"...Ms. Psaki was asked if the administration still believed that “Assad’s days are numbered.” “We do,” she affirmed ..."
Thursday, April 24, 2014
"... A group of men reportedly fired at a police patrol that was on routine duty in Maan, some 220km south of Amman, at around 6pm on Tuesday, prompting the officers to respond, a Public Security Department statement said.“The shooting resulted in the death of one citizen,” the PSD added.The incident sparked riots in the city, with angry residents blocking roads, Gendarmerie Public Relations Department Director Lt. Col. Ahmad Abu Hammad said...He noted that the municipality announced a three-day mourning following the shooting incident.
Most of the stores, public schools, and Al Hussein Bin Talal University closed following calls by the municipality."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:37 PM
"... In addition, authorities will withdraw passports from individuals suspected of wanting to travel to Syria. Foreign residents will be "immediately expelled" if authorities have reason to believe they participated in terrorist operations, the minister said.France, in conjunction with European partners, also plans to increase its monitoring of websites that post videos and other messages inciting jihadi activities. Cazeneuve said he has already traveled to Germany and Austria to coordinate and will shortly be in Britain for talks..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:31 PM
"... Other factors are also at play. According to the World Bank, Iran is an upper income country, and is ranked 75 out of 187 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in terms of purchasing power per capita, just below Turkey and slightly above Brazil and South Africa. This income status may have some bearing on popular demands, which seem far more focused on improving government services and reducing corruption than changing or reformulating institutional power in the country..."
"... inside Syrian territory were ambushed and detained Wednesday by Islamic extremists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to Turkish media reports.
The troops were later returned to Turkey, news outlets in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa said. But it wasn’t clear what happened to the four armored personnel carriers they’d been traveling in. One report said ISIS had kept the vehicles — Turkish troops conducting a resupply mission to a small Turkish military post , which had been seen flying ISIS flags..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:36 AM
".... The larger, glaring flaw with Slaughter’s proposal is that she proposes that the U.S. commence hostilities against Syria purely for the sake of making a point to the Russians. There doesn’t appear to be any concern for what effect U.S. intervention would have on Syria itself, or whether it might trigger Iranian retaliation against U.S. clients elsewhere in the region. For the sake of trying to intimidate Russia into changing its behavior in Ukraine, Slaughter is willing to call for military action that could lead to a wider regional war and might derail ongoing diplomacy with Iran. Her argument is the epitome of everything wrong with mindless, knee-jerk interventionism."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:24 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Putting Syrian lives, American lives & treasures at risk with the use of 'might not' & 'could': priceless!
"... To lead effectively, in both the national and the global interest, the US must demonstrate its readiness to shoulder the full responsibilities of power. Striking Syria might not end the civil war there, but it could prevent the eruption of a new one in Ukraine..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:04 PM
"... In other words, Tantoush is now the chief of a training camp the U.S. and Libyan governments had hoped would train Libyan special operations forces to catch militants like Tantoush. .."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:57 PM
"... 'The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,' Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told MailOnline.She blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop half of a $1 billion United Arab Emirates arms shipment from reaching al-Qaeda-linked militants.'Remember, these weapons that came into Benghazi were permitted to enter by our armed forces who were blockading the approaches from air and sea,' Lopez claimed. 'They were permitted to come in. ... [They] knew these weapons were coming in, and that was allowed..'The intelligence community was part of that, the Department of State was part of that, and certainly that means that the top leadership of the United States, our national security leadership, and potentially Congress – if they were briefed on this – also knew about this.'..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:45 PM
"... Hezbollah's efforts to continue targeting Israelis are part of a pattern of action which has been going on since Mugniyah's assassination in 2008. Since then, his authorities have been divided between at least four people. Hamiyah is one of them, and one of his jobs is to achieve revenge.
Those same intelligence abilities which, according to the foreign press, made it possible to locate – and assassinate – Mugniyah likely helped thwart Hezbollah's attempt to avenge his death..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:46 AM
'Turkey 'cooking the books' to exploit the uncertainty of a White House seeking oreign policy successes
"... The reality is that numerous former intelligence officials, like myself, have long known most of the story surrounding the on-again off-again intervention by the United States and others in Syria, but what was needed was a Sy Hersh, with his unmatched range of contacts deep in both the Pentagon as well as at CIA and State Department, to stitch it all together with corroboration from multiple sources. In a sense it was a secret that wasn’t really very well hidden but which the mainstream media wouldn’t touch with a barge pole because it revealed that the Obama Administration, just like the Bushies who preceded it, has been actively though clandestinely conspiring to overthrow yet another government in the Middle East. One might well conclude that the White House is like the Bourbon Kings of France in that it never forgets anything but never learns anything either..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:31 AM
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Al Jazeera English
"... Nevertheless, US President Barack Obama and other senior US officials continue to threaten Iran with military strikes and to refrain from explicitly acknowledging Iran's full nuclear rights. This has increased suspicions among Iranians that the US still clings to a destructive, zero-sum worldview and that it believes it can somehow force Rouhani to sign away Iran's sovereign rights. This is a potentially dangerous misunderstanding of the Iranian president's position and could lead to disastrous Western miscalculations..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:47 PM
"... By then, the regime might have gained control over a continuous geographical area stretching from Syria’s border with Jordan and Lebanon, all the way to Aleppo and passing through Damascus, its outskirts, and East and West Ghouta. That would be necessary for the regime to conduct the presidential elections it wanted..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:42 PM
"... This information came as no surprise to Moscow, which as Russian sources say, was already aware of deliveries of antitank weaponry. According to them, an expansion of deliveries was discussed during President Barack Obama's visit to Riyadh on March 28... Moscow analysts believe that the following circumstances played a role in changing the course of the US administration.
First of these is the worsening in Russian-US relations due to the reunification of Russia and Crimea, alongside the strengthened role of neoconservative elements in the Washington bureaucracy, who are anxious to spite Russia wherever they can, and to hinder normalization of US-Iranian relations. These are the very same people who worked behind the scenes during the coup in Kiev. As Robert Merry recently wrote, referring to William Pfaff, Victoria Nuland “even identified the man who should replace Yanukovych after his ouster,” and “the United States spent some $5 billion in fostering 'democratic institutions' in Ukraine designed to nudge the country away from Russian sway.” He said that only “saner heads would have understood how dangerous this kind of activity can be.”
Second is America’s desire to support its Saudi partners, whose Syrian policy has evoked a serious internal crisis in the Saudi Arabian monarchy, the leaders of which blame the United States for all of their problems.
Third is the fear that the antigovernment forces in Syria could fall, which would turn the mantra of “Assad must go” into merely wishful thinking.
Most Russian experts believe that the supply of modern arms to the Syrian rebels:
- Will not guarantee victory for the detachments that receive them; moreover, the suppliers will hardly be able to ensure that these weapons will not be seized by competing groups of fighters, including international terrorists.
- Will exacerbate the rivalry between the rebel groups, rather than promote their unification.
- Will impel government forces and their supporters to take harsher actions and will intensify the armed confrontation, costing even more civilian lives.
- Will increase the flow of refugees.
- Will force the pro-Damascus regional powers to mobilize even more personnel and material resources to fight the rebels...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:38 PM
"... — The release over the weekend of four French journalists whom a rogue al Qaida offshoot had held for months in Syria may indicate that the group is turning increasingly to ransom to finance its activities.The French government has denied that it paid a ransom for the journalists, who were kidnapped in two separate incidents last summer. But two European intelligence agents involved in the cases of other hostages said they thought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had received a sizable payment for releasing the journalists.
The payment was brokered by an unidentified Persian Gulf country that’s widely thought to be Qatar, which has brokered and paid ransoms on behalf of hostages in three previous incidents ..."
"... A senior Syrian opposition official in Washington who works closely with the Americans said the TOWs were part of a small, tailored program coordinated by U.S. and Saudi intelligence services to "test the waters" for a potentially larger arming effort down the road.The official said the introduction of a small number of TOWs will have limited impact on the battlefield.The main objective is to develop a relationship between vetted fighters and U.S. trainers that will give the Obama administration the confidence to increase supplies of sophisticated weaponry.The U.S. has blocked Saudi Arabia from giving rebels Chinese-made man-portable air defense systems, known as Manpads.Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia offered to give the opposition Manpads for the first time. But the weapons are still stored in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey because of U.S. opposition, according to Saudis and Syrian opposition figures."Basically, this is supposed to be the next step" in the eyes of rebels and their Saudi backers, Mr. Alani said of the hoped-for antiaircraft artillery.Senior administration officials said the White House remains opposed to providing rebels with Manpads. Antiaircraft and antitank weapons could help the rebels chip away at the regime's two big advantages on the battlefield—air power and heavy armor..."
Monday, April 21, 2014
"... On second thought, there is a logic to Israel’s decision to stay away from the UN vote on the Russian invasion. The position presented by Liberman is also not far-fetched. How can a state that has been keeping another people under occupation for 47 years vote against occupation?In addition, experience shows that Israel doesn’t pay a price for ignoring the hand that feeds it with such bounty. At most, anonymous US officials, speaking to Israeli journalists, will express their disappointment at Israel’s ingratitude. Life is fine as long as the defense aid arrives on time and the finger of the US ambassador to the UN keeps going up at votes against the condemnation of Israel’s settlement policy.
As long as the heads of the majority party in the US House of Representatives make pilgrimage to the casino of his friend Sheldon Adelson, the man who is gambling on Israel’s future, Netanyahu can — as the old Jewish saying goes — dance at two weddings at the same time. "
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:25 AM
"... The relationship between Riyadh and Washington has been tied to four essential pillars in recent decades: Saudi hegemony over the oil market, the kingdom’s spiritual status in the Islamic world, Gulf security and the war on terrorism after 9/11. However, doubts about the future of these four pillars have emerged.Saudi Arabia’s control of the oil market depends on its possession of spare capacity, estimated at 2.5 million barrels a day. It is currently not certain that Saudi Arabia will maintain this production capacity. In a report issued by Citigroup in 2012, it was expected that local Saudi oil consumption will weaken this capacity gradually, and the kingdom will have to import fuel by 2030.... Moreover, the United States has become less dependent on oil. (and) Riyadh will no longer be able to use oil as a political weapon, as it did in the 1970s, and will struggle to influence Washington to acquiesce to its regional outlook.
The Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia give it its spiritual power in the Islamic world, but this element is changing for several reasons. First, the new communication revolution has disintegrated power and contributed to establishing several spiritual centers within the Islamic world....
Second, the kingdom has been involved in regional conflicts against other Islamic forces, whether against Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, Saudi Arabia’s influence over Muslims is waning, as indicated by a 2013 Pew Center survey that showed its popularity dwindling in the Middle East....Bref, Saudia's rulers are rattled & that is good!
Meanwhile, the war on terrorism, which was considered one of the main commonalities between the two countries in the past decade, has turned into a point of debate between Riyadh and Washington regarding Syria and Egypt. Saudi Arabia supports jihadist Islamic factions in Syria, while Washington considers them to be close to al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia considers the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a terrorist organization, while Washington sees it as a political power having the right to participate in the democratic process.
Saudi Arabia is also uncertain of Washington’s commitment to Gulf security. Washington’s perception of security in the Gulf is different than Saudi Arabia’s....."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:17 AM
Sunday, April 20, 2014
"... Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said on Saturday that if the momentum was sustained, Syria should be able to meet its April 27 deadline to hand over all declared chemical agents...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:44 AM
Saturday, April 19, 2014
"... Our Administration contacts tell us that new sanctions are under preparation that would, as one senior official put it to us, “extract serious pain from the Russian financial sector”. The hope in Washington is that these can be avoided. One key reason is the importance of preserving a constructive Russian contribution to the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. With signs of Iranian compliance on its undertakings to dilute its stockpile of fissile material, State Department officials have told us that their optimism that a deal can be reached by the late July deadline is rising. All concerned acknowledge that the deal will have to be 100% watertight to pass muster among a very skeptical audience on Capitol Hill. The Administration needs legislative changes if it is to reduce sanctions, so cannot afford to alienate Congress if it is to fulfill its side of any final agreement..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:29 PM
In his own words:
"... From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:01 PM
Friday, April 18, 2014
"... White House and State Department officials in Washington have built up a great deal of anger over Jerusalem's "neutrality" regarding Russia's invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. Senior figures in the Obama administration have expressed great disappointment with the lack of support from Israel for the American position ...
While the Americans viewed Israel's behavior as ungrateful, in light of Washington's unshakable support for Jerusalem in the UN, in the Kremlin and in the Russian media Israel's action was seen as an expression of support for Moscow, or at the very least a lack of opposition to the invasion of Ukraine...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:45 PM
(Reuters) "... Treatment in Gaza was rendered harder by the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords because radiation chemotherapy, the two sides agreed, could have military applications. Only five practicing oncologists remain in Gaza, Shannan notes with gloom...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:55 AM
- Al Jazeera English
"... At an extraordinary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday, the ministers agreed that the policies of GCC member states should not undermine the “interests, security and stability” of each other, a statement said.Such policies must also not affect the "sovereignty" of a member state...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:49 AM
Thursday, April 17, 2014
"... “The shift of terrorist operations toward the capital represents a strategy adopted by these groups to achieve victory on all fronts, whether in remote locations or in the heart of the capital. They see Cairo and the Delta cities as the hottest battlefield, where there is a group of Muslim Brotherhood facilitators providing protection and hiding places [for fugitive members]. The dense population provides freedom to easily move around explosives and hide between human masses,” Akashe added..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:46 PM
"... WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has taken steps to release a $450 million installment of frozen Iranian funds following a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifying that Iran is living up to its part of a landmark nuclear pact with world powers ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:48 PM
'Syrian Army in Maaloula'WAPO:
"... With their spirits beaten down, hundreds of rebels have accepted government offers to hand over their weapons, activists and Syrian state media said, weakening the resolve of some of those who remain in the city. There has been a slow and steady exodus since mass evacuations were conducted in February under the auspices of the United Nations..."NYT:
"... Qaisar Habib, an activist in southern Syria, said in a Skype interviewthat the vehicles hit Wednesday morning belonged to a Syrian rebel group.He said the attack showed that the Jordanian government was “verysensitive” about the border as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, anextremist militant group, tries to establish a presence in southern Syria.Mr. Habib said the strike also could have been a signal from Jordanthat it would not tolerate recent attempts by another militant group, theNusra Front, to attack the Nasib border crossing, which is surrounded byrebel-held territory but still run by the Syrian government ..."WAPO:
"... While some dispute the difference the weapons can make in the Syrian conflict, now well into its third year, the appearance of the missiles caused a flurry of excitement among experts who closely chronicle weapons used by either side..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:46 PM
NEWSWEEK: 'The Saudis are laughable in wanting people to take notice of their previously furtive missile program'
'We kick Iranian butt!'
"... CIA and Saudi air force officers hammered out the ways and means for acquiring the new Chinese missiles during a series of secretive meetings at the spy agency's Langley, Va., headquarters and over dinners at restaurants in northern Virginia during the spring and summer of 2007, a well-informed source tells Newsweek. The arrangements were so sensitive that then-deputy CIA director Stephen Kappes ordered the CIA's logistical costs, estimated at $600,000 to $700,000 buried under a vague "ops support" heading in internal budget documents - prompting loud complaints from the head of the agency's support staff.....
Meanwhile, the Saudis have been acting like they want people to take notice of their previously furtive missile program..... Riyadh seems to be hinting that it has bought at least two new types of ballistic missiles."......
... the unprecedented missiles-and-pony show could be a deception. In any case, the Saudis are banging the drums around their missile bases - without any apparent notice here ...
The local Saudi press has been covering blood drives and disaster relief efforts by personnel at known missile bases, Lewis tells Newsweek. And while officials have been secretive about another missile base, he's discovered that "people on Arabic bulletin boards have big mouths.
"Turns out, if you're a Saudi assigned to a launch unit," he says, "the most natural thing in the world is to announce on a bulletin board, 'Hi, I work for the Saudi missile force, and I've been assigned to this place, and where can I get an apartment?' And people openly talk about their deployments in a way that Saudi officials would freak if they realized it."
Maybe. But you can't scare people if nobody knows what you got. Maybe the Saudis are suddenly trying to get attention....."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:10 AM
"... Over the past few days, I have talked to shopkeepers, students, soldiers, doctors, a dentist, MPs and government ministers (including the minister for tourism, who must have the most thankless job in the world). On the basis of these conversations, I would judge not just that support for the regime is holding up, but that President Assad could very well win a popular election, even if carried out on a free and fair basis.....Discussing this vote, I found – to my surprise – that even people outside the governing Ba’ath party, including some of Assad’s political opponents, said they would support him...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:27 AM
"... Israel has become a much more religious and stridently ethnocentric country over the years, and it’s got to the stage where, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who originally came to power on a platform of rejecting concessions to the Palestinians, is regarded as a moderate conservative. The settler movement is central. At the time of the Camp David peace agreement, there were less than a hundred thousand Israelis in West Bank settlements. Now, there are close to half a million, with the number growing by the day.What hasn’t changed is U.S. policy toward Israel, and the way that it is marketed. From James Baker to Madeline Albright and now Kerry, senior U.S. diplomats have tried to present the United States as an “honest broker” between the two sides, interested only in the promotion of peaceful coexistence. About the only people who take this idea seriously are U.S. officials and commentators. The United States IS NOT, and CANNOT be a neutral mediator in the Middle East. It has long acted as Israel’s closest ally, biggest benefactor, and ultimate guarantor of its security...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:15 AM
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
"... 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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:02 AM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:52 AM
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
"... 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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:14 PM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:53 PM
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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:36 PM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:27 PM
"... 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...."
"... "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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:13 PM
(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
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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:57 PM
"... 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, 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:57 PM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:09 PM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:07 AM
Sunday, April 13, 2014
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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:52 PM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:48 PM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:00 PM
Friday, April 11, 2014
"... 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!......."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:41 PM
"... 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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:34 PM
(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 ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:11 PM
(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.”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:10 PM
"... 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..."
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:06 AM
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:55 AM
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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:47 AM
... that's if you wondered about state sponsors of terrorism!
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Highest disapproval rates of US Leadership:
(1) Palestine 80%
(2) Pakistan 73%
(3) Lebanon 71%
(4) Yemen 69%
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 4:54 PM
"... 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. "
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:11 PM
"... 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. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:02 PM
" — 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:49 PM
"... 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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:01 PM
"... 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..."
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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:38 AM
"... 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 ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:33 AM
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.
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:04 AM
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
"... 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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:49 PM
"... 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...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:15 AM
"... 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."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:05 AM
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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:57 AM
"... 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
"... 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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:12 PM
"... 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.”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:00 PM
'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..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:38 AM