Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ICG: "Turkey should work with Iran to de-escalate foreign involvement in the Syrian war .."

"...While Turkey has successfully contained internal sectarian unrest, its Syria policy is highly unpopular domestically, not least with its large Alevi and Kurdish popu­lations. Feeling betrayed by Western failure to live up to promises of intervention or more support, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has re­calibrated its foreign policy in the past year. Its narrative has changed to include jihadi elements of the militant opposition in the growing list of security threats from Syria, along with the regime and its agents. In 2013, it reversed its all-out objection to engaging the Syrian Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD), linked to Turkey’s insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and in March 2014, it let UN aid convoys cross into PYD-controlled areas when Syria finally opened one border crossing for UN humanitarian aid. In the bigger picture, Turkey wants to avoid prolonged military entanglement, but violent border clashes and occasional aerial confrontations with the regime increase risks of an escalation. Even so, extensive Turkish military intervention is unlikely without at least an international mandate and backing.The AKP leadership’s resolve to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gone stays strong, as does its support for the mainstream Syrian opposition. It hosts rebels and their families in well-built refugee camps, allows political and military opposition bodies to convene on its soil and gives logistical and material assistance. But Turkey has never been a main backer of the militant opposition inside Syria, and Gulf actors have gained more political influence. Still, involvement with the opposition’s main political body, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, helped garner support for Geneva II peace talks and ensure a degree of Kurdish representation. Turkey should use its leverage as a transit ground for supplies to rebel groups in northern Syria to encourage their compliance with international humanitarian law and non-sectarian practices. By maintaining open communication with regional counterparts, including Iran, Turkey should work reciprocally to de-escalate foreign involvement in the Syrian war and build an environment more conducive to peace...., ...  Recommendations To the government of Turkey: 
. Continue directly engaging Iran and other regional actors to find a political solution in Syria, including encouraging reciprocal steps from regional counterparts to achieve a mutual reduction in their involvement in the conflict and eventually end proxy warfare. 
. Invigorate recent efforts to demonstrate greater sectarian and ethnic neutrality in foreign policy. 
. Show zero tolerance to border breaches by jihadi elements, whether from or into Syria...."

Lebanese Army & Syrian al Qaeda clash again

Affrontements entre soldats libanais et Syriens armés dans le jurd de Ersal

"Unaccounted for"

"... The United States has spent $103 billion to rebuild Afghan roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure since 2002, more than in any previous overseas reconstruction effort.Almost $64 billion of the aid has come in the last four years, creating a deluge of money that the U.S. government can’t track and which the fragile Afghan economy can’t absorb, the report said. As a result, it said, large sums of aid are unaccounted for and major projects have not been finished or were done poorly..."

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/30/225990/us-report-offers-grim-portrait.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Lebanon fails to elect new president - again

 Al Jazeera English

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Good news from Libya

"TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Gunmen stormed Libya's parliament on Tuesday and started shooting, forcing lawmakers to abandon a vote on the country's next prime minister, a parliamentary spokesman said...."

Erdogan sees quick normalization with Israel

 | AFP.com

"... Erdogan said he is prepared to normalize ties with Israel within days or weeks Erdogan, speaking on US broadcaster PBS late Monday, said US President Barack Obama was instrumental in arranging a phone call between the leaders of Israel and Turkey, which have been at odds since a 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships left nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists dead..."

Let Us Now Praise Murderous Men; Lebanese Presidential Candidates, Considered

"... Reading and watching Geagea give press statements on his candidacy, I remember the space of terror he used to occupy for myself and my friends in Tariq al-Jadidah. I remember watching mortars explode from a window with a view of the northern coast with my grade school classmates during the Aoun-Geagea war. I remember a year spent in a mountainous Beirut suburb, away from school and from an apartment untenably close to “the Green Line.” Today, I try to imagine what a Palestinian in Lebanon thinks when she sees Geagea on TV confidently lay out why he should be president. Does her heartbreak as one by one, journalists fail to ask Geagea about his involvement in war time massacres? Has her heart been broken too many times in Lebanon, and does she simply change the channel? No one asks Geagea, or his rival Gemeyyel, about their wartime alliances with Israel, or their complicity in the siege of West Beirut, or their wars with rival Maronite leaders that left thousands dead and maimed..."

Too little, too late!

"... The small number of BGM-71 missiles, about two decades old and hardly better than similar Russian and French models acquired by the rebels from allies and the black market over the past year, will not change the game in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the fighters say. Three years into the war, the government has pushed opposition forces out of many of their most important strongholds, deferring their hopes of victory indefinitely..."

London looking to testaure diplomatic ties with Tehran

"(Reuters) - A senior British diplomat made a brief visit to Tehran on Monday for talks with officials on the strained ties between the two countries and on Iran's nuclear program, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.Earlier, IRNA said Tehran and London were looking to restore full diplomatic ties, all but severed after a 2011 raid on Britain's embassy in the Iranian capital..."

Jordan reels from week of violence in Maan

Al Jazeera English

"Amman, Jordan - Residents of Jordan's southern city of Maan were attempting to recover after a week of violence, sparked by the alleged killing of a civilian by security forces on Tuesday.After reports of "relative calm" in the city, located 200km south of the capital Amman, police on Sunday fired tear gas and guns near an elementary school in the Iskan neighbourhood, reportedly searching for wanted persons.Dozens were arrested during the raid, local residents told Al Jazeera...."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Kerry: Israel risks becoming apartheid state

"..."A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second class citizens - or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state," said Kerry. .."

Ukraine funnels light arms to Jihadis in Syria via Germany

"Der Spiegel has just published a report on the funneling of Ukranian arms to jihadists in Syria via Germany. The following is a translation of the German text by Emily-Dische Becker:"According to information obtained by Der Spiegel, a Ukrainian state enterprise is delivering rifles to Germany. The German federal government allegedly doesn’t know what is happening with the weapons. Are they being used in the war in Syria?According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the Ukraine is apparently doing arms deals through Germany. As the German Foreign Office acknowledged in response to a request by Die Linke (the Left party), the Ukrainian state company Ukroboronprom has been exporting semi-automatic rifles of the SKS Simonov variety to Germany. These imports were approved by the responsible government agencies.
The Foreign Office however is concealing where the weapons are ending up in Germany: The delivery terms of the German contract partner are “a business and a trade secret.” The rifles, it says evasively, are being delivered to Germany “for the purpose of modification.” The American Jamestown Foundation think-tank, which is said to enjoy strong historical ties to U.S. intelligence agencies, believes that the weapons are being delivered
from Germany to Syrian rebels. Jamestown estimates the delivery of 54,000 small arms in the years 2011 and 2012. These could have been used for ” covert operations ” in Syria.
The federal government is aware of the suspicions of the Americans, but does not want to investigate them. As stated in their response to the Left party’s inquiry, they have “no findings of [their] own on this matter.” Neither the German army, nor the military counterintelligence agency, nor the federal intelligence service (BND) are involved in the purchase of weapons [the federal government claims].The Left party’s expert for foreign affairs, Sevim Dagdelen, is alarmed by the government’s ignorance: “It is scandalous that the federal government can not convey anything about the whereabouts of these weapons. ” To make matter worse, Berlin “can not dispel the suspicion that these weapons have been passed on to Islamist holy warriors to cause a regime change in Syria. “

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Armed Kurds kidnaps two Turkish soldiers

 report

"... The abduction took place late Saturday, after the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) issued a statement warning of a possible return to violence..."

The SNC & Slaughter reading from the same script!

"... “I think a lot can be done vis-a-vis the Russians,” he said. “We see an opportunity in telling our friends that, 'Hey, you could get back at Putin in Syria.'”

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pro-Western repression in Ukraine ...

"... When the protesters in Bahrain or Palestine or Ukraine are killed by a pro-US government, they always manage to die in 'clashes"  Yet, armed protesters are innocent civilians when killed by a government that is not aligned with the US. ..."

Here's why Putin will not blink first!

"Introducing the quadrennial diplomacy review on 22nd April, Secretary of State Kerry commented that contemporary diplomacy is “more difficult than the Cold War.” From conversations we hold with senior Administration figures, we certainly get the impression that US foreign policy decision-makers currently feel that the international deck is stacked against them. Symptomatic of this sentiment is the fact that as President Obama continues his visit to East Asia, much media comment has focused on doubts about the credibility of the US global posture. As one senior State Department strategist commented privately to us: “Little is going right. We cannot budge Putin on Ukraine, Asian trade talks are stalled, the Middle East peace process is on life support, Assad is winning in Syria, the North Koreans are threatening a nuclear test. We do not have the means or the will to respond to horrendous massacres in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.”  A new test of US will power will present itself in the coming days when, if as expected, the Russians do not back down over Ukraine and a new set of sanctions is announced. There is some tough talk in Washington about how broad and painful these will be, but Treasury officials tell us that sanctions that both damage Russian interests while sparing pain from US corporations are hard to find. The final sanctions may turn out to have plenty of loopholes...."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Haass: "The US' push for regime change has brought about “cures” worse than the disease"

 Haass ...
"Yet history shows time and time again that it can be difficult to oust a leader, and even when it is not, it can be extremely difficult to help bring about a stable, alternative authority that is better in terms of American preferences. The result is that the United States often finds itself with an uncomfortable choice: Either it must back off its declared goals, which makes it look feckless and encourages widespread defiance, or it has to make good on its aims, which would require enormous investments in blood, treasure, and time rarely justified by the interests or results, ....,   ... The result is that Assad has not gone and the principal opposition is worse, from an American perspective; it is only a matter of time before the United States will likely have to swallow the bitter pill of tolerating Assad while supporting acceptable opposition elements against the jihadis. Negotiating efforts that ignore realities on the ground will continue to bear little if any fruit...."

Jordan anti-terrorism law sparks concern

Al Jazeera English

"... Jameel Nemri, a member of the Jordanian Parliament and a strong opponent of the amended law, said it would improperly expand the role of Jordan's State Security Court: "Hacking websites and looting are already addressed in Jordan's penal code. [Such] civil crimes are not acts of terrorism and those allegedly accused of any should be tried in civil court," Nemri told Al Jazeera. Jordanian officials, meanwhile, say the law will help to protect the country's stability and prevent young people from falling victim to extremism. Government spokesman Mohamad al-Momani previously cited concerns about extremist groups in Syria taking their fight to Jordanian territory ..."

Jordan anti-terrorism law sparks concern

Al Jazeera English

"... Jameel Nemri, a member of the Jordanian Parliament and a strong opponent of the amended law, said it would improperly expand the role of Jordan's State Security Court: "Hacking websites and looting are already addressed in Jordan's penal code. [Such] civil crimes are not acts of terrorism and those allegedly accused of any should be tried in civil court," Nemri told Al Jazeera. Jordanian officials, meanwhile, say the law will help to protect the country's stability and prevent young people from falling victim to extremism. Government spokesman Mohamad al-Momani previously cited concerns about extremist groups in Syria taking their fight to Jordanian territory ..."

"Town by town, 'doomed' Assad closes in on Syria Victory"


SundayTimes
"A YEAR ago, following a string of victories, Syria’s rebels fought their way so close to the capital, Damascus, that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime appeared doomed.Many commentators predicted his fall within days; others gave him only weeks to survive. Yet 12 months later the tide has turned dramatically in favour of the Syrian president, who has outmanoeuvred his opponents both at home and abroad.
In the past few days, a string of villages and towns in the strategically important Qalamoun region have fallen to government forces — among them the Christian town of Maaloula, ... Homs, once known as “the capital of the revolution”, is on the verge of falling to a Syrian army offensive.... Assad predicted that the main battles could be over by the end of the year. “This is a turning point in the crisis,” he predicted.
Assad’s closest ally, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, went further, saying the Syrian leader no longer faced the prospect of being overthrown.
What has changed in the course of the year? Based on extensive interviews with senior sources close to Hezbollah’s military command in Syria and briefings from high-ranking army officers, I am convinced the answer lies in the decision by Nasrallah and Assad to throw Hezbollah into the fray, thus changing the course of the war....
There was further danger to Hezbollah as jihadist rebels began to discuss the prospect of extending their holy war to Lebanon. This would have put them in a powerful position to strangle the group by severing its supply lines from Syria. As a source close to Hezbollah described it to me recently: “Syria is Hezbollah’s lungs.” He added: “It doesn’t matter how many weapons Hezbollah keeps in Lebanon. In any war with Israel, their stocks would be depleted. Resupply is vital.”
By early last year, 70% of Syria’s territory had slipped from Assad’s control.... Assad had been leaning heavily on the advice of his generals, who were trained in conventional warfare, and were ill-suited to a guerrilla struggle. It was time for a wholesale change of tactics, he decided, and that could come only from Hezbollah.
Nasrallah went to Tehran to seek religious guidance from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who gave his blessing to sending fighters. Khamenei said it was a religious obligation to fight the jihadist rebels.
Nasrallah’s military advisers insisted that Syria’s army, reinforced by his men, had to go on the offensive. With the backing of Russia and Iran, a strategy was formulated to drive the rebels out of Damascus and win back control of the strategic corridor that links the Syrian capital to the Mediterranean coast.
Initially Hezbollah said its intervention would be confined to retaking the Syrian border city of Qusair and defending the Lebanese villages bordering Syria.
But Hezbollah’s fighters had underestimated their enemy. They soon found themselves in danger of being bottled up by rebel forces and realised they needed to capture far more territory than they had envisaged. This was now a full-scale war for them.
First, Qusair had to be taken in order to block the flow of rebels and weapons from Lebanon into rebel-held Homs.
Hezbollah sent several thousand fighters to the front while the Syrian army provided artillery and air support. In a sign of how closely they were now working together, Hezbollah was granted access to Syria’s military command operations centre for the first time.
Qusair proved a vital learning curve for Hezbollah, fighting far from its own terrain. The organisation was taken by surprise by the rebels’ prowess. In the first few days of battle, it took heavy casualties and was forced to regroup and change tactics.
After three weeks of heavy fighting, in which much of the town was destroyed by shell and rocket fire, Qusair was finally taken back into the hands of the regime last June.
The scale and ferocity of the battle persuaded Hezbollah’s commanders they needed to widen their strategic objectives. Homs, a rebel stronghold, had to be captured in order to choke off the rebels’ supply lines into Lebanon.
Today Homs no longer poses a threat to either Hezbollah or the regime, although it has a rump of rebel fighters, blamed for a car bomb outside a mosque on Friday that killed at least 14 people....
In the next stage of their plan, the Syrian army and Hezbollah moved their attention to Qalamoun, the region where it made significant gains last week.... Hezbollah fighters spearheaded the attack after the Syrian army had softened up the rebels by pounding their positions with artillery, rocket launchers and mortars...
Despite the triumphs at Maaloula and Qalamoun, an all-out victory for Assad is still far from assured. Rebel brigades have made significant inroads in the north in recent weeks. Last month they captured Kassab, the sole remaining government-controlled border post with Turkey, cementing their hold on Syria’s northern border.
Though Kassab has little strategic importance, the well co-ordinated attack appears to have taken Assad’s military by surprise...Despite the setbacks, Hezbollah has emerged as a bigger and more influential player in the region as a result of its intervention..."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

“Assad’s days are numbered!”

"...Ms. Psaki was asked if the administration still believed that “Assad’s days are numbered.” “We do,” she affirmed ..."

Riots & death in Jordan

"... A group of men reportedly fired at a police patrol that was on routine duty in Maan, some 220km south of Amman, at around 6pm on Tuesday, prompting the officers to respond, a Public Security Department statement said.“The shooting resulted in the death of one citizen,” the PSD added.The incident sparked riots in the city, with angry residents blocking roads, Gendarmerie Public Relations Department Director Lt. Col. Ahmad Abu Hammad said...He noted that the municipality announced a three-day mourning following the shooting incident. 
Most of the stores, public schools, and Al Hussein Bin Talal University closed following calls by the municipality."

France unveils 'Gran Plan' to fight Syria bound islamists

"... In addition, authorities will withdraw passports from individuals suspected of wanting to travel to Syria. Foreign residents will be "immediately expelled" if authorities have reason to believe they participated in terrorist operations, the minister said.France, in conjunction with European partners, also plans to increase its monitoring of websites that post videos and other messages inciting jihadi activities. Cazeneuve said he has already traveled to Germany and Austria to coordinate and will shortly be in Britain for talks..."

The Iranian Evolution: A Shift in Tehran and the National Mood

"... Other factors are also at play. According to the World Bank, Iran is an upper income country, and is ranked 75 out of 187 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in terms of purchasing power per capita, just below Turkey and slightly above Brazil and South Africa. This income status may have some bearing on popular demands, which seem far more focused on improving government services and reducing corruption than changing or reformulating institutional power in the country..."

Turkish troops inside Syrian territory ambushed & disarmed by al Qaeda

"...  — Turkish troops conducting a resupply mission to a small Turkish military post inside Syrian territory were ambushed and detained Wednesday by Islamic extremists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to Turkish media reports.
The troops were later returned to Turkey, news outlets in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa said. But it wasn’t clear what happened to the four armored personnel carriers they’d been traveling in. One report said
ISIS had kept the vehicles, which had been seen flying ISIS flags..."

'Anne-Marie Slaughter reminds us why we’re glad that she doesn’t work in government anymore'

".... The larger, glaring flaw with Slaughter’s proposal is that she proposes that the U.S. commence hostilities against Syria purely for the sake of making a point to the Russians. There doesn’t appear to be any concern for what effect U.S. intervention would have on Syria itself, or whether it might trigger Iranian retaliation against U.S. clients elsewhere in the region. For the sake of trying to intimidate Russia into changing its behavior in Ukraine, Slaughter is willing to call for military action that could lead to a wider regional war and might derail ongoing diplomacy with Iran. Her argument is the epitome of everything wrong with mindless, knee-jerk interventionism."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dellusion!

Putting Syrian lives, American lives & treasures at risk with the use of 'might not' & 'could': priceless!
"... To lead effectively, in both the national and the global interest, the US must demonstrate its readiness to shoulder the full responsibilities of power. Striking Syria might not end the civil war there, but it could prevent the eruption of a new one in Ukraine..."

'Jihadists Now Control Secretive U.S. Base in Libya'

"... In other words, Tantoush is now the chief of a training camp the U.S. and Libyan governments had hoped would train Libyan special operations forces to catch militants like Tantoush. .."

Citizens Commission: 'The the US government allowed arms to flow to al-Qaeda-linked militants!'

"... 'The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,' Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told MailOnline.She blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop half of a $1 billion United Arab Emirates arms shipment from reaching al-Qaeda-linked militants.'Remember, these weapons that came into Benghazi were permitted to enter by our armed forces who were blockading the approaches from air and sea,' Lopez claimed. 'They were permitted to come in. ... [They] knew these weapons were coming in, and that was allowed..'The intelligence community was part of that, the Department of State was part of that, and certainly that means that the top leadership of the United States, our national security leadership, and potentially Congress – if they were briefed on this – also knew about this.'..."

Israel: 'Good results'

"... Hezbollah's efforts to continue targeting Israelis are part of a pattern of action which has been going on since Mugniyah's assassination in 2008. Since then, his authorities have been divided between at least four people. Hamiyah is one of them, and one of his jobs is to achieve revenge.
Those same intelligence abilities which, according to the foreign press, made it possible to locate – and assassinate – Mugniyah likely helped thwart Hezbollah's attempt to avenge his death..."

'Turkey 'cooking the books' to exploit the uncertainty of a White House seeking oreign policy successes

"... The reality is that numerous former intelligence officials, like myself, have long known most of the story surrounding the on-again off-again intervention by the United States and others in Syria, but what was needed was a Sy Hersh, with his unmatched range of contacts deep in both the Pentagon as well as at CIA and State Department, to stitch it all together with corroboration from multiple sources. In a sense it was a secret that wasn’t really very well hidden but which the mainstream media wouldn’t touch with a barge pole because it revealed that the Obama Administration, just like the Bushies who preceded it, has been actively though clandestinely conspiring to overthrow yet another government in the Middle East. One might well conclude that the White House is like the Bourbon Kings of France in that it never forgets anything but never learns anything either..."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Antagonising Iran: A strategic miscalculation?

Al Jazeera English

"... Nevertheless, US President Barack Obama and other senior US officials continue to threaten Iran with military strikes and to refrain from explicitly acknowledging Iran's full nuclear rights. This has increased suspicions among Iranians that the US still clings to a destructive, zero-sum worldview and that it believes it can somehow force Rouhani to sign away Iran's sovereign rights. This is a potentially dangerous misunderstanding of the Iranian president's position and could lead to disastrous Western miscalculations..."

SAG' offensive before election

"... By then, the regime might have gained control over a continuous geographical area stretching from Syria’s border with Jordan and Lebanon, all the way to Aleppo and passing through Damascus, its outskirts, and East and West Ghouta. That would be necessary for the regime to conduct the presidential elections it wanted..."

'Russia-US crisis may soon spread to Near East'

"... This information came as no surprise to Moscow, which as Russian sources say, was already aware of deliveries of antitank weaponry. According to them, an expansion of deliveries was discussed during President Barack Obama's visit to Riyadh on March 28... Moscow analysts believe that the following circumstances played a role in changing the course of the US administration.
First of these is the worsening in Russian-US relations due to the reunification of Russia and Crimea, alongside the strengthened role of neoconservative elements in the Washington bureaucracy, who are anxious to spite Russia wherever they can, and to hinder normalization of US-Iranian relations. These are the very same people who worked behind the scenes during the coup in Kiev. As Robert Merry recently wrote, referring to William Pfaff, Victoria Nuland “even identified the man who should replace Yanukovych after his ouster,” and “the United States spent some $5 billion in fostering 'democratic institutions' in Ukraine designed to nudge the country away from Russian sway.” He said that only “saner heads would have understood how dangerous this kind of activity can be.”
Second is America’s desire to support its Saudi partners, whose Syrian policy has evoked a serious internal crisis in the Saudi Arabian monarchy, the leaders of which blame the United States for all of their problems.
Third is the fear that the antigovernment forces in Syria could fall, which would turn the mantra of “Assad must go” into merely wishful thinking.
Most Russian experts believe that the supply of modern arms to the Syrian rebels:
  • Will not guarantee victory for the detachments that receive them; moreover, the suppliers will hardly be able to ensure that these weapons will not be seized by competing groups of fighters, including international terrorists.
  • Will exacerbate the rivalry between the rebel groups, rather than promote their unification.
  • Will impel government forces and their supporters to take harsher actions and will intensify the armed confrontation, costing even more civilian lives.
  • Will increase the flow of refugees.
  • Will force the pro-Damascus regional powers to mobilize even more personnel and material resources to fight the rebels...."

'Syria's al Qaeda groups turning to Qatari ransom to finance its activities'

"...  — The release over the weekend of four French journalists whom a rogue al Qaida offshoot had held for months in Syria may indicate that the group is turning increasingly to ransom to finance its activities.The French government has denied that it paid a ransom for the journalists, who were kidnapped in two separate incidents last summer. But two European intelligence agents involved in the cases of other hostages said they thought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had received a sizable payment for releasing the journalists.
The payment was brokered by an unidentified Persian Gulf country that’s widely thought to be Qatar, which has brokered and paid ransoms on behalf of hostages in three previous incidents ..."

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/21/225086/analysts-ransom-helps-militant.html?sp=/99/117/416/#storylink=cpy

'Testing the Waters'

"... A senior Syrian opposition official in Washington who works closely with the Americans said the TOWs were part of a small, tailored program coordinated by U.S. and Saudi intelligence services to "test the waters" for a potentially larger arming effort down the road.The official said the introduction of a small number of TOWs will have limited impact on the battlefield.The main objective is to develop a relationship between vetted fighters and U.S. trainers that will give the Obama administration the confidence to increase supplies of sophisticated weaponry.The U.S. has blocked Saudi Arabia from giving rebels Chinese-made man-portable air defense systems, known as Manpads.Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia offered to give the opposition Manpads for the first time. But the weapons are still stored in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey because of U.S. opposition, according to Saudis and Syrian opposition figures."Basically, this is supposed to be the next step" in the eyes of rebels and their Saudi backers, Mr. Alani said of the hoped-for antiaircraft artillery.Senior administration officials said the White House remains opposed to providing rebels with Manpads. Antiaircraft and antitank weapons could help the rebels chip away at the regime's two big advantages on the battlefield—air power and heavy armor..."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hopefully drifting, and that too, is good!

"... On second thought, there is a logic to Israel’s decision to stay away from the UN vote on the Russian invasion. The position presented by Liberman is also not far-fetched. How can a state that has been keeping another people under occupation for 47 years vote against occupation?In addition, experience shows that Israel doesn’t pay a price for ignoring the hand that feeds it with such bounty. At most, anonymous US officials, speaking to Israeli journalists, will express their disappointment at Israel’s ingratitude. Life is fine as long as the defense aid arrives on time and the finger of the US ambassador to the UN keeps going up at votes against the condemnation of Israel’s settlement policy.
As long as the heads of the majority party in the US House of Representatives make pilgrimage to the casino of his friend Sheldon Adelson, the man who is gambling on Israel’s future, Netanyahu can — as the old Jewish saying goes — dance at two weddings at the same time. "

Drifting, and that is good!

"... The relationship between Riyadh and Washington has been tied to four essential pillars in recent decades: Saudi hegemony over the oil market, the kingdom’s spiritual status in the Islamic world, Gulf security and the war on terrorism after 9/11. However, doubts about the future of these four pillars have emerged.Saudi Arabia’s control of the oil market depends on its possession of spare capacity, estimated at 2.5 million barrels a day. It is currently not certain that Saudi Arabia will maintain this production capacity. In a report issued by Citigroup in 2012, it was expected that local Saudi oil consumption will weaken this capacity gradually, and the kingdom will have to import fuel by 2030.... Moreover, the United States has become less dependent on oil. (and) Riyadh will no longer be able to use oil as a political weapon, as it did in the 1970s, and will struggle to influence Washington to acquiesce to its regional outlook.
The Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia give it its spiritual power in the Islamic world, but this element is changing for several reasons. First, the new communication revolution has disintegrated power and contributed to establishing several spiritual centers within the Islamic world.... 
 
Second, the kingdom has been involved in regional conflicts against other Islamic forces, whether against Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, Saudi Arabia’s influence over Muslims is waning, as indicated by a 2013 Pew Center survey that showed its popularity dwindling in the Middle East.... 
Meanwhile, the war on terrorism, which was considered one of the main commonalities between the two countries in the past decade, has turned into a point of debate between Riyadh and Washington regarding Syria and Egypt. Saudi Arabia supports jihadist Islamic factions in Syria, while Washington considers them to be close to al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia considers the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a terrorist organization, while Washington sees it as a political power having the right to participate in the democratic process.
Saudi Arabia is also uncertain of Washington’s commitment to Gulf security. Washington’s perception of security in the Gulf is different than Saudi Arabia’s....."
Bref, Saudia's rulers are rattled & that is good!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

President Assad in Maaloula, April 19th, 2014


Syria removes 80 percent of chemical weapons

"... Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said on Saturday that if the momentum was sustained, Syria should be able to meet its April 27 deadline to hand over all declared chemical agents...."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Optimism at the WH!

"... Our Administration contacts tell us that new sanctions are under preparation that would, as one senior official put it to us, “extract serious pain from the Russian financial sector”. The hope in Washington is that these can be avoided. One key reason is the importance of preserving a constructive Russian contribution to the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. With signs of Iranian compliance on its undertakings to dilute its stockpile of fissile material, State Department officials have told us that their optimism that a deal can be reached by the late July deadline is rising. All concerned acknowledge that the deal will have to be 100% watertight to pass muster among a very skeptical audience on Capitol Hill. The Administration needs legislative changes if it is to reduce sanctions, so cannot afford to alienate Congress if it is to fulfill its side of any final agreement..."

Father Frans in His Own Words : 'The Syrian 'rebellion' was weaponized from day one!'

In his own words:

"... From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels..."

Two killed in Bahrain car blast

 Al Jazeera English

Friday, April 18, 2014

US Officials: 'Israel is ungrateful!'

"... White House and State Department officials in Washington have built up a great deal of anger over Jerusalem's "neutrality" regarding Russia's invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. Senior figures in the Obama administration have expressed great disappointment with the lack of support from Israel for the American position ...
 While the Americans viewed Israel's behavior as ungrateful, in light of Washington's unshakable support for Jerusalem in the UN, in the Kremlin and in the Russian media Israel's action was seen as an expression of support for Moscow, or at the very least a lack of opposition to the invasion of Ukraine...."

Israel: 'NO radiation chemotherapy allowed to Palestinians!'

(Reuters) "... Treatment in Gaza was rendered harder by the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords because radiation chemotherapy, the two sides agreed, could have military applications. Only five practicing oncologists remain in Gaza, Shannan notes with gloom...."

Funny!

- Al Jazeera English

"... At an extraordinary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday, the ministers agreed that the policies of GCC member states should not undermine the “interests, security and stability” of each other, a statement said.Such policies must also not affect the "sovereignty" of a member state...."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Egyptians are holding their breath and waiting for what will happen after the elections "

"... The shift of terrorist operations toward the capital represents a strategy adopted by these groups to achieve victory on all fronts, whether in remote locations or in the heart of the capital. They see Cairo and the Delta cities as the hottest battlefield, where there is a group of Muslim Brotherhood facilitators providing protection and hiding places [for fugitive members]. The dense population provides freedom to easily move around explosives and hide between human masses,” Akashe added..."

Saudi Arabia running out of Antidiarrheal medicines!!

"... WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has taken steps to release a $450 million installment of frozen Iranian funds following a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifying that Iran is living up to its part of a landmark nuclear pact with world powers ..."

Syria: The Caravan passed!

'Syrian Army in Maaloula'
WAPO: 
"... With their spirits beaten down, hundreds of rebels have accepted government offers to hand over their weapons, activists and Syrian state media said, weakening the resolve of some of those who remain in the city. There has been a slow and steady exodus since mass evacuations were conducted in February under the auspices of the United Nations..."
 NYT:
"... Qaisar Habib, an activist in southern Syria, said in a Skype interviewthat the vehicles hit Wednesday morning belonged to a Syrian rebel group.He said the attack showed that the Jordanian government was “verysensitive” about the border as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, anextremist militant group, tries to establish a presence in southern Syria.Mr. Habib said the strike also could have been a signal from Jordanthat it would not tolerate recent attempts by another militant group, theNusra Front, to attack the Nasib border crossing, which is surrounded byrebel-held territory but still run by the Syrian government ..."
WAPO:
"... While some dispute the difference the weapons can make in the Syrian conflict, now well into its third year, the appearance of the missiles caused a flurry of excitement among experts who closely chronicle weapons used by either side..." 

NEWSWEEK: 'The Saudis are laughable in wanting people to take notice of their previously furtive missile program'

 'We kick Iranian butt!'
"... CIA and Saudi air force officers hammered out the ways and means for acquiring the new Chinese missiles during a series of secretive meetings at the spy agency's Langley, Va., headquarters and over dinners at restaurants in northern Virginia during the spring and summer of 2007, a well-informed source tells Newsweek. The arrangements were so sensitive that then-deputy CIA director Stephen Kappes ordered the CIA's logistical costs, estimated at $600,000 to $700,000 buried under a vague "ops support" heading in internal budget documents - prompting loud complaints from the head of the agency's support staff.....
Meanwhile, the Saudis have been acting like they want people to take notice of their previously furtive missile program..... Riyadh seems to be hinting that it has bought at least two new types of ballistic missiles."......
... the unprecedented missiles-and-pony show could be a deception. In any case, the Saudis are banging the drums around their missile bases - without any apparent notice here ...
The local Saudi press has been covering blood drives and disaster relief efforts by personnel at known missile bases, Lewis tells Newsweek. And while officials have been secretive about another missile base, he's discovered that "people on Arabic bulletin boards have big mouths.
"Turns out, if you're a Saudi assigned to a launch unit," he says, "the most natural thing in the world is to announce on a bulletin board, 'Hi, I work for the Saudi missile force, and I've been assigned to this place, and where can I get an apartment?' And people openly talk about their deployments in a way that Saudi officials would freak if they realized it."
Maybe. But you can't scare people if nobody knows what you got. Maybe the Saudis are suddenly trying to get attention....."

"I found – to my surprise – that even non-Ba’athis, including Assad’s opponents, would support him"

"... Over the past few days, I have talked to shopkeepers, students, soldiers, doctors, a dentist, MPs and government ministers (including the minister for tourism, who must have the most thankless job in the world). On the basis of these conversations, I would judge not just that support for the regime is holding up, but that President Assad could very well win a popular election, even if carried out on a free and fair basis.....Discussing this vote, I found – to my surprise – that even people outside the governing Ba’ath party, including some of Assad’s political opponents, said they would support him...."

"The United States IS NOT, and CANNOT be a neutral mediator in the Middle East"

"... Israel has become a much more religious and stridently ethnocentric country over the years, and it’s got to the stage where, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who originally came to power on a platform of rejecting concessions to the Palestinians, is regarded as a moderate conservative. The settler movement is central. At the time of the Camp David peace agreement, there were less than a hundred thousand Israelis in West Bank settlements. Now, there are close to half a million, with the number growing by the day.What hasn’t changed is U.S. policy toward Israel, and the way that it is marketed. From James Baker to Madeline Albright and now Kerry, senior U.S. diplomats have tried to present the United States as an “honest broker” between the two sides, interested only in the promotion of peaceful coexistence. About the only people who take this idea seriously are U.S. officials and commentators. The United States IS NOT, and CANNOT be a neutral mediator in the Middle East. It has long acted as Israel’s closest ally, biggest benefactor, and ultimate guarantor of its security...."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saudi ballet: America's men out or shelved!

"... It may be that this and King Abdullah’s designation of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as second in succession were done to time with Obama’s visit, to signal that America’s more favored successor, Mohammed bin Nayef, was not going to take over any time soon...."

Jordanian air force destroys insurgents' vehicles

"... Jordanian air force fighter jets destroyed an undetermined number of vehicles trying to enter the kingdom by crossing the border from war-torn Syria, military officials said Wednesday.At around 10:30 a.m. local time, the Jordanian Air Force spotted several vehicles illegally crossing the border along a “difficult geographical region to traverse,” according to the statement. “Royal Jordanian Air Force fired warning shots at the vehicles but they failed to comply and therefore the [Jordanian fighter jets], in accordance with the rules of engagement, destroyed these vehicles.”...It is widely reported that Syria's various rebel factions regularly transport weapons and other supplies across the border with Jordan. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly accused Jordan of assisting Syrian rebels both militarily and logistically..."

Syrian army controls Homs!

 - Al Jazeera English

"Syrian army troops backed by pro-government militia members have entered rebel-held neighbourhoods of the central city of Homs after laying siege to the districts for nearly two years..."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oh, (again), that web we weave!

"... Turkey facilitated an attack carried out by Islamist fighters against the Armenian town of Kasab inside Syria, eyewitnesses have told the Telegraph...In an operation that was months in the planning, Turkish authorities gave rebel groups the mandate they needed to attack, allowing them access through a heavily militarised Turkish border post, whose location was strategically vital to the success of the assault...."

Kuwait says coup-plot clip 'tampered with'

"... Local media have said the former officials in the videotape include a senior member of the ruling family, without giving details.
Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah, prime minister, "showed reports by specialised foreign sides affirming without doubt that the audio recordings and the videotapes which they examined had been tampered with and do not represent genuine and reliable copies", Marzouk al-Ghanem, parliament speaker, said on Tuesday after a secret session..."

Stunning revelation: 'Turkish diplomat says Reyhanlı attack carried out by al-Qaeda not by Assad!'

Turkish diplomat says Reyhanlı attack carried out by al-Qaeda - 

"... In a stunning revelation, a Turkish diplomat has for the first time admitted that the bloody Reyhanlı attack, which ravaged the border town of Reyhanlı on May 11, 2013, leaving 53 people dead and scores wounded, was carried out by Syrian elements of al-Qaeda, not by groups, as is widely believed in Turkey, affiliated with the Bashar al-Assad regime..."

Saudi king sacks Bandar bin Sultan & appoints al Idrissi as head of General Intel.

Did we forget anyone?

"... Sunni Islamists, Shi'ite Muslims, liberal reformers, atheists and human rights advocates have all been targeted through a series of arrests and new laws in what one activist has described as an "undeclared state of emergency"....
 They fear the return of possibly hundreds of hardened militants who have fought in Syria's civil war, remembering attacks from 2003-06 launched by radical Islamists who had taken part in the insurgency in Iraq."I think the worry about Syria is more reflected in the recent bit of legislation that mandate prison terms for Saudis who join fights abroad," said Gregory Gause, an associate fellow at the Doha Brookings think-tank."I think that's a direct response to the increasing flow back from Syria into Saudi Arabia. But of course that's a movie we've seen before from Afghanistan, from Iraq."Saudi leaders also fear that domestic expressions of support for the Muslim Brotherhood could complicate their policy in Egypt, their most important Arab ally against a common main rival, Shi'ite Iran, Gause said.Such concerns have given added weight to domestic criticism over a lack of jobs, housing shortages and government corruption, as well as social debates as to whether the kingdom is moving too quickly towards adopting Western values...."

Rouhani: 'Sanctions regime will unravel shortly'

"... "With your support, this government has taken the first steps towards the lifting of the brutal sanctions ... We will witness the sanctions shattering in the coming months," Rouhani told a crowd during a tour of Sistan-Baluchestan, a restive underdeveloped province bordering Pakistan...."

Lawless swap of land brought to you by NATO

(Reuters) -" Jordan's ambassador to Lib was kidnapped in Tripoli on Tuesday by masked gunmen who attacked his car and shot his driver, Libya's Foreign Ministry said, the latest in a slew of kidnappings as Libya struggles to establish rule of law.....
Kidnappings have become commonplace in Libya and abductors frequently target foreign officials. Since the start of this year alone, five Egyptian diplomats, a Tunisian diplomat and a South Korean trade official have been abducted...."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scum does not reside in Tel Aviv only ...

Between John Kerry, Netanyahu, Abbas & Dahlan ... the Palestinians have an epic bummer wrap.
"... For Abbas, staying in power requires keeping his rivals at bay. In particular, there’s Mohamed Dahlan, the former Gaza-based Fatah strongman who’s been licking his wounds ever since Hamas routed his men from the Strip in 2007. At just 52, Dahlan is still young. For the past four years, he has been living in the United Arab Emirates; my sources in the region tell me he recently spent a month in Marrakesh with Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to Washington, who was in Morocco recovering from shoulder surgery..."

Israel is holding secret talks with Saudia & Kuwait ... looking to establish diplomatic ties

"... Among the countries he was in contact with were Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Lieberman told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth -- the first such disclosure by a senior Israeli official.
Saudi Arabia denied having any talks with Israel. Kuwait was not immediately available for comment...."

Maaloula back to Syria!

"... MAALOULA, Syria (Reuters) - Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels' supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon.
Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner exchange deal..."

Russian fighter jet buzzes U.S. Navy destroyer in Black Sea

"... A U.S. military official says a Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region..."

Regimes are only repressive when they don't buy weapons!

"... But critics contend the Saudi deal represents a dangerous escalation in Canada's willingness to supply military equipment to repressive regimes, and a lack of regard for what impact the equipment could have on the ground - particularly in light of a new report showing Saudi leads the Middle East in military spending.
"
Under Canada's own guidelines, this sale should not have gone forward, and in the future similar sales should not go forward," said Kenneth Epps, senior programme officer with Project Ploughshares, a Canadian non-governmental organisation that advocates non-violence. Epps, who has been tracking Canada's global weapons sales for decades, called the Saudi deal unprecedented in scope..."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Electing 'stability'

 Al Jazeera English"... Despite the numerous campaigns against Bouteflika's bid for a fourth term, it remains unthinkable that they will affect the result, according to John Entelis, professor and chair of the department of political science at Fordham University in New York, who specialises in Algerian politics. "As long as he is still alive on April 17, Bouteflika will win the presidency overwhelmingly," Entelis said..."

The end of Lebanese exceptionalism

"... The Lebanese people have for decades had a hard time sustaining any kind of coherent, diligent governance system, due to the constant political wrangling among the many confessional groups in the country. Now that Lebanon also emphatically mirrors the ideological tensions and plays a more direct part in the political violence that defines most of the region, it has lost its former status as an exceptional Arab land..."

More than Erdogan can chew!

"... The Turkish Air Force scrambled four F-16 fighter jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew parallel along its Black Sea coast, the military said on April 13..."

Lebanon's 'cash for loyalty' days are gone!

"... Wissam says he used to be on the payroll of an anti-Syria political party headed by former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who now lives in France in self-imposed exile. But Hariri is largely impotent, having lost a violent power struggle with Hezbollah back in 2008. Wissam’s cash-for-loyalty days are long gone, leaving him and locals here to depend on one another when things get ugly. Now many say they feel like cannon fodder for their enemies..."

Friday, April 11, 2014

The guile of Liliput

SST:
"... Let's put this in clear language: The advocates of such equipment transfers want that the US should put Israel in a position in which it can flout US policy preferences by making them independent strategically by giving Israel a conventional stategic strike option.The desire to do this demonstrates Israel's current inability to successfully hit Iran.This is the same idea promoted in 'A Clean Break', which notably stressed the idea that Israel ought to transform its relations with the United States, by making Israel self-reliant, i.e. independent from the US. Now that's an ally!  These people want the US to make Israel independent, so that the Israelis can ignore whatever the US wants them to do and and at the same time they want the US taxpayer to foot the bill!......."

Only now, it does get worrisome?!

"... Of these, some have perished on Syria’s battlefields, such as 41-year-old Abdul Waheed Majeed, a father of three from Crawley who blew himself up after driving a truck packed with high explosives into a Syrian prison this year. Others, having experienced the brutality of a conflict where captured fighters are routinely decapitated in public and their heads paraded on sticks, decide that the rigours of jihad are not for them, and opt for returning home to lead a normal life.But, so far as our national security is concerned, the real problem centres on the hard core of British jihadis – those who return to Britain as hardened fighters fully versed in the latest terrorism techniques...."

WSJ: 'Iran’s trust in the West has been eroded'

(Happy news for the ) WSJ :
"... “The negotiators have been able to find common ground on technical issues, but the political ground under them has shifted. The P5+1’s unity has been adversely affected by the Ukraine crisis; Iran’s trust has been eroded because of problems in repatriation of its frozen assets, and the Iranian nuclear-negotiating team has come under increasing domestic pressure ..."

"It was Hezbollah’s decision and Iran didn’t dictate it"

 (Khamenei, in a very rare photo standing side by side as equal, 
with a visiting dignitary)
"... According to Mohammad Marandi, head of Tehran University’s world studies faculty, “Hezbollah involvement comes very much later than the conflict itself. Hezbollah only became involved gradually and well after a large number of extremists came to the country via a very large network of countries from the West and the Persian Gulf,” Marandi explained.“The notion that Hezbollah was a new chapter and started the foreign involvement isn’t true. Fatwas threatening minorities not only in Syria but in neighboring countries left Hezbollah with no choice but to respond, and this is legal with respect to international law, and they came upon invitation by the Syrian government. It was Hezbollah’s decision and Iran didn’t dictate it. I say with confidence [Hezbollah leader] Sayyed Hassan [Nasrallah] has a lot of influence in Tehran. Hezbollah makes its own decisions; Iran supports Hezbollah because they are allies, but the Iranians have nothing to do with the decision.”