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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Eternal War, Libya, Iran, And, Syria

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

(Phyllis Bennis is a superstar…!)

Thursday, the US State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism released it’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, from Chapter 2 Country Reports: The Middle East and North Africa Overview…

The Near East region continued to experience significant levels of terrorist activity in 2012, further complicated by ongoing regional instability across portions of North Africa and the Levant. Al-Qa’ida was not a part of the popular uprisings that led to democratic transitions across the Middle East and North Africa, but violent extremists looked for opportunities to exploit the political transitions underway.

In Libya, the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate. This vacuum, combined with the weakness of Libya’s nascent security institutions, allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three staff members, died during attacks on U.S. facilities.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) – even with diminished leadership and capabilities – continued to conduct attacks across Iraq, while Shia militants largely ceased attacks but continued to threaten U.S. targets in Iraq. AQI also took advantage of a significantly depleted security situation in Syria. Operating under its alias, al-Nusrah Front, the group sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition and attempted to hijack Syria’s struggle for democracy. The United States designated al-Nusra as an alias of AQI in December 2012.

Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali. Kidnapping for ransom operations continued to yield significant sums for AQIM, and it conducted attacks against members of state security services within the Trans-Sahara region.

In the spring of 2012, a Yemeni military offensive, with the help of armed residents, regained government control over territory in the south, which AQAP had seized and occupied in 2011. Although weakened, AQAP was not eliminated as a threat. AQAP increasingly turned to asymmetric tactics to target Yemeni government officials, pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees, and their leaders, soldiers, civilians, and U.S. embassy personnel.

In 2012, there was a clear resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, who remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. Attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Far East were linked to the IRGC-QF or Hizballah. In fact, Hizballah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Despite these persistent threats, governments across the region improved their own counterterrorism capabilities, effectively disrupting the activities of a number of terrorists. The Iraqi government displayed increased capability and efficacy in pursuing multiple Sunni violent extremist groups. Though AQIM’s presence and activity in the Sahel and parts of the Maghreb remains worrisome, the group’s isolation in Algeria grew as Algeria increased its already substantial efforts to target it. And in 2012, Yemeni forces were successful in reducing the physical territory that AQAP had previously gained in Yemen as the result of political turmoil…

Notably absent from their MENA assessment for 2012, is Syria…! Fancy that…!

Now, let’s look more closely at our Libyan fiasco…

Libya: Overview: In 2012, Libya was marked by grave insecurity, most apparent in the September 11 terrorist attack that resulted in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staff members. The prevalence of loose weapons, the continued ability of extra-governmental militias to act with impunity, the country’s porous borders, and the lack of government capacity to apply the rule of law outside of Tripoli contributed to this insecurity.

Despite these challenges, on July 7, the Transitional National Council peacefully transferred power to a new, democratically elected parliament, the General National Congress. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his cabinet have prioritized efforts to strengthen and centralize national security institutions, integrate and disarm armed militias, and confront criminal and terrorist groups that have taken advantage of the security vacuum. This government has recognized that continued instability threatens Libya’s democratic transition and economic future.

The United States remains committed to Libya’s democratic transition and focused on Libya’s insecurity and the need to support Libya’s government in its efforts to address it. The State Department and USAID have provided funding to implementers who support Libya’s emerging civil society, advised Libya’s new political leaders, and empowered minority communities as they seek to understand and participate in the democratic transition, particularly the drafting of a constitution that denounces violence and ensures the rights of all Libyans.

Let’s not forget that this is a State Report, reporting only on the Snafu from last year, and not a compilation of this year’s foreign f*ckery in the MENA…!

So, let’s update it a tad…

Libya becomes ‘the new Mali’ as Islamists shift in Sahara

…Regional rivalries are aggravating the problem for Paris and its Western allies, with a lack of cooperation between Saharan countries helping militants to melt away when they come under pressure and regroup in quieter parts of the vast desert.

Security officials say lawless southern Libya has become the latest haven for al Qaeda-linked fighters after French-led forces drove them from strongholds in northern Mali this year, killing hundreds.

“The south of Libya is what the north of Mali was like before,” said a senior adviser to Mali’s interim President Diouncounda Traore, asking not to be named…

…But the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 flooded the Sahara with pillaged weapons and ammunition. Tuareg separatists used them to seize power in northern Mali, only to be ousted by even better-armed Islamists who set up training camps and imposed harsh Islamic law until the French forces arrived.

The Islamists have also exploited Libya’s weakness. Veteran al Qaeda commander Moktar Belmokhtar bought weapons there after Gaddafi’s fall and his fighters passed through southern Libya to carry out a mass hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January, in which 37 foreigners died…

Now, Iran quickly rejected the report…

Tehran says U.S., not Iran, sponsors terrorism

Iran on Friday rejected a U.S. State Department report that accused Tehran of increasing its support for terrorism overseas to levels not seen for two decades, saying it is the United States that backs terrorists in the Middle East.
“Iran itself has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism, which has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Iranian people,” said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission. “Iran has been actively engaged in counterterrorism activities by all possible means and is a party to many counterterrorism international legal instruments,” he said…

…”It should be mentioned that the U.S. government has no merit to label other nations of sponsoring terrorism as it has a long … record (of) supporting terrorist groups in our region as well as Israeli state terrorism,” Miryousefi said.

He cited the recent removal from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations of the Mujahadin-e-Khalq, a dissident group that calls for the overthrow of Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim clerical leadership and fought alongside the forces of Iraq’s late Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

“The recent delisting of the MEK terrorist group … and also allowing it to publicly lobby in Washington is a clear indication that the U.S. government has double standards in dealing with terrorism and uses designation of others as terrorist only to serve its illegitimate political interests,” he said…

Speaking of the MEK, translated from Le Figaro

Two members of the Iranian opposition movement People’s Mujahedin were found dead a month ago in the Idlib region in western Syria, says an MEP in contact with the anti rebellion Bashar al-Assad. They fighting alongside insurgents seeking to overthrow the Syrian regime, backed by Iran. Considered by France as a terrorist organization, MKO have a base in Iraq, based in the Paris suburbs. Services to Arab and Western intelligence would use against Iranian interests, or allies of Tehran, as the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In recent developments on Syria… In spite of McInsane’s screeches, Syrian rebels need heavy weapons, I was certainly pleased to read this…

U.S. withholds millions pledged to help Syrian opposition

The United States is withholding $63 million that it had pledged to the main Syrian opposition organization because the Obama administration is frustrated with the group’s disarray and is searching for more credible partners to support in the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad, knowledgeable officials said Friday.

The decision not to fund the Syrian Opposition Coalition contrasts sharply with the Obama administration’s continued public expressions of confidence in the group, which has been central to U.S. policy on Syria since last fall and which the administration recognizes as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

But U.S. officials said privately that they are fed up with the group’s inability to organize, appoint a government-in-exile or reach decisions on a wide range of issues. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity so as to more freely discuss sensitive diplomacy…

More on the Syrian Rebels…

Saudi edges Qatar to control Syrian rebel support

…The outcome, many Syrian opposition leaders hope, could strengthen them in both negotiations and on the battlefield – while hampering some of the anti-Western Islamist hardliners in their ranks whom they say Qatar has been helping with weaponry.

Anger at a failure by one such Qatari-backed Islamist unit in a battle in April that gave Syrian government forces control of a key highway helped galvanise the Saudis, sources said, while Qatari and Islamist efforts to control the opposition political body backfired by angering Riyadh and Western powers.

The northern rebel commander said Saudi leaders would no longer let Qatar take the lead but would themselves take over the dominant role in channelling support into Syria.

“The Saudis met leaders of the Free Syrian Army, including officers from the Military Council in Jordan and Turkey, and have agreed that they will be supporting the rebels,” he said after attending one of those meetings himself.

Prince Salman bin Sultan, a senior Saudi security official, was now running relations with the Syrian rebels, backed by his elder brother, intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Qatar also gave ground in the political field, accepting finally, late on Thursday, that the National Coalition should add a non-Islamist bloc backed by Saudi Arabia.

“In the end Qatar did not want a confrontation with Saudi Arabia and accepted the expansion,” said a source close to the liberals who were allowed to join a body which the United States and European Union want to become a transitional government.

The rebels, whose disunity has been a hindrance both in the field and in manoeuvring for a possible international peace conference in the coming weeks, still face a huge task to topple Assad, who has long labelled his enemies Islamist “terrorists” and has his own powerful allies abroad, notably Iran and Russia.

What a Clusterf*ck…! *gah*

by CTuttle

Syria Will Not Implode, It Will Explode

5:36 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

All war is deception. ~Sun Tzu

Let’s look at some of the current developments that are swirling inside and out, of the Syrian borders…

Syrian tanks amass near Turkish border: FSA general

A general in the rebel Free Syria Army said on Friday that Syrian government forces had amassed around 170 tanks north of the city Aleppo, near the Turkish border, but there was no independent confirmation of the report.

General Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the Higher Military Council, an association of senior officers who defected from President Bashar al-Assads forces, said the tanks had assembled at the Infantry School near the village of Musalmieh northeast of the city of Aleppo, 30 kms (19 miles) from the Turkish border.

“The tanks are now at the Infantry School. They’re either preparing to move to the border to counter the Turkish deployment or attack the rebellious (Syrian) towns and villages in and around the border zone north of Aleppo,” Sheikh told Reuters by telephone from the border…

Now, using the same Salt Shaker with that last article, DebkaFile reports…

Saudis forces mass on Jordanian, Iraqi borders. Turkey, Syria reinforce strength

…”(H)eavy Saudi troop movements (headed) toward the Jordanian and Iraqi borders (with Syria) overnight and up until Friday morning….after King Abdulah put the Saudi military on high alert for joining an anti-Assad offensive….”

Units include tanks, missiles, special forces and anti-air batteries. Two units were deployed. “One will safeguard Jordan’s King Abdullah against potential Syrian or Iranian reprisals from Syria or Iraq.”

“The second will cut north through Jordan to enter southeastern Syrian, where a security zone will be established around the towns of Deraa, Deir al-Zour and Abu Kemal — all centers of the anti-Assad rebellion.” {…}

The failure of (US/Russian) talks “would spell a worsening of the Syrian crisis and precipitate Western-Arab military intervention, which according to military sources in the Gulf is scheduled for launch Saturday, June 30.”

DF also said that Western forces reported Jordan “on war alert.”

Now, straight from the horse’s mouth…

…Libya’s model isn’t “a solution to be copied because it took (the country) from one situation into a much worse one. We all now see how the Libyan people are paying the price,” he (Assad) said.

“The policies of the Turkish officials lead to the killing and bloodshed of the Syrian people,” he added.

He said reports about Iranian and Hezbollah forces aiding Syria are false.

“This is a joke that we hear many times in order to show that a rift has been created within the army and that therefore there is not an army.”

Pointing fingers at Washington, he said:

“The colonialist nature of the West has not changed. From the colonialist standpoint, regional countries should not move according to their national interests and if any country moves against their (Western) values and interests, they say no, like what happened in the case of Iran’s nuclear program.”

“Western states are opposed to Iran’s access to nuclear knowhow; they are more fearful of Iran’s expertise in the nuclear field than what they claim to be a nuclear bomb.”

He also called insurgents “gangs of mercenaries and criminals.” Outside forces are directing them.

For them and their sponsors, “reforms are not important, since the very forces that claimed (a lack of) reforms were the problem. They never benefited from them…all they wanted was (continued) unrest.”…

Phyllis Bennis largely agrees with Assad’s assertions…

Syria is not Libya: it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders

Probably the only useful thing outside powers can do, would be to engage in serious new diplomacy, in which supporters of both the regime and the armed opposition participate.

Fifteen months on, the short Syrian spring of 2011 has long since morphed into a harsh winter of discontent. Syria is close to full-scale civil war.

If the conflict escalates further, it will have ramifications far outside the country itself. As former UN Secretary-General and current envoy of both the UN and the Arab League Kofi Annan put it, “’Syria is not Libya, it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders.”

Like so many other times before, the human cost of this conflict is incalculably high. It’s not surprising that the normal human reaction is “we’ve got to do something!” But exactly what any army or air force might do that would actually help the situation isn’t very clear.

US/NATO military intervention didn’t bring stability, democracy or security to Libya, and it certainly is not going to do so in Syria…

Now, Russia isn’t about to be fooled by a second UN Security Council R2P fiasco, and this CSM article spells it out in a relatively decent fashion, despite all it’s Western biased strawmen…

What is Russia thinking on Syria?

…In Syria, they argue, Western nations are pursuing their own geopolitical interests under the guise of a humanitarian “right to protect” which supposedly trumps the country’s sovereignty. Moscow sees it as its duty to block such attempts. {…}

…Speaking to an audience of students in Copenhagen today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upped the criticism of Russia, saying, “I have been telling (the Russians) their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war” in Syria.

But today Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, responded emphatically that Russian policy toward Syria will not change under duress. Russia’s position is “well-known, balanced and consistent, and completely logical,” Mr. Peskov told the independent Interfax news agency. “So it is hardly appropriate to talk about this position changing under someone’s pressure.” {…}

…Russian analysts argue that any violation of national sovereignty is a form of neoimperialism which, even if packaged as a humanitarian intervention, tends to be wrapped up with the geopolitical interests of the intervening powers and seldom leads to better humanitarian outcomes. They cite most of the wars of the past decade, from Kosovo to Iraq to last year’s NATO intervention in Libya (which Russia acquiesced to in the Security Council) to make their point.

“We were told that military interference in Libya would be limited to protecting civilians, but we were deceived, pushed aside once we’d let it get through the Security Council,” says Pavel Gusterin, an Arab specialist with the official Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. “Why would we let them do this again?

Just to be sure, it’s already out of Russia’s and the UN’s hands…

Syria Rebels Increasingly Violent, Thanks to Foreign Arms

…The opposition is still a disparate, rag tag group of localized militias with conflicting agendas and many of whom are Sunni extremists or have ties to al-Qaeda. They are increasingly to blame for massacres of civilians as well. Nothing has changed, except that the weapons being funneled to them by the US, European Union, Turkey, and the Gulf Arab states are being put to use.

But none of this bodes well for an end to violence in the country. Foreign meddling on behalf of all sides in Syria has been instrumental in prolonging the conflict by emboldening both sides and making a political settlement more remote.

“The intensity of the divisions in the country, the external environment in which sides are providing arms to both of the contending parties—all of that suggests that the situation’s going to continue to deteriorate,” James Dobbins, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center and a former US assistant secretary of state, told NPR…

Now, to be clear on our Persian fantasies…

Our obsession with Iran obscures the bigger threat

It is funny what people choose to worry about. The west is obsessed with stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons. By contrast, Pakistan’s nuclear programme is not much discussed. And yet, by any sensible measure, Pakistani nukes are much more worrying.

Start with the obvious: Pakistan already has nuclear weapons – probably more than 100 of them – and is thought to be increasing production. Iran has still to assemble a single nuclear weapon. The prospect of an Iranian bomb is said to be unthinkably dangerous because of the country’s connections to terrorist groups, its hostility to the west and Israel, the risk it will spread nuclear technology and the prospect of a regional arms race. And yet, almost all these considerations apply even more forcibly to Pakistan. {…}

…Yet it is Iran’s non-existent nukes that continue to obsess the west. Diplomats have spent so long trying to stop Iran that I get the impression they no longer even ask themselves why it is such a high priority. Press them, and you will get explanations about the dangers of a Middle Eastern arms race and Iran’s regional ambitions.

Interestingly, few seem to take seriously the idea that Israel often evokes – that Iran might actually commit nuclear genocide.

Western concerns are valid. But, in themselves, they do not seem compelling enough to explain the desperate focus on Iran. The main reason the Iranian dossier is so urgent seems to be the fear that Israel will soon attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, provoking a wider war. American and European diplomats are reluctant to put it quite that directly, since this carries the uncomfortable implication that western policy is driven by Israel. But when people say “time is running out” over Iran, it is the prospect of an Israeli attack they are usually thinking about…

Are you surprised…?

AIPAC and Syrian intervention lobby

I have it on good authority that something called Syrian Emergency Task Force in Washington, DC is enlisting the help of AIPAC to lobby the US government for military intervention in Syria.

*gah*

An Apology to the Aligned…

by CTuttle

The March to War: Iran/Syria Edition…

2:30 am in Uncategorized by CTuttle

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. –George Orwell

The ever intrepid, Matt Taibbi, penned another most excellent, must-read today…

Another March to War?

As a journalist, there’s a buzz you can detect once the normal restraints in your business have been loosened, a smell of fresh chum in the waters, urging us down the road to war. Many years removed from the Iraq disaster, that smell is back, this time with Iran.

You can just feel it: many of the same newspapers and TV stations we saw leading the charge in the Bush years have gone back to the attic and are dusting off their war pom-poms… {snip}

…In other words, “If Iran were to decide to be capable of making nuclear weapons, it would be capable of making nuclear weapons.” Unless I’m missing something, that’s a statement that would be true of almost any industrialized country, wouldn’t it?

Virtually all of the Iran stories of late have contained some version of this sort of rhetorical sophistry. The news “hook” in most all of these stories is that intelligence reports reveal Iran is “willing” to attack us or go to war – but then there’s usually an asterisk next to the headline, and when you follow the asterisk, it reads something like, “In the event that we attack Iran first.”… {snip}

…But now the public openly embraces circular thinking like, “Any country that squawks when we threaten to bomb it is a threat that needs to be wiped out.” Maybe I’m mistaken, but I have to believe that there was a time when ideas like that sounded weird to the American ear. Now they seem to make sense to almost everyone here at home, and that to me is just as a scary as Achmedinejad.

It really is Déjà vu, all over again… As Phyllis Bennis eloquently pointed out in Al Jazeera …

We’ve seen the threats against Iran before

Here we go again with the Iran hysteria. It is tempting to think this time will be just like previous periods of sabre rattling against Iran. But there are significant new dangers. The Arab Spring, Israel’s position, changes in the regional and global balance of forces, and national election campaigns, all point to this round of anti-Iranian hysteria posing potentially graver risks than five or six years ago.

We have seen all this before. The US ratchets up its rhetoric, Israel threatens a military attack, escalating sanctions bite harder on the Iranian people, Iran refuses to back down on uranium enrichment. But at the same time, top US military and intelligence officials actually admit Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, is not building a nuclear weapon, and has not decided whether to even begin a building process… {snip}

Israel at the centre

One of the main differences from the propaganda run-up to the Iraq war is the consistent centrality of Israel and its supporters, particularly AIPAC in the US, in this push for war against Iran. Israel certainly jumped aboard the attack-Iraq bandwagon when it was clear that war was indeed inevitable, but US strategic concerns regarding oil and the expansion of US military power were first and primary. Even back then,Israel recognised Iran as a far greater threat than Iraq. And now, Israelis using that alleged threat to pressure US policymakers and shape US policy – in dangerous ways. During this campaign cycle, Obama is under the greatest pressure he has ever faced, and likely ever will face, to defend the Israeli position unequivocally, and to pledge US military support for any Israeli action, however illegal, dangerous, and threatening to US interests.

Iran simply is not, as former CIA analyst and presidential adviser Bruce Reidel makes clear, “an existential threat” to Israel. Even a theoretical future nuclear-armed Iran, if it ever chose that trajectory, would not be a threat to the existence of Israel, but would be a threat to Israel’s longstanding nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. That is the real threat motivating Israel’s attack-Iran-now campaign. Further, as long as top US political officials, from the White House to Congress, are competing to see who can be more supportive of Israel in its stand-off with Iran, no one in Washington will even consider pressure on Israel to end its violations of international law and human rights regarding its occupation and apartheid policies towards Palestinians. Israel gets a pass…

Therein lies the real rub…!

From Haaretz…

U.S. official: Signs pointing to increasing likelihood of Israeli strike on Iran

U.S. wants Israel to wait a few months in order to give the international sanctions against Iran a chance before deciding on an attack.

From the Guardian…

US officials believe Iran sanctions will fail, making military action likely
• Growing view that strike, by Israel or US, will happen
• ‘Sweet spot’ for Israeli action identified as September-October
• White House remains determined to give sanctions time

And, from Arutz Sheva…

Dempsy: Israeli Strike On Iran Would Be Destabilizing

An Israeli attack on Iran would be “destabilizing,” the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Army General Martin Dempsey, said Saturday.“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” Dempsey said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” scheduled to be broadcast Sunday. The US government is confident the Israelis “understand out concerns,” he said in an e-mailed transcript. Dempsey said the economic sanctions imposed on Iran and international pressure are beginning to have an effect, without expanding further.

An IAEA Team of Inspectors Will be Back in Tehran Today…

Then you have this load of BBC malarkey… Iran ‘Poised To Expand Nuke Program’

A Vienna-based diplomat has told the BBC that Iran may be poised to expand its nuclear program at an underground site near the city of Qom.

The unnamed diplomat told the BBC that Iran “appears to be ready to install thousands of new-generation centrifuges at the fortified underground plant.”

This, according to the BBC, could mean the quicker production of enriched uranium, which can be used for both the generation of power and in developing nuclear weapons.

The BBC did not give any more details about the unnamed diplomat’s knowledge of the Iran nuclear issue. The headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency are in Vienna…

This is sheer madness…! As Col. Lang wrote the other day… Let Israel and Iran Deal with Each Other…

As he summed it up… “Without Us”

God help us all…!

*gah*