Monday, December 30, 2013

Nasr: 'Applaude a Turkish-Iranian rapprochement: It could rid us of Assad & Hezbollah'!

"... If Iran does conclude a long-term nuclear deal with the West, it still cannot expect a warm welcome from the Sunni Arab world. With the region divided by a widening sectarian rift, the Persian Gulf monarchies will become only more fretful about Iran’s regional ambitions. That makes Turkey potentially a key strategic partner for Iran, especially if its economy starts to grow as sanctions are relaxed.With American influence in the region in decline, and with Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies finding themselves united in their opposition to Iran, Turkey could find itself playing a central role thanks to its links with Iran. A new Turkish-Iranian partnership could be a welcome development for the West: Turkey’s economic ties could boost Iran’s commercial development, which would help consolidate the political position of the moderates in Tehran. The real gains would come if a closer relationship with Turkey began to erode the alliance of militias and radical religious forces on which Iran has relied to project its influence.
To play this enlarged regional role, though, Turkey must first reassure the West that it will remain a trusted NATO ally and not demonize Western allies as a way of managing political dissent at home. However Mr. Erdogan’s domestic difficulties fall out, Turkey has an opportunity to restore its international standing. It will have to show that it is not simply an advocate for Iran, but has used its influence
to shift Iran’s foreign policy and facilitate a permanent nuclear deal."

"Expect more of this as various little countries seek to demonstrate their domination of American policy"

"... Sleiman, whose term expires May 25, defended the kingdom against accusations made by Hezbollah that Saudi intelligence was behind the Nov. 19 Iranian Embassy bombing in Beirut...."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

France begs for contracts with Saudia, while accusing Riadh of arming al Qaeda in Syria!

Le Figaro:
"... Mais si les deux pays convergent sur l’objectif, des différences apparaissent sur les moyens d’y parvenir. Alors que l’Arabie saoudite se déclare favorable à des livraisons d’armes aux rebelles - y compris aux islamistes qui viennent de s'emparer du QG de l’Armée syrienne libre (ASL) - la France elle est beaucoup plus réticente, accusant même parfois mezza voce Ryad de jouer « un double jeu », en aidant tout à la fois les modérés de l’ASL et les radicaux salafistes qui ont le vent en poupe en Syrie. A qui sont destinés les 15 000 missiles antichars que Ryad compte acquérir auprès des Etats-Unis, si ce n’est aux rebelles syriens, constatent un tantinet inquiets certains observateurs du conflit syrien ? L’Arabie vient en effet de rappeler qu’avec ou sans appui extérieur, elle agirait en Syrie. Au Liban, qui subit de plein fouet les conséquences de la guerre chez son voisin, comme l’atteste encore l’assassinat vendredi d’un proche du leader sunnite Saad Hariri, les deux partenaires militent pour que cesse le vide institutionnel – absence de gouvernement depuis six mois. A cette fin, Paris et Ryad entendent renforcer les capacités d’action de l’armée libanaise. D’où la décision prise par l’Arabie - qui sera annoncée au cours de la visite - de financer la fourniture par la France d’un « important soutien » matériel aux forces armées libanaises (FAL), les seules à maintenir un semblant d’unité dans un pays où la fracture confessionnelle se creuse en raison de l’implication du Hezbollah chiite aux côtés de Damas et des radicaux sunnites auprès des rebelles syriens. Le chef de l’Etat français a d’ores et déjà pris contact avec le président de la République libanaise Michel Sleiman pour « définir » les besoins des FAL..."

Saudi Arabia pledges $3bn to Lebanese President to get an extension in office & help destroy Hezbollah!

... and Michel Sleiman rushes to accept the money and the task!
"... The Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia may be seeking to bolster the army as a counterbalance to Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah, a Shia armed group and political party backed by regional Shia power Iran..."

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Iraq's all out war against Syria's 'rebels'

"... Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki has been a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and reports suggested that his government was facilitating the transfer of Iranian arms to Syria...“Photographs and intelligence information indicate that whenever there is pressure on armed groups in Syria, they withdraw to Iraq... to regroup and then carry out terrorist operations in the two countries,” Askari said..."

Egypt declares the Muslim Brotherhood group & its organization as a terrorist organization

"... CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's military-backed interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, a dramatic escalation that gives authorities more power in cracking down on them.Hossam Eissa, the Minister of Higher Education, read out the Cabinet statement after long meeting on Wednesday.
Eissa said: "The Cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood group and its organization as a terrorist organization."..."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Few are still harping that Assad has many friends

"... The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad has received substantial imports of Iraqi crude oil from an Egyptian port in the last nine months, shipping and payments documents show, part of an under-the-radar trade that has kept his military running despite Western sanctions..."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

'In effect, effect, Israel will have a second Hizbollah on its border.."

"... On 3 November, after the recapture of Safira by Syrian forces, I wrote that, “Things aren’t going too well for the Syrian rebels. Not only that, the Syrian army is evolving into something far more dangerous to its enemies than the conventional 60s era Soviet model army it once was. It is also gaining experience in joint operations with Hizbollah, the Quds Force and Iraqi Shia volunteers.” At that time I felt that victory for the Assad regime was all but a sure bet. Now Jeff White, writing for WINEP, comes to that conclusion as well, but with noticeably less certainty and enthusiasm than I.I feel the primary reason for the Assad regime’s rosier prognosis is the transformation that has occurred in the Syrian armed forces over the last two years. The results of this transformation can be seen in a Press TV documentary on the Battle of Al Qusayr. Watch the video and pay attention to the narration. Yes, it’s a propaganda piece, but the information is there to see and hear. See how the Syrian army planned for the methodical encirclement and reduction of the rebel forces. They successfully penetrated the rebels communications system and determined their locations before seizing the key terrain piece that dominated the entire area. They quickly adjusted their plans to take advantage of developing situations. They made effective use of combined arms tactics and supporting fires. They conserved their forces for future operations. And they worked effectively with Hizbollah infantry and local militias. That’s coalition warfare. That's an adaptive, modern military force with effective combat leadership at all levels
The only game changer mentioned by Jeff White that I feel could have brought the regime down was a direct, full blown R2P intervention by the US that would have destroyed Syrian air assets, command and control mechanisms and probably major combat forces. That kind of attack would not have gotten rid of Assad, but it would have made the transformation of the Syrian armed forces moot. In exchange for giving up his chemical weapons (more of a strategic deterrent force than a tactical asset), Assad conserved his developing forces and freedom of action. According to Rick Francona, who I knew for years at DIA, Syria may get previously contracted Yak-130 and MiG-29M2 aircraft from Russia in exchange for agreeing to give up the chemical weapons. This would provide a significant upgrade to Syrian air to ground capability to complement their developing ground forces. They are in it for the long haul.
A month ago I predicted that there will be much greater interoperability and trust between Hizbollah and Syrian forces along Israel's northern border in the future. I see Syrian forces, or at least a sizable portion of those forces, gaining the capability and the intent to defend Syria in a similar way that Hizbollah defends Lebanon. It won't be an offensive force capable of overrunning Israel, but it will make Israeli military action against Syria more difficult and costly. In effect, Israel will have a second Hizbollah on its border. Freeing the Golan Heights could become a rallying cry for this new force further complicating Israeli calculations.'

Friday, December 20, 2013

AIPAC/ WINEP change of heart: 'Assad regime will probably win'

"... "The war could indeed have a military outcome, and in light of current trends, that outcome could be a regime victory. The outlines of a regime strategy for winning the war are visible. This strategy hinges on the staying power of the regime and its allies, the generation of adequate forces, operational success, and continued divisions within rebel forces. It is subject to serious constraints, especially limitations on the size and effectiveness of regime and associated forces, and "game changers" could alter its course. But a regime victory is possible -- and that is what the regime is counting on."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Epitome of Irony: 'Al Qaedaesque group "refuses to meet with US Officials"!'

"... The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned Arabic language news service, that the leadership of the Islamic Front had refused to meet with U.S. officials, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door to such negotiations.“The Islamic Front has refused to sit with us without giving any reason,” Ford said in Arabic. “We are ready to sit with them because we talk to all parties and political groups in Syria.”
More, here, on how US officials  view the Islamic Front as the generic brand of al Qaeda.

Read more here:

"President Obama can’t make sound & effective Mideast policy by disregarding on-the-ground reality"

"... How it compares to other conflicts:  In Syria, it’s not really a Sunni-Shite divide; it’s more a divide between those who want to live in a nominally secular state and those who want to live in a Sunni Islamist state.  In Libya, there was certainly an Islamist element in the opposition to Gadhafi, but you don’t really have the kind of sectarian divide in Libya or Egypt that you do in Syria.The geopolitical context of the Syrian conflict is also different. Syria, in the end, is more geopolitically important than, say, Libya or Yemen.  That’s one reason the Assad regime has enjoyed more international support than Gadhafi did in Libya.  The United States was able to get a UN Security Council resolution authorizing an intervention in Libya in March 2011.  Russia and China abstained on that resolution, letting it go through, but both came to believe that the United States and its partners have abused this resolution.  Moscow and Beijing quickly concluded that letting the Libya resolution through had been a mistake—a mistake they were determined not to repeat where Syria is concerned.  
Where the United States stands:  It was extremely foolish for Obama to say in August 2011 that “Assad must go,” because it means that the United States cannot be serious about conflict resolution in Syria.  Likewise, it was foolish for Obama to draw his “red line” about chemical weapons use during his reelection campaign.  So when chemical weapons were used in Syria in August this year, Obama was trapped by his own rhetoric.  He said he would use force, but of course, the UN Security Council wouldn’t endorse it.  The Arab League, NATO and the British Parliament wouldn’t endorse it.  And it soon became apparent that, because of public opposition, even Congress wasn’t going to endorse it.  Since then, the US has really not had a coherent Syria policy. Supporting the opposition has failed.  Only a diplomatic resolution, which the United States can’t seriously support because of Obama’s August 2011 remarks, will work. 
What Happens Next:  Assad will continue to strengthen his position on the ground.  But as long as Saudi money and weapons get to the opposition groups, they will be able to continue a campaign—and so the violence will go on.  The only way out is diplomacy aimed at a political settlement between Assad and the opposition.  Until the Obama administration is willing to walk back from some of the positions it has taken regarding Assad and is willing to push allies like Saudi Arabia to halt the flow of weapons to oppositionists, it will be difficult to get a serious political process going.  In the absence of a serious political process, the violence could go on for a very long time."

Fmr. NSC Iran Expert, Gary Sick: "That is what we tried to do in Iraq. It is called occupation!"

"... In fact, the enforcement of the objectives of this bill would require a permanent US presence in the decision-making process of the Iranian government, because there is no way to insure that someone in Iran is not plotting to build a nuclear weapon except to be omnipresent.That is what we tried to do in Iraq. It is called occupation, and it is achieved not by negotiation but by war..."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Al-Qaeda leader in Syria: "It's only a matter of days,”

"... In his first-ever televised interview, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, ruled out peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad and warned that Arab states should be cautious of the recent improvement of Iran-US ties.“The battle is almost over, we have covered about 70 percent of it, and what's left is small. We will achieve victory soon. We pray to God to culminate these efforts with victory. It's only a matter of days,” he said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera’s Tayseer Allouni from an undisclosed location in Syria..."

US Officials: 'Saudi 'alternative' to al Qaeda in Syria is, well, run by, ... al Qaeda'

 The Long War Journal
"... US officials point out, however, that al Qaeda's senior leadership was clever enough to place multiple bets within the Syrian insurgency.In late November, Ahrar al Sham was one of several groups that announced the formation of a new Islamic Front, which has been billed as an Islamist or jihadist alternative to al Qaeda. But al Qaeda's presence within Ahrar al Sham ensures that it maintains some degree of influence within the new coalition, the US officials point out.Ahrar al Sham holds some of the Islamic Front's key positions ..."

Egypt's Morsi charged with 'terrorist acts'

"... In a statement, the prosecutor said that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had committed acts of violence and terrorism in Egypt and prepared a "terrorist plan" that included an alliance with the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah..."

مقابلة خاصة: السفير السوري لدى الصين الدكتور عماد مصطفي

Full, here 
"... وفيما يتعلق بمؤتمر السلام الدولي حول سوريا المقرر انعقاده في 22 يناير المقبل بجنيف، أكد السفير السوري أنه يعتقد أن أهم ما يجب أن يتمخض عن المؤتمر هو كيف تتفق جميع أطراف البيت السوري وكل الدول الإقليمية والعالمية على مكافحة خطر الإرهاب في سوريا، وأي شي غير ذلك لا قيمة له إذا لم يتفق على وضع حد لتدفق الجماعات الإرهابية على سوريا، علما بأن هناك إرهابيين من أكثر 80 دولة يقاتلون حاليا هناك، ومعظمهم يتدفقون إلى سوريا عبر الحدود التركية، فعلى تركيا وغيرها من الدول الإقليمية أن تغلق حدودها في وجه هولاء الإرهابيين. وعلى نفس القدر من الأهمية ، يجب على الدول التي ترعى الفكر الإسلامي المتشدد لهذه الجماعات الإرهابية أن تتوقف عن الضخ الإعلامي والسياسي والديني المؤيد لها، ولا تصورها كأنها جماعات تقاتل من أجل الحرية، مشيرا إلي إن السيناريو الذي يحدث في سوريا اليوم مناف تماما للعقل والمنطق، فهناك دولة إسلامية متشددة لا توجد لديها أدنى مقومات الديمقراطية تدعم جماعات إرهابية ظلامية بحجة أنها تقاتل من أجل الحرية والديمقراطية. ..."

"Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go"

"... "Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue," said one senior member of the Coalition who is close to officials from Saudi Arabia..."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

STATE: The US 'open to engage group "dangerously close to al Qaeda"

"... As the moderate faction of the Syrian rebellion implodes under the strain of vicious infighting and diminished resources, the United States is increasingly looking to hardline Islamists in its efforts to gain leverage in Syria's civil war. ...On Monday, the State Department confirmed its openness to engaging with the Islamic Front following the group's seizure of a Free Syrian Army headquarters last week containing U.S.-supplied small arms and food. "We wouldn't rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday. "We can engage with the Islamic Front, of course, because they're not designated terrorists ...  We're always open to meeting with a wide range of opposition groups. Obviously, it may make sense to do so at some point soon, and if we have something to announce, we will."...
Soon after its creation, the Islamic Front signed a charter that made it clear the group aimed to create a Sunni theocracy, not a Western-style democracy. The document rejected the prospect of any sort of representative government, arguing that in Islam, only "God is the sovereign." It explicitly rejects secularism as "contradictory to Islam," and argues that Syria's ethnic and religious minorities can be protected on the basis of Islamic law.
Some of the comments from the Islamic Front's top leaders support the contention that the group's ideology comes dangerously close to that of al Qaeda ..."

Monday, December 16, 2013

'Not acceptable hegemony' vs. 'desirable hegemony'

"...  Mr. Obama has his problems, the prince said, but when a country has strong allies, “you should be able to give them the assurance that what you say is going to be what you do.” The prince no longer has any official position but has lately been providing the public expression of internal Saudi views with clear approval from the Saudi government.The Saudis have been particularly shaken by Mr. Obama’s refusal to intervene forcefully in the Syrian civil war ... Prince Turki and Israeli officials have argued that the agreement merely legitimized Mr. Assad, and on Sunday, the prince called the world’s failure to stop the conflict in Syria “almost a criminal negligence.”... Saudi unhappiness with Iran’s growing power in the region is no secret, and the Saudis, who themselves engage with Iran, have no problem with the United States trying to do the same, the prince said. But he complained that bilateral talks between Iranian and American officials had been kept secret from American allies, sowing further mistrust.The prince said Iran must give up its ambitions for a nuclear weapons program — Iran says its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes — and stop using its own troops and those of Shiite allies like the Lebanese organization Hezbollah to fight in neighboring countries, like Syria and Iraq. “The game of hegemony toward the Arab countries is not acceptable  (Here 'hegemony is NOT acceptable), ” the prince said. Just as Arabs will not dress as Westerners do, he said, “we won’t accept to wear Iranian clothes, either.”... A prevalent theme at the conference was the waning of American influence in the Middle East. Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said: “Today we live in a zero-polar, or a-polar, world. No one power or group of powers can solve all the problems.” ... , he said, “it creates a certain vacuum” (Here hegemony is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE, nay, DESIRABLE)  that has allowed Russia “to make a comeback on the world scene” and has encouraged France to intervene in the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali....A former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Itamar Rabinovich, said that after Mr. Obama declined to strike Syria, neither Israel nor Iran believed any longer that he might use military force against Iran..."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"The West’s favoured faction is on the run, while the Riyadh-backed rebels steadily gain ground"

"... The final bankruptcy of American and British policy in Syria came 10 days ago as Islamic Front, a Saudi-backed Sunni jihadi group, overran the headquarters of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey. The FSA, along with the Syrian National Coalition, groups that the United States and Britain have been pretending for years are at the heart of Syrian military and political opposition, has been discredited. The remaining FSA fighters are in flight, have changed sides, or are devoting all their efforts to surviving the onslaught from jihadi or al-Qa’ida-linked brigades.... 
Confusion over what is happening is so great that Western leaders may not pay as much of a political price at home as they should for the failure of their Syrian policy. But it is worth recalling that the Syrian National Coalition and the FSA are the same people for whom the US and UK almost went to war in August, and saw as candidates to replace Assad in power in Damascus. The recent debacle shows how right public opinion in both countries was to reject military intervention.Who are the winners in the new situation? One is Assad because the opposition to him – which started as a popular uprising against a cruel, corrupt and oppressive dictatorship in 2011 – has become a fragmented movement dominated by al-Qa’ida umbrella organisation the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil); the other al-Qa’ida franchisee, the al-Nusra Front; and the Islamic Front, consisting of six or seven large rebel military formations numbering an estimated 50,000 fighters, whose uniting factor is Saudi money and an extreme Sunni ideology similar to Saudi Arabia’s version of Islam..."

Fabius: "Assad "has a lot of faults, he is not an idiot"

"...He said that while President Assad "has a lot of faults, he is not an idiot" and that France "can't see why he would hand over all his powers"."As for the opposition that we support, it is in great difficulty," he added.
France was one of the first countries to give its backing to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main military force opposed to Mr Assad, and to the political opposition umbrella movement the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) (lately overtaken, beat & kicked out of Syria by the Saudi supported Islamic Front). ..."

'Premature conclusions'

'Secretary of State Kerry continues to direct his priorities to Iran and the Middle East Peace Process. Some senior figures in the foreign policy community believe that he should be paying more attention to China and general East Asian issues, but officials close to Kerry speak confidently of the progress they feel they are making over Iran. After determined lobbying by the White House and State Department, it appears that both the Senate and House will postpone action on new sanctions against Iran, at least until the new year and most likely for the full six months of the follow up negations with Tehran to secure a final agreement. In the meantime, enforcement by the US Treasury of existing sanctions continues, with US corporations hoping to trade with Iran being warned not to draw premature conclusions. With regard to the peace process, despite Kerry’s further meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, much less optimism exists among State Department officials. They see Kerry’s engagement in this issue as the necessary complement to the Iran track, but very much doubt whether much progress will be made. In contrast to the cautious optimism being felt on Iran, Administration officials are deeply concerned over Syria. In the light of intelligence warnings about the shortcomings of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, there has been little surprise about the advances being made by the more militant Islamist groups. Nonetheless, US policy now faces an urgent dilemma over how to configure the Geneva II conference scheduled for January 22nd.  Action there may further complicate relations with Moscow – which are already being strained by events in Ukraine where, once again, the Administration sees President Putin as acting with a heavy hand. Turning to Asia, where Kerry is currently visiting, the familiar conflicting pulls in US policy – exemplified in the recent near collision between US and Chinese naval vessels in the South China Sea –   remain on display. At next week’s round of the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Beijing, US officials will be aiming at further relaxations on US-China trade and investment, but will also be contending with pressures on currency and visas for US journalists. The fact that both Beijing and Washington share a joint interest in calming the current uncertainty in North Korea will help ease differences on other aspects.'

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saudi owned Lebanese rag: 'Mideast Christians are amnesic!'

"... The Christian presence in this part of the world is the common denominator of this rhetorical offensive. One problem is that these political and religious figures want people to believe there is a single community, “the Christians,” that is being singled out for persecution and oppression. They talk about the targeting and destruction of churches and other holy places, while conveniently forgetting the many mosques and Muslim places of pilgrimage that have been attacked or destroyed in recent years in Arab countries. They could, for example, remember that two mosques in Tripoli were the sites of two of Lebanon’s most horrific terror attacks in recent memory..."

Carnegie/ 2014': "Regional & internal dynamics continue to shift in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor!"

"... Syria will continue to dominate the news in 2014 with the persistence of a devastating war of attrition that neither side can win or lose given the current state of affairs. If convened, the planned peace conference known as Geneva II will not result in agreement over a transitional government able to guide Syria into a new phase. And regional and internal dynamics will continue to shift in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor as international concern builds over the growing role of Islamic extremist groups in the opposition. One huge challenge will be an increasingly unsustainable refugee problem, not only on the humanitarian level—over a third of the Syrian population is already internally or externally displaced—but also in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan that are hosting refugee populations equivalent to more than 20 percent of their own populations.The monarchies of the Arab world—both rich and poor—are not immune to the challenges facing the rest of the region. But they have mostly not experienced the same turmoil that the republics have. The rich monarchies of the Gulf have attempted to stem the tide of uprisings through financial means (and in the case of Bahrain, through security measures). The poor countries of Morocco and Jordan have used the legitimacy of their leaders to attempt a largely cosmetic “reform from above” process to keep the governments ahead of the street.... Saudi Arabia has attempted to insulate itself and the Gulf Arab states from the region’s transformative forces through the timeworn policies of subsidies, cosmetic reforms, and, in the case of Bahrain, military intervention. Beyond the Gulf, Riyadh has sought to check the regional rise of both the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian influence, pursuing an increasingly assertive foreign policy that is simultaneously counterrevolutionary (such as offering financial aid to the military-backed government in Egypt) and pro-revolutionary (such as providing military support to anti-Assad rebels in Syria). Its position on both countries opened up a widening chasm in its relations with the United States over regional order that was crystallized when Washington and other world powers concluded an interim deal with Tehran that would temporarily freeze key parts of the Iranian nuclear program. Saudi Arabia claimed that the United States had betrayed it by keeping it in the dark regarding the Iranian deal and threatened to pursue a more unilateral foreign policy. In reality, however, Riyadh has few options but to follow in the broad wake of U.S. policy in the Middle East and is unlikely to follow through on its threats.... 2014 could prove to be a decisive year for Iran, both internally and with regard to its relations with the outside world. While the interim nuclear agreement was groundbreaking, the United States and Iran appear to have a fundamental mismatch in expectations regarding a comprehensive deal. Both the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress expect Tehran to make even greater nuclear compromises, while Iran’s hardliners feel they have already gone far enough and expect Congress to lift all sanctions imposed on the country.It also remains to be seen whether a nuclear détente with Tehran can foster significant U.S.-Iran cooperation on regional issues. As of yet, there are few tangible signs that Tehran is preparing to modify long-standing revolutionary principles, such as resistance to the United States and rejection of Israel’s existence. In this context, a fundamental shift in those Iranian policies that are problematic to both regional countries and the United States, such as support for the Assad regime in Syria or for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, is unlikely....2014 will almost certainly witness the failure of negotiations seeking a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict..."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Syria's CWs: ''Improvised' devices used against civilians & soldiers and delivered via 'catapults'"

[NPR] "... Their final report confirms some earlier allegations, citing "clear and convincing evidence" that the weapons were used against children and other civilians in Ghouta, near Damascus in August, and "credible information" that they were used against soldiers and civilians in Khan Al Asal in March.Other findings were less certain, with the inspectors saying that there were signs of "probable use" of chemical weapons, or that the evidence was inconclusive.
The U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs posted the 82-page final report of the inspections team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons today. It cites evidence that includes the results of tests conducted on samples taken from buildings in the area, as well as photographs of spent munitions.
Some of the devices appear to have been improvised, as was their delivery. One section describes munitions being dropped from a helicopter; another says a type of catapult was used..."

"Why Is Saudia Buying 15,000 U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles for a War It Will Never Fight (nor win)?

"... But while the latest American anti-tank weapons might not be showing up in Aleppo anytime soon, that doesn't mean the deal is totally disconnected from Saudi efforts to arm the Syrian rebels. What may be happening, analysts say, is that the Saudis are sending their stockpiles of anti-tank weapons bought from elsewhere to Syria and are purchasing U.S. missiles to replenish their own stockpiles. "I would speculate that with an order of this size, the Saudis were flushing their current stocks in the direction of the opposition and replacing them with new munitions," said Charles Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia..."

"Assad win may be Syria's best option": ex-CIA chief

"... But Michael Hayden, the retired US Air Force general who until 2009 was head of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a rebel win was not one of the three possible outcomes he foresees for the conflict.
"Option three is Assad wins," Hayden told the annual Jamestown Foundation conference of terror experts.
"And I must tell you at the moment, as ugly as it sounds, I'm kind of trending toward option three as the best out of three very, very ugly possible outcomes," he said...."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Alakazam' says Washington to Riyadh: You wanna play dangerously solo on Iran & Syria?

9/11 Link To Saudi Arabia
"... "I was absolutely shocked by what I read," Jones told International Business Times. "What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me. I cannot go into it any more than that. I had to sign an oath that what I read had to remain confidential. But the information I read disappointed me greatly."The public may soon also get to see these secret documents. Last week, Jones and Lynch introduced a resolution that urges President Obama to declassify the 28 pages, which were originally classified by President George W. Bush. It has never been fully explained why the pages were blacked out, but President Bush stated in 2003 that releasing the pages would violate national security.
While neither Jones nor Lynch would say just what is in the document, some of the information has leaked out over the years. A multitude of sources tell IBTimes, and numerous press reports over the years in Newsweek, the New York Times, CBS News and other media confirm, that the 28 pages in fact clearly portray that the Saudi government had at the very least an indirect role in supporting the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attack..."

Turkey following in the US/UK footsteps

"... Turkey has temporarily closed crossings to and from Syria along its border due to fighting between opposition groups inside Syria, the Turkish Commerce and Customs Ministry said Wednesday. The announcement came shortly after the United States and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. Syrian National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi called the move "a temporary measure to sort out the situation in northern Syria," where the Free Syrian Army lost a weapons depot to the (Saudi propelled)  Islamic Front in fighting in recent days..."

"Making Iran into a country that makes oriental rugs"

"...IMO we are facing a similarly motivated conception of what should happen to Iran.  What I mean is that just as the Morgenthau Plan was motivated by Han Morgenthau's hatred, fear and desire for vengeance towards Germany, Bibi's hatred fear, and paranoia directed towards Iran is seeking to drive US and European policy towards a goal of making Iran into a country that makes oriental rugs just as Morgenthau wanted Germany to be a country that made cuckoo clocks and strudel. ..."

Free Syrian Army: "Saudia is funding a conspiracy against the Syrian people!"

"... Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The ongoing struggle within the ranks of Syria’s rebels escalated this week as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) accused the newly formed Islamic Front of carrying out a raid on its bases and warehouses near the Turkish border.In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior FSA Supreme Military Council official speaking anonymously accused the Islamic Front, a new coalition comprised of seven major Islamist rebel groups fighting in Syria, of carrying out a “complete coup” against the FSA’s Chiefs of Staff, headed by General Salim Idris.
He added that the Islamic Front, which some analysts believe now represents the strongest unified rebel force on the ground in Syria, is operating with the support of “some regional countries.”...
FSA spokesman Luay Al-Miqdad told Reuters that the Islamic Front had replaced the FSA flag over the base with one of their own.
The senior FSA officer described what happened as a “conspiracy against the Syrian people being funded by known states.”..."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"As far as Riyadh is concerned, a failed state ruled by Sunni extremists seems preferable to an Iran-friendly regime in Syria"

"... The fact that some sides aren’t playing ball — or at least not by the agreed upon rules, most notably the Saudis, who have opted to create their very own “Islamic Front” team — throws a spanner into the works. This new Saudi-backed Islamic Front is a fusion of Salafist jihadist Islamist groups, not as extreme in Ideology as al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) or Jabhat al-Nusra, but nevertheless by no means mainstream like the FSA. It openly calls for Islamic Sharia rule instead of secular democracy, and was even implicated in sectarian war crimes like the Latakia province incidents documented by Human Rights Watch....It is this sort of cannibalization of the moderate FSA that has alarm bells ringing in Western capitals. Pretty soon there won’t actually be any FSA, at least not in terms of actual physical presence. To make matters worse, what was left of the FSA in the northeast of Syria, namely in the al-Qaeda-dominated al-Raqqa province, has disintegrated....
And so begins the race, even against allies, to put together a workable solution that can be implemented in Syria. It is a given that many fighting factions, most notably the extremist Islamist militants, won’t abide by any such agreements, and will therefore become the future enemy of a “new Syria,” should one be agreed upon by the various players.
In the frantic buildup and diplomatic arm-twisting before Geneva II, it seems the main priority is to get everyone on board with tackling the imminent al-Qaeda menace, which friend and foe alike admit is now the biggest threat to their interests and to regional and global stability.
Neither the Americans nor the Russians nor their respective allies want to see Syria turned into a launching pad for a global jihadist movement. The nervousness is particularly acute in Europe, some of whose own citizens have joined the ranks of al-Qaeda in Syria. The blowback from those radicalized militants returning home has even prompted some to send high-level security officials to Damascus.
The Saudis' overt backing and funding of the Islamic Front seems specifically geared toward scuttling any such deal. In terms of Saudi calculations, curbing Iranian influence in the Middle East is their number-one strategic goal. As far as Riyadh is concerned, a failed state ruled by Sunni extremists seems preferable to the existence of any Iran-friendly regime in Syria. But despite deploying its cards via the Islamic Front, it remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia will actively defy an US attempt to form an anti-al-Qaeda coalition in Syria..."

Israeli-Saudi lobby: 'it's all America's fault'

WSJ of course.
"... "Salim Idris, the top Syrian rebel commander supported by the West, was run out of his headquarters in northern Syria over the weekend and fled to Turkey and then Doha after Islamist fighters took over facilities run by Western-backed opposition, U.S. officials said Wednesday.The Obama administration is still trying to determine the circumstances under which Islamist fighters in a group (supported by Saudia) called the Islamic Front took over warehouses and offices belonged to the Supreme Military Council, or SMC, the moderate rebel umbrella group that coordinates U.S. aid distribution, officials said.
"He fled as a result of the Islamic Front taking over his headquarters," a senior U.S. official said.
The U.S. is urging Gen. Idris, who left Syria for Turkey then Doha over the weekend, to return to Syria, the officials said.
Two senior officials said the warehouses that were taken over by the Islamic Front appeared to contain a range of lethal and non-lethal equipment....
The warehouses also housed American-supplied trucks and communications gear.
Officials said the takeover of the facilities by the Islamic Front was the latest sign that the Western-backed opposition was weakening while religious opponents of the regime gain strength."
"He fled as a result of the Islamic Front taking over his headquarters," a senior U.S. official said.The U.S. is urging Gen. Idris, who left Syria for Turkey then Doha over the weekend, to return to Syria, the officials said.Two senior officials said the warehouses that were taken over by the Islamic Front appeared to contain a range of lethal and non-lethal equipment.... The warehouses also housed American-supplied trucks and communications gear.Officials said the takeover of the facilities by the Islamic Front was the latest sign that the Western-backed opposition was weakening while religious opponents of the regime gain strength."

AIPAC worries about Saudia!

"... This dynamic likely means that America’s uneasy ally, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will soon become a target for Iran, because while the al Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the Iranian embassy blast in Beirut, it is difficult to believe that Iran and Hezbollah will not retaliate against Saudi Arabia,.." (Schenker, aka. the most idiotic of the Winep villains, is telling us that his buddies, in that huge illegal settlment called israel, are about to target their saudi friends in order to further stoke the fires of sedition...)

CSM: "Turkey is indiscrinately arming & supporting al Qaeda in Syria'"

"... One Western diplomat expressed doubt that the Turkish government was fully cooperating with Western efforts to staunch the flow of fighters. "We are still experiencing operational difficulties, although we have seen signs that it is improving. As to whether a ‘shift’ ever occurred, that is still an open question,” the diplomat says.Analysts and journalists familiar with the situation say Turkey has long been facilitating the arming and support of these groups by third parties as part of a policy of indiscriminately assisting rebels groups fighting in the Syrian civil war regardless of ideology..."

"Saudia Loses Battle for Damascus"

"...  Syrian army and Hezbollah sources insist that Damascus is no longer in the danger zone, and the Saudi plan to shift the balance of forces on the ground in the opposition’s favor has ended in failure..."

'Consistent with the letter and spirit of Geneva?'

"... Champions of new sanctions dismiss these concerns. “We consistently hear about how we have to worry about the hard-liners in Iran. And it seems that the Iranians get to play good cop-bad cop,” Sen. Menendez recently said, but “we can’t.” Menendez contends that new sanctions legislation “strengthens the administration’s hand” in negotiations by conveying to Iran “[t]his is what’s coming if you don’t strike a deal … . But if we strike a deal, those sanctions will never go into effect.”
But imagine if the situation were reversed.
Suppose the Majles, Iran’s legislature, passed legislation tomorrow, over Rouhani’s objections, declaring that Iran would resume and escalate its nuclear activities in six months’ time if Washington failed to live up to its Geneva commitments and agree to a final deal that fully respects Iran’s nuclear rights....
Suppose further that when asked by an Iranian reporter whether this legislation risked undercutting diplomacy, speaker of the Majles Ali Larijani pooh-poohed the notion, assuring the media that this in no way violates the terms agreed to in Geneva. After all, Larjani would say, “Iran is doing nothing now. We are simply creating a sword of Damocles as leverage to ensure the Americans live up to their end of the bargain and accept a final agreement that respects Iran’s red lines.”
How would U.S. lawmakers view such a move? Would they see it as consistent with the letter and spirit of Geneva?..."

US & UK suspend non-lethal aid into Syria

 Al Jazeera English
"... The United States has suspended all non-lethal assistance into northern Syria after Islamic Front forces seized headquarters and warehouses belonging to the opposition's Supreme Military Council (SMC), a US embassy spokesman in Ankara has said..."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“Yes, as the Americans did to the Indians.”

"... “You want to transfer an entire population,” MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) said.Committee chairwoman MK Miri Regev (Likud) responded, “Yes, as the Americans did to the Indians.”

From Syria's 'aspiring Paul Bremmer' (aka. Fred Hof)

Hof forgets that he mostly resembles a disposable wipe than an aspiring 'regent'!
"... Ryan Crocker is no friend of the Assad regime. He is an unsentimental foreign policy realist. He seems to have come to the conclusion that the regime has prevailed over the United States and the West, and it is now time to sue for terms. Gone, if not entirely forgotten, is the talk about Assad stepping aside and red lines not to be crossed. Replacing it is a hoped-for Geneva conference at which an otherwise victorious regime is being asked to memorize a script mandating its exit...If therefore, the United States were to open direct communication with the regime, the one thing it might usefully say that could save lives and perhaps even set the stage for a civil exchange at Geneva would be something like the following: "WE WANT the massed fire terror attacks and starvation sieges on populated areas to cease forthwith. WE WANT the United Nations to be granted absolutely unrestricted access for its humanitarian relief operations everywhere in Syria. WE DEMAND that these two steps be implemented right now. If they are not, WE RESERVE THE RIGHT, at a time of our choosing, TO DESTROY those military systems..." (that's HOW Hof talks to a regime that has prevailed against the most incredible odds!)

'Saudi desperation'

"... Omani Foreign Minister Youssef bin Alawi surprised the audience when he bluntly declared that his country is against the union and will withdraw from the new body unless it sees the light. Oman had previously expressed its rejection of the Saudi proposal in 2011 but the minister’s recent statement came at Saudi Arabia’s worst moment, when both international and regional power shifts are increasingly eroding the Saudi position. Alawi’s statement shattered the illusion of cooperation and the chances of Gulf unity at a time when Saudi Arabia is desperate to regain its stature, at least among its Gulf neighbors.The direct language of the Omani minister is not something that Saudi Arabia is used to, especially coming from its close partners in the GCC. The statement added insult to injury after it transpired that Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman facilitated a secret dialogue between the United States and Iran that culminated in the recent Geneva agreement, which is resented by Saudi Arabia. For a long time, Oman resisted following the confrontational Saudi position with Iran or other Arab countries that Saudi Arabia deemed threatening, such as Syria. It is not known to have openly interfered in the internal affairs of other neighbors, supported dissident groups or exported ideology abroad. Oman remains a solid ally of Western powers that can be relied on at times of crisis. Its apparent neutrality is driven by its own internal history, culture and engagement with the outside world..."

'Insufficient Hotel rooms'

UN eyes Montreux for Syria peace conference

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oxford Analytica: "The US shares Hezbollah's fear of a united islamist front in Syria ..."

"... They may have a shared interest in confronting Syrian fundamentalist groups, who now dominate the anti-Assad rebellion."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Seymour Hersh: "A deliberate manipulation of intelligence on Syria!"

"... Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.... He cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ Obama’s certainty was echoed at the time by Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, who told the New York Times: ‘No one with whom I’ve spoken doubts the intelligence’ directly linking Assad and his regime to the sarin attacks.
But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days – 20 and 21 August – there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public..."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"And we are all al-Qaeda ... (Thank You Erdogan!)"

"... The man in charge of the safe house near Reyhanli told the BBC's Richard Galpin that "more than 150 people stayed at the house" in the past 90 days.
"Between 15 and 20 were British. It's all done through invitations from friends".
He added that jihadists usually "stay for a day or two before crossing into Syria and stay on the way back when they are waiting for flights back to their home countries".
One such fighter from France told our correspondent that "there are thousands of us, literally from every corner of the world".
"And we are all al-Qaeda," he added..."

'Let Israel & Saudia fret: We accept the Islamic republic, they accept the regional status quo!'

"... In their heyday, neoconservatives boasted that while anyone could go to Baghdad, real men hankered to go to Tehran. But as a venue for displaying American power, Baghdad proved a bust. In Tehran lies the possibility of finding a way out of perpetual war. Although by no means guaranteed, the basis for a deal exists: We accept the Islamic republic, they accept the regional status quo. They get survival, we get a chance to repair self-inflicted wounds. It’s the same bargain that Nixon offered Mao: Keep your revolution at home, and we’ll make our peace with it. Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program provide the medium for achieving this larger end.Any such deal would surely annoy Saudi Arabia and Israel, each for its own reasons committed to casting Iran as an existential threat. Obama just might choose to let them fret..."

'Renewed action in the Senate in favor of tougher sanctions, has White House officials worried'

'...  To turn to Iran, White House officials are relieved that Obama’s calls to Saudi King Abdullah and Netanyahu together with Secretary of State Kerry's visit to Israel are showing sign of winning the Administration a limited amount of time and space to negotiate a robust final stage agreement with Tehran. US-Israeli relations have recovered some of their usual warmth. Renewed action in the Senate in favor of tougher sanctions, however, has White House officials worried. Finally, on Afghanistan a “dual debate” is in process, first with Afghan President Karzai regarding the bilateral security agreement from which the expectations are extremely modest, and second between the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the size and mission of any residual US military presence. The latter are arguing for something broader than desired by the former.'

'Vive La Revolution!'

"... An activist from Raqqa, who has moved to the north-western province of Idlib, blamed the Western-backed Free Syrian Army rebel fighters for allowing the jihadis to take over."All the FSA cared for was stealing and accumulating money. From the first day of Raqqa's liberation they left it to the Islamic State," he said...."

The Syrian 'opposition': "war crimes, thuggery, kidnapping, torture, subservience to foreign intelligence services, deception, religious bigotry"

The Angry Arab News Service
"... Let me reiterate: I know of no opposition movement--not even the Ba`th--which has committed more war crimes, thuggery, kidnapping, torture, subservience to foreign intelligence services, deception, religious bigotry BEFORE reaching power than this Syrian exile opposition..."

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Israel's Kill List = Scuttling the Iran deal!"

Foreign Policy"... According to his Aman file, Lakkis was active in the radical Shiite movement since age 19, enlisting shortly after it was established. He had a certain amount of technical education at a Lebanese university, but most of his skills were acquired from his experience in developing and manufacturing weaponry. Almost from the outset he was the top procurement officer and coordinator with Iran on these matters. Thanks to his efforts, Hezbollah became the most powerful terrorist organization ever with "firepower that 90 percent of the countries in the world do not have," according to Dagan.
As early as the mid-1990s, there were Aman officers who marked Lakkis as a potential target, believing that he should be eliminated. But Hezbollah was not a preferred target at the time and was considered more of a nuisance than a strategic threat. By the time that this changed in the 2000s, he was already taking extreme precautions to protect himself....
The formula was a success. In the summer of 2006, Israel lost its war with Hezbollah, thanks, in part, to fortifications equipped with advanced gear like communications, command-and-control systems, and night-vision optics -- all of which Lakkis played an important role in acquiring. In effect, it was Israel, the strongest military force in the Middle East, that was badly defeated, failing to achieve any of the goals it had set itself.
On July 20, 2006, the Israelis tried to take Lakkis out with a rocket fired from an F-16 fighter at his apartment in Beirut, but he wasn't home and his son was killed...., ..., ...,
Hezbollah was quick to point the finger at Israel; Israel was quick to deny the attack. If indeed the assassins belong to some elite intelligence organization, by now they are most likely to be out of Lebanon, away from Hezbollah's grasp. But this tactical success -- if you can call it that -- is not necessarily a strategic one in the Middle Eastern political arena.
To play assassin is to challenge history outright. Some hit jobs proved effective in changing reality, but not all changed it in the manner the perpetrators had hoped for. Take the 1992 assassination of Hezbollah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi. Retaliation attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets after his death cost dozens of lives, and the more radical and more effective Hassan Nasrallah took over as the organization's leader..."

"A flagrant act of sabotage!"

"A monumental battle is shaping up in the United States Senate over the issue of new draconian sanctions against Iran.  The House of Representatives has already passed a sanctions bill that would effectively shut down all remaining Iranian oil exports.  A paralllel bill in the Senate has been so-far held back from a vote, but a bipartisan group of Senators, all under heavy AIPAC influence, are now vowing to ram through the sanctions bill regardless of the impact on the interim deal signed last month between the P5+1 and Iran.  The White House is arguing, with considerable merit, that any new sanctions--even if delayed for the six month period of the interim agreement--would be seen as an act of bad faith and would likely guarantee that no final deal between the world powers and Iran would be feasible.
The Obama Administration has launched a serious effort to make the case that the Senate should refrain from such a flagrant act of sabotage.   The National Security Council this week issued a 25-page paper to journalists showing broad bipartisan support for the deal with Iran.  Unfortunately, the document only cited 17 Members of Congress who publicly backed the Administration.  A second 19-page document was subsequently issued, showing broad international support for the negotiations with Iran.  On Dec. 5, Wendy Sherman, Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs gave a classified briefing to every available Member of Congress.  Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in the Middle East to drum up support for the Iran negotiations, issued a video statement to Congress.AIPAC has announced that passage of new Iran sanctions is their current number one legislative priority.  Recently 76 Senators wrote to President Obama demanding a tougher stance with Iran.  And a bipartisan group of senior Senators, including Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Bob Corker (R-Ten.) have vowed to push the sanctions through the Senate, either as a self-standing bill or an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).Corker was just in Saudi Arabia, where he was feted by Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, the head of Saudi Intelligence and the King's National Security Council.  Bandar delayed his scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with President Putin to dedicate five hours to Corker, who also met with the Crown Prince, the Minister of Justice and the Head of the National Guard.  He will no doubt return to Washington zealous to drive through the Iran sanctions.
The case for new sanctions was undercut by the fact that the French government already stepped in to strengthen the terms of the interim agreement by insisting that all construction had to be halted at the site of the heavy water reactor at Arak.  
The very same AIPAC and neo-conservative Senators and Congressmen who lauded the French (President Hollande was given a hero's welcome in Israel by Prime Minister Netanyahu after the French stalled the signing of the interim deal) for tightening the terms of the agreement are now the ones screaming the loudest that the deal--complete with the French revised language--is a sell-out to Tehran.  Logic and truthfulness were never AIPAC's strong suits.
While President Obama is crashing in the polls, largely over the problems with Obamacare, the sequestration and the high unemployment, his foreign policy team, led by Secretary Kerry--not Susan Rice--is adament that Congress must stay out of the sensitive negotiating process.  Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has the power to block the sanctions from coming to a vote.  But Reid himself is not immune to AIPAC's powerful checkbook, if the past is any prologue.  Hardliners in Tehran would love to see the deal go down the tubes as the result of American sabotage rather than their own intransigence.Between now and January 7, 2014, the Senate is scheduled to be in session for exactly six days.  The battle over Iran sanctions, what some astute observers have described as "AIPAC's Waterloo," may spill over into the New Year.  But sooner or later, as the final status talks progress and Iran demonstrates whether or not it will fully comply with the interim deal, the issue will come to a head."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"A Hezbollah response is not long in coming"

"... But there are indications that Israel may have miscalculated on this last point. The way Hezbollah announced the martyrdom of Laqqis, and the speed with which he was buried in unexceptional circumstances – without, for example, any positions declared by Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah – all suggest to those who know how the Resistance operates that in fact its response is not long in coming...."