclear Posture Review outlined a new “tailored deterrence” policy involving China, which has traditionally been secretive about its nuclear forces and how they would be used.

The new policy seeks to persuade Chinese leaders to avoid military mistakes and miscalculations in provocative regions of the world including the South China Sea or activities related to reclaiming Taiwan by force or islands claimed by Japan (and Taiwan) which might quickly escalate into a nuclear exchange.

The review did not substantially detail China’s nuclear weapons other than to identify what the Pentagon’s planners called “entirely new nuclear capabilities.” Those include new missiles, hypersonic weapons, satellite-killers, and regional intermediate-range nuclear forces.

Notes one Asian open-source media report: The review takes note of the main threat of a nuclear war between the United States and China: A military encounter that escalates into a regional conflict culminating in a nuclear exchange involving China’s regional nuclear-armed missiles.

The review states: “Our tailored strategy for China is designed to prevent Beijing from mistakenly concluding that it could secure an advantage through the limited use of its theater nuclear capabilities, or that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is acceptable.” [source]

Outlook: While not providing specifics as to how the U.S. would achieve deterrence, the review did warn the U.S. “will maintain the capability to credibly threaten intolerable damage as Chinese leaders calculate costs and benefits, such that the costs incurred as a result of Chinese nuclear employment, at any level of escalation, would vastly outweigh any benefit.”

In other words, good, old-fashioned, Cold War-style deterrence: Any launch or exchange initiated by China would trigger an overwhelming nuclear response from the U.S., which is estimated to possess around 6,800 warheads — 1,800 of which are on ready alert — compared to China’s estimated 270 warheads. [source] China continues to add to its arsenal slowly, however.

In any exchange, as the review notes, a U.S. objective would be to destroy the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the military that protects them. China understands this and has taken steps to protect the leadership, including networks of underground escape and transit systems that are reserved for senior party leaders in time of conflict (the U.S. has the same system in place for our senior leaders).

The one potential game-changer is China’s advancing hypersonic vehicle/missile program. It is estimated to be ahead of U.S. efforts to develop a similar capability. With hypersonic missiles, Beijing would be almost guaranteed — theoretically — to be capable of threatening any U.S. city with destruction, including Washington, D.C. The U.S. is bolstering its development of hypersonic missiles and hopes to test one by 2020; China has already conducted successful tests of a weapon that can travel in excess of 6,900 miles per hour.

But even with a hypersonic capability, China would be overwhelmed in any nuclear exchange. So before Beijing decides to move on Taiwan or forcefully exert itself in the South China Sea, Communist leaders would have to decide that a potential exchange is worth the risk. At present, it does not appear as though that would be the case, thanks in large part to the Pentagon’s new focus on countering China’s nuclear capabilities.


PIR4: What is the current security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and south of the border?

Mexican police in state of Veracruz charged with using death squad tactics against drug cartel figures

Mexican judicial authorities have charged former top police commanders in the corruption-plagued state of Veracruz with using ‘death squad-style’ tactics to abduct, kill, and dispose of at least 15 persons with suspected ties to drug cartels as informants or drug runners. State prosecutors say police in marked patrol cars picked up youths but did not record their arrests. Rather, the youths were handed over to special interrogation units and torture squads who worked at the police academy. Later they were killed and their bodies disposed of, the indictments say. What’s notable is that several of the police officers arrested have rank: The former head of state security along with commanders of at least two police divisions have been charged, suggesting that the abductions and disappearances may have been part of state policy under former Gov. Javier Duarte, who is currently in jail on allegations of corruption. The charges stem from alleged disappearances in 2013 and 2014. [source]

Mexican citizens fear new state security law empowering military in police role

The Mexican army was called out in 2006 by then-President Felipe Calderon to fight drug trafficking throughout the country, but violence has only increased since. What’s more, the military operating as a police force/internal security force was always constitutionally questionable, as the Mexican constitution supposedly limited the military’s deployment within the country in certain situations — invasion or rebellion. But a new Interior Security Law crafted in part by the military itself has many worried that it will lead to more corruption and abuse of power. Under the law, presidents can make an “interior security declaration” and send in the army. Also, it expands the military’s ability to put Mexican civilians under surveillance while permitting the military to administer its own operations — with limited civilian oversight. [source] Analysis: The military’s efforts against the country’s drug cartels have largely been a failure, as the cartels continue to proliferate. Since being deployed against the cartels, there have been numerous reports of corruption within the ranks and widespread abuses of civil and human rights. Human rights activists in Mexico believe that those abuses are now codified in Mexican law, and they are probably right.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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