Monday, September 28, 2015

Death toll from Saudi strike at Yemen wedding rises to 38

    Monday, September 28, 2015   No comments
SANAA, Yemen — The Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels mistakenly struck a wedding party on Monday, killing at least 38 people, Yemeni security officials said.

The strikes hit the celebration in al-Wahga, a village near the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandab, said the officials, who remain neutral in the conflict that has splintered Yemen.

At least 40 people were wounded in the two airstrikes, they said. The strikes, a senior government official said, were “a mistake.” Many of the victims were women and children, according to several villagers.

Erdoğan defends Saudi Arabia after Hajj disaster, raises eyebrows

    Monday, September 28, 2015   No comments
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has put himself at odds with domestic and international critics when he defended Saudi Arabia after a stampede that killed 769 pilgrims, saying the disaster should not be blamed on the kingdom.

The stampede occurred at a time when thousands of pilgrims were performing one of the rites of the Hajj outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Two Turks are among the dead, and six others remain unaccounted for. But even though the Saudi regime has become the focus of criticism over claims of mismanagement and claims that the stampede was linked to the arrival in Mina of Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the Saudi defense minister, and his security entourage, Erdoğan said he was opposed to suggestions that the Saudi regime was at fault since such tragedies could occur during massive events like this anywhere in the world.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saudi rulers blame pilgrims for hajj deaths

    Saturday, September 26, 2015   No comments
Saudi Arabia on Friday suggested pilgrims ignoring crowd control rules bore some blame for a crush that killed over 700 people at the haj pilgrimage in the annual event's worst disaster for 25 years.

With pilgrims frantically searching for missing compatriots and photographs of piles of the dead circulating on social media, the tragedy haunted many on the haj a day on.

"There were layers of bodies, maybe three layers," said one witness who asked not to be named. "Some people were alive under the pile of bodies and were trying to climb up but in vain, because their strength failed and they dropped dead.

Report: US-trained rebels give equipment to al-Qaeda affiliate

    Saturday, September 26, 2015   No comments
ISR comment: How the U.S., directly and indirectly, ended up arming al-Qaeda and its derivatives? These groups were armed directly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as part of the training and equipping of the so-called "Free Syrian Army", they also took U.S. hardware when they overran northern Iraq, and continue to receive arms through groups still trained and equipped by U.S. and its Gulf States allies.

A group of US-trained Syrian rebels has handed over their vehicles and ammunition to fighters linked to al-Qaeda, the US military has admitted.

It said one rebel unit had surrendered six pick-up trucks and ammunition to the al-Nusra Front this week - apparently to gain safe passage.

Congress has approved $500m (£323m) to train and equip about 5,000 rebels to fight against Islamic State militants.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hajj stampede: At least 717 killed in Saudi Arabia

    Friday, September 25, 2015   No comments
More criticism of Saudi Arabia after at least 717 people died and 863 were injured in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca on Thursday.

As the custodians of the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has long taken responsibility for overseeing the hajj—and those repeated tragedies have raised questions about the Saudi state’s ability to manage this vast annual influx of people. As more and more Muslims around the world have been able to afford to make the trip, the number of pilgrims has swelled to more than two million, including more than a million who visit from abroad.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Russia may strike positions of the Islamic State fighters in Syria without any consent of the coalition states, unless US coordinates its acts

    Thursday, September 24, 2015   No comments
According to Bloomberg, this issue will be the centerpiece of discussion during the meeting of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama under the UN General Assembly, September 28, as the Russian President will be in New York on a one-day visit.

Elena Suponina, senior analyst on the Middle East at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies noted, that "Russia hopes that common sense will win and Barack Obama will accept the proposal of Vladimir Putin. However, Vladimir Putin will act in any case, even if it does not happen."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Taking its cues from the U.S., France back tracks on its demand that Assad steps down

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015   No comments
ISR: after insisting for four years that Assad must step down before "friend-of-Syria"  stop  their support of the opposition, which France recognized as the "sole representative of the Syrian people, its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, now, says Assad can be part of the solution.

France will not demand Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's departure as a precondition for peace talks, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Figaro in an interview.

"If we require, even before negotiations start, that Assad step down, we won't get far," Fabius was quoted as saying in a preview of the French daily's Tuesday edition.

The comments represent a softening of France's position towards Assad, whose four-year war against rebel groups and Islamic State fighters has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes kill up to 76 in Yemen

    Monday, September 21, 2015   No comments
UPI reported on Sep. 19 that up to 76 are dead and 130 injured after a series of Saudi-led alliance airstrikes in the Yemeni capital city of Sanaa and other rebel-held lands in the past 24 hours.

Saudi warplanes pummeled the capital city Friday into Saturday, killing 35 and injuring 120, many civilians. The airstrike hit an apartment building in the center of the city, a United Nations world heritage site of cultural significance. A family of nine inside the building was killed. Local residents said the airstrikes were the strongest since war erupted in March.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ben Carson Says a Muslim Shouldn’t Be President

    Sunday, September 20, 2015   No comments
'If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter'

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said he would not support a Muslim presidential candidate, calling Islam inconsistent with the constitution in an interview on Meet the Press Sunday.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Kerry announces another Syria strategy change from London: Assad must go... but it doesn't have to be on day one or month one or whatever

    Saturday, September 19, 2015   No comments
Bashar al-Assad (left) meeting John Kerry at Al-Shaab palace in Damascus on April 1, 2010
 ISR: After insisting for four years that Bashar al-Assad is removed before considering any other options, U.S. signals another radical shift in strategy.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down, but not necessarily immediately upon reaching a settlement to end the country's civil war.

Speaking after talks in London with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Kerry said he was prepared to negotiate to achieve a solution but asked whether Assad was.

"For the last year and a half we have said that Assad has to go but how long, what the modality is... it doesn't have to be on day one or month one or whatever," Kerry told reporters.

"There's a process by which all the parties have to come together and reach an understanding of how this can be achieved."

He welcomed Russia focusing its efforts against the Islamic State jihadist group (ISIL) in Syria.

The United States had planned to topple the Syrian government, as early as 2006, long before conflict broke out

    Saturday, September 19, 2015   No comments

The United States had planned to topple the Syrian government long before conflict broke out in the country in 2011, says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. 

Assange made the comments during an interview about his new book, the WikiLeaks Files. A chapter of the book refers to a cable from US Ambassador William Roebuck, who had been stationed in Damascus in 2006, about plans for overthrowing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“That plan was to use a number of different factors to create paranoia within the Syrian government; to push it to overreact, to make it fear there's a coup,” RT quoted Assange on Wednesday.

He noted that the key components of the plan were fostering tensions between Shias and Sunnis, creating and promoting rumors and exaggerations “that are known to be false” against Iran with the help of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

He emphasized that this particular cable was “quite concerning” as the US plans for the region were “all hanging out” in it. He added that in order to understand what is happening in and around Syria, regional alliances must be examined.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

General Austin: Only '4 or 5' US-Trained Syrian Rebels Fighting ISIS

    Thursday, September 17, 2015   No comments
‘4 or 5’ U.S.-trained Syrian rebels fighting ISIS

 General Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command leading the war on ISIS, told Congress today that only "four or five" of the first 54 U.S.trained moderate Syrian fighters remain in the fight against ISIS.

Christine Wormuth, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there are currently between 100 and 120 fighters in a program that was slated to have trained 5,400 fighters in its first 12 months.

Austin told the panel that goal was not going to be met and that options are being explored about how to retool the program which was intended to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. So far, $42 million has been spent to develop the $500 million program which began training in April.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Civilians in Yemen and human rights organizations accuse Saudi Arabia and the U.S. of war crimes

    Sunday, September 13, 2015   No comments
Of the many perils Yemen’s civilians have faced during the last six months of war, with starvation looming and their cities crumbling under heavy weapons, none have been as deadly as the coalition airstrikes. What began as a Saudi-led aerial campaign against the Houthis, the rebel militia movement that forced Yemen’s government from power, has become so broad and vicious that critics accuse the coalition of collectively punishing people living in areas under Houthi control.

Errant coalition strikes have ripped through markets, apartment buildings and refugee camps. Other bombs have fallen so far from any military target — like the one that destroyed Mr. Razoom’s factory — that human rights groups say such airstrikes amount to war crimes. More than a thousand civilians are believed to have died in the strikes, the toll rising steadily with little international notice or outrage.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why Gulf States Refuse to Accept Syrian Refugees

    Friday, September 11, 2015   No comments
According to a report by Amnesty International, the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council offered zero formal resettlement slots to Syrians by the end of 2014.
Rights groups point out that those countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — with wealth amassed from oil, gas, and finance, collectively have far more resources than the two Arab states that have taken in the most Syrians: Jordan and Lebanon. The Gulf states are Arabic-speaking, have historic ties to Syria and some are embroiled in the current crisis through their support for insurgent groups.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What the Arab World Can Learn from Oman

    Thursday, September 10, 2015   No comments
Earlier this year, the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) released a report on foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. Of the 20,000 counted by ICSR, most hailed from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and countries of the former Soviet Union. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia topped the list with a combined 3,000-5,500. However, there has not been one reported case of an Omani fighting on the battlefields of Iraq or Syria.

As the only Arab nation that has not had any of its natives join the ranks of Daesh ("Islamic State"), some analysts point to Oman's signing of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and Muscat's establishment of an Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) system, which, according to the Financial Actions Task Force, is compliant with international standards.

Point of View from China: Despite refugee crisis, wrangle over Syria sadly continues

    Thursday, September 10, 2015   No comments
By Sun Xiaobo

A wave of mainly Syrian refugees has overwhelmed European countries and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Wednesday plans to distribute about 120,000 additional asylum seekers. But meanwhile, the US, which has been shielded from the situation due to its geographic advantages, continued to wrestle with Russia over the Syrian issue.

Amid recent allegations of a Russian military buildup in Syria, the US asked Bulgaria and Greece to deny permission to Russian military transport planes bound for Syria to fly over their territories. US Secretary of State John Kerry even called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, warning that Russian actions could "risk confrontation" with the US-led coalition.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hungarian nationalist TV camera operator filmed kicking refugee children

    Wednesday, September 09, 2015   No comments

A camera operator for a Hungarian nationalist television channel closely linked to the country’s far-right Jobbik party has been filmed kicking two refugee children and tripping up a man at the border hotspot of Rőszke on Tuesday. 

Petra László of N1TV was filming a group of refugees running away from police officers, when a man carrying a child in his arms ran in front of her. László stuck her leg out in front of the man, causing him to fall on the child he was carrying. He turned back and remonstrated with László, who continued filming.

A 20-second video of the scene was posted on Twitter by Stephan Richter, a reporter for the German television channel RTL and soon went viral, leading to the creation of a Facebook group “The Petra László Wall of Shame”.

Monday, September 7, 2015

GCC nations will continue to drop bombs "until [they] purge Yemen of the scum"... Qatar sends 1,000 ground troops to Yemen

    Monday, September 07, 2015   No comments

“Our revenge shall not take long,” Emirati media quoted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed as warning. “We will press ahead until we purge Yemen of the scum."

 Delivering on a promise to quickly avenge their heaviest ever military loss, UAE jets have pounded Houthi positions in Yemen, hitting many civilians, in the “most violent” air raid since the Saudi-led bombardment campaign began six months ago.

The airstrikes in Yemen on Sunday were the heaviest since the Arab coalition intervened in the Yemeni conflict to reinstate power of their allied President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi who had been deposed by Houthi rebels.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Wealthy Gulf Nation Official: "We should never allow refugees in our country"

    Sunday, September 06, 2015   No comments
Humanitarian crisis: Syrian child washed ashore
The Arab nations of the Persian Gulf have some the world’s highest per capita incomes. Their leaders speak passionately about the plight of Syrians, and their state-funded news media cover the Syrian civil war without cease.

Yet as millions of Syrian refugees languish elsewhere in the Middle East and many have risked their lives to reach Europe or died along the way, Gulf nations have agreed to resettle only a surprisingly small number of refugees.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Obama to assure Saudi king of U.S. help to counter Iranian threat

    Thursday, September 03, 2015   No comments
Saudi Arabia: ISIL in color
ISR comment: Obama to assure Saudi king of U.S. help to counter Iranian threat; and who will assure Yemen, Lebanon,  and other neighboring countries against Saudi actual threats?

President Barack Obama will assure Saudi King Salman of the U.S. commitment to help counter any Iranian security threat, White House officials said on Wednesday, despite concern among Gulf allies that a new nuclear deal could empower Tehran in the region.

Obama, hosting Salman on Friday on the king's first U.S. visit since ascending to the throne in January, will seek to allay the fears of Washington’s most important Arab partner that the lifting of sanctions on Iran would allow it to act in destabilizing ways.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

War on Yemen: How the Saudi-Led Coalition Is Killing Civilians

    Wednesday, September 02, 2015   No comments
Yemen’s Hidden War: How the Saudi-Led Coalition Is Killing Civilians

In March, the Saudis — aided by U.S. and British weapons and intelligence — began a bombing campaign in an attempt to push back the Houthis, who they see as a proxy for Iran. Since then, from the northern province of Saada to the capital Sanaa, from the central cities of Taiz and Ibb to the narrow streets at the heart of Aden, scores of airstrikes have hit densely populated areas, factories, schools, civilian infrastructure and even a camp for displaced people.

From visiting some 20 sites of airstrikes and interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, survivors and relatives of those killed in eight of these strikes in southern Yemen, this reporter discovered evidence of a pattern of Saudi-coalition airstrikes that show indiscriminate bombing o

(The number of civilian casualties has not been officially collated or recorded by NGOs or aid agencies. Only a handful of humanitarian and independent human rights organizations have had a presence on the ground in Aden, while nationwide just a small fraction of the strikes have even been independently documented. The death tolls for the eight strikes, which include five on public buses, were given by witnesses, or those who collected the dead after the strikes, and are necessarily imperfect; the total ranges from 142 up to 175.)

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