Wednesday, February 26, 2014

G'town University & the promotion of 'minorities' studies'

"... The fellowship was established by a generous grant from the American Druze Foundation. Its aim is to promote specialized academic research on Arab minorities generally..."

Reports: Iraq signs arms deal with Iran

"... The Obama administration pressed the Iraqi government on Monday to explain the media reports."We've certainly seen those reports. If true, this would raise serious concerns," Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said.She said that "any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation" of the UN embargo."We are seeking clarification on this matter from the government of Iraq and to ensure that Iraqi officials understand the limits that international law places on arms trade with Iran," Psaki said.Some in Washington are nervous about providing sensitive US military equipment to a country they worry is becoming too close to Iran. Several Iraqi legislators said Maliki had made the deal because he was fed up with delays to US arms deliveries..."

No objectivity on Syrian conflict

"... After reviewing more than 38 million Twitter posts about the Syrian conflict, a team of Middle East scholars from The George Washington University and American University concluded that rather than an objective account of what’s taken place, social media posts have been carefully curated to represent a specific view of the war. It said the skewing of the social media view of the conflict has been amplified by the way more traditional news outlets make use of the postings – for example, passing along social media posts written in English over those written in Arabic.."

Nusrah Front, the 'moderate' terrorist organization

"... the US media will now suddenly start peddling articles to the effect that Nusrah Front was unfairly classified as a terrorist organization and that it is in fact a moderate terrorist organization that the US government can do business with."

Why Western “experts” on Hizbullah cannot predict its response

"...And I am equally confident that if any committed observer is asked “will Hizbullah really respond to Israel’s attacks on Monday?” he or she will tell you that as the first such attack since the end of the July War in 2006, Hizbullah has no choice but to respond, irrespective of how deeply mired it is in the Syrian conflict and in safeguarding Lebanon from terrorist infiltration. It has to respond because confronting Israel will always constitute the larger part of its raison d’etre, even if its mission has expanded over the years. And it will respond because to not respond would upset its doctrine of deterrence and “balance-of-terror” with Israel which it painfully earned after two decades of blood and sacrifice. Hizbullah will respond because there is no precedent of Hizbullah not retaliating for an Israeli attack (I am not including assassinations here) and it is highly unlikely that it would want to set a new precedent for its enemies. We just have to wait and see when and how it will do so, because no matter how committed we are as observers we are not privy to Hizbullah’s military strategy. ."

Monday, February 24, 2014

'Regulating' killings & assassinations

"... The fact that we’re witnessing internal debate about the use of indiscriminate violent tactics – which is, of course, a result of jihadis being on the receiving side of suicide bombing – is significant. Several Islamist groups have issued statements condemning Isil’s campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations from an Islamic perspective, pointing out that the religion rejects the killing of innocent people. Some jihadis have gone so far as to call for “Islamic regulations” on such tactics, which might lead to major changes within several groups...."

Al Qaeda's 'rehabilitation'

"... A long-held Saudi captive pleaded guilty Thursday to terror charges for serving as a personal shopper and facilitator for al-Qaida militants plotting suicide bombings of ships in the Arabian Sea.Under the plea deal, Ahmad al Darbi, 39, could go to a Saudi Arabian prison in four years, serve five more years and then get out for good behavior ..."

al-Qaeda going after al Qaeda

"... A Syrian rebel commander, who fought alongside al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack in Aleppo, intensifying in-fighting between rival armed groups.Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said he died along with six others when a fighter from the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group blew himself up at an Ahrar al-Sham post in al-Halq.Al-Suri's death occurred against the backdrop of bloody rebel infighting between an al-Qaeda-breakaway ISIL and an array of armed opposition groups...."

Friday, February 21, 2014

'A sectarian cloak for Middle East wars'

"... The rise in sectarianism does not present an immediate threat to US interests in the Gulf. Sectarianism is deeply embedded in the DNA of Salafi-jihadism and the al-Qaeda worldview. Gulf funding and volunteers in the Syria conflict are creating new strains of al Qaeda-ism that could eventually threaten Gulf regimes and US interests...."

'Epicentre in Syria'

"... “There was a time where we would have been talking about a Syrian conflict with a danger of spillover, and then we talked about a proxy war in Syria and now I think it’s looking more like a regional war with an epicentre in Syria.”

"We will reach reconciliation truces without foreign intervention, we don't have to go to Geneva for this,”

"... The local agreements are at the center of President Bashar al-Assad’s “national reconciliation” efforts and come as his government is accused of derailing talks between the two sides in the Swiss city of Geneva. Although the fine print differs, for the most part the agreements allow the areas to stay in rebel hands and for desperately needed food supplies to enter, as long as heavy weaponry is given up and rebels agree to stop attacks. In some areas, foreign fighters have been asked to leave. The war-weary suburbs that have agreed to the cease-fires have been subject to the Syrian army’s siege tactics for months, cut off by army checkpoints and pummeled with heavy artillery and airstrikes. “This is about saying that we will reach reconciliation truces without foreign intervention, we don't have to go to Geneva for this,” Yezid Sayigh, an analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said of the government effort."..."

Plagiarism in Wall Street Journal??

"Regarding this article in the Wall Street Journal about changes in Saudi Arabia: is it not an English language version of an article that had appeared exclusively the day before in Al-Quds Al-`Arabi?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Framework in Place for P5+1, Iran Final Nuclear Negotiations

"... It is reported in multiple sources (including Fars News), that Catherine Ashton will visit Tehran March 9-10, ahead of the March 17-20 negotiations that will take place in Vienna. It appears thatAshton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will be holding monthly meetings as the talks progress...."

Robert Malley back at the White House

"... Now, Mr. Malley is coming back to the White House, administration officials said on Tuesday. This time, he will manage the fraying ties between the United States and its allies in the Persian Gulf, a job that says a lot about how America’s role in the Middle East has changed.
As a senior director at the National Security Council,
Mr. Malley will help devise American policy from Saudi Arabia to Iran. It is a region on edge, with the Saudis and their Sunni neighbors in the gulf fearful that the United States is tilting away, after decades of close ties with them, toward a nuclear accommodation with Shiite Iran.
With his many contacts throughout the Arab world, Mr. Malley, who has been program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, would seem well suited for such a post. But he has also been something of a lightning rod in a field that can be culturally and ideologically treacherous.In 2008, Mr. Malley was forced to sever his ties as an informal adviser to the campaign of Barack Obama when it was reported that he had met with members of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, which the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization.The meeting, Mr. Malley said in a letter to The New York Times, was hardly a secret and came in the course of his work with the I.C.G., a nonprofit group focused on preventing conflict. Still, he felt obliged to distance himself from Mr. Obama to avoid misperceptions of the “candidate’s position regarding the Islamist movement.”Mr. Malley also came under fire for writing an article, with Hussein Agha, that argued that some of the blame for the failure of the Camp David talks lay with the Israeli leader at the time, Ehud Barak, and not just with the uncompromising position of the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, which was the conventional wisdom then...."

Same 'operator'

"... An explosion believed to have been caused by a car bomb tore through a Syrian refugee camp at a border post on the frontier with Turkey on Feb. 20, ...Towns near Bab al-Salameh have also seen sporadic clashes between the rebels fighting Assad and fighters from an al Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Abu Osama, a camp administrator, said the explosion happened behind his office and at least 20 tents were reduced to rubble. "Some of the bodies and tents melted from the explosion," he said over the phone..."

'Netanyahu, loses the only other Middle East leader ready to publicly sabotage Iran & Syria'

"... The live wire of the Saudi royal house’s drive against President Barack Obama’s détente with Tehran has been dropped....Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s National Security Adviser and Intelligence Director, has not been seen for more than a month....He was reported by debkafile’s US and Saudi sources Wednesday, Feb. 19, to have been removed from the tight policy-making circle in Riyadh.For Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, this counts significantly as the loss of the only other Middle East leader ready to publicly decry Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria as promoting the negative forces in the region and damaging to America’s own interests. Bandar was widely reported in the Middle East to be in secret ties with Israeli intelligence on Saudi and Israeli moves against Iran...There has been no official word from Riyadh disclosing any change in Bandar’s status....Our sources report that the prince, a long-serving ambassador to the United States, vanished off Saudi and Middle East radar screens in mid-January, shortly before he was scheduled to visit Washington to arrange Obama’s forthcoming trip to Riyadh in the last week of March.Bandar never arrived in Washington and no one in Riyadh was ready to answer questions about his whereabouts....US sources were more forthcoming - although less complimentary....In some reports he was dismissed as “hotheaded” or “erratic.The Saudi intelligence chief crossed the Americans by supplying weapons and money to Syrian rebels belonging to Islamist militias – though not al Qaeda....He was the driving force behind the formation of the Islamic Front coalition, which last month beat the Free Syrian Army backed by Washington into the ground.Some Gulf sources say he is paying the price for the kingdom’s failure in Syria....Bandar promised King Abdullah that he would take care of getting rid of Bashar Assad....He not only fell down on this task, but he generated a clash between the Obama administration and the Saudi throne on the Syrian issue, say those sources.The most striking evidence of his comedown came from his absence from the secret conclave held recently by Middle East intelligence chiefs to coordinate their positions on Syrian with Washington....Instead of Bandar, his seat was taken by his leading adversary on Syria, the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.Prince Mohammed is a favorite at the White House and a close friend of Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan.The Saudi interior minister, by taking Bandar’s place at this important forum, may also be stepping into his shoes as intelligence chief – albeit without the formality of an official notice from Riyadh."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bandar's out ... again!

The US & minions trying a new hand for a new round of violence. WaPo.
"... The spymasters’ conclave featured Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s minister of the interior, who will now supervise the kingdom’s leading role in the covert-action program. He replaces Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief, who has been suffering from a back ailment and whose leadership of the program was seen as uneven..."

Local law enforcement in Los Angeles are given courses towards 'understanding Shiite extremism & Hezbollah'

AA, here; 
"... The Emergence of Iranian Power: Iran & Hezbollah 
February 18, 2014 - 0800– 1700 HOURS 
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This Course examines the emergence of Iranian power 
in the Middle East and its link with Hezbollah. Topics include: Understanding Shiite 
Extremism, Persian and Iranian history and geography, security organizations, 
Hezbollah leadership, operations in the U.S. and emerging threats. 
 Develop an understanding of Shiite Extremism 
 Examine Iran as an emerging Mid-East Power 
 Examine Hezbollah as a Terrorist Group & Para-Statal Entity 
 Develop Pre-Incident Indicators of Terrorist and other Threat Activity Related to 
U.S. conflict with Iran and its Lebanese Surrogate ..."

Beirut, Baghdad, Sinai, Libya ... Same perpetrator

... and NO: The reason is NOT Hezbollah's role in Syria!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WSJ: Obama revisting plans to aggress Syria

"... The Obama administration, exasperated by stalled talks over Syria and seeking ways to pressure the regime and its Russian allies, plans to revisit options ranging from expanding efforts to train and equip moderate rebels to setting up no-fly zones, according to officials briefed on the deliberations...."

Monday, February 17, 2014

FSA sacks it's Chief

"... The rebel Free Syrian Army has fired Selim Idriss as its military chief calling him "ineffective" and lacking in experience to lead military operations on the ground....They also said he had bad relations with other rebel forces fighting on the ground...."

'The deal is within grasp'

'Even as he pursues a crowded agenda of top-level meetings in South Korea and China followed by a visit to Indonesia, Secretary of State Kerry is facing calls for urgent action on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria. With the UN mediation efforts close to failure and amid reports of the growing influence of the most extreme groups and of a new inflow of sophisticated weaponry to the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) from the Saudis and UAE, Administration officials have come to a crossroads. As he returns to the US via the UAE next week, Kerry will be meeting regional figures to explore options. Our sources report, however, that the SRF leadership will meet with Congressional leaders in Washington next week to put their case for more US support to their efforts.  They will likely to receive a mixed reception, as Congress remains split on this issue. ...  Turning to Iran, a new round of P5+1 talks resumes on February 17th. US officials close to the talks remain confident that some kind of deal is within grasp. With the annual conference of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee due to be held in Washington in early March and to be addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the Administration will hear robust criticism of its approach, but the White House has now successfully deflected pressure for new sanctions against Iran and, for the time being, can pursue a deal relatively untroubled by political pressure.'

Lang: "The jihadis came to Syria to die for their faith. They should be assisted in that ambition!"

"... Zbig  was finally allowed to say a few words.  He stressed the need to settle the issues between Russia and the US on some viable basis and started to suggest what sounded like an appeal to modify the "regime change" theme so pervasive among the R2P/neocon crowd (including Obama).  Todd then cut him off.
US policy should change.  US policy should become a process of reconciling the existing government with what is left of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army.  This should include amnesty for "ralliers' to the government, a cease fire against the nationalist secularist rebels, and a complete opening up of the country to international relief efforts wherever the jihadis do not rule and control. Once that is accomplished the re-united Syrian patriot forces should collaborate in exterminating the jihadis.  The jihadis came to Syria to die for their faith.  They should be assisted in that ambition.
Saudi Arabia?  Israel?  Ignore them. 

The US needs to engage — not isolate — Russia and Iran & Drop 'regime change' in Syria!

"... The breakdown in Geneva should not be a return to military options and regime change, and a possible slippery slope to US military intervention. There is more life in the diplomatic option in Syria, including with Russia, Iran and the regional countries on the front lines of Syria-based terrorism. The United States needs to engage — not isolate — Russia and Iran as well as its regional allies, to address the terrorist threat that is now a matter of “homeland security.”..."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Judicial 'Farce'!

"... In an afflicted country in which much of the population subsists on twelve hours of electricity a day, more useful projects could no doubt be undertaken than an expensive and politically motivated judicial farce with a predetermined end."

WSJ: Saudi weapons & US cash for a new round

"... The weapons will flow across the border into southern Syria from the warehouses in Jordan and across the northern border from Turkey, the Western diplomat said. Rebel leaders said the shipments to southern Syria are expected to be more substantial because opposition fighters are more unified in that area and there is a lower risk the weapons will fall into the hands of al Qaeda-inspired groups—a big concern for the U.S.With the rebels still deeply divided and infighting growing, the new aid is aimed squarely at the more moderate and secular rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that the U.S. has always favored...Western and Arab support for the new groups won’t go to the Islamic Front, an alliance of conservative, religious rebel factions that is helping the northern front rebels fight the more radical ISIS.The Southern Front is under the leadership of Bashar al-Zoubi, who has a direct line to Western and Arab intelligence agencies in a military operations room in Amman, rebels say..., ... But any push toward the capital from the south faces formidable challenges. An arc south of the capital is the domain of the army’s Fourth Division, elite troops led by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother. Closer to the capital, Syrian forces are fortified by elements of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia from Lebanon.The regime has been ruthless in snuffing out any hint of escalation by rebels in the south....At the meeting between leaders of the Southern Front and Western and Arab intelligence agencies last month, rebel leaders said they were given salaries for their fighters and equipment such as military rations and tents.Rebels said the U.S. spent $3 million on salaries of fighters in the Southern Front, delivering the payments in cash over two meetings in Jordan—one on Jan. 30 and the other late last year.The opposition will also ask Congress next week for weapons to help rebels fight al Qaeda.... But Congress remains sharply divided about the conflict in Syria. Some lawmakers favor stepped-up support to moderate opposition groups, but others question the wisdom of providing heavy weapons..."

Israel's Growing Role in Southern Syria

"... There are also many reports -- repeatedly dismissed by Jordanian authorities -- of a clandestine "operations room" in Amman where Jordanian military and intelligence officers coordinate military assistance to local rebel groups alongside Saudi and Western advisors. If such reports are correct, the Israeli part of the effort should be viewed as complementing but not necessarily coordinated with the Jordanian endeavor..."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Saudi-ISI' sponsorship: 'Iran-Pakistan Border Incidents Continue'

Iran-Pakistan Border Incidents Continue

"... It is interesting that descriptions of Jeish Al-Adl now describe them as being funded by Saudi Arabia and assisted by Pakistan’s ISI. There also now are references to them having al Qaeda connections. The Saudi connection usually is described as coming from Bandar’s growing unease over improving US-Iranian relations...."

"Cautious optimism"

"... Turning to Iran, the Administration has achieved a modest victory is persuading the Democratic sponsors of tougher sanctions to delay their bill to allow the diplomatic negotiations – which resume on February 18th – to proceed.  State Department officials concede that they are operating against a very skeptical climate in Congress and that, if Tehran adopts what are perceived to be delaying tactics, the sanctions proposals would be re-introduced at very short notice. Within the State Department negotiating team, cautious optimism that a deal is reachable remains the consensus sentiment – in contrast to most analytic and political opinion which is much more pessimistic. The open question, which receives little attention, is what happens if negotiations fail. From conversations we have held in official circles, our sense is that a policy of containment is just as likely as one of military coercion. ..."

Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International: MIA on Syria!

"... As expected, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are silent about the massacre in Maan because the victims are Alawites ..."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Israeli NS Adviser: "The Russians are providing missiles to one of the most dangerous enemies of the State of Israel"

"... “I think it’s important that in this dialogue with the Russians, we are telling them the truth: They are providing one of the most dangerous enemies of the State of Israel, namely Hezbollah, with capabilities that might endanger Israel’s ability to defend itself, and we will not let it happen,” he added..."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Iran, 'Open for Business'?

"... Oil minister Bijan Zanghaneh met energy executives including those from Chevron and Shell. He plans to hold a conference in London this year where some of those attending will be the same executives who were being warned about the pitfalls of Iranian investment by Mr Harrell last week. London, meanwhile, is also going to be the venue for a test case on the whole issue of the legality of sanctions on enterprises.In Iran, businessmen say the Russians and the Chinese are vying to offer barter deals for oil before European companies arrive with the technology the Iranians want. American companies, meanwhile, are complaining they may lose out because of the US administration’s punitive stance. The Homa Hotel in Tehran, which aims for a corporate clientele, reported a rise in European guests by 30 per cent from last year. Trade delegations had gone to Iran from China, India, Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Italy, Austria, Sweden and even Ireland. “We are quite encouraged by the interest, we hope it will continue to rise,” stated Mehrdad Jalalipour, director of Iran’s Trade Promotions Organisation.But the prize, high-profile visitor has been Recip Tayyip Erdogan. After a gap of two years during which relations plummeted over Tehran’s support for the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war while Ankara was backing the rebels, the Turkish prime minister has been to Iran again, declaring that it was his “second home”. Rouhani will reciprocate by going to Ankara..."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Turkey & Erdogan on the brink

"... Erdogan was always a loose cannon. Now he has become unmoored. Paranoia is endemic in Turkish politics because so much of it is founded on conspiracy. The expression "paranoid Turk" is a pleonasm. Islamist followers of the self-styled prophet Fetullah Gulen infiltrated the security services and helped Erdogan jail some of the country's top military commanders on dubious allegations of a coup plot. Last August a Turkish court sentenced some 275 alleged members of the "Ergenekon" coup plot, including dozens of military officers, journalists, and secular leaders of civil society. Now Gulen has broken with Erdogan and his security apparatus has uncovered massive documentation of corruption in the Erdogan administration. Erdogan is firing police and security officials as fast as they arrest his cronies. There is a world difference, though, between a prosperous paranoid and an impecunious one. Turkey cannot fund its enormous current borrowing needs without offering interest rates so high that they will pop the construction-and-consumer bubble that masqueraded for a Turkish economic miracle during the past few years. 
The conspiracy of international bankers, Opus Dei and Illuminati that rages in Erdogan's Anatolian imagination has triumphed, and the aggrieved prime minister will not go quietly. As Erdogan abhors old allies who in his imagined betrayed him and seeks new ones, the situation will get worse..."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Neoarabs: "Israel is our only hope against the enemy. We will condemn them, but we pray for them.”

"...  " Hoenlein, who maintains close contacts with some Arab leaders, often cites them anonymously as corroborating witnesses. When I ask him about Israel’s newfound alliances with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, he speaks of “the diminution of America’s role that you hear about in all the different countries: What we did in Egypt and in Morocco and in other places hurt the evaluation of where America stands. I heard from their leaders myself: Israel is our only hope against the enemy. We will condemn them, but we pray for them.”"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Daily menu: 'Al Jazeera, in hot waters'

Lies and deception have this tendency to bite in the ----!
"...  — Egyptian authorities on Wednesday charged 20 journalists who work for the Al Jazeera satellite news channel, including five who hold foreign citizenship, with being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood and accused them of plotting to defame Egypt and of running a terrorist cell out of a luxurious Cairo hotel..."

Al-Qaeda disowns ISIL & renames JAN as 'sole & exclusive representative'

 "... Al-Qaeda's general command has disavowed all links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to a statement posted online.The statement, published late on Sunday, reiterated a previous peremptory statement in which the group's chief Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered ISIL to disband and return to Iraq, and adding that Jabhat al-Nusra was al-Qaeda's official branch in Syria...."

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria killing each other

 Al Jazeera English

"... The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has links with al-Qaeda, said it carried out the attack on Tawhid, a brigade aligned to the Islamic Front coalition, a group fighing the ISIL in Aleppo and beyond.In another attack late on Saturday in Hama, the leader of the powerful Suqour al-Sham group, Abu Hussein al-Dik, was killed by the ISIL, according to sources spoken to by Al Jazeera..."

ICG: "Nostalgia for the days of repressive regimes has surged"

"... Change in itself is now seen as a risk not worth taking while stability and security have become the number one goal. But, this, the only thing the old order had to offer, is now unattainable: Egypt continues to impose a curfew in the Sinai as its army deals with a low-level insurgency. Libya is growing more lawless by the day, as the recent kidnapping of the prime minister and deadly clashes in the centre of Tripoli and Benghazi showed. Nostalgia for the days of repressive regimes has surged, nowhere more so than in Cairo where general Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief and minister of defence, is heralded as the demi-god of “a Pharoahnic people”. In other places such as Saudi Arabia, Gaza or Jordan, citizens resign themselves to their current rulers.
This has led the Arab people’s desire for dignity and feeling of empowerment to turn into a sense of apathy..."

'The US & it's fixed and transitory 'allies': Not a merry bunch!

"...  It is proving as unreliable a partner for its longstanding state allies (dropping President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, criticizing the Khalifa dynasty in Bahrain, and now estranging Saudi and Israel) than it has been for its more transitory non-state ones (the Palestinian Authority, March 14 in Lebanon, or the Iraqi tribal "sahwa")..."

International Crisis Group : The Arab World into the Unknown

International Crisis Group

"... For now, US aloofness and mixed signals have spelled significant mayhem. Friends are baffled, left to their own devices and having to improvise hectically. A clear example is Syria where the US contracted out to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar the task of dealing with the armed opposition, and now seems keen to withdraw further. Foes such as the Syrian regime, Hizbollah and the Iranian Republican Guards are equally perplexed, tempted to overreach in the absence of a clear US point of reference that has served in recent decades—for better or worse—to structure the regional balance of powers, whether by securing the Gulf, pushing back on Soviet designs, negotiating peace deals with Israel, or containing alleged “rogue” states. New players have jumped into the void, adding to the confusion more than producing decisive outcomes. Syria – which has fallen victim to a mix of Iranian hubris, Saudi adventurism, Qatari ambition, Russian obstructionism and French brinksmanship, not to mention its own leadership and a host of other complicating factors – best encapsulates this state of affairs..."

Senior DoD Official: "We are not going to use military means to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes"

"... American foreign policy continues to project a seemingly contradictory strategy. In his State of the Union Address President Obama – as we suggested last week – concentrated primarily on domestic issues. When he spoke of international affairs, he focused on the end of a decade of war, declaring that “America must move off a permanent war footing.” The message for the audience at home, therefore, is one of “coming home” and a de-emphasis on the military as the main instrument of US power projection.  By contrast, the message to the international audience as reflected in Secretary of State Kerry’s intervention at the Davos World Economic Forum and which will be reinforced by him and Secretary of Defense Hagel at this week’s Munich Security Conference is that the US remains as engaged in the world as ever. Obama will further echo this theme when he visits Brussels and other European capitals following the US-EU Summit at the end of March. When we broach this apparent inconsistency with White House, State Department and Pentagon contacts, they explain that both aspects contain elements of the truth. A senior Defense Department official gave a practical example: “We remain as committed as always to preventing Iran for acquiring a nuclear weapon. We know, however, that we are not going to use military means to execute this aim. Instead we will use a mix of coercion through sanctions and incentives via diplomacy. We are not walking away.” State Department officials are equally insistent that the framework for a Middle East peace agreement due to be presented by Kerry in the coming weeks will underline the unique capability of the US to deliver results. Some of the obstacles Obama faces come from his own party. ...  Meanwhile over the two most pressing dramas of the moment – Syria and Ukraine – US officials concede that the limitations of US influence are all too visible."

Netanyahu & Co.: This US Administration is anti-semitic

"... The remarks by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed recent accusations by Israel's defence minister that Kerry was being "messianic" ....
Steinitz seized on the top U.S. diplomat's remarks as a threat against Israel ... "The things ... Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable," Steinitz told reporters..."