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Author Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR  (Read 54088 times)
G M
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« Reply #300 on: August 26, 2013, 05:38:00 PM »

What to do about Iran?

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

Buraq will do nothing about Iran. I hope Israel will and it will succeed, but I'm not optimistic.

We should have taken care of the mullahs a long time ago, and a serious price will be paid for failing to do so.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #301 on: September 01, 2013, 11:26:18 AM »



http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/09/01/obama-blinked-why-israelis-are-concerned-obamas-syria-strike-about-face-will-embolden-iran-and-other-foes/

Question presented:  My fellow Americans (and our good friends) what should we do in this moment? 
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ccp
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« Reply #302 on: September 01, 2013, 11:57:45 AM »

" My fellow Americans (and our good friends) what should we do in this moment? "

Best thing would be to impeach Obama.  That would be best for America.  (And keep out Hillary in 16).
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #303 on: September 01, 2013, 01:24:45 PM »

So, your answer is , , , President Biden?  rolleyes cheesy

Seriously now, AMERICA is in a helluva a mess here.  Yes, His Glibness brought us here through his hubris, cluelessness, and more, BUT THE QUESTION REMAINS:  WHAT SHOULD AMERICA DO NOW?

1) Suck up the complete loss of face and do nothing?
2) Do something vapid and meaningless in order to pretend to save the face of our clueless CiC and our nation
3) Do something substantial that genuinely weakens and/or takes down Assad?
4) Or?

ALL OF THESE HAVE HIDEOUS POSSIBLE OUTCOMES , , , but the fight will be what the fight will be.  WHAT SHOULD AMERICA DO NOW?

Rachel posted a very relevant article in the Israel thread today-- the real question here is Iran and its nuke program.   Does this suggest that weakening/eliminating Assad in order to weaken Iran is the least bad course of action? 

Are we ready for what follows?


« Last Edit: September 01, 2013, 01:28:56 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
DougMacG
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« Reply #304 on: September 02, 2013, 12:22:47 AM »

"BUT THE QUESTION REMAINS:  WHAT SHOULD AMERICA DO NOW?

1) Suck up the complete loss of face and do nothing?
2) Do something vapid and meaningless in order to pretend to save the face of our clueless CiC and our nation
3) Do something substantial that genuinely weakens and/or takes down Assad?
4) Or?

ALL OF THESE HAVE HIDEOUS POSSIBLE OUTCOMES , , , but the fight will be what the fight will be.  WHAT SHOULD AMERICA DO NOW?

Rachel posted a very relevant article in the Israel thread today-- the real question here is Iran and its nuke program..."


My thoughts at the moment:  Obama is taking it to Congress as his way of getting out of it.  Some people I highly respect favor intervention in Syria, Bret Stephens, WSJ, is one:  http://www.hughhewitt.com/wall-street-journals-bret-stephens-making-passionate-case-intervention-syria/

Two reasons to oppose that view.  The outcome in Syria yes could become worse for us than the way things are, and we have 3 more years with no Commander in Chief.  This no time to bite off what we can't chew.

I favor specific strikes on known WMD stockpiles of sworn enemies - anywhere.  That is different than a provocative, 'shot across the bow'.

Bait and switch:  Our response to Syria should be to take out nuclear facilities in Iran - right now - if a plan is in place to do that successfully.  N.K. too.  It would send a message to Assad (and others), plus Iran supports the Syrian regime. 

Saving face:  Rather than breaking our promises, we are just falling a behind on our work.  So many tyrants - so little time.
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G M
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« Reply #305 on: September 02, 2013, 05:56:09 AM »

I like Doug's bait and switch plan.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #306 on: September 02, 2013, 10:24:35 AM »

Apparent Options

a) we allow the chem use to stand, with all the consequences that flow from that; or
b) we support the President in pretending to do something about it-- a farce which will not defend credibility; or
c) do something meaningful, calling upon a military that is being dramatically contracted and led by a CiC who simply is not up to the job and will thoroughly foul it up.

(Ret 4 Star) Gen. Keane has been making some interesting points.  He says that taking out Assad's air base runways would degrade his capabilities viz the rebels substantially by eliminating his air power.  He says AQ is in the north and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been receiving Saudi Arms via Jordan for 7-8 months now without those arms falling into AQ hands.  He says arming the rebels more is a good idea.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #307 on: September 02, 2013, 10:35:00 AM »

http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/obama-indicts-obama/?singlepage=true
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #308 on: September 06, 2013, 09:08:12 AM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323893004579057271019210230.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #309 on: September 06, 2013, 11:08:01 AM »

second post

Syria and the Byzantine Strategy
By Robert Kaplan

In March 1984, I was reporting from the Hawizeh Marshes in southern Iraq near the Iranian border. The Iran-Iraq War was in its fourth year, and the Iranians had just launched a massive infantry attack, which the Iraqis repelled with poison gas. I beheld hundreds of young, dead Iranian soldiers, piled up and floating in the marshes, like dolls without a scar on any of them. An Iraqi officer poked one of the bodies with his walking stick and told me, "This is what happens to the enemies of Saddam [Hussein]." Of course, the Iranians were hostile troops invading Iraqi territory; not civilians. But Saddam got around to killing women and children, too, with chemical weapons. In March 1988, he gassed roughly 5,000 Kurds to death. As a British reporter with me in the Hawizeh Marshes had quipped, "You could fit the human rights of Iraq on the head of a pin, and still have room for the human rights of Iran."

The reaction of the Reagan administration to the gassing to death of thousands of Kurdish civilians by Saddam was to keep supporting him through the end of his war with Iran. The United States was then in the midst of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, and as late as mid-1989 it wouldn't be apparent that this twilight struggle would end so suddenly and so victoriously. Thus, with hundreds of thousands of American servicemen occupied in Europe and northeast Asia, using Saddam's Iraq as a proxy against Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran made perfect sense.

The United States has values, but as a great power it also has interests. Ronald Reagan may have spoken the rousing language of universal freedom, but his grand strategy was all of a piece. And that meant picking and choosing his burdens wisely. As a result, Saddam's genocide against the Kurds, featuring chemical weapons, was overlooked.
In fact, the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, coterminous with the life of the Reagan administration, was a boon to it. By tying down two large and radical states in the heart of the Middle East, the war severely reduced the trouble that each on its own would certainly have caused the region for almost a decade. This gave Reagan an added measure of leeway in order to keep his focus on Europe and the Soviets -- and on hurting the Soviets in Afghanistan. To wit, only two years after the Iran-Iraq War ended, Saddam invaded Kuwait. Peace between Iran and Iraq was arguably no blessing to the United States and the West.

Likewise, it might be argued that the Syrian civil war, now well into its second year, has carried strategic benefits to the West. The analyst Edward N. Luttwak, writing recently in The New York Times, has pointed out that continued fighting in Syria is preferable to either of the two sides winning outright. If President Bashar al Assad's forces were to win, then the Iranians and the Russians would enjoy a much stronger position in the Levant than before the war. If the rebels were to win, it is entirely possible that Sunni jihadists, with ties to transnational terrorism, will have a staging post by the Mediterranean similar to what they had in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan until 2001, and also similar to what they currently have in Libya. So rather than entertain either of those two possibilities, it is better that the war continue.

Of course, all of this is quite cold-blooded. The Iran-Iraq War took the lives of over a million people. The Syrian civil war has so far claimed reportedly 110,000 lives. Even the celebrated realist of the mid-20th century, Hans Morgenthau of the University of Chicago, proclaimed the existence of a universal moral conscience, which sees war as a "natural catastrophe." And it is this very conscience that ultimately limits war's occurrence. That is what makes foreign policy so hard. If it were simply a matter of pursuing a state's naked interests, then there would be few contradictions between desires and actions. If it were simply a matter of defending human rights, there would similarly be fewer hard choices. But foreign policy is both. And because voters will only sustain losses to a nation's treasure when serious interests are threatened, interests often take precedence over values. Thus, awful compromises are countenanced.

Making this worse is the element of uncertainty. The more numerous the classified briefings a leader receives about a complex and dangerous foreign place, the more he may realize how little the intelligence community actually knows. This is not a criticism of the intelligence community, but an acknowledgment of complexity, especially when it concerns a profusion of armed and secretive groups, and an array of hard-to-quantify cultural factors. What option do I pursue? And even if I make the correct choice, how sure can I be of the consequences? And even if I can be sure of the consequences -- which is doubtful -- is it worth diverting me from other necessary matters, both foreign and domestic, for perhaps weeks or even months?

Luttwak himself offers partial relief to such enigmas through a meticulous and erudite study of one of the greatest survival strategies in history. In "The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" (2009), he demonstrates the properties by which Byzantium, despite a threatened geographic position, survived for a thousand years after the fall of Rome. This Byzantine strategy, in its own prodigiously varied and often unconscious way, mirrored Morgenthau's realism, laced as it is with humanism.

The Byzantines, Luttwak writes, relied continuously on every method of deterrence. "They routinely paid off their enemies....using all possible tools of persuasion to recruit allies, fragment hostile alliances, subvert unfriendly rulers..." He goes on: "For the Romans...as for most great powers until modern days, military force was the primary tool of statecraft, with persuasion a secondary complement. For the Byzantine Empire it was mostly the other way around. Indeed, the shift of emphasis from force to diplomacy is one way of differentiating Rome from Byzantium..." In other words, "Avoid war by every possible means in all possible circumstances, but always act as if it might start at any time [his italics]." The Byzantines bribed, connived, dissembled and so forth, and as a consequence survived for centuries on end and fought less wars than they would have otherwise.

The lesson: be devious rather than bloody. President Barack Obama's mistake is not his hesitancy about entering the Syrian mess; but announcing to the Syrians that his military strike, if it occurs, will be "narrow" and "limited." Never tell your adversary what you're not going to do! Let your adversary stay awake all night, worrying about the extent of a military strike! Unless Obama is being deliberately deceptive about his war aims, then some of the public statements from the administration have been naïve in the extreme.

A Byzantine strategy, refitted to the postmodern age, would maintain the requisite military force in the eastern Mediterranean, combined with only vague presidential statements about the degree to which such force might or might not be used. It would feature robust, secret and ongoing diplomacy with the Russians and the Iranians, aware always of their interests both regionally and globally, and always open to deals and horse-trades with them. The goal would be to engineer a stalemate-of-sorts in Syria rather than necessarily remove al Assad. Reducing the intensity of fighting would thus constitute a morality in and of itself, even as it would keep either side from winning outright. For if the regime suddenly crumbled, violence might only escalate, and al Qaeda might even find a sanctuary close to Israel and Jordan.

Such a strategy might satisfy relatively few of the cognoscenti. Though, the American public -- which has a more profound, albeit badly articulated sense of national survival -- will surely tolerate it. The Congressional debate that preceded the Iraq War did not save President George W. Bush from obloquy when that war went badly. The lack of such a debate would not hurt Obama were he to successfully execute the methods described in Luttwak's book.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #310 on: September 06, 2013, 12:09:40 PM »

 What Saudi Arabia and Turkey Want in the Syria Conflict
Geopolitical Diary
Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 19:36 Text Size Print

As the debate continues over whether the United States will intervene in Syria, many observers have overlooked what Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- Washington's two main regional allies -- want from the Americans. Both countries want the United States to conduct a more comprehensive strike that weakens the regime, but their interests over the fate of Syria after the intervention differ greatly. Either way, Ankara's and Riyadh's behavior threatens to draw Washington into its third war in the Islamic world in 12 years.

On Thursday, Turkish media reported that the country deployed additional forces along its border with Syria ahead of expected U.S. military action. The previous day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Arab countries had offered to pay for the cost of any military action against Damascus. Kerry added that there was international consensus involving "Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qataris, the Turks and the French" on the need to take action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its own people.


Kerry is right to place the Saudis and the Turks in the same broad category of those that support Washington's use of force against Damascus. But he ignores the fact that both Ankara and Riyadh want the United States to topple the Syrian regime. That, however, is where their agreement ends. Not only does Washington disagree with its two main allies on the scope of the mission, but all three disagree on how they want the conflict to play out.

Neither Washington nor Ankara wants to the regime to fall completely because they do not want transnational jihadists to assume power. In Turkey, the political elites have divergent views on how far they should go in pursing regime change south of the border. Certainly the Syrian civil war presents risks; the threat of Kurdish separatism is far greater if the Syrian regime collapses. But the conflict also presents the opportunity to expand Ankara's regional influence. The United States, however, wants to oust al Assad but not dismantle his regime entirely -- Washington is not interested in weakening Iran to the benefit of Sunni radicals.

The Saudis have a much more hawkish position. After two years of disappointment, Riyadh is pleased to see that Washington may finally exercise the military option. Ultimately, it wants Washington to destroy the Alawite government. Regime change would enable the Saudis to defend against the influence of Iran, their biggest enemy, and to undermine Tehran and its two pre-eminent allies, Iraq and Hezbollah.

Riyadh knows that the collapse of the al Assad regime will create a vacuum that will be exploited by transnational jihadists, but that is a negligible concern. From the Saudi point of view, it is a price worth paying if Riyadh can undermine Iranian regional influence. In fact, Saudi Arabia believes that jihadists are the only effective tools that can be used against the Iranians and their Arab Shia allies.  

The Saudi perspective is also informed by the assumption it will be spared any blowback from Syrian instability. Unlike Turkey, it does not share a border with Syria. Between its financial power and its being the only state to have actually defeated jihadists within its borders, Saudi Arabia is confident that it can manage whatever jihadist threat emerges in a post-al Assad Syria.

Ankara shares Riyadh's desire to weaken Iran -- Tehran stands between the Turks and their regional ascendance -- but it is not willing to go as far as the Saudis. Though both Saudi Arabia and Turkey will try to bolster their preferred rebel factions in pursuit of their respective goals, the decision on just how much damage to inflict on the regime still rests with the United States.

Read more: What Saudi Arabia and Turkey Want in the Syria Conflict | Stratfor

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

BO gets some bleats of support at G-20:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323623304579059022988641910.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories

« Last Edit: September 06, 2013, 12:31:26 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #311 on: September 06, 2013, 01:02:37 PM »

4th post


http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/us-military-planners-dont-support-war-with-syria/2013/09/05/10a07114-15bb-11e3-be6e-dc6ae8a5b3a8_print.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #312 on: September 06, 2013, 01:11:20 PM »

5th post

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/05/iran-threatens-brutal-attacks-on-americans-obama-family-if-us-hits-syria/

What's the big deal about threatening Obama's daughter with rape?  Didn't David Letterman joke about a baseball player raping Sarah Palin's daughter? , , , but I digress.   Somehow the Iranians are not seeming very intimidated by our CiC's intended shot across the bow.

also see

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/5/a-us-strike-on-syria-would-amount-to-a-first-slap-/?page=all#pagebreak
« Last Edit: September 06, 2013, 01:33:28 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
G M
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« Reply #313 on: September 06, 2013, 07:43:30 PM »

Strange how Capt. Momjeans and his world bowing tour haven't quite gotten the results we were promised.

5th post

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/05/iran-threatens-brutal-attacks-on-americans-obama-family-if-us-hits-syria/

What's the big deal about threatening Obama's daughter with rape?  Didn't David Letterman joke about a baseball player raping Sarah Palin's daughter? , , , but I digress.   Somehow the Iranians are not seeming very intimidated by our CiC's intended shot across the bow.

also see

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/5/a-us-strike-on-syria-would-amount-to-a-first-slap-/?page=all#pagebreak
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #314 on: September 11, 2013, 09:02:51 AM »

http://m.weeklystandard.com/blogs/putin-didnt-save-obama-he-beat-him_753730.html
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ccp
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« Reply #315 on: September 11, 2013, 10:57:38 AM »

Doug,

In a way Putin did get Brock off the hook.  And why would he not want to?  Obama is the best President Russia has ever had.  Even better than Jimmy Carter - by far.  So yes.  It is in Russia's interest to keep the Bamster "revalantly" irrevalant (to invent a new phrase). 
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #316 on: September 11, 2013, 11:40:01 AM »

Is "revalant" similar in meaning to "relevant"?  cheesy

Anyway, agreed  grin
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ccp
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« Reply #317 on: September 11, 2013, 12:06:21 PM »

The spelling is irelevent!   smiley
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #318 on: September 11, 2013, 06:56:10 PM »

 The Limits of Bluffing
Geopolitical Diary
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 02:38 Text Size Print

U.S. President Barack Obama's address to the nation Tuesday evening hit all the expected points.

The president tried to articulate how an unanswered chemical weapons attack would impact U.S. national security, and he shed a bit more light on the intelligence that the United States has collected to link the regime to the attack. He also tried to define a limited U.S. strike as strong enough to hurt the regime, but not so damaging that the United States would be left to clean up the aftermath. To tie it off, the president made a moral argument rooted in American exceptionalism to rally a skeptical Congress. In spite of these efforts, the U.S. administration remains trapped in the same growing web of bluffs it was in before Obama delivered this message.

These bluffs have marked the turning points of the Syria crisis thus far. Bluffing is an age-old tactic in diplomacy. When faced with limited options, it can be a very powerful tool, if employed properly. As Machiavelli advised five centuries ago, "It is very wise to simulate madness at the right time." Indeed, a bluff timed with precision at a high pressure point that achieves the desired result without firing a single shot can transform a mediocre name in political history into a legacy overnight. That said, it would be difficult to impress Machiavelli with the bluffs used so far in the context of the Syria crisis.

Obama made the first bluff last August during the final campaign stretch for his re-election. Speculation had re-emerged over a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, and Israel was trying to pressure Obama to draw a red line on Syria's alleged small-scale use of chemical weapons in July 2012 and Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the time, Obama could have reasonably concluded that there was a low probability of an embattled Syrian regime risking foreign intervention by carrying out a large-scale chemical weapons attack when it could still rely on its conventional forces to battle the rebels. But just one year later, the regime appears to have called Obama’s bluff and deployed chemical weapons in sizable amounts.

With the credibility of U.S. ultimatums at stake, not just for Syria, but for any power willing to challenge Washington, Obama needed to cobble together a coalition in haste, but he found out that even his impassioned allies, in Europe as well as in Congress, were losing their enthusiasm for military intervention.

Then came Russia's grand bluff. Russian President Vladimir Putin saw an opportunity to assert Russia as a great power with the influence to make the United States bend and its allies quiver. Moscow's bluff came in the form of a well-timed proposal to secure, seize and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. To the relief of many, the move actually seemed to extinguish the military threat to Syria. In reality, Russia's proposal was a non-starter. Sending hundreds of U.N. inspectors and technicians to secure 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons stockpiles spread across at least 50 sites in a country embroiled in a brutal civil war is a long, arduous and highly complicated process – a mission that would require ground troops at a time when no country, not even Russia, appears prepared to take that risk. Still, the proposal sounded good enough for the White House and its European allies to apply the brakes to the military option and shift to the diplomatic route.

Now it is time for the United States to call the Russian bluff on the proposal. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry goes to Geneva on Thursday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he will press him on the details of the proposal in an attempt to poke holes in the plan with the world watching. Russia will try to show that an ambitious diplomatic endeavor of this nature cannot be rushed, and certainly cannot be sabotaged with American threats of military action or threats from France to send Bashar al Assad to the Hague. The United States can put off a U.N. Security Council meeting to avoid negotiating with Russia over a watered down resolution, but it cannot meet a Russian demand to take the military option off the table. If Obama wants to preserve any credibility in this crisis, he must maintain a credible military threat if and when the diplomatic proposal flops.

Russia can always distance itself from fault if U.N. members refuse to commit ground troops to the operation or if the United States tries to cast the Russian proposal as a delay tactic unworthy of further consideration. Obama, however, will be left with the inevitable choice of backing out of a military campaign or proceeding with a limited strike based on a stale premise and possibly without the full endorsement of Congress. At some point, the bluffing game will run its course. The final move in this game will go to Obama, and no matter what moves have been made in the meantime, he'll still probably be looking at a weak hand.

Read more: The Limits of Bluffing | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #319 on: September 20, 2013, 10:02:09 PM »

If it weren't so fg tragic it would be funny  cry cry angry

http://freebeacon.com/report-hezbollah-armed-with-syrias-chemical-weapons/

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G M
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« Reply #320 on: September 23, 2013, 02:58:11 PM »


Just wait until they get some of Iran's nukes...
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DDF
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« Reply #321 on: September 27, 2013, 04:08:42 PM »

I came across this tidbit today. It's nice to see the children being taught tolerance over there.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=118_1380116591
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We all die. The second one accepts that, only then are they capable of living.
ccp
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« Reply #322 on: September 27, 2013, 09:01:07 PM »

What is the difference between this and Nazi hate?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #323 on: October 03, 2013, 11:55:29 AM »



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/10350285/Iranian-cyber-warfare-commander-shot-dead-in-suspected-assassination.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #324 on: October 10, 2013, 06:19:11 AM »

BTW, a coincidence that the last person our murdered ambassador met with in Benghazi was the Turkish consul?


Turkey's Spymaster Plots Own Course on Syria
Hakan Fidan Takes Independent Tack in Wake of Arab Spring

By ADAM ENTOUS  in Washington and  JOE PARKINSON in Istanbul

President Obama and John Kerry met with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Turkish intelligence chief Fidan, second and third from left, in May.

On a rainy May day, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan led two of his closest advisers into the Oval Office for what both sides knew would be a difficult meeting.

It was the first face-to-face between Mr. Erdogan and President Barack Obama in almost a year. Mr. Obama delivered what U.S. officials describe as an unusually blunt message: The U.S. believed Turkey was letting arms and fighters flow into Syria indiscriminately and sometimes to the wrong rebels, including anti-Western jihadists.

Seated at Mr. Erdogan's side was the man at the center of what caused the U.S.'s unease, Hakan Fidan, Turkey's powerful spymaster and a driving force behind its efforts to supply the rebels and topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, Mr. Fidan, little known outside of the Middle East, has emerged as a key architect of a Turkish regional-security strategy that has tilted the interests of the longtime U.S. ally in ways sometimes counter to those of the U.S.

"Hakan Fidan is the face of the new Middle East," says James Jeffrey, who recently served as U.S. ambassador in Turkey and Iraq. "We need to work with him because he can get the job done," he says. "But we shouldn't assume he is a knee-jerk friend of the United States, because he is not."

Mr. Fidan is one of three spy chiefs jostling to help their countries fill a leadership vacuum created by the upheaval and by America's tentative approach to much of the region.

One of his counterparts is Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, who has joined forces with the Central Intelligence Agency in Syria but who has complicated U.S. policy in Egypt by supporting a military takeover there. The other is Iran's Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander-in-chief of the Quds Forces, the branch of the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps that operates outside of Iran and whose direct military support for Mr. Assad has helped keep him in power.

Mr. Fidan's rise to prominence has accompanied a notable erosion in U.S. influence over Turkey. Washington long had cozy relations with Turkey's military, the second-largest army in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But Turkey's generals are now subservient to Mr. Erdogan and his closest advisers, Mr. Fidan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who are using the Arab Spring to shift Turkey's focus toward expanding its regional leadership, say current and former U.S. officials.

Mr. Fidan, 45 years old, didn't respond to requests for an interview. Mr. Erdogan's office declined to elaborate on his relationship with Mr. Fidan.

At the White House meeting, the Turks pushed back at the suggestion that they were aiding radicals and sought to enlist the U.S. to aggressively arm the opposition, the U.S. officials briefed on the discussions say. Turkish officials this year have used meetings like this to tell the Obama administration that its insistence on a smaller-scale effort to arm the opposition hobbled the drive to unseat Mr. Assad, Turkish and U.S. officials say.

Mr. Fidan is the prime minister's chief implementer.

Since he took over Turkey's national-intelligence apparatus, the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, in 2010, Mr. Fidan has shifted the agency's focus to match Mr. Erdogan's.

His growing role has met a mixture of alarm, suspicion and grudging respect in Washington, where officials see him as a reliable surrogate for Mr. Erdogan in dealing with broader regional issues—the futures of Egypt, Libya and Syria, among them—that the Arab Spring has brought to the bilateral table.  

Mr. Fidan raised concerns three years ago, senior U.S. officials say, when he rattled Turkey's allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel.

More recently, Turkey's Syria approach, carried out by Mr. Fidan, has put it at odds with the U.S. Both countries want Mr. Assad gone. But Turkish officials have told the Americans they see an aggressive international arming effort as the best way. The cautious U.S. approach reflects the priority it places on ensuring that arms don't go to the jihadi groups that many U.S. officials see as a bigger threat to American interests than Mr. Assad.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Mr. Fidan doesn't aim to undercut the U.S. but to advance Mr. Erdogan's interests. In recent months, as radical Islamists expanded into northern Syria along the Turkish border, Turkish officials have begun to recalibrate their policy—concerned not about U.S. complaints but about the threat to Turkey's security, say U.S. and Turkish officials.

There is no doubt in Turkey where the spymaster stands. Mr. Fidan is "the No. 2 man in Turkey," says Emre Uslu, a Turkish intelligence analyst who writes for a conservative daily. "He's much more powerful than any minister and much more powerful than President Abdullah Gul."

Still, he cuts a modest figure. Current and former Turkish officials describe him as gentle and unpretentious. In U.S. meetings, he wears dark suits and is soft-spoken, say U.S. officials who have met him repeatedly and contrast him with Prince Bandar, the swashbuckling Saudi intelligence chief.

"He's not Bandar," one of the officials says. "No big cigars, no fancy suits, no dark glasses. He's not flamboyant."

Mr. Fidan's ascension is remarkable in part because he is a former non-commissioned officer in the Turkish military, a class that usually doesn't advance to prominent roles in the armed forces, business or government.

Mr. Fidan earned a bachelor of science degree in government and politics from the European division of the University of Maryland University College and a doctorate in political science from Ankara's elite Bilkent University. In 2003, he was appointed to head Turkey's international-development agency. He joined Mr. Erdogan's office as a foreign-policy adviser in 2007. Three years later, he was head of intelligence.

"He is my secret keeper. He is the state's secret keeper," Mr. Erdogan said of his intelligence chief in 2012 in comments to reporters.

Mr. Fidan's rise at Mr. Erdogan's side has been met with some concern in Washington and Israel because of his role in shaping Iran policy. One senior Israeli official says it became clear to Israel that Mr. Fidan was "not an enemy of Iran." And mistrust already marked relations between the U.S. and Turkish intelligence agencies. The CIA spies on Turkey and the MIT runs an aggressive counterintelligence campaign against the CIA, say current and former U.S. officials.

The tension was aggravated in 2010 when the CIA began to suspect the MIT under Mr. Fidan of passing intelligence to Iran.

At the time, Mr. Erdogan was trying to improve ties with Tehran, a central plank of Ankara's "zero problems with neighbors" policy. U.S. officials believe the MIT under Mr. Fidan passed several pieces of intelligence to Iran, including classified U.S. assessments about the Iranian government, say current and former senior U.S. and Middle Eastern officials. U.S. officials say they don't know why Mr. Fidan allegedly shared the intelligence, but suspect his goal was relationship-building. After the Arab Spring heightened tensions, Mr. Erdogan pulled back from his embrace of Tehran, at which point U.S. officials believe Mr. Fidan did so, too.

Officials at the MIT and Turkey's foreign ministry declined to comment on the allegations.

In 2012, Mr. Fidan began expanding the MIT's power by taking control of Turkey's once-dominant military-intelligence service. Many top generals with close ties to the U.S. were jailed as part of a mass trial and convicted this year of plotting to topple Mr. Erdogan's government. At the Pentagon, the jail sentences were seen as the coup de grace for the military's status within the Turkish system.

Mr. Fidan's anti-Assad campaign harks to August 2011, when Mr. Erdogan called for Mr. Assad to step down. Mr. Fidan later started directing a secret effort to bolster rebel capabilities by allowing arms, money and logistical support to funnel into northern Syria—including arms from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf allies—current and former U.S. officials say.

Mr. Erdogan wanted to remove Mr. Assad not only to replace a hostile regime on Turkey's borders but also to scuttle the prospect of a Kurdish state emerging from Syria's oil-rich northeast, political analysts say. Providing aid through the MIT, a decision that came in early 2012, ensured Mr. Erdogan's office had control over the effort and that it would be relatively invisible, say current and former U.S. officials.

Syrian opposition leaders, American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats who worked with Mr. Fidan say the MIT acted like a "traffic cop" that arranged weapons drops and let convoys through checkpoints along Turkey's 565-mile border with Syria.

Some moderate Syrian opposition leaders say they immediately saw that arms shipments bypassed them and went to groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party has supported Muslim Brotherhood movements across the region.

Syrian Kurdish leaders, meanwhile, charge that Ankara allowed arms and support to reach radical groups that could check the expanding power of Kurdish militia aligned with Turkey's militant Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Turkish border guards repeatedly let groups of radical fighters cross into Syria to fight Kurdish brigades, says Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Democratic Union of Syria, Turkey's most powerful Kurdish party. He says Turkish ambulances near the border picked up wounded fighters from Jabhat al Nusra, an anti-Assad group linked to al Qaeda. Turkish officials deny those claims.

Opposition lawmakers from the border province of Hatay say Turkish authorities transported Islamist fighters to frontier villages and let fighter-filled planes land at Hatay airport. Turkish officials deny both allegations.

Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, a lawmaker for Hatay's largest city, Antakya, and a member of the parliament's foreign-relations committee, says he followed a convoy of more than 50 buses carrying radical fighters and accompanied by 10 police vehicles to the border village of Guvecci. "This was just one incident of many," he says. Voters in his district strongly oppose Turkish support for the Syrian opposition. Turkish officials deny Mr. Ediboglu's account.

In meetings with American officials and Syrian opposition leaders, Turkish officials said the threat posed by Jabhat al Nusra, the anti-Assad group, could be dealt with later, say U.S. officials and Syrian opposition leaders.

The U.S. added Nusra to its terror list in December, in part to send a message to Ankara about the need to more tightly control the arms flow, say officials involved in the internal discussions.

The May 2013 White House encounter came at a time when Mr. Obama had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the Turkish leader's policies relating to Syria, Israel and press freedoms, say current and former U.S. officials.  Mr. Obama told the Turkish leaders he wanted a close relationship, but he voiced concerns about Turkey's approach to arming the opposition. The goal was to convince the Turks that "not all fighters are good fighters" and that the Islamist threat could harm the wider region, says a senior U.S. official.

This year, Turkey has dialed back on its arming efforts as it begins to worry that the influence of extremist rebel groups in Syria might bleed back into Turkey. At Hatay airport, the alleged way station for foreign fighters headed to Syria, the flow has markedly decreased, says a representative of a service company working at the airport.

In September, Turkey temporarily shut part of its border after fighting erupted between moderate Syrian rebels and an Iraqi al Qaeda outfit, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Turkish President Gul warned that "radical groups are a big worry when it comes to our security."  In recent months, Turkish officials have told U.S. counterparts that they believe the lack of American support for the opposition has fueled extremism because front-line brigades believe the West has abandoned them, say U.S. and Turkish officials involved in the discussions.

In September, Mr. Davutoglu, the foreign minister, met Secretary of State John Kerry, telling him Turkey was concerned about extremists along the Syrian border, say U.S. and Turkish officials. The Turks wanted Mr. Kerry to affirm that the U.S. remained committed to the Syrian opposition, say U.S. officials. Mr. Kerry told Turkish officials the U.S. was committed but made clear, a senior administration official says of the Turkish leaders, that "they need to be supportive of the right people."

Also in September, Mr. Fidan met with CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, say Turkish and U.S. officials, who decline to say what was discussed.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official says Mr. Fidan has built strong relationships with many of his international counterparts. At the same time, a current U.S. intelligence official says, it is clear "we look at the world through different lenses."
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 06:24:17 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #325 on: October 17, 2013, 11:46:51 AM »

NATO Ally Reportedly Exposed Israeli Spies in Iran
by IPT News  •  Oct 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4191/nato-ally-reportedly-exposed-israeli-spies-in-iran

 
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdoğan's hostility toward Israel and embrace of Hamas terrorists is well established. He has called Zionism, the belief in a Jewish state, "a crime against humanity."

But a report published Wednesday evening by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius raises the question of whether Erdoğan, head of a NATO state, deliberately sabotaged efforts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program out of spite for Israel.

Erdoğan's government reportedly gave the Islamic Republic the names of up to 10 Iranians who were meeting Mossad officers inside Turkey last year.

"Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a 'significant' loss of intelligence and 'an effort to slap the Israelis,'" Ignatius reports. "The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment."

Other Turkish officials have expressed anger about the report, casting themselves as the aggrieved party in an effort to discredit the country.

Israeli officials have not commented.

But veteran Israeli intelligence reporter Yossi Melman writes that the report, if true, exposes "a very egregious – even unprecedented – act. In fact, this is the basest act of betrayal imaginable." Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told Israel Radio that Iran likely executed those Turkey gave up.

"It's against all the rules which have existed for many years, the unwritten rules concerning cooperation between intelligence organizations that reveal sensitive information to one another and trust one another not to use that information to harm whoever gave it to them."

Ignatius, described by Melman as "a journalist who is known to maintain extensive contacts with both the American and Israeli intelligence communities," reports that Turkey's Milli Istihbarat Teskilati intelligence service "conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings."
Its director, Hakan Fidan, has close ties with Tehran, Ignatius reports.

Despite all this, U.S. officials seem alarmingly dispassionate about Turkey's betrayal and the possible damage done in the effort to stop Iran's march to nuclear weapons capability.  They see the loss of the Iranian spies as unfortunate, Ignatius writes, but "they didn't protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama's key confidants."

Read Ignatius's full report here.
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« Reply #326 on: October 17, 2013, 09:23:05 PM »

Stratfor


Analysis

Despite significant differences that have emerged recently between the United States and its Gulf Cooperation Council allies over Middle East policy, significant military and overall defense cooperation continues. The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Oct. 15 that it had notified Congress of a possible military equipment deal with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Under the agreement, various munitions and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support would be provided to Riyadh for an estimated $6.8 billion and to Abu Dhabi for $4 billion. The sale, consisting of state-of-the-art weaponry and equipment in the U.S. arsenal, further deepens the already strong military and industrial relationship between the United States and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Gulf Cooperation Council Countries

Recent events in the Middle East have diminished the overall political relationship between the two sides. U.S. attempts at a negotiated solution with Iran as well as the U.S.-Russian deal on Syria have upset Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries.

In light of these differences, the United States is increasingly relying on military and defense cooperation as the primary vehicle to maintain a close relationship with its Gulf allies. The recent string of large defense contracts has certainly given a major boost to the U.S. defense industry at a time of sequestration and tight budgets, but the deals also bind the United States closer to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, since the agreements require U.S. contractors to be deployed to the Gulf and maintenance personnel and aircrew to come to the United States for training, they help to maintain a constant flow of information and exchanges.

The Gulf Cooperation Council states also believe that they stand to benefit greatly from cooperation. Strategically, these Gulf countries, despite -- or perhaps because of -- their extensive energy resources, have historically needed a powerful benefactor to protect them from larger and more populous regional powers. This dynamic has previously been seen in Iraq and more recently in Iran.

Furthermore, the types of weapons contained in the contracts, while relatively expensive, continue a trend in which the United States has sold highly sophisticated and effective weaponry to the Gulf Cooperation Council despite occasionally strong Israeli concerns. For instance, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have benefited from access to the F-15 Eagle strike fighter and the F-16 Desert Falcon, respectively. The recently announced deal will enable both countries to equip their aircraft with some of the latest air-launched cruise missiles, satellite-guided bombs, communications equipment and data link pods, among other things.

Military and defense cooperation is the one constant that Washington has used to maintain relations with -- and in the case of Egypt, occasionally pressure -- its Middle East allies. At a time of diverging interests, when the United States is increasingly seeking a resolution with Iran despite its allies' concerns, such cooperation will be ever more important.

Read more: U.S. Defense Deals Preserve Key Relationships in the Persian Gulf | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
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« Reply #327 on: October 26, 2013, 08:54:46 AM »

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/10/26/israel-issues-warning-to-iran-over-nuclear-bomb-report/
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« Reply #328 on: November 14, 2013, 10:27:12 AM »

Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, addressing tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims commemorating Ashura in southern Beirut, said the group's forces will remain in Syria fighting alongside Assad's forces as long as necessary. He stated, "Our fighters are present on Syrian soil ... to confront all the dangers it faces from the international, regional, and takfiri attack(s) on this country and region." Syrian forces conducted air raids in a residential area on the outskirts of the northeast Lebanese town of Arsal. The air raids came after a series of rockets were fired from Syria into the Nabi Sheet valley in eastern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has issued a call for mass mobilization in Aleppo, urging "all brigades and Muslims to face off against the enemy," joining six other Islamist rebel groups calling for people to stave off the "fierce offensive to reoccupy Aleppo." The statements came after a government advance, with the army overtaking a strategic base near Aleppo and securing territory around the city's airport. In Damascus Thursday, two bombs reportedly exploded near the old city's bazaar killing at least one person.
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« Reply #329 on: November 17, 2013, 05:44:36 PM »



http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/israel-saudi-arabia-plan-iran-strike?utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+Israel%2C+Saudi+Arabia+Plan+Iran+Strike&utm_campaign=20131117_m117966641_11%2F17%3A+Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+Israel%2C+Saudi+Arabia+Plan+Iran+Strike&utm_term=130527_iranstrike_jpg
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« Reply #330 on: November 19, 2013, 09:50:37 AM »

Two blasts hit near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut
________________________________________
 
Two explosions hit near the Iran Embassy in Beirut killing at least 23 and wounding 146 others on Tuesday. The blasts struck about 50 to 100 yards outside the embassy in the predominantly Shiite Bir Hassan neighborhood of the Lebanese capital. One explosion appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber, while the other seemed to be a car bomb from a vehicle parked two buildings away from the complex. However, some report that one of the explosions could have come from rocket fire. According to the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iran's cultural attaché, Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari, was killed in the explosion. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese militant group with ties to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. Lebanon has seen sporadic violence since the start of the Syrian civil war, and southern Beirut was hit with a series of rocket attacks and car bombings this summer. The country has also experienced an influx of over 816,000 refugees, with a new wave of Syrians fleeing a recent government offensive.

Syria

Syrian state media has claimed that government forces have seized the strategic town of Qara near the Lebanese border. The statement has come days after the Syrian army launched an offensive in the mountainous Qalamoun region. Qara is located on a vital supply line between Lebanon and rebel fighters around Damascus and additionally ties government territory along the Mediterranean coast with the capital. If government troops succeed in overtaking the area, the regime would consolidate gains made with the support of Hezbollah fighters in May in Qusair. According to the United Nations, fighting in the area has driven over 12,000 new refugees into the Lebanese town of Arsal in the last four days, the greatest influx into the town at any period over the past two and half years of fighting.
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« Reply #331 on: November 20, 2013, 10:07:16 AM »

http://nypost.com/2013/11/20/al-qaedas-new-top-foe/

Al Qaeda’s new top foe
By Ralph Peters

Know them by their deeds, not words. Although the old-school leaders of al Qaeda still rage against the US and jihadists welcome any chance to harm us, look at who the terrorists actually kill. We’re not the main target of Sunni extremists these days. Iran, along with its allies, tops the list.

Of course, we cannot let down our guard and should hunt down Islamist terrorists where we can, but the focus of the “field soldiers” serving al Qaeda’s most-active franchise in Syria and Iraq is on Iran’s ambitions and Shia Muslims, not on us.

To the horror of diplomats and theorists who’ve denied the role of faith in religious terrorism, we are witnesses to a regional conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims stretching far beyond the Syrian cockpit.

Yesterday’s suicide-bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, amplified the breadth of this distinctly uncivil war within Islam. The Abdullah ­Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese al Qaeda franchise, claimed responsibility, citing Iran’s use of Hezbollah Shia militiamen to support the Assad regime in neighboring Syria. Wounding at least 140 victims, the attack killed 23 outright and appears, to this ­analyst, to have targeted the Iranian “cultural attaché,” who was killed while walking with a Lebanese security chief. In Iranian diplomacy, “cultural attaché” translates as “spymaster.”

Beyond the borders of nervous Lebanon, the slaughter has been under way for years, since Islamist extremists of multiple stripes hijacked Syria’s anti-Assad insurgency. Even earlier, the Sunni-Shia divide flared in Iraq as Iran moved to exert Shia ­hegemony.

Every day, with every local massacre, sectarian lines harden. In this multi-sided conflict, atop the maelstrom of the “Arab Spring,” people are killed not only for worshiping the wrong god, but for worshiping the right god in the wrong way. The unleashed hatreds are so intense that we’ve been pushed to the sidelines, still a desirable target, but far away. History’s law is that, while humans may relish hating a distant enemy, they generally prefer to kill their neighbors.

If we have been, for now, demoted to second place in the Great Satan Sweepstakes, Israel, too, has slipped down on the target list. The hate-rhetoric continues, but Hamas is basically quarantined in Gaza; the Palestinian Authority excites little active support; and external actors who had been rocketing Israel are vigorously butchering fellow Muslims.

Of course, the age-old Persian-vs.-Arab rivalry, power politics, local issues and even personal grudges complicate the spreading strife, but only a career diplomat could be so naïve as to deny that this, at bottom, is a contest between Islam’s two major branches. And there is nothing we can do to resolve it. We can only play on the margins — and we do so at our peril.

But crises sometimes offer opportunities. When Western and Iranian diplomats meet again this week to discuss the existential (certainly, for Israel) issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, our delegation should do the strategic math — which adds up to a desperate Iran.

To date, we’ve got it backward with the domestically reeling Obama administration frantic to sign a treaty it can claim as a success (you want it bad, you get ­it bad).

Sanctions on Iran are biting deep. That’s why Iran is willing to talk at all. But we need to grasp that Iran’s also struggling to maintain its sphere of influence in Syria and Lebanon, and sanctions play into that, too. Iran’s stretched thin, its economy grievously wounded.

We, not the mullahs, hold the winning hand. We would be foolish, indeed, were we to give the Iranians sanctions relief for empty promises.

Our diplomats obsess on obsolete borders and fail to connect a bombing in Beirut, the carnage in Syria and Iran’s pursuit of nukes with an overarching and gruesome sectarian struggle. Doing so would make Washington uncomfortable.

But thanks to the carnage in the Middle East and the sanctions regime, we’re in the strongest position vis-à-vis Iran since the fall of the shah. And in this perverse world, al Qaeda helped. Strike while the car-bomb’s hot.
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« Reply #332 on: November 25, 2013, 12:29:25 PM »

 Next Steps for the U.S.-Iran Deal
Analysis
November 25, 2013 | 0534 Print Text Size
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran after talks in Geneva on Nov. 24. ARASH KHAMOOSHI/AFP/Getty Images

Summary

What was unthinkable for many people over many years happened in the early hours of Nov. 24 in Geneva: The United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran struck a deal. After a decadelong struggle, the two reached an accord that seeks to ensure that Iran's nuclear program remains a civilian one. It is a preliminary deal, as both sides face months of work to batten down domestic opposition, build convincing mechanisms to assure compliance and unthread complicated global sanctions.
 
That’s the easy part. More difficult will be the process to reshape bilateral relations while virtually every regional player in the Middle East seeks ways to cope with an Iran that's no longer geopolitically encumbered.

Analysis

The foreign ministers of Iran and the six Western powers that constitute so-called P-5+1 Group clinched a six-month deal that begins the curtailment of Iran's nuclear program while relaxing as much as $6 billion in sanctions -- basically those embargoes that do not require U.S. President Barack Obama to secure approval from Congress. Allowing Iran to enrich uranium to “civilian” levels while making sure the know-how is not diverted military purposes will be complex.
 
There will be disruptive events along the way, but the normalization process is unlikely to derail. Both sides need it. The real stakes are the balance of power in the Middle East.
 
Iran is far more concerned about enhancing its geopolitical prowess via conventional means. Meanwhile, the United States wants to leverage relations with Iran in order to better manage the region in an age of turmoil. Contrary to much public discourse, the Obama administration is not facilitating a nuclear Iran.

Washington and the Middle East

The United States is prepared to accept that Iran will consolidate much of the influence it has accumulated over the 12 years since the Sept. 11 attacks. From the point of view of the Iranians, they had reached the limits of how far they could go in enhancing their geopolitical footprint in the U.S. war against Sunni Islamist militancy. The tightening sanctions threatened to undermine the gains the Islamic republic had made. Thus the time had come for Iran to achieve via geopolitical moderation what was no longer possible via a radical foreign policy.
 
Though the United States is prepared to accept an internationally rehabilitated Iran as a major stakeholder in the greater Middle East region, it does not wish for Tehran to exploit the opportunity in order to gain disproportionate power. The strategic focus must now shift from nuclear politics to the imperative that the United States balance Iran with other regional powers, especially the Sunni Arab states.
 
The post-Arab spring turmoil in the region has plunged U.S.-Arab relations into a state of uncertainty for two reasons: First, the autocratic regimes have become unreliable partners; second, the region is seeing the rise of radical Sunni Islamist forces.
 
A rehabilitated Iran, along with its Shiite radical agenda, serves as a counter to the growing bandwidth of Sunni radicalism. All strategies have unintended consequences. A geopolitically unchained Iran, to varying degrees, undermines the position of decades-old American alliances in the region. These include Turkey, Israel and the Arab states (the ones that have survived the regional chaos defined by anti-autocratic popular agitation, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others).
 
Washington is not the only actor anticipating a shift in its regional ambitions. France initially challenged earlier attempts at a U.S.-Iranian accord, placing greater pressure on the Iranians -- much to the enjoyment of regional states like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Though Paris has been eying the Middle East -- specifically the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf -- as a larger potential market for its energy firms and defense exporters, France stands to gain little from unilaterally opposing a U.S.-Iranian deal. Rather, France sought to shape the talks and regional reactions to the benefit of its domestic industries. Germany and the United Kingdom, the other EU powers present at the talks, are hoping to gain greater exposure for their energy firms and exports to Iran's large domestic consumer base. Germany in particular enjoyed one of the largest non-energy trade relationships with Iran before the most recent sanctions program took effect.

Regional Reverberations

The United States and the rest of the P-5+1 group are not the only ones attempting to reset their relationship with Iran. Ankara, though initially opposed to Iranian ambitions in Syria and competing for influence in Iraq, has pursued a warming of ties with Tehran over the past several months. Turkey is a rising regional power in its own right, but domestic infighting within Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party is coinciding with a slump in the national economy. Meanwhile, Ankara is struggling to find a peaceful, political solution to its Kurdish issue. Turkey faces an uphill challenge in moving beyond the ring of Iranian influence on its borders, but a potential normalization in relations between Washington and Iran provides some opportunities for Ankara, even at the risk of empowering Iran’s regional ambitions. The two countries face similar challenges from Kurdish separatism in the region, and the Iranian market and potential energy exports could help mitigate Turkey’s rising dependence on Russian energy exports and potentially boost its slowing economy.
 
For all its rhetoric opposing the deal, Israel has very little to worry about in the immediate term. It will have to adjust to operating in an environment where Iran is no longer limited by pariah status, but Iran remains unable to threaten Israel for the foreseeable future. Iran, constrained by its need to be a mainstream actor, will seek to rebuild its economy and will steer clear of any hawkish moves against Israel. Furthermore, Iran is more interested in gaining ground against the Arab states, which Israel can use to its advantage. The report about the Israeli security establishment seeing the deal as a positive development (in contradiction to the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government) speaks volumes about the true extent of Israeli apprehension.
 
That leaves the Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, for whom a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement is a nightmare scenario. Riyadh and its neighboring monarchies are caught in the middle of the Arab Spring, which challenges them from within, and were long concerned with the rise of Iran. But now that their biggest ally has turned to normalizing ties with their biggest adversary, these countries find themselves bereft of good options with which to manage an Iran that will gain more from normalizing relations with the United States than it did with the American response to the 9/11 attacks.
 
Iran has played a large and visible role in bolstering the beleaguered Assad regime during the Syrian civil war. Iran's potential reset in relations will bring no easy or quick resolution to Damascus. The Syrian regime will still face the daunting task of having to rout the rebels and secure large swathes of Syrian territory, a difficult task even in the unlikely scenario of a precipitous drop in Sunni Arab backing for the rebels following a more comprehensive agreement between Tehran and the West. Indeed, the Syrian conflict, Iran's support of Hezbollah and the future of Iranian influence in Iraq will form the more contentious, difficult stages of U.S.-Iranian negotiations ahead.
 
The Saudis, domestically at a historic crossroads, are trying to assert an independent foreign policy, given the shift in American-Iranian ties. But they know that such a move offers limited dividends. Riyadh will try to make most of the fact that it is not in Washington’s interest to allow Tehran too free of a hand in the region.
 
Likewise, the Saudi kingdom will try to work with Turkey to counterbalance Iran. But, again, this is not a reliable tool, given that Turkish interests converge with those of Iran more than they do with Saudi Arabia’s. Quietly working with Israel is an option, but there are limits to that given the Arab-Israeli conflict and the fact that Iran can exploit any such relationship. In the end, the Saudis and the Arab states will have to adjust most to the reality in which American-Iranian hostility begins to wither.

Read more: Next Steps for the U.S.-Iran Deal | Stratfor
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« Reply #333 on: November 27, 2013, 01:16:44 AM »

 Israelis, Saudis and the Iranian Agreement
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 04:04 Print Text Size
Stratfor

By George Friedman

A deal between Iran and the P-5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) was reached Saturday night. The Iranians agreed to certain limitations on their nuclear program while the P-5+1 agreed to remove certain economic sanctions. The next negotiation, scheduled for six months from now depending on both sides' adherence to the current agreement, will seek a more permanent resolution. The key players in this were the United States and Iran. The mere fact that the U.S. secretary of state would meet openly with the Iranian foreign minister would have been difficult to imagine a few months ago, and unthinkable at the beginning of the Islamic republic.

The U.S. goal is to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons before they are built, without the United States having to take military action to eliminate them. While it is commonly assumed that the United States could eliminate the Iranian nuclear program at will with airstrikes, as with most military actions, doing so would be more difficult and riskier than it might appear at first glance. The United States in effect has now traded a risky and unpredictable air campaign for some controls over the Iranian nuclear program.

The Iranians' primary goal is regime preservation. While Tehran managed the Green Revolution in 2009 because the protesters lacked broad public support, Western sanctions have dramatically increased the economic pressure on Iran and have affected a wide swath of the Iranian public. It isn't clear that public unhappiness has reached a breaking point, but were the public to be facing years of economic dysfunction, the future would be unpredictable. The election of President Hassan Rouhani to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the latter's two terms was a sign of unhappiness. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei clearly noted this, displaying a willingness to trade a nuclear program that had not yet produced a weapon for the elimination of some sanctions.

The logic here suggests a process leading to the elimination of all sanctions in exchange for the supervision of Iran's nuclear activities to prevent it from developing a weapon. Unless this is an Iranian trick to somehow buy time to complete a weapon and test it, I would think that the deal could be done in six months. An Iranian ploy to create cover for building a weapon would also demand a reliable missile and a launch pad invisible to surveillance satellites and the CIA, National Security Agency, Mossad, MI6 and other intelligence agencies. The Iranians would likely fail at this, triggering airstrikes however risky they might be and putting Iran back where it started economically. While this is a possibility, the scenario is not likely when analyzed closely.

While the unfolding deal involves the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, two countries intensely oppose it: Israel and Saudi Arabia. Though not powers on the order of the P-5+1, they are still significant. There is a bit of irony in Israel and Saudi Arabia being allied on this issue, but only on the surface. Both have been intense enemies of Iran, and close allies of the United States; each sees this act as a betrayal of its relationship with Washington.

The View from Saudi Arabia

In a way, this marks a deeper shift in relations with Saudi Arabia than with Israel. Saudi Arabia has been under British and later American protection since its creation after World War I. Under the leadership of the Sauds, it became a critical player in the global system for a single reason: It was a massive producer of oil. It was also the protector of Mecca and Medina, two Muslim holy cities, giving the Saudis an added influence in the Islamic world on top of their extraordinary wealth.

It was in British and American interests to protect Saudi Arabia from its enemies, most of which were part of the Muslim world. The United States protected the Saudis from radical Arab socialists who threatened to overthrow the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula. It later protected Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait. But it also protected Saudi Arabia from Iran.

Absent the United States in the Persian Gulf, Iran would have been the most powerful regional military power. In addition, the Saudis have a substantial Shiite minority concentrated in the country's oil-rich east. The Iranians, also Shia, had a potential affinity with them, and thereby the power to cause unrest in Saudi Arabia.

Until this agreement with Iran, the United States had an unhedged commitment to protect Saudi Arabia from the Iranians. Given the recent deal, and potential follow-on deals, this commitment becomes increasingly hedged. The problem from the Saudi point of view is that while there was a wide ideological gulf between the United States and Iran, there was little in the way of substantial issues separating Washington from Tehran. The United States did not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The Iranians didn't want the United States hindering Iran's economic development. The fact was that getting a nuclear weapon was not a fundamental Iranian interest, and crippling Iran's economy was not a fundamental interest to the United States absent an Iranian nuclear program.

If the United States and Iran can agree on this quid pro quo, the basic issues are settled. And there is something drawing them together. The Iranians want investment in their oil sector and other parts of their economy. American oil companies would love to invest in Iran, as would other U.S. businesses. As the core issue separating the two countries dissolves, and economic relations open up -- a step that almost by definition will form part of a final agreement -- mutual interests will appear.

There are other significant political issues that can't be publicly addressed. The United States wants Iran to temper its support for Hezbollah's militancy, and guarantee it will not support terrorism. The Iranians want guarantees that Iraq will not develop an anti-Iranian government, and that the United States will work to prevent this. (Iran's memories of its war with Iraq run deep.) The Iranians will also want American guarantees that Washington will not support anti-Iranian forces based in Iraq.

From the Saudi point of view, Iranian demands regarding Iraq will be of greatest concern. Agreements or not, it does not want a pro-Iranian Shiite state on its northern border. Riyadh has been funding Sunni fighters throughout the region against Shiite fighters in a proxy war with Iran. Any agreement by the Americans to respect Iranian interests in Iraq would represent a threat to Saudi Arabia.

The View from Israel

From the Israeli point of view, there are two threats from Iran. One is the nuclear program. The other is Iranian support not only for Hezbollah but also for Hamas and other groups in the region. Iran is far from Israel and poses no conventional military threat. The Israelis would be delighted if Iran gave up its nuclear program in some verifiable way, simply because they themselves have no reliable means to destroy that program militarily. What the Israelis don't want to see is the United States and Iran making deals on their side issues, especially the political ones that really matter to Israel.

The Israelis have more room to maneuver than the Saudis do. Israel can live with a pro-Iranian Iraq. The Saudis can't; from their point of view, it is only a matter of time before Iranian power starts to encroach on their sphere of influence. The Saudis can't live with an Iranian-supported Hezbollah. The Israelis can and have, but don't want to; the issue is less fundamental to the Israelis than Iraq is to the Saudis.

But in the end, this is not the problem that the Saudis and Israelis have. Their problem is that both depend on the United States for their national security. Neither country can permanently exist in a region filled with dangers without the United States as a guarantor. Israel needs access to American military equipment that it can't build itself, like fighter aircraft. Saudi Arabia needs to have American troops available as the ultimate guarantor of their security, as they were in 1990. Israel and Saudi Arabia have been the two countries with the greatest influence in Washington. As this agreement shows, that is no longer the case. Both together weren't strong enough to block this agreement. What frightens them the most about this agreement is that fact. If the foundation of their national security is the American commitment to them, then the inability to influence Washington is a threat to their national security.

There are no other guarantors available. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow, clearly trying to get the Russians to block the agreement. He failed. But even if he had succeeded, he would have alienated the United States, and would have gotten instead a patron incapable of supplying the type of equipment Israel might need when Israel might need it. The fact is that neither the Saudis nor the Israelis have a potential patron other than the United States.

U.S. Regional Policy

The United States is not abandoning either Israel or Saudi Arabia. A regional policy based solely on the Iranians would be irrational. What the United States wants to do is retain its relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia, but on modified terms. The modification is that U.S. support will come in the context of a balance of power, particularly between Iran and Saudi Arabia. While the United States is prepared to support the Saudis in that context, it will not simply support them absolutely. The Saudis and Israelis will have to live with things that they have not had to live with before -- namely, an American concern for a reasonably strong and stable Iran regardless of its ideology.

The American strategy is built on experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington has learned that it has interests in the region, but that the direct use of American force cannot achieve those goals, partly because imposing solutions takes more force than the United States has and partly because the more force it uses, the more resistance it generates. Therefore, the United States needs a means of minimizing its interests, and pursuing those it has without direct force.

With its interests being limited, the United States' strategy is a balance of power. The most natural balance of power is Sunni versus Shia, the Arabs against the Iranians. The goal is not war, but sufficient force on each side to paralyze the other. In that sense, a stable Iran and a more self-reliant Saudi Arabia are needed. Saudi Arabia is not abandoned, but nor is it the sole interest of the United States.

In the same sense, the United States is committed to the survival of Israel. If Iranian nuclear weapons are prevented, the United States has fulfilled that commitment, since there are no current threats that could conceivably threaten Israeli survival. Israel's other interests, such as building settlements in the West Bank, do not require American support. If the United States determines that they do not serve American interests (for example, because they radicalize the region and threaten the survival of Jordan), then the United States will force Israel to abandon the settlements by threatening to change its relationship with Israel. If the settlements do not threaten American interests, then they are Israel's problem.

Israel has outgrown its dependence on the United States. It is not clear that Israel is comfortable with its own maturation, but the United States has entered a new period where what America wants is a mature Israel that can pursue its interests without recourse to the United States. And if Israel finds it cannot have what it wants without American support, Israel may not get that support, unless Israel's survival is at stake.

In the same sense, the perpetual Saudi inability to create an armed force capable of effectively defending itself has led the United States to send troops on occasion -- and contractors always -- to deal with the problem. Under the new strategy, the expectation is that Saudi soldiers will fight Saudi Arabia's wars -- with American assistance as needed, but not as an alternative force.

With this opening to Iran, the United States will no longer be bound by its Israeli and Saudi relationships. They will not be abandoned, but the United States has broader interests than those relationships, and at the same time few interests that rise to the level of prompting it to directly involve U.S. troops. The Saudis will have to exert themselves to balance the Iranians, and Israel will have to wend its way in a world where it has no strategic threats, but only strategic problems, like everyone else has. It is not a world in which Israeli or Saudi rigidity can sustain itself.

Read more: Israelis, Saudis and the Iranian Agreement | Stratfor

« Last Edit: November 27, 2013, 01:21:11 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #334 on: November 27, 2013, 01:23:06 AM »

What do we make of this piece?

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« Reply #335 on: November 27, 2013, 03:55:38 AM »

Pollyannaish bullsh*t.

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« Reply #336 on: December 01, 2013, 02:37:27 PM »

http://nationalreview.com/corner/364735/peace-our-time-victor-davis-hanson
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« Reply #337 on: December 04, 2013, 02:16:49 PM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/04/world/middleeast/jihadist-groups-gain-in-turmoil-across-middle-east.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131204&_r=0
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« Reply #338 on: December 16, 2013, 08:34:02 AM »

"We've seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white."
PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL, the former intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia, accusing President Obama of indecision on issues in the Middle East.
Quoted in Pravda on the Hudson



ONACO—A leading Saudi prince demanded a place for his country at talks with Iran, assailing the Obama administration for working behind Riyadh's back and panning other recent U.S. steps in the Middle East.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, an Arab royal and a brother of Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, said Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states were stunned by the secret American-Iranian diplomacy that led to the breakthrough deal between Iran and other world powers last month.
Enlarge Image

His comments in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, rare in their bluntness, came on the sidelines of a security conference here at which he publicly blistered the U.S. for its role in Syria and in the region.  The Arab royal said the failure by Washington and the United Nations to take decisive steps to end the violence in Syria—which has claimed over 130,000 lives—bordered on "criminal negligence."

Last week, the State Department said it had suspended nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels after warehouses they controlled in northern Syria were overrun by Islamic militants with ties to al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia has armed some of those same rebels.

"The U.S. gave us the impression that they were going to do things in Syria that they finally didn't," Prince Turki said on the sidelines of the World Policy Conference in Monaco. "The aid they're giving to the Free Syrian Army is irrelevant. Now they say they're going to stop the aid: OK, stop it. It's not doing anything anyway."

Prince Turki also echoed concerns raised by Israel and members of the U.S. Congress that the interim nuclear accord with Iran didn't go far enough to ensure Tehran won't develop atomic bombs.

The talks with Iran that have been taking place in Geneva involve the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, a diplomatic bloc called the P5+1.

"It's important for us to sit down at the same table" as the global powers, Prince Turki said. "We have been absent."

Speaking on Sunday to European and Arab business leaders, he accused the White House of blindsiding Riyadh with its overtures to Iran, Saudi Arabia's primary adversary.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf nations are supporting the Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria, while Shiite Iran is supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

"What was surprising was that the talks that were going forward were kept from us," he told the World Policy Conference. "How can you build trust when you keep secrets from what are supposed to be your closest allies?"

A senior administration official on Sunday declined to comment on the state of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. But the official confirmed that the White House didn't notify Saudi Arabia about the secret talks with Iran—which were initiated at high levels last March in Oman—until this fall "when things became substantive."

The official said the U.S. has since been regularly conferring with Riyadh on the state of the nuclear talks with Iran, which resulted in an interim agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program. U.S. and European officials said there were no plans to widen the negotiations with Iran to involve Saudi Arabia and the other leading Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

In regards to Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry defended U.S. policy there, saying on Sunday the Obama administration continues to work toward a diplomatic solution and to unify the opposition.

"We are committed to try to bring people together…and all try to work in the same direction, which is to get a political settlement in Syria," Mr. Kerry said on ABC's "This Week."

Prince Turki currently holds no position in the Saudi government. But his previous roles as Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington often place him as an unofficial spokesman for the kingdom's royal family and King Abdullah, according to Arab and American officials.

The 68-year-old was a college classmates of Bill Clinton's at Georgetown University and coordinated closely with the Central Intelligence Agency in arming and training the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The Iranian nuclear accord rattled the Middle East and the Arab states who are in a competition with Tehran for influence in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The deal is also under attack from Israel and leading members of Congress, who fear it doesn't do enough to dismantle Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Tehran says its program is purely for civilian purposes.

The Geneva agreement calls for Tehran to freeze for six months the most dangerous parts of its nuclear program, including the production of near weapons-grade fuel, in exchange for the easing of some Western sanctions. During that period, Tehran and the P5+1 will seek to forge a more comprehensive deal to end the nuclear threat.

The interim agreement has appeared fragile in recent days.

On Friday, Iranian diplomats abruptly walked out of talks in Vienna focused on implementing the Geneva accord after the Obama administration barred from international trade roughly a dozen Iranian companies that the U.S. said were violating sanctions on Iran's nuclear program.

Iran's government said the American designations violated the terms of the agreement, even though the U.S. said the companies were blacklisted under previously established laws.

The discord over the agreement could also be felt in Monaco, where Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was supposed to join Prince Turki as a keynote speaker at the forum.

At the last moment, however, Mr. Zarif pulled out, citing his mother's ill health. Conference organizers believed Iran's displeasure over the new U.S. penalties were the reason for the Iranian foreign minister's absence.

Still, Mr. Zarif told CBS News on Sunday that the talks with the P5+1 would continue, despite the American sanctions.

In his place, Iran's ambassador to France said in Monaco that the actions taken by the U.S. would undercut the ability of Mr. Zarif and President Hasan Rouhani to make good on their pledges to improve relations with Washington and the West.

"We hope Congress and other interests in the U.S. won't throw a spanner in the works," said Ambassador Ali Ahani. "President Rouhani has promised the Iranian people prior to his election that he'd seriously try to settle the matter. If he's able to settle it, this will be a very positive point."

Prince Turki this weekend also reasserted his government's frustration with Mr. Obama's unwillingness to aggressively take steps to arm the Syrian rebels seeking to topple Mr. Assad or to follow through on proposed military strikes this summer against his regime.

The Arab royal stressed that relations between Washington and Riyadh have waxed and waned since diplomatic ties were formally established in the 1930s. But he said that the stark differences over Iran and Syria, as well as the stalemate over American-led efforts to create an independent Palestinian state, have left the Saudi-American alliance in a "process of evolution."

"Obviously…there are differences between us and the U.S.," Prince Turki said. 'We have a huge defense and security agreement with the United States, forestalling terrorist attacks. That's ongoing without any problems."

—Carol E. Lee in Washington contributed to this article.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 11:08:07 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #339 on: December 16, 2013, 02:24:44 PM »

second post

By Reva Bhalla

At the edge of empires lies Kurdistan, the land of the Kurds. The jagged landscape has long been the scene of imperial aggression. For centuries, Turks, Persians, Arabs, Russians and Europeans looked to the mountains to buffer their territorial prizes farther afield, depriving the local mountain dwellers a say in whose throne they would ultimately bow to.

The hot temperament of this borderland was evident in an exchange of letters between Ottoman Sultan Selim I and Safavid Shah Ismail I shortly before the rival Turkic and Persian empires came to blows at the 1514 Battle of Chaldiran in northern Kurdistan. The Ottoman sultan, brimming with confidence that his artillery-equipped janissaries would hold the technological advantage on the battlefield, elegantly denigrated his Persian foes:

Ask of the sun about the dazzle of my reign;

Inquire of Mars about the brilliance of my arms.

Although you wear a Sufi crown, I bear a trenchant sword,

And he who holds the sword will soon possess the crown.

Safavid Shah I, also writing in Turkish, poetically retorted:

Should one embrace the bride of worldly rule too close,
 His lips will kiss those of the radiant sword ...

Bitter experience has taught that in this world of trial
, He who falls upon the house of 'Ali always falls.

The armies fought to the limits of their empires and, after a series of wars culminating in the Treaty of Zuhab of 1639, the Zagros Mountains came to define the borderland between the Ottomans and Persians, with the Kurds stuck in the middle.
A Rivalry Reborn

The Turkic-Persian competition is again being fought in Kurdistan, only this time, energy pipelines have taken the place of gilded cavalry. At a recent energy conference in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, I listened as hundreds of energy executives murmured excitedly in the audience as Ashti Hawrami, the minister of natural resources for Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, declared in perfect, British-taught English that an oil pipeline connecting Kurdish oil fields to Turkey is complete, operational and will be pumping oil by the end of the year with or without Baghdad's consent. This, effectively, was as much a Kurdish declaration of independence as it was a Turkish-backed Kurdish declaration of war against Baghdad and its Persian sponsors.

Roughly 25 million Kurds occupy a region that stretches from the eastern Taurus Mountains in Turkey through the Jazira Plateau of northeastern Syria across the mountains and plateaus of southeastern Anatolia before dead-ending into the northern spine of the Zagros Mountains, which divide Iran and Iraq. This is a territory spread across four nations with bitter histories and a shared commitment to prevent Kurdish aspirations for independence from eroding their territorial integrity. For Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, this restive buffer had to be preserved and contained, though it could also be exploited. The fratricidal tendencies of the Kurds, bred by their divisive mountainous home, gave the surrounding states a useful tool to undermine one another whenever the need arose.

As power changed from indigenous empires to colonial hands, from monarchs to Baathist tyrants, from hardcore secularists to Islamists, the Kurds remained too divided and weak to become masters of their own fate able to establish a sovereign Kurdish homeland. The Kurds themselves are divided and sequestered along geographical, tribal, linguistic, political and ideological lines across the four states they inhabit. But unique circumstances over the past decade enabled a politically coherent Iraqi Kurdistan to temporarily defy its own history and inch toward quasi-independence.
A String of Good Fortune

The chain of events began with the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. His attempts to eradicate Iraq's Kurdish population through chemical attacks in the Anfal campaign of the late 1980s and other aggressions in the region eventually led to the creation of a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. With the threat in Baghdad effectively neutralized and U.S. troops covering Mesopotamia, Iraq's Kurdish leadership put aside their differences to form the Kurdistan Regional Government, further solidifying the boundaries of the northern autonomous zone.

Ultimately, the United States was a strong but unreliable protector for the Kurds. When U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, a nervous Kurdistan looked to energy firms as their next-best insurance policy. So long as Western energy firms were committed to making money in northern Iraq, their presence would give Arbil the leverage it needed to balance against a government in Baghdad, slowly re-strengthening under Shiite dominance and committed to keeping Kurdish oil revenues under its control.

But as tensions with Baghdad grew over the distribution of energy revenues, the Iraqi Kurds unexpectedly found a sponsor in Ankara. The moderate Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party had effectively neutered the military's political influence in Turkey and was ready to experiment with a new strategy toward its Kurdish population. Instead of suppressing Kurdish autonomy with an iron fist, Ankara went from regarding Kurds as confused "mountain Turks" to recognizing Kurdish language and cultural rights and launching its most ambitious peace negotiation to date with the Kurdistan Workers' Party. This policy of engagement extended to Iraqi Kurdistan, where the Turkish government was earnestly eyeing Kurdish oil and natural gas to fuel Turkey's expensive energy appetite and loosen Russia's energy grip over Ankara.

At this point, Iran was too preoccupied to effectively balance against Turkey's deepening involvement in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iranian regime was busy defending its allies in Syria and Lebanon while trying to manage a highly antagonistic relationship with the United States. Meanwhile, Baghdad had its hands full in trying to manage intra-Shiite rivalries and fending against a reinvigorated jihadist threat spurred by the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Syrian civil war -- all while trying to prevent the Kurds from breaking out on their own.

A cooperative Ankara, a weak Damascus, a preoccupied Tehran, an overwhelmed Baghdad and a host of anxious investors formed the ingredients for an audacious pipeline project. It began furtively in 2012 as a natural gas pipeline designed to feed the domestic Kurdish market. When the pipeline quietly skirted past the power plant it was supposed to feed, underwent a conversion to transport oil and began heading northward to Turkey, the secret was out: Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government were working to circumvent Baghdad and independently export Kurdish energy.

As the pipeline construction progressed, Kurdish peshmerga forces continued spreading beyond formal Kurdistan Regional Government boundaries in disputed areas and held their ground against demoralized Iraqi army forces. And in the name of guarding against a real and persistent jihadist threat, Kurdish forces built deep, wide ditches around the city of Arbil and are now building one around the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, marking the outer bounds of a slowly expanding Kurdish sphere of influence.
A Complicated Future

We have now arrived at the question of when, and not if, Kurdish oil will flow to Turkey without Baghdad's consent. The completion of the tie-in of the pipeline at a newly constructed pumping and metering station at Fishkhabor near the Turkish border, bypassing the station controlled by Iraqi federal authorities, marks the boldest foreign policy move that Turkey has made in a very long time.
Kurdistan Energy Projects
Click to Enlarge

Turkey has put itself in a position where it can receive 250,000 to 300,000 barrels per day of crude from Iraqi Kurdistan (potentially including crude that could later be pumped from the disputed Kirkuk field through the Khurmala Dome complex in Kurdish territory) at the Turkish border. From Fishkhabor, the crude will reconnect to a 40-inch pipe that runs parallel to a 46-inch pipe traveling westward to the Ceyhan port terminal. While the 46-inch pipe of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline in federal Iraqi territory is operating at just one-fifth of its capacity due to disrepair and frequent militant attacks, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government are essentially appropriating the section of the 40-inch pipe lying in Turkish territory to complete their independent energy project.

Plans are quietly being discussed to build another parallel line on the Turkish side to Ceyhan to completely divorce the pipeline infrastructure from any claims by Baghdad. Even now, by Ankara and Arbil's design, Baghdad has no physical means of interrupting the oil flow through the new pipeline route. And while Baghdad can quietly try to facilitate, or at least turn a blind eye to, jihadist attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan in a bid to undermine investor confidence, Kurdish security and intelligence can still put up a formidable defense against threats from both jihadists and Iraqi national forces -- that is, at least until Baghdad develops its air force and regains the military bandwidth to refocus on the north.

The speed and cunning with which the pipeline was completed demand respect, even -- however reluctantly -- from an outraged Baghdad. At the same time, the geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting once again in this volatile region, promising to complicate the energy strategy engineered by Arbil and Ankara down the line.

Iran may have been too distracted to balance Turkey in Kurdish lands over the past decade, but the coming years will look different. Iran and the United States are both serious about reaching a strategic rapprochement in their long-hostile relationship. Though there will be obstacles along the way, the foundation for a U.S.-Iranian detente has been laid. Turkey is already starting to adapt to the shifting balance of power, struggling to reach an accommodation with Baghdad, Tehran and Washington over the thorny issue of how payments from this new export pipeline will be handled. For now, the United States is trying to avoid becoming entangled in this political morass, prioritizing its negotiation with Iran while publicly maintaining a "one Baghdad, one Iraq" policy. But with time, the United States will regain its ability to manage a balance of power between Shiite Iran and Sunni competitors such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The more U.S.-Iranian relations progress, the more time and attention Iran can give to strong-arming regional allies, like Baghdad, in the face of a deepening Turkish footprint in northern Iraq.

The age-old Turkic-Persian rivalry will reawaken in Kurdistan as Iran reinforces its Shiite allies in Baghdad to pressure the Kurds, using military operations in its own Kurdish region to justify cross-border interventions. Iran is also already starting to discuss energy exploration in the border region with Iraqi Kurdistan, asserting that if Arbil has a problem with such activities, it can take it up with Baghdad. But the sharpest tools Iran and its allies in Baghdad have to undermine Turkey's alliance with the Kurdistan Regional Government are the Kurds themselves.

The past decade of Kurdish unity between Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is highly anomalous and arguably temporary. Iraq's Kurdish region has effectively been split between the Barzani and Talabani fiefs politically, militarily and economically, with the Kurdistan Democratic Party ruling the northern provinces of Dohuk and Arbil and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan ruling Suleimaniyah to the south. Though the two parties have demonstrated the ability to suppress their rivalry in times of extreme stress or opportunity, the fault lines that intersect this fractious Kurdish landscape are still present. On the surface, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have united their peshmerga forces into a single, unified ministry. In reality, the political lines dividing Peshmerga forces remain sharper than ever. Further complicating matters is the political rise of the Gorran movement, a faction that broke away from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan now that the latter is suffering from a leadership vacuum. Though the Gorran can only claim votes at this point, it is only a matter of time before it, too, develops its own peshmerga forces, creating an even wider imbalance of power among Iraq's main Kurdish parties.

The cracks in the Kurdish landscape will be exploited the more competition grows between Turkey and Iran. One does not even have to reach far back in history to get a sense of just how deep Kurdish rivalries can run. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan were engaged in an all-out civil war from 1994 to 1996 that arose from a property dispute. More willing to turn to their regional adversary than compromise with their ethnic kin, the Kurdistan Democratic Party reached out to Ankara and even Saddam Hussein for assistance, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan took help from Iran. Those fault lines have tempered since the fall of Hussein, but the influx of oil money into an already highly corrupt and competitive leadership, a growing imbalance of power among the main Kurdish parties and a developing rivalry between regional forces Turkey and Iran will apply enormous stress on the Kurds' brittle union.
Sober Reminders

For now, Kurdish and Turkish officials and energy executives alike will brush these inconvenient warnings aside; their eyes will remain set on the hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude and billions of cubic meters of natural gas lying beneath Kurdistan's rocky surface. From their point of view, how could Baghdad refuse the commercial benefits of another viable export line out of Iraq? It's only a matter of time, they say, until Baghdad comes to the negotiating table on Ankara's and Arbil's terms and a win-win solution is achieved.

But matters of territorial integrity, financial sovereignty and nationalism are not easily trifled with at the intersection of empires. This is easy to forget when watching heavy concrete blocks being lifted by cranes over Arbil, a bubble of a city where two five-star hotels are filled with expats and Versace-clad locals who look like they belong in a "coming soon" promotion on the oil riches about to be bestowed on Iraqi Kurdistan.

Just a few miles from that glitzy scene is a crowded, smoke-filled cafeteria filled with women in head scarves, screaming children and a mix of men wearing business suits and the traditional Shal-u-Shepik style of baggy trousers with thick bands around the waist. Carts filled with tea in tulip-shaped glasses, warm sheets of flatbread, Kurdish kabob, hummus, cucumbers and radishes rattle noisily through a maze of long tables. Across from me, a young Kurdish man with bright eyes and an American flag on his phone fidgets in his seat. After a long pause, he says, "you know … we have a saying here. Kurdistan is a tree. After a long time, we grow tall, we become full of green leaves and then the tree shrivels and becomes bare. Right now, our leaves are green. Give it enough time. This tree won't die, but our leaves will fall to the ground again."

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Reva Bhalla, vice president of Global Analysis.

Read more: Letter from Kurdistan | Stratfor
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« Reply #340 on: December 20, 2013, 02:01:55 PM »

I suspect this to be bluster but interesting nonetheless:

Don’t count out the Israeli military. It has a record of pulling off daring, surprise strikes.
Uri Sadot

December 30 - January 6, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 16

As world powers debate what a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran should look like, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to maintain that Israel is not bound by the interim agreement that the P5+1 and Iran struck in Geneva on November 24. Israel, says Netanyahu, “has the right and the obligation to defend itself.” One question then is whether Netanyahu actually intends to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. The other question, no less important, is whether Israel could really pull it off.
American analysts are divided on Israel’s ability to take effective military action. However, history shows that Israel’s military capabilities are typically underestimated. The Israel Defense Forces keep finding creative ways to deceive and cripple their targets by leveraging their qualitative advantages in manners that confound not only skeptical observers but also, and more important, Israel’s enemies.

Military triumphs like the Six-Day War of June 1967 and the 1976 raid on Entebbe that freed 101 hostages are popular Israeli lore for good reason—these “miraculous” victories were the result of assiduously planned, rehearsed, and well-executed military operations based on the elements of surprise, deception, and innovation, core tenets of Israeli military thinking. Inscribed on one of the walls of the IDF’s officer training academy is the verse from Proverbs 24:6: “For by clever deception thou shalt wage war.” And this has been the principle driving almost all of Israel’s most successful campaigns, like the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, the 1982 Beka’a Valley air battle, and the 2007 raid on Syria’s plutonium reactor, all of which were thought improbable, if not impossible, until Israel made them reality.

And yet in spite of Israel’s record, some American experts remain skeptical about Israel’s ability to do anything about Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. Even the most optimistic assessments argue that Israel can only delay the inevitable. As a September 2012 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies contends: “Israel does not have the capability to carry out preventive strikes that could do more than delay Iran’s efforts for a year or two.” An attack, it continued, “would be complex and high risk in the operational level and would lack any assurances of a high mission success rate.” Equally cautious is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who argued that while “Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production or the capability of Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons status,” such a strike would only delay the program “for a couple of years.” The most pessimistic American assessments contend that Israel is all but neutered. Former director of the CIA Michael Hayden, for instance, said that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program are beyond Israel’s capacity.

Part of the reason that Israeli and American assessments diverge is the difference in the two countries’ recent military histories and political cultures. While the American debate often touches on the limits of military power and its ability to secure U.S. interests around the globe, the Israeli debate is narrower, befitting the role of a regional actor rather than a superpower, and focuses solely on Israel’s ability to provide for the security of its citizens at home. That is to say, even if Israel and the United States saw Iran and its nuclear arms program in exactly the same light, there would still be a cultural gap. Accordingly, an accurate understanding of how Israelis see their own recent military history provides an important insight into how Israel’s elected leaders and military officials view the IDF’s abilities regarding Iran.

Any account of surprise and deception as key elements in Israeli military history has to start with the aerial attack that earned Israel total air supremacy over its adversaries in the June 1967 war. Facing the combined Arab armies, most prominently those of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, Israel’s Air Force was outnumbered by a ratio of 3 planes to 1. Nonetheless, at the very outset of the war, the IAF dispatched its jets at a time when Egyptian pilots were known to be having breakfast. Israeli pilots targeted the enemy’s warplanes on their runways, and in two subsequent waves of sorties, destroyed the remainder of the Egyptian Air Force, as well as Jordan’s and most of Syria’s. Within six hours, over 400 Arab planes, virtually all of the enemy’s aircraft, were in flames, with Israel losing only 19 planes.

Israel’s sweeping military victory over the next six days was due to its intimate familiarity with its enemy’s operational routines—and to deception. For instance, just before the actual attack was launched, a squad of four Israeli training jets took off, with their radio signature mimicking the activity of multiple squadrons on a training run. Because all of Israel’s 190 planes were committed to the operation, those four planes were used to make the Egyptians believe that the IAF was simply training as usual. The IAF’s stunning success was the result not only of intelligence and piloting but also of initiative and creativity, ingredients that are nearly impossible to factor into standard predictive models.

The 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak is another example of Israel’s ability to pull off operations that others think it can’t. The success caught experts by surprise because every assessment calculated that the target was out of the flight range of Israel’s newly arrived F-16s. The former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Israel Bill Brown recounted that on the day after the attack, “I went in with our defense attaché, Air Force Colonel Pete Hoag, to get a briefing from the chief of Israeli military intelligence. He laid out how they had accomplished this mission. .  .  . Hoag kept zeroing in on whether they had refueled the strike aircraft en route, because headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in Washington wanted to know, among other things, how in the world the Israelis had refueled these F-16s. The chief of Israeli military intelligence kept saying: ‘We didn’t refuel.’ For several weeks headquarters USAF refused to believe that the Israelis could accomplish this mission without refueling.”

Washington later learned that Israel’s success came from simple and creative field improvisations. First, the pilots topped off their fuel tanks on the tarmac, with burners running, only moments before takeoff. Then, en route, they jettisoned their nondetachable fuel drop tanks to reduce air friction and optimize gas usage. Both these innovations involved some degree of risk, as they contravened safety protocols. However, they gave the Israeli jets the extra mileage needed to safely reach Baghdad and return, and also to gain the element of surprise by extending their reach beyond what the tables and charts that guided thinking in Washington and elsewhere had assumed possible.

Surprise won Israel a similar advantage one year later in the opening maneuvers of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. For students of aerial warfare, the Beka’a Valley air battle is perhaps Israel’s greatest military maneuver, even surpassing the June 1967 campaign. On June 9, Israel destroyed the entire Soviet-built Syrian aerial array in a matter of hours. Ninety Syrian MiGs were downed and 17 of 19 surface-to-air missile batteries were put out of commission, while the Israeli Air Force suffered no losses. The brutal—and for Israel, still controversial—nature of the Lebanon war of which this operation was part dimmed its shine in popular history, but the operation is still studied around the world. At the time it left analysts dumbfounded.

The 1982 air battle was the culmination of several years’ worth of tension on Israel’s northern border. Israel was concerned that Syria’s deployment of advanced aerial defense systems in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley would limit its freedom to operate against PLO attacks from Lebanon. When Syria refused to pull back its defenses and U.S. mediation efforts failed, Israel planned for action. Although Israel was widely understood to enjoy a qualitative advantage, no one could have imagined the knockout blow it was about to deliver. Israel launched its aerial campaign on the fourth day of the offensive, commencing with a wave of unmanned proto-drones that served as decoys to trigger the Syrian radars. Rising to the bait, the aerial defense units launched rockets and thus exposed their locations to Israel’s artillery batteries and air-to-ground missiles. In parallel, Israel used advanced electronic jammers to further incapacitate Syrian radars, which cleared the path for the IAF’s fighter-bombers to attack the remaining missile launchers. When Syrian pilots scrambled for their planes, their communications had already been severed and their radars blinded. Israeli pilots later noted the “admirable bravery” of their Syrian counterparts, whom they downed at a ratio of 90 to 0.

A RAND report later concluded that Israel’s success was due not to its technological advantage. “The Syrians were simply outflown and outfought by vastly superior Israeli opponents. .  .  . The outcome would most likely have been heavily weighted in Israel’s favor even had the equipment available to each side been reversed. At bottom, the Syrians were .  .  . [defeated] by the IDF’s constant retention of the operational initiative and its clear advantages in leadership, organization, tactical adroitness, and adaptability.” In other words, Israel won because of its creative and skillful orchestration of a well-organized fighting force.

And then there is Israel’s most recent high-profile conflict with Syria. When Israeli intelligence discovered that Bashar al-Assad’s regime was building a plutonium reactor in the northeast Syrian Desert, Israeli and American leaders disagreed on the best course of action. Israel’s then-prime minister Ehud Olmert argued for a military solution, while the Bush administration feared the risks, demurred, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed to take the matter to the U.N. The Israelis, however, confident in their cyberwarfare capabilities, knew they could disable Syria’s air defenses. Moreover, as careful students of Syrian decision-making, they believed they could destroy the reactor without triggering a costly reaction from Assad. And on September 6, 2007, Israel once again overturned the expert predictions and assessments of others and successfully destroyed the Syrian reactor at Al Kibar.
With Iran, American and Israeli leaders once again disagree on what might be gained by a military strike. While the American debate is riddled with doubts about the efficacy of force, Israeli experts harbor far fewer doubts. As former chief of military intelligence Amos Yadlin asserts unequivocally: “It can be done.” There are some Israeli strategists less optimistic, but the nature of their dissent is fundamentally different from that of American skeptics. U.S. policymakers and analysts question Israel’s ability to strike, or how far even the most successful strike might set back Iran’s nuclear program, but Israelis largely believe they can take effective military action. The question for Israeli strategists is at what cost? A 2012 IAF impact evaluation report predicted 300 civilian casualties in the event of an Iranian retaliatory missile attack. Former defense minister Ehud Barak offered a higher number, contending that open conflict with Iran would claim less than 500 Israeli casualties. Responding to Barak’s relatively optimistic assessment, onetime Mossad director Meir Dagan argued instead that an attack on Iran would take a heavy toll in terms of loss of life and would paralyze life in Israel.
Regardless of the number of potential casualties, the frank discussion of what an attack on Iran might cost Israel in human lives is an essential part of preparing the country, and steeling it, for the possibility of war. Israel has also devoted material resources to the eventuality of a military campaign against the regime in Tehran. According to Ehud Olmert, Israel has spent over $10 billion on preparations for a potential showdown with Iran. “We’ve worked long and hard to prepare ourselves,” former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi said recently. Israel, he added, “will be able to deal with the consequences of a military attack on Iran.”

The question of how exactly Israel might act to stop the Iranian nuclear program is an open one. In part, that’s because it’s hard to know how Israeli strategists see the problem or might reconfigure the working paradigm. The basic operational assumption is that Israel would attack from the air, but who knows? If the goal is to slow down Iran’s nuclear program, there are other ways to do it, perhaps by targeting Iran’s economy, its powergrid, its oil fields, or the regime itself. Or military action might not take the form of an aerial attack at all, but rather a commando heist of Iran’s uranium. Recall the raid on Entebbe: With commandos operating 2,000 miles from Israel’s borders disguised as a convoy carrying the Ugandan leader Idi Amin, that 1976 operation, like many of Israel’s air triumphs, combined strategic surprise with tactical deception.
What is certain, however—what many historical precedents make clear—is that it would be an error of the first order to dismiss Israel’s ability to take meaningful military action against Iran. Israel has left its enemies, as well as American policymakers and military experts, surprised in the past, and it may very well do so again.
Uri Sadot is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Princeton University.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/articles/raid-iran_771518.html
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« Reply #341 on: January 05, 2014, 01:37:42 PM »

As I have stated here previously various times, I do not read, let alone cite Debka.  However, 12 Tribes is doing so in this case AND the hypothesis is consistent with what Stratfor has been predicting for years, often to much disapproval around here:

http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/us-forms-military-partnership-with-iran-for-first-time?utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+US+Forms+Military+Partnership+with+Iran+for+First+Time&utm_campaign=20140105_m118592078_1%2F5%3A+Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+US+Forms+Military+Partnership+with+Iran+for+First+Time&utm_term=US+Forms+Military+Partnership+with+Iran+for+First+Time
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« Reply #342 on: January 07, 2014, 10:29:15 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/world/middleeast/iran-offers-military-aid-but-not-troops-to-iraq.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140107&_r=0
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« Reply #343 on: February 25, 2014, 10:29:23 AM »


Iran has sign
Iran has signed a deal to sell Iraq $195 million worth of arms and ammunition, according to a report by Reuters, in a move that would violate a U.N. weapons embargo on Iran. Reuters said documents showed that Iraq signed eight arms contracts with Iranian state-owned companies in November, just weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with U.S. President Barack Obama requesting additional weapons to fight al Qaeda-linked militants. Maliki would neither confirm nor deny the reports, and the Iranian government denied any knowledge of an arms deal with Iraq. The United States said it is "seeking clarification" over the report, and State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said "If true, this would raise serious concerns." A U.S. official said such a deal could complicate ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
ed a deal to sell Iraq $195 million worth of arms and ammunition, according to a report by Reuters, in a move that would violate a U.N. weapons embargo on Iran. Reuters said documents showed that Iraq signed eight arms contracts with Iranian state-owned companies in November, just weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with U.S. President Barack Obama requesting additional weapons to fight al Qaeda-linked militants. Maliki would neither confirm nor deny the reports, and the Iranian government denied any knowledge of an arms deal with Iraq. The United States said it is "seeking clarification" over the report, and State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said "If true, this would raise serious concerns." A U.S. official said such a deal could complicate ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
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« Reply #344 on: March 24, 2014, 12:12:37 PM »



Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian warplane Sunday after it breached Turkish airspace, according to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking at a campaign rally ahead of March 30 local elections, Erdogan congratulated the air force on its actions, saying, "If you violate our border, our slap will be hard." Syria condemned the strike as an act of "blatant aggression" saying the jet had been over Syrian territory targeting rebel fighters. According to Turkish sources, a control center detected two Syrian jets and warned them four times as they approached the Turkish border. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said initial reports indicated that the plane caught fire and crashed in Syrian territory. Rebel fighters, from mainly Islamist factions, seized the small predominantly Armenian Christian town of Kasab Sunday in northwestern Syrian, near the Turkish border, as well as a border crossing. The advances have come as part of an offensive along the coastal region of Latakia province traditionally a stronghold of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria's state news agency and opposition activists reported that President Assad's cousin, Hilal al-Assad, head of the National Defense paramilitary forces in Latakia, was killed in the fighting.
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« Reply #345 on: March 26, 2014, 08:40:42 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/world/middleeast/qaeda-militants-seek-syria-base-us-officials-say.html?emc=edit_th_20140326&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
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« Reply #346 on: April 15, 2014, 06:30:43 PM »


http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

The Red Line and the Rat Line
Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels

You are invited to read this free essay from the London Review of Books. Subscribe now to access every article from every fortnightly issue of the London Review of Books, including the entire LRB archive of over 12,500 essays and reviews.

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​* Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.

The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.

A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’
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In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.

The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’

In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.

By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.

At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)

The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’

The process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’

The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.

The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’
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Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.

The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.

Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)

*

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.
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By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.

The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.

Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.

*

The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’
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A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’

As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’

The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’

Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.

Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’

4 April
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« Reply #347 on: May 03, 2014, 11:08:05 AM »



 Gulf States Consider Starting an 'Arab NATO'
Analysis
May 2, 2014 | 0405 Print Text Size
Gulf States Consider Starting An 'Arab NATO'
Tanks participate in a joint Gulf Cooperation Council military exercise north of Kuwait City. (YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

In recent months, reports have circulated suggesting that the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, wants to form an "Arab NATO" of sorts by establishing an expanded military alliance, principally between itself and the Arab kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan. With Iran and its allies ascendant and the United States pulling back its involvement in the region, there is no shortage of reasons for the Arab states to want to build out their military capabilities through an alliance. However, the widely varying interests of the individual states will make it difficult if not impossible for any potential defensive bloc to take collective action even if it is eventually formed.
Analysis

The Gulf monarchies have good cause to seek the added security of a defensive alliance. Since the Arab Spring began in 2011, the Arab world has become increasingly unstable, all at a time of perceived U.S. disengagement. The Syrian civil war, the ongoing violence in Iraq and the chaos of Yemen are making the GCC countries uneasy. And Iran, despite the limitations of its largely obsolete military equipment, remains a potent threat, especially given its asymmetrical capabilities and tools, including its ability to mine the Strait of Hormuz and its ballistic missile arsenal that could strike GCC energy infrastructure in the Gulf.

The GCC, and especially Saudi Arabia, is also alarmed by the ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program and the larger strategic situation in the region. Concerned that its ultimate security guarantor, the United States, may not be as dependable as before, Saudi Arabia is all the more keen to assemble its own strengthened military alliance.
Potential Middle East Security Alliance
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According to the reports, the proposal was presented to Morocco and Jordan in late March and is still under consideration. It would establish the alliance under a joint command initially headed by Saudi Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, currently the head of the Saudi National Guard. A strengthened military alliance would assuage some of the concerns related to the aforementioned conflicts. An alliance under a joint command in theory would also greatly improve the flow and exchange of intelligence and information, allowing the GCC and other Arab countries joining the new alliance to better coordinate their response to an increased flow of jihadists in the region, particularly due to the draw of the Syrian civil war. Furthermore, as occurred with the 2011 deployment to Bahrain of the Peninsula Shield Force, the GCC's current military force, an expanded and strengthened alliance could be used to clamp down on outbreaks of internal dissent and safeguard the authoritarian rule of many of these royal families.

The GCC, under encouragement from the United States, is already seeking to improve interoperability and reduce procurement redundancy. This endeavor is matched by an attempt at overhauling the limited Peninsula Shield Force. The overhaul would first seek to expand the GCC's combined military force by more than doubling it to 100,000 troops. Arguably even more important, it would place the troops under a joint command and control system.

The expansion of the alliance to include Morocco and Jordan would serve as a major boost to the limited manpower available to the GCC. In return for their participation, Morocco and Jordan would likely be offered much-needed financial assistance from the richer Gulf countries. In 2012, the GCC presented Morocco and Jordan with a $5 billion financial aid package, and such aid can be expected to continue and perhaps even increase if Rabat and Amman join in a closer military alliance with the GCC.

Despite the considerable benefits of a strengthened and expanded Arab military alliance, significant systemic constraints exist that will seriously hamper such an effort. First, there are considerable political differences within the GCC itself, with Qatar especially at odds with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the Saudis and the Emirates perceive as a serious potential domestic threat.

Additionally, not all of these countries believe Iran to be as much of a threat as Saudis Arabia does. For instance, Oman maintains rather cordial ties with Tehran. The internal squabbling and differences in outlook can also be readily seen in the disagreement about whether Egypt should be invited to join the alliance; the GCC member countries disagree over which factions in Egypt they support. Especially worrisome is the inability of these countries to even agree on a joint effort in a country where they largely agree on the desired outcome, namely Syria. All of the GCC countries involved in Syria continue to support their own favored factions, who have a tendency to turn their guns on rival factions supported by different GCC members, undermining what could be a combined effort at ousting Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime.

Bringing in Jordan and Morocco would not do much to enhance a common position. Jordan, for example, remains extremely wary of the effort to oust al Assad. Amman has sought to play a much more balanced role in supporting the rebels, fearing the spillover effects from a power vacuum in its northern neighbor. And despite Morocco's keen desire to maintain close ties with the GCC, which it has often demonstrated through its political and diplomatic support for Saudi Arabia, it would be much more reluctant to contribute militarily to Riyadh's regional ambitions. Even Morocco's military contribution in the Gulf War, in direct defense of Saudi territory, was controversial among the Moroccan public. Finally, bringing in Morocco and Jordan, with their disparate force compositions and equipment, would further complicate the effort underway to develop a joint fighting doctrine that includes interoperable equipment and communications.

There is certainly momentum toward increased military cooperation within the GCC, which could extend to including Jordan and Morocco in the bloc's activities. The significant existing tensions and differences in outlook, however, will prevent these countries from forming a truly effective Arab version of NATO.

Read more: Gulf States Consider Starting an 'Arab NATO' | Stratfor
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« Reply #348 on: May 28, 2014, 08:01:32 AM »

Lebanon's Hizbollah Turns Eastward to Syria' (International Crisis Group)

"In the longer term however, Hizbollah's involvement in Syria threatens the movement and is problematic for Lebanon and the Arab world more broadly. It has deepened the regional sectarian divide, fuelled the very extremism it purports to combat and eroded the movement's legitimacy among constituencies that previously were supportive. By framing its fight as a preemptive attack on takfiris - those who declare other Muslims to be apostates - Hizbollah has tarred all shades of the opposition, and indeed sometimes all Sunnis, with the same radicalising brush. It has exaggerated, and thereby exacerbated, the sectarianism of the Syrian opposition as well as its own domestic opponents. Once widely respected across the political and confessional spectrum, Hizbollah (literally 'The Party of God') now often is referred to as 'The Party of Satan'. The warm popular embrace that for the movement was tantamount to strategic depth has diminished, along with its reputation for moral probity. Ironically, shoring up its eastern front has made Hizbollah more vulnerable." 

'Middle East: Three nations, one conflict' (Borzou Daragahi, Financial Times)

"Lebanese and Iraqi Shia militiamen take up arms in Syrian towns and cities. Syrian insurgents set off bombs in southern Beirut. Sunni fighters flow from Syria to Iraq, where they battle government troops on the outskirts of Baghdad, while Lebanese and Palestinian Sunnis in Lebanon fight in the Syrian city of Homs. Governments in Baghdad and Beirut, backed by their patron in Tehran, look the other way - or sometimes help - as arms and fighters make their way into Syria for battles from Aleppo to Damascus to Deraa. 

This is more than just the 'spillover' from the Syria conflict analysts warned about when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. The various conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are increasingly merging into one war stretching from the Zagros Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea in what the writer Rami Khoury calls 'a single operational arena in terms of the ease of movement of fighters and weapons.'"
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« Reply #349 on: June 13, 2014, 08:39:57 AM »

OK, what do we do now?

Some variables and questions at play here (and by no means a complete or coherent list)

a) A radical caliphate is forming before our eyes.  If/when the Caliphate establishes, does it not become the base of operations that we went to Afpakia to deny AQ?  Will not many jihadis with Euro passports, seasoned in Syria (and now Iraq) turn to action in Europe?  And, are there not some jihadis in Syria/Iraq with American passports?
What are the implications of it being a serious base of operations against the US and Europe?  Does Europe have the spine?  Or will it trade "Jews for Oil" and become complicit in the effort to destroy Israel as it surrenders its will to defend its values?  And in a similar vein,  what of America's relation with Israel? Will those in defense of Euro values turn fascist? and to Putin?  

b) If we do nothing, Shia Iraq will turn to Shia Iran and Shia Iran will help.  Is this a bad thing?  Maybe we just let them get back to killing each other as they did in the Iraq-Iran War between Saddam and the Mad Mullahs of Iran?  Indeed, do we, as Stratfor has suggested from time to time, actually strike some sort of a deal with Iran?  Did not Iran offer a deal in the aftermath of 911 as we took on the Sunni Taliban in Afpakia?  Can restraining Iran's nuke program be part of this deal?  Can restraining Hezbollah in Lebanon in its relations with Israel be part of the deal?

c) If we help Maliki, then are we simply doing Iran's work for it in the great Shia-Sunni struggle?

d)  What of the Kurds? Seems plausible they will want to go for nationhood , , , My understanding is that the US has relatively good reputation with the Kurds-- is there something to build upon this?   What will Turkey make of Kurdish independence efforts?  US support for the Kurds?  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/06/12/revenge_of_the_kurds?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Flashpoints&utm_campaign=Flashpoints%20June%2012   Can Iraq survive as such at all?  Or are we looking at a Kurdistan, a Sunni caliphate, and a Shia protectorate of Iran?

e) Speaking of Turkey, what are its interests and likely behaviors here?

f) What implications for our relations with Egypt?  Perhaps we need to get on board with the military government?

g) If we side with the Shias, what is left of our relation with the Saudis?  Do they buy nukes from Pakistan?  Will they be going down that road anyway?

h) Are the whackos of ISIS really capable of running a country?  If they achieve power and then have to actually do the work of governing will they simply not be up to the task?  Will their extremism turn people off and against them?

i) With our military being dramatically downsized, if we apply our declining bandwidth to the mid-east, what implications for China and the South China Sea?



So, what do we do now?

1) The American people correctly have no trust in the competence of our government in general and Baraq in particular.  There is no support for action.    

2) Are the American people willing to consider/support undoing cuts in military spending already in the pipeline or even consider/support increases?

3) Bombing now to break ISIS's momentum?

4) Gen. Keane (retired four star, frequent commentator on FOX, he has my respect) thinks RIGHT NOW we should send Petraeus to Baghdad to size things up and to help Maliki develop a coherent plan of action.

3) Or?
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