My only regret of living here in the tropics is having to get up at two in the morning, to catch ‘Up’…!

Now, there was a flurry of news and views, all across Asia and the Middle East, that bears noting…

In Afghanistan, with the sudden halt in joint ISAF operations

Afghanistan: “It’s Just Damage Limitation Now”

Why did you write No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan?

I’d been travelling to Helmand for five years, first in 2007 with the Brits, then later mostly with the U.S. Marines, covering every major operation since the war in the south was taken seriously.

Despite new troops, extra resources and new polices, it kept getting worse.

It was more dangerous for me and the troops I was with, Afghan security forces didn’t seem to be improving, and perhaps most importantly, locals were not being won over but instead were complaining of civilian casualties, damage to their homes, being inconvenienced and disrespected, or preyed upon by the Afghan police.

Yet in the second half of 2010, statements from Kabul, Washington and London kept talking of progress, goals being met and the Taliban being on their last legs.

This was the exact opposite of what I had been seeing, so I felt that I had to write this book

Et Tu, Brute…? Crocker: Taliban Infiltration Worse Than US Will Admit

Now, It’s rather amusing that neocons luminaries, such as Ross Douthat: It’s not about the video, and, Jennifer Rubin, recognize the problem, but can’t see the forest for the trees…

White House dumps false cover story on embassy attacks?

For a week various Obama administration figures, including the White House press secretary, have insisted that the attacks on U..S. embassies in the Middle East were a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. But that excuse has not held up to even superficial scrutiny… {…}

I’m not sure what that even means. But in any case, the administration, perhaps recognizing their cover story on the attacks was blown, is now backpedaling fast.

There is all the more reason now to get to the bottom of this, to hold hearings and for the president himself to answer questions. If it is now conceded that this was more than a spontaneous uprising the questions remain: Was there an intelligence failure? And is the president’s purported Middle East policy a flop?

Jennifer did cite Foggy Bottom’s and the WH’s frantic back-pedaling…

Ms. Nuland…

QUESTION:Today, there was a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, which — the group that claims to have carried it out also linked to the video . . . I wonder, in the light of the fact that perhaps these protests are now going to spread beyond just Americans and perhaps foreigners in general, what your consultations are with other governments who might be struggling to warn their workers and come up with the appropriate response to this.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Well, as you can imagine, Jo, we’re consulting with a very broad range of countries about the response to this video — not just ones where our embassies and consulates and missions have been affected, but around the world and encouraging leaders — whether they’re government leaders, religious leaders — to speak out strongly along the lines that the Secretary and the President have, that we can all condemn this reprehensible video, but it should never be an excuse for violence. . . .

What I can’t confirm, Jo, was the motivation for this. And we are seeing, whether it is the recent calls by Hezbollah for people to go out into the streets, some of the things we’ve seen on al-Qaida sites, we’re seeing a lot of piling on. We’re seeing a lot of extremist activity trying to exploit the sentiments from this video to gin up folks to violence and try to use that as an excuse for things that might otherwise have been planned, for their otherwise rejectionist agendas. So that’s very concerning, this sort of spoiler, pile-on agenda that’s happening now.

Jay Carney…

Q: Can I ask one more question, just on a different topic? It seems that the U.S. and Libya have sort of different accounts of the attack in Benghazi last week. There are reports that Libyan officials warned the U.S. of the growing extremist threat prior to the attacks, that they admitted they could not control some of these militias. That seems to run counter to what administration officials have been saying, that this was just a spontaneous reaction to this anti-Islam film. Can you kind of reconcile this?

MR. CARNEY: Well, what I can tell you is that we have provided information about what we believe was the precipitating cause of the protest and the violence, based on the information that we have had available. There is an ongoing investigation. The FBI is investigating. And that investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead.

What we do know about Libya is that it’s a country that emerged from war and revolution, and you have a new government trying to assert its authority as that country makes a transition to democracy and broader representation for all Libyans and broader rights for all Libyans. And in that environment there are certainly, in this postwar, post-revolution environment, there are vast numbers of weapons and certainly a number of violent groups in the country.

What is important to note, however, is that the Libyan people do not understand — or rather they do understand that the United States was with them in their efforts to achieve their aspirations, to rid them of the Qaddafi regime and the tyranny that Qaddafi inflicted upon them. But it is still a very volatile place, there’s no question about it.

Now, as Barry Lando wrote recently at his excellent blog…

Libya-The Question not being asked.

Apart from Mitt Romney’s ridiculous slur against President Obama following the murder of a U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Americans should be focusing on a much more formidable question:

When was the last time a Chinese diplomat was murdered or even roughed up by an angry mob? When did you least hear about a Chinese embassy burned down or pillaged? We’ll be back to that question… {…}

…The reason for America’s obsession with this part of the world, we’ve heard for years, is that its trade routes and resources are critical to U.S. interests.

But hold on—that may once have been true, but, as things stand now, those trade routes and resources are even more crucial to China than to America. China, for instance, gets a greater percentage of its oil through the vital straights of Hormuz—which the U.S. spends billions to patrol–than does the United States.

And, while the U.S. has been lavishing hundreds of billions on bases, the Chinese have been spending their huge wad across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia buying up mineral deposits, land, forests, petroleum, inking construction contracts for huge infrastructure projects, as well as opening up vast new markets.

Where are the Chinese troops to protect all this? Where are the sprawling Chinese naval and air bases, their drones, killer teams and special forces? Not needed, thanks, the U.S. is handling security.

Which makes for some sad ironies. The fact, for instance, that the murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had spent months aiding the Libyan rebels during their uprising against Khadhafi—while China was one of the last major allies to continue supporting the dictator. Yet the Chinese are back in Libya wheeling and dealing for construction contracts and oil.

Meanwhile, next door in Egypt, newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, whose country, mind you, continues to receive more than 1 billion dollars in aid from the United States, judged he had more to gain by joining in attacks against the U.S., than by cooling the popular passions. And where was his first trip abroad after winning election? To China…

Ironically, it seems the HuffPoo may be regretting their prior R2P clamor and hue over Libya…

Reap What You Sow: Libya’s Harsh Lessons

…While the intrigue of the killings links the tragedy to the war in Afghanistan, the broader picture in Libya is not reassuring. “Because the country lacks a fully functioning state, effective army or police, local actors — notables, civilian and military councils, revolutionary brigades — have stepped in to provide safety, mediate disputes and impose ceasefires,” begins a detailed report this week from the International Crisis Group. “Central authorities have acted chiefly as bystanders, in effect subcontracting security to largely autonomous armed groups.”

These militias are to some degree based on kinship, tribe, and the like, and those who were part of the effort to overthrow Qaddafi have seized the upper hand in many towns and cities. Revenge is exacted with varying degrees of violence. As in Iraq, the fragmentation of security is itself a source of insecurity. Violence begets violence. The months of civil war that brought down Qaddafi were bloody and traumatic, and while a different order or two of magnitude from Iraq’s colossal carnage, some of the same dynamics are at work. Regime change that is imposed by outside powers almost always results in civil war… …Without a strong central state that can guarantee post-war order (and justice), the bad guys with guns will impose disorder to gain traction in the new political environment… {…}

…Republicans will persist in portraying the Libyan murders and turmoil elsewhere in Muslim countries as a consequence of U.S. “weakness” under Obama, and will persist, parrot-like, with their tiresome (and false) line about his apologies for American values. How this will wash in the election is anyone’s guess. But the reality on the ground in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen is immensely more complex, and yields no easy solutions. It does argue for extreme caution with respect to Syria, however, where the bloody mix of sectarian strife and high civilian casualties will engender lasting bitterness no matter the outcome. The less the U.S. is involved militarily in this region, the better for us in the long run.

Robert Fisk hums the same bars as Barry, except on Syria…

…”But we have an expression in Syria: ‘If you feed a scorpion, it will bite you’.” His message couldn’t have been clearer.

The United States supported the opposition against Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, helped Saudi Arabia and Qatar pour cash and weapons to the militias and had now reaped the whirlwind. America’s Libyan “friends” had turned against them, murdered US ambassador Stevens and his colleagues in Benghazi and started an al-Qa’ida-led anti-American protest movement that had consumed the Muslim world.

The US had fed the al-Qa’ida scorpion and now it had bitten America. And so Washington now supports the opposition against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was helping Saudi Arabia and Qatar pour cash and weapons to the militias (including Salafists and al-Qa’ida) and would, inevitably, be bitten by the same “scorpion” if Assad was overthrown…

Ban Ki Moon is right… UN Chief says no military solution to Syrian crisis…!

Btw, you knew it was only a matter of time… Syrian Army captures U.S. weapons and NATO ammunition boxes in Damascus…!

Moving on to Russia…

Russia demands $50m US aid effort must stop by next month

Most of USAID’s $50m spend was aimed at democracy, civil society and rights

A US government official confirmed the US Embassy in Moscow hosts 13 American diplomats working for USAID, as well as employing 60 Russian staff. It was also unclear whether the US will plan reciprocal moves. However, the US official made it clear that Washington will attempt to continue funding the organisations it currently does within Russia, saying that the Obama administration “will be looking for ways to advance our old foreign policy objectives using new means”.

In an election season in which Republican candidate Mitt Romney has already referred to Russia as an “enemy”, President Barack Obama will be under pressure to formulate a firm response. There has been criticism of the decision to close USAID without a fight.

“For USAID to up and leave Russia simply because Vladimir Putin asked us to do so is a betrayal of our decades-long support not only for grassroots human rights defenders, civil society, and development of the rule of law in Russia but also for assistance in areas like improving public health and the environment,” said David Kramer, president of the organisation Freedom House. He said the decision showed that the US was “caving in to a repressive government”.

When Mr Obama first came to office, he championed the “Reset” policy with Russia, designed to usher in a new era of cordial relations. But in the past year, there has been a sharp deterioration, with US Ambassador Michael McFaul subject to harassment from Kremlin-linked journalists and youth groups, and Mr Putin claiming on television that anti-government protesters who came to the street to rally against his rule were paid by the US State Department…

Today’s State Dept. briefing was a real knee-slapper, especially in regards to Russia…!

Now, this was a disturbing bit of news in the Golan Heights, no less…


Israel military holds largest snap drill in years

The Israeli military Wednesday conducted its largest snap drill in years as tensions with Iran over its nuclear program rise and civil war in neighboring Syria rages.

Tens of thousands of soldiers were mobilized for the exercise, including artillery and air force personnel, making the drill unique because of the number of soldiers and senior officers involved, several officials said.

As the Hindu reported it…

…The Israeli mobilisation has involved airlifting troops from the Northern and Central commands to the Golan Heights. The exercise, whose scale has been intensified with the deployment of reservists, will also involve live artillery firing. {…}

The Israeli exercise seemed to complement a large-scale war-game that commenced on Sunday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. The 12-day exercise not only involves Western nations such as the U.K. and France, but also countries such as Yemen and Jordan. Countries as varied as Japan, New Zealand and Estonia are also participating.

Show of strength

The show of strength seemed to mask the possibility of a resumption of talks between Iran and the six global powers that include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, whose chances appeared to improve on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Iran’s top negotiator Saeed Jalili said in Istanbul his meeting with EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton — who represents the six global powers — had ended on a positive note.

“At this meeting we reviewed the discussions raised in the Moscow talks and the contents of the experts meeting [in Istanbul in July], and we studied the common points which can serve as a platform for cooperation and further talks,” Mr. Jalili said.

Ms. Ashton is likely to brief the six world powers about Tuesday’s meeting in New York during the course of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session…

In summing up, Ain’t this just peachy-keen…? AIPAC Thanks Obama for Pro-Israel Policies…!

*gah*