Similar to what they have done with many popular fads coming out of the western world, Facebook has also become weaponized by Western intelligence agencies in recent years.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Facebook has been one of the main battlefields in Syria. Western intelligence operatives and an army of Arab mercenaries have been saturating electronic media with their presence. Their intent is to spread anti-Syrian propaganda in the western world and to organize and/or inspire the armed insurgency in the embattled country. The same, of course, is being done against Iran and similar operations are being carried out against Russia and Armenia. As usual, it's always those "humanitarians", "rights activists", "aid workers", "political experts", "historians" or "independent journalists" that do Washington's bidding via the internet, print, radio or television. Unfortunately there are quite a few of these types of mercenaries throughout Armenian society as well; I have pointed out some of the more dangerous ones in previous posts. An interesting article about Facebook's subversive actions in Syria appears towards the bottom of this page. For additional information concerning Washington's cyber-warfare operations around the world, I ask you to read the following blog entry -
It is well known that Syria has a strategic alliance with Iran and that it helps arm Lebanon's Hezbollah. Not very well known, however, is Syria's Russian presence. Russia's military presence in Syria did not end after the fall of the Soviet Union and during the past several years, Moscow had been steadily growing its military presence in the Syrian port city of Tartus. What's more, several years ago Damascus had even announced that it would be willing to host Russian ballistic missiles on its soil. Damascus was obviously hoping that the increased Russian military presence in Syria would protect it from foreign aggression. Although Moscow continued to slowly increase it military activities in Syria, setting up missile sites in the country was probably looked upon as a bit too risky. Please see the following blog entry for additional information -US Launches Cyber Spy Operation Against The World - April, 2011: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2011/04/us-launches-cyber-spy-operation-april.html
Moscow Set to Resume its Influence With Damascus - July, 2010: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2010/11/to-dismay-of-tel-aviv-and-washington.html
The current players against Syria are the Western alliance, various Persian Gulf Sunni Arab states, Jordan, Turkey, certain segments within Lebanon and various Kurdish factions. Similar to what happened in Libya in recent months, Sunni Arab states in the region have been instrumental in disseminating anti-Syrian propaganda throughout the world. Therefore, keep this in mind next time you listen to a scion of the British monarchy in Jordan next time he holds a press conference; keep this in mind next time you watch the pseudo-news agency known as Al-Jazeera.
The present "king" of Jordan is half British, he was educated in Britain, his close associates are Anglo-Americans and his father was widely known to be a CIA asset. Thus, it shouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to claim that "King Abdullah II" of Jordan is a Western asset as well. Don't take my word for it, his actions and statements speak for themselves.
Al-Jazeera is state run propaganda agency based in Qatar. The government of Qatar, the entity that funds Al-Jazeera, is a very reliable conduit of Western interests in the region. Qatar also played a fundamental role in supporting the Western aggression against Libya (see related article posted towards the bottom of this page). Thus, when Washington complains about Al-Jazeera's "unfair" coverage of American actions in the region, it is in fact trying to give the news agency an air of legitimacy. This is yet another form of psychological warfare operations being carried out on the unsuspecting sheeples of the world. Al-Jazeera is in fact Washington's local tool for managing/controlling/conditioning the hearts and minds of the Arab sheeple.
[In my humble opinion, the only reliable and respectable English language news agency left in the world today is Margarita Simonyan's Russia Today. Therefore, please put aside your Cold War derived biases and phobias and begin monitoring RT for global news developments that is free of Anglo-American-Zionist political spin]
While it is premature to make a definitive statement about Israel as of yet, Tel Aviv ironically may be the only regional entity most concerned about a drastic political change in Syria. Nevertheless, the geostrategic intent of the Western alliance and friends (including Israel) are quite clear: they are systematically preparing their field of play prior to their attack on Iran. If Syria falls, Israel will most probably create a pretext to invade southern Lebanon to finally crush the Hezbollah. If the Hezbollah is disarmed, the path to Iran will then be totally cleared. With Assad and the Hezbollah out of the way, they won't have any worries about Tehran using Syria and the Hezbollah to engage in diversionary attacks or to open new fronts against it. If Syria and the Hezbollah fall, the entire Middle East and north Africa will effectively be under Washington's control for the first time in history. The following link is to an earlier blog entry that further discusses this matter -
NATO plans campaigns in Libya and Syria to tighten noose around Iran - September, 2011: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2011/09/nato-plans-campaigns-in-middle-east-to_03.html
The West certainly has many levers with which to destroy any Arab state it chooses to. Moreover, starting a revolution or a major war is rather easy. But revolutions have a tendency to get out of hand and wars, once started, often end up taking a life of their own. Such projects are politically very risky and they are dangerously unpredictable. One wrong move, one mistake, one accident and we can have a world war on our hands. And therein lies the danger that the Western alliance is disregarding due to its blind pursuit of global domination.
Western actions have thus brought the world to the brink of a third world war. High level officials in realize that the long-term intentions of the Western alliance is to establish a foothold in the resource-rich Eurasian heartland as a geostrategic measure to ensure that no regional power rises to compete with its global hegemony. Thus, their primary long-term targets are Russia and . Consequently, there will come a time when will say enough-is-enough.
As NATO nations, Washington's "missile defense" systems and Western-led conflicts get closer to Russian borders, the threat of a nuclear catastrophe will rise. Although resurgent, Russia's military today is a mere shadow of what it used to be during the Soviet period. Militarily, Russia remains quite vulnerable against the West war machine. As a result, Moscow is placing emphasis on its nuclear deterrence; as NATO did during the height of Soviet power. Moreover, seeing Washington's aggressions against nonaligned, resource-rich and vulnerable nations around the world, various governments have begun developing nuclear programs of their own.
Back in 2002, cowboys in Washington announced that Iran, Iraq and North Korea formed some dreaded "Axis of Evil". Coming soon after the events of September 11, 2001, president Bush's infamous speech reverberated throughout much of the world. The Arab/Muslim world in particular shivered in fear as the United States readied itself to pounce on the strategic region after one of its black operations had given it the carte blanche to do so with impunity. Thus, those on Washington's black/hit list took Bush's warning very seriously.
Well, let's see what happened to two of the three members of the so-called Axis of Evil. A besieged Iraq that had long dropped its nuclear ambitions was desperately signaling that it was ready to cooperate with the West, while North Korea was stubbornly pressing ahead with building an atomic bomb; which it finally did around the year 2005. While Iraq got invaded and shattered into pieces, a nuclear North Korea is allowed to sink South Korean warships and bombard South Korean islands from time-to-time without anybody even raising an eyebrow. Was there is lesson to be learned here? Yes, indeed!
Iraq got invaded simply because it did not posses potent weapons with which it could defend itself and an aggressive North Korea can continue acting tough simply because it has the "bomb". The same can be said about Pakistan. The same can be said about Israel, a nation that posses upwards of several hundred nuclear warheads.
Well, looking at all this, and realizing that it has been high on Washington's hit list for a long time, how should we have expected Iranian officials to react? By rolling over and playing dead? Iranians are not Arabs. Simply put, Iran today is courageously pursuing nuclear deterrence. I think it would have been better for us all if it did not, but I firmly believe Western actions have given Iran no choice but to resort to drastic measures. Again, Tehran feels that only with nuclear capability will it be able to thwart an attack by Western forces. Therefore, what we essentially have today is a new global nuclear arms race; and one that is in certain ways more perilous than the one that existed during the Cold War; and we can all thank the Anglo-American-Zionist global order and friends for bringing us to this dangerous point.
Key in all this is what will Moscow's reaction be. Moscow more-or-less sacrificed Libya for cold geopolitical calculations. Libya was simply too far way and Tripoli was not in a close alliance with Moscow. Moreover, Libya's many enemies were determined to destroy it. By not becoming an obstacle to NATO, Moscow may have thought it could draw Western forces into yet another protracted war. Moscow also felt that it could use the West's aggression against Libya as a legitimate excuse to hinder a similar aggression against Syria or Iran; nations that it deems much closer geographically, economically and politically.
Nevertheless, the closer these Western-led unrests get to Russian borders, the more proactive will Moscow become as a political force in the region. This has already become apparent.
Moscow just recently communicated a stern warning to the Western alliance. In a recent press conference in Moscow, General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, essentially stated that as NATO and armed conflicts get closer to Russia's borders, the likelihood of a nuclear war will increase. Moscow realizes that after Syria it will be Iran, and after Iran it may very well be Russia. Washington's missile defense project in Europe is fundamentally tied to this grand plan. After all, as mentioned, the primary geostrategic intent of the great game has been to control the Eurasian heartland, and the very heart of the Eurasian heartland is Russia. Moreover, it has now been confirmed that Russian warships will be sailing into Syrian waters. What's clear here is that Moscow is taking the situation in Syria very seriously. For the fist time since the summer of 2008, Moscow and Washington seem to be facing off in yet another high stakes game of chess.
Just how far Moscow is willing to go in protecting the Syrian regime and its strategic naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea from external threats is just about anyone's guess at this point. Nevertheless, what the global community is facing today is a very complicated and a highly volatile situation. As the world inches closer-and-closer to a major international conflict, I have no doubt Kremlin officials are very perplexed as to what their course of action should be in the region.
Recent developments in the region is cause for serious concern. Besides the highly volatile situation inside Syria, Russia and China have begun warning the West of a world war, Moscow has supplied Damascus with sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles, Al-Qaeda may be getting involved in the civil war raging in Syria, Iranian mobs ransacked the British embassy in Tehran, the Iranian military managed to bring down one of the most sophisticated aircrafts in the US inventory (perhaps with Russian help)... Below you will find various pertinent articles that have caught my attention in recent days. Please read them to better understand the explosive situation that has been created throughout the region in question.
Webster Tarpley on Syria (Pacifica Radio): http://archive.wbai.org/files/mp3/wbai_111223_090056gunsbutter.mp3
Syria Doomed? 'Invasion planned long ago' (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=9hCZMFCBU_4
Mossad vs Assad? 'CIA death squads behind bloodbath' (RT video):http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/u/3/5L49L6iZSSg
Bloody civil war at hand as Syria under ultimatum (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfLMDepN_Y4&feature=player_embedded
UK Jordan boost anti-Syrian regime campaign (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/u/9/PT_CgRz-NHw
Mission Arab Spring: 'Taking out Syria planned since 9/11' (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/u/7/uC2dpSap82sArab Spring a western ploy to control Eurasia (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/u/5/ZpPspY2FP8o
Sophie Shevardnadze Interviews Syrian deputy FM (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/search/0/rnwpqtO3jz4
Shoot to Kill: 'West wants Syria govt gone for good' (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/search/6/fgh_MKWhXPIShocking Video: Syrian opposition violence (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/search/6/iBCuq2bIdIs
UN withdrawal PR to demonize Syrian govt (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/search/20/1BQcVEmbNMc
'Arabs must unite in face of Western expansion' (RT video): http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday#p/search/7/IZazDKpDBAc
The West is encouraging the Syrian opposition to continue its confrontation with the ruling regime and Washington is “persistently and publicly” advising them to reject all peace proposals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday. “The radical opposition is being incited to set a firm course toward regime change and reject all compromise proposals,” Lavrov said.
Russia was “greatly disappointed” with the fact that Washington advised the opposition against responding to President Bashar Al Assad’s call to lay down arms in return for an amnesty, Lavrov said. Russia is not abandoning its efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, the minister went on, and on Tuesday Burhan Ghalioun, a representative of the opposition National Council, will visit Moscow. On Saturday the Arab League suspended Syria from the organization and said it will impose harsh economic and political sanctions against Assad’s government.
Last week Damascus agreed to accept the Arab League peace plan on Syria. Under the plan, Syria would release political prisoners detained during the ongoing conflict, and all military equipment would be removed from urban areas. Opposition leaders maintain that Syrian authorities continue to use force against "peaceful demonstrations" and many people were killed or injured as a result.
NATO is planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad with a long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran, Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said. The UN Security Council condemned on Wednesday ongoing violence in Syria and urged the country's authorities to stop using force against peaceful protesters, while saying the current situation in the country has not yet called for NATO interference.
"[This statement] means that the planning [of the military campaign] is well underway. It could be a logical conclusion of those military and propaganda operations, which have been carried out by certain Western countries against North Africa," Rogozin said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Friday. The Russian diplomat pointed out at the fact that the alliance is aiming to interfere only with the regimes "whose views do not coincide with those of the West."
Rogozin agreed with the opinion expressed by some experts that Syria and later Yemen could be NATO's last steps on the way to launch an attack on Iran. "The noose around Iran is tightening. Military planning against Iran is underway. And we are certainly concerned about an escalation of a large-scale war in this huge region," Rogozin said. Having learned the Libyan lesson, Russia "will continue to oppose a forcible resolution of the situation in Syria," he said, adding that the consequences of a large-scale conflict in North Africa would be devastating for the whole world.Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20110805/165570384.html
NATO and Turkey Support Armed Rebels in Syria. Campaign to Recruit Muslim "Freedom Fighters"
The Western media has played a central role in obfuscating the nature of foreign interference in Syria including outside support to armed insurgents. In chorus they have described recent events in Syria as a "peaceful protest movement" directed against the government of Bashar Al Assad. Recent developments in Syria point to a full-fledged armed insurgency, integrated by Islamist "freedom fighters", supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey's High Command. According to Israeli intelligence sources:
NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime's crackdown on dissent. Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces. (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011)
The delivery of weapons to the rebels is to be implemented "overland, namely through Turkey and under Turkish army protection....Alternatively, the arms would be trucked into Syria under Turkish military guard and transferred to rebel leaders at pre-arranged rendez-vous." (Ibid, emphasis added) NATO and the Turkish High command, also contemplate the development of a jihad involving the recruitment of thousands of freedom fighters, reminiscent of the enlistment of Mujahideen to wage the CIA's jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war:
Also discussed in Brussels and Ankara, our sources report, is a campaign to enlist thousands of Muslim volunteers in Middle East countries and the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would house these volunteers, train them and secure their passage into Syria. (Ibid, emphasis added)
These various developments point towards the possible involvement of Turkish troops inside Syria, which could potentially lead to a broader military confrontation between the two countries, as well as a full-fledged "humanitarian" military intervention by NATO, which would be carried out in coordination with the Alliance's support to the insurgency.
Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya's new authorities on Friday, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, The Daily Telegraph has learned. At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested "assistance" from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms, and potentially volunteers. "There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria," said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see."
The Telegraph has also learned that preliminary discussions about arms supplies took place when members of the Syrian National Council [SNC] – the country's main opposition movement – visited Libya earlier this month. "The Libyans are offering money, training and weapons to the Syrian National Council," added Wisam Taris, a human rights campaigner with links to the SNC.
The disclosure came as rebels raided an air force base outside the city of Homs and killed six pilots, according to a statement by the country's military. Rebel attacks have become daily occurrences since the onset of the insurrection. The conflict has claimed at least 3,500 lives, mainly as part of a crackdown by the government. Syria's regime has continued to defy pressure from the Arab League, ignoring yesterday's deadline to accept the deployment of 500 human rights observers, raising the possibility that economic sanctions may be agreed this weekend.
Last month, Libya's interim government became the first in the world to recognise Syria's opposition movement as the country's "legitimate authority". Large shipments of weapons have not yet been sent, said activists, mainly because of logistical difficulties. But proposals for a "buffer zone" inside Syria, monitored by the Arab League, or the likely emergence of an area inside the country controlled entirely by rebels could solve this problem. "The [Libyan] council's offer is serious," said Mr Taris. Turkey, which has denounced President Assad's regime, is already sheltering about 7,000 Syrian opposition activists, including the leader of the Free Syrian Army, the nascent rebel movement, in a "safe zone" along Turkey's border with Syria.
Sources in the Libyan town of Misurata suggested that some weapons may already have been sent. Some smugglers were caught selling small arms to Syrian buyers in Misurata, said a man who trafficked guns to Libya's rebels during the country's civil war. Post-conflict Libya is awash with arms, many of them taken from the vast military stores maintained by Col Mummar Gaddafi's regime. Kalashnikov assault rifles, modern missiles and even tanks found their way into Libya.
Libyans feel closely aligned to the Syrian cause, said Hameda al-Mageri, from the Tripoli Military Council. "Bashar sent Gaddafi weapons when he was fighting us. There are hundreds of people who want to go to fight in Syria, or help in other ways if they can."But Libyan officials deny the claims. "This is what you hear in the street," said Ramadan Zarmoh, the leader of the Misurata military council. "Officially there is none of this. I would never send any fighters to fight outside the country."
Ministers from the Arab League are expected to meet in Cairo over the weekend to consider sanctions on Syria. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, on Friday pledged to keep up talks with Syrian opposition groups in an attempt to support a transition to a stable democracy. "They were clear on the importance of the Syrian regime accepting the Arab League's initiative to end the violence and they agreed on the need to continue talking to the Syrian opposition movements to support the transition to an inclusive and stable democracy," a Downing Street spokesman said.
Measures under consideration are believed to include suspending all flights to Syrian airports, halting any transactions with the country's central bank and freezing any Syrian government bank accounts. However, it remains unclear whether there is sufficient support to introduce them. Lebanon has publicly opposed sanctions.
600 Libyan Mercenaries Enter Syria via Turkey to Fight Jihad Against Assad
The Arabic website "Al-Rai Al-Arabi" has reported that some 600 Libyan "volunteers", who want to participate in the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, came to Syria through Turkey. The site indicated a representative of the current leadership of Libya as its source. This is not too surprising; the current Transitional National Council (TNC) was the first to recognize the Syrian National Council as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Syrian people. The "Free Syrian Army" (FSA) in part of a group affiliated with the Libyan rebel movement, which have been linked in the past to Islamic extremist’s organizations and al-Qaida of the Islamic Mahgred (AQIM). See story: "Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links"Source: http://www.examiner.com/city-buzz-in-charlotte/600-libyan-mercenaries-enter-syria-via-turkey-to-fight-syria
The Syrian army has suffered a major blow this weekend with 47 soldiers killed in clashes with deserters since Thursday. Twenty-six soldiers were killed on Thursday, 13 on Friday and eight in the latest attack on Saturday. Arab finance ministers are currently meeting in Cairo to discuss economic sanctions on Damascus after it rejected a proposal to send hundreds of inspectors into Syria. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judah asked Arab League members to discuss sanctions while taking into consideration each country's interests. He said that Jordan has prosperous trade ties with Syria and noted that many Jordanian students study in the country.
Earlier on Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad lashed out at his Turkish critics remarking that "some in Turkey are still clinging to the dream of reinstating the Ottoman Empire." The Turkish leaders, he added, "Know that this dream is impossible, so they are trying to exploit parties with a religious agenda to expand their influence on the Arab world."
The Arab League suspended Syria on Wednesday at its meeting in Rabat, Morocco, and gave the Baath government three days to cease shooting protesters or else threatened economic sanctions would kick in. Aljazeera English has a video report, which came out before AL officials confirmed that the suspension was in effect. Meanwhile, violence continues to escalate in Syria, with army defectors attacking several military and intelligence bases around Damascus on Wednesday. The Free Syrian Army, based just over the border in Lebanon, claimed the attacks.
Monday was one of the Syrian uprising’s bloodiest days, with some 90 people killed across the country. Dozens of the dead were Syrian troops or security men targeted by the Free Syrian Army, including 34 government troops allegedly killed in an ambush near the southern town of Deraa. Syria has become increasingly isolated, with King Abdullah II of Jordan calling for him to step down, and Turkey denouncing the continuing bloodshed and announcing the end of joint petroleum exploration with Damascus.
In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is not monolithic, with each national organization autonomous. The MB in Egypt has said that it would not abolish the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel, though it might seek changes in the text. External boycotts and sanctions are unlikely to bring down the Baathist government, especially if Israel were to decide to give Bashar covert aid. But the development of the Free Syrian Army and its attacks on bases and ambush of government troops suggest the beginnings of a serious armed insurgency. Unfortunately it may also announce the beginnings of a genuine civil war.
Burhan Ghalioun, the president of the Syrian National Council, said such moves would be part of a broader Syrian reorientation back into an alliance with the region's major Arab powers. Mr. Ghalioun's comments came Wednesday, in his first major media interview since he was made SNC leader in October. Mr. Ghalioun also called on the international community to take aggressive new steps, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone in
"Our main objective is finding mechanisms to protect civilians and stop the killing machine," Mr. Ghalioun, a 66-year-old university professor, said from his home in south Paris. "We say it is imperative to use forceful measures to force the regime to respect human rights."
Syria would also appear ripe for realignment. President Bashar al-Assad's government is Iran's closest military and strategic ally in the region. Damascus and Tehran coordinate closely in funneling arms and funds to the Hezbollah movement that controls Lebanon and the militant group Hamas, which is fighting Israeli forces.
Mr. Assad and many of his top officials are Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The regime's alliance with Iran, which is Shiite-dominated and Persian, is seen as unnatural by Syria's Sunni Arab majority; Mr. Ghalioun called it "abnormal." The SNC, and Syria's broader opposition, generally support dissolving the ties. Such a position is welcomed by U.S. and European officials, who believe Mr. Assad's overthrow could cripple Iran's ability to project its power into the Palestinian territories and Egypt.
"There will be no special relationship with Iran," Mr. Ghalioun said in the interview. "Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance," he said, adding that "after the fall of the Syrian regime, [Hezbollah] won't be the same."
The Syrian National Council, formally established in October, serves as the face of Syria's opposition to the international community and has proposed to lead a one-year transition to democratic rule. It is the broadest-based opposition coalition since protests broke out in Syria in mid-March, unifying Sunni Muslims, Christians, Kurds, youth committees and others.
But several Damascus-based political dissidents, and newer movements for political change, say the council was formed largely outside Syria and doesn't adequately represent the spectrum of Syrian society. Factions within the SNC have differed over issues of regional autonomy, the question of foreign intervention in Syria's crisis and the role of religion and Arab nationalism in any new state. The organization has also been hobbled by the lack of operating territory inside Syria and the cohesion of Mr. Assad's military and government.
U.S. and European officials have voiced particular concern about the SNC's lack of representation for women and religious minorities. They have also said that Sunni religious groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, could end up dominating the council. But in recent days, U.S. officials have said Mr. Ghalioun is effectively building bridges between Syria's political factions.
"He's doing an impressive job," said a U.S. official. The officials added that momentum seems to be building behind the SNC, particularly after the Arab League nations voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to impose financial sanctions on the Assad government. Mr. Ghalioun acknowledged in the interview that the SNC has faced challenges in uniting Syria's opposition after more than 40 years of the Assad family's dictatorial rule.
He said Syria's Kurdish minority has 33 parties, making the choice of representation difficult. He said the SNC has also made a special outreach to Christians, including sending a mission to the Vatican, amid fears that Christians' religious, economic and political rights could be curtailed in a post-Assad Syria. Indeed, he said Syria, though roughly 70% Sunni Muslim, has a history of religious and ethnic diversity that would never allow it to be dominated by Islamist parties or Islamist law.
"I don't think there's a real fear in Syria of a monopoly of Islamists, not even 10%," he said. "The Muslim Brotherhood has largely been in exile for 30 years and their internal coordination is non-existent."
Mr. Ghalioun, too, has lived abroad for decades following the seizure of power by the Baath Party and a coup by Hafez al-Assad—Mr. Assad's father—as president in 1970. Mr. Ghalioun has served as a political sociology professor at the Paris Sorbonne University, while intermittently returning to Syria to agitate for political reform. A self-declared secular Sunni, he has called for religion and state to be separate.
His role as opposition leader could end as early as this month under the committee's bylaws, but discussions are under way to potentially extend his term. In the interview, Mr. Ghalioun stressed that Syria will remain committed to reclaiming the Golan Heights territory from Israel, which Damascus lost during the 1967 Six Day War. But he said Syria would focus its interests through negotiations rather than armed conflict or the support of proxies.
He added that a new Syrian government would normalize relations with neighboring Lebanon after decades of dominating the country through its militarily and intelligence channels. A U.N. investigation has charged members of Hezbollah with assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, a charge the group has denied. The SNC's president joined the U.S. and European Union with charging Iran of assisting Mr. Assad in cracking down on the political rebellion. Tehran has repeatedly denied this charge. But Iranian officials, as well as Hezbollah, have been vocal in their support for the continuation of the Assad regime.
Mr. Ghalioun and the SNC have been conducting stepped-up negotiations with the Arab League, Turkey, Russia and European powers in recent days to find ways to protect Syrians and guarantee the supply of humanitarian aid, according to participants in the talks. The SNC president has met with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Turkey, which on Wednesday joined the Arab League, U.S. and European Union in imposing financial sanctions on Mr. Assad's government, has raised the possibility of establishing a buffer zone inside Syria to protect civilians from Mr. Assad's forces. Mr. Juppé and the U.S. are pressing a plan to protect international monitors inside Syria.
The SNC's chief visited the Turkish border this week to meet the commanders of the Free Syrian Army, which is made up of defectors from the mostly Sunni mid-ranks of the Syrian military. The FSA has claimed responsibility in recent weeks of at least one attack on a state security building. But Mr. Ghalioun said he had reached agreement with the FSA's commanders that their military operations would focus solely on protecting Syrian civilians and not on offensive operations.
"We don't want, after the fall of the regime in Syria, armed militias outside the control of the state," Mr. Ghalioun said. "They assured us they will implement our agreement and abide by requests not to launch any offensive operations."
Mr. Ghalioun echoed Western confidence that President Assad's leadership is untenable in the long-term due to Damascus's mounting financial woes and diplomatic isolation, saying Mr. Assad can survive only "months" more in office. U.S. and European officials believe it could take much longer.
The SNC believes Damascus's foreign-exchange reserves are now below $10 billion, its leader says; Damascus officially cites between $17 billion and $18 billion. He also said that Syria's economy will contract by at least 10% this year. Syrian economists say the government is projecting growth of around 4%. "There isn't even 1% chance that Assad will survive," the SNC president said. "His only choice to carry on…is to continue the killing. They know that if they stop, they're over."
The information was released by the newspaper Izvestia of the Eurasian country, quoting retired Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, who said Russia sent these weapons to Syria to "prevent" a military conflict. "Having any military force, other than the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is very beneficial for the region, as it will prevent the outbreak of a military conflict," said Kravchenko, who was head of the Russian Navy from 1998 to 2005.
A Russian navy spokesman, quoted by Izvestia also confirmed the plan to send ships to the maintenance base that Russia has on the Syrian coast, near Tartus, but assured that it has nothing to do with the current situation in Syria, where in the last months riots have appeared for and against President Bashar al-Assad.
"The sending of the Russian ships to Tartus should not be seen as a reaction to what is happening in Syria (...) This was already planned from 2010, when there were no such events existing there.
It has not been an active preparation, and there is no need to cancel or postpone it," insisted the spokesman, who explained that the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov also will visit Beirut, Genoa and Cyprus. The base at Tartus, a maintenance and supply center for the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, is little used currently by Russian ships and no Russian craft are based there, although military and civilian personnel are present. Currently, the base houses 600 soldiers and technical staff of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and is being restored so that Russian cruisers and aircraft carriers can dock.
The Russian government discarded that these ships are being used to sow chaos or invade Syria, and it is also opposed to foreign interference and the use of force against the Arab country. In turn, also, it has advanced to reject any proposed resolution that includes sanctions against President al-Assad`s government.
Fulfilling a contract signed in 2007, Russia has supplied Bastion coastal missile systems with Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria under a contract signed in 2007, a diplomatic source in Moscow has told Russian media. Objecting to Western fears that the defensive weapons system will fall into the hands of terrorist groups, a diplomatic source says that Moscow has fulfilled its obligations as laid out in the five-year-old contract.
"The Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles have been supplied as part of Bastion mobile coastal missile systems," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Interfax.
However, delivery of the weapons systems is just the first part of the process, and now “more time is needed to complete Syrian personnel training," the source said, adding that the missile system will “enable Syria to protect its entire coast from a possible seaborne attack."
Damascus is expecting to receive at least two Bastion systems with 36 Yakhont missiles per each system. According to unofficial estimates, the contract carries a $300 million price tag. The announcement comes as a Russian naval group, led by the nuclear aircraft-carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is en route to the Syrian port of Tartus.
Russian military officials rejected suggestions that the naval visit has any connection with the present turmoil gripping the Arab republic, saying the visit was planned a year ago. In addition to Syria, the aircraft carrier and its escort ships will pull into port at the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Genoa in Italy and Cyprus, says the former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko. Speaking on the missile delivery to Syria, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told reporters earlier this year that Russia intended to fulfill the 2007 contract.
"We are going to supply Yakhonts to Syria. We are going to fulfill the contract," he said.
The defense minister says Russia, unlike the US and Israel, is confident the technology will not fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.
"The United States and Israel are asking us not to supply Yakhonts to Syria, but we do not share their fears that these weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists," Serdyukov said. "Russia strictly specifies the terms of weapons supply and maintenance and properly formalizes end-user certificates. And they [the Syrian side] undertake commitments," he explained.
The Yakhont 3M55E supersonic anti-ship cruise missile is capable of hitting targets at ranges of up to 300 km and carrying a warhead weighing more than 200 kg and can combat single surface ships or groups of ships under heavy fire and electronic counteraction. The completion of the deal comes at a time of increasing political uncertainty for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is struggling to maintain his grip on power in the face of a nine-month conflict with anti-government protesters.
With the situation in Syria appearing to be teetering on civil war, many observers fear another “Libyan-scenario” will occur complete with another NATO military operation. Russia roundly criticized the NATO’s handling of the Libyan crisis, saying the military alliance overstepped their UN-mandated obligations to protect innocent civilians and worked aggressively on the side of the rebels to depose former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Calliforida, the common blow-fly, has an exceptional talent – it has the ability to smell a corpse at a distance of up to 16 kilometres. Forensic investigators use the blow-fly’s eggs deposited in the flesh as a measure of how much time has elapsed since death, more reliable than the dead flesh itself. Syria isn’t in rigor mortis, but the credibility of the international community of its wellwishers is deader than Muammar Qaddafi. The purported no-fly zone which the allies pushed through the United Nations Security Council on March 17 – with help from President Dmitry Medvedev, China, India, Germany and Brazil — was a fake. UK submarines were already in position in the southern Mediterranean with secret orders to fire their Tomahawk missiles at Libya’s air defences and electronic command-and-control systems before the UN resolution was tabled and the votes counted; war had been declared against Libya weeks, if not months earlier.
Regime change of the type the US, UK and French governments have pursued in Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya is far from a demonstrable improvement for the Arabs who have survived it, as can be seen from the snapping point right now in Cairo. Announcements from the former imperial overseers of Syrian territory – Turkey, UK and France – that they aim to oust President Bashar Assad from office imply force, but for the moment that lacks legitimacy.
Technical warmaking without legality is a war crime, expensive, risky. Even for politicians desperate for cheap, Qatari and Saudi-paid wars to help their re-election chances – e.g., Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy – it’s proving much more difficult to mobilize the outrage of down-home voters whose preoccupation now and for the next year is their own economic survival.
Russia’s announcement of a major deployment of naval vessels to Tartus, on Syria’s central coastline, is designed to prevent another attempt at manufacturing cover for an invasion, or lighter warmaking, such as an embargo on arms and ammunition, jamming of military communications, or sabotage. The blow flies this time are being sent in to sniff and snuff out the prospects, before Assad and his men are corpses. The blow-fly zone is a Russian military trip-wire — the first such strategic move outside the borders of the old Soviet Union for more than 20 years.
It isn’t known whether (but it can be expected that) they will be supported under the Mediterranean by hunter-killer submarines to add uncertainty and nervousness for the British and US submarines around the US surface squadron, already in position in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the days when Greece was governed by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, the availability of Souda Bay in Crete for supply and armament of the US and NATO fleet would have been in doubt if the target was Syria.
The only Russian military announcements have been modest. “Of course,” according to former chief of the Russian naval staff, Admiral Victor Kravchenko, “the Russian naval forces in the Mediterranean will be incommensurate with those of the US 6th Fleet, which includes one or two aircraft carriers and several escort ships. But today, no one talks about possible military clashes, since an attack on any Russian ship would be regarded as a declaration of war with all the consequences.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned against a one-sided arms embargo intended to foster civil war in Syria. “Groups, including those formed from citizens who penetrated to Syria from other states, have been actively supplied with arms,” he said. “That is why proposals to introduce a ban on any arms supplies to Syria are quite unfair…We know how the arms embargo was applied in Libya. The opposition was receiving arms, with such countries as France and Qatar publicly stating that they have supplied those arms.”
To Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute of the Middle East in Moscow, the Russian naval move, with its accompanying electronic warfare and intelligence elements, is a soft deterrent. “Russian policy in the Middle East is not always reacting to that of the USA, while Syria does not necessarily face an American threat. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are more likely to intervene. However, despite all the difficulty of Bashar Assad’s relationship with the people of Syria, everyone should just leave it as it is, for the safety of the whole region. Israel is really skeptical of Assad, but it doesn’t want to destabilize the situation by toppling his government, as it realizes the possible outcome. Nobody wants another Al-Qaeda-like outrage. Russia should not perform any military activities there, unlike the USSR, which wasted dozens of billions of dollars and still had to withdraw. It’s good that today’s Russia, run by businessmen, is clear of ideology, and it is pragmatic about its expenditures.”
Western media claims that Russia is doing no more than protect commercial interests in Syria are missing the point. Trade turnover between the two countries is small and dwindling – in 2008 it amounted to $1.94 billion; in 2009, $1.14 billion; in 2010, $1.12 billion. In order of magnitude, exporters to Syria start with Saudi Arabia, with 12% of the market; China with 9%; Russia with 7.5%; and Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates with around 5% each. But these numbers don’t include the arms and defence trade.
During the Soviet period, Syria ran up a debt to Moscow for arms of more than $13 billion. In 2005, $10 billion of that was written off on condition Damascus kept buying new arms from Moscow. The current arms order-book is generally reported as worth about $3.5 billion. With enemies of long standing on each one of Syria’s land borders, it is perfectly obvious that Syria must now depend on the sea for its lifeline. It is obvious too that the Kremlin intends to remind everyone that it should stay open.
Among the major Russia-Syria arms contracts already delivered are 36 Panzir-1S air defense missile systems and upgrades of the Syrian Army T-72 tanks. Still to come are 24 MiG-29M/M2 fighters and 8 battalions of Buk M2E air defense systems. This makes Syria the front-line for an inventory of Russia-made weapons on which Russia itself depends for defence. A challenge to these arms in Syria would have been an indirect threat to the Russian defence establishment; now with the Tartus deployment, the threat is direct and strategic.
Boris Dolgov, a senior research scientist at the Center of Arab Studies of the Oriental Studies Institute in Moscow plays down the strategic implications, so long as there is no pushback: “Tartus has long been a Soviet and then a Russian military base. The staff was dramatically reduced, but the Russian navy has recently seen a revival of activity, so in this context you can say that Russia is regaining its former influence in the region. However, in the foreseeable future there won’t be a return to a full-scale Soviet-like military presence, as the world in general, and Russia in particular, have changed, and there has been an improvement of relations between Russia and the West. Russia is more likely to use political mechanisms to pursue its goals rather than those military. We don’t expect a cold war climate to set in.”
So that there can be mistaking what Russia means by the blow-fly zone and the risk of attempting a swat, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke plainly, at his meeting in Paris with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, on November 18: “You said that France today is not ready for military action in Syria. It is very good. And thanks for that. But we believe that generally [we] do not need to use force in matters of this kind. The situation is not simple, including in this country [France]. We are ready to work with the international community and will do it. But the call [is] for restraint and caution. This will be, so I imagine, our [common] position on this issue. But in any case we are not going to shy away from cooperating. [We will not] ignore the opinion of our partners. We will work together.”
As for the outgoing president, Dmitry Medvedev, there has been a message for the interventionist powers to stick to human rights, not military intervention. In August, before Qaddafi’s death, Medvedev said: “In Syria, the situation there is, unfortunately, quite dramatic. Qaddafi at one time gave strict instructions to destroy the opposition. The current President of Syria gave no such instructions. Unfortunately, there are people dying in large numbers. This is our great concern.”
In September Medvedev said: “We are ready to support a variety of approaches, but they should not be based on one-sided condemnation of the actions of the government and President Bashar al-Assad. Not everyone who cries out in this country anti-government slogans genuinely supports democracy like the one that exists in Europe. Among them there are different people, including extremists. Some may even call them terrorists.”
The report of the Russian flotilla supposedly entering Syrian waters was intended to give the impression that Russia was flexing its military muscle on Syria’s behalf. As one Syrian official boasted on Tuesday, “Russia is our political shield.” The story first appeared last Friday in an obscure Lebanese rag belonging to the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. The report delivered the regime’s intended message, spinning the alleged Russian move as a stern message from Moscow that Syria was “a red line,” and that Russia would not “remain a spectator” should that line be crossed.
Interestingly, however, the Russian media were tellingly unable to substantiate the claim, instead relaying the statement by Navy Press Secretary Igor Dygalo that the Defense Ministry “do[es] not comment on these reports.” There is little reason to suspect that the story originated from anywhere other than the Syrian regime. A Syrian news site eventually reported that “unnamed Syrian sources” had told the German Press Agency that Moscow “leaked the story of dispatching six warships to the Syrian coast as a form of tangible solidarity,” in response to the Arab League’s recent call to send observers to Syria, which the latter found unacceptable.
At one level, therefore, the story was intended as a rebuff to the notion that the league’s resolution was the launching pad for an international intervention in Syria. Delivering this response to the Arab League was the main purpose behind Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem’s press conference on Sunday. When asked about the report, Mouallem did not confirm it, and referred only to the naval maintenance facility in the port of Tartous and the relevant 1980 treaty between Syria and the former Soviet Union governing its use.
The reference to the Tartous facility was not accidental, and was meant to exploit a primary Russian interest in Syria at a time when tensions between Russia and the US and NATO continue to heat up. Moscow’s sensitivity when it comes to access to warm waters is well known. It is matched only by its chronic defensiveness against perceived encirclement by NATO and Western impingement on the spheres of influence of the former USSR. All these insecurities came to the fore in the midst of the Syrian crisis in June, when the US sent a Navy cruiser equipped with a ballistic missile defense system to take part in naval exercises with Ukraine in the Black Sea—home of Russia’s only warm-water naval base.
Then, Turkey gradually began moving away from its previous non-aligned position and more in line with US interests vis-à-vis Syria and Iran, agreeing to host NATO’s early-warning radar system over Russian objections. Now that Ankara has effectively adopted Washington’s objective of regime change in Syria, Russia’s concerns have intensified.
Turkey already controls the Bosphorus Strait—Russia’s passageway to the Mediterranean. If there was to be regime change in Syria, Russia calculates that Turkey’s sway there is likely to be significant, potentially making its access to the Tartous facility subject to the influence of a NATO member state. Naturally, the Syrian regime’s interest lies in amplifying these fears.
Of course, Moscow will not go to war for Assad, and NATO is not shying away from intervention in Syria out of fear of Russian warships. However, for the Kremlin, Syria is another arena where it can voice its displeasure with the perception that the US and NATO can simply ignore Russia. In a sense, the process is comparable to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s threats yesterday to deploy “advanced offensive weapon systems” on the borders with Europe if missile defense talks with Washington result in failure.
In similar fashion, Moscow is looking to negotiate over Syria’s future and wants to ensure that its interests are acknowledged and secured. Russia’s attempts to position itself as a sponsor of a dialogue between Assad and his opponents, and its meetings with the Syrian opposition groups, could be read as part of this negotiation effort.
However, aside from its veto power at the Security Council, Russia’s hand is relatively weak. Even if the warships report were real, it’s unclear how much of an impact it would have on the dynamics on the ground. With a population determined to rid itself of the Assad family, such a move risks being meaningless, if not potentially counterproductive. Perhaps that is why Moscow declined to confirm the Syrians’ story.
For Assad, however, desperate times call for desperate measures. Assad is eager to exaggerate his significance to Russia and to try and leverage its disputes with NATO in his war against the Syrian uprising. The information operation involving the Russian warships is part of this war, which Assad is losing.
Patriarch Kirill wished the Syrians success in building the modern Syria that is open to all, saying that "Syria is the country we have always known where religious freedom is respected and the citizens are living in permanent peace and amity." "This land and the deep-rooted civilization [Syria] lived is the base on which it will come triumphant out of the crisis," the Patriarch added. He called upon the Syrian people to go for dialogue to overcome the current situation and realize a bright future through the peaceful way, considering dialogue is the way to solve all issues.
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia said the Russian people share amity and respect with the people of Syria as the first Christian fathers who came from Syria carried the Christianity to Russia, wishing welfare and peace to prevail in Syria. Patriarch Hazim said the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Syria carries big and strong meanings and was planned at this time in expression of solidarity with the people of Syria and loyalty to its good land. Patriarch Hazim thanked Russia and its people for their standing by Syria and the just causes.
Patriarch Kirill I: Syria a Model of Coexistence between Christians and Muslims
Later, during a meeting with with Minister of Endowments (Awkaf) Dr. Mohammad Abdelsattar al-Sayyed and Grand Mufti of the Republic Dr. Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, Patriarch Kirill I said that Syria is a model for coexistence between Christians and Muslims with its atmosphere of peace and tolerance and an absence of conflict of disputes and its respect for the rights of religious minorities. Patriarch Kirill I said that he usually follows events in the Middle East and North Africa with concern due to the fact that Christians suffer severe harassment in several countries in the se regions, but the coexistence in Syria is an achievement for its Muslims and Christians alike.
He pointed out that developing relations among Muslims in Syria and Russia can be an important factor in creating harmony among religions across the world, calling for focusing on religious education to prevent extremism. For his part, Minister al-Sayyed lauded Russia's stance in support of Syria which is being targeted due to its coexistence and national unity. In turn, Hassoun noted that Christianity spread across the world from Syria, stressing the importance of immunizing future generations from extremism and affirming that what Syria is facing aims to dissuade it from its principles and its support for just Arab causes, primarily the Palestinian cause.
Hama, Homs and Deraa seem to be the centre of the resistance against the government of Bashar Al Assad, who is unwilling to accommodate the demand of his people to allow democracy to thrive. Assad took over from his late father Hafiz for almost a decade now and has maintained the same dictatorial philosophy of the Baath Party as we saw in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein leadership. The growing calls for Assad’s ouster are a severe setback for the family dynasty that has ruled Syria for four decades. Any change to the leadership could transform some of the most enduring alliances in the Middle East and beyond. The United States has been eyeing Syria for regime change since at least 2001.
The Arab League suspended Syria last week while Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar have openly condemned the killing of Syrians accused by government of being agents of the West. Turkey especially is bearing the weight of the repression in Damascus as thousands of fleeing Syrians have crossed over to its border with Syria.
The media is effectively restrained from covering the events in Syria but images of the repressive activities of the government have been coming through social media activists who are using multimedia facilities to get messages across to the world. Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Muallem condemned the League’s announcement at a press conference on Monday and said the suspension of Syria from the Arab League is “illegal” and “dangerous”.
Foreign missions under attack
The embassies of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been breached by pro-Assad group who are angry with the attitude of these countries towards Damascus. A Jordanian embassy official reported last week that his country’s mission in Damascus was attacked after Jordan’s king Abdullah II told the BBC that Assad should step down and criticised the Syrian president’s violent crackdown on eight months of protests.
Angry Turkey’s prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, said he no longer has confidence in the Syrian regime, warning Al-Assad that his country is on a “knife edge” and the crackdown threatens to place Assad on a list of leaders who “feed on blood”. Turkey has also threatened to cut electricity supplies to Syria.
Erdogan also urged Assad to punish those responsible for last Sunday’s attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria. Addressing Assad by his first name, Erdogan said: “Bashar, you, who have thousands of people in jail, must find the culprits and punish them.”
There have been pressures on Assad from France, Germany, the United States and Britain which have been careful not to intervene forcefully as they did in the case of Libya but, with the emergence of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army, it should be expected that Assad and his supporters are in for a full scale armed confrontation with the opposition. Separately, Germany, Britain and France are pressing for a UN resolution that would strongly condemn Syria’s human rights violations. The three European countries decided to move ahead with the General Assembly resolution after the Arab League confirmed its suspension. In October, they voted for a UN Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it didn’t end its crackdown. The UN estimates Assad’s crackdown has killed more than 3,500 people since the uprising began in March and human rights groups say security forces have carried out killings and torture which constitute crimes against humanity.
Syrian authorities have blamed the violence on armed groups, claiming that at least 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed since the uprising broke out. The protest movement in Syria against the government of Al-Assad first started following protests in the southern city of Deraa where the protesters were calling for reform and an end to corruption, but, as the demonstrations were met with live bullets, the rallies changed tone, calling for the fall of the government. It has since become a nation-wide resistance against the regime.
The prospect of a civil war in Syria is something Russia is watching very carefully. There have been anti-Russian demonstrations in Damascus where the protesters were demanding that Moscow stops selling weapons to Assad’s regime. Against the background of the NATO – backed military overthrow of Colonel Muamar Gaddafi in Libya, Russian experts are watching to see what would be the next move in Syria.
Moscow is not comfortable with the US war game in the region and had been following the steps of the Obama administration in the crucial moments in the Arab world. US President Obama has been critical of Assad especially in his speech address to the world after the murder/execution of Gaddafi in which Obama specifically mentioned Syria and Assad in what many international relations guru regard as an ominous threat for that country. Russia understands this all too well.
Russia’s weapon sales could be seen as part of the strategic moves by Moscow to serve as deterrence to any US military aggression in the region. Iran, Lebanon and China are also watching the unfolding events in Syria with keen interest. Russia and China have stood by Damascus amid concerns that the downfall of Assad would be a severe blow to their interests in the Middle East. The US and NATO have literally surrounded Russia and established permanent bases in Afghanistan, which could strike Moscow in just a matter of a few hours.
There was also the missile defense shield and NATO intervention in former nations of the Soviet Union. Syria’s relation with Iran is among the most important relationships in the Middle East, as it provides Tehran with an important foothold on Israel’s border and serves as a critical conduit for Iran to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza. On its part, Russia’s interest in Syria goes well beyond weapons trade and involves national and international security concerns.
Russia, as part of the defunct USSR, played a key role in the development of Syria’s economy where it built about 90 industrial facilities and infrastructure. One-third of Syria’s oil-processing facilities and electric power capacity as well as the three-fold expansion of land under irrigation were assisted by Soviet cooperation with Damascus. The economic tie between Russia and Syria has been robust as Russia’s commitment to free-market policies and Syria advancement towards greater economic liberalization has seen both countries working towards greater trade and investment. Syrians are interested in attracting Russian companies into large economic projects and also in Russian investments, which are rather modest so far. The areas of Russian interest include development of Syrian oil and gas fields, construction projects in power generation, sea ports, and the renovation of Syria’s industrial infrastructure. Russia’s oil and gas companies may also be interested in partnering with the Syrian government in constructing additional refinery capacity.
On its part, Syria hoped to increase its presence in Russia’s agriculture and textile sectors, while, in turn, Russia could supply Syria with equipment and machinery. It is therefore clear that Russia and Syria have much to offer each other. Enhanced cooperation with Russia is taking place in other areas too. Syria signed an agreement to allow Russia to modernize port facilities at Tartous and Latakia, to provide the Russian navy with Mediterranean berthing. This gives Russia its only access to the Mediterranean sea. No fewer than 50 Russian naval officers are reported to be deployed in Tartous to maintain and supply ships in the Mediterranean. In September 2008, it was agreed that Tartous should be developed into a full a naval base and the first stage of development and modernization will be completed in 2012. As a naval base, it could serve as a base for guided-missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers.
Its only naval base in Mediterranean is located in Syria. Moscow is aware that if Assad’s regime is toppled, its weapons sales, naval base and strategic national security interests could be jeopardized.
Russian military experts aver that “Moscow is trying to prevent war in Syria and a wider war between the US and Iran, which could kill hundreds of thousands of people.” Containing the US aggression which could engulf the world in war is seen as paramount to world peace” But the US State Department has dismissed the allegations that Washington has malevolent intention in Syria.
The USS George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, has reportedly parked off the Syrian coast. The move comes as the U.S. embassy in Damascus urged Americans to “immediately” leave the country. “The U.S. embassy continues to urge U.S. citizens in Syria to depart immediately while commercial transportation is available,” began a statement released Wednesday on the embassy website. “The number of airlines serving Syria has decreased significantly since the summer, while many of those airlines remaining have reduced their number of flights.”
In addition to urging citizens to leave the country, CBS News reports that Ambassador Robert Ford, who was recalled from Syria last month due to what the Obama administration called credible threats to his safety, will not return to the country later this month as planned. Syria’s government has been strongly condemned by the international community following months of state-sponsored violence against political activists protesting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The violence is said to have left thousands dead in the country, which is a close ally of Iran and a sponsor of the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah.
Adding to the sense of danger, Turkey, a NATO member and fierce critic of Assad’s government, recently warned its citizens to avoid traveling through the country after Syrian troops fired on at least two buses carrying Turkish Muslims returning from the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Some Arab publications have reported this week that a no-fly zone will soon be put in place over Syria — similar to the one implemented over Libya last spring. And while such reports in the Arab press are often met with skepticism by western observers, the financial news service ZeroHedge flagged down a report from the respected private intelligence company Stratfor stating that CVN 77, better known as the George H.W. Bush, had left the strategically vital Straits of Hormuz for the Syrian coast.
The idea of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria — an increasingly hot topic in Washington, D.C. — was discussed at Tuesday’s CNN Republican debate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he would “absolutely” propose a no-fly zone for the country, but when asked if they would do the same, other Republican presidential candidates remained hesitant. “This is not the time for a no-fly zone over Syria,” said Romney.Source: http://dailycaller.com/2011/11/23/report-u-s-carrier-sent-to-syrian-coast-as-tensions-flare/#ixzz1eb9oqDY
This is all in addition to the fact that the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, were both in Moscow for important, but mostly hushed, discussions with the Kremlin before Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in Iran. This could have been America’s last attempt at breaking the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition in Eurasia. World leaders will watch for any public outcomes from the Russian President’s visit to Tehran. It is also worth noting that NATO’s Secretary-General was in the Caucasus region for a brief visit in regards to NATO expansion. The Russian President will also be in Germany for a summit with Angela Merkel before arriving in Tehran.
On five fronts there is antagonism between the U.S. and its allies with Russia, China, and their allies: East Africa, the Korean Peninsula, Indo-China, the Middle East, and the Balkans. While the Korean front seems to have calmed down, the Indo-China front has been heated up with the start of instability in Myanmar (Burma). This is part of the broader effort to encircle the titans of the Eurasian landmass, Russia and China. Simultaneous to all this, NATO is preparing itself for a possible showdown with Serbia and Russia over Kosovo. These preparations include NATO military exercises in Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. In May, 2007 the Secretary-General of CSTO, Nikolai Bordyuzha invited Iran to apply to the Eurasian military pact; “If Iran applies in accordance with our charter, [CSTO] will consider the application,” he told reporters. In the following weeks, the CSTO alliance has also announced with greater emphasis, like NATO, that it too is prepared to get involved in Afghanistan and global “peacekeeping” operations. This is a challenge to NATO’s global objectives and in fact an announcement that NATO no longer has a monopoly as the foremost global military organization.
The globe is becoming further militarized than what it already is by two military blocs. In addition, Moscow has also stated that it will now charge domestic prices for Russian weaponry and military hardware to all CSTO members. Also, reports about the strengthening prospects of a large-scale Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq are getting stronger, which is deeply related to Anglo-American plans for balkanizing Iraq and sculpting a “New Middle East.” A global showdown is in the works. Finally, the Second Summit of Caspian Sea States will also finalize the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Energy resources, ecology, energy cooperation, security, and defensive ties will also be discussed. The outcome of this summit will decide the nature of Russo-Iranian relations and the fate of Eurasia. What happens in Tehran may decide the course of the the rest of this century. Humanity is at an important historical crossroad. This is why I felt that it was important to release this second portion of the original article before the Second Summit of the Caspian Sea States.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Ottawa, October 13, 2007.
The haunting spectre of a major war hangs over the Middle East, but war is not written in stone. A Eurasian-based counter-alliance, built around the nucleus of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition also makes an Anglo-American war against Iran an unpalatable option that could turn the globe inside-out.  America’s superpower status would in all likelihood come to an end in a war against Iran. Aside from these factors, contrary to the rhetoric from all the powers involved in the conflicts of the Middle East there exists a level of international cooperation between all parties. Has the nature of the march to war changed?
Tehran’s Rising Star: Failure of the Anglo-American attempt to Encircle and Isolate Iran
Shrouded in mystery are the dealings between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan during an August, 2007 meeting between President Ahamdinejad and President Aliyev. Both leaders signed a joint declaration in Baku on August 21, 2007 stating that both republics are against foreign interference in the affairs of other nations and the use of force for solving problems. This is a direct slur at the United States. Baku also reemphasized its recognition of Iran’s nuclear energy program as a legitimate right. However, the meetings between the two sides took place after a few months of meetings between Baku and the U.S. together with NATO officials. Baku seems to be caught in the middle of a balancing act between Russia, Iran, America, and NATO. At the same time as the meetings between the Iranian President and Aliyev in Baku, Iranian officials were also in Yerevan holding talks with Armenian officials. This could be part of an Iranian attempt to end tensions between Baku and Yerevan, which would benefit Iran and the Caucasus region. The tensions between Yerevan and Baku have been supported by the U.S. since the onset of the post-Cold War era, with Baku within the U.S. and NATO spheres of influence.
At first glance, Iran has been busy engaging in what can be called a counter-offensive to American encroachment. Iranian officials have been meeting with Central Asian, Caucasian, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and North African leaders in a stream of talks on security and energy. The SCO meeting in Kyrgyzstan was one of these. The importance of the gathering was highlighted by the joint participation of the Iranian President and the Secretary-General of the Supreme Security Council of Iran, Ali Larijani. Iran’s dialogue with the presidents of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Algeria are part of an effort to map out a unified energy strategy spearheaded by Moscow and Tehran. Iran and the Sultanate of Oman are also making arrangements to engage in four joint oil projects in the Persian Gulf.  Iran has also announced that it will start construction of an important pipeline route from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Oman. This project is directly linked to Iranian talks with Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, two countries that share the Caspian Sea with Iran. Furthermore, after closed-door discussions with Iranian officials, the Republic of Azerbaijan has stated that it is interested in cooperating with the SCO.  In addition, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria are also coordinating energy and industrial projects.
The Nabucco Project, Eurasian Energy Corridors, and the Russo-Iranian Energy Front
Across Eurasia strategic energy corridors are being developed. What do these international developments insinuate? A Eurasian-based energy strategy is taking shape. In Central Asia, Russia, Iran and China have essentially secured their own energy routes for both gas and oil. This is one of the reasons all three powers in a united stance warned the U.S. at the SCO’s Bishkek Summit, in Kyrgyzstan, to stay out of Central Asia.  In part one of the answers to these questions leads to the Nabucco Project, which will transport natural gas from the Caucasus, Iran, Central Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean towards Western Europe through Turkey and the Balkans. Spin-offs of the energy project could include routes going through the former Yugoslav republics. Egyptian gas is even projected to be connected to the pipeline network vis-à-vis Syria. There is even a possibility that Libyan gas from Libyan fields near the Egyptian border may be directed to European markets through a route going through Egypt, Jordan, and Syria which will connect to the Nabucco Pipeline.
At first glance, it appears that the transport of Central Asian gas, under the Nabucco Project, through a route going through Iran to Turkey and the Balkans is detrimental to Russian interests under the terms of the Port Turkmenbashi Agreement signed by Turkmenistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan. However, Iran and Russia are allies and partners, at least in regards to the energy rivalry in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea against the U.S. and the European Union. In May, 2007 the leaders of Turkmenistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan also planned the inclusion of an Iranian energy route, from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, as an extension of the Turkmenbashi Agreement. A route going through either Russia or Iran is mutually beneficial to both countries. Both Tehran and Moscow have been working together to regulate the price of natural gas on a global scale. If Turkmen gas goes through Russian or Iranian territory, Moscow will profit either way. Both Tehran and Moscow have hedged their bets in a win-win situation.
Russia is also involved in the Nabucco Project and has secured a Balkan energy route for the transportation of fuel to Western Europe from Russia vis-à-vis Greece and Bulgaria. To this end on May 21, 2007 the Russian President arrived in Austria to discuss energy cooperation and the Nabucco Project with the Austrian government.  One of the outcomes of the Russian President’s visits to Austria was the opening of a large natural gas storage compound, near Salzburg, with a holding capacity of 2.4 billion cubic metres.  The Nabucco Project and a united Russo-Iranian energy initiative are also the main reasons that the Russian President will visit Tehran for an important summit of leaders from the Caspian Sea, in mid-October of 2007. One might ask if Russia, Iran, and Syria are surrendering to the demands of America and the E.U. by providing them with what they sought in the first place.
The answer is no. The Franco-German entente is very interested in the Nabucco Project and through Austria has much at stake in the energy project. French and German energy firms also want to get involved as are Russian and Iranian companies. This is also one of the reasons Vienna has been vocally supporting Syria and Iran in the international arena. Total S.A., the giant French-based energy firm, is also working with Iran in the energy sectors. Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus have not been fully co-opted; they are acting in their national and security interests. However, the national interests of modern nation-states should also be scutinized further. The leverage Moscow and Tehran now have can be used to drive a wedge between the Franco-German entente and the Anglo-American alliance. A case in standing is the initial willingness of France and Germany to accept the Iranian nuclear energy program. It is believed in Moscow and Tehran that the Franco-German entente could be persuaded to distance itself from the Anglo-American war agenda with the right leverage and incentives.
This could also be one of the factors for the marine route of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany and bypasses existing energy transit routes going through the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Eastern Europe is part of what is called “New Europe” as a result of Donald Rumsfeld’s 2003 comments that only “Old Europe,” meaning the Franco-German entente, was against the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.  For example Poland is an Anglo-American ally and could block the transit of gas from Russia to Germany if it was prompted to do so by Britain and America. Moreover, Russia could exert pressure on these Eastern European countries by cutting their gas supplies without effecting Western Europe. Several of these Eastern European states also were pursuing transit fee schemes and reduced gas prices because of their strategic placements as energy transit routes.
Russia and Iran are also the nations with the largest natural gas reserves in the world. This is in addition to the following facts; Iran also exerts influence over the Straits of Hormuz; both Russia and Iran control the export of Central Asian energy to global markets; and Syria is the lynchpin for an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor. Iran, Russia, and Syria will now exercise a great deal of control and influence over these energy corridors and by extension the nations that are dependent on them in the European continent. This is another reason why Russia has built military facilities on the Mediterranean shores of Syria. The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will also further strengthen this position globally.
Iran has much to celebrate, debkafile's military sources report. It has acquired its first military foothold on a Mediterranean shore and its first permanent military presence on Syrian soil. Tehran will be setting in place the logistical infrastructure for accommodating incoming Iranian troops to fight in a potential Middle East war. According to our sources, the "cadets" the Kharg cruiser, one of the two Iranian warships allowed to transit the Suez Canal, was said to be carrying were in fact the first construction crews for building the new port facilities. Two more events were carefully synchronized to take place in the same week.
On Feb. 24, as the Iranian warships headed from the Suez Canal to Syria, Hamas fired long-range made-in-Iran Grade missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one hitting the main Negev city of Beersheba for the first time since Israel's Gaza campaign two years ago - as debkafile reported on that day. Tehran was using its Palestinian surrogate to flaunt its success in getting its first warships through the Suez Canal in the face of Israeli protests. The Iranians were also parading their offensive agenda in deploying warships on the Mediterranean just 287 kilometers north of Israel's northernmost coastal town of Nahariya.
The second occurrence was a contract announced by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov for the sale of advanced Russian shore-to-sea cruise missiles to Syria. The Yakhont missile system has a range of 300 kilometers and skims the waves low enough to be undetected by radar. debkafile's military sources take this sale as representing Moscow's nod in favor of the new Iranian base at Latakia, 72 kilometers from the permanent naval base Russia is building at the Syrian port of Tartous.
The Russians are willing to contribute towards the Iranian port's defenses and looking forward to cooperation between the Russian, Iranian and Syrian fleets in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the US Sixth Fleet's regular beat.
This unfolding proximity presents the United States with a serious strategic challenge and Israel with a new peril, which was nonetheless dismissed out of hand by Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak. In a radio interview Monday, Feb. 28, he brushed aside the Iranian warships' passage through the Suez as "an outing for cadets" which did not require an Israeli response. He added, "For now, there is no operational threat to Israel."
According to Barak, the Suez Canal is open to all of the world's warships and the two Iranian vessels' transit could not have been prevented. He omitted to explain how Egypt did prevent it for 30 years and why it was permitted now. The defense minister went on to speak of "fresh signs that President Bashar Assad is willing to resume peace talks with Israel."
Both Barak's assessments were knocked down by Damascus on the same day. Syrian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Ali Mohammad Habib soon put him right on the "cadets' outing." At a ceremony in honor of the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Habib said: "Iranian warships' presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time after 32 years is a great move that is going to cripple Israel."
Media Lies Used to Provide a Pretext for Another "Humanitarian War"
Portrait of Rami Nakhle on CyberDissident.org
According to numerous reports from the Western media, human rights organization, as well as the UN, countless peaceful civilians have been killed by the Syrian forces since the beginning of the unrest in the country in mid March. But where do the numbers come from? Many media reports on the alleged deadly repression by the Syrian government fail to mention the sources of their information, which are very often referred to solely as "human rights groups" or "activists":
"Rights groups said Sunday that troops cracking down on pro-democracy protesters killed eight people in northern Idlib province and four more in central areas near Hama. (Syrian Forces Kill 12 as ICRC Head Visits Damascus, Voice of America, September 4, 2011.) These protests are an unprecedented challenge to President Bashar al-Assad — and his family, which has ruled the country for more than 40 years. The cost has been high: at least 200 dead, according to human rights groups, and many cyber activists have been jailed. (Deborah Amos, Syrian Activist In Hiding Presses Mission From Abroad, NPR, April 22, 2011.)
At least 75 people have been killed today in Syria during mass protests, local human rights activists told Amnesty International [...] Thirty were killed in the southern town of Izzra’, 22 in Damascus, 18 in the Homs area and the rest in other towns and villages, activists said [...] (Scores killed in Syria as 'Great Friday' protests are attacked, Amnesty International, April 22, 2011.)
Although the necessity to remain "anonymous" where dissent is said to be life threatening may under certain circumstances be understandable, this stance inevitably raises suspicions: The "'numbers" can be used to demonize the government, as part of covert operations by any state or organization looking for regime change in Damascus. It is no secret that the overthrow of the Syrian regime has been a long-sought goal by several foreign powers, including the U.S. and Israel. The reliance of the mainstream media on information emanating from anonymous groups provides a biased understanding of the Syrian protests, which in turn supports the broader objective of destabilizing the Syrian regime. When information from unknown sources pertaining to the death toll is published either by a mainstream media or a recognized human rights group, it is invariably picked up and considered as "factual evidence" by other news sources or think tanks, without further verification. Moreover, in the process the information is subject to further distortion. Here is an example of this phenomenon:
Rights group Amnesty International said on Friday that it has recorded the names of 171 people killed since the first protesters died in Daraa on March 18. The group based its tally on information received from rights activists, lawyers and other sources and said the majority appeared to have been killed by live ammunition fired by the security forces. (Protesters killed in southern Syria, Al Jazeera, April 9, 2011.)
The above news article is based on the following statement by Amnesty International:
At least 171 people are believed to have been killed during three weeks of unrest in Syria, Amnesty International said today after at least eight more fatalities during protests. The death toll from today's clashes could rise significantly, according to reports from human rights activists in the country. Amnesty International has recorded the names, via information received from sources including human rights activists and lawyers, of 171 people killed. (Death toll rises amid fresh Syrian protests, Amnesty International, April 8, 2011.)
The original information from Amnesty international (AI) is that “171 people are believed to have been killed”, a statement showing that although “it has recorded the names of 171 people killed”, this information could not be confirmed. Al Jazeera fails to report this "uncertainty" and by doing so makes it a fact rather than an assumption, that 171 people were killed. Here is another example of blatant distortion:
Despite a pledge to end its crackdown, Syrian security forces continued to suppress anti-regime protestors, killing at least eighteen on Thursday in the city of Homs (al-Jazeera). (Jonathan Masters, Assad's Broken Promises, Council on Foreign Relations, November 3, 2011.)
This is an analysis from the Council on Foreign Relations, the famous and extremely powerful U.S. foreign policy think tank . It is based on the following article from Al Jazeera where the information related to the killing is markedly different:
"Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in the flashpoint city of Homs, as Syrian security forces bombarded residential areas with tanks. The reported deaths occurred in the Bab Amro district of Homs on Thursday, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist group monitoring the country's uprising, said. (Syria “violence defies peace deal”," Al Jazeera, November 4, 2011.)
Al Jazeera’s wording “reportedly been killed” and “reported deaths” shows the deaths have not been confirmed. The Qatari media also mentions that these claims come from one source only, namely from an activist group called Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC). The article from the CFR changed Al Jazeera’s allegations into concrete facts. When it comes to counting the dead, the LCC is very often cited in the mainstream media as a source for reports on killings committed by the Syrian authorities, as we can see in the examples below:
Another opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees, said it could not corroborate the Syrian Observatory’s account of the military casualties, though it also called Monday one of the uprising’s bloodier days, with at least 51 civilians killed. “We don’t have any confirmation of what they’re claiming,” said Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees. (Nada Bakri and Rick Gladstone, Syria Faces New Threats as Opposition Seeks Allies, The New York Times, November 15, 2011.)
According to the opposition network, the Local Coordination Committees, at least five people were killed during the military offensives -- three in the central province of Homs, one in the eastern border town of Tal Kalakh and one in Idleb along the Syrian-Turkish border. (Roula Hajjar, Syria: Activists report manhunt for defectors and protesters, Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2011.)
Secret police opened fire and shot teargas to disperse more than 10,000 protesters in Deir Ezzour, in Syria’s tribal east, an activist from the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union (SRCU) told Al Jazeera. Ten protesters were wounded and around 40 were arrested, he said. The SRCU is the name given this week to one of Syria's grassroots opposition networks. The SRCU works alongside the Local Coordinating Committees (LCC), another grassroots opposition network. (Al Jazeera Live Blog – Syria, June 3, 2011.)
At least 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the unrest, by the United Nations’ count. An activist group, the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union, said on Tuesday that 551 people were killed during Ramadan alone. The group said 130 others were killed on July 31, the eve of Ramadan, in an attack on the city of Hama, which was also the scene of a ferocious crackdown in 1982. On Tuesday, four people were killed in Hara and two others in Inkil, two towns in Dara’a Province, according to the Local Coordination Committees, another group of activists who document demonstrations. (Nada Bakri, Syrian Security Forces Fire on Worshipers as Ramadan Ends, The New York Times, August 30, 2011.)
The above article mentions a "UN count" as if it were an independent source of information. However, according to one of its reports, the UN also relies on the same sources of information, the LCC, and it mentions in a note that it is unable to confirm if the information given by the LCC is true:
"At the time of writing, the mission had received more than 1,900 names and details of persons killed in the Syrian Arab Republic since mid-March 2011; all are said to be civilians  26. This information is compiled by local coordinating committees active within the Syrian Arab Republic in documenting the names and details of victims. The mission is unable to verify independently this information." (United Nations, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic - A/HRC/18/53, September 15, 2011.)
What are the Local Coordination Committees (LCC)?
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the LCC is part of the non-elected Syrian National Council (SNC). Even though most of its members are in exile and its members in Syria are unknown, the SNC is presented as the legitimate Syrian authority, and has been recognized by the National Transitional Council of Libya, another non-elected body recognized by Western powers as a "pro-democracy" representative of the Libyan people.
"Syrian opposition leaders meeting Sunday in Turkey formally created the Syrian National Council, bringing together most of the disparate groups seeking to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The council includes the Local Coordination Committees, which has organized most of the protests across the country; the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; and Kurdish groups; among others, the Associated Press reports. Almost half the members are from inside the country, according to the Washington Post, overcoming a key concern that the council would rely to (sic) heavily on exiles. (Ariel Zirulnick, Syrian oppositon groups formally unify, overcoming key hurdle, October 3, 2011.)
The LCC are somewhat "anonymous". They refused a telephone interview, but agreed to answer some questions by email. They stated that for security reasons they could not reveal how many members the LCC includes, but claim 13 members of the LCC are in the SNC. “We have enough people to run demonstrations on ground, for media and relief action.” The members allegedly come from different backgrounds and are from all age groups; some are active inside Syria, the others outside the country. The LCC says that their members, in and outside Syria, have been threatened, arrested and tortured by the Syrian authorities. When asked how they became a source of information for the foreign media, the LCC says it is because they provide credible facts. And what is the ultimate goal of the LCC?
“Our goal is to change the regime in Syria, and as the first step, to end the mandate of the current President, who is now politically and legally responsible for the crimes committed by his regime against the Syrian people and a safe transfer of power in the country.”
Basically, the LCC wants regime change in Syria and it seems to be the major source of information for the western mainstream media and human rights organizations. This opposition group claims to provide “credible facts”, however there is no way to verify these facts. The so-called facts could well be propaganda intended to discredit the actual regime and galvanize public opinion in favour of the regime change the group aspires to implement. Although the LCC spokesperson refused to disclose the names of its members, some have appeared in the mainstream media. One of their members, or collaborator, is Rami Nakhle, a cyberactivist living in exile in Beirut, Lebanon.
“Today, after 98 days of protests, he is living in denial,” says Rami Nakhle, a Syrian working in Beirut with the Local Coordination Committees, a clearinghouse for Syrian opposition protests and activities “It has become clear to everybody that Bashar al-Assad cannot change. He doesn’t realize that Syria has changed forever but he’s still the same president we heard last time, in April.” (Nicholas Blanford, Assad's speech may buy time, but not survival, The Christian Science Monitor, June 20, 2011)
The activist has a privileged relationship with Al Jazeera, according to NPR:
When the Arabic channel Al-Jazeera broadcasts the latest news, the images come from Nakhle's network. (Deborah Amos, Syrian Activist In Hiding Presses Mission From Abroad, April 22, 2011.)
It should be noted that Al Jazeera played a key role in promoting the regime change in Libya. CyberDissidents.org, a website presented by the Bush Center as a “Voice of Freedom Online”, offers a brief portrait of Nakhle, which is not unlike the other portraits found in the mainstream press, which describe him solely as a cyber-dissident, as if he never had any other occupation:
"Rami Nakhle is a 27 year cyber-dissident. His use of social media to spread information about the Syrian Revolution caught the attention of Syrian authorities, causing him to flee to Lebanon in January 2011. For the past three years, he has been working under the pseudonym Malath Aumran. Although the Syrian secret police have discovered his real identity, he continues to use this pseudonym to retain recognition from his online followers.
Despite these threats from the Syrian government, Nakhle continues to work in hiding, continuing his campaign for freedom through Facebook, Twitter, and full-access interviews with prominent news sources like BBC and The New York Times. (CyberDissident Database) The U.S. government and NGOs doing CIA work, such as Freedom House, are major sponsors of cyber-dissidence:
"Political dissidents from China, Iran, Russia, Egypt, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba will travel to Dallas to join with Fellows of the George W. Bush Institute, experts from Freedom House, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the U.S. Government and other leaders in the field to discuss the successes and challenges of Internet-based political dissident movements around the world. The George W. Bush Institute today [March 30, 2010] announced it will co-host a conference on cyber dissidents with the human rights organization Freedom House on April 19, 2010. (George W. Bush Institute and Freedom House to Convene Freedom Activists, Human Rights and Internet Experts to Assess Global Cyber Dissident Movement," Business Wire, March 30, 2011)
Rami Nakhle doesn’t hide his interests in American organisations. On his Facebook page, he lists the following as “interests”: National Democratic Institute (NDI), chaired by Madeleine Albright, Human Rights Watch and the U.S. Embassy Damascus. Nakhle’s interest in these organisations clearly shows which side he’s on, just like SCN member Radwan Ziadeh, former fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy, another organization well-known for its links with the CIA. In an interview with the Guardian, the cyberactivist claims to be harassed by the Syrian secret police, on his Facebook wall.
It might be true, but it would be a rather unusual tactic for a secret police, which usually, as its name says, acts secretly. Such harassment is more likely to be black propaganda -- people opposed to the regime trying to make the Syrian authorities look bad. A kind of "cyber false flag" on Facebook, for everyone to see.
The "Syrian uprising" seems to be a copy and paste of the "protest movement" in Libya, which was conducive to a NATO invasion and regime change. The mainstream press has once again one principal source of information – the opposition groups. The media neglects military casualties and fails to report that armed gunmen, 17 000 according to a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, are among the protesters. A non-elected body, the SNC, ironically is upheld as a democratic movement and is offered "credibility" as well as extensive mainstream media coverage.
Facebook and the Arab Spring: A Medium or a Tool?
On April 20, a group of my friends contacted a former Facebook employee (name not to be revealed), complaining about a Facebook page that they found threatening to national unity and stability in Syria. The former employee agreed that content on that page does violate Facebook terms and conditions,and promised to help close the page should the group manage to have a good number of Facebook users report the page.
My friends organized a campaign that succeeded on April 24th in gathering a huge number of Facebook users who agree with them, and they all reported the page to Facebook simultaneously. The campaign lasted for about two hours, and they estimate that they succeeded in gathering at least 20,000 reports. The page was disabled by Facebook. A few hours later, Facebook restored the page again, despite all the violating content. When my friends contacted the former employee asking why, he just said: This issue is beyond my reach.
The page I am talking about is none but The Syrian Revolution 2011, the main Syrian Revolution page on Facebook. On the other hand, a page called The Syrian Electronic Army has been disabled 105 times until the time of writing this article, all because of violations to Facebook terms and conditions. You may think I am joking, but I am not. This page has in fact been disabled 105 times so far, and its admins have managed to start a new page every time the page was disabled, with an average of 6000 fans gathering within 48 hours of reopening each and every time.
In this article, I am going to discuss how Facebook handled the Arab Spring, in which it played a vital role. Was the behavior described above just an exception? Or has Facebook been selective in disabling certain pages, but protecting others, despite all violations to its terms and conditions? To discuss this, we will refer to Facebook terms, especially the Special Provisions Applicable to Pages, and use the Syrian uprising as an example. Please note that the links in this article go the current pages being discussed. But these pages may be disabled at any time. We will try to update the links continuously.
There is no doubt that the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) page(s) did violate Facebook terms and conditions in many ways. Namely:
Article 3.6: You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
Although this article applies to users, not pages, but the spirit of it necessitates that no page should encourage its users to engage in such behavior, which SEA has done several times, by asking its users to “attack” certain pages or users and leave harassing comments. SEA also brags about defacing websites, which also violates the spirit of Facebook terms, although the terms do not prohibit this behavior in letters. One more thing that is considered violating is the main behavior SEA is involved in, which is spamming Facebook pages with hundreds or even thousands of comments by page users, again, terms and conditions do not prohibit this directly, but the spirit of them does. So SEA does violate Facebook terms, and it has been duly punished by being disabled 105 times. This would not be a point of debate if Facebook behaved the same way with some other pages that violate its terms, as we will explain below.
The way Facebook handled this page can only be interpreted as protecting it by all means. Facebook returned this page to its admins two times: The first time is mentioned in the introduction, and the second happened on July 5, 2011, when Facebook returned page after it being hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army itself. Has this page violated Facebook terms? It does, continuously. Let’s see how:
Article 3.7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
But take a look at this post, which is just an example amongst many. In this post, the page admins published the names of 9 doctors and nursing staff in Homs National Hospital, accusing them of killing and mutilating wounded protesters admitted to the hospital. This is a clear incitement for violence, and it was posted just a few hours after Facebook restored the page on April 25th. One of the doctors on this list was assassinated a few months later.
Facebook page terms article 8: 8. You will restrict access to your Page as necessary to comply with all applicable laws and Facebook terms and policies. Article 3.7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
This is a similar post that shows names of people in Daria, accusing them of being spies. The comments under the image contain clear threats of killing the people on the list. The same thing happens in this post, but in Hama, the city that witnessed the terrible massacre where security personnel were killed and their dead bodies thrown in Orontes River. This post goes beyond that. It names people who are “spies” as claimed, and others who are called “hypocrites”, which means they don’t really support the revolution. The image itself contains clear threats that “this would be the last warning, and the people will take their revenge.”
This post names a whole family in Aleppo, the Burri family, accusing them of being regime tools, and asking revolution sympathizers from that family to “put an end to this”. The page also gives directions to how to face the police, telling revolutionists to burn tyres in the streets, as explained in this post, and make smoke machines, and other behavior that contradicts with Facebook terms article 3.10:
You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.
On the other hand, take a look at this recent post. It attacks Sameer Al Kuntar, who has recently expressed support to President Bashar Al Assad, and opposition to those who carry weapons against him (he was in fact explicit in talking about armed gangs only). Here are some comments that are under his picture:
Souria Hourah-Amir - “I spit on him, this sectarian pig.”
Abbood Mahmoud - “I wish he died and made it easier for all.” (referring to the time he spent in Israeli prisons).
Àbu Mouslem - “Brothers in worshiping ALLAH, what would you expect from a druze? He belongs to a sect of a secret doctrine. He is just like Alawites, God’s curses on both.” “This dog must be beheaded for insulting his masters.”
Is this not hateful? Doesn’t this comprise a content that is threatening and that incites on violence? Isn’t the page admin responsible for restricting access to his page so it complies “with all applicable laws and Facebook terms and policies”? One more example of how this page violates Facebook terms is article 3.7:
You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
This page has been posting graphic videos for months, containing bloody scenes that should not be posted, as per the article above, unless of course this is considered “gratuitous violence”. Examples of such videos are numerous, and you may check the page to see that. These are just a few examples of thousands of similar posts and comments that incite sectarianism and violence. Yet, the page is still there, and Facebook is in fact protecting it.
This page is a different type of revolution pages. It does not claim to adopt peaceful protesting, but states clearly that it adopts violence. Let’s see how this page violates Facebook terms and conditions:
Article 3.7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
Let’s see some posts from this page: This post says the following:
“The Syrian Free Army, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Phalanges: A group from Ali Bin Abi Talib division attacked a military barricade near Al Houleh and destroyed it completely. All soldiers on that barricade have been eliminated.”
Another example is this post, that says:
“in the name of ALLAH the Most Gracious, Most Merciful. We have just been informed of some of the actions taken by Nashama division (of Khalid Bin Al Waleed Phalanges): Targeting a car on Al Zir roundabout that was carrying five Shabyha with their arms, all killed or wounded, ambushing a shabyh (thug) who is well known for committing crimes in Homs, whose name is not known to us, and sniping him in Sinaa area. and targeting a group of Shabyha near Kutaib cemetery killing and injuring a number of them. May ALLAH bless the great men in Homs.”
Of course Shabyha is a term used to describe Assad loyalists in Syria. There are hundreds of similar posts that claim responsibility for violence and killing. Yet the page remains, despite all reporting done by Syrian activists.
ShameLeaks: Syrians abroad Against the Revolution
This page is an example of tens of similar pages that publish names and pictures of Syrians who do not support the uprising, with accusations that vary from not supporting the uprising to organizing pro-regime demonstrations, which are not crimes of course. This particular page has been involved in intimidating Syrians in European countries based on their political views. Does this page violate Facebook terms? Let’s see.
Article 3.6: You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
If you know Arabic, and you take a look at this page, you will find that it does nothing but harassing people, most of which are Facebook users. This post for example says:
“Kinan Ibraheem, Manchester, Student on a scholarship. He supports the regime by all means, and participates in organizing pro-regime demonstrations in London, supporting children killing. It seems, Kinan, you haven’t heard the voices of your own people in Banias. We say to you: The time of regime supporters has come to an end, and regime will be toppled, no matter what happens. Shame on you and on such researchers.”
This other post targets a woman, and it says:
“Thaana Ghalia, Brunel, a student on a scholarship - From the great Syrian coastal areas. She sold her conscience to work with the regime by saying terrible things about revolutionists, asking for them to be killed and eliminated... She is related to high Syrian officers, and is a member of Brunel University gang that worships the regime imagery. She dedicated herself to organizing pro-regime demonstrations, and she urges everyone to participate in them. She does her best to give a wrong image of the Syrian Revolution to her non-Arab friends, by claiming revolutionists are nothing but terrorists and murderers who kill the Syrian people and soldiers.”
We see clearly in these examples that people targeted are only targeted because of their political orientation. Yet, the page is still there, not even notified by Facebook that this violates its terms and conditions. These are just four examples of pages that violate Facebook terms and conditions. I find it difficult to justify why Facebook would disable one of them 105 times, but leave the other three intact, and even restore one of them two times. I am not assuming that Facebook is taking sides in this struggle, but I would really like an explanation for this.Source: http://www.syria-tribune.com/en/index.php/our-articles/73-facebook-medium-or-tool
Iran is a Rabid Rogue State That Could Tip the World Into a New Dark Age
As Britain orders the closure of Iran’s embassy in London and expels its diplomats after frenzied mobs attack the UK’s diplomatic compounds in Tehran, MICHAEL BURLEIGH sees in Iran a desperate regime that is lashing out - and dangerous.
That rampaging mob of ‘students’ storming the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, lobbing petrol bombs, ransacking the building, burning the Union Jack and threatening to hold hostage terrified members of staff inside the compound, was a deeply worrying spectacle for those of us who have studied the Iranian regime over the years.
The mayhem followed a vote in Iran’s parliament to downgrade diplomatic relations with Britain - a response to the tough new financial sanctions imposed by London last week over Iran’s nuclear programme, after the International Atomic Energy Authority warned that Iran is getting ever closer to building a bomb.
These protesters were clearly orchestrated by the Iranian regime, for the mayhem could never have taken place without sanction in a country where secret police stalk the streets, torture is endemic, criminals are executed in public and foreign embassies are closely guarded and monitored.
Far from being students, many of the thugs involved were elite members of Iran’s paramilitary Basiji brigades, a hard-core volunteer outfit under the control of the country’s Revolutionary Guards, who answer to the country’s top cleric, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was his parliamentary claque that had just voted through the anti-British measures.
Under the universally respected 1961 Vienna Conventions, all embassies are inviolable and must be treated as their respective nations’ sovereign territory. But Iran has no time for such niceties - the country’s brutal and erratic rulers rarely observe the rules of civilised conduct. Yes, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Foreign Ministry described the assault on the British Embassy compound as ‘unacceptable’.
And yes, the Interior Ministry was at pains to report that several demonstrators had been arrested and were being held around Tehran. But far more significant than these phoney protestations of innocence is the fact that the police did not trouble the rioters for at least an hour, and allowed them to enter the embassy compound, while state TV filmed them wrecking the buildings as if such activities were an every day event.
The fact is that Iran is furious about Chancellor George Osborne’s order for all British credit and financial institutions to cease trading with Iranian banks, including the nation’s Central Bank. Although sanctions against Iran have been criticised as an ineffective means of stopping the regime’s quest for a nuclear weapon, even Iran’s leaders acknowledge that they are hurting.
As President Ahmadinejad said recently: ‘All our banking operations, all our trade, all our purchases and sales, all our agreements are being monitored and blocked’. The truth is that the country’s nuclear ambitions are under siege as never before.
Israel’s intelligence agents are ruthlessly assassinating Iran’s top nuclear scientists one by one, while sabotaging the country’s nuclear processing plants using cyber-warfare and explosives placed by double agents - only this week there was a huge unexplained explosion at a nuclear facility in the city of Isfahan.
On top of this, the fervent support the regime’s Islamic leaders may have inspired when they deposed the loathed Shah of Iran in 1979 and came to power has evaporated. All the ‘revolutionary’ crowds one sees today are filled with government stooges. What we are witnessing is a desperate and sclerotic regime which feels increasingly cornered and is lashing out - not that Iran is any the less dangerous for that.
The kind of behaviour we are witnessing in the attack on the British Embassy is all too frighteningly reminiscent of the day in November 1979 that so-called students burst into the U.S. Embassy, demanding that America surrender the exiled Shah, who was being treated in the U.S. for cancer.
The Supreme Leader of the day, Ayatollah Khomeni, endorsed the ‘students’, who settled down to a government-licensed siege, with U.S. diplomats held hostage in harrowing conditions for 444 days. The young Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now president, was one of the hostage-takers.
After failing to negotiate an end to the siege, U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s administration broke off diplomatic relations with Iran and tried to rescue them in a disastrous special services mission in which eight U.S. soldiers were killed, and not one hostage was rescued.
The hostages were eventually freed in January 1981, on the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. But U.S. relations with Iran remain broken 30 years on. Only two months ago, for example, the Iranians were caught out in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington - an act U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced as a dangerous escalation in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.
Iran’s decision to turn on the British Embassy brought an unequivocal response from Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday. He withdrew all diplomatic staff from the embassy, and ordered Iran to remove its diplomats from the UK. Relations between the UK Government and the Iranians have not been this strained for decades.
Indeed, many believe that Iran’s behaviour is so outrageous, and its nuclear capability now so dangerous, that a military strike is the only option left to the international community to bring the renegade nation into line.
Israel is already considering such action against Iran’s three main nuclear facilities, which are hundreds of miles apart: a Russian-built-and-staffed light water facility at Bushehr; a major underground uranium plant at Natanz; and two water facilities at Arak to convert uranium dioxide into weapons-grade plutonium.
Because these facilities are located in reinforced underground bunkers, it is highly likely that Israel would use special bunker-busting bombs to drill holes through the concrete, before dropping tactical ‘mini-nukes’ into them. Since these secondary explosions would happen underground, Israeli experts claim there is no danger of radioactive fallout. The political fall-out, however, would be terrifying.
The Iranians have threatened dire consequences if such an attack took place, including firing long-range ballistic missiles, thought to be more accurate than the Scud missiles Saddam Hussein launched against Israel during the first Gulf War. They are also likely to retaliate against any neighbouring state that allows Israel to fly through their airspace towards Iran, including Turkey and Iraq.
They may risk attacking U.S. forces stationed in Iraq or the nearby Gulf states, sucking the U.S. directly into the conflict. Significantly, only the U.S. military has the necessary firepower to deal with Iran’s formidable military machine. If the U.S. was dragged in, Iran would not only engineer conflagration in the Middle East.
It has also threatened to cut off oil supplies from the region by unleashing Chinese Silkworm missiles or suicide-bomber boats against tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, the world’s vital oil lifeline. Industry experts calculate this would instantly send the price of oil soaring three times its present price to $300 or more a barrel - which would be even more catastrophic for our ailing economies than the unresolved eurozone crisis.
That is why, for the present, sanctions are the only option - and as the attack on the British Embassy shows, they are hurting Iran.
At the moment, Britain is alone in implementing such draconian measures. William Hague should exert more pressure by urging his European colleagues to follow suit - Germany, in particular, has huge business interests in Iran, while French petroleum giant Total still supplies it with much-needed fuel.
Despite producing large amounts of crude oil, Iran has no worthwhile refining capacity, so the country has to import 40 per cent of its petrol, the price of which is heavily state-subsidised. Pressure could be exerted on the oil giants not to sell to Iran, which would have a devastating effect on its economy.
Then, as in all truly global crises today, one has to consider the influence of China. The Chinese - whose foreign policy is driven not by scruple but by ruthless self-interest - have excellent relations with both Iran and its mortal enemy Saudi Arabia, importing vast and increasing quantities of oil from both.
It is possible pressure can be brought to bear on the Chinese to persuade the Iranians they do not need the bomb - after all, the last thing China needs is a huge increase in oil prices. The worrying truth is that, today, Iran is a rabid rogue state. Unless the international community acts in concert to neutralise this danger, there will sooner or later be an Israeli strike to frustrate Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
If that happened, the world really would be in a new dark age.
A steady decline in Russia’s conventional forces has prompted the Kremlin to rely increasingly on its nuclear deterrent. The nation’s military doctrine says it may use nuclear weapons to counter a nuclear attack on Russia or an ally, or a large-scale conventional attack that threatens Russia’s existence. Russia sees NATO’s expansion to include former Soviet republics and ex-members of the Soviet bloc in eastern and central Europe as a key threat to Russia’s security.
Makarov specifically referred to NATO’s plans to offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine as potentially threatening Russia’s security. Russia routed Georgian forces in a brief August 2008 war over a separatist province of South Ossetia. Moscow later recognized South Ossettia and another breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia as independent states and increased its military presence there.
Russia also considers missile defense plans as another security challenge. Russia has strongly opposed the U.S.-led missile defense plan, saying it could threaten its nuclear forces and undermine their deterrence potential. Moscow has agreed to consider NATO’s proposal last fall to cooperate on the missile shield, but the talks have been deadlocked over how the system should operate. Russia has insisted that the system should be run jointly, which NATO has rejected.Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russias-military-chief-potential-conflicts-near-russian-borders-may-grow-into-nuclear-war/2011/11/17/gIQAWQTJUN_story.html
Mr. Putin kept the pressure on the U.S., hinting that Russia would respond with extra nuclear-missile deployments if the U.S. went ahead with plans to build a missile defense system that he said appeared to be designed to neutralize Russia's nuclear deterrent. "We believe that the establishment of a missile defense system is a threat to our nuclear potential and we will be compelled to respond," he said. The U.S. says the system is designed to deal with the threat of attack from Iran. Mr. Putin accused the U.S. of being interested in relations with Moscow because Russia was the only country that could destroy the U.S. in half an hour or less.
"You ask me whether we are going to change. The ball is in your court. Will you change?" he asked Americans present.
Mr. Putin also attacked the role of Western forces in the ouster of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, over a dinner that took place at an elegant restaurant at an equestrian center, about 20 miles west of central Moscow. The menu included smoked trout, duck liver, venison soup, rhubarb sorbet, veal cheeks and pear soup with caramel. Mr. Putin described the actions by the Western allies in Libya as an "outrageous violation" of a United Nations resolution that had led to what he called a "tragedy." Mr. Putin said the Western forces were authorized only to prevent the Libyan air force attacking its own civilians—and their actions had gone far beyond this and "deceived the international community."
Speaking broadly about the region, he expressed concerns that changes in the Middle East could lead Islamist radicals to come to power. "Syria is the next in line: What will be the result?" In Egypt and North Africa, "no one knows who will come to power," he said. He accused the West of "low-quality politics" in Syria, saying that Russia no longer had much of an economic stake in that country. "We think it would be a mistake to disregard what the Syrian leadership is trying to do with the opposition," he said.
He also attacked European Union energy policies. "We think we are being squeezed out of the European energy market," he said. He criticized new European rules forbidding ownership of pipelines by gas suppliers, a development that would force Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas monopoly, to divest itself of pipeline assets it owns in the EU. Mr. Putin said Russia would look to supply more gas toward China and Asia, and said Russia was making giant pipeline investments to deliver gas to Europe only to have the EU change the rules of the game after the investments had been made.
He also made an elaborate criticism of shale gas—extracted using novel technologies that he said were environmentally disastrous. Shale gas in the U.S. and elsewhere threatens the markets for Russia's traditional gas. Mr. Putin held out few prospects of rapid change in Russia's domestic politics. He promised more "direct democracy," less centralization and more attacks on corruption, but didn't say how it would be done.
Richard Sukwa of the University of Kent in England said he felt Mr. Putin was still promoting "ideas that have become stale." Clifford Gaddy of the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C., said there was "nothing new on the domestic front and he was very complacent" about the impact on Russia of an economic crisis in Europe and a fall in oil prices and he was very complacent" about the impact on Russia of the European crisis.Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204358004577032533741783056.html
The U.S. Army's hypersonic weapon prototype streaked across the Pacific Ocean at several times the speed of sound Thursday, Nov. 17, in a flawless maiden test flight. The success could pave the way for a new military capability to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. Such a hypersonic weapon concept flies at a relatively flat trajectory within the atmosphere, rather than soaring up toward space like a ballistic missile and eventually coming back down. Hypersonic speed is defined as being at least five times the speed of sound (3,805 mph, or 6,124 kph, at sea level).
Such success may provide some consolation to DARPA, given that its Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) experienced problems in its two test flights that led to early crashes. HTV-2 reached a speed of Mach 20 during its latest test in August. The Air Force has also tested its own X-51A Waverider vehicle, most recently on June 13, as an experimental platform for an air-breathing scramjet engine. During the latest test, the X-51A Waverider reached hypersonic speeds of at least Mach 5 before it failed to switch over to its main fuel source.
Having several hypersonic projects resembles the early days of U.S. rocket and missile development, when the Army and Air Force competed to get their rockets off the ground. But any success in the hypersonic realm seems likely to benefit the U.S. military's unified goal for a "Conventional Prompt Global Strike" weapon designed to speedily attack targets around the world.Source: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/11/17/us-army-tests-secret-hypersonic-weapon/#ixzz1e7WffWsZ
"Espionage is a risky business," a U.S. official briefed on the developments told ABC News, confirming the loss of the unspecified number of spies over the last six months.
"Many risks lead to wins, but some result in occasional setbacks," the official said. Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer who worked against Hezbollah while stationed in Beirut in the 1980's, said Hezbollah typically executes individuals suspected of or caught spying. "If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don't think we'll ever see them again," he said. "These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving."
Other current and former officials said the discovery of the two U.S. spy rings occurred separately, but amounted to a setback of significant proportions in efforts to track the activities of the Iranian nuclear program and the intentions of Hezbollah against Israel.
"Remember, this group was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group before 9/11," said a U.S. official. Attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 killed more than 300 people, including almost 260 Americans. The U.S. official, speaking for the record but without attribution, gave grudging credit to the efforts of Iran and Hezbollah to detect and expose U.S. and Israeli espionage.
"Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk," said the U.S. official briefed on the spy ring bust. But others inside the American intelligence community say sloppy "tradecraft" -- the method of covert operations -- by the CIA is also to blame for the disruption of the vital spy networks.
In Beirut, two Hezbollah double agents pretended to go to work for the CIA. Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case. The CIA used the codeword "PIZZA" when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials. Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut. A current US official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut.
From there, Hezbollah's internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers. Hezbollah then began to "roll up" much of the CIA's network against the terror group, the officials said. One former senior intelligence official told ABC News that CIA officers ignored warnings that the operation could be compromised by using the same location for meetings with multiple assets. "We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah," the former official said.
CIA Spies Caught in Iran
At about the same time that Hezbollah was identifying the CIA network in Lebanon, Iranian intelligence agents discovered a secret internet communication method used by CIA-paid assets in Iran. The CIA has yet to determine precisely how many of its assets were compromised in Iran, but the number could be in the dozens, according to one current and one former U.S. intelligence official.
The exposure of the two spy networks was first announced in widely ignored televised statements by Iranian and Hezbollah leaders. U.S. officials tell ABC News that much of what was broadcast was, in fact, true. Hezbollah's leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, announced in June of this year that two high-ranking members of Hezbollah had been exposed as CIA spies, leading U.S. officials to conclude that the entire network inside Hezbollah had been compromised.
In Iran, intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi announced in May that more than 30 U.S. and Israeli spies had been discovered and an Iranian television program, which acts as a front for Iran's government, showed images of internet sites used by the U.S. for secret communication with the spies. U.S. officials said the Iranian television program showed pictures of people who were not U.S. assets, but the program's video of the websites used by the CIA was accurate.
Some former U.S. intelligence officials say the developments are the result of a lack of professionalism in the U.S. intelligence community. "We've lost the tradition of espionage," said one former official who still consults for the U.S. intelligence community. "Officers take short cuts and no one is held accountable," he said. But at the CIA, officials say such risks come with the territory.
"Hezbollah is an extremely complicated enemy," said a U.S. official. "It's a determined terrorist group, a powerful political player, a mighty military and an accomplished intelligence operation, formidable and ruthless. No one underestimates its capabilities."
Iran has refuted the allegations, saying that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the past weeks, Israel has renewed its aggressive rhetoric against Iran. On November 21, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that "time has come" to deal with Iran. Israeli President Shimon Peres also threatened on November 6 that an attack against Iran is becoming "more and more likely."
Iranian officials have promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the .
Hu Jintao Tells China Navy: Prepare For Warfare
China's navy should speed up its development and prepare for warfare, President Hu Jintao has said. He told military personnel they should "make extended preparations for warfare". China is locked in territorial disputes with several other nations in the South China Sea. Political tension is also growing with the US, which is seeking to boost its presence in the region.
After Mr Hu's comments, the US said China was entitled to defend itself. "Nobody's looking for a scrap here," said Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby in quotes carried by the AFP news agency. "Certainly we wouldn't begrudge any other nation the opportunity to develop naval forces." Senior US and Chinese officials are currently holding talks on military issues. The one-day meeting takes place every year, with the stated aim of ensuring there are no misunderstandings between the two nations.
China has recently acquired its first aircraft carrier and has been vocal about its naval ambitions. But its military remains primarily a land-based force, and its naval capabilities are still dwarfed by the US. Mr Hu told a meeting of military officials that the navy should "accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for warfare in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security". The word "warfare" was used in official media, but other translations used "military combat" and "military struggle".
Analysts say Mr Hu's comments are unusually blunt, and are likely to be aimed at the US and Beijing's rivals in the South China Sea. Both the Philippines and Vietnam have repeatedly accused China of overt aggression in the region. They are among the nations claiming sovereignty over islands in the sea in the hope that there could be oil and gas deposits there. And US President Barack Obama announced last month that the US was boosting its presence in the region, and will base a full Marine task force in northern Australia.
Analysts say the US move is a direct challenge to China's attempts to dominate the area, and is likely to bolster US allies in the South China Sea dispute.Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-16063607?cid=nlc-dailybrief-daily_news_brief-link12-20111207
Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West since the release of a report earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that said for the first time that Tehran was suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose was the development of nuclear arms.
The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of trying to produce atomic weapons, and Israel, which views Tehran as an existential threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran's nuclear program. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes. "Should we be threatened, we will target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets," the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying.
Tehran says NATO's early warning radar station in Turkey is meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO's missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.
A military installation in the Turkish town of Kurecik, some 435 miles (700 kilometers) west of the Iranian border, has been designated as the radar site, according to Turkish government officials. Hajizadeh said the United States also plans to install similar stations in Arab states, which has spurred Iran to alter its military defense strategy. "Based on orders from the exalted commander in chief, we will respond to threats with threats," he was quoted as saying.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is also commander in chief of Iran's armed forces. Another senior Guard commander, Yadollah Javani, threatened that Tehran will target Israel's nuclear facilities should the Jewish state attack Iran. "If Israel fires a missile at our nuclear facilities or vital installations, it should know that Israel's nuclear centers will be the target of our missiles," the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Also Saturday, the chief of Iran's elite Quds Force said he doesn't fear assassination and is ready for "martyrdom." The comments by Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani were published in several Iranian newspapers. The Quds Force is the special foreign operations unit of the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard, and Soleimani is a key figure in Iran's military establishment but rarely speaks in public. Tensions have increased in recent weeks between Iran and the U.S., with several American neoconservatives urging the Obama administration to use covert action against Iran and kill some of its top officials, including Soleimani.
Iranian Troops ‘On Alert’ in Face of Growing Threats
Western intelligence sources are reporting that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is ratcheting up its combat readiness today, as well as deploying troops to defensive positions amid fear that an attack is in the offing. Western reports also have sleeper agents in Tehran launching attacks. Of course the prospect of an attack on Iran is nothing new, and the nation has been facing international threats of an imminent attack virtual since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, with claims that they are within a matter of months of obtaining a nuclear weapon the default excuse for the threats since at least the mid 1980s. The increasing shrillness of the threats over the past several weeks however, have the omnipresent threat suddenly seeming much more serious, and with international schools closing their doors the residents of Tehran are stockpiling food and other supplies in case the bombs start falling. Both the US and Israel have been threatening Israel for years, but recent speculation has mostly centered around Israel, with the belief that they intend to launch an attack soon, before the winter weather makes such an attack less convenient.
Fars reported that the drone had been brought down through a combined effort by Iran's armed forces, air defence forces and its electronic warfare unit after the plane briefly violated the country's airspace at its eastern border. The drone "was downed with slight damage. It is now under the control of our forces," Fars reported, quoting an unnamed military source. The source warned that Iran's armed response would "not be limited to our country's borders" for the "blatant territorial violation".
Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network reported the same news on Sunday. Al Jazeera has been unable to independently verify this information, and there has been no confirmation of the incident from US authorities.
Other drones downed
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, told Al Jazeera that Iran has made similar claims even as recently as July. "It could be quite feasible but we don’t know yet. What we do know is that in the absence of any diplomatic channels incidents like this can have tremendous repercussions, far greater then when there were some de-escalatory mechanisms in place between the United States and Iran."
Also in January, Iran announced that its forces had downed two US drones after they violated Iranian-controlled airspace. It said it would put the aircraft on display to the public, but there has been no indication it ever did so. In June, Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Guards' aerospace unit, said Iran had shown Russian experts the US drones in its possession. "Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the Guards through reverse engineering," he said.
Hajizadeh did not specify how many US drones were shown nor gave any details of the copies Iran was said to have made of the aircraft. The US military and the CIA routinely use drones to monitor military activity in the region.
They have also reportedly used them to launch missile strikes inas well as in and in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt. The Islamic Republic holds frequent military drills, primarily to assert an ability to defend against a potential US or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities. Iran is locked in a dispute with the US and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, which the West believes is aimed at the development of nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its programme is entirely peaceful.
Meet The Russian Avtobaza — Iran's Possible Drone Killer
Speculation is running rampant after Iran claimed to have shot down a US RQ-170 surveillance drone Sunday, and while Tehran has yet to show proof, it appears their announcement coincides with the delivery of this piece of equipment. Stephen Trimble from Flight Global reports Russia delivered the Avtobaza ground-based electronic intelligence and jamming system to Iran six-weeks ago. While most weapons deliveries to Iran are blocked, a jamming system like the Avtobaza is allowed because it's a passively defensive machine "designed to jam side-looking and fire control radars on aircraft and manipulate the guidance and control systems of incoming enemy missiles." Possibly what NATO regulators didn't plan on was the jammer's potential as a communications link allowing UAVs to be controlled remotely. Whether that's how it was used Sunday is another matter.
Between 10 and 20 of the 70 nuclear warheads at İncirlik were designed to be delivered to their targets by Turkish warplanes, according to the report. The 142nd fighter/bomber squadron of the Turkish Air Forces, nicknamed the "Gazelles," was assigned the task of delivering the nuclear ordnances. The squadron consists of F-16A/B warplanes. The U.S. military needed a certain warplane type that is different than those stationed at the İncirlik airbase in order to deliver the remaining 50 warheads, the report by Norris and Kristensen said.
The Turkish state, however, has declined to allow the U.S. military to deploy the said aircraft at İncirlik. U.S. warplanes would need to land at İncirlik from another location, equip the nuclear warheads and then fly to their targets, according to the report. Turkey's refusal to station nuclear-capable U.S. warplanes on its soil prevented İncirlik from acquiring a "full NATO position" status. This was a unique case among NATO bases, the report said.
New warheads arrive 2017
The report indicated that the B61-12 nuclear warheads currently deployed at İncirlik would be changed with the new B61-3/4 warheads. Former Turkish Air Force Commander Gen. Ergin Cilasun was quoted as saying that "Turkey's nuclear strike duty within NATO has ended" in 2001.
This thumb-shaped spit of sand on the Persian Gulf has emerged as the most dynamic Arab country in the tumult realigning the region. Its intentions remain murky to its neighbors and even allies — some say Qatar has a Napoleon complex, others say it has an Islamist agenda. But its clout is a lesson in what can be gained with some of the world’s largest gas reserves, the region’s most influential news network in Al Jazeera, an array of contacts (many with an Islamist bent), and policy-making in an absolute monarchy vested in the hands of one man, its emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Qatar has become a vital counterpoint in an Arab world where traditional powers are roiled by revolution, ossified by aging leaderships, or still reeling from civil war, and where the United States is increasingly viewed as a power in decline. “Do they fill a void? Yes,” said Bassma Koudmani, a Syrian opposition leader who credited the Qataris with a key role in the Arab League’s startling decision Saturday to suspend Syria and isolate a government at the pivot of the region’s relations. “They are filling a space and a role that is not being taken up by other countries.”
Flanked by the region’s biggest rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Qatar has always played an outsize role in the gulf, but never to this degree. It hosts a sprawling American air base, but some American officials are suspicious of its recent backing of Islamist leaders, particularly in the war in Libya. Angry at its role in driving the Arab League vote, Syrian officials have called it a lackey of American and Israeli interests. On Monday, Syria declared that it would boycott next month’s Arab Games in Doha.
But for all the contradictions in its policies — and there are many — Qatar is advancing a decisive shift in Arab politics that many in the West have yet to embrace: a Middle East dominated by mainstream Islamist parties brought to power in a region that is more democratic, more conservative and more tumultuous. “Qatar is a country without ideology,” said Talal Atrissi, a Lebanese political analyst and commentator. “They know that the Islamists are the new power in the Arab world. This alliance will lay the foundation for a base of influence across the region.”
Not everyone is pleased. “Who is Qatar?” Abdel-Rahman Shalgham, Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, asked sharply this month on the Arabic channel of a German satellite station.
Syrian officials have asked that question as the crisis deepens between two once-friendly countries. Personal sentiments seem to figure heavily in Qatar’s policy, as with Libya, where the emir’s wife, Sheika Mozah, spent time as a child. The country long served as an intermediary with Syria, and it invested heavily in an economy that President Bashar al-Assad sought to modernize. But diplomats and analysts say SheikHamad felt rebuffed by Mr. Assad in April, soon after the uprising in Syria began.
Some view Qatar’s policy in Syria through a sectarian lens, supporting as it does a predominantly Sunni Muslim revolt. (It also backed Saudi Arabia’s intervention in neighboring Bahrain to help quell Shiite Muslim protests.) Others see it more opportunistically, offering Qatar a way to realign a Middle East in which Syria has often played off competing powers — Turkey, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and actors in Lebanon. “Syria is such a crucial pivot point in the Middle East,” said Salman Shaikh, the director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “Syria would just be too tempting a target not to be involved in from the outside, and I’m sure the Qataris will be.”
Ambition dominates Doha, whose frenzied skyline suggests medieval Baghdad crossed with “Blade Runner.” Qatar’s economy offers indicators in superlatives: the world’s highest growth rate and highest per capita income. Its emir, a towering man whose girth was ridiculed by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, has sought to reconcile what could be considered irreconcilable. Yusuf Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian Islamist figure, calls it home. So did Ali Sallabi, a prominent Libyan Islamist. Khaled Meshal, Hamas’s leader, has a residence here, and speculation is rife that the Taliban in Afghanistan may open an office. American schools and companies, situated in the most modern of complexes, are also based here.
“Bring them here, give them money and it will work out,” Hamid al-Ansari, a newspaper editor, said of Qatar’s style, only half in jest.
Money proved instrumental in Qatar’s role in Libya this year. Diplomats say hundreds of millions were funneled to the opposition, often through channels Qatar had cultivated with expatriates here, in particular Mr. Sallabi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the head of the Tripoli Military Council who once led an Islamist insurgency in Libya. A Libyan opposition channel was set up in Doha. Qatar dispatched Western-trained advisers, who helped finance, train and arm Libyan rebels.
But Qatar’s seeming favoritism of Islamists there provoked the ire of more secular-minded figures. Qatari officials are dismissive of the charges, but others suggest Sheik Hamad, who overthrew his father in 1995, has an affinity for Islamist figures who echo the conservative gulf states far more than ostensibly secular figures like Syria’s president, Mr. Assad.
“Historically speaking, dealing with those people is better than dealing with Qaddafi or Assad,” Mr. Ansari said. “We believe religion is important, they believe it.”
Maintaining channels with an array of forces has proven a cornerstone of Qatar’s policy. It hosts two American bases, with more than 13,000 personnel; in Lebanon, the emir was welcomed as a hero by Hezbollah’s supporters last year for helping rebuild towns Israel destroyed in 2006. Unlike Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar enjoys close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, in its various incarnations in Libya, Syria and Egypt, as well as with figures like Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the Tunisian Islamist, all of whom are almost certain to play a crucial role in the next generation of Arab politics.
But it also has what might be described as the Qatari equivalent of soft power: the influence of Al Jazeera, which the emir founded and finances, and which more and more reflects Qatari foreign policy; ties with Mr. Qaradawi, who has his own network of prominent Islamists in the region; and the emir’s own knack for involving Qatar in conflicts as far-flung as Afghanistan and the Darfur region of Sudan. Most recently, Al Jazeera’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, departed in what some journalists there saw as part of Qatar’s determination to appease countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, both long irritated by Al Jazeera’s reporting.
American diplomatic cables in 2009, released by WikiLeaks, claim that Qatar has occasionally offered Al Jazeera’s coverage as a bargaining tool. A senior journalist there said while no order was given, the network’s reporting on Syria changed sharply in April. “We could feel the change in atmosphere,” the journalist said.
Religiously motivated attacks on Shiites are rare in Afghanistan although they are common in neighboring Pakistan. A man who claimed to be from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of Pakistan's most ruthless Sunni militant groups which has carried out attacks against Shiite Muslims, called various media outlets in Pakistan to claim responsibility for the bombing in Kabul, which was reminiscent of the wave of sectarian attacks that shook Iraq during the height of the war there. The validity of the claims could not be determined.
The bomber blew himself up in a crowd of men, women and children gathered outside the Abul Fazl shrine. Mahood Khan, who is in charge of the shrine near the presidential palace, said the explosion occurred just outside a packed courtyard where dozens of worshippers were lined up as they filed in and out of the crowded building. Some men were beating themselves in mourning, an Ashoura tradition, and food was being distributed.
"It was a very powerful blast," Khan said. "The food was everywhere. It was out of control. Everyone was crying, shouting. It is a disaster."
Bodies of the dead lay on top of one another where they fell. Survivors with blood-smeared faces cried amid the chaos. A few minutes after the blast, bodies could be seen loaded into the trunks of cars while wounded were led away by friends and relatives. Survivors wept in the streets. Mustafa, a shopkeeper, said he and his mother were delivering food to the worshippers when the blast occurred. Two groups of 150 to 200 people from Kabul had just prayed at the shrine and left.
Another group of more than 100 from Logar province was entering when the explosion occurred. He said the suicide bomber was at the end of the line of worshippers from Logar when he blew himself up near one of the gates to the shrine. "It was very loud. My ears went deaf and I was blown 3 meters (yards)," said Mustafa, who uses only one name. "There was smoke and red blood on the floor of the shrine. There were people lying everywhere." The shrine's loudspeaker continued to blast a recitation of the Quran as ambulances carried bodies and wounded away. Women stood outside wailing and holding crying children.
The Public Health Ministry said 56 were killed — including two women and four children. Sayed Kabir Amiri, who is in charge of Kabul hospitals said more than 160 were wounded. It was the single deadliest attack in the Afghan capital in more than three years. Four other Shiites were killed in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. A bomb strapped to a bicycle exploded as a convoy of Afghan Shiites was driving down the road, shouting slogans for Ashoura. Health Ministry spokesman Sakhi Kargar gave the death toll and said 21 people were wounded.
The Interior Ministry said police defused another bomb planted in Mazar-i-Sharif near the one that blew up. The Ministry of Interior blamed the Taliban and "terrorists" for the attacks. The Taliban strongly condemned the attacks and said they deeply regretted that innocent Afghans were killed and wounded.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking at a news conference after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, said the attack was unprecedented in scope. He said it was "the first time that on such an important religious day in Afghanistan terrorism of that horrible nature is taking place." Karzai cut short his visit to Europe to return to Kabul. He canceled his trip to Britain where he was to meet Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles and deliver a speech to the London School of Economics, British officials said.
Mohammad Bakir Shaikzada, the top Shiite cleric in Kabul, said he could not remember a similar attack having taken place on such a scale. "This is a crime against Muslims during the holy day of Ashoura. We Muslims will never forget these attacks. It is the enemy of the Muslims who are carrying them out," he said, declining to place blame.
Shiites make up about 20 percent of Afghanistan's 30 million people, most of them ethnic Hazaras. Although thousands of Hazaras were massacred by the Taliban during fighting in the 1990s, Afghan insurgents — nearly all of them Sunnis — in recent years have focused their attacks primarily on U.S.-led NATO troops and Afghan security forces.
It was unclear whether Tuesday's attacks mark a change in Afghan Taliban strategy or were carried out by al-Qaida or another group based in Pakistan, where Sunni attacks on Shiites are common. Hard-line Sunnis consider Shiites nonbelievers because their customs and traditions differ from the majority sect.
In neighboring Pakistan, Sunni militants with links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings across Pakistan against minority Shiites. One of the deadliest groups has been the Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which also claimed responsibility for gunning down 26 Shiites this summer riding in a bus through southwestern Baluchistan province.
Like al-Qaida, the Taliban and other Sunni extremist groups, Lashkar it regards Shiite Muslims as nonbelievers and potential targets for attack. Pakistan is a majority Sunni state, with Shiites making up about 15 percent of the 180 million population. Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully, but tensions have existed for decades.
The last incident of violence between Shiites and Sunnis following the U.S. invasion 10 years ago occurred in early 2006, during Ashoura commemorations in the western city of Herat. During those riots, blamed on Islamic extremists, five people were killed and more than 50 injured.
The Kabul shrine attacked is close to the palace where Karzai lives and who is in Europe to attend an international conference on Afghanistan. It is named after Abul Fazl, who was an adviser to a 14th century Mogul emperor. The shrine and its blue minaret is one of Kabul's better known shrines. It is located in Murad Khane area near the Kabul river, a district that has been listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of its 100 most endangered sites of cultural heritage.Source: http://news.yahoo.com/rare-attacks-afghan-shiites-kill-60-170816985.htm
At Least 24 Killed in Cairo Clashes
Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least 24 people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. Throughout the day, young activists demanding the military hand over power to a civilian government skirmished with black-clad police, hurling stones and firebombs and throwing back the tear gas canisters being fired by police into the square, which was the epicenter of the protest movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.
The night before saw an escalation of the fighting as police launched a heavy assault that tried and failed to clear protesters from the square. In a show of the ferocity of the assault, the death toll leaped from Sunday evening until Monday morning. A constant stream of injured protesters — bloodied from rubber bullets or overcome by gas — were brought into makeshift clinics set out on sidewalks around the square where volunteer doctors scrambled from patient to patient.
The eruption of violence, which began Saturday, reflects the frustration and confusion that has mired Egypt's revolution since Mubarak fell and the military stepped in to take power. It comes only a week before Egypt is to begin the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, which many have hoped would be a significant landmark in a transition to democracy. Instead, the vote has been overshadowed by mounting anger at the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to hold power even after the vote. Activists accuse the generals of acting increasingly in the same autocratic way as Mubarak's regime and fear that they will dominate the coming government, just as they have the current interim one they appointed months ago.
The military says it will hand over power only after presidential elections, which it has vaguely said will be held in late 2012 or early 2013. The protesters are demanding an immediate move to civilian rule. "What does it mean, transfer power in 2013? It means simply that he wants to hold on to his seat," said a young protester, Mohammed Sayyed, referring to the head of the Supreme Council, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi. Sayyed held two rocks, ready to throw, as he took cover from tear gas in a side street off Tahrir. His head was bandaged from what he said was a rubber bullet that hit him earlier Monday.
"I will keep coming back until they kill me," he said. "The people are frustrated. Nothing changed for the better."
An Egyptian morgue official said the toll had climbed to 24 dead since the violence began Saturday — a jump from the toll of five dead around nightfall Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the numbers. Hundreds have been injured, according to doctors in the square. At the makeshift field clinics around Tahrir Square, medical volunteers rushed between injured protesters staggering in, or being carried in by comrades. Most of the clinics were simply a partitioned-off sections of sidewalk.
Mohammed Mustafa, a doctor at the main clinic set up inside a nearby mosque, said his site alone was treating an average of 80 cases an hour and that many of the wounded did not want to be taken to hospital because they feared arrest. He and other doctors said most of the injured had breathing and eye problems and wounds to the face from rubber bullets. A number of protesters have lost eyes from rubber bullet hits since Saturday.
During the overnight assault, police hit one of the field clinics with heavy barrages of tear gas, forcing the staff to flee, struggling to carry out the wounded. Some were moved to a nearby sidewalk outside a Hardees fast food restaurant. A video posted on social networking sites showed a soldier dragging the motionless body of a protester along the street and leaving him in a garbage-strewn section of Tahrir.
Protesters also marched Monday other cities, including thousands of students in the coastal city of Alexandria. calling for those responsible for the violence in Cairo to be punished. The protesters' suspicions about the military were fed by a proposal issued by the military-appointed Cabinet last week that would shield the armed forces from any civilian oversight and give the generals veto power over legislation dealing with military affairs. It would also give them considerable power over the body that is to be created after the election to draft a new constitution.
At the same time, there are deep concerns the election will bring little democratic change. Many worry that stalwarts of Mubarak's ruling party could win a significant number of seats in the next parliament because the military did not ban them from running for public office as requested by activists.
Many also believe that whoever wins the election, the military will continue to wield its domination over the next government. The current civilian government has been little more than a facade for the military, activists say. It has done little to bring about economic and political reform and has stood unable — or unwilling — to act as woes have mounted in Egypt. On Monday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called on Egypt's rulers to listen to the protesters.
"Those in charge in Egypt would be well advised to take people's political demands and justified concerns seriously and act fast to create the right environment for the upcoming elections," Westerwelle said.
He called on all sides to refrain from violence so the upcoming election can be held in "a peaceful environment" and dispatched his Middle East envoy to Cairo. Over recent months, security around the country has fallen apart, with increased crime, sectarian violence and tribal disputes. The economy has badly deteriorated. Because of the weekend violence, Egypt's main stock index fell for a second straight day Monday, and airport officials reported a sharp drop Monday in international passenger arrivals — a further blow to the country's crucial tourism industry, which is one of the top foreign currency earners.
One of the most prominent democracy proponents in the country, Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, called on the civilian government to resign and for a national unity government to be formed "grouping all the factions so it can begin to solve the problems of Egyptians."
"Power is now in the hands of the military council, which is not qualified to run the country, and the government, which has no authority," he said on a TV political talk show late Sunday. For the next six months, "we want see the powers of the military council given completely to a civilian, national unity government, and the military goes back to just defending the borders." The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a statement Sunday night, saying it does not intend to "extend the transitional period and will not permit by any means hindering the process of democratic transition."
The military-backed Cabinet said the elections, due to start on Nov. 28, will go ahead as scheduled. Activists have been holding occasional protests against the military in Tahrir for months, and some have triggered crackdowns by the military or police. This weekend's violence was the most sustained fighting between the two sides. It began when security forces stormed a sit-in at Tahrir staged by several hundred protesters wounded in clashes during the 18-day uprising in January and February and frustrated by the slow pace of bringing those responsible to justice.
"The people had a revolution to live a better life, but look at everything," said 47-year-old Fayez Mohammed, his eyes red from tear gas. He pointed to rising prices, street violence and lack of accountability against members of Mubarak's regime. "Our main demand is a date. When are you leaving power?" he said. "And don't say, 'Whenever God wills.'"Source: http://news.yahoo.com/least-24-killed-cairo-clashes-132544575.html