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Author Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR  (Read 72229 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #250 on: October 06, 2012, 05:55:57 PM »



Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Saturday, October 6, 2012 -- 6:08 PM EDT
-----

Citing U.S. Fears, Arab Allies Limit Syrian Rebel Aid

In an exclusive report in Sunday’s New York Times, Robert F. Worth writes that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been funneling money and small arms to Syrian rebels for months but that they have not provided heavier weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles, that could allow opposition fighters to bring down government aircraft, take out armored vehicles and turn the war’s tide.

The countries have held back, officials in both nations said, in part because they have been discouraged by the United States, which fears the heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. As a result, the rebels have just enough weapons to maintain a stalemate, and the war grinds on. Providing rebels with heavier weapons “has to happen,” Khalid al-Attiyah, a state minister for foreign affairs in Qatar, said. “But first we need the backing of the United States, and preferably the U.N.”

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/world/middleeast/citing-us-fears-arab-allies-limit-aid-to-syrian-rebels.html?emc=na
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #251 on: October 10, 2012, 10:03:15 AM »

U.S. Military Is Sent to Jordan to Help With Crisis in Syria
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: October 9, 2012
 

WASHINGTON — The United States military has secretly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there handle a flood of Syrian refugees, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons and be positioned should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict.

The task force, which has been led by a senior American officer, is based at a Jordanian military training center built into an old rock quarry north of Amman. It is now largely focused on helping Jordanians handle the estimated 180,000 Syrian refugees who have crossed the border and are severely straining the country’s resources.

American officials familiar with the operation said the mission also includes drawing up plans to try to insulate Jordan, an important American ally in the region, from the upheaval in Syria and to avoid the kind of clashes now occurring along the border of Syria and Turkey.

The officials said the idea of establishing a buffer zone between Syria and Jordan — which would be enforced by Jordanian forces on the Syrian side of the border and supported politically and perhaps logistically by the United States — had been discussed. But at this point the buffer is only a contingency.

The Obama administration has declined to intervene in the Syrian conflict beyond providing communications equipment and other nonlethal assistance to the rebels opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But the outpost near Amman could play a broader role should American policy change. It is less than 35 miles from the Syrian border and is the closest American military presence to the conflict.

Officials from the Pentagon and Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, declined to comment on the task force or its mission. A spokesman for the Jordanian Embassy in Washington would also not comment on Tuesday.

As the crisis in Syria has deepened, there has been mounting concern in Washington that the violence could spread through the region. Over the past week, Syria and Turkey have exchanged artillery and mortar fire across Syria’s northern border, which has been a crossing point for rebel fighters. In western Syria, intense fighting recently broke out in villages near the border crossing that leads to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. To the east, the Syrian government has lost control of some border crossings, including the one near Al Qaim in Iraq.

Jordan has also been touched by the fighting. Recent skirmishes have broken out between the Syrian military and Jordanians guarding the country’s northern border, where many families have ties to Syria. In August, a 4-year-old girl in a Jordanian border town was injured when a Syrian shell struck her house, and there are concerns in Jordan that a sharp upsurge in the fighting in Syria might lead to an even greater influx of refugees.

Jordan, which was one of the first Arab countries to call for Mr. Assad’s resignation, has become increasingly concerned that Islamic militants coming to join the fight in Syria could cross the porous border between the two countries.

The American mission in Jordan quietly began this summer. In May, the United States organized a major training exercise, which was dubbed Eager Lion. About 12,000 troops from 19 countries, including Special Forces troops, participated in the exercise.

After it ended, the small American contingent stayed on and the task force was established at a Jordanian training center north of Amman. It includes communications specialists, logistics experts, planners, trainers and headquarters staff members, American officials said. An official from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugee Affairs and Migration is also assigned to the task force.

“We have been working closely with our Jordanian partners on a variety of issues related to Syria for some time now,” said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, who added that a specific concern was the security of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. “As we’ve said before, we have been planning for various contingencies, both unilaterally and with our regional partners.”

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met in Amman in August with King Abdullah II of Jordan and at that time pledged continuing American help with the flow of Syrian refugees. Mr. Panetta was followed in September by Gen. James N. Mattis, the head of Central Command, who met with senior Jordanian officials in Amman.

Members of the American task force are spending the bulk of their time working with the Jordanian military on logistics — figuring out how to deploy tons of food, water and latrines to the border, for example, and training the Jordanian military to handle the refugees. A month ago, as many as 3,000 a day were coming over the border. But as the Syrian army has consolidated its position in southern Syria, the number of refugees has declined to several hundred a day.

According to the United Nations, Jordan is currently hosting around 100,000 Syrians who have either registered or are awaiting registration.   American officials say the total number may be almost twice that.

The American military is also sending medical kits to the border and has provided gravel to help keep down the dust at the Zaatari refugee camp, which the task force helped set up and is now home to 35,000 Syrians. It has also provided four large prefabricated buildings to be used at Zaatari as schools. One official estimated the cost so far at less than $1 million.


Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Ranya Kadri from Amman, Jordan.
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« Reply #252 on: October 11, 2012, 05:13:34 PM »

Obviously another protest that got out of hand.....

Gunmen kill Yemeni who worked at U.S. embassy in Yemen
 
U.S. embassy employee killed in Yemen
2:21pm EDTBy Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA | Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:27pm EDT

SANAA (Reuters) - Masked gunmen shot dead a Yemeni man who worked in the security office of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa on Thursday, in an attack a Yemeni security source said appeared to be the work of al Qaeda.

The incident was the latest of a wave of attacks on officials in the impoverished Arab state, which is battling Islamist militants with Washington's help.

The attackers, on a motorcycle, opened fire on Qassem Aqlan - who headed an embassy security investigation team - near his house in the center of Yemen's capital, the source told Reuters.

"This operation has the fingerprints of al Qaeda which carried out similar operations before," said the source, who asked not to be named.

Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other militant groups strengthened their grip on parts of the country during an uprising that ousted veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February.

Washington, wary of the growing power of al Qaeda, has stepped up drone strikes on suspected militants, with the backing of Saleh's successor, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

A neighbor who identified himself only as Fahad said he had noticed strangers roaming the streets over the past three days, suggesting Aqlan was being watched before the attack.

"Once he (Aqlan) stepped out of his house the men shouted his name and when he replied, they shot him in the head and neck," he said.

Aqlan, who was in his 50s and had worked at the embassy for more than a decade, was responsible for coordinating security information between the U.S. Embassy and the Yemeni authorities, the source added.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that his main duties included conducting personnel checks as head of the "foreign service national investigative unit" and serving as a liaison with Yemeni security services.

He worked within the office of the embassy's "regional security officer," who is responsible protecting the embassy, its personnel and information.

She also said initial reports that he was involved in the investigation into the attack last month on the U.S. Embassy by protesters angry over an anti-Islam film made in the United States were incorrect.

"We condemn this vicious act in the strongest terms," the spokeswoman said but declined to comment on who may have been behind the attack or why Aqlan may have been targeted, saying it may or may not have had anything to do with his work.

There have been a number of killings and assassination attempts on security officials and politicians since Yemen's army drove Islamist fighters out of several southern towns earlier this year.

Last month Abdulilah Al-Ashwal, a senior intelligence official, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Sanaa.

Restoring stability in Yemen has become an international priority due to fears that al Qaeda could become further entrenched in a country which flanks oil producer Saudi Arabia and lies along major international shipping lanes.

AQAP, regarded as al Qaeda's strongest regional wing, has mounted operations in Saudi Arabia and tried to launch attacks against the United States.

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Andrew Quinn and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Andrew Roche and Cynthia Osterman)

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #253 on: October 12, 2012, 12:01:47 AM »

Please note that there is a thread specifically for Yemen.  TY.
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« Reply #254 on: October 20, 2012, 07:19:09 AM »



Summary

The death of a senior Lebanese intelligence official in the Oct. 19 bombing in central Beirut appears now to have been a targeted assassination. The official, Lebanese Internal Security Forces chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, was directly involved in providing logistical and supply-line support in Lebanon for the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is attempting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The assassination was likely intended to disrupt the Syrian rebels' support networks -- as well as to trigger a series of retaliatory strikes against Syrian assets and allies and to spark a broader increase in sectarian conflict in Lebanon.
 


Analysis
 
A previous attempt on al-Hassan's life was made earlier this year, probably by Syrian intelligence operatives, and Syrian officials likely commissioned or committed the Oct. 19 attack as well. Al-Hassan, a Sunni, was known for his support for Sunni opposition groups in Lebanon, such as the March 14 alliance and former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's Future Movement. The Internal Security Forces are the only Sunni-dominated arm of the Lebanese security apparatus and are backed by Saudi Arabia, which along with Turkey and Qatar has been the strongest supporter of the Syrian rebels.
 

Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
 
Al-Hassan was directly involved in the Internal Security Forces' Aug. 9 arrest of former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha, a close ally of al Assad, over alleged involvement in a bomb plot commissioned by Damascus. Al-Hassan was also reportedly close to former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, Saad's father, and took part in the investigation into Rafik al-Hariri's 2005 assassination, which implicated Syria and Hezbollah.
 





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Stratfor sources in Lebanon indicate that the Oct. 19 bombing was intended to look like a suicide attack in order to make the attack appear to be the work of jihadists. In recent months,jihadists have been moving into the Levant to support the rebels and fight the al Assad regime. Moreover, militant Salafists have increased their presence and activity in Lebanon, especially in Tripoli, where they have repeatedly clashed with the Lebanese Alawite community. However, even if the appearance of the bombing provides the Syrian regime a slight degree of plausible deniability, al-Hassan's supporters are unlikely to believe that jihadists were responsible.
 
The Syrian regime has a strategic interest in stirring up sectarian tensions and triggering retaliatory strikes in Lebanon. Facing fractures within its Alawite core and increasing pressure on its supply lines, the regime needs to change the strategic environment. It has also seen its close ally, Hezbollah, limit the support it has traditionally provided to Damascus and essentially take a self-preservation posture.
 
The Oct. 19 attack could intimidate anti-al Assad individuals in Lebanon from becoming more involved in the Syrian conflict. More important, instability and sectarian clashes in Lebanon -- especially ones that involve the Lebanese Alawites or Shiites -- could weaken support for the rebels in Syria while reviving support for al Assad.
 
Indeed, retaliatory attacks are highly likely. Supporters of al-Hassan and the Future Movement will likely target Syrian assets in Lebanon, including Syria-allied businessmen, intelligence operatives and even Syrian businesses. Actions against Syria's main allies in Lebanon -- Hezbollah and its March 8 coalition partners, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Shiite Amal Movement -- is also likely. Back-and-forth retaliations along sectarian lines would relieve some of the pressure on Damascus and push the Syrian conflict into Lebanon.


Read more: Implications of the Beirut Bombing | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #255 on: October 20, 2012, 07:21:27 AM »

SEcond post

Summary
 


LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images
 
A Syrian regime supporter holds a picture of President Bashar al Assad and Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah (R)
 


As Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime continues to weaken and the conflict in Syria devolves into clan-based warfare, Shiite militant group Hezbollah is working on contingency plans to ensure its long-term survival. Hezbollah's goal is to maintain a strong military, political and economic presence in Lebanon, especially since proxy battles are almost certain to intensify in the Levant as emboldened Sunnis gain confidence to challenge Hezbollah's autonomous position in the region. Hezbollah wants to avoid triggering a premature conflagration with its sectarian rivals, and its increasingly cautious posture will make it a less reliable militant proxy for Iran in the near term. However, Iran shares Hezbollah's aim of ensuring that the militant group maintains a strong long-term presence in the Levant, and Tehran may try to use Hezbollah's potential shifts as leverage in the broader regional negotiations over a post-al Assad transition in Syria.
 


Analysis
 
Hezbollah's contingency planning appears to be preparing for two distinct scenarios. The first entails Syria and Lebanon retaining enough political, economic and military cohesion to allow the Shiite organization to integrate itself more formally into the Lebanese mainstream. The second, more pessimistic scenario assumes that the Levant devolves into a severe state of sectarian warfare, in which case Hezbollah could attempt to carve out a bloc of Shiite territory in Lebanon adjoining an Alawite-majority coastal enclave in Syria.
 
Scenario 1: Hezbollah Joins the Establishment
 
The first scenario assumes that a post-al Assad Syria is able to maintain its territorial integrity and that a new government is stable enough to wield significant authority over the state. In this situation, Hezbollah would look to integrate itself into the Lebanese mainstream. Hezbollah has already pursued this route in building up an official presence in the government, and it currently has a strong presence in the Lebanese Cabinet. Hezbollah also has an extensive economic presence in Lebanon, albeit through mostly illicit channels.
 
The most critical shift to the organization would be seen in the status of Hezbollah's armed wing. Lebanon's security and intelligence apparatus is deeply fractured along sectarian lines. With help from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has steadily installed its own members and Shiite sympathizers in these institutions over the past few decades to help insulate the organization. The Lebanese army has routinely avoided confrontation with Hezbollah, knowing that it lacks the will and sectarian unity to take on the well-trained and ideologically committed Shiite militia.
 
With the Lebanese army too weak and fractured to defend Lebanese sovereignty during Israeli incursions, Hezbollah was able to present itself as the true defender of Lebanon as opposed to any state institution. In the shifting environment, the prospect of a Sunni-dominated Syria changes Hezbollah's calculus entirely. Hezbollah will no longer have secure supply lines emanating from Syria. Sunnis on both sides of the Syria-Lebanon border, backed by strong regional stakeholders like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France and the United States, will also likely be encouraged to take advantage of the Shiite organization's growing vulnerabilities and pressure the militia to disarm. Hezbollah has faced pressure to disarm over the past decade, but it will have a much harder time resisting this pressure without a strong ally in Damascus protecting its interests in Lebanon.
 
A possible solution to this dilemma would be Hezbollah's formal integration into the official Lebanese security and intelligence apparatus. The already fractious and weak nature of these institutions would allow Hezbollah to continue operating autonomously, while providing Lebanese Shiite fighters with an extra layer of insulation. Rather than having a potential conflict between Hezbollah and Israel be limited to southern Lebanon as it was in 2006, Israel would be dealing with a much more nebulous entity absorbed into the Lebanese army. In other words, Hezbollah's fights become Lebanon's fights.
 
There is a precedent for this model of long-term militia survival. During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Badr Organization was the most sophisticated and well-managed proxy Iran possessed in Iraq. These Shiite fighters were primed for the 2003 U.S. invasion and were well prepared to help Iran consolidate its gains in battling the Sunnis and the Americans in the early years of the war. Iran quickly moved to formally integrate this militia into the military and security apparatus in 2004 while increasing its authority over other militias (like Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army) and forming new groups to increase competition among the Shiite militias. This effort allowed Iran to maintain its overall proxy strength in Iraq, and those militant assets will be useful for Iran if and when Tehran faces a challenge from Sunnis in Iraq motivated by the Sunni resurgence in Syria.
 






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 Additionally, Iran could use the possibility of "disbanding" Hezbollah's military wing as a powerful negotiating tool. Indeed, Iranian officials have reportedly raised the idea of disarming Hezbollah in making overtures for negotiations with the United States on the transition in Syria and broader issues. Hezbollah appears to be holding talks with Lebanese government officials on this integration process. Not coincidentally, Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said Oct. 15 that a decision has been made to "permanently deploy" the Lebanese army to the Bekaa Valley. The Bekaa Valley is Hezbollah's stronghold; its military assets and training camps are concentrated there and a large amount of cannabis grows in the valley, which Hezbollah uses for its alternative revenue source of smuggling drugs. On the surface, it would appear that the Lebanese army is intruding on Hezbollah's territory, but this was actually a decision that stemmed from consultations between Hezbollah and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Not only is Hezbollah trying to build trust with other Lebanese authorities, it is also getting assistance in managing a proliferation of clan-based Shiite gang activity in the Bekaa Valley and southern suburbs. Recent flare-ups involving the Meqdad clan illustrated this growing threat. Hezbollah does not want to be responsible for law enforcement in these areas nor subjected to reprisal attacks as this clan warfare intensifies. Hezbollah would much rather this issue fall under the purview of the Lebanese army at large.
 
Hezbollah also appears to be using the opportunity to gain access to funds and weaponry from the Lebanese military. In the event of the Syrian regime's collapse, alternative supply sources will become increasingly important for Hezbollah. In mid-September the Lebanese government announced it would be spending $1.6 billion over the next five years on military hardware for the army. This is the first major allocation for defense spending since 1982-83 during Lebanon's civil war. The plans to increase defense spending were also part of the discussion between Hezbollah and the Lebanese political leadership.
 
Overall, the extent to which Hezbollah would be able to integrate itself in the formal government remains in question, since Saudi-backed Sunnis in Lebanon will resist any effort by the militia to entrench itself in the system.
 
Scenario 2: Building a Sectarian Fortress
 
The second scenario assumes that Syria fails to hold together under a post-al Assad regime and the country splinters into autonomous entities. In this situation, Lebanon's already shaky stability is likely to disintegrate as sectarian fighting in Syria encourages the expansion of Lebanese militia groups, with each faction left to defend its interests in civil war-like conditions.
 






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 In Syria, the Alawites will retreat to the mountainous coastal region for protection. The al Assad regime has already been preparing for this contingency by reinforcing military positions around the enclave stretching from Latakia to the port of Tartus. Stratfor has received indications in recent months that some Alawites have already begun fleeing from their urban homes in Damascus and Homs to relocate to the coast for protection in anticipation of a full-blown civil war.
 
A coastal Alawite enclave would be difficult to defend and sustain economically in isolation. However, if both Syria and Lebanon are consumed by civil war, Shiites and Alawites (who are an offshoot Shiite sect) would likely band together to defend themselves against their sectarian rivals. Hezbollah appears to have a contingency plan to carve out and defend a 20-kilometer (12-mile) border corridor with the Syrian Alawite enclave on the coast. This is a difficult endeavor, because Hezbollah does not exercise authority in Sunni-dominated northern Lebanon. Instead, Hezbollah would control strategic access to the Orontes River Basin in Syria and Lebanon to form a contiguous Alawite-Shiite mini-state.
 
The Orontes River originates in Lebanon near the city of Baalbek in the northern Bekaa Valley. It flows north between the Lebanese coast and the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains before it enters Syria near the Shiite-majority town of Hermel and drains into the Qattaneh reservoir. From there, the river passes through the Sunni-concentrated cities of Homs and Hama before cutting the Turkish-Syrian border.
 
Hezbollah currently claims control of 18 villages along the widest part of the basin: Bab al-Hawa, Wadi Hanna, Rabla, Matraba, Al Jadaliyya, Balluza, Al Huwayik, Ghawgharan, Al Summaqiyyat, Al Hamam, Al Safiyyah, Zeita, Al Fadiliyya, Al Qarniyya, Al Misriyya, Dibbin, Al Suwayidyya and Al Hush. Most reported Hezbollah activity in Syria has occurred in this area, particularly around the border town of Al Qusayr. Controlling the bulge of the river basin would theoretically allow Hezbollah to pool resources with an Alawite enclave in the northern Bekaa while the organization attempts to hold its ground in the southern Beirut suburbs and southern Lebanon.
 
The purported plan to build this sectarian fortress is fraught with complications, especially since the Shiite belt would likely face a major challenge from Sunnis on both sides of the border. But in contingency planning, one must plan for the best and prepare the worst. Hezbollah is evidently doing just that.


Read more: Hezbollah's Contingency Planning | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #256 on: October 20, 2012, 07:48:54 AM »

third post

http://www.radicalislam.org/analysis/uae-calls-anti-muslim-brotherhood-coalition/#fm
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #257 on: October 24, 2012, 02:15:31 AM »



Jack Keane: Al Qaeda Is Making a Comeback
Across the Middle East and South Asia, the group isn't dead or dying but on the rise..
By JACK KEANE

With Afghanistan the forgotten war this election season, many Americans might be wondering why we have 68,000 U.S. troops there at all. Sure, the Obama administration says they'll be out "on schedule" in 2014, but can't the U.S. immediately pull back and protect its interests with drones and special-operations forces alone?

To better understand the battle in Afghanistan, look to Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sinai, Syria or Iraq—all places where al Qaeda and associated groups are a growing presence. (Al Qaeda in Iraq has doubled in size in the year since U.S. troops left the country.) These terrorists have already killed Americans, and they have planned and executed several attacks on the U.S. homeland that have failed only thanks to technical problems or outstanding police work.

Enlarge Image


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AFP/Getty Images
 
US Marines of the 1st battalion 7th Marines Regiment walk towards a helicopter before leaving for camp Leatherneck.
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While not the catalyst of the Arab Spring, al Qaeda and its friends are seeking to take advantage of the opportunities posed by revolutionary change throughout the Middle East. Despite the obvious intelligence and security failures that contributed to the attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the reality is that in one night an al Qaeda-affiliated group destroyed a diplomatic post, killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and forced an end to clandestine U.S. activity in the area.

With al Qaeda not dead or on the run but on the rise across the Middle East and South Asia, there is only one place where the U.S. is on the ground and aggressively fighting back: in Afghanistan, al Qaeda's heartland.

But Americans receive limited news from the front. The latest headlines are dominated by so-called green-on-blue attacks in which Afghan soldiers or police have attacked their U.S. or allied trainers. These attacks are appalling, but it is important to understand that the attackers aren't our "Afghan partners." They are Taliban foot soldiers and sympathizers exploiting the very real partnership we have with the growing Afghan National Security Forces. The attackers represent perhaps 0.01% of the approximately 345,000 Afghan security forces. These terrorists are loud and bloody, but they are statistically rare.

Americans also hear little about the success of our troops in isolating al Qaeda and the Taliban, cutting them off from the local population, and helping Afghans stand against them. Or how U.S. troops are restoring security to areas such as Kandahar that have lived under the thumb of Islamists and warlords for years. Or how sustainable that security is: This year we dramatically reduced our military presence in Helmand and Kandahar, but residual allied forces, our Afghan partners and locals have prevented the Taliban from regaining its positions.

The fight is hard and the Afghans aren't easy partners, but we're not in this for the Afghans. We're in this for ourselves, and for our nation's security.

So why Afghanistan and not Libya, Yemen, Syria or Somalia? Simple. Because we are in Afghanistan, and in numbers substantial enough to secure and hold territory—denying Ayman al Zawahiri and his followers a foothold. Afghanistan remains an opportunity to deal al Qaeda a vital strategic blow, especially since we have abandoned all operations—including counterterrorism operations—in Iraq.

Afghanistan is where much of the al Qaeda journey began. It is the main site where Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and their cohort rose to prominence fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. Afghan territory holds special significance to the group, which is committed to retaking it and re-establishing it as the base of a global movement.


Considering all this still leaves a few reasonable questions, such as why U.S. forces can't leave and have counterterrorism troops take the lead. The answer is that special-operations forces are among the best and bravest of our troops, but they aren't magicians. They can't ensure that extremists don't find haven among 35 million Afghans, and they can't stop al Qaeda or the Taliban from preying on Afghan cities and towns.

Without the Afghans helping us in our mission, pretty soon we won't know of anyone to target with drones, and our special operators will roam through hostile territory unequal to the inflow of terrorists. We need the Afghans' help in this fight. They are giving a lot—and taking the casualties to prove it. But if we abandon them, they'll stop.

Anyone wondering what Afghanistan will look like if we abandon the war or draw down troops too rapidly should look to Iraq, where a residual force would almost certainly have halted the current re-emergence of al Qaeda. Or to Syria, where more moderate forces are being increasingly overrun by hard-line Islamists. Or to Yemen, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has carved out territory and an operational headquarters to plan attacks against America. Or to Libya, where the facts about Benghazi are still trickling out, but where we know that an al Qaeda-affiliated group was behind the deadly attack.

The only talking point on Afghanistan that the American people have heard this election season is "2014"—as in withdrawal. But al Qaeda and its friends world-wide have heard that too. And it gives them hope that in two short years their heartland will be ripe for retaking. They know full well—based on U.S. actions from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria—that U.S. policy is to disengage, and that momentum is on their side.

Gen. Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, is chairman of the Institute for the Study of War.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #258 on: November 18, 2012, 12:03:31 AM »

http://www.wnd.com/2012/11/muslim-brotherhood-now-targeting-jordan/
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« Reply #259 on: November 23, 2012, 05:27:05 PM »



For the past two years, Israel has been engaged in a systematic reduction of the capabilities of the Iranian proxies on its borders.  Those are the logical steps to take in case an attack on Iran is necessary.  Hamas played into this strategy with its rocket attacks on southern Israel.  The IDF has responded with a pre-planned attack on very specific targets that have degraded the Hamas military capabilities.  As a result Hamas has likely depleted its rocket supply by a significant number.  That is why it was lobbying for a cease fire in public for the several days before Wednesday’s announcement.

BTW, this analysis and the Stratfor analysis recently sent by _____ are being rendered moot as Morsi takes over the Egyptian entire governmental apparatus for the Muslim Bro’s.  The Arab Spring has become the Caliphate’s Winter thanks in largest part to the Obama administration policy towards Mubarak.  The Muslim Bro’s are in charge of Tunisia.  Libya lies in between these two nations of the Caliphate.  Benghazi is in Libya.  Muslim Bro empathizers are in the US Dept of State.  And Muslim Bro’s are infiltrated throughout the “Syrian resistance.”  Against this reality, the US DNI, Clapper, keeps insisting that the Muslim Bro’s are a secular movement.  Of course, he is the same person who likely removed the CIA’s references to al Qaida links to 9/11/12 in Benghazi from Susan rice’s talking points and convinced rice to emphasize that it was a mob reacting to a 13 minutes trailer on YouTube that had only 505 hits as of 8 am EDT on 9/12/12.

Now, to understand the link between a faction of the Muslim Bro’s and al Qaida, you must read the biography and the writings of Sayyid Qutb.  He didn’t think that the Muslim Bro’s were radical enough.  Ayman al Zawahiri, now the #1 guy at al Qaida, came from Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an offshoot of the Muslim Bro’s that gravitated towards Qutb’s vision.  And when Zawahiri’s brother was in the 9/11/12 mob that raised the al Qaida flag on the US embassy grounds in Cairo on 9/11/12; that was no coincidence. 

So, we have a new dictator in Egypt who now rules by emergency decree.  Egypt borders Gaza.  Remember that Gaza was the original refugee camp that Egypt administered until the 1967 war.  We have the Muslim Bro’s on the march in Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.  We have a brutal dictator in the Sudan who cooperates with the Muslim Bro’s.  I take no comfort in the fact that some Arabists claim that this is a counterpoint to the Persian/Shi’a powder keg called Iran.  I am certain that the Hashemite King Abdullah of Jordan is the next target in the Muslim Bro sights.  Such are the unintended consequences of the Obama reset.
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« Reply #260 on: November 23, 2012, 06:09:24 PM »

Exactly!!

Smart power.
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« Reply #261 on: November 23, 2012, 08:44:01 PM »

GM, Astute Friend:

Certainly I get the idea about Baraq's weakness and incoherence aiding and abetting the rise of the Muslim Bros, but I also find myself wondering whether once we abandoned Iraq (deliberate failure to achieve the Status of Forces agreement) and by so doing made the statement that so doing did, whether there was anything we could have done to lead to an outcome other than the rise of the MBros.   

Where we going to stop what happened in Tunisia?

Were we going to stand with a dying Mubarak violently oppressing the mass movement against him?

What message would doing nothing in Libya have sent? 

What do we do in Syria?  Go against Assad and the Iranians and by so doing help MBros/AQ in Syria , , , or vice versa?

Bush sought to get in front of the coming wave; in my humble opinion this was a genuine insight.  Unfortunately two things happened:

1) He did a really bad job of it.  He left Afpakia unfinished and unattended to go into Iraq undermanned to accomplish the mission after the military overthrow of the Bathist regime.  Gen. Shinseki called for , , , what was it?  3-400K troops? and he got fired for it.  And how many troops did Rumbo, in love with the man in the mirror and his theories, give?  A LOT less than that.  Then as things went south, cranial-rectal interface was the response.  Even Sen. Kerry was calling for expanding US troop levels (total overall, not in Iraq) by 50K-- and Bush, rather than admit that that was probably a damn good idea, instead pretended all was well as we circled the drain, and rode our troops hard.

2) This poor leadership enabled the Dems and Progressives to sabotage and undercut our mission there-- frequently to the point of poor American spirit and sometimes crossing the line into aiding and comforting the enemy, even on occasion with treasonous deeds.

Ultimately however, Baraq seeks a similar thing-- to get in front of and ride the wave of change instead of trying to damn it up.  As a naive, clueless idiot with a goodly dose of poor Americanism thrown into the mix, naturally he has made many, many profound errors which will haunt us for a long time.

That said, the question remains:  Do we ride the wave or fight it?  If we ride it, what does that look like? Is it even possible? 

Given 12 years of piss-poor and incoherent leadership of both wars from both parties and a seriously thrashed military, the American people are understandably (and given the incoherence correctly so) war weary.  Immediate and completely pointless political suicide awaits any who advocate this course at this time!

Indeed, given 12 years of incoherent policies in the mid-east by both parties and Baraq' obvious decision to get out, what chance is there of our guiding or influencing events there?   Not much, it seems to me as I sit at my desk this fine evening.

Under the current circumstances, is Ron Paul right?  Time to come home and develop the hell out of our natural gas and make the middle east's oil, and its denizens, economically irrelevant?  A nice secondary effect is that this knocks Russia's one big remaining play, energy, out from under it.  The cheap energy should unleash the economy as well (and trigger growth that will solve a goodly chunk of our budgetary problems.)

What about Israel?

Sign a mutual defense treaty.  The Iranians and Arabs see the two of us as Big and Little Satan.  Alrighty then, lets team up for real!!!  And anyone who messes with Israel knows that the US will come, working with the high level intel and military capabilities of Israel, and kick ass as only the US can. 

The difference being that this time we just come home and tell them we'll be back if they misbehave again.

In the time of Kissinger he spoke of a militarily bi-polar and economically multi-polar world.  Then, with the collapse of the Soviet empire, it became, for one brief shining moment, a uni-polar world, both militarily and economically. 

Bush made a bold play to use this moment and reshape the mid-east.  IMHO the idea was a good one, but the combination of Bush-Rumbo incompetence and seditious efforts by the progressives, the pravdas, the Euro weenies, and pultridinous (s?) Dem politicians led to Bush's efforts barely seizing a stalemate from defeat. The simple fact is that the coup de grace of the uni-polar moment was administered in the pivotal moment by Baraq sabotaging the Status of Forces agreement with Iraq with his obviously insincere offer of 3K troops.

Anyway, just some rambling ruminations , , ,

TAC!
Marc

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« Reply #262 on: November 23, 2012, 10:01:56 PM »

http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/23/what-is-the-future-of-the-obama-netanyahu-relationship/?hpt=hp_t2

From the article:

"Netanyahu and Obama have in my view one of the most dysfunctional relationships of any Israeli prime minister and American president," Miller says. "In large part because there is an absence of trust and confidence between the two."
 
Despite getting off to a rocky start with Netanyahu by pushing for a comprehensive freeze of Israeli settlements, Obama's vocal support for Netanyahu through the recent crisis and U.S. financial support for the "Iron Dome" anti-missile program, could pave the road for greater trust in the relationship, and more flexibility from Netanyahu when it comes to the disputed Iranian nuclear program.
 
"I think what it does is position [Obama] in a much better place to begin if there are opportunities to move forward," Miller said. "It creates an opportunity for him to ask Netanyahu to do some things in a much more credible way than he ever could in the past."
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« Reply #263 on: November 25, 2012, 04:03:24 PM »

"What about Israel?

Sign a mutual defense treaty.  The Iranians and Arabs see the two of us as Big and Little Satan.  Alrighty then, lets team up for real!!!  And anyone who messes with Israel knows that the US will come, working with the high level intel and military capabilities of Israel, and kick ass as only the US can." 

Yeah, Buraq will get right on that!
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« Reply #264 on: November 28, 2012, 08:34:25 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/world/middleeast/sunni-leaders-gaining-clout-in-mideast.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121128
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« Reply #265 on: December 02, 2012, 10:34:09 AM »


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/world/middleeast/us-is-stumbling-in-effort-to-cut-syria-arms-flow.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121202&_r=0

I have repeatedly commented on the importance of Baraq's failure (deliberate in my opinion) to achieve a status of forces agreement with Iraq.   Yet again we see that Life is tough, and tougher when you are stupid or a pussy.
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« Reply #266 on: December 05, 2012, 09:20:28 AM »

This being a piece by Thomas Friedman, it is not without some fatuous thinking, but I did like his three models

Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes
 
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
 
Published: December 4, 2012 116ints
 

I went to synagogue on Saturday not far from the Syrian border in Antakya, Turkey. It’s been on my mind ever since.

Antakya is home to a tiny Jewish community, which still gathers for holidays at the little Sephardic synagogue. It is also famous for its mosaic of mosques and Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian and Protestant churches. How could it be that I could go to synagogue in Turkey on Saturday while on Friday, just across the Orontes River in Syria, I had visited with Sunni Free Syrian Army rebels embroiled in a civil war in which Syrian Alawites and Sunnis are killing each other on the basis of their ID cards, Kurds are creating their own enclave, Christians are hiding and the Jews are long gone?

What is this telling us? For me, it raises the question of whether there are just three governing options in the Middle East today: Iron Empires, Iron Fists or Iron Domes?

The reason that majorities and minorities co-existed relatively harmoniously for some 400 years when the Arab world was ruled by the Turkish Ottomans from Istanbul was because the Sunni Ottomans, with their Iron Empire, monopolized politics. While there were exceptions, generally speaking the Ottomans and their local representatives were in charge in cities like Damascus, Antakya and Baghdad. Minorities, like Alawites, Shiites, Christians and Jews, though second-class citizens, did not have to worry that they’d be harmed if they did not rule. The Ottomans had a live-and-let-live mentality toward their subjects.

When Britain and France carved up the Ottoman Empire in the Arab East, they forged the various Ottoman provinces into states — with names like Iraq, Jordan and Syria — that did not correspond to the ethnographic map. So Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Turkmen, Kurds and Jews found themselves trapped together inside national boundaries that were drawn to suit the interests of the British and French. Those colonial powers kept everyone in check. But once they withdrew, and these countries became independent, the contests for power began, and minorities were exposed. Finally, in the late 1960s and 1970s, we saw the emergence of a class of Arab dictators and monarchs who perfected Iron Fists (and multiple intelligence agencies) to decisively seize power for their sect or tribe — and they ruled over all the other communities by force.

In Syria, under the Assad family’s iron fist, the Alawite minority came to rule over a Sunni majority, and in Iraq, under Saddam’s iron fist, a Sunni minority came to rule over a Shiite majority. But these countries never tried to build real “citizens” who could share and peacefully rotate in power. So what you are seeing today in the Arab awakening countries — Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen — is what happens when there is no Iron Empire and the people rise up against the iron-fisted dictators. You are seeing ongoing contests for power — until and unless someone can forge a social contract for how communities can share power.

Israelis have responded to the collapse of Arab iron fists around them — including the rise of militias with missiles in Lebanon and Gaza — with a third model. It is the wall Israel built around itself to seal off the West Bank coupled with its Iron Dome antimissile system. The two have been phenomenally successful — but at a price. The wall plus the dome are enabling Israel’s leaders to abdicate their responsibility for thinking creatively about a resolution of its own majority-minority problem with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

I am stunned at what I see here politically. On the right, in the Likud Party, the old leadership that was at least connected with the world, spoke English and respected Israel’s Supreme Court, is being swept aside in the latest primary by a rising group of far-right settler-activists who are convinced — thanks, in part, to the wall and dome — that Palestinians are no threat anymore and that no one can roll back the 350,000 Jews living in the West Bank. The far-right group running Israel today is so arrogant, and so indifferent to U.S. concerns, that it announced plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the West Bank — in retaliation for the U.N. vote giving Palestinians observer status — even though the U.S. did everything possible to block that vote and the settlements would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, the dome and wall have so insulated the Israeli left and center from the effects of the Israeli occupation that their main candidates for the Jan. 22 elections — including those from Yitzhak Rabin’s old Labor Party — are not even offering peace ideas but simply conceding the right’s dominance on that issue and focusing on bringing down housing prices and school class sizes. One settler leader told me the biggest problem in the West Bank today is “traffic jams.”

I am glad that the wall and the Iron Dome are sheltering Israelis from enemies who wish to do them ill, but I fear the wall and the Iron Dome are also blinding them from truths they still badly need to face.
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« Reply #267 on: December 05, 2012, 10:57:24 AM »

From the piece, "One settler leader told me the biggest problem in the West Bank today is “traffic jams.” "

Tom Friedman can't resist putting things back on Israel, 'a rising group of far-right settler-activists'... 'plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the West Bank' etc.  Why not put it back on the enemies of Israel that the result of decades of pursuing destruction and refusing to negotiate peace in good faith is Jewish-Israeli traffic jams in the contested West Bank.

Israel is doing quite well while their enemies seem to have trouble recognizing failure.

Yes, Friedman's sense of history here and his construction of the three models is quite good.
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« Reply #268 on: December 06, 2012, 08:17:25 AM »

Though this article utterly fails to come to grips with the fact that in point of fact Jordan's political structures are quite far from a level playing field, it does bring interesting questions to mind.

http://frontpagemag.com/2012/ryan-mauro/muslim-brotherhood-puts-jordan-in-the-crosshairs/
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« Reply #269 on: December 13, 2012, 04:09:03 PM »

WSJ

Leading From Behind Qatar
Deferring to those who arm Islamists in Libya and Syria..
 
One problem with the Obama Administration's policy of leading from behind is that the countries it chooses to follow often don't share American interests. Take the case of Qatar, which the U.S. has let take the lead in Libya and Syria and has been busy arming Islamist radicals.

These columns pointed out the danger of deferring to Qatar in Libya a year ago ("MIA on the Shores of Tripoli," Dec. 24, 2011), and last week the New York Times reported that the U.S. is now "alarmed" that the Sunni fundamentalists who run Qatar have been favoring hard-core Islamists when it passes out weapons.

The Gulf-supplied arms have strengthened extremist groups who have hijacked efforts to stabilize Libya. Some of the weapons from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have also found their way to northern Mali, now under the control of an al Qaeda offshoot. The Times found no evidence that arms from our friends the Qataris went to Ansar al-Shariah, the group behind the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans. But no one should be surprised if they did. When the U.S. chooses not to lead, others fill the vacuum.

A similar pattern is unfolding in Syria, where the Administration has once again refused to arm the rebels fighting Bashar Assad. President Obama on Tuesday at last recognized the rebels, following France and other countries. But the White House has refused to impose a humanitarian corridor or a no-fly zone, and it has deferred again to the Gulf states to provide money and weapons to the opposition.

And as in Libya, there are now worrying reports of the growing power of Islamist militias and the radicalization of the Syrian population. If the rebels do oust Mr. Assad, they will have little reason to thank or listen to American officials.

Order is unraveling across the Middle East, and a major reason is the growing belief that the U.S. is retreating from the region. Such are the fruits of leading from behind Qatar.
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« Reply #270 on: December 14, 2012, 03:08:19 PM »

Some important and intriguing specifics in this piece on just how fuct and vulnerable to pressure Egypt is:

http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2012/12/13/jordans-king-abdullah-threatens-to-shut-down-egypts-economy/

Speaking at a private meeting this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that he had “bargaining chips” to use against the Muslim Brotherhood, which he denounced as a “new extremist alliance” in the Arab world. The news site AI-Monitor today translates a report from al-Hayat, citing sources from the meeting. “Rhe Jordanian monarch was full of reproach for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood,” al-Hayat wrote. “The king added that the Egyptian leadership had ‘marginalized the Jordanian role during the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to stop the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip.’”
 
The Muslim Brotherhood has targeted Jordan’s monarchy as the next domino to fall after Egypt. At the Dec. 10 meeting, King Abdullah accused Egypt of economic sabotage.

 



The king said that “Jordan was severely damaged as a result of frequent interruptions of Egyptian natural gas, which cost the state treasury about 5 billion Jordanian dinars [$7.04 billion],” stressing that the interruption of gas ”is the real reason behind the economic crisis plaguing the country.”
 
Under previous agreements with the Egyptian authorities, Jordan used to import 80% of its gas needs for the production of electricity, which equates to a daily amount of about 6.8 million cubic meters of imported gas. However, the pipeline which supplies gas to Jordan and Israel was subsequently the target of frequent bombings.
 
The Jordanian monarch warned that his country would retaliate:
 

King Abdullah II said that “Amman has bargaining chips through which it can send messages to Cairo, including the fact that 500,000 Egyptians are working in Jordan. Moreover, the kingdom is the only passageway for Egyptian vegetables being exported to Iraq, and tens of thousands of Egyptians working in the Gulf states are using the Nuweiba-Aqaba waterway in their travels.”
 
…Other official sources talked about the arrest of thousands of Egyptian workers who have breached the conditions of their residency in the past two weeks, as well as the deportation of about 1,900 of them to Egypt, according to Jordanian Minister of Labor Nidal Qatamin. He said his country is not targeting Egyptian laborers, saying that the deportation decisions resulted from “violations of the usual procedures and applicable laws.” Remarkably, according to official sources, of the 500,000 Egyptians working in Jordan, approximately 320,000 have violated the conditions of their residency.
 
It is unlikely that Jordan would take on Egypt without strong backing from Saudi Arabia. A further 1.7 million Egyptians work in Saudi Arabia and an additional 500,000 in Kuwait. The Egyptian diaspora is the last thing holding up Egypt’s economy. Workers’ remittances stood at $18 billion in 2010, according to the World Bank, or about half of Egypt’s present $36 billion trade deficit. The expulsion of Egyptian workers from the Arab monarchies would have catastrophic impact on the disintegrating Egyptian economy. Two million Egyptians worked in Libya before the civil war, but many fled the country earlier this year.
 
As it is, President Morsi was forced to postpone negotiations on a proposed $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund,  after scrapping a proposed tax increase that the IMF considered a condition for the package. With a government budget deficit at 11% of GDP and a trade deficit at 16% of GDP, Egypt must cut expenditures to survive financially. No Egyptian government, though, appears capable of persuading a population half of which lives on less than $2 a day to accept austerity.
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« Reply #271 on: December 26, 2012, 10:55:27 AM »



The Changing Role of the Courts in Arab States
 

December 26, 2012 | 1100 GMT



Summary



The courts have become a key political battleground in the struggle for power between Arab rulers and their populations. Regimes in the region historically have relied on the courts and have used government control over judicial appointments and devices such as military courts to clamp down on opposition.
 
Executive branches are now turning to their judiciaries even more frequently to manage popular dissent. But political changes in the region have placed these regimes under intense pressure from a political opposition that in many cases includes judges and lawyers. Though still largely controlled by the regimes, courts in the region may seek out greater autonomy and begin to pose an unexpected challenge to governments.
 


Analysis
 
The competition between the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt and the country's judiciary shows how the Arab Spring has continued to develop and is now reshaping relationships between institutions throughout the region.
 
Egypt's judiciary was never completely submissive to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. In 2005, Egypt's prominent Judges Club threatened to boycott parliamentary polls unless several reforms affecting the judiciary were implemented. Several of the leading judges involved in the 2005 revolt are now members of the government. 
 
In Tunisia, the new Islamist government has already met resistance from the judiciary. In May, judges went on strike after the Justice Ministry fired 82 magistrates in what it labeled a move against corruption. The ministry later reinstated nine of the judges. Tunisian courts have also ruled against the government or refused to hear cases largely motivated by the executive's political prerogatives. In August, judges ruled against an effort by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to take over Tunis' historic al Zitouna Mosque, which is run by controversial imam Sheikh Houcine Labidi. Tunisia's judges will also probably push for greater independence and oversight powers for the judiciary to be written into the country's new constitution.
 
The Courts as Government Enforcers
 
Arab monarchies have also turned to the courts to redirect challenges from opponents. Opposition members and protesters are facing charges or have been sentenced to prison terms in Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. In Manama, courts have sentenced several opposition activists to jail terms, including four citizens for posting insults to the king on Twitter. In Oman, more than 35 activists have either been convicted or are facing trials for protest activities.
 
Kuwait's government has turned increasingly to the courts in its long-running power struggle against the country's well-organized opposition. In June, the Constitutional Court dissolved the parliament that had been elected in February and that was dominated by the opposition. In August, the government, in what was seen as a bid to gerrymander the parliamentary polls set for Dec. 1, asked the court to rule on the legality of a 2005 electoral law. But in a surprise move, the Constitutional Court threw out the government's petition and maintained the legality of the electoral law, forcing the ruler to issue a decree to revise the electoral system.
 
The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have also recently tried and convicted dissidents. Prominent 36-year-old Qatari poet Muhammad Ibn al Dheeb al Ajami was jailed for life for his poem "Tunisian Jasmine," in which he wrote, "Arab governments and those who rule them are, without exception, thieves. Thieves!" In the United Arab Emirates, the courts stripped seven citizens of their nationality for their political activism and involvement with the underground Al Islah movement, which is connected to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
 
Jailing dissidents has been a common practice throughout the region. But more states now have governments that are popularly elected, and even the region's monarchies would rather co-opt than repress their citizens.
 
Jordan is turning to its courts even more explicitly than other countries. Jordanian King Abdullah established a Constitutional Court in October to replace the High Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution. The move is part of the monarchy's effort to reaffirm the constitutional nature of the monarchy and thereby demonstrate that it is sharing power. This approach has yet to be tested, however, since the court has not issued any rulings that run counter to the government's wishes. The new court is expected to be administratively and financially independent, though the fact that the king appoints its members means it will be only nominally independent. The monarchy offered another concession to reformist critics when it said that parliament will choose the prime minister for the first time after next January's parliamentary polls.
 
A New Culture in the Judiciary
 
The Arab Spring has encouraged a broad spectrum of opposition actors to boldly challenge their governments -- even in the region's monarchies, which are far more politically conservative. Chief among these opponents is a growing class of lawyers and judges. The Islamists arrested in the Emirates include a member of the Sharjah ruling family as well as judges, lawyers and professors. The Kuwaiti opposition includes Islamists but also Sunni hadhar (urbanites), youth and tribes. Lawyers and judges also are among the activists that have been arrested in Saudi Arabia, while in Yemen, protests that led to the ouster of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh involved strong participation by members of the legal profession.
 
By relying on them not only to enforce the rule of law but also to legitimize government decisions and authority, governments across the Middle East have given the courts a great deal of authority. That may work fine for governments in countries where the courts continue to reflect and represent the core ideology and position of the regimes. But in many countries, this is less and less the case, as the decision by the Kuwaiti Constitutional Court to block the government attempt to modify the electoral law makes clear.
 
Kuwaiti judges are appointed for life by the Emir, yet the court has shown itself willing to decide against the government's interests. While Kuwait has long been a political outlier in the region -- it was the first country to establish both a constitution and a parliament -- it nonetheless has relied on courts similarly to the rest of the monarchies.
 
Judges have confronted Arab regimes before. After Egypt's defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Egyptian judiciary began calling for reform and criticizing the regime. Their activism was part of the larger political changes taking place in Egypt and the region as a result of the military defeat. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser eventually fired more than 100 judges in order to silence them.
 
But a mass firing of judges now would be problematic if not impossible for the region's democratically elected governments, and even the monarchies would find such a move hard to carry out. It would also reveal something the regimes of the region are trying to conceal: how much they have been weakened by the Arab revolts and how much of their legitimacy has been damaged. Such an action could also trigger boycotts or revolts by judges similar to those that have taken place in Egypt and in Tunisia. Even worse for the region's governments, a reaction by judiciaries could involve rulings unfavorable to regimes and detrimental to their efforts to maintain control.
.

Read more: The Changing Role of the Courts in Arab States | Stratfor
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« Reply #272 on: February 01, 2013, 10:39:47 AM »

Many telling points here, but once Baraq deliberately fouled up a lasting deal with Iraq, ultimately the die was cast methinks.   Was supporting Murbaraq or Kadaffy the way to go?  Is supporting the Syrian rebels the way to go?  Would their gratitude be any greater than that of Benghazi or the Mujahadeen of Afpakia for our help against the Russians?


Another Mideast War?
The result of U.S. detachment in Syria is more disorder. .
 
Israeli jets attacked a convoy of trucks early Wednesday morning somewhere along Syria's border with Lebanon. Jerusalem has repeatedly warned Damascus that it would act militarily to prevent the transfer of major weapons to Hezbollah. The message didn't penetrate so the bombs did.

Exactly what the trucks were carrying remains a matter of speculation. Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned about the possibility that Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons—estimated at 1,000 tons—could fall into Hezbollah's hands.

Enlarge Image


Close
Reuters
 
An Israeli soldier stands guard next to an Iron Dome rocket interceptor battery deployed near the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Monday.
.
Reports on Wednesday suggested the convoy carried Russian-made SA-17 surface-to-air missiles, which are capable of shooting down planes to an altitude of 80,000 feet. If so, they could have provided Hezbollah with a formidable tactical advantage in the increasingly likely event of another war with Israel.

It is impossible to know what Syrian President Bashar Assad was thinking when he authorized this transfer—assuming he authorized it at all. One of the consequences of Syria's civil war, which will enter its third year in March, is that the country has gradually become a playground for dangerous interlopers on both sides, including Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Assad may not want a war with Israel, but Tehran could have other calculations. Over the weekend Iran warned that it would consider any attack on Syria to be an attack on Iran. Claims by Syrian TV that Israel hit a research facility near Damascus might be a pretext for an Iranian escalation with Israel.

Jerusalem is taking no chances. Mr. Netanyahu dispatched his National Security Adviser to Moscow—another Assad patron—presumably to discuss the fate of those SA-17s. The Israeli army also deployed some of its Iron Dome batteries to northern Israel for the first time. It would not have done so if the chances of a war on Israel's northern border weren't increasing.

As for the United States, well, haven't you heard the tide of war is receding? President Obama warned Syria last year against transferring chemical weapons, but there has been little follow-up. In an interview this month with one of his top campaign donors—er, the new publisher of the New Republic—the President stressed "our limitations" in intervening in Syria, along with the risk that U.S. intervention would only make things worse.

"How do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?" mused the President, posing a question that would effectively have prevented every U.S. intervention in history.

Allow us to answer. Unlike in the Congo, the U.S. has vital national interests in the Syrian war. One interest is to inflict a strategic blow to Iran by deposing its principal Arab client. Another is to cut Iran's military-supply link to Hezbollah, a terrorist group that has killed hundreds of Americans. A third is to prevent Syria's unrest from spilling into its neighbors. A fourth is to avoid the outbreak of a wider regional war. A fifth is to make sure that the U.S. might have some leverage and standing with a post-Assad government in Syria.

A sixth is to prevent further thousands from being killed. Oh, sorry, that's an issue less of American interests than of our values, which aren't in vogue these days.

The fruit of two years of U.S. inaction in Syria is that the very nightmare scenarios the Administration fretted about are closer to occurring. The U.S. doesn't have to put boots on Syrian ground to help bring the Assad regime to an end, such as by imposing a no-fly-zone over Aleppo and the rest of western Syria. A similar no-fly-zone over Libya in 2011 helped spell Moammar Gadhafi's demise.

In his inaugural, Mr. Obama declared that the era of endless war is over. If he really believes that, the result will be more war
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« Reply #273 on: February 03, 2013, 01:39:31 PM »

WASHINGTON—Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused Iran's paramilitary force of an intensified campaign to destabilize the Middle East by smuggling antiaircraft weapons to its militant allies.

Iran's export of so-called manpads—antiaircraft missiles that can be carried by a single person—represent what Mr. Panetta called a dangerous escalation.

"There is no question when you start passing manpads around, that becomes a threat—not just to military aircraft but to civilian aircraft," Mr. Panetta told The Wall Street Journal in an interview describing shifting threats to the U.S. as he prepares to leave his post. "That is an escalation."

Western officials have long worried about the spread of such weapons and the risk they pose to airline passengers as well as to military helicopters and jets. Recent U.S. intelligence pointed to new efforts by Iran to smuggle manpads, but few shipments had been intercepted before Jan. 23, when Yemen, aided by the U.S., intercepted a boat carrying the weapons.

More
Democrats Pledge Vote of Support for Hagel
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"It is one of the first times we have seen it," Mr. Panetta said.

U.S. investigators said evidence indicated the missiles were supplied by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran's paramilitary force.

Iranian officials didn't respond to requests for comment about distributing weapons to regional allies.

Mr. Panetta said the U.S. is stepping up efforts to counter the Iranian threat, and is leading a multination exercise in the United Arab Emirates though Feb. 7 to improve the interdiction of Iranian arms and other weapons. The defense secretary called the exercise critical to building up Arab capabilities to help halt Iranian arms transfers, including the smuggling of manpads.

The disclosures by Mr. Panetta came as he prepares to step down after 19 months as defense secretary, a period marked by an intensified focus on Iran as concerns mount about its nuclear ambitions, an expanded campaign of drone strikes against militants in several countries, and the emergence of a new al Qaeda haven in Africa.

Chuck Hagel, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to succeed Mr. Panetta as civilian leader of the U.S. military, is skeptical of military intervention but has said he agrees with the administration's policy of considering all options in dealing with Tehran's nuclear program.

Mr. Hagel's views on Iran have been subject to withering Republican criticism, in particular his vote while serving as a senator from Nebraska against labeling the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. However, at his confirmation hearing Thursday he endorsed the administration's strategy of isolating Tehran, including the Revolutionary Guard.

Senior U.S. officials said the antiaircraft weapons intercepted on Jan. 23 likely were headed to northern Yemen's Houthi separatists, who are fighting the U.S.-backed government in San'a and have also clashed with Saudi forces. Iranians also have stepped up aid to rebels in the south of Yemen in recent months, when previous shipments have involved mainly cash, small arms and explosives, U.S. officials said.

The weapons are a major concern for Israel, which borders territory controlled by Iran's allies. U.S. officials also believe Iranians are shipping similar weapons to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and have in the past shipped weapons to Syria and Hezbollah.

Extremists in Gaza long have used rockets in their conflict with Israel. Manpads could give them the capability to shoot down Israeli aircraft. The concern about Iranian arms proliferation has grown as an uprising has made Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's position more precarious.

Underscoring Israeli concerns, U.S. and Western officials said Israel this week struck a convoy in Syria carrying antiaircraft missiles that officials said were being transferred to the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria disputed that account, and said Israeli warplanes bombed a research facility near Damascus.

Mr. Panetta is preparing to leave the administration, after leading the Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon, with a U.S. war in Afghanistan beginning to wind down and an extremist threat rising in Africa.

The administration initially sent mixed messages about its level of support for the French military campaign in Mali, launched on Jan. 11, against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and its militant allies.

Mr. Panetta, however, has been a vocal proponent of the operation, and said he believes a consensus is emerging on a way forward.

"They [France] acted because of what they saw AQIM doing. I've commended them because I think it was the right step to take. And I think now, there really is a recognition that this is an opportunity now to be able to make sure that not only do we confine AQIM but ultimately we defeat them," Mr. Panetta said.

Mr. Panetta, after taking over as CIA director in 2009, sought to build up counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda's affiliates in northwest Africa.

Today, he said, the U.S. still lacks the full range of capabilities to deal with the terrorist threat there. "We're not even close," Mr. Panetta said. "There is a lot of work that needs to be done."

Mr. Panetta said the U.S. response to the threat from groups such as AQIM was complicated by the difficulty of coordinating regional partners, the vastness of the area where the group operates, and by Washington's focus on more immediate threats, particularly Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"Part of the problem was everybody was concerned about it, but, operationally, it took a lot more work to try to kind of build the kind of infrastructure you needed to go after them," Mr. Panetta said. "In just the natural system of prioritizing, we were going after them where they represented the biggest threat. And then suddenly…AQIM started to expand and started to then gain control of these communities."

Mr. Panetta said a campaign in North and West Africa would require the U.S. to set up a robust network of informants on the ground. Likewise, the U.S. needs a constellation of bases, a process that got a boost on Monday when the U.S. signed a security agreement with Niger. The U.S. is considering putting surveillance drones there.

"All of that demands time," Mr. Panetta said.

More important, Mr. Panetta said, the White House has to make a series of policy decisions about whether AQIM and its allies in North and West Africa "represent an imminent threat to our country."
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« Reply #274 on: February 05, 2013, 11:16:41 AM »

Hezbollah and Iran Blamed in Bombing .
By JAY SOLOMON And GORDON FAIRCLOUGH
WSJ

WASHINGTON—Bulgaria's government is expected to release an investigative report this week blaming the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its ally Iran for a terrorist bombing last summer that killed five Israeli tourists, said U.S. and Middle East officials briefed on the findings.

After the bombing, Israel charged that Hezbollah, on orders from Tehran, carried out the July 18 assault on Israeli vacationers as they boarded buses outside an airport in the Black Sea resort city of Burgas. A Bulgarian bus driver was also killed in the attack, the deadliest on Israelis abroad since 2004.

But the report by Bulgaria's government, which is seen as an independent actor on Mideast affairs, could lend weight to an Israeli push to get the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, said European officials.

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A truck carried a bus damaged in a July bombing near Burgas Airport.
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The U.S. and European governments also are expected to cite the study in their efforts to tighten economic sanctions against Iran, both because of its nuclear program and Tehran's alleged support of international terrorist groups.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov is scheduled to brief senior members of the Bulgarian government on the investigation's findings on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the ministry said. She declined to comment on the contents of the report.

A U.S. official said the White House will issue a statement following Bulgaria's release of the report.

The U.S. and Israel have accused Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, of ordering a string of overseas terrorist attacks aimed at American and Israeli targets over the past two years, including in India, Thailand and Georgia.

Iran and Hezbollah have denied involvement in any of the international attacks. Tehran also has accused Israel of assassinating leading Iranian nuclear scientists, something the Jewish state has never confirmed nor denied.

Evidence of a Hezbollah-directed strike on EU territory could shift the perception of the Lebanese-Shiite group in Europe, which has resisted following Washington's decision to label it a terrorist organization.

If the Bulgarian report reaches a clear conclusion, a senior European diplomat said on Monday, "We will have to look very seriously at the options we have."

British and Dutch officials pressed last year for concerted EU action against Hezbollah, but other nations including France have resisted efforts to blacklist the group. At the time of last year's discussions, senior EU officials said they feared a move against Hezbollah could unsettle Lebanon's fragile peace, already under strain from the violence and civil war in Syria.

Members of Hezbollah are part of the Lebanese government that took power in 2011 after overthrowing the pro-Western prime minister, Saad al-Hariri. Hezbollah's designation as a terrorist group would result in increased EU sanctions on the organization.

In the months since the assault on the Israeli tourists, Bulgarian authorities have said little publicly about their investigation. The U.S., while saying it suspected Hezbollah's involvement, also adopted a wait-and-see approach.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has described the plotters as "exceptionally experienced." Officials have declined to discuss the attackers' origins or suspected affiliations, but said they entered Bulgaria from another EU country.

At first, Bulgarian police thought the assault was the work of a suicide bomber whose body was recovered at the scene. Now it appears that man, whose image was captured by security cameras in the airport terminal, may have died accidentally when the attack plan went awry.

That bomber, whose face was obscured by long hair, sunglasses and a cap, was dressed as a tourist in plaid shorts and a T-shirt and mingled with the Israeli visitors who had just arrived on a flight from Tel Aviv before the explosion.

The attack came amid a spate of plots and botched assaults linked to Hezbollah and Iran.

A U.S. court indicted an Iranian-American in late 2011 for allegedly attempting to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. at a Washington, D.C., cafe. The indictment alleged that senior IRGC officials oversaw the plot.

Last summer, police in Cyprus arrested a man in his 20s reported by state media to be of Lebanese descent and traveling on a Swedish passport. The man is currently on trial on terrorism-related charges. He has said he is not guilty.

In January 2012, Thai authorities arrested a man of Lebanese descent traveling on a Swedish passport who they allege had amassed a cache of bomb-making materials. Thai police said they suspect the man has ties to Hezbollah.

A month later, three Iranians were detained by Thai and Malaysian police after an apparently botched bomb plot in Bangkok. In that case, one of the alleged bombers blew off his legs. Thai police said the suspects were planning to assassinate Israeli officials.
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« Reply #275 on: February 19, 2013, 10:58:51 AM »

Hagel says he "doesn't recall" his remark about Israel controlling the State Department

Posted by Robert Spencer at www.jihadwatch.org on Feb. 19, 2013

Maybe his Muslim Brotherhood handlers have taught him about that "war is deceit" thing.

"Hagel 'Doesn't Recall' Remark on Israel Controlling State Dept.," by Rachel Hirshfeld for Israel National News, February 18 (thanks to Voice of the Copts):

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that he has accepted a new disclaimer from President Obama’s defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) disavowing one of his many offensive statements about the state of Israel.
Graham told “Fox News Sunday” that he received a new letter from the beleaguered nominee in which Hagel claimed he “did not recall” the odious statement-- allegedly made during a speech at Rutgers University in 2007-- in which he argued that the State Department is controlled by the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office.

“Well, if in fact that’s true, that would end the matter,” Graham said, adding, “I just take him at his word unless something new comes along.”

“I'm glad he answered my question about a very disturbing comment he allegedly made,” he told Fox News.

Graham joined fellow Republicans in filibustering Hagel's nomination on Thursday, marking the first time a defense secretary has been filibustered in the Senate.

Graham is continuing to seek more information from the Obama administration this week on the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Bengazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The senator warned last week that he would hold off approval of both Hagel and John Brennan, Obama's nominee for CIA director, until he receives more answers.

During the interview, however, Graham indicated that he would support ending debate on Hagel when the Senate returns from recess next week, despite considering him “one of the most radical and unqualified choices” to be defense secretary.

Hagel’s numerous other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel comments include the former senator claiming that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people" in Congress into “doing dumb things”; that the Jewish state is keeping the “Palestinians caged up like animals” and that Israel has kept the Palestinian people “chained down for many, many years.”

He has further come under fire for his feeble position on military action against Iran, his willingness to open direct talks with Hamas, his opposition to declaring Hizbullah a terrorist organization, as well as a long list of other highly provocative issues and associations.
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« Reply #276 on: March 28, 2013, 10:43:17 AM »

SecState Kerry bleated the other day to the Iraqis in complaint about them allowing Iran to use Iraqi airspace to resupply Assad in Syria.

With President Obama having failed, deliberately so in my opinion, to establish a status of forces agreement with Iraq, and thus there not being the 30,000-50,000 US troops there orginally requested by our military, is it any surprise that Iraq feels it must placate Iran?
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« Reply #277 on: April 11, 2013, 08:19:43 AM »



Iraq, Syria: A Jihadist Merger Announced
April 9, 2013 | 1503 GMT

Summary

A recent announcement confirms suspicions that the Syrian civil war would create opportunities for transnational jihadists to coalesce in the region. On April 9, the Islamic State of Iraq, an offshoot of the al Qaeda core, announced that it would merge with Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra. The statement will further concern those already apprehensive of jihadist proliferation in a post-al Assad Syria.

Analysis
 
Islamic State of Iraq leader Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi claimed that Jabhat al-Nusra was part of the his group's extended network. Now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the new jihadist coalition was announced just one day after al Qaeda central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for Islamist rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad to establish an Islamic state, which could help eventually re-establish an Islamic caliphate.
 
The importance of Jabhat al-Nusra is that its members are among the most effective fighters in the Syrian rebellion. The rebels and their sponsors cannot afford to isolate the group if they want to make real gains on the battlefield.
 
We consider al-Zawahiri's statement largely propagandistic: The al Qaeda leader, who is somewhere in northwestern Pakistan, far from the battlefield, is merely trying to appropriate the jihadist insurgency in Syria. But we believe al-Baghdadi's statement is much more revelatory. For the first time, the group has admitted that Syrian jihadists represent an extension of its operations -- even though we have long known the Iraq's jihadists aid and abet Syria's jihadists. Syria served as a support base for jihadists in Iraq in the past, and now Iraqi jihadists are helping to consolidate Syrian jihadists.
 
Al-Baghdadi's statement will further worry the international community. The danger posed by Syrian jihadists has long been apparent, and the West has been skeptical of an all-out rebel victory accordingly. In fact, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for both sides to seek a negotiated settlement as recently as March. However, the formation of this new group attests to growing suspicions that Syrian jihadists, who could very well outlast the al Assad regime, are not nationalistic. Rather, they are part of al Qaeda's efforts to exploit the Arab Spring uprisings.
 
Notably, the announcement represents a setback for mainstream Syrian rebels, who have willingly collaborated with Jabhat al-Nusra, and those who are not aligned with transnational jihadists but nonetheless have to live with them. Determining how many fit into each category -- nationalist jihadist, transnationalist jihadist, reluctant collaborators -- is difficult, and further complicates the problem of international perception.
 
Saudi Arabia competes with al Qaeda to embolden Sunni resistance against Iran in the northern Levant and in Iraq. Though Riyadh maintains relationships with many jihadist rebel factions -- and benefits from having jihadists focus on regional theaters outside Saudi Arabia -- al Qaeda's now-publicized campaign to use Syria as a springboard for anti-Shia resistance in Iraq could make it difficult for Saudi Arabia to pursue this policy, especially in coordination with the United States. In its efforts to curb al Qaeda's influence, the United States will be even more reluctant to support Syrian rebels.
 
Many questions remain as to whether the merger is real. But perceptions will drive behavior, especially when it comes to jihadism in the post-9/11 and post-Arab Spring era. The United States, which has long sought to balance Iranian-led radicalism and Sunni radicalism, will likely be further forced to revise its strategy to curb Iran's regional influence.
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Read more: Iraq, Syria: A Jihadist Merger Announced | Stratfor
==================================================

By ADAM ENTOUS
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama is expected to authorize additional limited steps to support the Syrian opposition, likely including body armor and night-vision goggles for certain rebel groups, U.S. officials said.

The additional moves could be announced as early as next week, although they likely would fall short of the support being sought from Washington by Syrian opposition leaders, U.S. allies including Britain and France, and by a growing number of U.S. lawmakers.

The added steps, however, suggest the White House is moving slowly in the direction of greater direct involvement in the fight against Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad after months of agonizing debate about what the U.S. can and should do to aid the rebels.

Syria in the Spotlight
Track the latest events in a map, see the key players and a chronology of the unrest.

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 More photos and interactive graphics
.So far, Mr. Obama has limited U.S. support to providing nonlethal assistance to the opposition, including communications gear and limited training, and that position isn't expected to change, at least for now, officials said.

Last year, Mr. Obama rebuffed a proposal that was supported by the then-heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department to provide certain types of weapons to moderate rebel groups.

Mr. Obama opposed that proposal on the grounds that American-furnished arms could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-linked groups, which dominate rebel ranks, and, moreover, would do little to help turn the tide in the two-year-old fight against Mr. Assad.

A senior Obama administration official said that U.S. assistance to the Syrian opposition has been on an "upward trajectory" and that Mr. Obama has directed his national-security team to identify "additional measures" to support the groups.

"We have no decision to announce, but the president has asked his team to continue to provide him with options to accomplish our objective of strengthening the opposition and supporting the Syrian people," the senior administration official said.

The option of providing night-vision goggles and body armor "would be consistent with the president's directive" and is among the "additional steps that are under review," the official added.

Britain and France have already said they would supply such equipment.

In addition to considering night-vision goggles and body armor, the White House last week started reviewing a new set of potential military options, including proposals to bomb Syrian aircraft on the ground and to use Patriot antimissile batteries in Turkey to defend swaths of northern Syria from the regime's Scud missiles, officials said.

But defense officials said the new military options faced potentially insurmountable technological and legal hurdles—underscoring the difficulty of finding a plausible way to address increasing international pressure to weigh in more forcefully on the side of the Syrian rebels.

The White House has already considered—and rebuffed—other military options the Pentagon presented last year, including proposals to create a no-fly zone.

Write to Adam Entous at adam.entous@wsj.com

===================================

The conventional wisdom among U.S. security elites these days is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prove that the cost of American intervention is too high. Also, that avoiding such interventions frees up the resources to go after our real enemies in al Qaeda. These supposed lessons have helped President Obama justify his decision not to do much of anything in Syria. But we are now learning that there are also major costs to nonintervention.

Take Tuesday's announcement that the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda has joined with the Nusra Front, its Syrian cousin, and will now be called "The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant." Al Nusra has an estimated 12,000 foot soldiers in Syria and is widely considered the most effective rebel fighting force in the country's civil war. Together with the smaller Iraqi branch, the merged group is now probably the single largest faction in al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was a decimated force after the surge of U.S. troops in 2007; its resurgence coincides with America's withdrawal. The al-Nusra front didn't even exist until last year; now it's bidding to replace the Free Syrian Army as the leading insurgent group. It doesn't help the FSA that the U.S. still can't decide whether to provide it with anything other than non-lethal aid.

If the Administration wants a good outcome in Syria, it might want to help the good (or the better) guys win. The alternative is the return of al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world.

WSJ
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« Reply #278 on: April 24, 2013, 08:44:23 AM »

By Robert D. Kaplan
Chief Geopolitical Analyst
 
The most appropriate image of the present-day Middle East is the medieval map, which, in the words of the late historian Albert Hourani, depicts an age when "frontiers were not clearly and precisely delimited" and the influence of a regime was not uniform "within a fixed and generally recognized area," but, rather, grew weaker with distance as it radiated outward from an urban core. Legal borders, where the power of one state suddenly ended and that of another suddenly began, were rare. And thus, Hourani was not the only scholar to point this out.
 
We are back to a world of vague and overlapping shadows of influence. Shia and Sunnis in northern Lebanon cross the border into Syria and kill each other, then retreat back into Lebanon. Indeed, the military situations in Lebanon and Syria are quickly fusing. The al Assad regime in Damascus projects power not unto the legal borders of Syria but mainly along parts of the Sunni-dominated Homs-Hama corridor and also on the Mediterranean coast between Latakia and Tartus, where the regime's Alawite compatriots are concentrated. Beyond that there are literally hundreds of small rebel groupings and half-dozen major ones, divided by their own philosophical and Islamist orientations and those of their foreign patrons. Then there are the half-dozen or so Kurdish factions controlling parts of northern and northeastern Syria. As for the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, there are two main Kurdish groups that are basically sovereign in different sectors. Significant Sunni areas of Iraq, particularly in sprawling Anbar between the Euphrates River and the Syrian border, are in varying degrees independently governed or not governed at all. Even Shiite central and southern Iraq is not completely controlled by the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime, owing to a half-dozen parties that in some cases exercise a degree of sovereignty.
 
Rather than a temporary situation, this is one that can last for many years. For example, Bashar al Assad's regime need not necessarily crumble immediately but may survive indefinitely as a frail statelet, supported as it is by Russian arms arriving via the Mediterranean and from Iran across the weakly governed Iraqi desert.
 
Gone is the world of the Ottoman Empire, in which there were relatively few battles for territory among the various tribes and ethnic and sectarian groups, because the Sultan in Istanbul exercised overarching (albeit variable) sovereignty between the mountains of Lebanon and the plateau of Iran. Gone is the colonial era when the British and French exercised sovereignty from the capital cities unto the fixed legal borders of newly constituted mandated states and territories. Gone is the post-colonial era when tyrants like Hafez al Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq ran police states within the same fixed borders erected by the British and French. Further down the road, the only states left that wield real sovereignty between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and Iranian plateau could be Israel and Iran.
 
In a cartographic sense then, we are back to medievalism, but without the storied cultural and intellectual benefits that the Middle Ages conferred upon the Arab world. A thousand years ago, what is now known as Iraq was for significant periods under the sway of Iran; but more to the point, Baghdad and Damascus constituted different dynastic poles of pulsating influence that did not always configure with specific frontiers and were contested by Abbasids, Seljuks, Safavids and Ottomans. Of course, the heartlands of Syria and Iraq did, in fact, constitute different agricultural and henceforth different political regions, even as the line between them could be extremely fluid -- as were the distinctions between Turkey and Iran. Places in what is today northern Iraq were linked by caravan routes to Syria, even as places in northern Syria were linked by caravan routes to Iraq. As it concerns the map, subtlety ruled in a positive sense, as it does in a negative sense today.
 
The key to the maintenance of political stability for much of the Middle East's history was the concept (associated with Ibn Khaldun) of the asabiyah, or solidarity group, often though not exclusively based on blood relations such as clans and tribes. The stability of regimes, whether relatively enlightened ones like in the golden age of Abbasid Baghdad under Harun al-Rashid or suffocating and tyrannical ones like Saddam's in the same city 1,200 years later, was based on an asabiyah -- local emirs and Persians in the former case and Sunni tribes in the north-central town of Tikrit in the latter. The asabiyah had its interests tied up with the ruler and therefore was willing to defend such rule against all comers. It was not strictly democratic, but it did often signify broad-based support, and even when it did not it nevertheless offered the benefit of stability. And one of the ways it did that was to limit the number of people in the state or empire concerned with politics: Outside of the asabiyah, people often lowered their heads and did not question the regime.
 
Ibn Khaldun, the 14th century Tunisian philosopher and historian, wrote about how one asabiyah was periodically replaced by another, leading to a new regime or dynasty. His point was that dynasties were founded by desert nomads who established settlements, which, as these settlements became secure, led to luxurious living, in turn leading to challenges from new groups of outsiders who would eventually topple the elite and establish a new dynasty. Thus, did Middle Eastern history progress.
 
Throughout the post-colonial age, periodic coups in Syria and Iraq signaled the replacement of one asabiyah with another, even if Ibn Khaldun's formulation of the infusion of nomads no longer applied. What kept regime's like Hafez al Assad's and Saddam Hussein's in power for so long was, in part, security technology -- methods of torture and electronic surveillance -- brought by the East Germans during the Cold War. Nowadays, a new evolution of technology -- the Internet, cellphones and social media -- has complicated the very concept of the asabiyah by creating mass public opinion. The asabiyah suggests exclusivity: a group more important than others, or more important than the society at large. But the mass society enabled and empowered by technology supersedes this.
 
Or does it? Democracy requires, after a fashion, its own asabiyahs or interest groups, which form the building blocks of political parties that, in turn, govern. But in an empowered mass society, with millions of sovereign voices, this requires a new and more sophisticated category of organization which traditional cultures have been largely unfamiliar with. Remember, it took Europeans hundreds of years to evolve the social, economic and cultural underpinnings necessary for stable democracy. To an extent, the Arab world, by doing away with asabiyahs that operated best inside the context of authoritarian societies, is starting history all over again.
 
Democracy only in a narrow sense means toppling dictators and holding elections. What it really means is a level of development that allows for asabiyahs to compete on the basis of non-lethal categories: this economic tendency versus that one, rather than this ethnic or sectarian group -- or this clan or tribe -- versus that one. For the moment, it is the latter, more lethal categories that determine politics across much of the Levant: so that the combination of blood, belief and technology have given us a neo-medieval map that, rather than one of flourishing civilizations, is -- in the cases of Syria and Iraq -- one of clans, gangs and chaos.
 
Freedom in the modern age, without "social knowledge and discipline," is a "dance of death," according to University of Toronto historian Modris Eksteins. The result tempts anarchy. As the 11th-12th century Muslim jurist and theologian Al-Ghazali said, "the tyranny of a sultan for a hundred years causes less damage than one year's tyranny exercised by the subjects against one another."


Read more: The Middle East's New Map | Stratfor
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« Reply #279 on: May 09, 2013, 07:35:52 PM »

Qatar's Duplicitous Game
by Paul Alster
Special to IPT News
May 9, 2013
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4011/qatar-duplicitous-game
  
In the first of a two-part assessment of its growing role on the world stage and dubious influence on Middle East and Arab politics, Paul Alster looks at Qatar's carefully crafted image that masks the real direction of this autocratic nation. In part two he concentrates on Qatar's on-the-ground financing of Islamist militias and revolutions in the Arab world.

Haifa, Israel - Sometimes the most stunning deceptions occur in broad daylight. It's the classic ruse of the pathological manipulator; the hugely successful benefactors of a myriad of good causes such as disgraced financial moguls Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford.

The State of Qatar falls into a similar category. The Arabian Gulf island nation has insinuated its way to the top table of world affairs through financial muscle established on rich natural gas and oil reserves. Qatar has befriended and works closely with some of the most powerful nations (including the United States), and has established a series of high-profile charitable foundations and outstanding world-leading brands, while at the same time, it has brazenly sponsored terrorist entities across the Arab world and beyond.

For a tiny country, it has ambitious aims to advance the global Muslim Brotherhood and promote Sunni Islam in its fight against Shia. But that agenda attracts little attention. Qatar has promoted and financed the cause of the Islamist opposition forces that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has promoted the now-ruling Ettafdid Movement in Tunisia, the FSA in Syria, and most recently, has supported the rebel forces in Mali.

"I think the U.S. is less aware of this [than it should be]. I mean it's hard to miss! It really has been ignored or shunted aside," Professor Ze'ev Magen, Middle East Studies chairman at Bar Ilan University, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

"There is a constant attempt to attribute the breakdown [of the previous Arab status quo] to other factors," Magen said. "But in the end, what you see is the Iraqis, Syrians and the Lebanese Shiites, all lining up together with Iran, and then you've got the Sunni world that is most prominently represented by the Wahabbi Islam of the Gulf States [including Qatar] and the Muslim Brotherhood working together on the Sunni side."

Qatar's generosity in helping Egypt during its current critical financial difficulties will not be without payback, Abdel Rahman Youssef, an Egyptian journalist specializing in political and religious affairs, wrote last month for the Lebanon-based Al Akhbar website, adding that Qatar may have its sights set on acquiring the Suez Canal and the Suez industrial zone currently owned by the Dubai Ports.

"It should come as no surprise that today the canal looms large over many of the serious discussions concerning the future of Egypt and the entire region … The Gulf country's [Qatar's] economic reach inside Egypt was apparent in recent statements by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassim. 'Qatar will not let Egypt collapse economically,' he said. Qatar provided Egypt with aid and a deposit of around $5 billion. However, this all pales in comparison to rumors that the Qataris wish to acquire a large portion of UAE's investments in the Suez region."

Suez journalist Sayyed Noun added "The street will not easily accept the news since many believe that Qatar wants to 'strangle the Canal.'"

In February, Al Akhbar also reported that Qatar's alleged support of the Islamist rebels against the local troops in Mali and their French allies may have prompted France to block a major international telecom deal with Qatar.

"Indicating a rift between the two allies, France stood in the way of Qatar's purchase of the company Vivendi Africa, a telecom giant active in North and West Africa. The obstruction of the sale occurred after word emerged that Qatar is possibly supporting jihadi groups in Mali." Correspondent Al Mokhtar Mohammad wrote. "The sale could hinder France's ability to surveil jihadi communications, especially since there are parties within France that have accused Qatar of supporting Mali armed groups."

Qatar has been a refuge for terrorists – providing 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Muhammed a base in the 1990s – and now hosting recently re-elected Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. On April 5, the Pakistan Daily Times reported that Qatari capital Doha is to host a new regional office for the Taliban with the blessing of Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai.

Qatar manages to maintain a very close relationship with the U.S. despite this situation. The massive Al Udeid airbase is on Qatari soil even though the U.S. has other good friends in the region such as Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, on whom they could rely.

According to a Wikileaks cable reported back in 2010, one man who long ago saw through Qatar's carefully crafted public image is Meir Dagan, former head of Israel's Mossad security agency, who told American diplomats, "Qatar is trying to cozy up to everyone. I think that you should remove your bases from [Qatar]. [The Qataris] owe their security to the presence of the Americans]."

The seemingly limitless pretentions of its Wahabbist autocratic ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani are furthered under the guise of promoting 'democracy in the Arab world.' That's ironic, given that Qatar is ruled exclusively by members of one family who rigidly control all media and outlets to free speech.
When Sheikh Hamad overthrew his own father in a 1995 coup, he initiated a gradual transformation placing Qatar at the center of world affairs. One of his masterstrokes was the funding and creation of Al Jazeera, the hugely successful mouthpiece for his regime that has changed many people's perception of events in the Arab world to subliminally reflect the opinion held by the ruling Qatari family.

Al Jazeera attracted a roster of high profile, well paid and talented international journalists. As it grew, the independence of the original editorial line and the creeping replacement of secular staff with Islamists became ever-more apparent. By 2011, as the 'Arab Spring' gathered pace and Qatar's behind-the-scenes role in the revolutions needed to be even more carefully stage managed, Sheikh Hamad replaced Al Jazeera's long-time editor Wadah Khanfar, a conservative Islamist whose ties to the Muslim Brotherhood had prompted his arrest in Jordan, with an even more hard-line man at the helm, his own royal cousin, Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al Thani.

Al Jazeera staffers started to despair during Khanfar's tenure. In June 2009 the Jerusalem Post Magazine reported, "The meteoric rise of the network and its increasing popularity have led many political and media commentators in the Arab world to wonder exactly who or what was behind what appears to be its main purpose:
encouraging opposition and promoting incitement against Arab regimes, exposing the corruption of their leaders and their entourage, while holding to an extreme Arab nationalist attitude against the US and Israel and extolling the values of conservative – and sometimes extremist – Islam. It did not take long for one name to emerge: the Muslim Brotherhood."

A series of cables from the U.S. embassy in Doha, published by Wikileaks, reflected the way Al Jazeera promotes Qatar's world vision, while the government stifles dissent in its own backyard.

"The Qatari government claims to champion press freedom elsewhere, but generally does not tolerate it at home," the U.S. embassy in Doha reported in June 2009.
Around this time, Robert Menard resigned as director of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, together with a significant number of staff, after facing unprecedented interference in his work.

"But certain Qatari officials never wanted an independent Centre, one that was free to express its views without being limited by political or diplomatic considerations, one that was free to criticise Qatar itself," Menard said. "But how can you be credible if you say nothing about the problems in the country in which you are based?"
In January, Al Jazeera purchased former Vice President Al Gore's Current TV. This acquisition gives it a ready-made platform in the United States to promote Qatar's version of events in the Middle East, prompting expectations of it subtly (or unsubtly) guiding viewers towards its support of and praise for the International Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its persistent criticism of Israel.

As Sultan Sooud al Qassemi of the respected Al Monitor website noted in June 2012, "Al Jazeera Arabic's love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood was clear from the channel's beginning. And since the Brotherhood decided to run a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, the channel has blatantly promoted him. What viewers end up with is propaganda, and it's damaged more than one revolution."

As an example, al Qassemi wrote: "On June 22, 2012, Al Jazeera's correspondent Ayyash Darraji interviewed a woman for three minutes and allowed her to criticize former presidential contender Ahmed Shafiq without any interruption. As soon as the lady said one critical word about Morsi, he pulled the mike and cut her off."
The network's expansion also targets Europe. "[Al Jazeera is also] preparing to launch a news channel in Britain while studies are at an advanced stage for a French-language channel," Middle East Online reported in March.

"You're not going to find objective reporting there [Al Jazeera] almost ever," Magen told the IPT. "I don't know who exactly is watching Al Jazeera? I guess they think they're getting an inside picture of the Muslim world, but what they're actually getting is the inside picture that Qatar – a conservative, Sunni Muslim hierarchy – wants them to get."

Qatar's relationship with Israel changed dramatically after it supported Hamas in the Israel-Gaza war. Relations were relatively good before that, with Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni visiting Doha in 2007 and 2008.

"Qatar decided in 2009 to sever all ties with Israel and it has since been a very vociferous proponent for any anti-Israel group from Hamas to Syria," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the IPT. "There are no relations to speak of."

"If there is anything that Qatar wants to do – rather than spread hatred and ignorance as it usually does – that would be to spend its money on peacemaking," Palmor added. "That would be a welcome change."

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani recently began refocusing his attention and inflaming passions in the Israel-Palestine conflict, while portraying himself to the international community as an honest broker in regional affairs.

During an Arab League meeting last month, he called for a $1 billion Jerusalem fund to support programs that would "maintain the Arab and Islamic character of the city and reinforce the steadfastness of its people," the Gulf Times reported.

Hamad pledged $250 million from Qatar and expects the balance to be contributed by other Arab states.

"(Jerusalem) is in serious danger, which requires of us serious action. Palestinian, Arab and Islamic rights in Jerusalem cannot be compromised. Israel must realize this," Hamad reportedly told Arab leaders.

In a typically chameleon-like maneuver however, Qatar recently hinted at its interest in investing in Israeli hi-tech companies, dangling a carrot under the noses of potential Israeli businessmen currently facing a reducing pool of international corporate investors. Israeli government officials suggested such news should be treated with plenty of caution.

Qatar's latest move designed to portray itself to the Arab world as the flag bearer in the fight to make Jerusalem Palestinian is its bid to oust Canada – a staunch supporter of Israel - from its long-standing role as home of the UN-body, the ICAO.

Since 1947 the International Civil Aviation Authority has been based in Montreal, but Qatar has seized upon Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's recent visit to east Jerusalem to push to replace Canada as host of the ICAO. Baird met with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on what the Arab world considers occupied land, a gesture that has angered many Arab nations and given Qatar a golden opportunity to rally regional support and to push for a vote to transfer the prestigious body from Montreal to Doha.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Lavoie called Qatar's prime minister twice last week, promising to "'fight tooth and nail' to keep the ICAO in Montreal – and he won't change his tune on his visit to east Jerusalem," the Globe and Mail reported May 2.

Sheikh al-Thani irked the U.S. and many others in October when he became the first world leader to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip officially and deliver a $400 million donation. Yet despite the clear evidence from the leaked diplomatic cables displaying private doubts as to the sincerity of the Qataris, the U.S. appears to have no plans of reviewing its relationship.

American business giants such as the Boeing Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Conoco Philips, and Exxon Mobil all have significant interests and partnerships with Qatar. And the U.S. government appears willing to overlook Qatar's failings. But Palmor has no qualms in spelling out the dangerous game being played on Israel's doorstep that Qatar and its Al Jazeera network cannot disguise.

"The Emir of Qatar has visited the Hamas-controlled Gaza, has embraced Hamas rulers, and has promised money which in this case he has sent into the hands of Hamas. At the same time he has never visited the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the government in Ramallah [even though] he has repeatedly promised to do so. Ignoring Israel is one thing, but taking sides in Palestinian politics and clearly taking the side of a terror organization, is another thing. That is clearly taking part in armed and violent conflict and that is what Qatar is doing. It has always been on the side of terrorists and on the side of violence."

Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who blogs at paulalster.com and can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster
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« Reply #280 on: May 10, 2013, 10:10:26 AM »


The Middle East, Suddenly Armed to the Teeth with 'Game Changer' Missiles

Perhaps the Middle East will be quiet in the coming days, but if it isn't . . . well, maybe this is a factor:

The chief of Hezbollah has said the the Lebanese Shia armed group is ready to receive "game-changing" weapons from Syria, just days after Israeli air strikes on Damascus reportedly targeted shipments of advanced Iranian weapons bound for the group.

Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech on Thursday, said the shipments of new types of weapons would serve as the Syrian reaction to Israel's air strikes.

"The resistance [against Israel] is prepared to accept any sophisticated weaponry even if it was to break the equilibrium [in the region]," he said in a speech.
Okay, first, the phrase "game-changer" is long overdue for retirement. John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, I blame you.

Apparently this is the hot phrase all over the Middle East:

Israel launched air strikes on targets in Damascus early on Sunday morning that shook the city and lit up the horizon.

Western and Israeli sources said its aim was to take out "game-changing" Iranian missiles destined for Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006 and is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, as Secretary of State John Kerry attempts to keep the Syrian bloodbath from spreading any further, the Russians are tweaking him, letting slip that they're shipping new arms to Syria, right after he asked them to help calm things down:

Secretary of State John Kerry today stood by his renewed push with the Russian government for the Assad regime and Syria's opposition to negotiate a political solution to end the conflict, now going into it's third year.  Speaking at a news conference in Rome, Kerry addressed a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday that Russia was preparing to sell missiles to the Syrian government, saying he expressed his general disapproval of Russian support to the Assad regime during his meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week.

"We've made it crystal clear that we would prefer Russians not supply assistance. That is on record. That hasn't changed," said Kerry, who added that the United States believes the shipment of missiles would be "potentially destabilizing with the respect to the state of Israel."

But he also acknowledged that there are countries supplying weapons to the rebels, and stressed that he wants to focus on what the United States and Russia can accomplish towards helping both sides reach a political solution soon.  He said he remained encouraged by the Russians' cooperation and by what he described as a public backing-away from their specific support for Assad.

I feel actually pretty good that John Kerry is our secretary of state. Oh, I don't think he'll thrive in the job; in fact, I think he'll fall flat on his face. But he's wanted to do this job for so long, and been so certain that he knew how to play this role perfectly, that it's fun to see him run headlong into reality.

Anyway, about those missiles:

"It would be a game-changer," a senior Western diplomat said of the reported decision to offer the missiles to Assad. The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the reported offer remain classified, speculated that Moscow could be seeking leverage ahead of talks on a possible political settlement to the Syrian crisis.

You would almost think the "Game Changer" was a particular type of missile, wouldn't you?

Russia was heavily criticized in 2007 when it signed a deal to sell S-300 batteries to Iran for $800 million. Russian officials eventually terminated the contract, citing new U.N. resolutions banning the export of advanced missile systems to Tehran.

"After discussions with us, they did decide not to provide the missiles to the Iranians," recalled Dennis Ross, who was a senior Middle East adviser to the Obama administration in 2010, when Russia halted the missile sale to Iran. "If they proceed now, it hardly signals that they are prepared to walk away from Assad."

I just envision Kerry in his office, hitting the "reset button" over and over again, like an impatient man at an elevator.

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« Reply #281 on: May 11, 2013, 03:17:52 PM »


 
May 10, 2013

Israel's Man in Damascus
Why Jerusalem Doesn't Want the Assad Regime to Fall
Efraim Halevy

In October 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin telephoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to inform him that peace was at hand between Israel and Syria. Two weeks later, Rabin was dead, killed by a reactionary Jewish Israeli fanatic; the peace agreement that Rabin referenced died not long thereafter. But Israeli hopes for an eventual agreement with the Assad regime managed to survive. There have been four subsequent attempts by Israeli prime ministers -- one by Ehud Barak, one by Ehud Olmert, and two by Benjamin Netanyahu -- to forge a peace with Syria.

This shared history with the Assad regime is relevant when considering Israel’s strategy toward the ongoing civil war in Syria. Israel’s most significant strategic goal with respect to Syria has always been a stable peace, and that is not something that the current civil war has changed. Israel will intervene in Syria when it deems it necessary; last week’s attacks testify to that resolve. But it is no accident that those strikes were focused solely on the destruction of weapons depots, and that Israel has given no indication of wanting to intervene any further. Jerusalem, ultimately, has little interest in actively hastening the fall of Bashar al-Assad.

Israel knows one important thing about the Assads: for the past 40 years, they have managed to preserve some form of calm along the border. Technically, the two countries have always been at war -- Syria has yet to officially recognize Israel -- but Israel has been able to count on the governments of Hafez and Bashar Assad to enforce the Separation of Forces Agreement from 1974, in which both sides agreed to a cease-fire in the Golan Heights, the disputed vantage point along their shared border. Indeed, even when Israeli and Syrian forces were briefly locked in fierce fighting in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war, the border remained quiet.

Israel does not feel as confident, though, about the parties to the current conflict, and with good reason. On the one hand, there are the rebel forces, some of whom are increasingly under the sway of al Qaeda. On the other, there are the Syrian government’s military forces, which are still under Assad’s command, but are ever more dependent on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, which is also Iranian-sponsored. Iran is the only outside state with boots on the ground in Syria, and although it is supporting Assad, it is also pressuring his government to more closely serve Iran’s goals -- including by allowing the passage of advanced arms from Syria into southern Lebanon. The recent visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi to Damascus, during which he announced that Iran would not allow Assad to fall under any circumstances, further underscored the depth of Iran’s involvement in the fighting. It is entirely conceivable, in other words, that a post-Assad regime in Syria would be explicitly pro–al Qaeda or even more openly pro-Iran. Either result would be unacceptable to Israel.

Of course, an extended civil war in Syria does not serve Israel’s interests either. The ongoing chaos is attracting Islamists from elsewhere in the region, and threatening to destabilize Israel’s entire neighborhood, including Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. It could also cause Assad to lose control of -- or decide to rely more on -- his stockpile of chemical weapons.

Even though these problems have a direct impact on Israel, the Israeli government believes that it should deal with them in a way that does not force it to become a kingmaker over Assad’s fate. Instead, it would prefer to maintain neutrality in Syria's civil war. Israel does not want to tempt Assad to target Israel with his missile stockpile -- nor does it want to alienate the Alawite community that will remain on Israel’s border regardless of the outcome of Syria’s war.

Last week’s attacks were a case in point. Israel did not hesitate to order air strikes when it had intelligence that arms were going to be funneled from Syria to Hezbollah. Although Israel took care not to assume official responsibility for the specific attack, Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon publicly stated that Israel’s policy was to prevent the passage of strategic weaponry from Syria to Lebanon. But parallel with that messaging, Israel also made overt and covert efforts to communicate to Assad that Jerusalem was determined to remain neutral in Syria’s civil war. The fact that those messages were received in Damascus was reflected in the relatively restrained response from the Assad regime: a mid-level Foreign Ministry official offered a public denouncement of Israel -- and even then the Syrian government offered only a vague promise of reprisal, vowing to respond at a time and in a manner of its choosing.

As brutal as the Syrian war has become, Israel believes that another international crisis is even more urgent: Iran’s continued pursuit of a nuclear program. Jerusalem has long believed that mid-2013 would be an hour of decision in its dealings with Iran. In the interim, Israel wants to focus its own finite resources on that crisis -- and it would prefer that the rest of the world does the same.

That is not to say that Israel will make efforts to actively support Assad; like most other countries, Israel believes that it is only a matter of time until the Syrian leader is forced from power. But a country of Israel’s size needs to prioritize its foreign policy goals, and Jerusalem does not feel like helping shape an adequate alternative to Assad is in its interest or within its capacity. It will leave that task to others. Indeed, Israel has welcomed the initiative by Russia and the United States to organize a peace conference aimed at resolving the conflict. In the run-up to the conference, Jerusalem will be sure to remind both Washington and Moscow that they share an interest in preventing a permanent Iranian or jihadist presence on Syrian soil.

In that sense, it is safe to say that Assad is not the only recipient of covert communications from Israel. That leaves two questions -- when the White House will decide what its own policy will be, and how it will implement it.


Efraim Halevy served as chief of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002.
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« Reply #282 on: June 01, 2013, 09:05:35 AM »

Syria and Lebanon's 'Party of Satan'
Geopolitical Diary
THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013 - 21:11 - Text Size +  Print

Just how much has changed in the Middle East since the Arab Spring is reflected in the fact that Lebanese Shiite radical Islamist group Hezbollah, whose name means "Party of God," is being referred to in public discourse as Hezboshaytaan, the "Party of Satan." Until recently, the group transcended sectarian fault lines and was an extremely popular force throughout the largely Sunni Arab region and the wider Muslim world for its armed resistance against Israel. Such derogatory language was rare, used only by certain Salafists, jihadists, Saudis and the group's Lebanese opponents. Today, "Hezbshaytaan" is becoming part of the mainstream Arab Sunni lexicon.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman explains.

The Syrian crisis has reduced Arab and Sunni Arab perception of Hezbollah to that of a detested sectarian outfit killing Sunnis engaged in what is seen as a noble struggle against the brutal and tyrannical Syrian regime, and, by extension, a Shiite group protecting the interests of Iranian Persians who are out to dominate the Arab world. On Thursday, for example, the leadership of the Syrian opposition said it will refuse to negotiate with the al Assad regime unless Tehran and Hezbollah end what the rebels have termed an "invasion of Syria."

Hezbollah's stock has been plummeting since the earliest days of the Syrian uprising for its support of the Syrian regime. In the beginning, Hezbollah's role was solely political. In 2012, however, the group began to get involved militarily in what was then a civil war. Still, until becoming visibly involved in the recent fighting in the Syrian city of Al-Qusayr, helping regime forces retake areas held by the rebels, Hezbollah's involvement in the war has been limited.

The reversal suffered in Al-Qusayr by the rebels and the deaths of a number of Hezbollah fighters brought matters to a point where the group could no longer remain silent. In a major speech May 25, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged that Hezbollah fighters are now engaged in what he described is a struggle against al Qaeda-led jihadists who are trying to destroy Syria. Clearly, that narrative is not helping Hezbollah salvage its erstwhile reputation as an Arab/Muslim resistance movement fighting Israeli occupation.

So the question is why then has the movement come out so strongly on the side of the al Assad regime? Hezbollah cannot change what it is: a movement representing Lebanon's minority Shia and ideologically aligned with the Shiite regime in Iran in a region dominated by Sunnis.

Contrary to the perception that Hezbollah is on the "wrong side" of the war as a proxy for Iran and Syria, the group is not fighting for Tehran or Damascus. Rather the group is fighting to preserve its own interests at a time when it is facing existential threats. It cannot simply turn a blind eye while Syria descends into chaos and hope to be able to maintain order in Lebanon. The collapse of Syria's Alawite regime would empower Sunnis -- especially the more radical ones -- who are out to decimate Shiite power in the region.

From Hezbollah's point of view, the group needs to go on the offensive in Syria to avoid going on the defensive in Lebanon, which could lead to its defeat. Losing its ally in Damascus would deprive Hezbollah of reliable supply lines and encourage Lebanese Sunnis to challenge the Shiite group. Hezbollah is by far the largest and most powerful militia in Lebanon, but it cannot afford its position to be threatened.

Thus, the decline of its popular image is a price Hezbollah is likely willing to pay to ensure that the al Assad regime holds onto power. Indeed, Hezbollah has little choice in the matter. Its reputation as an anti-Israeli resistance force is a luxury the group cannot afford right now considering its need to attend to more basic matters having to do with long-term survival.

Over the long run, Hezbollah is hoping that recent military gains made by the al Assad regime, along with divisions between mainstream Sunni rebels and jihadists, will help preserve the Lebanese group's interests. In the meantime, Hezbollah will focus on fighting the Syrian rebels and try to counter any negative criticism by emphasizing that it is not fighting Sunnis, but rather al Qaeda, a group that seeks to exterminate the Shia and is a threat to Sunni and international security. And in doing so, Hezbollah hopes -- even if perhaps futilely -- that the Hezboshaytaan label will not stick.



Read more: Syria and Lebanon's 'Party of Satan' | Stratfor
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« Reply #283 on: June 21, 2013, 10:49:31 AM »



By Robert D. Kaplan

A startling fact has emerged from the Arab Spring that few have remarked upon: despite the pining for democracy by the Muslim masses, it's comparatively safe to be a king or sultan. Royal families have survived better in this age of upheaval than secular autocrats, despite the latter's pretension to revolutionary traditions. No Arab royal family has been toppled, and most have made deft adjustments in the face of public unrest. Compare that with military dictators and security service thugs who have either been killed, driven into exile or who are fighting quite bloodily for their survival.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman and the various sheikhs of the Persian Gulf are, to be sure, more nervous on their thrones than a few years ago: in particular the monarchs of Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, they are not angels. Strong and regularly ruthless security services help keep these monarchs in power. Nevertheless, as comparison is the beginning of all serious scholarship, compared to other regimes in the region these monarchs have been both enlightened and Machiavellian in the best sense of the word.

Algeria's military-cum-revolutionary regime contended with a civil war in the 1990s; and, with the looming death of President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, stability there is seriously questionable. Tunisia's secular strongman Zine El Abdine Ben Ali was toppled in a popular uprising in 2011; so was military dictator Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Libyan tyrant Moammar Gadhafi was hunted down by a crowd and murdered, following another popular uprising. Mubarak was in a line of revolutionary military pharaohs and Gadhafi was an avowed radical: a self-declared enemy of the reactionary order of kings. Yet, the Egyptian and Libyan masses were not impressed.

Of course, the sturdiest revolutionary credentials were possessed by the Baathist socialist rulers of Iraq and Syria. Though the Americans toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, many in the country did not mourn his death. And had the Americans not invaded, the Arab Spring might have claimed Saddam, too, as a victim. Finally, there is Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, who thus far has had to wage a civil war that has claimed 93,000 lives and created millions of refugees in order to stay in power.

Modernizing officer corps have bitten the desert dust; antiquated dynasties have held on, at least so far. Why?

It's legitimacy, stupid!

The fact is, monarchs are identified with their states to a degree that the officers and the dark-suited security heavies are not. Tunisia is an age-old cluster of civilization emanating from ancient Carthage, the incredibly corrupt, plain-clothed policeman (because that's what he was) Ben Ali was superfluous to Tunisia's identity. Egypt constitutes a river valley civilization going back thousands of years. Toppling Mubarak was not going to lead to the breakup of the country. Then there are the revolutionary leaders who governed no real states at all. Libya is but a vague geographical expression that was held together only by Gadhafi's tyranny -- a tyranny so suffocating that it sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Syria and Iraq are also artificial states, and their erstwhile rulers, al Assad and Hussein, have represented sectarian minority regimes with questionable legitimacy at best. In sum, either the rulers were not sufficiently identified with their states, or there weren't any states underneath them.

The contrast with Arab royalty could not be greater.

The monarchs and their states, in terms of identity, are inextricable. The Alaouite dynasty in Morocco has ruled longer than the United States has existed as a country: it was Alaouite Moulay al-Rashid who forged the country in the first place in the second half of the 17th century. Saudi Arabia is, well, Saudi Arabia, the kingdom of the al-Sauds: without them there is no country. Jordan's geographical artificialness, coupled with its uneasy mix of desert tribesmen and urban Palestinians, is held together by the unifying force of the monarch: whose Hashemite family -- claiming direct descent from the Prophet Mohammed -- was synonymous with the original founding of the state in the mid-20th century. In Oman, the sultan has united the disparate worlds of the desert interior and the cosmopolitan, Indian Ocean seaboard in order to forge a state. As for the Gulf sheikhdoms, they were created as such by the British, and have been further buttressed by combining small populations with significant hydrocarbon deposits. Only the royal family in Bahrain is in trouble, because of a Sunni-Shiite split that has also bedeviled Iraq.

Precisely because of this historical legitimacy, the royal families of the Arab world have not had to govern in an extremely brutal fashion -- relative to the likes of the Gadhafis, the al Assads and Husseins. Their very moderation, again, relative to their region, has made them at least tolerable to their populations -- if not downright popular, in some cases. Moreover, because of their inherited wealth, there is not the same impetus to be corrupt. The kings and sultans may live lavishly, but they lack to the same degree the money-grubbing aura of the Ben Alis and Mubaraks, with their vulgar, nouveau riche wives. The Arab royals represent "old money," after a fashion. This, too, has made them more acceptable to the masses.

There are other factors. Precisely because the monarchs are ceremonial -- encompassing all the pomp and circumstance of the state in their very persons -- they can often delegate the dirty work of actual daily governance to ministers, who, when things go wrong, can conveniently take the blame. Indeed, who says the Arab world does not have separation of powers? Some Arab monarchs utilize this feature all the time, to their benefit. Jordan's kings are famous for firing prime ministers during many an economic downturn. The problem with the Gadhafis and the Mubaraks was that, because they had no inherited legitimacy (nobody believed in their pomp and circumstance), they demanded absolute power as insurance against coups. And because they had absolute power, they got personally blamed when the economy produced uneven results.

Finally, there is something else, something harder to define. Yes, the Arab royals are legitimate in a way their non-royal counterparts are not. Nevertheless, preserving a family tradition of state power for generations and, in some cases, for centuries, is an enormous responsibility: much greater even than that of the scions of family-run corporations in the West. You don't want to be the last in a royal line! And so, in addition to being wily and occasionally ruthless, there is also the constant desire to do good works: to earn your throne, as it were. For that, ultimately, is what will keep you in power. So when we think of Arab leaders who are -- in a larger political sense -- humane, who comes to mind: Mohammed VI, Abdullah II, Sultan Qaboos. That is the key to being a real prince, as Machiavelli would say: combining ruthlessness with virtu (virtue).

The democratic West should count itself lucky to have such autocrats in power.

Read more: Why Mideast Monarchies Survive | Stratfor
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« Reply #284 on: June 21, 2013, 10:52:46 AM »

second post

By Scott Stewart

In a June 15 audio message, a man identified as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, did something no leader of an al Qaeda franchise had ever done: He publicly defied a directive from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the al Qaeda core organization.

As we have noted for many years, the al Qaeda core has struggled to remain relevant on the physical and ideological battlefields. We've also discussed since 2005 the internal frictions between the core and some of the more independent franchise commanders, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in June 2006. If al-Baghdadi's revolt goes unchecked, it very well might spell the end of the concept of a global, centrally directed jihad, and it could be the next step in the devolution of the jihadist movement as it becomes even more regionally focused.
Origins of Conflict

The roots of the current tension between al-Baghdadi and al-Zawahiri extend back to 2004, when al-Zarqawi's Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad group became al Qaeda in Iraq, and the relationship between the organizations has been tenuous ever since. Unlike al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is headed by Nasir al-Wahayshi, who was close with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda core, the jihadist leadership in Iraq has never really toed the al Qaeda "corporate line." The jihadist leaders in Iraq, including al-Zarqawi, saw a need to adopt the al Qaeda brand name to help with recruitment and fundraising, but they never fully embraced al Qaeda's philosophy and vision and frequently ignored the core's guidance. One key reason for these differences is that al-Zarqawi's group had its own identity and philosophy, which was greatly influenced by Jordanian jihadist ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. They attempted to place a veneer of al Qaeda over that initial Tawhid and Jihad foundation, but it was never a solid fit.

External link:
English translation of al-Zawahiri's letter
Stratfor is not responsible for the content of other websites.

The current manifestation of the tensions between al-Baghdadi and al-Zawahiri erupted April 8, when al-Baghdadi released an audio message in which he announced that his organization had subsumed the Syrian jihadist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-Baghdadi named the new, expanded organization the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and reportedly moved to Syria's Aleppo governorate to take charge.

Two days after al-Baghdadi's announcement, it became apparent that he had not coordinated with Jabhat al-Nusra's leader, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, and that the union of the organizations was more akin to a hostile takeover than a friendly merger. In his own audio message, al-Golani acknowledged the assistance that Jabhat al-Nusra had received from the Islamic State of Iraq in the struggle against the Syrian regime, but he stated that he had not been consulted about the merger and learned about it only through the media. Al-Golani then repledged his allegiance to al-Zawahiri and noted that his organization would remain independent from the Islamic State of Iraq. This message was clearly an appeal for al-Zawahiri to mediate.

Following al-Baghdadi's announcement of the merger and al-Golani's rejection of it, many Jabhat al-Nusra fighters deserted al-Golani to join the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This had a significant impact on Jabhat al-Nusra, and a spokesman for the group told Al Jazeera on June 8 that al-Baghdadi's takeover was "the most dangerous development in the history of global jihad."

Al-Zawahiri's ruling on the matter came in a letter released June 9 in which he urged the leaders to stop feuding. The letter noted that al-Baghdadi had erred in declaring the merger without consulting the al Qaeda leadership and that, like al-Golani, the core leaders had heard of the merger only through media reports. Al-Zawahiri also noted that al-Golani was wrong to publicly announce his rejection of the merger and to publicly reveal his group's affiliation with al Qaeda. He also declared that the Islamic State of Iraq was to be confined to the geography of Iraq and that Jabhat al-Nusra was to remain in charge of Syria. Al-Zawahiri instructed both groups to cease fighting and to support each other with fighters, arms, money, shelter and security as needed.

Al-Baghdadi's response to al-Zawahiri's admonition was sharp and quite clear. In the audio message released June 15, a man who appears to be al-Baghdadi rejected al-Zawahiri's order, stating that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant would remain and that he and his followers would not compromise or back down as long as they live. Regarding the instructions in al-Zawahiri's letter, al-Baghdadi said he had been forced to choose between God's command and an order that contravened it. Al-Baghdadi said he chose the order of God over those of al-Zawahiri. This was clearly a shot at al-Zawahiri's legitimacy and authority -- and a very public one.
Consequences

The al Qaeda core leadership has been isolated and in hiding since 2001. The leaders' efforts to avoid blunders in communications security that could bring them to the attention of the massive U.S. signals intelligence operations meant that they needed to be largely unplugged from rapid means of communication. AP recently released internal al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb documents in which the group's leaders lamented the fact that they have received only a few communications from bin Laden and al-Zawahiri since pledging allegiance to al Qaeda in 2006, despite their many letters to the core group seeking guidance.

It is difficult to lead an organization remotely, and it is even more so when you do not have regular and sustained communications with your subordinates. Such an environment compels individuals on the battlefield to become autonomous and self-reliant, especially when the higher headquarters is not in a position to offer subordinate units much in the way of funding, training or assistance. This situation does not leave the headquarters with much leverage over battlefield commanders, and that lack of control was quite apparent even in the 2005 letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi -- it was filled with far more pleas and persuasion than commands and consequences.

It is also important to remember that like Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad, all of the al Qaeda franchise groups were created from existing regional militant groups and have their own distinct leadership personalities, histories and philosophies. These groups have also been involved in combat for years and they all face unique conditions and concerns in the areas where they operate. These factors serve to separate them from the leaders of the core group in Pakistan, as does the normal disdain that soldiers who spend years on the front line tend to have for people assigned in the rear echelons and whom they consider to be out of touch with conditions in the trenches.

As to the authenticity of these recent communications, it is quite possible that they are elaborate fabrications by intelligence agencies attempting to cultivate divisions within the jihadist movement. However, the time that has elapsed without any sort of public denunciation of the messages suggests that they are likely authentic. Their tone and content also seems genuine, and the fact that they were released publicly underscores the difficulties al-Zawahiri and the al Qaeda core has had communicating directly with the various jihadist franchise groups.

Despite the long-standing weakness of the al Qaeda core group, to this point the franchise groups have been careful to publicly maintain a facade of paying homage to the core leadership. Al-Baghdadi's breaking from that policy may be attributed to the absence of bin Laden, who has been dead for more than two years. Bin Laden was highly regarded in the jihadist world and had maintained an almost mythical status. It had become difficult for jihadists to show disrespect for him, even when some jihadists felt he was no longer relevant or was cowardly for hiding. Though al-Zawahiri was in many ways the architect of al Qaeda's transnational jihadist vision and philosophy, he is prickly and irascible -- traits that tend to alienate colleagues and subordinates. He has no peers in the jihadist realm, but he nonetheless is not regarded as highly as bin Laden was.

Al-Baghdadi did not rise to his current position by being foolish. With Iraqi government forces hunting him (and U.S.-led coalition forces before that), he has been forced to shrewdly negotiate the maze of Iraqi sectarian politics to stay alive -- and to ensure the continuing viability of his organization. It was largely due to his savvy leadership that the Islamic State of Iraq had the resources and foresight to back Jabhat al-Nusra's efforts in Syria. Therefore, al-Baghdadi must have judged that he had the support of his Iraqi subordinates and a sizable number of the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters before making his move to absorb the Syrian group. His decision to openly defy al-Zawahiri was also likely made carefully. Since al-Zawahiri's letter was released publicly, al-Baghdadi appears to have decided that his response must be public -- and he apparently concluded that open rebellion would not undermine his position with his supporters.

With al-Baghdadi reasserting his intent to assume greater regional influence, he could be assuming an important position in the long-term sectarian struggle that seems to be underway across the region. At the same time, moving to Aleppo could expose him to some sort of operation from U.S. assets in the region -- especially if he is seen as an ascendant regional jihadist threat.

It will be important to watch how the global jihadist movement views al-Baghdadi's rebellion. Will they rally around al-Zawahiri and label al-Baghdadi as a rogue, or will they ignore the slight and write al-Zawahiri off as a marginalized old man with no power? It will also be interesting to see what effect this has on al-Baghdadi's followers in Iraq and Syria. Will they continue to follow him in his new organization, or will they abandon him for a different leadership appointed by the al Qaeda core?

Al-Baghdadi has the opportunity to become the most influential and dynamic battlefield commander in the jihadist realm. His areas of operation in Iraq and Syria provide opportunities for growth and expansion that a location such as Yemen simply would not. Al-Baghdadi's influence on the dynamics of the jihadist movement will need to be watched carefully.

For years, we have been saying that franchise groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have assumed leadership of the global jihad on both the physical and ideological battlefields. But while the devolution of the jihadist movement, the growing irrelevance of the al Qaeda core and the tensions between the core and the franchises have been evident to observers for some time now, it is still quite significant to see these facts being acknowledged openly -- and defiantly -- by the leader of a major jihadist franchise organization.

Read more: A Revolt Within the al Qaeda Movement | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #285 on: June 23, 2013, 09:00:33 AM »

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/22/900-us-troops-shielding-jordan-syrian-civil-war-th/
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« Reply #286 on: June 29, 2013, 09:38:10 PM »

http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/06/27/is_syrian_related_violence_the_beginning_of_the_muslim_worlds_thirty_years_war
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« Reply #287 on: July 05, 2013, 09:46:23 PM »


This site seems like it might be worthy of regular perusal:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/home.html
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« Reply #288 on: July 16, 2013, 03:07:46 PM »



http://www.thedailysheeple.com/160000-russian-troops-mobilized-as-world-watches-trayvon-martin-case_072013
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« Reply #289 on: July 16, 2013, 03:16:58 PM »


I'm sure the crack team at state has this well in hand.
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« Reply #290 on: July 16, 2013, 03:34:52 PM »

And Sec Def Hagel too!

Forturnately the CiC is on vacation in Martha's Vineyard after the rigors of this $100M vacation in Africa , , ,
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« Reply #291 on: July 17, 2013, 12:09:26 AM »

Iranian Nuclear Crisis Nearing a Critical Tipping Point
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
July 16, 2013
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4084/iranian-nuclear-crisis-nearing-a-critical-tipping

 
Iran is edging closer toward its goal of nuclear weapons possession and is leading the already deeply unstable Middle East region down a path to a new crisis.

The warning signs are being drowned out somewhat by the horrors of the Syrian civil war and deteriorating unrest in Egypt, but they are present for any observer to see.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently voiced his concern that regional instability is causing the international community to take its eye off the swiftly-approaching Iranian nuclear crisis. "They're getting closer" to the nuclear red line, Netanyahu told CBS's Face the Nation. "They should understand that they're not going to be allowed to cross it."

Netanyahu stressed that the Israeli and U.S. clocks on this matter are "ticking at a different pace."

While Jerusalem's stated red line is an Iran in possession of 250 kilograms of enriched uranium, Washington's undeclared red line is significantly further behind that of Israel's. For the Obama administration, a trigger for action would be irrefutable evidence of an Iranian order to assemble a nuclear weapon.

There are multiple signals indicating that Iran is moving forward with the major components of its nuclear program, while keeping the level of its enriched uranium below a certain level to avoid triggering an Israeli military strike.

Iran's nuclear trajectory is unlikely to be affected by Hassan Rouhani's election as the new president, since he must defer all decisions on nuclear policy to the country's unelected supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Only Khamenei can order the regime to cease Iran's march towards nuclear weapons, and he has clearly refrained from doing so.

A growing chorus of international observers, including the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noted that the twin policies being pursued by the United States and the international community – biting sanctions coupled with diplomacy – have failed to convince Khamenei to abandon the nuclear program.

Sanctions have taken a painful toll on the Iranian economy, contributing to inflation, the devaluation of the Iranian currency, and more than halving Iranian oil exports (from 2.6 million barrels a day in 2011 to 1.1 million barrels a day currently). And yet, none of these pressure points has caused Khamenei to budge.

Some defense experts in Israel have called into question President Barack Obama's assurances that he will not allow Iran to go nuclear, and suggest that Washington is on an unintended course toward a policy of containment, not prevention.

Iran's goal is to anaesthetize the international community until such time that it can present itself to the world as a nuclear-armed state, and transmit the message that its new status is a fait accompli. According to Israeli assessments, Iran aims to ultimately arm itself with some 200 atomic bombs.

Iran hasn't yet become a nuclear-armed state, but time is running out.

Iran's deviously skillful delay and deceptions, its constant nuclear progress, together with the failure of the sanctions and negotiations approach, may well force a reluctant Israeli decision to take military action sooner, rather than later.  Israel views military action as the second least attractive scenario, as such a development would likely have a direct spillover effect on the entire region, which is already destabilized due to the Syrian civil war, and which is experiencing chronic sovereignty failures in several states, such as Egypt and Lebanon.

A military strike on Iran would almost certainly drag Israel into a confrontation with Hizballah (now deployed in both Lebanon and Syria), and end up forcing the Israeli military to engage hostile forces on multiple fronts simultaneously, such as Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces have been training intensively (as detailed below) for simultaneous, multiple-front warfare, marked by heavy rocket and missile attacks on the Israeli home front.

As unattractive as that scenario is, it is preferable to an even worse development for Israeli national security: A nuclear Iran.

Assembling the Iranian nuclear puzzle

As it engages the international community in a series of fruitless negotiations to buy itself time, the Iranian regime is carefully and consistently putting into place all of the components needed to acquire atomic bombs.  Iran's steps, as confirmed by the IAEA, include: Installing faster centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow (the latter is borrowed deep into a mountain); working on a nuclear trigger mechanism at a facility in Parchin (where IAEA inspectors have been denied access for several years); and investing heavily in a delivery system, in the form of a medium and long-range ballistic missile program.

The Iranians are also working on a covert, parallel nuclear program, to create atomic bombs from plutonium. The heart of this program is based at the Arak heavy water facility.

And yet, when it comes to amassing enriched uranium, Iran is staying behind a red line, one Netanyahu drew at the United Nations last year. Netanyahu made clear that Israel would spring into action if Iran came to possess 250 kilograms or more of medium enriched uranium (MEU), enough material to create one atomic bomb after the MEU is converted to highly enriched uranium (HEU). The process of converting MEU to HEU is relatively straightforward and easy for a country that has mastered the production of low and medium enriched uranium.

In 2012, just as Iran began to approach Netanyahu's red line, it converted 113 kilograms of its uranium stockpile to nuclear fuel, thereby stepping back from the brink, and decreasing international tensions. As of May this year, Iran began approaching the red line again, stockpiling 182 kilograms of MEU, according to the latest IAEA report.
All the while, Iran's stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU), the first and most difficult phase of a nuclear weapons program, continues to grow. Israel estimates that Iran has at least 6.5 tons of LEU.

Hence, Iran is carefully calibrating its uranium enrichment levels, while moving forward in all other nuclear program fields to a phase where it can breakout to the atomic bomb phase at short notice.  Publicly, Israel has signaled that the trigger for potential strike lies with the quantity of MEU in Iran's possession. However, in light of the progress Iran is making in many other spheres of the nuclear program, one cannot rule out the existence of additional, unannounced red lines, such as Iran's plutonium-based nuclear efforts.

In the line of fire

Israel is far more threatened by a nuclear Iran than the United States, for the following reasons: Its small size; the concentration of millions of Israelis in cities on the country's coastal plain; its regional proximity to Iran; and the fact that Israel is the object of an obsessive ideological-religious covert war waged by the Iranian regime against it, which has included an ambitious Iranian armament program designed to turn southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip into rocket launching bases.

Israel, the target of annihilationist Iranian rhetoric issued by top regime figures on a regular basis, has a smaller window of opportunity to strike Iran than the U.S., and would have to move earlier than Washington because of its more limited long-distance strike capabilities.  The core of the Israeli defense doctrine holds that Israel cannot depend on any foreign power, even its most trusted ally, to deal with developing existential security threats.

This means that if Israel misses its window of opportunity to act, it would violate a central tenet of its own defense doctrine. The very fact that Israel hasn't launched a strike yet is evidence of the fact that the window of opportunity for Israeli military action remains open.

However, daring and successful covert operations, such as Stuxnet, the most advanced computer virus in history, and the mysterious blasts that have killed key members of the Iranian nuclear project in Tehran and elsewhere, have caused temporary delays at best.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned that Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking Iran's nuclear program on its own, and called the Iranian nuclear threat "the most significant" to Israel, the Middle East and the "modern world."

Israel's Minister for Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said recently that "time is running out. We have only a few months. The danger is a global one, which will change the face of history. Iran could have hundreds of atomic bombs and hundreds of long-range missiles."

The past two years have seen tighter Israeli-American coordination and cooperation on Iran. These have been led by the national security advisors of both countries, Tom Donilon and Yaakov Amidror, both of whom have recently resigned.

Additionally, the recently-retired US Army's Central Command Chief, General James Mattis, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had no doubt Israel would act if and when Iran crossed a nuclear red line, and that it is able to do so without US assistance.

Mattis also bluntly told the committee that economic and diplomatic efforts are failing.

Envisaging a strike

According to foreign reports, Jerusalem possesses a feasible attack plan that can cause major damage to Iranian nuclear sites, and which can set back the country's nuclear program by a number of years.  The Iranian regime would be able, however, to reactivate the program and resume its efforts if an agreement with the international community to freeze future nuclear activity is not reached.

Although nothing is known of the strike plan, it is possible to envisage a few possibilities. Multiple aerial routes are available for Israeli aircraft to reach targets in Iran. In any attack route, the Israel Air Force would probably have to neutralize or evade the radar systems of transit countries.

According to foreign reports, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has more than 100 F15i and F16i fighter jets that can fly to and Iran and return without needing to refuel, and which can carry large payloads.  Foreign reports also say Israel possesses long-range Jericho ground-to-ground missiles, which can theoretically strike targets in Iran.
Israel also possesses the advanced midair refueling capabilities required for carrying out sorties over multiple Iranian targets situated between 1,500 and 2,000 km. away from home.

Possible targets include uranium- enrichment sites at Natanz and Qom, the uranium- conversion plant at Isfahan, and a heavy water reactor in Arak.

Once over Iran, the IAF would need to paralyze Iranian air defenses, possibly employing advanced electronic warfare capabilities, and deploy bunker-busting bombs against nuclear sites, which are reportedly in its possession.  Israeli intelligence satellites could provide real time detailed images from the battle arena, while fleets of giant Heron 2 drones, which have the wingspans of Boing 737 commercial airliner, and could carry out intelligence in Iranian skies as they hover over the launching sites of Iranian Shihab-3 missiles.

Israel Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile batteries can intercept Shihab-3 barrages from Iran (the Arrow 3 system, which intercepts incoming ballistic missiles space, is not yet operational).

On the ground, Iran would order Hizballah to respond to a strike with an onslaught of rockets on the Israeli home front.  Israel's solution to this threat involves devastating air force strikes using new weapons systems and a lightning ground invasion of southern Lebanon to quickly extinguish the rocket threat and dismember Hizballah as a fighting organization.

Yet several unknowns remain, such as the impact a strike would have on the Syrian arena, home to Hizballah and Iranian military forces.

While Israel has no desire to activate its military option, it will never agree to living under Iran's atomic shadow.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.
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« Reply #292 on: August 04, 2013, 10:49:25 AM »


http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/tanks-guard-us-yemen-embassy-in-terror-alert


and catch & release

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/thehate_escape_Kp8Mu76ieqKGvFxMuxM8nL
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« Reply #293 on: August 05, 2013, 11:13:26 AM »

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/aug/4/al-qaeda-terror-threat-serious-congressmen-and-sen/?page=all#pagebreak

I do wonder if some of these Congressional comments help the enemy figure out how we found out , , ,
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« Reply #294 on: August 12, 2013, 11:37:12 AM »

Given Baraq's decision to throw away what we finally achieved in Iraq, the point articulated here makes considerable sense to me.  Indeed, it contrasts favorably with the McCain-Lindsay Graham school of interventionism.

Arab Chaos: How Much Does it Matter?
Global Affairs
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 04:01 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
Stratfor

By Robert D. Kaplan

Chaos is sweeping the Arab world. Tunisia is in political disarray and can barely control its borders. Libya hardly exists: Tripoli is not the capital of a country but the weak point of arbitration for tribes and militias in far-flung desert reaches. Egypt wallows in a political stasis in which the government has trouble functioning, ideological divisions between the military and Islamists split the country and guns and vigilantism abound. The Sinai Peninsula has become a mini-Afghanistan. The government of Yemen may on a good day control half of its territory. Syria is in a full-fledged civil war with over 100,000 dead. Iraq, too, barely exists as a state and low-intensity violence there is a feature of life. Bahrain and Jordan are much weakened states compared to previous decades. Significantly, none of this anywhere will be solved anytime soon.

The conventional wisdom is that such chaos is bad for the United States: that anarchy anywhere presents a challenge and threat to the American people. That is certainly true in a values sense, particularly about what it says about our planet. I wrote about that in a 1994 Atlantic Monthly essay, "The Coming Anarchy," in which, among other things, I foresaw chaos in places like Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, both of which collapsed a few years later. But what if that is not true in terms of the cold logic of power politics? What if Middle Eastern chaos, in terms of America's geopolitical interests, is not quite as bad as we think?

But don't transnational Islamist terrorists like al Qaeda thrive in weakly governed areas? To a degree, yes. And there is a significant "threat stream" emerging now from new and more autonomous al Qaeda cells throughout a Middle East crumbling into anarchy, as Washington experts and officials have correctly noted during the recent spate of embassy shutdowns. There is another side to the story, however. Transnational terrorists certainly exist in weakly governed areas -- witness post-Gadhafi Libya and the attack on the U. S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last year. But really thriving is another matter. Thriving in an ungoverned area means to have a zone of control, where you don't have to worry about security threats, so that you can build training camps and develop plans for sophisticated attacks on third countries -- like al Qaeda did in Afghanistan in the late 1990s through 2001. Yet, that is hard to do when anarchy is all around. In fact, Afghanistan back in the late 1990s was not wholly in chaos. Rather, substantial areas were governed by the Taliban, which formally hosted al Qaeda. The areas under Taliban control constituted a hostile state more than a chaotic one. Thus, while smaller attacks emanating from al Qaeda are more likely now because of widespread anarchy -- again, witness Benghazi -- an attack on the level of 9/11 probably requires a more stable environment in parts of an otherwise unstable country. Think Yemen.

Transnational jihadists currently establishing themselves throughout the Middle East are primarily a threat to their host governments, such as they still exist. Yet, from the American perspective the greatest security threat to the regional balance of power is not so much a chaotic state as a stable and strongly governed one: Iran. Iran, precisely because it is not in chaos, is now able to develop a nuclear capacity through a sophisticated and dispersed network of facilities that the Americans and Israelis have found difficult to dismantle without going to war. Would only Iran have been in chaos for years now -- then its nuclear program would likely not be so far along!

Because Iran is both radical and strongly governed, Israel's security is fundamentally undermined, even as chaos elsewhere in the Middle East has been in some ways favorable to Israel, an American ally by the way. The Israeli military recently announced that because militaries in Egypt and Syria, as well as in other Arab states, no longer present a conventional threat to its territory, Israel now has the luxury to concentrate more on unconventional threats like guerrilla infiltrations and cyberattacks. Thus, thanks to chaos in the Arab world, Israel no longer faces a strategic threat on its borders: Rather, the threat has deteriorated to a tactical one. Hezbollah and Hamas cannot send tanks into Israel's population zones like Egypt and Syria -- back when they were strongly governed states -- were once theoretically able to do.

But doesn't chaos threaten the transition from illegitimate autocracies to liberal democracies? That is a moral argument; not a geopolitical one. And even as a moral argument it is flawed, because it misunderstands history. First of all, the United States did very well with so-called illegitimate autocracies. For decades during the Cold War, Arab autocracies from the Maghreb to the Levant allowed for strong American influence in the region, stable and predictable regimes, protection of the all-vital sea lines of communication between the West and the hydrocarbon-rich Persian Gulf and the ability of the United States to arrange truces, separation of forces agreements and even a peace treaty or two among regional combatants. Moreover, American embassies were safe back then! Who says that democratic regimes -- when and if they arise -- will be as convenient to America's geopolitical interests as were authoritarian ones? After all, just as there have been liberal autocracies in the Middle East, there could well emerge illiberal democracies. In terms of the security and economic well being of the American people, the former are clearly preferable.

As for chaos threatening the march toward democracy, well, what did the proponents of democratic change in the Middle East actually expect? It took Europe, by some measures, the better part of a millennium to make the transition from absolute autocracies to stable and liberal democracies. In between there was an interminable pageant of wars and insurrections. Russia in the 1990s tried to make an overnight transition from Communist dictatorship to Western-style democracy and the result was near-anarchy. Meanwhile, Asian countries carefully went through many years of authoritarianism combined with market-oriented reforms as part of a slow transition to democracy. In post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe the transition was quicker, but that was because those countries had a background of democratic practices and bourgeois culture prior to World War II, to a degree that many Arab states simply do not. Moreover, Central and Eastern Europe had the advantage -- for geographical and cultural reasons -- of being more easily absorbed into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. In short, chaos of some degree is what one should expect for years to come in the Middle East.

The notion, advanced by more than a few commentators, that U.S. President Barack Obama is somehow responsible for such chaos emerging under his watch cannot be taken seriously. For it assumes that Washington has far more influence than it actually has on the ground in disparate, populous and complex Islamic societies. Just as the Eastern Bloc collapsed largely from internal stresses, rather than from any decisions taken by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the Arab world has evolved likewise largely on its own, not because of any decision taken by Obama. Of course, Libya was an exception: American humanitarian intervention there actually contributed to the chaos.

But couldn't Obama have prevented chaos in Syria had he intervened there early? Perhaps, though no one will ever know. Still, the idea that somehow an American-led military intervention in Syria in 2011 would, within a few short weeks, have set that country politically to rights may itself be naive. (And a few short weeks would have been all the American public had patience for.) Ironically, in years to come, Obama may be praised by historians for precisely what he is now under attack for: staying out of Syria.

Syrian chaos surely undermines Lebanon and Iraq. But those two states for years already have barely been states at all. Meanwhile, Syrian chaos presents the American ally Israel not only with dangers, but also with some opportunities. Syrian chaos may ensnare the American enemy Iran into a stalemate with more tenuous supply lines than it had in Iraq. In other words, provided the regime in Jordan does not crumble, it is not at all clear at this juncture that anarchy in Syria undermines a core American interest (new and autonomous al Qaeda cells excepted). And provided the Suez Canal remains open and Israel's southern border is reasonably secure, the same can be said for chaos in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the hydrocarbon-rich Arabian Peninsula -- with the exception of Bahrain -- remain stable. Now there would be Middle Eastern chaos that unambiguously matters; there would be Middle Eastern chaos that world financial markets, for example, would finally take notice of! For the time being, however, the collapse of strong autocracies elsewhere in the region presents the United States with a security challenge that will continue for years.


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bigdog
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« Reply #295 on: August 26, 2013, 01:28:07 PM »

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/26/the-middle-east-explained-in-one-sort-of-terrifying-chart/

From the article:

Sir, Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad!

Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.

But Gulf states are pro-Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!

Iran is pro-Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!

Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the U.S.!

Gulf states are pro-U.S. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro-Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states!

Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.

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DougMacG
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« Reply #296 on: August 26, 2013, 03:19:28 PM »


"Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad.  Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.  But Gulf states are pro-Sisi.  Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood.  Iran is pro-Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood.  Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the U.S.  Gulf states are pro-U.S. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro-Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states.
[/quote]

Not to mention Russia!  It would be worth memorizing that passage in case someone asks what I think is going on in the Middle East.  Here is is the chart mentioned:



Why are people saying this is confusing?

It might be a good time for the U.S. to pull back, build up our own economy and energy production capacity, and strike force, and do like NHL refs do during fights, let the players wear themselves out a little before stepping in.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #297 on: August 26, 2013, 04:05:02 PM »

"It might be a good time for the U.S. to pull back, build up our own economy and energy production capacity, and strike force, and do like NHL refs do during fights, let the players wear themselves out a little before stepping in."

This makes great sense but is incomplete I think in one important respect--  Iran, which every day grows closer to nukes.  http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/08/25/the-road-to-damascus-starts-in-tehran/?singlepage=true

Q:  Why is Israel supporting the Syrian rebels?  Isn't it worried about AQ taking over?
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 04:58:51 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #298 on: August 26, 2013, 05:21:27 PM »

"It might be a good time for the U.S. to pull back, build up our own economy and energy production capacity, and strike force, and do like NHL refs do during fights, let the players wear themselves out a little before stepping in."

Sure. As long as "let the players wear themselves out a little before stepping in" means wait until they've pretty much killed themselves off.


With the exception of Israel, Let. It. Burn.
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« Reply #299 on: August 26, 2013, 05:32:56 PM »

What to do about Iran?

In effect are we looking to keep it going as we did with Iraq and Iran?
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