Wednesday, February 29, 2012
"... "We are restricting the use of bullets until we get support from outside," said Abed, who's a member of the Free Syrian Army, the loosely organized group of Syrian army defectors and volunteers who've taken up arms against Assad and made repeated overtures for support from the international community. Abed declined to give his last name, fearing retribution from the Syrian government.
The militiamen spoke as Syrian army tanks entered the neighborhood of Baba Amr, the center of fighting in nearby Homs, the country's third largest city. Residents of the neighborhood said those who could had fled as the Free Syrian Army continued to fight the military there. But militia members reportedly clashing with the military probably were able to offer only token resistance. The Free Syrian Army has found it increasingly difficult to get weapons from Lebanon as the Syrian military has increased its presence on the Lebanese-Syrian border...
"About half of Qusayr is under the control of the FSA," said Abu Abed, which in Arabic means "father of Abed."...
The militias are highly localized, and it isn't clear whether the situation is the same in restive parts of Syria on the Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi borders."We just know what is happening there from what we see on TV," said Abu Mohamed, a supporter of the Free Syrian Army who lives on the outskirts of Qusayr and helps transport the wounded to Lebanon..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:25 PM
.... "We are committed, as Israel is, to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," White House spokesman Jay Carney told journalists at the White House press briefing Wednesday.
"We do, however, believe that there is time and space to pursue diplomacy," he continued. "And we believe that the policy that we have pursued with our partners has put unprecedented pressure on Tehran, on the regime, has put great strains on the Iranian economy, great strains on the Iranian political leadership, and that is a course that we will continue to pursue."
The administration's Iran strategy is aimed at "buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that -- strange things can happen in the interim," Tony Blinken, national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, told the Israeli Policy Forum in New York Tuesday,Haaretz reported. "You never know.".... In advance of the Netanyahu-led Israeli delegation's arrival in Washington, however, the United States and Israel have traded a flurry of messages through the press, lawmakers and private senior diplomatic channels seeking to shape expectations for the visit and gin up pressure to each side's advantage.... The Israeli leader complained about top U.S. military officer Gen. Martin Dempsey commenting to CNN last week that military strikes on Iran would be premature, and assessing that the Iran regime is a rational actor. (Though Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak similarly described Iranian leaders as "radicals but not total meshuginah," in a 2010 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (.pdf), using the Yiddush word for "crazy.")......
Biden's advisor Blinken alluded to the seemingly coordinated echo chamber effect of some of the election year criticism of the U.S. administration as insufficiently hawkish on Iran. But he suggested that Israel's leaders may want to consider the odds that they will be dealing with the Obama-Biden administration after the presidential elections next year.
"There are individuals on all sides who unfortunately use the debate over policy toward Israel for political purposes," he told the Israeli Policy Forum.
A new poll released Thursday of Israeli public opinion found that only 19% of Israelis support Israel carrying out a strike on Iran without U.S. support. The poll, conducted by Shibley Telhami, of the Brookings Institution and University of Maryland, found that 42% endorsed a strike only if there is at least American support. A third of Israelis--32%--opposed an attack altogether regardless of American support."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:50 PM
"Their division of the spoils gradually contaminated the entire polity, & ultimately led to civil war"
"... judging by the SNC’s performance, there is cause for concern if it were to play a key role in such a transition. Its leading members, hindered by personal rivalries, unable to formulate clear political positions for fear of implosion and seemingly consumed with having a spot in the limelight, may fall back on sectarian apportionment as the only consensual criterion for power sharing. Syrians on the street have made clear that they see the SNC’s legitimacy as based on their ability to lobby for diplomatic pressure and see their mandate as stretching no further, but the outside world’s quest for a ready-made “alternative,” and the prevailing assumption that pluralist societies in the Middle East are condemned to such evolution, could prove to be Syria’s undoing. A political process including the SNC, but built primarily around locally led organizations, along with technocrats and businessmen, would have more legitimacy and a greater chance of success.Finally, as increasingly desperate protesters call for help, there is a danger that the outside world will make matters worse as it plays at being savior. Calls for aid are somewhat worse than a pact with the devil: They entail pacts with many devils that do not agree on much. The Gulf monarchies, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, the US, Iran and others all see geostrategic stakes in the fate of the Asad regime. The greater their involvement, the less Syrians will remain in control of their destiny. Crying out for foreign intervention of any kind, to bring this emergency to an end at any cost, is more than understandable coming from ordinary citizens subjected to extreme forms of regime violence. Exiled opposition figures who pose as national leaders have no excuse for behaving likewise, when what is needed is a cool-headed, careful calibration of what type of outside “help” would do the minimum of harm.Close to home, another Middle Eastern experience -- Iraq -- serves as an example on all three fronts. A political process excluding even a relatively small minority within Iraqi society led to a collective disaster. A group of returning exiles, without a social base but enjoying international support as the only visible, pre-existing “alternative,” quickly took over the transition and agreed only on splitting up power among themselves on the basis of a communal calculus. Their division of the spoils gradually contaminated the entire polity, and ultimately led to civil war. And the US, presiding over this tragedy, succeeded only in turning Iraq into a parody of itself, a country that now fits every sectarian and troubled stereotype the occupying power initially saw in it.All told, on a domestic level Syria has entered a struggle to bring its post-colonial era to a close. It is not simply about toppling a “regime” but about uprooting a “system” -- the Arabic word nizam conveniently evoking both notions..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:20 PM
Via Salon, basically McCaffrey is saying the Israelis cannot do Iran conventionally so they will resort to nukes. For a glimpse into the General's world, the Times' David Barstow wrote: "Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests. On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:03 PM
STRATleaks: "Israel & Russia's swap: 'Israel gave Russia the 'data link' code for specific UAVs, & Russia gave Israel the codes for Iran's Tor-M1s!'"
PUBLICATION: No, but ask firstATTRIBUTION: N/ASOURCE DESCRIPTION: MX301 - Former Mexican cop, Latam military analyst,SOURCE RELIABILITY: AITEM CREDIBILITY: 1Met with my Mexican source/friend again today and dude is getting shadier by the day (Bhalla, under strict orders from Friedman, was known to have traded Sex with info) We followed up on our past discussion on Russia compromising the Israeli-made Georgian UAVs prior to the August war.Here is what else I learned One of the source's friends/colleagues -- formerly military i think but now does private defense deals on the side (it's Mexico) contacted him in July (prior to the Georgia war). Apparently the Georgians had contacted this guy because they were frantically looking for a replacement for the Israeli UAVs ... Also on the list was a request for 2 bell helicopters. The Georgians were pretty much looking for anyone who would sell to them ...Here is the most interesting part:I inquired more about the compromised Israeli UAVs. What he explained was that Israel and Russia made a swap -- Israel gave Russia the 'data link' code for those specific UAVs; in return, Russia gave Israel the codes for Iran's Tor-M1s.I asked about the S-300 (source tracks a lot of defense deals for Jane's). He doesn't think the Russians will give it to the Iranians. Besides, he said... Israel and Turkey have been collaborating very closely on the S-300s. He explain how about 8 years ago when Russia sold S-300s to Greece to base in Crete (which were supposed to protect Cyprus), Russia delivered those with a carrier so that Turkey wouldn't try to sink them. (things got a bit noisy so i may have misheard some of this). The gist of what he said is that Turkey has been cracking the S-300 since the Crete sale and has been sharing intel on the S-300 with the Israelis to ensure that they retain an advantage over Iran should Iran get them from the Russians...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:05 AM
AFP - Emirati authorities have cancelled the residencies of dozens of Syrians for taking part in a protest against their regime outside the consulate in Dubai, Syrian activists told AFP on Sunday....
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:40 AM
"... If Paris admits that they were on a mission, they will be entitled to prisoner-of-war status and protected by the relative Geneva Convention; but if Paris denies having sent them, they will be considered as foreign civilians and judged in Syria for their crimes, which are punishable by the death penalty.France has opened three negotiation channels via the Russian Federation, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman.The ambassador of France, Eric Chevallier, returned urgently to Damascus on 23 February. Kofi Annan has been appointed as the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis.Aware of the potential use it can make of the captives in the midst of the French electoral campaign, Damascus called on Syrian state media not to raise the matter at this time. It thus reserves the possibility of dealing with it under the radar if this option proves to be more advantageous. While acknowledging the uniqueness of this situation, the Syrian journalists, who were quick to adapted to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the new media law, growled that limits are again being imposed for reasons of national security.If negotiations are kept secret, France will have to quietly pay very heavy war indemnities, either in cash or by way of economic privileges. If they are made public, France can hope to reduce the bill, but Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe will have some explaining to do to their fellow citizens. Their political camp would compromise its chances of winning the presidential election, with the president even risking to be brought before the High Court (Articles 35 and 68 of the Constitution)..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:34 AM
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
"...A proposed Senate resolution, supported by the pro-Israel lobby, would shift America’s red line in dealing with Iran from preventing the Islamic Republic’s acquisition of nuclear weapons to stopping it before it achieves “nuclear capabilities.” Authors of the resolution believe that it is the only way to ensure that Iran ceases to be a threat to the region.Opponents see it as moving America too close to a declaration of war. ... In an attempt to highlight diplomacy and make clear that war was not a preferred solution, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina began circulating a letter in the House of Representatives, calling on the administration to do everything in its power to avoid war. “We’re not saying we should take military options off the table, we’re saying we should try to negotiate before bombs start flying,” Ellison said in a February 17 interview with the Forward. “We need to talk until we reach the conclusion that it cannot be solved, but I believe we can reach an agreement.”
The letter is backed by dovish Jewish groups Americans for Peace Now and J Street, which also worked to try and change the language of the Senate resolution introduced by senators Graham, Lieberman and Casey. “It has been a long time since we tried negotiating with Iran, and it will be foolish not to use this tool,” said Dylan Williams, director of government affairs at J Street.But attention will turn in the coming weeks to other voices on this issue. AIPAC intends to have delegates participating in its annual conference lobby for the Senate resolution when they meet with their representatives on Capitol Hill."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:01 PM
"... The great danger for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states - and this goes for other, unreconstructed states in the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Awakening - is that events in Syria catalyse their own disaffected populations as well. Few of them, after all, are wholly immune to the charge of repressive illegitimacy that they now level against the Assad regime. Assad has picked up on that irony, telling his neighbours: "You have drowned your ships. The next storm will not exclude you".That is a danger that certainly faces Iraq and will restrain the Maliki government from too overt support for Iranian and Syrian objectives. In the reverse sense, it will also restrain Jordan, mainly because of Amman's fears of spillover effects, particularly of mass emigration as the country moves towards a bloody and protracted civil war. Jordan has extremely uncomfortable memories of the Iraqi exodus in the 1990s as sanctions in Iraq began to bite, with the result that unrest and criminality in the Jordanian capital increased as Iraqis challenged Jordanians and Palestinians for available resources. Yet, despite such caution, Jordan will not able to stand completely aside......However, as demonstrated by the docking of two Iranian warships on the Syrian coast last Saturday, at a time when Tel Aviv has not ruled out launching a unilateral strike against Iran, the Israelis may well begin to reconsider the desirability of the devil they don't know. The hawks in Israel will see the need to determine which poses more of a threat: the "Islamic fundamentalist" Shia state, or the "Islamic fundamentalist" Sunni groups...Egypt and, behind it, North Africa are not likely to play much of a role, .....Egypt is still obsessed with its own revolution, where the ramifications of the army's future role will take until the end of this year to be fully resolved......The Maghrib itself is too remote to be involved beyond moral and diplomatic condemnation. That has been, after all, its default position for decades over events in the Middle East. Algeria is ambivalent - the situation in Syria is too close to its own domestic circumstances for it to wish to become explicitly critical.....The remaining state that is directly affected by events in Syria is, of course, Turkey. A former cautious ally of the Assad regime, the Erdogan government has deliberately avoided doing anything provocative. It has provided a refuge for the fragmented political opposition and has probably turned a blind eye to more militant activities as well. In the wake of the failed UN Security Council Resolution, Turkey is also spear-heading a new diplomatic initiative which will probably aim to tighten sanctions, block arms shipments to the regime, and increase support to the Syrian opposition. However, it is not prepared to overtly espouse armed resistance.The question is why Turkey - not only a leading Sunni state, but increasingly seen as the paradigm for political change inside the Arab world - should be so reluctant to become actively involved. ... .... given Foreign Minister Davutoglu's policy of avoiding problems with neighbours, Turkey's reticence to intervene militarily is, perhaps, not surprising. It reflects, perhaps, the recent threats of renewed Syrian support for the PKK, should Turkey become involved, as well as a preference in Ankara for a negotiated outcome. After all, Turkey will have to live with the consequences in Syria, whatever they may be and it is by no means clear that, the Assad regime will collapse.And that is a lesson that Western policymakers should, perhaps, take on board. The comforting assumption in European capitals and Washington that moral disapproval and economic sanctions can take care of the Syrian problem is seriously misplaced. .... Western powers face a much greater constraint on their freedom of action than their public rhetoric suggests. Even a short and limited intervention, as occurred in Libya, has highly unpredictable implications in a crucial strategic environment - far more complex, indeed, than that around Libya. Few statesmen will want to take responsibility for a military operation with such uncertain outcomes.Their situation is made worse by the fact that some of the most active proponents of muscular intervention - Britain and France - lack the means by which to do this, owing to slashed defence budgets. It was notable that the best the two leaders could offer at their recent summit in Paris was food aid for Homs,............. Despite intense Congressional and popular distaste for the Assad regime, American disinclination for further foreign adventures is even greater. Even in Tunis at the end of February, proposals for humanitarian aid were the sole real initiative that the "Friends of Syria" could agree on, although, privately, some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, hinted that they would supply arms to the Syrian resistance - a counsel of despair, given the chaos it would probably cause...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:45 PM
"...U.S. intelligence and special operations officials have tried to keep a dialogue going with Israel despite the high-level impasse, offering options such as allowing Israel to use U.S. bases in the region to launch such a strike, as a way to make sure the Israelis give the Americans a heads-up, according to the U.S. official and a former U.S. official with knowledge of the communications..."and the WSJ;
"... Complaints from Israel about the U.S.'s public engagement with Iran have pushed the White House to consider more forcefully outlining potential military actions, and the "red lines" Iran must not cross, as soon as this weekend, according to people familiar with the discussions.President Barack Obama could use a speech on Sunday before a powerful pro-Israel lobby to more clearly define U.S. policy on military action against Iran in advance of his meeting on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, these people said....The Israeli leader has told U.S. officials that he wants Mr. Obama to outline specifically what Washington views (Netanyahu pressing Obama on WASHINGTON's RED LINES! Got that? WASHINGTON's!) as the "red lines" that Iran cannot cross, .... Mr. Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials also are pressing for Mr. Obama to publicly clarify his insistence that "all options are on the table" in addressing the Iranian nuclear threat.Mr. Netanyahu recently conveyed his displeasure with the administration in separate meetings in Jerusalem with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and a group of U.S. senators, said people involved in the meetings.He complained that comments by senior U.S. officials have cast Israel as the problem, not Iran, and only encouraged Tehran to press ahead with its nuclear program by casting doubt over the West's willingness to use force.Iranian soldiers performed exercises in the Sea of Oman in December.Israeli officials were particularly alarmed when Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described Iran as a "rational actor" in a CNN interview after a recent visit to Israel...."The Israelis are unnerved," said Sen. Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.), who was one of five U.S. senators who had lunch with Mr. Netanyahu last Tuesday in Jerusalem. "They think the administration is sending the wrong signal, and I do too."...."He was angry," Sen. McCain said. "And, frankly, I've never seen U.S.-Israel relations at this point."... "
"(AFP)- Venezuela's oil minister confirmed that it sent two shipments of diesel to last year and said it would send further supplies "when required" despite Western-led sanctions.... , who also heads state-run oil company PDVSA, said Monday that the country had sent two shipments of diesel to Syria last year, without providing further details.Caracas has been critical of sanctions against both Syria and Iran, with which it has forged closer political and economic ties in recent years..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:33 AM
"...According to news reports confirmed by a member of the Syrian opposition, Riyadh currently sends weapons on an ad hoc basis to the Syrian opposition by way of Sunni tribal allies in Iraq and Lebanon. But in light of recent developments, more weapons are almost certainly on their way. After his delegation withdrew in frustration from last week's Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said that humanitarian aid to Syria was "not enough" and that arming the Syrian rebels was an "excellent idea." Soon afterward, an unnamed official commented in the state-controlled Saudi press that Riyadh sought to provide the Syrian opposition with the "means to achieve stability and peace and to allow it the right to choose its own representatives." Meanwhile,Saudi clerics are now openly calling for jihad in Syria and scorning those who wait for Western intervention. One prominent unsanctioned cleric, Aidh al-Qarni, openly calls for Assad's death.Other Sunni Gulf states, principally Qatar, may be contributing weapons... The positions of other regional actors are less clear. But whether or not they supply weapons to the Free Syrian Army -- the armed opposition composed of defectors and local militia -- all these Sunni states now want the Assad regime to crumble...For the Saudis, depriving the Russians of a Middle Eastern toehold is an added bonus. The two countries share a long-standing animus... But the Saudis didn't simply counter communism. They fueled a generation of zealous Islamist fighters who later caused bigger problems elsewhere. These Islamists were instrumental to the Saudis after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Inspired by the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and armed with Saudi funds and weapons, Arab mujahideen poured into Afghanistan....A lot, of course, has changed.... Tartus, the second-largest port in Syria, has been the cornerstone of Russian-Syrian naval cooperation since the 1970s. In the past decade, the Russians have doubled down with improvements and investments in what is their primary Mediterranean toehold.... The Saudis know that if Syria falls, Tartus falls with it. That's one more reasons to send arms to the opposition.U.S. President Barack Obama's administration continues to express deep misgivings about sending weapons, ... But the Saudis have run out of patience. They now unabashedly advocate for arming the Free Syrian Army.This is not an empty threat. The Saudis know how to procure and move weapons, and they have no shortage of cash. If Riyadh wants to arm the opposition, armed it shall be. And those who receive the weapons will likely be at least amenable to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam that has spawned dangerous Islamist movements worldwide....The Iranians and Russians may yet pay a price for propping up Assad in Syria. But if the Saudis have their way, the world may pay a price too."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:59 AM
'Strategic' Fuad Siniora: "Moscow & Beijing's positions are influenced by domestic politics but they will change soon!"
'Tearful' Fuad predicted Assad's downfall & triumph of March14 in Lebanon last ...August!
'Ring around the Rosie...'
"... "The Syrian problem became a domestic issue in Russia. It is part of the election campaign ... adding that Russia might be "ready to discuss business in a more pragmatic way" after the vote.Unlike Russia, which has a naval base on the Syrian coast and sells arms to Damascus, China has little commercial interest in shielding Assad from criticism, Siniora said.Siniora said China had balked at U.N. condemnation of Assad because of concerns over potential criticism of its own domestic record, including in Tibet. But in the long term he said it was not in Beijing's interest to side with the Syrian leader."It is not in the interests of the Iranian regime to continue hammering on having Lebanon and Syria as their client countries," Siniora said."This is not a sustainable relationship and this will lead towards furthering the confrontation in the region."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:58 AM
"... Which brings me back to Mrs. Clinton's tirade on Friday. There is a good case to be made that we should apply sufficient military pressure on Assad to help tip the scales in favor of the opposition, as we did in Libya. There's also a plausible case to be made that the last thing the U.S. needs is another military entanglement on behalf of a cause we barely know for the sake of a goal we can only hazily define.But there is no case for lecturing Russia on its own long-standing record of engaging its faithful clients in Syria, much less for invoking the suffering of a people she has no serious intention of saving. Even chutzpah has its limits..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:44 AM
Monday, February 27, 2012
"JERUSALEM (AP)-Israeli defense officials say state-run Israel Aerospace Industries will sell $1.6 billion in drones and anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan.The deal will bring sophisticated Israeli technology to the doorstep of archenemy Iran. Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan have been rising because of close Azeri ties with Israel..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:30 PM
"... Meanwhile, my source claims that along with launching missiles on the nuclear site in Iran, Israel will also occupy southern Lebanon in order to take control of millions of missiles that Iran has stationed there to launch aerial attacks on Israel in the event of an Israeli airstrike on Iran.Moreover, the U.S. will not be simply an innocent bystander in the event of a Saudi supported Israeli attack on Iran. Rather, my source believes that U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan in the wake of the recent killing of two Americans in a NATO facility.He expects the U.S. to announce victory in the next few months and to make the troops in Afghanistan available to support the Israeli attack on Iran in some way.Is any of this plausible? ... ... ...Politically, such a war has the potential to boost President Obama’s chances for reelection. Even if the U.S. is not directly involved in fighting Iran, such a military action would make Americans focus their attention on whether they would prefer the Republican candidates — none of whom have experience in the military – to a commander-in-chief who gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, and led the coalition that took out Gaddafi."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:14 PM
"... The winter of 1979 might have been the most perilous time for the regime: Its leading lights were slowly being snuffed out, its support within key segments of the army and broader population was in doubt, and even its top officials were beginning to breaking away. On Dec. 27, Syrian ambassador to the United Nations Hammud al-Shufi abruptly resigned, due to what he termed "the anti-democratic and repressive methods and corruption of the Assad regime." (No Syrian ambassadors have yet defected during the present unrest.)....
History is written by the victors, and the story of Syria's civil war is no exception. .......Assad's response was as cunning as it was ruthless. He retaliated by dissolving the associations and arresting their leaders..... Meanwhile, he found allies in the Damascene merchant class and was able to weather the economic storm. According to Seale, the merchants' support for Assad at this critical juncture cemented the regime's relationship with the Damascus businessmen -- an alliance that has persisted through the present day.Having cut off all avenues of dissent but violence, the Assad regime then moved to ensure that its enemies had no hope of winning through armed revolt. After a failed assassination attempt against Assad on June 26, 1980, the regime's strongmen determined to make the Muslim Brotherhood pay....The Sunni insurgents responded by escalating their campaign of terror in Damascus.... For all the stresses put on the Syrian regime, the sharp and unbridgeable sectarian rifts that the conflict had opened made it virtually impossible for the Alawite ruling class to do anything but fight to the death. "[The Muslim Brotherhood] has succeeded in widening the distance between the government and the majority of the people, but not in destabilizing the regime," wrote the historian Hanna Batatu in December 1982. "Instead of splitting the ‘Alawis and thus weakening their foothold in the army, they have, by their anti-‘Alawi practical line, frightened the ‘Alawi community into rallying behind Asad."With the military remaining largely loyal, nothing could stop Assad from crushing the opposition's strongholds. By the time the city of Hama rose in open revolt in February 1982, the stage was set for a final confrontation between Assad's opponents and more than 10,000 well-equipped Syrian security forces -- a battle the Sunni insurgents could not hope to win..... In the end, the Sunni insurgency of the late 1970s and early 1980s was too focused on Sunni revivalism, too shadowy -- simultaneously too violent to attract widespread support and not violent enough to pose an existential threat to the regime.Could the modern-day opponents of Bashar al-Assad, Hafez's son, suffer the same fate as the insurgents of years past? .....Syria's revolutionaries have not been able to make a complete break with the past. After months of largely peaceful protest, the effort to topple Assad is increasingly defined as a struggle between Syria's security forces and an armed insurgency. According to activists' own figures, the past two months have seen a higher proportion of Syrian soldiers killed than at any other point in the revolt -- totaling roughly 25 percent of the total deaths. This surge in violence has also been marked, in the past two weeks, by devastating car bombings in Aleppo and the first assassination of a Syrian general -- tactics that carry an echo of the dark days of civil war...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:47 AM
"... So why is India now refusing to augment American pressure tactics on Iran? One clear answer is that Iran is India’s second-biggest oil supplier. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. asserts that a $10 increase in India’s oil price would probably shave 0.2 percentage point from India’s gross-domestic-product growth -- a setback India can ill afford as it looks at already reduced targets for this year. Given the blow it may inflict on the economy, war in the Middle East looms over Indian horizons as a terrible prospect.There are also less tangible reasons for India’s reluctance to join another “coalition of the willing” against a Muslim country. Relations between India and Israel have developed fast since the countries established full diplomatic relations in 1992; Israel is India’s second-biggest arms supplier and a close adviser on security issues. But India’s links with Iran are much older, grounded in a shared religion and history.Shiites from Persia once ruled large parts of India. The Safavid Empire represented the apex of cultural sophistication for the Mughal dynasty that held sway for centuries. Persian was the language of administration in large parts of India and remained so late into the British colonial era. (My own grandfather read Persian more easily than Hindi.) India’s anti- colonial leaders, “Mahatma” Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, in turn, were heroes for a whole generation of Iranian intellectuals and activists fighting against foreign domination of their country.That history of political and cultural partnership might seem very remote today. But it doesn’t lack for recent examples. India and Iran worked together to back the Northern Alliance, specifically Ahmed Shah Massoud, against the Taliban in the 1990s.India switched to supporting the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks, hoping to extend its influence within Afghanistan under a U.S. security umbrella. But that policy, predicated on a long U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and opposition to the Taliban, now lies in tatters as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its troops from the country.Afghanistan, for better or worse, will again have regional arbiters. Trying to regain its influence there, India would, of course, find Iran a safer interlocutor and partner than Pakistan. Could India turn its unavoidable proximity to Iran into a diplomatic advantage? A recent contributor to a hawkish Indian website proposed that India bring about a “grand rapprochement” between the U.S. and Iran since the latter’s nuclearization is now inevitable..... ....There is no doubt that, short of a catastrophic war that turns much of the Middle East into a wasteland, Iran’s nuclear program, which was started by the Shah, will be completed -- either by the present regime in Tehran, or the one that replaces it.If many Indians feel this to be inevitable, it is because India itself defied intense international pressure to build its nuclear capacity.............In at least one evolutionary narrative of international relations developed during the Cold War, countries attain adulthood when, after outgrowing adolescent neuroses, they align their interests with U.S. objectives. The example of India (and its attitude toward Iran) points at a newer and more widespread model of individuation: one in which nation states reach maturity when they grow aware of their own needs and interests, and define their foreign policies through the interplay of geopolitical imperatives, domestic politics, regional histories, and national pride.To ignore this dawning reality of the multipolar world is to risk regressing beyond adolescent neuroses; it is to lapse into child-like narcissism."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:29 AM
"... What will be the main driver of Turkish policy in Syria? The short answer is the famous phrase “Events, my dear boy” -- former British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s tongue-in-cheek answer when he was asked what was the biggest challenge facing him as a leader. There seem to be four different ways the events in Syria could evolve. I will evaluate the first two scenarios in this article and focus on the other two next week.In the first scenario Bashar al-Assad manages to muddle through and maintains his hold on power, despite growing pockets of resistance. Bashar’s units continue their crackdown. The rate of killing does not exceed a daily average 15 to 50 people. Damascus makes cosmetic reforms and promises. Under this scenario, which more or less reflects the conditions on the ground today, Turkey’s Syria policy will also be more of the same.The main drivers of Turkey’s Syria policy will not change. These drivers can be summarized as first, the Kurdish problem at home. Ankara is highly concerned about Damascus and Tehran’s capacity to play the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) card. Second, Turkey is highly reluctant to confront Iran and Russia because of Syria. Let’s not forget that Turkey depends on Iran and Russia for close to 85 percent of its energy needs. Third, Turkey is concerned about Washington “leading from behind” and thus “outsourcing” the bulk of military operations to Ankara. Turkey doesn’t want to “own” the crisis. ... Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will continue to call for Bashar to step down, but Ankara will also seek to maintain lines of communication with the regime by keeping the Turkish ambassador in Damascus. In short, the longer Bashar stays in power, the more Turkey will attempt to hedge its Syria policy. A difficult coexistence will become inevitable.(Continue, here if you think other 'scenarios' are possible!)
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:13 AM
Wikileaks on Stratfor's 'Syrian Oppisition informers': "Mistakes like that put your credibility in question!".
"...I trust ME1 on this question. i hate this region, aaaaargh ...........I found OS reports of them being Alawite, as well, but it was a trulymixed bag. Nothing seems to agree....could ME1 be wrong? We've got overwhelming OS vs one source. Not saying that ME1 is lying but maybe they're misinformed as well. We should dig into this more before we give an answer....Wow, that is crazy. Overwhelmingly OS is reporting that they are Sunni.Some reports even talk about the exact tribal affiliation of Shawkat ascoming from the Sunni tribe of Bani Khaled.... well, shit. most of the OS info on them is wrong. ME1 is saying they're Alawites.....Goddamnit. I'll write to the reader and work with the writers toinclude a correction. Lesson learned - don't trust OS on verifying sectarian affiliation.....I concur with Reva, I have read multiple reports in multiple languagesthat indicate these guys are Sunni.... the background material I've seen and re-read on these two guys isthat they are Sunni. I sent a message to ME1 this morning to verifyonce again what sect is...Is this guy correct?...In your analysis you have mentioned that Assef Shawkat and AliMamalouk are Sunni Muslim. That is wrong they both are Alawite. Mistakes like that put your credibility in question..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:54 AM
STRATFOR's emails on Wikileaks: "You have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control..."
LONDON—Today, Monday 27 February, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example :"[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control... This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase" – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla (many of us traded jabs with her in email) on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the "Yes Men", for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees : "We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either."Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to "utilise the intelligence" it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS : "What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like". The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested "substantially" more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff : "Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral... It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor... we are already working on mock portfolios and trades". StratCap is due to launch in 2012.The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and "other government intelligence agencies" in "becoming government Stratfors". Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability. Stratfor claims that it operates "without ideology, agenda or national bias", yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused "gravy train" that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures :"[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ’leak-focused’ gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet... Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information... In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution."Like WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables, much of the significance of the emails will be revealed over the coming weeks, as our coalition and the public search through them and discover connections. Readers will find that whereas large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave a complimentary membership to the controversial Pakistan general Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Readers will discover Stratfor’s internal email classification system that codes correspondence according to categories such as ’alpha’, ’tactical’ and ’secure’. The correspondence also contains code names for people of particular interest such as ’Hizzies’ (members of Hezbollah), or ’Adogg’ (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad).Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists – from Reuters to the Kiev Post. The list of Stratfor’s "Confederation Partners", whom Stratfor internally referred to as its "Confed Fuck House" are included in the release. While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.WikiLeaks has also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including $1,200 a month paid to the informant "Geronimo" , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred Burton.WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations and activists to inform the public about this huge body of documents. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails. Important revelations discovered using this system will appear in the media in the coming weeks, together with the gradual release of the source documents.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:34 AM
Sunday, February 26, 2012
"There is something surreal about a group of "friends" promoting change in Syria that includes one of the most notorious for resisting progress: Saudi Arabia!"
"... What we should fear most is not western military intervention, since it isn't in prospect, but eastern intervention. There is something surreal about a group of "friends" promoting change in Syria that includes so many autocrats and, as one of its leading lights, the country most notorious for resisting progress: Saudi Arabia.At one point during Friday's meeting, the Saudi foreign minister reportedly stormed out, self-righteously complaining about "inaction" (though some reports deny it). Later, asked if arming the Syrian opposition would be a good idea, he replied: "I think it's an excellent idea." Indeed, some suspect the Saudis are already doing just that.Meanwhile Qatar, a less oppressive autocracy than Saudi Arabia but an autocracy nevertheless, called for the creation of "an Arab force" for Syria.None of that bodes well for Syria's future. The Saudis, who have banned all forms of demonstrations on their own turf and are not averse to shooting protesters, have deliberately messed up two Arab revolutions over the past year – first by sending troops into Bahrain to preserve the monarchy there, and then by manipulating the Yemeni uprising to ensure that nothing much would change after they abandoned President Saleh.Given that, there was a curious irony to the banners hung around the conference area in Tunis on Friday. The English "Friends of Syria" had been changed in Arabic to say "Friends of the Syrian people" – as if to emphasise that they had the interests of ordinary Syrians uppermost in their hearts.The reality, of course, is that for all countries attending, national interests (or what they perceive as their national interests) come first and the Syrian people second. In some cases a distant second, even among the "brotherly" Arabs.Saudi Arabia's Sunni/Wahhabi rulers are paranoid about what they see as a threat from Shia Muslims. They are fearful not just of Iran but of the marginalised Shia communities inside their own realm and the rebellious Shia majority in Bahrain ruled over by a Sunni king. There's also Iraq on their northern border where long-suppressed Shia influence has re-emerged – thanks to George Bush – following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. ... Saudi "support" for the Syrian opposition, therefore, is likely to make the conflict more sectarian rather than less.Syrians should beware of "friends" as much as enemies."