Monday, March 31, 2014

"... new talks proposal ..."

Al Jazeera English

"... According to a Palestinian official, Israel presented Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a draft agreement on Sunday to push forward with the talks...."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Qatar to buy Sudan, before anyone else does!

Al Jazeera English

"... Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani's one-day trip on Wednesday will come as tensions reached unprecedented levels between Doha and other Gulf states over its perceived support for the widely-banned Muslim Brotherhood.In contrast, relations between the wealthy Gulf emirate and poverty-stricken Sudan are friendly,..."

Military force no solution for Syria

GulfNews.com

"... Whatever is said about the current regime in Syria, there is an urgent need for major reforms. Syria was enjoying security, stability, and national unity, and was playing a regional role, making it an influential player for the past many decades. Now, Syria has become a battlefield for rival regional and international powers and different groups and militias. After three years of fighting, every Syrian citizen must now ask: “Where were we and where are we — for what and for whom?”
Inevitably, there are significant external dimensions to the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, which is truly a regional-international struggle for Syria and its future role as seen by each — the pro-regime factions and the opposition to the current regime in Damascus. But “resorting to the people” is the required solution to stop the bloodbath. Use of military force is no solution to the bloody crisis, whether by domestic or foreign parties..."

Ersal ... Soon.

"... Three troops were martyred and four others were wounded on Saturday evening in the border town of Arsal when a suicide bomber driving a booby-trapped car blew himself up at an army checkpoint in region...."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Now, we know how to vet!

"... Saudi officials have grown particularly concerned about what they see as Obama's tepid response to the Syrian civil war and have pressed the US to allow them to play a direct role in sending the rebels the air defence systems known as manpads. While administration officials have previously ruled out that option, a senior official said it was being considered anew, in part because the US has developed deeper relationships with the rebels over the past year..."

Insurgents in Qalamoun almost 'done'. Arsal next.

... Arsal in Lebanon will most probably see a faceoff between  the insurgents in Arsal on one hand, and the Lebanese Army (and local allies) on the other. Mind you, Arsal's inhabitants are fed up with their city and district becoming a hub for car bombs, al Qaeda elements, ...etc.

De-escalation in Ukraine & serious differences with Saudia

'With President Obama’s March 26th speech in Brussels, President Putin’s telephone conversation with Obama in which ideas for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis were discussed and renewed Russian assurances that no further territorial encroachments are intended, the trend toward de-escalation of tensions which we noted last week are now firmly in place. Contrary to some media reports that a Russian military build up along Ukraine’s Eastern border is seen as a precursor to an invasion, our contacts in the Intelligence Community do not support this view. Intelligence is not fully definitive but the consensus view is to take the Russian assurances of restraint at more or less face value, with, at worst case, the troop formations used as bargaining chips in further negotiations. From conversations with senior officials, they believe that so long as this reality holds, the crisis is now at a manageable phase. especially as other issues involving Moscow are at play. A pause for breath over Crimea will allow the Administration to turn to other matters, the most immediate of which the April 5th presidential election in Afghanistan. US officials tell us that they are deeply worried about Taliban disruption attacks in central Kabul. An Intelligence Community official commented to us: “Our concern is that the anti-government forces, not just the Taliban, have united against the elections. This is a very bad sign for the future.” Although American public opinion has long since wandered away from Afghanistan, the Administration continues to see vital US interests involved in maintaining stability there. This requires an effective Afghan security establishment. Moscow's support will be needed as the forces use Russian-made equipment. Another priority is the repair of relations with Saudi Arabia. Despite Obama’s polite reception by the King, our assessment is that there are so many issues – Syria, Iran, and Egypt -- where Washington and Riyadh are headed in opposite directions that Obama’s visit will serve as a patch rather than a cure for the uneasiness between the two countries..."

Saudia to Obama: 'Hey Mr. President; we have done our job. We have antagonized our al Qaeda friends for you. Now it's your turn to help us finish Assad!'"

Basically, what this Lebanese Saudi rag is saying: 'Hey Obama; we have done our job. We have antagonized our al Qaeda friends for you.  Now it's your turn to help us finish Assad!'
"... On Syria particularly, Obama has shown that his words are often meaningless, and his policy in this region is guided by American interests, not Middle Eastern ones.And Obama’s dithering comes as Saudi Arabia has taken a string of steps, all which meet the interests of the United States. It blacklisted the Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria as terrorist groups, and it warned its citizens that heavy punishments would await them should they perform jihad in Syria....
Obama now needs to do his part to save this relationship..."

Saudi Arabia pushes Pakistan to extremism

"... Saudi Arabia has been one of the biggest supporters of Pakistan through generous donations of aid for economic recovery and support. It has in the last few months given more than $750 million in aid with the most recent being a $1.5 billion dollar ‘gift' and another $1.5 billion promised. The gift of a billion dollars has been questioned by various sources and with good reason. To not see this "gift camel" in the mouth would be extremely naive and dangerous. Saudi Arabia has a history of funding organisations that have served as a front for organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and other militant groups responsible for the majority of the attacks against minorities and against India. The donation also comes from a Saudi Arabia that is determined to maintain its relevance at a time when the US-Iran relations are thawing.
Pakistan in turn has given military support to both Saudi Arabia and more recently, to Bahrain to quell a Shia uprising....The worry that it will grow into a regional conflict pitting Sunnis against Shias is high. The greater fear is that the violence will push the condition of the besieged minorities even further with a spillover into regional countries. There have already been reports of Al Qaeda militants from Pakistan seeking support and a base in Syria. A Pakistan waiting in the wings, ready to offer more support militarily and more men fueled in the ideologies that inflame sectarian violence has become increasingly real.An escalation of the sectarian violence can already be seen in the sudden explosion of violence after years of conflict that had been building on the Iranian-Pakistan border. Last week after Pakistani gunmen killed 14 Iranian border guards, Iran retaliated by killing 16 Pakistani rebels and has threatened to send troops into Pakistan to recover any hostages. To dissociate this event from Saudi Arabia's anonymous donation and the Saudi displeasure with the US would be foolish. A greater threat to the lives and livelihoods of minorities living in Pakistan cannot be ruled out under the circumstances...."

Friday, March 28, 2014

"It is time to think of Saudi Arabia as a kingdom with multiple heads or several fiefdoms"


"...The multiple Saudi clans that are in control of the government and Saudi resources offer real opportunities for their members, but undermine the evolution of the kingdom into a state with institutions that are durable beyond the life of the prince. The king was expected to regulate the transfer of power to the second generation, but he can only deliver an honorary future king to rule over flourishing multiple centers of power, each of which thinks it has a divine right to monopolize the top position. For the moment, the multiple clans will continue to coexist because no one wants to rock the boat, given that the stakes are so high. The alternative to coexistence is internal strife that will no doubt undermine the future of the kingdom."

Turkish nomenklatura up in arms. Reason? the 'Inside job' & not the 'planned false flag attack on Syria'

Davutogly ALMOST implying that Gulenist 'pawn' as he calls them facilitated the espionage for Syrian intelligence? The Israelis? The Russians?:
"... “It is a room where a jammer is used,” Davutoğlu said, referring to a device system used as a measure against being tapped. 
“Whichever hands that used these pawns; there is no difference between launching an attack via violating the border or tapping confidential meetings of the state. This is an open attack. Any other violation committed in a different way may remain local, such as violation [of the border] by a plane. However, if such a cyber-attack is launched at a meeting where military and security options were discussed, then it is no different than a military attack.”
Upon such an interpretation, Davutoğlu was asked whether the response would be “militaristic.”
“I’m just saying in regards to the content. Otherwise, Turkey is a state governed by the rule of law and [the response] would be given within these rules. First, the pawns; and then whoever is behind these pawns, them,” Davutoğlu said.
... as for Gul, I am too sure what he is saying, but he is also upset at the 'inside job':
"... “We have instructed the state institutions to be careful with regards to provocations to draw Turkey into the war in Syria and [take measures] on attacks that may target the Turkish flag in our land outside our borders [referring to the Süleyman Shah tomb]. Following, listening to, and watching a meeting headed by the foreign minister in his office with the top officials of the security bureau where they discuss such measures is a huge audacity,” Gül said..."

Priorities of (another) Saudi minion in Lebanon

"... Lebanese president, Mishel Sulayman (who will deny that the generous Saudi cash payments to him were behind his sudden political shifts) found the money to sign a contract with the company of Lebanese Forces partisan, Eli Khuri (Quantum) to design a new seal for the Lebanese president...."

Seemingly, America, not Saudia, will be calling the shots in the Middle East

"... Today, American diplomats candidly admit this was a calculated deception. When the covert talks with Iran started last year, Saudi Arabia was top of the list of governments to be kept in the dark. One US official said the reasoning was simple: telling the Saudis would have jeopardised everything. Avoiding a war with Iran was in the kingdom’s best “interests”, added the diplomat, and the Saudis would just have to live with it.
In the same way, Abdullah and Mr Obama will not settle their differences today. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia and America will just have to live with the fact that they will remain at odds over the most pressing crises in the Middle East..."

Western MSM almost totally avoid the Turkish false flag attack plans for Syria

"... It is somewhat astonishing how "western" media avoid the content of the leaked tape. An AP report on it makes a lot of the youtube blocking the Turkish government ordered in reaction to the tape. Of the recording itself the AP only mentions this:
".. The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in neighboring Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey, although the context of the conversation is not clear..."
The Washington Post filed that AP report underTechnology. This is an incredible disservice to its readers.
The Guardian report based on Reuters is not any better:
"... The move by the TIB came hours after an anonymous YouTube account posted a leaked audio recording allegedly of a confidential conversation between Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, undersecretary of the foreign ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu and deputy chief of the general staff, Yasar Gürel, discussing possible military action in Syria...."
There is no mentioning at all of the false flag attack. The Wall Street Journal comes somewhat nearer to the truth:
"... a leaked recording published anonymously on the platform purported to reveal a conversation in which Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss how to create a pretext for a possible Turkish attack within Syria..."
For once kudos to the NYT which at least touches one point but leaves out the other important ones:
"... the officials were heard discussing a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah ..."

Kerry encouraged Erdogan to invade Syria

"... Almost buried in a secret recording made of a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office which included intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, army deputy chief of staff Yasar Guler, and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu was the revelation that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly asked about and seemed to encourage a Turkish invasion of Syria...."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Iran's Special Forces Ready to Release Abducted Border Guards

"TEHRAN (FNA)- Pakistan's government is responsible for the lives of the five Iranian border guards abducted by the Jeish al-Adl terrorists early in February, an Iranian lawmaker said, adding that several Iranian task force units are ready to attack the terrorist group to free the guards.
"Iran is fully prepared to stamp out the Jeish al-Adl terrorists,” Rapporteur for the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini said on Wednesday.
Under international law, said Naqavi Hosseini, Iran can take measures to secure the release of the kidnapped guards in two ways.
"Iran is prepared to act independently to crush the Jeish al-Adl terrorist group should the Islamabad government be incapable of doing it,” the Iranian lawmaker said..."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Opposition fail to get Syria Arab League seat

"... The 22-member summit, which concluded in Kuwait City on Wednesday, decided to allow the SNC to participate in ministerial meetings on an "exceptional basis".But the league stopped short on Wednesday of granting the group the official recognition it sought to be Syria's sole legitimate representative.
Nor did the body accede to SNC requests for weapons to be sent to rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad..."

"Accusations that Erdogan continues to aid al Qaeda, refuse to go away"

"... there is growing concern among ordinary Turks — especially after the Nigde attack — of an embroilment with ISIS and other al-Qaeda affiliates. Memories of the deadly truck bomb attacks in Istanbul in November 2003 by an al-Qaeda cell that left 57 dead and 700 wounded still linger.Turks have also not forgotten the twin car bombing in Reyhanli, a town in Hatay province, in May 2013 that left at least 51 dead and 140 injured. Pro-Assad elements in Turkey were accused and charged over that incident, but many Turks saw the attack as the result of the Erdogan government’s Syria policy, which in hindsight is considered largely to have been based on a series of gross miscalculations.
Turks are also not happy over claims that Ankara is continuing to provide logistical support and weapons to jihadist groups — such as Jabhat al-Nusra — which have also claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda. The claim is that Turkey is supporting these groups on the grounds that they are effective against Syrian regime forces.
Ankara denies that it is proving such help, but the accusation has refused to go away..."

"When There is Peace, I Will Raise an Israeli Flag on the Roof of My House" (in Syria!)

"... On August 5, 2013, the news from Nahariya, Israel, was that Across Forbidden Border, Doctors in Israel Quietly Tend to Syria’s Wounded. The piece tells of skilled Israeli physicians treating a small number of gravely wounded Syrians whose relatives manage to transport them to the border.Then, on January 29, 2014, the news from Nahariya was that Despite Decades of Enmity, Israel Quietly Aids Syrian Civilians.” The piece tells of skilled Israeli physicians treating a small number of gravely wounded Syrians whose relatives manage to transport them to the border.It’s odd for any news organization to repeat a story; the January redux piece is not an update and makes no reference to its August incarnation. Is it because the doctors are so “Quietly” doing their work (as the titles suggest) that the Times felt the need to reprise? Lest we miss the point? (And what is the point the Times editors feel requires such urgent reiteration?)  A close read of the parallel dispatches reveal them something other than journalism. The thrust of the stories, penned by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner, is that, because Israel and Syria are “technically” still at war (in the author’s overriding penchant for euphemism), it is both surprising and notably benevolent that Israel doctors would help enemy neighbors in need. ..."

Teehee

"... It seems the Saudis are interested in keeping up the false impression – particularly before the greater Sunni world – that it has never stopped ostracizing Israel. They do this in a feeble attempt to cover up the cooperation between the two countries (Saudi & Israel). ..."

"The fact is that Iran—unlike Saudi Arabia—is a serious regional power"

"... Sadly for the Saudis, the President won’t be able to answer the mail satisfactorily on any of these issues. Forget his distraction with Ukraine or the fact that he cares more about his own political legacy – improving the fortunes of America’s middle class—than his Middle Eastern one. To deal with Saudi concerns on these issues, Obama would have to be risk-ready rather than risk averse; and he’s anything but....The fact is that Iran—unlike Saudi Arabia—is a serious regional power with ambitions to dominate the Gulf ..."

You don't say?! CIA's Brennan: 'Al Qaeda in Syria training to attack the West'

"... Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some midlevel planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States.
We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, told a House panel recently...'
But wait a minute. Didn’t we spend all that time and money droning the shit out of the terrorists in Pakistan? Oh, yeah:
'... The extremists who concern Mr. Brennan are part of a group of Qaeda operatives in Pakistan that has been severely depleted in recent years by a decade of American drone strikes. But the fighters still bring a wide range of skills to the battlefield, such as bomb-building, small-arms tactics, logistics, religious indoctrination and planning, though they are not believed to have experience in launching attacks in the West...'

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Saudis via Israel's minions: 'President Obama: You need to extract a confrontation with Iran!'

... Basically, Israel & the Saudis are telling Obama: "Remember our invention, the Klos-C? , well, you need to do the same. You need to extract a confrontation with Iran!" 
"... Unfortunately, insecurity often leads to self-destructive policies, and the Saudis and Egyptians are signaling the Obama administration that they will go their own way if they can't count on us. The fact that Obama added Saudi Arabia to his itinerary indicates that he is aware of the problem. But given the depth of the Saudi doubts, the president will be unlikely to succeed if he offers only words of reassurance.
Instead, he needs to take the concerns head-on. That does not require him to accept Saudi complaints.
However, he needs to show that he has no illusions about the Iranians, spelling out that we know what the Quds Force is doing and the steps the U.S. will to take to counter it. For example, intercepting clandestine Iranian arms shipments would show we mean what we say.
Imagine the effect on the Saudis and others if it had been the U.S. and not Israel that intercepted the Klos-C ship this month carrying Iranian weapons destined for the Gaza Strip. Few things would more clearly demonstrate to the Saudis that we will not allow nuclear negotiations with Iran to prevent us from countering Iran's de-stabilizing actions in the region...."

Jarba: 'My Empty seat strengthens Assad'

"The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, has criticised an Arab League decision barring the opposition from filling his country's seat at the bloc's summit.Speaking at the Arab League summit on Tuesday, he said the decision undermines the rebels' position in the three-year Syrian conflict.
The SNC, which was initially approved to replace the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the representative of Syria in the 22-member bloc, was denied that right after reservations from Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria...."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Disrespecting Your Defender

"... Moshe Ya'alon thinks that President Barack Obama is a wimp and that Secretary of State John Kerry is mentally incompetent. If Ya'alon were a GOP senator, this wouldn't be worthy of comment. He'd be doing what has come to be the job of Republican politicians: to blame every international crisis on Obama's alleged lack of machismo and to presume that action-hero growls will attract votes this November and two years hence. The job requirements do not include providing realistic policy alternatives.Ya'alon, however, is not one of Obama's domestic political opponents. Rather, he is Israel's defense minister, responsible for the security of a client state that is heavily dependent on a superpower, of which Obama happens to be president..."

Erdogan still trying to overcome a (IMO not yet a decisevly negative) political slump

Hurriyet, 2 days after the downing of a Syrian Mig23.
"... A radar lock is considered a hostile act, as it amounts to interference with a plane’s navigational systems, indicating that a missile is ready to be fired at it...."

"No wonder western governments and journalists who hailed the success of the Libya intervention are so silent"

"... Ominously, Libya's chaos is spilling across the region. The country is awash with up to 15 million rifles and other weapons, and a report by the UN panel of experts this month found that "Libya has become a primary source of illicit weapons". These arms are fuelling chaos in 14 countries, including Somalia, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Niger. Qatar is helping to deliver Libyan armaments to Syria, where Russian-made weapons bought by Gaddafi's regime are being given to fundamentalist Islamist rebels.In what has all the hallmarks of mission creep, a small number of US soldiers are being sent to Tripoli to begin training troops. But a stable future for Libya seems remote, however much the country's strife is safely hidden away from the headlines. It is dividing along every fracture line imaginable: whether it be ethnic, tribal, regional or political. Most Libyans have failed to even register for upcoming elections.There is a real prospect of the country collapsing into civil war or even breaking up. Unless there are negotiated settlements to its multiple problems, Libya will surely continue its descent into mayhem, and the region could be dragged into the mire with it.No wonder western governments and journalists who hailed the success of this intervention are so silent. But here are the consequences of their war, and they must take responsibility for them.

Senior Jordanian Intelligence Officer on a 'secret visit' to Damascus: 'Please reclaim your southern border!'

... Of course, one has to be weary of anything that is financed by Qatar (Al Quds) as it brawls with the GCC and its lesser members...
Al Quds Al Arabi: "... As the regime in Damascus prepares for a major offensive to reclaim the South, a Senior Jordanian intelligence officer visits the Syrian capital secretly, to as just that!..."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Embattled Erdogan avenges the downing of a Turkish jetfighter while assisting al Qaeda

"...Anti-government rebels, apparently led by the al Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and including groups associated with the umbrella Islamic Front, have been fighting to take control of the Kasab crossing for two days. The crossing lies in Latakia province, and its capture would provide a strategic point though which the rebels could move supplies from Turkey to their forces fighting to take control of Latakia, ....rebel commanders have said that control of the Kasab Crossing is critical now that government forces have consolidated their control of the eastern border with Lebanon. The government success has pushed thousands of fighters into Lebanon.It was the second time an aircraft had been downed as conflict raged near the border. In June 2012, a Syrian anti-aircraft missile took out a Turkish fighter jet that had strayed into Syrian airspace. At first Turkey acknowledged that the aircraft had entered Syrian airspace, but then complained that it was over international waters in the Mediterranean when it was downed. Searchers discovered the plane’s wreckage inside Syrian waters."

'You are wimps, but please help!'

Israel: 'The US & EU are unreliable wimps. We will stop Iran all by ourselves. BUT we really hope they will do it for us, because only they, can do it!'
"... The international community’s prime motivation to lean on Iran was gone. Reviving it is, perhaps, the logic behind Defense Minister’s Moshe Ya’alon’s assertion last week that Israel cannot rely on Washington to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.Ultimately, Israel must look after its own interests, chief among which is preventing uranium enrichment by its arch-enemy. We can only hope that our primary ally, the United States, together with the EU, will ultimately lead the international community in stopping Iran. "

Clashes between rival Sunni militias flare in Beirut

"... Soldiers in armoured personnel carriers and Humvees fanned across the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Tariq Jadideh on Sunday morning.The deployment came after rival Sunni gunmen exchanged gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades for several hours in the area, in the worst fighting in the Lebanese capital in nearly two years, the Associated Press news agency reported..."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Senior White House officials are now de facto reconciling themselves to Ukraine's “facts on the ground”

'The first “post-Crimea” headlines are beginning to appear in the US press. From conversations with Administration contacts, our assessment is that the first “hot” phase of the crisis is now drawing to a close. Senior White House officials are now de facto reconciling themselves to the “facts on the ground” and no longer believe that it is possible to roll back Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  With public opinion showing a two-to-one majority against an activist US involvement in Ukraine, official focus has moved on to preventing any Russian encroachment of Ukraine “proper.” Despite President Putin’s public assurances that he has no such intentions, there is little confidence in Washington that some action of this kind is not in the works.  To head this off a stream of high-level visits designed to show solidarity with Ukraine and NATO allies is taking place. Were Moscow to expand its military operations, the political demands for a more robust reaction by the Administration would grow exponentially. Assuming that this does not happen, however, our assessment is that the President’s visit to Brussels next week will see the high water mark of tough talk and that, thereafter, attention will slip to the inside pages. The channel between Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, which has been active throughout the crisis, will continue to mediate the harsh words that will be exchanged in public. If it is true that the first phase of the crisis has been contained, there is growing concern of it potential corrosive impact on other aspects of US foreign policy. While last week’s P5+1 meeting with Iran did not reveal any evidence of Russian non-cooperation, this is clearly an area in which Moscow can retaliate against sanctions...'

Obama & the R2P Mommas

"Democracy promotion and regime change is the primary goal for Neo-conservative empire building. An example is the Director of Freedom House, he was previously with PNAC , the Jacobin club of our generation, received a government post for resume padding , and eventually winds up in the current post. It is how they place their people in key organizations to pursue the agenda. The Founding Mothers of R2P are Obama’s key advisors so their influence will naturally be reflected in his public comments. As the Mommas wanted to bombs away on Syria and he didn’t, points to him not being a true R2Per or at least not as ideologically strident. I believe his problem is there are differing factions within his administration pushing their goals and undermining him at the same time, one in particular doing it intentionally. He lacks the experience or understanding to thwart this and therefore he goes from one crisis on fire to the next instigated by his own pyromaniacs. In the current day affairs, it is best to understand Russia, India and China along with many smaller countries as the rational actors with the US and EU in a stupor of false thinking caused by drinking from the poisoned chalice of moral superiority. The rational actors are working for a global system of stability and peace for their own domestic prosperity through international institutions. After all the disruptions (Nato expansion, Iraq, Georgia, Libya etc.), the Ukrainian Crisis was the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back for Russia because a plan for transitional government was diplomatically agreed to, then broken with a violent overthrow (courtesy of the intentional pyromaniac). If this action was accepted, then could any agreement in the future (i.e. Syria) be trusted? Putin responded as a responsible statesman would when the national interests were directly challenged. Too fanciful, what the Rational Actors would want from a future US president is one who will keep their word , respect the interests of others, and have enough control over the administration that the rest of the government follows suit.  
Thomas" 

The endgame in Syria & the prospects for an Iran nuclear deal have triggered realignments in regional politics

"... With the intra-GCC rifts becoming acute, Saudi deployments in Bahrain to quell the upheaval for democratic reforms are becoming unsustainable, especially with the steadily worsening situation in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, which are Shi’ite-dominated. Besides, the Saudis are bracing for a confrontation with Qatar. The latter, on the other hand, has close ties with Turkey and Iran and, even more shockingly for Riyadh, it has reached out to the Syrian regime for a patch-up. In sum, Saudi Arabia faces isolation and has only the UAE, Bahrain and Jordan as its reliable allies. Iran’s Fars News Agency featured an insightful  report on this complex realignment taking place in the Middle Eastern politics.
Quite obviously, 
the endgame in Syria and the brightening prospects for an Iran nuclear deal have triggered realignments in regional politics. The Syrian regime has all but gained the upper hand on the ground and is fast reaching a position to dictate the national reconciliation, while Iran’s diplomatic options have multiplied. 
Against this backdrop, and with Egypt in disarray, Saudi Arabia feels an unprecedented regional isolation. No doubt, it is assiduously courting Pakistan. But it is unclear whether Pakistan will want to take sides in the intra-GCC rift involving Saudi Arabia and Qatar or in the popular Shi’ite uprising in Bahrain. From all accounts, a furious debate is going on within the Pakistani establishment. Pakistan always walked a fine line when it concerned ties with Iran, given the Tehran-Delhi equation. Having said that, Pakistan is also badly in need of the “gifted money”. Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduling a visit to Iran. .."

Yemen army clashes with Houthis turn deadly

"... The rebels, known as Houthis or Ansarullah, had travelled to Amran to take part in a demonstration, but shooting erupted on Saturday when they insisted on crossing a checkpoint to the northern entrance to the city with their weapons, an official told the AFP news agency.Eight rebels were among the dead, as well as two soldiers and two civilians, a local official and tribal sources said..."

Robert Ford: "Assad' staying in power"

Of course Ford fails to list 'popular support' as another reason for Assad's staying power: NYTimes:
"..“It is hard to imagine that Assad is going in the short term, and even in the medium term, to lose control of the area between Aleppo south to Damascus and then over to the coast,” said the diplomat, Robert S. Ford.“He will control that area — geographically it is maybe a fourth of the country,” said Mr. Ford, who added that it includes most of Syria’s major cities. “But the other three-quarters will be under the control of different armed elements or contested among different armed elements.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

More neocon to the rescue: A Playbook for Denying Putin Strategic Victory

"... The West should nonetheless preserve the option of bringing Ukraine closer to NATO if Russia proves unwilling to respect Ukrainian independence or wields the threat of force..."

Death toll rises in Lebanon's Tripoli

"... At least 22 people were killed and 130 injured in clashes over Thursday and Friday, ..."

Ministry of Propaganda: How the Economist reports developments in Syria!

The Angry Arab News Service

"... On advances by the regime the Economist says: "Yabroud’s fall may prove to be a minor watershed."On an alleged victory by the Syrian rebels: "In the far south, meanwhile, rebels declared a big symbolic victory on March 19th, overrunning a prison in Deraa".  I mean, I know that the Economist is as propagandistic in its coverage of Syria as US newspapers, but the fall of Yabrud is smaller than the takeover of a prison (where the New York Times said that it is not clear it houses political prisoners?)  But then again, I remember when the Economist and all Western media reported that the rebel's takeover of a regime checkpoint in A`zaz is the biggest military victory since Hittin."

Basically, the West managed to create a monster in South Sudan'

"... "South Sudan’s relationship with the United Nations has plummeted to an unprecedented low as authorities have beaten U.N. personnel and relief workers, forcibly searched their vehicles and organized public demonstrations demonizing the world body as an enemy of the fledgling African nation, according to a confidential internal report obtained by Foreign Policy..."

UN & Russia: 'Syria removed 50% of CW & is en route to a timely closure of the file'

EW, here  
"... Today, with news out that removal of the CW-related materials from Syria has crossed the 50% level, Russia has praised that accomplishment while pointing out that Syria now has virtually no capability of using chemical arms..."

The Independent: 'Saudi Arabia is the core of evil'

The term 'Saudi is the core of evil' was first coined by the very neocons in 2001 who later dropped it and replaced it with 'bomb bomb Iran'
"... The armed opposition in Syria and Iraq is today dominated by Salafi jihadists, fundamentalist Islamic fighters committed to holy war. Those killing non-Sunni drivers on the Damascus-Baghdad road are an all too typical an example of this. Western governments may not care very much how many Shia die in Syria, Iraq or Pakistan, but they can see that Sunni movements with beliefs similar to the al-Qa’ida of Osama bin Laden, today have a base in Iraq and Syria far larger than anything they enjoyed in Afghanistan before 9/11 when they were subordinate to the Taliban.The pretence that the Western-backed and supposedly secular Free Syrian Army was leading the fight to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad finally evaporated last December as jihadists overran their supply depots and killed their commanders.In the past six months there have been signs of real anger in Washington at actions by Saudi Arabia and the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf in supplying and financing jihadi warlords in Syria who are now so powerful. US Secretary of State John Kerry privately criticised Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi intelligence since 2012 and former Saudi ambassador in Washington, who had been masterminding the campaign to overthrow the Assad government..."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

US Treasury: "Qatar & Kuwait are the epicenter of fundraising for Al Qaeda in Syria"

"... The U.S. has increasingly voiced concerns about the policies of Qatar and Kuwait in recent months. The Treasury Department has said in recent weeks that it has tracked large amounts of funding from charities and social media sites based in these two Gulf countries to Sunni extremist groups fighting the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq and the regime in Syria, a staunch Iranian ally.This included financing for the Nusra Front, a Syrian rebel group linked to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials...Mr. Cohen charged that Kuwait "has become the epicenter of fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria."

Moscow's 'take'

"... In Moscow, it is not considered a coincidence that it is now, when Russia has decided to bring Crimea and the city of Sevastopol into the Russian Federation, that President Barack Obama has announced the closing of Syria's diplomatic missions in the United States. This is interpreted as a signal that the American administration is pursuing a tougher policy with respect to Damascus, and that Washington is very likely to move away from cooperation with Moscow in resolving the Syrian crisis. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared his full support for Moscow's actions in Crimea, clearly attempting to use this to his advantage now, when he hopes to achieve a military victory over the scattered rebel units or, failing that, at least reduce them to an insurrection movement of an "acceptable level" not representing an existential threat to the regime, and trending toward fragmentation and decline..."

"Off Guard"

... But once the talks had finished, with the next round not scheduled to begin until April 7, Ryobkov played the US press expertly, and AP’s George Jahn was quick to take the bait:
"... U.S.-Russian tensions over Ukraine spilled over into nuclear talks with Iran Wednesday, with Moscow’s chief envoy at the negotiations warning that his country may take “retaliatory measures” that could hurt attempts to persuade Tehran to cut back on programs that could make atomic arms.
The statement, by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, appeared to be the most serious threat of reprisal by Moscow for Western sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Russia is key to attempts to coax Iran into significant long-term curbs of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from U.N. and other sanctions. Iran insists it does not want nuclear arms but is seeking a deal that will result in full sanctions relief.
The Russian threat, hours after the latest negotiating round ended, appeared to catch Washington off guard..."

Turkish PM says killing of security personnel was 'terrorist attack'

"... ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan described the gunning down of three members of the security forces in the southern province of Nigde on Thursday as a "nefarious terrorist attack", but did not say who was responsible..."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Saudi rag: 'Hassan Nasrallah promised Israel to behave'

The pathetic Saudis are trying to make the world believe, that "Hey, we are not the only low life collaborators!". Obviously, Haaretz has no qualms in quoting the zero credibility Saudi rag, EVEN when HzB is believed to be running 'on-the-hour-every-hour' retaliation campaign everywhere.

"... Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sent reassurances to Israel last year that Lebanon's southern border is "the safest in the world," according to a leaked Syrian document obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, the London-based website reported on Wednesday.The full transcript recorded a meeting between Faisal Mekdad, the Syrian deputy foreign minister, and Mikhail Bogdanov, his Russian counterpart in May 2013, during which the Syrian side conveyed its reassurances to Israel, according to the website.
“You can tell the Israelis that Lebanon’s southern borders are the safest place in the world because all of our attention is focused on what is happening in Syria,” said Nasrallah, confirming that
Hezbollah “does not harbor any intention of taking any action against Israel,” Bogdanov reportedly stated..."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Useful map of Syria

Al Akhbar's
Orange: Syrian Arab Army
Green: Amalgam/ Opposition
Blue: ISIS
Yellow: Kurds

'Sanctions on Russia over Ukraine not expected to damage delicate diplomacy on Syria, Iran'

"...The U.S. focus on chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict fulfills Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal of keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, and Russian influence in the talks on Iran’s nuclear program has diminished, according to analysts who specialize in U.S.-Russian relations.Those conclusions suggest that the State Department’s compartmentalization policy will succeed, avoiding a severing of U.S.-Russian ties but still light years away from what the Obama administration once had envisioned as a “reset” with Moscow. ..."

Happening with frequency: Explosion near Syria border wounds three Israeli soldiers

'Today's successful hit in the Golan'

Hezbollah is retaliating more frequently than reported.
"...Three Israeli soldiers were wounded by a bomb that hit their jeep in the Golan Heights near the Syrian border on Monday....On Friday evening, an explosive charge detonated near Har Dov in the vicinity of the Israel-Lebanon border......About ten days earlier, a similar incident occurred in the northern Golan Heights, when an Israel army force spotted several persons suspected of attempting to plant a charge near the border fence with Syria....Tensions have risen in the north since an airstrike, attributed by foreign reports to the Israeli Air Force, targeted a Hezbollah weapons convoy in Lebanon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Comrade @BarackObama, what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn't think about it?)http://bit.ly/1ebMXDM 

The Use of Force, the Reflexive Resort to Economic Sanctions, and the Trials of America’s Hegemonic Mindset

"... As negotiations toward a “final” nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran continue, it is important to consider to what extent the world might be witnessing a fundamental change in American foreign policy.  We are inclined to think that the Obama administration would not have gone as far down the diplomatic road with Iran as it has in the absence of President Obama’s self-inflicted debacle over his declared intention to attack Syria after chemical weapons were used there in August 2013.  This episode drove home—to the Obama administration as well as to most of the rest of the world—that the United States can no longer credibly threaten to use military force in the Middle East for hegemonic purposes.After the American public so resoundingly rebuffed Obama’s call for U.S. military action, his administration was compelled to conclude that starting down the diplomatic road with Iran was politically less costly than pushing for more sanctions and continuing to insist that the “military option” was still “on the table.”  But can the Obama administration really go all the way to a comprehensive realignment of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran—and, in the process, show that the United States can shift proactively from a counterproductive drive to dominate the Middle East to serious engagement with all important regional powers, and not just slink out of region in defeat?Making such a shift will require Washington to relinquish the self-damaging delusion that the United States can actually maintain hegemony in the Middle East on an open-ended basis.  America’s reaction to the ongoing Ukraine crisis suggests that American elites are having a very difficult time giving up this delusion..."

"Saudi Arabia may be tacitly conceding something in Syria, but it is doubling its bet on ‘wiping out’ the Muslim Brotherhood"

"... The predominant triggers for all this commotion was primarily Egypt and Saudi’s attachment to its Field Marshall’s scourge of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and secondly, the dramatic Saudi decree disowning jihadists – much to the ire of the ‘jilted’ jihadists in Syria and to their Salafi and Brotherhood colleagues and facilitators in Lebanon....The second trigger probably has been the appointment of Prince Mohammad bin Nayef to replace Prince Bandar in charge of Saudi’s re-orientated Syria policy.  Perhaps here it is right to conclude that the prospect of a visit by President Obama to Riyadh shortly has catalyzed the ‘re-set’ in Saudi policy towards countering takfiri jihadism. Prince Mohammad is both an American favorite, and his credentials precisely lie in the field of counter-terrorism – the new western priority.  But, significantly, both he and his father are also widely known for their detestation of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Saudi Arabia may be tacitly conceding something in Syria, but it is doubling its bet on ‘wiping out’ the Muslim Brotherhood.  If Saudi Arabia persuades others in the region to proscribe the MB, Mohammad bin Nayef may be right in assuming that the Europeans, so well atuned to Gulf interests, may be counted on to act in follow-up....What does this mean in terms of geo-politics? Firstly, it is likely that these GCC tensions will play out directly in Syria, where the frictions between Gulf States are likely to mirror in the antagonisms and conflicts between the various armed insurgent groups – to the benefit of the Syrian army.  Secondly, the loss of GCC coherence will both weaken it as a body, and adversely affect Saudi’s political standing, which derives from its control over this body; thirdly, the hostilities towards Oman and Qatar, far from deterring them from rapprochement with Iran, precisely are spurring them in that direction; fourthly, the assault on the Muslim Brotherhood is deepening PM Erdogan’s loneliness and political vulnerability.  Finally, Saudi Arabia has really extended itself in loading so much of its credibility onto the shoulders of Field Marshal Sisi and the unforeseeable course of events in Egypt..."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Western and regional governments share responsibility for much that has happened in Libya, but so too should the media"

"... Western and regional governments share responsibility for much that has happened in Libya, but so too should the media. The Libyan uprising was reported as a simple-minded clash between good and evil. Gaddafi and his regime were demonised and his opponents treated with a naïve lack of scepticism and enquiry. The foreign media have dealt with the subsequent collapse of the Libyan state since 2011 mostly by ignoring it, though politicians have stopped referring to Libya as an exemplar of successful foreign intervention.
Can anything positive be learnt from the Libyan experience which might be useful in establishing states that are an improvement on those ruled by Gaddafi, Assad and the like? An important point is that demands for civil, political and economic rights – which were at the centre of the Arab Spring uprisings – mean nothing without a nation state to guarantee them; otherwise national loyalties are submerged by sectarian, regional and ethnic hatreds...."

Yabroud: Check. Ersal: Next

"(Reuters) - Syrian forces backed by Hezbollah militants took full control of the town of Yabroud on Sunday after driving out rebels, helping President Bashar al-Assad secure the land route linking the capital Damascus to Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast.The fall of Yabroud, the last rebel bastion near the Lebanese border, could choke off a vital insurgent supply line from Lebanon and consolidate government control over a swathe of territory from Damascus to the central city of Homs..."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

US Intel: "Assad has as good as won"

'Despite the meager results of Secretary of State Kerry’s six hours of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on March 14th, State Department officials are not despairing of a diplomatic solution to the Crimea crisis. Kerry is calling the talks “constructive.” Contrary to the media build-up, officials never saw the session with Lavrov as “last ditch’ or “make or break.” One official summed things up to us: “We were certainly hoping for more, but Kerry was able to use his already good relationship with Lavrov to offer a number of very specific ideas for greater autonomy for Crimea. These will form the basis of further talks after the referendum.”  Critics on the Hill, however, believe that the referendum will only harden Moscow's position in having the Crimea return to Russian sovereignty.  This is not to say that that situation is not extremely volatile. There is deep concern in Washington that President Putin has misread the determination of the West to impose costs on him or – much worse – that he will intervene in Eastern Ukraine if civic disturbances continue there. The Administration’s hope is that the increasingly tough approach adopted by German Chancellor Merkel – who is seen in Washington as the pivotal player – will convince Putin to have second thoughts. As an NSC analyst commented to us: “We have a good understanding about Lavrov but we hardly any read of Putin.” There is a sense of foreboding that, once sanctions start to be imposed, attitudes will harden in Moscow and the crisis will turn into a prolonged one – with implications on other issues in the US-Russia relationship like Syria, Iran, North Korea and nuclear disarmament. With new P5+1 talks due with Tehran next week, US officials are at present encouraged that the Russian attitude remains cooperative.  Regarding Syria, US attention has dropped precipitately, with the result that US intelligence analysts are warning that Assad is making military gains that will be near impossible to reverse. One analyst commented to us: “Assad has as good as won.” ...'

Qatar's 'ace in the hole'

"... Today, gratitude has turned to bitterness in places like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere, where Qatar’s support for one brand of Islam is viewed as unwelcome interference by millions.
Doha, however, still believes in the long-term viability of its bet. It obviously thinks it has more to gain than lose. It continues to view Saudi Arabia as a regional rival. The emir and his father do not forget that Riyadh opposed the 1995 coup that brought Hamad to power.
With the Middle East in turmoil, the outcome of the Iranian nuclear negotiations still uncertain, the fighting in Syria raging and Egypt in transition, the Qatari rulers view the Muslim Brotherhood as their ace in the hole. They are not prepared to throw it away."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Libya drifts

"... In the nearly three years since Libyans fought to end 42 years of often brutal and bizarre rule by Moammar Gadhafi, the weak central government that replaced him has proved incapable of tackling the mounting problems. Now the nation is as fragile as it’s ever been since Gadhafi’s ouster and death, and Libyans themselves are showing less enthusiasm for the trappings of democracy..."

Masked gunmen attack army bus in Cairo

"... An officer was killed and three others injured when gunmen opened fire on an army bus in Cairo. The Egyptian army said the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the attack, according to Reuters news agency on Thursday..."

"... well, this is a different Hezbolla"

"... “A Hezbollah with modern surface-to-air systems, with modern U.A.V.’s, with modern cybercapabilities, well, this is a different Hezbollah,” the senior military official said, one that could have “much more appetite to taste another conflict with Israel.”

This is how it's done!

This author has a good strategic mind.
"... Before getting to what power-sharing in Syria might actually look like, the parties would try to establish a sustainable cease-fire. The United States and Europe could probably get the opposition and its supporters from the Sunni Gulf states to stand down; Iran could do the same with Mr. Assad.
The next step would be to speed the delivery of civilian aid. Given that Iran and Hezbollah have personnel on the ground in Syria, their cooperation on such an effort would be much more effective than Russia’s. Aid delivery would not only help Syrians in need, but such a good-faith effort on Mr. Assad’s part would improve the climate for substantive negotiations on the actual transition plan.
A diplomatic approach to Iran would not sit well with many in the Syrian opposition. But they also have to face facts:
With or without Iran, the United States and its allies will remain wary of any political deal unless the moderate opposition substantially purges its ranks of jihadists, who are infiltrating Syria in increasing numbers...."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ongoing Thuggery

"Egypt’s prisons are full to bursting. More than 20 men may be packed into a police cell three metres squared. People who have been released say there are inmates still inside who have been there for six months in facilities designed to hold people for a few days. Some of them are under 18. At first the police rounded up members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Mohamed Morsi. The net has now widened to include campaigners who called for a ‘no’ vote on the constitutional referendum, liberal activists and journalists..."

CIA's Brennan: "Syria has a real army"

"...“Syria has a real army,” Brennan said in reply to a question from Al-Monitor about how long Assad might stay in power. The Syrian military, he added, has benefited from years of training and equipping by Russia and is “a large conventional military force with tremendous firepower.”While acknowledging the proficiency of some of the Islamist fighters battling the Assad regime, Brennan noted that “internecine fighting” among the rebels has hurt their cause.“Assad has been able to stand back and watch their fighting,” Brennan said..."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

'We have lied so much that these 'hypocrits' don't believe us anymore!'

"... Not only have international condemnations of the arms shipment been "few and feeble," Netanyahu said, but at the same time "handshakes and smiles" were seen in Tehran as European policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.Netanyahu accused the international community of "hypocrisy against Israel," keeping largely silent following the exposure of the arms ship but readily issuing "blunt and sharp" denunciations of Israel..."

Pakistan’s new-found enthusiasm for military action against the Taliban ... yield fast-track rewards

"... Highly-placed sources told The Express Tribune that friendly countries have injected another sum of $750 million in the PDF – an account opened to channel money from abroad. The last tranche was received in February that stabilised the dwindling official foreign currency reserves.It is the first time that any country has generously given $1.5-billion assistance to Pakistan within one month, as Islamabad never received such an amount as ‘upfront’ payments. The US, which remains the largest contributor, always gave amounts in tranches spreading over several years. Under its five-year, $7.5-billion Kerry Lugar aid package, Washington gave less than $2.5 billion in government-to-government assistance in over three years.
However, it was not clear whether the money received is a grant or depositary loans aimed at temporarily bailing out the country..."

Saudis slams terrorism charges by Iraqi PM

"... "Nouri al-Maliki knows very well, more than anyone else, the clear and categorical position of the kingdom against terrorism... and is aware of the kingdom's efforts to combat this phenomenon locally and globally," the AFP news agency quoted the official as saying..."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Syrian Arab Army dramatic advances in the West, pressured al Qaeda & co. to deal

" — The deal that saw the release over the weekend of 13 Syrian nuns who'd been abducted in December by anti-government fighters happened largely because rebel forces fear they are about to lose control of the area where the nuns were being held...."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood: exposing the lies!

 
"This book is issued (see top, right) by the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  It is titled: "Jihad for God" and includes essays by Abu Al-A`la Al-Mawdudi, Hasan Al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb.  It is hilarious to see Saudi papers AND Western newspapers talking about the historical enmity between the Saudi Kingdom and the Muslim Brotherhood."

US Intel: 'The focus on Ukraine is allowing Assad to make substantial military gains"

'President Obama is trying to prevent Ukraine from becoming the single policy issue that defines his presidency. However, the perception is rising in the White House that, rightly or wrongly, the crisis has become a personal contest which can only be settled between Obama and President Putin.  NSC officials tell us that this is both an advantage in that it lends weight to the exchanges between the two men and a drawback in that it involves Obama more intensively in the management of the crisis than he would otherwise wish. This week he has attended for example to budgetary matters and to the Middle East Peace Process. However, with a visit looming to Brussels at the end of the month for EU and NATO meetings, the White House knows that all eyes are on the Ukraine crisis. As an NSC official commented to us: “Against all the odds, Obama continues to believe that he can do a deal with Putin. His telephone exchanges lead him to conclude that Putin is intent on building a position of strength from which he will then negotiate.” From talking to other high-level contacts in Washington, our sense is that Obama’s conviction that a deal is doable is not widely shared. Even in the State Department there are senior officials who are much less optimistic that Putin is interested in negotiating. The Pentagon is also skeptical, but its military moves in the Baltics and Black Sea should not, as a senior strategist there commented to us, be seen as preparations for belligerence (See Dempsey's comments). “We are supporting diplomacy, not undermining it,” was his comment. In summary, therefore, Obama remains committed to diplomacy but is facing rising discontent at home, with pressure increasing to be tougher. Ironically, in the P5+1 negotiations on Iran, Russian experts are taking part in ongoing exchanges with the Iranians alongside US officials. State Department official tell us that they remain cautiously optimistic that an end agreement is possible. On Syria, by contrast, Intelligence Community analysts are worried that the focus on Ukraine is allowing the regime to make substantial military gains. As one commented to us: “The price of maintaining Crimea in Ukraine may be losing Syria.” Obama is due in Saudi Arabia at the conclusion of his European visit, so attention is back to the mideast'