Friday, January 31, 2014

Australia Vs. Indonesia Approaches A Flashpoint

    Friday, January 31, 2014   No comments
It’s not just China and Japan bumping heads over sea borders in Asia, there are signs that a showdown is looming between two countries with a normally friendly relationship: Indonesia and Australia.

For major powers outside the region, such as the U.S., there is nothing to be gained by becoming involved in a situation which has its roots in the cross-border movement of asylum seekers from troubled parts of the Middle East and Africa, or illegal immigrants as they have also been called.

Fence Sitting Not Always An Option

However, sitting on the fence might not be an option for outsiders if the current war of words between Jakarta and Canberra heats up and patrol boats from both countries which are operating in the Timor Sea and Indian Ocean come face-to-face.

An extreme example of third parties being forced to choose a side in a territorial dispute was the brief war between Argentina and Britain in the early 1980s when both sides appealed to their friends with the U.S. forced to choose its NATO ally, Britain – but only after weeks of agonizing.

Indonesia v Australia has not reached that point, but there is a history of hostility that goes back to a hot war in Borneo in the 1960s and when Australia had troops on the ground in East Timor after it won independence from Indonesia.

Australian Snooping Upset Indonesia

Relations between the two near-neighbors worsened in November when leaks from runaway former CIA analysts, Edward Snowden, revealed Australian spying on the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and, worse still, his wife.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

U.S. spy chiefs: More than 7,000 foreign militants are fighting for the rebels in Syria's civil war and some are being trained to return home and conduct attacks

    Wednesday, January 29, 2014   No comments
More than 7,000 foreign militants are fighting for the rebels in Syria's civil war and some are being trained to return home and conduct attacks, U.S. spy chiefs told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The estimate, given at a Senate intelligence hearing, was much higher than earlier figures of 3,000 to 4,000 foreign fighters in Syria, and came after news emerged this week that Congress had secretly approved more funding to send weapons to "moderate" rebels.

"We estimate, at this point, an excess of 7,000 foreign fighters have been attracted from some 50 countries, many of them in Europe and the Mideast," James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told the hearing.

"And this is of great concern not only to us, but to those countries," he said at the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual hearing on global security threats.

U.S. spy agencies had not previously made the figure of 7,000 public, though it has appeared in classified intelligence reports, a U.S. official said.

Is Blogging Unscholarly? the International Studies Association unveiled a proposal to bar members affiliated with its scholarly journal from blogging

    Wednesday, January 29, 2014   No comments
By Carl Straumsheim

The political science blogosphere has erupted in protest after the International Studies Association unveiled a proposal to bar members affiliated with its scholarly journal from doing just that -- blogging.
“No editor of any ISA journal or member of any editorial team of an ISA journal can create or actively manage a blog unless it is an official blog of the editor’s journal or the editorial team’s journal,” the proposal reads. “This policy requires that all editors and members of editorial teams to apply this aspect of the Code of Conduct to their ISA journal commitments. All editorial members, both the Editor in Chief(s) and the board of editors/editorial teams, should maintain a complete separation of their journal responsibilities and their blog associations.”

The Governing Council of the ISA, which consists of about 50 voting members, will debate the proposal the day before the association’s annual meeting in Toronto on March 25. Should the council adopt the proposal, it would impact five journals: International Studies Quarterly, International Studies Review, International Studies Perspectives, Foreign Policy Analysis and International Political Sociology, as well as International Interactions, which the association co-sponsors.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Syria's road to peace is littered with our errors; The Geneva II peace conference has noble aims, but its flaws are obvious with Iran, Hezbollah and Russia absent

    Monday, January 27, 2014   No comments
Editorials from the Observer
The third anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution is an appropriate moment to consider the lessons of what was once – too hopefully, perhaps – dubbed the "Arab spring". It was briefly hailed as the region's equivalent of the fall of communism in Europe in 1989; these days the closest historical equivalent seems like 1848 – the so-called Year of Revolutions.

That is certainly most true in Egypt, where the revolution that started three years ago this weekend has been followed in quick order by counter-revolution – as occurred across Europe in 1848 – with the reimposition by the military and its supporters of the same autocratic "deep state" over which Hosni Mubarak once presided.

The view from Cairo is grim. On Friday a wave of bombs struck the capital, bringing the simmering violence already visible in the northern Sinai to the country's very centre. The present regime has fostered a climate of fear that has seen activists, Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and journalists targeted and thrown in jail, often on trumped-up charges.

The picture is also grim in Libya and Syria. The western-led intervention that toppled Libya's Colonel Gaddafi has produced a weak, violent and fractured state whose problems led to the dangerous destabilisation of a neighbour, as happened in the case of Mali.

Syria too has become embroiled in a long and bloody civil war that has led to a massive displacement of refugees to neighbouring countries, fuelled a proxy conflict between Shia and Sunni in the region and been an exacerbating factor in the increasing violence in neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Egypt: protesters killed on anniversary of anti-Mubarak revolt; at least 54 reported dead in clashes across the country as thousands also rally in support of army-led authorities

    Sunday, January 26, 2014   No comments
At least 54 people have been reported dead in clashes with anti-government protesters in Egypt on the third anniversary of the uprising that culminated in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as president.

Thousands of Egyptians also rallied in support of the army-led authorities, underlining the country's deep political divisions.

The majority of the deaths were in Cairo, according to the health ministry. Security forces lobbed teargas and fired in the air to try to prevent anti-government demonstrators from reaching Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising, where government supporters called for the head of the military, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to run for the presidency.

Armoured personnel carriers were deployed to try to keep order and anyone entering Tahrir had to pass through a metal detector.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The two sides in the Syria talks are bringing the process close to collapse even before full sessions have formally started

    Friday, January 24, 2014   No comments
Syria's first peace talks were on the verge of collapsing on Friday before they had properly begun, with the opposition refusing to meet President Bashar al-Assad's delegation and the government threatening to bring its team home.
The opposition said it would not meet Assad's delegation unless it first agreed to sign up to a protocol calling for a transitional administration. The government rejected the demand outright and said its negotiators would return home unless serious talks began within a day.

"If no serious work sessions are held by (Saturday), the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva due to the other side's lack of seriousness or preparedness," Syrian state television quoted Walid al-Moualem, the foreign minister, as saying.
Friday was meant to be the first time in three years of war that Assad's government and foes would negotiate face to face.
But plans were ditched at the last minute after the opposition said the government delegation must first sign up to a 2012 protocol, known as Geneva 1, that calls for an interim government to oversee a transition to a new political order.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Syrian Kurds protested Jan. 23 their exclusion from U.N.-brokered peace talks in Switzerland, and vowed to forge ahead with their own freedom drive in territories they control

    Thursday, January 23, 2014   No comments
"Some forces are trying to exclude us from the solutions they are looking for, and they're not representing anybody," said Saleh Muslim, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

"We will continue our struggle until we get our democratic rights," he told reporters in Geneva, where the Syrian government and opposition were to hold separate meetings with the U.N. mediator on Friday, two days after angry exchanges at the so-called Geneva II international peace conference in the Swiss city of Montreux.

Speaking on behalf of the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council -- made up of a range of groups from the country's Kurdish minority -- Muslim said its efforts to join the talks had failed.

That was despite repeated requests to the United Nations, the United States and Russia, the main movers in getting the Syrian regime and opposition coalition to the table.

The opposition delegation in Geneva includes Abdel Hamid Darwish, head of the Kurdish Progressive Democratic Party, which has questioned the PYD's drive for self-rule in northeastern Syria.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Syria Talks Are Doomed Without Iran: Excluding Bashar al-Assad's most important ally won't halt a widening proxy war

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014   No comments
The United States won a short-term diplomatic victory over Iran this week. Under intense pressure from American officials, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon withdrew an invitation for Iranian officials to attend the Syria peace conference.

Disinviting Tehran is the latest example of the Obama administration’s continual search for easy, risk-free solutions in Syria. As the conflict destabilizes the region, however, Washington must finally face the hard choice: Either compromise with Iran, or decisively support and arm the rebels.
The lack of an Iranian presence in Switzerland this week dooms the talks’ prospects. Whether Tehran’s actions are depraved or not, its comprehensive efforts to supply troops, munitions, and funding to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad makes the Iranian government the key foreign player in the conflict.

“Iran is the sine qua non of the solution,” said an American analyst, who closely follows Syria and spoke on condition of anonymity. “They have to feel comfortable with the outcome—if there is going to be a solution.”
Unless Iran is negotiated with or confronted militarily in Syria, the Geneva talks of 2014 are likely to be as insignificant as those of 1988. Yes, the Assad government is engaging in unspeakable brutality. Hard-line jihadists in the opposition are also carrying out horrific acts. But foreign powers are exacerbating this conflict by pursuing their own rivalries in the region.

All that has changed is that the hundreds dying each week are Syrians, not Afghans.


New Report: 59% of Campuses Maintain Severe Speech Restrictions--But That's Actually an Improvement

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014   No comments
PHILADELPHIA, January 17, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2014 report on campus speech codes today, finding that 59% of the 427 colleges and universities analyzed maintain policies that seriously infringe upon students’ speech rights. For the sixth consecutive year, however, this percentage has dropped. Despite this progress, confusing signals from the federal government have created an unacceptable tension between universities’ twin obligations to protect free speech and to prevent discriminatory harassment.

Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2014: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include:

59% (58.6%) of the 427 schools surveyed have speech codes that clearly and substantially restrict protected speech. (FIRE labels these “red light” schools.) Another 35.6% have “yellow light” policies that overregulate speech on campus.
This represents a nearly 17-point decline in red light schools from six years ago (PDF), when policies at 75% of schools seriously restricted student speech.
The percentage of red light public schools, which are legally bound by the First Amendment, continued to drop, from 61.6% last year to 57.6% this year.
The percentage of red light private schools (which promise free speech but do not deliver it) also fell, from 63.4% last year to 61.5% this year.
In more good news, Eastern Kentucky University eliminated all of its speech codes this year, earning FIRE’s highest, “green light,” rating.
Spotlight on Speech Codes 2014 reports on policies at more than 400 of America’s largest and most prestigious colleges and universities. This year’s report shows that too many universities, including public universities bound by the First Amendment, continue to place substantial restrictions on students’ right to free speech. For example:

The University of South Carolina prohibits “teasing,” “ridiculing,” and “insulting.”
The University of Connecticut requires that “[e]very member of the University shall refrain from actions that intimidate, humiliate, or demean persons or groups, or that undermine their security or self-esteem.”
Florida State University bans any “unwanted, unwelcome, inappropriate, or irrelevant sexual or gender-based behaviors, actions or comments.”

read report

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uruguay's president José Mujica: no palace, no motorcade, no frills; In the week that Uruguay legalises cannabis, the 78-year-old explains why he rejects the 'world's poorest president' label

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014   No comments
Uruguay's president presiding!

If anyone could claim to be leading by example in an age of austerity, it is José Mujica, Uruguay's president, who has forsworn a state palace in favour of a farmhouse, donates the vast bulk of his salary to social projects, flies economy class and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle.

But the former guerrilla fighter is clearly disgruntled by those who tag him "the world's poorest president" and – much as he would like others to adopt a more sober lifestyle – the 78-year-old has been in politics long enough to recognise the folly of claiming to be a model for anyone.

"If I asked people to live as I live, they would kill me," Mujica said during an interview in his small but cosy one-bedroom home set amid chrysanthemum fields outside Montevideo.

The president is a former member of the Tupamaros guerrilla group, which was notorious in the early 1970s for bank robberies, kidnappings and distributing stolen food and money among the poor. He was shot by police six times and spent 14 years in a military prison, much of it in dungeon-like conditions.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Al-Qaeda training British and European 'jihadists' in Syria to set up terror cells at home

    Monday, January 20, 2014   No comments
Al-Qaeda training hundreds of British and European jihadis in Syria - and telling them to return home to set up terror cells
British people fighting in Syria are being trained as “jihadists” and then encouraged to return to the UK to launch attacks on home soil, an al-Qaeda defector and western security sources have told the Telegraph.
In a rare interview on Turkey’s border with Syria, the defector from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) said that recruits from Britain, Europe and the US were being indoctrinated in extremist anti-Western ideology, trained in how to make and detonate car bombs and suicide vests and sent home to start new terror cells.
He has provided the first confirmation from Syrian rebels that young British men are being indoctrinated in extremist anti-Western ideology.

Some of those intent on overthrowing the Syrian regime are being brainwashed by fanatics, the former member of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) warned.
His comments echo the concerns of the security services at a time when it is feared that up to 500 Britons are fighting in Syria and could return to emulate attacks such as the London bombings and 9/11.

Systematic killing evidence in Syria

    Monday, January 20, 2014   No comments
The three, former prosecutors at the criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, examined thousands of Syrian government photographs and files recording deaths in the custody of regime security forces from March 2011 to last August.
Most of the victims were young men and many corpses were emaciated, bloodstained and bore signs of torture. Some had no eyes; others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution.

The 31-page report, which was commissioned by a leading firm of London solicitors acting for Qatar, is being made available to the UN, governments and human rights groups. Its publication appears deliberately timed to coincide with this week's UN-organised Geneva II peace conference, which is designed to negotiate a way out of the Syrian crisis by creating a transitional government.

The UN and independent human rights groups have documented abuses by rebels and government forces, but experts say this evidence is more detailed and on a far larger scale than anything else that has yet emerged from the 34-month crisis

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A new MIT report is challenging the US claim that Assad forces used chemical weapons in an attack last August

    Saturday, January 18, 2014   No comments
A new MIT report is challenging the US claim that Assad forces used chemical weapons in an attack last August, highlighting that the range of the improvised rocket was way too short to have been launched from govt controlled areas.

In the report titled “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence,” Richard Lloyd, a former UN weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), examined the delivery rocket’s design and calculated possible trajectories based on the payload of the cargo.

The authors concluded that sarin gas “could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the ‘heart’, or from the Eastern edge, of the Syrian government controlled area shown in the intelligence map published by the White House on August 30, 2013.”

Based on mathematical calculations, Lloyd and Postol estimate the rocket with such aerodynamics could not travel more than 2 kilometers. To illustrate their conclusion, the authors included the original White House map that depicted areas under Assad control and those held by the opposition. Based on the firing range and troop locations on August 21, the authors conclude that all possible launching points within the 2 km radius were in rebel-held areas.

“This mistaken intelligence could have led to an unjustified US military action based on false intelligence. A proper vetting of the fact that the munition was of such short range would have led to a completely different assessment of the situation from the gathered data,” the report states.

The authors emphasize that the UN independent assessment of the range of the chemical munition is in “exact agreement” with their findings.

The report goes on to challenge the US Secretary of State’s key assessments of the chemical attack that he presented to the American people on August 30th and to the Foreign Relations Committee on September 3rd in an effort to muster a military attack on Syria.

“My view when I started this process was that it couldn’t be anything but the Syrian government behind the attack. But now I’m not sure of anything. The administration narrative was not even close to reality. Our intelligence cannot possibly be correct,” Postol told McClatchy publication.

“The Syrian rebels most definitely have the ability to make these weapons,” he said. “I think they might have more ability than the Syrian government.”

It also remains a mystery why the particular type of rocket that was used in the attack was not declared by the Syrian government as part of its chemical weapons arsenal when it agreed to destroy its chemical weapons and their delivery methods. OPCW inspectors charged with implementing the agreement also did not discover such a rocket in possession of government forces.

Syria agreed to the destruction of its chemical weapons through a deal brokered by Russia and the US after a sarin gas attack on August 21. Western nations blamed the deadly attack on President Bashar Assad’s forces, while Damascus accused the rebels for the incident. The UN fact-finding mission had no mandate to find out who carried out the attack.

Under the UN-backed plan, all of the country’s declared 1,290 tons of toxic agents should be destroyed by June 30. Initially, the first batch of the most dangerous materials was to be moved out of Syria on December 31.

However, the deadline was missed because of the ongoing war in Syria and technical issues. It was only on January 7 that “priority chemical materials” left the Syrian port of Latakia on a Danish ship for international waters.

source: RT

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In pics: Islam celebrates Prophet Muhammad's birthday

    Thursday, January 16, 2014   No comments

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ya'alon: "Secretary of state John Kerry – who arrived here determined, and who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism – can't teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians"

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014   No comments
Israel's defence minister has been forced to apologise for "offensive and inappropriate" remarks, in which he described John Kerry as obsessive and messianic, after the ensuing diplomatic row engulfed the secretary of state's mission to broker a peace deal in the Middle East.

Moshe Ya'alon, an ally of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, had dismissed Kerry's efforts to pursue a peace deal in private conversations with US and Israeli officials, which were reported in the Israeli media. He did not deny the accuracy of the comments.

He added: "The only thing that might save us is if John Kerry wins the Nobel prize and leaves us be."

In a sharp rebuke to Israel, state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "The remarks of the defence minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the US is doing to support Israel's security needs.

"Secretary Kerry and his team  … have been working day and night to try and promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary's deep concern for Israel's future. To question secretary Kerry's motives and distort his proposal is not something we would expect from the defence minister of a close ally."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thierry Meyssan: discovery of links connecting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Al- Qaeda

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014   No comments
Al-Qaeda, NATO’s Timeless Tool
by Thierry Meyssan

The discovery of links connecting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Al- Qaeda is upsetting Turkish politics. Ankara not only actively supported terrorism in Syria, but did so as part of a NATO strategy. For Thierry Meyssan, the case also shows the artificiality of armed groups fighting against the government and the Syrian people.

sSo far, the authorities of the Member States of NATO affirm that the international jihadist movement, whose training they supported during the Afghan war against the Soviets (1979), would have turned against them upon the liberation of Kuwait (1991). They accuse Al-Qaeda of having attacked embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998) and of plotting the attacks of September 11, 2001 but admitted that, after the official death of Osama Bin Laden (2011), some jihadist elements again collaborated with them in Libya and Syria. However, Washington would have ended this tactical rapprochement in December 2012.

Now, this version is contradicted by the facts : Al-Qaeda has always fought the same enemies as the Atlantic Alliance, as reveals once again the scandal currently shaking Turkey.

We are learning that the Al-Qaeda banker, Yasin al-Qadi, who was designated as such and pursued by the United States since the attacks against embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), was a personal friend of both former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We discover that this " terrorist" led a lavish lifestyle, traveling by private plane and mocking UN sanctions against him. Thus, at least four times, he visited Erdoğan in 2012, arriving by the second Istanbul airport where, after disconnecting the cameras, he was welcomed by the head of the Prime Minister’s guard without going through customs.

According to the Turkish police and judges who revealed this information and incarcerated the children of several ministers involved in the case, December 17, 2013 - before being divested of the investigation (relieved of their duties) by the Prime Minister -, Yasin al-Qadi and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had developed an extensive system of diversion of funds to finance al-Qaeda in Syria.


Monday, January 13, 2014

German foreign minister: Geneva II 'useless' without Iran

    Monday, January 13, 2014   No comments
Germany’s voice is once more echoing on the level of international foreign policy. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a veteran German politician, has become once again the leading figure in Berlin’s diplomacy after the formation of a coalition between the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to which he belongs and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

One of the indications of this comeback was Steinmeier’s answer when asked by As-Safir about his views on the Geneva II talks, taking into consideration the conflicts within the opposition and the vagueness surrounding the final goal of the peace conference that has yet to be held. Steinmeier stated that the conference would be useless without the participation of Iran and a balanced participation of the opposition. Also, the conference would be meaningless without deciding on humanitarian corridors to deliver aid to Syria. According to Steinmeier, the corridors issue should have been included in the deal on chemical weapons, which he explicitly criticized.

Steinmeier’s statement came during his first visit to Brussels after his meeting with the leaders of EU institutions, including EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton. Steinmeier discussed with the European Parliament President Martin Schulz the necessity of restoring the integrity of the European policies, which were severely harmed by the financial crisis.

As-Safir interrupted the European visit and asked Steinmeier about the current situation of Geneva talks. Steinmeier began by expressing his uncertainty about the holding of the conference, saying, “First, I hope for the conference to be held. Many parties are currently working for this purpose. I hope the conference will be attended by the participants who are crucial to achieve, at the very least, some sort of significant progress.” He noted, however, that there are no guarantees in terms of achieving the sought after progress: “We cannot say that this [progress] will be achieved. We do not know for sure whether the opposition, or a part of it, is ready to participate in Geneva talks.”

The other reason behind his concern is related to the participation of Iran, which has [thus far] been excluded. Steinmeier put Iran under the category of “necessary participants” for the conference to achieve progress. “We do not know to what extent the neighboring countries of Syria will participate in this process. This affects Iran and its participation in particular. These questions are still prompted. Nevertheless, I hope for [these issues] to be resolved in the upcoming days,” Steinmeier continued.

This rhetoric is different than that adopted by German diplomacy during the era of former Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who warmly welcomed the approach of his US counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry. Westerwelle would not have espoused such a rhetoric or uttered any words that would disturb the work of Kerry, especially in terms of a conference co-brokered by the United States and Russia. Steinmeier, however, has done so.

The veteran politician has been a minister, vice chancellor and parliamentary leader. The German press nicknamed him “the Grey Efficiency,” for his active role behind the scenes, where Steinmeier went beyond causing mere disturbance. His predecessor had always praised the importance of the Syrian chemical deal. Yet, according to Steinmeier, a better deal could have been concluded in exchange for the destruction of chemical weapons to include the opening of humanitarian corridors.

In this regard, Steinmeier said, “We are not satisfied with the deal concluded regarding the destruction of chemical weapons. The next step should be related to opening humanitarian corridors and providing periods of non-fighting to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians.” The cessation of fighting and the delivery of aid are seen by Steinmeier as two crucial conditions to convince the Syrians of the advantages of holding and subsequently supporting the peace conference. “Without hope for these [conditions] to be fulfilled, the public will perceive the conference on Syria as meaningless,” Steinmeier said.

In an assertive tone, he added, “To sum it up, we should work on ensuring that there is indeed still a chance to achieve this kind of progress in Syria.”

Steinmeier assumed the position of foreign minister from 2005 to 2009, and was appointed again for the same position at the end of 2013. When he was the leader of his party’s parliamentary coalition, he reiterated the necessity of focusing on the issue of humanitarian relief and aid. In the middle of last year, he led a campaign with other members of parliament to raise donations and oversaw the distribution of the aid to the Syrian refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Steinmeier noted that in order to achieve progress on the humanitarian level, it is important to ensure the holding of Geneva talks through answering the prompted questions about the representation of the opposition and the participation of Iran. He justifies this by saying, “The killing in Syria will continue and the plight of the Syrians civilians [taking place], not only in Syria, is too severe to be described,” adding, “Whoever was acquainted with the situation in the refugee camps, and that of the refugees themselves in neighboring countries namely Lebanon and Jordan, knows that it is our duty to achieve progress in this regard.”

This article was first published in Arabic on 1/9/2014. Read original article.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Brother's Vengeance: The Preacher Who Could Topple Erdogan; The greatest threat yet to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan comes from a former ally. Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen and his influential followers seem determined to accomplish what the recent protest movement could not: overthrowing the current regime

    Thursday, January 09, 2014   No comments
Turgut Keles loved his premier. He maintained his support of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan through early summer, when demonstrators in Istanbul were protesting the redevelopment of Gezi Park. When Erdogan held a rally for tens of thousands of supporters, Keles was in the first row.

But just half a year later, everything has changed. "Erdogan must go," the former fan now says, adding that the prime minister has "betrayed" millions of Turks. Keles long voted in favor of Erdogan's conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). But his support of the party is exceeded by his admiration of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, the leader of a powerful civic movement that is now at odds with Erdogan.
Keles attended a school founded by Gülen followers, and later studied at one of the movement's universities. The organization helped him find a job, he says. Today, Keles works for a construction company in Istanbul and remains a devoted follower. "Anyone who insults Gülen, insults me," he says.

For a long time, Gülen and Erdogan were allies. This fall, however, the prime minister announced that tutoring centers run by the Gülen movement would be shut down. Erdogan has accused the preacher's supporters of creating a "state within a state," and since then the two sides have been locked in a bitter power struggle. The conflict appears to confirm what many once dismissed as a conspiracy theory -- that in many cases the Gülen movement controls the police and justice system.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A former Guantanamo detainee who was transferred to his home country of Bahrain in 2005 has reportedly joined the jihad in Syria

    Tuesday, January 07, 2014   No comments
Ex-Guantanamo detainee and member of Bahrain's royal family joins Syrian jihad

According to an article in the Bahrain Mirror on Dec. 28, Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifah has "return[ed] to jihad" by joining the Syrian mujahideen.

Citing undisclosed sources, the Bahrain Mirror reported that Sheikh Salman was not appropriately rehabilitated following his release from Guantanamo and was "alienated" from his family. This purportedly explains his trip to Syria, where he has "joined the fight."

But Sheikh Salman first traveled to the Taliban's Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, indicating that he has long been drawn to the jihadist cause.

Sheikh Ibrahim bin Mohammad al-Khalifa, Sheikh Salman's father, was quoted in 2002 as saying that his son was detained by the Americans because he was "accused of sympathizing with al Qaeda."

In a written statement to his combatant review status tribunal at Guantanamo, Sheikh Salman denied any affiliation with al Qaeda or the Taliban. "I am not part of the Taliban or al Qaeda," he wrote. "I am just a student looking to study and I have no involvement with fighting or combatant [sic], or al Qaeda, or Taliban." In a brief letter to American officials, his mother claimed that he traveled to Afghanistan to serve a charity.

Leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessment


Turkish PM Erdogan hit by allegations of son’s meeting with ‘Al Qaeda financier’

    Tuesday, January 07, 2014   No comments
Erdogan and his son, Bilal
An alleged meeting between the son of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a Saudi businessman accused by the United States of being an Al Qaeda financier has intensified the scent of scandal and corruption enveloping the Turkish government.

According to findings by investigators leaked to Turkish media, Yasin Al Qadi is suspected of involvement in a scandal over the sale of land in an upmarket neighbourhood in Istanbul. His alleged meeting last year with Bilal Erdogan could implicate the prime minister’s family in the affair.

U.S. and Iran Face Common Enemies in Mideast Strife: they find themselves on the same side of a range of regional issues surrounding an insurgency raging across the Middle East

    Tuesday, January 07, 2014   No comments
TEHRAN — Even as the United States and Iran pursue negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program, they find themselves on the same side of a range of regional issues surrounding an insurgency raging across the Middle East.

While the two governments quietly continue to pursue their often conflicting interests, they are being drawn together by their mutual opposition to an international movement of young Sunni fighters, who with their pickup trucks and Kalashnikovs are raising the black flag of Al Qaeda along sectarian fault lines in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

The United States, reluctant to intervene in bloody, inconclusive conflicts, is seeing its regional influence decline, while Iraq, which cost the Americans $1 trillion and more than 4,000 lives, is growing increasingly unstable.

At the same time, Shiite-dominated Iran, the magnetic pole for the Shiite minority in the region, has its own reasons to be nervous, with the ragtag army of Sunni militants threatening Syria and Iraq, both important allies, and the United States drawing down its troops in Afghanistan.

On Monday, Iran offered to join the United States in sending military aid to the Shiite government in Baghdad, which is embroiled in street-to-street fighting with radical Sunni militants in Anbar Province, a Sunni stronghold. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he could envision an Iranian role in the coming peace conference on Syria, even though the meeting is supposed to plan for a Syria after the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, an important Iranian ally.

To some, the Iranian moves reflect the clever pragmatism of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, aimed at building their country into a regional power. To others critical of the potential reconciliation, the moves are window dressing aimed at lulling the West into complacency while Tehran pursues nuclear weapons and supports its own jihadists throughout the region.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Moral Case for Ending America's Cold War with Iran: The stakes are higher than restraining Tehran's nuclear program; Improved relations may be our last best hope of ending the Syrian civil war

    Monday, January 06, 2014   No comments
The debate over a final nuclear deal with Iran can be mind-numbingly technical. To what percentage will Tehran be allowed to enrich uranium? What rules will govern inspections of its nuclear sites? Which sanctions will be lifted and how?

But to a large extent, that debate misses the point. Yes, an agreement may contain Iran’s nuclear program somewhat. Yes, it could make the program more transparent. But deal or no deal, Iran will be a threshold nuclear power, able to build a nuke relatively quickly whenever it wants. (Attacking Iran, according to experts like former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, would only speed that process up). One day, I suspect, the people obsessing about the details of an Iranian nuclear deal will look a bit like the people who obsessed about the details of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in 1987. In retrospect, what mattered wasn’t the number of ballistic and cruise missiles each side dismantled. What mattered was ending the cold war.

When the cold war ended, America and the Soviet Union stopped viewing every third-world regime as a chess piece in their global struggle. They realized that by fueling civil wars in countries like Angola and Nicaragua, they were wasting money and subsidizing murder. Once the world’s superpowers scaled back their arms sales and began urging their former proxies to reach political agreements, some of the world’s most horrific wars stopped.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

'Chance of a Century': International Investors Flock to Tehran

    Saturday, January 04, 2014   No comments
By Susanne Koelbl
Since the West reached a landmark deal with Iran on its controversial nuclear program late last year, many Iranians are hoping for an end to sanctions. Western companies are also gearing up do big business.

Daniel Bernbeck has learned that in Tehran there's no point getting worked up about things like the gridlock between Gholhak, his neighborhood in the northern part of the city, and downtown, where his office is located. Here he is again, stuck in traffic, with everyone honking their horns. Tehran is a murderous city, says Bernbeck, even without international sanctions and threats of attack from Israel.

Bernbeck is sitting in a gray SUV. He's a wiry, tall blond man who wears lawyer-like glasses. The only departure from the standard business look is a narrow soul patch on his chin, which suggests a certain degree of individualism. His cell phone rings. Bernbeck's Iranian secretary is on the line. She's expecting him, and the deputy German ambassador has also arrived, along with two investment bankers from London and Hong Kong. They are asking about stock tips for Iran.

"Iranian stocks for Hong Kong?" Bernbeck exclaims with a grin, and then says in his best Farsi: "The same bankers would have said a year ago: You're crazy." Then he asks the driver to hurry up, although it doesn't do any good.

Bernbeck is the head of the German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Tehran. He paves the way for business ties in a country where Western politicians have been trying for decades to make such relationships impossible, especially since 2006.

At the time, the Islamic Republic started to rapidly expand its nuclear program. Intelligence agencies predicted that it would be only a matter of a few years before the Iranians had a nuclear bomb. Arab Gulf states in the region felt threatened, and Israel was determined to go to war with Tehran if a political solution could not be found quickly.

For over five years now, Bernbeck, 50, has been living between these two adversarial worlds, more specifically "on the dark side of Mars, where the cannibals and Holocaust deniers live." Bernbeck says that's how Iran is portrayed in the West.



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