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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Egypt, I/P, Syria, and Yemen

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Here we go again…! From the CSM…

Did Syria use chlorine gas against rebels in Kfar Zeit?

The US State Department says there are indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used against opposition forces in Syria earlier in April.

The United States has indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used in Syria this month and is examining whether the Syrian government was responsible, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

‘We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical’ in the town of Kfar Zeita, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to a rebel-held area.

‘We are examining allegations that the government was responsible,’ she told a regular news briefing. ‘Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what’s happened here.’

Syrian opposition activists reported that helicopters dropped chlorine gas on a Kfar Zeit on April 11 and 12. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told ABC television’s This Week on April 13 that the attack was ‘unsubstantiated.’

Psaki said chlorine was not one of the priority one or two chemicals Syria declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) under a Russian-U.S. agreement for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

Psaki said the United States was still trying to determine the facts.

‘We take all allegations of the use of chemicals in combat use very seriously,’ she said. ‘We’ll work with the OPCW, who is obviously overseeing the implementation, and determine if any violation occurred.’

Even Hollande piles on…France backs claims that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons recently

Meanwhile, in Syria…

So while everybody agrees that Assad is secure in his position and the Syrians move forward with their planned elections… The UN slams Syria…

Top UN officials warn against Syrian presidential elections

Top United Nations officials have cautioned that Syria’s newly announced presidential elections have a risk of undermining efforts to achieve a political solution to the country’s three-year-old conflict, a UN spokesman said here on Monday.

‘The secretary-general and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, have repeatedly warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances, amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement, will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution that the country so urgently needs,’ Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters at a daily briefing.

‘Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communique,’ Dujarric said in reference to an action plan adopted in June 2012 during the first international conference on the Syrian conflict, calling for a political transition in the country.

Ironically, neither Assad, nor the SNC(or whatever version) had ever agreed to the Geneva Communique, even when it was first drawn up…! Here’s a great RT clip on the foreign intervention… Young Blood: Teenage Europeans joining jihad in war-torn Syria

Now, reflecting back…

An Eyewitness to the Syrian Rebellion: Father Frans in His Own Words

…Father Frans was murdered under still unclarified circumstances in the embattled Syrian city of Homs earlier this month.

Opposition sources have blamed the Syrian government for his death. But it is widely believed that Father Frans was killed by hard-line Islamist members of one of the rebel factions that have taken control of his Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood in Homs.

The texts of Father Frans, who had lived in Syria since 1966, provide an eyewitness account of the origins of the anti-Assad rebellion and the gradual hardening of the front between opposing rebel and government forces in Homs.

In many respects, the Father’s observations contrast sharply with what has become the standard view of the rebellion in Western media.

Perhaps most notably, whereas the rebellion is typically held to have been sparked by the violent repression of peaceful protests, according to Father Frans, the ‘protest movement’ contained an armed and violent element ‘from the start’ and the violent opposition quickly gained the ascendancy over the peaceful opposition.

Thus, in a letter published in January 2012 on the Dutch-Flemish Mediawerkgroep Syrië website, Father Frans wrote:

‘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.’

In the same letter, Father Frans insisted that what was occurring in Syria could not be described as a “popular uprising,” since the majority of Syrians do not support the opposition and ‘certainly not’ its armed component.

Moving along… Lebanon is holding their Presidential elections tomorrow…

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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Al-Assad, Kerry, Khamenei, and, McCain

6:30 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Some recent developments on the P5+1 talks…

U.S. sees Iran nuclear talks difficult, success uncertain

The United States and long-time arch-foe Iran agree on at least one thing ahead of Tuesday’s negotiations on a long-term nuclear deal – reaching an agreement will be very difficult, if not impossible.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who has the final say on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, declared again on Monday that talks between Tehran and six world powers ‘will not lead anywhere.’

Hours later a senior U.S. administration official also played down expectations, telling reporters in the Austrian capital that it will be a ‘complicated, difficult and lengthy process’ and ‘probably as likely that we won’t get an agreement as it is that we will.’

From the Supreme Leader himself…

Iran’s Khamenei says nuclear talks will ‘lead nowhere’

Iran’s top decision-maker Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday nuclear talks with world powers would ‘lead nowhere’ but that he did not oppose them.

Iran is due to resume talks on Tuesday in Vienna with the P5+1 group—Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany—aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear program.

After a decade of failure and rising tensions, U.S. President Barack Obama has put the chances of an agreement at ’50-50,’ while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has predicted ‘difficult’ discussions.

‘I repeat it again that I am not optimistic about the negotiations and they will lead nowhere, but I am not against them,’ Khamenei said in remarks published on his website Khamenei.ir.

Now, here’s a real game-changer…

Iran says Russia could build nuclear reactor in exchange for oil

Russia could build a second reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant in exchange for Iranian oil, the Iranian ambassador to Moscow said in remarks published on Monday.

Russia could also supply Iran with trucks, railroad tracks, mini-refineries or other goods to pay for the oil, ambassador Mehdi Sanaei told the daily Kommersant, under a deal Reuters revealed was being negotiated last month.

Reuters reported Iran and Russia were negotiating to swap up to 500,000 barrels of oil per day for goods in the deal that would undermine Western efforts to maintain economic pressure on Tehran while global powers seek to curb its nuclear programme.

In an interview published a day before the six powers including Russia resume talks with Tehran on a nuclear deal, Sanaei confirmed Russia and Iran were discussing supplies of ‘a few hundred thousand barrels per day.’

‘Iran could use some of the proceeds (to pay for) the construction by Russia companies of a second unit at the nuclear power plant in Bushehr,’ he said. Russia built the first reactor at Bushehr, Iran’s sole nuclear power plant.

Sanaei said it was possible the oil deal, and a broad memorandum on economic cooperation, could be signed before August. Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev is to visit Iran in April for talks on trade.

Asked what Russia could supply in exchange for the oil, Sanaei said the sides were discussing a number of possibilities including the construction of small oil refineries, Russian investment in gas fields and supplies of electricity. {…}

A top U.S. official said this month she believed the oil-for-goods swap would not go ahead in the near future after the United States warned both sides it would make reaching a nuclear agreement ‘more difficult if not impossible.’

Moving along to McInsane…

I was actually pleasantly surprised at Candy’s questions…!

Now, Col. Lang penned a great post today…

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by CTuttle

Syrian Mashup: Mother Agnes, Sellstrom, and, Iran for Palestine?

7:45 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

From the Euronews blurb…

Russia has denounced the findings of a team of UN investigators into a poison gas attack in Syria as, ‘preconceived’ and ‘politicised.’

The Russian reaction came after the UN report, which confirms the use of the nerve agent Sarin, was taken as proof by Western nations that Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, who met today with President Assad, said the UN report was prepared ‘selectively and incompletely.’ Russia maintains Syrian rebels were behind the chemical attack.

Now, I ask you if you would rather trust the UN or Mother Agnes…

Children in Syria chemical attack video ‘moved between locations’ before ‘staged’ filming

Children filmed as victims of the Aug 21 chemical attack in a Damascus suburb had been deliberately moved to the location from a different region after being kidnapped weeks before, Mother Agnes told RT after presenting her own investigation to the UN.

Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib and her group carried out their own investigation. They looked through the 35 videos of the incident that were posted on the internet.

What caught Mother Agnes’ eye was that the same children resurfaced in different videos.

‘We see children in a video presented as victims of a chemical attack in Jobar. And then we see the same kids in a video out of Kfar-Batna, and they are claimed to be kids from Kfar-Batna, and then, from Ain Terma. We have seen one and the same boy ostensibly in agony in different settings,’ she told RT Arabic.

‘Who are those children? We want to know the truth,’ Mother Agnes says. {…}

First of all, there are family members who say they have recognized their children. They pointed to specific videos from Kfar Batna and Jobar. I cannot go into detail, because I don’t have permission from the families to mention names. So I’ll put it in general terms: as of now, we know that people have recognized some of the children. In some cases, it was a mother or a father who recognized their child in a video. In other cases, it was an aunt or an uncle, or some other relative, because some of the parents had been killed during the fighting, as the insurgents advanced through the townships and villages of Latakia. I cannot judge whether what those people say is true; that would require a DNA test. As far as we are concerned, we are trying to figure out why all those people would start claiming they see familiar faces in those videos. We look specifically at the footage selected by the Americans, and we see that it has been supplemented with footage provided by Al Jazeera, or by one of the coordination committees. We have 35 videos in our brief, but there are about 200 to 230 videos in total, each different from the others. They are peddled by a variety of sources – from local coordination committees to NGOs to media organizations. As we examined the videos, trying to identify the children in question, we noticed signs suggesting this or that had been staged and directed. For example, there is footage of a boy receiving first aid. And then there is a different video where you can see the same boy receiving first aid all over again, but in a different setting. It is like a movie production, where scenes are repeatedly edited and re-filmed. You shoot one scene, you don’t like it, so you alter the settings and you try again.

Some more from Deputy FM Ryabkov…

‘Proof of rebels using chem arms’

UN experts to return to Syria soon; America maintains its aggressive military option against Assad regime

The Syrian regime has handed Russia new materials implicating rebels in a chemical attack outside Damascus on 21 August, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today after talks in Damascus.

‘The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack,’ Mr Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem late yesterday. He said that Russia would “examine the Syrian materials implicating the rebels with the utmost seriousness.’

To the fury of the West, Russia has repeatedly expressed suspicion that the chemical attack was a ‘provocation’ staged by the rebels with the aim of attracting Western military intervention in the conflict.

Mr Ryabkov also said Russia was disappointed with the UN report into the chemical weapons attack published this week, saying it was selective and had ignored other episodes. ‘Without a full picture… we cannot describe the character of the conclusions as anything other than politicised, biased and one-sided,’ he said.

Mr Ryabkov is on a visit to Damascus to present the Syrian regime with the results of the agreement between Moscow and Washington reached in Geneva at the weekend to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. He said he emphasised to Mr Muallem the importance of the Syrian side ‘strictly and swiftly’ handing over details of its chemical weapons arsenal to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the first step in the agreement.

Yoichi Shimatsu, who covered the Tokyo subway gassing in 1995, wrote a scathing critique on the UN’s Sellstrom Report…

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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Jabhat al-Nusra, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Our Failed FP

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Somehow, I’d missed this earlier, most excellent post from Emptywheel… The Perils of “Strategic Messaging” And even ex-CIA Philip Giraldi had piled on yesterday… Failed by the Fourth Estate

Honestly, I think it’s far past time for some real Humility Now!

…Look, I was on the team after 9/11 that analyzed whether there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and I was the chief targeting officer charged with following Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The war in Iraq provided al Qaeda with a new front for its struggle with the West. After the invasion, Zarqawi — the man who would lead al Qaeda in Iraq — pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and, consequently, money and weapons flowed into the country. The United States didn’t “face down” al Qaeda in Iraq; it inadvertently helped Zarqawi evolve from a lone extremist with a loose network to a charismatic leader of al Qaeda. By extension, it would be safe to say that the al Qaeda in Iraq affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, exists because of the Iraq invasion, and likely would find new authority and power if the United States made Syria the next front for the global jihadist movement.

Finally, Diehl misinterprets the outcome of the Iraq War by arguing that “U.S. influence in the Middle East remained strong.” A year after the Iraq War, Pew conducted a survey that revealed the “vast majorities in predominantly Muslim countries continue to hold unfavorable opinions of the U.S.” Our influence has been further undercut by the fact that we are broke and our political system is dysfunctional. The U.S. government is currently operating under sequestration, struggling to fund some of the basic needs for places like Syria. It could still employ superior military power in Syria, but 10 years of war have taken a toll on its troops and materiel… And the Iraq War also left the American people wary of military engagements — and they are the ones who will pay the bills in money and in lives.

The argument that unleashing the U.S. military industrial complex can bring about desired results during a conflict should have been deflated, beaten, and buried by now. The winner of the Iraq War was humility, and it is a prerequisite for a wiser foreign policy. That’s the only lesson that matters.

Iraqi intelligence says Syrian and Iraqi Islamic extremist groups ramping up cooperation…

Funny how even ‘Benghazi, Benghazi’ Faux Spew gets it…

Video appears to show world’s most powerful rifle in hands of Syrian rebels

…“The video, showing jihadist rebels of the ‘Descendents of the Prophet Brigade’ firing one of the world’s most effective sniper rifles, should be cause for alarm,” said David Reaboi, of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy. “We don’t know who has been supplying this group (or the myriad others) with these weapons but, given the jihadist ideology of these groups, it’s only a matter of time until they’re turned on Americans or our allies and interests.”

“We’re unsure of how many they have,” Reaboi said. “Equally troubling, of course, is the training ground of the Syrian civil war itself; like the conflict in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we will be facing tested veteran jihadist fighters who don’t just leave the war when the one battle is over. I’m afraid we or our allies will have to face them shortly, and with exceedingly lethal weapons.”

Speaking of Benghazi… A Libyan Report Card…

…By these standards, many states in the world are weak. And Libya has gone from being a tyrannical state to being barely a state at all.

Given the calls for intervention in Syria, let’s consider Libya, where a modest intervention was tried… …Toppling an evil regime or stopping a war is a profoundly moral act. But taking moral responsibility for what happens next in a country is the hard part. Bosnia-Herzegovina, 18 years after the U.S.-led intervention and the Dayton Peace Accords, is a nasty, dysfunctional state. And Bosnia-Herzegovina has advantages that Libya and Syria simply do not have. It is next-door to the European Union and has a modern history of relatively strong institutional structures compared to much of the Middle East. Bosnia was in a relatively developed part of the Ottoman Empire; Libya and Syria were in much less developed parts. But because Washington tends to overestimate its own significance in terms of its ability to alter distant societies, the following pattern will continue to emerge: a terrible war resulting in calls for humanitarian intervention, an intervention in some cases, always followed by a blame game inside the Washington Beltway after the country has slipped back into tyranny or anarchy.

Meanwhile, here is a probability: Libya’s relatively short history as a strong state is over. It will go on and on as a dangerous and weakly governed area between Tunisia and Egypt. Its considerable oil resources can internally generate revenue for armed groups and politicians both…

Oh Joy… Obama to Host Leaders from Turkey, Jordan, Gulf States…

…President Barack Obama plans some intense Mideast diplomacy this month and next, welcoming leaders of Turkey, Jordan and two Gulf states for Oval Office talks on Syria and broader developments in the Mideast…

…The White House said talks will include Syria and counterterrorism cooperation, and underscore the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Turkey as NATO allies…

Asked if the visits are part of efforts to coordinate assistance to Syrian opposition forces, White House press secretary Jay Carney avoided an answer, keeping to the general description provided of the purpose of the visits.

“There are obviously a number of issues for these leaders and the president to discuss, including Syria, including his recent visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, including the broader developments in the Arab Spring so he looks forward to these visits and they reflect his commitment and interest in the region and in our policies toward the region,” Carney said…

Meanwhile… Assad to world: Be careful what you wish for…

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned in comments broadcast on Friday that the fall of his regime would produce a “domino effect” that would destabilise the region “for many years”

*gah*

by CTuttle

What Really Happened To Richard Engel?

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Folks, I smell a Rat…! But, first, let’s quickly dispense with some of the nonsense swirling about Syria…

The Assad government is not “falling.”

…Yes, the demise of the Syrian government exists mainly in the “minds” of a couple of vendu think-tank analysts in Washington, the corporate media bandwagon, and the enfants terribles Wilsonians now riding high in the Obama Administration. The attempt is being made to simply BS Assad out of power. Obama is now functioning fully as the reincarnated Lincoln and sees himsef as “clothed in a great power.” Well, pilgrim, he has placed the US in the position of an alliance with an AQ affiliate (al-nusra). The Syrians that he recognised as government are demanding that he stop condemning their AQ ally and are coming to Washington to tell him and the Wilsonians that he must de-list al-nusra as a terrorist group.

Group Think and the desire to be loved by colleagues and the powerful account for a lot of the intellectual irresponsibility on display but it is also the fact that many of those “running their mouths” over Syria are simply ignorant, callow creatures created by ten years of war and the super-abundance of government money that allowed the hiring of the pitifully under experienced.

The only real question in my mind is whether or not Syria actually wasted a few SSMs last week. Let’s see some evidence, some wreckage, statements by Clapper about heat signatures at launch, something.

The civil war appears to be a stalemate. Having painted himself into a corner BHO will eventually have to opt for intervention of some kind. pl

Now, it would seem that even ex-FDLer, Spencer Ackerman has been sucked into the proverbial Media vortex…

Islamic Extremists Rescue NBC Reporter Held in Syria

…Securing Engel’s freedom is a particularly unexpected turn for Ahrar al-Sham, which the Associated Press describes as “Islamic fundamentalist brigade home to many foreign jihadis.” A recently revamped rebel command structure excluded the group, along with the al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra, seemingly to secure Western backing. Such groups are given to criticizing the U.S. — not for intervening in Syria, but for not intervening enough in Syria, and being prissy about the company it keeps.

Ahrar al-Sham might give Westerners pause. But Danger Room pal Matt Fanning, a Fort Worth-based IT consultant who closely tracks Syrian rebel groups, says the jihadist organization is one of the most effective and the most media-savvy of the rebel coalition. Their weapons of choice include roadside bombs and car bombs, tactics that “clearly came from Iraq,” Fanning says.

Ahrar al-Sham is also one of the most prolific Syrian jihadi groups on YouTube. Ahrar al-Sham takes video cameras along on raids — to capture giant explosions for upload — and doesn’t mind displaying maps of its operations against Assad’s forces. “Sham also releases probably three to five videos a day where Nusra is good for about one to three a week,” Fanning says.

But Ahrar al-Sham’s ideology is no less extreme. It’s issued religious edicts against the ruling Alawite minority and has been criticized for rounding up Shias as hostages. “I agree with al-Qaida on certain things and disagree on others,” one Ahrar al-Sham fighter, a veteran of al-Qaida in Iraq, told The New York Times in July. His nuanced view of suicide bombing: OK against government troops, not OK against civilians…

Basically, Spencer, fails to see the forest through the trees…!

Now, b at MOA, asked some very penetrating questions of Richard’s abduction…

Another Indication That Richard Engel’s Kidnapping Story Stinks

… There is now new evidence that this was indeed a fake event and that, whatever Richard Engel may believe, he and the people with him (which included one ever unnamed “British engineer” who is more likely some special operations guy) were not in the hands of Shabiha but in the hand of well known experienced video fakers.

Early this year we have looked at the roles of citizen journalists from Syria. One was Khaled Abu Salah who faked and uploaded many videos of Syrian government atrocities, one day playing nearly dead while playing very well and enraged just few days later. The other fake journalist was one “Danny” who presented his fake videos with Anderson Cooper on CNN. {…}

Now here is a video, uploaded yesterday, in which the fake citizen journalist Khaled Abu Salah interviews the just freed Richard Engel the evening before Engel returns from Syria to Turkey.

How come that this known serial producer of fake videos is involved in a murky kidnapping case that looks like a propaganda set up for “western” media consumption?

Further:

-Who smuggled Richard Engel into Syria? Was it Avaaz?
-Did “Danny” and Khaled Abu Salah knew that he was coming?
-Did they prepare the kidnapping and the liberation of Richard Engel?

Some of the answers may be found if Richard Engel explains how he came to meet Khaled Abu Salah for this interview. Engel should urgently answer that question.

The Grey Lady’s Robert Mackay pointed out much of the Agitprop being generated… As Last Member of NBC Team Escapes Syria, More Details on Hostage Drama Emerge… Yesterday, he did a great job in exposing the real disparities in reports from Syria… Accounts of a Siege in Syria Differ on Rebel YouTube Channels and British Television…! Fancy that, eh…?

Btw, I’ve highlighted much of these shenangians in play, before… The Syrian Morass…

*gah*

by CTuttle

The Syrian Swale & ‘Iran Won’t Crack’

8:31 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Interestingly, China took much affront to Madame Shrillary’s slander in Paris, apparently, just before her ‘surprise’ visit to Kabul…

Clinton ‘slander’ of China will not work, Beijing says

Chinese spokesman rejects America’s claim that the nation and Moscow have hindered resolution of crisis…

China yesterday rebuffed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s accusation that Beijing and Moscow have hindered the resolution of the crisis in Syria, saying any attempt to “slander” China was doomed to fail…

Now, why is it that the UN head, Ban Ki Moon, is still pushing the ‘Annan Plan’, when Kofi, himself, is declaring it a ‘failure’…?

Looking inside Syria, the BBC…

‘Death or exchange’ fate of seized Syrian soldiers

…Amidst all the doubt and speculation that surrounds the violence in Syria, these “confessions” are part of opposition groups’ efforts at proving to the outside world that the government is behind the bloodshed.

But when the camera has stopped rolling, and the point is made, the captured are no longer of use. So what becomes of these men?

UK-based Syrian journalist Malik al-Abdeh told the BBC: “What do you think they do with them? They kill them. What else can they do?” {…}

Activists claim rebel groups only kill the detainee if he “has been heavily involved in killing civilians.”

But since the FSA holds the government responsible for massacres like those in Houla and Qubair, along with frequent brutal attacks around the country that may have left nearly 16,000 people dead, how many of the detained could have committed crimes that, in the eyes of the rebels, do not merit death?

Estimates of soldiers killed in the conflict range from 1,500 to nearly 5,000, but it is unclear whether these numbers include those facing rebel firing squads.

This local brand of rebel justice points to a new trend in insurgent operations, with an opposition instituting its own makeshift tribunals as it prepares for what could be a long, drawn-out war…

From Reuters…

Friend flees Assad as U.S. pressures Russia

…One of President Bashar al-Assad’s personal friends has defected and was headed for exile in France on Friday, as the Syrian crisis took on a Cold War tone when Washington threatened to make Russia and China “pay” for backing the government in Damascus. {…}

…As Clinton declared in Paris: “Let me say to the soldiers and officials still supporting the Assad regime – the Syrian people will remember the choices you make in the coming days.

“It is time to abandon the dictator, embrace your countrymen and women, and get on the right side of history.”

SECTARIAN STRAINS

As rare faces from Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority within a ruling clique dominated by Assad’s fellow Alawites, Tlas and his father Mustapha, who friends said left for Paris some months ago claiming medical problems, long furnished an answer to Syrians who complained of sectarian domination by Alawites. Their flight may show Assad is losing wider support among wealthier Sunnis.

It also suggests the Tlas clan, whatever moral scruples friends say were their prime motive for abandoning their friend and patron, has seen the writing on the wall for Assad’s rule…

…Abdel Baset Seda, the president of the opposition Syrian National Council, told a news conference in Paris that he was in contact with “several” high-ranking officials still inside the country and also hoped to speak with Tlas in the coming days.

This shows that the very heart of the regime is starting to crumble. This is reminiscent of what happened in Libya toward the end, when there were defections every day,” he said, recalling the fall of Muammar Gaddafi last August…

Woo-hoo, Just think how much of a ‘smashing’ success Libya is… Ballots burn as most of Benghazi votes…!

Col. W. Pat Lang served up some interesting commentary on Tlas’s defection, today…

Tlas defection sets the stage…

…The father, Mustafa Tlas, was Minister of Defense for a very long time. If memory serves, he lived next door to the US Embassy in Damascus and was a good neighbor. He was a connaissaeur of fine Kurdish antique carpets. I visited his carpets once. He also liked good Scotch (his, not mine).

Contrary to ignorant expectation many of the Baathi elite in Syria are Sunni Muslims. This fellow has been a favored creature of the regime. He differed with the rest of the inner circle around Bashar in that he thought that an unwillingness to compromise with the secular left would lead to an onslaught of Jihadi Islamists. Maliki over in Iraq says his situation is now better because AQ in Iraq have left to fight in Syria for a Sunni Islamist state there. In that endeavor the AQ types have the active encouragement of the BHO Administration.

No matter. If the Government of Syria is swept away, there will be a need for a Sunni leader… pl

Btw, as most of the Western lame stream media is trumpeting…

Another shell hit the nearby village of Al Hisheh, they said, killing an 8-year-old boy and wounding his father and four children. (Reuters, quoting residents, reported that three other Lebanese civilians were killed in the shelling.)

The security officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of police rules.

It should be noted that some good old gumshoe reporting soon proved it false…

…In Lebanon, a teenager died when a rocket hit her house in the border region of Wadi Khaled, a Lebanese security official told AFP, adding that five others were wounded by rockets and exchanges of gunfire.
“A few hours later, an eight-year-old Bedouin girl, who recently fled with her parents from Syria, was killed,” said a hospital source in Akkar province. “A military expert who visited the site said it was either a mine planted in the area or an explosive they were handling,” the security source said, after initially reporting that a shell had hit their tent.
A local official said clashes had broken out at dawn between the Syrian army and gunmen on the Lebanese side of the border

The whole point of this entire sordid affair is to destabilize all the Secular/Shi’ite regimes, and replace them with a Sunni, Salafist/Wahabbist, and/or, any combination thereof…! Any coalition that would impose a strict Conservative view of Shari’a law…! Akin to what is happening in most of the Red States, right now…! Just like with the Texas School Board and even in the neighboring state, with Jindal’s school ‘vouchers’ crusade…!

Anyways, moving along to Iran, the ever-intrepid, Pepe Escobar, says it’s well past time for the real adults to step up to the plate…

Iran Won’t Crack

…Let’s start sledgehammer style. Iran won’t crack. Iran won’t crack. Iran won’t crack.

No sledgehammer, though, is likely to perforate the limitless fog of delusion hovering over a US elite that a relentless propaganda campaign tries to sell as “the international community”.

See, for instance, this bland op-ed, where we discover that “the international community is now on watch for cracks in Iran’s defiant stance: Will increased sanctions compel Tehran to make real concessions and allow for a diplomatic solution to the standoff?”

Here’s your short answer: no. {…}

…The Obama administration has to make a real decision; it’s either the “roll over and die” school of diplomacy, or real negotiations. Treating Iran like a pariah will only lead to a blunder equaling the Bush administration’s – whose Shock and Awe ended up with a Baghdad closely aligned with Tehran (while the US didn’t even become “the new OPEC”, as savant warmonger Paul Wolfowitz would have it).

But this will pale compared to Iran, Russia and China trading energy in other currencies (as they are already doing); the beginning of the end of the petrodollar as the pillar of global energy politics, and thus of American hegemony. Time for the Iran cracking gang to go back to school.

Here’s a great primer that should be mandatory for all CIA, DoD, Foggy Bottom, and/or, other related personnel…!

Are there any ‘Big Boyz’(or Girlz!) left, capable of stepping up…?

*gah*

by CTuttle

What A Wicked Web We Weave…

12:20 am in Uncategorized by CTuttle

From the TRNN blurb: Col. Larry Wilkerson: This may have more to do with getting ready for war against Iran than fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda

Let’s connect some dots…

First, some Terrorism Arithmetic

…Uncle Sam will spend $3.796 trillion in 2012 compared with $1.863 trillion in 2001, $1.327 trillion of which was borrowed, reversing 2001’s budget surplus of $127 billion. The Department of Homeland Security gets $57 billion and employs 180,000, the intelligence agencies get an estimated $100 billion and employ 100,000, the FBI gets nearly $9 billion, and the Department of Defense gets $671 billion, which does not include the war in Afghanistan. In 2001, the Pentagon budget was $277 billion. When all the increases are added up and compared to the baseline of 2001, the war on terror currently costs the American taxpayer more than $500 billion per year. As there may be only 100 or so terrorists interested in attacking the United States directly, that works out to something like $5 billion per year per terrorist…

…I don’t suppose statistical analysis of an official government report really means anything as President Barack Obama is expanding his little wars and presidential aspirant Mitt Romney appears to be intent on turning the little conflicts into much bigger ones. When Osama bin Laden announced his intention of breaking the United States economically by enticing it to overreact to terror attacks, he surely knew a good thing when he saw it. More to the point, he might even have understood that politics as usual in the United States would mean that the two parties would try to outdo each other in being tough about the terrorist threat. That is precisely what has occurred. Breaking the pattern does not appear to be in the national DNA, even though continuing to do as we have been doing is a recipe for ruin. The ultimate irony in U.S. politics is that fearmongering always appears to be a good card to play for a politician even when the numbers and analysis say otherwise. It seems safe to say that neither an Obama nor a Romney will do anything to disrupt that pattern.

On Iran…

So lets see now: After months of talks, across two continents and three cities, and the whole thing came down to the fact that the US wants Iran to abandon her rights, with nothing given in exchange…

…The bottom line is that as long as the US is not willing to recognize such a basic principle — that Iran, like any other sovereign country, has a right to enrich uranium, just as Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands etc. — then really there just isn’t anything to talk about. And the US won’t acknowledge that because 1- Israel won’t tolerate it, and 2- the US needs to keep the nuclear issue alive as a justification and pretext for a policy of imposing regime change in Iran.

Of course there will be analysts who will attempt to cut a “middle of the road” path for themselves by blaming both sides equally, thus making themselves appear to be objective and neutral, but really, I don’t see how Iran can be criticized for not giving up a right to enrichment. No country on the face of the planet would do that…

To be sure…

…If it were left to the U.S. Senate, Israeli and American air power would already be winging its way to Tehran to destroy Iran’s nuclear plants. 44 senators, including a considerable number of Democrats, wrote to the president that he should abandon the nuclear talks which recently concluded their second failed meeting in Moscow. These ‘peacemakers’ suggest three demands that we impose upon the Iranians:

The senators wrote that the “absolute minimum” Iran must do immediately to justify further talks is to shut down the Fordo uranium enrichment facility near Qom, freeze all uranium enrichment above 5 percent, and ship all uranium enriched above 5 percent out of the country.

If they fail, we might as well put on our helmets and Kevlar and fire up the F-16s and cruise missiles. The senators know that Iran will not agree to any such conditions. Thus in effect they are calling for a virtual declaration of war against Iran (though they couched it in more subtle language than that):

…We urge you to reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists,” they wrote. ”As you have rightly noted, ‘the window for diplomacy is closing.’ Iran’s leaders must realize that you mean precisely that.”

…The question is: is Obama vacillating enough to, in one of his many weak political moments, give in to all this saber-rattling and offer Israel a green-light? Does he understand that there’s a quantitative difference between killing Muslims with U.S. drones and dropping bunker busters on Iran? Or will he truly become the national security president and go “all the way” to war?

It’s ironic that even George Bush said we weren’t at war with Islam. Barack Obama seems hellbent on turning that statement on its head. From his Cairo speech to the current shambles of our relations with the Arab world. It’s ugly how things have gone for him and us.

Here’s another blockbuster from Richard Silverstein, as well… Israel Lobby Creates Anti-Iran Astroturf Group…

Now, On Syria…

Will the Syria Opposition Unify? Does it Need to?

The New York Times is reporting that the C.I.A. is Steering Arms to members of the Syrian Opposition. The CIA has a major challenge in trying to unify the Syrian militias, teach them to fight, get them advanced weapons, and supply them with enough intelligence so that they will know how to avoid the Syrian army where it is strong and attack it where it is weak. But even if the Syrian militias, which Jeffrey White of WINEP estimates to be around 100 (I read a 200 estimate yesterday but have forgotten where), cannot unify or develop a command and control structure, they are still likely to bring down the regime eventually. The sponsors of the Syria regime will not supply it with an endless aid and arms. For 12% of the population to police a large country that is in widespread revolt is too costly, especially when much of the world is mobilized for regime-change. Perhaps the CIA’s biggest challenge will be to make sure the arms get to pro-American militias. It cannot afford a repeat of Afghanistan in the 1980s…

Here’s a great Guardian report…Saudi Arabia plans to fund Syria rebel army…

Just think, you too can join the Saudis… Adopt a Syrian rebel? Websites raise cash for opposition…

In summation, what a great question…

Why Is the U.S. Selling Billions in Weapons to Autocrats?

The export of American arms to countries around the world — even those actively repressing their own citizens — is booming

What the f*ck are we doing…?

*gah*

by CTuttle

The Fog of War…

7:37 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

We giving all gained all.
Neither lament us nor praise.
Only in all things recall,
It is fear, not death that slays.

From little towns in a far land we came,
To save our honour and a world aflame.
By little towns in a far land we sleep;
And trust that world we won for you to keep.

~ Rudyard Kipling

Ya’ll should of ascertained by now, my stance on this Syrian Fiasco, and the steady drumbeat of ‘Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iran’, by now…!

As the ever intrepid, Pepe Escobar opined recently…

Got war if you want it

…Nobel Prize winner and Drone Godfather Obama has been busy “justifying the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers”, as Ray McGovern graphically put it – and as attested by the New York Times orgasmically promoting its piece “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will’…

Panetta regurgitated the same old fallacy perpetrated ad infinitum, since at least 2006, by the neo-cons, the Israel lobby and US corporate media, according to which Iran is about to build a nuclear bomb like … tomorrow. “We will do everything we can to prevent Iran from developing a weapon”, Panetta said. Once again, it doesn’t matter that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, plus 17 US intelligence agencies have stressed this is not the case…

By the way, Iran’s Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani said that Tehran has already activated an alternative payment clearing system to SWIFT – thus foiling another vector of Washington’s relentless economic war. What this means is that Iran, BRICS members Russia, India and China, plus Iran’s trading partners in the developing world are moving one step beyond in their flight from the US dollar as global reserve currency.

Sanction me baby one more time

Even in the – unlikely – possibility that the leadership in Tehran suddenly decided to stop all uranium enrichment, and kill the whole nuclear program on the spot, Iran would still be under US sanctions. The sanctions have practically nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program. It’s all about regime change…

…Into this mire of wishful thinking steps Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. He told CNN on Monday, “the military option should be considered”. Oops, but that refers to that other war in the making – in Syria. General Dempsey said he would prefer for the “international community” to effect regime change in Syria, but – just in case – the Pentagon is ready to pounce (“Of course, we always have to provide military options.”) The NATO/GCC compound is barely containing its shrieks of joy.

So what’s it all about, Barack? So many wars to choose, so little time till Re-election Day.

Emptywheel expanded on the great ‘Deciderer’, today…

…I suppose I’ll eventually get around to discussing how the series of condoned leaks portraying President Obama as the Deciderer all rest on the pathetic but true fact that he is only borrowing George Bush’s claim to that title.

…With cyberwar, with drones, and (to a lesser extent) with the embrace of the terrorists’ transnational methods to fight terrorists, Obama has crossed into uncharted territory of the sort Wills explored in his book, Bomb Power. These changes are likely a step beyond the Bomb Power paradigm, whatever that entails.

Yet Obama has only barely begun to think through the ramifications of these tools. He has, instead, focused on the near and overblown threats of Iran and AQAP, not seeing both the strategic implications of even those choices, much less the implications of the sort Wills describes arose in the wake of our use of a nuclear bomb.

The President has embraced waging extralegal war using drones from the Oval Office. The President has embraced using easily manipulable code to wage physical war. What are the implications of these decisions? {snip}

…At this level, then, this story displays the height of the Bomb Power President’s abuse of information asymmetry, permitting selected people to spread the same secrets that are criminalized from others.

But the larger tale–particularly the escape of StuxNet and its subsequent exposure–shows the lie of this arrogance. The Chinese, certainly, can take what they want. Bradley Manning allegedly can take what he wants too. And unless the code is perfect, and unless the Israelis refrain from toying with the code, eventually the code, the Bomb Power itself, will become available.

Obama’s foolish embrace of these new technologies without considering the larger impact may lead to the decline of the Bomb Power President–of Presidents, generally. It may lead to something far more fearful.

But one thing is clear: he didn’t really stop to think about all that before he set free his zoo animal.

Even b at MOA expanded on the grand ‘Decider’ thesis…

Obama – The Detail Decider Lacks Strategic Foresight

…Like the shiny object of kill lists today’s revelations about Stuxnet are likely only a diversion from much bigger rogue cyberwar activities, like that huge Flame virus, various U.S. services are running. But unlike global drone killer capabilities, which do need lots of physical resources, cyber capabilities are available to all actors and the cyber realm is a much more leveled playing field.

But back to the Obama campaign. I do not believe that Obama is personally involved in various program details, authorizing every next step, as much as portrait in the NYT piece. After such a program is once launched there is no need for him of being involved at all and playing golf is much more fun than sitting in conferences. The campaign may well be effective in portraying Obama as The Decider daily involved in keeping U.S. safe. But what it really portraits is an Obama who is fixated on tactical level operations which at the same time generate serious strategic set backs.

What is the use of a Decider when he lacks strategic foresight?

Speaking of CNN, it’s interesting to see how Panetta’s words were spun today… Panetta: No unilateral U.S. military action likely in Syria…

Now, let’s look at what’s really transpiring abroad… Talks only way out in Syria: Merkel, Putin, and, then later today; Putin, Hollande See Differences on Syria Sanction…

Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Francois Hollande on Friday stressed the necessity of full implementation of UN resolution and Kofi Annan’s plan, but saw sanctions against Syria in different ways.

“Mr. Annan is a man of great experience and an honest man, and we must do everything we can to make sure his mission is successful. I believe it is counterproductive to say his mission is a failure in advance,” Putin told reporters at a joint press conference with Hollande after the two leader met on Friday night to find solution for Syia crisis.

However, the Russian president said imposing sanctions on the Syrian regime must be debated within the United Nations Security Council.

Putin admitted the possibility of the breakout of a civil war in the Middle-East country.

“The most important thing we need to do is to prevent the situation from developing under the worst scenario and not let a civil war take place,” he said, noting that consultation and more efforts are needed “to solve, via political means, the problems we faced.”

“We propose to act in an accurate, balanced manner… in Syria,” he suggested.

Hollande, on his part, refused to rule out military intervention in solving crisis in Syria.

Recognizing “the risk of destabilization, the risks of civil war” in Syria, the French President insisted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure was a “prerequisite for a political transition” in Syria

C’mon now, let’s get real…

Iran/P5+1 talks could ‘end in tears’ – Bluster, propaganda, media leaks on the rise

Faltering nuclear talks between Iran and world powers could hit a make-or-break point in their next round in Moscow, with both sides digging in and maneuvering for elusive advantage, analysts and diplomats say. Bluster, propaganda, media leaks and official declarations have all noticeably sharpened in the past week by both sides. The rhetorical duel has become so serious that some fear the showdown has the potential to tip from diplomacy to military action.

“As both sides escalate for leverage, the reality is that neither side has gained an upper hand,” an Iran specialist at the National Iranian American Council, Reza Marashi, wrote in a piece published by a website, The National Interest. “Both sides are nearing a critical point at which delaying the inevitable choice between military action and compromise is no longer tenable,” Marashi wrote. One Western diplomat in the P5+1 group of world powers engaging Iran confessed to AFP, on condition of anonymity: “I increasingly struggle to see a way where this doesn’t end in tears.”

Both the United States and its ally Israel-Iran’s arch-foe, and the Middle East’s sole, if undeclared, nuclear weapons state-have warned they are keeping the option of air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. The June 18-19 talks due to be held in Moscow, then, are seen as crucial. “We don’t intend on continuing talks for talks’ sake. The window (for diplomacy) is closing,” the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, told a Tel Aviv security conference on Wednesday. The last negotiations, held in Baghdad on May 23-24, exposed a gulf between the two sides’ positions that looked almost unbridgeable, and nearly caused the talks to collapse…

About those illegal sanctions on Iran… ‘Crowing’ About Iran Sanctions Should Stop…

I’m surprised that the Grey Lady had actually published the official Iranian response to the noise, today…

Re “Negotiations With Iran Conclude Fruitlessly” (news article, May 25):

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has unambiguously recognized “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination,” which covers all areas of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including the inalienable right to develop a full national fuel cycle.

Each party has the sovereign right to define its national energy policies in accordance with its national requirements. Iran is fully committed to its obligations under the treaty and is firmly determined to exercise its rights. In future talks, Iran will continue to insist on all its rights for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including a full national fuel cycle. As pressure exerted by some Western countries against Iran has failed to bear results, we expect a positive and constructive approach regarding Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities.

Ha Ha, indeedy…

*gah*

by CTuttle

Syria’s ‘Dead Man Walking’…

4:15 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

As Reuters reported today…

America and Syria’s ‘dead man walking’

…A peaceful solution to Syria’s protracted crisis now looks remote enough to wonder whether Bashar Assad might outlast Obama in power. The US president is not assured of winning another term in office next November. But the odds of the Assad regime surviving into 2013 look better with every passing day, even though one of the US government’s top experts on Syria has labeled the Syrian president a “dead man walking.”

There are several reasons for skepticism about a resolution to the Syrian crisis in the near future. One is the government’s military superiority over fractured and lightly-equipped opposition forces. More importantly, there is no international consensus on how to deal with what began 14 months ago as peaceful demonstrations against a 40-year family dictatorship and now includes huge suicide bombings of government targets that have raised suspicions of Al-Qaeda involvement.

At the summit of the G8 — the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada and Japan —an aide to Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev made clear, again, that Moscow, unlike the West, does not see Assad’s departure as a necessary step toward ending the bloodshed.

“Some may like or dislike the Syrian government but one cannot avoid a question — if Assad goes, who will replace him?”
said Mikhail Margelov…

A very savvy question, indeed…

Beyond Bashar, Syria’s rebels are facing far more significant resistance

…China, Russia and Iran support for Bashar Assad makes a Western military intervention in Syria impossible, given the likely catastrophic repercussions for all concerned. In the eyes of this coalition, Assad is a tool and pretext. He is the façade against which the courage of the insurgents will continue to collide as long as Russia and its allies on the one side, and the United States and its allies on the other, fail to dispassionately settle their differences, therefore reach agreement over their contending interests, through negotiations…

Negotiations…? What negotiations…

U.S. considering plan that arms Syrian rebels…

…The effort, U.S. officials told The Associated Press, would vet members of the Free Syrian Army and other groups to determine whether they are suitable recipients of munitions to fight the Assad government and to ensure that weapons don’t wind up in the hands of al-Qaida-linked terrorists or other extremist groups such as Hezbollah that could target Israel.

The plan, which has not yet been finalized, reflects U.S. frustration that none of the previous efforts — including diplomatic rhetoric from the United Nations and the multinational Friends of Syria group, and special envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for a cease-fire — has even begun to nudge President Bashar al-Assad from power. The vetting would be the first tiny step the U.S. has made toward ensuring that the Syrian opposition uses the weapons to fight Assad and not to turn it into a full sectarian conflict.

While some intelligence analysts worry that there may be no suitable recipients of lethal aid in the Syria conflict, the vetting plan has arisen as the least objectionable idea in a complicated situation…

As Steve Hynd wrote… US To Vet Syrian Rebel Arms Recipients – Really?

So if this vetting will prevent Saudis funding arms for Al Qaeda (yeah, right) how far beyond that will it go? The chances of arming some pretty nasty people that have the only virtue of being not-AQ are pretty high.

A United Nations investigation said Syrian government forces and rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad had both committed serious human rights abuses despite an attempted ceasefire in the conflict and opposition activists reported fighting in several regions on Thursday.

…The rebels, who are increasingly armed and well-organized, have executed or tortured captured soldiers and government supporters, it said. They have also abducted civilians in an apparent bid to secure prison exchanges or ransoms.

It doesn’t matter how many bad ideas you pile on top of other bad ideas, the result will never be a good idea.

Remember, it’s not just our grubby fingers at work, but, the House of Saud/GCC’s too… Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordination…

Meanwhile, the UN’s Ban Ki Moon spewed this nonsense today on CNN…

‘We have no Plan B’ to stop the violence

…With the carnage in Syria that has left thousands dead now entering its fifteenth month, the United Nations Secretary General says there is no clear path beyond the current mission being led by Kofi Annan.

“At this time, we don’t have any plan B,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview for ‘Amanpour’ on CNN International. “The joint special envoy Kofi Annan has proposed six peace proposals, among which the complete cessation of violence is number one. Unfortunately, this has not been implemented while with the deployment of monitoring missions, we have seen some dampening effect.”

Many regard the Annan mission in Syria to be a failure already.

There will be discussions in the Security Council next week about the situation in Syria Mr. Ban said, and he will make a report about the situation. But the lack of cooperation from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is making the situation very difficult…

God Bless the Syrian People, from all our misguided ministrations…!

*gah*

by CTuttle

The ‘Eager Lion’ Roars…

6:40 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

“If you want peace, you prepare for peace. If you want war, you prepare for war.” ~Dennis Kucinich in House floor testimony against HR 4310 and sec.’s 1221 and 1222 …

Straight from the Lions’ den… Eager Lion commanders hold press conference…

The generals addressed topics ranging from the number of countries participating to the exercise’s focus on irregular warfare.

They also clarified that the exercise has no connection with any real-world events, including the unrest in Syria.

This exercise does not target anyone – none of the neighboring or world countries,” Edwan said.

“The message that I want to send from this exercise is that we have developed great partners throughout the region and really from across the world that have the same interest and that is ensuring that we have the ability to operate together when called upon by our nations’ leadership to meet challenges that are common to our nations,” Tovo said.

There are 19 nations participating in Eager Lion 12 which include: Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States…

Remember, It’s all just a ‘coincidence’

…Experts in the region said the exercises were most certainly more than just building bridges between different countries.

Report: Syria rebels get better weapons as US boosts support

“You can’t honestly say that there is not a message when you get 19 nations together in multilateral force less than 50 miles away from the Syrian border,” Michael Stephens of London-based military and security think tank RUSI told msnbc.com from Qatar.

“There is no possible reason as to why the Americans wouldn’t want a joint operation held close to Syria,” he added. “It enhances deterrence (and) the Americans could’ve quietened it down if they wanted to.”

Media reports in Jordan claimed that the exercises were a message not only to Syria but Iran.

Syria violence spills into streets of Lebanon’s Tripoli

However, American and Jordanian military officials strenuously denied that there were operations taking place close to Syria.

It’s not about Syria, it’s just a pure coincidence,” U.S. Central Command Maj. Robert Bockholt told msnbc.com from Jordan. “Eager Lion 12 has been pre-planned.“…

Now, seriously, where is that proverbial carrot of ‘diplomacy’ again, Miz Starr started off with…? It’s been nothing but stick, I mean really… US Officials: IAEA-Iran Deal Won’t Interrupt Sanctions…

And, straight from the horse’s ass mouth… U.S. to keep heat on Iran over nuclear work – W.House…

Meanwhile, hot off the AP wire… UN nuclear chief : Deal with Iran reached on probe…

…Amano’s talks included Jalili as well as Iran’s foreign minister and other officials including the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Fereidoun Abbasi.

Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahtpisheh told The Associated Press on Monday that Tehran will likely accept more inspections of Parchin “if it feels there is good will within the (IAEA).”

But Falahtpisheh warned that this new openness will likely come with expectations that the West would in return ease international sanctions on Iran.

“In opening up to more inspections, Iran aims at lowering the crisis over its nuclear case,” he said. “But if the sanctions continue, Iran would stop this.”

A political analyst in Tehran, Hamid Reza Shokouhi, said Iran is carefully watching to see if the West shows more “flexibility and pays attention to Iranian demands” during Amano’s trip.

“Then Iran will show flexibility, too,” Shokouhi said…

I wouldn’t hold my breath…!

*gah*