Thursday, March 31, 2011

"...We could never guarantee how the intelligence might or would be used by the state of Israel.."

British intelligence wasn't always forthcoming with sharing information with its Israeli counterpart, former MI6 director Sir Richard Dearlove said in a conference Wednesday, adding that he felt Israeli intelligence played by a different set of rules than the U.K. agency.
Dearlove, the British spy chief from 1999 to 2004, said in a conference marking 60 years of British-Israeli diplomatic relations that he had "no doubt that Israel plays by a different set of rules ... I'm not going to expand on that, but I will just have to leave it to the imagination," Dearlove added, saying that he had frequent discussions "with Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary about what should or shouldn't be passed to our Israeli colleagues - and there are obvious reasons for that, because we could never guarantee how the intelligence might or would be used by the state of Israel."
However, the former U.K. spy chief also stressed the strategic importance of British ties with Jerusalem, saying that while the "relationship with Israel is difficult," that did not mean that "it's not important and that it's not given close attention professionally and politically."
Dearlove expanded on the cooperation between the two countries on Iran, saying it was an "immensely important" link. "Of course it does overflow into the role of Hamas and Hizbollah, both of which are largely, in terms of the way they behave towards Israel, Iranian surrogates," the former MI6 chief added..."

On Syria not even 'milder options' are weighed.

"... Yet the administration has made it clear that the military option is not "on the table," in Syria, where dozens of protesters also have been killed. A senior administration official confirmed that even milder measures, such as a tightening of U.S. sanctions, withdrawal of the ambassador to Syria, or other efforts at economic or diplomatic isolation are not being weighed.
Both countries are within reach of missiles and warplanes launched from U.S. ships in the Mediterranean... The explanation is difficult in part because it has less to do with humanitarian issues than with harder calculations of national interest... "I don't know if those circumstances (Libya) could be duplicated anyplace else," Obama told ABC News on Tuesday. He added that in each case, he needed to measure the national and international interest, and the possibility of success versus the risks involved.
While the death toll has risen in Syria, officials point out that it is still far lower than the thousands feared killed in Libya, (and probably much lower than the thousands killed by Mubarak, or for that matter, the Al Khalifas in Bahrain)...
In Syria, U.S. officials worry..."

"Qaddafi sent a most trusted envoys to London for confidential talks..."

"... Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, visited London in recent days, British government sources familiar with the meeting have confirmed. The contacts with Ismail are believed to have been one of a number between Libyan officials and the west in the last fortnight, amid signs that the regime may be looking for an exit strategy...... The Foreign Office declined "to provide a running commentary" on contacts with Ismail or other regime officials. But news of the meeting comes amid mounting speculation that Gaddafi's sons, foremost among them Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Mutassim, are anxious to explore a way out of the crisis in Libya. ... According to cables published by WikiLeaks, Ismail has represented the Libyan government in arms purchase negotiations and acted as an interlocutor on military and political issues..."

CIA Officer: "Those Libyan rebels clowns are not able to do anything effective until they are trained and have new weaponry..."

"... But the confab stretched from the afternoon into evening--and by the time it wound down, CIA Director Leon Panetta had offered to send CIA personnel covertly to work on the ground in Libya. "Once again, we were the only ones at the table who stepped up," Panetta later described the offer, according to a source who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive consultations....
There were many reasons the sudden commitment of personnel came from the CIA, and not the U.S. military. Not surprisingly, political concerns place high on that list, with a war-weary American public skeptical about any more long-term troop commitments in the Arab world... Asked by a committee member if there were any U.S. "boots on the ground" in Libya, Gates responded: "Not that I am aware of," and then added: "The opposition said they don't want any." Gates then fielded another question about the likelihood of a later deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Libya. "Not as long as I am in the job," he replied sharply.
So with no U.S. troops in play, the CIA is tasked with gathering intelligence and performing logistical groundwork at a critical stage of the effort ...  "They are in there collecting intelligence, deepening our understanding of who the rebels are," one former U.S. intelligence officer who has worked on the Middle East told The Envoy Thursday on condition of anonymity. "It gives intelligence color to what is in fact a covert action, interacting with the rebels. They are not doing quasi-covert diplomacy, they are doing intelligence."... 
Of course, there's a disconnect between the White House's depiction of the Libyan mission as a bid to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe, and the recent reports suggesting deepening covert U.S. involvement on the ground. But the former senior intelligence official said it would be naive to have believed it would have been otherwise once the first U.S. Patriot missiles exploded in Libya last Saturday. "I would hope there was not a single person in the administration [involved in Libya decision-making] who was childish enough to think that anybody who was involved in the first military operation … could ever again be engaged in a relationship with the Gadhafi regime," the source said. "It ain't going to happen. Of course we took sides. We crossed that rubicon."
But another former CIA officer took a different view, saying the disconnect may arise from a certain degree of wishful thinking in the administration's initial decision-making on Libya. "It's really simple: we incrementally get involved and [then] don't know what to do," the second former CIA officer said. The Obama administration "really thought a little pressure and he [Gadhafi] will fall." "The model is we [the CIA] go in and do a limited amount of training," the second former CIA official said. "So there is someone we can work with—as we increase air operations, and eventually hit artillery and armor." "Those clowns are not able to do anything effective until they are trained and have new weaponry, " likely from Egypt, the former CIA officer said, referring to the Libyan rebels. He suggested the CIA's ground-branch division, which includes many personnel who have para-military backgrounds, may also "train the Libyan rebels how to fight, how to shoot, how to organize into groups."...
At the same time that he outlined the best-case option Gates also cautioned that the United States' ability to influence such outcomes is extremely limited. "We don't have any real influence with the tribes."

"Egypt is pushed to seek debt relief"

(Dow Jones) - Egypt's balance of payments deficit could swell to almost $3 billion as the first quarter ends, and the country could be pushed to seek further debt-relief options, analysts for Roubini Global Economics said Thursday. "We believe that Egypt would turn first to bilateral sources of the European Union, to the U.S.," said senior research analyst Rachel Ziemba on a teleconference with reporters. She didn't completely rule out Egypt turning to the IMF for help with its debt issues.....
"Egypt has been facing more and more difficulty in trying to sell its Treasury bills. The yields have been rising," says research analyst Ayah El Said. "We've seen at the end of February Egypt seeking some debt relief from EU members. Nothing has materialized in this regard, but we expect Egypt to start seeking further debt relief options."...

US freezing Despots' money: 'A matter of days' for some & never for others!

More than a month after the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the United States has yet to respond to a request by Cairo to freeze his assets, Egyptian officials say. In a country where a politically emancipated public is eager to hold the former authoritarian government to account, Washington’s delay is deepening already negative feelings toward the United States. Egyptian activists point to the quickness with which U.S. officials moved to freeze the assets of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. U.S. officials say they are still reviewing the request by Egypt’s prosecutor general, but they add privately that the matter is more complicated than a simple freezing of funds. U.S. officials say that in Libya’s case, they were able to freeze $32 billion in a matter of days ... The rationale — stemming funding for an autocrat firing on his own people — was also much clearer. (Mubarak killed just under 2000 of his own people!) But in the case of Mubarak — an individual rather than a state power, and now a former president — the situation is murkier, officials say........
“There are unrealistically high expectations in Egypt about the Mubarak money,” said Michele Dunne, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “As an American, it’s one of the first things Egyptians bring up in conversation with you. They say, ‘You in the West are on trial here.’ There are suspicions that we’re just sitting on top of millions for Mubarak.” In Cairo, Egypt’s newly appointed justice minister talked this week about the importance of recovering such assets. “We must collect evidence that these monies were collected illegally so that foreign countries agree to freeze these accounts,” Mohamed Abdel Aziz el-Gendy told reporters. He added that Egypt had sent experts abroad to track down the money and start legal procedures. ....... A U.S. government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the Justice Department has been working with the Egyptian government to determine whether any U.S. accounts or assets are the ill-gotten proceeds of Mubarak or his family (OR WHAT? HARD EARNED CASH FROM 'DESPOTING'?). A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment...."

AIPAC, WINEP ...: "Focusing on Iran's dismal human rights record"

"... America's options on Iran are limited right now -- and depend somewhat on how growing fissures and feuds among Iran's ruling elites evolve, but short of adding another war to America's already too full plate. If it's a roster of a long list of other coercive measures, it's doubtful the Task Force will move the US-Iran policy needle very much. The group includes as members or advisors former AIPAC spokesman and Progressive Policy Institute Josh Block, Brookings' Ken Pollack, PPI's Will Marshall, the Council on Foreign Relations' Ray Takeyh, Bard College's Walter Russell Mead, WINEP's Rob Satloff, Stanford's Larry Diamond, and Freedom House's David Kramer.... "
AIPAC & WINEP (and others like Ken Pollack ...) are known for supporting human rights causes in the Middle East. Their support for the rights of Palestinian is epic! Their record of being moved to tears by Israel's barbaric treatment of Palestinians is long and consistent!

Al Qaeda Magazine

"... The big question on the minds of both jihadisand terrorism analysts these days has been whether the regional unrest will benefit al-Qaeda or hinder it.  Will a democratic wave in the Middle East undermine jihadis’ narrative that wanton violence and theocracy are the only option? Or will traditionally brutal intelligence and police services emerge from the movements weakened, allowing  jihadis to operate unchecked?....." (Read for 'answers'!)

Egypt's 'Muslim Brothers' in secret meeting with Omar Suleiman, offered help in ending the revolt in return for perks!

Via AngryArab

Private Jets, a "flight" necessity in the Middle East

(Reuters) - "Private jets, once playthings of the rich, have become a necessity for travelers in the restive Middle East and North Africa... after protests toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt this year and the unrest spread to Gulf states including Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.... "People were desperate to leave," Paras Dhamecha, executive director of Dubai-based operator Empire Aviation Group, said of Egypt ...
The Gulf's proximity to North Africa, where much of the fighting has been centered, has made havens of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia...
The need is not just for speed but also for privacy, in some cases, as politicians, diplomats and other public figures opt to evade the media glare.... Business jets also offer a certain discretion -- reports of Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan politicians fleeing on private jets have been widely reported during the current unrest. "They (private jets) are a means of traveling under the radar," said Sudeep Ghai, partner at London-based airline and airport consulting firm Athena Aviation..."

"Obama is bringing America closer to the imperial presidency than Bush ever did"

"In taking the country into a war with Libya, Barack Obama's administration is breaking new ground in its construction of an imperial presidency -- an executive who increasingly acts independently of Congress at home and abroad. Obtaining a U.N. Security Council resolution has legitimated U.S. bombing raids under international law. But the U.N. Charter is not a substitute for the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress, not the president, the power "to declare war."
...Without an armed "attack," there is no compelling reason for the president to cut Congress out of a crucial decision on war and peace. This is particularly striking since, in the Libyan case, the president had plenty of time to get congressional support. A broad coalition -- from Senator John McCain to Senator John Kerry -- could have been mobilized on behalf of a bipartisan resolution as the administration engaged in the necessary international diplomacy. But apparently Obama thought it more important to lobby the Arab League than the U.S. Congress.
In cutting out Congress, Obama has overstepped even the dubious precedent set when President Bill Clinton bombed Kosovo in 1999. Then, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel asserted that Congress had given its consent by appropriating funds for the Kosovo campaign. It was a big stretch, given the actual facts -- but Obama can't even take advantage of this same desperate expedient, since Congress has appropriated no funds for the Libyan war. The president is simply using money appropriated to the Pentagon for general purposes to conduct the current air campaign. The War Powers Resolution doesn't authorize a single day of Libyan bombing. But it does provide an escape hatch, stating that it is not "intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President." So it's open for Obama to assert that his power as commander in chief allows him to wage war without Congress, despite the Constitution's insistence to the contrary..... Obama is putting Bush-era talk into action in Libya -- without congressional authorization.
The president's insistence that his Libyan campaign is limited in its purposes and duration is no excuse. These are precisely the issues that he should have defined in collaboration with Congress. Now that he claims inherent power, why can't he redefine U.S. objectives on his own? No less important, what is to stop some future president (or Obama for that matter) from using Obama's precedent to justify even more aggressively unilateral actions?

CIA team already deployed in Libya ...

"... The small teams of CIA operatives are currently clustered primarily in eastern Libya, the de-facto rebel capital, according to the person with knowledge of their activities. Beyond the outreach efforts to Libya's rebels, the U.S. personnel are also meant to gather frontline intelligence about possible targets for future coalition airstrikes, this person said. The CIA declined to comment. The CIA personnel are thought to have deployed to Libya after Obama signed a Presidential Finding authorizing American intelligence agencies to provide aid to the rebels. It's not known whether the finding covers weaponry and armaments or is limited to money, communication gear, and other forms of non-lethal assistance...."

" I've never seen an uneasiness amongst their national security cabinet members as I have seen on this"

Responding to reports President Barack Obama secretly authorized covert action to support the Libyan rebels, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that actually arming the Libyan rebels would require his approval and he hasn't given it. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said in a late Wednesday interview that the Obama administration's top national security officials were deeply split on whether arming the rebels was a good idea... "I've never seen an uneasiness amongst their national security cabinet members as I have seen on this. It's kind of odd," said Rogers. He declined to say which cabinet members were supporting arming the rebels and which were opposed, but he said it was obvious that they disagreed.
"Everything from body language to the way they are addressing members of Congress, it's very clear that there's lots of tension inside that Cabinet right now. This to me is why it's so important for the president to lead on this," said Rogers. "I think [Obama's] reluctant on this, at best. And there are differences of opinion and you can tell that something just isn't right there."
Rogers wouldn't confirm or deny the report that Obama issued what's known as a "presidential finding" authorizing the intelligence community to begin broadly supporting the Libyan rebels, because such findings are sensitive and classified. But he said that if Obama wanted to arm the rebels, the president would need Rogers' support, which he doesn't yet have...But Rogers has no objections to putting CIA operatives on the ground to gather information on who the rebels are... Rogers said he was concerned about al Qaeda's involvement with the Libya opposition..."

"Assad's fall constitutes the first important defeat for the West's enemies ..."

"So far, the wave of protests jolting the Middle East has targeted mostly regimes friendly to the United States. With the prominent exception of Libya, a country that is rather peripheral to the region's political life, the uprisings of the Arab Spring have weakened Washington's friends and, consequently, brought satisfaction to its foes... Much like Egypt, Syria stands at the heart of the Middle East. But unlike Cairo, Damascus has remained a very large thorn in America's side for decades. Run by one of the world's most repressive regimes, Syria plays a key role as Iran's top ally and maintains warm ties with groups classified as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department. Syria is one of just four countries listed by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism. The uprising against Assad's rule has already sent waves of anxiety through the regime in Iran and among the leadership of Hezbollah in Lebanon...
Until now, protests in the Arab-speaking world have taken a toll on America's strategic position in the region. If the future brings democratic, Western-friendly governments, Washington could regain the lost ground and solidify relationships in the region. But for now, the fact is that the U.S. lost its most important Arab ally, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In addition, the regime in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has suppressed a mostly-Shiite uprising with methods that have eroded its legitimacy. In Yemen, another important U.S.-friendly regime is teetering, while in Jordan, King Abdullah, a stalwart partner, is also under pressure. The list goes on ...... Assad played America masterfully. To this day, influential U.S. politicians, notably Sen. John Kerry, believe the Syrian president is a reformer ... Whether or not Assad's fall would help Washington depends, of course, on who replaces him....
It is impossible to know with certainty if the Syrian regime will fall and, if it does, what would come next. What is certain is that Assad will not walk away from power the way Mubarak did. He is visibly trying to implement a two-pronged strategy of conciliatory measures and harsh suppression of the uprising, which could prove successful... In the end, however, if the Assad regime falls, there is a very real possibility that it could produce a net benefit for Washington and the West -- provided the Syrian dictatorship is replaced by a responsible government. That could ease many of the problems that have beset the West in the Middle East and constitute the first important defeat for the West's enemies since the start of the Arab Spring."

Al Jazeera: Rabid on Syria!

Assad sets up panel to prepare lifting of 'emergency law'

Reuters) - "... The state news agency SANA said on Thursday the panel would study and prepare "legislation including protecting the nation's security and the citizen's dignity and fighting terrorism, paving the way for lifting the emergency law." It said the committee would complete its work by April 25, but gave no further details... Syrian officials said last week a decision had been taken to abolish emergency legislation..."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Libya's 'spy chief', Mussa Kussa, defects to the UK

(Reuters) - "Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, one of Muammar Gaddafi's closest advisers and a former spy chief, flew to Britain on Wednesday and a close friend said he defected because of attacks by Gaddafi forces on civilians. "He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us he is resigning his post," a Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement. "We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course." He was reported to be being debriefed by British intelligence and foreign ministry officials..."

Le Figaro: "The Syrian regime is solidly in control"

Funny that you mention this, but I can swear that this happened to a couple of my friends!
"La paranoïa sécuritaire du régime syrien est telle que, même lorsqu'il a quelque chose de positif à montrer, il ne parvient pas à faire venir sur place un journaliste occidental. Lundi soir, un chrétien libanais, proche conseiller de Bachar el-Assad, nous appelle: «Présentez-vous demain matin au poste frontière, un visa vous y attendra. Une grande manifestation de soutien au président Bachar est prévue pour la matinée. Vous pourrez constater de vos yeux la popularité du président et faire cesser la désinformation actuelle dans les médias internationaux.»
Mardi matin, lorsque nous nous présentons au poste frontière, sur la route Beyrouth-Damas, : Interdiction générale s'appliquant à tous les journalistes ou mesure intuitu personae? On ne nous le dira pas. Nous appelons notre contact sur son portable syrien; il ne comprend pas et demande à parler à l'officier. Le proche ami de Bachar el-Assad nous rassure: ce n'est qu'un petit bug administratif .... Un lieutenant allume une antique télévision... Visiblement, ce sont des dizaines et des dizaines de milliers de personnes qui marchent et agitent des drapeaux dans une ambiance festive... nous parvenons à joindre au téléphone le directeur de cabinet de Bousseïna Chaabane ...
Nous sortons dehors faire quelques pas au soleil et profiter de la vue magnifique sur le Golan enneigé. Les employés d'un large duty free shop - où se précipitent des touristes iraniennes en tchador - se sont regroupés devant un téléviseur... «Nous voulons garder notre paix civile; nous ne voulons pas du confessionnalisme et du désordre qui gagnent en ce moment le monde arabe», me confie Najji, un jeune employé chrétien.
En Syrie, la communauté chrétienne (10% de la population) se range solidement derrière le pouvoir (exercé sans partage par une autre communauté minoritaire, les alaouites, dissidents du chiisme). Le soutien ancien des chrétiens à la famille Assad (au pouvoir depuis plus de quarante ans) s'est encore renforcé après l'invasion de l'Irak en 2003 par l'Amérique.
L'arrivée de la «démocratie» bushienne entre le Tigre et l'Euphrate, loin de créer un État de droit, a provoqué l'explosion des confessionnalismes, sur fond d'anarchie. Visée par toutes sortes de rackets et d'attentats, la minorité chrétienne d'Irak n'a plus eu d'autre choix que l'exil. Tous les chrétiens irakiens qui n'ont pas eu les moyens de fuir en Europe ou en Amérique du Nord sont aujourd'hui réfugiés en Syrie. Dans la manifestation filmée par la télévision syrienne, nous remarquons une pancarte qui proclame: «Oui aux réformes, non à la dissension confessionnelle!» En onze ans de pouvoir, le président Bachar a libéralisé une économie qui avait été bâtie, dès les années cinquante, sur un modèle soviétique. Mais après une timide ébauche de libéralisation politique au début des années 2000, il est revenu au mode classique de gouvernement en Syrie, où tout est décidé à la présidence et où tout est contrôlé par les «moukhabarats», les puissants services de renseignements. En revanche, la liberté religieuse est absolue en Syrie, où les chrétiens peuvent faire sonner leurs cloches comme ils l'entendent..."

A thought: Anyone, I mean is anyone thinking of Israel's phobia?

IRAN ...

Saudi officials: 'We backed air strikes on Libya in exchange for the US muting its criticism of the slaughter in Bahrain"

"The kingdom’s parliament effectively stripped 11 MPs from the Wefaq party – a quarter of the legislature’s sitting members – of their immunity from prosecution, signalling a further hardening of the ruling family’s position. Western human rights activists also accused the regime of torturing wounded protesters being held in a hospital in the capital Manama...
Saudi officials say they gave their backing to Western air strikes on Libya in exchange for the United States muting its criticism of the authorities in Bahrain, a close ally of the desert kingdom..."

Saudis 'getting bored' watching Arab revolts, but still enjoy Qaddafi's 'funny speeches'...

".... "Despite the ongoing hot events around us, my interest in watching the news is dropping fast,” said one Saudi citizen, who did not want his name to be published.... "I am beginning to get bored watching the continuous telecasts of political unrest and armed conflicts in some Arab countries,” said Essam Al-Haidari, a 35-year-old Saudi educationist.
He said his interest dwindled after watching coverage of the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt...
Al-Haidari, however, admitted that events in Bahrain might have generated more interest than the unrest in Libya, Syria and Yemen...
Musleh Al- Maraashli, a 38-year-old Saudi teacher, said he watched the incidents in Egypt very closely until they ended with the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak. "After that, I followed the revolution in Libya to listen to the funny speeches of Muammar Qaddafi. One day I stayed awake until 3 a.m. to listen to his speech which was recorded,” he said..."

Obama authorizes 'covert CIA' action in Libya

"President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday. Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with the matter. Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency....
News that Obama had given the authorization surfaced as the President and other U.S. and allied officials spoke openly about the possibility of sending arms supplies to Gaddafi's opponents, who are fighting better-equipped government forces....
People familiar with U.S. intelligence procedures said that Presidential covert action "findings" are normally crafted to provide broad authorization for a range of potential U.S. government actions to support a particular covert objective. In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization -- for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces -- the White House also would have to give additional "permission" allowing such activities to proceed. Former officials say these follow-up authorizations are known in the intelligence world as "'Mother may I' findings." ..."

Israel declassifies map of bunkers voluntarily evacuated by Hezbollah

STATE Department: Assad's speech "fell short"

 (AFP) -  "... Assad's speech "fell short" of the kind of reforms that Syrians have demanded, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told journalists in Washington. "It's clear to us that it didn't have much substance to it," Toner said, adding that he thought the Syrian people would be disappointed..."

Under Sec-Of-State Bill Burns to succeed Jim Steinberg as Deputy Sec-Of-State.... & Jeffrey Feltman to succeed Burns?

Al Jazeera: 'Calling all cars' against Bashar al Assad!

Mubarak's top archeologist, demummified!

"Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who unwisely took a position in Hosni Mubarak's cabinet just a few days before the government's downfall, has been named minister of antiquities in Egypt's new government:
Hawass's appointment is likely to anger pro-democracy activists who have been calling for the cabinet to purged of all old regime elements...... In any event, pharaohs may come and go, but it seems like it will take a lot more than a revolution to dislodge Hawass from his perch."  

Nabil El-Araby: "Iran is not the enemy & we welcome 'contacts' with Hezbollah!"

"Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Araby said Tuesday that Iran has historically rooted relations with Egypt as a neighboring country, and should not be regarded as an enemy state, Palestinian Arabic-Language news daily Maan reported Tuesday.
El Araby, who entered into his role March 6 2011 added that Hezbollah is part of the political and social makeup of Lebanon, and that communication between Hezbollah and the Egyptian government is welcomed. The Egyptian foreign minister also said coupled with increased dialogue with Hamas he is committed to improving the humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip and Rafah crossing."

Saudi Arabia, armed with an aggressive foreign policy, growing impatient "Waiting for Godot"

"... Saudi Arabia has grown impatient "Waiting for Godot." ...  In Saudi eyes, that's Iran and its secret nuclear weapons program. And eyedrop Western sanctions have done nothing to deter Iran's aging theocrats. ..... Saudi soldiers in Bahrain, now backed by police from the United Arab Emirates (a federated union of seven sheikdoms, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai), face indefinite security duty in another country. Some 70 percent of Bahrain's work force is on strike and clashes with police are now routine.... 
Prince Turki, in a little reported talk but clearly speaking for the kingdom at the annual conference of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies, called for a joint Gulf army "acquiring the nuclear might to face that of Iran." Between them - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Oman - there is no shortage of cash in their Sovereign Wealth Funds to bankroll a nuclear weapons program. They can pay top dollar for nuclear scientists and engineers from Western powers and Russia..... Qatar, the wealthiest Gulf state with a per capita income of $78,000, was the first non-NATO country to respond to the "no-fly zone over Libya" appeal from the 22-member Arab League. Qatar also has a global reach through Al Jazeera TV .... The next act in the Gulf sweepstakes won't be a walk in the park."

Assad, referring to Egypt & Tunisia: "If we stay without reform we are on the course of destruction"

 Syrian watches President Bashar Assad on television
"....  Assad, who painted himself as a visionary and the tough son of his late father, Hafez, made no dramatic promises or sweeping concessions to end weeks of bloodshed.....  Assad said that the reforms demonstrators were calling for, including the lifting of emergency law and wider political freedoms, were among existing proposals that would be enacted this year. "There are no hurdles to reforms, but there are delays," said Assad, who received a standing ovation when he entered Parliament. He did acknowledge that the Syrian people "have demands that have not been met." Referring to Egypt and Tunisia, he added: "If we stay without reform we are on the course of destruction."
But he offered no specifics and did not, as many were anticipating, repeal the emergency law, which has kept his Baathist party in power since 1963. The president, who in two weeks of protests has shifted between crackdowns and appeasement, such as raising salaries, said "it is my responsibility to secure the stability of the nation." It was unclear whether the address would stem revolts that have flared in cities in the north and south but have yet to threaten the capital, Damascus. That test will come Friday when anti-government protesters have called for large rallies across the country. They are likely to be met by crowds of pro-Assad demonstrators ....  the president seemed confident in his security forces and that his defiance to what he described as foreign agitators would rally the country.... "

'Etisalat' drops Syria licence bid

"UAE's etisalat on Wednesday scrapped plans to bid for Syria's third mobile licence ...  said it was disappointed with the license terms without elaborating further.....   The other firms to qualify for the licence auction are France Telecom, Qatar Telecom, Turkcell and Saudi Telecom, with bids due on April 12..."

STATE sanctions Belarus company on Iran, but GOP senators say it must be China's ...

Qaddafi retakes Ras Lanuf, while West mulls arming rebels

"... The rebels have now lost the key oil port of Ras Lanuf and the nearby town of Bin Jawad. However, reports say the fighting is continuing in the area. In the west, the rebel-held town of Misrata is still coming under attack from pro-Gaddafi troops, reports say.
US President Barack Obama earlier said he did not rule out arming the rebels. Mr Obama told reporters on Tuesday that Col Gaddafi had been greatly weakened by the coalition air strikes and would ultimately step down.
As the fortunes of the Libyan opposition forces rise and fall there is a growing concern within the coalition that its air power may not be enough to prevent the rebels' defeat. This could lead to the atrocities already threatened by Col Gaddafi. Given the clear disparity of military power between the two sides, there is already talk within some coalition countries of effectively setting aside the apparent restrictions of the UN arms embargo on Libya, to arm and train the rebel fighters. The fact that this debate about arming and training the rebels has started at all is a sure sign of a wobble in the coalition camp; a fear that the defeat of Col Gaddafi's forces may not be inevitable even with the huge dose of coalition air power..."
this brings us back to question: who are the rebels? The US remembers well that in the 1980s it armed the 'Afghan Mujahideen', and the rest became history....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"..We're not at the stage of studying sanctions or a UN Security Council resolution "

(Reuters) - France urged Syria on Tuesday to adopt political reform and enter dialgue with its people, but said it was not time for sanctions or United Nations intervention, its foreign minister said... "We're not at the stage of studying sanctions or a U.N. Security Council resolution."

Gamal Mubarak's supporters form a party with Pan Arab aspirations ... (look at you!)

" A coalition formed to support the son of former President Hosni Mubarak for the presidency is seeking to establish a political party. Supporters of Gamal Mubarak are attempting to maintain their political activities past the post-Mubarak era.
Gamal al-Menshawy, a founder of  al-Sahwa al-Arabiya (The Arab Renaissance), said the new entity includes Magdi al-Kurdy, the leader of the popular pro-Gamal campaign. He said the new party upholds concepts and goals that have not yet been addressed, adding that it embraces Egyptians from all social classes....
He explained that one of the party's goals is to establish a confederation of Arab states, with each state preserving its own political system, in addition to issuing a unified Arab currency, a common Arab economic market and a joint Arab army... Last August, al-Kurdy, then an unknown political activist, banded together a coalition to support Gamal for presidency. The ruling NDP denied any links to the campaign."

"Bashar al Assad stages his own coup"

"Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is attempting a new survival tactic in this Arab Spring — organizing what looks like a coup against his own government. Over the next 48 hours, it should become clear whether he has the political muscle and dexterity to pull off this unusual maneuver.
Assad dismissed his cabinet ministers Tuesday, and his backers encouraged massive public demonstrations of support in Damascus, Aleppo and other Syrian cities. Photographs showed huge crowds; a Syrian source claimed that 2 million Assad supporters had assembled in Damascus and 1 million in Aleppo, but it’s impossible to confirm these numbers. In their effort to turn the tables on protesters, the regime used Facebook as one of its tools to summon demonstrators. The social networking site was officially approved in Syria less than two month ago...
The decisive moment could come as early as Wednesday, when Assad may give the major speech the public has been expecting. He is said to have waited because he didn’t want to be caught in the same cycle as Egypt’s desposed president, Hosni Mubarak, who made a series of speeches announcing modest concessions, each of which only fueled the demand for more. Assad appears to be holding his cards for one big play, a move that his wily father, President Hafez al-Assad, would have endorsed.
Information I gathered from sources on Tuesday about the political jockeying inside Syria fits with what I heard from inside the Assad camp when I was in Damascus a month ago.
A measure of Assad’s seriousness is whether he moves to curtail the political and economic power of his own family....I wrote last month after visiting Damascus that Assad planned to press Makhluf to reduce his Syriatel holdings, as a symbol of his broader reform effort. That’s still said to be on Assad’s agenda.
The Assad clan also has military power that could obstruct Bashar’s reformist moves. His brother Maher, for example, commands a tough unit of Syrian special forces, and his brother-in-law Assaf Shaukat has been a senior intelligence official. It’s anyone’s guess, at this point, whether the Assads will remain united behind Bashar or fall into a bloody internal fued, but so far Bashar has proved the master of the situation....Some pro-reform members of the Assad government have referred to the dead protesters as “martyrs,” a sign of their eagerness to connect Assad with the wave of change that is sweeping the Arab world."

"..In Libya, Obama appears to be intent on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory...."

"After listening to Obama's speech last night and observing the relative lack of air action today I would say that Obama appears to be intent on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory.
He and his political cronies in the WH and in Chicago are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya or anywhere else in the ME.  Why is that?  Hmmm. 
Obama's lukewarm and self contradicting statements have produced what is at least for the moment, operational paralysis.  Think about it, if you were Carter Ham or any number of other NATO senior officers how could you avoid thinking that you are very exposed as a probable scape goat if a claim is made that you somehow exceeded your "instructions."
The rebels are a rabble?  Certainly, but so are Qathafi's people.  The rebel "ranks" may contain people who fought us in Iraq?  Probably, but we do not actually know that except on the word of Qathafi and persisant suggestions in the MSM by people who have no way to know.NATO air power is ineffective in built up areas?  Rubbish...
Obama should think about the political effect here in the US of defeat by Qathafi's puny forces.  He wants to be re-elected?  It would be interesting to see how his prospects would be affected by Qathafi's continuing presence in Tripoli in November 2012 and the mockery that the Republicans will rain down on him over his present weakness."

".. If things go south in Syria, sectarian demons will be unleashed, & the entire region will be consumed in an orgy of violence.."

The Syrian Time Bomb - By Patrick Seale | Foreign Policy

"This way please: Our Rafale fighter is one hell of a Libyan killer ..."

"... Many commentators believe the Libya air strikes are a pre-election advert for President Nicolas Sarkozy. Some believe they are also an advert for France's badly-selling Rafale jet fighter. Several EU diplomats and even one foreign minister speaking off the record in Brussels in the run-up to the Libya campaign pointed to next year's French presidential elections as a big reason for Sarkozy's enthusiasm to take on Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi.
But looking in detail at French operations in Libya, military analysts have also said that France is using the war to promote its badly-selling €60-million-per-unit Rafale fighter.
Rafale jets fired the symbolic first shot against Gaddafi at 17.45 Libyan time on 19 March, destroying four tanks on the outskirts of Benghazi. The strike took place three hours before the US and UK began bombarding Gaddafi anti-aircraft bases, with the French ministry of defence swiftly posting a set of Rafale pictures on its website....
The Rafale fighter already got its 'battle proven' stamp in Afghanistan in 2007 and will have little chance to show off in air-to-air combat in Libya: the only Gaddafi plane it destroyed so far was an old Yugoslav-made Galeb hit while on the ground.

Jean-Pierre Maulny, the co-director of the Paris-based Institute for Strategic and International Relations (Iris), explained that Libya is better in promotional terms than Afghanistan, however.
...Rafale manufacturer, the Paris-based Dassault Aviation, has so far sold almost 300 of the planes to the French military but not a single one to another country. Dassault is in talks to sell 60 to the United Arab Emirates and 36 to Brazil. Up until late February, it was in talks to sell 14 to Gaddafi himself..."

Bahraini FM, Khalid Al Khalifa to AIPAC & co.: "Israel is here to stay!"

A bit old, but oh so relevant, thanks to Anonymous reader.
"...One a recent snowy evening, guests arrived at the Lubavitch Center in Washington, DC, home of American Friends of Lubavitch, which played host to a private dinner meeting for a visiting foreign dignitary.
"Heading to dinner with a prominent Jewish Ambassador to the United States - will say more after I see if it's on-the-record," William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy for the Jewish Federations of North America, tweeted on his account. He was referring to Houda Nonoo, Bahrain's Ambassador to the U.S. - believed to be the Arab world's first Jewish envoy, who attends services at The Shul of the Nation's Capital at Lubavitch Center.
Joining him were senior representatives of AIPAC, American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith International, Anti-Defamation League and other prominent members of the Washington Jewish community.
Daroff's message on the micro-blogging site sparked interest, and immediately inquired about it. But Chabad Rabbi Levi Shemtov declined to elaborate.
Soon enough, at 8:45 PM, the dinner's special guest leaked it himself - through Twitter.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa tweeted: "Was invited by my friend rabbi shimtov 2 a dinner w/ leaders of the American Jewish community. gr8 discussion abt peace in ME (Middle East)."
"It was supposed to be hush-hush, but, nu, it was tweeted," Ron Kampeas, Washington reporter for JTA, wrote on his blog.
After learning of the tweet, Rabbi Shemtov told COLlive that the minister said: "People must understand that Israel has a historical presence in the region of the Middle East, belongs there and is a permanent presence in the region."
The minister added: "Once others will accept these facts, it will be easier to make peace" - a point he was said publicly in the past, but reiterated to the Jewish leaders.
Shemtov told JTA that, especially around Purim time, it's worth singling out for praise non-Jews who speak truth to power to regional leaders threatening Jewish annihilation.
"There are those, unfortunately too few as yet in the region, who say there is virtue to the Jewish people and if we discover it and explore it we may find the need for conflict is not really there," Shemtov said.
"His excellency King Hamad and his excellency Shaikh Khalid are such people."

A tradition of Saudi 'Fatwas' ....

'Arab demonstrations against Israel's aggression on Gaza are 'corrupting'' 
(Reuters) - "... Saudi Arabia is printing 1.5 million copies of an edict by religious scholars outlawing protests in the conservative kingdom as un-Islamic, the state news agency said on Tuesday...."The Grand Mufti requested that a number of government and private firms print and distribute more than a million copies," SPA said, adding that 500,000 copies already had been printed. SPA said the fatwa "called for strengthening cohesion and affinity" and called on the Saudi people to "have a united front... under its wise and legitimate leadership, warning (against) and forbidding demonstrations"..."

On 'communicating & coordinating' air strikes ....

Ali al Zentani by phone on Al Jazeera (Arabic): "I urge the NATO allies to bombard (specific locations) ... to dislodge Qaddafi's criminal forces, because the situation is difficult here ..."
 In a Pentagon briefing on Monday, Vice Admiral William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, said that coalition forces had been bombarding Gadhafi’s fighters in and around Sirte, and that military leaders were beginning to observe “a pretty significant shift” in momentum on the ground as a result of the air campaign. He cautioned, though, that NATO and U.S. forces were still not communicating with the opposition, and were not coordinating their air strikes to support rebel advances into territory controlled by Gadhafi. “We’re not talking with the opposition,” Gortney said. “We would like a much better understanding of the opposition. We don’t have it.

Mahmoud Abbas' bravado: "I am no puppet ... anymore!"

"... "Of course we need the American money. But if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid," said Azzam Ahmed, an Abbas aide...."

Egypt is still 'Mubarakstan'

"... Egyptians now realise that Mubarakstan, the virtual edifice created by Mubarak and his coterie to ensure the continued dominance of a closed circle of politicians and businessmen, hasn't collapsed along with the fall of its head and protector. It is also distressingly evident that Mubarak was nothing more than the visible tip of an iceberg of corruption, for Mubarakstan is in fact a full-fledged state – a colonial power in every sense of the word, a state with its own colonial discourse, its propaganda machine and its brutal militia. It even has its own capital in the city of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the ruling elite eat their imported dinners and lounge on sumptuous sandy beaches..... 
The state of Mubarakstan even boasts its own bank. The Arab Bank, which stands on Egyptian soil, is nonetheless an offshore business enterprise that is completely outside the Egyptian government's jurisdiction. This was where Egypt's billionaires deposited their loot ...  More serious still, state television and newspapers are still headed by the same pro-Mubarak propaganda team who falsified facts during the protests... Another bewildering phenomenon is the security situation. Almost daily we hear of prisons being forcibly opened, of fires breaking out in sensitive establishments, including the interior ministry and the Central Bank. These are often glossed over with no information provided. Equally ominous is the unleashing of Islamists of various affiliations on the Egyptian scene. A few days before the referendum on constitutional amendments (which was turned intentionally, it seems, into a holy war) some radical Islamists were released from prison, including Aboud al-Zomor who had been implicated in the murder of Sadat. Not only was he set free at this particular juncture, but he was also given a hero's welcome on TV and in the papers...."

'The strategic polygon', Syria & Sarkozy ...

(Reuters) - "...  “He can’t go out on several fronts at once, and the front where he is engaged is starting to show the difficulties of such an operation,” said North Africa expert Christian Bouquet at the University of Bordeaux III. “On the ground Sarkozy has stated, human rights and democracy, there should be interventions in several countries including Syria, and Ivory Coast, but he would not be able to mobilize the international community ... and there would be a hierarchy problem of where he should go first.”
The tensions in Syria have not reached the level they did in Libya when Sarkozy called the emergency summit that launched air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s troops. Syria’s ties with Iran and the fact it borders Israel, Iraq and Turkey would make military action an undesirable option, especially given the high risk of repercussions from groups like the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement or Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Iran is very involved with this regime. Iran would defend it with all means possible,” said Antoine Basbous, head of the Paris-based Observatory of Arab countries. “What’s at stake if the Syrian regime falls is not just a matter of Syria internally, the stakes are above all geopolitical ones on regional scale.”....
Sarkozy is in a tight spot because of the hero’s welcome he gave Assad at the Mediterranean summit in Paris in 2008, an event that reset Syrian relations with Europe after years of isolation for supporting terrorism. It will be hard for Sarkozy to turn against somebody he so publicly backed, even if his turnaround on Moammar Gadhafi shows he can ditch old friends if they prove too unsavory..... That said, Assad could still be a better bet for the West than a rashly decided replacement.... Most observers see Sarkozy continuing to use strong but measured diplomatic language on Syria ..."

Syrian government of Naji al Otri resigns

The 'other' Lieberman: "On the ground we're anything but neutral ... Message to Assad in Syria!"

“It’s very clear what the coalition forces, and now NATO, are doing there is directly supportive of the freedom fighters who are trying to overthrow [Moammar] Gadhafi,” Lieberman said. “And I don’t mind that; we have taken a side, and it’s the right side, which is the side of the people of Libya. ..... So maybe official diplomatic policy is that we’re neutral — but on the ground and in the air over Libya we’re anything but neutral,...... My own hope is that the strong position that the world community has taken in Libya sends a very clear message to  Assad in Syria ..."

'You tricky tricky white Israeli boy!'

"America and its allies, empowered by the United Nations and the Arab League, are interceding militarily in Libya. But would that action have been delayed or even precluded if Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had access to nuclear weapons? No doubt Gadhafi is asking himself that same question...
The Iranian regime is the pre- eminent sponsor of terror in the world, a danger to pro-Western states, and the enemy of its own people who strive for democracy. It poses all of these hazards without nuclear weapons. Imagine the catastrophes it could inflict with them...."

Monday, March 28, 2011

EXCLUSIVE & URGENT: The 'Leading' Syrian dissident 'monitors Syria by phone & internet ... and intends on flying in a plane'!

(Ynetnews)- "From his current home in Washington, the dissident said "The protestors have no money to get married and have no interest in war with Israel. .. Israel and the Palestinians or war are not on the agenda of the protestors",said  Ghadry, who closely monitors the situation in Syria via the phone and the Internet,(WOW!) ... The Syrian exile estimates that the next phase will be a military coup.  The leading dissident added that he will not be a candidate in future elections, and noted that he and his people (all 3 of them!) are in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood and are working towards the formation of a coalition that will act when the time is right. Ghadry also said that he intends to board a plane (the one made of metal, not an Origami)  and fly back home the moment (the moment!) the Assad regime collapses."

Boats with weapons en route to Syria seized coming from northern Lebanon

Lebanese Army intelligence tipped the Syrians on this! As for the sources of the weapons they are multi pronged! Trying to gerrymander a genuine revolt ...
"Beirut- Syrian Television reported late Monday that boats loaded with weapons were seized off the coast of Syria and had embarked from the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli...."

".. On reflection, though ,a Middle East beset by the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict cannot serve our interest in regional stability.."

".... American credibility, already low, has hit rock bottom.  This holds for government elites (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and for public opinion everywhere.  We are widely distrusted; Washington’s words and those of President Obama in particular will be viewed with pronounced skepticism and will nowhere be taken at face value.  The U.S. will receive fewer benefits of the doubt.
The United States is no longer a status quo power in the Middle East.  It is a reactionary power by objective measures.The political power of fundamentalist Islam has been greatly exaggerated.  In no country has it been the primary force as either ideology or organized movement.  Whatever role they may play in the future, it would be a cardinal error to fix on fundamentalist groups as a main point of attention and as a measure of whether things are going in a positive direction.
The dangers posed to the United States by terrorist groups, too, have been greatly exaggerated This is true not only as regards the assumption as to some link between Islamic fundamentalism in general and al-Qaida in particular. It holds as well for official estimates of the latter’s capability and threat.  The terrorist factor should be given less weight than is done currently.... Expressed worries about losing the help of Gadaffi’s intelligence services in chasing after al-Qaida in the Sahara is an even clearer demonstration of the extremity of our obsession.
Our ability to maintain the 5 party coalition in support of Israeli’s draconian plans for Palestine is in jeopardy.  Egypt (above all), Saudi Arabia and Jordan will come under increasing popular pressure to change their policies, and will be more susceptible to it, than in the past.  Brutalization of the Gazans, forcing Fatah into humiliating concessions, and holding hands with the Israeli ultras will be harder for our Arab allies to tolerate.  That should be welcomed as occasion to rethink our supine kow-towing to the Netanyahu government.  Id we don’t, our high wire act could end in tragedy.
The Sunni-Shi’ite rivalry has deepened and become more embittered – largely due to events in Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia.  Doubtless this will solidify already strong backing for our hard line approach toward Tehran.  Whatever thoughts there may have been among Sunni governments about negotiating a modus vivendi  with Iran are now beyond the pale. In the short run, the Obama administration may see this as desirable given its commitment to coerce Iran into abandoning its nuclear problem and its hopes for reform change.  On reflection, though ,a Middle East beset by the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict cannot serve our interest in regional stability For its strengthens the hands of the ultras in Tehran, complicates the challenge of achieving political reconciliation in Lebanon, lays the basis for more violet and more anti-American uprisings by Shi’ites in the Gulf, and adds to the already powerful inertial forces moving Iraq further away from the United states.
The gap between American rhetoric and American actions has widened to the point where it no longer is bridgeable.... If Washington is widely seen as abandoning its native idealism, domestic political support for the inescapable hard policy choices that lie ahead will be unpredictable.
Do not expect President Obama to address frankly any of this tonight."