Climate Change Info

About Climate Change Adaptation in Europe The European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT) aims to support Europe in adapting to climate change. It is an initiative of the European Commission and helps users to access and share information on: Expected climate … Continue reading

About Climate Change Adaptation in Europe

The European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT) aims to support Europe in adapting to climate change. It is an initiative of the European Commission and helps users to access and share information on:

  • Expected climate change in Europe
  • Current and future vulnerability of regions and sectors
  • National and transnational adaptation strategies
  • Adaptation case studies and potential adaptation options
  • Tools that support adaptation planning

On Nov. 10, Bill Nye will release a new book titled “Unstoppable.” As only Bill Nye can, he uses the book to explain the science behind climate change, debunks popular myths, and asks readers to take action in their own lives to create a sustainable future. The book is shot through with optimism, but Nye has no illusions about what lies ahead. The message is simple: Climate change is real; humans are causing it; and we have no choice but to build a better and cleaner world.

Published on Oct 30, 2013

A two part documentary presented by Sir David Attenborough – The Truth About Climate Change. Like ushttps://www.facebook.com/CarbonControl Follow us https://twitter.com/CarbonControl

Some extraordinary phenomena have taken place in recent times; Hurricane Katrina, the heat wave of 2003, polar bears swimming in search of ice and vast swarms of insects enveloping an African village. But are these isolated incidents or are they omens of a greater global change?

Sir David discovers that the world is warming at an unprecedented rate, and finds out why this is now far beyond any normal allowance for cyclical fluctuation. But are humans to blame? These changes are already in motion whatever we do now, but Sir David believes that we may be able to act to prevent a catastrophe. People around the world are having to adapt their way of life as the climate changes; the Inuit in the Arctic whose hunting is now limited, the Pacific island inhabitants forced to move as their homes disappear beneath the waves, and the Siberian homes slowly sinking into the permafrost. Sir David investigates some of the possible scenarios for the future, including rising sea-levels, insect plagues and an increase in diseases.

All rights: BBC


CIA Stops Sharing Climate Change Info With Scientists

//

the CIA reportedly is ending a key program that shared the agency’s climate change data — some of it gathered by surveillance satellites and other clandestine sources.

Investigative magazine Mother Jones broke the story last week that the intelligence agency is shutting down the Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis program. MEDEA allowed a select group of scientists access to classified information about climate change. Mother Jones said that the data included not only satellite observations, but also ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by U.S. Navy submarines.

The CIA began gathering climate data for global security purposes during the Cold War, when it tracked the effect of climate change on Soviet grain harvests. According to one document mentioning MEDEA on the CIA website, the program was created in the early 1990s, in part through the efforts of then-U.S. Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.), as part of an effort to share intelligence related to environmental problems.


Alphabet soup

Published on Aug 20, 2014
Este es un pequeño homenaje a Jim Foley. Esta grabación se corresponde al año 2012, septiembre. Jim fue de los primeros periodistas del mundo en entrar en Siria… Y su compromiso le llevó a seguir trabajando a pesar de las dificultades para hacerlo. Esto es Alepo, en el peor momento de la ofensiva. Allí estaba Jim…


On March 4, 2014, the Administration submitted its Fiscal Year 2015 budget request, including a base funding request of $45.6 billion for the National Intelligence Program (NIP), and a base funding request of $13.3 billion for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). On June 30, the DNI submitted an updated FY2015 budget request of $49.4 billion for the NIP including funding for overseas contingency operations. An updated budget request figure for the MIP has not yet been disclosed.  One of the justifications for the budget of intelligence agencies is Islamic extremism. Yet the same intelligence agencies have been behind the rise of Islamic extremism for decades now.

The United States is th eonly country in the world where the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, are not view as a consequences of U.S. policy. Yet the record shows that the al-Qaeda network might have not existed at all, had the United States not sponsored Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. This is commonly understood outside the United States. The memory lapse is  understandable. Once the U.S.-sponsored Islamic extremists had forced the Soviet Army out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s, the United States just forgot about the monster it created.

The violence of Islamism has roused anxious concern throughout the Muslim world.  In the United States, the media and policy makers wage a campaign to demonize Muslims and Islam as a threat to Western interests. This political motivated propaganda is tuned to the resistance to Israel occupation of Muslim lands. The anti-Islam bias sets a double standard: The U.S. Media condones Israel’s U.S.-financed violence – conducted on an enormous scale – while denouncing Arab resistence to it. The propaganda in the West suggests that violence and holoy war are inherent in Islam. The reality is that as a worldwide movement Jihad is a recent phenomenon. It is a modern, multinational conglomerate founded not so much by fanatic mullahs in Teheran as it is sponsored by governments including the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Historically, nearly all Muslim strugles of the 20th century were secular. 

For the average citizen of the West, the idea of the United States as The Sponsor of international terrorism would appear utterly incomprehensible. After all, one reads daily that the United States is leading the charge against something it calls terrorism, and it regularly assails its allies for dragging in response to terrorism.  The Western  misperception comes from an abuse of language. The powerful define terrorism to exclude their own acts. Washington arbitrarily designates any group or country which it opposes as terrorist, and this will be transmitted to the public by the mass media without laughter. 

“The War on Terrorism” was a semantic manipulation of the word “terrorism,” which is loosely defined, however it gave the government the extra power it has in time of war for an indeterminable amount of time. The Patriot Act, the invasive, controversial legislation was given a name that suggests anyone against it was “unpatriotic.” The slogan “Support the Troops” was seen everywhere, suggesting that if one was against the indefinable, unjust war that they were also against the troops. This again suggests opposers were “unpatriotic.” The best example may be that torture was renamed “enhanced interrogation.

The pre-eminent authority on the English language, the much-venerated Oxford English Dictionary, says:

Terrorism: A system of terror. 1. Government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the revolution of 1789-94; the system of `Terror’. 2. gen. A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized.


In its semantic manipulation of terrorism and related words, a number of devices are used to differentiate friends and self from terrorists. Perhaps the most insidious is to confine the use of the word terrorism to nonstate actors and actions; i.e., to define terrorism as the use of violence to oppose governments.  This departs from the standard and traditional usage, according to which terrorism is a mode of governing as well as of opposing governments by means of intimidation. In this context, it is curios that The State Department aserts that ISIS is not a terrorist organzation.

ISIS used to be called al-Qaida. It has been claimed that the CIA had ties with Osama Bin Laden‘s al-Qaeda and its «Afghan Arab» fighters when it armed Mujahideen groups against the Soviet Union during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

In a 2004 BBC article entitled «Al-Qaeda’s origins and links», the BBC wrote:
During the anti-Soviet jihad Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA.[1]
Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary in the UK from 1997–2001, believed the CIA had provided arms to the Arab Mujahideen, including Osama bin Laden, writing, «Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.» His source for this is unclear.[2]
In conversation with former British Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto said Osama bin Laden was initially pro-American.[3]Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia, has also stated that bin Laden once expressed appreciation for the United States’ help in Afghanistan. On CNN’s Larry King program he said:[4]
Bandar bin Sultan: This is ironic. In the mid-’80s, if you remember, we and the United – Saudi Arabia and the United States were supporting the Mujahideen to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. He [Osama bin Laden] came to thank me for my efforts to bring the Americans, our friends, to help us against the atheists, he said the communists. Isn’t it ironic?
Larry King: How ironic. In other words, he came to thank you for helping bring America to help him.
Bandar bin Sultan: Right.
Former FBI translator and Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, interviewed by Brad Friedman on the The Mike Malloy Show on June 2009 has stated: «I have information about things that our government has lied to us about. I know. For example, to say that since the fall of the Soviet Union we ceased all of our intimate relationship with Bin Laden and the Taliban – those things can be proven as lies, very easily, based on the information they classified in my case, because we did carry very intimate relationship with these people, and it involves Central Asia, all the way up to September 11.«
U.S. government officials and a number of other parties maintain that the U.S. supported only the indigenous Afghan mujahideen. They deny that the CIA or other American officials had contact with the Afghan Arabs (foreign mujahideen) or Bin Laden, let alone armed, trained, coached or indoctrinated them. Scholars and reporters have called the idea of CIA-backed Afghan Arabs (foreign mujahideen) «nonsense»,[6] «sheer fantasy»,[7] and «simply a folk myth.»
One allegation not denied by the US government is that the U.S. Army enlisted and trained a cashiered Egyptian soldier named Ali Mohamed, and that it knew Ali occasionally took trips to Afghanistan, where he claimed to fight Russians.
New allegations have turned up that the United States and NATO have either unknowingly or knowingly been supporting al-Qaeda affiliates during the Libyan civil war and the current Syrian civil war.[26] Al-Qaeda affiliates account for 12,000 fighters in Syria and one affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, is part of the Islamic coalition which accounts for 59-75% of the rebels in Syria and plans a political transition to Sharia law post-Assad.[27][28] Turkey, a NATO member, has listed the Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization.  
The United States of America has at various times in recent history provided support to Terrorist paramilitary organizations across the world. It has also provided assistance to numerous authoritarian regimes that have used terror as a tool of repression.[1][2]
United States support to non-state terrorists has been prominent in Latin America, the Middle-East, and Southern Africa.[1] From 1981 to 1991, the United States provided weapons, training, and extensive financial and logistical support to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, who used terror tactics in their fight against the Nicaraguan government.[3] At various points the United States also provided training, arms, and funds to terrorists among the Cuban exiles, such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.
Various reasons have been provided to justify such support. These including destabilizing political movements that might have aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, including popular democratic and socialist movements.[4] Such support has also formed a part of the war on drugs.[2] Support was also geared toward ensuring a conducive environment for American corporate interests abroad, especially when these interests came under threat from democratic regimes.
Several scholars have accused the United States of conducting state terrorism. They have written about the liberal democracies and their use of state terrorism, particularly in relation to the Cold War. According to them, state terrorism was used to protect the interest of capitalist elites, and the U.S. organized a neo-colonial system of client states, co-operating with local elites to rule through terror. However, little of this work has been recognized by other scholars of terrorism or even of state terrorism.[1]
Notable works include Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman‘s The political economy of human rights (1979), Herman’s The real terror network (1985), Alexander L. George Western state terrorism (1991), Frederick Gareau’s State terrorism and the United States (2004) and Doug Stokes America’s other war (2005). Of these, Chomsky and Herman are considered the foremost writers on the United States and state terrorism. Noam Chomsky  said:
The Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism. In fact, it’s doing it all over the world.  Obama is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history:  the drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it […] All of these operations, they are terror operations.
***
People hate the country that’s just terrorizing them.  That’s not a surprise. Just consider the way we react to acts of terror. That’s the way other people react to [American] acts of terror.
Experts agrees that indiscriminate drone strikes are war crimes (more here andhere).
Chomsky has previously extensively documented U.S. terrorism.  As Wikipedia notes:
Chomsky and Herman observed that terror was concentrated in the U.S. sphere of influence in the Third World, and documented terror carried out by U.S. client states in Latin America. They observed that of ten Latin American countries that had death squads, all were U.S. client states.
***
They concluded that the global rise in state terror was a result of U.S. foreign policy.
***
In 1991, a book edited by Alexander L. George [the Graham H. Stuart Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University] also argued that other Western powers sponsored terror in Third World countries. It concluded that the U.S. and its allies were the main supporters of terrorism throughout the world.
The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom – noted:
Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today’s war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world.
The former NSA and CIA agent Edward Snowden revealed that the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was trained in Israel, various Iranien sources reported. 



By Bill Gertz – Washington Free Beacon – – Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The CIA failed to provide adequate warning of the recent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant military incursion into Iraq despite having a significant presence of agency officers in the country, according to U.S. officials and security analysts.

Critics of the agency said the intelligence failure was made worse by a failure of the Obama administration to recognize the threat posed to the country by the ISIL, which last week renamed itself simply the Islamic State (IS) and declared its captured territory in Syria and Iraq is now a “caliphate.”

PHO

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/1/cia-blamed-iraq-intel-failure-isis-rise/#ixzz3AyRLW9bu


US and UK try to identify Isis militant with British accent

British and US security services were trying on Wednesday to identify the Islamic State (Isis) militant with a British accent who appeared in a video of the apparent beheading of a US journalist, James Foley.

The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said intelligence agencies were trying to unmask the fluent English-speaking militant in the propaganda footage. Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation. A spokesman said: «The Metropolitan police service counter terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley.»

Afzal Ashraf, of the Royal United Services Institute, said many of the estimated 500 British fighters in Syria and Iraq had criminal backgrounds in the UK so were likely to be known to police. Intelligence agencies would also be using linguistics technology to track down the man, he said.

Ashraf said the video was part of a «propaganda war» being waged by Isis. «There will be a minor effect on recruitment. It will affect a certain kind of psychopathic individual but it’s a very minority sport, fortunately.

«There will be far more people put off by these guys but there is a market for this sort of thing,» he said.

«The message that really motivates people is it’s a way of hitting back at what they perceive to be the US bullying and domination of the Muslim world. They feel impotent when they see the awesome US air and land power and they see this as a way of hitting back and that’s the principle motivation.»

Erin Saltman, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-terrorism thinktank, said the footage was geared towards disaffected Islamist extremists in the west who would be able to empathise with the British-accented militant.

«The video is quite a shock mainly because the two characters are an American and a Briton. That’s done very deliberately,» she said.

«As soon as you have a fighter with a Middle East accent it becomes very easy to disassociate with that and say they’re brutal, they’re barbaric. But when you have a British citizen, raised in the UK, this is somebody we can empathise with.»


18 August 2014

There is evidence in the public domain that the US and Saudi Arabia are behind the ISIS. ISIS used to be called Al-Qaida but that is not convenient anymore, it seems because it is clearly high treason to cooperate with Al-Qaida, Even in the US Media these facts were acknowledge when Obama was pondering invading Syria.

Tell your congressman that you are concerned about allegations that the US and/or its allies trained Islamic extremist in Jordan to fight the Syrian government. Ask how a bunch of young tugs can operate sophisticated high tech us supplied equipment without training, maintenance, and spear parts. Ask how Israel, with her paranoid arrogance and the best army and intelligence service in the World, allowed a military presence of the size of the ISIS to surge in her backyard. Ask who supplies the ammunition and money.

There are reasons, I guess, for people in power to play chess with the World, but at the end of the line what we have is psychopathic behavior and Power for the sake of Power. What we can do first of all is being informed and tell others at church, school, friends what is going on and tell government officials that you are aware and against blood for oil.

By Nick Tattersall

ISTANBUL | Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:34am EDT

(Reuters) – The rise of al Qaeda in parts of Syria’s north has left Turkey facing a new security threat on its already vulnerable border and raised questions about its wholesale support for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria’s fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad’s rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check.

But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation.

Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

«We are being accused of supporting al Qaeda,» a source close to the Turkish government said, adding that U.S. officials had raised concerns on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

«They were politely but aggressively critical. The attention has focused away from Assad to al Qaeda,» the source said, echoing frustration voiced by other officials in Ankara that this was playing into Assad’s hands.

As if on cue, the Turkish army said on Wednesday it had fired on ISIL fighters over the border after a stray mortar shell hit Turkish soil. It has retaliated in the past in such cases but this appeared to be the first time its response had targeted al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the two-and-a-half-year conflict, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize on its soil.

It officially denies arming the rebels or facilitating the passage of foreign fighters who have swollen the ranks of al Qaeda-linked factions including ISIL and Nusra.

«Logistically nothing goes through the official borders in Turkey or any other country anyway,» said Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

But the 900 km (560-mile) border is difficult to police and refugees, smugglers and rebel fighters have been able to cross undetected in remote areas, bypassing the main crossing points.

«Officially we didn’t allow it. But it’s a long border and some groups, we tried to accommodate them in the Syrian opposition, which we wanted to be as large as possible,» said one Turkish official in the region, when asked whether foreign fighters had been able to cross.

Foreign mercenaries, mainly backed by Gulf states, were initially welcomed by Syria’s rebel forces because they had greater battle experience and were more effective against pro-Assad militias, he said.

«This was a tactical mistake and now we see a totally different balance of power.»


The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. «Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras,» says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. «So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis.»
Watch Part Two of Interview, ‘U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya


Israeli – U.S. Terror

excerpted from the book

Covert Action: the Roots of Terrorism

edited by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap

Ocean Press, 2003, paper

Israeli – U.S. Terror

Introduction by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap

p121

For more than 35 years, the violent and bitter history of the Palestinian-lsraeli conflicts have centered around a history of collaboration between U.S. and Israeli military and intelligence services and their coincidence of interests. Israeli covert operations have backed up U.S. clandestine schemes, especially in the Middle East, but also in Central America, southern Africa and elsewhere in a global conquest in which U.S. domination has reached its apex under George W. Bush.

Ever since the discovery of vast, almost unimaginable oil reserves in the region, the overriding strategic objective of the United States in the Middle East has been access to and eventual control over that resource. And since its 1967 victory in the six-day war, when Israel established itself as the regional military superpower capable of aiding in this primary U.S. objective, massive U.S. foreign aid and subsidized weapons of war have ensured an Israeli-U.S. alliance with mutually expansionist agendas. Both want unfettered access to Arab oil and more.

The second U.S. imperative is its strategic partnership with Israel, a function of the power of the pro-lsrael lobby in the United States, exemplified by the ability of the American-lsrael Political Action Committee to influence congressional and even presidential elections. And the White House, State Department and Pentagon are riddled with insiders with dual loyalties, the belief that U.S. and Israeli interests are and should be, identical.

The quid pro quo for Israel, an extension of this objective, is the relative free play given to its own designs in the Middle East as a military force and an ever-expanding Zionist state.

The United States has given Israel virtually every sophisticated weapon system it has to offer, more than $18 billion in the last decade, with more than $2 billion in military aid slated for the next fiscal year (2003-4). As a further reward for cooperation in covert activities around the globe, the U.S. remained silent, if not actually assisted, Israel’s development and testing of its own nuclear weapons.

Although no significant policies of the Israeli Government could be implemented without the tacit concurrence of its U.S. benefactor, when it suits Washington’s rapacious oil policies, arrangements of convenience with Israel’s enemies were not precluded in the past. The United States (and Britain) supplied chemical and other weapons to Iraq during the Iraq-lran war, while covertly working with Israel to supply Iran.

And Israel has also conducted its own military intelligence operations against U.S. targets, such as the seemingly inexplicable Israeli bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 war, a deliberate act apparently to prevent the U.S. communications ship from monitoring, perhaps disrupting its invasion and occupation of the Golan Heights. And, of course, each nation spies on the other; while Jonathan Pollard was caught and jailed, both countries have active operatives, collaborators and media assets in each other’s territory.

But no matter which regime may be in power in either country, both Israeli and U.S. campaigns plot the elimination of any viable, sovereign, Palestinian state. Together, their machinations of incremental negotiations followed by betrayal, assassination and invasion have imposed upon the Palestinians what Noam Chomsky called «a system of permanent neocolonial dependency.»

Brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians, collective punishment, obliteration of entire villages, mass forced expulsions, illegal settlement of occupied land including East Jerusalem, torture, terrorism, starvation and murder have been used by successive Israeli governments with U.S. approval.

Universal military conscription of Israeli youth thrusts young draftees into endless confrontations with Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories, ensuring an existential racial hatred in deliberately provocative «strategies of tension» and expansion, all in the name of a «fragile» Israeli state security. This while Israel has one of the most powerful and best-equipped armed forces in the world, the only nuclear power in the region.

Despite Israel’s control through the ClA-approved, Oslo-directed Palestinian Authority, the PA was locked in an endless cycle of repression and corruption through enforced collaboration with security committees run by the CIA and Israeli intelligence against the Palestinian people. Sharon’s campaign against its institutional infrastructure also included intentional killings of large numbers of Palestinian civilians through saturation bombings of refugee camps and villages and the homes of suspected terrorists (with no regard for the lives of innocent neighbors), aided by computerized targeting and the rounding up of thousands of Palestinian men and women and their families for planned expulsion.

The Palestinians themselves, dispersed and dispossessed and used as pawns by other Arab nations, have never been able to develop a united vision. There are Palestinian nationalists and socialists and there are Palestinian fundamentalists. The fostering of disunity and corruption within these factions-whether in the Occupied Territories or in exile-has been a major element in the U.S.-lsraeli targeting of the Palestinian national struggle by covert manipulation of Palestinian exiles and groups. In what was hardly a coincidence, during the early 1980s, while the United States actively encouraged an Islamic «Holy War» in Afghanistan, the Israelis infiltrated and supported a burgeoning Islamic fundamentalist movement, later allowing Islamic charities, religious schools and training sites to flourish, as their well-financed graduates countered the growing influence of Palestinian nationalists.

The occupation army’s control of land, travel, water, food and medicine intensified, even as Palestinians attempted to negotiate an ever-changing «peace process» with Israel. Orchestrated with the United States as a delaying tactic, this effectively prevented an independent Palestinian state. The Oslo accords achieved only greater Israeli control over the territories and the geometric expansion of armed, militant Zionist settlements entrenched in the West Bank and Gaza.

The plan for the gradual creation of an autonomous Palestine was transformed from a blueprint for a contiguous territory into a jigsaw puzzle divided by Jewish settlements, fortified access roads and innumerable security zones. The proposed map of Palestinian areas resembles the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. Israeli tanks and troops poured into these tiny «cantons,» bombing and killing civilians at will. And Bush’s minimal support for such a state, conditioned upon «regime change» in the Palestinian Authority, may disappear altogether, as events suggest a Likud push towards a final ethnic cleansing.

Israeli State Terror

by Naseer Aruri
CAQ 1988

p126
Israeli State Terror

In his personal diary, which was published against the wishes of the Israeli establishment, former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett reveals that Israeli military operations against Arab civilian populations were designed to terrorize them and create fear, tension and instability. Sharett’s documentation shows that Israel’s territorial expansion (such as in the Suez in 1956) was facilitated by Israeli acts of provocation, which generated Arab hostility and created pretexts for intervention. For example, the attack by Israeli Army Unit 101 led by Ariel Sharon on the Palestinian village of Kibya in October 1953, causing numerous civilian casualties and destruction of homes, was condemned by Sharett. He writes, «[In the cabinet meeting] I condemned the Kibya affair that exposed us in front of the whole world as a gang of blood-suckers, capable of mass massacres regardless it seems, of whether their actions may lead to war.

More recent accounts by Israeli writers show how earlier acts of terrorism provided a historical background to adoption of a policy of state terrorism by Israel. Benny Morris’s explanation of the Palestinian exodus in 1948, based on state, military and Zionist archives, refutes the official Israeli version that the Palestinians bear responsibility for their own expulsion. An earlier work by Irish journalist Erskine Childers demonstrated that, contrary to the official Israeli version, there were no Arab radio broadcasts ordering the Palestinians to leave. And Israeli journalist Tom Segev reveals in his book how instrumental was Zionist terrorism in the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. Sixteen months after 250 Arab civilians were massacred in the village of Deir Yassin (April 9, 1948) by the combined forces of ETZEL (known as Menachem Begin’s Irgun) and LEHI (known as Yitzhak Shamir’s Stern Gang) there was a debate in the Israeli set in which, according to Segev, a member of Begin’s Herut Party had boasted: «Thanks to Deir Yassin, we won the war.»

Another account by Lenny Brenner reveals that Israeli Prime Minister Shamir was a convert to the pro-Mussolini Betar (Zionist Brownshirts) in the late 1930s and that his Stern Gang had attempted to strike a deal with the Nazi regime in Germany in 1941 in which the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine on a «totalitarian basis» would be bound by a treaty with the German Reich.

Shamir’s commitment to right-wing causes and to terrorism was unmistakably revealed in an article he wrote in the LEHI journal Hehazit (The Front) in the summer of 1943. This excerpt stands in contrast to Shamir’s constant moralizing and condemnation of what he calls «PLO terrorism:»

Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat… [T]errorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier.

Shamir’s cabinet colleague Yitzhak Rabin who, as defense minister in charge of the occupied territories, proclaimed the policy of «might, force and blows» in January 1988 (which has so far resulted in an estimated 281 deaths, more than 50,000 injuries and 30,000 detentions) has also had a consistent record of terrorism for more than 40 years. As the deputy commander of Operation Dani, he, along with the late former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the late former Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, were responsible for the expulsion of between 50,000 and 70,000 people from the towns of Lydda and Ramleh in July 1948. The town of Ramleh had surrendered without a fight after the withdrawal of the Jordan Army but the inhabitants were rounded up, expelled and told never to come back. Benny Morris characterized that as the «biggest expulsion operation of the 1948 war.» Rabin expressed empathy with «the great suffering inflicted upon» his men who caused the expulsion.

One of those expelled was a 13-year-old boy by the name of Khalil alWazir, later known as Abu Jihad. Yitzhak Rabin, who was responsible for that act as a member of the Zionist militia, was one of the inner cabinet decision-makers who decided, 40 years later, to assassinate al-Wazir far away from his home in Ramleh. The man who headed the inner cabinet, Yitzhak Shamir, told an inquirer who wanted to know who killed Abu Jihad, «I heard about it on the radio.»

It was typical of the official response to the killing; claims of ignorance, broad hints that Abu Jihad’s responsibility for the Palestinian uprising could only trigger that kind of response and the usual reference to a factional conflict within the Palestinian movement as being responsible for the assassination. In fact, the murder of Abu Jihad is the latest incident in a continuous pattern of Israeli assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals among whom are Karmal al-Adwan, Ghassan Kanafani, Kamal Nasser, Majid Abu Sharar, Abu Yurif and many others.

In a New York Times article summarizing the official Israeli interpretation of its own policies, Thomas Friedman maintains that Israel endeavors to «turn terror back on the terrorists.» This strategy has gone through several different stages. For the period of 1948-56 the strategy was described as «counterterrorism through retaliation or negative feedback» and was employed against Egypt and Jordan to prevent border crossings by Palestinian refugees attempting, in the main, to check on the conditions of their former homes.» By 1972, Israel was striking against «the nerve centers and the perpetrators themselves» using letter bombs, exploding cars and telephones and quiet assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals on the back streets of Europe. Later acts of terrorism including the destruction of entire villages in Lebanon, raids on Beirut, Baghdad and Tunis have become typical of Israeli policy towards Arab nonacceptance of its regional hegemony. Such acts have rarely evoked U.S. condemnation. In fact the Reagan Administration characterized Israel’s raid on the PLO headquarters in Tunis as an act of self-defense.

United States and Israel-A «Special» Relationship

Strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States was consummated between 1982 and 1988 and has dramatically elevated Israel’s role in U.S. global strategic calculation. By 1983, the Reagan Administration had accepted the Israeli view that the Palestine question was not the principal cause of instability in the Middle East. Henceforth, it would not be allowed to interfere in the «special relationship» between a superpower and its strategic ally.

In the special relationship between the United States and Israel, the latter is considered a «unique strategic asset. In the crucial Middle East, Israel is viewed as the cornerstone of U.S. policy, which is perceived as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and radical revolutionary transformation. Outside the Middle East, Israel has emerged as the most important supplier of the technology of repression, antiguerrilla training and infrastructure to combat revolution, all euphemistically phrased «counterterrorism.» Israel ranks as the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world, according to CIA estimates and it has become an essential component of the global counterinsurgency business. «Hit lists» used by the death squads in Guatemala have been computerized with Israeli assistance and the Uzi machine gun is the standard weapon of the death squads. The special relationship between the United States and Israel is a two-way street. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid and in return Israel has much to offer the United States. The Reagan Administration has publicly declared that Israel’s substantial experience and «success» in coping with terrorism should provide guidance for the United States. When George Shultz spoke at a New York synagogue in 1984 he said:

No nation has more experience with terrorism than Israel and no nation has made a greater contribution to our understanding of the problem and the best way to confront it. By supporting organizations like the Jonathan Institute, named after the brave Israeli soldier who led and died at Entebbe, the Israeli people have raised international awareness of the global scope of the terrorist threat… [T]he rest of us would do well to follow Israel’s example.

The fact that the United States and Israel are so closely allied and use the same criteria for defining who are «terrorists» and who are not, necessarily makes the United States a dubious participant in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel Shahak on the «Transfer Proposal»

by Ellen Ray
CAQ 1988

p135
Death Squads

… in Israel the use of death squads to murder Palestinians has been discussed in some of the Hebrew press. It was not employed in the occupied territories until about September or October 1987, when we had one very well-documented case in the Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli Hebrew press, three Palestinians were discovered dead, in a car. One of them was a Palestinian guerrilla who had escaped from prison. The two others were collaborators [Palestinians who work with or support the Israelis]-well-known, rich collaborators. One of them had established a branch of the Tel Aviv stock exchange in Gaza. The other was of a similar background. So you can understand that such people are neither guerrillas nor helpers of guerrillas.





Published on Aug 20, 2014
Este es un pequeño homenaje a Jim Foley. Esta grabación se corresponde al año 2012, septiembre. Jim fue de los primeros periodistas del mundo en entrar en Siria... Y su compromiso le llevó a seguir trabajando a pesar de las dificultades para hacerlo. Esto es Alepo, en el peor momento de la ofensiva. Allí estaba Jim...





On March 4, 2014, the Administration submitted its Fiscal Year 2015 budget request, including a base funding request of $45.6 billion for the National Intelligence Program (NIP), and a base funding request of $13.3 billion for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). On June 30, the DNI submitted an updated FY2015 budget request of $49.4 billion for the NIP including funding for overseas contingency operations. An updated budget request figure for the MIP has not yet been disclosed.  One of the justifications for the budget of intelligence agencies is Islamic extremism. Yet the same intelligence agencies have been behind the rise of Islamic extremism for decades now.

The United States is th eonly country in the world where the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, are not view as a consequences of U.S. policy. Yet the record shows that the al-Qaeda network might have not existed at all, had the United States not sponsored Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. This is commonly understood outside the United States. The memory lapse is  understandable. Once the U.S.-sponsored Islamic extremists had forced the Soviet Army out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s, the United States just forgot about the monster it created.

The violence of Islamism has roused anxious concern throughout the Muslim world.  In the United States, the media and policy makers wage a campaign to demonize Muslims and Islam as a threat to Western interests. This political motivated propaganda is tuned to the resistance to Israel occupation of Muslim lands. The anti-Islam bias sets a double standard: The U.S. Media condones Israel's U.S.-financed violence - conducted on an enormous scale - while denouncing Arab resistence to it. The propaganda in the West suggests that violence and holoy war are inherent in Islam. The reality is that as a worldwide movement Jihad is a recent phenomenon. It is a modern, multinational conglomerate founded not so much by fanatic mullahs in Teheran as it is sponsored by governments including the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Historically, nearly all Muslim strugles of the 20th century were secular. 

For the average citizen of the West, the idea of the United States as The Sponsor of international terrorism would appear utterly incomprehensible. After all, one reads daily that the United States is leading the charge against something it calls terrorism, and it regularly assails its allies for dragging in response to terrorism.  The Western  misperception comes from an abuse of language. The powerful define terrorism to exclude their own acts. Washington arbitrarily designates any group or country which it opposes as terrorist, and this will be transmitted to the public by the mass media without laughter. 

“The War on Terrorism” was a semantic manipulation of the word “terrorism,” which is loosely defined, however it gave the government the extra power it has in time of war for an indeterminable amount of time. The Patriot Act, the invasive, controversial legislation was given a name that suggests anyone against it was “unpatriotic.” The slogan “Support the Troops” was seen everywhere, suggesting that if one was against the indefinable, unjust war that they were also against the troops. This again suggests opposers were “unpatriotic.” The best example may be that torture was renamed “enhanced interrogation.

The pre-eminent authority on the English language, the much-venerated Oxford English Dictionary, says:

Terrorism: A system of terror. 1. Government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the revolution of 1789-94; the system of `Terror'. 2. gen. A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized.

In its semantic manipulation of terrorism and related words, a number of devices are used to differentiate friends and self from terrorists. Perhaps the most insidious is to confine the use of the word terrorism to nonstate actors and actions; i.e., to define terrorism as the use of violence to oppose governments.  This departs from the standard and traditional usage, according to which terrorism is a mode of governing as well as of opposing governments by means of intimidation. In this context, it is curios that The State Department aserts that ISIS is not a terrorist organzation.


ISIS used to be called al-Qaida. It has been claimed that the CIA had ties with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda and its "Afghan Arab" fighters when it armed Mujahideen groups against the Soviet Union during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

In a 2004 BBC article entitled "Al-Qaeda's origins and links", the BBC wrote:
During the anti-Soviet jihad Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA.[1]
Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary in the UK from 1997–2001, believed the CIA had provided arms to the Arab Mujahideen, including Osama bin Laden, writing, "Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan." His source for this is unclear.[2]
In conversation with former British Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto said Osama bin Laden was initially pro-American.[3]Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia, has also stated that bin Laden once expressed appreciation for the United States' help in Afghanistan. On CNN's Larry King program he said:[4]
Bandar bin Sultan: This is ironic. In the mid-'80s, if you remember, we and the United - Saudi Arabia and the United States were supporting the Mujahideen to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. He [Osama bin Laden] came to thank me for my efforts to bring the Americans, our friends, to help us against the atheists, he said the communists. Isn't it ironic?
Larry King: How ironic. In other words, he came to thank you for helping bring America to help him.
Bandar bin Sultan: Right.
Former FBI translator and Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, interviewed by Brad Friedman on the The Mike Malloy Show on June 2009 has stated: "I have information about things that our government has lied to us about. I know. For example, to say that since the fall of the Soviet Union we ceased all of our intimate relationship with Bin Laden and the Taliban - those things can be proven as lies, very easily, based on the information they classified in my case, because we did carry very intimate relationship with these people, and it involves Central Asia, all the way up to September 11."
U.S. government officials and a number of other parties maintain that the U.S. supported only the indigenous Afghan mujahideen. They deny that the CIA or other American officials had contact with the Afghan Arabs (foreign mujahideen) or Bin Laden, let alone armed, trained, coached or indoctrinated them. Scholars and reporters have called the idea of CIA-backed Afghan Arabs (foreign mujahideen) "nonsense",[6] "sheer fantasy",[7] and "simply a folk myth."
One allegation not denied by the US government is that the U.S. Army enlisted and trained a cashiered Egyptian soldier named Ali Mohamed, and that it knew Ali occasionally took trips to Afghanistan, where he claimed to fight Russians.
New allegations have turned up that the United States and NATO have either unknowingly or knowingly been supporting al-Qaeda affiliates during the Libyan civil war and the current Syrian civil war.[26] Al-Qaeda affiliates account for 12,000 fighters in Syria and one affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, is part of the Islamic coalition which accounts for 59-75% of the rebels in Syria and plans a political transition to Sharia law post-Assad.[27][28] Turkey, a NATO member, has listed the Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization.  
The United States of America has at various times in recent history provided support to Terrorist paramilitary organizations across the world. It has also provided assistance to numerous authoritarian regimes that have used terror as a tool of repression.[1][2]
United States support to non-state terrorists has been prominent in Latin America, the Middle-East, and Southern Africa.[1] From 1981 to 1991, the United States provided weapons, training, and extensive financial and logistical support to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, who used terror tactics in their fight against the Nicaraguan government.[3] At various points the United States also provided training, arms, and funds to terrorists among the Cuban exiles, such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.
Various reasons have been provided to justify such support. These including destabilizing political movements that might have aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, including popular democratic and socialist movements.[4] Such support has also formed a part of the war on drugs.[2] Support was also geared toward ensuring a conducive environment for American corporate interests abroad, especially when these interests came under threat from democratic regimes.

Several scholars have accused the United States of conducting state terrorism. They have written about the liberal democracies and their use of state terrorism, particularly in relation to the Cold War. According to them, state terrorism was used to protect the interest of capitalist elites, and the U.S. organized a neo-colonial system of client states, co-operating with local elites to rule through terror. However, little of this work has been recognized by other scholars of terrorism or even of state terrorism.[1]
Notable works include Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman's The political economy of human rights (1979), Herman's The real terror network (1985), Alexander L. George' Western state terrorism (1991), Frederick Gareau's State terrorism and the United States (2004) and Doug Stokes' America's other war (2005). Of these, Chomsky and Herman are considered the foremost writers on the United States and state terrorism. Noam Chomsky  said:
The Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism. In fact, it’s doing it all over the world.  Obama is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history:  the drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it [...] All of these operations, they are terror operations.
***
People hate the country that’s just terrorizing them.  That’s not a surprise. Just consider the way we react to acts of terror. That’s the way other people react to [American] acts of terror.
Experts agrees that indiscriminate drone strikes are war crimes (more here andhere).
Chomsky has previously extensively documented U.S. terrorism.  As Wikipedia notes:
Chomsky and Herman observed that terror was concentrated in the U.S. sphere of influence in the Third World, and documented terror carried out by U.S. client states in Latin America. They observed that of ten Latin American countries that had death squads, all were U.S. client states.
***
They concluded that the global rise in state terror was a result of U.S. foreign policy.
***
In 1991, a book edited by Alexander L. George [the Graham H. Stuart Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University] also argued that other Western powers sponsored terror in Third World countries. It concluded that the U.S. and its allies were the main supporters of terrorism throughout the world.
The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom - noted:
Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today’s war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world.

The former NSA and CIA agent Edward Snowden revealed that the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was trained in Israel, various Iranien sources reported. 






By Bill Gertz - Washington Free Beacon - - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The CIA failed to provide adequate warning of the recent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant military incursion into Iraq despite having a significant presence of agency officers in the country, according to U.S. officials and security analysts.

Critics of the agency said the intelligence failure was made worse by a failure of the Obama administration to recognize the threat posed to the country by the ISIL, which last week renamed itself simply the Islamic State (IS) and declared its captured territory in Syria and Iraq is now a “caliphate.”

PHO



Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/1/cia-blamed-iraq-intel-failure-isis-rise/#ixzz3AyRLW9bu




US and UK try to identify Isis militant with British accent


British and US security services were trying on Wednesday to identify the Islamic State (Isis) militant with a British accent who appeared in a video of the apparent beheading of a US journalist, James Foley.

The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said intelligence agencies were trying to unmask the fluent English-speaking militant in the propaganda footage. Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation. A spokesman said: "The Metropolitan police service counter terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley."

Afzal Ashraf, of the Royal United Services Institute, said many of the estimated 500 British fighters in Syria and Iraq had criminal backgrounds in the UK so were likely to be known to police. Intelligence agencies would also be using linguistics technology to track down the man, he said.

Ashraf said the video was part of a "propaganda war" being waged by Isis. "There will be a minor effect on recruitment. It will affect a certain kind of psychopathic individual but it's a very minority sport, fortunately.

"There will be far more people put off by these guys but there is a market for this sort of thing," he said.

"The message that really motivates people is it's a way of hitting back at what they perceive to be the US bullying and domination of the Muslim world. They feel impotent when they see the awesome US air and land power and they see this as a way of hitting back and that's the principle motivation."

Erin Saltman, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-terrorism thinktank, said the footage was geared towards disaffected Islamist extremists in the west who would be able to empathise with the British-accented militant.

"The video is quite a shock mainly because the two characters are an American and a Briton. That's done very deliberately," she said.

"As soon as you have a fighter with a Middle East accent it becomes very easy to disassociate with that and say they're brutal, they're barbaric. But when you have a British citizen, raised in the UK, this is somebody we can empathise with."







18 August 2014

There is evidence in the public domain that the US and Saudi Arabia are behind the ISIS. ISIS used to be called Al-Qaida but that is not convenient anymore, it seems because it is clearly high treason to cooperate with Al-Qaida, Even in the US Media these facts were acknowledge when Obama was pondering invading Syria.



Tell your congressman that you are concerned about allegations that the US and/or its allies trained Islamic extremist in Jordan to fight the Syrian government. Ask how a bunch of young tugs can operate sophisticated high tech us supplied equipment without training, maintenance, and spear parts. Ask how Israel, with her paranoid arrogance and the best army and intelligence service in the World, allowed a military presence of the size of the ISIS to surge in her backyard. Ask who supplies the ammunition and money.

There are reasons, I guess, for people in power to play chess with the World, but at the end of the line what we have is psychopathic behavior and Power for the sake of Power. What we can do first of all is being informed and tell others at church, school, friends what is going on and tell government officials that you are aware and against blood for oil.

ISTANBUL | Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:34am EDT

(Reuters) - The rise of al Qaeda in parts of Syria's north has left Turkey facing a new security threat on its already vulnerable border and raised questions about its wholesale support for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria's fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad's rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check.

But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation.



Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

"We are being accused of supporting al Qaeda," a source close to the Turkish government said, adding that U.S. officials had raised concerns on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

"They were politely but aggressively critical. The attention has focused away from Assad to al Qaeda," the source said, echoing frustration voiced by other officials in Ankara that this was playing into Assad's hands.

As if on cue, the Turkish army said on Wednesday it had fired on ISIL fighters over the border after a stray mortar shell hit Turkish soil. It has retaliated in the past in such cases but this appeared to be the first time its response had targeted al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the two-and-a-half-year conflict, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize on its soil.

It officially denies arming the rebels or facilitating the passage of foreign fighters who have swollen the ranks of al Qaeda-linked factions including ISIL and Nusra.

"Logistically nothing goes through the official borders in Turkey or any other country anyway," said Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

But the 900 km (560-mile) border is difficult to police and refugees, smugglers and rebel fighters have been able to cross undetected in remote areas, bypassing the main crossing points.

"Officially we didn't allow it. But it's a long border and some groups, we tried to accommodate them in the Syrian opposition, which we wanted to be as large as possible," said one Turkish official in the region, when asked whether foreign fighters had been able to cross.

Foreign mercenaries, mainly backed by Gulf states, were initially welcomed by Syria's rebel forces because they had greater battle experience and were more effective against pro-Assad militias, he said.

"This was a tactical mistake and now we see a totally different balance of power."

The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. "Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras," says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. "So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis."
Watch Part Two of Interview, 'U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya







Israeli - U.S. Terror


excerpted from the book

Covert Action: the Roots of Terrorism

edited by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap

Ocean Press, 2003, paper



Israeli - U.S. Terror

Introduction by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap


p121

For more than 35 years, the violent and bitter history of the Palestinian-lsraeli conflicts have centered around a history of collaboration between U.S. and Israeli military and intelligence services and their coincidence of interests. Israeli covert operations have backed up U.S. clandestine schemes, especially in the Middle East, but also in Central America, southern Africa and elsewhere in a global conquest in which U.S. domination has reached its apex under George W. Bush.

Ever since the discovery of vast, almost unimaginable oil reserves in the region, the overriding strategic objective of the United States in the Middle East has been access to and eventual control over that resource. And since its 1967 victory in the six-day war, when Israel established itself as the regional military superpower capable of aiding in this primary U.S. objective, massive U.S. foreign aid and subsidized weapons of war have ensured an Israeli-U.S. alliance with mutually expansionist agendas. Both want unfettered access to Arab oil and more.

The second U.S. imperative is its strategic partnership with Israel, a function of the power of the pro-lsrael lobby in the United States, exemplified by the ability of the American-lsrael Political Action Committee to influence congressional and even presidential elections. And the White House, State Department and Pentagon are riddled with insiders with dual loyalties, the belief that U.S. and Israeli interests are and should be, identical.

The quid pro quo for Israel, an extension of this objective, is the relative free play given to its own designs in the Middle East as a military force and an ever-expanding Zionist state.

The United States has given Israel virtually every sophisticated weapon system it has to offer, more than $18 billion in the last decade, with more than $2 billion in military aid slated for the next fiscal year (2003-4). As a further reward for cooperation in covert activities around the globe, the U.S. remained silent, if not actually assisted, Israel's development and testing of its own nuclear weapons.

Although no significant policies of the Israeli Government could be implemented without the tacit concurrence of its U.S. benefactor, when it suits Washington's rapacious oil policies, arrangements of convenience with Israel's enemies were not precluded in the past. The United States (and Britain) supplied chemical and other weapons to Iraq during the Iraq-lran war, while covertly working with Israel to supply Iran.

And Israel has also conducted its own military intelligence operations against U.S. targets, such as the seemingly inexplicable Israeli bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 war, a deliberate act apparently to prevent the U.S. communications ship from monitoring, perhaps disrupting its invasion and occupation of the Golan Heights. And, of course, each nation spies on the other; while Jonathan Pollard was caught and jailed, both countries have active operatives, collaborators and media assets in each other's territory.

But no matter which regime may be in power in either country, both Israeli and U.S. campaigns plot the elimination of any viable, sovereign, Palestinian state. Together, their machinations of incremental negotiations followed by betrayal, assassination and invasion have imposed upon the Palestinians what Noam Chomsky called "a system of permanent neocolonial dependency."

Brutal attacks on Palestinian civilians, collective punishment, obliteration of entire villages, mass forced expulsions, illegal settlement of occupied land including East Jerusalem, torture, terrorism, starvation and murder have been used by successive Israeli governments with U.S. approval.

Universal military conscription of Israeli youth thrusts young draftees into endless confrontations with Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories, ensuring an existential racial hatred in deliberately provocative "strategies of tension" and expansion, all in the name of a "fragile" Israeli state security. This while Israel has one of the most powerful and best-equipped armed forces in the world, the only nuclear power in the region.

Despite Israel's control through the ClA-approved, Oslo-directed Palestinian Authority, the PA was locked in an endless cycle of repression and corruption through enforced collaboration with security committees run by the CIA and Israeli intelligence against the Palestinian people. Sharon's campaign against its institutional infrastructure also included intentional killings of large numbers of Palestinian civilians through saturation bombings of refugee camps and villages and the homes of suspected terrorists (with no regard for the lives of innocent neighbors), aided by computerized targeting and the rounding up of thousands of Palestinian men and women and their families for planned expulsion.

The Palestinians themselves, dispersed and dispossessed and used as pawns by other Arab nations, have never been able to develop a united vision. There are Palestinian nationalists and socialists and there are Palestinian fundamentalists. The fostering of disunity and corruption within these factions-whether in the Occupied Territories or in exile-has been a major element in the U.S.-lsraeli targeting of the Palestinian national struggle by covert manipulation of Palestinian exiles and groups. In what was hardly a coincidence, during the early 1980s, while the United States actively encouraged an Islamic "Holy War" in Afghanistan, the Israelis infiltrated and supported a burgeoning Islamic fundamentalist movement, later allowing Islamic charities, religious schools and training sites to flourish, as their well-financed graduates countered the growing influence of Palestinian nationalists.

The occupation army's control of land, travel, water, food and medicine intensified, even as Palestinians attempted to negotiate an ever-changing "peace process" with Israel. Orchestrated with the United States as a delaying tactic, this effectively prevented an independent Palestinian state. The Oslo accords achieved only greater Israeli control over the territories and the geometric expansion of armed, militant Zionist settlements entrenched in the West Bank and Gaza.

The plan for the gradual creation of an autonomous Palestine was transformed from a blueprint for a contiguous territory into a jigsaw puzzle divided by Jewish settlements, fortified access roads and innumerable security zones. The proposed map of Palestinian areas resembles the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. Israeli tanks and troops poured into these tiny "cantons," bombing and killing civilians at will. And Bush's minimal support for such a state, conditioned upon "regime change" in the Palestinian Authority, may disappear altogether, as events suggest a Likud push towards a final ethnic cleansing.




Israeli State Terror

by Naseer Aruri
CAQ 1988

p126
Israeli State Terror

In his personal diary, which was published against the wishes of the Israeli establishment, former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett reveals that Israeli military operations against Arab civilian populations were designed to terrorize them and create fear, tension and instability. Sharett's documentation shows that Israel's territorial expansion (such as in the Suez in 1956) was facilitated by Israeli acts of provocation, which generated Arab hostility and created pretexts for intervention. For example, the attack by Israeli Army Unit 101 led by Ariel Sharon on the Palestinian village of Kibya in October 1953, causing numerous civilian casualties and destruction of homes, was condemned by Sharett. He writes, "[In the cabinet meeting] I condemned the Kibya affair that exposed us in front of the whole world as a gang of blood-suckers, capable of mass massacres regardless it seems, of whether their actions may lead to war.

More recent accounts by Israeli writers show how earlier acts of terrorism provided a historical background to adoption of a policy of state terrorism by Israel. Benny Morris's explanation of the Palestinian exodus in 1948, based on state, military and Zionist archives, refutes the official Israeli version that the Palestinians bear responsibility for their own expulsion. An earlier work by Irish journalist Erskine Childers demonstrated that, contrary to the official Israeli version, there were no Arab radio broadcasts ordering the Palestinians to leave. And Israeli journalist Tom Segev reveals in his book how instrumental was Zionist terrorism in the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. Sixteen months after 250 Arab civilians were massacred in the village of Deir Yassin (April 9, 1948) by the combined forces of ETZEL (known as Menachem Begin's Irgun) and LEHI (known as Yitzhak Shamir's Stern Gang) there was a debate in the Israeli set in which, according to Segev, a member of Begin's Herut Party had boasted: "Thanks to Deir Yassin, we won the war."

Another account by Lenny Brenner reveals that Israeli Prime Minister Shamir was a convert to the pro-Mussolini Betar (Zionist Brownshirts) in the late 1930s and that his Stern Gang had attempted to strike a deal with the Nazi regime in Germany in 1941 in which the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine on a "totalitarian basis" would be bound by a treaty with the German Reich.

Shamir's commitment to right-wing causes and to terrorism was unmistakably revealed in an article he wrote in the LEHI journal Hehazit (The Front) in the summer of 1943. This excerpt stands in contrast to Shamir's constant moralizing and condemnation of what he calls "PLO terrorism:"

Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat... [T]errorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier.

Shamir's cabinet colleague Yitzhak Rabin who, as defense minister in charge of the occupied territories, proclaimed the policy of "might, force and blows" in January 1988 (which has so far resulted in an estimated 281 deaths, more than 50,000 injuries and 30,000 detentions) has also had a consistent record of terrorism for more than 40 years. As the deputy commander of Operation Dani, he, along with the late former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the late former Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, were responsible for the expulsion of between 50,000 and 70,000 people from the towns of Lydda and Ramleh in July 1948. The town of Ramleh had surrendered without a fight after the withdrawal of the Jordan Army but the inhabitants were rounded up, expelled and told never to come back. Benny Morris characterized that as the "biggest expulsion operation of the 1948 war." Rabin expressed empathy with "the great suffering inflicted upon" his men who caused the expulsion.

One of those expelled was a 13-year-old boy by the name of Khalil alWazir, later known as Abu Jihad. Yitzhak Rabin, who was responsible for that act as a member of the Zionist militia, was one of the inner cabinet decision-makers who decided, 40 years later, to assassinate al-Wazir far away from his home in Ramleh. The man who headed the inner cabinet, Yitzhak Shamir, told an inquirer who wanted to know who killed Abu Jihad, "I heard about it on the radio."

It was typical of the official response to the killing; claims of ignorance, broad hints that Abu Jihad's responsibility for the Palestinian uprising could only trigger that kind of response and the usual reference to a factional conflict within the Palestinian movement as being responsible for the assassination. In fact, the murder of Abu Jihad is the latest incident in a continuous pattern of Israeli assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals among whom are Karmal al-Adwan, Ghassan Kanafani, Kamal Nasser, Majid Abu Sharar, Abu Yurif and many others.

In a New York Times article summarizing the official Israeli interpretation of its own policies, Thomas Friedman maintains that Israel endeavors to "turn terror back on the terrorists." This strategy has gone through several different stages. For the period of 1948-56 the strategy was described as "counterterrorism through retaliation or negative feedback" and was employed against Egypt and Jordan to prevent border crossings by Palestinian refugees attempting, in the main, to check on the conditions of their former homes." By 1972, Israel was striking against "the nerve centers and the perpetrators themselves" using letter bombs, exploding cars and telephones and quiet assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals on the back streets of Europe. Later acts of terrorism including the destruction of entire villages in Lebanon, raids on Beirut, Baghdad and Tunis have become typical of Israeli policy towards Arab nonacceptance of its regional hegemony. Such acts have rarely evoked U.S. condemnation. In fact the Reagan Administration characterized Israel's raid on the PLO headquarters in Tunis as an act of self-defense.

United States and Israel-A "Special" Relationship


Strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States was consummated between 1982 and 1988 and has dramatically elevated Israel's role in U.S. global strategic calculation. By 1983, the Reagan Administration had accepted the Israeli view that the Palestine question was not the principal cause of instability in the Middle East. Henceforth, it would not be allowed to interfere in the "special relationship" between a superpower and its strategic ally.

In the special relationship between the United States and Israel, the latter is considered a "unique strategic asset. In the crucial Middle East, Israel is viewed as the cornerstone of U.S. policy, which is perceived as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and radical revolutionary transformation. Outside the Middle East, Israel has emerged as the most important supplier of the technology of repression, antiguerrilla training and infrastructure to combat revolution, all euphemistically phrased "counterterrorism." Israel ranks as the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world, according to CIA estimates and it has become an essential component of the global counterinsurgency business. "Hit lists" used by the death squads in Guatemala have been computerized with Israeli assistance and the Uzi machine gun is the standard weapon of the death squads. The special relationship between the United States and Israel is a two-way street. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid and in return Israel has much to offer the United States. The Reagan Administration has publicly declared that Israel's substantial experience and "success" in coping with terrorism should provide guidance for the United States. When George Shultz spoke at a New York synagogue in 1984 he said:

No nation has more experience with terrorism than Israel and no nation has made a greater contribution to our understanding of the problem and the best way to confront it. By supporting organizations like the Jonathan Institute, named after the brave Israeli soldier who led and died at Entebbe, the Israeli people have raised international awareness of the global scope of the terrorist threat... [T]he rest of us would do well to follow Israel's example.

The fact that the United States and Israel are so closely allied and use the same criteria for defining who are "terrorists" and who are not, necessarily makes the United States a dubious participant in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



Israel Shahak on the "Transfer Proposal"

by Ellen Ray
CAQ 1988

p135
Death Squads

... in Israel the use of death squads to murder Palestinians has been discussed in some of the Hebrew press. It was not employed in the occupied territories until about September or October 1987, when we had one very well-documented case in the Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli Hebrew press, three Palestinians were discovered dead, in a car. One of them was a Palestinian guerrilla who had escaped from prison. The two others were collaborators [Palestinians who work with or support the Israelis]-well-known, rich collaborators. One of them had established a branch of the Tel Aviv stock exchange in Gaza. The other was of a similar background. So you can understand that such people are neither guerrillas nor helpers of guerrillas.

The Islamic State

By Washington’s Blog Global Research, August 16, 2014 Washington’s Blog Christians are being persecuted by Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The “ISIS” Islamic terrorists have literally CRUCIFIED people in Iraq recently, and have marked the houses of Christians … … Continue reading

Christians are being persecuted by Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

The “ISIS” Islamic terrorists have literally CRUCIFIED people in Iraq recently, and have marked the houses of Christians … presumably for execution.

They have told Christians in Mosel, “convert to Islam or die“. They have pulled down crosses at churches in Iraq.   Thousands of residents of Iraq’s biggest Christian town have been forced to flee their homes as the ISIS killers overran their town and said: “leave, convert or die“.

The ISIS terrorists are not only beheading adult Christians, but they are systematically beheading CHILDREN.

In Syria, rebels fighting against the Syrian government told Christians, “Either you convert to Islam or you will be beheaded.”   Syrian rebels slit the throat of Christian man who refused to convert to Islam, taunting his fiance by yelling: “Jesus didn’t come to save him!”  And – like the Islamic terrorists in Iraq – they’ve  CRUCIFIED Christians.

United States Is BACKING Islamic Terrorists

ABC News reports:

The Sunni rebels [inside Syria] are supported by the Islamist rulers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, as well as the U.S., France, Britain and others.

So the U.S. is directly supporting the terrorists … and close U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey France and Britain are also supporting them.

World Net Daily reports that the U.S. trained Islamic jihadis – who would later join ISIS - in Jordan.

Der Spiegel and the Guardian confirmed that the U.S., France and England trained hundreds if not thousands of Islamic fighters in Jordan.

The Jerusalem Post and Breitbart report that an ISIS fighter says that Turkey funds the terrorist group.

The Times of Israel reported Wednesday:

A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week.Read more: Syrian rebel commander says he collaborated with Israel.

In a video uploaded to YouTube Monday … Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms. Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, on July 22.

In June, investment adviser Jim Willie alleged:

The [Isis] troops that are working there [in Syria and Iraq] are Langley [i.e. CIA] troops. They’re trained, funded, and armed by Langley.

What I’m hearing… the U.S. military (Pentagon regulars), and you have to be careful when you refer to U.S. military anymore. What kind of U.S. military? Is it the Pentagon U.S. Army, or is it the Langley military, which has unmarked uniforms and 10?s of thousands of mercenaries?

They’re about to encounter each other in Iraq. The U.S. military Pentagon regulars evacuated Iraq, and what filled the vacuum was the Langley mercenaries, trained for Syria, that migrated South and announced their new agenda.

If and when the Pentagon regulars encounter the Langley mercenaries in Iraq, Obama’s going to get a house call, because U.S. military will be fighting U.S. military. Pentagon vs. Langley.

While we don’t know which of the above-described allegations are true, two things are certain:

  • The U.S. armed Islamic jihadis in Syria, and their weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS; and
  • Close allies of the U.S. have supported and trained the ISIS terrorists

Published on Aug 14, 2014

Subscribe to VICE News here: http://bit.ly/Subscribe-to-VICE-News

The Islamic State, a hardline Sunni jihadist group that formerly had ties to al Qaeda, has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group has announced its intention to reestablish the caliphate and has declared its leader, the shadowy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the caliph.

The lightning advances the Islamic State made across Syria and Iraq in June shocked the world. But it’s not just the group’s military victories that have garnered attention — it’s also the pace with which its members have begun to carve out a viable state.

Flush with cash and US weapons seized during its advances in Iraq, the Islamic State’s expansion shows no sign of slowing down. In the first week of August alone, Islamic State fighters have taken over new areas in northern Iraq, encroaching on Kurdish territory and sending Christians and other minorities fleeing as reports of massacres emerged.

VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings.


The Islamic State

August 18, 2014 | 3:25 pm

The battle for Iraq’s largest dam continued today, even as officials claimed that government troops and Kurdish forces had regained control of the complex from hardline Sunni militant group the Islamic State, which seized it earlier this month.

Iraqi military spokesman Lt-Gen. Qassim Atta told state television today that Mosul Dam had been «fully cleansed» of militants by a joint force of Iraqi troops and peshmerga fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan backed by US and Iraqi aircraft. However, when VICE News visited the peshmerga front lines close to the dam, fighting was still clearly underway and medical staff reported a number of Kurdish and Iraqi casualties.


It is not true that the Middle East is inherently unstable. Human history is the history of conflict and the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. But it is not true that current conflict is just the continuum of thousand years of fighting. Muslims and Jews have lived in peace in the Middle East for hundreds of years. In Palestine they were well beyond tolerance into actual friendship. Even in the seventies anyone from any country could go to Beirut, Damascus, Kabul, and Bagdad and have a wonderful worry free time.

Most current conflict can be trace to imperialistic meddling. To point some highlights: the arbitrary partition of the Kurdish and Pashtun countries by the British; The creation of a European settler State in Palestine by the British; the placement in power of the aleut minority in Syria by the British; The coup de Etat by the CIA that put the Sha in power in Iran; The creation of the Taliban by the CIA; The unconditional support of Israel by the United States, even against the interest of the people and government of the US, and even after Israel has attacked US personnel in international waters.

The ISIS is a good example. Who supplies the money? Saudi Arabia with petrodollars; who supplies the weapons? The United States. Who provides the entry point for army grade weaponry? Israel; why? To weaken and destabilize Israel’s neighbors and pave the way to an all out assault on Syria and Iran.

Obama authorises US air strikes to help Iraqis besieged on mountain by Isis

Barack Obama has authorised targeted air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, as the US military began an airborne operation to bring relief to thousands of minority Iraqis driven to a grim, mountain-top refuge.

Describing the threats against stranded Yezidi refugees as holding the potential for “genocide”, the president said he had authorised limited air strikes to help Iraqi forces, to assist in the fight to break the siege and protect the civilians trapped there.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale and we have a mandate to help – in this case a request from the Iraqi government – and when we have unique capabilities to act to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” the president said in a late-night statement from the White House.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi said no-one is coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help,” he said.



(CNSNews.com) – A State Department official who just returned from a seven-week trip to Iraq, said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is no longer just a terrorist group.

“ISIL is no longer simply a terrorist organization,” Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran at the U.S. Department of State, said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. “It is now a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.”



The US Congress’s National Defense Authorization Act contained an anti-Iran provision that went into effect July 1. It requires the US government to strong-arm the countries still purchasing Iranian oil to stop buying it. The boycott cut Iran’s oil sales in half in 2012 (though 2011 was a particularly lucrative year for the regime). At the same time, Saudi Arabia flooded the market by pumping extra petroleum, keeping the prices from rising astronomically. This economic blockade of Iran’s petroleum is unlikely to change the regime or its behavior, but it will likely kill the Iranian reform movement. And it could be a path for rising tensions and war between Iran and the United States.

Juan Cole


DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has obtained data from a U.S. intelligence drone that shows it was spying on the country’s military sites and oil terminals, Iranian media reported its armed forces as saying on Wednesday.
Iran announced on Tuesday that it had captured a ScanEagle drone belonging to the United States, but Washington said there was no evidence to support the assertion.

The incident has underscored tensions in the Gulf as Iran and the United States draw attention to their military capabilities in the vital oil exporting region in a standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
«We have fully extracted the drone’s information,» Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.
The drone was gathering military information and spying on the transfer of oil from Iran’s petroleum terminals, the IRGC statement said, according to Press TV. Iran’s main export terminal is at Kharg Island.
The U.S. government has focused on blocking Iran’s oil exports through sanctions to persuade Iran to give up its disputed nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies believe is aimed at developing a bomb, something Iran denies.
Israeli officials have threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear sites if sanctions and diplomacy fail to stop its program.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz – through which about 40 percent of the world’s seaborne crude oil is shipped – if it comes under attack. U.S. commanders have said they will not let that happen.
The compact ScanEagle drone had been flying over the Gulf in the last few days and was captured when it strayed into Iranian airspace, the IRGC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The U.S. military has been using Boeing Co ScanEagle spy planes since 2004 and they have become a relatively inexpensive way for the United States and others to conduct surveillance.
In November, the United States said Iranian warplanes shot at a U.S. surveillance drone flying in international airspace.
Iran said the aircraft had entered its airspace to spy on Iranian oil platforms and said it would respond «decisively» to any incursions.
In December 2011, Iran said it had captured a U.S. RQ-170 reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran which was reported lost by U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Iranian commanders have since announced they have extracted valuable technology from the aircraft and were in the process of reverse-engineering it for their own defense industry.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati, Editing by William Maclean)


– CNN reports: Recent satellite photos show continued activity at a controversial Iranian military site that international weapons inspectors have repeatedly been denied access to, according to a Washington-based think tank.


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON | Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:34am EST

(Reuters) – The Senate on Friday resoundingly approved new sanctions on trade with Iran’s energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors, its latest effort to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

The new package builds on existing U.S. sanctions but maintains exemptions for countries that have made significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil.

Iran’s currency has plunged this year as its oil exports were slashed by U.S. and European sanctions aimed at pressuring the country’s leadership to stop pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The United Nations’ nuclear chief said on Thursday his agency has made no progress in its year-long push to investigate whether Iran has worked on developing an atomic bomb.

«We must be clear to the Iranians that toughing it out and waiting it out is not an option, that it will only get worse,» Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said ahead of the vote.

Menendez co-authored the package with Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

Senators voted 94-0 to make the new sanctions part of an annual defense policy bill.

The Obama administration has not publicly commented on the proposals, but has privately raised concerns that it does not provide enough «waiver flexibility,» said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin said those concerns may be addressed when the Senate and House of Representatives work out differences to finalize the massive defense bill. Both bodies will need to approve the defense bill before it would be given to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The new sanctions also include measures aimed at stopping the flow of gold from Turkey to Iran.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group, endorsed the measures, which they said would close a loophole in existing laws.

«In an effort to circumvent international sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, some purchasers of Iranian oil and natural gas have been using gold and other precious metals to pay for petroleum products,» AIPAC leaders said in a letter to senators ahead of the vote, urging support for the bill.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)


Jonathan Saul and Marcus George
Reuters

5:27 a.m. CST, November 28, 2012

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s food distribution system is in crisis even though Western sanctions do not directly target the market, badly hurting the poor and turning some staples into luxuries.

Private importers are shrinking away from deals made risky by turmoil in the rial currency, and many foreign banks are reluctant to finance even trade exempt from the sanctions for fear of drawing fire simply for doing business with Iran.

The result is that the Iranian state is under growing pressure to import and allocate more goods as it tries to avoid any social unrest due to shortages and soaring prices.

An increasingly shaky state apparatus will struggle to fill the gap often left by private companies, analysts say.

«If you are talking about the number of deals needed for a country of 75 million … you do not have an organized overall strategy for finance, purchase and distribution. I do not think they can cope with the challenge,» said Scott Lucas, a specialist in Iranian affairs at Birmingham University.

«Even if the sanctions were lifted, which is a huge if, the problems in the system are now so endemic I think they face real serious structural problems.»

Sanctions led by the United States and European Union, designed to halt Iran’s nuclear program, are strangling the economy and particularly energy exports, but so far Iranians do not face a widespread humanitarian crisis.

Nevertheless, many foreign foods are hard to find and high prices mean Iranians cannot always afford even basic items.

Hossein, a Tehran shopkeeper, described the problems faced particularly by the poor. «A few days ago an elderly woman came to my shop to buy 12 eggs, but when I told her how much she had to pay, she decided to just take five. I really felt bad because she is old and lives by herself,» he said by telephone.

The problems have become politically charged. Earlier this year Iran’s police chief urged television stations not to show people eating chicken to avoid fueling social tensions, as a jump in poultry prices has made it a rarity in many homes.

Even the relatively well-off are feeling the effects. «Not only have we had to cut back on less important things, we are also forced to purchase local products. I haven’t had real, good chocolate for a long time,» 25-year-old management student Sanaz said by phone from Tehran.

Iran is estimated to consume around 15.5 million tonnes of wheat a year and about 2.6 million tonnes of sugar.

The sanctions on the nuclear program – which Western governments fear is aimed at making weapons, despite Iranian denials – helped to push the rial into a nosedive earlier this year. The currency has since stabilized, but importers are finding it increasingly difficult to buy dollars for purchases, and are wary of getting caught out by another currency swing.

Instead, many commercial buyers are preferring to lock in their wealth in real estate or safe haven assets such as gold.


Lecture delivered by Matthew Machowski at the School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London.

This lecture introduce issues related to nuclear enrichment, nuclear weapons technology, international legal restrictions on nuclear technology and use, and the latest developments surrounding Iran’s nuclear energy and weapons programme.

There is no good evidence that Iran has a “structured” nuclear weapons program as opposed to a civilian nuclear enrichment program; the regime has not made a decision to build a nuclear warhead; and it may have decided (not clear) that it wants ‘nuclear latency’ or the ability quickly to weaponize if it feels threatened.

Machowski urges us to view the conflict with Iran as already a war in progress.


RT’s Marina Portnaya interviews former senior advisor to George W. Bush, Robert McNally.


Barack Obama’s second term is only just beginning – and he’s already making bold steps in the international arena.The U.S. has sent an air force detachment to service warplanes in Poland, which had pressed Washington for a security guarantee against Russia.

U.S. lawmakers are also reportedly preparing new sweeping sanctions against Iran, targeting its foreign business transactions. That’s on top of the latest round of restrictions imposed by Barack Obama just after he was re-elected to the White House.

Strains are widening between America and Iran – after The Pentagon revealed that Iranian jets fired at a U.S. drone flying off Iran’s coast last week. Political analyst Mohammad Marandi says it’s unlikely Tehran will bow down to Western pressure.


Jeremiah Goulka writes at Tomdispatch:
The Dogs of War Are Barking: Mitt Romney’s Team Wants to Let ‘Em Loose in Iran
It’s the consensus among the pundits: foreign policy doesn’t matter in this presidential election.  They point to the ways Republican candidate Mitt Romney has more or less parroted President Barack Obama on just about everything other than military spending and tough talk about another “American century.”
The consensus is wrong. There is an issue that matters: Iran.
Don’t be fooled.  It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.”  He certainly is trying to appear tougher and stronger than Obama — he of the drone wars, the “kill list,” and Bin Laden’s offing — but it’s no hollow threat.
The Republican nominee has surrounded himself with advisors who are committed to military action and regime change against Iran, the same people who brought us the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War.  Along with their colleagues in hawkish think tanks, they have spent years priming the public to believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, making ludicrous claims about “crazy” mullahs nuking Israel and the United States, pooh-poohing diplomacy — and getting ever shriller each time credible officials and analysts disagree.
Unlike with Iraq in 2002 and 2003, they have it easier today.  Then, they and their mentors had to go on a sales roadshow, painting pictures of phantom WMDs to build up support for an invasion.  Today, a large majority of Americans already believe that Iran is building nuclear weapons.
President Obama has helped push that snowball up the hill with sanctions to undermine the regime, covert and cyber warfare, and a huge naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Iran has ratcheted up tensions via posturing military maneuvers, while we have held joint U.S.-Israeli exercises and “the largest-ever multinational minesweeping exercise” there.  Our navies are facing off in a dangerous dance.
Obama has essentially loaded the gun and cocked it.  But he has kept his finger off the trigger, pursuing diplomacy with the so-called P5+1 talks and rumored future direct talks with the Iranians.  The problem is: Romney’s guys want to shoot.
Unlike Iraq, Iran Would Be an Easy Sell

Remember those innocent days of 2002 and 2003, when the war in Afghanistan was still new and the Bush administration was trying to sell an invasion of Iraq?  I do.  I was a Republican then, but I never quite bought the pitch.  I never felt the urgency, saw the al-Qaeda connection, or worried about phantom WMDs.  It just didn’t feel right.  But Iran today?  If I were still a Republican hawk, it would be “game on,” and I’d know I was not alone for three reasons.
First, even armchair strategists know that Iran has a lot of oil that is largely closed off to us.  It reputedly has the fourth largest reserves on the planet.  It also has a long coastline on the Persian Gulf, and it has the ability to shut the Strait of Hormuz, which would pinch off one of the world’s major energy arteries.
Then there is the fact that Iran has a special place in American consciousness.  The Islamic Republic of Iran and the mullahs who run it have been a cultural enemy ever since revolutionary students toppled our puppet regime there and stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.  The country is a theocracy run by angry-looking men with long beards and funny outfits. It has funded Hezbollah and Hamas.  Its crowds call us the “Great Satan.” Its president denies the Holocaust and says stuff about wiping Israel off the map.  Talk about a ready-made enemy.
Finally, well, nukes.
The public appears to be primed.  A large majority of Americans believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, 71% in 2010 and 84% this March.  Some surveys even indicate that a majority of Americans would support military action to stop Iran from developing nukes.
That’s remarkable considering how much less certain most experts seem.  Take, for example, the National Intelligence Council, the senior panel that issues the government’s National Intelligence Estimates.  It continues to stick with its opinion that Iran once had such a program, but closed it down in 2003. U.S., European, and Israeli officials consistently say that Iran does not have an ongoing program and hasn’t even decided to pursue one, that at most the Iranians are hanging out near the starting line.  Iran’s supreme leader himself issued a fatwa against building nukes.  Why, then, is the American public so certain?  How did we get here?
There are three main reasons, only one of which is partially innocent.
What’s in a Name?
The first is linguistic and quite simple.  Say these words out loud: Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
Does that sound familiar?  Do those words look normal on the page?  Chances are the answer is “no,” because that’s not how the media, public officials, or political candidates typically refer to Iran’s nuclear activities.  Iran has a civilian nuclear power program, including a power plant at Beshehr, that was founded with the encouragement and assistance of the Eisenhower administration in 1957 as part of its “Atoms for Peace” program.  Do we hear about that?  No.  Instead, all we hear about is “Iran’s nuclear program.”  Especially in context, the implied meaning of those three words is inescapable: that Iran is currently pursuing nuclear weapons.
Out of curiosity, I ran some Google searches.  The results were striking.

  • “Iran’s disputed nuclear weapons program”: 4 hits
  • “Iran’s possible nuclear weapons program”: about 8,990 hits
  • “Iran’s civil nuclear program”: about 42,200 hits
  • “Iran’s civilian nuclear program”: about 199,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear weapons program”: about 5,520,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear program”: about 49,000,000 hits

Words matter, and this sloppiness is shaping American perceptions, priming the public for war.
Some of this is probably due to laziness.  Having to throw in “civilian” or “weapons” or “disputed” or “possible” makes for extra work and the result is a bit of a tongue twister.  Even people with good reasons to be precise use the shorter phrase, including President Obama.
But some of it is intentional.
The Proselytizing Republican Presidential Candidates
The second reason so many Americans are convinced that Iran is desperately seeking nukes can be attributed to the field of Republican candidates for the presidency.  They used the specter of such a weapons program to bash one another in the primaries, each posturing as the biggest, baddest sheriff on the block — and the process never ended.
The hyperbole has been impressive.  Take Rick Santorum: “Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri.”  Or Newt Gingrich: “Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it’s 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction.”
And then there’s Mitt Romney: “Right now, the greatest danger that America faces and the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”
The Regime-Change Brigade
Even if they’re not exactly excusable, media laziness and political posturing are predictable.  But there is a third reason Americans are primed for war: there exists in Washington what might be called the Bomb Iran Lobby — a number of hawkish political types and groups actively working to make believers of us all when it comes to an Iranian weapons program and so pave the way for regime change.  It should be noted that while some current and former Democrats have said that bombing Iran is a good idea, the groups in the lobby all fall on the Republican side of the aisle.
Numerous conservative and neoconservative think tanks pump out reports, op-eds, and journal articles suggesting or simply stating that “Iran has a nuclear weapons program” that must be stopped — and that it’ll probably take force to do the job.  Just check out the flow of words from mainstream Republican think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and AEI. (“It has long been clear that, absent regime change in Tehran, peaceful means will never persuade or prevent Iran from reaching its nuclear objective, to which it is perilously close.”)  Or take the Claremont Institute (“A mortal threat when Iran is not yet in possession of a nuclear arsenal? Yes…”) or neoconservatives who sit in perches in nonpartisan institutes like Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations (“Air Strikes Against Iran Are Justifiable”).
You can see this at even more hawkish shops like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, with its “campaign to ensure that Iran’s vow to destroy Israel and create ‘a world without America’ remains neither ‘obtainable’ nor ‘achievable.’”  (According to one of its distinguished advisors, a Fox News host, Iran has “nuclear weapons programs” — plural).  At the old Cold War group the Committee on the Present Danger, Iran is “marching toward nuclearization.”  Retired general and Christian crusader Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council even told Glenn Beck, “I believe that Iran has a nuclear warhead now.”
There are also two organizations, much attended to on the right, whose sole goal is regime change.  There’s the Emergency Committee for Israel, a militantly pro-Israel group founded by Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer that links the Christian right with the neocons and the Israel lobby.  It insists that “Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” and it’s pushing hard for bombing and regime change.
No less important is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident cult group that was recently, amid much controversy, removed from the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.  The MEK brought Israeli intelligence about Iran’s then-active nuclear weapons program into the public eye at a Washington press conference in 2002.  Since then, it has peppered the public with tales of Iranian nuclear chicanery, and it ran a major lobbying campaign, paying dozens of former U.S. anti-terrorism officials — several of whom are now in the defense industry — to sing its praises.
It wants regime change because it hopes that the U.S. will install its “president-elect” and “parliament-in-exile” in power in Tehran.  (Think of Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, who played a similar role with the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  They even have some of the same boosters.)
And then there are the groups who want war with Iran for religious reasons.  Take Christians United For Israel (CUFI), an End-Times politico-religious organization run by John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio.  As scholar Nicholas Guyatt shows in his book Have a Nice Doomsday, Hagee’s organization promotes the belief, common among fundamentalist Christians, that a war between Israel and Iran will trigger the Rapture.
Hagee’s own book, Countdown Jerusalem, suggests that Iran already has nuclear weapons and the ability to use them, and he aggressively advocates an attack on that country.  To many mainstream Americans, Hagee, his followers, and others with similar religious views may seem a bit nutty, but he is not to be discounted: his book was a bestseller.
The Supporting Cast
Republican-friendly media have joined the game, running blustery TV segments on the subject and cooking the books to assure survey majorities that favor military action.  Take this question from a March poll commissioned by Fox News: “Do you think Iran can be stopped from continuing to work on a nuclear weapons program through diplomacy and sanctions alone, or will it take military force to stop Iran from working on nuclear weapons?”  Absent priming like this, a majority of Americans actually prefer diplomacy, 81% supporting direct talks between Washington and Tehran.
And don’t forget the military-industrial complex, for which the fear of a nuclear-armed Iran means opportunity. They use it to justify that perennial cash cow and Republican favorite: missile defense (which the Romney campaign dutifully promotes on its “Iran: An American Century” webpage).  It gives the Pentagon a chance to ask for new bunker busting bombs and to justify the two new classes of pricey littoral combat ships.
If the U.S. were to bomb Iranian facilities — and inevitably get drawn into a more prolonged conflict — the cash spigot is likely to open full flood.  And don’t forget the potential LOGCAP, construction, and private security contracts that might flow over the years (even if there isn’t an occupation) to the KBRs, SAICs, DynCorps, Halliburtons, Bechtels, Wackenhuts, Triple Canopies, and Blackwater/Academis of the world.  (Too bad there aren’t meaningful transparency laws that would let us know how much these companies and their employees have contributed, directly or indirectly, to Romney’s campaign or to the think tanks that pay and promote the convenient views of professional ideologues.)
The Problem With Romney
All of this means that the public has been primed for war with Iran.  With constant media attention, the Republican candidates have driven home the notion that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons, that Iranian nukes present an immediate and existential threat to Israel and the U.S., and that diplomacy is for sissies.  If Obama wins, he will have to work even harder to prevent war.  If Romney wins, war will be all the easier.  And for his team, that’s a good thing.
The problem with Romney, you see, is that he hangs out with the wrong crowd — the regime-change brigade, many of whom steered the ship of state toward Iraq for George W. Bush.  And keep in mind that he, like Romney (and Obama), was an empty vessel on foreign affairs when he entered the Oval Office. Even if Iran has been nothing more than a political tool for Romney, regime change is a deep-seated goal for the people around him.  They actually want to bomb Iran.  They’ve said so themselves.
Take Robert Kagan.  His main perch is at the non-partisan Brookings Institution, but he has also been a leader of the neocon Project for a New American Century and its successor organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). “Regime change in Tehran,” he has written, “is the best nonproliferation policy.”
Kagan’s fellow directors at the FPI are also on Romney’s team: Bill Kristol, Eric Edelman (former staffer to Cheney and Douglas Feith’s successor at the Pentagon), and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, who has become Romney’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and a rumored contender for national security advisor.  The FPI’s position? “It is time to take military action against the Iranian government elements that support terrorism and its nuclear program. More diplomacy is not an adequate response.”
Or how about John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador and a frequent speaker on behalf of the MEK, who has said, “The better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to attack its nuclear weapons program directly and break their control over the nuclear fuel cycle,” and that “we should be prepared to take down the regime in Tehran.”
And the list goes on.
It is, of course, theoretically possible that a President Romney would ignore his neocon team’s advice, just as George W. Bush famously ignored the moderate Republican advice of his father’s team.  Still, it’s hard to imagine him giving the cold shoulder to the sages of the previous administration: Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  Indeed, Romney is said to turn to the “Cheney-ites” when he seeks counsel, while giving the more moderate Republican internationalists the cold shoulder.  And Cheney wanted to bomb Iran.
In a Romney administration, expect this gang to lobby him hard to finish the job and take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, or at least to give Israel the green light to do so.  Expect them to close their eyes to what we have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan when it comes to “blood and treasure.”  Expect them to say that bombing alone will do the trick “surgically.”  Expect them to claim that the military high command is “soft,” “bureaucratic,” and “risk-averse” when it hesitates to get involved in what will inevitably become a regional nightmare.  Expect the message to be: this time we’ll get it right.
Kenneling the Dogs of War
No one likes the idea of Iran getting nukes, but should the regime decide to pursue them, they don’t present an existential threat to anyone.  Tehran’s leaders know that a mushroom cloud in Tel Aviv, no less Washington, would turn their country into a parking lot.
Should the mullahs ever pursue nuclear weapons again, it would be for deterrence, for the ability to stand up to the United States and say, “Piss off.”  While that might present a challenge for American foreign policy interests — especially those related to oil — it has nothing to do with the physical safety of Israel or the United States.
War with Iran is an incredibly bad idea, yet it’s a real threat.  President Obama has come close to teeing it up.  Even talk of a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is delusional, because, as just about every analyst points out, we wouldn’t know if it had worked (which it probably wouldn’t) and it would be an act of war that Iran wouldn’t absorb with a smile.  In its wake, a lot of people would be likely to die.
But Romney’s guys don’t think it’s a bad idea.  They think it’s a good one, and they are ready to take a swing.
Jeremiah Goulka, a TomDispatch regular, writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party.  He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a Hurricane Katrina recovery worker, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.
Copyright 2012 Jeremiah Goulka
___________________
Mirrored from Tomdispatch.eom


Around 12,000 troops from more than 19 nations are wrapping up a massive military training drill in the Middle East. But for some of those servicemen, these exercises might be just the beginning of something much bigger to come.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are just a sampling of the many countries — along with European allies — that have been involved in the nearly month-long Eager Lion 2012 exercise expected to end this week. Although much of the drills have been kept under wraps, it isn’t a secret that these states have spent the last month cooperating together through mock combat drills and comprehensive training. Some sources overseas report, however, that as many as 3,000 troops aligned with US forces have conducted a simulated landing and attack on Iran, preparing America and its allies for a war that becomes more likely by the day.

Intelligence sources speaking to Israel’s Debka news agency report that US troops and other forces aligned with America recently staged a landing on a Jordanian beach that was immediately followed by a military seizure of fortified mountain bases and command posts. The exercise was meant to emulate an attack on Iran and accompanies other drills that witnesses say show off just what America’s foes face if they continue to put the heat on the United States and its pals abroad.

Speaking of a drill assumed to be a mockup of a raid on Syria, Major General. Awni el-Edwan, Chief of staff of the Jordanian Operations and Training Armed Forces, says, “The exercise is not connected to any real world event,” reports CNN. “This has nothing to do with Syria. We respect the sovereignty of Syria. There is no tension between the Syrians and us. Our objectives are clear.”

Others, however, say that the intentions of the Eager Lion 2012 drills are obvious.

Gen. James Mattis, head of the US Central Command, visited both sections of the exercise led by American troops in Jordan, adds Debka. Should the US officially attack either Syria or Iran, Gen. Mattis will be the head of the military forces there. Additionally, intelligence sources speaking with the Israeli outlet reveal that Gen. Mattis has recently sought approval from US President Barack Obama to deploy a third aircraft carrier to the Middle East to increase America’s presence.

The United States currently has two massive aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf area, both the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Enterprise, and CNN adds in their report that the Air Force has sent six of the stealth F-22 fighter jets to the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

The US is believed to be engaged in exercises involving the Navy and Air Force in operations on the land, air and sea, with the US Special Operations troops also working in tandem with Jordanian special forces units in counterterrorism to put both teams on the same page.

Debka reports that, during Eager Lion 2012, a command post was also established by around 700 US Marines onboard the USS New York amphibious transport dock that was stationed in the Red Sea. The entire exercise there, they say, was “clearly visible” to observers in a neighboring Israeli port. Only days earlier, Debka reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his country that “all options remain on the table” involving an attack on Iran, and that the Jewish state will strike first if necessary, even without the assistance of American forces.

«There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities,” said Barak.


If Israel goes from threats to military actions, “it is Israel who will be destroyed,” says a high-ranking Iranian general. This comes as a fresh twist in the war of words that has engrossed Israel and Iran in recent months.

­»If the Zionist regime takes any actions against Iran, it would result in the end of its labors,» Brigadier General Mostafa Izadi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, told the Fars news agency.

Israel cannot harm Iran in the slightest, assured the top military official.

«If they act logically, such threats amount to a psychological war, but if they want to act illogically, it is they who will be destroyed,» he added.

The message is a response to Israel’s renewed calls for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic. As Iran sat down to another round of nuclear talks with world powers last week, Israel issued more calls threatening Iran with military action. Tel Aviv believed Tehran did not take the threat of war seriously.

“The Iranians think this is just a warning. That people are not serious enough,”

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview, as the talks kicked off in Moscow.

“If the Iranians understand seriously that this [military action] is an option, maybe we shall not need it. If they think this is a bluff, then it may lead to a war,” he added.

Israel and its Western allies suspect that Tehran is enriching uranium in a bid to secretly create nuclear warheads, though no evidence for such a claim has been presented and most Western experts say otherwise. Tel Aviv has also repeatedly said that it will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities before allowing it to build nukes. Iran insists that it needs enriched uranium for civilian uses.

The Moscow negotiations wrapped up with no breakthrough.

Western powers again demanded that Tehran scale down its nuclear work: to shut down the Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility and ship any stockpile out of the country. In return, Iran was offered enough fuel to meet the country’s medical needs, assistance in nuclear security and lift a ban on spare parts for Iran’s civilian planes.

Iran slammed the proposed deal for having too many demands while offering little in return. Tehran wanted to see relief from strangling economic sanctions, imposed by the EU and US, and an official acknowledgement of its right to enrich uranium before they considered scaling down nuclear activities.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July 3.



Here are some ways you can spread the word to make sure President Obama gets the message loud and clear.

If you are on Facebook, click here to post the petition to your Wall.

If you have a Twitter account, click here to automatically tweet:
Tell Pres. @BarackObama: We support diplomacy with #Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. http://bit.ly/MqtlwH

You can also send the following e-mail to your friends and family. Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along to those who know you — spam hurts our campaign.

Thanks for all you do.

–The CREDO Action Team

Here’s a sample message to send to your friends:


Subject: Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.
Dear Friend,

The next week is critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.

Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.

But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.

We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.

I just signed a petition telling President Obama that we support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.

I hope you sign the petition, too.

It’s easy to do so. Just click on the link below.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/obama_iran/?r_by=41967-5154581-CDhpWCx&rc=confemail


The next few days are critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.
Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.
But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.
We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.
Many in power seem to have learned nothing from the catastrophic mistake and tremendous moral failure that was the war in Iraq.
There is already dangerous momentum to begin a war of choice with Iran. And should the Moscow negotiations break down or bear no fruit, the drumbeat for war will only grow more intense.
Those who would welcome a war with Iran are trying to suggest that the window for a diplomatic solution is rapidly closing.
But both American and Israeli intelligence services agree that Iran neither has made a decision to build a nuclear bomb nor currently has the capacity to do so. So there is no short-term imperative to wage war.
To his credit, President Obama is clearly not rushing to start another war. But many members of Congress, including many Democrats, are pushing him to offer nothing meaningful to Iran until Iran gives the United States and its allies everything we want.
Fundamentally, this kind of negotiating strategy would set us up for failure.
While there is no easy solution to the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy in good faith and give diplomatic solutions the time they need to bear fruit.
And that means being open to a slow but steady move away from the brink of war through mutual concessions.
In an election year, when many of President Obama’s traditional allies are either opposed or highly skeptical of his strategy, President Obama must know that there is full-throated support for diplomacy that can prevent an unnecessary war.
Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out for diplomacy.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

WASHINGTON – The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.

Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran.

Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.

«Iran is our neighbor,» Rogozin said. «If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.» Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia’s defense sector.

Russian Defense Ministry sources say that the Russian military doesn’t believe that Israel has sufficient military assets to defeat Iranian defenses and further believes that U.S. military action will be necessary.

The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both.

Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of «unpredictable consequences» in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.

The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper has quoted a Russian military source as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran «causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.»

This latest information comes from a series of reports and leaks from official Russian spokesmen and government news agencies who say that an Israeli attack is all but certain by the summer.

Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.

Families of Russian servicemen from the Russian base at Gyumri in Armenia close to the borders of Georgia and Turkey already have been evacuated, Russian sources say.

Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-04-09/news/31311454_1_russian-defense-ministry-military-action-dmitry-rogozin#ixzz1s2j7KMHO


Sheldon Richman

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.

When President Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee some weeks ago, he admonished those who engaged in “loose talk of war” about Iran. Apparently, his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, didn’t get the memo.

The Associated Press reported this week,

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in mid-April. With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack adding urgency to the next round of discussions in Istanbul set for April 13, Clinton said Iran’s “window of opportunity” for a peaceful resolution “will not remain open forever.”

She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of negotiating a solution that satisfies the U.S., Israel and other countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

That’s another memo Clinton seems not to have received. Both American and Israeli intelligence say that Iran has neither started to build a nuclear weapon nor even decided to do so in the future. Both also regard the Iranian government as a “rational actor.” (The American news media occasionally reports this, but then goes back to stating, as though it were uncontroversial, that Iran is building a nuclear arsenal.)

So why the conflicting signals from the U.S. government? This conflict can be seen in Obama’s own statements. While he calls for diplomacy and warns against loose war talk, he has imposed harsh economic sanctions that make the daily lives of average Iranians miserable, has rejected “containment,” and boasted that he doesn’t “bluff.”

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has trained operatives from an Iranian opposition group at a secret site in Nevada. Writing in The New Yorker, Hersh reports JSOC began training the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, in 2005, even though the group is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The training included intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics. The training is said to have ended before President Obama took office. Last month, NBC reported members of the MEK have been involved in the assassinations of five Iranian

August 18, 2014 | 3:25 pm

The battle for Iraq's largest dam continued today, even as officials claimed that government troops and Kurdish forces had regained control of the complex from hardline Sunni militant group the Islamic State, which seized it earlier this month.

Iraqi military spokesman Lt-Gen. Qassim Atta told state television today that Mosul Dam had been "fully cleansed" of militants by a joint force of Iraqi troops and peshmerga fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan backed by US and Iraqi aircraft. However, when VICE News visited the peshmerga front lines close to the dam, fighting was still clearly underway and medical staff reported a number of Kurdish and Iraqi casualties.



It is not true that the Middle East is inherently unstable. Human history is the history of conflict and the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. But it is not true that current conflict is just the continuum of thousand years of fighting. Muslims and Jews have lived in peace in the Middle East for hundreds of years. In Palestine they were well beyond tolerance into actual friendship. Even in the seventies anyone from any country could go to Beirut, Damascus, Kabul, and Bagdad and have a wonderful worry free time.

Most current conflict can be trace to imperialistic meddling. To point some highlights: the arbitrary partition of the Kurdish and Pashtun countries by the British; The creation of a European settler State in Palestine by the British; the placement in power of the aleut minority in Syria by the British; The coup de Etat by the CIA that put the Sha in power in Iran; The creation of the Taliban by the CIA; The unconditional support of Israel by the United States, even against the interest of the people and government of the US, and even after Israel has attacked US personnel in international waters.

The ISIS is a good example. Who supplies the money? Saudi Arabia with petrodollars; who supplies the weapons? The United States. Who provides the entry point for army grade weaponry? Israel; why? To weaken and destabilize Israel's neighbors and pave the way to an all out assault on Syria and Iran.



Obama authorises US air strikes to help Iraqis besieged on mountain by Isis



Barack Obama has authorised targeted air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, as the US military began an airborne operation to bring relief to thousands of minority Iraqis driven to a grim, mountain-top refuge.

Describing the threats against stranded Yezidi refugees as holding the potential for “genocide”, the president said he had authorised limited air strikes to help Iraqi forces, to assist in the fight to break the siege and protect the civilians trapped there.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale and we have a mandate to help - in this case a request from the Iraqi government - and when we have unique capabilities to act to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” the president said in a late-night statement from the White House.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi said no-one is coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help,” he said.









(CNSNews.com) – A State Department official who just returned from a seven-week trip to Iraq, said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is no longer just a terrorist group.

“ISIL is no longer simply a terrorist organization,” Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran at the U.S. Department of State, said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. “It is now a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.”







The US Congress’s National Defense Authorization Act contained an anti-Iran provision that went into effect July 1. It requires the US government to strong-arm the countries still purchasing Iranian oil to stop buying it. The boycott cut Iran’s oil sales in half in 2012 (though 2011 was a particularly lucrative year for the regime). At the same time, Saudi Arabia flooded the market by pumping extra petroleum, keeping the prices from rising astronomically. This economic blockade of Iran’s petroleum is unlikely to change the regime or its behavior, but it will likely kill the Iranian reform movement. And it could be a path for rising tensions and war between Iran and the United States.

Juan Cole


DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has obtained data from a U.S. intelligence drone that shows it was spying on the country's military sites and oil terminals, Iranian media reported its armed forces as saying on Wednesday.
Iran announced on Tuesday that it had captured a ScanEagle drone belonging to the United States, but Washington said there was no evidence to support the assertion.


The incident has underscored tensions in the Gulf as Iran and the United States draw attention to their military capabilities in the vital oil exporting region in a standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
"We have fully extracted the drone's information," Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Iran's English-language Press TV.
The drone was gathering military information and spying on the transfer of oil from Iran's petroleum terminals, the IRGC statement said, according to Press TV. Iran's main export terminal is at Kharg Island.
The U.S. government has focused on blocking Iran's oil exports through sanctions to persuade Iran to give up its disputed nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies believe is aimed at developing a bomb, something Iran denies.
Israeli officials have threatened to strike Iran's nuclear sites if sanctions and diplomacy fail to stop its program.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz - through which about 40 percent of the world's seaborne crude oil is shipped - if it comes under attack. U.S. commanders have said they will not let that happen.
The compact ScanEagle drone had been flying over the Gulf in the last few days and was captured when it strayed into Iranian airspace, the IRGC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The U.S. military has been using Boeing Co ScanEagle spy planes since 2004 and they have become a relatively inexpensive way for the United States and others to conduct surveillance.
In November, the United States said Iranian warplanes shot at a U.S. surveillance drone flying in international airspace.
Iran said the aircraft had entered its airspace to spy on Iranian oil platforms and said it would respond "decisively" to any incursions.
In December 2011, Iran said it had captured a U.S. RQ-170 reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran which was reported lost by U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Iranian commanders have since announced they have extracted valuable technology from the aircraft and were in the process of reverse-engineering it for their own defense industry.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati, Editing by William Maclean)


– CNN reports: Recent satellite photos show continued activity at a controversial Iranian military site that international weapons inspectors have repeatedly been denied access to, according to a Washington-based think tank.



By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON | Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:34am EST

(Reuters) - The Senate on Friday resoundingly approved new sanctions on trade with Iran's energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors, its latest effort to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

The new package builds on existing U.S. sanctions but maintains exemptions for countries that have made significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil.

Iran's currency has plunged this year as its oil exports were slashed by U.S. and European sanctions aimed at pressuring the country's leadership to stop pursuing nuclear weapons.



Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The United Nations' nuclear chief said on Thursday his agency has made no progress in its year-long push to investigate whether Iran has worked on developing an atomic bomb.

"We must be clear to the Iranians that toughing it out and waiting it out is not an option, that it will only get worse," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said ahead of the vote.

Menendez co-authored the package with Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

Senators voted 94-0 to make the new sanctions part of an annual defense policy bill.

The Obama administration has not publicly commented on the proposals, but has privately raised concerns that it does not provide enough "waiver flexibility," said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin said those concerns may be addressed when the Senate and House of Representatives work out differences to finalize the massive defense bill. Both bodies will need to approve the defense bill before it would be given to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The new sanctions also include measures aimed at stopping the flow of gold from Turkey to Iran.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group, endorsed the measures, which they said would close a loophole in existing laws.

"In an effort to circumvent international sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, some purchasers of Iranian oil and natural gas have been using gold and other precious metals to pay for petroleum products," AIPAC leaders said in a letter to senators ahead of the vote, urging support for the bill.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)




Jonathan Saul and Marcus George
Reuters

5:27 a.m. CST, November 28, 2012


LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's food distribution system is in crisis even though Western sanctions do not directly target the market, badly hurting the poor and turning some staples into luxuries.

Private importers are shrinking away from deals made risky by turmoil in the rial currency, and many foreign banks are reluctant to finance even trade exempt from the sanctions for fear of drawing fire simply for doing business with Iran.

The result is that the Iranian state is under growing pressure to import and allocate more goods as it tries to avoid any social unrest due to shortages and soaring prices.

An increasingly shaky state apparatus will struggle to fill the gap often left by private companies, analysts say.

"If you are talking about the number of deals needed for a country of 75 million ... you do not have an organized overall strategy for finance, purchase and distribution. I do not think they can cope with the challenge," said Scott Lucas, a specialist in Iranian affairs at Birmingham University.

"Even if the sanctions were lifted, which is a huge if, the problems in the system are now so endemic I think they face real serious structural problems."

Sanctions led by the United States and European Union, designed to halt Iran's nuclear program, are strangling the economy and particularly energy exports, but so far Iranians do not face a widespread humanitarian crisis.

Nevertheless, many foreign foods are hard to find and high prices mean Iranians cannot always afford even basic items.

Hossein, a Tehran shopkeeper, described the problems faced particularly by the poor. "A few days ago an elderly woman came to my shop to buy 12 eggs, but when I told her how much she had to pay, she decided to just take five. I really felt bad because she is old and lives by herself," he said by telephone.

The problems have become politically charged. Earlier this year Iran's police chief urged television stations not to show people eating chicken to avoid fueling social tensions, as a jump in poultry prices has made it a rarity in many homes.

Even the relatively well-off are feeling the effects. "Not only have we had to cut back on less important things, we are also forced to purchase local products. I haven't had real, good chocolate for a long time," 25-year-old management student Sanaz said by phone from Tehran.

Iran is estimated to consume around 15.5 million tonnes of wheat a year and about 2.6 million tonnes of sugar.

The sanctions on the nuclear program - which Western governments fear is aimed at making weapons, despite Iranian denials - helped to push the rial into a nosedive earlier this year. The currency has since stabilized, but importers are finding it increasingly difficult to buy dollars for purchases, and are wary of getting caught out by another currency swing.

Instead, many commercial buyers are preferring to lock in their wealth in real estate or safe haven assets such as gold.





Lecture delivered by Matthew Machowski at the School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London.

This lecture introduce issues related to nuclear enrichment, nuclear weapons technology, international legal restrictions on nuclear technology and use, and the latest developments surrounding Iran's nuclear energy and weapons programme.

There is no good evidence that Iran has a “structured” nuclear weapons program as opposed to a civilian nuclear enrichment program; the regime has not made a decision to build a nuclear warhead; and it may have decided (not clear) that it wants ‘nuclear latency’ or the ability quickly to weaponize if it feels threatened.

Machowski urges us to view the conflict with Iran as already a war in progress.







RT's Marina Portnaya interviews former senior advisor to George W. Bush, Robert McNally.




Barack Obama's second term is only just beginning - and he's already making bold steps in the international arena.The U.S. has sent an air force detachment to service warplanes in Poland, which had pressed Washington for a security guarantee against Russia.

U.S. lawmakers are also reportedly preparing new sweeping sanctions against Iran, targeting its foreign business transactions. That's on top of the latest round of restrictions imposed by Barack Obama just after he was re-elected to the White House.

Strains are widening between America and Iran - after The Pentagon revealed that Iranian jets fired at a U.S. drone flying off Iran's coast last week. Political analyst Mohammad Marandi says it's unlikely Tehran will bow down to Western pressure.





Jeremiah Goulka writes at Tomdispatch:
The Dogs of War Are Barking: Mitt Romney’s Team Wants to Let ‘Em Loose in Iran
It’s the consensus among the pundits: foreign policy doesn’t matter in this presidential election.  They point to the ways Republican candidate Mitt Romney has more or less parroted President Barack Obama on just about everything other than military spending and tough talk about another “American century.”
The consensus is wrong. There is an issue that matters: Iran.
Don’t be fooled.  It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.”  He certainly is trying to appear tougher and stronger than Obama — he of the drone wars, the “kill list,” and Bin Laden’s offing — but it’s no hollow threat.
The Republican nominee has surrounded himself with advisors who are committed to military action and regime change against Iran, the same people who brought us the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War.  Along with their colleagues in hawkish think tanks, they have spent years priming the public to believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, making ludicrous claims about “crazy” mullahs nuking Israel and the United States, pooh-poohing diplomacy — and getting ever shriller each time credible officials and analysts disagree.
Unlike with Iraq in 2002 and 2003, they have it easier today.  Then, they and their mentors had to go on a sales roadshow, painting pictures of phantom WMDs to build up support for an invasion.  Today, a large majority of Americans already believe that Iran is building nuclear weapons.
President Obama has helped push that snowball up the hill with sanctions to undermine the regime, covert and cyber warfare, and a huge naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Iran has ratcheted up tensions via posturing military maneuvers, while we have held joint U.S.-Israeli exercises and “the largest-ever multinational minesweeping exercise” there.  Our navies are facing off in a dangerous dance.
Obama has essentially loaded the gun and cocked it.  But he has kept his finger off the trigger, pursuing diplomacy with the so-called P5+1 talks and rumored future direct talks with the Iranians.  The problem is: Romney’s guys want to shoot.
Unlike Iraq, Iran Would Be an Easy Sell



Remember those innocent days of 2002 and 2003, when the war in Afghanistan was still new and the Bush administration was trying to sell an invasion of Iraq?  I do.  I was a Republican then, but I never quite bought the pitch.  I never felt the urgency, saw the al-Qaeda connection, or worried about phantom WMDs.  It just didn’t feel right.  But Iran today?  If I were still a Republican hawk, it would be “game on,” and I’d know I was not alone for three reasons.
First, even armchair strategists know that Iran has a lot of oil that is largely closed off to us.  It reputedly has the fourth largest reserves on the planet.  It also has a long coastline on the Persian Gulf, and it has the ability to shut the Strait of Hormuz, which would pinch off one of the world’s major energy arteries.
Then there is the fact that Iran has a special place in American consciousness.  The Islamic Republic of Iran and the mullahs who run it have been a cultural enemy ever since revolutionary students toppled our puppet regime there and stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.  The country is a theocracy run by angry-looking men with long beards and funny outfits. It has funded Hezbollah and Hamas.  Its crowds call us the “Great Satan.” Its president denies the Holocaust and says stuff about wiping Israel off the map.  Talk about a ready-made enemy.
Finally, well, nukes.
The public appears to be primed.  A large majority of Americans believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, 71% in 2010 and 84% this March.  Some surveys even indicate that a majority of Americans would support military action to stop Iran from developing nukes.
That’s remarkable considering how much less certain most experts seem.  Take, for example, the National Intelligence Council, the senior panel that issues the government’s National Intelligence Estimates.  It continues to stick with its opinion that Iran once had such a program, but closed it down in 2003. U.S., European, and Israeli officials consistently say that Iran does not have an ongoing program and hasn’t even decided to pursue one, that at most the Iranians are hanging out near the starting line.  Iran’s supreme leader himself issued a fatwa against building nukes.  Why, then, is the American public so certain?  How did we get here?
There are three main reasons, only one of which is partially innocent.
What’s in a Name?
The first is linguistic and quite simple.  Say these words out loud: Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
Does that sound familiar?  Do those words look normal on the page?  Chances are the answer is “no,” because that’s not how the media, public officials, or political candidates typically refer to Iran’s nuclear activities.  Iran has a civilian nuclear power program, including a power plant at Beshehr, that was founded with the encouragement and assistance of the Eisenhower administration in 1957 as part of its “Atoms for Peace” program.  Do we hear about that?  No.  Instead, all we hear about is “Iran’s nuclear program.”  Especially in context, the implied meaning of those three words is inescapable: that Iran is currently pursuing nuclear weapons.
Out of curiosity, I ran some Google searches.  The results were striking.
  • “Iran’s disputed nuclear weapons program”: 4 hits
  • “Iran’s possible nuclear weapons program”: about 8,990 hits
  • “Iran’s civil nuclear program”: about 42,200 hits
  • “Iran’s civilian nuclear program”: about 199,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear weapons program”: about 5,520,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear program”: about 49,000,000 hits
Words matter, and this sloppiness is shaping American perceptions, priming the public for war.
Some of this is probably due to laziness.  Having to throw in “civilian” or “weapons” or “disputed” or “possible” makes for extra work and the result is a bit of a tongue twister.  Even people with good reasons to be precise use the shorter phrase, including President Obama.
But some of it is intentional.
The Proselytizing Republican Presidential Candidates
The second reason so many Americans are convinced that Iran is desperately seeking nukes can be attributed to the field of Republican candidates for the presidency.  They used the specter of such a weapons program to bash one another in the primaries, each posturing as the biggest, baddest sheriff on the block — and the process never ended.
The hyperbole has been impressive.  Take Rick Santorum: “Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri.”  Or Newt Gingrich: “Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it’s 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction.”
And then there’s Mitt Romney: “Right now, the greatest danger that America faces and the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”
The Regime-Change Brigade
Even if they’re not exactly excusable, media laziness and political posturing are predictable.  But there is a third reason Americans are primed for war: there exists in Washington what might be called the Bomb Iran Lobby — a number of hawkish political types and groups actively working to make believers of us all when it comes to an Iranian weapons program and so pave the way for regime change.  It should be noted that while some current and former Democrats have said that bombing Iran is a good idea, the groups in the lobby all fall on the Republican side of the aisle.
Numerous conservative and neoconservative think tanks pump out reports, op-eds, and journal articles suggesting or simply stating that “Iran has a nuclear weapons program” that must be stopped — and that it’ll probably take force to do the job.  Just check out the flow of words from mainstream Republican think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and AEI. (“It has long been clear that, absent regime change in Tehran, peaceful means will never persuade or prevent Iran from reaching its nuclear objective, to which it is perilously close.”)  Or take the Claremont Institute (“A mortal threat when Iran is not yet in possession of a nuclear arsenal? Yes…”) or neoconservatives who sit in perches in nonpartisan institutes like Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations (“Air Strikes Against Iran Are Justifiable”).
You can see this at even more hawkish shops like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, with its “campaign to ensure that Iran’s vow to destroy Israel and create ‘a world without America’ remains neither ‘obtainable’ nor ‘achievable.’”  (According to one of its distinguished advisors, a Fox News host, Iran has “nuclear weapons programs” — plural).  At the old Cold War group the Committee on the Present Danger, Iran is “marching toward nuclearization.”  Retired general and Christian crusader Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council even told Glenn Beck, “I believe that Iran has a nuclear warhead now.”
There are also two organizations, much attended to on the right, whose sole goal is regime change.  There’s the Emergency Committee for Israel, a militantly pro-Israel group founded by Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer that links the Christian right with the neocons and the Israel lobby.  It insists that “Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” and it’s pushing hard for bombing and regime change.
No less important is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident cult group that was recently, amid much controversy, removed from the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.  The MEK brought Israeli intelligence about Iran’s then-active nuclear weapons program into the public eye at a Washington press conference in 2002.  Since then, it has peppered the public with tales of Iranian nuclear chicanery, and it ran a major lobbying campaign, paying dozens of former U.S. anti-terrorism officials — several of whom are now in the defense industry — to sing its praises.
It wants regime change because it hopes that the U.S. will install its “president-elect” and “parliament-in-exile” in power in Tehran.  (Think of Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, who played a similar role with the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  They even have some of the same boosters.)
And then there are the groups who want war with Iran for religious reasons.  Take Christians United For Israel (CUFI), an End-Times politico-religious organization run by John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio.  As scholar Nicholas Guyatt shows in his book Have a Nice Doomsday, Hagee’s organization promotes the belief, common among fundamentalist Christians, that a war between Israel and Iran will trigger the Rapture.
Hagee’s own book, Countdown Jerusalem, suggests that Iran already has nuclear weapons and the ability to use them, and he aggressively advocates an attack on that country.  To many mainstream Americans, Hagee, his followers, and others with similar religious views may seem a bit nutty, but he is not to be discounted: his book was a bestseller.
The Supporting Cast
Republican-friendly media have joined the game, running blustery TV segments on the subject and cooking the books to assure survey majorities that favor military action.  Take this question from a March poll commissioned by Fox News: “Do you think Iran can be stopped from continuing to work on a nuclear weapons program through diplomacy and sanctions alone, or will it take military force to stop Iran from working on nuclear weapons?”  Absent priming like this, a majority of Americans actually prefer diplomacy, 81% supporting direct talks between Washington and Tehran.
And don’t forget the military-industrial complex, for which the fear of a nuclear-armed Iran means opportunity. They use it to justify that perennial cash cow and Republican favorite: missile defense (which the Romney campaign dutifully promotes on its “Iran: An American Century” webpage).  It gives the Pentagon a chance to ask for new bunker busting bombs and to justify the two new classes of pricey littoral combat ships.
If the U.S. were to bomb Iranian facilities — and inevitably get drawn into a more prolonged conflict — the cash spigot is likely to open full flood.  And don’t forget the potential LOGCAP, construction, and private security contracts that might flow over the years (even if there isn’t an occupation) to the KBRs, SAICs, DynCorps, Halliburtons, Bechtels, Wackenhuts, Triple Canopies, and Blackwater/Academis of the world.  (Too bad there aren’t meaningful transparency laws that would let us know how much these companies and their employees have contributed, directly or indirectly, to Romney’s campaign or to the think tanks that pay and promote the convenient views of professional ideologues.)
The Problem With Romney
All of this means that the public has been primed for war with Iran.  With constant media attention, the Republican candidates have driven home the notion that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons, that Iranian nukes present an immediate and existential threat to Israel and the U.S., and that diplomacy is for sissies.  If Obama wins, he will have to work even harder to prevent war.  If Romney wins, war will be all the easier.  And for his team, that’s a good thing.
The problem with Romney, you see, is that he hangs out with the wrong crowd — the regime-change brigade, many of whom steered the ship of state toward Iraq for George W. Bush.  And keep in mind that he, like Romney (and Obama), was an empty vessel on foreign affairs when he entered the Oval Office. Even if Iran has been nothing more than a political tool for Romney, regime change is a deep-seated goal for the people around him.  They actually want to bomb Iran.  They’ve said so themselves.
Take Robert Kagan.  His main perch is at the non-partisan Brookings Institution, but he has also been a leader of the neocon Project for a New American Century and its successor organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). “Regime change in Tehran,” he has written, “is the best nonproliferation policy.”
Kagan’s fellow directors at the FPI are also on Romney’s team: Bill Kristol, Eric Edelman (former staffer to Cheney and Douglas Feith’s successor at the Pentagon), and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, who has become Romney’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and a rumored contender for national security advisor.  The FPI’s position? “It is time to take military action against the Iranian government elements that support terrorism and its nuclear program. More diplomacy is not an adequate response.”
Or how about John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador and a frequent speaker on behalf of the MEK, who has said, “The better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to attack its nuclear weapons program directly and break their control over the nuclear fuel cycle,” and that “we should be prepared to take down the regime in Tehran.”
And the list goes on.
It is, of course, theoretically possible that a President Romney would ignore his neocon team’s advice, just as George W. Bush famously ignored the moderate Republican advice of his father’s team.  Still, it’s hard to imagine him giving the cold shoulder to the sages of the previous administration: Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  Indeed, Romney is said to turn to the “Cheney-ites” when he seeks counsel, while giving the more moderate Republican internationalists the cold shoulder.  And Cheney wanted to bomb Iran.
In a Romney administration, expect this gang to lobby him hard to finish the job and take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, or at least to give Israel the green light to do so.  Expect them to close their eyes to what we have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan when it comes to “blood and treasure.”  Expect them to say that bombing alone will do the trick “surgically.”  Expect them to claim that the military high command is “soft,” “bureaucratic,” and “risk-averse” when it hesitates to get involved in what will inevitably become a regional nightmare.  Expect the message to be: this time we’ll get it right.
Kenneling the Dogs of War
No one likes the idea of Iran getting nukes, but should the regime decide to pursue them, they don’t present an existential threat to anyone.  Tehran’s leaders know that a mushroom cloud in Tel Aviv, no less Washington, would turn their country into a parking lot.
Should the mullahs ever pursue nuclear weapons again, it would be for deterrence, for the ability to stand up to the United States and say, “Piss off.”  While that might present a challenge for American foreign policy interests — especially those related to oil — it has nothing to do with the physical safety of Israel or the United States.
War with Iran is an incredibly bad idea, yet it’s a real threat.  President Obama has come close to teeing it up.  Even talk of a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is delusional, because, as just about every analyst points out, we wouldn’t know if it had worked (which it probably wouldn’t) and it would be an act of war that Iran wouldn’t absorb with a smile.  In its wake, a lot of people would be likely to die.
But Romney’s guys don’t think it’s a bad idea.  They think it’s a good one, and they are ready to take a swing.
Jeremiah Goulka, a TomDispatch regular, writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party.  He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a Hurricane Katrina recovery worker, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.
Copyright 2012 Jeremiah Goulka
___________________
Mirrored from Tomdispatch.eom




Around 12,000 troops from more than 19 nations are wrapping up a massive military training drill in the Middle East. But for some of those servicemen, these exercises might be just the beginning of something much bigger to come.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are just a sampling of the many countries — along with European allies — that have been involved in the nearly month-long Eager Lion 2012 exercise expected to end this week. Although much of the drills have been kept under wraps, it isn’t a secret that these states have spent the last month cooperating together through mock combat drills and comprehensive training. Some sources overseas report, however, that as many as 3,000 troops aligned with US forces have conducted a simulated landing and attack on Iran, preparing America and its allies for a war that becomes more likely by the day.

Intelligence sources speaking to Israel’s Debka news agency report that US troops and other forces aligned with America recently staged a landing on a Jordanian beach that was immediately followed by a military seizure of fortified mountain bases and command posts. The exercise was meant to emulate an attack on Iran and accompanies other drills that witnesses say show off just what America’s foes face if they continue to put the heat on the United States and its pals abroad.

Speaking of a drill assumed to be a mockup of a raid on Syria, Major General. Awni el-Edwan, Chief of staff of the Jordanian Operations and Training Armed Forces, says, “The exercise is not connected to any real world event,” reports CNN. “This has nothing to do with Syria. We respect the sovereignty of Syria. There is no tension between the Syrians and us. Our objectives are clear.”

Others, however, say that the intentions of the Eager Lion 2012 drills are obvious.

Gen. James Mattis, head of the US Central Command, visited both sections of the exercise led by American troops in Jordan, adds Debka. Should the US officially attack either Syria or Iran, Gen. Mattis will be the head of the military forces there. Additionally, intelligence sources speaking with the Israeli outlet reveal that Gen. Mattis has recently sought approval from US President Barack Obama to deploy a third aircraft carrier to the Middle East to increase America’s presence.

The United States currently has two massive aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf area, both the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Enterprise, and CNN adds in their report that the Air Force has sent six of the stealth F-22 fighter jets to the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

The US is believed to be engaged in exercises involving the Navy and Air Force in operations on the land, air and sea, with the US Special Operations troops also working in tandem with Jordanian special forces units in counterterrorism to put both teams on the same page.

Debka reports that, during Eager Lion 2012, a command post was also established by around 700 US Marines onboard the USS New York amphibious transport dock that was stationed in the Red Sea. The entire exercise there, they say, was “clearly visible” to observers in a neighboring Israeli port. Only days earlier, Debka reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his country that “all options remain on the table” involving an attack on Iran, and that the Jewish state will strike first if necessary, even without the assistance of American forces.

"There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities,” said Barak.


If Israel goes from threats to military actions, “it is Israel who will be destroyed,” says a high-ranking Iranian general. This comes as a fresh twist in the war of words that has engrossed Israel and Iran in recent months.

­"If the Zionist regime takes any actions against Iran, it would result in the end of its labors," Brigadier General Mostafa Izadi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, told the Fars news agency.

Israel cannot harm Iran in the slightest, assured the top military official.

"If they act logically, such threats amount to a psychological war, but if they want to act illogically, it is they who will be destroyed," he added.

The message is a response to Israel’s renewed calls for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic. As Iran sat down to another round of nuclear talks with world powers last week, Israel issued more calls threatening Iran with military action. Tel Aviv believed Tehran did not take the threat of war seriously.
“The Iranians think this is just a warning. That people are not serious enough,”
Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview, as the talks kicked off in Moscow.

“If the Iranians understand seriously that this [military action] is an option, maybe we shall not need it. If they think this is a bluff, then it may lead to a war,” he added.

Israel and its Western allies suspect that Tehran is enriching uranium in a bid to secretly create nuclear warheads, though no evidence for such a claim has been presented and most Western experts say otherwise. Tel Aviv has also repeatedly said that it will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities before allowing it to build nukes. Iran insists that it needs enriched uranium for civilian uses.

The Moscow negotiations wrapped up with no breakthrough.

Western powers again demanded that Tehran scale down its nuclear work: to shut down the Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility and ship any stockpile out of the country. In return, Iran was offered enough fuel to meet the country’s medical needs, assistance in nuclear security and lift a ban on spare parts for Iran’s civilian planes.

Iran slammed the proposed deal for having too many demands while offering little in return. Tehran wanted to see relief from strangling economic sanctions, imposed by the EU and US, and an official acknowledgement of its right to enrich uranium before they considered scaling down nuclear activities.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July 3.





Here are some ways you can spread the word to make sure President Obama gets the message loud and clear.

If you are on Facebook, click here to post the petition to your Wall.

If you have a Twitter account, click here to automatically tweet:
Tell Pres. @BarackObama: We support diplomacy with #Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. http://bit.ly/MqtlwH

You can also send the following e-mail to your friends and family. Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along to those who know you -- spam hurts our campaign.

Thanks for all you do.

--The CREDO Action Team

Here's a sample message to send to your friends:


Subject: Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.
Dear Friend,

The next week is critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.

Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.

But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.

We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.

I just signed a petition telling President Obama that we support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.

I hope you sign the petition, too.

It's easy to do so. Just click on the link below.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/obama_iran/?r_by=41967-5154581-CDhpWCx&rc=confemail




The next few days are critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.
Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.
But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.
We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.
Many in power seem to have learned nothing from the catastrophic mistake and tremendous moral failure that was the war in Iraq.
There is already dangerous momentum to begin a war of choice with Iran. And should the Moscow negotiations break down or bear no fruit, the drumbeat for war will only grow more intense.
Those who would welcome a war with Iran are trying to suggest that the window for a diplomatic solution is rapidly closing.
But both American and Israeli intelligence services agree that Iran neither has made a decision to build a nuclear bomb nor currently has the capacity to do so. So there is no short-term imperative to wage war.
To his credit, President Obama is clearly not rushing to start another war. But many members of Congress, including many Democrats, are pushing him to offer nothing meaningful to Iran until Iran gives the United States and its allies everything we want.
Fundamentally, this kind of negotiating strategy would set us up for failure.
While there is no easy solution to the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy in good faith and give diplomatic solutions the time they need to bear fruit.
And that means being open to a slow but steady move away from the brink of war through mutual concessions.
In an election year, when many of President Obama's traditional allies are either opposed or highly skeptical of his strategy, President Obama must know that there is full-throated support for diplomacy that can prevent an unnecessary war.
Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out for diplomacy.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets





WASHINGTON – The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.

Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran.

Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.

"Iran is our neighbor," Rogozin said. "If Iran is involved in any military action, it's a direct threat to our security." Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia's defense sector.

Russian Defense Ministry sources say that the Russian military doesn't believe that Israel has sufficient military assets to defeat Iranian defenses and further believes that U.S. military action will be necessary.

The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both.

Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of "unpredictable consequences" in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.

The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper has quoted a Russian military source as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran "causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions."

This latest information comes from a series of reports and leaks from official Russian spokesmen and government news agencies who say that an Israeli attack is all but certain by the summer.

Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.

Families of Russian servicemen from the Russian base at Gyumri in Armenia close to the borders of Georgia and Turkey already have been evacuated, Russian sources say.






Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-04-09/news/31311454_1_russian-defense-ministry-military-action-dmitry-rogozin#ixzz1s2j7KMHO





Sheldon Richman

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.

When President Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee some weeks ago, he admonished those who engaged in “loose talk of war” about Iran. Apparently, his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, didn’t get the memo.

The Associated Press reported this week,

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in mid-April. With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack adding urgency to the next round of discussions in Istanbul set for April 13, Clinton said Iran’s “window of opportunity” for a peaceful resolution “will not remain open forever.”

She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of negotiating a solution that satisfies the U.S., Israel and other countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

That’s another memo Clinton seems not to have received. Both American and Israeli intelligence say that Iran has neither started to build a nuclear weapon nor even decided to do so in the future. Both also regard the Iranian government as a “rational actor.” (The American news media occasionally reports this, but then goes back to stating, as though it were uncontroversial, that Iran is building a nuclear arsenal.)

So why the conflicting signals from the U.S. government? This conflict can be seen in Obama’s own statements. While he calls for diplomacy and warns against loose war talk, he has imposed harsh economic sanctions that make the daily lives of average Iranians miserable, has rejected “containment,” and boasted that he doesn’t “bluff.”








Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has trained operatives from an Iranian opposition group at a secret site in Nevada. Writing in The New Yorker, Hersh reports JSOC began training the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, in 2005, even though the group is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The training included intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics. The training is said to have ended before President Obama took office. Last month, NBC reported members of the MEK have been involved in the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists.





US President Barack Obama has approved the introduction of fresh sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil.

In a statement, Mr Obama said US allies boycotting Iranian oil would not suffer negative consequences because there was enough oil in the world market.

The move would allow the US to take measures against foreign banks that still deal with Iranian oil.

Iran is facing international pressure to address concerns over its nuclear enrichment programme.

Western countries suspect Iran of attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran insists the programme is purely peaceful.

Mr Obama said in a statement that he would continue to monitor the global market closely to ensure it could handle a reduction of oil purchases from Iran.

The US president was required by a law he signed in December to determine by 31 March whether the market allowed countries to "significantly" cut their purchases from Iran.
'On notice'

A statement from the White House acknowledged that "a series of production disruptions in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and the North Sea have removed oil from the market" in the first months of 2012.

"Nonetheless, there currently appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil to permit foreign countries to significantly reduce their import of Iranian oil," the statement says.

"In fact, many purchasers of Iranian crude oil have already reduced their purchases or announced they are in productive discussions with alternative suppliers."

Under the law signed in December, countries have until 28 June to show they have significantly reduced the amount of crude oil they purchase from Iran or face being cut off from the US financial system.





By Michael McGehee:

Today the New York Times published a revealing page one article by Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker under the headline “U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran.

The revelation is not so much that an Israeli attack on Iran would be illegal—there is, predictably, not one comment on the legality of such a “first strike.” Rather the revelation is the übermenschen mentality illustrating that what makes an attack “dire” or “perilous” is how it would affect us, not the untermenschen. The U.S. and Israel, by the laws of superior might, are people. By those same laws, anyone who happens to be the “enemy”—in this case, Iran—are unpeople. Therefore a war game which would “leave hundreds of Americans dead” and less than a thousand Israelis dead is perilous. What about Iran? There are no provided figures on Iranian casualties. They don’t matter.

We read that, “In December 2002, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who was the top officer at Central Command, used Internal Look to test the readiness of his units for the coming invasion of Iraq.” At that time there was no concern about dire consequences. Apparently an American war that left more than one million unpeople dead is breaking a few eggs to make an omelete.

It was also troubling to read that,

The initial Israeli attack was assessed to have set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year, and the subsequent American strikes did not slow the Iranian nuclear program by more than an additional two years. However, other Pentagon planners have said that America’s arsenal of long-range bombers, refueling aircraft and precision missiles could do far more damage to the Iranian nuclear program — if President Obama were to decide on a full-scale retaliation.

What the paragraph above implies is that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and Israel is determined to stop them. The truth is that U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, various U.S. intelligence agencies, and even Israel’s Mossad has admitted the program is non-existent.

Times Editors let it slip by very slyly when reporters Mazzetti and Shanker tell Times’ readers that “American and Israeli intelligence services [...] disagree on how much time there would be to prevent Iran from building a weapon if leaders in Tehran decided to go ahead with one.” However, the article quickly goes back to implying that is what Iran is moving towards: “With the Israelis saying publicly that the window to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb is closing, American officials see an Israeli attack on Iran within the next year as a possibility.”

The last part of Mazzetti and Shanker’s article deals with how “some military specialists in the United States and in Israel” disagree on how Iran might respond towards U.S. forces in the region because, “Their analysis, however, also includes the broad caveat that it is impossible to know the internal thinking of the senior Iranian leadership,” but, “…these specialists continue their work, saying that any insight on how the Iranians will react to an attack will help determine whether the Israelis carry out a strike — and what the American position will be if they do.”

Mazzetti and Shanker close their article noting that, “Israeli intelligence estimates, backed by academic studies, have cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events like a regional conflagration, widespread acts of terrorism and sky-high oil prices,” and “Defense Minister Ehud Barak” telling Israel Radio last November that, “The state of Israel will not be destroyed.”

An illegal war of aggression waged over a bogus pretext that the perpetrators have already admitted is bogus, and that has predictably “dire consequences”—which to the perpetrators means considerably low costs as compared to what it would mean for the victim—cannot even be called what it is in the “paper of record.” There is not one word on how criminal such a “first strike” would be, or how necessary it would be for the perpetrators to be hauled off to a war crimes tribunal. All we are treated with is the concern of what such an attack would mean for the übermenschen while being assured that Israel would not be destroyed for their wreckless and criminal behavior. The message is loud and clear: the U.S. and Israel are such rogue states that moral and legal considerations are not even entertained. For them all they are concerned with is whether or not they can get away with it, and at minimal costs.









Dear Friend,
The war in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake and a tremendous moral failure. But there is dangerous momentum to begin another war of choice, this time with Iran.
That is why Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that, in her words, "directs the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."
Whether or not you think your representative will co-sponsor the bill, we need you to pick up the phone and make a call.
Unfortunately, while the American people are opposed to another war of choice, those pushing for war have been far more vocal and organized than the rest of us.
Our friends on the Hill have told us that congressional offices are hearing from people who want us to go to war, but not from those who would like to see a diplomatic solution.
We cannot allow those howling for war to be met with a deafening silence on our side.
Our allies in Congress need to know their constituents want them to remain steadfast. And we need to put other lawmakers on notice that their constituents reject the dangerous saber-rattling that might bring our nation to the brink of war.
While there are no easy solutions to addressing the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy.
Yet right now, all options are on the table except direct negotiations. That's a recipe for another needless war.
We can't wait for the first bombs to drop. We need to speak out now.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets





Dear Friend,
As we approach the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we once again see dangerous momentum for another irresponsible, unnecessary and costly war — this time with Iran.
Fear-mongering and propaganda aside, Iran is not an imminent threat to the United States — and we haven't yet exhausted all avenues for diplomacy to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
But as a result of the Iranian Revolution over 30 years ago, current law makes it very difficult for American diplomats to talk directly to representatives of the Iranian government.
That is why Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that, in her words, "directs the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."1
Whether or not you think your representative will co-sponsor the bill, we need you to speak out.
Unfortunately, while the American people are opposed to another war of choice,2 those pushing for war have been far more vocal and organized than the rest of us.
Our friends on the Hill have told us that congressional offices are hearing from people who want us to go to war, but not from those who would like to see a diplomatic solution.
Not only will your petition signature signal support for Rep. Lee's bill, it will also ensure that those howling for war are not met with a deafening silence on our side.
Our allies in Congress will know their constituents want them to remain steadfast, and other lawmakers will be put on notice that their constituents reject the dangerous saber-rattling that might bring our nation to the brink of war.
We can't afford to remain a silent majority. We must push back on the ever-increasing clamor for war.
While there are no easy solutions to addressing the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy.
We know all too well the consequences of starting an unnecessary war.
The war in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake and a tremendous moral failure.
But right now with Iran, all options are on the table except direct negotiations. That's a recipe for another needless war.
We can't wait for the first bombs to drop. We need to speak out now.
Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor Rep. Lee's bill to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out to stop another needless war.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Dear Colleague letter from Barbara Lee, dated 3-7-12
2. "Poll: Americans Favor Diplomacy Over Israeli Attack On Iran," David Taintor, Talking Points Memo, 03-14-12.






Three reasons not to attack Iran
Five reasons to attack Iran

An attack on Iran and sanctions are both unworkable. A third option is to create a nuclear-free Middle East. Yes, it sounds far-fetched. But it actually meets the strategic needs of both Israel and Iran. One idea is to relocate Israel's nukes elsewhere, rather than destroy them.


By Boaz Atzili / March 9, 2012

For half a century now, Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly has been its “Samson option,” the one weapon it can threaten to use if all else fails and Israel faces a real existential threat. As a scholar concentrating on the Middle East conflict, and also as a native of Israel, I am not comforted by the nuclear security blanket under which I was born.

Now that this monopoly is facing an increasingly possible challenge from Iran, Israel should reconsider its nuclear supremacy – as far fetched as this may sound. The argument in favor of such a radical shift is not moral, but strategic. Israel may well be better off in a Middle East with no nuclear powers than in one with – potentially – several of them.

Iran, too, would have its own reasons to support such an arrangement. And a secure path to a “no nukes” zone may be found not in dismantling Israel’s arsenal, but in relocating it. In the face of an apparently fast-advancing Iranian nuclear project, the two options mostly discussed are sanctions and military attack. Neither is very appealing. The first is unlikely to halt the Iranian program and the second will only postpone it temporarily while possibly creating a regional conflagration on a large scale.

When Israel developed its own nuclear program, apparently in the late 1950s, it made much strategic sense. Israel was a small country, with very limited human and material resources, surrounded by hostile neighbors. Nuclear arms could provide the ultimate guarantee of security.

But Israel is no longer so vulnerable. True, much of the region is still hostile (despite peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan). Yet Israel holds a profound conventional superiority over any potential rivals – a superiority that makes a nuclear-free Middle East a strong and effective second-best option after a nuclear monopoly.

Moreover, it’s unclear that Israel would sacrifice much in a nuclear-free Middle East. Its nuclear arsenal has not deterred Arab countries from launching conventional attacks against it (as in 1973) and it has not deterred asymmetric campaigns by nonstate actors.

The only role Israel’s nuclear arsenal may have played so far has been to deter attack from unconventional weapons, as in Iraq’s nonuse of chemical weapons against Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. But Israel’s air superiority and precision weapons could do that just as well.




Six major world powers and Iran are to hold fresh talks on Tehran's nuclear programme, the EU has said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she had replied to a letter from Iran on behalf of the five UN Security Council members plus Germany.

Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili sent the letter last month proposing talks. No date or venue has been set.

The move comes amid fresh speculation of a pre-emptive military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iran insists there is no military element to its programme but Western powers fear it is constructing nuclear weapons.
Parchin access

The statement from Baroness Ashton said the EU hoped that Iran would "now enter into a sustained process of constructive dialogue which will deliver real progress in resolving the international community's long-standing concerns on its nuclear programme."

It added: "Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu assured President Barack Obama on Monday that Israel has not made any decision on attacking Iran's nuclear sites, sources close to the talks said, but the Israeli prime minister gave no sign of backing away from possible military action. With Obama appealing for more time to allow international sanctions to work against Tehran, the two men agreed to keep up their coordination on the issue, but differences remained on how to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. ...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told US President Barack Obama that Israel must always remain "master of its fate".

Meeting the Israeli leader at the White House, Mr Obama said a nuclear Iran would be an "unacceptable" development.

On Sunday, Mr Obama told a pro-Israel conference in Washington there had been too much "loose talk" of war with Iran.

Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear plans are peaceful.

"The bond between our two countries is unbreakable," Mr Obama said, as the two leaders sat side-by-side in the Oval Office.

In November 2011, at a G20 summit, journalists overheard a private exchange between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Obama in which Mr Sarkozy called the Israeli leader a "liar".

Mr Obama replied: "You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day."
'No hesitation'

In his speech on Sunday to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), Mr Obama said the US "will not hesitate" to use force to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

But he stressed that diplomacy could still succeed.

"Iran's leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment - I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Mr Obama told the annual Aipac conference.

"And as I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."

President Obama has said Iran must be stopped from "possessing" a nuclear weapon. That probably will not happen for a couple of years. The Israeli government's red line is apparently when Iran has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb (and when they hide it deep underground). That could be later this year.

One Israeli journalist has written that the plan is to drag the US into a war just before the presidential elections in November. But this is not just about when to go to war. President Obama has stressed his reluctance to go to war at all. The US military feel this even more strongly.






WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama warned that he is not bluffing about attacking Iran if it builds a nuclear weapon, but in an interview published Friday, Obama also cautioned U.S. ally Israel that a premature attack on Iran would do more harm than good.

In his most expansive remarks on the issue thus far, Obama told The Atlantic magazine that Iran and Israel both understand that "a military component" is among a mix of many options for dealing with Iran, along with sanctions and diplomacy. That is the most direct threat he has issued during months of escalating tension with Iran over its disputed nuclear development program.
His comments appeared aimed more at Israel and its supporters in the United States than at Iran. Obama addresses the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday and meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday at the White House. Netanyahu will also address AIPAC.
"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff," he said in the interview. "I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But (both) governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."
Netanyahu, speaking Friday ahead of a meeting in Canada with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called Iran's nuclear ambitions a "grave threat to the peace and security of the world, and I think it's important that the international community not allow this threat to materialize."
"As for Israel, like any sovereign country, we reserve the right to defend ourselves against a country, against a country that calls and works for our destruction," Netanyahu said.
Obama will try to convince Netanyahu to postpone any plans his government may have to unilaterally attack Iran's nuclear facilities in coming months. An attack that soon would not carry U.S. backing, and the U.S. would probably not be involved in planning or executing it.
Nonetheless, it could force the United States into a new conflict and an arms race in the Middle East, as Obama made clear in the lengthy interview. It also could allow Iran to paint itself as the victim and draw new support that would undermine rather than enhance Israel's security, Obama warned.
"At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally (Syria) is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?" Obama said.
At the same time, Obama has consistently refused to renounce a military option for the United States down the road. The dispute with Israel is over the timing and efficiency of such a strike, not whether one is ever appropriate. The difference of opinion has quickly come to dominate the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the U.S. strategy for dealing with a nuclear Iran is a major issue for American Jewish voters in this election year.
Israeli leaders have strongly hinted that they want to hear clearer terms from Obama for what the United States would do if Iran crosses the threshold from nuclear energy to nuclear weapons. Until now, Obama has said a nuclear Iran is unacceptable but has not spelled out just what the U.S. would do or when.
In the interview, Obama did go further than he has before. He explicitly referred to the possible use of military force, and he firmly rejected the notion that the United States might settle for a strategy of deterring Iran from using a nuclear weapon.
"You're talking about the most volatile region in the world," he said. "It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe. "
He also pointed to economic turmoil in Iran and reiterated that sanctions against the Iranian regime are starting to bite.
In a series of recent meetings with Israeli leaders, administration officials are believed to have sought to persuade the Jewish state to give sanctions more time to work and to hold off on any military strike. Speaking Thursday to reporters, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama believes there is still "time and space" for those measure to persuade the Iranian regime to take a different course.
Israeli officials acknowledge the pain in Iran but have publicly expressed doubt those measures will ever cause Iran's clerical leaders to change course.
Obama wasn't so sure. "They're sensitive to the opinions of the people and they are troubled by the isolation that they're experiencing," he told the Atlantic. "They know, for example, that when these kinds of sanctions are applied, it puts a world of hurt on them."
Though Obama emphatically portrays himself as one of Israel's best friends, touting military and other ties, his relationship with Netanyahu has at times been frosty. The two have sparred publicly over Jewish settlements on the West Bank, with Netanyahu pushing back on Washington's efforts to move forward on peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Iran issue has risen to the forefront of his foreign policy. At a fundraiser in New York on Thursday night, an audience member shouted out, urging the president to avoid a war with Iran.
"Nobody has announced a war," Obama cautioned. "You're jumping the gun a little bit."



Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly criticized President Shimon Peres on Thursday, after a Haaretz report revealed that Peres is expected to tell U.S. President Barack Obama that he does not believe Israel should attack Iran in the near future.

The two presidents are due to meet in Washington, D.C., on Sunday March 4.

"With all due respect to various officeholders from the past and present, the rumor that there is [only] one government in Israel has also reached the United States," Barak said sarcastically in private conversations, adding: "In the end, there is an elected [Israeli] government that makes the decisions and that is its responsibility."

During Barak's criticism of the Israeli president, he made reference to Peres' conduct in the early 1980s when Israel attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, when Menachem Begin was prime minister.

"It's the same Shimon Peres who in 1981 opposed the bombing of the reactor in Iraq," the defense minister said.

"Peres argued then that Begin was leading us to a holocaust, and there are those who claim that, to this day, Peres thinks the attack on the reactor was a mistake. Imagine what would have happened if the Americans and their allies had attempted to get [Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait if he had three atomic bombs. The Americans said in retrospect that Begin was farsighted," Barak reportedly said.

Barak's harsh criticism of Peres is unusual in that over the past three years, the defense minister has carefully accorded respect to Peres, even meeting with him every Sunday before cabinet meetings.

Nonetheless, tension between the two has been simmering for over a year on the Iranian issue, as far back as the tenure of former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

In Barak's office, Ashkenazi - who opposed an assault on Iran - was thought to have enlisted Peres as a supporter of his stance during his dispute on the issue with Barak.

Thursday's Haaretz report about Peres raised eyebrows in both the Prime Minister's Office and in Barak's bureau. Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the premier was surprised to read Peres' comments in the newspaper. They called the comments very disturbing, and added that although the president has the right to express an opinion, ultimately there is only one prime minister in Israel, and he's the one who is responsible for making decisions.

Peres and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet on Friday, which will give them an opportunity to discuss the issue. Thursday morning, however, staff from the two offices were already on the telephone with each other in an effort to head off a crisis. Peres' advisers denied the comments attributed to the Israeli president on the Iranian issue and also denied that he intended to convey such a message to President Obama.

After contact with Peres' office from the Prime Minister's Office and from Barak's office, Peres committed to redress the situation in a speech later in the day to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, toeing Netanyahu and Barak's line.

Peres delivered the speech on Thursday and underlined the fact that Israel is a sovereign country that has the right and the ability to defend itself. "When we say that all options are on the table on Iran, we really mean it," he told his audience. The president called a nuclear Iran a threat not only to Israel but to the entire world.


Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.
The good news is that the resolution hasn't been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has "provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war." The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, "AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an 'ask' in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying."

In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the "red line"--the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what's unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a "nuclear weapons capability." In other words, Iran shouldn't be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.
By itself this language is meaninglessly vague. Does "capability" mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line even after a bombing campaign--which would at most be a temporary setback, and would remove any doubt among Iran's leaders as to whether to build nuclear weapons, and whether to make its nuclear program impervious to future American and Israeli bombs. What do we do then? Invade?
In other words, if interpreted expansively, the "nuclear weapons capability" threshold is a recipe not just for war, but for ongoing war--war that wouldn't ultimately prevent the building of a nuclear weapon without putting boots on the ground. And it turns out that the authors of this resolution want "nuclear weapons capability" interpreted very expansively.

The key is in the way the resolution deals with the question of whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium, as it's been doing for some time now. The resolution defines as an American goal "the full and sustained suspension" of uranium enrichment by Iran. In case you're wondering what the resolution's prime movers mean by that: In a letter sent to the White House on the same day the resolution was introduced, Lieberman, Graham and ten other senators wrote, "We would strongly oppose any proposal that recognizes a 'right to enrichment' by the current regime or for [sic] a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue enrichment on its territory in any form."

This notwithstanding the fact that 1) enrichment is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; (2) a sufficiently intrusive monitoring system can verify that enrichment is for peaceful purposes; (3) Iran's right to enrich its own uranium is an issue of strong national pride. In a poll published in 2010, after sanctions had already started to bite, 86 percent of Iranians said Iran should not "give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances." And this wasn't about building a bomb; most Iranians said Iran's nuclear activities shouldn't include producing weapons.

Even Dennis Ross--who has rarely, in his long career as a Mideast diplomat, left much daylight between his positions and AIPAC's, and who once categorically opposed Iranian enrichment--now realizes that a diplomatic solution may have to include enrichment. Last week in a New York Times op-ed, he said that, contrary to pessimistic assessments, it may still be possible to get a deal that "uses intrusive inspections and denies or limits uranium enrichment [emphasis added]..."

The resolution plays down its departure from current policy by claiming that there have been "multiple" UN resolutions since 2006 demanding the "sustained" suspension of uranium. But the UN resolutions don't actually use that term. The UN has demanded suspension as a confidence-building measure that could then lead to, as one resolution puts it, a "negotiated solution that guarantees Iran's nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes." And various Security Council members who voted on these resolutions have made it clear that Iranian enrichment of uranium can be part of this scenario if Iran agrees to sufficiently tight monitoring.
Indeed, that Iran's right to enrich uranium could be recognized under those circumstances is, Hillary Clinton has said, "the position of the international community, along with the United States." If the Lieberman-Graham-Casey resolution guides US policy, says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, that would "preclude" fulfillment of the UN resolutions and isolate the US from the international coalition that backed them.

The Congressional resolution goes beyond the UN resolutions in another sense. It demands an end to Iran's ballistic missile program. Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association notes that, "Even after crushing Iraq in the first Gulf War, the international coalition only imposed a 150-kilometer range ceiling on Saddam's ballistic missiles. A demand to eliminate all ballistic missiles would be unprecedented in the modern era--removing any doubt among Iranians that the United States was interested in nothing less than the total subjugation of the country."

On the brighter side: Maybe it's a good sign that getting significant Democratic buy-in for this resolution took some strong-arming. According to Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now, the resolution got 15 Democratic supporters only "after days of intense AIPAC lobbying, particularly of what some consider 'vulnerable' Democrats (vulnerable in terms of being in races where their pro-Israel credentials are being challenged by the candidate running against them)." What's more, even as AIPAC was playing this hardball, the bill's sponsors still had to tone down some particularly threatening language in the resolution.
But, even so, the resolution defines keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapons "capability" as being in America's "vital national interest," which is generally taken as synonymous with "worth war." And, though this "sense of Congress" resolution is nonbinding, AIPAC will probably seek unanimous Senate consent, which puts pressure on a president. Friedman says this "risks sending a message that Congress supports war and opposes a realistic negotiated solution or any de facto solution short of stripping Iran of even a peaceful nuclear capacity."

What's more, says Friedman, the non-binding status may be temporary. "Often AIPAC-backed Congressional initiatives start as non-binding language (in a resolution or a letter) and then show up in binding legislation. Once members of Congress have already signed on to a policy in non-binding form, it is much harder for them to oppose it when it shows up later in a bill that, if passed, will have the full force of law."
No wonder Democrats who worry about war have the "jitters."


TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran ordered a halt to its oil sales to Britain and France on Sunday in a move seen as retaliation against tightening EU sanctions, as a team of U.N. inspectors flew to Tehran to press the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program.

The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it decided to impose a boycott on its oil from July 1. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the main Gulf oil shipping lane.

On Sunday, its oil ministry went a step further, announcing Iran has now stopped selling oil to France and Britain altogether - a powerful yet largely symbolic message since neither European nation relies on Iranian crude imports.

"Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped ... we will sell our oil to new customers," spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying on the ministry website.

Iran, which denies Western allegations that it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, has ramped up its rhetoric in recent weeks while also expressing willingness to resume negotiations on its nuclear program.




A five-member team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew to Tehran late on Sunday for talks, although Western diplomats have played down any hopes of a major breakthrough in the two-day meeting.

"I'm still pessimistic that Iran will demonstrate the substantive cooperation necessary," one envoy said in Vienna.

Yet the outcome of this week's discussions is important and will be watched closely because it could either intensify the standoff or offer scope to reduce tensions.

The European Commission says the bloc would not be short of oil if Iran stopped crude exports as it has enough stock to meet its needs for around 120 days.

Industry sources said European oil buyers were already making big cuts in purchases from Iran months in advance of EU sanctions. France's Total has stopped buying Iranian oil while debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian crude disruption among European countries.

MILITARY STRIKE?

Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful but its refusal to curb uranium enrichment, which can have both military and civilian purposes, has raised concerns.

Western powers have not ruled out using force against Iran, and there has been an intense public discussion in Israel about whether it should attack Iran to stop it making a nuclear bomb.

However, on Sunday the top U.S. military officer said a military strike would be premature as it was not clear that Tehran would use its nuclear capabilities to build an atomic bomb.

"I believe it is unclear (that Iran would assemble a bomb) and on that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us," said General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He said he believed the Iranian government was a "rational actor."

The West has expressed some optimism over the prospect of new talks with Tehran, particularly after it sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week promising to bring "new initiatives" to the table.

"In these negotiations, we are looking for a way out of Iran's current nuclear issue so that both sides win," Iranian TV quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on Sunday.

Oil is a major part of Iran's export revenues and an important lifeline for its increasingly isolated economy. It has little refining capacity and has to import about 40 percent of its gasoline needs for domestic consumption.

Tightening sanctions, combined with high inflation, have squeezed the ability of working-class Iranians to feed themselves and their families, and this uncertainty forms the backdrop to a parliamentary vote on March 2.

"Everything's become so expensive in the past few weeks," said Marjan Hamidi, an Iranian shopper in Tehran, "But my husband's income stays the same. How am I going to live like this?"

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Ramin Mostafavi in Tehran, Susan Cornwell in Washington and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Kevin Liffey)



Senior Israeli government official issues complete denial of Foreign Policy report that Mossad agents posed as CIA officers to recruit Pakistani terrorists to carry out attacks in Iran.

By Amir Oren Tags: Iran nuclear Israel spy Israel US Jonathan Pollard

A senior Israeli government official has called "absolute nonsense" a Friday report in Foreign Policy that Mossad agents posed as CIA officers in order to recruit members of a Pakistani terror group to carry out assassinations and attacks against the regime in Iran.

Quoting U.S. intelligence memos, Foreign Policy's Mark Perry reported that the Mossad operation was carried out in 2007-2008, behind the back of the U.S. government, and infuriated then U.S. President George W. Bush.

Perry quoted a number of American intelligence officials and claimed that the Mossad agents used American dollars and U.S. passports to pose as CIA spies to try to recruit members of Jundallah, a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization that has carried out a series of attacks in Iran and assassinations of government officials.

Israel generally refrains for responding to reports on alleged Mossad activities. However, in the wake of Perry's report as well as the official U.S. condemnation of the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this week, Israeli officials were quick to issue a complete denial of the report.

The concern was that leaving Perry's report without a response would revive tensions that existed between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities following the Jonathan Pollard affair in the 1980s. Pollard was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison after being convicted of spying for Israel.

The senior Israeli government official said that if there were any truth the claims in Perry's report, Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad at the time of the alleged operation, would have been declared a persona non grata in the U.S. and that "Dagan's foot would not have walked again in Washington".



The US has condemned the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in a car bomb attack in north Tehran.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the US "had absolutely nothing to do" with the attack.

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, died along with the driver of the car.

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in recent years, with Iran blaming Israel and the US.
Both deny any involvement.

Washington and its allies suspect Tehran of secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapons capacity but Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.

"The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this. We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like this," said Mr Vietor.
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization described the killings as "a heinous act".

Western intelligence sources told Time magazine on Friday that Israel's Mossad is responsible for the latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

A magnetic bomb was attached to the door of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan's car during the Wednesday morning rush-hour in Tehran. His driver was also killed. Sources tell the magazine Israel was behind three previous assassinations of scientists.

Iran scientist - AP - January 13, 2011 The shrouded body of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan is seen prior to his burial in Tehran on January 13, 2012.
Photo by: AP 

A senior Israeli official told is quoted in the report as saying "yeah, one more… I don't feel sad for him."

On Saturday, Iranian state television said that Iran had evidence the United States was behind the latest assassination. We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA," the Iranian foreign ministry said in a letter handed to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, state TV reported.

"The documents clearly show that this terrorist act was carried out with the direct involvement of CIA-linked agents."

The Swiss Embassy has represented U.S. interests in Iran since Iran and the U.S. cut diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Tension has mounted between Iran and the West as the United States and European Union prepare measures aimed at imposing sanctions on the Iran's oil exports, its economic lifeblood.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Also on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. has stepped up contingency planning in case Israel launches a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

According to the report, U.S. defense officials are becoming increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to carry out such a strike.

The U.S. military is reportedly preparing for a range of possible responses to an Israeli strike on Iran, including attacks by pro-Iranian Shiite militias against the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

The report said that, largely as a deterrent to Iran, the U.S. has 15,000 soldiers in Kuwait and has moved a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf region.

Additionally, the U.S. has been pre-positioning aircraft and other military hardware and has accelerated arms transfers to U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf region.

According to the report, top U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have sent a series of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the consequences of a strike on Iran. The U.S. reportedly wants to give sanctions and other measures more time, as part of efforts to compel Iran to abandon its alleged work to build nuclear weapons.

Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone on Thursday and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Israel next week.





TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of an Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility, killing him and his driver Wednesday, reports said. The slayings suggest a widening covert effort to set back Iran's atomic program.

The attack in Tehran bore a strong resemblance to earlier killings of scientists working on the Iranian nuclear program. It is certain to amplify authorities' claims of clandestine operations by Western powers and their allies to halt Iran's nuclear advances.

The blast killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, state TV reported. State news agency IRNA said Roshan had "organizational links" to Iran's nuclear agency, which suggests a direct role in key aspects of the program.



TEHRAN, Nov 12 -- A massive explosion at a military arms depot near the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday killed 17 Revolutionary Guards and wounded 15, a spokesman for the elite fighting force told the semi-official Fars news agency.

Officials said the blast was an accident which happened as troops were moving munitions at a base in Bidganeh, near the town of Shahriar, some 45 km west of Tehran.

The explosion shook homes and rattled windows for miles around, at a time of mounting tension with Israel over Iran's nuclear programme.

"Today at 13:30, (0900 GMT), an explosion happened in one of the Revolutionary Guards' bases while a consignment of explosive devices was being moved out from the arsenal, besides that some munitions in the arsenal exploded which created a terrifying sound," Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told state TV.

Sharif initially said 27 people had been killed but later revised that figure down to 17.

Residents in western suburbs of Tehran told Reuters they had felt the blast, some assuming it to be a moderate earthquake.

The explosion started a fire at the base which raged for hours. Surrounding streets were closed and reporters were kept away from the scene.

RISK

Some media reported there had been two explosions and the head of Iran's Red Crescent organisation said there was a risk of further blasts.

Mahmoud Mozafar told the Mehr news agency that only six paramedics had been allowed into the Amir Al-Momenin military base and that thick smoke was hampering the rescue operation.

There were no reports linking the blast to any air strike or other attack. Tension has risen in recent weeks between Iran and its enemies Israel and the United States, which have not ruled out attacking facilities whose occupants they believe are working towards making nuclear weapons.

Sharif denied what he said was speculation in the Western media that the military base was linked to Iran's nuclear programme.

"This blast is not related to any nuclear tests that some foreign media have reported," he told Mehr.

Tehran denies Western accusations, that were given some credence by a report from the UN nuclear agency this week, that its nuclear programme has military ends.

On Oct. 12 last year a similar blast at a Revolutionary Guards munitions store killed and wounded several servicemen in Khoramabad, western Iran. Authorities said that explosion was an accident too.



Huge Explosion at Iranian Nuke Processing Plant; Second Explosion at Missile Site

The war against Iran's nuclear program has already begun

A second Iranian nuclear facility has exploded, as diplomatic tensions rise between the West and Tehran

Read article in Hebrew: ?????? ???? ??? ????? ??????

Reports from Iran are that yet another "accident" may have occurred at a site involved in the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions. Early reports from Iran claimed that there was a massive explosion in the city of Isfahar, where uranium for the country's "peaceful nuclear plants" is processed. But later, those reports were yanked from Iranian news sites and the mullahs are in deny-it-ever-happened mode.
Ynet:
Less than two weeks after a mysterious explosion destroyed an Iranian missile base near Tehran, the Islamic Republic's official news agency Fars reported Tuesday that a loud blast was heard in the city of Isfahan at 2:40 pm local time, but later removed the report.

According to the initial report, search and rescue teams called to the scene confirmed the blast, but reported no injuries....In a curious turn of events, shortly after the initial report was published, the item was removed from the news agency's website, which is affiliated with the country's Revolutionary Guard.
Two weeks ago another explosion at an Iranian military base killed 17.

Above photo  courtesy Muqata who says that Israeli news sources indicate a second explosion at an Iranian missile base today.




Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was "no doubt" that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was "no accident".

The explosion at Iran's third-largest city came as satellite images emerged of the damage caused by one at a military base outside Tehran two weeks ago that killed about 30 members of the Revolutionary Guard, including General Hassan Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian missile defence program.

Iran claimed that the Tehran explosion occurred during testing on a new weapons system designed to strike at Israel. But several Israeli officials have confirmed that the blast was intentional and part of an effort to target Iran's nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, Isfahan residents reported a blast that shook tower blocks in the city at about 2.40pm and seeing a cloud of smoke rising over the nuclear facility on the edge of the city.

"This caused damage to the facilities in Isfahan, particularly to the elements we believe were involved in storage of raw materials," said one military intelligence source.

He would not confirm or deny Israel's involvement in the blast, instead saying that there were "many different parties looking to sabotage, stop or coerce Iran into stopping its nuclear weapons program".

Iran went into frantic denial yesterday as news of the explosion at Isfahan emerged. Alireza Zaker-Isfahani, the city's governor, claimed that the blast had been caused by a military exercise in the area but state-owned agencies in Tehran soon removed this story and issued a government denial that any explosion had taken place at all.

On Monday, Dan Meridor. the Israeli Intelligence Minister, said: "There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat."

Major-General Giora Eiland, Israel's former director of national security, told Israel's army radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. "There aren't many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it's the hand of God," he said.

A former Israeli intelligence official cited at least two other explosions that have "successfully neutralised" Iranian bases associated with the Shahab-3, the medium-range missile that could be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead. "This is something everyone in the West wanted to see happen," he added.

Iran has repeatedly denied the existence of a nuclear weapons program, and strongly condemned the International Atomic Energy Agency's report last month that accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon.


In June 2010, the press reported that the computer system operating the uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz had been infected with a virus. A deadly worm, known as Stuxnet, had infiltrated the controllers, manufactured by Siemens.

Two weeks ago, a huge blast ripped through a Revolutionary Guards military base 40 kilometers west of Tehran. The explosion could be heard as far away as the capital. Dozens of people were killed, including the head of Iran's missile development project, General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam. This week, there was a powerful explosion in Isfahan, Iran's third-largest city, which has a uranium conversion plant on its outskirts. It is not yet clear what was damaged in the blast.

These incidents involved three key elements of Iran's nuclear program. The first is uranium conversion (which comes after the mineral has been mined ), the second is enrichment, and the third is the delivery means.

Coupled with other incidents, including the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, these events have worried the ayatollahs' regime, causing reactions ranging from embarrassment to anger. The public response usually follows a pattern: first a sweeping denial, then a limp and stuttering admission that "something happened," and finally the claim that it was an "accident." This shows that the regime does not know exactly what to say, and that its voice is not uniform. It also reflects the fierce dispute within the regime's top ranks. The leadership is divided, and the reactions come from a range of ministries, rival organizations and competing media outlets.

The kind of sabotage used in Iran requires sophistication, financial and technological resources, agents and precise intelligence. Someone, for example, had to know that General Moqaddam would be at the base that day to supervise a test, apparently of a new missile engine.

Infecting the computers required access to them: A person with a flash drive had to have plugged it into the system. The prevailing assumption is that foreign intelligence agencies are initiating, managing and executing the secret operations.

The Iranians, and international media outlets, believe these operations are the work of Israel's Mossad and possibly also a Western partner such as the CIA or Britain's MI6.

The Mossad's campaign to assassinate the Black September members behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was code-named "Wrath of God." This week, when asked whether God had carried out the recent operations in Iran, former Mossad head Meir Dagan smilingly said yes. Dagan is known to be an ardent supporter of secret operations, as he told Yedioth Ahronoth explicitly this week. He believes it will be at least two years until Iran can assemble a functioning nuclear weapon. This assessment may be based on past secret operations and on Dagan's faith that future actions can indeed disrupt Iran's progress.

A senior American official went even farther. President Barack Obama's special assistant and coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, Gary Samore, said in May 2011, "I'm glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated." Do we need any clearer statement that humans are behind the "hand of God"?

Even if the Mossad or the CIA are not involved in these incidents, the speculation that they are serves Western intelligence bodies by enhancing their image as "omnipotent," and heightening the Iranian leadership's fear. This is known as psychological warfare.

Still, with all due respect for Western intelligence's great efforts - including what is probably unprecedented operational coordination - it is unlikely these operations could have succeeded without inside support, meaning from individuals or groups ready to help sabotage the ayatollahs' regime. It should be remembered that Iran is a mosaic of ethnic minorities, and almost all have reasons for disliking the regime; some have their own underground armed militias.

The theory about inside-help gains traction given that, in addition to the military targets, other sites - including oil facilities, gas pipelines, trains and military bases - were also damaged over the past year. Last year there was a considerable increase, of at least 10 percent, in "breakdowns" and "accidents" at Iran's strategic infrastructure sites. Some were caused by poor maintenance, due in part to the international sanctions, but the volume of these incidents may also indicate the "hand of God" was involved. If this is the case, then it's possible that internal Iranian opposition groups (as opposed to exiles ) are stronger and even better organized than generally thought.

It is almost certain that Tehran's patience is about to run out. This was evidenced by the student mob's "conquest" of the British embassy this week. This was not spontaneous rage: It was a warning from a regime that realizes someone has declared war on it without leaving marks or fingerprints.

Sooner or later, the ayatollahs' regime will decide to react and will order its secret intelligence and operational units to retaliate. If and when this happens, Iran will take steps to conceal its involvement in such activities. However, past experience proves that despite the caution and sophistication of the Iranian secret services, they have often failed in obscuring their fingerprints.

Two weeks ago, a huge blast ripped through a Revolutionary Guards military base 40 kilometers west of Tehran. The explosion could be heard as far away as the capital. Dozens of people were killed, including the head of Iran's missile development project, General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam. This week, there was a powerful explosion in Isfahan, Iran's third-largest city, which has a uranium conversion plant on its outskirts. It is not yet clear what was damaged in the blast.
These incidents involved three key elements of Iran's nuclear program. The first is uranium conversion (which comes after the mineral has been mined ), the second is enrichment, and the third is the delivery means.
Coupled with other incidents, including the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, these events have worried the ayatollahs' regime, causing reactions ranging from embarrassment to anger. The public response usually follows a pattern: first a sweeping denial, then a limp and stuttering admission that "something happened," and finally the claim that it was an "accident." This shows that the regime does not know exactly what to say, and that its voice is not uniform. It also reflects the fierce dispute within the regime's top ranks. The leadership is divided, and the reactions come from a range of ministries, rival organizations and competing media outlets.
The kind of sabotage used in Iran requires sophistication, financial and technological resources, agents and precise intelligence. Someone, for example, had to know that General Moqaddam would be at the base that day to supervise a test, apparently of a new missile engine.
Infecting the computers required access to them: A person with a flash drive had to have plugged it into the system. The prevailing assumption is that foreign intelligence agencies are initiating, managing and executing the secret operations.
The Iranians, and international media outlets, believe these operations are the work of Israel's Mossad and possibly also a Western partner such as the CIA or Britain's MI6.
The Mossad's campaign to assassinate the Black September members behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was code-named "Wrath of God." This week, when asked whether God had carried out the recent operations in Iran, former Mossad head Meir Dagan smilingly said yes. Dagan is known to be an ardent supporter of secret operations, as he told Yedioth Ahronoth explicitly this week. He believes it will be at least two years until Iran can assemble a functioning nuclear weapon. This assessment may be based on past secret operations and on Dagan's faith that future actions can indeed disrupt Iran's progress.
A senior American official went even farther. President Barack Obama's special assistant and coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, Gary Samore, said in May 2011, "I'm glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated." Do we need any clearer statement that humans are behind the "hand of God"?
Even if the Mossad or the CIA are not involved in these incidents, the speculation that they are serves Western intelligence bodies by enhancing their image as "omnipotent," and heightening the Iranian leadership's fear. This is known as psychological warfare.
Still, with all due respect for Western intelligence's great efforts - including what is probably unprecedented operational coordination - it is unlikely these operations could have succeeded without inside support, meaning from individuals or groups ready to help sabotage the ayatollahs' regime. It should be remembered that Iran is a mosaic of ethnic minorities, and almost all have reasons for disliking the regime; some have their own underground armed militias.
The theory about inside-help gains traction given that, in addition to the military targets, other sites - including oil facilities, gas pipelines, trains and military bases - were also damaged over the past year. Last year there was a considerable increase, of at least 10 percent, in "breakdowns" and "accidents" at Iran's strategic infrastructure sites. Some were caused by poor maintenance, due in part to the international sanctions, but the volume of these incidents may also indicate the "hand of God" was involved. If this is the case, then it's possible that internal Iranian opposition groups (as opposed to exiles ) are stronger and even better organized than generally thought.
It is almost certain that Tehran's patience is about to run out. This was evidenced by the student mob's "conquest" of the British embassy this week. This was not spontaneous rage: It was a warning from a regime that realizes someone has declared war on it without leaving marks or fingerprints.
Sooner or later, the ayatollahs' regime will decide to react and will order its secret intelligence and operational units to retaliate. If and when this happens, Iran will take steps to conceal its involvement in such activities. However, past experience proves that despite the caution and sophistication of the Iranian secret services, they have often failed in obscuring their fingerprints.


Two weeks ago, a huge blast ripped through a Revolutionary Guards military base 40 kilometers west of Tehran. The explosion could be heard as far away as the capital. Dozens of people were killed, including the head of Iran's missile development project, General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam. This week, there was a powerful explosion in Isfahan, Iran's third-largest city, which has a uranium conversion plant on its outskirts. It is not yet clear what was damaged in the blast.
These incidents involved three key elements of Iran's nuclear program. The first is uranium conversion (which comes after the mineral has been mined ), the second is enrichment, and the third is the delivery means.
Coupled with other incidents, including the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, these events have worried the ayatollahs' regime, causing reactions ranging from embarrassment to anger. The public response usually follows a pattern: first a sweeping denial, then a limp and stuttering admission that "something happened," and finally the claim that it was an "accident." This shows that the regime does not know exactly what to say, and that its voice is not uniform. It also reflects the fierce dispute within the regime's top ranks. The leadership is divided, and the reactions come from a range of ministries, rival organizations and competing media outlets.
The kind of sabotage used in Iran requires sophistication, financial and technological resources, agents and precise intelligence. Someone, for example, had to know that General Moqaddam would be at the base that day to supervise a test, apparently of a new missile engine.
Infecting the computers required access to them: A person with a flash drive had to have plugged it into the system. The prevailing assumption is that foreign intelligence agencies are initiating, managing and executing the secret operations.
The Iranians, and international media outlets, believe these operations are the work of Israel's Mossad and possibly also a Western partner such as the CIA or Britain's MI6.
The Mossad's campaign to assassinate the Black September members behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was code-named "Wrath of God." This week, when asked whether God had carried out the recent operations in Iran, former Mossad head Meir Dagan smilingly said yes. Dagan is known to be an ardent supporter of secret operations, as he told Yedioth Ahronoth explicitly this week. He believes it will be at least two years until Iran can assemble a functioning nuclear weapon. This assessment may be based on past secret operations and on Dagan's faith that future actions can indeed disrupt Iran's progress.
A senior American official went even farther. President Barack Obama's special assistant and coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, Gary Samore, said in May 2011, "I'm glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated." Do we need any clearer statement that humans are behind the "hand of God"?
Even if the Mossad or the CIA are not involved in these incidents, the speculation that they are serves Western intelligence bodies by enhancing their image as "omnipotent," and heightening the Iranian leadership's fear. This is known as psychological warfare.
Still, with all due respect for Western intelligence's great efforts - including what is probably unprecedented operational coordination - it is unlikely these operations could have succeeded without inside support, meaning from individuals or groups ready to help sabotage the ayatollahs' regime. It should be remembered that Iran is a mosaic of ethnic minorities, and almost all have reasons for disliking the regime; some have their own underground armed militias.
The theory about inside-help gains traction given that, in addition to the military targets, other sites - including oil facilities, gas pipelines, trains and military bases - were also damaged over the past year. Last year there was a considerable increase, of at least 10 percent, in "breakdowns" and "accidents" at Iran's strategic infrastructure sites. Some were caused by poor maintenance, due in part to the international sanctions, but the volume of these incidents may also indicate the "hand of God" was involved. If this is the case, then it's possible that internal Iranian opposition groups (as opposed to exiles ) are stronger and even better organized than generally thought.
It is almost certain that Tehran's patience is about to run out. This was evidenced by the student mob's "conquest" of the British embassy this week. This was not spontaneous rage: It was a warning from a regime that realizes someone has declared war on it without leaving marks or fingerprints.
Sooner or later, the ayatollahs' regime will decide to react and will order its secret intelligence and operational units to retaliate. If and when this happens, Iran will take steps to conceal its involvement in such activities. However, past experience proves that despite the caution and sophistication of the Iranian secret services, they have often failed in obscuring their fingerprints.

the Disposition Matrix

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point’s graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn’t yet matched the president’s words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
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  1. «Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes,» ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. «The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead,» Huffington Post, January 23, 2014


Oct 27 2013, 9:55 AM ET

(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.


The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”

That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.


In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its «no-fly list», which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother’s health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. «My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances,» Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America’s close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

«I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,» he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. «If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.»

As compelling as Long’s story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. «I’m scared that if I do, it’ll only get worse,» he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that «the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.»

Worse, the Obama administration «lowered the bar for being added to the list». As a result, reported AP, «now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list» but can be included if they «are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security», a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. «Obviously, I can’t get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can’t fly,» said Long. «Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it’s not affordable. If I can’t fly, then I can’t go back home.»

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long’s case, told me:

«What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

«It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors – being Muslim seems to be one of them – trigger one’s placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process.»

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

«The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

«None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names.»

Long’s case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

«It makes no sense, so it’s obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?», he asked. «If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home.»

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. «After many follow-up calls to the embassy,» he recounted, «they finally gave me ‘assistance’ in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint.» On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called «redress control number» with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: «It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel.» Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: «there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer.»

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed – who, to date, has never been charged with any crime – faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

«Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed’s case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen’s movement into the US from abroad,» said Abbas. As modest – and self-evident – a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. «If he isn’t allowed to fly home on the 8th,» said Abbas, «we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq’s predicament.»

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.


Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with «current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies», Miller reports that as «the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down», the Obama administration «expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years» (the «capture» part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the «kill» part). Specifically, «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.» As Miller puts it: «That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.»
In pursuit of this goal, «White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.» All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates «the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.»
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that «CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones», which «reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.» The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

«JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.»

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: «disposition matrix». Writes Miller:

«Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
«The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.»

The «disposition matrix» has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is «to augment» the «separate but overlapping kill lists» maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s «matrix». As Miller describes it, it is «a single, continually evolving database» which includes «biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations» as well as «strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols». This analytical system that determines people’s «disposition» will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was «looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA».
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes «a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix» as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: «We had a disposition problem.»
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – «It is the keeper of the criteria,» says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the «massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States».
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes «records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records» – «literally anything the government collects would be fair game». In other words, the NCTC – now vested with the power to determine the proper «disposition» of terrorist suspects – is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which «meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans» – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC «to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years».
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

«All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
«All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.»

It doesn’t require any conspiracy theorizing to see what’s happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized – is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a «matrix» that determines the «disposition» of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be «disposed» of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post’s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: «The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.» As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: «The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.»
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, «officials said no clear end is in sight» when it comes to the war against «terrorists» because, said one official, «we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us» but trying is «a necessary part of what we do». Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who «want to harm us». That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: «No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.» You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a «disposition matrix» to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: «If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?» The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

«It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.»

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct – that «among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade» – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the «end of hostilities» – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment – permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic «war on terror» proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, «missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman» and added: «the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.» Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he «should have a far more responsible father».
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out «that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.» Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:

«Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'»

That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is «bug splat». This – this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset – is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled «President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List». Here is his concluding paragraph:

«Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.»

It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point's graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn't yet matched the president's words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
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  1. "Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes," ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. "The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead," Huffington Post, January 23, 2014




(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.



The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war


By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013


It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.


The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:
“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”
That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.




In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its "no-fly list", which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother's health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. "My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances," Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America's close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

"I don't understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me," he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. "If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing."

As compelling as Long's story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. "I'm scared that if I do, it'll only get worse," he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that "the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans."

Worse, the Obama administration "lowered the bar for being added to the list". As a result, reported AP, "now a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list" but can be included if they "are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security", a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long's: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. "Obviously, I can't get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can't fly," said Long. "Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it's not affordable. If I can't fly, then I can't go back home."

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long's case, told me:

"What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

"It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors - being Muslim seems to be one of them - trigger one's placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process."

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

"The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

"None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names."

Long's case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

"It makes no sense, so it's obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?", he asked. "If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home."

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. "After many follow-up calls to the embassy," he recounted, "they finally gave me 'assistance' in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint." On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called "redress control number" with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: "It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel." Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: "there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer."

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed - who, to date, has never been charged with any crime - faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

"Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed's case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen's movement into the US from abroad," said Abbas. As modest - and self-evident - a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. "If he isn't allowed to fly home on the 8th," said Abbas, "we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq's predicament."

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.



Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty



The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with "current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies", Miller reports that as "the United States' conventional wars are winding down", the Obama administration "expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years" (the "capture" part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the "kill" part). Specifically, "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade." As Miller puts it: "That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."
In pursuit of this goal, "White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration's approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced." All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates "the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war."
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that "CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones", which "reflects the agency's transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence." The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:
"JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command's targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a 'national capital region' task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists."
The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: "disposition matrix". Writes Miller:
"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
The "disposition matrix" has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is "to augment" the "separate but overlapping kill lists" maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch's "matrix". As Miller describes it, it is "a single, continually evolving database" which includes "biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations" as well as "strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols". This analytical system that determines people's "disposition" will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was "looking forward to the government's arguments explaining why it won't release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA".
This was all motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes "a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix" as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: "We had a disposition problem."
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – "It is the keeper of the criteria," says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism - is the "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States".
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records" – "literally anything the government collects would be fair game". In other words, the NCTC - now vested with the power to determine the proper "disposition" of terrorist suspects - is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU's legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which "meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans" – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC "to collect and 'continually assess' information on innocent Americans for up to five years".
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:
"All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI's office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board aren't notified even of 'significant' failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
"All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11."
It doesn't require any conspiracy theorizing to see what's happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post's Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: "The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic." As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:
Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.
To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: "The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis."
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, "officials said no clear end is in sight" when it comes to the war against "terrorists" because, said one official, "we can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us" but trying is "a necessary part of what we do". Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who "want to harm us". That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: "If you have a 'kill list', but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?" The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue - the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:
"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."
In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes' question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post's estimates are correct – that "among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade" – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the "end of hostilities" – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment - permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic "war on terror" proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, "missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people - including one woman" and added: "the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children." Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he "should have a far more responsible father".
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out "that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause." Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:
"Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: 'It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'"
That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military's term for drone victims is "bug splat". This - this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset - is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled "President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List". Here is his concluding paragraph:
"Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama's predecessors in the Bush administration 'were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings', because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don't meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix."
It's worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

U.S. Drone Program

Edited time: October 29, 2013 20:58

 
 

The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

«Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. «All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”

Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

«As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

«As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. «I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream…I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the United States because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Indeed, last week a former US State Department official claimed that drone strikes in Yemen are creating dozens of new militants with each attack.

Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. Independent studies suggest that the total number of civilians killed by unmanned aerial vehicles may be in the thousands.

“We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

Despite these numbers, though, the White House maintains that the best intelligence agencies in the world work in tandem with the mightiest military in order to gather information about targets, then order hits intended to take out extremists and cause as little collateral damage as possible.

According to Greenwald, this system is not without its flaws.

“How could we make decisions, let’s be clear about this, making decisions to clear people based on guesses?” asked Greenwald. “Guesses. No jury, no judge, no trial, no defense but because they are sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place, an entire community of leadership has been wiped out.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”


Published on Oct 19, 2013

America’s deadly drone strikes are essentially above the law, and must become transparent and accountable. That’s according to the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Washington has so far refused to disclose details on where its unmanned aerial strikes occur, and how many civilians are killed. Let’s get some reaction and insight from journalist and former Pakistani Air Force officer, Sultan M. Hali.


Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones

Posted on 12/16/2012 by Juan Cole

The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.
Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.
Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.
We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.
Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):


Broad Spectrum of Organizations Support ACLU Legal Fight for Transparency on U.S. Drone Program

nine organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA’s use of drones to carry out targeted killings around the world.  The organizations work on a diverse array of issues that don’t always overlap, including international human rights and rule of law, government transparency, investigative journalism, civil liberties and national security policy.  Although some of these groups seldom have occasion to collaborate, they joined together to urge the court to reject the CIA’s position that it can’t confirm whether it has a drone strike program at all.

Edited time: October 29, 2013 20:58
 
 

The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

"Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. "All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”



Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

"As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

"As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. "I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream...I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the United States because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Indeed, last week a former US State Department official claimed that drone strikes in Yemen are creating dozens of new militants with each attack.

Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. Independent studies suggest that the total number of civilians killed by unmanned aerial vehicles may be in the thousands.

“We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

Despite these numbers, though, the White House maintains that the best intelligence agencies in the world work in tandem with the mightiest military in order to gather information about targets, then order hits intended to take out extremists and cause as little collateral damage as possible.

According to Greenwald, this system is not without its flaws.

“How could we make decisions, let’s be clear about this, making decisions to clear people based on guesses?” asked Greenwald. “Guesses. No jury, no judge, no trial, no defense but because they are sitting in a certain pattern, because they’re in a certain place, an entire community of leadership has been wiped out.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”





Published on Oct 19, 2013

America's deadly drone strikes are essentially above the law, and must become transparent and accountable. That's according to the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Washington has so far refused to disclose details on where its unmanned aerial strikes occur, and how many civilians are killed. Let's get some reaction and insight from journalist and former Pakistani Air Force officer, Sultan M. Hali.





Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones


Posted on 12/16/2012 by Juan Cole
The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.
Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.
Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.
We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.
Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):





Broad Spectrum of Organizations Support ACLU Legal Fight for Transparency on U.S. Drone Program


nine organizations submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the CIA's use of drones to carry out targeted killings around the world.  The organizations work on a diverse array of issues that don't always overlap, including international human rights and rule of law, government transparency, investigative journalism, civil liberties and national security policy.  Although some of these groups seldom have occasion to collaborate, they joined together to urge the court to reject the CIA's position that it can't confirm whether it has a drone strike program at all.

La falsedad de la guerra contra las drogas

Notimex
Publicado: 18/11/2013 18:08

Washington. La administración antidrogas estadunidense (DEA) advirtió este lunes que grupos criminales y narcotraficantes mexicanos buscan expandir su control en los mercados de heroína blanca del este y el medio oeste de Estados Unidos.

En su Evaluación de la Amenaza de la Droga 2013, la DEA pronosticó un aumento del consumo de mariguana en Estados Unidos en la siguiente década, que será abastecido por grupos del narcotráfico mexicano gracias a un «considerable aumento» de su producción a gran escala.

«El tráfico y abuso de drogas ilícitas continúa siendo una amenaza dinámica y desafiante para los Estados Unidos», señaló la agencia estadunidense dirigida por Michelle Leonhart.

La evaluación, que analiza el consumo de las drogas más populares entre los residentes de Estados Unidos, advierte que el abuso de medicamentos sin receta médica (CPD) es el «problema de drogas de mayor crecimiento del país».


Publicado: 18/11/2013 18:40

Toronto. El consejo municipal de Toronto aprobó el lunes una moción para retirar al alcalde Rob Ford sus poderes ejecutivos y relegarlo al simple cargo de edil, al término de una agitada sesión en el consistorio que duró cinco horas.

Los concejales votaron una enmienda tras otra para eliminar las prerrogativas de Ford, como el presupuesto destinado a su cargo y parte de los empleados que componen su oficina.

Ford, que conmocionó a la sociedad canadiense tras reconocer que consume crack y abusa del alcohol, no participó en la votación al considerar que no se trataba de un «proceso democrático», sino de un «procedimiento dictatorial».

Varios ediles manifestaron su desacuerdo con el método de actuación al considerar que las medidas adoptadas casi por unanimidad el viernes bastaban ampliamente para garantizar el buen funcionamiento de la ciudad.

«Lo que hoy hacéis es ilegal y antidemocrático», espetó Giorgio Mammoliti a sus compañeros.


05 de noviembre de 2013•15:12

Washington.- El Departamento de Estado anunció hoy una recompensa de hasta cinco millones de dólares por información que conduzca al arresto del narcotraficante Rafael Caro Quintero, acusado del asesinato del agente de la DEA Enrique «Kiki» Camarena.

La recompensa ofrecida por Caro Quintero es la de mayor monto económico ofrecida por el Programa de Recompensas de Narcóticos, a quien proporcione información útil a la captura de narcotraficantes, señaló la Oficina del Portavoz del Departamento de Estado.


14 de octubre de 2013•23:40

México, DF.– El exintegrante de la Agencia Antidrogas de los Estados Unidos (DEA) Enrique ‘kiki’ Camarena Salazar fue torturado y ejecutado por órdenes de la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA) y no por el narcotraficante Rafael Caro Quintero.

De manera simultánea el corresponsal en Washington de la revista Proceso, Jesús Esquivel y la cadena estadounidense Fox News revelaron que tras 28 años de silencio Phil Jordan, exdirector del Centro de Inteligencia de El Paso (EPIC); Héctor Berrellez, exagente de la DEA, y Tosh Plumlee, expiloto de la CIA, afirmaron que autoridades norteamericanas decidieron acabar con ‘kiki’ Camarena.

La razón, es que el exintegrante de la DEA descubrió que el gobierno de Estados Unidos colaboraba con el narcotraficante mexicano Rafael Caro Quintero en su negocio ilícito de tráfico de drogas.

“La CIA mando levantar y torturar a Camarena, cuando lo mataron nos hicieron creer que fue Caro Quintero para así tapar todas las cosas ilegales que estaban haciendo”, declaró Phil Jordan, exdirector del Centro de Inteligencia de El Paso.

Héctor Berrellez señala al cubano Félix Ismael Rodríguez alias ‘El Gato’ como el autor intelectual del asesinato de Enrique Camarena, sin embargo, relaciona a agentes infiltrados en la extinta Dirección Federal de Seguridad (DFS), quienes participaron en el secuestro del primer agente de la DEA en el extranjero.

A ‘El Gato’ se le atribuyen la captura y asesinato de Ernesto Che Guevara, uno de los iconos guerrilleros de los últimos años, además de ser pilar en la intervención de Estados Unidos en Centroamérica, principalmente en Nicaragua

De acuerdo con la publicación y en palabras del mismo Jesús Esquivel, Félix Ismael Rodríguez era pieza clave con el Cártel de Guadalajara para ingresar la droga que venía de Colombia, además de financiar a la guerrilla en Nicaragua.

Las revelaciones de estos exagentes norteamericanos se dan en un momento de tensión entre México y Estados Unidos por la liberación de Rafael Caro Quintero, de quien durante 28 años se dijo fue el asesino de Enrique ‘kiki’ Camarena.

Con información de Proceso


MÉXICO, D.F. (proceso.com.mx).- Luego de que el jueves 17 el gobierno de Estados Unidos dio a conocer la aplicación de sanciones a la Organización de Tráfico de Drogas Meza Flores, rival del narcotraficante Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera, el diario Reforma reporta este domingo que supuestos integrantes de esa agrupación criminal fueron reconocidos por personas que presenciaban un partido de basquetbol en una escuela de San Pedro, Nuevo León.

En el Colegio Alfonsino estaban al menos la esposa y la madre del líder del cártel de Meza Flores, según personas que asistieron al juego, que los identificaron luego de enterarse -a través del celular- de la noticia sobre la alerta del Departamento del Tesoro estaunidense.

Según testimonios de habitantes de San Pedro, los miembros del cártel tienen varios años viviendo en ese lugar y siempre se han movido con absoluta libertad, al menos hasta el jueves pasado, cuando sus nombres y fotos fueron difundidos por autoridades estadunidenses, agrega la información del diario.

En el momento en que la esposa y madre del capo se encontraban en el plantel presenciando el juego de basquetbol, una mujer vio dicha información desde su celular.

Un testigo afirmó que en el lugar se empezó a correr la voz de que las fotos de esas dos personas estaban en Internet, pero nadie supo qué hacer.

Las mujeres acudieron al partido porque ahí estudian dos hijas del capo.

Sin embargo, de acuerdo con la información del periódico, tras el episodio del jueves las estudiantes ya no asistieron a clases el viernes.

El Departamento del Tesoro, por medio de la Oficina para el Control de Bienes Extranjeros (OFAC), informó que designó como narcotraficantes más significativos a Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, Chapito Isidro, líder de la agrupación y a sus familiares cercanos que forman la cúpula de mando de la agrupación.

El gobierno de Barack Obama explicó que la organización Meza Flores opera en Guasave, Sinaloa desde hace 12 años, y que se dedica al trasiego de grandes cantidades de metanfetaminas, heroína, mariguana y cocaína que tienen como destino a los Estados Unidos.


private 6:59 PM www.eluniversalmas.com.mx
Lydia Cacho
El rey de la cocaína

Antes del Chapo Guzmán, antes de Pablo Escobar y de los cárteles conocidos, Latinoamérica parió al padre de la narcopolítica latina. El boliviano Roberto Suárez Gómez era un multimillonario heredero del emporio de exportadores de caucho que no encaja en el perfil del narco que conocemos hoy día. Lo que le llevó a convertirse en el monopolizador y exportador de más de dos toneladas diarias de cocaína pura hacia Estados Unidos fue su obsesión por dominar el mercado mundial y su fascinación al descubrir que podría controlar a jueces, gobernadores y presidentes de diversos países. Fue tal el poder de Suárez que quiso pagar la deuda externa de Bolivia con narcodinero.

Su viuda, Ayda Levy, publicó a fines de 2012 el libro biográfico titulado El rey de la cocaína, mi vida con Roberto Suárez Gómez y el nacimiento del primer narco-Estado, editado en la serie Debate por Random House. Es una lectura indispensable, no solamente porque está bien narrado, sino porque a pesar de que propia autora, hija de una familia privilegiada y educada de Cochabamba, Bolivia, lleva a cabo un reiterativo intento por limpiar el nombre de su familia, en cada página descubrimos la doble moral de ella, de sus hijos, del propio Suárez y de personajes de la política internacional. Ayda a sus 78 años tiene una lucidez y memoria extraordinarias. Tanto ella como sus hijos y Suárez guardaron libros contables, datos, cifras, videos, fotografías y un sinfín de evidencia. Con ello revela fechas precisas de los encuentros del rey de la coca con sus socios y contactos. Narra detalladamente el plan urdido por su esposo y colegas, todo con nombres reales, para financiar un golpe de Estado en Bolivia con el cual impusieron al general Luis García Meza, el primer narco-presidente de la historia latinoamericana.

La autora dejó fríos a sus editores mexicanos cuando les aseguró tener pruebas de hechos tan delicados como el convenio entre Suárez y Pablo Escobar con Fidel Castro para entregarle al dictador cubano un millón de dólares diarios para que los cargamentos de cocaína pasaran por Cuba y para que el Estado cubano pusiera los servicios de inteligencia y la protección de espacio aéreo y marítimo al servicio del Cártel de Medellín, encabezado por Pablo Escobar pero cuyo socio líder y proveedor de materia prima era Suárez. La droga entraba directamente a Florida. Las revelaciones de la viuda Suárez son vitales para entender la narcopolítica y la narcoeconomía, pero también para evidenciar la hipocresía de la guerra mundial contra el narcotráfico. Nadie, hasta ahora, había revelado con tal honestidad el haber atestiguado, de primera mano, los convenios entre los narcotraficantes y el gobierno norteamericano a través de la CIA y Oliver North, el famoso y corrupto militar del caso Irán-Contras. La autora dibuja la paulatina normalización de las actividades criminales de una familia de empresarios metida a la narcopolítica internacional y la compra de la justicia local e internacional, de policías y militares, así como la inversión directa en campañas. El banquero del Vaticano lavando dinero; los presidentes de Bolivia, Costa Rica, Panamá, Cuba y Colombia aparecen en las revelaciones que mapean con claridad cómo llegamos hasta esta esquizofrénica “guerra” contra el narcotráfico y el perverso papel que el gobierno norteamericano jugó para fomentar las adicciones en su territorio.

El libro es valioso porque, a pesar de la amoralidad de sus personajes, la señora Levy logra desmitificar a las mujeres del narco. Aquí no hay lugares comunes, sino complejas relaciones emocionales impregnadas de goce del estatus, del poder y la impunidad avasallantes de quienes generan violencia y se niegan a reconocerla argumentando que hacían sólo política y negocios o, como decía Suárez, que vendían cocaína por patriotismo, para mejorar la economía nacional. No por nada “el rey” se convirtió en personaje del filme Scarface.

Hay que leer este libro. Aunque Levy deja una deuda a sus lectores mexicanos, porque hubiera sido importante que diera los nombres de quienes negociaron en Quintana Roo con Suárez Gómez en tiempos del gobernador Pedro Joaquín Coldwell. Deja clara la creación de la ruta pero sin los nombres de los responsables que se reunieron con Suárez y Escobar. La historia, como sea, se seguirá escribiendo para entender mejor la realidad.


El Presidente Calderón en su discurso sobre el caso del Casino Royale en Monterrey hace un análisis certero del estado de guerra que sufrimos en México.   El papel de Estados Unidos es fundamental: compra la droga, vende las armas, retiene y administra las ganancias. Los servicios de inteligencia del gobierno de Estados Unidos son continuamente involucrados en el trafico  de drogas bajo el pretexto de la seguridad nacional. 

Por ejemplo, justo antes de la invasión de Afganistán, después de que la CIA había promovido el cultivo de opio para financiar la campaña contra los rusos, los talibán en un solo año eliminaron la producción de opio ha prácticamente cero. Inmediatamente después de la invasión los niveles de cultivo de opio regresaron a los niveles previos al talibán. He visto videos donde se muestra al ejército de Estados Unidos junto a plantíos de opio. Cuando el reportero les pregunta a los sardos se le explica que tienen orden de no interferir para no molestar a los nativos. Desde la invasión la producción de opio incrementa cada año y ahora Afganistán es el líder mundial. Me preocupa que el embajador en México de Estados Unidos venga de trabajar en Afganistán.
Existe documentación de la participación de la CIA y la familia Bush en el trafico de cocaína. En corrupción e impunidad México todavía le puede aprender algo a los gringos.

La falsedad de la guerra contra las drogas es evidente ante la simplicidad de posibles soluciones como la mencionada por Calderón. Los detalles son complicados pero la idea es simple: Los países productores de enervantes les compran a precios razonables sus cultivos a sus campesinos y los estupefacientes se les entregan a las países consumidores   para que estos hagan lo que quieran con ellos, desde destruirlos hasta regalarlos. ¿Cual es problema con esto? Pues que se colapsaría un negocio trillonario, no solo en el comercio de drogas, sino también en el comercio de armas. Desde el punto de vista de los psicópatas megalómanos la guerra contra las drogas es una guerra ideal: todos contra todos sin fin posible, con el beneficio adicional de debilitar gobiernos independientes y ejercer por lo tanto un mayor control.

La mala noticia es que el enemigo es formidable y terrible; la buena noticia es que podemos identificar acciones concretas para defendernos. En términos generales tomar acciones para abaratar las drogas y facilitar su acceso y anular el motivo económico. Esto ademas de un esfuerzo de educación y soporte dirigido a disminuir el consumo, de la misma manera que se hace con el alcohol y el tabaco. Por el contrario dificultar en lo más posible el trafico de armas. Estados Unidos es el mayor consumidor de drogas y el mayor traficante de armas del mundo. Los que se benefician de esta situación son un puñado de sicópatas pero la población en general en Estados Unidos es también victima y no coparticipe de estos crímenes. Existen grupos de ciudadanos consientes que están luchando por un mundo mejor. Un primer paso en un movimiento de resistencia mexicano es identificar y coordinarse con estos grupos. Sin el apoyo de la población estadunidense no hay esperanza de vencer al monstro.

Notimex
Publicado: 18/11/2013 18:08

Washington. La administración antidrogas estadunidense (DEA) advirtió este lunes que grupos criminales y narcotraficantes mexicanos buscan expandir su control en los mercados de heroína blanca del este y el medio oeste de Estados Unidos.

En su Evaluación de la Amenaza de la Droga 2013, la DEA pronosticó un aumento del consumo de mariguana en Estados Unidos en la siguiente década, que será abastecido por grupos del narcotráfico mexicano gracias a un "considerable aumento" de su producción a gran escala.

"El tráfico y abuso de drogas ilícitas continúa siendo una amenaza dinámica y desafiante para los Estados Unidos", señaló la agencia estadunidense dirigida por Michelle Leonhart.

La evaluación, que analiza el consumo de las drogas más populares entre los residentes de Estados Unidos, advierte que el abuso de medicamentos sin receta médica (CPD) es el "problema de drogas de mayor crecimiento del país".



Publicado: 18/11/2013 18:40

Toronto. El consejo municipal de Toronto aprobó el lunes una moción para retirar al alcalde Rob Ford sus poderes ejecutivos y relegarlo al simple cargo de edil, al término de una agitada sesión en el consistorio que duró cinco horas.

Los concejales votaron una enmienda tras otra para eliminar las prerrogativas de Ford, como el presupuesto destinado a su cargo y parte de los empleados que componen su oficina.

Ford, que conmocionó a la sociedad canadiense tras reconocer que consume crack y abusa del alcohol, no participó en la votación al considerar que no se trataba de un "proceso democrático", sino de un "procedimiento dictatorial".

Varios ediles manifestaron su desacuerdo con el método de actuación al considerar que las medidas adoptadas casi por unanimidad el viernes bastaban ampliamente para garantizar el buen funcionamiento de la ciudad.

"Lo que hoy hacéis es ilegal y antidemocrático", espetó Giorgio Mammoliti a sus compañeros.






05 de noviembre de 2013•15:12

Washington.- El Departamento de Estado anunció hoy una recompensa de hasta cinco millones de dólares por información que conduzca al arresto del narcotraficante Rafael Caro Quintero, acusado del asesinato del agente de la DEA Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.

La recompensa ofrecida por Caro Quintero es la de mayor monto económico ofrecida por el Programa de Recompensas de Narcóticos, a quien proporcione información útil a la captura de narcotraficantes, señaló la Oficina del Portavoz del Departamento de Estado.





14 de octubre de 2013•23:40

México, DF.- El exintegrante de la Agencia Antidrogas de los Estados Unidos (DEA) Enrique ‘kiki’ Camarena Salazar fue torturado y ejecutado por órdenes de la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA) y no por el narcotraficante Rafael Caro Quintero.

De manera simultánea el corresponsal en Washington de la revista Proceso, Jesús Esquivel y la cadena estadounidense Fox News revelaron que tras 28 años de silencio Phil Jordan, exdirector del Centro de Inteligencia de El Paso (EPIC); Héctor Berrellez, exagente de la DEA, y Tosh Plumlee, expiloto de la CIA, afirmaron que autoridades norteamericanas decidieron acabar con ‘kiki’ Camarena.

La razón, es que el exintegrante de la DEA descubrió que el gobierno de Estados Unidos colaboraba con el narcotraficante mexicano Rafael Caro Quintero en su negocio ilícito de tráfico de drogas.



“La CIA mando levantar y torturar a Camarena, cuando lo mataron nos hicieron creer que fue Caro Quintero para así tapar todas las cosas ilegales que estaban haciendo”, declaró Phil Jordan, exdirector del Centro de Inteligencia de El Paso.

Héctor Berrellez señala al cubano Félix Ismael Rodríguez alias ‘El Gato’ como el autor intelectual del asesinato de Enrique Camarena, sin embargo, relaciona a agentes infiltrados en la extinta Dirección Federal de Seguridad (DFS), quienes participaron en el secuestro del primer agente de la DEA en el extranjero.

A ‘El Gato’ se le atribuyen la captura y asesinato de Ernesto Che Guevara, uno de los iconos guerrilleros de los últimos años, además de ser pilar en la intervención de Estados Unidos en Centroamérica, principalmente en Nicaragua

De acuerdo con la publicación y en palabras del mismo Jesús Esquivel, Félix Ismael Rodríguez era pieza clave con el Cártel de Guadalajara para ingresar la droga que venía de Colombia, además de financiar a la guerrilla en Nicaragua.

Las revelaciones de estos exagentes norteamericanos se dan en un momento de tensión entre México y Estados Unidos por la liberación de Rafael Caro Quintero, de quien durante 28 años se dijo fue el asesino de Enrique ‘kiki’ Camarena.

Con información de Proceso



MÉXICO, D.F. (proceso.com.mx).- Luego de que el jueves 17 el gobierno de Estados Unidos dio a conocer la aplicación de sanciones a la Organización de Tráfico de Drogas Meza Flores, rival del narcotraficante Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera, el diario Reforma reporta este domingo que supuestos integrantes de esa agrupación criminal fueron reconocidos por personas que presenciaban un partido de basquetbol en una escuela de San Pedro, Nuevo León.

En el Colegio Alfonsino estaban al menos la esposa y la madre del líder del cártel de Meza Flores, según personas que asistieron al juego, que los identificaron luego de enterarse -a través del celular- de la noticia sobre la alerta del Departamento del Tesoro estaunidense.

Según testimonios de habitantes de San Pedro, los miembros del cártel tienen varios años viviendo en ese lugar y siempre se han movido con absoluta libertad, al menos hasta el jueves pasado, cuando sus nombres y fotos fueron difundidos por autoridades estadunidenses, agrega la información del diario.

En el momento en que la esposa y madre del capo se encontraban en el plantel presenciando el juego de basquetbol, una mujer vio dicha información desde su celular.

Un testigo afirmó que en el lugar se empezó a correr la voz de que las fotos de esas dos personas estaban en Internet, pero nadie supo qué hacer.

Las mujeres acudieron al partido porque ahí estudian dos hijas del capo.

Sin embargo, de acuerdo con la información del periódico, tras el episodio del jueves las estudiantes ya no asistieron a clases el viernes.

El Departamento del Tesoro, por medio de la Oficina para el Control de Bienes Extranjeros (OFAC), informó que designó como narcotraficantes más significativos a Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, Chapito Isidro, líder de la agrupación y a sus familiares cercanos que forman la cúpula de mando de la agrupación.

El gobierno de Barack Obama explicó que la organización Meza Flores opera en Guasave, Sinaloa desde hace 12 años, y que se dedica al trasiego de grandes cantidades de metanfetaminas, heroína, mariguana y cocaína que tienen como destino a los Estados Unidos.






private 6:59 PM www.eluniversalmas.com.mx
Lydia Cacho
El rey de la cocaína

Antes del Chapo Guzmán, antes de Pablo Escobar y de los cárteles conocidos, Latinoamérica parió al padre de la narcopolítica latina. El boliviano Roberto Suárez Gómez era un multimillonario heredero del emporio de exportadores de caucho que no encaja en el perfil del narco que conocemos hoy día. Lo que le llevó a convertirse en el monopolizador y exportador de más de dos toneladas diarias de cocaína pura hacia Estados Unidos fue su obsesión por dominar el mercado mundial y su fascinación al descubrir que podría controlar a jueces, gobernadores y presidentes de diversos países. Fue tal el poder de Suárez que quiso pagar la deuda externa de Bolivia con narcodinero.

Su viuda, Ayda Levy, publicó a fines de 2012 el libro biográfico titulado El rey de la cocaína, mi vida con Roberto Suárez Gómez y el nacimiento del primer narco-Estado, editado en la serie Debate por Random House. Es una lectura indispensable, no solamente porque está bien narrado, sino porque a pesar de que propia autora, hija de una familia privilegiada y educada de Cochabamba, Bolivia, lleva a cabo un reiterativo intento por limpiar el nombre de su familia, en cada página descubrimos la doble moral de ella, de sus hijos, del propio Suárez y de personajes de la política internacional. Ayda a sus 78 años tiene una lucidez y memoria extraordinarias. Tanto ella como sus hijos y Suárez guardaron libros contables, datos, cifras, videos, fotografías y un sinfín de evidencia. Con ello revela fechas precisas de los encuentros del rey de la coca con sus socios y contactos. Narra detalladamente el plan urdido por su esposo y colegas, todo con nombres reales, para financiar un golpe de Estado en Bolivia con el cual impusieron al general Luis García Meza, el primer narco-presidente de la historia latinoamericana.

La autora dejó fríos a sus editores mexicanos cuando les aseguró tener pruebas de hechos tan delicados como el convenio entre Suárez y Pablo Escobar con Fidel Castro para entregarle al dictador cubano un millón de dólares diarios para que los cargamentos de cocaína pasaran por Cuba y para que el Estado cubano pusiera los servicios de inteligencia y la protección de espacio aéreo y marítimo al servicio del Cártel de Medellín, encabezado por Pablo Escobar pero cuyo socio líder y proveedor de materia prima era Suárez. La droga entraba directamente a Florida. Las revelaciones de la viuda Suárez son vitales para entender la narcopolítica y la narcoeconomía, pero también para evidenciar la hipocresía de la guerra mundial contra el narcotráfico. Nadie, hasta ahora, había revelado con tal honestidad el haber atestiguado, de primera mano, los convenios entre los narcotraficantes y el gobierno norteamericano a través de la CIA y Oliver North, el famoso y corrupto militar del caso Irán-Contras. La autora dibuja la paulatina normalización de las actividades criminales de una familia de empresarios metida a la narcopolítica internacional y la compra de la justicia local e internacional, de policías y militares, así como la inversión directa en campañas. El banquero del Vaticano lavando dinero; los presidentes de Bolivia, Costa Rica, Panamá, Cuba y Colombia aparecen en las revelaciones que mapean con claridad cómo llegamos hasta esta esquizofrénica “guerra” contra el narcotráfico y el perverso papel que el gobierno norteamericano jugó para fomentar las adicciones en su territorio.

El libro es valioso porque, a pesar de la amoralidad de sus personajes, la señora Levy logra desmitificar a las mujeres del narco. Aquí no hay lugares comunes, sino complejas relaciones emocionales impregnadas de goce del estatus, del poder y la impunidad avasallantes de quienes generan violencia y se niegan a reconocerla argumentando que hacían sólo política y negocios o, como decía Suárez, que vendían cocaína por patriotismo, para mejorar la economía nacional. No por nada “el rey” se convirtió en personaje del filme Scarface.

Hay que leer este libro. Aunque Levy deja una deuda a sus lectores mexicanos, porque hubiera sido importante que diera los nombres de quienes negociaron en Quintana Roo con Suárez Gómez en tiempos del gobernador Pedro Joaquín Coldwell. Deja clara la creación de la ruta pero sin los nombres de los responsables que se reunieron con Suárez y Escobar. La historia, como sea, se seguirá escribiendo para entender mejor la realidad.



El Presidente Calderón en su discurso sobre el caso del Casino Royale en Monterrey hace un análisis certero del estado de guerra que sufrimos en México.   El papel de Estados Unidos es fundamental: compra la droga, vende las armas, retiene y administra las ganancias. Los servicios de inteligencia del gobierno de Estados Unidos son continuamente involucrados en el trafico  de drogas bajo el pretexto de la seguridad nacional. 




Por ejemplo, justo antes de la invasión de Afganistán, después de que la CIA había promovido el cultivo de opio para financiar la campaña contra los rusos, los talibán en un solo año eliminaron la producción de opio ha prácticamente cero. Inmediatamente después de la invasión los niveles de cultivo de opio regresaron a los niveles previos al talibán. He visto videos donde se muestra al ejército de Estados Unidos junto a plantíos de opio. Cuando el reportero les pregunta a los sardos se le explica que tienen orden de no interferir para no molestar a los nativos. Desde la invasión la producción de opio incrementa cada año y ahora Afganistán es el líder mundial. Me preocupa que el embajador en México de Estados Unidos venga de trabajar en Afganistán.
Existe documentación de la participación de la CIA y la familia Bush en el trafico de cocaína. En corrupción e impunidad México todavía le puede aprender algo a los gringos.

La falsedad de la guerra contra las drogas es evidente ante la simplicidad de posibles soluciones como la mencionada por Calderón. Los detalles son complicados pero la idea es simple: Los países productores de enervantes les compran a precios razonables sus cultivos a sus campesinos y los estupefacientes se les entregan a las países consumidores   para que estos hagan lo que quieran con ellos, desde destruirlos hasta regalarlos. ¿Cual es problema con esto? Pues que se colapsaría un negocio trillonario, no solo en el comercio de drogas, sino también en el comercio de armas. Desde el punto de vista de los psicópatas megalómanos la guerra contra las drogas es una guerra ideal: todos contra todos sin fin posible, con el beneficio adicional de debilitar gobiernos independientes y ejercer por lo tanto un mayor control.

La mala noticia es que el enemigo es formidable y terrible; la buena noticia es que podemos identificar acciones concretas para defendernos. En términos generales tomar acciones para abaratar las drogas y facilitar su acceso y anular el motivo económico. Esto ademas de un esfuerzo de educación y soporte dirigido a disminuir el consumo, de la misma manera que se hace con el alcohol y el tabaco. Por el contrario dificultar en lo más posible el trafico de armas. Estados Unidos es el mayor consumidor de drogas y el mayor traficante de armas del mundo. Los que se benefician de esta situación son un puñado de sicópatas pero la población en general en Estados Unidos es también victima y no coparticipe de estos crímenes. Existen grupos de ciudadanos consientes que están luchando por un mundo mejor. Un primer paso en un movimiento de resistencia mexicano es identificar y coordinarse con estos grupos. Sin el apoyo de la población estadunidense no hay esperanza de vencer al monstro.

War on Syria

18 August 2014

There is evidence in the public domain that the US and Saudi Arabia are behind the ISIS. ISIS used to be called Al-Qaida but that is not convenient anymore, it seems because it is clearly high treason to cooperate with Al-Qaida, Even in the US Media these facts were acknowledge when Obama was pondering invading Syria.

Tell your congressman that you are concerned about allegations that the US and/or its allies trained Islamic extremist in Jordan to fight the Syrian government. Ask how a bunch of young tugs can operate sophisticated high tech us supplied equipment without training, maintenance, and spear parts. Ask how Israel, with her paranoid arrogance and the best army and intelligence service in the World, allowed a military presence of the size of the ISIS to surge in her backyard. Ask who supplies the ammunition and money.

There are reasons, I guess, for people in power to play chess with the World, but at the end of the line what we have is psychopathic behavior and Power for the sake of Power. What we can do first of all is being informed and tell others at church, school, friends what is going on and tell government officials that you are aware and against blood for oil.


Published on Nov 21, 2013

Inside Syria it’s proving increasingly difficult to get anything like a clear picture of the state of the conflict, but the government appears to have the upper hand.


Published on Sep 10, 2013

In today’s video, Topher Morrison of AMTV confirms that John McCain posed with known terrorists in Syria.

Published on Oct 22, 2013

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has come under attack, and rightfully so. He has gone from being a Vietnam Veteran hero to crossing the line, in my opinion and many others, of being a traitor to the Constitution and the United States. I ran across a video of a townhall meeting that apparently took place sometime in September, in which Marine Blaine Cooper called out John McCain on his treason for aiding and abetting the enemy of the United States.


By Nick Tattersall

ISTANBUL | Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:34am EDT

(Reuters) – The rise of al Qaeda in parts of Syria’s north has left Turkey facing a new security threat on its already vulnerable border and raised questions about its wholesale support for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria’s fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad’s rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check.

But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation.

Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

«We are being accused of supporting al Qaeda,» a source close to the Turkish government said, adding that U.S. officials had raised concerns on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

«They were politely but aggressively critical. The attention has focused away from Assad to al Qaeda,» the source said, echoing frustration voiced by other officials in Ankara that this was playing into Assad’s hands.

As if on cue, the Turkish army said on Wednesday it had fired on ISIL fighters over the border after a stray mortar shell hit Turkish soil. It has retaliated in the past in such cases but this appeared to be the first time its response had targeted al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the two-and-a-half-year conflict, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize on its soil.

It officially denies arming the rebels or facilitating the passage of foreign fighters who have swollen the ranks of al Qaeda-linked factions including ISIL and Nusra.

«Logistically nothing goes through the official borders in Turkey or any other country anyway,» said Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

But the 900 km (560-mile) border is difficult to police and refugees, smugglers and rebel fighters have been able to cross undetected in remote areas, bypassing the main crossing points.

«Officially we didn’t allow it. But it’s a long border and some groups, we tried to accommodate them in the Syrian opposition, which we wanted to be as large as possible,» said one Turkish official in the region, when asked whether foreign fighters had been able to cross.

Foreign mercenaries, mainly backed by Gulf states, were initially welcomed by Syria’s rebel forces because they had greater battle experience and were more effective against pro-Assad militias, he said.

«This was a tactical mistake and now we see a totally different balance of power.»

LENDING ASSAD LEGITIMACY

It is a contrast with Jordan, where authorities have kept a tight control over their border with Syria. Rebels in the southern Syrian province of Deraa, the cradle of the 2011 protests against Assad, have long complained that they have been starved of significant arms supplies as a result.

In a report documenting sectarian mass killings by Assad’s foes, New York-based Human Rights Watch said last week Turkey needed to increase its border patrols and restrict the passage of fighters and arms to radical groups.

«Many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment,» the report said.

It cited a humanitarian worker in Turkey as saying some of the foreign fighters entering Syria’s Latakia province, where it said 190 civilians were killed by rebels in an attack in August, had flown into Hatay airport in Turkey, from where they were picked up by other fighters and facilitators.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly denied any support from Turkey for al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and has described suggestions to the contrary as a bid to legitimize Assad’s actions by portraying him as fighting terrorism.

«This is what Assad wants. He is trying to … change the nature of the conflict, so that it is perceived not as a conflict between him and his own people, but as a fight against radical groups,» a senior foreign ministry official said.

It was a message Assad tried to deliver directly to the Turkish people this month, when in an interview with Turkey’s Halk TV he warned Turkey it would pay for harboring «terrorists» who, he said, would turn on their hosts.

It is not a risk Turkey can comfortably dismiss. Like Jordan, which fears Islamist fighters radicalized in Syria could return and strike targets inside the pro-Western kingdom, Turkey is not immune to the threat from al Qaeda.

Several websites carried reports of a threat to Turkey from jihadist groups in Syria after it temporarily shut part of the border last month when an al Qaeda-linked group stormed a nearby town, although it was not clear if the threat was genuine.

«We are not with al Nusra, and al Nusra is not happy about this. It is a nasty war. Nothing is black and white any more,» the source close to the Turkish government said.

FERTILE GROUND FOR RADICALISATION

As the conflict drags on, there is growing evidence of Turkish nationals going to fight in Syria, some alongside jihadists, others joining Syrian Kurds in their scramble against rival rebel units, Assad’s forces and Arab tribes.

Citing intelligence reports, Turkey’s Taraf newspaper estimated last month that around 500 Turkish nationals were fighting among 1,200 different rebel groups in Syria, many of them in the name of «jihad», while others had signed up as mercenaries, earning $1,500 a month.

Others were members of the Kurdish PKK militant group who were going to fight alongside Syrian Kurds, it said.

«Our border is very fragile, it is not as strong as it was,» the source close to the government said.

«No-one would go from an Anatolian town to fight for democracy in Syria. But jihadists would go to fight against the infidels. This is the danger for Turkey.»

Officials in Ankara, from President Abdullah Gul down, see the failure of the international community to take decisive action in Syria as creating the conditions which have allowed radical groups to thrive.

After repeated calls for assertive intervention, they are frustrated that the finger is now being pointed at them.

«What I have said to all our allies and everyone I have met and spoken to since these events started is that if this process prolongs, the inevitable result will be a radicalization,» Gul said in a speech in Istanbul this month.

Turkish officials argue that foreign fighters have also entered Syria from other neighboring countries, some with support from Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and point out that the escape of hundreds of convicts from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail in July swelled ISIL’s ranks in Syria.

«We do our best through the different opposition forces to contain the threat of the jihadi opposition in Syria, but the support for these groups is so sizeable that Turkey cannot control this (alone),» the Turkish official in the region said.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by giles Elgood)


Published on May 14, 2013

Robin Barnwell, who directed and produced ‘A History of Syria with Dan Snow’, explains the challenges of filiming amid the conflict, and describes the spirit of the Syrian people he met.

The Syrian Airlines jet performed an alarming dive on its nighttime approach into Damascus airport in an attempt to avoid any hostile fire. The exterior lights on the aircraft were switched off to make it less visible to any rebel fighters attempting to shoot the plane down. Syrian army artillery rounds were flying through the air, thudding into residential suburbs not far from the airport.

Once we’d landed, I saw little of the Syria I knew from my previous two visits. The airport that had been the gateway to the country for tourists was quiet. The road to the centre of Damascus was eerily empty. Our driver drove as fast as he could, speeding us past signs welcoming us to Syria on a road that regularly comes under attack or is caught in the crossfire in a conflict that has now cost more than 70,000 lives and displaced millions. How, I wondered, had Syria and its people, whom I had such warm memories of, reached such a state?

Like many people, I first travelled to Syria in 1995 to immerse myself in the country’s extraordinary and varied history. Now I was in Damascus to direct and film a documentary that would explain how history had helped shape and influence the appalling civil war that is tearing Syria and its different communities apart. It was a strange relief to be in Damascus, as visas for journalists and filmmakers, issued by the Syrian government, are difficult to obtain.

The programme’s Middle East producer had doggedly convinced a suspicious Syrian Ministry of Information that now was the right time to make a history of Syria after weeks of officials telling us to come back after the ‘current, temporary problems’ were over. We persisted in pushing for access because history can help explain the current violence in Syria; violence that has become increasingly incomprehensible for audiences of news programmes around the world.

I was surprised by my own ignorance about the subject. It was only after weeks of reading and meetings with experts before actually arriving in Syria did I map the historical connections, linking present day events with the past. How though, were we to go about making a documentary in a country consumed by civil war?

Permission to film almost anything and anyone was frustratingly difficult to obtain. The official from the Syrian Ministry of Information assigned to take us around kept apologizing for the numerous new restrictions that had been put in place. Getting access to the beautiful Old City of Damascus now involved negotiating a way through sandbagged checkpoints past soldiers who were suspicious of foreigners and visibly on edge.

Surreally, though, Syrians were rushing around going about their daily business, seemingly ignoring the near constant sound of gunfire and fighter jets which screeched overhead to bomb targets in the suburbs. An even stranger sense of normality prevailed in other locations we filmed, particularly in Syria’s coastal city Lattakia, where no fighting was taking place. We mingled with couples watching the sunset over the Mediterranean and for a moment one was back in pre-conflict Syria. But the effects of war were never far away.


President Obama’s approach to Syria has came under criticism from his first two defense secretaries. At a public event in Dallas, Leon Panetta said Obama should have followed through on a threat of U.S. military attack, while Robert Gates called for increased military aid to Syrian rebels.

Leon Panetta: «My view would have been that once the president came to that conclusion, that he should have directed limited action going after Assad to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word, dammit, we back it up.»

Robert Gates: «My view is significantly increasing the amount of covert assistance to selected rebel groups, opposition groups. I would not provide them with surfaced air missiles, but I would give them heavier weapons and more of them.»



This is true, but routine procedure in Washington, not the personal doing of Obama. For example,
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a «foreign terrorist organization». When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of «international terrorism», one of its prime examples was Iraq’s «sheltering» of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any «material support» to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials from both political parties has spent the last several years receiving substantial sums of cash to give speeches to the MEK, and have then become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor thoroughly described «these former high-ranking US officials – who represent the full political spectrum – [who] have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.» They include Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, and Lee Hamilton, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fran Townsend, Tom Ridge, Michael Mukasey, and Andrew Card. Other prominent voices outside government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel, have been enlisted to the cause and are steadfast MEK advocates.
For obvious reason this cannot be done so openly for Al Qaeda. So technically the Obama administration is committing a felony and should be impeached. So why not the republicans latch on this clear cut well documented, even promoted offense?


The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. «Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras,» says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. «So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis.»
Watch Part Two of Interview, ‘U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama told his war-weary country on Saturday that America needs to use limited military force in Syria to deter future chemical weapons attacks, but said he did not want to enter into another costly and protracted war.

«This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan,» Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address, previewing arguments he will make in a nationally televised address on Tuesday.

«Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope – designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so,» Obama said.

A week ago, Obama said he felt limited strikes in Syria were needed, but added he wanted to ask Congress to authorize the use of military force.


Trey Smith

After reading what President Obama said in Stockholm yesterday at a gathering of world leaders, I am guessing that Barack has never been on a debate team. In the course of a few minutes, he argued both sides of the same issue! At one moment, he said,

It is important for us to get out of the habit of just saying we’ll let the president stretch the boundaries of his authority as far as he can and Congress will sit on the sidelines and snipe.

However, in the same set of remarks, he also said,

As commander-in-chief I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America’s national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress but I did not take this to Congress just because it’s an empty exercise. I think it is important to have Congress’s support.

So, on the one hand, he agrees with his critics by saying that a president shouldn’t be allowed to «stretch the boundaries of his authority.» On the other hand, he submits that he has the [constitutional] right to stretch those boundaries as far as he sees fit!

Obviously, quote #1 was a throwaway position, a meager attempt to satisfy those who believe in constitutional safeguards. What he really believes is contained in quote #2. Phrased a different way, he is taking this matter — attacking Syria — before Congress to give them the opportunity to agree with him! If they don’t, then he’s going to do what he believes he is empowered to do anyway.


By Timothy Heritage

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders not to launch military strikes in Syria on Thursday at a summit on the global economy that was eclipsed by the conflict.

The Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies met in St. Petersburg to try forge a united front on economic growth, trade, banking transparency and fighting tax evasion.

But the club that accounts for two thirds of the world’s population and 90 percent of its output is divided over issues ranging from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to end its program of stimulus for the economy to the civil war in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use the meeting in a seafront tsarist palace to talk Obama out of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack which Washington blames on government forces.

Obama wore a stiff smile as he approached Putin on arrival at the summit and grasped his hand. Putin also maintained a businesslike expression. It was only when they turned to pose for the cameras that Obama broke into a broader grin.

The first round at the summit went to Putin as China, the European Union and Pope Francis – in a letter for G20 leaders – aligned themselves more closely with him than with Obama over the possibility and legitimacy of armed intervention.

«Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price – it will cause a hike in the oil price,» Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing.

The Pope urged the leaders to «lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution». He has also invited the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday to end the civil war.

European Union leaders, usually strong allies of the United States, described the August 21 attack near Damascus, which killed an estimated 1,400 people, as «abhorrent» but added: «There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict.»

Putin, Assad’s most important ally, was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big meeting of world powers. He could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a «bored kid in the back of the classroom.»

Only France, which is preparing to join U.S. military action, rallied behind Obama.

«We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Mr. Assad, there will be no negotiation,» French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said before leaving for St. Petersburg.

With backing by Beijing and Moscow unlikely at the U.N. Security Council, where both have veto powers, Obama is seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress.

Putin says rebel forces may have carried out the poison gas attack and that any military strike without Security Council approval would violate international law, a view which is now increasingly openly being supported by others.

He has no one-on-one talks scheduled with Obama but hopes to discuss Syria at a dinner with all the leaders. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi were also in St. Petersburg, hoping to secure agreement on holding an international peace conference on Syria.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the «camp of supporters of a strike on Syria» as divided and said: «It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.»

One national leader attending the summit said there appeared to be little chance of a rapprochement between Putin and Obama, whose relations have soured following Russia’s offer of asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Foreign ministers from the key states in the G20 – which includes all five permanent U.N. Security Council members – will also discuss Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

Any G20 decision on Syria would not be binding but Putin would like to see a consensus to avert military action in what would be a significant – but unlikely – personal triumph.

LOSS OF HARMONY

The G20 achieved unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse during the 2009 financial crisis, but the harmony has now gone.

There are likely to be some agreements – including on measures to fight tax evasion by multinational companies – at the summit in the spectacular, 18th-century Peterhof palace complex, built on the orders of Tsar Peter the Great.

An initiative will be presented to leaders on refining regulation of the $630-trillion global market for financial derivatives to prevent a possible markets blow-up.

Steps to give the so-called ‘shadow banking’ sector until 2015 to comply with new global rules will also be discussed.

But consensus is proving hard to achieve among developed economies as the United States takes aggressive action to spur demand and Europe moves more slowly to let go of austerity.

The emerging economies in the BRICS group – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – urged the G20 to boost global demand and ensure that any changes in monetary policy are well flagged to minimize any disruptive «spillovers» that may result.

The appeal reflected the concerns among developing nations over the prospect that the Fed will scale back its ultra-loose monetary policy, and a view that Europe is not doing enough to promote a demand-driven recovery.

The BRICS also agreed to contribute $100 billion to a joint currency reserve pool. China will commit $41 billion; Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each; and South Africa $5 billion.

Russia and China also joined forces in warning about the potential impact of the Fed ending its bond-buying program to stimulate the economy.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller, Luke Baker, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Steve Holland, Douglas Busvine, Steve Gutterman, Alessandra Prentice and Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Anna Willard)


President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
The use of chemical weapons is morally reprehensible, and it should be punished. The International Criminal Court should immediately start war crime tribunals and proceedings against those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And the U.S. can take evidence that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons to the UN Security Council and seek a resolution against Syria. Both acts would make it far more difficult for Russia to continue defending the regime and open the door for international action to broker a ceasefire — the only way we will stop the massacre of civilians.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
The justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria — where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah — either just or strategic.
As heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. A knee jerk, unilateral attack by the U.S. won’t help civilians — it will make matters worse. At this point, there are no good options when it comes to military intervention by the United States, and it should be considered only as an effort of last resort, not a first response.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what’s more, initiating «limited» hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications — moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical — that would entail.
Call Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and tell them: Don’t bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Congress is still in recess — but it’s been a busy week in Washington! Congress will return on Sept. 9th — and on the top of their list will be whether to approve military action in Syria. POPVOX is also spotlighting labor and employment bills in honor of Labor Day. And get a legislative recap of Wednesday’s 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Authorizing Military Action in Syria 

President Obama said he is seeking Congressional approval for US military action in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Yesterday, the President sent to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate a letter with draft legislation that would authorize use of the US military «in connection with the conflict in Syria.» Weigh in.

President Obama specified that any military involvement would be of «limited duration and scope» and that «we would not put boots on the ground.» (Read his remarks.) The Obama Administration released an unclassified summary of the attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21 killing at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.

On Aug. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry said «President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria.» (Read Kerry’s remarks.) Kerry added that he believes, «as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people.» 

Weigh in with your Members of Congress on authorizing military action in Syria: https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/x134

Aid to Syria

Food, tents and other humanitarian aid, provided by the UN’s refugee agency and the World Food Program — and funded by the United States government — arrived in Iraq to help refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, according to the State Department. More than 47,000 refugees have crossed into Northern Iraq from Syria since August 15.

The US has provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid since the Syrian crisis began, and is the single-largest contributor of humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria, according to the State Department. The aid has helped 3.5 million people in Syria, «through all possible channels» including the UN, international and non-governmental organizations, and local Syrian organizations. 

Earlier this year, Congress introduced several bills related to humanitarian aid. Here are a few:

  • FAULT Act (HR 1922): to limit assistance to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan.
  • Syria Stabilization Act (S 856): to foster stability in Syria.
  • Free Syria Act (HR 1327): to improve US humanitarian and other assistance to the Syrian people, facilitate the transition of Syria to a democratic government, provide for US support to the post-Assad government.
  • Syria Democratic Transition Act (S 617): to provide humanitarian assistance and support a democratic transition in Syria.

See more bills related to Syria in our Issue Spotlight: http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-syria/

Issue Spotlight: Labor Day 

This Labor Day 2013 marks the centennial of the US Department of Labor — and a new Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Weigh in on bills related to the minimum wage, work and family policies and job training. – http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-labor-day/

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Fifty years ago today, more than 200,000 people came to the nation’s capital for the «March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.» However, the stated goals of the demonstration were much broader, including «a comprehensive civil rights bill» that would do away with segregated public accommodations; «protection of the right to vote»; mechanisms for seeking redress of violations of constitutional rights; «desegregation of all public schools in 1963»; a massive federal works program «to train and place unemployed workers»; and «a Federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination in all employment».

This week’s commemorations also included a diverse call to action, from jobs and workers’ rights to voting rights to «Stand Your Ground» laws.  Weigh in at http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-50th-anniversary-march-washington/

Thanks for using POPVOX! And if you’re new, be sure to check out our user tutorial slideshow. Congress returns on Sept. 9 — so stay tuned for new bills once they get back.

Sincerely,

Rachna Choudhry
Co-founder, POPVOX.com
rachna@popvox.com


President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria — where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah — either just or strategic.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what’s more, initiating «limited» hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications — moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical — that would entail.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don’t bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►


According to multiple media reports, President Obama may be on the verge of deciding whether or not to bomb Syria. We need to speak out today and tell him to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria — where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah — either just or strategic.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click here to automatically sign the petition. 

 
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The kind of limited military strike reportedly under consideration by the Obama administration is very unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war
And a more significant military intervention (either considered as an alternative to a limited strike, or as something we could be drawn into once we initiate “limited” hostilities with Syria) would only serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications — moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical — that would entail.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/go/1746?t=5&akid=8762.5084505.TDS-O_
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►


By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Matt Spetalnick

AMMAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and its allies geared up for a probable military strike against Syria that could come within days and would be the most aggressive action by Western powers in the Middle Eastern nation’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Western envoys have told the Syrian opposition to expect a military response soon against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as punishment for a chemical weapons attack last week, according to sources who attended a meeting with the rebel Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.

Amid a quickening drumbeat of preparations, Australia, a close U.S. ally and incoming chair of the United Nations Security Council, on Wednesday endorsed possible action against Syria even if the security council fails to agree.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday that American forces in the region were «ready to go» if President Barack Obama gave the order.

Obama – long reluctant to intervene in the Syrian conflict – worked to solidify allied support, including calling the leaders of Britain and Canada, while U.S. intelligence agencies assembled what they are sure to say is final confirmation of the Syrian government’s culpability for Wednesday’s poison gas attack near Damascus.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it would «fanciful» to think that anyone other than Assad’s forces was behind the large-scale chemical attack, which activists said killed hundreds of people as they slept.

«There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime,» Vice President Joe Biden said at a speech in Houston to the American Legion, a military veterans’ group.

Top U.S. national security aides gathered to review the situation on Tuesday night in a meeting chaired by Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, officials said.

Obama has yet to make a final decision on the U.S. response, Carney said, but left little doubt that it would involve military action. He insisted, however, that Washington was not intent on «regime change,» signaling that any military strikes would be limited and not meant to topple Assad.

The British military was also drafting plans. Prime Minister David Cameron, anxious, like Obama, not to emulate entanglements in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that beset their predecessors, said any strikes would be «specific» so as not to drag the allies deeper into Syria’s civil war.

Cameron, who spoke to Obama on Tuesday for the second time in four days, recalled parliament for a debate on Syria on Thursday.

U.N. chemical weapons investigators put off until Wednesday a second trip to the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus where the chemical attack took place.

While evidence of chemical warfare could bolster an argument for intervention at the United Nations in the face of likely Russian and Chinese opposition, Western leaders and the Arab League have already declared Assad guilty.

Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition, met envoys from 11 countries at an Istanbul hotel, including the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. The rebel leaders proposed targets for cruise missiles and bombing.

One participant said: «The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days.»

Planning appears to focus on missile or air strikes. There is little public support in Western countries for troops to invade Syria.

The precise timing of possible military action remained unclear, but it is certain to wait for an official U.S. intelligence report expected to blame Assad’s government for the chemical attack. The findings, considered merely a formality at this point, will be released this week, U.S. officials said.

Obama will go ahead with a speech on Wednesday at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

«The clock is ticking, and the administration is not going to want that to tick too long,» said Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, as White House aides broadened consultations on Capitol Hill.

MOOD IN DAMASCUS

Syria’s government, backed by Iran, denies gassing its own people and has vowed to defend itself, but residents of Damascus are growing anxious.

«I’ve always been a supporter of foreign intervention, but now that it seems like a reality, I’ve been worrying that my family could be hurt or killed,» said a woman named Zaina, who opposes Assad. «I’m afraid of a military strike now.»

Russia, Assad’s main arms supplier, opposes military action and has suggested that rebel forces may have released the poison gas.

China’s state news agency recalled how flawed intelligence was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, while the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said the United States and its allies were seeking to use the issue to pursue regime change in Syria illegally.

Firm opposition from permanent members of the Security Council all but rules out a U.N. mandate of the kind that gave legal backing to NATO air strikes that helped Libyan rebels unseat Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.

«Our preference, everyone’s preference, would be for action, a response, under United Nations auspices,» Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, whose country takes over the rotating chair

18 August 2014

There is evidence in the public domain that the US and Saudi Arabia are behind the ISIS. ISIS used to be called Al-Qaida but that is not convenient anymore, it seems because it is clearly high treason to cooperate with Al-Qaida, Even in the US Media these facts were acknowledge when Obama was pondering invading Syria.

Tell your congressman that you are concerned about allegations that the US and/or its allies trained Islamic extremist in Jordan to fight the Syrian government. Ask how a bunch of young tugs can operate sophisticated high tech us supplied equipment without training, maintenance, and spear parts. Ask how Israel, with her paranoid arrogance and the best army and intelligence service in the World, allowed a military presence of the size of the ISIS to surge in her backyard. Ask who supplies the ammunition and money.

There are reasons, I guess, for people in power to play chess with the World, but at the end of the line what we have is psychopathic behavior and Power for the sake of Power. What we can do first of all is being informed and tell others at church, school, friends what is going on and tell government officials that you are aware and against blood for oil.






Published on Nov 21, 2013

Inside Syria it's proving increasingly difficult to get anything like a clear picture of the state of the conflict, but the government appears to have the upper hand.








Published on Sep 10, 2013

In today's video, Topher Morrison of AMTV confirms that John McCain posed with known terrorists in Syria.





Published on Oct 22, 2013

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has come under attack, and rightfully so. He has gone from being a Vietnam Veteran hero to crossing the line, in my opinion and many others, of being a traitor to the Constitution and the United States. I ran across a video of a townhall meeting that apparently took place sometime in September, in which Marine Blaine Cooper called out John McCain on his treason for aiding and abetting the enemy of the United States.





ISTANBUL | Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:34am EDT

(Reuters) - The rise of al Qaeda in parts of Syria's north has left Turkey facing a new security threat on its already vulnerable border and raised questions about its wholesale support for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria's fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad's rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check.

But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation.



Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

"We are being accused of supporting al Qaeda," a source close to the Turkish government said, adding that U.S. officials had raised concerns on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month.

"They were politely but aggressively critical. The attention has focused away from Assad to al Qaeda," the source said, echoing frustration voiced by other officials in Ankara that this was playing into Assad's hands.

As if on cue, the Turkish army said on Wednesday it had fired on ISIL fighters over the border after a stray mortar shell hit Turkish soil. It has retaliated in the past in such cases but this appeared to be the first time its response had targeted al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Turkey has maintained an open-door policy throughout the two-and-a-half-year conflict, providing a lifeline to rebel-held areas by allowing humanitarian aid in, giving refugees a route out and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army organize on its soil.

It officially denies arming the rebels or facilitating the passage of foreign fighters who have swollen the ranks of al Qaeda-linked factions including ISIL and Nusra.

"Logistically nothing goes through the official borders in Turkey or any other country anyway," said Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

But the 900 km (560-mile) border is difficult to police and refugees, smugglers and rebel fighters have been able to cross undetected in remote areas, bypassing the main crossing points.

"Officially we didn't allow it. But it's a long border and some groups, we tried to accommodate them in the Syrian opposition, which we wanted to be as large as possible," said one Turkish official in the region, when asked whether foreign fighters had been able to cross.

Foreign mercenaries, mainly backed by Gulf states, were initially welcomed by Syria's rebel forces because they had greater battle experience and were more effective against pro-Assad militias, he said.

"This was a tactical mistake and now we see a totally different balance of power."

LENDING ASSAD LEGITIMACY

It is a contrast with Jordan, where authorities have kept a tight control over their border with Syria. Rebels in the southern Syrian province of Deraa, the cradle of the 2011 protests against Assad, have long complained that they have been starved of significant arms supplies as a result.

In a report documenting sectarian mass killings by Assad's foes, New York-based Human Rights Watch said last week Turkey needed to increase its border patrols and restrict the passage of fighters and arms to radical groups.

"Many foreign fighters operating in northern Syria gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and sometimes retreat to for medical treatment," the report said.

It cited a humanitarian worker in Turkey as saying some of the foreign fighters entering Syria's Latakia province, where it said 190 civilians were killed by rebels in an attack in August, had flown into Hatay airport in Turkey, from where they were picked up by other fighters and facilitators.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly denied any support from Turkey for al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and has described suggestions to the contrary as a bid to legitimize Assad's actions by portraying him as fighting terrorism.

"This is what Assad wants. He is trying to ... change the nature of the conflict, so that it is perceived not as a conflict between him and his own people, but as a fight against radical groups," a senior foreign ministry official said.

It was a message Assad tried to deliver directly to the Turkish people this month, when in an interview with Turkey's Halk TV he warned Turkey it would pay for harboring "terrorists" who, he said, would turn on their hosts.

It is not a risk Turkey can comfortably dismiss. Like Jordan, which fears Islamist fighters radicalized in Syria could return and strike targets inside the pro-Western kingdom, Turkey is not immune to the threat from al Qaeda.

Several websites carried reports of a threat to Turkey from jihadist groups in Syria after it temporarily shut part of the border last month when an al Qaeda-linked group stormed a nearby town, although it was not clear if the threat was genuine.

"We are not with al Nusra, and al Nusra is not happy about this. It is a nasty war. Nothing is black and white any more," the source close to the Turkish government said.

FERTILE GROUND FOR RADICALISATION

As the conflict drags on, there is growing evidence of Turkish nationals going to fight in Syria, some alongside jihadists, others joining Syrian Kurds in their scramble against rival rebel units, Assad's forces and Arab tribes.

Citing intelligence reports, Turkey's Taraf newspaper estimated last month that around 500 Turkish nationals were fighting among 1,200 different rebel groups in Syria, many of them in the name of "jihad", while others had signed up as mercenaries, earning $1,500 a month.

Others were members of the Kurdish PKK militant group who were going to fight alongside Syrian Kurds, it said.

"Our border is very fragile, it is not as strong as it was," the source close to the government said.

"No-one would go from an Anatolian town to fight for democracy in Syria. But jihadists would go to fight against the infidels. This is the danger for Turkey."

Officials in Ankara, from President Abdullah Gul down, see the failure of the international community to take decisive action in Syria as creating the conditions which have allowed radical groups to thrive.

After repeated calls for assertive intervention, they are frustrated that the finger is now being pointed at them.

"What I have said to all our allies and everyone I have met and spoken to since these events started is that if this process prolongs, the inevitable result will be a radicalization," Gul said in a speech in Istanbul this month.

Turkish officials argue that foreign fighters have also entered Syria from other neighboring countries, some with support from Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and point out that the escape of hundreds of convicts from Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in July swelled ISIL's ranks in Syria.

"We do our best through the different opposition forces to contain the threat of the jihadi opposition in Syria, but the support for these groups is so sizeable that Turkey cannot control this (alone)," the Turkish official in the region said.

(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by giles Elgood)






Published on May 14, 2013

Robin Barnwell, who directed and produced 'A History of Syria with Dan Snow', explains the challenges of filiming amid the conflict, and describes the spirit of the Syrian people he met.


The Syrian Airlines jet performed an alarming dive on its nighttime approach into Damascus airport in an attempt to avoid any hostile fire. The exterior lights on the aircraft were switched off to make it less visible to any rebel fighters attempting to shoot the plane down. Syrian army artillery rounds were flying through the air, thudding into residential suburbs not far from the airport.

Once we'd landed, I saw little of the Syria I knew from my previous two visits. The airport that had been the gateway to the country for tourists was quiet. The road to the centre of Damascus was eerily empty. Our driver drove as fast as he could, speeding us past signs welcoming us to Syria on a road that regularly comes under attack or is caught in the crossfire in a conflict that has now cost more than 70,000 lives and displaced millions. How, I wondered, had Syria and its people, whom I had such warm memories of, reached such a state?

Like many people, I first travelled to Syria in 1995 to immerse myself in the country's extraordinary and varied history. Now I was in Damascus to direct and film a documentary that would explain how history had helped shape and influence the appalling civil war that is tearing Syria and its different communities apart. It was a strange relief to be in Damascus, as visas for journalists and filmmakers, issued by the Syrian government, are difficult to obtain.

The programme's Middle East producer had doggedly convinced a suspicious Syrian Ministry of Information that now was the right time to make a history of Syria after weeks of officials telling us to come back after the 'current, temporary problems' were over. We persisted in pushing for access because history can help explain the current violence in Syria; violence that has become increasingly incomprehensible for audiences of news programmes around the world.

I was surprised by my own ignorance about the subject. It was only after weeks of reading and meetings with experts before actually arriving in Syria did I map the historical connections, linking present day events with the past. How though, were we to go about making a documentary in a country consumed by civil war?

Permission to film almost anything and anyone was frustratingly difficult to obtain. The official from the Syrian Ministry of Information assigned to take us around kept apologizing for the numerous new restrictions that had been put in place. Getting access to the beautiful Old City of Damascus now involved negotiating a way through sandbagged checkpoints past soldiers who were suspicious of foreigners and visibly on edge.

Surreally, though, Syrians were rushing around going about their daily business, seemingly ignoring the near constant sound of gunfire and fighter jets which screeched overhead to bomb targets in the suburbs. An even stranger sense of normality prevailed in other locations we filmed, particularly in Syria's coastal city Lattakia, where no fighting was taking place. We mingled with couples watching the sunset over the Mediterranean and for a moment one was back in pre-conflict Syria. But the effects of war were never far away.



President Obama’s approach to Syria has came under criticism from his first two defense secretaries. At a public event in Dallas, Leon Panetta said Obama should have followed through on a threat of U.S. military attack, while Robert Gates called for increased military aid to Syrian rebels.

Leon Panetta: "My view would have been that once the president came to that conclusion, that he should have directed limited action going after Assad to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word, dammit, we back it up."

Robert Gates: "My view is significantly increasing the amount of covert assistance to selected rebel groups, opposition groups. I would not provide them with surfaced air missiles, but I would give them heavier weapons and more of them."





This is true, but routine procedure in Washington, not the personal doing of Obama. For example,
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a "foreign terrorist organization". When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of "international terrorism", one of its prime examples was Iraq's "sheltering" of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any "material support" to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials from both political parties has spent the last several years receiving substantial sums of cash to give speeches to the MEK, and have then become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor thoroughly described "these former high-ranking US officials - who represent the full political spectrum - [who] have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK." They include Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, and Lee Hamilton, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fran Townsend, Tom Ridge, Michael Mukasey, and Andrew Card. Other prominent voices outside government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel, have been enlisted to the cause and are steadfast MEK advocates.
For obvious reason this cannot be done so openly for Al Qaeda. So technically the Obama administration is committing a felony and should be impeached. So why not the republicans latch on this clear cut well documented, even promoted offense?







The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels. The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. "Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras," says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. "So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis."
Watch Part Two of Interview, 'U.S.-Russian Tensions Heighten over Syria; Roots of Conflict Stem from NATO Bombing of Libya


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told his war-weary country on Saturday that America needs to use limited military force in Syria to deter future chemical weapons attacks, but said he did not want to enter into another costly and protracted war.

"This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address, previewing arguments he will make in a nationally televised address on Tuesday.

"Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope - designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so," Obama said.

A week ago, Obama said he felt limited strikes in Syria were needed, but added he wanted to ask Congress to authorize the use of military force.






Trey Smith

After reading what President Obama said in Stockholm yesterday at a gathering of world leaders, I am guessing that Barack has never been on a debate team. In the course of a few minutes, he argued both sides of the same issue! At one moment, he said,

It is important for us to get out of the habit of just saying we'll let the president stretch the boundaries of his authority as far as he can and Congress will sit on the sidelines and snipe.

However, in the same set of remarks, he also said,

As commander-in-chief I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress but I did not take this to Congress just because it's an empty exercise. I think it is important to have Congress's support.

So, on the one hand, he agrees with his critics by saying that a president shouldn't be allowed to "stretch the boundaries of his authority." On the other hand, he submits that he has the [constitutional] right to stretch those boundaries as far as he sees fit!

Obviously, quote #1 was a throwaway position, a meager attempt to satisfy those who believe in constitutional safeguards. What he really believes is contained in quote #2. Phrased a different way, he is taking this matter -- attacking Syria -- before Congress to give them the opportunity to agree with him! If they don't, then he's going to do what he believes he is empowered to do anyway.



By Timothy Heritage

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders not to launch military strikes in Syria on Thursday at a summit on the global economy that was eclipsed by the conflict.



The Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies met in St. Petersburg to try forge a united front on economic growth, trade, banking transparency and fighting tax evasion.

But the club that accounts for two thirds of the world's population and 90 percent of its output is divided over issues ranging from the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to end its program of stimulus for the economy to the civil war in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use the meeting in a seafront tsarist palace to talk Obama out of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack which Washington blames on government forces.

Obama wore a stiff smile as he approached Putin on arrival at the summit and grasped his hand. Putin also maintained a businesslike expression. It was only when they turned to pose for the cameras that Obama broke into a broader grin.

The first round at the summit went to Putin as China, the European Union and Pope Francis - in a letter for G20 leaders - aligned themselves more closely with him than with Obama over the possibility and legitimacy of armed intervention.

"Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price - it will cause a hike in the oil price," Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing.

The Pope urged the leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution". He has also invited the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday to end the civil war.

European Union leaders, usually strong allies of the United States, described the August 21 attack near Damascus, which killed an estimated 1,400 people, as "abhorrent" but added: "There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict."

Putin, Assad's most important ally, was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big meeting of world powers. He could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a "bored kid in the back of the classroom."

Only France, which is preparing to join U.S. military action, rallied behind Obama.

"We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Mr. Assad, there will be no negotiation," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said before leaving for St. Petersburg.

With backing by Beijing and Moscow unlikely at the U.N. Security Council, where both have veto powers, Obama is seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress.

Putin says rebel forces may have carried out the poison gas attack and that any military strike without Security Council approval would violate international law, a view which is now increasingly openly being supported by others.

He has no one-on-one talks scheduled with Obama but hopes to discuss Syria at a dinner with all the leaders. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi were also in St. Petersburg, hoping to secure agreement on holding an international peace conference on Syria.

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the "camp of supporters of a strike on Syria" as divided and said: "It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation."

One national leader attending the summit said there appeared to be little chance of a rapprochement between Putin and Obama, whose relations have soured following Russia's offer of asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Foreign ministers from the key states in the G20 - which includes all five permanent U.N. Security Council members - will also discuss Syria on the sidelines of the meeting.

Any G20 decision on Syria would not be binding but Putin would like to see a consensus to avert military action in what would be a significant - but unlikely - personal triumph.

LOSS OF HARMONY

The G20 achieved unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse during the 2009 financial crisis, but the harmony has now gone.

There are likely to be some agreements - including on measures to fight tax evasion by multinational companies - at the summit in the spectacular, 18th-century Peterhof palace complex, built on the orders of Tsar Peter the Great.

An initiative will be presented to leaders on refining regulation of the $630-trillion global market for financial derivatives to prevent a possible markets blow-up.

Steps to give the so-called 'shadow banking' sector until 2015 to comply with new global rules will also be discussed.

But consensus is proving hard to achieve among developed economies as the United States takes aggressive action to spur demand and Europe moves more slowly to let go of austerity.

The emerging economies in the BRICS group - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - urged the G20 to boost global demand and ensure that any changes in monetary policy are well flagged to minimize any disruptive "spillovers" that may result.

The appeal reflected the concerns among developing nations over the prospect that the Fed will scale back its ultra-loose monetary policy, and a view that Europe is not doing enough to promote a demand-driven recovery.

The BRICS also agreed to contribute $100 billion to a joint currency reserve pool. China will commit $41 billion; Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each; and South Africa $5 billion.

Russia and China also joined forces in warning about the potential impact of the Fed ending its bond-buying program to stimulate the economy.

(Reporting by Gernot Heller, Luke Baker, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Steve Holland, Douglas Busvine, Steve Gutterman, Alessandra Prentice and Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Anna Willard)



President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
The use of chemical weapons is morally reprehensible, and it should be punished. The International Criminal Court should immediately start war crime tribunals and proceedings against those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And the U.S. can take evidence that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons to the UN Security Council and seek a resolution against Syria. Both acts would make it far more difficult for Russia to continue defending the regime and open the door for international action to broker a ceasefire -- the only way we will stop the massacre of civilians.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
The justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria -- where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah -- either just or strategic.
As heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. A knee jerk, unilateral attack by the U.S. won’t help civilians -- it will make matters worse. At this point, there are no good options when it comes to military intervention by the United States, and it should be considered only as an effort of last resort, not a first response.
Pick up the phone today to tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn't make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what's more, initiating "limited" hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications -- moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical -- that would entail.
Call Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and tell them: Don't bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn't one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets



Congress is still in recess -- but it's been a busy week in Washington! Congress will return on Sept. 9th -- and on the top of their list will be whether to approve military action in Syria. POPVOX is also spotlighting labor and employment bills in honor of Labor Day. And get a legislative recap of Wednesday's 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Authorizing Military Action in Syria 

President Obama said he is seeking Congressional approval for US military action in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Yesterday, the President sent to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate a letter with draft legislation that would authorize use of the US military "in connection with the conflict in Syria." Weigh in.

President Obama specified that any military involvement would be of "limited duration and scope" and that "we would not put boots on the ground." (Read his remarks.) The Obama Administration released an unclassified summary of the attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21 killing at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.

On Aug. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry said "President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria." (Read Kerry's remarks.) Kerry added that he believes, "as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people." 


Weigh in with your Members of Congress on authorizing military action in Syria: https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/x134

Aid to Syria

Food, tents and other humanitarian aid, provided by the UN's refugee agency and the World Food Program -- and funded by the United States government -- arrived in Iraq to help refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, according to the State Department. More than 47,000 refugees have crossed into Northern Iraq from Syria since August 15.

The US has provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid since the Syrian crisis began, and is the single-largest contributor of humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria, according to the State Department. The aid has helped 3.5 million people in Syria, "through all possible channels" including the UN, international and non-governmental organizations, and local Syrian organizations. 


Earlier this year, Congress introduced several bills related to humanitarian aid. Here are a few:
  • FAULT Act (HR 1922): to limit assistance to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan.
  • Syria Stabilization Act (S 856): to foster stability in Syria.
  • Free Syria Act (HR 1327): to improve US humanitarian and other assistance to the Syrian people, facilitate the transition of Syria to a democratic government, provide for US support to the post-Assad government.
  • Syria Democratic Transition Act (S 617): to provide humanitarian assistance and support a democratic transition in Syria.
See more bills related to Syria in our Issue Spotlight: http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-syria/

Issue Spotlight: Labor Day 

This Labor Day 2013 marks the centennial of the US Department of Labor -- and a new Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Weigh in on bills related to the minimum wage, work and family policies and job training. - http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-labor-day/

The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Fifty years ago today, more than 200,000 people came to the nation's capital for the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." However, the stated goals of the demonstration were much broader, including "a comprehensive civil rights bill" that would do away with segregated public accommodations; "protection of the right to vote"; mechanisms for seeking redress of violations of constitutional rights; "desegregation of all public schools in 1963"; a massive federal works program "to train and place unemployed workers"; and "a Federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination in all employment".

This week's commemorations also included a diverse call to action, from jobs and workers' rights to voting rights to "Stand Your Ground" laws.  Weigh in at 
http://www.popvox.com/blog/2013/issue-spotlight-50th-anniversary-march-washington/


Thanks for using POPVOX! And if you're new, be sure to check out our user tutorial slideshow. Congress returns on Sept. 9 -- so stay tuned for new bills once they get back.

Sincerely,

Rachna Choudhry
Co-founder, POPVOX.com
rachna@popvox.com


President Obama has sent a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria to Congress. We need to speak out today and tell our senators and members of Congress to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria -- where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah -- either just or strategic.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn't make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The draft resolution makes it clear that the kind of limited military strike promoted by Obama administration is highly unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war.
And what's more, initiating "limited" hostilities with Syria could serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications -- moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical -- that would entail.
Tell Representative Bill Flores and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Don't bomb Syria.
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn't one of them.
The time is now to speak out.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ?






According to multiple media reports, President Obama may be on the verge of deciding whether or not to bomb Syria. We need to speak out today and tell him to say no to military intervention by the U.S.
The brutal and bloody Syrian civil war has already left 100,000 people dead and created millions of refugees. And now there is now strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used, killing hundreds of civilians.
But as morally reprehensible as use of chemical weapons is, and as heart wrenching as the ongoing civil war has become, the United States should not start dropping bombs. Unfortunately, there are no good options.
And the justifiable outrage evoked by the use of chemical weapons does not make attacking Syria -- where parts of the rebel resistance are allied with Al Qaeda and the authoritarian response by President Assad is aided by Hezbollah -- either just or strategic.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click here to automatically sign the petition. 

 
As humanitarians confronting the horror of the Syrian civil war, we must consider how we can best protect civilians, end the violence, and uphold the international prohibition on using chemical weapons. But we shouldn’t make matters worse on the ground just to answer war crimes with a limited and largely symbolic show of force.
The kind of limited military strike reportedly under consideration by the Obama administration is very unlikely to affect the ultimate outcome of this messy and brutal civil war
And a more significant military intervention (either considered as an alternative to a limited strike, or as something we could be drawn into once we initiate “limited” hostilities with Syria) would only serve to pull us deeper into yet another war in the Middle East, with all the ramifications -- moral, humanitarian, economic and geopolitical -- that would entail.
Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/go/1746?t=5&akid=8762.5084505.TDS-O_
There are times when military force is necessary and justifiable. But this isn’t one of them.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ?



By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Matt Spetalnick

AMMAN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies geared up for a probable military strike against Syria that could come within days and would be the most aggressive action by Western powers in the Middle Eastern nation's two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Western envoys have told the Syrian opposition to expect a military response soon against President Bashar al-Assad's forces as punishment for a chemical weapons attack last week, according to sources who attended a meeting with the rebel Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.

Amid a quickening drumbeat of preparations, Australia, a close U.S. ally and incoming chair of the United Nations Security Council, on Wednesday endorsed possible action against Syria even if the security council fails to agree.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday that American forces in the region were "ready to go" if President Barack Obama gave the order.




Obama - long reluctant to intervene in the Syrian conflict - worked to solidify allied support, including calling the leaders of Britain and Canada, while U.S. intelligence agencies assembled what they are sure to say is final confirmation of the Syrian government's culpability for Wednesday's poison gas attack near Damascus.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it would "fanciful" to think that anyone other than Assad's forces was behind the large-scale chemical attack, which activists said killed hundreds of people as they slept.

"There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime," Vice President Joe Biden said at a speech in Houston to the American Legion, a military veterans' group.

Top U.S. national security aides gathered to review the situation on Tuesday night in a meeting chaired by Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice, officials said.

Obama has yet to make a final decision on the U.S. response, Carney said, but left little doubt that it would involve military action. He insisted, however, that Washington was not intent on "regime change," signaling that any military strikes would be limited and not meant to topple Assad.


The British military was also drafting plans. Prime Minister David Cameron, anxious, like Obama, not to emulate entanglements in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that beset their predecessors, said any strikes would be "specific" so as not to drag the allies deeper into Syria's civil war.

Cameron, who spoke to Obama on Tuesday for the second time in four days, recalled parliament for a debate on Syria on Thursday.

U.N. chemical weapons investigators put off until Wednesday a second trip to the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus where the chemical attack took place.

While evidence of chemical warfare could bolster an argument for intervention at the United Nations in the face of likely Russian and Chinese opposition, Western leaders and the Arab League have already declared Assad guilty.

Ahmad Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition, met envoys from 11 countries at an Istanbul hotel, including the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. The rebel leaders proposed targets for cruise missiles and bombing.


One participant said: "The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days."

Planning appears to focus on missile or air strikes. There is little public support in Western countries for troops to invade Syria.

The precise timing of possible military action remained unclear, but it is certain to wait for an official U.S. intelligence report expected to blame Assad's government for the chemical attack. The findings, considered merely a formality at this point, will be released this week, U.S. officials said.

Obama will go ahead with a speech on Wednesday at Washington's Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a dream' speech.

"The clock is ticking, and the administration is not going to want that to tick too long," said Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, as White House aides broadened consultations on Capitol Hill.


MOOD IN DAMASCUS

Syria's government, backed by Iran, denies gassing its own people and has vowed to defend itself, but residents of Damascus are growing anxious.

"I've always been a supporter of foreign intervention, but now that it seems like a reality, I've been worrying that my family could be hurt or killed," said a woman named Zaina, who opposes Assad. "I'm afraid of a military strike now."

Russia, Assad's main arms supplier, opposes military action and has suggested that rebel forces may have released the poison gas.

China's state news agency recalled how flawed intelligence was used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, while the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, said the United States and its allies were seeking to use the issue to pursue regime change in Syria illegally.


Firm opposition from permanent members of the Security Council all but rules out a U.N. mandate of the kind that gave legal backing to NATO air strikes that helped Libyan rebels unseat Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.

"Our preference, everyone's preference, would be for action, a response, under United Nations auspices," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, whose country takes over the rotating chair of the Security Council on Sunday, told reporters.

"But if that's not possible, the sheer horror of a government using chemical weapons against its people, using chemical weapons in any circumstances, mandates a response."

Russia and China accuse Western powers of using human rights complaints, such as in Libya, to meddle in sovereign states' affairs.

Although Obama has long said Assad should step down, he is unwilling to commit to making that happen by force. White House spokesman Carney said it was "profoundly in the interests of the United States" to respond to the chemical weapons attack.


In Britain, Cameron told reporters: "This is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war or changing our stance in Syria or going further into that conflict. It's about chemical weapons. Their use is wrong and the world shouldn't stand idly by."

In France, which played a major role in Libya, President Francois Hollande said he was "ready to punish" Assad for using the chemical weapons, citing a 2005 U.N. provision for international action to protect civilians from their own governments.

Similar arguments were used by NATO to bomb Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999 after the killing of civilians in Kosovo.

In an indication of support from Arab states that may help Western powers argue the case for an attack against likely U.N. vetoes from Moscow and Beijing, the Arab League issued a statement blaming Assad's government for the chemical attack.

Fears of another international conflict in the Middle East affected financial markets. Oil prices hit a six-month high and stocks fell around the world, notably in Turkey, as well as in emerging economies that would suffer from a chill in trade.


TOUGH CHOICES

Obama, Cameron and Hollande face questions at home about how a military intervention would end and whether it risks bolstering Assad if he rides out the assault or empowering anti-Western Islamist rebels if the Syrian leader is overthrown.

Turmoil in Egypt, where the 2011 uprising inspired Syrians to rebel, has underlined the unpredictability of revolutions. The presence of Islamist militants, including allies of al Qaeda in the Syrian rebel ranks, has given Western leaders pause. They have held back so far from helping Assad's opponents to victory.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said U.S. strikes would help al Qaeda and called Western leaders "delusional" if they hoped to help the rebels reach a balance of power in Syria.

"We have means of defending ourselves, and we will surprise them with these if necessary," he said. "We will defend ourselves. We will not hesitate to use any means available."


Assad's forces made little or no response to three attacks by Israeli aircraft this year that Israeli officials said disrupted arms flowing from Iran to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The presence of U.N. experts in Damascus may be a factor holding back international military action. The experts came under fire in government-held territory on Monday before reaching rebel lines.

Opposition activists have said at least 500 people, and possibly twice that many, were killed by rockets carrying the nerve gas sarin or something similar. If true, it would be the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

(Additional reporting by William Maclean and Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Phil Stewart in Bandar, Seri Begawan and Andrew Osborn in London, John Irish in Paris, Timothy Heritage in Moscow, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Seda Sezer and Daren Butler in Istanbul, Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai, Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Paul Simao and Robert Birsel)




The number of child refugees fleeing Syria's violence has now topped the 1 million mark — and that number continues to grow each day.

Donate to Mercy Corps by August 31st and your gift will go TWICE as far for Syrian refugees — an anonymous donor will match your gift, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000 ?

Children and families displaced by the conflict in Syria need you today. If you've been putting off making a gift, now's your chance to make double the difference for Syrian refugee children.

Just last month, 19 young children were killed in a single air strike on Aleppo. Families flee so their children aren't conscripted into the army or caught in the crossfire.

When families with children like Fatimah first set foot in refugee camps in Jordan with nothing but the clothes on their backs, Mercy Corps volunteers greet them not only with safe shelter and access to clean water — but also with toys and books to help children heal from trauma and be kids again through play and imagination.








The ruling Baath regime in Syria, over the course of 2012, lost more and more territory to the revolutionaries. They lost control of the border crossings to Iraq and Turkey. They lost much of Aleppo, the country’s second city. Then in November and December, the revolutionaries began taking military bases in the north and looting them for medium weaponry. The regime still controls substantial territory, and some smaller cities, such as Homs. But its losses in 2012 have been highly significant, raising the question of how much longer the regime can survive. In the meantime, Syria refugees in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon mushroomed in number and they faced severe difficulties in their often unsanitary and inadequate tent cities. In Syria, as in Bahrain and Yemen, sectarian considerations began to enter into the movements against authoritarian governance. The Alawi Shiite minority dominates the Baath Party in Syria, and Sunni fundamentalists have targeted that group (and vice versa). The government is supported by Shiite Iran, the rebels by Wahhabi Qatar and Saudi Arabia. If the Damascus government falls, Iran will be weakened, as will its ally, Hizbullah of Lebanon.


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm on Sunday at the worsening violence in Syria, including the reported mass killing of Alawites and alleged firing of long-range missiles on Syrian territory, Ban's spokesman said.


"The Secretary-General is alarmed by the continued dramatic escalation of violence in Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire," Ban's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said in a statement.
"There have been extremely worrisome reports earlier this week of a mass killing of civilians in the village of Aqrab near Hama, as well as alleged firing of long-range missiles in some areas of the country," he said.
In the Aqrab incident, up to 200 members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority were injured or killed in an attack on their village in central Syria on Tuesday, opposition activists said. The death toll was still not known.
There have also been reports of the Syrian government using Scud missiles. NATO's U.S. commander said on Friday the alliance was deploying the Patriot anti-missile system along Syria's northern frontier because Assad's forces had fired Scud missiles that landed near Turkish territory.
Nesirky said that "continued bombing raids by fixed-wing military aircrafts and attack helicopters on populated areas have been amply documented."
"Today's reports of aerial bombing amid intense violence resulting in many casualties among the Palestinian refugee population in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus are a matter of grave concern," he said.
Activists said fighter jets had bombed the Yarmouk camp, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque.
Nesirky said Ban "calls on all sides to cease all forms of violence. The Secretary-General reminds all parties in Syria that they must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians."
"Targeting civilians or carrying out military operations in populated areas, in an indiscriminate or disproportionate fashion that harms civilians is a war crime," he added.
Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa told a Lebanese newspaper that neither forces of President Bashar al-Assad nor rebels can win the war in Syria. That is a view a number of U.N. officials and diplomats have voiced privately to Reuters.
The U.N. Security Council has been incapable of taking any meaningful action in the conflict. Veto powers Russia and China refuse to condemn Assad or support sanctions. Assad's government accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the United States and other Western governments of supporting and arming the rebels, an allegation the governments deny.
Meanwhile, U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has failed to bridge the gaps between the Russian and U.S. positions on Syria, which U.N. diplomats say is at the heart of the longstanding deadlock on the Security Council.
Nesirky said Ban "reiterates his call on the international community to make every effort to stop the tragic spiral of violence in Syria and urgently to promote an inclusive political process leading to a peaceful political transition."
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Sandra Maler)


Syria: The descent into Holy War



It is one of the most horrifying videos of the war in Syria. It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block. At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph.



The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq's descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. It fosters a belief among Syria's non-Sunni Muslim minorities, and Sunnis associated with the government as soldiers or civil servants, that there will be no safe future for them in Syria if the rebels win. In one version of the video, several of which are circulating, the men who are beheaded are identified as officers belonging to the 2.5 million-strong Alawite community. This is the Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and core members of his regime belong. The beheadings, so proudly filmed by the perpetrators, may well convince them that they have no alternative but to fight to the end.

The video underlines a startling contradiction in the policy of the US and its allies. In the past week, 130 countries have recognised the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. But, at the same time, the US has denounced the al-Nusra Front, the most effective fighting force of the rebels, as being terrorists and an al-Qa'ida affiliate. Paradoxically, the US makes almost exactly same allegations of terrorism against al-Nusra as does the Syrian government. Even more bizarrely, though so many states now recognise the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, it is unclear if the rebels inside Syria do so. Angry crowds in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Friday chanted "we are all al-Nusra" as they demonstrated against the US decision.

Videos posted on YouTube play such a central role in the propaganda war in Syria that questions always have to be asked about their authenticity and origin. In the case of the beheading video, the details look all too convincing. Nadim Houry, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, has watched the video many times to identify the circumstances, perpetrators and location where the killings took place. He has no doubts about its overall authenticity, but says that mention of one district suggests it might be in Deir el-Zhor (in eastern Syria). But people in the area immediately north of Homs are adamant the beheadings took place there. The victims have not been identified. The first time a version of the film was shown was on pro-government Sama TV on 26 November, but it has been widely viewed on YouTube in Syria only over the past week.

The film begins by showing two middle-aged men handcuffed together sitting on a settee in a house, surrounded by their captors who sometimes slap and beat them. They are taken outside into the street. A man in a black shirt is manhandled and kicked into lying down with his head on a concrete block. A boy, who looks to be about 11 or 12 years old, cuts at his neck with a machete, but does not quite sever it. Later a man finishes the job and cuts the head off. The second man in a blue shirt is also forced to lie with his head on a block and is beheaded. The heads are brandished in front of the camera and later laid on top of the bodies. The boy smiles as he poses with a rifle beside a headless corpse.

The execution video is very similar to those once made by al-Qa'ida in Iraq to demonstrate their mercilessness towards their enemies. This is scarcely surprising since many of the most experienced al-Nusra fighters boast that they have until recently been fighting the predominantly Shia government of Iraq as part of the local franchise of al-Qa'ida franchise. Their agenda is wholly sectarian, and they have shown greater enthusiasm for slaughtering Shias, often with bombs detonated in the middle of crowds in markets or outside mosques, than for fighting Americans.

The Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011, was not always so bloodthirsty or so dominated by the Sunnis who make up 70 per cent of the 23 million-strong Syrian population. At first, demonstrations were peaceful and the central demands of the protesters were for democratic rule and human rights as opposed to a violent, arbitrary and autocratic government. There are Syrians who claim that the people against the regime remains to this day the central feature of the uprising, but there is compelling evidence that the movement has slid towards sectarian Islamic fundamentalism intent on waging holy war.

The execution video is the most graphic illustration of deepening religious bigotry on the part of the rebels, but it is not the only one. Another recent video shows Free Syrian Army fighters burning and desecrating a Shia husseiniyah (a religious meeting house similar to a mosque) in Idlib in northern Syria. They chant prayers of victory as they set fire to the building, set fire to flags used in Shia religious processions and stamp on religious pictures. If the FSA were to repeat this assault on a revered Shia shrine such as the Sayyida Zeinab mosque in Damascus, to which Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims have flooded in the past and which is now almost encircled by rebels, then there could be an explosion of religious hatred and strife between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. Iraqi observers warn that it was the destruction of the Shia shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, by an al-Qa'ida bomb in 2006 that detonated a sectarian war in which tens of thousands died.

The analogy with Iraq is troubling for the US and British governments. They and their allies are eager for Syria to avoid repeating the disastrous mistakes they made during the Iraqi occupation. Ideally, they would like to remove the regime, getting rid of Bashar al-Assad and the present leadership, but not dissolving the government machinery or introducing revolutionary change as they did in Baghdad by transferring power from the Sunnis to the Shia and the Kurds. This provoked a furious counter-reaction from Baathists and Sunnis who found themselves marginalised and economically impoverished.

Washington wants Assad out, but is having difficulty riding the Sunni revolutionary tiger. The Western powers have long hoped for a split in the Syrian elite, but so far there is little sign of this happening. "If you take defections as a measure of political cohesion, then there haven't been any serious ones," said a diplomat in Damascus.

Syria today resembles Iraq nine years ago in another disturbing respect. I have now been in Damascus for 10 days, and every day I am struck by the fact that the situation in areas of Syria I have visited is wholly different from the picture given to the world both by foreign leaders and by the foreign media. The last time I felt like this was in Baghdad in late 2003, when every Iraqi knew the US-led occupation was proving a disaster just as George W Bush, Tony Blair and much of the foreign media were painting a picture of progress towards stability and democracy under the wise tutelage of Washington and its carefully chosen Iraqi acolytes.

The picture of Syria most common believed abroad is of the rebels closing in on the capital as the Assad government faces defeat in weeks or, at most, a few months. The Secretary General of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said last week that the regime is "approaching collapse". The foreign media consensus is that the rebels are making sweeping gains on all fronts and the end may be nigh. But when one reaches Damascus, it is to discover that the best informed Syrians and foreign diplomats say, on the contrary, that the most recent rebel attacks in the capital had been thrown back by a government counteroffensive. They say that the rebel territorial advances, which fuelled speculation abroad that the Syrian government might implode, are partly explained by a new Syrian army strategy to pull back from indefensible outposts and bases and concentrate troops in cities and towns.

At times, Damascus resounds with the boom of artillery fire and the occasional car bomb, but it is not besieged. I drove 160 kilometres north to Homs, Syria's third largest city with a population of 2.3 million, without difficulty. Homs, once the heart of the uprising, is in the hands of the government, aside from the Old City, which is held by the FSA. Strongholds of the FSA in Damascus have been battered by shellfire and most of their inhabitants have fled to other parts of the capital. The director of the 1,000-bed Tishreen military hospital covering much of southern Syria told me that he received 15 to 20 soldiers wounded every day, of whom about 20 per cent died. This casualty rate indicates sniping, assassinations and small-scale ambushes, but not a fight to the finish.

This does not mean that the government is in a happy position. It has been unable to recapture southern Aleppo or the Old City in Homs. It does not have the troops to garrison permanently parts of Damascus it has retaken. Its overall diplomatic and military position is slowly eroding and the odds against it are lengthening, but it is a long way from total defeat, unless there is direct military intervention by foreign powers, as in Libya or Iraq, and this does not seem likely.

This misperception of the reality on the ground in Syria is fuelled in part by propaganda, but more especially by inaccurate and misleading reporting by the media where bias towards the rebels and against the government is unsurpassed since the height of the Cold War. Exaggerated notions are given of rebel strength and popularity. The Syrian government is partially responsible for this. By excluding all but a few foreign journalists, the regime has created a vacuum of information that is naturally filled by its enemies. In the event, a basically false and propagandistic account of events in Syria has been created by a foreign media credulous in using pro-opposition sources as if they were objective reporting.

The execution video is a case in point. I have not met a Syrian in Damascus who has not seen it. It is having great influence on how Syrians judge their future, but the mainstream media outside Syria has scarcely mentioned it. Some may be repulsed by its casual savagery, but more probably it is not shown because it contradicts so much of what foreign leaders and reporters claim is happening here.




President Obama announced on Tuesday that the US now formally recognizes the Syrian opposition as the legitimate government of Syria.

Posted on 12/12/2012 by Juan Cole

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Tuesday that there were no further indications of the Syrian regime priming itself to deploy chemical weapons. (My own suspicion is that Israeli intelligence planted that story in the first place, because it wants the US to militarily secure the chemical weapons lest they are transferred to Hizbullah. The Obama administration dealt with Netanyahu by saying deployment of chemical weapons would be a red line for the regime, and then declaring that the warning worked.)



Obama’s recognition comes as the momentum is turning slowly against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Baath Party. Alarabiya reports on how the Free Syria Army has reorganized itself, assigning each sector of the country to a rebel general.

The ability of the revolutionaries to disrupt the international airport in recent days is also a blow to the regime, which has had to divert Iranian arms flights to smaller military runways.

The revolutionaries claimed on Tuesday to have taken the last Baath military base in Aleppo and Idlib Province, denying the regime a site from which to subject them to artillery barrages. They also have captured anti-aircraft batteries from regime bases, reducing the danger to them of aerial bombardment.






MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP)
— More than 100 countries on Wednesday recognized a new Syrian opposition coalition, opening the way for greater humanitarian assistance to the forces battling Bashar Assad and possibly even military aid, France's foreign minister said.

The formation of the Syrian National Coalition appears to be the step the international community has been waiting for to extend deeper assistance to the opposition, which had been criticized for not being sufficiently organized or representative.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the "Friends of the Syrian People" conference meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, "extraordinary progress." He noted that the European Union is now renewing its weapons embargo on Syria every three months rather than annually to be more flexible as the situation on the ground changes.


Britain seeks to blunt an EU arms embargo against Damascus in order to supply Syria's opposition coalition with non-lethal equipment. Critics of the move, however, have expressed concern that the equipment could fall into other hands.

­The UK Foreign Office says Britain will seek an amendment to the embargo next week in a bid to support opponents Syrian President Bashar Assad.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue in Brussels on Monday. Last week. top EU diplomats agreed to decrease from one year to three months the renewal period for sanctions against Damascus. The moved was seen as a gesture of support for the Syrian rebels.

London said it seeks to ship non-lethal military gear and training to Syria to aid the rebel forces. Currently, body armor and night vision goggles fall under the arms embargo; the new amendment would permit the shipment of those and similar supplies.





(Reuters) - Rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared Damascus International Airport a battle zone on Friday, while Moscow and Washington both sounded downbeat about the prospects of a diplomatic push to end the conflict.

Fighting around the capital city has intensified over the past week, and Western officials have begun speaking about faster change on the ground in a 20-month-old conflict that has killed 40,000 people.

But Russia and the United States, the superpowers that have backed the opposing sides in the conflict, both played down the chance of a diplomatic breakthrough after talks aimed at resolving their differences.



"I don't think anyone believes that there was some great breakthrough," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

"No one should have any illusions about how hard this remains. But all of us, with any influence, need to be engaged with Brahimi for a concerted, sincere push."

Lavrov said the sides had agreed to send officials to another meeting with Brahimi, but also sounded a skeptical note.

"I would not make optimistic predictions ... It remains to be seen what will come out of this," he added, noting that Brahimi knows the chance of success is "far from 100 percent".

Rebels, meeting in Turkey in the presence of Western security officials, elected a 30-member unified military command, giving prominent posts to Islamists and excluding some senior officers who defected from Assad's army.

Washington and its NATO allies want to see Assad removed from power. Moscow has blocked action against him at the U.N. Security Council, and while outsiders repeatedly point to signs of Russia losing patience with him, its stance has not changed.

The past week has brought a war previously fought mainly in the provinces and other cities to the threshold of the capital.

Cutting access to the airport 20 km (12 miles) from the city center would be a symbolic blow. The rebels acknowledge the airport itself is still in army hands, but say they are blockading it from most sides.

"The rebel brigades who have been putting the airport under siege decided yesterday that the airport is a military zone," said Nabil al-Amir, a spokesman for the rebels' Damascus Military Council.

"Civilians who approach it now do so at their own risk," he said. Fighters had "waited two weeks for the airport to be emptied of most civilians and airlines" before declaring it a target, he added.

He did not say what they would do if aircraft tried to land. Foreign airlines have suspended all flights to Damascus since fighting has approached the airport in the past week, although some Syrian Air flights have used the airport in recent days.

Syria says the army is driving rebels back from positions in the suburbs and outskirts of Damascus where they have tried to concentrate their offensive. Accounts from rebels and the government are impossible to verify on the ground.

"SOME FIGHT LEFT IN THEM"

Although Western opponents of Assad believe events are tipping against him, they also acknowledge that the war is still far from over.

"It's very clear to me that the regime's forces are being ground down," U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, withdrawn last year, was quoted as saying by CNN. "That said, the regime's protection units continue to maintain some cohesion, and they still have some fight left in them, even though they are losing. I expect there will be substantial fighting in the days ahead."

Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has tracked the fighting since it began in March 2011, said: "I think it's unrealistic to expect that the battle is in its last stages right now."

The meeting of rebels in Antalya, Turkey, was aimed at forming a structure to run the conflict in conjunction with a new opposition National Coalition, which some European and Arab states have recognized as Syria's legitimate representatives.

One delegate at the meeting, who asked not to be identified, said two-thirds of the 30 members of the newly named command had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood or were its political allies.

"We are witnessing the result of the Qatari and Turkish creations," said the delegate, referring to leading anti-Assad countries that are seen as backing the Brotherhood.

Colonel Riad Asaad, founder of the Syrian Free Army rebel force, and General Hussein Haj Ali, the highest-ranking officer to defect from Assad's military, were among those excluded.

NATO decided this week to send U.S., German and Dutch batteries of air-defense missiles to the Turkish border, putting hundreds of American and European NATO troops close to the frontier with Syria for the first time in the crisis.

Russia's ambassador to NATO said the move risked dragging the alliance into the conflict.

"This is not a threat to us, but this is an indication that NATO is moving toward engagement, and that's it," Alexander Grushko said. "We see a threat of further involvement of NATO in the Syrian situation as a result of some provocation or some incidents on the border, if they take place.

The Dutch on Friday said they would send two Patriot batteries with up to 360 personnel. Germany approved its mission on Thursday.

The United States and its NATO allies have issued coordinated warnings in recent days to Assad not to use chemical weapons, prompting Syria to accuse Western countries of conjuring the threat to justify a military intervention.

Syria has not signed an international chemical weapons treaty banning poison gas, but has repeatedly said that it would never use such weapons on its own people.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "We have no confirmed reports on this matter. However, if it is the case, then it will be an outrageous crime in the name of humanity."

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Belfast, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Peter Apps in London, Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Adrian Croft in London; Writing by Douglas Hamilton and Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood)





  • The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme "for years and already has a stockpile of CW agents which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent
  • The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas
  • A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities
  • Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
Sources: CSIS, RUSI,BBC





US President Barack Obama has warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad he will face "consequences" if he uses chemical weapons against his people.

"The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable," said Mr Obama.

A Syrian official has insisted it would "never, under any circumstances" use such weapons, "if such weapons exist".

Meanwhile, the United Nations says it is pulling "all non-essential international staff" out of Syria.

As many as 25 out of 100 international staff could leave this week, the UN news agency Irin reported, while all humanitarian missions outside Damascus will be halted for the time being.

'World is watching'

In a speech on nuclear non-proliferation at the National Defense University in Fort McNair, Mr Obama said: "We've worked to keep weapons from spreading, whether it was nuclear material in Libya or nor chemical weapons in Syria.

In response to the threats, the Syrian Foreign Ministry has issued a brief statement saying that Damascus will not use chemical weapons, “if they were available, under any circumstances against its people.” The ministry also stressed that Syria has stated repeatedly that it “will not use these types of weapons.”
In July, Syrian Foreign Ministry stated that “any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used – and I repeat will never be used – during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi assured at the time that all of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and "will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”

­Anonymous reports of suspicious activity

Meanwhile, several senior US defense officials – all on condition of anonymity – claimed that Syria has begun mixing chemicals that can be used to make the deadly sarin gas.
“We've picked up several indications which lead us to believe that they're combining chemical precursors,” one unnamed US official told AFP, adding that the operation was apparently aimed at making sarin.

A report by Wired cites another unnamed US official “with knowledge of the situation,” who said that the sources in the Syrian military confirm that the preparations “have gotten to the point where they can load it up on a plane and drop it.”

The Associated Press earlier cited another official who said on condition of anonymity that US intelligence officials had detected activity around several known Syrian chemical weapons sites in recent days.
Concerns about the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria have arisen on the same day the UN announced it is sending all non-essential international staff out of Syria and halting aid missions outside Damascus.

­Pretext for intervention?

This is not the first time unusual movements of stockpiles have been detected in Syria. In September, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that intelligence said the Syrian government had moved some of its chemical weapons. Panetta though added that this might have been done to safeguard the chemical stockpile against rebel forces.

But this time, some analysts believe, the revived concerns of chemical weapons use might be used as a pretext for a “humanitarian intervention” in Syria.
“This issue of the chemical weapons is useful to prepare the ground for a humanitarian type of intervention which may include some strikes eventually,” political analyst Paolo Raffone told RT. “But mostly I doubt strongly that Western countries would send soldiers on the ground in Syria.”
Government and business consultant Christoph Horstel believes that the main concern of the Syrian government right now is that the opposition fighters, whoever they are, do not lay their hands on the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile.
“What Syria is certainly doing is trying to make sure that no foreign agent, how well equipped ever, can get into the possession of these weapons,” Horstel told RT. “Of course, they are not planning to use them against foreign enemies in their territory. No way. All these things are inventions of foreign and Western propaganda.”
Russia is meanwhile concerned that the militarization of the Syrian conflict is in full swing as large supplies of weapons to the Syrian opposition continue despite an arms embargo against the war-torn country. These supplies include “rather dangerous” arms, such as Stinger missiles, and hamper all efforts which “should be aimed at conciliation, and work with all the opposition groups,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview with Itar-Tass.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that while Russia cannot give any guarantees on the Syrian leader’s intentions, it shares international concern over the humanitarian situation in Syria and the wider region. Putin also added that the possible placing of Patriot missiles along the Syrian border in Turkey will not in any way add to stability in the region.


All hell is breaking loose in Syria.

Revolutionaries have captured at least 7 bases from the Syrian army in just the past two weeks, and they have been mining their depots for arms. They have gotten hold of SA-7 shoulderheld missile launchers and deployed them against the Syrian air force. The regime seems to have lost control of most of the north of the country, and roads north have been cut. The revolutionaries are now attempting to take the Damascus airport, to prevent the regime from being resupplied by Russia and other allies. The fighting near the airport has caused most international passenger airlines to cease flying into it, though it is technically still open and the regime may still be able to use it for resupply. The regime, desperate to disrupt the revolutionaries’ command and control, pulled the plug on the internet and also turned off the telephone service. Muammar Qaddafi turned off the internet during the uprising in Libya, but it did not help him in the end. It is hard to see how this regime can survive, given the kinds of advances that the opposition has been making in recent weeks.







– The Washington Post reports: Some of the heaviest fighting since the Syrian uprising began last year forced the closure of Damascus’s international airport Thursday as communications throughout the country went dark after the government apparently shut down Internet access.





UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The 20-month conflict in Syria has reached "new and appalling heights of brutality and violence" as the government steps up its shelling and air strikes and rebels boost their attacks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

Ban and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi addressed the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on the revolt against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, which began as peaceful rallies calling for democracy but grew to an armed struggle after the military cracked down on protesters.

The fighting has killed about 40,000 people, making it the bloodiest of Arab uprisings that have ousted entrenched leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen since early last year.
"The government has intensified its campaigns to root out opposition strongholds and has increased shelling and air strikes," Ban said. "Opposition elements also have stepped up their attacks. I am horrified and saddened and condemn the seemingly daily massacres of civilians."
Syrian air force jets bombarded rebel targets on Friday close to the Damascus airport road and a regional airline said the violence had halted international flights. The Internet and most telephone lines also were down for a second day in the worst communications outage of the conflict.

Ban said with the onset of winter, up to 4 million people in Syria would be in need and that he expected to number of refugees - currently about 480,000 - to hit 700,000 by early next year. He appealed for more humanitarian aid and said he would soon visit refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey to assess the situation.

Brahimi said rebel forces had made gains on the ground in the past few weeks, but the government remained confident that it has the upper hand.

STRATEGIC GAINS

"The areas of territory that they (the rebels) control are expanding, and with strategic value in some cases," Brahimi said. "In Syria itself, there is no trust between the parties. They do not even define the problem in the same terms."
Brahimi told the General Assembly that Syria was in danger of becoming a failed state and stepped up his pressure on the Security Council, which is deadlocked over taking stronger action on Assad, to adopt a resolution backing his peace bid.

The United States and European council members blame Russia, a staunch ally and key arms supplier for Assad's government, and China for the council's inaction on the conflict. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad and reject the idea of sanctions. Diplomats say nothing has changed.
"Any peace process must include ... a binding agreement on the cessation of all forms of violence," Brahimi said.
"For the fighting to stop, a strong, well planned observation system must be put in place," he said. "Such observation can best be organized through a large, robust peacekeeping force - and, naturally, that cannot be envisaged without a Security Council resolution."
If there were a more sustained ceasefire, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations has told Brahimi it could put together a force of up to 3,000 monitors to keep fighters separated and maintain the truce, diplomats say.
"Difficult as it has been for the council to reach a consensus on an implementable roadmap for Syria, I nevertheless feel that it is here, and only here, that a credible, implementable process can be put together," Brahimi said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott)





TUNIS, Tunisia – The interim president of Libya, who came to power following a NATO-supported rebellion against former leader Moammar Gadhafi, said Thursday he opposed foreign intervention in Syria.

Speaking at press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Mohammed al-Megarif said he also opposed arming the Syrian opposition which has been battling the regime of President Bashar Assad for the last year and a half, with thousands of lives lost.

The two leaders, both products of the wave of uprisings that swept the Middle East in 2011, did call for Assad to step down.

Like the conflict in Syria, the uprising that overthrew former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi turned into a civil war and the rebels only triumphed with the aid of a NATO campaign of airstrikes and the supply of sophisticated weapons.

Syria’s rebels have repeatedly called for greater material international support, but little has been forthcoming, in part because of international concerns over the lack of unity in the opposition.

Al-Megarif also said that he and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki were withholding recognition of the new Syrian opposition coalition until they could evaluate how representative it was.

Al-Megarif’s visit to Tunisia comes with a $200 million offer of aid to the Tunisian economy to “support its development.”

The Tunisian economy, which relies heavily on tourism and exports to Europe, has been severely battered by the unrest that accompanied the overthrow of its long-ruling dictator in January 2011.

“It is the first financial interaction which will be followed by others as we solidify the excellent relations linking the two countries,” said Marzouki.



Source- AP via Montreal Gazette





The situation in Libya is worst now after Ousting Gaddafi; the destruction of Iran won't make the situation better for Iranians; the destruction of Syria is not making the situation better for Syrians.

As a person from countries with corrupt inefficient governments, I said that an attack from outside is never welcome, despite internal strife.





Hugh Schofield
BBC News, Paris


By becoming the first Western power to recognise the Syrian National Coalition, France is hoping to build on the success of Sunday's meeting in Doha and set a precedent that other nations may follow.

No-one has forgotten that it was France that set the pace when it came to recognising the Libyan opposition last year. That was under a different, arguably more gung-ho president - Nicolas Sarkozy - and the circumstances in Libya were very different. But France likes to feel it still has a special role to play in the Middle East, and this was a welcome opportunity for Francois Hollande to make a foreign policy mark.

The president's remarks on reconsidering arms deliveries need to be treated with caution. Nothing will happen quickly, not least because France is bound by an EU embargo on arms deliveries to all sides in the Syrian conflict.

Still the president did say that with the coalition now officially recognised, the question of arms could be re-opened - and that will be seized on by the opposition as an important advance.




The Arab League has hailed the formation of Syria's new rebel coalition, but stopped short of recognizing the group as the sole legitimate voice of the Syrian people. Leaders of Syria's exiled opposition, beset by mutual suspicion and infighting, formed the new bloc on Sunday and are now seeking full international backing.

Political analyst Lew Rockwell believes that by offering full support for the Syrian coalition, foreign nations may be hijacking the initiative.


I could hear the exchange of gunfire and the sounds of bombing nearby. After a particularly strong burst, I found myself trembling. Out of nowhere, a little boy named Mohamed came up and grabbed my hand with his two little hands. I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “Don’t you worry, you will be ok. We hear this all the time and we are used to it. Take a deep breath and you will be ok.”

Mohamed is 7 years old. I don’t know what affected me more - his gesture of kindness or knowing that such a young, sweet boy was already accustomed to such terrible sounds of violence. 

The ongoing conflict in Syria has played out in the international media for months now. But the humanitarian needs in Syria and the surrounding countries hosting Syrian refugees have never been more urgent than they are at this moment. Find out how you can help. 

The World Food Programme has scaled up its operations to reach 1.5 million people in Syria with emergency food assistance. As thousands more Syrians pour into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, many arrive exhausted and hungry after fleeing their homes with nothing. WFP is helping to feed these refugees through hot meals and food vouchers. 

During an emergency, every dollar counts. Your donation to provide food for Syrian families will come at a critical time. 

In some cases, we’re going to door-to-door delivering food to poor, displaced Syrians in order to avoid large gatherings of people in particularly tense areas. A few days ago, I joined some of my colleagues bringing rice, beans and oil to families in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs in western Syria. Two-thirds of the city has been devastated by conflict, and many streets are now deserted. 

WFP’s expertise is getting the right food to people who need it most, when they need it the most. Right now, families need our help to ensure they don’t have to worry about where they’ll find their next meal. Please make a donation today to provide food for more families in Syria. Every donation will immediately be directed to our emergency operation. 


As I write this, more than 20 of my WFP colleagues in Syria have lost their homes, yet they continue to carry out their life-saving work each day. Their dedication amazes me. Your donation will not only support Syrian families but also honor the courage of these colleagues. 

Thank you, 

Abeer Etefa
Senior Communications Officer, Middle East
World Food Programme






JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says it has fired into Syria for a second straight day in response to errant mortar fire that landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

There were no reports of injuries on either side of the frontier Monday. But a series of similar incidents in recent days has raised fears that Israel could be dragged into the fighting in its northern neighbor.
Israel does not believe the mortar fire has intentionally targeted Israeli targets.
Still, Israeli officials have warned that they will respond harshly if the attacks persist.

Israel responded for the first time on Sunday, firing an anti-tank missile as a "warning shot."





In an exclusive interview with RT, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Syria is not going through a civil war, but rather a different kind of war -- terrorism through proxies.





BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army abandoned its last base near the northern town of Saraqeb after a fierce assault by rebels, further isolating the strategically important second city Aleppo from the capital.
But in a political setback to forces battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad, the United Nations said the rebels appeared to have committed a war crime after seizing the base.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday government troops had retreated from a post northwest of Saraqeb, leaving the town and surrounding areas "completely outside the control of regime forces".

It was not immediately possible to verify the reported army withdrawal. Authorities restrict journalists' access in Syria and state media made no reference to Saraqeb.

The pullout followed coordinated rebel attacks on Thursday against three military posts around Saraqeb, 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Aleppo, in which 28 soldiers were killed.

Several were shown in video footage being shot after they had surrendered.

"The allegations are that these were soldiers who were no longer combatants. And therefore, at this point it looks very likely that this is a war crime, another one," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

"Unfortunately this could be just the latest in a string of documented summary executions by opposition factions as well as by government forces and groups affiliated with them, such as the shabbiha (pro-government militia)," he said.

Video footage of the killings showed rebels berating the captured men, calling them "Assad's dogs", before firing round after round into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

Rights groups and the United Nations say rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have committed war crimes during the 19-month-old conflict. It began with protests against Assad and has spiraled into a civil war which has killed 32,000 people and threatens to drag in regional powers.

The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are supported by Sunni states including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and neighboring Turkey. Shi'ite Iran remains the strongest regional supporter of Assad, who is from the Alawite faith which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

STRATEGIC BLOW


Saraqeb lies at the meeting point of Syria's main north-south highway, linking Aleppo with Damascus, and another road connecting Aleppo to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

With areas of rural Aleppo and border crossings to Turkey already under rebel control, the loss of Saraqeb would leave Aleppo city further cut off from Assad's Damascus powerbase.

Any convoys using the highways from Damascus or the Mediterranean city of Latakia would be vulnerable to rebel attack. This would force the army to use smaller rural roads or send supplies on a dangerous route from Al-Raqqa in the east, according to the Observatory's director, Rami Abdelrahman.

In response to the rebels' territorial gains, Assad has stepped up air strikes against opposition strongholds, launching some of the heaviest raids so far against working class suburbs east of Damascus over the last week.

The bloodshed has continued unabated despite an attempted ceasefire, proposed by join U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to mark last month's Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

In the latest in a string of fruitless international initiatives, China called on Thursday for a phased, region-by-region ceasefire and the setting up of a transitional governing body - an idea which opposition leaders hope to flesh out at a meeting in Qatar next week.

Veteran opposition leader Riad Seif has proposed a structure bringing together the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other rebel forces alongside local civilian bodies and prominent opposition figures.

His plan, called the Syrian National Initiative, calls for four bodies to be established: the Initiative Body, including political groups, local councils, national figures and rebel forces; a Supreme Military Council; a Judicial Committee and a transitional government made up of technocrats.

The initiative has the support of Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Wednesday for an overhaul of the opposition, saying it was time to move beyond the troubled Syrian National Council.

The SNC has failed to win recognition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and Clinton said it was time to bring in "those on the front lines fighting and dying".

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Jon Boyle)





ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - The United States and Turkey indicated they were studying a range of possible measures over Syria, including a no-fly zone, as battles between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's forces shook Aleppo and the heart of Damascus.



U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after meeting her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul on Saturday that Washington and Ankara should develop detailed operational planning on ways to assist the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

"Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that," she said.

Asked about options such as imposing a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory, Clinton said these were possibilities she and Davutoglu had agreed "need greater in-depth analysis", while indicating that no decisions were necessarily imminent.

"It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning," she said.

Though any intervention appears to be a distant prospect, her remarks were nevertheless the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria.

No-fly zones imposed by NATO and Arab allies helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. Until recently, the West had shunned the idea of repeating any Libya-style action.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are believed to be arming Syrian rebels, while the United States and Britain have pledged to step up non-lethal assistance to Assad's opponents.

Davutoglu said it was time outside powers took decisive steps to resolve the humanitarian crisis in cities such as Aleppo, where Assad's forces have fought rebels for three weeks.

JETS, TANKS IN ACTION


In the latest battles, tanks and troops pummeled rebels near the shattered district of Salaheddine, a former opposition stronghold that commands the main southern approach to Aleppo.

Tank fire crashed into the adjacent Saif al-Dawla neighborhood as military jets circled over an abandoned police station held by rebels, firing missiles every few minutes.

Insurgents said they had been forced to retreat in the latest twist in relentless, see-saw battles for Salaheddine, part of a swathe of Aleppo seized by rebels last month.

Some rebels, outgunned and low on ammunition in Aleppo, have pleaded for outside military help, arguing that more weapons and a no-fly zone over areas they control near the Turkish border would give them a secure base against Assad's forces.

"The reason we retreated from Salaheddine this week is a lack of weapons," complained Abu Thadet, a rebel commander in Aleppo who said his fighters would regroup and fight back. "We can handle the bombing. It's the snipers that make it hard."

In Damascus, where Assad's forces have regained control of districts overrun by rebels last month, a resident reported an explosion near the Central Bank, followed by gunfire.

"The explosion was huge. There has been fighting for the past half-hour along Pakistan Street. I am very close. Can you hear that?" she told Reuters, a bang audible over the telephone.

Syrian state TV said authorities were hunting "terrorists" who had set off a bomb in Merjeh, an area near the central bank, and who were "shooting at random to spark panic among citizens".
At least 11 people were killed on Saturday when government forces mounted an armored attack to try to regain the area the Sunni Muslim north Damascus suburb of al-Tel, activists said.

"The army pushed tanks, armored personnel carriers and pick-up trucks equipped with heavy machine-guns toward Tel in the morning and fighting has been raging for the last 12 hours," said Alam, one of the opposition activists, who gave only his first name for fear of retribution.

"They did not manage to go in. The Free Syrian Army had booby trapped the entrances to Tel and four armor pieces have been destroyed," he added.

END GAME BEGINS?


Despite their superior firepower, Assad's forces have been stretched by months of warfare against increasingly skilled and organized fighters who have taken them on in every city and in many parts of the countryside at one time or another.

Germany's spy chief said the Syrian army had been depleted by casualties, deserters and defectors.
"There are a lot of indications that the end game for the regime has begun," said Gerhard Schindler, head of the BND intelligence agency, in an interview with Die Welt newspaper.

"The regular army is being confronted by a variety of flexible fighters. The recipe of their success is their guerrilla tactics. They're breaking the army's back."

Syria's torment, however, is far from over and several signs point to how the conflict could spill over into its neighbors.

Jordanian and Syrian forces clashed along the border in the early hours of Saturday when refugees tried to cross to Jordan, a Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.

Thousands of Syrians have fled into Jordan, but tensions heightened after Assad's newly installed prime minister, Riad Hijab, defected and escaped across the border this week.

Assad's main outside allies are Shi'ite Iran and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement. His ruling system is dominated by members of his Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

His foes are mostly from Syria's Sunni majority, who are backed by Sunni-ruled states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which are also regional rivals of Iran.

Arab foreign ministers will meet on Sunday in Jeddah to discuss the Syria crisis and who should replace Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy, a League official said.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Andrew Quinn and Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, Louis Charbonneau in New York and Tamim Elyan in Cairo; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Jon Hemming)



UN envoy Kofi Annan says a national unity cabinet with government and opposition members could be the solution for the Syrian crisis. Moscow and other permanent members of the UN Security Council reportedly “signaled” their support of the idea.

That is according to diplomatic sources that spoke to Reuters on Wednesday on condition of anonymity. Annan's proposal for a political transition in Syria is one of the main topics that Russia and other key players in the Middle East will discuss at the Geneva meeting on Saturday.

Summarizing the proposal, diplomats explained the conflict could only end when all sides see a common way to a shared future. Annan stressed it was “vital that [any] settlement [be] irreversible, [with] clear transition steps in a fixed timeline.”

“These include establishing a transitional national unity government to create a neutral backdrop for transition,” the diplomat said. “It could comprise of present government members, opposition and others, but would need to exclude those whose continued participation or presence would jeopardize the transition's credibility, or harm prospects for reconciliation and stability.”

Although Annan's plan does not specify who exactly would be excluded from the prospective government, the diplomat added that this idea was clearly referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Reuters’ source also states that the Russians “signaled to Annan that they accept his transition plan,” while several Western diplomats confirmed these remarks. Moreover, all five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council have reportedly backed the proposal.

Kofi Annan has made the acceptance of his proposal a condition for organizing the Saturday meeting. The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar will attend the conference.



Rebel gunmen stormed Syria's pro-government television station on Wednesday, killing at least seven employees just hours after President Bashar Assad declared that the country is at war.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Gunmen stormed a pro-government Syrian TV channel headquarters on Wednesday, bombing buildings and shooting dead three employees, state media said, in one of the boldest attacks yet on a symbol of the authoritarian state.
More than 150 people were killed in fierce fighting across Syria on Wednesday, 86 of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Intensified fighting in the country have driven up the death toll averages to around 100 people per day in the past week.
President Bashar al-Assad declared late on Tuesday that his country was "at war". U.S. intelligence officials said the Syrian government was "holding fairly firm" and digging in for a long struggle against rebel forces who are getting stronger.
The dawn attack on Ikhbariya television's offices, 20 km (15 miles) south of the capital, as well as overnight fighting on the outskirts of Damascus showed the 16-month-old violence now rapidly encroaching on the city.
Ikhbariya resumed broadcasting shortly after the attack, which killed three journalists and four security guards, displaying bullet holes in its two-storey concrete building and pools of blood on the floor. One building was almost entirely destroyed.
"I heard a small explosion then a huge explosion and gunmen ran in. They ransacked the offices and entirely destroyed the newsroom," an employee who works at the offices in the town of Drousha told state media at the scene.
Syrian media are tightly regulated by the Ministry of Information. Although Ikhbariya is privately owned, opponents of Assad say it is a government mouthpiece.
After Tuesday's fighting unprecedented in its intensity around Damascus, violence appeared to ease off around the capital following the attack on the television complex. But rebel forces were clearly becoming stronger and more ambitious.
SYRIA "AT WAR"
During the pro-democracy revolt against the Assad family's four-decade rule, Ikhbariya has been pushing to counter what it says is a campaign of misinformation by Western and Arab satellite channels on the uprising that began in March 2011.
"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday, in a speech broadcast on state television. "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
The declaration marks a change of rhetoric from Assad, who had long dismissed the uprising against him as the work of scattered militants in "terrorist gangs" funded from abroad.
The rambling speech - Assad also commented on subjects as far afield as the benefits of renewable energy - left little room for compromise. He denounced the West, which "takes and never gives, and this has been proven at every stage".
International mediator Kofi Annan said he had convened a ministerial-level meeting on Syria in Geneva on Saturday with the aim of seeking an end to the violence and agreeing on principles for a "Syrian-led political transition".
In a statement, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy said he had invited foreign ministers from the five major powers - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States - as well as Turkey, the European Union, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar.
Despite the deterioration in Syria, so far there has been no sign of an appetite for full-scale Western intervention. However, last week's shooting down of a Turkish warplane by Syrian air defenses has focused attention on a volatile situation on Turkey's southeastern border with Syria.
"We will not refrain from teaching a lesson to anyone trying to test Turkey's greatness," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, referring to the incident near the countries' maritime borders.
Turkey's land border territories, hosting over 33,000 refugees and units of the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA), are quickly becoming a potential flashpoint. Tuesday's comments by Erdogan may if anything have added further uncertainty to the situation there.
Erdogan said on Tuesday that Syrian military elements approaching the border and posing a threat would be deemed a military target. He made no public clarification of new terms of engagement issued to troops.
"With Tayyip Erdogan's announcement, and if Syria complies with it, Turkey will have by itself declared a de facto 'buffer zone'," Radikal newspaper columnist Cengiz Candar wrote.
"And if Bashar al-Assad doesn't comply with this? That is, if he continues to send soldiers right up to the border? Turkey runs the risk of a military operation against him."
Turkey has in the past spoken of possible establishment of a 'humanitarian corridor' on Syrian soil - a venture that would inevitably require armed protection. But it has always insisted such a measure, if required by a rising tide of refugees or by evidence of massacres, would need international endorsement
United Nations investigators said on Wednesday Syrian government forces had committed human rights violations, including executions, across the country "on an alarming scale" during military operations in the past three months.
The report by the U.N. Human Rights Council, issued in Geneva, also listed killings and kidnappings by armed opposition groups trying to topple President Assad.
"The situation on the ground is dangerously and quickly deteriorating," the report said.
Syria's ambassador dismissed the accusations and threatened to end cooperation with international agencies.
The United Nations accuses Syrian forces of killing more than 10,000 people during the conflict, which began with a popular uprising and has built up into an armed insurgency.
A White House spokesman said of the attack on the pro-government television station: "We condemn all acts of violence, including those targeting pro-regime elements."
LONG FIGHT
The UK-based Observatory, which compiles reports from activists across the country, reported battles on Tuesday near the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Qudsiya, and in other Damascus suburbs of al-Hama and Mashrou' Dumar, just 9 km from the capital.
Activists said the clashes were the heaviest to hit areas on the outskirts of Damascus, once considered an impenetrable Assad stronghold. Fighting in the suburbs outside the capital were renewed again on Wednesday night, the Observatory said.
Despite some military defections, mainly from low to mid-level ranks, Assad's inner circle remains cohesive and the war is still likely to be a drawn-out struggle, senior U.S. intelligence officials said, in an assessment dimming any U.S. hopes that Assad will fall soon.
"Our overall assessment ... would be that we are still seeing the military regime forces fairly cohesive, they've learned some lessons over the last year and a half about how to deal with this kind of insurgency," an official said.
The insurgency is also getting stronger, he said.
"Both sides seem to be girding for a long struggle. Our sense is that the regime still believes it can ultimately prevail or at least appears determined to try to prevail and the opposition at the same time seems to be preparing for a long fight."
(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; additional reporting by Jonathon Burch and Jon Hemming; editing by Ralph Boulton, Janet McBride and Michael Roddy)




Turkey's President, Abdullah Gul, has said the Turkish fighter jet shot down by Syria's air defence forces on Friday may have violated Syrian airspace.

Mr Gul said it was routine for warplanes flying at high speed to cross borders for short distances.

Syria has said it engaged the aircraft in its airspace "according to the laws that govern such situations", and that it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Turkish and Syrian navies are searching for the two crew members.

Relations between Nato-member Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have fled the violence across the border into Turkey.

After a cross-border shooting by Syrian security forces in April that left two refugees dead at a camp near the town of Kilis, Turkey said it would not tolerate any action that it deemed violating its security.



Members of the U.N. Security Council remain at an impasse over an international response to Syria’s turmoil. Kofi Annan has proposed establishing a new contact group involving the United States, Russia and Iran, but the United States has refused to accept Iran’s involvement. Russia and China continue to oppose proposals for sanctions against Syria and the U.S.-led calls for Assad to step down. At the United Nations, Russia envoy Vitaly Churkin said Council members have ignored the role of Syria’s armed rebels in the ongoing violence and called for Iran’s involvement in any future talks.

Vitaly Churkin: "The truth of the matter, as you know, is that armed opposition groups do not only — do not only fail to comply to the Kofi Annan plan, but they declare that it is their intention not to do so, which, to us, is a very dangerous development, a very counterproductive development. We hear complaints about Iran, so the way to deal with that is to involve Iran in discussions and make sure that their activities are in sync with the activities of the rest of us who want to have this matter finally settled peacefully."

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov vowed to oppose any Security Council measure authorizing military intervention, saying: "There will not be a Security Council mandate for outside intervention, I guarantee you that."

The Turkish response to the downing of one of its fighter jets by Syrian forces has been strikingly low-key. Official statements have been terse. Turkey is not challenging the official Syrian account of what happened, but nor is it yet accepting it.

The Syrian military said the F4 reconnaissance jet was shot down as it flew low and fast towards the city of Latakia, just 1km from the coast. Turkey's President Abdullah Gul suggested that it was routine for fast-flying military jets to stray into other countries' air space, but the Syrian account puts this aircraft deep inside its territory, raising big questions about what it was doing. Had it gone badly off course, or was it on some other mission? There are questions too about why Syria shot the aircraft down, rather than try to ascertain its purpose.

Two impressions are left by what we know so far from this incident. First, that Syria's sophisticated, Russian-supplied air defence systems are effective, and Syria is willing to use them. Second, that Turkey is taking great care not to be drawn into a military confrontation with Syria.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government website on Friday published what it said was photographic evidence of mass graves and attacks on civilian areas by Syrian government forces.

The website, operated by a bureau of the State Department, published a series of overhead photos, said to be taken earlier this week by commercial satellite, showing what it said were mass graves dug following a massacre near the town of Houla.

They also showed apparent artillery impact craters near civilian areas of a town called Atarib.

Included on the web page, which can be viewed at http://www.humanrights.gov/2012/03/05/situation-in-syria/, are pictures which apparently show artillery deployed as of May 31 - Thursday - near three Syrian towns and attack helicopters allegedly deployed near the towns of Shayrat and Homs.

The pictures are credited to commercial satellite imagery companies.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari did not have an immediate reaction when reached by Reuters.

More than 100 men, women and children were massacred in Houla last week, most of them shot at point-blank range or slashed with knives.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said earlier this week that the people who died from artillery and tank fire were clearly victims of government shelling while the others were most likely killed by "shabbiha" militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus has blamed the massacre on the opposition, which Assad has tried unsuccessfully for 14 months to crush, killing over 10,000 people in the process, according to the United Nations. Russia, which has used its veto powers to prevent the U.N. Security Council from sanctioning Syria, blames Islamist militants for the Houla massacre.

The State Department website highlights what it said are before and after satellite pictures showing mass graves near Houla.

A May 18 photo from Tall Daww, a village near Houla, shows what the government says is a square that appears to be a flat dirt clearing. Juxtaposed against this is what the U.S. government says is a May 28 photo of the same square with what appear to be rows of turned up earth, which is labeled as "probable newly-dug graves/trenches."

(Additional reporting by Lou Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Warren Strobel and Lisa Shumaker)


By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut and Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent

7:42PM BST 31 May 2012

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, bluntly criticised Russia's continued backing for President Bashar al-Assad's regime yesterday. This support was illustrated last night by the disclosure that a Russian cargo ship carrying weapons had docked in Syria last Saturday, one day after the massacre in Houla which claimed at least 108 civilian lives.

Addressing students in Denmark, Mrs Clinton urged Russia to use its influence on Mr Assad to curb the fighting.

"The Syrians are not going to listen to us. They will listen - maybe - to the Russians, so we have to keep pushing them," she said.

Russian officials, added Mrs Clinton, "are telling me they don't want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going help to contribute to a civil war." Western governments believe that diplomatic cover afforded by the Kremlin has emboldened Mr Assad and encouraged him to resist pressure to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.

Earlier, Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN, said that Russia's veto-wielding membership of the Security Council would not necessarily prevent international action. If the violence worsened and the peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, made no progress, some countries would consider whether to bypass Russian and Chinese opposition in the UN.

Paul Wood
BBC Middle East correspondent, just out of Syria

The ceasefire exists in name only. Most people within Syria don't think that the UN plan will work anyway. I think the threat to lift the ceasefire by the Free Syrian Army will just mean business as usual.

The Free Syrian Army, from what I could see, are under enormous pressure. They're having to sell their furniture to buy bullets. A few more serious weapons are trickling through: we believe some anti-tank weapons reached the main holdout, the town of Rastan.

But these people are barely surviivng, and although they are getting a trickle of defections I don't think they're in a position to really cause the government serious trouble.

What we may get is a sectarian civil war, of village against village, and that is what is threatened by the Friday deadline.


An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called to discuss a massacre in Syria has heard that 116 people were killed and 300 injured in Houla.

Friday's killings in the town have sparked international outrage.

The UK wants Russia, Syria's only major foreign ally, to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to halt civilian deaths.

The Syrian government has denied any involvement in the Houla killings, blaming "terrorists".

The closed meeting was called after Russia rejected a joint UK-French statement condemning the killings, diplomats say.

Russia was said to first want a briefing from the head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Maj Gen Robert Mood.

He told the assembled diplomats via video link from Damascus that 116 people had been killed and 300 injured - up from a previous figure of 90 dead.

Opposition activists say the Syrian military bombarded Houla after demonstrations. They say that some of the victims were killed during the shelling, while others were shot dead at close range by the regime militia known as the "shabiha".

'Vile testament'

Russia's deputy ambassador to the United Nations told journalists that it was not clear who was responsible for the deaths.

"There are substantial grounds to believe that the majority of those who were killed were either slashed, cut by knives, or executed at point blank distance," he said.



Shashank Joshi Associate fellow, Royal United Services Institute

So far, there is no sign that Houla will be a game-changer. First, remember that this massacre will be interpreted differently around the world.

Many countries sympathise with the Assad's government narrative that the opposition are Arab-backed Sunni fundamentalists and terrorists.

Just as some critics argue that the massacres in Libya last year and Racak, Kosovo, in 1999 are exaggerated or fabricated, similar skepticism about Houla will persist, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence - and that will affect how the UN Security Council lines up on the issue.

Moreover, the growing role of al-Qaeda and affiliated jihadist groups in Syria has, in recent months, become a further deterrent to intervention.

American officials are terrified that support for the opposition may end up in the hands of the very same people that mounted attacks on Western forces in Iraq just a few years ago.

Above all, however, no-one wants to pick a fight with Russia.






Rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria will be paid salaries, the opposition Syrian National Council has announced.

Money will also be given to soldiers who defect from the government's army, the SNC added, after a "Friends of the Syrian people" summit in Turkey.

Conference delegates said wealthy Gulf Arab states would supply millions of dollars a month for the SNC fund.

The meeting recognised the SNC as the "legitimate representative" of Syrians.

Damascus dubbed the gathering of some 70 Western and Arab foreign ministers in Istanbul as the "enemies of Syria", and key players remained absent, including Russia, China and Iran.

At a news conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned Syria that Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan - which Damascus has agreed to in principle - was "not open-ended".

His comments were echoed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said there was "no more time for excuses and delays" by the Assad government. "This is a moment of truth," she said.
Compromise

"The SNC will take charge of the payment of fixed salaries of all officers, soldiers, and others who are members of the Free Syrian Army," SNC President Burhan Ghalioun told the conference.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Istanbul, says the decision to pay rebel fighters is a significant step by the SNC in recognising the central role the armed insurgency is now playing in their campaign to oust President Assad.

An SNC leader told the BBC that she hoped more substantial funding would help bind the disparate units of the Free Syrian Army into a more coherent fighting force, and encourage other soldiers to defect from the government side.

Some countries at the conference - notably Saudi Arabia - have been openly calling for insurgents in Syria to be given weapons. But others - including the US and Turkey - oppose the move, fearing it could fuel an all-out civil war.

The decision to increase non-lethal aid to the rebels by paying salaries to the fighters is a compromise, our correspondent says.

Not all opposition groups will be happy at the summit's decision to channel the funds through the SNC - as well as recognising it as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, he adds.

There are many activists who believe the SNC's leadership has been too ineffective, and should be replaced, he points out.

The united front displayed by the gathering was undermined by the pointed absence of Russia and China, which have repeatedly balked at any international resolutions that would require President Assad to stand down.

Iraq attended, having earlier suggested it might not. However, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made it clear beforehand that he opposed arming the opposition and believed the Syrian government would survive.

The Syrian government says it is close to ending the uprising.

Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdissi told Syrian TV "the battle to topple the state is over".

Violence continued on Sunday, with more than 10 people reported killed, a day after more than 60 people died across the country.

In the latest violence, activists reported attacks by security forces in areas near the Iraqi border to the east, and the Jordanian frontier to the south.

The UN believes at least 9,000 people have died in the year-long revolt against Mr Assad's rule.


Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that arming either side in Syria will lead to a "proxy war".

He was speaking at the opening of an Arab League summit - the first major international meeting to be hosted by Iraq since at least 1990.

A UN-Arab League plan for Syria would see a UN-monitored end to fighting, troops pulled out of opposition areas and access for humanitarian services.

Syria agreed to the initiative on Tuesday but violence has continued.

A number of explosions were heard in central Baghdad as the summit was starting.

Two of the blasts occurred near the Iranian embassy, eyewitnesses said. There are unconfirmed reports that an explosion near the city's secure Green Zone was an IED (improvised explosive device).

CIA drone strikes

3 November 2013 Last updated at 00:07 GMT

The US has responded to accusations from Pakistan that a drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had destroyed the country’s nascent peace process.

A state department official said talks with the Taliban were an internal matter for Pakistan.

The statement insisted Pakistan and the US had a «shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence».

It also said it could still not confirm that Mehsud had been killed on Friday.

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador to protest over Friday’s drone strike that killed Mehsud.

Analysis

M Ilyas Khan 
BBC News, Islamabad

Hakimullah Mehsud was killed a day before Pakistani officials say they were scheduled to send a three-member team to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a local TV news channel, Geo, that the drone strike was an attempt to «sabotage» Pakistan’s peace talks with Taliban.

But many believe Mehsud’s death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan.

One of these groups is headed by Khan Said Sajna, the successor of Waliur Rehman, a militant commander who favoured talks with Islamabad and once contested the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Rehman was killed in a drone strike in May.

What next for Pakistani Taliban?

The country’s foreign minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said the strike on the local Taliban leader «is not just the killing of one person, it’s the death of all peace efforts.»


Friday, August 16, 2013

The United States was reportedly able to target an alleged al-Qaeda operative named Adnan al-Qadhi for a drone strike after U.S. allies in Yemen convinced an eight-year-old boy to place a tracking chip in the pocket of the man he considered to be his surrogate father. Shortly after the child planted the device, a U.S. drone tracked and killed al-Qadhi with a missile. He was killed last November, less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Gregory Johnsen writes about the case in his new article «Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?» published in The Atlantic.

By Sudarsan Raghavan,May 29, 2012

Aden, Yemen — Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims’ relatives and human rights activists.

“These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’ ” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.

Since January, as many as 21 missile attacks have targeted suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen, reflecting a sharp shift in a secret war carried out by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command that had focused on Pakistan.


When tribal elders from the remote Pakistani region of North Waziristan travelled to Islamabad last week to protest against CIA drone strikes, a teenager called Tariq Khan was among them.

A BBC team caught him on camera, sitting near the front of a tribal assembly, or jirga, listening carefully.

Four days later the 16-year-old was dead – killed by one of the drones he was protesting against.

In his final days, Tariq was living in fear, according to Neil Williams from the British legal charity, Reprieve, who met him at the Jirga.

«He was really really petrified,» said Mr Williams, «and so were his friends. He didn’t want to go home because of the drones. They were all scared.»

Tariq carried with him the identity card of his teenage cousin, Asmar Ullah, who was killed by a drone. On Monday he shared his fate.

Tariq’s family say he was hit by two missiles as he was driving near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The shy teenager, who was good with computers, was decapitated in the strike. His 12-year-old cousin Wahid was killed alongside him.

The boys were on their way to see a relative, according to Tariq’s uncle, Noor Kalam, who we reached by phone.

He denied that Tariq had any link to militant groups. «We condemn this very strongly,» he said. «He was just a normal boy who loved football.»

The CIA’s drone campaign is a covert war, conducted in remote terrain, where the facts are often in dispute.

The tribal belt is off limits to foreign journalists. Militants often seal off the locations where drone strikes take place. The truth can be buried with the dead.

After the missile strike on Monday, Pakistani officials said four suspected militants had been killed.

If the strike actually killed two young boys – as appears to be the case – it’s unlikely anyone will ever be held to account.
Tariq Khan Tariq Khan’s family insist that he had no militant connections (Photo: Neil Williams, Reprieve)

There are no confirmed death tolls but several independent organisations estimate that drones have killed more than 2,000 people since 2004. Most are suspected to be militants.

Many senior commanders from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are among the dead. But campaigners claim there have been hundreds of civilian victims, whose stories are seldom told.

A shy teenage boy called Saadullah is one of them. He survived a drone strike that killed three of his relatives, but he lost both legs, one eye and his hope for the future.

«I wanted to be a doctor,» he told me, «but I can’t walk to school anymore. When I see others going, I wish I could join them.»

Like Tariq, Saadullah travelled to Islamabad for last week’s jirga. Seated alongside him was Haji Zardullah, a white-bearded man who said he lost four nephews in a separate attack.

«None of these were harmful people,» he said. «Two were still in school and one was in college.»

Asghar Khan, a tribal elder in a cream turban, said three of his relatives paid with their lives for visiting a sick neighbour.

«My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008,» he said. «They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban.»
Legal challenges

Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.
A drone aircraft of the kind used by the US military The use of drone missiles has soared

«A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way,» he said. «Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target.»

Mr Akbar is suing the CIA for compensation in the Islamabad High Court, and plans to file a Supreme Court action.

He claims the US is getting away with murder in North Waziristan.

It’s a view shared by Reprieve, whose Director Clive Stafford Smith has been meeting drone victims in Pakistan.

«What’s going on here, unfortunately, is murder,» he said.

«There’s a war going on in Afghanistan, but none here in Pakistan, so what the CIA is doing here is illegal.»

The CIA would doubtless say otherwise, if it were prepared to discuss the drone programme, but US officials are usually silent on the issue.

In a rare public comment two years ago, the then director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, defended the use of drones.

«We have targeted those who are enemies of the United States,» he said. » When we use it, it is very precise and it limits collateral damage.»

But the damage is not limited enough, say opponents like Mr Stafford Smith, who is gathering evidence about civilian deaths. From a shopping bag he produced a jagged chunk of metal – a missile fragment – believed to have killed a child in Waziristan in August of last year.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the British legal charity Reprieve, holding the fragment of a missile Campaigners like Clive Stafford Smith say drones are resulting in murder

«I have a three-year-old son myself, and the idea that this thing killed someone very much like my little Wilf really tugs at your heart strings,» he said.

Mr Stafford Smith says drones are changing the nature of modern warfare.

«If you are trying to surrender and you put your hands up to a drone, what happens?» he asks.

«They just fire the missile, so there are all sorts of Geneva Conventions issues which are not being discussed.»

Campaigners also warn that drone strikes are counter-productive, generating more radicalism and more hatred of the West. They say the drone strikes are a Taliban recruiting tool.

At Tariq Khan’s funeral, many mourners spoke out against the US, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.

But Washington is unlikely to heed the anger here. Under President Barack Obama, the use of drone missiles has soared – there’s an attack on average every four days.

Increasingly, these remote-controlled killers are Washington’s weapon of choice.

3 November 2013 Last updated at 00:07 GMT

The US has responded to accusations from Pakistan that a drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud had destroyed the country's nascent peace process.

A state department official said talks with the Taliban were an internal matter for Pakistan.

The statement insisted Pakistan and the US had a "shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence".

It also said it could still not confirm that Mehsud had been killed on Friday.

Pakistan has summoned the US ambassador to protest over Friday's drone strike that killed Mehsud.


Analysis

M Ilyas Khan 
BBC News, Islamabad

Hakimullah Mehsud was killed a day before Pakistani officials say they were scheduled to send a three-member team to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a local TV news channel, Geo, that the drone strike was an attempt to "sabotage" Pakistan's peace talks with Taliban.

But many believe Mehsud's death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan.

One of these groups is headed by Khan Said Sajna, the successor of Waliur Rehman, a militant commander who favoured talks with Islamabad and once contested the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Rehman was killed in a drone strike in May.

What next for Pakistani Taliban?


The country's foreign minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said the strike on the local Taliban leader "is not just the killing of one person, it's the death of all peace efforts."





Friday, August 16, 2013

The United States was reportedly able to target an alleged al-Qaeda operative named Adnan al-Qadhi for a drone strike after U.S. allies in Yemen convinced an eight-year-old boy to place a tracking chip in the pocket of the man he considered to be his surrogate father. Shortly after the child planted the device, a U.S. drone tracked and killed al-Qadhi with a missile. He was killed last November, less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Gregory Johnsen writes about the case in his new article "Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?" published in The Atlantic.



By Sudarsan Raghavan,May 29, 2012

Aden, Yemen — Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

After recent U.S. missile strikes, mostly from unmanned aircraft, the Yemeni government and the United States have reported that the attacks killed only suspected al-Qaeda members. But civilians have also died in the attacks, said tribal leaders, victims’ relatives and human rights activists.

“These attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side,’ ” said businessman Salim al-Barakani, adding that his two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March.

Since January, as many as 21 missile attacks have targeted suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen, reflecting a sharp shift in a secret war carried out by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command that had focused on Pakistan.






When tribal elders from the remote Pakistani region of North Waziristan travelled to Islamabad last week to protest against CIA drone strikes, a teenager called Tariq Khan was among them.

A BBC team caught him on camera, sitting near the front of a tribal assembly, or jirga, listening carefully.

Four days later the 16-year-old was dead - killed by one of the drones he was protesting against.

In his final days, Tariq was living in fear, according to Neil Williams from the British legal charity, Reprieve, who met him at the Jirga.

"He was really really petrified," said Mr Williams, "and so were his friends. He didn't want to go home because of the drones. They were all scared."

Tariq carried with him the identity card of his teenage cousin, Asmar Ullah, who was killed by a drone. On Monday he shared his fate.

Tariq's family say he was hit by two missiles as he was driving near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The shy teenager, who was good with computers, was decapitated in the strike. His 12-year-old cousin Wahid was killed alongside him.

The boys were on their way to see a relative, according to Tariq's uncle, Noor Kalam, who we reached by phone.

He denied that Tariq had any link to militant groups. "We condemn this very strongly," he said. "He was just a normal boy who loved football."

The CIA's drone campaign is a covert war, conducted in remote terrain, where the facts are often in dispute.

The tribal belt is off limits to foreign journalists. Militants often seal off the locations where drone strikes take place. The truth can be buried with the dead.

After the missile strike on Monday, Pakistani officials said four suspected militants had been killed.

If the strike actually killed two young boys - as appears to be the case - it's unlikely anyone will ever be held to account.
Tariq Khan Tariq Khan's family insist that he had no militant connections (Photo: Neil Williams, Reprieve)

There are no confirmed death tolls but several independent organisations estimate that drones have killed more than 2,000 people since 2004. Most are suspected to be militants.

Many senior commanders from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are among the dead. But campaigners claim there have been hundreds of civilian victims, whose stories are seldom told.

A shy teenage boy called Saadullah is one of them. He survived a drone strike that killed three of his relatives, but he lost both legs, one eye and his hope for the future.

"I wanted to be a doctor," he told me, "but I can't walk to school anymore. When I see others going, I wish I could join them."

Like Tariq, Saadullah travelled to Islamabad for last week's jirga. Seated alongside him was Haji Zardullah, a white-bearded man who said he lost four nephews in a separate attack.

"None of these were harmful people," he said. "Two were still in school and one was in college."

Asghar Khan, a tribal elder in a cream turban, said three of his relatives paid with their lives for visiting a sick neighbour.

"My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008," he said. "They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban."
Legal challenges

Viewed from a drone, any adult male in the tribal areas can look like a target, according to Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who is taking on the CIA.
A drone aircraft of the kind used by the US military The use of drone missiles has soared

"A Taliban or non-Taliban would be dressed in the same way," he said. "Everyone has a beard, a turban and an AK-47 because every person carries a weapon in that area, so anyone could be target."

Mr Akbar is suing the CIA for compensation in the Islamabad High Court, and plans to file a Supreme Court action.

He claims the US is getting away with murder in North Waziristan.

It's a view shared by Reprieve, whose Director Clive Stafford Smith has been meeting drone victims in Pakistan.

"What's going on here, unfortunately, is murder," he said.

"There's a war going on in Afghanistan, but none here in Pakistan, so what the CIA is doing here is illegal."

The CIA would doubtless say otherwise, if it were prepared to discuss the drone programme, but US officials are usually silent on the issue.

In a rare public comment two years ago, the then director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, defended the use of drones.

"We have targeted those who are enemies of the United States," he said. " When we use it, it is very precise and it limits collateral damage."

But the damage is not limited enough, say opponents like Mr Stafford Smith, who is gathering evidence about civilian deaths. From a shopping bag he produced a jagged chunk of metal - a missile fragment - believed to have killed a child in Waziristan in August of last year.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the British legal charity Reprieve, holding the fragment of a missile Campaigners like Clive Stafford Smith say drones are resulting in murder

"I have a three-year-old son myself, and the idea that this thing killed someone very much like my little Wilf really tugs at your heart strings," he said.

Mr Stafford Smith says drones are changing the nature of modern warfare.

"If you are trying to surrender and you put your hands up to a drone, what happens?" he asks.

"They just fire the missile, so there are all sorts of Geneva Conventions issues which are not being discussed."

Campaigners also warn that drone strikes are counter-productive, generating more radicalism and more hatred of the West. They say the drone strikes are a Taliban recruiting tool.

At Tariq Khan's funeral, many mourners spoke out against the US, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.

But Washington is unlikely to heed the anger here. Under President Barack Obama, the use of drone missiles has soared - there's an attack on average every four days.

Increasingly, these remote-controlled killers are Washington's weapon of choice.

David Petraeus

The email accounts of Generals David Petraeus and John Allen aren’t the only ones being targeted by the feds. Google has released its bi-annual transparency report and says that the government’s demands for personal data is at an all-time high.

Internet giant Google published statistics from their latest analysis of requests from governments around the globe this week, and the findings show that it is hardly just the inboxes of the Pentagon’s top-brass that are being put under the microscope. Details pertaining to nearly 8,000 Google and Gmail accounts have been ordered by Uncle Sam during just the first six months of the year, and figures from the periods before suggest that things aren’t about to get any better for those wishing to protect their privacy.

“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google acknowledges in a blog post published Tuesday, November 13.

From January through June, the US government filed more than 16,000 requests for user data from Google on as many as 7,969 individual accounts, the report shows.

The Silicon Valley company notes that “The number of requests we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year after year,” but says that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the government that’s ramping up the acceleration into a full-blown surveillance state. According to Google’s take, “The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users.”

For all of those requests in the US, Google says they complied with the government’s demands 90 percent of the time; but while it seems like a high number, that figure actually constitutes the smallest success rate the feds have had since Google began tracking these numbers in 2010. In a separate report published earlier this year by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco-based advocacy group awarded Google high praise for doing more than other industry titans in terms of letting feds force them into handing over information without good reason, citing specifically their efforts — albeit unsuccessfully — in handing over user info to the Justice Department during the start of its ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks.

Of the 20,938 user data request sent from governments around the globe, the United States came in first with the number of demands at 7,969, with India at a distant second with 2,319 requests. The US government’s success rate in terms of getting that information trumps most every other country, however, with full or partial compliance on the part of Google rarely exceeding 70 percent.

Elsewhere in the report, Google says it’s more than just surveillance of individual users that is on the rise. The US has also been adamant with censoring the Web, writing Google five times between January and June to take down YouTube videos critical of government, law enforcement or public officials. In regards to the five pleas to delete seven offending videos, Google says, “We did not remove content in response to these requests.”

The company was more willing to side with authorities in other cases, though, admitting to taking down 1,664 posts from a Google Groups community after a court order asked for the removal of 1,754 on the basis of “a case of continuous defamation against a man and his family.” Google also followed through with around one-third of the requests to remove search results that linked to websites that allegedly defamed organizations and individuals (223 of the 641 pleas) and say “the number of content removal requests we received increased by 46% compared to the previous reporting period.”

According to the report, Google only received one request from the US government to remove a video from YouTube on the grounds of ensuring “national security” but does not disclose the results of that plea. No further information is available in the report as to what the government demanded removed, but in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi originally blamed by many on an anti-Islamic video clip linked to a California man, Google rejected demands from the US to delete the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ from YouTube.

That isn’t to say that Washington is responsible for the bulk of the demands that end up on the desks of Google’s administrators. The report notes Google has received requests to remove search results that link to sites that host alleged copyright-infringing content more than 8 million times in just the last month, with more than 32,000 websites being singled out by the materials’ respective owners. Taking into account the last year and a half, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — the largest trade-group representing the US music industry — asked Google to stop linking to roughly 4.5 million URLs that they say hosted illegal content.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments to decide whether or not a case can go forth that will challenge the FISA Amendment Act of 2008, an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the government to eavesdrop on emails sent as long as one of the persons involved is suspected of being out of the country. When asked earlier in the year to give an estimate of how many Americans have their electronic communications wiretapped by the National Security Administration, the inspector general of the NSA declined to issue a response, even to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to statements made by NSA whistleblower Bill Binney at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York this year, the US government is “pulling together all the data about virtually every US citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you’re doing.»


US President Barack Obama has backed a senior general, despite reports that he exchanged «flirtatious» emails with Florida socialite Jill Kelley.

Spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama had «faith» in Gen John Allen, chosen to be the next Nato commander in Europe.

Harassment allegations by Mrs Kelley helped unmask an affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell.

Gen Petraeus resigned on Friday. Gen Allen says he has done nothing wrong.

«I can tell you that the president thinks very highly of Gen Allen and his service to his country, as well as the job he has done in Afghanistan,» spokesman Jay Carney said, in the first White House reaction since Gen Petraeus quit.

He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them”

He added that President Barack Obama was «very happy» with Gen Allen’s service and record.

Mr Carney also asked reporters «not to extrapolate too broadly» about whether the cases involving Gen Petraeus and Gen Allen suggested a wider cultural problem within the US military.

«He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them,» Mr Carney added.

Nomination on hold

The Pentagon says 20-30,000 pages of Gen Allen’s documents are being examined, with officials saying they contain «potentially inappropriate» emails between the general and Mrs Kelley over the past two years.

An anonymous senior US official who has read the emails told the Associated Press that the exchanges were relatively innocuous, even though they might be construed as unprofessional and flirty.

The official said the emails included pet names such as «sweetheart» and «dear», but did not suggest an affair or the exchange of classified information.

Gen Allen, 58, took over command of coalition forces in Afghanistan after David Petraeus moved to the CIA in 2011.

Currently commanding 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Gen Allen was due to face a confirmation hearing in the US Senate on Thursday for his new role as supreme commander of Nato forces in Europe.

That hearing has now been suspended at the request of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.


Michael Hastings, the journalist behind the Rolling Stone article which resulted in McChrystal’s ouster, recently wrote for Buzzfeed that spin was crucial to the Iraqi surge: “he [Petraeus] pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.”

Hastings characterized the policy as playing both sides in a civil war,
a policy which resulted in the death of 800 American soldiers and exponentially more Iraqis.

The sectarian fault lines resulting from this policy have left Iraq a powder keg waiting to go off. But it doesn’t matter as far as the target audience is concerned.

Quoting Petraeus’ 1987 Princeton dissertation, Hastings summed up the general’s professional philosophy:

«What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.»

In that light, the fall of Petraeus coincides with the one tragedy he managed where the perception and what actually occurred intersected: Benghazi.

During the Vice Presidential Debate in October, Joe Biden was accused of throwing the CIA under the bus by insinuating the agency had provided faulty intelligence regarding the 9/11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his diplomatic mission.

The defrocking of Petraeus came one step closer on November 1, when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton called Petraeus the night of the attack asking for help that never came. While the “State Department believed it had a formal agreement with the CIA to provide backup security,»»the CIA didn’t have the same understanding about its security responsibilities,» the Wall Street Journal reported.

The writing was on the wall. Petraeus was set to testify in closed-door sessions before the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, and with the White House’s less than glowing review of his performance, he would have had a venue to vindicate himself.

That “one of the greatest generals in a generation” resigned five days before speaking out has only spurred speculation that he is a patsy for a White House cover-up. His resignation coincidentally came a mere three days after Obama was re-elected, raising speculation regarding the timing of the general’s less than fortunate affair.

And misery loves company, as the current head of ISAF forces in Afghanistan might soon learn.
The nomination of US General John Allen as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was suspended over the probe into CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen was accused of exchanging “inappropriate” emails with a woman linked to Petraeus, though defense officials say the investigation will exonerate him.

There is no definite answer as to why Petraeus was exposed when he was, or who might go down with him. It might have simply been bad timing. Maybe Petraeus would have taken the hit for Benghazi and stayed on like a good soldier. Whatever the case, a few questions must be asked:

  • How long did the White House know about the affair?
  • Did the Obama Administration ask the FBI to suppress information regarding the case until after Election Day and if so, why?

­

Live by the media, die by the media

­The final cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan (and by extension Pakistan) could run as high as $4.4 trillion when it is all said and done. There have been over 3000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan and 4,486 US troop deaths in Iraq. Civilian casualties run into the six digits. But affairs, off-color comments in Music magazines and being more interested in the war one is prosecuting than “fawning” over visiting lawmakers and the Washington elite are the sins that end military careers.


The White House said Tuesday that it was «up to Congress» whether to call former CIA Director David Petraeus to testify about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

«Congress [makes] decisions about who is called to testify,» press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

The Intelligence Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives had been set to hear from Petraeus about the attack on the American compound in separate closed-door hearings on Thursday. But aides to both panels indicated that the retired Army general would be replaced by Mike Morrell, the acting CIA director.

«The president is confident that Acting Director Morrell is fully informed and capable of representing the CIA in a hearing about the incidents in Benghazi,» Carney said.

Still, key senators have made it clear that Petraeus, whose shocking resignation came after the public disclosure of an extramarital affair, will ultimately need to be heard. The attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, told MSNBC on Monday that her panel «should go ahead with Mike Morell and the way it is now set up.»

«But I also think that the community should know that this is not sufficient,» she continued. «And I have no doubt now that we will need to talk with David Petraeus. And we will likely do that in closed session, but it will be done one way or the other.» Feinstein also said the Senate would fight, if necessary, to obtain a report from a Petraeus trip to Libya in late October.
«We have asked to see the trip report. One person tells me he has read it, and then we tried to get it and they tell me it hasn’t been done. That’s unacceptable,» she said. «We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena, we will do just that.»


How a cyber-harassment complaint triggered a dragnet that toppled a CIA director

By

It’s hard to stay focused on what really matters in the unfolding David Petraeus story, but there’s one issue that every juicy new tidbit only underscores: the way a strange complaint to a lone FBI agent led to an electronic dragnet that toppled the CIA director and may yet bring down the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

I’ll admit to rubbernecking at each crazy new detail that emerges – the unnamed FBI agent who trigged the Petraeus probe had earlier sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley, the woman who asked for his help with anonymous harassing emails? Petraeus and Allen intervened in a child custody case on behalf of Kelley’s sister? Kelley, who is of Lebanese Catholic descent, is “a self-appointed go between” with Lebanese and other Mideastern officials? She once cooked alligator on the Food Network?
But the real scandal is the way a complaint about cyber-stalking from a Tampa socialite unleashed the power of the modern surveillance state on Petraeus’ biographer and paramour, Paula Broadwell – and ultimately, ironically or not, on the top spook himself.

Defenders of the surveillance state may point to national security questions about whether Petraeus was a victim of some kind of cyber-attack as a justification for the intrusion into Broadwell’s privacy, and then Petraeus’, and then the complaining Jill Kelley herself, and then Gen. John Allen. And who knows, by the end, maybe they’ll get to the bottom of something that might arguably raise national security concerns. (Marcy Wheeler raises the possibility that Kelley herself had intelligence ties, which might help explain why the FBI took her cyberstalking complaint seriously.) But none of that seems to have been on the table when the FBI decided to open its investigation of Kelley’s complaint.

The fact that Kelley’s FBI acquaintance eventually went to House Majority Whip Eric Cantor when he felt the FBI wasn’t taking the investigation seriously enough just adds another layer of grime to the story. The New York Times reported that the agent “suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama.” Cantor admits he took the “whistleblower’s” concerns to FBI director Robert Mueller – as though Mueller wouldn’t know of his own agency’s investigation – just 10 days before the Nov. 6 election. While we can’t be sure Cantor’s motives were political – perhaps an embarrassing White House secret could become an October surprise? – we can’t be sure they weren’t.

So far there’s no evidence that politics drove the Petraeus investigation, from either direction, but the fact that politics was involved should remind us how easily the surveillance state can be used to advance political agendas or settle political scores. Just today Google revealed that it has received more than 16,000 U.S. government requests for user data in the first six months of this year alone (it complies with about 90 percent of requests, the report said.)


The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and now threatens to tarnish the reputation of the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans.


FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning – «Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics» – illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it’s only adultery that causes «concern» over their «ethics»). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley – a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) – received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:

«The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like ‘stay away from my man’, a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .
«‘More like, ‘Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'» according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.
«The source reports that the emails did make one reference to Gen. David Petraeus, but it was oblique and offered no manifest suggestion of a personal relationship or even that he was central to the sender’s spite. . . .
«When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted the absence of any overt threats.
«No, ‘I’ll kill you’ or ‘I’ll burn your house down,» the source says. ‘It doesn’t seem really that bad.’
«The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.
«‘What does this mean? There’s no threat there. This is against the law?’ the agents asked themselves by the source’s account.
«At most the messages were harassing. The cyber squad had to consult the statute books in its effort to determine whether there was adequate legal cause to open a case.
«‘It was a close call,’ the source says.
«What tipped it may have been Kelley’s friendship with the agent.»

That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent «was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he was personally involved in the case» – indeed, «supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter» – and was found to have «allegedly sent shirtless photos» to Kelley, and «is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI».

[The New York Times this morning reports that the FBI claims the emails contained references to parts of Petraeus’ schedule that were not publicly disclosed, though as Marcy Wheeler documents, the way the investigation proceeded strongly suggests that at least the initial impetus behind it was a desire to settle personal scores.]

What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI’s investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime – or the need for any search warrant:

«Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques – including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address – to identify who was writing the e-mails.
«Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus’s account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.»

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell’s physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime – at most, they had a case of «cyber-harassment» more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people – and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.
But that isn’t all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered «alleged inappropriate communication» to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now «on hold»). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

«The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications – mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 – between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .
«Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: ‘We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'»

So not only did the FBI – again, all without any real evidence of a crime – trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.


Since 2008, the NSA has had the legal power to intercept all phone calls, emails and text messages sent by American citizens without probable cause. However, although long suspected, the agency has never admitted that it is analyzing the content of such messages, conceding only that persons, dates and locations are part of the snooping process. However, in a recent sworn declaration to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Binney, a former NSA employee with the signals intelligence agency within the DoD, divulges that the federal agency, has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Using as many as twenty data intercept centers throughout the United States which can each store an almost unimaginable quantity of information, Binney notes that, The sheer size of that capacity indicates that the NSA is not filtering personal electronic communications such as email before storage but is, in fact, storing all that they are collecting.

http://www.infowars.com/whistleblower-nsa-analyzing-conversations-in-real-time/


The dramatic downfall of CIA chief David Petraeus has given rise to political intrigue in Washington as a drip-feed of details concerning his clandestine affair mixes with serious questions over the timing of the resignation.

Over the weekend it emerged that his relationship with biographer Paula Broadwell was discovered by FBI agents while they investigated harassing emails she allegedly sent to a second woman, who was named on Sunday by the Associated Press as Jill Kelley, a state department military liaison.

The scandal comes at a particularly sensitive time. Petraeus had been due to give evidence before a Congressional body this coming Thursday concerning the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed, including America’s ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

It is now thought that Petraeus will not attend the session, robbing politicians of the opportunity to question an «absolutely necessary witness», according to Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee.

White House and intelligence officials have suggested that there is no connection between the timing of Petraeus’s resignation and the evidence session on the Benghazi attack.

But in Washington, questions are being asked as to why the FBI appeared to have sat on the information it uncovered regarding the affair before handing it on to other authorities some time later.

Intelligence officials have suggested that Petraeus was first questioned over the nature of his relationship with Broadwell two weeks ago.

But it was only on the night of the presidential election that national intelligence director James Clapper was notified of the affair. It is thought that Clapper then advised the CIA chief to resign.

Even then, it was not until the next day that the White House was informed of the situation. It then took a further day before newly re-elected President Barack Obama was told that his intelligence chief was to tender his resignation.

Meanwhile, the Senate intelligence committee only heard about the matter on Friday, just hours before the CIA director announced he was to step down.

Further confusing the timeline of events were reports on Sunday that leading House Republican Eric Cantor had been informed by an FBI whistleblower of the brewing Petraeus scandal two weeks ago.

If true, it would raise the prospect that the affair was known in Washington circles before Friday’s resignation.

House Republican King said on Sunday that the account of who knew what and when «doesn’t add up», saying that there were a lot of unanswered questions.

The FBI had an «obligation» to tell the president as soon as they had identified a possible security breach, he told CNN’s State of the Union.

Meanwhile, other politicians said that Petraeus may still be compelled to give evidence concerning the 11 September attack in Benghazi.

«We may well ask him,» senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Sunday.

Congress is keen to question the former four-star general over what the CIA knew in advance of the assault, and importantly, what it had told the White House in regards to the nature of the terrorist threat.

In the run-up to last week’s election, senior Republicans accused the White House of misleading Americans over claims that it was not made aware of requests to bolster security in advance of the assault.

It is on this point that Petraeus was expected to be questioned at Thursday’s Congressional hearing. Following his resignation, it is thought that his former deputy, Michael Morell, will testify before Washington in his place as acting director of the CIA.

Morell is slated to meet with Congressional figures on Wednesday to discuss the Petraeus affair in a bid to curtail lingering suspicions over the timing of the resignation.

The political fallout from Friday’s resignation comes amid a personal crisis for a man often referred to as the leading American military mind of his generation.

In the days following his announcement to step down, a steady flow of leaks to the US media have given more detail to the affair that cost Petraeus his job.

The makings of his downfall were in a series of apparently vicious emails sent by his lover – a 40-year-old former army reservist who co-authored All In, a fawning biography of the CIA chief – to Kelley, a state department liaison to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command.

It is thought that the threatening nature of the missives led the Florida-based recipient to seek the protection of the FBI.

An investigation of Broadwell’s personal email account uncovered letters of an explicit nature between her and Petraeus, who has been married for the past 38 years to his wife Holly.

It was then that agents approached the CIA chief directly. Having eliminated the threat of a security breach, it was decided that no further action would be taken by the FBI.

But the damage to Petraeus’s reputation was clear, and having consulted with Clapper, the decision to resign was made.

In a letter to staff explaining his move, the now outgoing CIA boss said: «Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours.»

Others close to Petraeus had an even more blunt assessment of the scandal. «He screwed up, he knows he screwed up,» said Steve Boylan, a retired army officer and Petraeus’s former spokesman.


Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting an extramarital relationship, could possibly face military prosecution for adultery if officials turn up any evidence to counter his apparent claims that the affair began after he left the military.

The affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, both of whom are married, began several months after his retirement from the Army in August 2011 and ended four months ago, retired U.S. Army Col. Steve Boylan, a former Petraeus spokesman, told ABC News.

Broadwell, 40, had extraordinary access to the 60-year-old general during six trips she took to Afghanistan as his official biographer, a plum assignment for a novice writer.

«For him to allow the very first biography to be written about him, to be written by someone who had never written a book before, seemed very odd to me,» former Petraeus aide Peter Mansoor told ABC News.

The timeline of the relationship, according to Patraeus, would mean that he was carrying on the affair for the majority of his tenure at the CIA, where he began as director Sept. 6, 2011. If he carried on the affair while serving in the Army, however, Patraeus could face charges, according to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which reprimands conduct «of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.»
Whether the military would pursue such action, whatever evidence it accumulates, is unclear.

As the details of the investigation launched by the FBI unraveled this weekend, it became clear that the woman at the heart of the inquiry that led to Petraeus’ downfall had been identified as Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who volunteers to help the military. She is a family friend of Petraeus, who Broadwell apparently felt threatened by.

Kelley and her husband are longtime supporters of the military, and six months ago she was named «Honorary Ambassador to Central Command» for her volunteer work with the military. Officials say Kelley is not romantically linked to Petraeus, but befriended the general and his wife when he was stationed in Florida.

The Kelleys spent Christmases in group settings with the Petraeuses and visited them in Washington D.C., where Kelley’s sister and her son live.

«We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years.» Kelley said in a statement Sunday. «We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children.»
Earlier this year, around the time that Petraeus and Broadwell were breaking off their affair, Kelly began receiving anonymous emails, which she found so threatening she went to authorities. The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell’s computer, where they found other salacious and explicit emails between Broadwell and Petraeus that made it clear to officials that the two were carrying on an affair.

Investigators uncovered no compromising of classified information or criminal activity, sources familiar with the probe said, adding that all that was found was a lot of «human drama.»

Broadwell, a married mother of two, had access to Petraeus while she was with him in Afghanistan as his official biographer. People close to the general had previously suspected Broadwell’s feelings for him had crossed a professional line.

They found Broadwell, who spent a year embedded with Petraeus in Afghanistan, to be embarrassing and far too «gushy» about him. They said to one another they thought Broadwell «was in love with him,» sources told ABC News.

Petraeus is said to have been the one to have broken off the extramarital affair.

His storied career, first as the public face of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later as director of the CIA, came crashing down Friday when he announced his resignation from the intelligence agency, citing the indiscretion.

«After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,» Petraeus said in a statement Friday.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was made aware of the Petraeus situation Tuesday evening around 5 p.m. by the FBI, according to a senior intelligence source.

After having several conversations with Petraeus that evening and the next day, Clapper advised Petraeus that the best thing to do would be for him to resign, the source said.

Clapper notified the White House the next afternoon that Petraeus was considering resigning, according to the source. Petraeus then went to the White House Thursday and told the president he thought he should resign, and Obama accepted his resignation the next day, the source said.

Despite the lengthy investigation into Broadwell by the FBI, the White House says it was not made aware of it until Wednesday, the day after the election, a revelation that surprised many.

«It just doesn’t add up. That the FBI would be carrying on this type of investigation without, again, bringing it to the president or the highest levels of the White House,» Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

Petraeus and his wife, Holly, who have been married for 38 years, are said to be staying in their Arlington Home and are doing «OK.»

«Knowing the family, I suspect it will be hard work, but given the effort, they will get through it,» Boylan, the former Petraeus spokesman, said.

Numerous questions still remain about the investigation, and some on Capitol Hill are also frustrated because Petraeus was schedule to testify to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

The timing of Petraeus’ resignation «was what it was,» an official told ABC News, adding that the time had come to tie up any loose ends in the investigation and confront the general.


One of America’s best known military leaders, and CIA head David Petraeus, has abruptly announced his resignation. Stepping down, Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair, saying he was guilty of «unacceptable» behavior. Ex-military intelligence officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Shaffer told RT there’s more behind the resignation than just moral issues.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – David Petraeus was a star on the battlefield, commanding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but was undone by «poor judgment» in engaging in an extramarital affair that led to his downfall as CIA director.

Petraeus, who was widely celebrated as a military commander and even occasionally mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, was sworn in as head of the CIA in September 2011 – and had kept a low profile since. Now speculation is sure to proliferate over whether that low profile resulted from Petraeus focusing on America’s intelligence gathering or on personal matters.

In particular, members of Congress and other officials demanding answers about the Benghazi attack on the US consulate that resulted in the deaths of four Americans – including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens, and two CIA agents – will want to know if there was any link between Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance on the night of the Benghazi attack.

More broadly, the reason for Petraeus’s departure will raise questions about any compromising of US covert operations and intelligence. The potential for blackmail of intelligence officers is always a concern about the spy corps, but the involvement of the nation’s top spy in an extramarital affair takes the concern to a new level.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been probing Petraeus and the potential security risks posed by his affair, CNN reported late Friday afternoon.

In the weeks since the Benghazi attack, officials have leaked information, including how Petraeus kept information on the CIA’s role in Benghazi so private that even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was left to call Petraeus as the attack unfolded to try to get intelligence information from him.

Last week, CIA officials revealed that in fact, the intelligence agency’s operations in Benghazi dwarfed diplomatic operations at the consulate and that the CIA maintained what was described as an “annex,” about a mile from the diplomatic mission.

State Department officials have said there was an informal understanding that the annex and its agents would come to the assistance of the consulate (which had private contractors providing security) if a need arose. CIA officials insist their agents responded to the consulate’s distress calls within a half-hour.

Just two days after his 60th birthday, Petraeus stepped down from the spy agency where he had held the top office since September 6, 2011.

«After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation,» Petraeus told the shadow warriors he commanded at CIA.

It was a stunning downfall for a revered military man who was seen as one of the top American leaders of his generation and was once considered a potential contender for the White House.

Petraeus was credited with pulling Iraq from the brink of all-out civil war and for battlefield successes in Afghanistan after overseeing a surge of 30,000 troops ordered by President Barack Obama in late 2009. He became known for counter-insurgency strategies that were seen as gaining ground against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

«I don’t think he was professionally overrated. His were genuine accomplishments,» said James Carafano, a war historian with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

At the time of his nomination to the CIA post, some Washington insiders had said the White House wanted to find a prominent position for Petraeus to ensure he would not be recruited by Republicans as a challenger to the 2012 Obama-Biden ticket.

When he was nominated to lead the CIA there were some concerns in intelligence circles that the high-profile four-star Army general might not be able to lead from the shadows as appropriate for a spy chief.

But once he took over the head office at the U.S. spy agency, Petraeus kept a decidedly low public profile.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, expressed regret about the resignation of «one of America’s best and brightest» and said it was an «enormous loss» for the country.
«At CIA, Director Petraeus gave the agency leadership, stature, prestige and credibility both at home and abroad. On a personal level, I found his command of intelligence issues second to none,» she said.

RESIGNATION ACCEPTED

After accepting his resignation about a year-and-a-half after nominating Petraeus to the CIA post, Obama said: «By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end.»

Earlier this week, in a Newsweek article entitled «General David Petraeus’s Rules for Living,» he listed 12 lessons for leadership. Number 5 was: «We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors – drive on and avoid making them again.»

In 2010 Petraeus stepped into the breach as the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to replace General Stanley McChrystal who was fired by Obama in a scandal over an article in which McChrystal and his aides made mocking comments about the president and some of his top advisers.

In 2009 Petraeus was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment. The media-friendly general joked at that time at a Washington event that reporters were only gathered «to see if the guy is still alive.»

Petraeus, born in Cornwall, New York, lives in Virginia with his wife Holly. They have two grown children, a son who was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, and a daughter.

Petraeus’s wife, Holly, is an activist and volunteer who champions military families, and she continued that work after her husband retired from the military and moved to the CIA.

She currently is assistant director of the office of servicemember affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she tries to keep unscrupulous lenders from taking advantage of military personnel. The bureau was championed by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts this week.

Holly Petraeus is the daughter of four-star General William Knowlton, who was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when Petraeus was a cadet.

She briefed the press at the Pentagon on her efforts recently and was introduced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called her «a true friend of the Department of Defense and a dedicated member of our military family.»

Petraeus has four Defense Distinguished Service Medal awards, three Distinguished Service Medal awards, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, and the State Department Distinguished Service Award.

He has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Matt Spetalnick and Diane Bartz; Editing by Warren Strobel and Jackie Frank)

The email accounts of Generals David Petraeus and John Allen aren’t the only ones being targeted by the feds. Google has released its bi-annual transparency report and says that the government's demands for personal data is at an all-time high.



Internet giant Google published statistics from their latest analysis of requests from governments around the globe this week, and the findings show that it is hardly just the inboxes of the Pentagon’s top-brass that are being put under the microscope. Details pertaining to nearly 8,000 Google and Gmail accounts have been ordered by Uncle Sam during just the first six months of the year, and figures from the periods before suggest that things aren’t about to get any better for those wishing to protect their privacy.

“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google acknowledges in a blog post published Tuesday, November 13.

From January through June, the US government filed more than 16,000 requests for user data from Google on as many as 7,969 individual accounts, the report shows.

The Silicon Valley company notes that “The number of requests we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year after year,” but says that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the government that’s ramping up the acceleration into a full-blown surveillance state. According to Google’s take, “The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users.”

For all of those requests in the US, Google says they complied with the government’s demands 90 percent of the time; but while it seems like a high number, that figure actually constitutes the smallest success rate the feds have had since Google began tracking these numbers in 2010. In a separate report published earlier this year by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco-based advocacy group awarded Google high praise for doing more than other industry titans in terms of letting feds force them into handing over information without good reason, citing specifically their efforts — albeit unsuccessfully — in handing over user info to the Justice Department during the start of its ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks.

Of the 20,938 user data request sent from governments around the globe, the United States came in first with the number of demands at 7,969, with India at a distant second with 2,319 requests. The US government’s success rate in terms of getting that information trumps most every other country, however, with full or partial compliance on the part of Google rarely exceeding 70 percent.

Elsewhere in the report, Google says it’s more than just surveillance of individual users that is on the rise. The US has also been adamant with censoring the Web, writing Google five times between January and June to take down YouTube videos critical of government, law enforcement or public officials. In regards to the five pleas to delete seven offending videos, Google says, “We did not remove content in response to these requests.”

The company was more willing to side with authorities in other cases, though, admitting to taking down 1,664 posts from a Google Groups community after a court order asked for the removal of 1,754 on the basis of “a case of continuous defamation against a man and his family.” Google also followed through with around one-third of the requests to remove search results that linked to websites that allegedly defamed organizations and individuals (223 of the 641 pleas) and say “the number of content removal requests we received increased by 46% compared to the previous reporting period.”

According to the report, Google only received one request from the US government to remove a video from YouTube on the grounds of ensuring “national security” but does not disclose the results of that plea. No further information is available in the report as to what the government demanded removed, but in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi originally blamed by many on an anti-Islamic video clip linked to a California man, Google rejected demands from the US to delete the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ from YouTube.

That isn’t to say that Washington is responsible for the bulk of the demands that end up on the desks of Google’s administrators. The report notes Google has received requests to remove search results that link to sites that host alleged copyright-infringing content more than 8 million times in just the last month, with more than 32,000 websites being singled out by the materials’ respective owners. Taking into account the last year and a half, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — the largest trade-group representing the US music industry — asked Google to stop linking to roughly 4.5 million URLs that they say hosted illegal content.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments to decide whether or not a case can go forth that will challenge the FISA Amendment Act of 2008, an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the government to eavesdrop on emails sent as long as one of the persons involved is suspected of being out of the country. When asked earlier in the year to give an estimate of how many Americans have their electronic communications wiretapped by the National Security Administration, the inspector general of the NSA declined to issue a response, even to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to statements made by NSA whistleblower Bill Binney at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York this year, the US government is “pulling together all the data about virtually every US citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing."



US President Barack Obama has backed a senior general, despite reports that he exchanged "flirtatious" emails with Florida socialite Jill Kelley.

Spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama had "faith" in Gen John Allen, chosen to be the next Nato commander in Europe.

Harassment allegations by Mrs Kelley helped unmask an affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell.

Gen Petraeus resigned on Friday. Gen Allen says he has done nothing wrong.

"I can tell you that the president thinks very highly of Gen Allen and his service to his country, as well as the job he has done in Afghanistan," spokesman Jay Carney said, in the first White House reaction since Gen Petraeus quit.

He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them”

He added that President Barack Obama was "very happy" with Gen Allen's service and record.

Mr Carney also asked reporters "not to extrapolate too broadly" about whether the cases involving Gen Petraeus and Gen Allen suggested a wider cultural problem within the US military.

"He has great confidence in the acting CIA director, the secretary of defence and the defence department to carry out the missions he has asked of them," Mr Carney added.

Nomination on hold

The Pentagon says 20-30,000 pages of Gen Allen's documents are being examined, with officials saying they contain "potentially inappropriate" emails between the general and Mrs Kelley over the past two years.

An anonymous senior US official who has read the emails told the Associated Press that the exchanges were relatively innocuous, even though they might be construed as unprofessional and flirty.

The official said the emails included pet names such as "sweetheart" and "dear", but did not suggest an affair or the exchange of classified information.

Gen Allen, 58, took over command of coalition forces in Afghanistan after David Petraeus moved to the CIA in 2011.

Currently commanding 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Gen Allen was due to face a confirmation hearing in the US Senate on Thursday for his new role as supreme commander of Nato forces in Europe.

That hearing has now been suspended at the request of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.




Michael Hastings, the journalist behind the Rolling Stone article which resulted in McChrystal’s ouster, recently wrote for Buzzfeed that spin was crucial to the Iraqi surge: “he [Petraeus] pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.”

Hastings characterized the policy as playing both sides in a civil war,
a policy which resulted in the death of 800 American soldiers and exponentially more Iraqis.

The sectarian fault lines resulting from this policy have left Iraq a powder keg waiting to go off. But it doesn’t matter as far as the target audience is concerned.

Quoting Petraeus’ 1987 Princeton dissertation, Hastings summed up the general’s professional philosophy:
"What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred."
In that light, the fall of Petraeus coincides with the one tragedy he managed where the perception and what actually occurred intersected: Benghazi.


During the Vice Presidential Debate in October, Joe Biden was accused of throwing the CIA under the bus by insinuating the agency had provided faulty intelligence regarding the 9/11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his diplomatic mission.

The defrocking of Petraeus came one step closer on November 1, when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton called Petraeus the night of the attack asking for help that never came. While the “State Department believed it had a formal agreement with the CIA to provide backup security,""the CIA didn't have the same understanding about its security responsibilities," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The writing was on the wall. Petraeus was set to testify in closed-door sessions before the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, and with the White House’s less than glowing review of his performance, he would have had a venue to vindicate himself.

That “one of the greatest generals in a generation” resigned five days before speaking out has only spurred speculation that he is a patsy for a White House cover-up. His resignation coincidentally came a mere three days after Obama was re-elected, raising speculation regarding the timing of the general’s less than fortunate affair.


And misery loves company, as the current head of ISAF forces in Afghanistan might soon learn.
The nomination of US General John Allen as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was suspended over the probe into CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen was accused of exchanging “inappropriate” emails with a woman linked to Petraeus, though defense officials say the investigation will exonerate him.

There is no definite answer as to why Petraeus was exposed when he was, or who might go down with him. It might have simply been bad timing. Maybe Petraeus would have taken the hit for Benghazi and stayed on like a good soldier. Whatever the case, a few questions must be asked:

  • How long did the White House know about the affair?
  • Did the Obama Administration ask the FBI to suppress information regarding the case until after Election Day and if so, why?

­

Live by the media, die by the media


­The final cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan (and by extension Pakistan) could run as high as $4.4 trillion when it is all said and done. There have been over 3000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan and 4,486 US troop deaths in Iraq. Civilian casualties run into the six digits. But affairs, off-color comments in Music magazines and being more interested in the war one is prosecuting than “fawning” over visiting lawmakers and the Washington elite are the sins that end military careers.



The White House said Tuesday that it was "up to Congress" whether to call former CIA Director David Petraeus to testify about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

"Congress [makes] decisions about who is called to testify," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.


The Intelligence Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives had been set to hear from Petraeus about the attack on the American compound in separate closed-door hearings on Thursday. But aides to both panels indicated that the retired Army general would be replaced by Mike Morrell, the acting CIA director.

"The president is confident that Acting Director Morrell is fully informed and capable of representing the CIA in a hearing about the incidents in Benghazi," Carney said.
Still, key senators have made it clear that Petraeus, whose shocking resignation came after the public disclosure of an extramarital affair, will ultimately need to be heard. The attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, told MSNBC on Monday that her panel "should go ahead with Mike Morell and the way it is now set up."

"But I also think that the community should know that this is not sufficient," she continued. "And I have no doubt now that we will need to talk with David Petraeus. And we will likely do that in closed session, but it will be done one way or the other." Feinstein also said the Senate would fight, if necessary, to obtain a report from a Petraeus trip to Libya in late October.
"We have asked to see the trip report. One person tells me he has read it, and then we tried to get it and they tell me it hasn't been done. That's unacceptable," she said. "We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena, we will do just that."



How a cyber-harassment complaint triggered a dragnet that toppled a CIA director



It’s hard to stay focused on what really matters in the unfolding David Petraeus story, but there’s one issue that every juicy new tidbit only underscores: the way a strange complaint to a lone FBI agent led to an electronic dragnet that toppled the CIA director and may yet bring down the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

I’ll admit to rubbernecking at each crazy new detail that emerges – the unnamed FBI agent who trigged the Petraeus probe had earlier sent shirtless photos of himself to Jill Kelley, the woman who asked for his help with anonymous harassing emails? Petraeus and Allen intervened in a child custody case on behalf of Kelley’s sister? Kelley, who is of Lebanese Catholic descent, is “a self-appointed go between” with Lebanese and other Mideastern officials? She once cooked alligator on the Food Network?
But the real scandal is the way a complaint about cyber-stalking from a Tampa socialite unleashed the power of the modern surveillance state on Petraeus’ biographer and paramour, Paula Broadwell – and ultimately, ironically or not, on the top spook himself.


Defenders of the surveillance state may point to national security questions about whether Petraeus was a victim of some kind of cyber-attack as a justification for the intrusion into Broadwell’s privacy, and then Petraeus’, and then the complaining Jill Kelley herself, and then Gen. John Allen. And who knows, by the end, maybe they’ll get to the bottom of something that might arguably raise national security concerns. (Marcy Wheeler raises the possibility that Kelley herself had intelligence ties, which might help explain why the FBI took her cyberstalking complaint seriously.) But none of that seems to have been on the table when the FBI decided to open its investigation of Kelley’s complaint.

The fact that Kelley’s FBI acquaintance eventually went to House Majority Whip Eric Cantor when he felt the FBI wasn’t taking the investigation seriously enough just adds another layer of grime to the story. The New York Times reported that the agent “suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama.” Cantor admits he took the “whistleblower’s” concerns to FBI director Robert Mueller – as though Mueller wouldn’t know of his own agency’s investigation – just 10 days before the Nov. 6 election. While we can’t be sure Cantor’s motives were political – perhaps an embarrassing White House secret could become an October surprise? – we can’t be sure they weren’t.

So far there’s no evidence that politics drove the Petraeus investigation, from either direction, but the fact that politics was involved should remind us how easily the surveillance state can be used to advance political agendas or settle political scores. Just today Google revealed that it has received more than 16,000 U.S. government requests for user data in the first six months of this year alone (it complies with about 90 percent of requests, the report said.)





The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and now threatens to tarnish the reputation of the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans.





FBI's abuse of the surveillance state



The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning - "Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers' Ethics" - illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it's only adultery that causes "concern" over their "ethics"). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:
"The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like 'stay away from my man', a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .
"'More like, 'Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'" according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.
"The source reports that the emails did make one reference to Gen. David Petraeus, but it was oblique and offered no manifest suggestion of a personal relationship or even that he was central to the sender's spite. . . .
"When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted the absence of any overt threats.
"No, 'I'll kill you' or 'I'll burn your house down,'' the source says. 'It doesn't seem really that bad.'
"The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.
"'What does this mean? There's no threat there. This is against the law?' the agents asked themselves by the source's account.
"At most the messages were harassing. The cyber squad had to consult the statute books in its effort to determine whether there was adequate legal cause to open a case.
"'It was a close call,' the source says.
"What tipped it may have been Kelley's friendship with the agent."
That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent "was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors' concerns that he was personally involved in the case" - indeed, "supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter" - and was found to have "allegedly sent shirtless photos" to Kelley, and "is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI".

[The New York Times this morning reports that the FBI claims the emails contained references to parts of Petraeus' schedule that were not publicly disclosed, though as Marcy Wheeler documents, the way the investigation proceeded strongly suggests that at least the initial impetus behind it was a desire to settle personal scores.]

What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI's investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime - or the need for any search warrant:
"Because the sender's account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques - including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address - to identify who was writing the e-mails.
"Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus's account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages."
So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime - at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people - and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.
But that isn't all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered "alleged inappropriate communication" to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now "on hold"). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

"The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications - mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 - between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .
"Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: 'We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'"
So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell's emails (and possibly Petraeus'), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.





Since 2008, the NSA has had the legal power to intercept all phone calls, emails and text messages sent by American citizens without probable cause. However, although long suspected, the agency has never admitted that it is analyzing the content of such messages, conceding only that persons, dates and locations are part of the snooping process. However, in a recent sworn declaration to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Binney, a former NSA employee with the signals intelligence agency within the DoD, divulges that the federal agency, has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Using as many as twenty data intercept centers throughout the United States which can each store an almost unimaginable quantity of information, Binney notes that, The sheer size of that capacity indicates that the NSA is not filtering personal electronic communications such as email before storage but is, in fact, storing all that they are collecting.

http://www.infowars.com/whistleblower-nsa-analyzing-conversations-in-real-time/




The dramatic downfall of CIA chief David Petraeus has given rise to political intrigue in Washington as a drip-feed of details concerning his clandestine affair mixes with serious questions over the timing of the resignation.

Over the weekend it emerged that his relationship with biographer Paula Broadwell was discovered by FBI agents while they investigated harassing emails she allegedly sent to a second woman, who was named on Sunday by the Associated Press as Jill Kelley, a state department military liaison.

The scandal comes at a particularly sensitive time. Petraeus had been due to give evidence before a Congressional body this coming Thursday concerning the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed, including America's ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

It is now thought that Petraeus will not attend the session, robbing politicians of the opportunity to question an "absolutely necessary witness", according to Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee.

White House and intelligence officials have suggested that there is no connection between the timing of Petraeus's resignation and the evidence session on the Benghazi attack.

But in Washington, questions are being asked as to why the FBI appeared to have sat on the information it uncovered regarding the affair before handing it on to other authorities some time later.

Intelligence officials have suggested that Petraeus was first questioned over the nature of his relationship with Broadwell two weeks ago.

But it was only on the night of the presidential election that national intelligence director James Clapper was notified of the affair. It is thought that Clapper then advised the CIA chief to resign.

Even then, it was not until the next day that the White House was informed of the situation. It then took a further day before newly re-elected President Barack Obama was told that his intelligence chief was to tender his resignation.

Meanwhile, the Senate intelligence committee only heard about the matter on Friday, just hours before the CIA director announced he was to step down.

Further confusing the timeline of events were reports on Sunday that leading House Republican Eric Cantor had been informed by an FBI whistleblower of the brewing Petraeus scandal two weeks ago.

If true, it would raise the prospect that the affair was known in Washington circles before Friday's resignation.

House Republican King said on Sunday that the account of who knew what and when "doesn't add up", saying that there were a lot of unanswered questions.

The FBI had an "obligation" to tell the president as soon as they had identified a possible security breach, he told CNN's State of the Union.

Meanwhile, other politicians said that Petraeus may still be compelled to give evidence concerning the 11 September attack in Benghazi.

"We may well ask him," senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Sunday.

Congress is keen to question the former four-star general over what the CIA knew in advance of the assault, and importantly, what it had told the White House in regards to the nature of the terrorist threat.

In the run-up to last week's election, senior Republicans accused the White House of misleading Americans over claims that it was not made aware of requests to bolster security in advance of the assault.

It is on this point that Petraeus was expected to be questioned at Thursday's Congressional hearing. Following his resignation, it is thought that his former deputy, Michael Morell, will testify before Washington in his place as acting director of the CIA.

Morell is slated to meet with Congressional figures on Wednesday to discuss the Petraeus affair in a bid to curtail lingering suspicions over the timing of the resignation.

The political fallout from Friday's resignation comes amid a personal crisis for a man often referred to as the leading American military mind of his generation.

In the days following his announcement to step down, a steady flow of leaks to the US media have given more detail to the affair that cost Petraeus his job.

The makings of his downfall were in a series of apparently vicious emails sent by his lover – a 40-year-old former army reservist who co-authored All In, a fawning biography of the CIA chief – to Kelley, a state department liaison to the military's Joint Special Operations Command.

It is thought that the threatening nature of the missives led the Florida-based recipient to seek the protection of the FBI.

An investigation of Broadwell's personal email account uncovered letters of an explicit nature between her and Petraeus, who has been married for the past 38 years to his wife Holly.

It was then that agents approached the CIA chief directly. Having eliminated the threat of a security breach, it was decided that no further action would be taken by the FBI.

But the damage to Petraeus's reputation was clear, and having consulted with Clapper, the decision to resign was made.

In a letter to staff explaining his move, the now outgoing CIA boss said: "Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours."

Others close to Petraeus had an even more blunt assessment of the scandal. "He screwed up, he knows he screwed up," said Steve Boylan, a retired army officer and Petraeus's former spokesman.




Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting an extramarital relationship, could possibly face military prosecution for adultery if officials turn up any evidence to counter his apparent claims that the affair began after he left the military.

The affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, both of whom are married, began several months after his retirement from the Army in August 2011 and ended four months ago, retired U.S. Army Col. Steve Boylan, a former Petraeus spokesman, told ABC News.

Broadwell, 40, had extraordinary access to the 60-year-old general during six trips she took to Afghanistan as his official biographer, a plum assignment for a novice writer.

"For him to allow the very first biography to be written about him, to be written by someone who had never written a book before, seemed very odd to me," former Petraeus aide Peter Mansoor told ABC News.

The timeline of the relationship, according to Patraeus, would mean that he was carrying on the affair for the majority of his tenure at the CIA, where he began as director Sept. 6, 2011. If he carried on the affair while serving in the Army, however, Patraeus could face charges, according to Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which reprimands conduct "of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."
Whether the military would pursue such action, whatever evidence it accumulates, is unclear.

As the details of the investigation launched by the FBI unraveled this weekend, it became clear that the woman at the heart of the inquiry that led to Petraeus' downfall had been identified as Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who volunteers to help the military. She is a family friend of Petraeus, who Broadwell apparently felt threatened by.

Kelley and her husband are longtime supporters of the military, and six months ago she was named "Honorary Ambassador to Central Command" for her volunteer work with the military. Officials say Kelley is not romantically linked to Petraeus, but befriended the general and his wife when he was stationed in Florida.

The Kelleys spent Christmases in group settings with the Petraeuses and visited them in Washington D.C., where Kelley's sister and her son live.

"We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years." Kelley said in a statement Sunday. "We respect his and his family's privacy and want the same for us and our three children."
Earlier this year, around the time that Petraeus and Broadwell were breaking off their affair, Kelly began receiving anonymous emails, which she found so threatening she went to authorities. The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell's computer, where they found other salacious and explicit emails between Broadwell and Petraeus that made it clear to officials that the two were carrying on an affair.

Investigators uncovered no compromising of classified information or criminal activity, sources familiar with the probe said, adding that all that was found was a lot of "human drama."

Broadwell, a married mother of two, had access to Petraeus while she was with him in Afghanistan as his official biographer. People close to the general had previously suspected Broadwell's feelings for him had crossed a professional line.

They found Broadwell, who spent a year embedded with Petraeus in Afghanistan, to be embarrassing and far too "gushy" about him. They said to one another they thought Broadwell "was in love with him," sources told ABC News.

Petraeus is said to have been the one to have broken off the extramarital affair.

His storied career, first as the public face of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later as director of the CIA, came crashing down Friday when he announced his resignation from the intelligence agency, citing the indiscretion.
"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours," Petraeus said in a statement Friday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was made aware of the Petraeus situation Tuesday evening around 5 p.m. by the FBI, according to a senior intelligence source.

After having several conversations with Petraeus that evening and the next day, Clapper advised Petraeus that the best thing to do would be for him to resign, the source said.

Clapper notified the White House the next afternoon that Petraeus was considering resigning, according to the source. Petraeus then went to the White House Thursday and told the president he thought he should resign, and Obama accepted his resignation the next day, the source said.

Despite the lengthy investigation into Broadwell by the FBI, the White House says it was not made aware of it until Wednesday, the day after the election, a revelation that surprised many.

"It just doesn't add up. That the FBI would be carrying on this type of investigation without, again, bringing it to the president or the highest levels of the White House," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

Petraeus and his wife, Holly, who have been married for 38 years, are said to be staying in their Arlington Home and are doing "OK."

"Knowing the family, I suspect it will be hard work, but given the effort, they will get through it," Boylan, the former Petraeus spokesman, said.

Numerous questions still remain about the investigation, and some on Capitol Hill are also frustrated because Petraeus was schedule to testify to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

The timing of Petraeus' resignation "was what it was," an official told ABC News, adding that the time had come to tie up any loose ends in the investigation and confront the general.



One of America's best known military leaders, and CIA head David Petraeus, has abruptly announced his resignation. Stepping down, Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair, saying he was guilty of "unacceptable" behavior. Ex-military intelligence officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Shaffer told RT there's more behind the resignation than just moral issues.



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - David Petraeus was a star on the battlefield, commanding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but was undone by "poor judgment" in engaging in an extramarital affair that led to his downfall as CIA director.

Petraeus, who was widely celebrated as a military commander and even occasionally mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, was sworn in as head of the CIA in September 2011 – and had kept a low profile since. Now speculation is sure to proliferate over whether that low profile resulted from Petraeus focusing on America’s intelligence gathering or on personal matters.

In particular, members of Congress and other officials demanding answers about the Benghazi attack on the US consulate that resulted in the deaths of four Americans – including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens, and two CIA agents – will want to know if there was any link between Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance on the night of the Benghazi attack.

More broadly, the reason for Petraeus’s departure will raise questions about any compromising of US covert operations and intelligence. The potential for blackmail of intelligence officers is always a concern about the spy corps, but the involvement of the nation’s top spy in an extramarital affair takes the concern to a new level.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been probing Petraeus and the potential security risks posed by his affair, CNN reported late Friday afternoon.

In the weeks since the Benghazi attack, officials have leaked information, including how Petraeus kept information on the CIA’s role in Benghazi so private that even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was left to call Petraeus as the attack unfolded to try to get intelligence information from him.

Last week, CIA officials revealed that in fact, the intelligence agency’s operations in Benghazi dwarfed diplomatic operations at the consulate and that the CIA maintained what was described as an “annex,” about a mile from the diplomatic mission.

State Department officials have said there was an informal understanding that the annex and its agents would come to the assistance of the consulate (which had private contractors providing security) if a need arose. CIA officials insist their agents responded to the consulate’s distress calls within a half-hour.

Just two days after his 60th birthday, Petraeus stepped down from the spy agency where he had held the top office since September 6, 2011.
"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation," Petraeus told the shadow warriors he commanded at CIA.

It was a stunning downfall for a revered military man who was seen as one of the top American leaders of his generation and was once considered a potential contender for the White House.

Petraeus was credited with pulling Iraq from the brink of all-out civil war and for battlefield successes in Afghanistan after overseeing a surge of 30,000 troops ordered by President Barack Obama in late 2009. He became known for counter-insurgency strategies that were seen as gaining ground against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"I don't think he was professionally overrated. His were genuine accomplishments," said James Carafano, a war historian with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

At the time of his nomination to the CIA post, some Washington insiders had said the White House wanted to find a prominent position for Petraeus to ensure he would not be recruited by Republicans as a challenger to the 2012 Obama-Biden ticket.


When he was nominated to lead the CIA there were some concerns in intelligence circles that the high-profile four-star Army general might not be able to lead from the shadows as appropriate for a spy chief.

But once he took over the head office at the U.S. spy agency, Petraeus kept a decidedly low public profile.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, expressed regret about the resignation of "one of America's best and brightest" and said it was an "enormous loss" for the country.
"At CIA, Director Petraeus gave the agency leadership, stature, prestige and credibility both at home and abroad. On a personal level, I found his command of intelligence issues second to none," she said.

RESIGNATION ACCEPTED

After accepting his resignation about a year-and-a-half after nominating Petraeus to the CIA post, Obama said: "By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end."

Earlier this week, in a Newsweek article entitled "General David Petraeus's Rules for Living," he listed 12 lessons for leadership. Number 5 was: "We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors - drive on and avoid making them again."

In 2010 Petraeus stepped into the breach as the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to replace General Stanley McChrystal who was fired by Obama in a scandal over an article in which McChrystal and his aides made mocking comments about the president and some of his top advisers.

In 2009 Petraeus was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment. The media-friendly general joked at that time at a Washington event that reporters were only gathered "to see if the guy is still alive."

Petraeus, born in Cornwall, New York, lives in Virginia with his wife Holly. They have two grown children, a son who was an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, and a daughter.

Petraeus's wife, Holly, is an activist and volunteer who champions military families, and she continued that work after her husband retired from the military and moved to the CIA.

She currently is assistant director of the office of servicemember affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she tries to keep unscrupulous lenders from taking advantage of military personnel. The bureau was championed by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts this week.

Holly Petraeus is the daughter of four-star General William Knowlton, who was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when Petraeus was a cadet.

She briefed the press at the Pentagon on her efforts recently and was introduced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called her "a true friend of the Department of Defense and a dedicated member of our military family."

Petraeus has four Defense Distinguished Service Medal awards, three Distinguished Service Medal awards, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, and the State Department Distinguished Service Award.

He has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Matt Spetalnick and Diane Bartz; Editing by Warren Strobel and Jackie Frank)