Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SPEECH OF PRESIDENT CRISTINA FERNÁNDEZ DURING THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 69th session

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014   No comments

Summary CRISTINA FERNÁNDEZ, President of Argentina, said
most of the problems facing the world today resulted from a lack of democratic multilateralism. In that context, she welcomed the vote by the Assembly on resolution 68/304, to restructure the foreign debts of all countries. That had long been before the Assembly, which had called for reform of the international financial system and the Security Council. Argentina had previously experienced the kind of economic and financial crisis that had spread throughout the world in 2008, when, in 2001, it had been forced to default on its sovereign debt. Contributing to that collapse were the creditors’ terms that had been forced upon the country. As a result, there had not only been economic collapse, but a social and political implosion as well. Argentina owed 162 per cent of its GDP. Its creditors, having contributed to that, were obligated to shoulder some of the burden.

...

The country had been able to formulate agreements with 92.4 per cent of its creditors, enabling it to improve the condition of its people, she said. Today the IMF recognized that the economic growth rate achieved by Argentina between 2004 and 2011 was the third largest in the world. In fact, Argentina now had the best growth in Latin America, which had been possible because $193 billion in debt had been restructured. Today, it carried one of the lowest debt loads in the world.
However, she added, there were “vulture funds” of individuals who would not participate in the restructuring, but instead turned to the countries indebted to them and chose to go through the court systems. Some reaped more than 1,600 per cent profit over a five-year period. Those “vulture funds” amounted to economic terrorism, creating poverty, misery and hunger through the sin of speculation. For that reason, she called for a convention on multilateralism.
Highlighting the attack on the Israeli Embassy, she said that Argentina had also experienced political terrorism. The country had sought to bring the perpetrators to justice, including through a memorandum negotiated with Iran, enabling the accused Iranian citizens to make statements in Argentina’s courts. Dialogue was essential, and in that context, she recognized the need for a two-State solution in the Middle East. She called on the Assembly to recognize Palestine as a State and full Member of the Assembly, noting that Israel must also be secure within its borders. “In a time of economic vultures and hawks of war, we need more doves of peace,” she said.
Turning to the Security Council, she said that as long as the votes of the five permanent members counted more than those of other countries, nothing would ever be resolved. There would be a real beginning to a solution when the Assembly, where each member had one vote, became the sovereign body of the Organization. As a non-permanent member of the Council, she had questions about who had armed the “bad guys”, some of whom were now starting to cooperate. But one group had led to another, and now there was ISIS. “Where does this come from?” she asked. Some might be able to answer such questions, she said. In closing, she expressed thanks to all who had supported resolution 68/304 in the face of pressure not to do so.

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U.S. senior official: The Syria policy people are so focused on taking down Assad, they were blind to this [ISIL] problem

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014   No comments
U.S. senior official. “The Syria policy people are so focused on taking down Assad, they were blind to this problem.”

By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.
But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”

The White House denies that, but the threat certainly has its attention now as American warplanes pound the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State in hopes of reversing its lightning-swift seizing of territory in Iraq and Syria. Still, even as bombs fall from the sky thousands of miles away, the question of how it failed to anticipate the rise of a militant force that in the space of a few months has redrawn the map of the Middle East resonates inside and outside the Obama administration.

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The United States use of drones strikes under President Obama

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014   No comments



The United States has launched a huge number of drone strikes under President Obama. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Obama says US 'underestimated' rise of ISIS, admits 'contradictory' Syria policy

    Monday, September 29, 2014   No comments
The following is a script of "President Obama" which aired on Sept. 28, 2014. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. L. Franklin Devine, Maria Gavrilovic and Michael Radutzky, producers.

Last week was a long and momentous one in the presidency of Barack Obama. On Monday, he began a bombing campaign with members of an international coalition against ISIS and other terrorist targets in Syria, while continuing airstrikes in northern Iraq. On Wednesday, he addressed the United Nations and laid out his case in the strongest terms for international action against Muslim extremists. By Thursday, his anti-ISIS coalition had grown to more than 60 members, ranging from the Saudis, Jordanians, Emiratis and Europeans who flew missions, to the Irish and Swedes who wrote checks, to the Bulgarians and Egyptians who wished us well.

On Friday, he was back in the White House where he met us in the Diplomatic Reception Room for a conversation that ranged from terror networks to the American economy.

Steve Kroft: A lot of things going on in the world right now. A lot of them bad. You run into people on the street and they say the world is falling apart. You got Syria. You've got Iraq. You've got Ukraine. You've got Ebola. Is this the most difficult period of your presidency, the biggest challenge of your presidency, this period we're in right now?

President Obama: It's a significant period. But if you think about what I walked into when I came into office, we had not only two wars still active, but we also had a world financial system, which was becoming unraveled. And we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. So you know, we've had challenges before. And we've overcome them. That's not to downplay the serious challenges that we do face right now, mostly internationally.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

69th regular session of the General Assembly

    Saturday, September 27, 2014   No comments
GENERAL DEBATE (24-30 September 2014)






Thursday, September 25, 2014

"funding different groups... frankly, a [was] sloppy process" of ousting Assad and led to ISIL’s rise, Kerry says

    Thursday, September 25, 2014   No comments
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/images/news/201409/n_72151_1.jpgU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has placed the blame for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on those who resorted to any means to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, creating what he called a “sloppy process.”

“In the very beginning … when the efforts to oust al-Assad took place, there were people who made calculations that the important thing is to remove al-Assad. Yes, there are some bad apples there, but we want to get him out. And that, unfortunately, resulted in funding different groups, and it was, frankly, a sloppy process,” Kerry told CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour during an interview aired on Sept. 24.

Noting that attempts to oust al-Assad and “get rid of the bad apples” after was a bad idea at the time, Kerry spoke more positively about the situation’s current conditions. He stressed that now the anti-ISIL coalition members, including Arab states, “are all on board.”

“So since then, there’s been a real focus on this financing, and state-sponsored support of these groups, I believe, is over. It has ended. There are still individuals within certain countries who have been funneling money to these groups,” he said. “They realized it morphed into something more ominous, more threatening, and so I think people have really pulled back. There’s a sense of purpose now in this focus against ISIL.”

Kerry said Syria’s president lost legitimacy long ago. “This is not about al-Assad now,” he said.

“This is about ISIL. But we are continuing to train openly, equip and arm the moderate opposition. And over the years, we’ve gotten pretty good at vetting and understand – we’ve done 20 years of this now; we did it in Iraq, we’ve done it in Afghanistan – and our folks know how to separate people and begin to determine to the greatest extent possible who is really moderate and prepared to fight,” Kerry said.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

US ties itself in legal knots to cover shifting rationale for Syria strikes

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014   No comments
US government lawyers have invoked Iraq’s right to self-defence and the weakness of the Assad regime as twin justifications for US bombing in Syria, in a feat of legal acrobatics that may reopen questions over its right to intervene in the bitter civil war.

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released near 24 hours after attacks began, US ambassador Samantha Power argued that the threat to Iraq from Islamic State, known as Isis or Isil, gave the US and its allies in the region an automatic right to attack on its behalf.

“Iraq has made clear that it is facing a serious threat of continuing attacks from Isil coming out of safe havens in Syria,” Power wrote.

“The government of Iraq has asked that the United States lead international efforts to strike Isil sites and military strongholds in Syria in order to end the continuing attacks on Iraq, to protect Iraqi citizens and ultimately to enable and arm Iraqi forces to perform their task of regaining control of the Iraqi borders.”

The brief letter did not mention the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which rested on erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction and arguably contributed to its current instability, but stresses instead the country’s right to self-defence in the face of this new threat.

“The United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing Isil threat to Iraq, including by protecting Iraqi citizens from further attacks and by enabling Iraqi forces to regain control of Iraq’s borders,” it said.

The US also argued that there was legal right to pursue Isis inside Syria due to the weakness of that country’s government – a regime the US has been actively urging be undermined by rebel groups for much of the past two years.

“States must be able to defend themselves, in accordance with the inherent right on individual and collective self-defence, as reflected in article 51 of the UN Charter, when, as is the case here, the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory for such attacks,” Power wrote.

The legal circumlocutions to avoid requesting a UN security council resolution match similar efforts to avoid requesting specific legal authority from Congress.

Fearing that US politicians up for re-election in November may balk at voting for a third military attack on Iraq and being sucked into a Syrian quagmire, the White House has avoided seeking a fresh authorisation of the use of military force, preferring to rely on early authorisations against al-Qaida granted after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Domestic and international legal authority for attacks on ISIL in Syria

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014   No comments
Senior Obama administration officials said on Tuesday that the airstrikes against the Islamic State — carried out in Syria without seeking the permission of the Syrian government or the United Nations Security Council — were legal because they were done in defense of Iraq.

International law generally prohibits using force on the sovereign territory of another country without its permission or authorization from the United Nations, except as a matter of self-defense. American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Islamic State poses no immediate threat to the United States, though they believe that another militant group targeted in the strikes, Khorasan, does pose a threat.

But the senior administration officials said on Tuesday that Iraq had a valid right of self-defense against the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — because the militant group was attacking Iraq from its havens in Syria, and the Syrian government had proved unable or unwilling to suppress that threat. Iraq asked the United States for assistance in defending itself, making the strikes legal, the officials said.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group called on "Muslims" to kill citizens of countries taking part in the US-led anti-ISIL coalition by any means

    Monday, September 22, 2014   No comments
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group called on "Muslims" to kill citizens of countries taking part in the US-led anti-ISIL coalition by any means, in a statement posted online on Monday.
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French -- or an Australian, or a Canadian... including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), then rely upon Allah, and kill him," said Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group's spokesman, in a message released in multiple languages.
"Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military," he said.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the group's call showed once again, "if it needed to be shown, the barbarity of these terrorists, and shows why we must fight them relentlessly..." In a statement, he added, using an Arabic acronym for the militants: "We must also eliminate the risk that Daesh represents to our security."
The United States and France are carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets across Iraq and are seeking to build an international coalition against a group increasingly perceived as a global threat.
The jihadists, who have declared a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria, control swathes of territory in both countries.
The group is regarded as the most violent and powerful in modern jihad. It has executed hundreds of Iraqis and Syrians, as well as foreign hostages, and its brutal campaign has forced more than a million from their homes.
Adnani's message -- which was released in an Arabic audio recording, together with transcripts in English, French and Hebrew -- gave instructions on how the killings could be carried out without military equipment.
"Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him," the ISIS spokesman said.
Adnani also praised militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, calling on them to "cut the throats" of those fighting for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
"O America, O allies of America, and O crusaders, know that the matter is more dangerous than you have imagined and greater than you have envisioned," he said.
"We have warned you that today we are in a new era, an era where the (Islamic) State, its soldiers, and its sons are leaders not slaves."
Al-Adnani also taunted US President Barack Obama and other Western "crusaders" in a statement carried by the SITE monitoring website, saying their forces faced inevitable defeat at the insurgents' hands.
Adnani mocked Western leaders over their deepening military engagement in the region and said Obama was repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
"If you fight it (Islamic State), it becomes stronger and tougher. If you leave it alone, it grows and expands. If Obama has promised you with defeating the Islamic State, then Bush has also lied before him," Adnani said, according to the transcript.
Addressing Obama directly, Adnani added: "O mule of the Jews, you claimed today that America would not be drawn into a war on the ground. No, it will be drawn and dragged ... to its death, grave and destruction."
While Obama has ruled out a combat mission, military officials say the reality of a protracted campaign in Iraq and possibly Syria may ultimately require greater use of US troops, including tactical air strike spotters or front-line advisers embedded with Iraqi forces.
In his statement, Adnani criticized Kurdish fighters who are battling ISIS militants in both Syria and Iraq.
"We do not fight Kurds because they are Kurds. Rather we fight the disbelievers amongst them, the allies of the crusaders and Jews in their war against the Muslims," Adnani said.
He added that there were many Muslim Kurds within the ranks of ISIS' army.
On Monday, Syrian Kurdish fighters halted an advance by ISIS to the east of a predominantly Kurdish town near the border with Turkey, a spokesman for the main Kurdish group said.
Adnani also condemned Saudi Arabia, whose senior Muslim clergy have denounced ISIS and whose ruling royal family has joined other Arab states in a pledge to tackle militant ideology as part of a strategy to counter the group.

source: alakhbar

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hezbollah Drones Target Al-Nusra Front's Positions at Syrian Border

    Sunday, September 21, 2014   No comments

During the operations Hezbollah pounded positions of the radical Syrian rebels on the outskirts of the Northeastern town of Arsal using drones, heavy fire and cannons.
At least 23 terrorists were killed and tens of others were injured, while ground troops arrested several terrorists in another part of the operations.
Also the Hezbollah forces repelled an attack by the terrorists in Ra's al-Ma'rah region and Nahlah heights.
This was the first time ever that the Hezbollah resistance group used drone to bomb the terrorists. The resistance group formerly used drones for reconnaissance missions.
The attacks also killed Abu Laith al-Shami, a Lebanese national and ringleader of one of the terrorist groups.
The operations were conducted after the al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility late Saturday for an attack that targeted a Hezbollah checkpoint in Northeast Lebanon. The terrorist group said the attack destroyed a 57 millimeter cannon but did not elaborate. 
At least three were killed in a suicide bombing which targeted a Hezbollah checkpoint in East Lebanon Saturday evening, security sources said.
But Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said the blast left no casualties.
The bombing, which occurred in the village of Khreibeh near the border with Syria, came one day after the killing of three Army soldiers in the Bekaa Valley.

How Qatar is funding the rise of Islamist extremists

    Sunday, September 21, 2014   No comments
Qaradawi, Qatar asset
The fabulously wealthy Gulf state, which owns an array of London landmarks and claims to be one of our best friends in the Middle East, is a prime sponsor of violent Islamists

Few outsiders have noticed, but radical Islamists now control Libya's capital. These militias stormed Tripoli last month, forcing the official government to flee and hastening the country's collapse into a failed state.

Moreover, the new overlords of Tripoli are allies of Ansar al-Sharia, a brutal jihadist movement suspected of killing America's then ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and of trying to murder his British counterpart, Sir Dominic Asquith.

Barely three years after Britain helped to free Libya from Col Gaddafi's tyranny, anti-Western radicals hold sway. How could Britain's goal of a stable and friendly Libya have been thwarted so completely?

Step forward a fabulously wealthy Gulf state that owns an array of London landmarks and claims to be one of our best friends in the Middle East.

Qatar, the owner of Harrods, has dispatched cargo planes laden with weapons to the victorious Islamist coalition, styling itself "Libya Dawn".

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Turkish President and Prime Minister offer different explanations for the release of the 49 Turkish hostages held by ISIL near Modul

    Saturday, September 20, 2014   No comments
Turkish President and Prime Minister offer different explanations for the release of the 49 Turkish hostages held by ISIL near Mosul. While Erdoğan claimed that the hostages were "freed", his prime minister released a statement earlier suggesting that they were handed over.
When ISIL is killing hostages from U.S., U.K., and Lebanon, it stands to reason why only Turkey and Qatar are managing to have hostages "handed over". 
The role of Turkey in at least shielding ISIL and Nusra in Syria and Iraq, if not providing them with support, become more credible. Minimally, Turkey's intelligence must have infiltrated the two groups for them to be able to "free" or "secure the "release" of hostages without paying any price.


News reports:
Nearly 50 hostages being held by Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq have been freed after more than three months in captivity and are now in Turkey.

The 46 Turks and three local Iraqis were seized in Mosul on 11 June, when the Isis overran the region and stormed the Turkish Consulate. They included diplomatic staff and children.

The exact details of their rescue are still unclear, but President Tayyip Erdogan described the mission to free them as a covert rescue operation. All of the hostages are believed to be in good health

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who cut short an official visit to Azerbaijan to travel to Sanliurfa, hugged the freed hostages before boarding a plane with them to the capital Ankara.

"After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country," he said after their release.

read the news report  1>>

Turkey's President, PM differ in defining the rescue of hostages

Turkey’s top two leaders, the president and the prime minister, differed in describing the release process of 49 hostages with the former calling it “an operation” while the latter stressed “it was a result of contacts.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s written statement about the release of the hostages, points at an operation conducted by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). “Our consul in Mosul, his family and Turkish citizens at the consulate who had been abducted have been freed by a successful operation,” Erdoğan said.
news report 2 >>
Mosul hostages freed in ‘entirely Turkish operation'
Forty-six Turkish hostages, who were brought to Turkey on Saturday, were rescued from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants as a result of an "entirely national" operation conducted by the foreign operations department of National Intelligence Organization (MİT), according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

The hostages seized by ISIL militants in June were brought back to Turkey on Saturday after more than three months in captivity. The hostages, including Turkey's consul-general, diplomats' children and special forces soldiers, were brought to the southern Turkish city of Şanlıurfa in the early hours of the morning.

The hostages, according to a Reuters report, were released at the town of Tel Abyad on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after traveling from the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIL's stronghold.
news report 3 >>

Exclusive: Isis Starts Recruiting in Istanbul’s Vulnerable Suburbs
When Deniz Sahin’s ex-husband phoned out of the blue to say he wanted to see their two young children, the call came as a welcome surprise. The father, a former alcoholic, who had kicked his addiction and turned instead to fundamentalist Islam, had shown little interest in his children for the past year, but she thought they missed him.

“I told him not to be more than two hours,” says 28-year-old Deniz, who weeps silently as she pores over photographs of Halil Ibrahim, 4, and Esma Sena, 10. After their father, Sadik, picked them up from their home in Kazan, near Turkey’s capital Ankara, in April, she never saw them again.

In one of the pictures, which were sent by Sadik a week after their disappearance, a smiling Halil Ibrahim clutches a pistol. The index finger of his other hand is held skyward in a gesture associated with the Middle East’s most feared armed group: the so-called Islamic State, also known by its former acronym Isis. The children now live with their jihadist father in Syria’s Isis-controlled Raqqa province. They are among an unknown number of Turks – potentially in the thousands – being abducted or lured into Syria and Iraq either to populate Isis’ self-declared caliphate or to fight in its bloody sectarian war.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Airstrike Uncertainties: Obama's Dangerously Vague New War

    Friday, September 19, 2014   No comments
The City of Rabbits. That is the bucolic alias once attached to the Syrian town of Marea. But it is no longer in use. Now, one of the most important frontlines in the war in northern Syria runs through the town. Some 5,000 rebels have established themselves in the potato fields surrounding Marea in an effort to stop Islamic State jihadists from continuing their advance on Aleppo.

Thus far, they have been successful -- thanks largely to assistance from the US. In Marea, an American-supported rebel command center coordinates the rebels' defense. The entire front is divided into sectors, which are each under the control of a single group. They have names like "Defenders of the Faith," "Islamic Front" and "Nureddin Senki Brigade" and are fairly obscure. Even so, they now have satellite images, ammunition for Kalashnikovs and larger caliber weapons, night-vision devices and provisions. A few anti-tank rockets also arrived a few months ago.

All of the materiel was provided to the fighters by the US. The CIA has established a military operations center in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli which it uses to support Syrian rebels. Those given a green rating by the CIA receive both arms and a salary. Those coded yellow receive help but no weapons. Those marked red receive nothing. Nine groups with a total of around 10,000 fighters are now said to be operating north of Aleppo to stop the march of the Islamic State.

Witnesses who have visited the operations center and who work with the US. have described a curious alliance -- the cast of characters ranges from bearded Islamists to defected army officers. The fighters aren't radical. They aren't exactly secular either. Above all, they aren't corrupt; they are disciplined and capable.

Waiting for Air Strikes

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Transcript: Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's Full NPR Interview: the net income of the United States from these sanctions

    Friday, September 19, 2014   No comments
NPR's Steve Inskeep interviewed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday about negotiations over Iran's nuclear weapons program, the U.S. approach to combating extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, and Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter currently in custody in Iran. A full transcript of the interview follows:

STEVE INSKEEP: Let me begin with the nuclear negotiations. Obviously there are many tactical details to work out, but I'd like to get your sense of the attitude. Do you believe, after all the years that you've worked on this issue, that you've arrived in a moment when both countries — the United States and Iran — are ready to make a deal?


MOHAMMED JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I thought everybody was ready to make a deal. And the primary reason that I thought that was the case was that we had all tried all the wrong options. And as Churchill said after having trying all the wrong options, I'd hoped that we would use the right option. And I still believe that's a possibility. The only problem is how this could be presented to some domestic constituencies — primarily in the United States, but even in places in Europe — that could please them, or some may say could appease them because some of them are not interested in any deal.

You're talking about people in the United States who feel that a deal with Iran is a bad idea.

Yeah. So if they think any deal with Iran is a bad idea, there's no amount of — I don't want to call it concession — no amount of assurance that is inherent in any deal that could satisfy them, because they're not interested in a deal, period. And they'll try to use excuses to kill a deal. But I think if you compare any deal with a no deal, it's clear that a deal is much preferable. We have had almost 10 years of trying to help one another in the nuclear area, and the net result has been nothing to be proud of. If the United States believes that sanctions have been so effective, then it should answer the question, those who are pushing for continued sanctions and more sanctions, to see what these sanctions have achieved. Have they achieved any of the policy goals that they intended to achieve? That is — the two policy goals that they wanted to achieve were, the obvious one, the stated one, was to push Iran into abandoning its nuclear program. It was never a nuclear weapons program. It was a peaceful program and Iran did not abandon it. If at the time of the imposition of sanctions, we had less than a couple of hundred centrifuges, now we have about 20,000. So that's the net outcome. If the hidden intention of these sanctions was to create a wedge between the government and the populous, than that proved to be erroneous, too, because last year in the presidential elections 73 percent of the population participated in the presidential election, putting their trust in the government.

And voted for a man who said he wanted better relations with the West.

And voted for a man who said he wanted better relations with the West because he believed the previous president mismanaged this thing. He never said he that "I'm going to abandon the nuclear program." He said that the approach that the previous government had to this was not an approach that was commensurate with the problem and that is why it had to be changed.

Foreign Minister, you mention that there are people in both countries who are reluctant to make a deal — you said primarily in the United States. But many people have noted that Iran's supreme leader, Khamenei, has made a number of statements voicing skepticism about these negotiations. Shortly before this conversation began, there was a message on his Twitter feed saying that negotiations have been damaging. What are we in the United States to make of that?

Well, the fact is that the United States government has shown such an, for the lack of a better word, infatuation with sanctions that it has continued imposing sanctions even though it had promised in the Geneva Plan of Action, which we adopted last November, not to impose new sanctions. Now of course Americans are very good in finding technicalities and fine print so that they could justify that these are not new sanctions, but the fact of the matter is that the Iranian people believe that the United States has been less than honest in dealing with this issue, has imposed new sanctions, however they frame it. And that is why the supreme leader has said — the Iranian public in general is skeptical about the United States, and let me give you one example. Last week, an Iranian patient who must have been an admirer of the United States sent a blood sample to the United States for a second opinion. Of course, we have our laboratories.

This was — he had a medical issue, you're saying.

Yeah, he had a medical issue. He took a blood test, tested it in Iranian laboratories, which are quite good, but he wanted a second opinion, and he sent the sample to the United States. And the laboratory refused to test that blood sample because Iran was under sanctions. This is the message that the United —- this is the net income of the United States from these sanctions. That somebody and his family who must have been admirers of the United States, otherwise they wouldn't have sent their blood sample to the United States, are now resentful, if not hateful, of the United States because of what has been done. So if you see people and their leaders skeptical of the way the United States deals with issues, it's because the United States is so wedded to its coercion. Whether it's military coercion, or whether it's economic coercion, that it even blinds the United States to finding a solution that addresses U.S. interests.

Should we believe that Iran's governing structure is ready to make an agreement?

If Iran's governing structure was not ready to make an agreement, we would not have had several reports of the [International Atomic Energy Agency) IAEA, one after another, saying that Iran has lived up to all its commitment. There is no international mechanism to measure how the United States has lived up to its commitment, if there were, I'm sure the United States would have gotten a failing score.

So are you ready?

We are ready. We are ready to stick to the negations. We are ready to stay with the negotiations until the very last minute. We are ready for a good deal, and we believe a good deal is in hand. We only need two sides to be able to have a deal — two willing sides.

Without getting into too many complexities, one issue is how long Iran might suspend its nuclear enrichment program. You have been quoted saying that you might be willing to put on the table a suspension of three to seven years. U.S. officials have talked about a longer period, something like a decade or more, which is a difference, but to an outsider does not seem like an insurmountable difference. Do you believe the two sides are close?

We are not talking about suspension. We're talking about limiting Iran's nuclear program. Now, again, it's a problem of perception. Iran has the capability to produce centrifuges. It's not like a country that imports its technology. We have developed—thanks to the United States sanctions and pressures — we have developed our own indigenous technology. So we are capable of producing — talking about numbers and years is, in my view, an extraneous issue. What we need to do is to put in place mechanisms to ensure that Iran would never produce nuclear weapons. We are prepared to put those mechanisms in place. If you say that Iran should abandon its enrichment program, you cannot abandon science. You cannot abandon technology. We have learned this. So the best way is to make sure that this technology is used in a transparent fashion for a peaceful program.

You have eloquently stated Iran's basic position throughout these negotiations that it needs to be about transparency, but that Iran insists upon its rights. Nevertheless, you are in a situation of working out an agreement detail by detail about exactly what Iran will do. Do you believe that in those technical details the two sides are close?

I don't think we're close, but I think we can be. The fact that we're not close means that the United States and some of its Western allies are pushing for arbitrary limitations which have no bearing whatsoever on whether Iran can produce a nuclear weapon or not. What we are prepared to offer and what we have offered are actual scientific methods of ensuring that Iran will never produce a nuclear bomb. We've said that we don't want a nuclear bomb. We've made it clear that in our nuclear doctrine — in our defense doctrine — nuclear weapons not only do not augment our security, but in fact are detrimental to our security. We make that very clear. And there is a very sound, strategic argument. And let me tell you something, and tell your listeners who are sophisticated, that it is not conducive to tell governments in the developing world that by having nuclear weapons you increase your power. It's theoretically wrong, and even if it was theoretically not wrong, for powers who are interested in non-proliferation, you should continue to say that nuclear weapons do not augment anybody's security. They create a panacea sort of — that with nuclear weapons you resolve all your problems. You gain domestic security. You gain external security. And this is just a panacea. Is Israel secure — in a secure situation because of its nuclear weapons? Did nuclear weapons secure the United States from 9/11? So let's be realistic. We are in a region that nuclear weapons would only reduce and diminish our security. And that's a very calculated, strategic doctrine which some people fail to understand here.

Foreign minister, let me ask about the fight against ISIS. As you know very well, the threat posed by that group was considered so grave that the government changed in Iraq.

No. No. No, let me correct you there. The government did not change. You had an election in Iraq. The people of Iraq had elected members of the Parliament.

And they changed the prime minister.

They changed the prime minister. They might have changed the prime minister even without this threat because that's the procedure. The previous prime minister was in office for two consecutive terms. Now somebody from his own party is now prime minister. It's not someone else from an opposition party. Somebody from his own party through the Iraqi political process was chosen as prime minster. So I do not want anybody, particularly not the terrorists, to believe that the Iraqi government or the international community rewarded the terrorists by changing the Iraqi prime minister.

Nevertheless it was concluded that it was time for new leadership in order to more effectively unify Iraq and face this threat from ISIS. Why would it not be a good idea also to change leadership in Syria to more effectively unify Syria against that threat?

Well, I believe it is important for people to look at the realities on the ground. Let the Iraqi people decide about their government, and let the Syrian people decide about their government. If people from outside... We are the country with the greatest influence in Iraq, and we said from the very beginning that we will not intervene in the Iraqi people's decision on electing their government. And we insisted on this, and we remained with this until the last day. We helped the Iraqis. We engaged in consultations with the Iraqis. We helped coordinate with various Iraqi groups. I went to Iraq myself. I went to Sunni quarters. I went to Shia quarters. I even went to Kurdistan. We spoke to everybody. But we did not impose anything on the Iraqi people. I believe the same should be the case with the Syrians. The Syrian people should determine who will govern them. I believe people have entrenched themselves, particularly in the West, in arbitrary positions that have made Syrian people pay with their blood. Why didn't they allow the Syrians to decide for themselves. It's because the United States is not confident that if there were a free and fair election even monitored by the United Nations and the international community, anybody other than the current president would have won the votes of the Syrian people. That's why they want to be judged the outcome of the democratic process. I believe what they should insist — and that is why Iran six months ago proposed a four-point plan which would call for cease-fire, would call for a national unity government, it called for revising the constitution so that you would disperse power rather than centralize it in one person, and then to have an election monitored, supervised by the international community. Why didn't they accept that? Why did they even dis-invite Iran from Geneva too because of the fact that we did not accept a precondition for the Syrian government to leave.

Let's avoid that word: impose. You said you don't want to impose a solution on other countries. Nevertheless you acknowledge that you have influence. Would you not use your influence to encourage Syria to push forward new leadership that might unify the country?

Eh, I do not believe that's our job to do. It's the job of the Syrian people to do. We were prepared and we continued to be —

But you use your influence a lot.

No. No, we do use our influence, and we did use our influence. Otherwise, the four-point plan that we proposed about six months ago required us to spend a lot of political capital in Syria, had the west and particularly the neighbors accepted that proposal. Unfortunately they insisted on a precondition, a precondition that at the end of the day has caused the death of so many people in Syria. Because without that precondition, without the precondition that one of the sides...

That Assad must go.

That Assad must go. Without that precondition we could have had a deal long time ago. But people entrench themselves in a situation that precluded even the possibility of listening to alternates.

You've met with Bashar al-Assad. You're very familiar with the situation. Has he been a good leader of Syria?

Well, it's for the Syrian people to decide.

But what do you think?

... people outside Syria. If you want to put yourself in his position, he would tell you that, "I knew these people all along. I knew who I was being, who I was facing. I knew ISIL."

ISIS.

"I knew their true colors. It's you who are now repenting."

Didn't he let some of these people out of Syrian jails?

I use, I use the Paris conference as the coalition of repenters. These are the people who armed ISIL, who financed ISIL, now they want, all of a sudden, to fight ISIL. They're the ones who have to explain why they chose the wrong policy for the last three years. Actually for some of them for the last 11 years, because, as you know, ISIL was created not by Bashar al-Assad, but by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. If you remember Zarqawi, who is the founder of this very heinous movement, he was the product of American invasion, not of Bashar al-Assad.

I would like Americans to better understand how you view the world and Iran's situation in it. Americans commonly see Iran as expansive, as aggressive, as reaching out into countries like Iraq and Syria and Lebanon. But help us understand how you see it. Do you see Iran at this moment as a country that is surrounded by threats?

Well, we live in a dangerous neighborhood. But we have been a very responsible regional power. We have helped countries in the region. We have not used coercion. We have never expanded for the last 300 years, almost three centuries. Iran has not waged a war against anybody. We have defended ourselves, but we have never waged a war against no country. We are the largest, most powerful country in our immediate neighborhood. We go out of our way to convince our neighbors that we want to have good neighborly relations. Now, unfortunately there has been an environment of suspicion, partially fed by the conception that you can buy security from outside. That's a perception, and that's an illusion. You cannot buy security.

Who has that perception?

Some people with a lot of money.

Saudi Arabia for example?

Usually, usually when you have a lot or money you have the illusion that that money can buy everything. So when you have a lot of power — the United States has a lot of military power and believes its coercive power can win it a lot of things, and it has failed time and again to achieve that. So we see this and we see the possibility that Iran can play a positive role in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon as a force, as an influence that works with the people of these regions. That's why I'm saying that we cannot impose a government on Iraq, we cannot impose a government on Syria, we cannot impose a government on Lebanon. It's the work of the Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi people as it is the work of the people of Afghanistan to elect their government. We have influence in all these countries, but we've never tried to tell them that this man should be your prime minister or your president or your leader.

But if you look at, say, Saudi Arabia, do you see — and this, I'm hearing this in some of the remarks that you've made — do you see the Saudis supporting ISIS in some way on one side of you, supporting certain groups in Pakistan on another side of you, effectively trying to surround you?

Well, there are certainly indications, if not evidence, that they have. But I'm looking to the future, not to the past. And I'm hoping that now that everybody sees this as a common threat, as a common challenge, that Iran and Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region can work together in order to deal with this challenge. And dealing with this challenge does not mean aerial bombardment. Dealing with this challenge means to stop creating the type of atmosphere of hatred and resentment that creates this type of monstrosity in our region.

I want to ask a question about what's happening on the ground in Iraq, foreign minister, because, as you know, the United States has sent advisers and is sending more. Iran also has troops or forces —-

We don't have troops. We also have military advisers in Iraq ...

Military advisers.

... and we provide military assistance to Iraq ...

Including the head of the Iran revolutionary guard.

As advisers. We also provide military assistance. This is on the request of the Iraqi government. We were the first as Barzani said in his joint press conference with me...

The Kurdish leader.

The Kurdish leader. When the Iraqi Kurdistan came under the threat of ISIL, Iran was the first to send advisers and equipment. Everybody else came long, long after.

So we have Iran and the United States both advising Iraqi forces. Have you worked out some way to work together or at least make sure that you communicate — don't trip over each other, have some accidental confrontation?

We are there to help the Iraqis. The Iraqis coordinate with whoever they want. They are a sovereign government, and we trust their choice. We help the Iraqi government, we help the Iraqi people, in whatever way we can. Whatever the Iraqis want to do with other countries is their choice.

Could there be a situation where in some military headquarters in Iraq there's an American advisor standing there and an Iranian advisor standing five feet away?

I don't think so because I do not believe that the type of activity that the United States is interested in engaging in is similar to helping Iraqis defend their territory.

What is the difference between Iran's approach and the U.S.?

We work with the people. We work with the government. We don't tell them what to do. We don't instruct them what to do. We help. We help in whatever way we can. And that makes us quite different from the United States.

The United States is a major military power, probably the greatest military power on the face of the earth. That has created an illusion in the United States that it can coerce, that it can order people around, that it can instruct people on how to deal with their problems. That's not how we see ourselves. We see ourselves as a friend of the Iraqis, a friend of Iraqi Shias, a friend of Iraqi Sunnis and a friend of Iraqi Kurds. And we have helped all various groups in Iraq in defending their territory against these terrorists.

Do you see the United States and Iran, whatever the policy differences, having the same basic interests when it comes to ISIS or ISIL?

Well, I know the Iranian interest. It's for the United States to articulate its own interests. Our interest is to have a region free from extremism and terrorism. If that is how the United States defines its interests, then there may be a commonality. We have not seen that unfortunately, because we continue to see United States hesitation in dealing with this terrorist group when it comes to Syria. If this is a dangerous terrorist group which engages in these types of heinous crimes against people of their own country, of the west, of the United States, of everywhere, then they should not have double standards about them. We have not witnessed that. We see that the United States hesitates in dealing with this group when it comes to Syria. So, whether there is commonality of interest, or whether there is, on our side, we are in the region, we don't have a choice. We need to live with this threat, or deal with this threat. For the United States, it may see this, in my view, erroneously, as an option. The United States is dealing with this as an option. The option in Iraq. The option in Syria. There are no options here. This is a challenge that you need to deal with it squarely and seriously and not based on double standards.

Are you saying the United States is not being forceful enough in this situation?

The United States is not being serious, because you cannot deal with a terrorist group whose bases are in Syria based on this illusion that you can have, as you say, your cake and eat it, too. That you can have this pressure on the Syrian government which has been the only force that has resisted. Had it been for the United States policy, had the United States been able to conduct its policy, today we would have had [ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] Mr. Baghdadi not sitting in Mosul but sitting in Damascus. But thanks to people who recognized this threat from early on, now we do not have him sitting in Damascus. If the United States can determine for itself how it wants to deal with terrorists, then we have a very different situation.

So you think President Obama ought to reach an accommodation with President Assad of Syria?

No, I think President Obama needs to reach an accommodation with reality. That's what we need. We don't want to impose people on anybody. We need to deal with realities, and we believe that the interest of the United States, the interest of peace and security in the world is not served by a double-edged policy where you deal with ISIL in one way in Syria and a different way in Iraq.

A couple of other matters, foreign minister, and I'll let you go. Jason Rezaian, an American correspondent for the Washington Post, was taken into custody in some form in Iran over the summer, hasn't been heard from in a couple of months, what information if any can you give us about him?

Well, Jason Rezaian is also an Iranian citizen.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship. And if you look at your own passport, it says in your passport that if you have dual citizenship and you go to the country of your origin, then you are subjected to the laws of that country. Whatever he has done, and I'm not in a position, nor do I have information to share with you about what his charges are, but whatever he has done, he has done as an Iranian citizen, not as an American citizen. And he is facing interrogation in Iran for what he has done as an Iranian citizen.

Now, I hope that all detainees will be released. I believe that it is in the interest of everybody to work for a more positive atmosphere. And that's what I've done in the past several months. But I believe that people have to face justice, if they committed crimes. Of course if he didn't commit any crimes as an Iranian citizen, then it is our obligation as the government of Iran to seek his release.

I understood you to say that he is being interrogated on suspicion of some crime and you say you don't know what the crime is?

I don't know, because if he is arrested — which he is — and the Tehran Judiciary has — which is an independent branch of government from the executive — has said that he is under arrest, under interrogation, then he must be charged at a certain point with a crime.

Just to be clear, with all of its flaws, the United States justice system in most instances requires that if someone is to be held, there must be a charge before very many days have passed. You must find out why it is that the authorities are holding a person. We have a situation here where the government of Iran, using its own rules, has held a man without any explanation for months.

No, we have no obligation — the judiciary has no obligation to explain to the United States why it is detaining one of its citizens. His lawyers know. He knows his charge. I'm not supposed to know, but he knows his charge. Now let me tell you that there are Iranian citizens who have committed no crime, and they are being held in countries in East Asia on pressure from the United States. One of them died in prison a couple of month ago, for a crime that he didn't commit. It's not a crime to violate U.S. sanctions in Malaysia or in Philippines or in Thailand. It's not a crime. U.S. sanctions are only applicable on U.S. territory. If somebody tries to buy night vision goggles, for instance, in Malaysia, they have not violated... they've not committed any crimes. One of them died in a jail in Philippines under pressure from the United States for extradition. Now, do I have a better case than people who are asking us why we held an Iranian prison, an Iranian citizen in an Iranian court? These are two different issues. So let's, let's deal with realities. I, for one, I know Jason personally. As a reporter, he has worked with me, and I know him. And I know him to be a fair reporter. So I had hoped all along that his detention would be short, and I continued to try to make it shorter, than longer. But the point that needs to be made is that an Iranian citizen is being held by Iranian authorities on suspicions dealing with Iranian law.

Should other...

And nobody's water boarding him.

Should other Iranian Americans who are accustomed to the U.S. justice system be concerned about traveling back to Iran, as many do, and disappearing?

If they've not committed any crimes, no. If, if they've not committed any crimes that are punishable in Iranian judicial system, no they shouldn't.

But here we have a man who hasn't even been accused of a crime that we know of.

Well, you don't know of him being accused of a crime. It doesn't mean that he wasn't accused of a crime in the proper procedures of the Iranian judicial system.

One other thing, foreign minister, you, personally, have made quite effective use of Twitter, sending messages about Jews, sending messages about a variety of things. You've gotten quite a lot of attention for that. When do you think the moment will arrive when the people of Iran, more broadly, will be able to make freer use of that platform or other social media than they're allowed to do now?

Well, that's an issue — you, you know where I come from. So I can try to explain for you, and for your listeners, the social atmosphere within which that decision-making should take place. In Iran, a large segment of Iranian population who are very traditional believe that it is the job of the government, the responsibility of the government to create social conditions that are safe. That the children, when they go on the Internet, do not face profanity, do not face prostitution, do not face pornography, so that it is the job of the government to create a barrier for them, to create that social security net for them. And the debate in Iran on how this can be done is an ongoing debate. It's far from being settled. It's clear where I stand on that debate, but I do not, nor does the government, determine the outcome of a domestic, social debate. It's a social debate that needs to be addressed. Even when we introduced high-speed mobile internet, there were a lot of objections from more traditional center in Iran. So that's an ongoing process and I hope at the end of the day, from my perspective as an Iranian citizen, not necessarily as an Iranian official, that one day these platforms will be free. It doesn't mean the Iranian people don't have access to platforms such as these. But I hope that as we go along we can reach that social consensus.

You mentioned concern for children, there's that same concern in the United States, foreign minister. In Iran, isn't this really about the concern that the government has — that there will be criticism of the government on these platforms?

Not really, because if you look at criticism of the government, just open any newspaper in Iran and it's filled with criticism of the government. So of one group in the government of another tendency in the government, so it depends on which newspaper you pick. You pick a newspaper close to the government, you will see criticism of our opposition. You pick up a newspaper from the opposition, you'll see very, the harshest possible... even allegations, even, eh.....

They're sometimes jailed, though. People from opposition papers.

Eh, well, not in this government. Certainly this government does not believe in jailing anybody for expressing their views. If people commit a crime, and there should be a proper procedure for investigating a crime for reaching a conclusion, based on the rule of law, then they should face punishment. Not saying that our legal system is perfect. I mean, you've gone through, after 200 years, or over 200 years of established legal procedures here in the United States. You went through water boarding. You went through situations that were less than adequate protection under the law. Now we have the same situation. We're only 35 years into this new system where we respect the rights of the people. Now we have deficiencies, a whole range of deficiencies. We can improve, and we should improve, and hopefully we will improve. But it doesn't mean that anybody for expressing their views is jailed in Iran. That's far from reality. That's a caricature that people ... If somebody wants to say Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo are reflections of the American justice system, nobody in the United States would buy that. So what people are saying here is not a reflection, maybe an aberration. But the fact is that the same people, 73 percent of them, went to the vote and voted for a president. That means that they trust their government, and people should come to live with that, should accept that as a reality. That's something, that's a phenomenon that is unprecedented in our region. For the past 35 years, every president in Iran has presided over the election of his opposition to office. For the past 35 years. In four consecutive presidential elections after two terms, every president has elected his opposition to office. So that tells you that there are accepted rules and norms in Iran and we need to come to terms with that.

I've kept you far too long. I want to ask one final, brief question if I may. Forgive me. I want people to know that you've lived in the United States, that you lived in San Francisco, that you lived in Colorado, that you have children in the United States.

I don't have children in the United States. I have children who were born in the United States. My children live in Iran.

You're children born in the United States. We could talk all day about the differences between the two countries. Is there one similarity between the two countries that you've noticed that people might not realize?

I think there are a lot of similarities. We are both proud people, interested in the future of our children, interested in having peace, security, interested in being respected. I think there are a lot of similarities. I think in the entire world, what joins us together is far greater than what divides us. Of course there are differences between governments. That doesn't mean the Iranian people are different from the American people. More similar than people want to believe.

Foreign Minister Zarif, thank you very much.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another "Islamic bank" is declared bankrupt; Erdoğan declares Bank Asya 'bankrupt' amid stock exchange chaos

    Thursday, September 18, 2014   No comments
“They say there are efforts being made to sink a bank. There is no work being done to sink a bank. This bank is already bankrupt. But they are trying to keep it afloat with a few buckets of water,” Erdoğan told a meeting of Turkey's largest business group, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD), in İstanbul.

Bank Asya's shares were suspended twice on Thursday afternoon after shares rose as much as 11 percent in the morning. Trading on Bank Asya shares resumed on Monday -- following a five-week suspension -- and has decreased by more than 40 percent since then. The shares rose for the first time since the trading resumed this week, increasing by 7.8 percent to TL 0.69.


“They say there are efforts being made to sink a bank. There is no work being done to sink a bank. This bank is already bankrupt. But they are trying to keep it afloat with a few buckets of water,” Erdoğan told a meeting of Turkey's largest business group, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD), in İstanbul.

Bank Asya's shares were suspended twice on Thursday afternoon after shares rose as much as 11 percent in the morning. Trading on Bank Asya shares resumed on Monday -- following a five-week suspension -- and has decreased by more than 40 percent since then. The shares rose for the first time since the trading resumed this week, increasing by 7.8 percent to TL 0.69.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

'No good terrorists': Lavrov urges anti-ISIS coalition not to put political interests first

    Monday, September 15, 2014   No comments
There is no such thing as a ‘good’ terrorist, and we call on other nations not to show their political ambitions while fighting with terrorism, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a Paris conference on Iraq.

The participants have agreed to offer Iraq “appropriate military aid,” according to the final conference statement.

Participants have agreed to offer Iraq “appropriate military aid,” according to the final conference statement. It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of military aid was meant.

The statement added that dealing with the IS is “a matter of urgency."

Around 30 countries took part in the event.

Lavrov has criticized the move not to invite Syria and Iran to the meeting.

“Syria and Iran are our natural allies in the fight against IS, and their participation in today’s meeting could significantly enrich our work. Moral standards on which the anti-terrorism battle is based shouldn’t become vague,” he stated.

Lavrov also stated that the IS is evidently planning to “edge the whole region of the Middle East into the abyss of religious wars,” enlisting their crimes.

He spoke out harshly against all the activities of IS which “threaten the future of Iraq,” with “death and destruction” spilling into Syria as well.

Aggressive actions by the terrorist organization which calls itself ‘Islamic State’ threaten the future of Iraq. Extremists bring death and destruction to the neighboring Syria as well.


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Iran rejected US request for cooperation against ISIL

    Monday, September 15, 2014   No comments
Iran rejected a U.S. request for cooperation against the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group early in its advance in Iraq and Syria, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sept. 15.
  
"Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate against Daesh (Arabic acronym for ISIL)," Khamenei said in a statement on his official website.

"I said no, because they have dirty hands," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran.

"Secretary of State (John Kerry) personally asked (Iranian counterpart) Mohammad Javad Zarif and he rejected the request," said Khamenei, who was leaving hospital after what doctors said was successful prostate surgery.

He accused Washington of seeking a "pretext to do in Iraq and Syria what it already does in Pakistan - bomb anywhere without authorisation."     

Washington had appealed for help from all regional states against the jihadists, who spearheaded a lightning offensive through the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June and then unleashed a wave of atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities.

Crisis meeting in Paris comes as France begins reconnaissance flights over Iraq and UK edges closer to military action

    Monday, September 15, 2014   No comments
...
A senior western source told the Guardian that Saudi Arabia felt so threatened by Isis that it was prepared to act in a frontline role. "There is a very real possibility that we could have the Saudi air force bombing targets inside Syria. That is a remarkable development, and something the US would be very pleased to see."

Another senior official said Saudi Arabia was far more willing to play an open role in the offensive against Isis than it did during the 1991 Gulf war and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On those campaigns, Riyadh allowed its military bases to be used by US forces, but did not commit its service personnel. This time, Riyadh sees Isis as a direct threat.

"They actually see themselves as the real target," the official said. "They know that they have to step up, and they are ready to, from what we can see."

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

ISIL, not Assad regime, is beheading people--Muslims and non-Muslims--Turkey's misleading moral equivalencies justify ISIL crimes

    Sunday, September 14, 2014   No comments
ISR: Turkey tells U.S. to attack both ISIL and Assad at the same time because "there is no benefit in fighting ISIL if Assad remains." Turkey has asked the West to attack Syria in the past. But linking the two now is troubling because it shows that Turkey is willing to choose ISIL over Assad government. But it is ISIL, not Assad regime, that is beheading people--Muslims and non-Muslims--Turkey needs to stop making misleading moral equivalencies and accept responsibility for its failed and short-sighted policy towards Syria and Iraq.
...


Turkey seeks behind-scene role in NATO coalition
Turkey's position is complicated by its eagerness to uproot the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, which led to its tolerance of anti-Assad Islamist fighters taking refuge on its side of the Syrian border. The same action may have given ISIL some breathing room in Turkey. More recently, it has been forced to confront the threat the group is posing.

Western concerns that Turkey was tacitly tolerating ISIL have been allayed by Turkey's strong statements of condemnation of the group and steps to rein it in, including kicking out suspected ISIL sympathizers.

But while expressing public support for Turkey, NATO allies are quietly saying they would like more action from their ally.

They would chiefly like to see Turkey tighten its border controls, stem the flow of fighters passing through Turkey from Western countries and the Middle East and crack down on the oil smuggling from Syria that is financing ISIL. They could also benefit from closer intelligence cooperation and possibly the use of the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey as a base from which to launch strikes against the group.

Western governments have been alarmed by the fact that ISIL has managed to smuggle Iraqi and Syrian oil across its borders. Turkey has cracked down, but analysts say Turkey has simply not been able to police the more than 700 miles of border with Iraq and Syria.

Both US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel were in Ankara last week on successive trips to press Turkey on its role through meetings with officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But they failed to win pledges of support for combat operations -- at least publicly. Both expressed understanding for the delicate position Turkey was in.

Turkey also declined to sign a US-brokered statement by Middle Eastern countries last week repudiating the ISIL group and pledging to fight it.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

David Cameron needs a new approach in Syria if he wants to destroy ISIL

    Saturday, September 13, 2014   No comments
 RC: A year ago, Mr.
David Cameron was prepared to bomb Syria to enable the armed oppositions to overthrow Assad. Lawmakers refused to give him that authority. They were right and he was wrong. Had he bombed the Syrian army and weakened it further, the self-proclaimed caliph, al-Baghdadi would be seating in Damascus, the seat of the Umayyad caliphate, and ordering the beheading of more people. Today, the so-called "Friends of Syria" are paying the price of supporting murderers and genocidal groups who committed war crimes for three years. Yet, these governments are yet to acknowledge their shortsighted policies of siding with the devil to overthrow one authoritarian leader, in a region full of them. It is time that they do this right this time around.
____________
David Cameron to seek UN approval for air strikes against Isil as another aid volunteer is threatened with death
 ...  
The Prime Minister described Isil as an “evil” and “callous” organisation and added: “They are not Muslims, they are monsters. They are killing and slaughtering thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, minorities – across Iraq and Syria,” he said. “They boast of their brutality; they claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace.”


A growing number of Tory MPs who opposed military intervention in Syria last year said they are now backing military strikes.

Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said that military action must be taken against Isil “before it’s too late”. He said: “I think there’s a clear imperative we deal with Isil, deal with the threat, ensure the stability of the region itself. There is a clear need for us to act internationally against this group before it’s too late.”

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, who voted against air strikes in Syria last year, said she now supported military intervention and wanted Parliament recalled.

She said: “We should now as a matter of principle join the US in targeted air strikes.”

Boris Johnson, writing in The Telegraph, says: “We would be mad not to use our defence capability, where we can, to make the world a better place.”


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

President Obama Addresses the Nation on the ISIL Threat

    Thursday, September 11, 2014   No comments


 Transcript: President Obama's Speech on Combating ISIL and news and analysis follow.




Transcript: President Obama's Speech on Combating ISIL

My fellow Americans -- tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda's leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We've targeted al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We've done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That's why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL -- which calls itself the "Islamic State."

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not "Islamic." No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists -- Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East -- including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region -- including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners -- including Europeans and some Americans -- have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.
President Obama: 'ISIL is not Islamic'

I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That's why I've insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we're hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work -- and Iraq has formed a government -- we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission -- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq's efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria's crisis once and for all.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into -- and out of -- the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved -- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America's core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back -- America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it's been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day -- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country's future.

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples' right to determine their own destiny. It is America -- our scientists, our doctors, our know-how -- that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria's declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people -- or the world -- again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia -- from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East -- we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform -- pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here's what one of them said. "We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people."

That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety -- our own security -- depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for -- timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.


___________
News and Analysis:
By expanding military pressure on the Islamic State, President Obama is now running risks he had long hoped to avoid when he withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq.
His strategy to counter the militant Islamic faction has been marked by a core principle that military action should not race ahead of politics and diplomacy. It has led to a more incremental approach criticized by some as overly cautious while supporters describe it as methodical and systematic.
The White House believes that progress in putting together an international coalition to battle the insurgents and building an inclusive Iraqi government has allowed the United States now to ratchet up military pressure on the militants.
With that diplomacy now bearing fruit, Obama said, "I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat."

_________

For expanded Isis strikes, president relies on legal authority he disavowed only a year ago

In the space of a single primetime address on Wednesday night, Barack Obama dealt a crippling blow to a creaking, 40-year old effort to restore legislative primacy to American warmaking - a far easier adversary to vanquish than the Islamic State. Obama’s legal arguments for unilaterally expanding a war expected to last years have shocked even his supporters.
Ahead of Wednesday’s speech the White House signaled that Obama already “has the authority he needs to take action” against Isis without congressional approval. Obama said he would welcome congressional support but framed it as optional, save for the authorisations and the $500m he wants to use the US military to train Syrian rebels. Bipartisan congressional leaders who met with Obama at the White House on Tuesday expressed no outrage.

_____________________
Iran Blasts US for Double-Standard Policy on Terrorism

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham questioned the goal of the so-called international coalition formed to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group, and lashed out at Washington and its allies for pursuing a doubl-standard policy towards campaign against terrorism in various countries.
“The so-called international coalition to fight the ISIL group, which came into existence following a NATO summit in Wales and is taking shape, is shrouded in serious ambiguities and there are severe misgivings about its determination to sincerely fight the root causes of terrorism,” Afkham said on Thursday. 
“Some of the countries in the coalition are among financial and military supporters of terrorists in Iraq and Syria and some others have reneged on their international duties in the hope of (seeing) their desired political changes in Iraq and Syria,” she added.
She noted that the double standards adopted by these countries in dealing with extremism have contributed to the spread of terrorism across the world.
Afkham also rejected as baseless any report that Iran and the US are in talks on fighting the Takfiri militants.

_______________________
 Lavrov: West may use ISIS as pretext to bomb Syrian govt forces

If the West bombs Islamic State militants in Syria without consulting Damascus, the anti-ISIS alliance may use the occasion to launch airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“There are reasons to suspect that air strikes on Syrian territory may target not only areas controlled by Islamic State militants, but the government troops may also be attacked on the quiet to weaken the positions of Bashar Assad’s army,” Lavrov said Tuesday.

Such a development would lead to a huge escalation of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow after a meeting with the foreign minister of Mali.

Moscow is urging the West to respect international law and undertake such acts only with the approval of the legitimate government of a state, Lavrov said.

“Not a single country should have its own plans on such issues. There can be only combined, collective, univocal actions. Only this way can a result be achieved,” he said.

His comments came shortly after Washington announced plans to go on the offensive against the Islamic State jihadist group. The US military has already launched over 100 airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq, including a new series that the military said killed an unusually large number of Islamic State fighters, AP reported.

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