Saturday, May 31, 2014

Al Qaeda Isn’t ‘On Its Heels’

"... Claiming that al Qaeda is still “on its heels” is difficult when one compares the original pressure the network was under when the narrative was first introduced in May 2011 with its current circumstances, in which both it and its key affiliates have enjoyed a remarkable degree of freedom from attack and disruption ..."

Friday, May 30, 2014

David Albright's position on Iran is a terrorist organization's treasure chrst

"... Albright has now taken the MEK position entirely on the issue of Iran continuing weapons-related work while offering documents that read more like propaganda pieces than technical analysis. He never gets around to mentioning that his position on these issues is completely aligned with that of the MEK or even that the information he cites originates with them. When a Wall Street Journal editorial shows more intellectual honesty by openly admitting its allegations come from the MEK, it appears that it is time to remove Albright’s name from the fold of independent analysts."

Draw your conclusions for Syria!

"... Al Qaeda was never in Falluja before the American invasion. They have a stronghold in Falluja now, for which McCain blames the withdrawal of United States troops. Think about that: it’s not our fault because we opened the doors to the factions of hell; it’s our fault because we withdrew from hell...."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Senior Administration officials: 'Obama has been modifying his objective and is now prepared to work with Assad, to some degree...'

Via MoA:
"... Thus, Obama either will have to change his means and provide massive aid to these rebels, which he will not do, or he will have to change his goal of eliminating Assad. This may well surprise experts, but senior administration officials tell me that Obama has been modifying his objective and is now prepared to work with Assad, to some degree, along with the moderate rebels, against what the White House finally has come to see as the real and major threat—the jihadists. These senior officials further say that they expect support in this new policy from previous opponents, i.e. from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Let us hope that this is true...."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"The cult of voting is a Western ritual to be celebrated except in those cases when voting goes against US agenda!"

"... It is quite amusing to watch Western correspondents in Beirut on Twitter scrambling to find theories to explain the unpleasant (for them) footage of throngs of Syrians voting in Lebanon at the Syrian embassy.  (One even wondered if Syrians are voting in other places in Lebanon as if the Syrian embassy has consulates around the country).  Every hour you see another theory introduced.  Many of them simply copy the propaganda spin of March 14 media (their latest tale is that Hizbullah members are voting--kid you not but you have to excuse March 14 media today, they went ballistic all day today as the scenes defied their expectations and desires).  The Syrian ambassador in Lebanon in fact was candid when he said that they did not anticipate those numbers and that they were ill-prepared and did not even had enough ballot boxes.  By the way, did you see pictures of Syrians voting in Stockholm? Were those Hizbullah as well? Now I know why France, US, UAE and other countries banned Syrians from voting.  I guess the cult of voting is a Western ritual to be celebrated except in those cases when voting goes against US agenda...."

Even al Jazeera: "Massive turnout of expat Syrian voters saw a majority voicing support for Assad"

 Al Jazeera English

"... Beirut, Lebanon - This was not an ordinary voting day. It was a parade of Syrians celebrating their embattled president and expressing support for him in the battle to quell the uprising that erupted against his rule three years ago.Since early morning, tens of thousands of Syrians flocked to the heavily fortified area surrounding the Syrian embassy in Lebanon as expatriate voting began ahead of the June 3 presidential election.
With some of Lebanon's one million Syrian residents and refugees trying to cast their votes, this was the most visible mass gathering the country has witnessed in the past few years and possibly, the largest-ever gathering of Syrians outside their country...."

Syrian and Egyptian elections

"... So many of the assumptions of Western media coverage of Syria have been shattered today.  Lebanon is the only place there the host government can't impose the intimidation tactics on potential Syrian voters as in other Arab or Western countries and those scenes should be studied."

Moscow wires $327 million financial aid to Damascus

"MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has pledged Syria financial aid worth 240 million euro (around 327 million dollars) this year to help run social programs, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper cited a high-ranking official in Moscow...."

Another report (ICG) on how precarious the state of Hezbollah is

International Crisis Group : Lebanon’s Hizbollah Turns Eastward to Syria

And this part could not be more wrong & ominous:

"... Though there have been several surg-
es of sectarian tension in past years, these started only after Hizbollah intervened in
Syria and announced it was fighting takfiris. Since April 2014, the attacks have sub-
sided, following an agreement within the Lebanese political class that enabled the
country’s military and security forces to arrest dozens of alleged extremists and deploy
in tense areas like Tripoli and Arsal. However, these security measures do not end
the threat. As a Tripoli sheikh put it, “many Islamists went underground waiting for
a change of circumstance – the collapse of the political agreement, or an important
military achievement by rebels in Syria”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PBS' Frontline: 'The US training rebels on how to finish off wounded Syrian soldiers!'

"... “They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road,” said the fighter, who is identified only as “Hussein.” “They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”

How America’s Backfiring “Pivot to Asia” Exposes Washington’s Already Self-Defeating Formula for an Iran Deal

"... The Russian pivot away from seeking better relations with the US is the reason why most Iranians see Ukraine as benefitting their interests: they understand that the consequence of this will be increased support and a closer strategic link with Russia and China. There is some evidence too, that events already are pushing China and Russia into greater support for Iran and its stands (RIA Novosti, for example, is reporting that Russia has plans to build a further eight nuclear reactors in Iran).And if the talks break down…will Iran be blamed?  Will sanctions then simply continue as they are?  The answer to both is almost certainly ‘no’ (although, of course, the US and Europe will blame Iran).  But the very failure of the talks will deeply affect sentiment in the Middle East towards America and the P5+1, and will cement Iran and Syria (and others) to any emerging pole that leads the struggle against a uni-polarity rooted in America seeking to endlessly repeat its Cold War mythology."

"At face value!"

"The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday she accepted “at face value” a top Israeli official’s denial of spying on the United States ..."

"This is quite hilarious (if it is not so tragic)"

"... Human Rights Watch assembled signatories to this petition without mentioning that: 1) some of the signatories are fronts for the Syrian rebels themselves, i.e. the captors. 2) So Human Rights Watch is calling on groups which call for arming of the Syrian rebels to implore them to release their captives.  3) Some of those groups (especially the Lebanese groups mentioned) are mere right-wing fronts for Hariri and Saudi interests.  Enjoy.
PS; One of the signatories is the Samir Kasir Foundation. It claims to monitor press violations in the region but it bizarrely excluded all Gulf countries from its definition of the region although its definition includes Israel."

FEEM Lecture by Anatol Lieven, King's College London: "The Ukraine Debacle"

Via MoA:
"... I think the Americans have been profoundly foolish in that regard. It does weaken their credibility in alliances elsewhere. [...] If the United States extends to China the kind of attitudes and the kind of policies that it has to Russia over the past generation, then, ladies and gentlemen, we will find ourselves in another major international war which will bring the world economy down in ruins and with it, probably, many democracies around the world including our own. I hope that the fact that an American policy which did this would deserve the results it got will be a comfort to our descendants.

Syrian villagers: "Our only hope now is with our army."

"... Around 150 of Kassab’s residents have taken shelter in the Armenian Church in Latakia. Mattresses are rolled out on the floor. A stern-looking Hafez al-Assad, the former Syrian president and Bashar’s father, looks down from one wall, while a serious photo of Bashar hangs from another."We were used to hearing the sounds of gun-fire and rockets, but it was from a distance. Now it was very close. I was asleep and the sound woke me up. First I couldn’t believe what happened, because I didn’t expect it," 20-year old Rafi Kilaghbian said. "We will stay here until we can go back to Kassab. Our only hope now is with our army."

US Senator to President Assad: "I pray for the Syrian Armed Forces!"

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The 'shrinking budget' of Hezbollah

The Nicholas Blanford school of Journalism in Arab...

"In the right-wing rag of Liyas Murr, Al-Jumuhuriyyah, they have a story about the shrinking budget of Hizbullah.  The sources are as follows--kid you not:  "Western sources informed the Saudi daily, Al-Watan", and Al-Watan informed Al-Jumhuriyyah. "

Saturday, May 24, 2014

SAA' latest rout of al Qaeda & Co. in Syria

".(Reuters) - [Syrian Arab Army] troops broke a year-long rebel siege of Aleppo's main prison on Thursday, cutting a main insurgent supply line and vowing to press on and recapture the whole of Syria's biggest city.State television showed soldiers inside the prison after they routed al Qaeda and other Islamist forces who had tried several times in recent months to break into the jail and free thousands of prisoners....A military statement said the fighting around the prison, about 5 miles north-east of Aleppo, had cut a supply line linking the rebel-dominated rural hinterland with the contested city..."

Quick Thoughts: Chas Freeman on Israeli Espionage against the United States

Chas Freeman on Israeli Espionage against the United States:

"... The real question raised by this story is why some members of the intelligence community have now broken their silence. I suspect that their willingness to speak out reflects resentment on their part of recent, renewed agitation for the exoneration and release from prison of [convicted Israeli spy] Jonathan Pollard on the grounds that spying for Israel is nothing to which US citizens should properly object, coupled with demands for visa-free entry for Israelis even though they meet none of the usual criteria for such treatment.  These demands for privileged treatment are reminders of Israel's virtually unchallenged manipulation of the Congress, which is deeply offensive—not to say humiliating—to US patriots.  The intelligence community is, almost by definition, very nationalistic.  It does not take easily to high-handed behavior and demands for privilege by foreign states, including Israel, especially when these are joined to hypocritical indifference to the demands of comity and the interests of the United States...."

Quick Thoughts: Chas Freeman on Israeli Espionage against the United States

Chas Freeman on Israeli Espionage against the United States:

"... The real question raised by this story is why some members of the intelligence community have now broken their silence. I suspect that their willingness to speak out reflects resentment on their part of recent, renewed agitation for the exoneration and release from prison of [convicted Israeli spy] Jonathan Pollard on the grounds that spying for Israel is nothing to which US citizens should properly object, coupled with demands for visa-free entry for Israelis even though they meet none of the usual criteria for such treatment.  These demands for privileged treatment are reminders of Israel's virtually unchallenged manipulation of the Congress, which is deeply offensive—not to say humiliating—to US patriots.  The intelligence community is, almost by definition, very nationalistic.  It does not take easily to high-handed behavior and demands for privilege by foreign states, including Israel, especially when these are joined to hypocritical indifference to the demands of comity and the interests of the United States...."

Friday, May 23, 2014

'It will end the revolution in Syria'

"... The leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor that a siege of Aleppo would be a devastating blow to opposition forces and might threaten to end the revolution in Syria. Major foreign powers controlling the ongoing war there would never allow such an eventuality to occur, according to him...."

US & Iran: From enemies to 'rivals'?

"... Further impediments could stem from U.S. regional allies who oppose a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations. However, contrary to what some in Israel and Saudi Arabia believe, a collaborative U.S.-Iranian relationship on common-cause issues does not have to be at their expense. Tehran has no interest in a patron-client relationship, as NIAC’s Research Director Reza Marashi puts it, and is interested in a competitive yet cooperative relationship with Washington akin to Russian and Chinese relations with the United States. The United States understands this and is testing to see if both countries can go from being “enemies” to being “rivals”..."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What the Sino-Russian Gas Deal Says about American Foreign Policy’s Self-Damaging Trajectory

"... Likewise, over the last four years, Russia and China have refused to support Security Council authorization of further multilateral sanctions against Iran, and have become ever more resentful of what they consider Washington’s illegal and unilaterally imposed secondary sanctions regime.  Their opposition to new multilateral sanctions intersected with increasing incentives for them to defy existing U.S. sanctions to push Washington’s sanctions policy to the limit.  This reality—combined with President Obama’s inability to act on his declared intention to attack Syria after chemical weapons were used there in August 2013, which made clear that Washington can no longer credibly threaten the effective use of force in the region—has compelled the Obama administration to take a more serious approach to nuclear diplomacy with Tehran.  If, in the end, the United States proves unwilling to conclude a final nuclear deal with Iran, Russia and China are likely to become far less accommodating of U.S. demands for compliance with Washington’s illegitimate secondary sanctions.  Moscow, for example, could conclude a $20 billion deal it is currently negotiating with Iran, whereby Iran would swap oil volumes for Russian industrial goods and equipment..."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

'Don't worry, be happy!'

"... But to judge by comments made by the ICC’s former chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo — who, even two years after leaving his post in The Hague, remains the controversial court’s most persuasive advocate — Israel has little to worry about..."

" What Hezbollah did in Qalamoon decreased car bombs to a minimum"

My, my, my ...
"... "What they did in Qalamoun decreased to a minimum the car bombs, that's true," Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk told Foreign Policy. Machnouk is a top official within the anti-Assad, predominantly Sunni "Future" bloc,..."

Huh?"... Arming a civilian population without a concrete plan for disarmament is a recipe for a protracted conflict that has no end in sight. The weapons the young men carry become an addiction, giving them a power trip that cannot be matched. .."

Neutralization of al Qaeda in Syria will require significant ground combat by someone, with the support of airpower.

"... ISIS no longer exists in small cells that can be neutralized by missiles or small groups of commandos.  It is now a real, if nascent and unrecognized, state actor—more akin in organization and power to the Taliban of the late 1990s than Al Qaeda.  Unless ISIS collapses on itself, which is a long tradition in jihadi circles but looks increasingly unlikely, neutralization of the group will require significant ground combat by someone, with the support of airpower...."

Monday, May 19, 2014

UN Syria envoy: "If only people listened to the Russians ...."

"... “I think the Russian analysis was right at the beginning, but everybody thought that it was an opinion and not an analysis. The Russians were saying that Syria is not Egypt and it is not Tunisia, and the president of Syria is not going to fall in a matter of two or three weeks. People thought that this was not an analysis, it was an expression of position: 'We are going to support this regime,'” Brahimi said.
maybe if people listened to them, and went to them, and said, listen you clearly know the situation in Syria better than anybody else. Let’s sit down and see how we can help Syria solve its problems. Perhaps things would have been different. But that did not happen.”...."

Iraqs Maliki wins elections

"... Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition won the most seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections but fell short of a majority, leaving him in the driver's seat to retain his post ...."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Benghazi clashes test Libyas new government

"... The government, however, insists the militias are legitimate. Chief of Staff AbdulSalam Jadallah made it clear that this operation was not sanctioned by the government. He described the attack as "an act of treason and coup" and ordered the regular army and air force to end Hiftar's campaign.
For the past two years, Benghazi witnessed the killing and kidnapping of several hundred former and current army personnel. "We are Libya’s armed forces, and we are attacking the militias that have been killing us for months," Hiftar's spokesperson, Mohamed Hijazi, said...."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Libya army to shoot down its own planes over Benghazi

 Al Jazeera English

"... The Libyan army has imposed a no fly zone over Benghazi in a direct challenge to a retired general who has been using government aircraft and troops in an unauthorised campaign against Islamist groups..."

It's all about, you guessed it, ... Hezbollah!

"... Inured to long years of civil war, serial invasions and occupations, and a string of high-profile assassinations for which no one has been brought to justice, the Lebanese have an unhealthily high tolerance of chaos. Amnesia is considered almost a civic virtue and the absence of a state able to provide a modicum of security is paraded as a vindication of the country’s freewheeling spirit: aggressively mercantile, interspersed with lots of partying but punctuated by slices of mayhem..."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

RAND Corp: 'To spoil detente, Riyadh will activate its Jihadists!'

RAND Corp.:
"... This approach could take the form of Riyadh more aggressively funding Sunni Islamists pitted against Iranian surrogates in arenas such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Riyadh is already supporting an array of militant groups in these neighboring countries, so the question is whether the Kingdom uses its influence to press them to take the fight to Iranian-sponsored groups like HezbollahIf Riyadh’s objective was to spoil a détente, escalating these conflicts would be one mean to achieve that goal…”

The US should 'treat the Islamic Republic as a truly sovereign state, with a right to the highest levels of technological sophistication it can attain'

"... For the current nuclear talks, the key question is whether the Obama administration can follow through on this recognition and treat the Islamic Republic as a truly sovereign state, with a right to the highest levels of technological sophistication it can attain—including in the nuclear arena.  If not, the options for the United States in the Middle East will be very poor indeed.  As Hillary told NBC,“The best case is that a nuclear deal becomes the catalyst for a ‘Nixon to China’-like opening between the United States and Iran,” said Leverett. “The worst case is that President Obama listens to the same cadre of Middle East ‘experts’ that have mislead the American people into disastrous military interventions—from Iraq to Libya.”..."

"No, Sanctions Didn't Force Iran to Make a Deal"

"... The fact that the pragmatic faction within the Iranian government has on numerous occasions offered more attractive nuclear proposals to the West -- prior to the crippling economic sanctions imposed by Obama -- fundamentally undermines the notion that sanctions were needed to reach a deal.While it is true in a limited sense that sanctions provided the United States with added leverage (assuming it can lift them as part of a deal), the other side of the equation is all too often conveniently forgotten: During this same period, Iran aggressively expanded its nuclear capabilities, which in turn provided it with added leverage over the West. Iran increased its centrifuge count from 3,000 to 19,000 and built a number of advanced centrifuges it didn't have back in 2005It also amassed thousands of kilograms of low enriched uranium, as well as roughly 200 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium -- of which it had none prior to 2010..."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'The emerging regional landscape has pushed Riyadh to set foot on the diplomatic path in regard to Iran'

There are a number of reasons the Saudis would be willing to now formally engage with the Iranians. First, it is clear to Riyadh that the nuclear deal is likely to progress (even if slowly) and that Iran's comeback on the world stage is inevitable, and it is not in Riyadh's best interests to ignore it. Second, the Saudis believe that the Rouhani government is operating more or less in sync with the clerical establishment led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and resistance from within the security establishment, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is in check. Third, there has been an unexpected convergence of interests between the two countries when it comes to Syria.
Saudi Arabia recently began a major campaign to counter transnational jihadist forces in Syria, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra, and instead cultivate relatively moderate Salafist-jihadist forces. Although the Iranians are still wary of the Syrian Sunni rebels in general, Tehran sees this as a welcome step given the threat posed by transnational jihadist groups to Iranian regional interests. As far as the Saudis are concerned, their efforts toward regime change in Damascus have stalled, not only because of rogue jihadist fighters but also due to disinterest from the United States (and the West in general) for toppling the Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime.
The Saudis have been fighting on too many fronts simultaneously, which was unsustainable from their perspective. Consequently, the emerging regional landscape has pushed Riyadh to set foot on the diplomatic path in regard to Iran. This path however, does not lead to any rapprochement; rather, it will just bring down the tensions to manageable levels for the foreseeable future. For different reasons, neither side has an incentive to engage in any substantive negotiations and will not do so for quite some time...."

Not so simple!

"... And while a Saudi strategy more in line with U.S. counterterrorism goals is no doubt beneficial, there are obvious ways in which this pivot can ultimately hurt the rebel cause and further atomize the opposition. When moderates spend their time fighting jihadists, they do not fight Assad and his Iranian-made proxies, which are therefore left to consolidate more territory. Just this week, the regime retook most of Homs, the birthplace of the revolution, as part of a deal struck with the remaining fighters in the Old City. Islamist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, are marking this “evacuation” not as a tactical necessity but as a betrayal of first principles.
Furthermore,  should the rebels be seen as little more than mirror-images of U.S. JSOCs, created to stamp out terrorist networks and not advance the goal of regime change, then the Syria crisis will be resolved almost exactly along the lines laid out by Damascus. That way lies one of two options:
either reconciliation between the Saudi monarchy and the House of Assad or, what is more likely, the collapse of this U.S.-deferential Saudi policy altogether and another big rift between Riyadh and Washington."

'If Syria's presidential election were free & fair, Bashar Al Assad would still win'

"... But the dirty secret in Syria today is that, if the presidential election were free and fair, Bashar Al Assad would still win....
Yet even the opposition inside the country conceded that, were there a free vote, Mr Al Assad would still have won. The regime was popular – not 97 per cent popular, but popular enough for a majority..."

Monday, May 12, 2014

'What option does Erdogan have other than changing tack , given that Assad remains unbeaten even if he is not victorious yet? '

"... This would have to entail the Erdogan government sending out diplomatic feelers to the Assad regime while indicating that Ankara is changing its position of open sympathy and support for the overbearingly Sunni opposition.
Ankara would also have to reach out to Syria’s non-Sunni minorities that it has estranged in this crisis and promote a pluralistic democratic line instead of the majoritarian one Erdogan is pursuing in Turkey, and one that also factors in the rights of Syria’s Alawites and Christians.The warning issued by Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, to the Obama administration is also valid for the Erdogan government in this regard.“We would be making a grave mistake if our policy were aimed at flipping the tables and bringing a Sunni ascendancy in Damascus,” Crocker said during a presentation at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington.Pointing out that there is no assurance that a Sunni government would be an improvement on that of Assad, Crocker also indicated that such a government would probably be “dominated by the worst of the worst” religious extremists..."

Kuwait minister 'linked to Syrian al Qaeda', quits

"... Ajmi acknowledged he had taken part in fund-raising campaigns for Syria, but insisted they had been for humanitarian purposes and not for Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as alleged by Cohen..."

Kerry wants war!

"... “Secretary Kerry was very emotional and sympathetic to the Syrian cause, and he supports the Syrian revolution and the Syrian people,” Bashir said. “We have so much hope that there will be changes in the policy.”
It’s been well reported that Kerry has been frustrated with the Obama administration’s Syria policy for a long time and has been advocating internally for more robust aid to the rebels, only to be
stymied repeatedly by the White House..."

Royal panderer!

"... "I believe that what's happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in the world and a source of pride for Bahrainis."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

'Russia is somewhat more vulnerable to the West’s teaming up with Sunni radicals as its new geo-strategic weapon of choice.'

"... Russia is not frightened by sanctions (which some, with influence in Moscow, would welcome as a chance to push-back against the US use of the global interbank payment systems for its own ends). Nor is Russia concerned that, as occurred with the USSR, the US – in today’s changed circumstances – can contrive a drop in the price of oil in order to weaken the state. But Russia is somewhat more vulnerable to the West’s teaming up with Sunni radicals as its new geo-strategic weapon of choice.  
We have therefore seen a Russian outreach both to Saudi Arabia and Egypt (President Putin recently extolled King Abdallah’s “wisdom”). There is a feeling too that US policy is not fully controlled by the US President; and that Gulf States, smelling that US policy may be adrift, and open to manipulation by interests within the US, will take advantage (perhaps in coordination with certain Americans opposed to President Obama’s policies) to escalate the jihadist war against President Assad and to target Obama’s Iran policy.  Russia may be expected to try to circumscribe this danger to its own Muslim population and to that of its neighbouring former Soviet Republics.  But for now, Russia will be likely to play it cool: to wait-and-see how events unfold, before recalibrating any main components of its Middle East policy.  For the longer term however, Russia’s effective divorce out of the unipolar international order will impact powerfully on the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia (not to say Syria and Iran) have already virtually done the same."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

No dramatic change!

'The reaction in Washington to Russian President Putin’s surprise announcement that he is softening his opposition to the May 25th elections in Ukraine has been reserved in public but more welcoming in private. As a senior State Department official explained to us: “over the past days, Putin’s acceptance or otherwise of the election has become the touchstone of our attitude to him. Now he has taken a step in our direction.”  Nonetheless, the mood in Washington remains one of intense suspicion. An NSC contact put it this way: “Putin’s KGB past gets in the way. Even when he may be trying to be helpful, we sense a trick.” His visit to Crimea was criticized as “provocative”. In the White House view, the hard test of Putin’s intentions will come in the election. If this takes place successfully without disruption or manipulation from the Russian side, US officials will regard this as evidence that Putin is looking for a way out. Otherwise, a new round of sanctions will be enacted. These will be designed to cause real pain across whole sectors of the Russian economy.  US officials hope that the Europeans will be equally robust, but are aware that the needs to maintain their Russian markets may lead to some weakening. Meanwhile, officials are increasingly concerned that their focus on Ukraine has taken attention away from Syria where the regime has recently made significant gains on the battlefield. On May 15th Secretary of State Kerry will attend the next meeting of the London 11 friends of Syria.  With the Syrian opposition now being granted official diplomatic status in Washington, there is now renewed interest in supplying the rebels with sophisticated weaponry against aircraft and tanks. Concerns that these weapons might fall into the wrong hands remains deeply embedded in the Intelligence community and will curtail options for dramatic change, even though the military urgency is increasing..."

Friday, May 9, 2014

"A more radical & violent al-Qaeda current moving operations to Saudi Arabia'

"... The division of al-Qaeda in Syria into Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS will not be limited to Syria, with the split appearing elsewhere. The position of al-Qaeda in Yemen is ambiguous regarding the two groups in Syria, and it has preferred to stay silent and not take sides. However, some leaders of al-Qaeda in Yemen made statements in support of ISIS at the expense of Jabhat al-Nusra.
Monitoring social media reveals that the armed conflict between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS in Syria has caused fractures between al-Qaeda supporters in other countries, including Saudi Arabia.
This fracture will cause the emergence of a more radical and violent al-Qaeda current, via ISIS, whose supporters on social media do not hide their desire to move their operations and bombings to Saudi Arabia ..."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Egypt and Israel to reach another gas deal

"... Analysts say the structure of the deal, in which a foreign company uses Egypt only as a transit point for exports, could offer Cairo a way to minimise domestic political backlash...."

New Gestures to Opposition Unlikely to Change U.S. Syria Policy

"... In particular, the administration remains strongly opposed to providing surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to the rebels for fear that they could eventually fall into the wrong hands, most importantly radical Islamist forces aligned with or sympathetic to Al Qaeda.SAMs, however, are at the top of the shopping list brought by the leader of the main external opposition coalition, Ahmad Al-Jarba, and the latest head of its military wing, Gen. Abdul-Ilah Al-Bashir, who are meeting with top administration officials, very possibly including Obama himself, key lawmakers, newspaper editorial boards, and think tanks over the next week..."

U.N. Probe Chief Doubtful on Syria Sarin Exposure Claims

"... The indication that the overwhelming majority in the sample had very little or no exposure to Sarin was particularly significant, because those in the sample had been chosen by local opposition authorities as being among the most serious affected survivors. The data suggest that the Syrian opposition and its external supporters had vastly exaggerated the scope and severity of the attack...."
... that leads us to the attack: it was, as many US & EUR intelligence officials & Sy Hersh have suggested: an insurgent/jihadis kitchen that went sour, with attempts to drag the US into an aggression!

International Crisis Group : Flight of Icarus? The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria

"... Secondly, suspected collaboration with the regime has taken a toll on its popularity. The Damascus authorities have maintained a light albeit firm presence in PYD-controlled areas, reportedly acting mostly beneath the surface. Even as they relinquished control over certain state assets (notably administrative and security buildings) to the PYD, they have maintained their hold on, and continue to disseminate, state resources without which the Rojava project would wither..."

'If it quacks ...!'

 'Earlier in Homs!'
"... These rebel fighters have become weary of the war effort, and are seeking ways out of the devastating conflict that has killed over 140,000 people and ravaged the country’s infrastructure."Let's admit it: Time has come for an agreement," Abdel says. "Without a US intervention, we cannot win, it's clear. But we can prevent Assad from governing and [force] him to compromise. This is the red line: Assad must go."
The model, he says, is Homs, where cease-fires are now beginning to appeal to weary rebel fighters in Aleppo. "We are not surrendering, ..."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fmr. French ambassador to Tehran: "The Iranians are set to resolve the conflict over their nuclear program as fast as possible, once and for all"

"... To date, negotiators on both sides of the talks over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which resume next week, have been remarkably discreet. Even at the political level, people have been unusually quiet. This is an excellent omen. In the past, too many opportunities have been nipped in the bud due to an excess of statements calibrated for domestic purposes (a special mention to Wendy Sherman, the chief US negotiator, for saying so little, amiably, in many background meetings with the press). The involvement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the negotiations has also been of inestimable value. The Agency offers unique expertise and notarizes regularly the way in which Iran complies with its commitments. It contributes therefore decisively to the smooth progression of the discussions.Quite unexpectedly, Iran’s negotiators have been the driving force in this process. They have seized President Hassan Rouhani’s initiative to solve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program and have kept it ever since, setting the targets as well as the tempo. Iran’s foreign minister and lead negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on April 7 that the drafting of the final agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) should start in May, and that all efforts should be taken to complete the negotiations by the official deadline of July. The Iranians seem set to resolve the conflict over their nuclear program as fast as possible, once and for all...."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Israel will not stop spying on the US!

".....  According to classified briefings on legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens, Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have “crossed red lines.” 
Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.” .. 
The Jewish state’s primary target: America’s industrial and technical secrets.    
“But this is the first time congressional aides have indicated that intelligence and national security concerns also are considerations in weighing Israel’s admission into the visa waiver program,” Jonathan Broder, the foreign and defense editor for CQ Roll Call, a Capitol Hill news site, wrote last month. He quoted a senior House aide as saying, “The U.S. intelligence community is concerned that adding Israel to the visa waiver program would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country.”..."

Iraq, world’s car bomb capital

"... Though that ban appears to have been successful in preventing car bombs, the elections were still marred by violence. As the polls closed, Agence France-Press (AFP) had recorded at least 53 attacks throughout the country — including mortar attacks, roadside bombs, and suicide bombers — leaving at least 14 people dead and 36 wounded. It was just the latest sign of how violence is surging to levels not seen since the height of the country’s civil war.The statistics show just how precipitously violence has risen in the years following the American withdrawal. During this year alone, AFP’s Baghdad bureau has recorded more than 3,000 violent deaths, putting the country on pace for more than 12,000 casualties by the end of 2014. By comparison, AFP recorded less than 7,000 violent deaths in all of 2013. In 2012, the Brookings Institute tallied roughly 5,200 casualties among civilians and security forces, and 4,800 such casualties in 2011..."

Monday, May 5, 2014

With Washington’s Syria Gambit in Tatters, Iran’s ‘Smart Power’ Strategy Working

"... One of the more striking things about this story is that, according to the Wall Street Journal, the talks between the Syrian government and opposition fighters that produced this agreement were “brokered by the United Nations and the Iranian Embassy in Damascus.  Western discourse about Syria wants to limit any discussion of a “peace process” in Syria to the Geneva process—but the United States and its Western partners have rendered the Geneva process utterly dysfunctional by their continued insistence on Assad’s departure as an essential precondition for a political settlement.  By contrast, the Islamic Republic of Iran, by having a clear political strategy of supporting elections and by being willing to deal with all relevant players—even “a hard-line Sunni Muslim rebel group,” as the Wall Street Journal describes its interlocutors in Homs—is actually able to accomplish things on the ground in Syria.So, which parties are in fact marginalizing themselves in regional affairs by unreservedly aligning themselves with one side—and refusing to have anything to do with the other side—in the Syrian conflict? ...."

"There's got to be something more than throwing weapons and suitcases of money,"

"... "If the Americans refuse to give us anti-aircraft (missiles), for example, why doesn't Saudi give it to us?" a Syrian rebel commander in Aleppo whose brigade fights alongside the extremist al-Nusra Front told Reuters by Skype.In private, American and Saudi officials defend a relationship that in many ways remains strong and broad-based...."The frustration with the Saudis was that they never gave us a plan," a former senior U.S. diplomat who worked in the region told Reuters. The former diplomat said there had to be a strategy that included pulling the opposition together into a political and military union dominated by moderates, while arm-twisting Assad's main backers in the Security Council: Russia and China. "There's got to be something more than throwing weapons and suitcases of money," the former diplomat said....."We want the Americans to use their Tomahawks and F16s and beat the hell out of Bashar al-Assad. But at the same time I can see the Americans saying to the Saudis 'You guys have F15s too'," said Jamal Khashoggi, head of a Saudi television news channel owned by a nephew of King Abdullah....Still, cooperation has improved in recent months, American officials believe, and U.S.-made rockets have started to appear on the battlefield. One reason for the better atmosphere between the allies may be the departure from office this year of intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was running Saudi policy on Syria. His abrasive manner and sometimes erratic way of working caused friction with the Americans. However, Washington still wants more openness on the Saudi side, said a diplomatic source in the Gulf, one of several interviewed for this article.But the source added that the Saudis still felt left out on a limb by last year's non-strike. "They see brush fires all around them and are concerned Washington is not doing more to help the Syrian opposition," the diplomatic source said....."

We can & should trust MSM: UBL as a 'warrior poet'

The President Strikes a Nerve |

"... It ought to be played—because the Iraq War was the biggest and costliest U.S. endeavor ever in the Middle East, because we continue to suffer from the domestic as well as the regional consequences of that misadventure, because what was bad about that war has parallels in what could easily happen with some current issues if they are not properly handled, and because it is astounding that the biggest promoters of the Iraq War somehow still seem to have an audience even though they have been proven to be guilty of gross malpractice as policy analysts.... 
On Syria, for example, McKeon says that “arming moderate rebel factions and restoring the U.S. military posture in the Mediterranean” could have prevented use of chemical weapons “or even shortened the conflict.” How? The divisions among opposition groups, the domination of the more extreme ones, and the fight-to-the-death determination of the regime's supporters make very unlikely that a further (beyond what Gulf Arabs were doing anyway) arming of the hard-to-identify “moderates” would have had such desired effects..."

The South Sudanese monsters are OURS to protect!

"... In 2012, the administration reportedly led an effort to block a U.N. Security Council proposal to impose sanctions on South Sudan for corruption and human rights abuses, Royce said at the hearing..."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

'The bad old days of great-power security competition are coming back'

"... The first problem arose from hubris. Convinced that no one could stand up to America's daunting combination of might and right, members of the U.S. foreign-policy elite began expanding NATO in the mid-1990s, but without giving much thought to its potential costs and risks, most notably the possibility that this expansion would adversely affect relations with Russia. They also committed the United States to containing Iraq and Iran simultaneously and eventually decided to try to transform much of the Middle East essentially at gunpoint. The adverse results are painfully obvious: a heightened danger from terrorism, a costly debacle in Iraq, the quagmire in Afghanistan, and a deteriorating relationship with Moscow. Yet even a steady diet of setbacks did not end America's evangelical impulses entirely, as NATO's ill-fated intervention in Libya in 2011 and the protracted drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere attest. Not only did these mistakes cost several trillion dollars and thousands of lives, but they also diverted attention from more fundamental long-term challenges..."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"Significant blow"

"... Rebels in Homs are to abandon their stronghold in the Old City area in a deal that means the Syrian military will control of all but one neighbourhood of the country's third city....
If the deal is honoured,
it will place Syria's resurgent military in firm control of a strategically important strip from Latakia in the north-west to Damascus – a significant blow to the opposition's three-year campaign to oust Bashar al-Assad...."

For the long haul!

Via MoA, in Ynet
"... And then one of them added bitterly: "I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress."

Friday, May 2, 2014

The stories & nightmares of the MSM

"... the Egyptian media “seems to be gunning for these youth activists and depicting them as either not loyal to the new order, or as potential Trojan horses for the Muslim Brotherhood, or as troublemakers and people responsible for the insecurity and upheaval over the last few years.” April 6 denies the claims that it takes foreign funding, printed regularly in the regime-friendly press and a frequent accusation used here to discredit political opponents...."

Crocker: "That is probably how this will end!"

"... Asked by Al-Monitor if Iranian-Saudi rapprochement might also be useful, as it was in ending Lebanon’s civil war in 1989, Crocker said the “sheer exhaustion of the participants” and the fact that Syria was victorious in shoring up its influence in Lebanon “ended that phase of the civil war. … Syrian forces were running the show. That is probably how this [the Syrian civil war] will end because of what happens on the ground, not because of some grand Saudi-Iranian bargain,” which Crocker thought is unlikely...."

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters & Nick Mason: Why Rolling Stones shouldn’t play in Israel

"...  we, the two surviving founders of Pink Floyd, have united in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a growing, nonviolent global human rights movement initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic Palestinian rights.The BDS movement is modeled on the successful nonviolent movements that helped end Jim Crow in the American South and apartheid in South Africa. Indeed, key figures who led the South African freedom struggle, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s close associate, Ahmed Kathrada, have come out in support of BDS for Palestinian rights. BDS offers us all a way to nonviolently pressure the Israeli government to fully realize that its injustices against the Palestinian people are legally and morally unacceptable and unsustainable...."