Monday, October 31, 2011

WINEP/AIPAC: 'The US & its allies should begin discussing aggressing Syria publicly now!'

"...Intervention is inherently risky. In the Syrian case, potential risks include casualties to intervening forces and the Syrian population; possible escalation into civil war or conflict with neighboring states; and the prospect that intervening nations will become wholly responsible for the course of the conflict and its outcome.... inevitably, concerns will arise regarding precisely how, why, and under what conditions to support unarmed or armed opposition elements. Yet waiting for complete clarity before deciding to intervene can lead to paralysis.... the United States and its allies should begin discussing the issue publicly now -- a vigorous debate would itself serve as an important signal to the regime ..."

That 'window' is closing again ...

Israel warns West: Window of opportunity to thwart Iran nuclear program is closing - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

TF1 Express Poll: 'Are you for a war on Syria & do you like CocaCola?'

"...Eh oui, la chaîne commerciale par excellence, celle qui selon la belle formule de son ex-président directeur général Patrick Le Lay avait pour objectif de « vendre à Coca Cola (…) du temps de cerveau humain disponible« , la chaîne consumériste grand public qui a donné à la culture française Koh Lanta etSecret story , TF1 donc sonde à présent ses téléspectateurs sur la pertinence d’une guerre contre la Syrie !

... ....  Cette démarche s’inscrit assez bien, il est vrai, dans ce climat général de dégradation du politique, de démagogie télévisée, de politique d’émotion et d’ignorance qui caractérise la France sarkozyste.
Pour la (toute) petite histoire, sachez qu’au soir du 28 octobre, soit 24 heures après sa mise en ligne, 480 personnes avaient participé à ce vote historique, et que 52,3% se prononçaient pour une intervention, quand 47,7% s’y opposaient. ..."
 'Pro-Assad protesters in Paris'

America's new Middle East 'mini-Nato'

"... Exactly what the Pentagon might do with its expanded Kuwait and Gulf-based forces, should Iraq implode again at some future date or become destabilised by the unrest in Syria, is unclear. A second invasion would not command much public support, to put it mildly. If, on the other hand, the new American deployments are primarily about containing, intimidating or potentially attacking Iran, the emerging picture becomes more comprehensible, although not more reassuring.Maliki and his government maintain strong lines of communication to Tehran. The prime minister has spoken out in support of Iran's suspect nuclear programme. And he shares Iran's dual aim of keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria while keeping its Sunni population at bay. While Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states have distanced themselves from Assad, Iraq, egged on by Iran, has sought in recent months to strengthen political and trade ties with the Damascus regime.
Iran's influence in Iraq and Syria, wielded directly and indirectly through powerful proxies such as the hardline Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, may be expected to grow in the wake of the US pullout. This will not only encourage Assad to hang on; it is also likely to increase tensions between Iran and neighbouring, pro-western Gulf Co-operation Council states.
Hence the third pillar of the Pentagon's evolving strategy, as disclosed by the New York Times: a plan to develop new "security architecture" that would potentially conjoin Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman with the US in a sort of Middle East "mini-Nato". Just as Nato was created to counter the Soviet threat, so this new grouping's main aim in life would be to push back against Iran.
Specifically, it is suggested the Gulf allies would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defences. Arming all of them with compatible, US-made weapons systems would neatly serve an additional purpose: boosting American arms sales while lessening the impact of coming Pentagon budget cuts. Above all else, such a development would help compensate for the de facto loss of Iraq and reassure Israel, ..... Nobody in Washington is talking about an October surprise, mainly because October just finished. But October, 2012 may be a month to watch...."

'Obama cuts off funding for UNESCO after it defied American warning & approved Palestinian membership'

America Loves Democracy. America Loves aspiring Arabs!
"...“Today’s vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is regrettable, ..." State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. ..."

'Assad has the upper hand!'

'Assad  lost the battle with foreign media but scored big with domestic public opinion'
    .... "We hope that our demands, as the Syrian opposition, become the demands of the Arab League and that the group then backs us up at the U.N.," said Bassma Kodmani, a spokeswoman for the Syrian National Council, an opposition coalition. The council has called for an international mandate for civilian protection in Syria,......... .......... "We have to find out a way to stabilize Syria," he said. "We have to find a way to satisfy the needs of the people. We hope there is a no military intervention."....
    Mr. Assad, meanwhile, brushed off the international pressure and renewed his government's warnings against foreign interference in Syria's crisis. "Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake,"....
    Syrian activists said they weren't surprised with Mr. Assad's characteristic confidence.
    Protests have outstripped the government's control in just a few instances in the uprising so far, including a month-long hiatus of military presence from the city of Hama in the summer that was later met with a renewed regime attack. Some analysts say government forces have been able to control—but not contain—protests, ....
    "The government's use of force is still capable of disrupting every move the street attempts to make," said Louay Hussein, a writer and founding member of an opposition political movement, not affiliated with the Syrian National Council. "There are no clear solutions or decisive steps we can take."
    At least 60 civilians have been killed in Syria since Friday, according to activist network the Local Coordination Committees, making it the deadliest weekend since May. Protesters appeared to retreat on Sunday, but still, activists reported eight antigovernment protesters were killed by security forces.
    The weekend violence was concentrated in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, and a larger province of the same name that has hosted a growing base of dissident soldiers fighting the army. On Saturday, 20 soldiers were killed and a further 53 injured in fighting between the army and "what is presumed to be defected soldiers," according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
    Syrians disagree on whether the incipient armed revolt in places like Homs is led largely by dissident soldiers or by civilians taking up arms.
    Mohammed Saleh, a resident of Homs, said tanks sprayed machine-gun fire at homes in a central neighborhood—including his own—throughout the weekend as troops fought what Mr. Saleh described as groups of armed civilians. The groups destroyed four military armored personnel carriers, he said.
    "I've never for a moment sided with this regime. But I won't for a moment side with what is now called the opposition here," said Mr. Saleh, a former political prisoner, who opposes using violence against the regime. "Homs has become like a foreign place inside the country—a city different than all of Syria."...
    Last week, massive crowds gathered in several cities, including Damascus, to pledge their loyalty to Mr. Assad. Syria's state television, broadcasting scenes of crowds chanting "The people want Bashar al-Assad," said some two million people gathered at the capital's Ummayad Square last Wednesday. It broadcast fresh scenes of a loyalist demonstration in the southern city of Suweida on Sunday.
    "At one point, what we call the silent majority came to be aligned with the street protests at least from a humanitarian and moral point of view. But now they've stepped back again," Mr. Hussein said.

    "We do not conceal our thoughts!"

    "... In doing so, he only revived concerns that Israel was indeed preparing for the very attack he denied:
    Regarding the question as to why there was no public debate on a matter so fateful to Israel, Barak said, “the Iranian nuclear program has been publicly debated for years in Israel. There are countless interviews and public debates. We do not conceal our thoughts. However, there are operational matters that we do not discuss publicly, as that would make them impossible to carry out.”
    This isn’t even barely conceded code for the fact that he, and Israel are indeed preparing for a strike against Iran.
    As if he didn’t need to add to the confusion, he made the following two completely contradictory statements:
    Barak reiterated that Iran poses a threat to stability in the Middle East and the world.
    Followed by this:
    Barak said that the Israeli public should not be concerned about the Iranian threat.“I refuse to be intimidated, as if Iran could destroy Israel, ” Barak said. “Israel is the most powerful country, from Tripoli to Tehran. There is no reason to be afraid of anything.”
    On second thought, I just realized that the second comment above might even be further confirmation of Israel’s intent to bomb Iran.  The only thing that holds back many Israelis from endorsing such a blow is fear of Iranian retaliation.  If Barak is in effect telling Israelis that even with an assault by Israel, that Iran could not mount a powerful counter-blow, then he’d be arguing once again for the very thing he denies advocating.
    My conclusion is that he’s a bald-faced, and not very convincing liar."

    Al Qaeda's flag in Benghazi!

    "... But according to multiple eyewitnesses—myself included—one can now see both the Libyan rebel flag and the flag of al Qaeda fluttering atop Benghazi’s courthouse.
    According to one Benghazi resident, Islamists driving brand-new SUVs and waving the black al Qaeda flag drive the city’s streets at night shouting, "Islamiya, Islamiya! No East, nor West," a reference to previous worries that the country would be bifurcated between Gaddafi opponents in the east and the pro-Gaddafi elements in the west..."

    Chirac, Hariri, Ziad Takiedine & shady accounts

    Via AngryArab, in Journal Du Dimanche;

    C’est une véritable partie d’échecs que livrent l’homme d’affaires Ziad Takieddine et le juge Van Ruymbeke. Soupçonné d’avoir versé des rétrocommissions dans le cadre des contrats de ventes d’armes au Pakistan et à l’Arabie saoudite, Takieddine a été entendu à trois reprises, les 14 septembre, 5 et 12 octobre. Lors de la première audition, l’homme d’affaires commence par un monologue où il accuse Jacques Chirac et Dominique de Villepin d’avoir détourné les commissions du contrat Sawari II passé avec l’Arabie saoudite*. Van Ruymbeke ne pose aucune question. Il enregistre en silence. L’audition du 5 octobre est la plus dense. Une longue entrée en matière.
    "Qui êtes-vous?", commence le magistrat. Takieddine raconte son enfance. "J’ai ainsi reçu une éducation et des valeurs." Il détaille sa gestion de la station de ski Isola 2000, sa rencontre avec François Léotard, futur ministre de la Défense, et celle qui n’est pas encore sa femme, puis son rôle dans les relations entre l’Arabie saoudite et la France : son rendez-vous avec Édouard Balladur, Premier ministre, et l’organisation de sa visite officielle à Riyad en janvier 1994, qui débouchera sur la signature "du contrat du siècle" des frégates Sawari II pour une vingtaine de milliards de francs. Deux sociétés, Rabor et Estar, doivent alors toucher 648 et 751 millions de francs, mais ces commissions seront bloquées par Jacques Chirac à peine élu en 1995.
    "Étiez-vous concerné par ces contrats Estar et Rabor?" interroge Van Ruymbeke. "Non." "En ce cas, pourquoi étiez-vous concerné par l’arrêt des commissions?" demande le juge. "Chirac risquait de casser les relations entre les deux pays", accuse Takieddine, racontant alors l’intervention secrète, à sa demande, de Rafic Hariri pour renouer les fils. Takieddine assure avoir permis à Hariri, "ami de Chirac", de récupérer 1,380 milliard de dollars de factures impayées par les Saoudiens, en échange de quoi le Premier ministre libanais accepte de lui verser 75 millions de dollars puis 45 autres sur un compte "Verdun". Des fonds que Takieddine dit avoir "ventilés".
    Une "structure" genevoise dotée de 85 millions de francs…
    "En remplacement des sociétés Rabor et Estar, dont les contrats ont été détruits, il y a eu trois destinataires, accuse-t-il ensuite. Une partie a bénéficié à une société qui représente M. Chirac. Une autre partie a bénéficié à une société qui représente M. Villepin. La troisième société est celle de M. Djouhri qui chapeaute les trois sociétés." "De quels éléments d’information disposez-vous pour être aussi affirmatif?" questionne Van Ruymbeke. La réponse viendra lors de l’interrogatoire du 12 octobre.
    "Disposez-vous de preuves?" commence le magistrat. "Oui", certifie Takieddine, mettant en cause un homme d’affaires "d’origine yéménite" et "un groupe à Genève géré par Wahid N." Le juge confirme que son enquête démontre que cette "structure" genevoise a bénéficié d’environ 85 millions de francs… dont "un solde de 35 millions de francs versés peu avant la mise en vigueur de la convention OCDE" interdisant les commissions. "Existe-t-il un lien entre [cette société] et Alexandre Djouhri?", questionne Renaud Van Ruymbeke. Takieddine répond par l’affirmative, accusant son grand rival, l’homme d’affaires Alexandre Djouhri, d’avoir perçu ces fonds*. Pour sa part,  Takieddine nie avoir, lui, reversé des commissions occultes.
    Van Ruymbeke se contentera-t-il de ces démentis? La partie d’échecs n’est pas finie. Le 19 octobre, Ziad Takieddine a admis avoir perçu 30 millions de francs de Mercor dans le cadre des commissions avec le Pakistan, ce qu’il n’a jamais reconnu jusque-là. Mais il continue de nier les rétrocommissions. Jusqu’à quand?
    * Jacques Chirac, Dominique de Villepin et Alexandre Djouhri ont déjà, via leurs avocats, nié en bloc ces accusations.

    Israel seeking to upgrade its nuclear weapons capabilities

    Report: Israel seeking to upgrade its nuclear weapons capabilities - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    Assad to Russia-1: 'We are willing to cooperate with all opposition parties...'

     'Recent Pro-Assad rally in Damascus'
    "... Bashar Assad also gave an interview to Russia’s Channel One in which he stated that Russia’s role is decisive in calming the conflict in Syria. He said that the Syrian authorities have been in touch with their Russian colleagues from the very start of the crisis and have kept them informed of every ongoing detail.In the interview he said that he is willing to cooperate with all opposition parties that have emerged during the seven-month uprising against his regime.
    But he also raised questions about the true nature of the forces that are fighting against his government.
    “...The information obtained during the latest interrogation of terrorists shows that there was arms smuggling to Syria from neighboring states,...The campaign was funded from abroad and we have a list of those who are responsible for this....” Assad said
    Assad expressed gratitude to Russia for using its veto in the UN Security Council at the start of October to block a harsh resolution on Syria and expressed hope that Moscow will continue to support the Syrian leadership.
    Russia has been supporting Damascus ever since the violence between armed opposition and Syrian law enforcement began in February. At the same time, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has insisted that if the Syrian leadership fails to sit down with the opposition at the negotiating table, it will have to go.
    In September, the Syrian opposition labeled Moscow an enemy and conducted a Day of Rage at various Russian embassies around the world. They also demanded Western powers establish a “no-fly zone” over Syria, similar to the one set up in Libya.
    However, dissident Syrian writer and democracy campaigner, Michel Kilo, thinks the majority of the population does not want a military solution to the crisis.
    “We are against military intervention whether today, tomorrow or in ten years’ time,” says Kilo. “We fight for freedom and we do not want to add external slavery to our domestic one. We do not want to become a part of the struggle between international and domestic forces. Syrians are peaceful. They want to progress under conditions of freedom and development and they do not want to be turned into a concentration camp, a polygon for larger countries,” Michel Kilo concludes...."

    Manama, Bahrain, the 'Capital of Arab Culture' for 2012'

    Dar Al Hayat - وزارة الثقافة البحرينية تعلن البرنامج: المنامة عاصمة للثقافة العربية لعام 2012

    17 killed, including 4 US soldiers, in suicide bomb attack on NATO in Kabul

    "... The attack also killed five Nato service members, including one Canadian and four American soldiers, six other civilian contractors and four Afghans.The two dead Britons worked for Fluor Corp., a construction and engineering company based in Texas, that has several contracts with Nato...."

    An 'Obituary' that says it all & well!

    "... His instructions were to report to both Paul Bremer, American head of the CPA, and to Tony Blair, who had told Synnott that his job was “a challenge of prime national importance” and invited him to phone him personally if he needed anything. In fact, as Synnott struggled to establish a civilian presence alongside the British military effort in southern Iraq, he found himself frustrated at every turn by American indifference and the indecisiveness of his masters in London.Ensconced in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Bremer made little attempt to disguise his contempt for the British. Synnott recalled that entering Bremer’s office for the first time “felt a bit like entering the headmaster’s study. I was kept waiting; then once I went in, I was kept waiting further until he’d finished reading. Then we sat down, he put his feet on the coffee-table and he delivered a reprimand to me about the behaviour of the British military.”
    The CPA itself, he found, was mainly staffed by American policy wonks — “young, naive, pushy people” fired with a messianic zeal rapidly to replace centuries of tribal and religious rivalries and state control with democracy and free markets, and displaying a dogmatism that, as Synnott drily noted, “cut no ice” with the Iraqis.
    By the time Synnott arrived in Basra, Bremer had already made two of his most notorious blunders: disbanding the Iraqi army and ordering a de-Ba’athification programme that, in effect, eliminated the entire Iraqi administrative elite. In Basra, Synnott’s staff were instructed to sack school headmasters on the basis that they had been party members, one American CPA official declaring that she would rather have “chaos in the classrooms than Ba’athists in the classrooms”. The British quietly ignored the instruction.
    Bremer, Synnott pointed out, was a specialist in dealing with terrorism, but had no wider expertise in developing countries. Seemingly uninterested in the complexities of tribal politics, he “appeared to regard all Iraq as a suburb of Baghdad”.
    Dealings with the government back home were equally frustrating. In particular, Synnott found that Tony Blair’s personal assurance that he would have everything he needed was worth little in practice; and he was furious to learn, when Blair paid a visit to Basra in early January 2004, that the prime minister would not be visiting him and his staff, despite assurances that the visit would focus on the civilian effort.
    In his memoir, Synnott recalled an “intemperate” phone call with an unnamed “minder from Number 10/Labour Party” who told him via “a string of four letter words” that the press would want stories and photos of soldiers, “not foreign civilians”.
    The shortcomings of American and British administration enraged the Iraqis, helping to fuel the insurgency. In Basra, where the coalition forces had initially been welcomed as liberators, the vacuum left by the removal of Ba’athist administration was soon filled by Iranian-backed Shia militias, making the task of rebuilding the country much more difficult. In and around Baghdad, meanwhile, areas that had been quiet immediately after the invasion were soon peppered by explosions and violence; sectarian violence became the norm, and as all security evaporated, al-Qaeda cells established themselves, decapitating locals and foreign workers in executions that were frequently videotaped.
    If the occupying powers had succeeded in replacing a stable, if brutal, dictatorship (without weapons of mass destruction) with a fundamentalist insurgency on two fronts, Synnott was clear where he thought the blame lay: “The key decision-makers, and especially Bush and Blair, must inevitably bear ultimate responsibility both for the war itself and for the failures surrounding the process by which success might be achieved,” he told an interviewer.
    Synnott was tempted to call his book “Bugger Basra”, and it was to be more than two years after his return to England before he felt calm enough to write it. “I couldn’t have written it before because I was just in such a blind fury,” he confessed. The Synnott who emerged from Basra was a very different individual from the kindly and philosophical man his colleagues recalled from earlier years.
    The son of a naval officer, Hilary Nicholas Hugh Synnott was born on March 20 1945 at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, .... .... In 1973 he married Anne Clarke. They had a son, who predeceased him."

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    While the sectarian slaughter continues, someone, somewhere is still imposing restraint!

    At least until the end of 2011!
    "... The twin explosions, which took place at an intersection in the Shiite majority Ur neighborhood in northeast Baghdad, were spaced 10 minutes apart, a familiar pattern intended to maximize civilian casualties..."

    Palestinians guerrilleros using new rocket launch systems

     'Influenced by the pros from Lebanon'
    "Israeli aircraft struck at Palestinian militants in Gaza on Saturday who responded with a volley of rockets which rained on southern Israeli towns, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Palestinian officials said seven militants were killed, while on the Israeli side one civilian was killed and four others were wounded... After the first airstrike, militants in Gaza fired over 20 rockets at southern Israel.... Islamic Jihad took responsibility for firing the rockets in a text message to reporters, and released photos of the rockets being launched from the backs of pickup trucks. The group said this is the first time they are using this system as opposed to firing them from launchers on the ground...."

    Syria is the fault line in the region & if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake!"

    "In his first interview with a Western journalist since Syria's seven-month uprising began, President Assad told The Sunday Telegraph that intervention against his regime could cause "another Afghanistan".Western countries "are going to ratchet up the pressure, definitely," he said. "But Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. The history is different. The politics is different.
    "Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake … Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?
    "Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region."... 
    President Assad admitted that "many mistakes" had been made by his forces in the early part of the uprising, but insisted that only "terrorists" were now being targeted.
    "We have very few police, only the army, who are trained to take on al-Qaeda," he said. "If you sent in your army to the streets, the same thing would happen. Now, we are only fighting terrorists. That's why the fighting is becoming much less."...
    President Assad insisted that he had responded differently to the Arab Spring than other, deposed Arab leaders. "We didn't go down the road of stubborn government," he said. "Six days after [the protests began] I commenced reform. People were sceptical that the reforms were an opiate for the people, but when we started announcing the reforms, the problems started decreasing e_SLps This is when the tide started to turn. This is when people started supporting the government."
    Some Damascus-based opposition leaders say the reforms, which include laws ostensibly allowing demonstrations and political parties, are a start, but not enough. ...
    President Assad said: "The pace of reform is not too slow. The vision needs to be mature. It would take only 15 seconds to sign a law, but if it doesn't fit your society, you'll have division … It's a very complicated society."
    He described the uprising as a "struggle between Islamism and pan-Arabism [secularism], adding: "We've been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s and we are still fighting with them."
    In interviews in Damascus, some without government minders, secular Syrians and members of the country's substantial Christian and Alawite minorities said they supported the Assad regime for fear of their positions under a new government. Those attending a large demonstration in support of the regime last Wednesday did not appear to be coerced, according to independent observers.
    However, interviews, even some with minders present, revealed widespread and vocal discontent over corruption and living standards."

    Female suicide bomber strikes in vicinity of ruling AK Party in Turkey

    “If we lose Egypt, we effectively lose the Arab Spring.”

    The euphoria over the end of the Gadhafi regime has been amplified by satisfaction at the outcome of the Tunisian elections. US officials now see more opportunity to press for reform in Syria and Yemen. However, as before, Egypt remains the focus of concern with analysts worried that vested anti-reform interests will set back democratic institution-building there. As one NSC official commented privately to us: “If we lose Egypt, we effectively lose the Arab Spring.” Of concurrent interest is Secretary of Defense Panetta’s continuing trip to Asia. There is little doubt that a “pivot” in US foreign policy is taking place in favor of the Pacific. Though long-anticipated by commentators on international relations, this shift is now becoming manifest. There are three drivers: 1) the perception of a permanent rise of the Asian economies. In a comment on the Eurozone negotiations to end the crisis there, one Treasury official said to us: “You see, the Europeans have to beg the Chinese to solve their problems for them. That is where the money will be in the 21st century”. 2) The rising sense of threat perception from Asia, particularly in the cyber arena. One top Pentagon leader told us: “we are militarily dependent on our network of satellite and underwater cables. They are at their most vulnerable in Asia.” 3) The need to respond to diminishing defense appropriations by trimming strategic engagement outside Asia. Pentagon officials are quick to reassure concerned Europeans that the US is not turning its back on NATO. However, as the Libya operation demonstrated, the US will in the future not necessarily take a full leadership role if it deems that its strategic interests are not at stake. Similarly, the decision not to insist that Iraq permits continued US basing after the end of this year reflects a wish to avoid expensive over-commitment. For this reason, we expect that the timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014 will be adhered to, despite the recent upsurge in violence there. Finally, the top priority facing Washington policy makers over the coming weeks will be the budget. The Congressional ‘super committee’ is due to report by Thanksgiving, but signs are multiplying that it will be deadlocked. Another period of financial uncertainty may like ahead. 

    View from my Window!

    'Annandale-On-Hudson, New York' (October 29, 2011)

    Iran’s Influence in Iraq

    .:Middle East Online::Iran’s Influence in Iraq:.

    'Turkey is Playing with Fire!'

    "The emergence under Turkish protection of the Free Syrian Army raises again the question of whether the protesters against President Bashar al Assad should turn to violence.
    Turkey has welcomed Syrian refugees for months.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that:  it is in fact an obligation (non-refoulement) to do so if the Syrians have a well-founded fear of persecution, which under the circumstances is evident.  Disappointed in Bashar’s refusal to listen to their advice or respond to pressure in favor of reform, the Turks have not however yet done much to block investment in Syria or otherwise signal their displeasure with more than words.  Now, rather suddenly, a Foreign Ministry official appears with a Syrian colonel who announces to the world that the Free Syrian Army has already attacked Assad’s forces inside Syria and needs better weapons in order to continue the effort.
    This looks to me like a puzzle with missing pieces.  Have the Syrians been allowing Kurds to attack inside Turkey?  I can’t find indication of that in the press, but it would not be surprising, and might well prompt a response in kind.  Or are the Turks just using the means at their disposal?  Will Syria also respond in kind, raiding Syrian refugee camps across the border inside Turkey?  Or, if they haven’t already, allowing Kurds to attack Turkish forces?
    Whatever is going on, it is dangerous.  The protesters’ umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, has so far opted not to use violence.  The emergence of a separate group prepared to do so from outside the country puts peaceful protesters at even greater risk than they have been so far, and hurts the prospects for maintaining their unity.
    The Americans have appeared to be urging the protesters to stick with nonviolence, knowing full well that third party armed intervention like that in Libya is not in the cards.  The Turks are of course capable of their own initiatives, but I can’t help but wonder whether Washington has been in touch with Ankara about the Free Syrian Army.  Did the Americans oppose letting it raid inside Syria from Turkey, or did they turn a blind eye?
    Whatever, as my kids say.  None of this is good.  Violence–however justified on moral grounds–is going to make it harder for the protesters to win over minorities in Syria and opens the real possibility of ethnic and sectarian warfare that will spill over Syria’s borders into Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.  That could become a truly serious mess that all concerned would regret.  It is time to ask the Turks to keep the Free Syrian Army inside Turkey and to stop playing with fire.  If they want to do something, some stiff restrictions on Turkish business with Syria would help."

    13 US soldiers killed in Taliban attack

    "Informal contact"

    "... The prosecutor for the world's top war crimes court has said informal contact has been made with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the fugitive son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in order to arrest him and bring him to trial....
    Abdel Majid Mlegta, a senior military official of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), said on Wednesday that Saif al-Islam and Senussi wanted to surrender to the ICC because they felt unsafe in Libya, Algeria or Niger..."

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    "To foil Netanyahu & Barak’s plans by exposing them ..."

    An Op-Ed by Nahum Barnea in today’s Yediot Aharonot lambasts PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak for moving to strike Iran. What does this mean? The two face high-powered internal opposition, and the opposition is now starting to go public.
    If Israel eventually realizes that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would be an act of absolute madness, I think Nahum Barnea’s column today in Yediot Aharonot may be remembered for having  been the turning point. He’s calling out Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak for cooking up an attack,  maybe before this winter, maybe afterward, even though the security establishment, foreign governments and  relatively level-headed members of this  government are completely against it. Barnea, the best-connected, most influential  journalist in Israel, almost certainly is writing with the encouragement of at least some of these top officials. The column, which dominated Yediot’s front page and is titled “Atomic pressure,” seems clearly intended to foil Netanyahu and Barak’s plans by exposing them to the light. It begins:
    “Have the prime minister and defense minister settled on a decision, just between the two of them, to launch a military attack on the nuclear facilities in Iran? This question preoccupies many people in the defense establishment and high circles of government. It distresses foreign governments, which find it difficult to understand what is happening here: One the one hand, there are mounting rumors of an Israeli move that will change the face of the Middle East and possibly seal Israel’s fate for generations to come; on the other hand, there is a total absence of any public debate. The issue of whether to attack Iran is at the bottom of the Israeli discourse.”
    Barnea writes that Netanyahu ‘s thinking goes like this:
    “Ahmadinejad is Hitler; if he isn’t stopped in time, there will be another Holocaust. There are those who describe Netanyahu’s attitude on the matter as an obsession: All his life he dreamed of being Churchill; Iran gives him the opportunity. The popularity he gained as a result of the Shalit deal didn’t pacify him: the opposite, it gave him a sense of power.
    Barak’s motivations are more prosaic and to-the-point, Barnea writes. The defense minister thinks that just as Israel knocked out the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear facilities in the past, so it must knock out Iran’s now: “That’s the strategy; that’s the tradition.”
    A military technocrat – all the way to doomsday. And one who has immunized himself from differing opinions, even when they come from someone as authoritative as former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who’s said an Israeli attack on Iran is “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” and would set off a “regional war.” So here, according to Barnea, is how Barak assimilates this information:
    “He figures Dagan’s opposition stems from psychological motives:  As head of the Mossad [until the beginning of this year], Dagan was credited with extraordinary achievements in jamming up Iran’s nuclear project. A military operation so soon after the end of his tenure would diminish the significance of those achievements.
    What a petty, intellectually dishonest, insecure individual this Barak is. What a self-adoring, delusional, reckless-minded individual this Netanyahu is. These are the two most powerful people in this country, each one thinks he’s God, and together they’re trying to start what could  turn into a regional WMD war all by their lonesome, simply by ramming it through the national councils of power, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
    I don’t think of either of them as being evil, but then as an Israeli, I’m not objective. What I do think, and this didn’t start today, is that the chance of an Israeli attack on Iran is the greatest immediate danger facing the world. And after Barnea’s article, I would say that as of today, Netanyahu and Barak are the two most dangerous men on earth.
    “Now of all times, when the sense abroad is that Iran’s nuclear progress is slowing, the rumors tell of pressure [in Israel] to act. One of the factors is the weather: Winter is coming, and in winter there are limitations [such as poor visibility for pilots – L.D.]. Others look further ahead: They say that after winter comes spring, and then summer [the traditional season for Israeli military attacks – L.D.].
    Netanyahu and Barak must be stopped, urgently. The good news is that some very powerful people, including Israel’s leading journalist, are fully aware of this, and they are now on the case. At the risk of opening my mouth to Satan, I think sanity will prevail.

    "The murder brigades of Misrata"

    "... More than 100 militia brigades from Misrata have been operating outside of any official military and civilian command since Tripoli fell in August. Members of these militias have engaged in torture, pursued suspected enemies far and wide, detained them and shot them in detention, Human Rights Watch has found. Members of these brigades have stated that the entire displaced population of one town, Tawergha, which they believe largely supported Gadhafi avidly, cannot return home.
    As the war in Libya comes to an end, the pressing need for accountability and reconciliation is clear. The actions of the Misrata brigades are a gauge of how difficult that will be, and Misrata is not alone in its call for vengeance. In the far west, anti-Gadhafi militias from the Nafusa Mountains have looted and burned homes and schools of tribes that supported the deposed dictator..."

    US Official overruling Ford: "We need to make it clear to those sitting on the fence [in Syria] that they are in risk of violence"

     'Written off yet again, and again & again .....'
    MEPGS; Excerpts;
    "With the demise of Muammar Qaddafy and the decision to withdraw all US troops from Iraq, direct US involvement in ongoing confrontations in the region is coming to an end.  In fact, senior Administration officials now see the American role overall becoming less important.  “For some time it has been obvious that what is happening in the Middle East is mainly a function of the people there,” says one top Administration official.  “Now they are in it for the long haul”.  That is not to say the Administration merely plans to stand on the sidelines.  In fact, starting with Syria, US policy is in flux as the Administration scrambles to keep up with and to some extent influence the situation on the ground.
                US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, ...(has)  a great deal of leeway in fashioning day-to-day Administration policy towards Syria.  Now that he is back in Washington for an indefinite period, other, more senior officials are beginning to chip away at his preeminence. Specifically, Ford’s argument that the Administration should continue to urge regime opponents to remain completely non-violent is now being reviewed.  “We need to make it clear to those sitting on the fence [in Syria] that they are in risk of violence being turned against them, the longer they remain committed to Bashar [al-Assad], says one top US official.  They need to learn that there is an aura of inevitablility to the demise of Assad and his regime puts them at risk..... We need to turn that perception around,” says one key US policymaker.  “They need to know that it is the continuation of the regime that puts them most at risk.”  ....... the consensus among US policy makers is that the regime will hold on for perhaps six  months (added to the last Six Months & the earlier 'six months' & the ones before ....).  When asked how much longer Bashar can cling to power, a top Administration official replied, “A year, at most. Unless, his own allies take him out.”
         Already, Turkey has made a major shift in its position toward the Syrian regime.  Not only has Ankara allowed the opposition’s “Syrian National Council” to headquarter in  Turkey, but just this week it has admitted to providing sanctuary for the newly formed “Free Syrian Army”.  President Obama and Turkish leader Erdogan have been in regular direct communication.  And according to well-placed US officials, they are, in the words of one “reading from the same page.”  While Syria has had ample experience in treading carefully when dealing with its powerful neighbor to the north, most analysts believe that no one country, not even Turkey can engineer the ouster of the current Syrian regime.  Instead, argue these analysts, concerted international pressure is essential....
                More pleasing to the NATO allies was the Security Council’s declaration of an official end to authorization of the use of force against Libya.  With the Transitional National Council in power and pledged to hold free and fair elections within eight months, Britain and France in particular are, in the words of one veteran US official, “happy to take a victory lap.”  Some veteran State Department officials are not so quick to declare “Mission Accomplished.”  Not only have decades of misrule by Qaddafy left the country devoid of functioning institutions and split east and west, but some key rebel figures have a checkered past.  For example, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who led the drive into Tripoli and took control of Qaddafy’s compound, was reportedly captured several years ago by US agents and then “rendered” to Tripoli where he was supposedly “rehabilitated.”  Those in the US government who follow Libyan developments most closely say the Islamists are nearly a complete unknown.  They are unsure whether Qadaffy loyalists still remain at large and are especially concerned that former regime fighters will return to African countries such as Niger and Chad, where they were recruited by Qaddafy, causing the destabilization of these fragile states...."

    Salahuddin Governorate declares 'semi-autonomy'!

    "...The decision in Tikrit, Hussein's hometown, is expected to spur Anbar, the neighboring mostly Sunni province, to follow suit.... 
    'We have swallowed the poison and been patient for eight years," he said. "Our sons took part in the political process and joined the security forces to fight al Qaida and other insurgents groups. We sacrificed a lot but we were completely ignored by the central government."...
    The council must now send the decision to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who under the national constitution must allocate funds to the Independent High Electoral Commission to hold a referendum ..."

    Davutoğlu: Assad following path of Gaddafi

    Davutoğlu: Assad following path Gaddafi once walked

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    As Assad looks stronger, Turkey openly sponsors killers of Syria's soldiers

    "On Wednesday, the group, living in a heavily guarded refugee camp in Turkey, claimed responsibility for killing nine Syrian soldiers, including one uniformed officer, in an attack in restive central Syria.... At the moment, the group is too small to pose any real challenge to Mr. Assad’s government....
    “We will fight the regime until it falls and build a new period of stability and safety in Syria,” Colonel As’aad said in an interview arranged by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and conducted in the presence of a Foreign Ministry official. “We are the leaders of the Syrian people....”
    The colonel wore a business suit that an official with the Turkish Foreign Ministry said he purchased for him that morning...
     Turkish officials predict that the Assad government may collapse within the next two years.
    “This pushes Turkish policy further towards active intervention in Syria,” said Hugh Pope, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. He called Turkey’s apparent relationship with the Free Syrian Army “completely new territory.”
    “It is clear Turkey feels under threat from what is happening in the Middle East, particularly Syria,” said Mr. Pope, who noted that in past speeches Mr. Erdogan “has spoken of what happens in Syria as an internal affair of Turkey.”
    Turkish officials say that their government has not provided weapons or military support ....Still, Colonel As’aad, who thanked Turkey for its protection, made it clear that he was seeking better weapons, saying that his group could inflict damage on a Syrian leadership that has proven remarkably cohesive....
    The words seemed more boast than threat, and with mass pro-government rallies and a crackdown that has, for now, stanched the momentum of antigovernment demonstrations, the Syrian government appears in a stronger position than it did this summer..."

    Qaddafi's last letter to Sylvio Berlusconi

    « Cher Silvio. 
    Je te fais parvenir cette lettre par l’intermédiaire de tes concitoyens, qui sont venus en Libye nous apporter leur soutien dans un moment aussi difficile pour le peuple de la Grande Jamahiriya.J’ai été surpris par l’attitude d’un ami avec qui j’ai scellé un traité d’amitié favorable à nos deux peuples. J’aurais espéré de ta part au moins que tu t’intéresses aux faits et que tu tentes une médiation avant d’apporter ton soutien à cette guerre.Je ne te blâme pas pour ce dont tu n’es pas responsable car je sais bien que tu n’étais pas favorable à cette action néfaste qui n’honore ni toi ni le peuple italien.Mais je crois que tu as encore la possibilité de faire marche arrière et de faire prévaloir les intérêts de nos peuples.Sois certain que moi et mon peuple, nous sommes disposés à oublier et à tourner cette page noire des relations privilégiées qui lient le peuple libyen et le peuple italien.Arrête ces bombardements qui tuent nos frères libyens et nos enfants. Parle avec tes [nouveaux (rayé)] amis et vos alliés (1) pour parvenir à [une solution qui garantisse au grand peuple libyen le choix en totale liberté de qui le dirige (rayé)] ce que cesse cette agression à l’encontre de mon pays (1).J’espère que Dieu tout-puissant te guidera sur le chemin de la justice [dans le but d’arrêter ce bain de sang que subit mon pays la Libye (rayé)]. » 

    More Iranian Mischief...

    More Iranian Mischief...

    "... It was a "different Walid Phares" in the Lebanese Forces ..."

    Andrew ExumI don't ever want to hear Walid Phares claim again that it was a "different Walid Phares" in the Lebanese Forces.5 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

    Fuad Siniora: "Assad will be 'knocked out' real soon!"

    'China seeks military bases in Pakistan'

    Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan

    'US sows discord in South Asia'

    Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan

    Ex-diplomat: "We've destroyed that country..."

    Ex-diplomat blasts U.S. Mideast policy | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

    Secret Pakistan - How Pakistan trains the Taliban

    Poverty in Saudi Arabia

    "We're friends. If your friends don't give you advice, what kind of friends are they?"

    "... Khalifa said his government has been alarmed by congressional opposition to the arms sale, but said that he trusts the Obama administration to judge the outcome of the commission's report fairly. He also argued that a delay in completing the arms sale would not be in the interest of regional security."What worries us is that we don't need to delay any requirement for the necessary architecture to protect the region. Bahrain is a cornerstone of that," he said. "That's what I'm talking about here and I'm finding very listening ears."..."

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    The US Government Hid–and Is Still Hiding–Manssor Arbabsiar’s 'First Docket'

    "... If Arbabsiar were originally charged with something different than he was charged with on October 11–for example, if he were charged with drug charges that might put him away for hard time–it might explain why he waived Miranda rights for 12 days in a row, when he had, on 5 different occasions in his past, hired lawyers to represent him when he got in legal trouble.
    Well, this filing not only confirms that an earlier complaint exists–the earlier complaint is dated September 28–but it confirms my suspicion the complaint is in an different docket that is entirely sealed.
    On September 28, 2011, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV authorized a complaint bearing docket number 11 Mag. 2534 (“Sealed Complaint”),charging the above-listed defendant. The Sealed Complaint is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
    On October 11, 2011, Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger authorized an Amended Complaint (11 Mag. 2617charging the defendant and Gholam Shakuri (“Amended Complaint”). By order of the Honorable Loretta A. Preska, dated October 11, 2011, the Sealed Complaint was ordered to remain sealed. On October 11, 2011, the defendant was presented on only the Amended Complaint.
    The Government respectfully requests that the Court enter a limited unsealing order permitting the Government to produce the Sealed Complaint in redacted form to defense counsel as part of the discovery process. The Sealed Complaint would otherwise remain sealed.
    First, compare the docket numbers:
    First Complaint: 11-mg-2534
    Amended Complaint: 11-mg-2617
    Criminal Indictment: 11-cr-897 
    These are three entirely different dockets.
    A search for criminal magistrate docket 11-2534 returns nothing. Which means the docket–the entire docket–is and remains sealed.
    This increases the likelihood that the first complaint charges entirely different charges–such as opium charges–than the amended complaint does.
    Indeed, the language of this letter appears to suggest that only Arbabsiar was charged in the first complaint. Even if this earlier complaint pertained to murder-for-hire charges, this might make sense–as I have pointed out, most of the current charges are conspiracy charges that would involve at least two defendants. But the letter suggests–by stating only that “the defendant was presented on only the Amended Complaint”–that there may be charges unique to Arbabsiar, completely unrelated charges that hang over him still–that weren’t charged because of his 12-day cooperation to implicate Shakuri.
    And here’s the kicker. The government isn’t even telling Arbabsiar’s defense counsel all of what was in that first complaint. They are asking that she receive the complaint in redacted form.
    So not only are they hiding the original basis of his arrest from us–US citizens and the world community, to whom the government claimed this is an international incident. But they’re hiding parts of this earlier complaint even from the public defender tasked to actually represent this guy."