"...Since Obama became President (and since the drone campaign accelerated in Pakistan), the number of Pakistanis who regard us as an enemy has gone up 10%, 5% in just the last year, to 74%.More dangerous still, Pakistanis don’t want our help fighting extremists, nor do they want to use the Pakistani army to fight extremists in their own country.
Additionally, over the last few years, Pakistanis have become less willing to work with the U.S. on efforts to combat extremist groups. While 50% still want the U.S. to provide financial and humanitarian aid to areas where extremists operate, this is down from 72% in 2009. Similarly, fewer Pakistanis now want intelligence and logistical support from the U.S. than they did three years ago. And only 17% back American drone strikes against leaders of extremist groups, even if they are conducted in conjunction with the Pakistani government.
Since 2009, the Pakistani public has also become less willing to use its own military to combat extremist groups. Three years ago, 53% favored using the army to fight extremists in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but today just 32% hold this view. ..."
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:22 PM
"Regrettably, Washington, Ankara & Riyadh have failed to ponder the consequences of the overthrow of Assad & feel unduly confident of managing them!"
"... This factor weighs heavily with the policymakers of China, dependent on Middle East oil supplies. In collaboration with the Kremlin, the Chinese have consistently opposed any move, covert or overt, by Western powers at the UN Security Council to bring about regime change in Damascus. The Beijing-Moscow stance is in line with a common aim to create and sustain a multipolar globe on the ashes of a unipolar world dominated by Washington.Such global visions do not inform FSA commanders, who routinely foreswear any sectarian bias. Yet the FSA consists almost entirely of Sunnis, many followers of the clandestine, deeply rooted, anti-Shia Muslim Brotherhood. Most FSA units are named after historical Sunni warriors who battled Shias.
al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri called on Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and elsewhere to join the fight against 'the pernicious, cancerous regime' of Assad last February – and many militant jihadists heeded the call.
Terrorist attacks on the Syrian government's targets have been claimed by Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl Ash-Sham, or Support Front for the People of Syria, an al-Qaeda affiliate. Farouq Brigade, composed mainly of al-Qaeda operatives, is an openly recognized part of the FSA, and performing better than other FSA units.
Regrettably, leaders in Washington, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha have either failed to ponder the probable consequences of the overthrow of Assad or feel unduly confident of managing them: a bloody civil war destabilizing the region, at worst; the post-Assad regime inheriting a fractured country where al-Qaeda militants have free rein, at best; and an inevitable spike in oil prices for a world in the midst of the longest recession since the 1930s Great Depression."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:17 PM
"... in the meantime the positive influence of these grassroots movements is increasingly under threat. As the uprising drags on, activists have become increasingly desperate to receive direct aid and support. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and global jihadi networks linked to al Qaeda are manipulating this growing desperation, providing material support to those groups that promise to support their foreign agendas.The proliferation of money and weapons may have accelerated the revolution, but it has not supported the development of political structures inside Syria. These foreign sponsors risk dividing and radicalizing the opposition. Rebel leaders have already reported that in some cases, receiving foreign aid comes with implicit conditions, forcing them to act in ways contrary to their desired direction. In a leaked email, rebel commander Abu Majd wrote, "The basis of the crisis in the city [Homs] today is groups receiving uneven amounts of money from direct sources in Saudi Arabia, some of whom are urging the targeting of loyalist neighborhoods and sectarian escalation." Moreover, in areas where Assad's crackdown has been harshest, including in the cities of Homs and Rastan, hard-line Salafi groups have gained a foothold within the opposition. In early April, following the regime's offensive against Homs, for instance, accusations emerged that the rebels' Farouq Battalion had begun collecting jizya, a tax on non-Muslims, in areas of Homs province...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:10 PM
"...... foreign policy has, naturally, taken a back seat. This is not to say that diplomatic business is being neglected. US officials are deeply engaged over Syria, Egypt, Iran and the Euro crisis. Defense Secretary Panetta, for example, has intervened actively with his Egyptian counterpart with regard to the elections in Egypt. However, the overall framework is one whereby the Administration wants to contain events within manageable parameters, not allow them to assume crisis proportions. This will prompt continued US caution over Syria. As one senior State Department official put it to us: “Take Iran as a proxy for the White House’s approach. We are under instructions to keep negotiations going, not to provoke a breakdown that would give Israel or anyone else an excuse for risky action.” As next week’s technical level negotiations open in Istanbul on the Iranian nuclear program, US officials will use some very tough language, but will be looking for reasons to continue the talks, not to break off....."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:02 PM
Friday, June 29, 2012
NAIROBI, Kenya — One of two Iranians facing charges related to accusations the two planned to carry out an attack with explosives in Kenya says he was interrogated by Israeli agents while in detention.
Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad also told a Kenyan court on Wednesday the Israeli agent tortured and injected him with chemicals without his consent.
Police prosecutor Daniel Musangi denied the accusations that suspects were tortured. Magistrate Paul Biwott said the allegations were serious and ordered an investigation.
Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi were arrested last week in the coastal city of Mombasa with 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosives. Prosecutors contend the two intended to carry out an attack that would cause "grievous harm."
An Israeli-owned hotel was the subject of a bomb attack on the Kenyan coast in 2002.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:28 AM
Washington -- The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has
just released an internal briefing video that is now available online on both
Vimeo and Youtube. The IRmep Center for
Policy and Law Enforcement obtained release under the Freedom of Information
just released an internal briefing video that is now available online on both
Vimeo and Youtube. The IRmep Center for
Policy and Law Enforcement obtained release under the Freedom of Information
As it happened, I was on the JCS damage assessment board convened after Pollard's arrest. This guy had "flags" hung out all over him. He should never have been hired or cleared for employment in naval intelligence. He had a clear record of telling people things like "Israel is my real home." The material he stole at the direction of the Israelis was mostly concerned with Soviet affairs. The Israelis wanted it for barter with the Soviet government. pl
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:24 AM
The Proverbial 'bigger picture': Allowing 'Assad to remain leader of Syria for at least another two years'
"President Bashar al-Assad of Syria may last far longer than his opponents believe – and with the tacit acceptance of Western leaders anxious to secure new oil routes to Europe via Syria before the fall of the regime. According to a source intimately involved in the possible transition from Baath party power, the Americans, Russians and Europeans are also putting together an agreement that would permit Assad to remain leader of Syria for at least another two years in return for political concessions to Iran and Saudi Arabia in both Lebanon and Iraq.
For its part, Russia would be assured of its continued military base at Tartous in Syria and a relationship with whatever government in Damascus eventually emerges with the support of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia’s recent concession – that Assad may not be essential in any future Syrian power structure – is part of a new understanding in the West which may accept Assad’s presidency in return for an agreement that prevents a further decline into civil war....
The US-Russian negotiations – easy to deny, and somewhat cynically hidden behind the current mutual accusations of Hillary Clinton and her Russian opposite number, Sergei Lavrov – would mean that the superpowers would acknowledge Iran’s influence over Iraq and its relationship with its Hezballah allies in Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia – and Qatar - would be encouraged to guarantee Sunni Muslim rights in Lebanon and in Iraq. Baghdad’s emergence as a centre of Shia power has caused much anguish in Saudi Arabia whose support for the Sunni minority in Iraq has hitherto led only to political division.
But the real object of talks between the world powers revolves around the West’s determination to secure oil and particularly gas from the Gulf states without relying upon supplies from Moscow. “Russia can turn off the spigot to Europe whenever it wants – and this gives it tremendous political power,” the source says. “We are talking about two fundamental oil routes to the West – one from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Jordan and Syria and the Mediterranean to Europe, another from Iran via Shia southern Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean and on to Europe. This is what matters. This is why they will be prepared to let Assad last for another two years, if necessary. They would be perfectly content with that. And Russia will have a place in the new Syria.”
Diplomats who are still discussing these plans should, of course, be treated with some scepticism. It is one thing to hear political leaders excoriating the Syrian regime for its abuse of human rights and massacres – quite another to realise that Western diplomats are quite prepared to put this to one side for the proverbial ‘bigger picture’ which, as usual in the Middle East, means oil and gas supplies. They are prepared to tolerate Assad’s presence until the end of the crisis, rather than insisting his departure is the start of the end. The Americans apparently say the same. Now Russia believes that stability is more important than Assad himself...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:16 AM
"... The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will exempt China and Singapore from economic sanctions for the next 180 days because the two countries have significantly decreased their crude oil imports from Iran..."when in reality, and as the Leveretts pointed out;
"...(Reuters) - China's crude imports from Iran recovered in May to offset a first-quarter plunge in shipments to nearly half the annual average, after the two nations resolved a wrangle over the terms of annual oil sale contracts. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:00 AM
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
"...These new sanctions, at least as legislated, threaten to punish financial and corporate entities in countries that continue to purchase Iranian oil at their historic levels of consumption. So far, the Obama Administration has issued sanctions waivers to all of the major buyers of Iranian oil, see hereand here—all the major buyers, that is, except the People’s Republic of China.Trade data indicate that China’s imports of Iranian oil declined significantly in the first quarter of this year. It is unclear to what extent this reduction was intended as an accommodation to the United States and to what extent it was the product of a payment dispute with Tehran. But, whatever the reason, the reduction prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to note last week that “we’ve seen China slowly but surely take actions,” see here. Clinton even seemed to hint that the Administration might be looking for an opening to waive the imposition of sanctions against China: “I have to certify under American laws whether or not countries are reducing their purchases of crude oil from Iran and I was able to certify that India was, Japan was, South Korea was…And we think, based on the latest data, that China is also moving in that direction.”
Since the resolution of the payments dispute between China and Iran, however, China’s imports of Iranian oil have picked up once again, see here and here. And the Chinese government continues to insist that the country’s purchases of oil from the Islamic Republic are “fully reasonable and legitimate,” see here.
Once June 28 comes the White House and State Department will be under enormous pressure from the Congress (Hill Democrats will provide the President no cover on the issue), the Romney campaign, and various domestic interest groups to sanction China over its continued oil buys from Iran. The Administration’s alliance with Congress and the pro-Israel lobby on Iran sanctions, combined with its misguided assessment that the United States can somehow compel Iran’s “surrender” on the nuclear issue, have put the President and his team in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position. This is very much a problem of the Administration’s own making."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:26 PM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:16 PM
"... Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator did express willingness to discuss one key step requested by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1): stopping enrichment of uranium to 20% U-235, the isotope that gives uranium its explosive power.The western members of the P5+1 insisted, however, that Iran had to meet all three conditions contained in their proposal: stop 20% enrichment, ship out a stockpile of more than 100 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium and close Fordo, a fortified enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom.
That stance has led some P5+1 members to conclude that the United States hardened its position in Moscow compared to two earlier sessions in Baghdad and Istanbul...
What led to the perceived hardening of the US position in Moscow? One P5+1 nation's diplomat surmised that the US was reacting to the perceived “stubbornness” of chief Iran nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Prospects for compromise on the terms of an interim deal also seem to be increasingly constrained by a number of factors, including western skepticism that Iran is serious about negotiations and domestic political concerns, as well as Israeli pressure not to agree to a small deal that might reduce momentum for further economic sanctions.
Jalili, in Moscow, proposed a five-point plain that included international recognition of Iran’s “inalienable right to enrichment” in exchange for Iran’s commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreement to “operationalize” the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons. Iran also sought the lifting of both UN and unilateral sanctions in return for cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its longstanding questions regarding suspected possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. A fourth point included cooperation on nuclear safety and the provision of modern light water reactors. The fifth plank, according to a diplomatic source, was for Iranian inclusion in talks on regional security issues, including Syria and Bahrain.
The Iranian proposal was also seen as an overreach by all P5+1 members, including the two delegations Iran usually sees as more sympathetic, the Russian and Chinese. (China’s delegation was judged not to be very active in Moscow, perhaps because China’s chief negotiator couldn’t come and was substituted by his deputy, Le Yucheng.)
“The Iranian delegation arrived well-prepared and presented a more detailed proposal … compared to previous rounds,” Russian diplomats assessed of Moscow. But “there was no movement towards a compromise … It was clear that the [P5+1] package was not acceptable to Iran.” Iranian pressure for an experts meeting “was interpreted as an Iranian attempt to resolve the issue, but also to buy more time.”
“Both sides are looking to buy time, but for entirely different reasons,” the ICG’s Vaez said. “The West appears to be waiting for the new onerous sanctions to sink in and render Iran more amenable to compromise. In mirror image, Iran seemingly believes that President Obama will be in a better position to offer genuine concessions after reelection.”
So-called technical experts from the P5+1 and Iran are due to meet in Istanbul on July 3.
The US team to the Istanbul talks will be led by Bob Einhorn, the State Department Iran sanctions czar and a veteran nonproliferation expert, a US official told Al-Monitor Tuesday. Iran's team may be led by Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Iran experts heard, noting that had not yet been confirmed."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:12 PM
US Intelligence Officials: 'Assad's regime cohesive & learned how to deal with this type of insurgency'
(Reuters) - "Despite some military defections, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle remains cohesive and the 16-month conflict with rebels is likely to be a drawn-out struggle, senior U.S. intelligence officials said on Tuesday.That assessment appears to dash any U.S. hopes that Assad, whose ouster Washington has called for, will fall soon of his own accord....
....U.S. intelligence agencies, watching closely for cracks in Assad's inner circle, do not see them so far."The regime inner circle and those at the next level still seem to be holding fairly firm in support of the regime and Assad," one intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.Assad said on Tuesday that Syria was in a "state of war" and snubbed those calling for him to step aside, saying the West "takes and never gives and this has been proven at every stage.....
U.S. intelligence officials said defections and desertions from Assad's forces had mainly been "low to mid-level ranks" and had included relatively few officers. They did not provide specific numbers.....
"Our overall assessment in terms of the fighting would be that we are still seeing the military regime forces fairly cohesive, they've learned some lessons over the last year and a half about how to deal with this kind of insurgency," an intelligence official said.The insurgency is also getting stronger, which sets the stage for a protracted conflict, the official said...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:40 AM
Lobbying the US for guns: '400 al Qaeda fighters near the border of Syria.... but the rebels want Syria to be a multiethnic democracy'
"... Asbahi says he remains an Obama supporter, but doesn’t have any special connections at the White House. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Asbahi or the Syrian Support Group.
Convincing the U.S. government to arm a rebel movement requires a multi-pronged attack. That job is handled by Brian Sayers, the SSG’s de facto lobbyist. A former political officer for NATO, Sayers is now the Syrian group’s full-time director of government relations. A typical day for Sayers begins at 5 a.m., with a conference call assessing the previous 12 hours of developments in Syria. On Friday, for example, he spoke with a Syrian citizen based in the U.S. who serves as his operations and intelligence officer, and discussed the defection of a Syrian Air Force pilot who defected to Jordan. They went over casualty reports gleaned from military councils on the ground, and reports of a visual sighting of a transport of heavy weapons for the Syrian army.
Later that day, Sayers headed off to a think tank, to join Sakka for a briefing with congressional staffers. During the PowerPoint presentation, Sakka and Sayers were asked about rumors that some of the fighters are members of al Qaeda. Sakka said his network had discovered a camp of 400 ultrareligious fighters near the border of Syria who appeared to have outside assistance believed to be al Qaeda. But for the most part, they say, the rebel commanders want Syria to be a multiethnic democracy, a claim that is met with skepticism from some in the audience. One audience member asked how they knew the commanders would keep their word about supporting secular democracy once they attained power. Sakka said this is what their contacts told them....
Sayers, in the meantime, is focused on Congress. He says he is looking for a member with the connections to get weapons, communication, and jamming equipment to Syria’s rebels. “I would love a Charlie Wilson to do the work behind the scenes,” he said, referring to the Texas Democrat who used his influence to get Congress to bankroll the covert operations the CIA used to arm Afghanistan’s mujahadin warriors in the 1980s.(Remember how that worked beautifully for the US!) “That’s what we want.”..... "
'US attack helicopter shot down by 'old friends' in Afghanistan'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:05 AM
"... Prime Minister Mossadegh was famously overthrown by an Anglo-American coup in 1953 for his attempted nationalization of Iranian oil. The disastrous legacy of this foreign intervention would be "profound and long-lasting." Following its perceived success, the United States went into the regime change business in dozens of countries, most of them democratic.
The coup reinstated the Shah whose unremitting despotism would continue for another quarter-century. Thus an all-too-brief democratic experiment was prematurely aborted by a dictatorship that would soon give rise to another.
This single act of intervention paved the way for an Islamist regime in Iran and the rise of political Islam across the Greater Middle East. The story of this coup--and its most famous victim--reminds us of the dangers of foreign intervention. Its potency at a time of growing tensions with Iran has made the history a prime target of contemporary interventionists.
One attempted distortion appeared in a Wall Street Journal review by Sohrab Ahmari. In researching this piece, I found that Ahmari's review is essentially a reprise of his February 2009 pseudonymous review of Gholam Reza Afkhami's biography of the Shah. Behind the anonymity of a fictitious name, Ahmari presents much of the same, but does so with the brazen language of an ideologue that expects no accountability. While a visceral contempt for Mossadegh shines through his writings, Ahmari gushes over the Shah and a paradise that never was. "Javid Shah!" is Ahmari's proclamation when his advocacy needn't be disguised as analysis.
Profiled recently as "the neocons' favorite Iranian," Ahmari has been caught twisting statistics to suit his agenda in the past. The biography of the Shah that Ahmari to construct his case was in fact written by a former minister of the Shah and criticized for, among other things, relying too heavily on the Shah's own autobiographies.
...This brings us to another colorful character who insists that Mossadegh was overthrown by a popular uprising--Amir Taheri. The 70-year-old Iranian was editor-in-chief of one of the Shah's primary propaganda arms until that regime's collapse in 1979. Taheri occupies a unique place in American political discourse. As Jonathan Schwarz of Mother Jones magazine observed in 2007, "There may not be anyone else who simply makes things up as regularly as he does, with so few consequences."
Among Taheri's greatest hits is a story he fabricated about Iranian Jews being forced to wear distinctly colored badges à la Nazi Germany. Iranian historian Shaul Bakhash of George Mason University detailed "case after case" of Taheri's use of nonexistent sources. Where sources did exist, Taheri "distorted the substance beyond recognition."
...The above list is by no means exhaustive. Still, it takes a special kind of moral idiocy to defend the colonial interests of Britain's dying empire against the "most democratic, enlightened government in Iranian history." Those who do so deny the disaster of past interventions while calling for new ones. Unmasking these efforts may make it a little less likely for war to occur, so defenders of democracy would do well to follow Mossadegh's famous dictum, "If I sit silently, I have sinned."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:41 AM
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Best reply so far:
and this seems partially accurate,
"if you are trying to insinuate that moscow although you're spelling damask in russian) was behind this incident, you are big time mistaken. It was neither advanced russian equipment that did the job (it was archaic aaa) nor did moscow have anything to do with the decision to shoot down the intruding jet. However, moscow is in damascus, and that means, the kremlin is strategically 100% behind the survival of the regime. The pompous turk understood that and now he is threatening all calamities that he should have poured upon the syrians minutes after the shooting down. You quoted lavrov saying that whatever transpires in syria draws the new mideastern world order. Read that again. Read between the lines"
and this seems partially accurate,
"... what I meant previously is that the Russian leaders informed all those who care to listen that they will protect their strategic interests in that part of the region, even if that required hundreds of Vetos just as the US protected its supposed (Israel)interests by slapping a million Vetos at the United Nations ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:19 AM
"Arms distributors are chafing at the strings Saudi Arabia has attached to its weapons transfers to Syrian insurgents"
"...Already there are reports that some rebel arms distributors are chafing at the strings Saudi Arabia has attached to its weapons transfers, while independent Salafi sheikhs and “honorable businessmen” stand ready and willing to support militant groups outside of the FSA’s umbrella. The independent Islamist brigades would be helped considerably if they organized their own umbrella organization to unify their ranks under the banner of jihad. (A new rebel group with moderate Islamist credentials calling itself the “Syrian Revolutionaries Front” tried to do just that earlier this month, though it seems that the effort immediately fizzled.)
If a unified jihadist opposition did manage to challenge the Free Syrian Army’s primacy in the coming months, it could be an ominous indicator of where Syria’s opposition is heading. We could see the Free Syrian Army’s central leadership beginning to placate the Islamists by adopting Islamist rhetoric or institutions such as a sharia council, or Saudi Arabia starting to hedge its support of the FSA by taking meetings with upstart Islamist “emirs.” Either way, it would mean that the jihad is very much on in Syria. It would also mean that the United States had better rethink its hands-off approach to the crisis."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:04 AM
Syria's fractured opposition: "How much longer America’s strategic interests & the Syrian people’s sympathies will remain in sync"
"...If you want to know where the fourteen month-old Syrian revolution against President Bashar al-Assad is headed, the case of Walid al-Boustani provides a useful rubric. Al-Boustani led an ill-fated “Islamic Emirate of Homs” that lasted only a few weeks. Apparently the locals did not appreciate having an “Emir” who kidnapped and murdered their people while claiming to wage jihad against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And so in March 2012 a local brigade of the Free Syrian Army executed the Lebanese-born al-Boustani, amidst accusations that the jihadist was not only a traitor to the Syrian revolution but also, in fact, an agent of the Syrian regime.
The incident is part of a larger clash that has mostly gone overlooked in the Western media—namely, the struggle between Syria’s two main armed opposition groups, groups that represent two radically different visions for Syria’s future. In that way, it’s not enough to simply know—as a recent article in the New York Times pointed out—that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with assistance from the CIA, are funneling arms and cash to certain Syrian rebel groups via intermediaries in Turkey. It’s also important to know that the other rebel groups—those with an Islamist political agenda—that the United States and its allies have decided not to support are distrusted by the Syrian people themselves. Indeed, Washington’s largely hands-off approach to the Syria crisis has so far been greatly assisted by the Syrian public’s broad rejection of the hardcore Islamist rebels. But there’s no telling how much longer America’s strategic interests and the Syrian people’s sympathies will remain in sync. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:56 AM
Monday, June 25, 2012
"... Mitt Romney told donors attending his campaign's Utah retreat that he is briefed on the Middle East by Israeli government officials.About 50 of the 700 donors who attended the retreat this weekend in Park City were Jewish, according to one in attendance.
Many of these attended a breakout session Friday afternoon on the U.S.-Israel relationship, although between half and three quarters of the 100 donors attending the session were not Jewish.
Romney dropped in on the session, and said he had just been briefed by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, speaking about, among other issues, the situation in Syria, the elections in Egypt and the effort to isolate Iran......
Addressing the U.S.-Israel session were William Kristol, a founder of the Emergency Committee for Israel which recently ran ads accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran; Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary, who is Jewish; and Norm Coleman, the former U.S. senator from Minnesota, who is also Jewish.
To attend the retreat, donors either had to have donated $50,000 to the campaign or had to have raised $250,000.
GOP stars such as tactician Karl Rove, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen Jon Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, were in attendance, a sign of a unified front after a rough primaries campaign.
There was kosher food on hand, and a Shabbat dinner for Jewish attendees....."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:07 AM
"Reuters reports that the Flame virus that was apparently produced by the US and Israel, was not limited to simply spying on Iranian activities. It was also able to erase large hunks of data from the infected computers, thus rendering them useless.The code for this virus is now available to Iran and others. The US has probably more of our infrastructure systems linked to the internet — and thus potentially vulnerable to cyber attack — than any other country in the world.
The software is now out there, and we have ostentatiously established the precedent that it can be used in peacetime for essentially political or national security purposes.
If your local power grid goes down, or if your sewage plant blows up, or if your fire department is suddenly rendered incommunicado…will your first thought be: Oh, it’s those Iranians up to no good?
Maybe that possibility should cross your mind.
We have proceeded with sanctions and a virtual blockade of Iran’s oil production — potentially subtracting some 80 percent of Iran’s national revenues (not to mention assassinations and industrial sabotage) — on the unstated assumption that it is a one way street. .
The theory seems to be that we can conduct economic and cyber warfare against Iran as we wish, but they can do nothing to us. Is that really true? What would we think if another state did that to us?
Remember, all the Arab oil production in the Persian Gulf is managed by computers. If a significant percentage of that production were taken off line by computer malfunction, what would the price of gasoline look like? If gasoline should hit $5 a gallon in the peak driving season this summer, would we think that was just fair play in response to the 20-30 percent inflation we have generated in Iran?
We talk about Iran as a huge threat. But we behave as if it were no threat at all. Have we really considered what our reaction would be to retaliation in kind?
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:59 AM
We have, of course, the Syrians, the Russians & the Americans, Iran, Iraq & Turkey, we have some Europeans & some lesser-Europeans, the Saudis & some lesser-Wahhabis on Steroids, the Jordanians & the Israelis, the Libyans, the Tunisians & AQAP/ Yemenis ... all arrayed in Syria.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:08 AM
"... In his most recent statement, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated that Russia opposes any attempt to intervene or level sanctions against Syria. He also exposed the West’s role in purposefully perpetuating violence in order to sabotage peace efforts and create a pretense for NATO-enforced regime change. He warned, “the way the Syrian crisis is resolved will play an important role in the world tomorrow; whether the world will be based on the UN charter, or a place where might makes right.” This after US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice declared the West was prepared to “take actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of this [UN security] council,” to implement regime change in Syria...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:02 AM
On balance, Morsi's victory is the better outcome. It creates the possibility of continued bargaining between the army and the Brotherhood, whose well-organised rank and file remain ready to take to the streets to maintain pressure on the generals. A Shafiq win would have immediately reignited protests and made it easier for the army to crack down in the name of stability.
Morsi's biggest challenges start now. Will he stand up to the army? His claim to represent "all Egyptians" will be tested by how he reaches out to the liberal and independent candidates who fell away in the first presidential round.
Who will he choose as a prime minister? A non-Brotherhood figure – Mohamed ElBaradei is being mooted – could signal pluralism and help deflect heat on the economy. Nervous Copts and women will need reassuring. Not everyone believes the Brotherhood's newfound spirit of inclusiveness: after all, it backed Scaf's transition plan for most of last year and then reneged on its own promises not to field too many candidates for parliament or any for the presidency.
Morsi's victory is not the end of Egypt's turbulent post-revolutionary game. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning."In a curious twist of recent days, Shafiq supporters accused the US of quietly encouraging a Morsi win – as a way of cementing the dominance of Scaf and securing the strategically important peace treaty with Israel.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:09 AM
"... The media, which had long been under the control of the regime, was not far from the Spring winds. During the protests that erupted in early 2011, news websites acted as a barricade that sheltered the people whenever they overstepped the red lines — which they often did. On the other hand, the official and semi-official media outlets were forced to change their positions — at least partially — to lose the stigma of their alleged “collaboration.”The increase in media freedom during the Arab Spring was addressed in a special report issued by the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) in May 2011. According to the report, 15.4% of journalists find that media freedom has increased significantly, compared to the nearly 0% who thought so in previous similar reports.
The recognition of the progress in media freedom was accompanied by an acknowledgement of the key role of the new media, as 83% of the journalists acknowledged this fact despite their previous criticism of the news websites and demands that they adhere to a code of professional conduct....
However, he was not very optimistic about the impact of the Arab Spring on the state-run media outlets, saying “The state media, unlike the new media, has not yet been affected by the spring of revolutions.” Mansour noted that the freedom indices for the state radio and television channel and the official news agency Petra have all dropped, as these institutions are still subject to official censorship.
Mansour praises the decline of self-censorship by journalists, interference of the security apparatuses and frequency of media blackouts, but he is fearful of an emerging trend where media personalities are targeted. The number of physical attacks on members of the media reached a record high during 2011. The report registered 160 violations, ranging from beatings to death threats. This phenomenon is described by Mansour as “thuggery against the media,” which is similar to the “thuggery” practiced against the popular movements.....
When security authorities began to arrest journalists, this bias turned into an alliance. As a result, youth and popular protest demonstrations were launched in various governorates to demand the release of the detained journalists. In June 2011, Alaa al-Fazza, a journalist and publisher for the blog khaberjo.net, was arrested and tried by the State Security Court on charges of opposing the regime. Fazza was also wanted because he was connected to a report about a campaign that demands the reinstatement of Prince Hamzah Bin-al-Hussein as crown prince instead of Prince Hussein Bin-Abdullah. The activists said that they support Fazza to repay their debts to him...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:55 AM
"... Although some Brotherhood leaders have said they will never meet with an Israeli official, they have been careful to say they would not cancel the treaty. Like many other Egyptians, they favor amendments — primarily to allow more Egyptian troops into the Sinai. Israel has already permitted an increase of troops there, demanding that Egypt bring violent extremists under control. Armed gangs are believed to control wide swaths of territory, smugglers have helped thousands of African migrant workers sneak into Israel and various Arab militant groups, operate freely.." (FLC believes that Mursi & co. will not strangle Sinai ops & Gaza as mummified Mubarak did!)
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:48 AM
Davutoglu tweeted: "The plane violated Syrian airspace, then exited, then lost its 'consciousness', then fell in Syrian waters"
Via 'b' of course; (Strong similarities b/w what Ankara said after flotillaincident and Syria jet downing. Not much achieved with Israel)
... Turkish FM Davutoglu: The plane lost its "consciousness" and that's why it fell in Syria's waters.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: There is no any single warning to our plane before the shooting.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Our plane shortly violated Syrian airspace, but not during the shooting time.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: It is possible to violate another state's air space due to weather conditions, or technical things.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Turkish plane violated Syria's air space 15 minutes before the downing of our plane.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Syria is trying connect the "not ill-intentioned violation" to the shooting of the plane. Irrelevant......
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Syria could have asked our intelligence why Turkish plane violated the Syrian air space. It didn't happen.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Syria is saying that "we didn't know it was a Turkish plane." Our data suggests otherwise.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: We detected conversations in Syrian side, suggesting that they knew it was a Turkish plane.....
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Our next step after getting the entire picture was to inform the international community. Talked to 10 FMs last night.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: We will hold our consultations with NATO member states, permanent security council members.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: All countries we talked to expressed their solidarity with Turkey. They found us right......
Turkish FM Davutoglu: There was some data leaks from Syria we describe as "disinformation".....
Turkish FM Davutoglu: There were many violation of Syrian air space by other countries before. But Syria shot down our unarmed plane.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: No country can show courage to test Turkey's patience.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: If Syria has become an element of instability not only towards its people but in the region, we will respond to that....
Turkish FM Davutoglu: We should not link Syrian crisis and downed Turkish fighter jet......
Turkish FM Davutoglu: Iran FM Salihi called me first and said they will do their best regarding downed Syrian jet.
Turkish FM Davutoglu: I told Iranian foreign minister that Turkey expects clear position from Tehran regarding downed Turkish jet by Syria.
MT @MustafaEdib: Strong similarities b/w what #Ankara said after #flotilla incident and Syria jet downing. Not much achieved with #Israel
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:38 AM
Sunday, June 24, 2012
"... As a State Department official commented to us: “World events are not suspended because of our political timetable. We face the need to make decisions on whether to become actively engaged with the armed Syrian opposition and on whether we abandon the negotiating track with Iran. Secretary Clinton is working hard on both issues, but the White House is playing for time.” In these circumstances, our assessment is that US policy will focus on crisis avoidance rather than bringing them to a head. In relation to Iran, this means that the US will continue to rely on tighter sanctions to drive a change of mind in Tehran and will do all it can to dissuade Israel from taking unilateral action. ..."
"...But there was a notable lack of bellicose rhetoric Saturday emanating from both capitals, Ankara and Damascus, underscoring the explosive potential of the incident.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul conceded Saturday that the F-4 Phantom aircraft downed Friday off the Syrian coast, apparently by a surface-to-air missile, may have wandered into Syrian airspace, but he said any such action was not "ill-intentioned" and was not unusual...
Syria's official state news agency reported that air defenses shot the aircraft down when it was less than a mile from the Syrian coast, well within domestic airspace...
But the overall tone of the Turkish response did not suggest that Ankara regarded the incident as a justification for war. Turkish public opinion also seemed muted, though there was some saber-rattling in the Turkish press.....
Among the many unanswered questions was what the U.S.-made jet was doing so close to the Syrian coast, and whether it had strayed there inadvertently or was there for a specific purpose....
The incident did put foreign powers on notice that Syria's Russian-made air defenses remain capable of defending its borders. Washington and other Western nations have so far ruled out a Libya-style intervention in Syria, but Western military planners have been examining the options.
Turkey is hosting both a major Syrian rebel umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army, and several political opposition coalitions, including the best-known faction, the Syrian National Council. But Turkey has denied reports that it is supplying arms to Syrian rebels or facilitating arms transfers."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:49 AM
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Turkey has also allowed the establishment of a command centre in Istanbul which is co-ordinating supply lines in consultation with FSA leaders inside Syria. The centre is believed to be staffed by up to 22 people, most of them Syrian nationals.
The Guardian witnessed the transfer of weapons in early June near the Turkish frontier. Five men dressed in the style of Gulf Arabs arrived in a police station in the border village of Altima in Syria and finalised a transfer from the Turkish town of Reyhanli of around 50 boxes of rifles and ammunition, as well as a large shipment of medicines.The men were treated with deference by local FSA leaders and were carrying large bundles of cash. They also received two prisoners held by rebels, who were allegedly members of the pro-regime militia, the Shabiha.
The influx of weapons has reinvigorated the insurrection in northern Syria, which less than six weeks ago was on the verge of being crushed.....
The plan centres on paying the FSA in either US dollars or euros, meaning their salaries would be restored to their pre-revolution levels, or possibly increased.
The US senator Joe Lieberman, who is actively supporting the Syrian opposition, discussed the issue of FSA salaries during a recent trip to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia...........
The officials, who insisted on anonymity, said the final agreement to move weapons from storage points inside Turkey into rebel hands was hard won, with Ankara first insisting on diplomatic cover from the Arab states and the US.
Turkey is understood to view the weapons supply lines as integral to the protection of its southern border, which is coming under increasing pressure as regime forces edge closer in an attempt to stop the gun-running and attack FSA units...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:52 AM
"... Dennis B. Ross, a former senior White House adviser on Iran, said he believed the negotiations had become a trap, allowing Iran to continue enriching nuclear fuel while the two sides fail to agree on even interim measures to slow the Iranian program. The major powers, he said, should scrap the step-by-step approach in favor of a comprehensive deal that would test Iran’s sincerity, but could also hasten a military confrontation...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:15 AM
"...Senior presidential adviser Arshad Harmozlo said that the early reports were baseless, reiterating the PM’s statements. “We have no confirmation surrounding the Syrian apology or even that Syria has shot down the jet,” he said as cited by Al Arabiya. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:07 AM
"... The aims of those intervening from outside Syria were at odds with the revolutions's songs of dignity and freedom. There was a mismatch between the internal need to overthrow the country's ruling class, described as Alawite, and the desire of some outside the country to both break the Shia crescent – stretching from Beirut to Tehran via Damascus – and rid the Mediterranean of Russia's military presence. Some sought to give the impression that Syria's uprising was a sectarian conflict or made efforts to Islamise or Salafise it. Russia and China, meanwhile, saw an opportunity to shift from a US-dominated unipolar world to a multipolar one. One of the paradoxes of the Syrian uprising for freedom was that it created an opportunity to revive the foreign policy and strengthen the influence of Saudi Arabia...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:00 AM
Friday, June 22, 2012
"... From the vantage point of the House of Saud, none of these scenarios of change is attractive. They all leave a religious and geopolitical enemy intact with considerable power, resources, and potential. Saudi Arabia does not have the ability to destroy Iran. Its lavishly funded military is mainly for show and its effort to get Iraq to do the job back in the eighties failed badly. Israel can hit Iranian targets repeatedly but not with devastating effect. The US of course can but is balking at the undertaking and in any case might not want to create more instability in the region.
Saudi Arabia, then, will likely seek a three-tiered policy of protracted weakening of Iran. First, Iran will be hit by continuing sanctions, by lower oil prices from boosts in Saudi production, and by currency manipulation that makes Iranian imports all the more costly. Second, Iran will continue to be struck by assassinations and bombings and perhaps by periodic air strikes by Israel and the US - perhaps with token participation by planes from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Third, Iran will endure insurgent movements, supported from without, aimed at drawing off resources and threatening the territorial integrity of the country. Specifically, the Kurds in the northwest, the Baluchs in the southeast, and the Arabs in the western province of Khuzestan will be encouraged to resist, rebel, and otherwise oppose the regime and its IRGC enforcers.
Such efforts have been tried before, from Wilhelm Wassmuss's efforts to lead pro-German tribal revolts during World War I to Saddam's efforts to bring the Khuzestani Arabs to the Arab side. None has met with great success.
Again, the Saudis are unable to destroy Iran, nor can they get anyone to do it for them. Protracted weakening of Iran is, however, nearer to its reach and it can make Saudi Arabia the only significant power in the Gulf - one that other Gulf states will fall in line with even more readily than they are today.
The strategy, like any such effort in world affairs, has problems. First, low oil prices from increased Saudi output hurt not only Iran but all oil producers. This is especially true of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, which have doled out immense amounts of oil revenue to keep their populaces content. Generous disbursements of oil revenues constitute a principal basis of state legitimacy, and cutting back on state largesse is not without risks.
Second, states do not always use new power and hegemony wisely. All too often they act foolishly, arrogantly, and belligerently - to the dismay of other states in and out of the region. Saudi Arabia lording over the Gulf might become the newest case in point.
Third, encouraging terrorism and insurgency inside Iran could of course lead to Iranian repayments-in-kind inside Sunni states. All of them have appreciable Shi'ite population; some have Shi'ite majorities. In all cases, the Shi'ites are increasingly restive over lower status and limited opportunities. Minorities on both sides of the conflict may become problematic.
Curiously, Saudi oil reserves are concentrated in a Shi'ite region and Iran's are in an Arab region. Surely, the gods of geology and geopolitics have a sense of mischief."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:11 PM
"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been among the strongest opponents of the Syrian government and its ongoing violent crackdown on dissent. But a recent opinion poll found a majority of Turks are calling for a more neutral approach. It's the latest setback for the Turkish leader over Syria.An opinion poll by the Ankara Social Research Center published this month has found that more than two-thirds of those polled opposed any intervention by Turkey in Syria. The poll also revealed that a majority, even those who support the Turkish prime minister's party, believed Ankara should not take sides in the conflict...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:01 PM
"(Reuters) - At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 wounded on Friday when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession in a crowded Baghdad market, Iraqi police and hospital sources said, in the latest attack targeting Shi'ite Muslims this month.A wave of bombings in June against mainly Shi'ite pilgrims and shrines has killed more than 130 people and fuelled fears that Iraq could slip back into sectarian bloodletting..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:51 AM
"The latest report from Congress said 15,000 US troops are already stationed in the tiny Gulf country.It said more troops are needed to respond to sudden conflicts in the region. Iran, Iraq and the ability to keep oil flowing from Saudi Arabia are major concerns for the world's biggest economy."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:28 AM
"... (Reuters) - Lebanon's Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television station said on Friday that Syrian air defenses shot down a Turkish military aircraft, quoting Syrian security sources."Syrian security sources confirmed to a Manar correspondent in Damascus that Syrian defense forces shot down the Turkish fighter jet," a news flash on the Beirut-based station said...."and,
"...An air force pilot landed his MiG-21 fighter jet at a Jordanian air base Thursday... Jordan granted political asylum to the pilot and planned to debrief him, the government said. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:25 AM
"... U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the Obama administration’s decision not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying the country risked being pushed into an all-out civil war if efforts to secure a smooth political transition fail.“We made a decision not to provide lethal assistance at this point. I know others have made their own decisions,” Panetta said in an interview on Thursday.“But I think it’s very important right now that everybody focus on a smooth and responsible political transition,” he said.“If we don’t get this done in a responsible way, there’s a real danger that the situation there could deteriorate into a terrible civil war.”The defense secretary also said the United States was concerned about the possibility that shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, known as MANPADs, stolen from Libya last year during the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, could make their way to Syria. He cautioned, however, that he had seen no direct intelligence yet to confirm those fears.Panetta also expressed confidence that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles were not at risk...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:20 AM
Thursday, June 21, 2012
'A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.The clandestine intelligence-gathering effort is the most detailed known instance of the limited American support for the military campaign against the Syrian government. It is also part of Washington’s attempt to increase the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has recently escalated his government’s deadly crackdown on civilians and the militias battling his rule. With Russia blocking more aggressive steps against the Assad government, the United States and its allies have instead turned to diplomacy and aiding allied efforts to arm the rebels to force Mr. Assad from power.By helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey hope to learn more about a growing, changing opposition network inside of Syria and to establish new ties. “C.I.A. officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people,” said one Arab intelligence official who is briefed regularly by American counterparts.American officials and retired C.I.A. officials said the administration was also weighing additional assistance to rebels, like providing satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements. The administration is also considering whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service. But no decisions have been made on those measures or even more aggressive steps, like sending C.I.A. officers into Syria itself, they said.The struggle inside Syria has the potential to intensify significantly in coming months as powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters. President Obama and his top aides are seeking to pressure Russia to curb arms shipments like attack helicopters to Syria, its main ally in the Middle East... (Continue, here)"
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:31 AM
"...But beyond downtown Cairo, many Egyptians have no interest in a new revolution. Though acknowledging the SCAF’s poor management of the country and its undemocratic depredations, many Egyptians fear that a new round of demonstrations will catalyze even greater unrest, worsen Egypt’s declining domestic security situation, and further damage its sinking economy. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:59 AM
"... Reuters UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau is treating a rumor peddled by UK's prime minister Cameron as news even after it was proven to be false.
UK Prime Minister Cameron says #Russia's #Putin was explicit in saying he doesn't want #Assad - remaining in power in #Syria - @reuters
3:21 PM - 19 Jun 12
As there have been some ten or so news alerts over the last months, all proven wrong, that the Russian Federation changed its position on Syria, shouldn't a serious journalist first confirm what a lying shit like Cameron says before distributing it?
If confirmed, this is big news #Russia's #Putin no longer backs #Syria's #Assad UK's PM Cameron http://reut.rs/L2oeyV via @reuters
4:02 PM - 19 Jun 12
Yeah, if confirmed, otherwise it is nonsense. So why is Lou Charbonneau distributing it?
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says Cameron remark about #Putin wanting #Syria's Assad out doesn't correspond to reality @reuters
4:29 PM - 19 Jun 12
Which was of course obvious for anyone who has followed the issue. For example for Blake Hounshell, the editor of Foreign Policy
I'm old enough to remember the previous 10 times people have reported that Putin is ready to dump Assad.
5:21 PM - 19 Jun 12
So is this settled now and will Lou Charbonneau backpaddle on his false rumor spreading?
British PM #Cameron says #Putin no longer backs #Syria's #Assadhttp://tinyurl.com/cdoasda
6:05 PM - 19 Jun 12
Lou Charbonneau continues to spread Cameron's lies despite of his obvious knowledge of a clear denial from the Russian Federation. However you might call that, reporting it isn't.
#Russia's Putin reiterates Syrians should decide whether Assad remains in power in #Syria http://tinyurl.com/cbuegbg
6:24 PM - 19 Jun 12
So after even Putin confirms what Lavrov said - no change in Russia's position, does Lou Charbonneau finally get that Cameron obviously lied?
Contradictory signals from G20: UK says #Russia turns on #Syria's #Assad Obama, Putin cast doubt on that http://reut.rs/L2C58n via @reuters
6:53 PM - 19 Jun 12
He didn't get it. Or more likely, he doesn't want to get it. These ain't contradictory signals. Cameron obviously lied about what Putin said. Putin says so as as does Lavrov as does Obama..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:56 AM