Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Securing The Harbour City: Sydney as Beslan

I sincerely hope that someone sufficiently important, and far better qualified than me somewhere in Canberra has given this some serious thought. I admit that they probably have. I sincerely doubt that anyone in the State government has.

Note: In this article I am definitly NOT calling for any violence or indeed any extra-judicial or vigilante action by anyone. Indeed, all I call for is appropriate vigilance on the part of authorities, as is my right as a citizen.

I am not presenting an imminent or likely scenario, nor suggesting that a majority within any ethnic or religious group is involved in criminal or terrorist activity.

Nevertheless, I am prudently and rationally considering the possibility of a low-probability, high-impact security crisis, such as September 11, presenting some evidence, and asking some questions regarding security risks. I do this in the public interest.

My questions concern only the capacity of our Government, law enforcement and security agencies to prevent or deal with an unlikely, but arguably possible and highly damaging scenario. The only outcome I seek is that those bodies raise awareness, and monitor the situation. I do not seek to promote conflict between groups in the community, and acknowledge that most Muslims and Lebanese in Australia are law abiding.

The material below presents a number of rather disturbing threads following the Sydney riots that I hope will be addressed by appropriately qualified, informed and motivated individuals. This post is not so much a thesis as a set of questions, many raised by other individuals, in other circumstances. I invite readers to provide answers to factual and statistical questions, and to address any inaccuracies in this post. This post is a call for discussion, and the threads are not woven together as tightly as I would normally like. I would dearly like to be reassured that I am overreacting to what I see as a potential catastrophe facing the security situtation in Sydney.

All this began when I reflected on the Sydney riots in light of comments made by Mark Steyn regarding the admittedly far worse situation in Paris.

Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these
days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a
million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But
the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France
aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major
urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting,
as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the
combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now,
in 2005.
It is not necessary, incidentally, for Islam to become a statistical
majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the 8th
century, the ‘Islamic world’ stretched from Spain to India, yet its population
was only minority Muslim. Nonetheless, by 2010, more elderly white Catholic
ethnic frogs will have croaked and more fit healthy Muslim youths will be
hitting the streets. One day they’ll even be on the beach at St Trop, and if you
and your infidel whore happen to be lying there wearing nothing but two coats of
Ambre Solaire when they show up, you better hope that the BBC and CNN are right
about there being no religio-ethno-cultural component to their
This got me thinking. We hear the figure of 2.5% Muslim thrown around in Australia. But what is the proportion in Sydney ? It appears to me that a disproportionate number of Muslims, particularly Lebanese are in Sydney.
Further along Mark Steyn's line of reasoning, what proportion of Sydney's young male population (15 yrs +) is in this demographic ?
Now, for the really scary question, which I need your help with:
What proportion of Sydney's firearms, illegal or otherwise are in the hands of "Men of Middle Eastern Appearance" ? Most Australians have never touched a gun, and our gun laws are very strict indeed. So, another question is, what percentage of the non-Muslim population of Sydney is armed ? A further breakdown by estimates of police, private security and illegal firearms posession would be very interesting to see. Anyone got the numbers ?
Judging by anecdotal evidence from the recent riots (not the one-off joke at Cronulla, but the real retribution riots that followed for days thereafter) it would appear that at least a segment of the "Middle Eastern" population is rather well armed. The cliche of pistol-wielding Lebanese gangs has become so common place that it is a running joke among that community, and regulalry expressed on shows like "Fat Pizza". Anecdotes aside, we have much more solid evidence for such concern from the likes of eminent ex-cop Tim Priest.
So, we have a population with Middle Easterners with handguns. This is not too much of a problem if the handgun wielders are untrained, and if indeed handguns are the end of the matter. This is because the police and other security services are in fact trained, and have much more powerful and accurate weapons at their disposal.

Sadly, recent evidence shows that the NSW Police may indeed be outgunned in some circumstances. Reports from the day of the Cronulla riot say that Police stood by as a crowd of thousands gathered, and that handguns could be seen in the crowd, and were brandished from cars that sped off en masse to Maroubra and Cronulla. We also know that Police at Punchbowl were given orders "not to antagonise" the crowd there. Sounds pretty outgunned to me.

And what of training ? This is the unknown. How many local Lebanese have trained with Hezbollah, PFLP, or their village militia ? How many have participated in Lebanon's recent civil war ? (Quite a few, if one talks to taxi drivers). How many are "Palestinian",with much of the population trained in assault techniques, demolitions, AK-47 and handgun techniques ? I have no answers here, but dearly hope someone is looking into this. More importantly, how many are experienced, qualified trainers? If so, are any spreading combat firearms techniques (suppresive fire, squad maneuver tactics) to the local population?

Finally, there is the issue of more powerful weapons. There is anecdotal evidence of automatic weapons use by this demographic. Some reports cite the 1998 attack on a police station as having been carried out with an automatic weapon. I accept that this instance at least may have been an exaggeration, although a semi-automatic rifle is worrying enough, and trained troops prefer to use assault rifles in semi-automatic mode. "Spray and pray" is a tactic of conscripts and untrained thugs. Have there been other instances involving confirmed posession or use of submachineguns or assault rifles ? Do any readers know the facts on this ?

Further, I am most concerned about the confluence of what appears to be street thuggery with something much more coherent and sinister.

Case in point: Clichy-sous-Bois. This is where recent seemingly spontaneous riots that spread accross France were started by what we are assured were merely disaffected "youths". It comes as little surprise that soon after this very area should also witness the following.

French counterterrorism agents arrested three suspects in a network
with alleged ties to al Qaeda in Iraq, seizing guns, explosives and detonators
in a sweep north of Paris, officials said Thursday. The overnight roundup in the
suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois stemmed from information culled in investigators'
questioning of 25 suspects detained in a similar anti-terrorism sweep Monday,
officials said. "Thanks to questioning, a stash of arms has been discovered,
which shows how serious this affair is," Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told
reporters. "A certain number of terrorists, in order to finance their
activities, are involved in organized crime
And this is the main point. Clearly there is a link between organised crime and the Jihad. How deep is this link in Sydney. Does Sydney possess similar caches of assault weapons and explosives ? Funny thing, explosives. They are no good unless one is TRAINED. I ask again: how many TRAINED potential terrorists/urban guerrilas do we have in Sydney, do they have access to miltary weapons, are they training others, are they coordinating and, most importantly, are they being watched ?
Assuming that the Police, including the Tactical Response Group are outgunned, what remains are a number of Australian Army and Navy bases and barracks around town.
These bases are effectively the only massive stores of military grade weapons and men and women who know how to use them.
Given a nighmare scenario, these bases may be the only strong points in the city, and the main centres from which authorities will be able to project power in the short term.

Are there contingency plans in place that call local barracks and bases to restore order, and possibly fight a local jihadi/criminal insurgency ? Do these plans specifically take into account well-armed, well-trained urban guerillas that may use suicide tactics, hostage taking and are intent on as much carnage as possible ? Have they learned from Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and, most importantly Beslan?

Al Qaeda et al are insane, but they are no fools. They probably know the crucial role of Sydney military bases in any "Sydney as Beslan"scenario.
Any nightmare scenario as described above could begin with strikes at military bases.
We have seen what suicide teams can do to well defended compounds in Saudi Arabia, where coordinated commando tactics and massive suicide bombing penetrated and demolished a number of seemingly impregnable fortresses.
The Americans have learned the hard way, and their bases and strong points remain secure after massive losses such as the attack on UN headquarters in 2003.

Are Sydney's military bases and barracks safe from massive suicide truck bomb/commando combined assault ?

The last is seemingly the least worrying, at least because a Beslan-style attack does not really need military bases to be taken out.
But, this is something the Jihadis would have to do if they wanted to take over the entire city...

Someone please tell me why I should not worry.
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