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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Breakthrough Imminent? Edition

7:15 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

It seems that we’re about to see a pivotal shift in International Relations, fully exposing our misbegotten Foreign Policy, all within the next couple of days…!

Starting, alphabetically, with Afghanistan…

Afghanistan rejects provision of US security pact

Afghanistan has rejected a key provision of a security pact with the United States that would allow the US forces to stay in the country beyond 2014.

A spokesman for the Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisted that the government would not allow the US military forces to enter people’s homes after the end of combat operations in 2014.

He emphasized on Karzai’s position that he would not accept any agreement allowing US forces to enter Afghan homes for “the purpose of aggression.”

Karzai and other high-ranking Afghan officials have repeatedly expressed their opposition to such US attacks on Afghan homes.

American and Afghan representatives are working on compiling a draft of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement to present it to the Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan assembly of elders consisting of some 3,000 Afghan tribal leaders from all over the country.

The assembly will consider the deal on Thursday. If the assembly agrees, the deal will be sent to the parliament for final ratification.

Here’s some analysis and commentary on the impending Loya Jirga in Kabul, from both: Jim White and DSWright…!

Shifting gears back to Iran and the P5+1 talks…

I had to laugh when I saw this Israeli op-ed…

Sorry, the French won’t save us from Iran

Israel media tempers excitement over the French president’s visit, and reports on political maneuvering within the Knesset

Despite the excitement around the visit of French President Francois Hollande to discuss, among other subjects, the Iranian nuclear program, and the gratitude in Israel for France’s tough stance on a potential deal with Tehran, some Israeli commentators argue that any optimism should be tempered.

“Hollande split into three” during his visit, writes Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth. “First there was the Israeli Hollande, the one who spoke about Iran as if he were the Israeli prime minister. Yesterday was the Palestinian Hollande, who spoke as if he were Abbas. Today we will have the third Hollande, the salesman who is trying to increase the French economic presence in Israel…The change in American policy in the Middle East and the Iranian threat are causing the French to suddenly dream that for the first time in history… they will be able to be a friend of the Israelis and a friend of the Palestinians.”

I suppose it’s starting to dawn on Bibi that the jig is up…

Netanyahu takes Iran’s nuclear campaign to Kremlin

At odds with ally Washington over terms of an emerging international nuclear agreement with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will on Wednesday take his campaign against the deal to Moscow.

“We’d like them to have a better understanding of our concerns and the need to prevent Iran from having a breakout capacity,” an Israeli official told AFP ahead of the trip.

“A breakout capacity means that they have the capability to develop a nuclear weapon at a time and a place of their choosing in the future,” the official said.

So, while Bibi is reading headlines like this in Tel Aviv… Iranian Jews Protest in Favor of Nuclear Program! On the other side of the pond, Bloomberg had this to say… Iran Nuclear Deal Sought in Geneva Following Israeli Objections

And, sticking to this side of the pond, McClatchy, reports…

Obama tries to ward off new sanctions against Iran

“What we are suggesting, both to the Israelis, to members of Congress here, to the international community, but also to the Iranians, is ‘Let’s look, let’s test the proposition that over the next six months we can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion,’ ” the president said. “I think that is a test that is worth conducting.”

Obama said the proposal would require Iran to halt advances on its nuclear program, as well as roll back elements that get it closer what he called a “breakout capacity, where they can run for a weapon before the international community has a chance to react.” The regime would be subject to more vigorous inspections, in some cases daily, the president said.

Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, encouraged by intense pro-Israel lobbying, are moving to stiffen sanctions against Iran, a move that Obama said would undermine the Geneva talks.

Obama even trotted out NSA Susan Rice to allay the Warhawks’ bloodthirst…

Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

Syria Mashup: UN Report, Missiles in the Med, and Iran

4:53 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Straight out of the gates F/UK/US pointed the finger at Assad…

U.N. report on sarin attack in Syria points to Assad, envoys say

…U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declined to say whether rocket fragments and other physical evidence collected from a Damascus suburban area by U.N. investigators made it clear whether it was the Assad regime or the rebels fighting him who launched the sarin gas attacks.

But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and British U.N. envoy Mark Lyall Grant stated unequivocally that the inspectors’ findings confirmed their conclusions that it was Assad who was behind the worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years.

‘The mandate of the chemical weapons team was not to investigate culpability, but the technical details of the United Nations report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack,’ Power told reporters after Ban briefly discussed the report.

Among the weapons fragments and components recovered from the scene of the attacks were pieces of 122-millimeter rockets that the regime has relied on heavily throughout the civil war and that the rebels are not known to possess, Power said.

She also dismissed a claim by the Assad government that insurgents infiltrated regime-controlled areas of the capital to launch the poison gas strikes as a scenario that ‘defies logic.’

Grant said the type of rockets used in the attacks and the area from which they were fired confirmed that ‘there is no remaining doubt that it was the regime’ that attacked with prohibited munitions.

‘Even at first glance, the report reinforces the view that the British government has held for a long time that it was the regime’s responsibility,’ he told reporters.

Both Western envoys noted the sarin attacks near Damascus were the most wide-scale violation of the chemical weapons ban since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein attacked Kurds with poison gas in 1988.

Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, expressed outrage at the confirmed use of chemical weapons in the attacks nearly a month ago but warned that ‘allegations that the opposition has used chemical weapons cannot be shrugged off.’

And, here’s the forseen French response… France: UN report indicates Syrian regime was ‘guilty’ in deadly chemical weapons attack.

Now, as Jim White pointed out…

Working Thread: UN Chemical Weapon Report on Syria Released

…But of course, these inspections came on August 26 in Moadamiyah and August 28 and 29 in Zamalka, so 5 to 8 days passed between the attack and the analysis. The key point to keep in mind when considering the rocket evidence is this:

Limitations:
The time necessary to conduct a detailed survey of both locations as well as take samples was very limited. The sites have been well travelled by other individuals both before and during the investigation. Fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigation team.

People had plenty of time to move things around before the UN inspectors came onto the site. The possibility that evidence has been manipulated cannot be ruled out…

From Arms Control WonkCWC Challenge Inspections: Syria as the Test Case?

Btw, the UN also had this to report today… UN: Libyan weapons being smuggled to Syria.

Now, Phil Greaves penned a great read on Syria today(h/t b @ MOA)! It is a long read so I will only highlight what I’ve suspected for some time, but, couldn’t quite put my finger on it…

Syria: Has Obama forsaken the insurgency?

Last throw of the Dice: missiles in the Med.

On September the 3rd, two days prior to the G20 summit in St Petersburg, the world awoke to reports that Russia’s defensive radar systems had detected two ballistic “objects” launched from the central Mediterranean on a flight path toward Syria’s eastern coast, where Russian navy ships currently reside; the missiles post-launch had apparently “fell into the sea”. At the time the finger was immediately pointed to Israel – who have attacked Syria at least three times with impunity in the past year alone – or possibly the United States, whose large Naval presence in the Med seemed the obvious primary suspect. Curiously, both Israel and the United States denied responsibility when the Russian reports were first released, then, only a few hours later Israel claimed responsibility for an apparent joint “test” launch with the Pentagon of a defensive missile system. The sheer recklessness of such an act – even if the innocent explanation were true – is hard to explain in such a circumstance. The US eventually confirmed the Israeli line that it was indeed a “test” missile launch with US assistance; after having first denied any knowledge of the incident.

The most likely explanation is Israel or the US were attempting to test Syria’s coastal defenses prior to any possible attack, but to do this without giving any notice to Russia in such a tense scenario seems reckless to say the least. Russian diplomats have repeatedly hinted that Russia would “help” Syria militarily in the event of a missile strike. It is quite possible that this incident was indeed an Israeli/US provocation in an attempt to garner a response from Syria, and in turn instigate a wider campaign. A report from Lebanese daily As Safir takes it one step further:

A well-informed diplomatic source told As-Safir newspaper that “the US war on Syria had started and ended the moment those two ballistic missiles were fired,… The source further told the Lebanese daily that “the US forces fired these two rockets from a NATO base in Spain, and were instantly detected by the Russian radars and confronted by the Russian defense systems, so one of them exploded in the airspace and the second one diverted towards the sea.” In this context, the source pointed out that “the statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry, which stated the detection of two ballistic missiles fired towards the Middle East, intended to neglect two points: the first was the location from which the two rockets were fired, and the second was their downing. Why? Because the moment the full military operation was launched, Head of the Russian Intelligence Service contacted the US intelligence and informed it that “hitting Damascus means hitting Moscow, and we have removed the term “downed the two missiles” from the statement to preserve the bilateral relations and to avoid escalation. Therefore, you must immediately reconsider your policies, approaches and intentions on the Syrian crisis, as you must be certain that you cannot eliminate our presence in the Mediterranean.”

Whether this account of events holds true or not, at the very least the missile launch appears to be an intentional provocation by either Israel or Washington, in a last-ditch attempt to incite retaliation and salvage the now broken strategy against Assad. Either way, Russia’s decision to quickly publicise the detection and subsequent flip-flop of denial and acceptance from Israel bolsters the theory in the As Safir report: why would Israel accept responsibility for this provocative “test”, yet deny responsibility for every other act of aggression they commit unimpeded? Could it have been to save the face of another defeated attempt to continue the war? It was following this incident, that Obama and Putin were due to meet at the G20 conference. With both leaders eager to go into any negotiations on Syria from a position of power at such a crucial stage, it also adds to the theory that Obama was in a rush to commence the war before opposition became too overbearing; as indeed it now evidently has.

Apparently, Kerry pointed out the basic facts on the ground to Bibi yesterday…

Why Israel hails Syria chemical weapons deal

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called a tentative US-Russian agreement on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal a breakthrough that could weaken Iran.

Why is it always Iran, Iran, Iran with the Ziocons…?

I’ll betcha this stroke of genius by Rouhani, has Bibi’s britches in a bind…

Iran said ready to dismantle underground nuclear facility

Rouhani might offer to close Fordo if West eases sanctions, Der Spiegel reports, based on intelligence sources; Israel has yet to respond.

I wonder if Putin is behind it… Putin to visit Iran for first time in six years.

In summing up, Israel fears it may be asked to surrender its CW after Syria. Ya think…? And. AIPAC is already backpedaling…

Pro-Israel groups suspend lobby for Syria strike

Jewish organizations maintain their support for Congressional authorization of military force despite the pending US-Russia deal

…A spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which organized a Capitol Hill blitz last week aimed at persuading Congress to back a strike, confirmed Monday that lobbying has been suspended for now.

The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which also had been involved in the lobbying, said they would suspend lobbying, too.

“We sent many messages over the last week and a half; we are not formulating new letters to the Hill,” Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of international affairs, told JTA. “Our message is out there should it be required.”

Glimmers of hope appear, pups…!

by CTuttle

Syria Mashup: ‘Group Think’, House of Saud, and The UN

11:42 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

With numerous articles and Airheads asserting that the UN report, which will be released Monday(and not a moment sooner FP!) will point it’s finger at Assad, let me remind them what the UN’s mission really was…!

UN inspectors examine Syria poison gas allegations

Damascus has allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors access to areas allegedly attacked with poison gas last week. The mission is to determine whether an attack actually took place – but not who was responsible.

What is clear, however, is that a major propagandistic tug-of-war is taking place concerning the claimed use of chemical weapons and alleged perpetrators. {…}

Good chance of clarification

The UN mission stands a good chance to clarify issues surrounding the most recent poison gas attack, said Jan van Aken, a Left Party member of German parliament. “By examining survivors, the inspectors in Syria can easily determine whether poison gas was used or not,” van Aken told DW. “They can tell within minutes. A bit later, after the lab work is done, they can presumably say which poison was used – or if in fact this was a chemical weapons attack at all.”

Propaganda and facts

The UN mission may not, however, answer one key question: “The inspectors can only say whether chemical weapons were used, but not who did it,” van Aken said, adding that the political propaganda battle has already begun.

According van Aken, technical evidence would not help pinpoint who was behind the attacks. The situation in Syria is too complex to allow clear-cut conclusions, he says. “Even if you find the remnants of a Syrian missile with traces of a nerve agent, you still don’t know whether Assad’s troops fired it, or whether opposition rebels seized it during an attack on an army base somewhere in the north, and later employed it.”

So, lets look at some basic facts… Turkish prosecutor: Syria rebels ordered 10 tons of sarin nerve agent in Turkey…

On May 28 Turkish security forces found a 2-kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of terrorists from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front who were previously detained.

According to media reports, sarin gas was found in the homes of suspected Syrian militants detained in provinces of Adana and Mersia following a search by Turkish police.

Five Turks and a Syrian citizen, named Haitam Kassapwho, who were arrested on the case for allegations of buying chemical weapons in Turkey, have pleaded not guilty, according to the English-language Hurriyet Daily News, which quoted from the indictment.

Prosecution attorney objected the ruling and presented the court with a 132-page document which contained evidence of the suspects’ links to terrorist groups in Syria including al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic States on Iraq and Levant (Ahrar al-Sham), a report by the Voice of Russia said.

The document says that radical Salafis groups set up a channel for carrying out terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

According to the document al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham group had tried to buy large amounts of sarin nerve gas and chemical substances used in manufacturing poisonous materials.

The prosecution believes that the suspects have links to Syrian groups close to al-Qaeda and their leaders and were buying chemical materials from Turkey to send into Syria.

Citing telephone calls made by the suspects, the document shows they ordered at least ten tons of chemicals in total.

Now, let’s not forget this previous article… Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

Here’s a newer report… New granular evidence points to Saudi role in chemical weapons attack

As Col. Wilkerson noted in the above video clip, the ‘paucity of evidence’ coming from the White House is very troublesome…! Cherry-picked even…? And, as Col. Lang wrote recently…

The administration’s case against Syria over the 21st of August disaster is gradually disintegrating. It will continue to do so. pl

Which brings me to Robert Parry’s excellent article…

Rewarding ‘Group Think’ on Syria

“Group think” is alive and well in Official Washington, with virtually all the important pundits marching in lock-step with the Obama administration’s accusations against the Syrian government and everyone fuming over an Op-Ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, observes Robert Parry.

…Nearly every U.S. pundit and politician – from neocon to liberal – is charging off in the same direction, accepting undocumented U.S. government claims about Syria’s alleged chemical attack on Aug. 21 as undeniably true and deriding Russian President Vladimir Putin for a New York Times Op-Ed that had the audacity to defend the Nuremberg principles against aggressive war. {…}

Buying the Official Story

Beyond reflecting the conventional wisdom’s contempt for Putin, Robinson, like nearly every major U.S. opinion-leader, has accepted the U.S. government’s version of events regarding the alleged chemical attack on a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21.

Though the Obama administration has not released a single piece of verifiable evidence to support its “Government Assessment” fingering the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Robinson and his colleagues now report those assertions as flat fact, including the strange calculation that precisely “1,429” people died from poison gas. Other estimates have cited several hundred deaths, and the U.S. government has not explained the provenance of its number.

Yet, the U.S. tally of the dead and other claims are good enough for the American pundit class, evidence not required…

However, concealing shaky evidence to induce a public consensus is not ideally how a democracy should work, especially on a question as weighty as war or peace. And it is not how an independent press corps is supposed to work, accepting evidence-free assertions from the government as fact, rather than joining in demands for the maximum possible exposure of the evidence.

If, as some expect, the United Nations inspectors next week side with the U.S. government in pointing the finger at the Assad regime for the Aug. 21 attack, more and more ridicule will be heaped on those of us who pointed out that the Obama administration was withholding its proof.

Indeed, the chest-thumping by those who clambered onto the bandwagon for war has already begun. They might be called the “See-We-Were-Right-to-Be-Credulous” contingent. But some of us will still want to see whatever evidence the UN inspectors and the U.S. intelligence agencies have collected.

Show me the Money…! Err.. Receipts? US: “Never Mind That Guy Eating a Heart, We Have Handwritten Receipts For the Guns”

Let’s remember that Putin submitted his own evidence to the UN, and, Assad has too…! Btw, Putin is getting serious… Russia Sends Three More Warships to Syrian Coast

In summing up, I do happen to agree with Ban ki-Moon that there is ‘overwhelming’ proof that Chemical Weapons were used, but by whom…?

God Bless the Syrians…!

by CTuttle

Syria Mashup: Bumble F*cking, French Faux Pas, and Putin’s Checkmate

9:30 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Seriously, pups, this is the best of all outcomes on Syria that has yet materialized…!

Not only is Obama, and the Administration, afforded a face-saving means to not launch an “unbelievably small and extremely limited” war on Syria, but, they even managed ‘Bumble-F*cking’ their way In and Out of Syria…!

In all seriousness, it truly behooved Obama to step down from the brink of virtual World War…! The Russians have already put in place a significant naval prescence in the Eastern Med…! Russian Warships in Offensive Arrangement for Syrian War…!

Some very cogent analysis…

Role of the Russian Navy

The Russian naval task force off the coast of Syria is a pretty big one, and it includes some very powerful ships, such as the Moskva class guided missile cruisers, whose main function is to sink aircraft carriers. Except that the Russians never had any intention of sinking anybody, much less so a US carrier. While clearly this task was designed with several possible contingencies in mind, I would argue that one of its most important tasks was to protect a ship with no firepower at all: the Priazov’ye intelligence collection ship.

And don’t let the “medium” descriptor fool you as it only refers to the physical size. This ship is packed with advanced electronic and communication intelligence gear (including special electronic intelligence equipment “Profil`-M”, “Rotor-S”, “Prokhlada”, “Vizir”, “Konus”, “Zarya-1″, sonar MG-349 «Uzh», MGP-303). Combined with the extremely powerful radars and anti-air capabilities of the rest of the Russian naval task force the electronics onboad the Priazovie made it impossible to strike Syria with any degree of tactical surprise. These considerations, in turn, must have counted as an important element in Obama’s decision to accept Putin’s “Russian Gambit”. Exactly has I had predicted, while the entire world was focused on whether the Russians had or had not delivered all, or part, of the S-300s to Syria, the Russians came up with a totally different move which took the world by surprise.

Saving Obama’s sorry face:

Anybody who has seen the video of Kerry running his mouth about Assad giving up all of his chemical weapons before the end of the way even though this was, quite Kerry, “impossible” will see this was not a planned statement but just Kerry thinking out loud. So why are the Russians now eagerly confirming that yes, indeed, this option had been discussed with Obama in Saint Petersburg? Because Putin, Lavrov & Co are hyper-pragmatists. They don’t want to humiliate these idiots Obama and Kerry and they are quite happy to give them a face-saving way out, as long as that contributes to the Russian objective for Syria. This is what the State Department first said that Kerry statement was ‘rhetorical’ – even they had no clue. And is it not fitting that one thoughtless statement by a US politician almost started a war (Obama’s “red line”) while another, no less thoughtless statement by another US politicians (Kerry’s “give up all weapons in a week”) prevented it? Karma is beautiful!

Btw, Assad did recently test out the UK/US/Nato Air Defences…!

Now, if you look at the French proposal to the UNSC, you can understand why the Russians were quick to expose that French foreign faux pas…!

Let me point out what Putin had to say… Putin: Syria chemical arms handover will work only if US calls off strike…!

And, Syria agrees to Russia weapons plan to ‘uproot US aggression’…!

Checkmate…!

So, will Saner minds and wits prevail…? *gah*

by CTuttle

Syria Mashup: Mercs, Mission Creep, and Putin

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

From the Washington Post

Kerry: Arab countries offered to pay for invasion

Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.

“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”

Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.

“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done.”

Don’t worry, Bandar Bush, we’ve got this one…!

I still want to know exactly How this ‘limited airstrike’ is truly in our ‘National Interest’…? Or even what our Objective is…! Wtf, over…? Dempsey Can’t Say What U.S. is Seeking in Syria. Seriously…?

Let’s be very clear here, folks…

What Congress Will Be Voting on Is Another War, Not a “Limited Punitive Strike”

After 12 years of US executive branch deceit, the US Congress is on the verge of backing another war in the Middle East — this time with a vote.

Make no mistake about it. Obama doesn’t mean a word of limiting his actions as commander in chief to a limited strike to punish the Syrians for allegedly using Weapons of Mass Destruction. (As to who dispersed them in a rather primitive fashion it is still not clear, despite alleged definitive statements from White House representatives.)

The odds of the US launching a combined sea-based and airforce bombing attack on the Syrian military command and elite forces, but not provoking some sort of counter-action from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah or even the Al Qaeda rebels who are fighting the Assad regime are about zero. Remember how long it took NATO and the US to degrade the Libyan armed forces before the fall of Gaddhafi? Does anyone anywhere truly believe that Obama intends to stop at one strike as compared to using the strike as the kindling wood.

So we can assume the White House and the pentagon are aware that the counterattack will result in Obama authorizing a full-scale military assault on Syria, although without infantry on the ground (but you can be sure special forces and paramilitary intelligence units are already in Syria as they were in Libya). Needless to say, an attack on US interests or Israel will quickly see NATO nations, including the now sidelined UK, fall in line with a “coalition of the reluctant” to force regime change…

The ever-intrepid, Emptywheel, parsed the Senate’s weasel-worded AUMF into lingua franca…

Parallel Processing: AUMF Assad Spanking and Then Article II Regime Change

…I’ve described this AUMF as telling the President, “Here are some limits we’d like you to abide by, but if you don’t like those, go ahead and operate under your own authority.”

To the extent that the White House can tie its acknowledged covert plans to back the rebels to the other whereas clauses in the AUMF, then it also authorizes that part of the equation.

Then, in yesterday’s markup, John McCain succeeded in adding one more whereas, explicitly stating that regime change was the goal of all this (he also added non-binding policy language later in the AUMF to the same effect). {…}

That is, there is the AUMF authorizing the limited spanking, and then the whereas language that not only recognizes the President’s authority to do more under Article II, but explicitly lists regime change (and accelerating the arming of rebels, implicitly) among the goals here…

Two interesting notes on our covert actions on the ground in Syria, first… CIA trained unit in Syria

And then this very revealing piece…

Jordanian king dismisses 4 officers over passing sensitive info to Syria

The four officers leaked information about a situation room, which was established by the Saudi Arabian defense minister, the CIA, and the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad on Jordanian soil, the report said quoting a British diplomatic source.

The officers are also accused of providing the Syrian army with certain information about the routes, which Saudi militants used while entering Syria to fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The senior military officers were advisers to the chairman of Jordan’s chiefs of staff and had strongly objected to Amman’s participation in a foreign-sponsored insurgency in Syria.

That just might put a dent in our Bandar/CIA/JSOC ‘Grand’ Designs in Syria…!

Now, as Putin, host of the G-20 Confab in St. Petersburg, of which, Obama is actively working on the side lines, laid it all out…

Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: AIPAC, AQAP, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen

4:44 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Before I delve into the AQAP and Yemeni issues, I’d like to highlight this excellent comment from longtime FDL contributor, Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, on my last Mashup…

…In Yemen, in particular, US news is totally misleading. The main opponents of the Yemen government are not AQ but the Southern Yemen secessionist movement, a shaky coalition of different groups. The core group is the Yemen Socialist Party. How many readers even know there was once a North and South Yemen, separate states that unified, and not shortly thereafter, the old state entities were the core around which there was a bloody civil war. This was in the early 1990s.

There are many secessionist and political and tribal and ethnic groups in Yemen. In the US press you’d think it was all about AQ destabilization. With its supposed 1000 or so followers, it is actually one of the smaller opposition groups in that country.

The focus on AQ is to draw support on US intervention in Yemen, which is supported by the Saudis, especially since some of the Yemen groups have claims on Saudi territory, such as the Shiite Houthis in the north of Yemen.

Consider this Reuters article from June 2013:

Tens of thousands of Yemeni Shi’ite Muslims chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel” buried the remains of the founder of the armed Houthi rebel group on Wednesday, nine years after he was killed in fighting with government forces….

The Houthis are an important tribe belonging to the Shi’ite Zaidi sect, whose Hashemite line ruled for 1,000 years before the 1962 revolution, and which accounts for about 25 percent of Yemen’s population of 25 million.

It controls the northern province of Saada and parts of the neighboring provinces of Omran, al-Jouf and Hajja bordering top oil exporter Saudi Arabia….

Complaining of social, religious and economic discrimination in Yemen, the Houthis fought several battles with government forces between 2004 and 2010, when a truce was announced.

Saudi Arabia was drawn briefly into the conflict in 2010 when rebels crossed into its territory.

Straight from the Donkey’s ass White House… ‘AQAP greatest potential threat to USA’

The Al Qaida in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is seen by the US national security team as an affiliate of the Al Qaida posing greatest potential threat to the country, the White House has said.

“While, Al Qaida core and its leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been decimated and is not nearly what it was 10 years ago, Al Qaida in general and its affiliate organisations ~ as we’ve been talking about for years now ~ continue to represent threats,” the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

“And AQAP in particular is viewed by the national security team as the most operational of the Al Qaida affiliates,” he said.

So naturally, DronZ Away…! So much so that Count Von Count is having a hard time keeping track of them all…!

The Yemenis’ are none-too-thrilled… Yemenis call U.S. drone strikes an overreaction to al Qaida threat!

Funny thing tho…

Yemen: 7 Saudis among militants killed by drones

At least seven suspected militants from Saudi Arabia were among the alleged al-Qaida members killed in Yemen in a recent wave of U.S. drone strikes, senior Yemeni officials said Friday, suggesting that Saudis are increasingly crossing the border to carry funds or seek terrorist training. {…}

Since July 27, drone attacks in Yemen’s southern and central provinces have killed a total of 34 militants suspected of being members of the country’s al-Qaida branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, security officials have said.

On Thursday alone, the officials said U.S. drones conducted three airstrikes, killing 12 militants.

The drone strikes occurred in areas where the terrorist group enjoys protection from anti-government tribes or hides in mountainous areas.

The terror network bolstered its operations in Yemen more than a decade after key Saudi operatives fled here following a major crackdown in their homeland. The drone strikes and a U.S.-backed offensive that began in June 2012 have driven militants from territory they had seized a year earlier, during Yemen’s political turmoil amid the Arab Spring.

The senior Yemeni officials who said the seven Saudis were among the victims of the drone attacks said intelligence suggested the foreigners had crossed the border between the neighboring countries to either ferry in money to the terror group or to train in al-Qaida camps.

“Al-Qaida is especially recruiting tech-savvy and well-educated Saudis,” one of the senior security officials said.

Hmmm… I seem to recall that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis too…! Let’s also consider the fact that the House of Saud is the largest funder of Al Nusrah/Salafists in Syria…!

In which, as the CIA’s no.2 equivocates…

CIA warns of crisis as al-Qaeda prepares to pounce

The war in Syria poses the greatest threat to US security because of the risk of the government falling and the country becoming a weapons-rich haven for al-Qaeda, a CIA official said in Washington.

CIA deputy director Michael Morell gave the assessment in an interview published by the Wall Street Journal as he prepares to retire after 33 years with the agency.

Mr Morell said there were more foreign fighters flowing into Syria each month to take up arms with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups than there were going to Iraq to fight with al-Qaeda at the height of the war there.

The Syrian government’s weapons ”are going to be up for grabs and up for sale” as they were in Libya when Muammar Gaddafi fell, he added.

”It’s probably the most important issue in the world today,” he said of the war in Syria, ”because of where it is currently heading” – towards the fall of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

But Mr Morell’s assessment contrasts with that of many experts who believe Syrian troops are gaining the upper hand…

Talk about stirring the Pot, Saudi style… ‘Saudi offers Russia deal for distance from Assad’

…Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if it scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said yesterday.

The proposal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria’s devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia’s position as a main gas supplier to Europe.

In return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria, they said.

A Gulf source familiar with the matter confirmed that Prince Bandar offered to buy large quantities of arms from Russia, but that no cash amount was specified in the talks.

A Lebanese politician close to Saudi Arabia said the meeting lasted four hours.

“The Saudis were elated about the outcome of the meeting,” said the source, without elaborating…

Not so fast… Kremlin: No deal discussed with Saudi Arabia on changing Syria stance…!

Now, moving along to Egypt…

I did wonder why Lieberman wasn’t initially asked to join his hombres, McCain and Graham…

McCain and Graham flipflop on aid to Egypt — after AIPAC speaks up

Two conservative senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, went to Egypt this week to urge Egyptian leaders to show more respect for democracy. McCain and Graham may be Republicans, but they have a lot of clout. They were reported to have the blessing of the Obama administration in making this embassy.

Why do they have such clout? One reason is that they are extremely responsive to the Israel lobby. In fact, both men lately flipflopped on a principled statement — cutting off aid to Egypt — evidently at the urging of AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby organization. {…}

…Hold on, guys. Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, formerly McCain and Graham’s wingman in the neoconservative caucus called the Three Amigos, weighed in. From the National Review, July 15:

“The retired Democratic-turned-independent senator expressed guarded optimism about the state of affairs in Egypt, and declared that, contra his former ally John McCain, the U.S. shouldn’t cut off its aid to the Egyptian military.

“He explained to Sean Hannity today… ‘I’m actually going to disagree with my buddy John McCain; I don’t think we should suspend military aid.’”

Then the other shoe drops. AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group, also speaks up. Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

“‘We do not support cutting off all assistance to Egypt at this time, as we believe it could increase the instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally,’ AIPAC said in a letter to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), its top Republican.

“The letter is the first public signal since the army coup that deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in early July that AIPAC is actively opposing efforts to cut aid to Egypt.”

…It certainly appears that the two men abandoned a position of principle because AIPAC told them to. You’d think they would be buffoons. But they’re not. They haven’t lost any political capital for this abdication of principle. No, they’ve gained political capital. The Times said the senators went to Egypt this week “at the request of President Obama.” And as Jeff Klein, who pointed me to this story, says, No one in the press is calling them out for flipflopping. It’s just not a story when powerful senators dance to AIPAC’s tune.

This is a demonstration of how central AIPAC’s ideas are to American foreign policy. As neocon Lee Smith once said, the central plank of the last dictatorship in Egypt was the peace treaty. That is all that matters to the U.S. We’re willing to throw everything else overboard for the sake of preserving Israel’s security.

Now, about that Peace Treaty, for the first time since ’79, openly at least, Israel has struck in the Sinai…

Egypt walks the wire in denying Israeli strike on Sinai

Contradicting earlier reports, the Egyptian army spokesman said late Friday that there is no truth to news of an Israeli drone attack on Egyptian soil. He also claimed there was no coordination at all between Israeli and Egyptian authorities with regard to what he termed “explosions in the Rafah region.”

The circumstances surrounding the strike that occurred early Friday evening near Rafah in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in which (it appears) that five Islamic terrorists were killed, are still unclear. Particularly elusive are the facts regarding who perpetrated the strike. Initial reports published by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency and then later by AP cited Egyptian officials in El-Arish who said that an Israeli drone fired missiles at a storage site for long-range missiles. They said the strike took place near the Kerem Hashalom crossing, and in the triangle between the Israeli, Egyptian and Gazan border.

According to those reports, the five individuals killed belonged to one of the jihadist groups operating in the peninsula. Groups that concurrently target the Egyptian military and Israel…

…If there was an Israeli strike on Egyptian territory, it would signal the first time that Israel has operated (openly) there since the signing of the peace treaty between the two countries in 1979. However, in the hours following the purported strike, there was a concerted Egyptian effort to restore calm. Egyptian sources told AP that the strike was conducted in coordination between Tel Aviv and Cairo…

…It can be assumed that reports of an Israeli strike on sovereign Egyptian territory would not be useful to the military. On the Israeli side, it is evident that officials in recent days have sought to keep a low profile regarding security coordination between the two countries…

Quite the conundrum, eh…?

In Egypt General al-Sisi is at a loss – but a massacre on Eid would bring too much infamy

No Muslim general wants to go down in history as the author of the Eid Massacre. That’s why many Egyptians last night suspected that their supposedly “interim” government’s self-declared failure to end the crisis with their Muslim Brotherhood enemies might still not be the ultimate collapse.

Abdul Fatah al-Sisi may be a very jolly general indeed – after all, he created this wondrous administration with himself as deputy prime minister – but sending in his goons against hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers on the eve of the feast marking the final day of Ramadan is not likely to commend itself to Egyptians, let alone to the Americans who supply the military with $1.5bn a year…

…The Brotherhood knows al-Sisi does not want a mass slaughter. Al-Sisi knows the Americans do not want a mass slaughter. Perhaps some sort of ‘people power’ can be organised – now there’s a thought – to drive the Brotherhood away and leave the army unspattered with Brotherhood blood. After all, a lot of the snipers who have shot down Morsi’s supporters these last five weeks have been unidentified. But there are too many foreign diplomats, NGOs and journalists sniffing around for that to work on a large scale.

So which is more important? The will of ‘the people’ – those who hate Morsi – or the steadfastness of the Brotherhood for whom martyrdom (often in Egyptian prisons) has long been a characteristic? What about the dignity of the Egyptian army? About to set sail aboard his royal ship of exile, the ‘al-Mahrussa’ in 1952, King Farouk turned to the officers who had dethroned him. “Look after the army,” he told General Mohamed Naguib, soon to be deposed by Colonel Gamal-Abdul Nasser. Everyone loves the army.

And the Egyptian army rather loves itself. Its vast and obscenely bloated investments in real estate, banking and industry make this one of the richest Arab armies in one of the poorest Arab countries. It’s hardly in their interest to start a mini-war in the streets of Cairo. But the Brotherhood itself is bloated with arrogance, its record in power – with Morsi as their cypher – hardly worthy of the support of the ‘people’…

What a Wicked Web…!

*gah*