"... The killings come amid a surge in violence that has left more than 600 people dead this month ..."
Friday, November 29, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
"... Added to the mix is the fact that criminality and radical Islamism gradually are intermingling in the suburbs of major cities and in poor peripheral villages. Over time, the emergence of a so-called islamo-gangsterism could contribute to the rise of groups blending jihadism and organised crime within contraband networks operating at the borders – or, worse, to active cooperation between cartels and jihadis..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:20 AM
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
This man, just like Pollard and many others before and after him, spied on America!
"... A big-shot Hollywood producer who for decades was working as an Israeli spy and arms dealer has defended his actions and said it was 'exciting' being his country's 'James Bond.'Arnon Milchan, 68, who's famous for smash hit movies including 'Fight Club' and 'Pretty Woman,' spoke openly for the first time about his espionage work in an Israeli TV special that aired Monday night.The program reveals Milchan, at the special request of his friend Shimon Peres, who is now the country's president' set up and operated some 30 companies in 17 countries that helped Israel obtain parts and plans for its nuclear project in the 1980s. He brokered deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the show..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:14 AM
Monday, November 25, 2013
"... For all the focus on the nuclear program, the crux of the matter is not a technical, arms control issue so much as it is a geopolitical, strategic one, namely Iran’s role and status in the region. That is where the greatest challenges long-term lie, and it is where potential spoilers are most abundant, whether in Israel, the Gulf, ...Europe, the U.S. and, of course, Iran itself...."
"... All those engaged in the Syria process therefore are waiting to see if Saudi Arabia will continue on its current course, or if it will change direction. Some do see prospects of such a change (simply because Saudi current policies are so clearly damaging for Saudi Arabia itself), but equally, all are keenly aware of the leadership void in the kingdom, and of the deep fear amongst the al-Saud that their claimed leadership of the Islamic world is slipping from their grasp, leaving them with only a diminished and somewhat tarnished legitimacy of happening to be the rulers of the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. And it is not very probable that any new prospective Saudi direction will have occurred in time for a November Geneva II.”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:08 AM
"... This new ethos is as well being reinforced by new dynamics. The government feels tangibly the slide of international politics in its direction (including by the US): European intelligence services (German, French and British) have resumed their relations with Damascus. Other European states are quietly discussing the re-opening of their embassies; some Gulf states are informally expressing to their Syrian opposite numbers their disenchantment with GCC (notably Saudi) policy towards Syria, and the majority of regional states now seem to favor a political solution. Egyptians too privately indicate that they sense a greater common interest with Syria, than with their patron, Saudi Arabia, but the politics of the Egyptian situation does not allow for a free expression of such sentiments. In Damascus, however, there can be little doubt but that the tide of their diplomatic isolation has turned..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:00 AM
Some American officials are telling it like it is!
"... says R. Nicholas Burns, the former under secretary of state for policy who organized the first sanctions against Iran during the Bush administration. “No good negotiator is going to give that up, and Barack Obama and John Kerry are smart negotiators. But it’s in the American national interest to try to make this negotiation work. If it’s not in the Israeli interest or the Saudi interest, so be it.” ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:19 AM
Sunday, November 24, 2013
IMO, appeasement IS NOT when the US tries the 'Iran pivot' to dedicate treasure & effort to the East Asian theater ...
appeasement IS when the US appoints Zionist hawks (at STATE) to deal with the question of Palestine, resigning to the fact that not much can be done at this time, so might as well throw a bone to the rabid rulers in Tel Aviv ...
appeasement IS when the US appoints Zionist hawks (at STATE) to deal with the question of Palestine, resigning to the fact that not much can be done at this time, so might as well throw a bone to the rabid rulers in Tel Aviv ...
"... While it was welcomed in many world capitals, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said: "What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake." He warned that Israel still had all options on the table.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, disagreed with Netanyahu's appraisal, saying that Isreal had been made safer by the deal. "I believe that from this day, for the next six months, Israel is in fact safer than it was yesterday.."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:15 PM
"... Unfortunately, Egyptian government, which was established after the military coup, decided to send our ambassador back to Turkey and we reciprocated in the same way. As I said yesterday in my press conference, this type of crisis is temporary, but Turkish-Egyptian friendship is permanent until the end of history. Turkey will be siding with the Egyptian people and whatever the Egyptian people decide Turkey will respect. Whoever is acting against the will of the Egyptian people, Turkey will be against them..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:07 PM
"... Iran, agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, a level that would be sufficient for energy production but that would require further enrichment for bomb-making. To make good on that pledge, Iran will dismantle links between networks of centrifuges.Its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a short hop from weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes. Iran agreed that it would not install any new centrifuges, start up any that are not already operating or build new enrichment facilities.
The agreement, however, does not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, or to dismantle any of its existing centrifuges.
The accord was a disappointment for Israel..."
"... “We have pursued intensive diplomacy – bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5+1 partners: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union,” Obama said from the White House Saturday. “Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
Al-Monitor learned that Burns was in Geneva during the second round of nuclear talks between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, UK, France, Russia, China) plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran held here November 7-9, and subsequently learned additional details about the bilateral channel, but agreed to hold the story at the administration’s request until the conclusion of the third round of nuclear talks that ended here in a breakthrough tonight....At the third round, of P5+1 Iran nuclear negotiations. Both times, he did not stay at the main diplomatic hotel, the Intercontinental, where many of the negotiations have taken place, but at another site, the US official said..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:22 AM
Saturday, November 23, 2013
'Army-of-Islam's' Zahran Alloush: "I have operationally met with Sheikh Usama Bin Laden, Prince Bandar & US Ambassador Robert Ford"
Zahran Alloush (Leader of the Islam Army - Islam Brigade) and as per The Guardian:"... Alloush recently held talks with Bandar along with Saudi businessmen who are financing individual rebel brigades under the JAI's banner. Other discreet coordinating meetings in Turkey have involved the Qatari foreign minister, Khaled al-Attiyeh, AND the US envoy to Syria, Robert Ford..."Zahran Alloush as per the video above:"I was honored to have met Usama Bin Laden, may he RIP, and the Islam Brigade & Al Nusra are one & only ..."
'The hemorrhage to President Obama's political standing as a result of the troubled healthcare reform launch is showing few signs of being staunched. Added to this, the already rancorous relationship between the two political parties on Capitol Hill took a further turn for the worse following the adoption of new majority voting rules in the Senate that will ease this and future Administration's ability to obtain the judicial and executive appointments it wants. As a result, what minimal residue of good will that existed between the parties has evaporated. The spillover on domestic policy will, in the words of a White House political adviser to whom we spoke, be “ugly.” Foreign policy will not be spared. On any issue on which cooperation with the Senate is required – relief on Iran sanctions, the draft post-2014 security pact with Afghanistan, major trade agreements like the Transpacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment, and others – Republicans will be intent on making life difficult for the Administration. Without a Congressional grant of trade promotion authority, commercial deals become very difficult to finalize. Traditionally, when the going gets tough on the home front, US presidents have turned to opportunities overseas where they are less constrained politically. We do not sense that Obama will follow this path. White House contacts tell us that, while Obama would respond to any international crises with the necessary engagement, his main focus will be to fix health care – where his legacy is invested – and to reform immigration where he believes he can wrong foot the Republicans. Consequently, Secretary of State Kerry will have to carry the major burden of foreign policy, albeit on a tight leash from White House officials unwilling to allow him to take any steps that might endanger Obama's domestic agenda. Further, Obama's engagement will be episodic and crisis-driven. This means that the scope for bold foreign policy breakthroughs is very limited. Foreign observers of US foreign policy should expect no more than incremental changes. We have mentioned above some of the short-term challenges faced by the Administration that will now become more difficult, but for the longer-term the most important implication may be on relations with China. If a strong counterbalance from the Administration is absent – a not unlikely scenario – the the existing dynamics – for example, those represented by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission – in military, cyber, and trade circles calling for a less accommodating approach may turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy.'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:14 PM
".. With a positive track record on Syria and Iran, our two countries will be in a much better position to reconcile their differences on issues such as missile defense, new steps in nuclear arms reductions, and other regional crises..."
Friday, November 22, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
MEPGS: Excerpts from November 21 'brief':
"Events are moving quickly as representatives of the P5+ 1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) engage at the end of this week in crucial talks with Iran. At stake is not only what not only top Administration officials, but also Iranian representatives, call the best chance in years for an initial agreement on the course of Iran’s nuclear development program. The focus is directly on an interim deal that would, in the view of the P-5+ 1, freeze or at least slow down Iran’s dash towards nuclear weapons capability – in exchange for short term easing of international economic sanctions on Teheran. However, the stakes are much greater than whether this round of talks is a success.When they met last month, by all accounts, Secretary of State Kerry was close to inking a deal with his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Zarif. However, at the last minute the deal fell through, with most observers blaming the French for scuttling the accord. According to well-informed sources, the French, were indeed, miffed at being sidelined and ... after a lengthy phone conversation between President Obama and French President Hollande, both sides say, to quote one well-informed observer, “ We are now on the same page.”
Yet, even as this tortuous diplomacy played out, there were other actors clamoring to be heard. Most outspoken was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu..., ..., ..., Another party also demanding to be heard is the US Congress.... the intense lobbying by Administration officials from the President on down, has – for a time – succeeded in gaining a respite (on sanctions) – at least until the beginning of December. Perhaps those with the most at stake, the Gulf countries, while not as outspoken in public, have made it clear privately to US officials, their unhappiness with the prospect of a deal with Iran. However, unlike Congress, which has a mainly political stake in the outcome or Israel, which possesses a military that can theoretically act on its own, the Gulf states have nowhere else to turn, other than to the US for protection from an aggressive Iran, particularly one that is a proverbial “screw driver away” from assembling a nuclear weapon. Moreover, the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, have complaints about US Middle East policy that go beyond Iran’s nuclear intentions. These days it focuses on Syria -- where the last minute deal brokered by Russia that prevented an American military strike on Syria – left the top leadership in Riyadh incensed. So much so, that quite uncharacteristically, the Saudis have “gone public” with their disenchantment. Led by Prince Bandar, the Kingdom’s key player on Syria, the Saudis have let it be known that they believe the strategic nature of the longstanding US-Saudi relationship is under review. While American officials scoff at the notion that the Saudis have any alternative, it has not prevented them, Bandar in particular, from trying to chart an independent course, where possible. It has also led, at least in one instance to a very un-Saudi like snub. On his last trip to Riyadh, according to informed sources, Kerry’s scheduled meeting with Bandar was abruptly cancelled at the very last moment. [Although this action, like many of Bandar’s recent actions and those of his generation of Princes, is being seen by US analysts as indicative of the infighting now going on as the last of the sons of Abdul Aziz – the Kingdom’s Founder – fade from the scene].
As those aggrieved with US policy have maneuvered for leverage, recently all have turned to Russia. Over the past few months, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Israel [Netanyahu is now in Moscow lobbying Vladimir Putin on the Iranian threat] have struck up talks with the one time Super Power. Referring to this unlikely trio working the Russians, one US State Department official sighed, “What an extreme example of the enemy of my enemy is, well, not exactly but close to being my friend’.” This official went on to say that there is a real shared interest among this threesome which goes beyond Iran and directly to the heart of US policymaking. The Israelis as well as the Saudis believe that the Obama Administration has badly mishandled the consequences of the “Arab Spring”, particularly in its handling of the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt. The Israelis fear their profound hostility to the Jewish state. The Saudis see them as fascists. And the Egyptian military see them as direct threat to their primacy at home. For those reasons, US analysts expect Saudi money to keep pouring into Egypt; Israeli spare parts finding their way to the Egyptian military, should the US cut them off and the Egyptian military itself willing to go to any lengths necessary to prevent its reemergence or even large demonstrations on its behalf."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:13 PM
... but of course, the 'source' is a Gulfie!
"... Alors que les discussions sur le nucléaire sont entrés ce jeudi à Genève dans le vif du sujet entre Iraniens et représentants des grandes puissances, d’autres négociations se sont tenues ces dernières semaines, mais secrètement cette fois entre diplomates américains et iraniens.
Elles portent sur quatre sujets, révèle au Figaro une source dans le Golfe : l’Afghanistan, l’Irak, la Syrie et comment relancer les affaires entre Téhéran et Washington, après la signature d'un accord sur le nucléaire ?
Selon cette source, les Iraniens ont des discussions directes avec des diplomates américains aux Etats-Unis depuis l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies fin septembre, au cours de laquelle Barack Obama avait téléphoné à Hassan Rohani, le nouveau président modéré de l’Iran.
Le chef de la diplomatie iranienne « Javad Zarif est resté dix jours au Etats-Unis après l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU », souligne cette source. « Et 75 personnes accompagnaient Rohani à New York, dont de très nombreux industriels de la filière Pétrole et Gaz qui ont rencontré alors des représentants de Chevron ou Exxon ».
Sur l’Afghanistan, les Américains demandent aux Iraniens de faciliter le retrait de leurs troupes à partir de 2014, « en sécurisant les zones frontalières où Téhéran dispose de relais". « Les positions ne seraient plus trop éloignées », selon cette source.
A propos de l’Irak, Américains et Iraniens souhaitent « consolider le pouvoir en place et éviter l’éclatement » du pays. Les Américains se félicitent qu’après avoir exercé de fortes pressions sur le premier ministre irakien Nouri el-Maliki, ce dernier a durci la surveillance des vols en provenance de l’Iran qui acheminent des armes à Bachar el-Assad en Syrie.
Les pourparlers sont en revanche plus difficiles sur le conflit syrien. « C’est la carte de négociation, le joker que les Iraniens lâcheront au dernier moment », souligne la source. Mais leur allié, Assad, ayant repris du poil de la bête, Téhéran ne devrait pas le sacrifier de sitôt, alors qu’aucune alternative crédible n’a surgi jusqu'à présent. Et ce d’autant plus qu’à Téhéran, le dossier syrien est géré par les gardiens de la révolution, et non par Hassan Rohani, des pasdarans beaucoup moins enclins aux concessions en Syrie.
Quant aux discussions sur une reprise des affaires entre le « Grand satan » et la République islamique d’Iran, les choses pourraient aller vite, avec à court terme l’ouverture d’une chambre de commerce américano iranienne à Téhéran par un Iranien longtemps exilé aux Etats-Unis. « Les Iraniens auraient promis une centaine de milliards de dollars d’affaires aux sociétés américaines », affirme notre source. Boeing notamment lorgne le très lucratif marché des dizaines d’avions d’Iran Air à remplacer. General Motors est également à l’affut depuis plusieurs mois...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:54 AM
McClatchy: 'Western Intel agency tipped off Iran & Hezbollah that Saudi al Qaeda organiser was coordinating Beirut attack'
"...A Western intelligence agency gave Lebanese government authorities audio evidence that al Qaida-style militants were planning attacks on targets related to Hezbollah over the last two weeks, but the warnings, which were passed to Hezbollah, failed to prevent the bombing Tuesday of the Iranian Embassy, which killed more than 20 people.The warning, which tracks similar cautions from American intelligence to the Lebanese government first reported by McClatchy in July, was first reported by the Lebanese newspaper al Safir. Lebanese and Western intelligence officials confirmed the report.
The report did not identify the Western intelligence agency, but it said that audio the agency gave to the Lebanese government caught a Saudi organizer with links to al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula attempting to coordinate an attack with a local militant group, the Abdullah Azzam ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:44 AM
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
"I heard that Kerry DARED to disagree with the Israeli prime minister, ...I hope he'll come out of this alright "
"... "I heard that [US Secretary of State John] Kerry dared to disagree with the Israeli prime minister," Olmert said. "Poor guy. I hope he'll come out of this alright."..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:04 PM
Anxiety in the House of Saud: "The US is irreplaceable when it comes to providing the kind of protection the Saudis seeks"
"... The Saudi regime's anxiety over Shia unrest has an external aspect as well: due to its obsessive fear of Iran -- against which it is waging a complex battle to shape the Middle East -- Riyadh regards its Shia minority as something of a fifth column. While this assessment is a gross oversimplification, and may even amount to a self-fulfilling prophecy, the more the rivalry with Iran heats up, the more the Saudi rulers cling to it and act accordingly, alienating the Shia and aggravating the problem. As the Saudi regime sees it, Iran's support for Bashar al-Assad's Alawite regime and Tehran's alliance with Nouri al-Maliki's Shia-dominated state in Iraq is not just about influence in the Arab world; it's also a high-stakes struggle involving stability at home and in the Kingdom's immediate neighborhood.
On top of all this, the Saudi rulers are losing confidence in the United States, their strategic guardian in the region. As they see it, the Obama administration has: 1) all but abandoned the anti-Assad opposition, unlike Saudi Arabia, which is funneling arms and money to Assad's foes; 2) failed to back Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in his hour of need;.........
These too are oversimplifications -- the notion that the United States could have stopped the revolutionary waves of the Arab Spring had it wanted to is silly -- but that's beside the point: it's the Saudi government's view and helps explains its anxiety. Some top Saudi leaders -- including current intelligence chief and former ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan -- have even advocated reducing the Kingdom's dependence on the U.S. and seeking alternative alignments. Here's the problem: the United States is irreplaceable when it comes to providing the kind of protection the House of Saud seeks and has long depended on, which also means that Washington's capacity to create anxiety in Saudi ruling circles is unrivalled.
For Saudi Arabia, the old cliches appears to ring true: money can't buy everything, and in Riyadh's case, it certainly can't secure long-term happiness."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:47 PM
The Angry Arab News Service
"... This chart is from the book "Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979" by Thomas Hegghammer. I was reading this book and came across this important chart: notice that contrary to public perceptions, the decline of Saudi support for Palestinians (and most of that are taxes levied on Palestinians working in Saudi Arabia, by the way), started long before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and coincided with the launch of the American-Saudi project of Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan against the communist government and its Soviet backers."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:20 AM
"... "I need Bashar [al-Assad] to last for two more years," said the businessman. "It would be a disaster if the regime fell now: we would split into mini-states that would fight among each other. We'll be massacring each other – tribes, Islamists and battalions."Maybe if the regime lasts for a few more years we can agree on the shape of the new Syria. At least then we might end up with three states rather than 10," he said. Meanwhile, the killings and massacres will continue, until sectarian cleansing has been carried out in all of Syria's cities and regions, he added..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:11 AM
"... The battalion that the three men were part of was once the darling of the rebels' foreign backers: Qatari royalty, Saudi preachers and Kuwaiti MPs all donated money and funnelled weapons to them. The businessman regularly met Turkish military intelligence officers on the border who safeguarded his arms shipments from Mediterranean ports... The businessman came to Istanbul the next day and drove to a large hotel for a conference of centre-right Islamists who had gathered to express support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The lobby was filled with preachers and religious dignitaries from around the Arab world, Syrian rebel commanders, and a group of Kuwaiti politicians. On one side, a Sudanese man in extravagant headgear held court. Further on, an Emirati sheikh chatted amiably with an Iraqi MP wanted on charges of terrorism. The mix felt like the crowd in the Star Wars bar.In the midst of this, in walked the businessman. He was wearing the same cheap trainers he had been wearing in Syria, khaki trousers and a T-shirt, and struggled to keep a straight face as he walked between the small circles of men speaking in grandiose terms about the glory of Islam, western conspiracies and the Syrian tragedy.
"We kept telling them: if you keep supporting the jihadis you will destroy the revolution. That Kuwaiti MP who now talks of moderation was the same one who sent the money to the jihadis." ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:07 AM
Monday, November 18, 2013
The only aggression Israel will attempt is against the United States' sovereign decision making, and that will be fruitless!
"... We don't need permission from anyone -- we are an independent state," Amidror said. "We have our own sovereignty. If Israel is in a position in which Israel must defend itself, Israel will do it." Military experts have long doubted that Israel has the know-how or weaponry to carry out such a strike without the assistance of the United States, but Amidror's comments come at a delicate time as the Obama administration seeks to both secure a nuclear deal with Iran while at the same time protecting its flanks both among its allies abroad and its enemies in Congress..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:26 AM
"... Both Mr Barzani and Mr Erdogan have very clear motives in embracing each other in this almost surreal public display of mutual affection.
Mr Erdogan was essentially electioneering, in a long-term bid to become Turkey’s next president. He needs all the help he can get. Simply put, Mr Erdogan needs as many Kurds as possible not to vote for his opponents in the Peace and Democracy Party in 2014 local elections...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:38 AM
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Bandar’s 'skewed' vision for Lebanon: "Promoting Samir Geagea, the commander of a savage Maronite Christian militia, to be the next president of the country"
"... So weirdly skewed is Bandar’s vision of Lebanon at this point that for a while he promoted Samir Geagea, the former commander of a savage Maronite Christian militia, to be the next president of the country. Other warlords who’ve worked with Bandar complain they can no longer get the Saudi intelligence chief on the phone. He supposedly disappears for days at a time. Saudi King Abdullah, it’s said in Beirut, doesn’t even want the word “Lebanon” spoken in his presence..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:04 PM
"... Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed in a deal that could be signed in Geneva this week...Both sides are now prepared to go much further. The Sunni kingdom is as alarmed as Israel by the nuclear ambitions of the Shi’ite-dominated Iran."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:05 AM
WaPo: "all of the foreign fighters contributing to al-Qaeda’s strength in northern Syria traveled there via Turkey,"
"... For more than a year, Turkey turned a blind eye as thousands of foreign volunteers from across the Muslim world streamed through the country en route to fight alongside Syria’s rebels, perhaps calculating that the fighters would help accelerate President Bashar al-Assad’s demise.Now the extremists whose ranks the foreigners swelled are gaining ascendancy across northern Syria, putting al-Qaeda on NATO’s borders for the first time, raising fears of cross-border attacks and exposing how terribly Turkey’s efforts to bring about Assad’s removal have gone awry.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, Assad is showing every sign that he will ride out the revolt and perhaps remain in power for years, sustained in part by Western alarm at the rise of the extremists. The United States has served notice that it has no intention of intervening militarily, and Turkey, once the most vocal proponent of action to oust Assad, has been left to confront the consequences of what appears to have been a grave policy miscalculation.
“This was not the outcome Turkey wanted,” acknowledged a Turkish official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the subject of Syria is so sensitive.
Critics say Turkey has only itself to blame for a state of affairs that Turkish authorities appear, at least indirectly, to have encouraged...Almost all of the foreign fighters contributing to al-Qaeda’s strength in northern Syria traveled there via Turkey, flying into Istanbul and transferring to domestic commercial flights for the trip to the border. With their untrimmed beards and their backpacks, the foreigners are often conspicuous in the sedate, Western-oriented towns of southern Turkey....
Some opposition politicians have accused the Turkish government of going further than simply tolerating the traffic, saying that it also has helped transport, train and arm the foreign fighters....Foreign fighters captured by Kurds have claimed that they were trained in Turkish camps and that Turkish instructors teach at rebel camps in Syria, according to Saleh Muslim, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the biggest Kurdish faction in Syria....
Turkey also may not have minded that the foreigners appeared to be contributing to the effort to oust Assad, said Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Turkey believed so firmly that Assad would fall and the good guys would take over they did not see a problem with allowing anyone and everyone to go and fight,” he said. “But the entire premise is now coming to fruition.”
The realization that both Assad and the jihadists may endure is prompting what one analyst familiar with government thinking called “adjustments” to Turkey’s policy. Ankara is not going to drop its insistence that Assad must go, he said, but it is exploring more nuanced ways to pursue the objective.
Erdogan has softened his once-colorful anti-Assad rhetoric, denounced the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups active in Syria and reached out to some former friends who had been alienated by his staunch support for the Syrian opposition, including Iraq and Iran...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:47 AM
Saturday, November 16, 2013
"... A confluence of factors has increasingly hampered the opposition's war effort in the north.The rebels have been crippled by infighting since the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant aggressively pushed into rebel-held areas of the north this year. Fighters from the extremist group, most of them foreigners, have clashed repeatedly with more moderate rebel brigades, leaving scores dead on both sides.Rebel groups, particularly the Islamic State but more mainstream factions as well, also have been engaged in a brutal side conflict with Syria's Kurdish minority, which has a large presence in the northeast and parts of Aleppo province...At the same time, the flow of weapons and ammunition from across the border in neighboring Turkey to fighters inside Syria has slowed to a trickle, rebels say, as Ankara has grown increasingly concerned about the prominent role of Islamic extremists."Support from the military council of Aleppo and its suburbs has stopped completely," said Abu Thabet, referring to the rebel body that coordinates the weapons flow from Turkey to rebel battalions doing the fighting.
"This has all stopped," he said. "I'm on the ground, I really don't know what's going on with Turkey or the council, all I know is that we're not getting anything."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:41 PM
Al Jazeera English
"... Six world powers and Iran are getting close to a first-stage agreement to curb the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme, a senior US official has said.The official told reporters in Washington on Friday that it was "quite possible" a deal could be reached when the parties meet on November 21-22 in Geneva, according to the Reuters news agency, which did not name the official.
"I don't know if we will reach an agreement. I think it is quite possible that we can, but there are still tough issues to negotiate," said the official..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:29 PM
"... In the past, Israel routinely assumed that Hezbollah was in control of all activity in southern Lebanon. In this case, though, a rival organization , which belongs to an extremist front that is trying to topple Assad - hoped to spark a clash between the IDF and Hezbollah..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:24 PM
"...Hezbollah itself is changing accordingly. Until 2006, the organization focused on firing rockets at Israeli civilian targets, deploying defensively in villages in southern Lebanon and blocking possible IDF access routes there by means of ambushes utilizing antitank missiles and explosive devices. The war in Syria has afforded Hezbollah an opportunity to upgrade its capabilities to initiate more precise attacks. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:19 PM
'Before turning to foreign affairs, it is worth noting that as a result of the bungled rollout of health reform – now acknowledged by the White House – the Administration is facing what some of its friends call a crisis of confidence. This will inevitably impact the conduct of foreign affairs, particularly in any area where cooperation with the Congress is required. A key case in point is Iran where if the November 20thnext round of P5+1 talks produces an agreement, some form of Congressional approval will be required, especially if sanctions are to be eased. Given that the Administration’s key foreign policy focus remains on the immediate problems of the Middle East, we have concentrated our comments in this area. However, with the major US relief operation in full flow in the Philippines and the ‘rebalancing to the Asia Pacific region’ driving much of the Pentagon planning staff, we feel we should turn away for at least this week to review some of the less publicized themes that are pulsing through Washington’s strategy in Asia...'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:58 PM
Friday, November 15, 2013
Al Jazeera English
"... At least six people were killed and 50 others wounded after gunmen opened fire on protesters who had called on armed groups to leave Tripoli....as protesters demand former rebels leave the Libyan capital..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:49 PM
"... The entire region feels “a sense of anger” toward Qatar, said Badr Abdellaty, a spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. “And if the Qataris care about their image, it’s important [for them] to revisit this issue and to address it seriously.”
But if the rise in anti-Qatar sentiment has prompted any soul-searching in the upper echelons of the Qatari royal family — or even amongst its citizenry — it is well-hidden here amid the high-rises of Doha.
Qatar’s government is deeply opaque.... Rumors abound on the periphery of this secretive government that Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani’s abdication as emir in June, and the removal of longtime prime minister Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, signified a quiet acknowledgment of defeat ...
But Qatar’s mistake, analysts say, was that it was never careful enough about where it put those hands.
In its rush to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — and earlier, Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi — Qatar has funneled money and weapons to hard-core Islamist groups.
Qatar’s critics say that the tiny state’s chaotic rush to provide aid has upended unity efforts in post-Gaddafi Libya and that its almost indiscriminate support of radical Islamists in Syria is effectively undermining the more moderate Free Syrian Army....
“Qatar’s name is in the mud,” said David Roberts, a lecturer for King’s College in London who is conducting classes for the Qatari military.
Qatar has presided over “just a complete failure of policy” in Egypt, Roberts said. “That must lead to some kind of re-jig or rethink.”..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:55 AM
America's 'sin' according to Fabius: "It no longer to wish to become absorbed by crises that do not align with ITS national interest,”
"... Officials close to Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, told me these bilateral discussions had produced an agreed U.S-Iranian text (with caveats) by the time the Geneva talks opened. When the French saw it they were troubled....
In a speech this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the formation of the French Policy Planning Staff, Fabius dwelt on this perceived trend. “The United States seems no longer to wish to become absorbed by crises that do not align with its new vision of its national interest,” he said, ... He went on to say this U.S. redirection seemed likely to be “durable,” reflecting the “heavy trauma of the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan” in American public opinion...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:29 AM
The National Interest
"... What are those Israeli interests? While Iranian leadership remains adamantabout retaining an independent nuclear fuel cycle, which it regards as its right under the terms of the NPT, Israel has made it just as plain that Iran’s acquisition of that capability is unacceptable—period. That’s because the Israeli leadership is convinced that any accord that permits Iran to enrich uranium to a level needed for generating electricity, even under strict verification, enables it to gain, and pretty quickly, the capacity to dash across the nuclear threshold when it wishes to do so..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:12 AM
"Iran has slowed its nuclear program in what could be a goodwill gesture intended to show that it will abide by a nuclear agreement.According to the latest quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has added only four rudimentary centrifuges to its main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz since August, for a total of 15,240 — of which about 10,000 are operating. In the previous reporting period of May to August, Iran put more than 1,800 new centrifuges into Natanz.
The Iranians continued to enrich uranium and now have a stockpile of more than 7,000 kilograms of uranium enriched to 5% U-235. But its stockpile of 20% uranium — perilously close to weapons grade — remains largely in a form difficult to further enrich,..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:01 AM
Thursday, November 14, 2013
"... Opposition activist Mohammed Nour told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that some rebel-held districts of the city, including Hananu in the east, were looking vulnerable."Regime forces aided by Hezbollah, the Iraqis and the Iranians have launched a pincer movement from the north and the east and are closing in on major neighbourhoods," he said.
"Infighting has undermined Aleppo's defences," Mr Nour added, referring to clashes in the past two months between al-Qaeda affiliates and units aligned with the Western-backed Supreme Military Council..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:47 AM
"... But mounting violence between the Kurds and al-Qaeda loyalists - who form a major battlefield component of the Sunni Arab-dominated rebellion - has sparked a deepening rift between the Kurds and the mainstream opposition to President Bashar al-Assad."The PYD is a group hostile to the Syrian revolution," the National Coalition, the opposition group recognised by most Arab and Western governments, said in its statement formalising the breach with the main Kurdish group..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:38 AM
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
"... Clausewitz thought that no peacetime regime of training and military education could ever be as effective in creating a skilful, hard fighting army as sustained and ultimately successful war.That is certainly true if the army in question survives the process. The Syrian Army and Air Force have passed that test and are in the process of becoming something like their Hizbullah allies. They are more heavily armed but similarly adapted to the peculiar circumstances of their task and the topography of Syria.
The presence on the battlefields of Lebanese Hizbullah allies and lately of Shia militia from Iraq increases the effect when combined with the efforts of the maturing Syrian Army.
The Saudis' decades long political and now paramilitary project intended to assert Wahhabi Sunni control of the Levant appears headed for defeat. That is why Saudi Arabia is so upset with what it sees as insufficient American effort on behalf of the Syrian jihadi rebels.
The US should read the writing on the wall, and begin to back away from a policy of regime change. Why? Simple - it ain't gonna happen."
"... Iraqi officials said a British employee of security firm G4S working at a Schlumberger camp near the giant Rumaila oilfield had on Monday tried to remove flags and pamphlets commemorating Imam Hussein, a venerated figure in Shiite Islam, just days before annual rituals marking his death.
"A British employee took down a flag for Hussein and a picture of Imam Ali (another key Shiite figure) from the cars of the security company, and tore them down with a knife," said Ali Shaddad, a member of the provincial council of Basra, which is predominantly Shiite Muslim."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:41 AM
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
"... “I know [Netanyahu],” the French MP, Meyer Habib, reportedly told Fabius, and predicted that the Israeli prime minister would resort to the use of force if the deal was approved in its form at the time. “If you don’t toughen your positions, Netanyahu will attack Iran,” the report quoted Habib as saying. “I know this. I know him. You have to toughen your positions in order to prevent war.”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:47 PM
"... This balance-of-power approach was the alternative to direct military commitment. The United States was not the only country concerned about Sunni radicalism. Iran, a Shiite power ultimately hostile to Sunnis, was equally concerned about jihadists. Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival, at times opposed Islamist radicals (in Saudi Arabia) and supported them elsewhere (in Syria or Iraq). The American relationship with Saudi Arabia, resting heavily on oil, had changed. The United States had plenty of oil now and the Saudis' complex strategies simply no longer matched American interests. On the broadest level, a stronger Iran, aligned with the United States, would counter Sunni ambitions. It would not address the question of North Africa or other smaller issues, but it would force Saudi Arabia to reshape its policies..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:21 AM
Al Jazeera English
".... Syria's internationally recognised opposition group has approved nine "ministers" for an interim government charged with running Syrian territory that is in rebel hands.The move by the National Coalition late on Monday followed its announcement earlier in the day that it planned to attend proposed peace talks with the Syrian government, if certain conditions were met.(Big Words for 'nothing')
It also stipulated that President "Bashar al-Assad and those with the blood of Syrians on their hands have no role in the transitional phase and Syria's future".
In a statement issued after two days of meetings in the Turkish city of Istanbul, the National Coalition said it would take part in the Geneva peace talks only if humanitarian aid is allowed to reach besieged areas and the government releases political prisoners.
"Whether or not to go to Geneva is the decision of the Syrian people," Louay Safi, a member and spokesman of the National Council, said in a statement on Sunday.
"The Coalition is nothing (Sentence should end here!) but a mechanism to apply their will."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:15 AM
Monday, November 11, 2013
"... "This was a message for the U.S., not the U.N.," Prince Bandar was quoted by diplomats as specifying of Saudi Arabia's decision to walk away from the Security Council membership.Top decisions in Saudi Arabia come from the king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and it isn't known if Prince Bandar's reported remarks reflected a decision by the monarch, or an effort by Prince Bandar to influence the king. However, the diplomats said, Prince Bandar told them he intends to roll back a partnership with the U.S. in which the Central Intelligence Agency and other nations' security bodies have covertly helped train Syrian rebels to fight Mr. Assad, Prince Bandar said, according to the diplomats. Saudi Arabia would work with other allies instead in that effort, including Jordan and France, the prince was quoted as saying.
U.S. officials said they interpreted Prince Bandar's message to the Western diplomat as an expression of discontent designed to push the U.S. in a different direction....
Diplomats and officials familiar with events recounted two previously undisclosed episodes during the buildup to the aborted Western strike on Syria that allegedly further unsettled the Saudi-U.S. relationship.
In the run-up to the expected U.S. strikes, Saudi leaders asked for detailed U.S. plans for posting Navy ships to guard the Saudi oil center, the Eastern Province, during any strike on Syria, an official familiar with that discussion said. The Saudis were surprised when the Americans told them U.S. ships wouldn't be able to fully protect the oil region, the (French) official said.
Disappointed, the Saudis told the U.S. that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices, whatever the source, the official said.
In the second episode, one Western diplomat described Saudi Arabia as eager to be a military partner in what was to have been the U.S.-led military strikes on Syria. As part of that, the Saudis asked to be given the list of military targets for the proposed strikes. The Saudis indicated they never got the information, the (French) diplomat said....
"The Saudis are very upset. They don't know where the Americans want to go," said a senior European (READ French) diplomat not in Riyadh..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:28 PM
Offered Saudi Weapons Sales, France Tries to Blow Up Iran Deal
"... The subtext here is clear: Bandar invited the French representative to Riyadh not just to whine about the US, but also to discuss weapons sales.And now French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is scuttling an Iran nuke deal because it is a “suckers deal.”..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:12 PM
"... Many reports have ascribed the failure of the talks to France’s insistence that any agreement put tight restrictions on a heavy-water plant that Iran is building, which can produce plutonium.But while France took a harder line than its partners on some issues, a senior American official said it was the Iranian delegation that balked (and here, Kerry adopts the same line)..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:08 AM
JPost | Israel News
"... Dozens of protesters gathered to condemn US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday at Jerusalem’s US Consulate for remarks he made Thursday about the prospect of a third intifada due to Israeli intransigence, which they said resulted in the Friday firebombing of a car in Judea..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:42 AM
Sunday, November 10, 2013
'With the US and its P5+1 partners still within sight of reaching an intermediate deal with Iran, there are signs that Secretary of State Kerry will face fierce opposition when he returns to Washington.Congressional opinion remains very skeptical to downright hostile. Some of this is party-political in motivation, but even within the Democratic Party, senior Senators oppose any relaxation of sanctions until Iran has taken verifiable actions to dismantle its enrichment program. Depending on the nature of any deal – details of which are presently still under negotiation – the Administration will without doubt face a tough sell. It has a certain amount of maneuverability about how it applies sanctions in a practical way, but this aspect represents the tension under which a tentative agreement with Tehran could unravel. US officials to whom we have spoken have no illusions about the difficulty of the task. While the US challenge with Iran may be immediate, the one with Pakistan may be just as intractable. Although the drone killing of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was widely welcomed inside US intelligence circles, other Administration officials see the implications for relations with Islamabad as more disquieting. As the 2014 date for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaches, President Obama remains determined not to be drawn into what he sees as an unlimited residual commitment to guarantee Afghan government stability against the Taliban. A key aspect of achieving this aim lies in an accommodation with the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the appointment of Mullah Fazlullah – who is regarded as an extreme hardliner – as Mehsud’s successor, peace prospects have taken step backward. Indeed some US intelligence observers now believe that training may take place in Pakistan of fighters to be sent to Syria to support Al-Qaeda linked factions there. On Syria, the optimism generated by the destruction of chemical weapons facilities has all but evaporated as the opposition continues to be mired in disunity. In both Saudi Arabia and Egypt last week, Kerry sought to rally opinion to the US position on Syria, but we are told privately that he left his hosts unconvinced.'
"... The role of Saudi Arabia is another issue for discussion. The opinion forming in Istanbul is that the United States and Saudi Arabia don’t really want regime change in Syria. One SNC member made this assessment: "None of the Gulf countries want a regime change. Assad’s departure doesn’t mean regime change, and that is why they are able to ask for Assad to leave. The creation of a free Syria will affect the Gulf countries. Although they favor a Sunni regime in Syria, the next regimes in the Gulf will either be Shiite heavy or with Shiites as partners to power. The United States and the Saudis simply expanded the SNC with new members."The same member said that Saudi Arabia is impeding the Geneva II talks in retaliation for US rapprochement with Iran. For the Saudis, the SNC has become an arena to settle scores with the United States. He added: "The wing that is against Geneva [II] is under Saudi influence. There are 15 of them. But the general sentiment is not to challenge the international community. Making a decision now is risky. We say we must first persuade the military wing. We think the military wing did not fully grasp the framework drawn up in London. We favor deferring making a decision."..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:03 AM