The current state of Al-Shabaab in East Africa
The future of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
The rising tension between Poland and the EU
Which is the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico?
Will US-Cuba relations improve in 2019?
Special Report: Middle Eastern linguistics in the
US Intelligence Community after 9/11/2001
0 EDITED BY Dr. JOSEPH FITSANAKIS
FOREWORD BY Dr. JOHN NOMIKOS
The current state of Al-Shabaab in East Africa
The future of the Iran Nuclear Agreement
The rising tension between Poland and the EU
Which is the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico?
Will US-Cuba relations improve in 2019?
Special Report: Middle Eastern linguistics in the
US Intelligence Community after 9/11/2001
PUBLISHED BY THE
EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE ACADEMY
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE
CHANTICLEER INTELLIGENCE BRIEF
EDITED BY Dr. JOSEPH FITSANAKIS
FOREWORD BY Dr. JOHN NOMIKOS
European Intelligence Academy www.euintelligenceacademy.eu
The European Intelligence Academy (EIA) was established in 2013 as an
international network of intelligence studies scholars, specialists and students,
who are dedicated to promoting research and scholarship across the European
Union (EU), as well as between the EU and other parts of the world. One
of the primary aims of the EIA network is to highlight the work of emerging
graduate and undergraduate scholars in the intelligence studies field, while
encouraging cooperation in research and scholarship between students of
intelligence. The EIA is an initiative of the Research Institute for European
and American Studies (RIEAS).
Chanticleer Intelligence Brief www.cibrief.org
The Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) was established in 2015 as a studentled
initiative supported by the Department of Politics at Coastal Carolina
University (CCU) in Conway, South Carolina, United States. It operates as
an ancillary practicum for students in the National Security and Intelligence
Studies program who wish to cultivate and refine their ability to gather, present,
and analyze information in accordance with techniques used in the analytical
profession. The goal of the CIB is to train aspiring intelligence professionals in
the art of producing well-researched, impartial and factual analytical products.
The European Intelligence Academy
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No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any
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Table of Contents
Foreword page 7
Dr. John Nomikos
Introduction page 11
Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis
The Current State of Al-Shabaab page 15
Will Support Continue for the Iran Nuclear Agreement? page 21
Will Rising Tension Persist in Relations Between Poland and the EU? page 29
Which is the Most Powerful Drug Cartel in Mexico? page 35
Will US-Cuba Relations Improve in 2019? page 43
Middle Eastern Linguistics in the US Intelligence Community After 9/11 page 51
Biographical notes on contributors page 61
The Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS)
was founded in 2006 with the aim of promoting the understanding
of international affairs. Special attention is devoted to transatlantic
relations, intelligence studies and terrorism, European integration,
international security, Balkan and Mediterranean studies, Russian
foreign policy as well as policy-making on national and international
Earlier this year, RIEAS founded The Journal of European and American
Intelligence Studies (JEAIS), an international academic-led scholarly publication
that focuses on the field of intelligence and related areas of study and
practice —such as terrorism and counterterrorism, homeland and
international security, geopolitics, and international relations. The
JEAIS is an all-inclusive academic platform that allows junior and
senior scholars and practitioners from both the public and private
sectors, to share their knowledge, ideas and approach to intelligence
In 2013, RIEAS launched the European Intelligence Academy (EIA)
project in order to promote the field of intelligence studies in European
academic institutions, in cooperation with the United States. The EIA
aims to advance the intelligence profession by setting standards, building
resources, sharing knowledge within the intelligence field, and promoting
a strong intelligence culture in European Union member states. It
also promotes cross-border research and scholarship cooperation
etween intelligence scholars in the EU and scholars in other parts
of the world. Furthermore, the EIA highlights the work of emerging
postgraduate and undergraduate scholars in the intelligence studies
field and provides a forum for them to exchange ideas and pursue
relevant research. Ultimately, one of the main goals of the EIA is to
connect young scholars who focus their undergraduate and postgraduate
studies on intelligence in Europe, the United States, and the
rest of the world.
With that in mind, I salute the fifth issue of The Intelligence Review, Vol.3,
No.5, November 2018, edited by Professor Joseph Fitsanakis of Coastal
Carolina University’s Intelligence and National Security Studies program,
and published by the EIA in association with the Chanticleer
Intelligence Brief. My heartfelt congratulations go to all the young
scholars whose work has been included in this seminal publication.
Dr. John Nomikos
Director, European Intelligence Academy
Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis
Associate Professor, Intelligence and National Security Studies program,
Coastal Carolina University
Deputy Director, European Intelligence Academy
The Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) began in early 2015 as a
student-led effort supported by the Department of Politics at Coastal
Carolina University (CCU). Its original purpose, which remains largely
unchanged to this day, was to provide a specialized outlet for
analytically-oriented students in CCU’s Intelligence and National Security
Studies program. Students who join the CIB are swiftly removed
from the relative predictability of the instructional environment and
thrown into the whirlwind of real-life uncertainty. They typically find
this sudden displacement startling and stimulating in equal measure.
Gradually, as they deepen their mastery of the particular topic that
has been assigned to them, they become noticeably skilled in discerning
meaningful patterns in seemingly disparate national and international
developments. Before long, they begin to build the foundations of
analytical confidence. Some even display early hints of intuitive
perceptivity —that elusive quality that experienced intelligence analysts
refer to when describing their instinctual response to challenges.
Upon joining the CIB, student analysts join ‘Sections’ —that is, groups
of other analysts who specialize in a common geographical region.
They work collaboratively to issue measurable periodic estimates on
current topics that relate to their region. Additionally, each analyst is
given the task of answering a specific question concerning an ongoing
development that relates to his or her area of expertise. The following
is an example of a question posed to a student analyst: “will Greece’s
international credit rating be upgraded by December of this year?”.
Or, “how likely is an intifada-scale uprising in the Gaza Strip in 2019?”.
Analysts occupy themselves with their question —or a series of different,
yet interrelated, questions— for up to eight semesters. Throughout
that time, they are expected to brief the entire CIB analytical team on
a weekly basis, sometimes in the presence of inquisitive current or
former members of the National Security Agency, the Central
Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other
intelligence and security agencies. In the process, student analysts are
asked questions and are evaluated on their written and oral presentation
skills. In some cases, analysts are asked to produce what is known as
‘current intelligence’, namely research that focuses on immediate
problems and threats of an ongoing nature. In other cases, they are
asked to engage in ‘estimative intelligence’ —that is, to attempt to
anticipate future developments. The latter is arguably the most challenging
task of an intelligence analyst, and the one that leaves their analytical
products most open to dispute.
At the end of every semester, each analyst produces a brief —though
dense— analytical estimate that aims to provide an informed and accurate
answer to their analytical question. The present compendium, issue
#5 of The Intelligence Review, showcases some of the best intelligence
products written by CIB analysts in the spring 2018 academic semester.
It covers timely topics, such as the current and projected strength of
the al-Shabaab militant group in East Africa, the future of the Iran
nuclear agreement, and the current state of Mexico’s drug cartels. It
also contains an analysis of the rising tension between the European
Union and the government of Poland, as well as of the complex
relationship between the United States and Cuba. The compendium
concludes with an eye-opening report on the state of Middle Eastern
linguistics in the United States Intelligence Community in the post-
9/11 era. These reports represent a small sample of the CIB’s extensive
output. It is presented in the hope that readers will benefit from the
precision, astuteness and analytical clarity of these very timely reports
produced by a talented team of young analysts.
Since its founding, the CIB has progressed from a student-led club
to a pre-professional body that operates as an ancillary practicum for
students in Coastal’s Intelligence and National Security Studies
program. It has launched a website (www.cibrief.org), a television and
radio program, and the present publication, which is the result of a
transatlantic cooperation between the CIB and the European Intelligence
Academy. During this time, CIB alumni have joined the analytical
divisions of numerous intelligence, security and law enforcement
agencies in the United States, while many others are exercising their
skills in the private sector. An increasing number of CIB analysts have
combined their regional expertise with rigorous academic research
and studies abroad, in Africa, Central America, the Middle East, Russia
and Central Asia, the Far East, and Europe. These experiences have
only helped to improve the quality of the analytical output that is
exhibited in these pages, as have the constructive critiques of current
and former members of the United States Intelligence Community.
It is with their support, as well as with the support of Coastal Carolina
University and the European Intelligence Academy, that we hope to
continue our work in the future.
The Current State of Al-Shabaab
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, the al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist
organization in Somalia, has recently carried out a string of successful
operations, which ultimately point to a resurgence of the group in the
region. Until recently, al-Shabaab was seen as being on its last legs. It
faced a seemingly overwhelming military force in the form of the
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). This Western-backed
coalition of East African militaries is tasked with fighting al-Shabaab
and supporting the Somali National Army (SNA).
While AMISOM has succeeded in removing al-Shabaab from
strategically important urban areas of Southern Somalia, including the
capital Mogadishu and the port city of Kismayo, it has begun to falter
in its overall mission. AMISOM’s resources appear to be overstretched
and lack direction, while al-Shabaab is pursuing a new dual
strategy of traditional insurgency and terrorism. Therefore, we believe
with high confidence that, with the decline of international aid in the
Horn of Africa, and al-Shabaab’s growing control of Southern
Somalia, al-Shabaab is in a current state of resurgence.
Al-Shabaab is an internationally designated terrorist organization. It
originally emerged out of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) movement
in Somalia in the mid-2000s. The ICU began as a loose grouping of
Sharia Courts, but eventually grew into a powerful Islamic militia. By
2006, the ICU controlled most of Southern Somalia. At that time, Al-
Shabaab (translated as ‘the youth’ or ‘the youngsters’) was the radical,
hardline youth-led faction within the ICU. The ICU reached the peak
of its influence following the 2006 Battle of Mogadishu, where it
defeated the US-backed Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and
Reconciliation (ARPCT) and gained sole control over Somalia’s wartorn
capital (Hansen 2016). This victory was significant enough to be
a serious concern to the government of neighboring Ethiopia, which
backed Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Ethiopian
troops, backed by American air support, invaded Somalia to attack
the ICU and attempt to establish authority for the TFG. The remnants
of the ICU, including al-Shabaab, were driven from Mogadishu and
suffered heavy losses throughout Somalia. More moderate elements
within the ICU reconciled with the TFG and entered into an alliance
with the Somali government. But the surviving al-Shabaab fighters
went into hiding or dispersed into Kenya.
While it is tempting to analyze the recent developments that have
taken place in Southern Somalia as an al-Shabaab resurgence, doing
so is somewhat misleading. Instead, we are beginning to witness what
many close observers of the Somali conflict have seen coming for
quite some time, namely the resurgence of a completely different al-
Shabaab organization (Beri 2017). This new al-Shabaab is well-organized,
disciplined, ideologically committed, and deeply embedded in certain
key parts of the country. It is now sensing a moment of weakness in
its enemies and is seizing its opportunity. While Western security and
military agencies have dedicated most of their efforts and resources
to the fight against the Islamic State (IS), they have neglected
AMISOM. While the military alliance continues to require significant
support, it is experiencing the exact opposite (Anon. 2018a). In
February 2018, for example, the European Union (EU), which funds
AMISOM’s activities as part of a financing agreement called the
African Peace Facility, announced a 20 percent reduction in its
financial support of the mission. This development comes a year after
AMISOM announced its exit strategy from Somalia at the beginning
of 2017. In May 2017, AMISOM officially announced its plans to
withdraw 1,000 troops from Somalia by the end of 2017. It also
announced that it would withdraw the remaining 1,000 troops by the
end of 2018, leaving roughly 200 troops in country with an indefinite
timeline in place. AMISOM believes that its new exit strategy will ultimately
reduce the threat from al-Shabaab, secure the country’s political process
and successfully transfer security responsibilities to Somali government
forces (Williams 2017). However, political feuds between the national
government and Somalia’s regional administrations, pervasive corruption,
and recent setbacks against al-Shabaab, threaten to derail AMISOM’s
High-profile attacks on government officials and armed raids on
AMISOM bases throughout southern Somalia have become an almost
weekly occurrence in 2018. March was a particularly busy month, and
one which began with one of al-Shabaab’s most high-profile attacks,
when its fighters tried to assassinate government and military officials
throughout Mogadishu for three consecutive days (Anon. 2018c).
These incidents received relatively scant media attention in the West,
likely due to the attacks failing to actually kill any of the government
officials targeted. However, the significance of these attacks should
not be overlooked. They were well-planned and had specific targets
and objectives, which suggests that careful surveillance was carried
out on the targeted officials prior to the attacks. The attacks also
revealed how well-equipped al-Shabaab was, due to the amount of
resources that were used to carry them out. Notably, these attacks
were carried out just days after al-Shabaab reportedly lost 32 of its
fighters in a lengthy firefight with the SNA (Anon. 2018b). The group
suffered those losses in a central Somalian village, where a group of
Somali citizens refused to pay its taxes to the organization’s members.
It was reported that once the al-Shabaab militants began killing
anyone who refused to pay them, some of the villagers took up arms
against al-Shabaab until SNA forces arrived and began engaging the
militants as well. The engagement lasted 6 hours, and the SNA forces
reported killing 32 al-Shabaab members.
Outside of the urban centers in southern Somalia, al-Shabaab’s prowess
as a traditional insurgent force has also been on display in 2018. In
April, the group successfully attacked multiple Ugandan People’s
Defense Force (UPDF) bases near the Southern Somalian town of
Bulo Marer, roughly 80 miles southwest of Mogadishu (Anon. 2018d).
The simultaneous attacks, led to the death of at least 59 Ugandan
troops, inflicting one of the worst losses of life in Uganda’s military
history. Days before the attacks, the Ugandan troops had tracked
down and killed multiple al-Shabaab members in areas around Bulo
Marer. It is reported that these patrols ultimately led to the attacks on
the four UPDF bases in the area, one of which was reportedly
overrun by al-Shabaab militants. These and many other such raids
have not only been strategic successes and propaganda coups for al-
Shabaab, but have also allowed the organization to seize large amounts
of military hardware from AMISOM and SNA troops, including
military vehicles, weapons and ammunitions.
Analysis and Conclusion
While AMISOM and SNA forces have succeeded in ensuring that al-
Shabaab no longer control the major urban centers in southern
Somalia, they have struggled to capitalize on short-term successes in
rural towns and regions, and show little interest in pursuing any sort
of coherent political or military strategy (Hitchens 2017). AMISOM’s
mission has failed to remove al-Shabaab from any of its rural
hideouts, while AMISOM soldiers rarely patrol outside of their bases.
This enables al-Shabaab to operate with ease among the local population
and to present itself as a viable alternative to the TFG. However, the
recent struggles faced by AMISOM are not only a matter of a lack of
resources and an absence of clear strategy. The political climate in
Somalia is also deeply fractured and dysfunctional, leading to an
increased lack of trust between the TFG and the Somali population.
The Somali government has little control outside of its base in
Mogadishu and the SNA is viewed with distrust among many who
see it as a tool for various competing clans to gain influence (Hitchens
2017). This political paralysis has, among other things, led to a lack of
security cooperation and coordination between the center and periphery,
and has greatly benefitted al-Shabaab, allowing it to regroup.
The short answer is that al-Shabaab was never defeated. Any claims to
the contrary were overly-optimistic and ignored both how embedded
al-Shabaab remains in southern Somalia, and the limitations of those
opposing it. Many assessments also mistakenly measure the
organization’s capabilities solely by how much territory it controls,
ignoring its size and cadres of experienced and hardened fighters. The
most conservative estimates of al-Shabaab’s membership stand at
around 6,000, while other more reliable sources suggest that the
group’s armed force is more than double that. While it is difficult to
confirm these figures, if that number stands anywhere near the higher
estimates, AMISOM’s force of 2,200 is simply insufficient to achieve
anything resembling a victory and may in fact be the central reason
why it is now withdrawing its forces. That is why we believe, with
high confidence, that with the decline of international aid in the Horn
of Africa and al-Shabaab’s growing control of southern Somalia, al-
Shabaab is currently in a state of resurgence.
Anonymous (2018a) “Somalia: Extremism and Counter-Extremism”, Counter
Extremism Project, n.d. < https://www.counterextremism.com/countries/
somalia> accessed on 21 April 2018.
Anonymous (2018b) “Somali Forces kill 32 Al-Shabaab Fighters in Central
Somalia”, African News, 17 March < http://www.xinhuanet.com/english
/2018-03/17/c_137046273.htm> accessed on 21 April 2018.
Anonymous (2018c) “Suicide Car Bomb Kills Three Near Somali Parliament”,
Reuters, 25 March
accessed on 21 April 2018.
Anonymous (2018d) “Al-Shabaab Attacks an African Union Base in Somalia”,
Reuters, 01 April
accessed on 21 April 2018.
Beri, R. (2017) “Rise of Terrorism in Africa”, Institute for Defence Studies
and Analysis, 13 April < https://idsa.in/idsacomments/rise-of-terrorismin-africa_rberi_130417>
accessed on 21 April 2018.
Hansen, S.J. (2016) Al-Shabaab in Somalia: The History of a Militant Islamist
Group, Oxford University Press, New York, New York.
Hitchens, A.M. (2017) “The Return of al-Shabaab”, The Daily Beast, 15
on 21 April 2018.
Williams. P.D. (2017) “Somalia’s African Union Mission Has a New Exit
Strategy. But Can Troops Actually Leave?”, The Washington Post, 30 November
accessed on 21 April 2018.
Will the P5+1 Continue to Support the
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?
Editor’s Note: The present analysis refers to an event of global significance that has
already taken place. Its projection value is therefore diminished. However, it is
included in this publication in order to illustrate the power of intellectual precision
and the ability of an intelligence analyst to achieve 100 percent accuracy —as this
analyst did— by methodically considering and evaluating the analytical parameters
of his question.
Continued collective support of the P5+1 for the Joint Comprehensive
Plan of Action (JCPOA) is far from certain. As the May 12, 2018,
deadline approaches for United States (US) President Donald Trump
to sign waivers that would maintain Washington’s commitment to the
JCPOA, concerns about specific aspects of the JCPOA have been
raised by several members of this multilateral agreement. The threat
issued by president Trump to entirely withdraw from the deal if changes
are not made to address perceived flaws, is what makes continued
support of the P5+1 for the JCPOA most questionable. Given that
no amendments to address these areas of concern have been agreed
upon, we assert with high confidence that the US will withdraw from
the JCPOA and thus the P5+1 will not continue to support the JCPOA.
The Iranian nuclear program was launched in the 1950s with help from
the US through a program known as Atoms for Peace (NTI 2017).
This came after the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad
Mosaddegh, which was orchestrated by the US Central Intelligence
Agency. Following the coup, the US-backed Reza Shah Pahlavi returned
to power in Iran (BBC 2014). The US then supplied Iran with uranium
to enrich, and helped it build its first nuclear reactor, the so-called
Tehran Research Reactor, in 1967 (Davenport 2018). Throughout the
next decade, Iran drastically increased its nuclear capabilities by
signing nuclear technology contracts with foreign entities, sending
nuclear scientists to be trained abroad and securing fissile materials
for enrichment (NTI 2017). In 1974, Shah Pahlavi announced an
ambitious plan to construct several nuclear power plants and ramp
up the country’s nuclear energy production exponentially (Davenport
2018). However, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 ousted Shah Pahlavi
and brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in Iran (BBC News 2014).
The Iranian Revolution and subsequent seizure of the US embassy in
the capital Tehran greatly damaged relations between Western nations
and Iran, and was particularly detrimental for US-Iranian relations.
US assistance with Iran’s nuclear program was abruptly terminated
(Davenport 2018). The new leader, Khomeini, was initially opposed to
nuclear energy because he saw it as being haram (forbidden) in Islam,
and consequently issued a fatwa or religious ruling that outlawed it.
Consequently, Iran’s nuclear program experienced a period of significant
dismantlement (NTI 2017). In 1984, Khomeini seemingly softened his
position on nuclear power and began seeking help from abroad to
complete a number of unfinished nuclear energy projects (NTI 2017).
By the late 1980s, US intelligence agencies had developed firm suspicions
that Iran was using its peaceful nuclear program as a front for a clandestine
nuclear weapons program (NTI 2017). During that period, the US used
its geopolitical weight to pressure other countries not to assist Iran in
developing its nuclear program (NTI 2017). However, the US was unable
to prevent Russia from enhancing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, as Moscow
and Tehran entered a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement in 1992.
In 1995 this deal was supplemented by a follow-up agreement that was
more robust in terms of physical and technological nuclear assistance
In 2002, an Iranian separatist group revealed to the international
community that Iran was operating undeclared nuclear facilities near
the city of Natanz in central Iran (Davenport 2018). This triggered the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to adopt a resolution in
2003, which called on Iran to suspend all enrichment activities
(Davenport 2018). The Iranian government agreed to comply with
IAEA demands, but in 2005 the IAEA declared that Iran was still not
in compliance. On June 6, 2006, the P5+1 offered Iran the initial
framework of an agreement that provided incentives for the Islamic
Republic to curtail —and eventually eliminate— its nuclear activity
(Davenport 2018). The P5+1 are the five permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council, namely the US, the United Kingdom,
Russia, China, and France, plus Germany. In August of 2006, Iran
rejected the P5+1 offer and proceeded to continue to expand both
its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, despite harsh economic
sanctions levied upon it by the international community (Davenport
2018). In 2010, Iranian nuclear capabilities suffered a major setback
following a cyberattack in the form of a computer virus known as
Stuxnet, which targeted its nuclear facilities at Natanz (Davenport
2018). Despite this, Iranian efforts to advance the country’s nuclear
program continued. This resulted in more economic pressure being
applied by the international community: for example, the EU passed
legislation that banned its 28 member countries from importing
Iranian oil after July, 1, 2012 (Davenport 2018). On April 14, 2012,
having ostensibly succumbed to economic pressure, the Iranian
government met with officials representing the P5+1 in Turkey to
negotiate a deal (Davenport 2018). These negotiations resulted in the
signing of the JCPOA on July 15, 2015 (Davenport 2018). This
agreement between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran,
imposed restrictions and regulations on Iran’s nuclear program in
exchange for economic relief measures (NTI 2017).
Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump criticized
the JCPOA and articulated his intentions to pull the US out of the deal.
During a campaign speech at a pro-Israel conference in Washington,
candidate Trump stated: “My number-one priority is to dismantle the
disastrous deal with Iran” (Begley 2016). Nearly a year following his
election, President Trump delivered another a speech in which he
announced his decision to decertify the JCPOA and threatened to
withdraw from the deal entirely if certain aspects of it were not
amended (NPR 2017). In the speech, Trump demanded restrictions
on Iran’s ballistic missile program, the termination of the JCPOA’s
sunset clauses, and a provision for more robust inspections in order
for the US to continue to honor the agreement (NPR 2017). Sunset
clauses are limits on Iran’s nuclear program that expire after a set
amount of time, and most of the agreement’s nuclear restrictions are
set up this way. Trump said he saw this as unacceptable, because it
meant that the JCPOA was giving billions of dollars to Iran while
only merely delaying its path to acquiring nuclear weapons (NPR
2017). During the same speech, President Trump also blamed Iran for
numerous terrorist atrocities, and accused it of violating the agreement
on multiple occasions, by intimidating inspectors from carrying out
full nuclear facility inspections and by exceeding its heavy-water limit
(NPR 2017). The decertification of the agreement took place on
October 17, 2017. It did not officially withdraw the US from the deal,
but it gave Congress the power to re-impose sanctions on Iran and
created a situation where the President has to sign a waiver roughly
every 120 days to maintain US commitment. If Trump does not sign
the waiver on 12 May, 2018, the US will automatically withdraw from
the international accord.
European signatories to the P5+1 have also expressed concern about
certain aspects of the JCPOA, but are determined to preserve it. On
March 5, 2018, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian traveled to
the Iranian capital Tehran to warn the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
of new economic sanctions if Iran refused to make concessions regarding
its ballistic missile program (Hafezi and Irish 2018). Rouhani did not
agree to concessions and stated that his country’s ballistic missile
program was strictly for national defense. Just two weeks later,
France, Britain and Germany proposed new EU sanctions on Iran for
its ballistic missile program in an effort to keep Trump from withdrawing
from the JCPOA (Emmott 2018). American and European diplomats
held meetings to find common ground that would address the deal’s
deficiencies and keep the US from backing out of the deal. Some
progress has been reportedly made during these talks as there is a shared
desire to see the agreement’s sunset clauses modified or eliminated
(Rozen 2018). Despite these efforts to address the issues President
Trump cited in his 2017 speech, there has been no legislation passed
by the P5+1 or Iran that would alter the JCPOA.
In March of 2018, President Trump made changes to the composition
of his administration that have serious implications for the future of
the JCPOA. National Security advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson were replaced by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo
respectively (Tobin 2018). This is important because Tillerson and
McMaster generally advocated for the US to remain in the JCPOA,
while their replacements have done the opposite (Tobin 2018). Bolton
has been a particularly fierce critic of the JCPOA, as well as American
involvement in the deal. Less than a year prior to being appointed as
National Security advisor, Bolton wrote an article entitled “Trump
Must Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Deal —Now” (Bolton 2017). In
a television interview which aired just days before he became
National Security advisor, Bolton said: “I don’t see that there’s any
prospect of a real fix to this deal. I think the deal is inherently flawed.
I think it’s a strategic debacle for the US” (Fox News Insider 2018).
Dismissing those administration members who tried to convince
Trump to stay in the JCPOA, and replacing them with individuals
who have called for the US to leave it, indicates that a US withdrawal
from the JCPOA may be imminent.
In October 2017, President Trump offered the signatories to the
JCPOA an ultimatum: work with the US to fix flaws in the agreement,
or he would pull the US out of the deal. America’s European cosignatories
in the deal also see the JCPOA as less than perfect, and
agree that it would be better if Iran’s ballistic missile program were
restricted and the deal’s sunset clauses amended. Despite this common
view, European members of the P5+1 agreement have so far been
unwilling to take the risks necessary to make these changes. This is
most likely due to the fact that Iran has rejected all prospects of making
changes to the deal, and that it took years of arduous negotiations to
get Iran to sign the deal in the first place. Since the JCPOA is a
multilateral agreement, the US cannot make changes to it by itself.
With no indication that it will receive legislative cooperation from
other members of the P5+1, Trump has made personnel changes to
his administration that reflect and reinforce his viewpoint that the US
should withdraw from the deal. France, the UK and Germany must
work with the US and sign a resolution that amends the alleged weaknesses
of the JCPOA, or sign a follow-up agreement that addresses these
issues before the 12 May deadline if it wants to prevent a US
withdrawal. With no evidence that this will occur, I assert with high
confidence the US —and consequently the P5+1 as a whole— will
not continue to support the JCPOA in 2018.
BBC News (2014) “US-Iran Relations: A Brief Guide”, British
Broadcasting Corporation, 24 November accessed on April 15, 2018.
Begley, S. (2016) “Read Donald Trump’s Speech to AIPAC”, Time, 21 March
accessed on April 15 2018.
Bolton, J. (2017) “Trump Must Withdraw from Iran Nuclear Deal —Now”,
The Hill, 16 July
accessed on April 16, 2018.
Davenport, K. (2018) “Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy With Iran”, Arms
Control Association, April
accessed on April 14, 2018.
Emmott, R. (2018) “France Urges Tough EU Approach on Iran to Save
Nuclear Accord”, Reuters, 19 March
accessed on April 16, 2018.
Fox News Insider (2018) “Bolton on Trump’s Iran Deal Meeting: ‘Putting
Lipstick on a Pig’ Won’t Make a Difference”, Fox News Network, 20
accessed on April
Hafezi, P. Irish, J. (2018) “French Foreign Minister Talks to Iranian Officials
About Nuclear Deal and Missile Program”, Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty, 5 March
accessed on April 15, 2018.
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NPR (2017) “Transcript: Trump’s Remarks on Iran Nuclear Deal”, National
Public Radio, 13 October < https://www.npr.org/2017/10/13/5576220
96/transcript-trump-s-remarks-on-iran-nuclear-deal> accessed on April
Tobin, S.J. (2018) “Ignore the Foreign-Policy ‘Experts’ Who Defend the
Iran Deal”, National Review, 29 March accessed on April 15, 2018.
Rozen, L. (2018) “Sunsets ‘Tricky Bit’ in Transatlantic Talks on Trump
Iran Demands”, Al-Monitor, 28 February accessed on April 15, 2018.
Will Rising Tension Persist in Relations
Between Poland and the European
The current trajectory of relations between Poland and the European
Union (EU) is reaching a critical junction, following the election in
2015 of the rightwing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party. This burst
of populist nationalism may have critically amplified tensions in
Polish-EU relations. Given the latest developments, it can be stated
with moderate confidence that tensions will continue to rise and that
a return to pre-2015 Polish-EU relations is not looming.
Poland’s populist Law and Justice party surged into power in October
2015, swiftly defeating the centrist opposition Civic Platform (PO) with
37.58 percent of the vote (RT 2018). Shortly after coming into power
with the support of the Law and Justice party, President of Poland Andrzej
Duda introduced judicial reforms that gave the parliament and the
justice minister power to appoint and relieve Supreme Court judges.
In addition, a retirement regime was imposed under which female
judges were required to retire at the age of 60, while male judges could
continue working until the age of 65 (Cuddy 2018). The Law and
Justice party justified these reforms as a measure intended to reform
a judicial system plagued by corruption and links to the days when the
country was still under the communist rule of Moscow (Santora 2018).
However, outside critics, including the European Commission, saw
these actions as authoritarian and said they severely undermined
judicial independence (De La Baume 2018).
On December 20, 2017, the European Commission initiated Article
7(1) disciplinary proceedings which have the potential to strip Poland
of voting rights in the European Parliament. This is the first time that the
European Commission has triggered the Article 7(1) process. Article
7(1), often labeled the “nuclear option” is the EU’s punishment clause,
solely designed to ensure that member countries stick to the bloc’s core
values. The European Council, with the consensus of the European
Parliament, must then reach a four-fifths majority decision on the
proposal in order to formally punish the state in question. If the
implementation of Article 7(1) does not have the desired effect,
Article 7(2) can then be used to impose sanctions and suspend EU
voting rights of the state in question (Cuddy 2018).
In addition to the judicial reforms, Poland was drew the EU’s ire
following the Polish government’s decision to resist EU-enforced
quotas on accepting refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
Before the Law and Justice party came into power in 2015, EU states
agreed to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers between them in an attempt
to relieve pressure on Greece and Italy, where the vast majority of
migrants were arriving at the time (BBC 2018). But Poland’s new
populist-controlled government grudgingly promised to admit about
half of the number previously agreed on.
On December 7, 2018, Poland reshuffled its government, hoping to
ease tensions and improve its deteriorating position within the EU.
Mateusz Morawiecki took over the role of prime minister from Beata
Szydlo, as she offered her resignation at the midpoint of the Law and
Justice party’s four-year term. Morawiecki, a former finance minister,
was widely viewed by Law and Justice party members as betterqualified
to represent Poland to EU officials who have deemed the
country’s tidal wave of populist nationalism a threat to the bloc’s unity.
Two months after coming into office, Morawiecki announced a
comprehensive reshuffle of the government. Morawiecki dismissed a
third of his cabinet, including the foreign minister, defense minister,
environmental minister, and several other government officials with
tense relationships with EU leaders (Santora 2018). This government
reshuffle indicated that Poland was willing to be malleable to win back
EU favor. However, in the name of protecting the independence of
the Polish Supreme Court, Brussels decided to continue the course
of Article 7(1) proceedings.
In March of 2018, several media outlets, including the respected
international news agency Reuters, reported on Poland’s direct warning
to the EU at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium (Baczynska 2018). In the
meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker,
Morawiecki staunchly defended Poland’s controversial court overhaul
and warned that the EU’s onerous criticism of Poland’s reforms could
backfire. During the meeting, Morawiecki also presented Juncker with
a 96 page “white paper” document that explained the Polish government’s
reasons for implementing changes to the judicial system (Polskie Radio
2018). Morawiecki further explained that the document underlined
Poland’s aim to improve the judiciary. However, after thoroughly analyzing
the white paper, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s
first vice president, was quoted as saying that the document was “not
the answer” (Maïa De La Baume, 2018) to the Polish-EU debacle.
On April 11, 2018, Reuters reported that Poland had agreed to implement
minor changes to its judiciary system. According to Law and Justice
member Marek Ast, the proposed modifications to the judiciary included:
a clause forcing the justice minister to seek the opinion of judges before
deciding whether to dismiss a court president; equalizing the compulsory
retirement age of female and male judges at 65 years; and allowing
the country’s president the right to decide whether a judge could
work past the age of 65 (Deutsche Welle 2018). On April 16, 2018,
the proposals were passed in the Polish upper house and approved
by President Duda.
These concessions came as the ruling Law and Justice party is facing
pressure from multiple fronts. First, there are indications of a coming
clash between EU budget beneficiaries, like Poland, and the largest
EU net contributors, like Germany and France, as Brexit has inflicted
a €13 billion ($15 billion)-a-year hole in the Union’s coffers.
Currently, Poland is allocated €86 billion ($100 billion) of “cohesion”
development funds as part of the current €1 trillion ($1.15 trillion)
EU budget for the years 2014-20 —by far the largest of any other EU
member state (Peel 2018). Additionally, according to Visegrad Insight,
the upcoming EU budget is expected to allocate Poland €30 billion
($33 billion) less than the previous budget, which was implemented
by Brussels under Poland’s previous government (Zaborowski 2018).
Because of this, the Law and Justice party is actively attempting to
mollify the EU, in order to secure Poland’s critically significant
portion of EU cohesion funding. Second, according to Poll of Polls, a
private, non-profit, and independent EU statistical and polling site,
Law and Justice party electoral polling has fluctuated over the past
six months with the party reaching as high as 50 percent to as low as
36 percent (Poll of Polls 2018). This is a direct indication that the
Polish voter population is growing weary and restless over the lengthy
spat with the EU. The next ballot box test for the Law and Justice
party will occur later this year, with local elections slated for October
21. Furthermore, the next Polish parliamentary election is scheduled
to be held no later than November 2019.
The recent concessions from the Law and Justice party indicate that
the governing party is actively attempting to improve the country’s
image abroad, as well as win breathing space from its domestic political
rivals that have criticized it for straining Poland’s ties with the EU.
The concessions also come as French President Emmanuel Macron
warned that “there seems to be a European civil war” between liberal
democracy and rising authoritarianism, during a speech to the European
Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on April 17 (BBC 2018). Finally, the
situation at hand indicates that both Poland and the EU are putting
in an effort to avert using —for the first time in history— Article 7(1)
proceedings over a set of controversial reforms to Poland’s judiciary.
Warsaw has proven to be malleable by reshuffling their government;
however, the ruling party has yet to offer any kind of substantial
judicial concessions that would satisfy the EU’s demands for judicial
independence. Therefore, it can be stated with moderate confidence
that tension between Poland and the EU will continue to rise and that
a return to pre-2015 Polish-EU relations is not looming.
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Could Backfire”, Reuters, March 08 accessed on March 12, 2018.
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Refugee Quotas”, BBC News, December 07 accessed on April 22, 2018.
BBC News (2018) “France’s Macron Urges EU to Shun Nationalism”,
BBC News, April 17 accessed on April 21, 2018.
Cuddy, A. (2017) “What Is ‘Article 7’ and Why Was it Triggered Against
Poland?”, EuroNews, December 20 accessed on April 23, 2018.
De La Baume, M. (2017) “Brussels Puts Warsaw on Path to Sanctions
over Rule of Law”, Politico, December 21
accessed on April 22, 2018.
De La Baume, M. (2018) “Frans Timmermans: Poland’s Rule of Law
Paper ‘not the Answer’”, Politico, March 20
accessed on April 22, 2018.
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Reforms in Response to EU Criticisms”, Deutsche Welle, 22 March
accessed on April 10,
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accessed on March 11, 2018.
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Poll”, Reuters, April 13 accessed on April 21, 2018.
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in Europe”, RT, March 07
accessed on March 10, 2018.
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With EU”, The New York Times, January 09 accessed
on April 21, 2018.
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Questionable Commitments from the US, PiS is Rather Isolated in
Europe”, Visegrad Insight, October 04
accessed on October 06, 2018.
Which is the Most Powerful Drug
Cartel in Mexico?
Illicit drug cartels have been part of the social, political and economic
fabric of Mexico for decades. Beginning in the 1970s, much of the
development of Mexican cartels can be attributed to the influence of
Pablo Escobar and his Medellín Cartel in Colombia. Escobar had
close relations with Mexican drug lord Miguel Gallardo, who is
notoriously known as ‘El Padrino’ (‘the Godfather’) of Mexican drug
cartels (Pérez 2016). During the 1970s and 1980s, few realized that
Escobar and Gallardo were paving the way for modern day Mexican
drug lords like Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán of the Sinaloa Cartel, and
Rubén ‘El Mencho’ Cervantes of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel,
known as CJNG (Longmire 2016). Today, cartels such as the Sinaloa,
CJNG, Gulf, and the two factions of Los Zetas —Old School Zetas and
the Northeast Cartel— continue to battle for authority. Specifically,
two powerhouse cartels compete for territorial domination: the
Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG. Since it splintered from the Sinaloa
Cartel in 2010, the CJNG has advanced more aggressively than any
other modern-day Mexican drug cartel (Pérez 2016). It can be stated
with high confidence that the CJNG is currently the most powerful
drug cartel in Mexico.
Mexican cartels were forever altered by the criminal rise of Escobar.
Throughout the 1970s, as he networked with other criminals to form
the Medellín Cartel of Colombia, Escobar acquired control of the
production of nearly 80 percent of the cocaine disseminated into the
United States (US). His approach to leadership, infrastructural tactics,
drug trafficking, and territorial domination appealed immensely to
Gallardo. The success of Gallardo, the chief of Mexico’s Guadalajara
Cartel, mirrored the successes of Escobar and his Medellín Cartel, so
the two were in close cooperation as producers (Medellín Cartel) and
distributors (Guadalajara Cartel) of cocaine (Becerra and Parra 2012:1).
By the 1980s, the Guadalajara Cartel had control of nearly all drug
trafficking in Mexico and across the border into the US. While still very
much operating under the shadow of the overall efficiency and productivity
of the Colombian cartels, Gallardo modeled the Guadalajara Cartel as a
template for the future growth of all other Mexican cartels (Longmire
2016). In 1985, Gallardo was incarcerated for the murder of the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena, and
was thus effectively taken off the streets. But his legacy is imprinted
upon Mexico’s modern-day cartels, which have since evolved from the
now defunct Guadalajara Cartel. Today, key players in Mexico’s drug
war are the Sinaloa Cartel, the CJNG, the Gulf Cartel, and both factions
of the Los Zetas Cartel (US Drug Enforcement Administration 2017).
Once working as Gallardo’s logistics supervisor, Joaquín ‘El Chapo’
Guzmán became a recognized leader of the Sinaloa following the
dismantlement of the Guadalajara Cartel. Throughout the 1990s and
early 2000s, El Chapo gained exclusive power over the Sinaloa and its
operations. But thirst for power caused fragmentation within the cartel
(Beittel 2017:13). In 2010, the paramilitary wing of the Sinaloa, referred
to as the Milenio Cartel, splintered when Sinaloa leaders refused to
promote Rubén ‘El Mencho’ Cervantes as the leader of the wing.
Following the split, El Mencho and trained operatives of the Milenio
Cartel formed the CJNG (Beittel 2017:22).
The Rise of the CJNG
The CJNG strategically centered its foundation on the geographical
habitat of its membership in Guadalajara, the largest city and capital of
the Mexican state of Jalisco. The new cartel had several opportunities
to capitalize on: first, its accessibility to the Pacific coast and several
unclaimed seaports, such as Manzanillo and Colima, for drug trafficking.
Second, Guadalajara had a booming economy which aided the CJNG in
two ways: the economy allowed the cartel to launder money undetected,
which funded weapons manufacturing; and the economy generated an
influx of educated young people, including many chemists. Although
these individuals had moved to Guadalajara for legitimate employment,
many were eventually hired by the CJNG to manufacture illegal substances.
Not only did the CJNG recruit scientists, it also bribed low-level members
of law enforcement agencies. According to Mexico’s National Institute
of Statistics and Geography, the state of Jalisco has the highest number
of low-paid police officers and ranks in the top 10 Mexican states for
the number of police officers failing vetting tests (Croft n.d.).
While the CJNG kept getting stronger, rival cartels preoccupied Mexico’s
law enforcement and security forces. The dismantlement of rival cartels
by the Mexican government gave the CJNG the opportunity to thrive
largely uninterrupted. But, the meteoric rise of the CJNG could only
go unnoticed for so long (Cordero 2013:290). Starting in 2015, the
Mexican government began to pay increasing attention to the
established presence of the CJNG, not only in Guadalajara, but in
almost half of Mexico’s states. The rapid expansion of the CJNG
prompted the Mexican authorities to implement Operation JALISCO.
Operation JALISCO was a militarized security plan proposed by
President Enrique Peña Nieto and federal law enforcement leaders,
to combat cartel violence and drug trafficking. Merely hours after
JALISCO was announced, the CJNG shot down a military aircraft.
Some commentators theorized that the abrupt retaliation on Jalisco’s
part represented an overcompensation of the cartel’s capabilities,
aimed at deterring conflict with the government. Others said it was
purely an act of revenge against the government. The CJNG did not
publicly announce its purpose for launching an armed counterattack
on Operation JALISCO. It is worth noting, however, that after the
deadly incident the CJNG continued to pursue offensive and exorbitantly
violent operations. This suggests that the CJNG today has the resources
and numerical strength to retaliate against the government (Croft n.d.).
The rise of the CJNG has been paralleled by soaring drug-related
homicide rates. In 2010, more than 15,000 deaths were attributed to
cartel violence. In 2011, drug-related homicides nearly doubled, reaching
27, 213. Since the establishment of the CJNG in 2010, Mexico has yet
to see a year with fewer than 15,000 drug-related deaths. Moreover,
in just a few years the CJNG managed to solidify its internal structure
and implement an ambitious expansion strategy (Cordero 2013:294).
It displayed extreme aggression while tearing through Mexican states
in order to increase the territory under its control. Violence ensued
between the CJNG and rival cartels battling for control, but also with
law enforcement. Following Operation JALISCO, the CJNG issued
an official declaration of war against all Mexican security forces. While
targeting rival cartels and law enforcement throughout 2017, the
CJNG caused homicide rates to reach staggering levels. That year went
on record as the deadliest in Mexico, with more than 29,000 drug-related
murders. Homicide data is still being collected, however, so the total
should expected to rise (Fredrick 2018). As rival cartels continue to
experience internal division, makeshift leadership and dismantlement
by the federal government, the projection that the CJNG will continue
to advance in 2019 remains strong (US Department of Justice 2018).
The CJNG Today
In the first eight days of January 2018, more than 240 drug-related murders
occurred across Mexico. According to the Strategic and Defense Studies
Center of the Australian National University, the CJNG has now
become a transnational criminal organization with presence in North
America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia (Croft n.d.).
The 2017 DEA Threat Assessment considers the CJNG as “the
greatest criminal threat to the United States”, as 46 active CJNG cells
have been detected in the US (US Drug Enforcement Administration
2017:vi). In 2018, the Department of Justice reported that of the 31
states in Mexico, 16 are under travel 3 or 4 advisory. Travel 3 advisory
is to “reconsider travel” in those states, while travel 4 advisory is to
“not travel [there] at all”. CJNG’s authority reigns unchallenged by
rival cartels in nine of the most dangerous 16 states in Mexico, while
it is still present in at least 14 more (US Department of State 2018).
Given the past evolution of the CJNG, the acquisition of more territory
suggests that the CJNG is likely to continue to prosper through typical
cartel tradecraft, such as drug trafficking, money-laundering, bribery,
organizational size and influence. These capabilities will ultimately give
the CJNG an opportunity to strengthen and thrive (Borunda 2017).
The CJNG shows no sign of decline. To combat the advancement of
the CJNG, the Mexican government has been working towards
identifying the CJNG’s strategy and has implemented legislative and
tactical operations, engaging all levels of law enforcement, as well as
civic groups (Croft n.d.). Regardless of the continual effort by the
government to eradicate the CJNG, the group continues to prevail.
It remains largely unaffected by legislation and uses its formidable
paramilitary capabilities to adequately contend with armed forces.
Lastly, the CJNG retains considerable authority over corrupt law
enforcement. As CJNG consistently dominates in the streets of Mexico,
citizens do not have the confidence to engage in even basic forms of
civic participation (Pérez 2016). The CJNG has been able to actively
evade nearly all opposition by other cartels, while augmenting its
territorial control, net worth, membership, weaponry capabilities, and
ultimately its ability to threaten and intimidate the populace (Borunda
2017). It is with high confidence that we find the CJNG to be the
most powerful drug cartel in Mexico at the present time.
Becerra, J. and Parra, M. (2012) “Twenty Years after the Killing of the King
of Kingpins Pablo Escobar: Lessons Learned from Narco-Terrorism”,
Journal of Trauma and Treatment, 1(2), pp1-2.
Beittel, J.S. (2017) Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations,
Congressional Research Service, United States Library of Congress.
Borunda, D. (2017) “Mexico’s fast-growing Jalisco New Generation Cartel
expands to El Pasoregion”, The El Paso Times, 27 October
13 April 2018.
Cordero, C.F. (2013) “Breaking the Mexican Cartels: A Key Homeland
Security Challenge for the Next Four Years”, UMKC Law Review, 81(2),
Croft, H. (n.d.) “Operation Jalisco: The Rise of the Jalisco New Generation
Cartel and PeñasNieto’s Militarized Security Strategy”, Small Wars Journal
accessed on 19April 2018.
Fredrick, J. (2018) “Mexico Registers its Highest Number of Homicides
on Record”, National Public Radio, 25 January ,
accessed 21 April 2018.
Longmire, S. (2016) “DEA: The CJNG is Now the Largest Criminal
Group in Mexico”, In Homeland Security, 28 December , accessed on
17 April 2018.
Pérez, L.A. (2016) “Mexico’s Jalisco Cartel – New Generation: From
Extinction to World Domination”, InSight Crime, 26 December ,
accessed on 17 April 2018.
US Department of Justice (2018) “Sinaloa Cartel Trafficker Sentenced”,
United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, United States.
US Department of State (2018) “Mexico Travel Advisory”, United States
Department of State, Washington, DC, United States.
US Drug Enforcement Administration (2017) “2017 National Drug
Threat Assessment”, United States Drug Enforcement Administration,
Washington, DC, United States.
Will US-Cuba Relations Improve in
In 2014, United States President Barack Obama and Cuban President
Raúl Castro appeared to move past simple détente and forge an era of
significantly improved relations between Washington and Havana.
But that did not last, as the bilateral relationship between the US and
Cuba has since ventured into uncharted territory. Today, for the first
time in nearly six decades, Cuba has someone without the Castro
name at the helm of government —President Miguel Díaz-Canel.
However, Cuba’s former president, Raúl Castro, remains both head
of the military and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba
(PCC). Additionally, the new American administration of President
Donald Trump has partially rolled back President Obama’s initiatives.
For that to be reversed, the US would need to revert to a policy of
engagement, in the manner of the Obama administration, instead of
relying on isolating Cuba in order to achieve a number of stated policy
objectives. Furthermore, both countries’ embassies would need to be
fully staffed and operational in order to engage in essential bilateral
exchanges on a consistent basis. However, current relations remain
strained. Recent shifts in both governments, paired with sharply
differing ideologies, and the limited presence of diplomats at each other’s
embassies, have halted nearly all prospects of a rapprochement.
Therefore, it can be stated with a high level of confidence that
relations between the US and Cuba will likely not improve in the
The current strains in US-Cuba relations have their roots in the
Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959. By 1961,
the US had severed relations with Cuba and launched a wide-ranging
covert-action operation program the island nation. Aspects of that
program, principally the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion, have gone
down as some of the biggest intelligence failures in US history, as they
resulted in solidifying Castro’s power on the island. In 1962, the US
imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, which remains in place today (US
State Department n.d.). Another outcome of the revolution was the
mass migration of Cuban political refugees to America —the Miami
area being their most popular destination. Today, the Cuban community
holds extensive political power in Florida and has historically been
one of the major forces in isolating Cuba (MPI 2018). Eventually, the
Cuban government aligned itself with the socialist bloc and became
a close ally of America’s Cold War enemy —the Soviet Union. The
US and Cuba became ideological antagonists, representing the clash
between capitalism and socialism throughout the Cold War.
However, political change looked possible in Cuba with Raúl Castro
succeeding his brother at Cuba’s helm in 2006. The next two years
saw the rise of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States.
In 2014, a normalization process commenced and diplomatic
relations between Washington and Havana were reestablished on July
20, 2015. However, following the rapid improvement in US-Cuban
relations, major health symptoms began plaguing a number of US
and Canadian embassy personnel stationed in Cuba, which were first
reported in November of 2016, just days after Donald Trump was
elected president of the US (Sullivan 2018:32). The State Department
has labelled the cases as targeted attacks and the US government has
since expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from the US, blaming Havana for
failing to protect American diplomatic personnel. On June 16, 2017,
President Trump announced a new policy via a National Security
Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on strengthening US policy
towards Cuba. The NSPM partially rolled back President Obama’s
policies, most significantly by placing restrictions on doing business
with companies associated with the Cuban military, and prohibiting
“self-directed, individual travel” to the Caribbean island (White House
2017). This new policy went into effect on November 19, 2017.
The first four months of 2018 produced multiple key events that
provided insight on the direction of US-Cuba relations. The most
perplexing event pertains to the ongoing investigation into who or
what caused 24 American and 10 Canadian diplomats, posted to their
respective embassies in Havana, to experience severe neurological
ailments. A study released on February 15 by the Journal of the American
Medical Association, with the US State Department’s approval, failed to
provide definitive clarity on the incidents. This prompted the US
State Department to announce on March 2 that the US embassy in
Havana would be deemed an unaccompanied post —meaning that no
family members would be permitted to reside there and that it would
continue to operate with essential personnel only. On April 11, the
US State Department released updated embassy rosters, which list
only 10 officers present at the Havana embassy. This number does
not include political, economic, public affairs or cultural officers.
Also of importance are recent administration appointments made by
President Trump. Mike Pompeo —former director of the Central
Intelligence Agency— was confirmed as Secretary of State on April
26, 2018. When questioned about Cuba during his confirmation
hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on April 12,
Pompeo stated that he wanted to make sure that embassy personnel
were safe and then eventually build up the embassy “in a way that
represents the finest of American diplomacy”, before improving
ties with Havana (Pompeo 2018). President Trump also appointed
John Bolton as his National Security Adviser (NSA), effective April
9. In this position, Bolton, who has a history of hardline policy views
against Cuba, will constantly have the ear of the President. But
arguably the event that holds the most sway over the direction of
relations between the US and Cuba was the culmination of the Cuban
election process, which resulted in Díaz-Canel being sworn in as
president of Cuba on April 19, 2018. President Díaz-Canel will likely
serve two five-year terms, as his predecessor, Castro, did before him.
For the next decade President Díaz-Canel will be at the forefront of
political exchanges between Cuba and the US.
Bilateral relations between countries evolve primarily through
diplomacy, with an adequate embassy presence being essential in that
process. The US and Cuba only recently reestablished diplomatic
relations in 2015. But with what the US State Department labels as
directed attacks on US diplomatic personnel, relations between
Washington and Havana have chilled. The Miami Herald reported on
April 6, 2018, that “most of the jobs [of personnel that are still
present at the US embassy in Havana] deal with maintenance, security
or the internal functioning of the embassy” (Whitfield 2018). This
means that critical tasks, such as processing visas, engaging in trade
talks and in general dialogue between the two sides, have stalled. In
fact, Cubans wishing to visit their families in the US must now travel
to the US embassy in Guyana to acquire visas. As the average Cuban
makes only about 30 dollars a month, visiting Guyana to acquire a
visa creates a difficult situation without financing from their families
outside of Cuba (CDA 2018). This could possibly further-damage the
popular opinion of America among Cubans.
Despite the generally positive comments on US-Cuban relations by Mike
Pompeo during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, it is still debatable as to which direction he will
push relations as America’s top diplomat. Notably, during a Senate
hearing in 2017, Pompeo agreed with Florida Senator Marco Rubio that
Cuba takes advantage of warmer ties to influence Americans in a way
that is “adverse to US interests” (Washington Post 2017). The situation
becomes more complicated with NSA Bolton, whose hardline views
towards Cuba may hold sway over the president while he occupies such
a key advisory role. As US undersecretary of state in 2002, Bolton
added Cuba to the “Axis of Evil” powers, which was a cornerstone
concept in the foreign policy of then-President George W. Bush
(Gardner 2003). Considering the crucial roles that these two men will
play in US foreign policy, along with their history regarding Cuba, it
is likely that they will have an adverse effect on relations.
Moreover, even with the recent transition in the presidency, deep change
in Cuba is highly unlikely. Raúl Castro controls the military and most
importantly remains the First Secretary of the PCC. President Díaz-
Canel stated in his first public speech as president that “Raúl Castro
[…] will lead the most important decisions for the present and the
future of the nation” and that he would continue to pursue the ideals
of the Cuban Revolution and not shift towards a capitalist economic
system. (Díaz-Canel 2018). Until 2021, when Raúl Castro steps down
as First Secretary of the PCC, no substantial political change should
be expected in Cuba. The only legal party in Cuba is the PCC, under
Raúl Castro’s leadership, making it the only source of political power
on the island. The lack of change could possibly cause minor issues
domestically, but it is unlikely to create any major push for social and
political change within Cuba that could help improve relations with
the US in 2018.
Relations between the US and Cuba have steadily declined since the 2016
Presidential election in the US. Based on careful analysis of reliable
information, it seems likely that bilateral relations will not improve.
The US does not have the necessary diplomatic presence in Cuba that
is required to improve relations, nor is it willing to enact the type of
legislation that is required to open up and truly encourage bilateral
trade. The present official US policy clearly states that any further
improvements rely on the Cuban government promoting the rule of
law, respecting human rights, and improving political and economic
freedoms in the country (White House 2017). Meanwhile, the newly
elected President Díaz-Canel will carry on with reference revolutionary
dogmas and governing methods that have stood in defiance of the
US for six decades. Therefore, it can be stated with high confidence
that relations between the US and Cuba will not improve in 2019.
Batalova, J., and Zong, J. (2018) “Cuban Immigrants in the United States”,
Migration Policy Institute, 10 January, accessed 20 April 2018.
Center for Democracy in the Americas (2018) “Cuba Central News Brief:
3/30/2018”, Center for Democracy in the Americas, 30 March, accessed
10 April 2018.
Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, M. (2018) “Asumo La Responsabilidad Con La
Convicción De Que Todos Los Revolucionarios Seremos Fieles Al
Ejemplar Legando De Fidel y Raúl”, Granma, 20 April, < http://www.
20 April 2018.
Gardner, F. (2003) “Who’s Who in the ‘Axis of Evil’”, BBC News, 20
December, accessed 20 April
Pompeo, M. (2018) “Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pompeo Confirmation
Hearing”, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, C-SPAN. Washington,
DC, 12 April.
Washington Post Staff (2017) “Full Transcript: Acting FBI Director
McCabe and Others Testify before the Senate intelligence Committee”,
The Washington Post, 11 May,
accessed 14 April 2018.
Sullivan, M.P. (2017) Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115 th Congress, United States
Congressional Research Service, 22 November, accessed 14 April 2018.
Swanson, R.L, Hampton, S., Green-McKenzie, J., Diaz-Arrastia, R.,
Grady, M.S., Verma, R., Biester, R., Duda D., Wolf, R.L., and Smith,
D.H. (2018) “Neurological Manifestations Among US Government
Personnel Reporting Directional Audible and Sensory Phenomena in
Havana, Cuba”, Journal of the American Medical Association, 15 February.
The White House (2017) “Fact Sheet on Cuba Policy”, The White House,
Washington, DC, United States, 13 November, accessed on 18 April 2018.
US Department of State (n.d.). “Brief Diplomatic History”, United States
Embassy in Cuba, United States Department of State, Washington, DC,
accessed 15 April 2018.
US Department of State (11 April 2018). “US State Department Telephone
Directory: Key Officers List”, Global Information Services, United States
Department of State, Washington, DC, United States, accessed 12
Whitefield, M. (2018) “U.S. Embassy in Cuba: Diplomatic Population 10”,
The Miami Herald, 6 April, accessed 7 April 2018.
Special Report: Middle Eastern
Linguistics in the US Intelligence
Community After 9/11
Mastering foreign languages has always formed a central part of the
mission of the United States Intelligence Community (IC). After the
tragic events of September 11, 2001, the need for foreign languages
within the US IC, especially Middle Eastern languages, has increased.
For the purposes of this report, Middle Eastern linguistics is referring
to languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, and Turkish. However,
Arabic will be the focus of most of the data, since it is the most
prevalent language in the Middle East.
With the change of strategic priorities after 9/11, America’s intelligence
agencies began focusing mainly on the Middle East, rather than on
Russia, or before that the Soviet Union. This was reflected in Middle
Eastern language prioritization, as Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and Turkish
quickly joined Russian and Chinese as critical languages (Central
Intelligence Agency 1997:1). In subsequent years, Middle Eastern
language requirements were heightened, more people enrolled in
school for these critical languages, and government-funded criticallanguage
programs became more prevalent (Executive Office of the
President of the United States 2003:16).
Despite these efforts, however, the IC still lacks personnel with these
critical language abilities, and this gap needs to be closed. In the
domain of American national security, Middle Eastern languages
such as Arabic are even more important now than they were nearly
20 years ago, but there have been only small gains in the education of
these languages (Zakaria 2011).
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives flew planes into the Twin
Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and a field
in Pennsylvania, killing approximately 3,000 people. Al-Qaeda and
their actions on that day changed the way the United States operated
as a world actor. Not only did it turn American foreign policy to what
is now known as the “Bush Doctrine” (Record 2003:1), but it
introduced a new war —the “Global War on Terrorism”. This war
was the Bush administration’s way of declaring that they were going
to do everything possible to rid the world of terrorism. In the IC, this
effort was far more geographically specific. It started with a rise in
priority for Middle Eastern linguistics (Babbin 2014).
Before 9/11, terrorism was not the primary focus of American politics
or intelligence, nor was the Middle East the primary regional focus. The
extent of America’s foreign policy in the Middle East concentrated
on topics such as trying to estimate Iran’s missile capabilities (Central
Intelligence Agency 1997:1). After 9/11, terrorism became the top
priority of the government and the intelligence community, and the
Middle East became the focus of almost all intelligence agencies and
security-minded politicians. The main shift after 9/11 was a new
concentration on non-state actors. Before that, the US had mainly
focused on single state-actors such as Russia and China. Concentrating
on state-actors was well-understood: these actors had set boundaries,
set rules, and set methods of communication. Then, 9/11 happened,
and the IC had to transition from a Cold War mindset to dealing with
randomized groups of people with no national boundaries, no set
rules, and unorthodox methods of communication (Perez 2016:3).
The primary concern here was the communication. The IC had very
limited numbers of personnel with proficiencies in Arabic, let alone
less prominent Middle Eastern languages, like Farsi. Immediately
following 9/11 and going into the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the US IC
needed to start gathering intelligence on these non-state-actors. This was
made very difficult by the lack of personnel able to translate intercepted
communications from speakers of these languages (Central Intelligence
Agency 2013:8). Ever since then, the US IC has been actively recruiting
personnel just for Middle Eastern language capabilities.
Promoting Language Capabilities
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in scholarships
and programs for people learning critical languages for national
security purposes. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence
(ODNI), created after 9/11 to help improve the effectiveness of the
IC, has created several language programs that have been receiving
national attention for their effectiveness. One of these is the Boren
Scholarship. It is a program that pays for students to travel abroad to
learn critical languages. In return, students work in a national-security
position for a set amount of time upon their return to the US.
Another initiative that is still growing and gaining applicants is
STARTALK. This is a program for middle and high school students
to learn critical languages over their summer breaks. (Office of the
Director of National Intelligence 2010).
These government programs do have a limit, however. Only a small
number of people can obtain these scholarships and get into the programs.
That is why the government endorses a number of language schools
all over the country. This way students can attend those schools and
have a connection with agency recruiters. For example, both Middlebury
College in Vermont and the University of Maryland do this. In order
to be accepted into one of these language schools, applicants have to
write an essay about how they intend to blend their language abilities
with national security. These colleges are directly endorsed by government
agencies that send scouts to these locations to actively look for outstanding
students with critical-language capabilities (Middlebury Language Schools
n.d.; University of Maryland n.d.).
The Critical Language Incentive Programs within the US IC also help
to encourage IC personnel to learn a Middle Eastern language. Most
US intelligence agencies have them, and they provide bonuses and
higher salaries for intelligence employees who know a critical language
at specific proficiency levels. For example, CIA employees can obtain
up to a $35,000 hiring bonus and up to $400 bi-weekly bonus for
knowing and maintaining a critical language (Central Intelligence
Today, nearly 20 years after 9/11, the need for Middle Eastern language
capabilities is still a high priority. That priority has not been met. Even
with the increase of Middle Eastern language programs and incentives,
there remains a deficit in Middle Eastern language capabilities in the
US IC. The main problem with meeting this deficit is that languages
take years to master. More specifically, Middle Eastern languages take
more time than usual to learn since they are so different from the English
language. This means that agencies are “continuing to experience
shortages of people skilled in hard-to-learn languages due to a limited
pool of Americans to recruit from” (US Congress 2012:1).
The lack of Middle Eastern linguists is hurting intelligence agencies in
more ways than one. This deficit causes a deficiency of interpretation
skills, so intelligence analysis can fall behind and end up damaging national
security. It can also damage the agencies’ budgets and finances. With
such a deficit in linguists, “agencies are forced to fill language-designated
positions with employees that do not have those skills” (US Congress
2012:2). They have to send these employees off for years to learn the
required language. Therefore, agencies spend valuable time and money
training their employees because there are not enough linguists to be
It can be argued that the “Global War on Terrorism” is a significant
reason why Middle Eastern language capabilities are limited within the
US IC. This war, and the broad strokes with which it has been painted in
the public discourse, has added to a phenomenon known as ‘Islamophobia’.
Islamophobia is the discrimination or fear of Muslims, Arabs, or Middle
Eastern language speakers. Specifically, since 9/11, it has become common
in America to associate people with one or more of these traits with
terrorism. This way of thinking has had a significant negative impact
on how many people want to study Middle Eastern culture or languages
One of the most interesting things to examine since 9/11 is the critical
language enrollment history. The Modern Language Association (MLA)
has tracked each language and how many students enroll in those
classes each year. This organization has the longest-running study of
language enrollment (other than English) in the US. It provides a
visualization on how 9/11 has impacted the US’ needs for critical
language, and how that is affecting enrollment levels in critical
language classes in universities around the county (Modern Language
In the MLA’s data, the biggest strides in language enrollment are in
the Arabic language —as mentioned before, the most prevalent language
in the Middle East. The data shows the impact of 9/11 in the MLA’s
2002 report: “University enrollments in Arabic nearly doubled between
1998 and 2002, from 5,505 to 10,584 enrollments” (Modern Language
Association 2002). This shows how big the push to find people with
fluency in the Arabic language was following 9/11.
In 2006, the MLA’s data showed a 127 percent increase in enrollments
from 2002. This jump was the highest spike in language enrollment
that the MLA had ever recorded up to that point. The data gathered
in that report showed that Arabic was then the 10 th most studied
foreign language in the country. Also, the 2006 survey showed that
Arabic programs in higher education had nearly doubled since 2002,
from 264 programs in 2002 to 466 programs in 2006 (Modern
Language Association 2006). In the MLA’s 2009 survey, Arabic again
showed a large increase in enrollments, namely a 46 percent jump from
2006. Here Arabic was shown as the eighth most studied foreign
language in the country (Modern Language Association 2009).
However, after all of these increases, the 2013 data showed a decrease
and stagnation in enrollments, not only in Arabic, but in many other
foreign languages including Spanish. For Arabic there was an 8
percent decrease (Modern Language Association 2013). This trend
has continued in the most recent MLA survey in 2016. A 6 percent
decrease in enrollment in Arabic language programs was shown from
2013 to 2016 (Modern Language Association 2016).
The trend of the rising need for Middle Eastern linguists since 9/11
suggests that this need will continue to grow. Ever since the
beginning of the “global war on terrorism” Middle Eastern linguistics
have been needed because of the United States’ added involvement
in the region. Today, the US is still majorly involved in the region,
and it is very likely that it will stay this way for the foreseeable future
due to ongoing energy, security and military interests (Juneau 2014).
Even though the need for Middle Eastern linguistics will continue to
rise, current data suggests that the decrease or —in the best-case
scenario— stagnation in enrollments for these languages will continue.
Also, even with the addition of more Middle Eastern language
programs in the US, learning these difficult languages will take many
years for new generations of current and prospective IC employees.
While Middle Eastern language learners and programs for them may
be slowly rising, so is the need for those linguists. Therefore, the
language deficit in the US IC will very likely continue for the
The topic of Middle Eastern linguistics in the US IC is complex. Much
of the complexity comes from the —understandable— standards of
secrecy in the US IC, which result in numerous information gaps. The
biggest information gap here is that many agencies in the IC do not
release the total number of their employees, let alone linguists. Overall,
the state of Middle Eastern linguistics in the United States Intelligence
Community has changed significantly after 9/11. The demands for
Middle Eastern languages, such as Arabic, were not met after 9/11,
and continue to not be met today, almost 20 years later. The US IC
has done some things to help improve its language capabilities
including providing incentives and creating different scholarship
opportunities, but these have not yet been able to fill the deficit.
Babbin, J. (2014) “The Sorry Shape of the War on Terror”, International
Security Affairs, ,
accessed on 7 April 2018.
Central Intelligence Agency (1997) “Current and Projected National
Security Threats”, Acting Director of Central Intelligence, Washington,
DC, United States.
Central Intelligence Agency (2013) “CIA Comments on the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence Report on the Rendition, Detention, and
Interrogation Program”, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, DC,
Central Intelligence Agency (n.d.a) “Foreign Language” Central
Intelligence Agency, Langley, VA, United States , accessed on 7 April 2018.
Central Intelligence Agency (n.d.b) “Foreign Language Incentive Program”
Central Intelligence Agency, Langley, VA, United States , accessed on 8 April 2018.
Clay, R. (2017) “Islamophobia”, American Psychological Association, April,
on 8 April 2018.
Executive Office of the President of the United States (2003) “National
Strategy for Combating Terrorism”, Executive Office of the President of
the United States, Washington, DC, United States.
Juneau, T. (2014) “U.S. Power in the Middle East: Not Declining”, Middle
East Policy Council, ,
accessed on 8 April 2018.
Middlebury Language Schools (n.d.) “Intensive Summer Programs”
Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, United States , accessed on 8 April 2018.
Modern Language Association (2002) “Enrollments in Languages Other
Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education- 2002
Report” Modern Language Association, , accessed on 8 April 2018.
Modern Language Association (2006) “Enrollments in Languages Other
Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education- 2006
Report” Modern Language Association, , accessed on 8
Modern Language Association (2007) “Foreign Languages and Higher
Education: New Structure for a Changed World”, Modern Language
accessed on 7 April 2018.
Modern Language Association (2009) “Enrollments in Languages Other
Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education: 2009
Report” Modern Language Association, , accessed on 8 April 2018.
Modern Language Association (2013) “Enrollments in Languages Other
Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education- 2013
Report” Modern Language Association, , accessed on 8
Modern Language Association (2016) “Enrollments in Languages Other
Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education- 2016
Report” Modern Language Association, , accessed on
8 April 2018.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2010) “ODNI Fact
Sheet”, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Washington, DC,
Perez, L. (2016) “Threat Perception, Non-State Actors, and U.S. Military
Intervention after 9/11”, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University, Blacksburg, VA, 2016.
Record, J. (2003) “The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq”, The Army War
College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 2003.
University of Maryland (n.d.) “UMD Summer Language Institute”
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States , accessed on
8 April 2018.
US Congress (2012) A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in
the Federal Government, Committee of Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, Washington, DC, United
Zakaria, T. (2011) “U.S. spy agencies struggle with post-9/11 languages”,
Reuters, 19 September , accessed on 7 April 2018.
Biographical Notes on Contributors
SHANNON BROPHY, from Anderson, South Carolina, is a junior Intelligence
and National Security major and Global Studies minor at Coastal Carolina
University. In the fall of 2018 Shannon was accepted in the United States
Department of State’s prestigious Student Internship Program and will
be joining the Regional Security Office of the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman,
in the spring of 2019. In May 2018, Shannon was elected to serve as the
Recruitment Officer for the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, where she also
serves as the head of the Middle East Desk. Shannon’s research interests
include the Arabic language and Middle Eastern politics, particularly the
Syrian Civil War and relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Shannon has
been studying Arabic since her senior year in high school and has
attended Arabic language immersion programs at Middlebury College
and the University of Maryland. In May 2017, Shannon received the
Intelligence Student of the Year award from the Intelligence and National
Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina University.
JOSEPH CAIN, from Springfield, Kentucky, is a junior Intelligence and
National Security Studies major and a Pre-Law minor at Coastal Carolina
University. He has been a member of the Coastal Carolina’s Honor College for
the duration of his undergraduate career. In 2018, Joseph studied Eastern
Mediterranean security and geopolitics during a month-log stay in the
countries of Cyprus and Greece. As a member of the Chanticleer Law
Enforcement Analysis and Research Group (CLEAR), Joseph has provided
geographic information system (GIS) capabilities and analysis to the Myrtle
Beach Police Department. He currently serves as the Quality Assurance
Officer and head of the South America Desk for the Chanticleer Intelligence
Brief. Joseph is also the recipient of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s
Intelligence Analysis Award and Regional Expert Award.
BLAKE GUTBERLET, from Hickory, North Carolina, majored in Intelligence
and National Security Studies and minored in Psychology at Coastal
Carolina University. He graduated, with Cum Laude honors in May 2018
and is now employed as an intelligence analyst. As executive director of
the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief for three semesters, Blake helped
systematize and strengthen the organization’s recruitment efforts, and
set the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief on the rising path it still follows today.
He has also served as president of Coastal Carolina University’s Order of
the Sword and Shield National Honor Society, the academic and professional
honor society for homeland security, intelligence, emergency management,
and all protective security disciplines. Blake is the recipient of the Chanticleer
Intelligence Brief Achievement Award, Best Intelligence Essay Award,
Intelligence Analysis Award, and the Intelligence Forecast Award.
NATHAN LAKE, from Greenville, New York, is a senior Intelligence and
National Security Studies major with a double minor in Philosophy and
Islamic Studies at Coastal Carolina University. He serves as Vice President
of Coastal Carolina University’s Interfaith and Multicultural Dialogue club
and has been a member of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief for three years.
In 2018, Nathan received the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Weekly Intelligence
Brief award as a member of the Middle East Desk. Nathan refined his
analytical abilities by completing the Applied Intelligence Analysis course
at Coastal Carolina University, and in April 2018 he was selected to serve as
a panelist for the 4 th Chanticleer Intelligence Brief Symposium. By virtue of
his GPA, Nathan also joined the invitation-only Order of the Sword and
Shield (the honor society for homeland security, intelligence and emergency
management) and the National Society of Leadership and Success.
RACHEL PANICHELLA, from Mullica Hill, New Jersey, graduated cum laude
from Coastal Carolina University in May 2018, with a Bachelor of Arts in
Communication and a minor in Intelligence and National Security Studies.
Her undergraduate research focused on interpersonal communication
with an interest in human intelligence. In April 2018, Rachel presented her
interpersonal communication research at the Southern States Communication
Association’s 88 th Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. At the
Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, Rachel focused on the power dynamics of
the Mexican drug cartels, and her intelligence briefs on the subject were
published on the organization’s website. She was also a panelist at the
4 th Chanticleer Intelligence Brief Symposium and was featured on Intelligence
Report, the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s television broadcast. Rachel was
awarded the Emerging Scholar Award by the Department of Communication,
Media, and Culture of the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts
at Coastal Carolina University. She was also inducted into Lambda Pi Eta
by the Upsilon Eta Chapter of the United States National Communication
Association. At the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, Rachel received the Intelligence
Analysis Award for delivering the highest-quality oral analytical product in
the spring semester of 2018.
IAN RUSSICK, from Emerald Isle, North Carolina is a senior Intelligence
and National Security Studies major and Geographic Information Systems
minor at Coastal Carolina University. During his time at Coastal, Ian joined
the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief in order to hone his analytical capabilities
and contribute to the organization’s Europe Desk. In the spring 2017 semester
Ian was awarded the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Regional Expert Award.
JOSEPH FITSANAKIS, PhD, is Associate Professor of Politics in the
Intelligence and National Security Studies program at Coastal Carolina
University, where he teaches courses on intelligence operations,
intelligence communications, national security, intelligence analysis, and
intelligence in the Cold War, among other subjects. Before joining Coastal,
Dr. Fitsanakis founded the Security and Intelligence Studies program at
King University, where he also directed the King Institute for Security and
Intelligence Studies. He has written extensively on subjects such as
international espionage, intelligence tradecraft, counterintelligence,
wiretapping, cyber-espionage, transnational crime and intelligence reform.
He is a frequent media commentator, syndicated columnist, and senior
editor at intelNews.org, an ACI-indexed scholarly blog that is cataloged
through the United States Library of Congress.
JOHN NOMIKOS, PhD, is Director at the Research Institute for European
and American Studies (RIEAS), Chairman of the Mediterranean Council
for Intelligence Studies (MCIS), Chairman of the Greek Intelligence Studies
Association (GISA), Chairman of the European Intelligence Academy (EIA), and
Founding Editor of the Journal of Mediterranean and Balkan Intelligence
(JMBI) and the Journal of European and American Intelligence Studies. He
is Assistant Professor at Webster University (Athens Campus) and Visiting
Scholar at the John Naisbitt University in Serbia and the University of Rome
(Tre) in Italy. He was previously Adjunct Professor at the Department of
International Relations at the University of Indianapolis (Athens Campus).