Monday, September 30, 2013

A Syrian solution to civil conflict? The Free Syrian Army is holding talks with Assad's senior staff; Secret approach to the President could reshape the whole war

    Monday, September 30, 2013   No comments
Six weeks ago, a two-man delegation arrived in secret in Damascus: civilians from Aleppo who represented elements of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel group largely composed of fighters who deserted the regime’s army in the first year of the war. They came under a guarantee of safety, and met, so I am told, a senior official on the staff of President Bashar al-Assad. And they carried with them an extraordinary initiative – that there might be talks between the government and FSA officers who “believed in a Syrian solution” to the war.

The delegation made four points: that there must be an “internal Syrian dialogue”; that private and public properties must be maintained; that there must be an end to – and condemnation of – civil, sectarian, ethnic strife; and that all must work for a democratic Syria where the supremacy of law would be dominant. There was no demand – at least at this stage – for Assad’s departure.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Obama and Rouhani make history with phone call, thawing three decade freeze between US and Iran

    Friday, September 27, 2013   No comments
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President Barack Obama revealed Friday that he talked with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, marking the first time leaders from the U.S. and Iran have directly communicated since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
"Just now I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said from the White House.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Syria rebels reject Syrian National Coalition, call for Islamic leadership

    Thursday, September 26, 2013   No comments

Thousands of Syrian rebels have broken with the Western-backed coalition and called for a new Islamist front, undermining international efforts to build up a pro-Western military force to replace President Bashar al-Assad.

Ever more divided on a battlefield where Assad's better armed troops have been gaining ground, allies of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were among 13 disparate rebel factions to disown the exile leadership and build an Islamic alliance that includes the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, commanders said on Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Declassified NSA files show agency spied on Muhammad Ali and MLK; Operation Minaret set up in 1960s to monitor anti-Vietnam critics, branded 'disreputable if not outright illegal' by NSA itself

    Wednesday, September 25, 2013   No comments
The National Security Agency secretly tapped into the overseas phone calls of prominent critics of the Vietnam War, including Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and two actively serving US senators, newly declassified material has revealed.

The NSA has been forced to disclose previously secret passages in its own official four-volume history of its Cold War snooping activities. The newly-released material reveals the breathtaking – and probably illegal – lengths the agency went to in the late 1960s and 70s, in an attempt to try to hold back the rising tide of anti-Vietnam war sentiment.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Speech of H.E. Mr. Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran (Islamic Republic of)

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013   No comments
H.E. Mr. Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran (Islamic Republic of)

English Text of speech of President Hassan Rouhani at UN General Assembly;  24 September - 1 October 2013

... Listen to the Persian speech...

François Hollande, President of the French Republic at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013   No comments

Address by His Excellency François Hollande, President of the French Republic at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (New York, 24 September-1 October 2013).


Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013   No comments

Address by His Excellency Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (New York, 24 September-1 October 2013).

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013   No comments
 Address by His Excellency Barack Obama, President of the United States of America at the general debate of the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (New York, 24 September-1 October 2013).

Monday, September 23, 2013

In an exclusive interview to CCTV correspondent Wang Weiwei, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has confirmed that Syria plans to honor its commitment to the chemical weapons disarmament deal

    Monday, September 23, 2013   No comments
In an exclusive interview to CCTV correspondent Wang Weiwei, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has confirmed that Syria plans to honor its commitment to the chemical weapons disarmament deal.
But he warned that rebels could throw a spanner in the works when UN weapons inspectors arrive to oversee the destruction of the weapons. Al-Assad gave more details in the exclusive interview.
Reporter: "According to the US-Russia's agreement, after the list is handed in to the OPCW, UN inspectors will enter Syria again this November. And all weapons should be removed from Syria or destroyed by mid-2014. Is the Syrian government able to meet the timeline?"

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Iranians united in their support to president Hassan Rouhani's diplomatic initiatives

    Sunday, September 22, 2013   No comments
Iranian hardliners appear to have given their tacit support to president Hassan Rouhani as the moderate cleric prepares to travel to New York on what could be a critically important visit to the United Nations, which may include a historic meeting with his American counterpart.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rocket attack targets police social facilities building in Ankara

    Friday, September 20, 2013   No comments
An attack involving three rockets targeted a police social facilities building in Ankara’s Dikmen neighborhood in the evening of Sept. 20, Anadolu Agency reported.

According to immediate reports, there were no casualties, however the attack left some material damage to the building.

Police officers were dispatched to the scene.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler arrived at the scene to assess it himself a few minutes after the attack.

An operation has been launched to find the perpetrators of the attack. Two people were seen running from the scene a few moments after the incident took place, witnesses said.


Why Iran seeks constructive engagement: ‘Gone is the age of blood feuds’

    Friday, September 20, 2013   No comments
by Hassan Rouhani

Three months ago, my platform of “prudence and hope” gained a broad, popular mandate. Iranians embraced my approach to domestic and international affairs because they saw it as long overdue. I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world.

The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.
The international community faces many challenges in this new world — terrorism, extremism, foreign military interference, drug trafficking, cybercrime and cultural encroachment — all within a framework that has emphasized hard power and the use of brute force.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rouhani: said his country will never develop nuclear weapons

    Thursday, September 19, 2013   No comments

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Unlike his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani struck a moderate tone on many issues, but he deflected a question from NBC News' Ann Curry about whether he believed that the Holocaust was "a myth."
"I'm not a historian. I'm a politician," he replied. "What is important for us is that the countries of the region and the people grow closer to each other, and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice."
Rouhani's comments came in his first interview with a U.S. news outlet since his June election. The interview was broadcast Thursday on TODAY.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Intelligence Sources: President Hassan Rohani could be willing to make concessions in the country's long-running standoff with the West over its nuclear program

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013   No comments
Nothing -- not even Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons -- is a source of such deep concern for the West and Israel as Iran's nuclear facilities, such as Natanz, Isfahan and Fordo. The installation at Fordo, not far from the holy city of Qom, is viewed as a particularly grave threat.

Researchers working underground there are using 696 centrifuges to enrich uranium to 20 percent. Afterwards, it only takes a relatively small step to create the material required to build nuclear bombs. Fordo, which didn't go into operation until late 2011, is reportedly the most modern plant in the Iranian nuclear program which -- despite all denials from Tehran -- the world believes is designed to give the Islamic Republic the ultimate weapon. What's more, Fordo is believed to be virtually indestructible. Even bunker-buster bombs would hardly be powerful enough to disable the facility -- the enrichment cascades lie 70 meters (230 feet) under the surface.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Nearly half the rebel fighters in Syria are now aligned to jihadist or hardline Islamist groups according to a new analysis of factions in the country's civil war

    Monday, September 16, 2013   No comments
Opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands.

The new study by IHS Jane's, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda..
Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.

There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.

The stark assessment, to be published later this week, accords with the view of Western diplomats estimate that less than one third of the opposition forces are "palatable" to Britain, while American envoys put the figure even lower.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Syria rebels' form of justice: captives are dragged to their doom and butchered like animals in some of the most brutal scenes to emerge from Syria's civil war

    Sunday, September 15, 2013   No comments
The sword rests briefly on his neck as a blindfolded man kneels under a clear blue sky.
Moments later, the executioner raises his right arm, slashes downwards and the prisoner is dead.
The whole barbaric episode is watched by a crowd of jeering men, many of them armed.
And sitting on a low wall only a few feet from where the wretched captive died so violently is a line of young boys.
They were still there as the dead man’s head was dumped on his body. Another child, even younger, was led by the hand past the corpse.
Warning: Graphic content


Saturday, September 14, 2013

U.S. and Russia reach a deal on Syria's chemical weapons: A plan that Kerry initially said "can’t be done, obviously," is now "the plan"

    Saturday, September 14, 2013   No comments
GENEVA — The United States and Russia have reached an agreement that calls for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.

Under the agreement, Syria must submit a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week.

American and Russian officials also reached a consensus on the size of Syria’s stockpile, an essential prerequisite to any international plan to control and dismantle the weapons.

“If fully implemented,” Mr. Kerry said, “this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Turkey left out of diplomatic loop on chemical weapons debate; is Turkey becoming even more irrelevant?

    Friday, September 13, 2013   No comments
Ahmet Davutoğlu has not spoken to Kerry or Lavrov in four days...
Ankara, which has continued to liaise with world leaders on the Syrian crisis and other international issues, now seems left out of diplomatic traffic between officials from the US and Russia, two camps on the ongoing conflict in Syria that have been discussing the issue of Syria's chemical weapons for the last two days at a conference in Geneva.

Russia proposed a plan last week, accepted by both Syria and the United States, that would put the Syrian regime's chemical weapons stockpile under international control, to eventually be destroyed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A French report claims that Turkey encouraged the formation of a jihadist brigade called “Katibat al-Taliban” (KaT)

    Thursday, September 12, 2013   No comments
France's Intelligence Online claimed in a story in its latest issue published on Wednesday that Turkey encouraged the formation of a jihadist brigade called “Katibat al-Taliban” (KaT), which is reportedly made up almost exclusively of Kurds, to fight with the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The story also claimed that some fighters of the alleged group were "members of the PKK who converted to Islam in Turkish prisons,” while others come from schools established by followers of Gülen.
The lawyer of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has strongly dismissed claims by a French publication that followers of Gülen are among members of an alleged jihadist formation encouraged by Turkey to fight a political offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Syria as baseless slanders.
“The claim in question is first of all a blatant and baseless slander that is based on no evidence.  Mentioning the name of my client, who based his entire life on tolerance, dialogue, peace, love for people and one's country, is, to say the least, ruthless and shows a lack of intelligence,” said lawyer Nurullah Albayrak in a statement on Thursday.


The problems with political bias in the culture of think tanks: Syria expert Senator McCain cited is not an expert after all

    Thursday, September 12, 2013   No comments

Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy, Syria expert, made quite an impression on Senator John McCain. During Senate hearings, the former Presidential candidate quoted at length from her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed painting a rosy picture of a mostly secular, pro-Western anti-Assad insurgency.

“John, do you agree with Dr. O’Bagy’s assessment of the opposition?,” the Senator asked the Secretary of State John Kerry. “I agree with most of that,” he replied.

What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria: A Plea for Caution From Russia

    Thursday, September 12, 2013   No comments
Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NSA shares raw intelligence including American citizens' data with Israel

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013   No comments
The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process "minimization", but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

Police fire tear gas to disperse crowds gathered to denounce protester's death in Turkey

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013   No comments
The police staged a fresh crackdown on demonstrators in the early evening hours of Sept. 10, after groups had gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square to denounce the death of a protester in Antakya during an intervention.

After the crowd swelled in numbers in Taksim Square, police pushed them down through the pedestrian İstiklal Avenue in order to prevent the demonstration from taking place.

Once again tear gas and water cannons were resorted to, with police chasing protesters down İstiklal Avenue and the many narrow side streets in the area.

Police also used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had arrived by ferry at the Karaköy docks, downhill from İstiklal Avenue, in order prevent them from reaching the Taksim area.

Syrian American Woman tells McCain "do not bomb Syria"

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013   No comments
Syrian American Woman tells McCain "do not bomb Syria; minorities are not collateral damage."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Unbelievably John Kerry: Once again, John Kerry’s created an unbelievably big problem out of one little phrase

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013   No comments
By: Edward-Isaac Dovere

Throughout his career, Kerry’s had a problem with words. Monday, with just two of them, he managed to illustrate the Obama administration’s overall ambivalence toward a Syria strike, the latest shift in arguments from a man whose case for action has been changing almost with the days of the week.

Saying that any Syria action would be “unbelievably small” was supposed to reassure voters that the White House isn’t hatching a new Iraq-level invasion and occupation. Instead, he just bolstered skeptics who believe the administration’s either only looking for a symbolic move against Syrian President Bashar Assad to be able to claim action or for those who believe that President Barack Obama’s about to blunder into a long-term engagement in yet another fractured Arab nation.

That’s distinct from the new international policy Kerry at first seemed to have stumbled into, but as subsequent comments from White House officials and the president showed through the day, was actually a concerted — but heavily conditional — float, that Assad could stop an attack if the Syrian president somehow turned over his entire chemical weapons arsenal immediately.


Pierre Piccinin: Assad not Responsible for Ghouta Gas Attack, rebels used gas in Ghouta to trigger Western intervention

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013   No comments
A Belgian writer held hostage for five months in Syria has said that his own rebel captors denied that President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Ghouta massacre.

Pierre Piccinin said that he and fellow hostage Domenico Quirico, an Italian war reporter, heard their jailers talking about the chemical weapon attack and saying that Assad was not to blame.

Quirico confirmed to La Stampa newspaper that they had eavesdropped such a conversation through a closed door but added that he had no evidence to substantiate what he heard.

Monday, September 9, 2013

If Obama is not willing to target both the regime and the terrorists in Syria, then Congress should not approve military action

    Monday, September 09, 2013   No comments
by Marc A. Thiessen

Senator Ted Cruz says that in Syria, the United States military should not “serve as al-Qaeda’s air force.” He’s right.

Al-Qaeda has two major strategic objectives: to get control of a nation-state and to get control of weapons of mass destruction. President Obama’s inaction in Syria has brought them closer to accomplishing both objectives.

After announcing that Assad must go in August 2011, Obama dithered for two years. This created a power vacuum, which al-Qaeda has filled — pouring weapons and fighters into Syria, and carving out new safe havens where it controls territory and operates with impunity.

Who are the Syrian rebels: al-Qaeda in Syria leaders think that Americans are threatening war in Syria to target them, not the regime; other rebels wish U.S. will bomb jihadists

    Monday, September 09, 2013   No comments
The four men around him, jihadists from elsewhere in the Arab world, laughed among themselves and looked around to see another group enter. They too had come from far away for jihad — first against the Assad regime and now the US, again.

At a table down the hall, a group of Free Syrian Army fighters were enjoying a late lunch beside an olive grove, wondering out loud what regime targets the US would go for and revelling in the discomfort of the jihadists, whom they felt had ridden roughshod over their war in recent months. "I don't care if the Americans attack them too," said one of the men, whose unit has been joined by the jihadists in several battles. "I'd like that in fact. They need to be scared of someone." The table erupted in laughter, before the men calmed themselves. "I hope the Americans know where their headquarters are," said one.

Israel: A powerful Middle Eastern axis of Sunni states has taken form in the region, which “does not view Israel as a sworn enemy”

    Monday, September 09, 2013   No comments
Speaking before the Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s international summit in Herzliya, Amos Gilad, who is director of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau at the Defense Ministry, said that Israel “won’t ever be accepted as a formal member” of the Sunni axis, but that the states that make it up all view the US as the sole superpower and that their regional policies are indirectly beneficial for Israel.

Had the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in its plot for regional domination, a ring of hostility would have been formed around Israel, Gilad noted. From the perspective of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, there are two threats to his country: Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

John Kerry gives Syria a week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack

    Monday, September 09, 2013   No comments
The US secretary of state has said that President Bashar al-Assad has one week to hand over his entire stock of chemical weapons to avoid a military attack. But John Kerry added that he had no expectation that the Syrian leader would comply.

Kerry also said he had no doubt that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in east Damascus on 21 August, saying that only three people are responsible for the chemical weapons inside Syria – Assad, one of his brothers and a senior general. He said the entire US intelligence community was united in believing Assad was responsible.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How has the West responded to ‘gassing’ in West Asia?

    Sunday, September 08, 2013   No comments
Actually the first to use chemical weapons [gas] in the Middle-East were the British. Soon after the First World War when the British created the state of Iraq consisting of the three former Turkish Vilayats [provinces] of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul; the southern Kurds much to their dislike had been added to the new state of Iraq and in protest broke out in open rebellion. Faced with the prospects of a prolonged conflict, with added financial costs and loss of British life; the British decided that the ‘best method’ for putting down the revolt was to use gas. As the then Colonial Secretary, Sir Winston Churchill had remarked, “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas.” The then RAF Chief Sir Hugh Trenchard in a report to the British Cabinet admitted that this was a “cheaper form of control.” Even the redoubtable Lawrence of Arabia wrote to the London Observer that “it is odd we do not use poison gas on these occasions.” The poor Kurds were the first to receive the ‘gas’ treatment and as history would prove not the last time!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

In Turkey, 72% of respondents to the Transatlantic Trends 2013 survey, which was conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), said their country should stay out of Syria

    Saturday, September 07, 2013   No comments
A majority of Turks disapprove of any potential military intervention in Syria, much like their European and American counterparts, a survey has revealed.

In Turkey, 72 percent of respondents to the Transatlantic Trends 2013 survey, which was conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), said their country should stay out of Syria, up 15 percentage points from last year, while only 21 percent – down 11 percentage points – favored intervention.

The respondents were told that there had recently been discussion about intervening in Syria, where the government has been using military force to suppress an opposition movement. They were then asked whether their government should stay out completely or intervene.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Refugees Pour Out of Syria, but Number Entering Jordan Slows to Trickle

    Friday, September 06, 2013   No comments

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we come back to Syria with two takes on reaction to the conflict in the Arab world.

We begin with a look at how the crisis has spilled beyond Syria's borders. Earlier this week, the United Nations Refugee Agency announced that more than two million people have fled the fighting.

NewsHour foreign affairs producer Dan Sagalyn was in neighboring Jordan recently on a trip sponsored by CARE, the development and humanitarian organization. His story begins in the remote far eastern corner of the country.

Washington Post: A majority of House members are now on the record as either against or leaning against authorizing President Obama to use military force against Syria

    Friday, September 06, 2013   No comments
As of Friday afternoon, there were 223 members in the “no” or “leaning no” category, more than the 217 that would be needed to sink the resolution. (The threshold for passage in the House is 217 votes, rather than the usual 218, since there are currently two vacancies.)

While the opposition is led by Republicans, the 106 opponents include 25 Democrats. Another 37 Democrats lean against supporting the use of force, meaning more than 30 percent of the House Democratic caucus is negatively predisposed toward the resolution.
The resolution remains in much better shape in the Senate, where just 15 senators have expressed outright opposition – four of them Democrats – and another 10 lean no. A majority of senators are currently undecided.

Obama assembles fragile alliance blaming Assad for chemical attacks

    Friday, September 06, 2013   No comments
Barack Obama left a fractious G20 summit in St Petersburg on Friday after assembling a fragile alliance of countries accusing Bashar al-Assad of being responsible for using poison gas against civilians. However, the US president left behind a defiant Russian counterpart threatening unspecified military support for Syria if America attacks.

Vladimir Putin claimed that a majority of the G20 opposed any US-led intervention, and gave no ground by continuing to insist that the chemical weapons attacks were a provocation by Syrian rebels designed to win international backing for an attack on the Assad regime. David Cameron described Putin's position as impossible.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stratfor: U.S. military intervention in Syria could actually benefit Tehran

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments
Conventional wisdom says that a weakened Syria would undermine Iran's regional influence, but a U.S. military intervention in the country could actually benefit Tehran. The government there has devised a sophisticated strategy for responding to a U.S. attack. Of course, Tehran would activate its militant proxies in the region, including Hezbollah, in the event that the United States launches an attack, but it would also exploit Washington's visceral opposition to Sunni jihadist and Islamist groups to gain concessions elsewhere.

Emboldened Mr Putin changed the G20 agenda – which was originally focused on trade and tax matters – to include a dinner discussion about Syria

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments
... His move brought the conflict to the heart of the summit, possibly in the hope that Mr Obama would be seen to have no majority support for military strikes on the Assad regime, which he favours in retaliation for the chemical attack on the Ghouta suburb of Damascus on 21 August.

Mr Putin – who has supported President Assad throughout the two-year civil war – was judged to have won the first round of his showdown with Mr Obama. A number of leaders sounded cool, and in some cases hostile, to the US President’s call for action. China’s Deputy Finance Minister, Zhu Guangyao, told a briefing: “Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices.”

Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders on Thursday not to launch military strikes in Syria at a summit on the global economy that was hijacked by the conflict

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments

The Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies met in St. Petersburg to try and forge a united front on how to revive economic growth, but failed to heal divisions over a U.S. plan to wind down a program to stimulate the world economy.
The club that accounts for two thirds of the world's population and 90 percent of its output looked as divided over therapy for the economy as it is over possible military action following a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Obama: "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line"

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments
Wednesday in Stockholm, Reuters reporter Steve Holland asked President Obama, "Have you made up your mind whether to take action against Syria whether or not you have a congressional resolution approved? Is a strike needed in order to preserve your credibility for when you set these sort of red lines?"

Addressing just the second question, Obama replied, "Let me unpack the question. First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty..."

Al-Qaida-linked Syria rebels hit Christian village

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments
Al-Qaida-linked rebels launched an assault Wednesday on a regime-held Christian village in the densely populated west of Syria and new clashes erupted near the capital, Damascus — part of a brutal battle of attrition each side believes it can win despite more than two years of deadlock.

As the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel in the village of Maaloula and shelled the community below, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

John Kerry reveals Arab countries have offered to PAY America to carry out full-scale invasion of Syria

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments
Secretary of State John Kerry said during a hearing Wednesday in the House of Representatives that counties in the Arab world have offered to foot the entire bill for a U.S. military mission that destroys the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
'With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assist, the answer is profoundly yes,' Kerry said. 'They have. That offer is on the table.'
Kerry, with a cadre of anti-war activists sitting behind him and holding red-painted hands aloft in protest, declined to name the countries that have proposed opening their purses.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How many people were killed during the alledged chemical attack near Damascus?

    Wednesday, September 04, 2013   No comments
It depends:

Kerry making case for war
The White House claims says 1,429 people died from the gas attack on August 21. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-government activists in Syria, says its toll has reached 502. Assad's government blames the episode on the rebels.


Putin says Russia could support strike on Syria

    Wednesday, September 04, 2013   No comments
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has not ruled out backing a U.S.-led military operation in Syria if the Kremlin gets concrete proof than an alleged chemical attack on civilians was committed by Bashar Assad’s government. “I don’t rule this out,” Putin said during a televised interview with First Channel, a Russian federal television network, and the Associated Press. “But I want to draw your attention to one absolutely principled issue: In accordance with the current international law, a sanction to use arms against a sovereign state can be given only by the U.N. Security Council.” The Obama administration is engaged in a lobbying effort to persuade Congress to back a U.S. strike on Syria without U.N. approval. Late Tuesday, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed on language authorizing U.S. military action against Syria, while ruling out the commitment of U.S. ground forces and limiting the window for an attack to 90 days. A committee vote could come as early as Wednesday.

Pictures emerge showing US Secretary John Kerry and President Assad dining in Syria together

    Wednesday, September 04, 2013   No comments
Pictures have emerged showing the US Secretary of State John Kerry dining with President Bashar al-Assad, as Mr Kerry continued to push for a military strike on Syria following a suspected chemical attack.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Obama: Syrian rebels trained by CIA sneaked into Syria

    Tuesday, September 03, 2013   No comments
After an hour-long White House meeting on Monday, Mr. McCain said that Mr. Obama had given general support to doing more for the Syrian rebels, but that no specifics were agreed upon.

Officials said that in the same conversation, which included Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, Mr. Obama indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria.

U.N. Chief: Use Of Force Is Only Legal In Self-Defense Or With U.N. OK

    Tuesday, September 03, 2013   No comments
The United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says if his inspectors find that chemical weapons were used in Syria, it would represent a "serious violation of international law and an outrageous war crime."

Ban also made it clear that there only two types of attacks against Syria that would legal under the U.N. charter: self defense and one authorized by a U.N. resolution.

"That is the firm principle of the United Nations," Ban said, clearly implying that a unilateral attack by the United States against Syria would be illegal.


G-20 debate on Syria: Putin knows clearly which side he wants to win in Syria and why; Obama can’t begin to explain why America should want jihadists to take control of Syria

    Tuesday, September 03, 2013   No comments
Putin has a clear policy on Syria, and he has pursued it with cold determination; Obama’s actions have been hesitant, and his policy objectives are general and obscure. Putin knows clearly which side he wants to win in Syria and why; Obama can’t begin to explain why America should want jihadists to take control of Syria.
Each man will justify his policy and actions at the G20 summit, and Obama, despite America’s enormous military power and vastly larger economy, will be at a disadvantage against Putin. If this is a staring contest, Obama has already blinked.
Obama’s problems this week are partly due to his August 7 decision to cancel the one-on-one summit he’d scheduled with Putin to precede the G20 gathering.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The administration’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Syria

    Monday, September 02, 2013   No comments

 The Obama Administration has released the text of its proposed congressional resolution for Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria, here is the text:

Revealed: Britain sold nerve gas chemicals to Syria 10 months after 'civil unrest' began

    Monday, September 02, 2013   No comments
BRITAIN allowed firms to sell chemicals to Syria capable of being used to make nerve gas, the Sunday Mail can reveal today.

Export licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were granted months after the bloody civil war in the Middle East began.

The chemical is capable of being used to make weapons such as sarin, thought to be the nerve gas used in the attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb which killed nearly 1500 people, including 426 children, 10 days ago.

President Bashar Assad’s forces have been blamed for the attack, leading to calls for an armed response from the West.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

US President Barack Obama’s decision to seek the approval of Congress over military strikes in Syria has led to calls for French President François Hollande to also put the question of action against Damascus to a parliamentary vote

    Sunday, September 01, 2013   No comments
Pressure is mounting on French President François Hollande to put any motion to launch military strikes against Syria before a parliamentary vote.

It follows Barack Obama’s surprise announcement Saturday that he would seek approval from Congress before taking action against Damascus and Thursday's shock defeat of a motion to approve a military strike in the UK parliament.

On Saturday evening, Jean-Louis Borloo, leader of the centrist UDI party, urged Hollande to follow the example of the US and UK and also seek parliamentary approval before going ahead with an attack on Syria.


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