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

"... 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.”

al Qaeda vs. al qaeda: Ravaging Syria

"... Residents and rebel commanders in the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal said that fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began a surprise offensive at dawn Thursday against positions held by units that include al Qaida’s official representative in Syria, the Nusra Front, and a handful of independent units. ISIS has been in violent conflict with Nusra and other rebel units since January, but according to witnesses Thursday saw some of the heaviest fighting so far..."

Read more here:

'Assad's staying power on show'

"... Within this context, existing Central Intelligence Agency-led programs in Jordan for training pre-approved "moderates" will likely be expanded. 
However, Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Center in Qatar, on April 3 wrote that "it would take close to two years to produce a force" that could numerically rival the extremist "Ahrar al-Sham" group and "it would take seven years" to create a force that could rival the extremist "Islamic Front". 
This suggests that it is about time US policy makers reconsidered their approach to Syria and started dealing with the facts on the ground - instead of yielding to the bullying of their regional allies who continue to beat the drums of war to survive a tidal wave of change. 
This is why Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are sponsoring an Islamist counterrevolution. The Muslim Brotherhood International (MBI) was a version of this alternative. Unfortunately the US got along with it. The MBI plan in Egypt has proved counterproductive. Its failure in Egypt pre-empted for good any hope for its success in Syria. The ensuing rift among the anti-Syria allies doomed the plan regionally..."

'Iran proposes Arak reactor change to cut plutonium output'

"... The comment by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, was the latest sign that a compromise may be possible over the Arak research reactor, which the West fears could yield weapons-usable material. Iran denies any such aim.The fate of the heavy-water plant, which has not yet been completed, is one of the central issues in negotiations between Iran and six major powers aimed at reaching a long-term deal on Tehran's nuclear programme by an agreed July 20 deadline..."

Kuwait orders media blackout on 'coup' video

"Kuwait has ordered a news blackout on a videotape allegedly showing former senior officials plotting to overthrow the oil-rich Gulf state's government..."

Ziocon: 'We need to humiliate Tehran!'

The Weekly Standard

"... There is still a chance that if the president seriously threatened to use force before the informal deadline for the Joint Plan of Action in July, he might be able to push the supreme leader into a corner where he’d have to make crippling nuclear compromises..."

Al Jazeera/ Qatar: "Jabhat al Nusra is Syria's rising star!"

... that's if you wondered about state sponsors of terrorism!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

... and the countries with the highest disapproval rate of US leadership are?

Global Image of U.S. Leadership Rebounds 
Highest disapproval rates of US Leadership: 
(1) Palestine 80% 
(2) Pakistan 73% 
(3) Lebanon 71% 
(4) Yemen 69%

'The Lilliputian state of Israel'

"... The Lilliputian state of Israel, armed to the teeth and dependent on the United States seeks to dictate terms to the US for a renewal of "negotiations" over a possible peace between said Lilliput and the Palestinian community.  The US is not really an interested party.  The US is seeking to broker someone else's deal.  So, why are we willing to bargain with Israel over this? We deserve to be treated this way.  Our situation is somewhat analogous to that of parents who are dominated and bullied by children who have learned that they have nothing to fear from such parents. "

'The Iran talks seem to be going as well as the Middle East talks are going poorly'

"... Indeed, the Iran talks seem to be going as well as the Middle East talks are going poorly. That’s why you haven’t read much about them in recent weeks. There are still major issues to overcome, but Western negotiators have been impressed by the Iranians’ seriousness and unwillingness to use extraneous events–like the U.S.-Russian tiff over Ukraine–to try to delay the talks or split the U.N. alliance. ..."

Erdogan, the forger & Democrat!

" — One-quarter of the ballot box tallies in last week’s mayoral elections _ enough votes to reverse the narrow victory by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s candidate many times over _ arrived at counting centers in the Turkish capital without the official stamp of the election board..."

Read more here:

Riyadh WANTS things from Lebanon (a sovereign Lebanon!)

"... Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon said that his country wants a 'made in Lebanon' president and noted that the return of gulf tourists to Lebanon hinges on security in comments published Wednesday...."

Defibrillators, Quick!!

"... The GCC, as a cooperative arrangement with an objective to becoming a union, had a congenital fault at its very nascent stage. The alliance was born out of fear of the Iranian Revolution and potential destabilization of the monarchical regimes in the Gulf. Considering that Iran was the GCC’s raison d’etre, there was a clear division vis-a-vis the Iranian dossier. The GCC member states remained reactionary, without an independent strategic security vision, despite Omani Sultan Qaboos’ several attempts. The vacuum was often filled with rhetoric, and later with bilateral security arrangements with countries whose national security interests may be at odds with those of the GCC. Iran before 1979 was the US policeman in the Gulf, a role that Iran might assume once again in the near future..."

Nobody's patriot!'

 The National Interest

"... And please, let us not hear any more the gratingly oxymoronic comment that leniency should be shown to Pollard because he was “spying for an ally.” Label Israel however you want—and there are good reasons, including ones involving misuse of U.S. secrets, to question the label “ally”—but espionage is a hostile act. Insofar as anyone acts this way, they are not acting as an ally..."

The only change: al Qaeda & co. are fighting a guy we love to hate!

"... The establishment in 2008 of a Treasury attache office presence in Riyadh contributes to robust interaction and information sharing on the issue. Despite this presence, however, more needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups ..."

Time for another kind of Syrian opposition: "the time when Assad might have been defeated by a truly inept opposition leadership and fragmented rebel movement has passed."

"... In fact, on balance, the cumulative effect of trends since fall 2013 favors the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The regime remains far from achieving an all-out military victory, and it may never do so. The gains it is making are slow, costly, and often tentative, vulnerable to reversal. But if present trends continue—and there really is little to suggest they will not—then the regime will be in a dominant position and in effective control of a critical mass of the country by the end of 2015, if not sooner. ... If an election is held and Assad is voted into office again, the regime will not have secured a significant or lasting victory even if, as some Western diplomats privately believe, he would win in a genuinely free contest and not just in a stage-managed poll. The regime will inevitably face new tensions and challenges as it stabilizes its situation and consolidates its military grip, as those who have fought for it make demands that were postponed at the height of the armed conflict. 
This can only pit some of the regime’s core constituencies (including sections of the Alawi community that provided combat manpower and suffered horrendous casualties, the army more generally, and many in the state bureaucracy and Baath Party) against others (including members and cronies of the Assad family, and a new breed of pro-regime warlords)... C These kinds of protests and social demands from within Assad’s own ranks will pose a challenge that cannot be answered with brute force, unlike the challenge presented by the armed rebellion. But it will also be enormously difficult to defuse dissent through stepped-up government spending, given the need to gradually wind down the war economy and shift from fiscal policies geared toward survival back to public investment. This is not to mention the need to cover the costs of reconstruction in urban areas that are politically important for the regime, secure the repatriation of Syrian flight capital, attract businessmen through favorable policies and incentives, and, eventually, pay off a massive war debt. 
It may be years before an opposition like this one, based partly on former regime loyalists, can cross the deep divide left by the sectarian legacy of the Syrian conflict. There is no assurance that it will emerge, nor of the form and direction it may take. Unfortunately, the National Coalition is no closer today than at any time past to being politically able or willing to offer engagement on terms that may be regarded as credible by regime supporters should the opportunity arise.....But the time when Assad might have been defeated by a truly inept opposition leadership and fragmented rebel movement has passed."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bla .. Bla .. Bla .. Bla .. Bla..

"... Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo have renewed their commitment to give $100m in monthly aid to the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas...."

Iran, Orientalism, and Western Illusions about Syria—A View from Tehran

"... From almost the start of the unrest in Syria, it became clear to Iranians that the main objective of Western attempts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was to target Iran, not to bring freedom to the Syrian people.  After all, the US and EU alongside the Saudi royal family supported the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships until their imminent collapse; in Gaza, the Palestinian people continue to be punished for voting for the “wrong” party.During the Egyptian regime’s final days, the US vice president stressed Hosni Mubarak is not a dictator, but rather an ally who should not step down.  Weeks earlier, as the Tunisian regime was collapsing in the face of revolution, the French foreign minister promised to help Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s security forces maintain order.  As to Bahrain, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to criticise the Saudi-led occupation and even attempted to legitimise it, while US President Barack Obama spoke about the Bahraini regime’s “legitimate interest in the rule of law,” and subtly implied that the protesters were a minority group.Unlike these regimes, Assad had and continues to have significant popular support.  While the Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Bahrain’s al-Khalifa dictatorships were unable to muster any support in the streets, during the first months of the conflict in Syria enormous crowds took to the streets in simultaneous pro-Assad demonstrations in major cities, on multiple occasions.  In addition, according to a poll carried out by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, 88 percentof those surveyed in Syria in 2013, believed that the current Turkish government has been unfriendly towards their homeland...."

UNOTICED Hurriyet piece: 'Soldiers searching MIT trucks to Syria thrown under the bus'

"... The trucks were stopped on Jan. 19, causing much uproar as the government slammed the prosecutors and soldiers involved in the operation, arguing that both the trucks and the personnel were protected by the legal immunity of the MİT.Responding to claims, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said the truck was carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria, but did not give details about its cargo. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had also criticized the operation, saying he was the one entitled to give the necessary instructions regarding any decision involving the MİT...."

Final stop: Syria's northwest.

"... Hezbollah and the Syrian Army's five-month campaign to clear rebels from the strategic Qalamoun region is approaching its final stand. The allies have seized one village and town after the other, gradually moving southward through the corridor between Damascus and Homs which links the Syrian capital to the Mediterranean coast." 

Syrian Army recapture of Syrian border town severes most insurgents' supply lines

Al Jazeera English

"... The capture of Rankous was the latest stage of an offensive by the army and fighters from Lebanese Shia armed group Hezbollah to seal off the border region and secure the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs, and the Mediterranean coast....The rebels still control a few smaller villages in the region, but have seen their supply lines across the border with Lebanon largely severed..."

NATO made the Afghan conflict "worse"

"... Mr Martin studied Helmand for six years and completed an Army-funded PhD at King’s College in London.
He told the BBC
Nato troops did not understand the “complexities” of Afghan tribal conflicts and were “manipulated” by tribal leaders fighting over land and water.“This meant that we often made the conflict worse, rather than better,” he wrote in the study.
Mr Martin said he was originally told his final thesis could not be published as a book because it made use of secret cables published by Wikileaks and classified materials..."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

'Criminal State' diplomats at their best!

"... NEW DELHI: Three Israeli diplomats allegedly assaulted an immigration officer at IGI airport on Saturday because he was taking a long time to clear passengers.
One of the diplomats is alleged to have slapped the official while his two colleagues roughed him up. The three, believed to be junior-level officials, were charged with assault and questioned by the IGI police. They couldn't be arrested because of diplomatic immunity, police said..."

WSJ: "Kerry, U.S. Military Clash on Approach to Syria's Rebels"

"... Frustrated by the stalemate in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for the U.S. military to be more aggressive in supporting the country's rebel forces. Opposition has come from the institution that would spearhead any such effort: the Pentagon. Mr. Kerry and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power have advocated options that range from an American military intervention to weaken the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to using U.S. special operations forces to train and equip a large number of rebel fighters. Such moves would go far beyond the U.S.'s current engagement.In recent White House meetings, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have pushed back against military intervention, said senior officials….Top policy makers say the rift echoes similarly fraught Clinton administration debates over the conflict in Bosnia two decades ago.Then-U.N. ambassador Madeleine Albright summed up her frustration with the Pentagon by asking Gen. Colin Powell, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?"...
From Gen. Dempsey's perspective, even a limited military operation could embroil the U.S. in a broader regional conflict than advocates realize, these officials say."If it weren't for the chairman, you would be right back in Iraq or Afghanistan," a senior defense official said.Searching for new options, Mr. Kerry has been huddling with retired generals David Petraeus and Jack Keane, architects of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. The two generals have told Mr. Kerry they believe a military program to train and equip the Syrian rebels, and limited strikes to weaken Mr. Assad, could be effective, according to U.S. officials.”

'If pressure mounts on Moscow, then the West may end up paying the price for punishing Russia, at the bargaining table with Iran.'

Experts' opinion  for Lake's story are the usual lineup of ziocons & hawks (if one can distinguish)
"... If those talks fail, then Russia has the leverage to equip Iran with the missile that could defend its centrifuges and reactors from allied air strikes, the S-300.“I could see as part of this deal [between Tehran and Moscow] that they would agree to transfer advanced missiles to Iran,” said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the hawkish Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and an expert in the Iran sanctions. “If [Russian president Vladimir] Putin became angry enough over the West’s financial punishment of Russia, he could put in play the S-300 deal.”
The S-300 has long been Moscow’s top-of-the-line air defense system.
The current model is comparable to U.S. Patriot missile batteries. The S-300 deploys sophisticated radars, launch vehicles and missiles to shoot aircraft and even ballistic missiles out of the sky. Russia has also threatened to sell the system to Syria, whose hapless air force was hacked by Israel in 2007, rendering its anti-aircraft defenses useless when Israel bombed the al-Kibar nuclear facility..."

Assad says fighting largely over by end of year

"... President Bashar al-Assad has forecast that much of the fighting in the Syrian civil war will be over by the end of the year, a former Russian prime minister was quoted on Monday as saying.
“This is what he told me: ‘
This year the active phase of military action in Syria will be ended. After that we will have to shift to what we have been doing all the time - fighting terrorists’,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted Sergei Stepashin as saying.
Stepashin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former head of Russia’s FSB security service, portrayed Assad as secure, in control and in “excellent athletic shape” after a meeting in Damascus last week.“’Tell Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) that I am not Yanukovich, I’m not going anywhere’,” Stepashin quoted Assad as saying during their meeting, state-run news agency RIA reported...."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bombing of Israeli patrol on Syria-Israel border sets new standards

"... He noted that the organization's intention is not to spark a violent confrontation, rather to highlight the balance of deterrence.Nasrallah's remarks were from an interview which was published in full Monday in the Lebanese daily As-Safir..."

Three 'unauthorized senior Saudi security officials' speak to the media!

"... Apparently "Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan will return to the kingdom within days and retake his position as intelligence chief, including control of the Syrian dossier, ... The three (three, you hear that, three!) security officials said the 65 year-old prince was seeking medical attention in the U.S. and resting in Morocco after surgery on his shoulder. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media..."

The same Ziocon scum who attacked Sy Hersh's story in the LRB, contradicts himself by also attacking the subject of Hersh's story: Erdogan!

"... So who is next? If I were a Turk living in Istanbul or Ankara, I would be very worried about al-Qaeda violence on my doorstep. Istanbul, of course, has already been subject to al-Qaeda attacks but nothing compared to what could be on the horizon. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has remained uncomfortably close to al-Qaeda financiers. Turkey has also been quite supportive of the Nusra Front and perhaps even the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), so long as they targeted Syria’s secular Kurds. Now, after months of denial, it now appears that a suicide bombing in Reyhanli, which the Turkish government blamed on the Syrian regime, was in fact conducted by Syria’s al-Qaeda-linked opposition.
The Turkish government may have thought—like the Saudis, Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and others before them—that they could channel al-Qaeda or that group’s fellow-travelers against their strategic adversaries. They were wrong.
When al-Qaeda comes to Turkey, whether this year, next, or in 2016, Turks should understand that the man who effectively invited them was none other than Recep Tayyip Erdoğan."

Mr. Assad has decisively defied President Obama’s two-year-old prediction that his days were “numbered.”

"...As government forces seize the last insurgent strongholds along the Lebanese border, securing the strategic corridor from Damascus to the coast, President Bashar al-Assad’s home region, the message from the government is clear: It is winning, and it can afford to be magnanimous. It is offering what it calls reconciliation to repentant opponents, and some are accepting....
Mr. Assad has decisively defied President Obama’s two-year-old prediction that his days were “numbered.” He capitalized on strong support from his Syrian base and from Hezbollah, Russia and Iran; the disarray of domestic and international foes; and the rise of extremist insurgents who drained sympathy for the revolt among Syrian fence-sitters and many early supporters..."

Buried bombs outside Cairo University kill top police official

"...  — Bomb blasts Wednesday near Cairo University killed a brigadier general and wounded five other people, resurrecting fears that a violent campaign against government forces will grow as Egypt approaches presidential elections..."

Blast rocks Bahrain during Grand Prix

"Security forces in Bahrain are investigating an explosion that rocked the kingdom on the last day of the Formula One motor racing Grand Prix.On Sunday, three witnesses reported hearing a blast in the bustling Aliya district of the capital Manama, where many foreigners live..."

Can the West Get Out of Its (Self-Made) Cul-de-Sac in Syria?

" In recent years, the limits on America’s ability to shape important outcomes in the Middle East unilaterally—or even with a few European partners—have been dramatically underscored by strategically failed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.  Last year, President Obama’s inability to act on his declared intention to attack Syria after chemical weapons were used there in August made clear that Washington can no longer credibly threaten the effective use of force in the region.  Still, American and other Western elites persist in thinking they can dictate the Middle East’s future by helping armed insurgents overthrow Syria’s recognized government.  If Western powers don’t drop their insistence that President Bashar al-Assad leave power—even though he retains the support of a majority of Syrians and is winning his fight against opposition forces—and get serious about facilitating a political settlement between Assad and parts of the opposition, they will do further damage to their own already distressed position in the Middle East..."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Erdogan; The man with a heart the size of Texas!

"... Turkey has started to host two senior Armenians from Syria who fled their hometown after jihadists allegedly backed by Ankara invaded their area.Syrian rebels and their jihadist allies, the al-Nusra Front, launched a major offensive on Latakia nearly two weeks ago and have since seized several positions and villages including the Kasab area, home to a border crossing into Turkey, according to Agence France-Presse.
Sirpuhi Titizyan, 80, and Satenik Titizyan, 82, had to leave their houses in Kasab, cross the border and settle in a neighborhood populated largely by Armenians in the Turkish province of Hatay..."

Deaths in Jordan camp clashes

Al Jazeera English"... Witnesses told the AFP news agency that a Syrian woman was killed. Jordan's Public Security Directorate denied the report."Dozens of Syrian refugees at the Zaatari refugee camp rioted after police detained a group of refugees after leaving the camp illegally," the directorate said."Twenty-two policemen were injured in the clashes. The rioters burned six tents and two caravans and tried to attack police stations."

"Bahraini Oil, American Water"

"... There is a place for such analysis, though it tends to draw attention away from what’s happening in Bahrain now. Last week I received an email from the father of Abdallah Madan, a 17-year-old Bahraini-American citizen, who was arrested for protesting in early March. He has been beaten, his nose has been broken, and there is no sign of his being released any time soon. US embassy officials were made to wait three weeks before being allowed to see him, and have so far not made his case a priority. Meanwhile, Abdallah has asked his father to take up the cause of more than 450 other children languishing in Manama’s prisons for standing up to autocracy.
Reflecting on how all this came tabout, Madan wrote that they often told Abdallah that his support for democracy was because ‘he drank a lot of American water’ when he was a small child in Virginia. The US authorities would do well to drink some more of that water, too."

"We're screwed!"

Sy Hersh in the London Review of Books:
"... As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’
The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of Erdoğan and his associates, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander [Erdoğan], if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’

Saturday, April 5, 2014

According to Livni we need "more meetings, more talks, more negotiations !!"

Al Jazeera English

"... "I believe we need to move to more meetings, more direct negotiations, more than we have had so far, and I think the Americans know this," Livni said. "American involvement - yes, but as facilitators of bilateral negotiations."..."

De Niro hearts aggressive Israel!

"... “I always enjoy coming to Israel. Israelis are warm, they’re energetic people. Forthright. Very smart. I always like smart people. They’re nice people, you know. Aggressive, and I respect that aggressiveness because you need it in their situation,” he said.

A traitor's imprisonment: "It's anti-semitic!"

"... At the time of Mr. Pollard’s arrest, American Jews were uniformly appalled by his crimes, Mr. Foxman said, and worried that it might have major repercussions. He recalled rejecting a request that the Anti-Defamation League declare Mr. Pollard’s treatment anti-Semitic...."

"Obama’s meeting with Saudi king on March 29th left most of the tensions that pre-ceded the meeting"

'The Administration’s run of what its supporters call bad luck and its opponents call incompetence on foreign policy continues. Two instances in the past seem emblematic: first, the early departure of the US Ambassador to India following a diplomatic spat in New York leaves the US Embassy in Delhi without an ambassador in the run-up to new elections there. Second, we understand that President Obama’s meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on March 29th left most of the tensions that pre-ceded the meeting – Syria, Iran, Egypt – firmly in place. It was therefore against an adverse background that Secretary of State Kerry’s announced that he is going to “re-evaluate” US policy regarding the Middle East peace process. This has prompted many questions, but little by way of clarification from US officials. As we have been reporting for many months, apart from Kerry himself, there are very few senior decision makers in Washington who privately believe that the time is ripe for a major American initiative. Nonetheless, in the light of Kerry’s personal commitment to the process, we do not expect it to interred without ceremony, if for no other reason than that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians go hand in hand with the ongoing P5+1 talks with Iran, the next round of which is due to take place on 8th/9th April. As one senior official put it to us: “it is hard to see Washington negotiating with Tehran without at the same time talking to Jerusalem.” With this weekend’s Afghan elections unlikely to produce the stable outcome desired by the Administration, there is no clear endpoint for Kerry’s challenges. Ironically, the area in which he may draw most comfort is over Ukraine. As one senior official commented to us: “Our policy may not have been very effectual in getting Putin to disgorge Crimea, but it has been a classic exercise in allied diplomacy. We have never been more united.” This sense of NATO-based solidarity may have emboldened US officials to warn China not to attempt similar action in the South China Sea...."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Kuwait Justice Minister, accused of funding terrorists in Syria, resigns!

"... Kuwait's justice and Islamic affairs minister Nayef al-Ajmi, accused of fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria, has resigned citing health reasons... The US Treasury Undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen had previously said that al-Ajmi has "a history for promoting jihad in Syria", and that images of his face had been used on fundraising material for the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra militia..."

US treasury allows Boeing to sell parts to Iran

"... WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) - Boeing Co , the world's biggest airplane maker, on Friday said it had received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to export certain spare parts for commercial aircraft to Iran under a temporary sanctions relief deal that began in January...."

'Limits toWashington's time'

"... US Secretary of State John Kerry has said he would "evaluate" the next steps in the Middle East peace process with President Barack Obama, warning there are "limits" to Washington's time..."

Didn't work the first time, try again ... and again!

"... Turkey’s General Staff said missile systems deployed in Syria locked onto Turkish F-16 fighter jets along the Turkey-Syria border. .."

Shale Gas Helps Fracture U.S.-Saudi Ties

"... If the oil price stays high, not only will hydraulic fracking continue to be profitable in the United States, but a number of other countries around the world may start using the technology. The European Union is considering whether to allow fracking and, if so, under which conditions to prevent negative effects on the environment. With a higher the oil price, marginal producers are more likely to enter the arena, undermining Saudi Arabia's position. If the US starts to export crude oil for the global market, it will be a major new player politically and economically, and could make the existing institutional structures like OPEC obsolete, edging the Saudis away from the center of oil diplomacy.Common interest in the oil price underpinning a US- Saudi understanding is no longer in place; on the contrary, a conflict of interest is apparent.
Seen from the outside, the Saudis have tried to communicate their displeasure to the US, maybe trying to wring another kind of understanding out of the wreckage. This was done explicitly and publicly in October 2013 by Saudi Arabia's former spy chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, at the annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference.The signals ran into a US stone wall. Unless gaps in policies and perceptions are bridged, prospects for future stability of the Middle East do not look good."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

CFR: "Most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command"

"... SOHR’s estimated death toll reinforces the point made in an article published on in September 2013, when they last released updated data: most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command..."

Why the Saudis Are Panicking

"... The new reality is that in spite of Riyadh’s massive arms purchase from the US, Washington will likely not come to its aid if the Arab spring reaches Saudi. This means that a critical avenue for Saudi Arabia to ensure regime survival is in jeopardy—at best—or, at worst, lost...."

The West's creation & superbly well vetted 'Syrian rebels': 'We conduct joint operations with Al Qaeda!

 "... The rebel leader touted as the West’s last hope to stem the tide of extreme jihadist groups in Syria has said he will not fight against al-Qa’ida, and openly admits to battling alongside them.Speaking from a safe house on the outskirts of the Turkish town of Antakya, Jamal Maarouf, the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) told The Independent that the fight against al-Qa’ida was “not our problem” and admitted his fighters conduct joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra – the official al-Qa’ida branch in Syria..."

UAE says Qatar does not exist!

"... "Qatar is an integral part of the UAE," the outspoken Khalfan, a longtime critic of the Doha-backed Muslim Brotherhood, wrote on Twitter on Monday, demanding his country "reclaim" Qatar."We must put up signs on our borders with Qatar stating: 'You are now entering the UAE's eighth emirate,'" said Khalfan..."

Monday, March 31, 2014

"... new talks proposal ..."

Al Jazeera English

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Qatar to buy Sudan, before anyone else does!

Al Jazeera English

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

Military force no solution for Syria

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

Ersal ... Soon.

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Now, we know how to vet!

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

Insurgents in Qalamoun almost 'done'. Arsal next.

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

De-escalation in Ukraine & serious differences with Saudia

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

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

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

Saudi Arabia pushes Pakistan to extremism

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

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

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