WEEK OF MARCH 27 THROUGH APRIL 2
Turkey Reports Iran to UN Security Council
April 1….(Reuters) Reuters reported on Thursday that Turkey has informed the UN Security Council that it recently seized a shipment of weapons Iran was attempting to smuggle to a third party in violation of a UN mandated arms embargo. Turkey has in the past been criticized for a lackluster effort in enforcing the embargo on Iranian weapons trafficking but the seizure from a cargo aircraft is seen by UN diplomats as an improvement. The aircraft, loaded with a shipment marked "spare auto parts" and bound for Aleppo, Syria, was ordered to make a "technical stop" at Turkey's Diyarbakir airport on March 21. Inspectors reported discovering smuggled cargo including 60 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, 14 BKC/Bixi machine guns, nearly 8,000 rounds of BKC/AK-47 ammunition, 560 60-mm mortar shells, and 1,288 120-mm mortar shells. It was the latest violation of UN sanctions by Iran which has also included smuggling missiles to insurgents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In related news, Kuwait announced on Thursday that it is expelling several Iranian diplomats after an investigation linked them to espionage that the Islamic Republic has been carrying out against its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf region.
Barak Inaugurates Iron Dome Trial Run in Beersheba
March 31….(JPost) Nehushtan: Israel is first to use missiles against missiles; defense minister says "Magic Wand," "Super Arrow" defense systems on the way. Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the Beersheba battery of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system on Thursday, announcing that its trial deployment has begun. IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan told reporters that "this battery is ready for action," and expressed pride that it is "The fruit of Israeli development and is being operated by Israelis." "We are the first army in the world to use this type of war - missiles against missiles," Nehushtan said. "It will become an integral part of the air force." Nehushtan also warned that the Iron Dome system "has limitations and can not give a full defense." In response, Barak said "we trust that the system will be operated as well as it can, even though we know that no trial run can be 100 percent." He added that "if this will be like the previous tries I've seen, it will be very good." The defense minister also said that "an additional defense layer, including the 'Magic Wand' and the 'Super Arrow' will be installed in the next few years."
Iranian Cleric Claims Mahdi is Coming Soon
March 30….(CBN) New evidence has emerged that the Iranian government sees the current unrest in the Middle East as a signal that the Mahdi, or Islamic messiah, is about to appear. CBN News has obtained a never-before-seen video produced by the Iranian regime that says all the signs are moving into place, and that Iran will soon help usher in the end times. While the revolutionary movements gripping the Middle East have created uncertainty throughout the region, the video shows that the Iranian regime believes the chaos is divine proof that their ultimate victory is at hand. The propaganda footage has reportedly been approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government. It's called The Coming is Near and it describes current events in the Middle East as a prelude to the arrival of the mythical tweflth Imam or Mahdi, the messiah figure who Islamic scriptures say will lead the armies of Islam to victory over all non-Muslims in the last days. "This video has been produced by a group called the Conductors of the Coming, in connection with the Basiji, the Iranian paramilitary force, and in collaboration with the Iranian president's office," said Reza Kahlil, a former member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards who shared the video with CBN News. Kahlili, author of the book, A Time to Betray, worked as a double agent for the CIA inside the Iranian regime. "Just a few weeks ago, Ahmadenijad's office screened this movie with much excitement for the clerics," Kahlili told CBN News. "The target audience is Muslims in the Middle East and around the world." The video claims that Iran is destined to rise as a great power in the last days to help defeat America and Israel and usher in the return of the Mahdi. And it makes clear the Iranians believe that time is fast approaching. "The Hadith have clearly described the events and the various transformations of countries in the Middle East and also that of Iran in the age of the coming," said a narrator, who went on to say that America's invasion of Iraq was foretold by Islamic scripture, and that the Mahdi will one day soon rule the world from Iraq.
The ongoing upheavals in other Middle Eastern countries like Yemen and Egypt, including the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, are also analyzed as prophetic signs that the Mahdi is near, so is the current poor health of the king of Saudi Arabia, an Iranian rival. "Isn't the presence of Abdullah, his illness, and his uncertain condition, great news for those anxious for the coming?" asks the narrator. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, and Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Iran's terrorist proxy Hezbollah, are hailed as pivotal end times players, whose rise was predicted in Islamic scriptures. The same goes for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who the video says will conquer Jerusalem prior to the Mahdi's coming. "I think it's a very grave development," Mideast expert Joel Rosenberg, author of The Twelfth Imam, told CBN News, "because it gives you a window into the thinking of the Iranian leadership: that they believe the time for war with Israel may be even sooner than others had imagined." Kahlili says The Coming is Near will soon be distributed by the Iranian regime throughout the Middle East. He explained that their goal is to instigate further uprisings in Arab countries.
Syrian Cabinet Resigns in Move Designed to Aid Assad
March 30….(YNET) Syria's Cabinet resigned Tuesday to help quell a wave of popular fury that erupted more than a week ago and is now threatening President Bashar Assad's 11-year rule in one of the most authoritarian and closed-off nations in the Middle East. Assad, whose family has controlled Syria for four decades, is trying to calm the growing dissent with a string of concessions. He is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours to lift emergency laws in place since 1963 and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms. State TV said Tuesday Assad accepted the resignation of the 32-member Cabinet headed by Naji al-Otari, who has been in place since September 23. The Cabinet will continue running the country's affairs until the formation of a new government. The resignations will not affect Assad, who holds the lion's share of power in the authoritarian regime. The announcement came hours after hundreds of thousands of supporters of Syria's hard-line regime poured into the streets Tuesday as the government tried to show it has mass support.
The unrest in the strategically important country could have implications well beyond the country's borders given its role as Iran's top Arab ally and as a front line state against Israel. Syria has long been viewed by the US as a potentially destabilizing force in the Mideast. An ally of Iran and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, it has also provided a home for some radical Palestinian groups. But the country has been trying to emerge from years of international isolation. The US recently has reached out to Syria in the hopes of drawing it away from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, although the effort has not yielded much.
Israel Warily Eyes Middle East Uprisings
March 29….(Fox News) As anti-government unrest continues to ripple across the Middle East, many in Israel are worried that changes in the Arab world could lead to renewed hostilities against them. But analysts say it remains to be seen whether the upheaval will threaten Israel and its pillars of security, including peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. "My sense is people in Israel are quite concerned, unsure that it's a good thing," said Robert Schadler, a senior fellow in public diplomacy at the American Foreign Policy Council and former State Department official in the Reagan administration. "I think in the immediate future, any kind of discord and chaos is good for Israel because if your regime is about to fall, you're not about to attack Israel," he said. After largely peaceful protests ousted leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, violent uprisings have erupted in Syria, Yemen and Libya, where the United States is leading a military operation. U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed cautious optimism that a new government forming in Egypt, Israel's most important ally in the Arab world, will remain committed to its peace treaty with the Jewish state. But there are also concerns that anti-Israel opposition groups, including the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, might gain a larger voice in Egyptian decision-making and that unrest in the Arab world could undermine Jordan's stability. At the same time, a cease-fire between Israel and the militant Hamas group came to a sudden end this week with both sides exchanging fire after Gaza militants bombarded southern Israel with rocket attacks. On Wednesday, a bomb exploded in Jerusalem, killing a British tourist and wounding dozens of Israelis.
Ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak frequently mediated between Israel and the Palestinians during his 30-year rule. He also had cooperated with Israel in containing Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, a volatile coastal strip that borders both Israel and Egypt. It's not clear whether Egypt's new government will be willing or able to play a similar role. Hamas is the Gaza branch of the Muslim brotherhood and could gain strength if their Egyptian brethren rise to power. Until there are elections, the Egyptian military, which receives about $1.3 billion a year in US aid, is running a caretaker government. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates flew to Tel Aviv from Cairo, where he urged Egyptian authorities to give new political organizations time to organize as the country begins to take tentative steps toward democracy. During a news conference with Gates, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak held out hope that the situation in Syria wouldn't derail his proposed negotiations with the country for a broader peace agreement.
"In regard to peace opportunities – once again we cannot pass a judgment right now whether it's good or not good, whether the situation is right or not, but the time that the Syrian government will decide that they're open to consider negotiating with us, we will be open," he said.
"I think that this different situation creates not just threats and challenges, but also opportunity," he added. "And we have to be alert to be able to seize those opportunities the moment they emerge rather than let them slip out of our fingers and face the uncertainties of deeper chaos in the Middle East."
Fox News contributor Walid Phares, an expert on the Middle East and author of "The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East," said the uprisings have led to a race for control of these countries between civil society forces seeking democracy and jihadists and Islamists committed to Israel's destruction. "Israel will be affected by this race extremely well or extremely bad," he said. "The jury is still out." Schadler noted that the uprisings have not been driven by anti-Israel or anti-American sentiment. "They've been almost entirely focused on the domestic ruling of their country," he said, adding that might signal a growing interest among the people for a government that focuses on their interests. But in Israel, some fear that freedom will have negative consequences for them. "Sooner or later, the Arab revolt will reach (the Palestinians)," wrote columnist Ari Shavit in the Haaretz newspaper. He said the Palestinians were influenced by "the trauma of Hamas' rise in the Gaza Strip, relative prosperity in the West Bank" and the expectation of statehood materializing within months. If that expectation is disappointed, "a political tsunami" will result, he predicted.
Europe Wants UN, not US, to Advance Mideast Peace Talks
(Britain, France and Germany would like the United Nations and European Union to co-author an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, say diplomats)
March 28….(Ha Aretz) Britain, France and Germany want the United Nations and the European Union to propose the outlines of a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, UN diplomats said. The three European countries, all members of the UN Security Council, are pressing for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union to propose a settlement text at a meeting in mid-April of the Quartet of Mideast mediators, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks are taking place in private. The quartet includes the UN, EU, U.S. and Russia. The aim is to get a basis for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume. Putting the job in the hands of the EU and the UN would sideline the United States, Israel's closest ally which has tried unsuccessfully for months to get face-to-face negotiations going, as well as Russia, an ally of the Palestinians. The big question mark is whether the United States would allow the Europeans and UN to take the lead in trying to resolve the standoff, and that is likely to depend on whether the Israelis give a green light, the diplomats said. The Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to President Barack Obama's target date of September 2011 for an agreement, but negotiations collapsed weeks after they restarted last September. The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel halts settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War which the Palestinians want for their future state. The US veto on February 18 of a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as illegal and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building spurred Britain, France and Germany, who supported the measure, to issue a joint statement expressing serious concern about the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. Since the US efforts have been unsuccessful, diplomats said the three European powers decided to try a new approach in hopes of breaking the deadlock. The diplomats said the three European countries have delivered the message in key capitals, including Washington and Jerusalem, that if the parameters of a final settlement are endorsed, the Palestinians will return to the negotiating table.
Muslim Brotherhood Gaining Power in Egypt
March 28….(In The Days) The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group once banned by Egypt, has become a force as the country undergoes a change in government, observers said. Because of its organization and network, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an advantage while the post-Hosni Mubarak government takes shape, The New York Times reported Friday. What is surprising to some are the ties the organization has with its adversary, the military.“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military, you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”
In the early stages of the upheaval in the country earlier this year, the Muslim Brotherhood was reluctant to join the call for demonstrations. “The Brotherhood didn’t want this revolution; it has never been a revolutionary movement,” Zarwan told the Times. “Now it has happened; they participated cautiously and they realize they can set their sights higher.” A tangible example of the organization’s influence was a recent referendum on constitutional amendments in the nation’s first post-Mubarak balloting, the Times reported. Among other things, the amendments call for an accelerated election process so parliamentary contests can be held before September, followed by a presidential race. That expedited calendar is seen as advantageous to the organized and highly networked Brotherhood and the remains of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. The more secular coalition behind the uprising said more liberal forces must organize quickly. “I worry about going too fast towards elections, that the parties are still weak,” said Nabil Ahmed Helmy, former dean of the Zagazig University law school in Egypt and a member of the National Council for Human Rights. “The only thing left right now is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Unrest in Syria, Jordan Poses New Test for US Policy
March 28….(CNBC) Even as the Obama administration defends the NATO-led air war in Libya, the latest violent clashes in Syria and Jordan are raising new alarm among senior officials who view those countries, in the heartland of the Arab world, as far more vital to American interests. Deepening chaos in Syria, in particular, could dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement, several analysts said. It could also alter the American rivalry with Iran for influence in the region and pose challenges to the United States’ greatest ally in the region, Israel. In interviews, administration officials said the uprising appeared to be widespread, involving different religious groups in southern and coastal regions of Syria, including Sunni Muslims usually loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The new American ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, has been quietly reaching out to Assad to urge him to stop firing on his people.
As American officials confront the upheaval in Syria, a country with which the United States has icy relations, they say they are pulled between fears that its problems could destabilize neighbors like Lebanon and Israel, and the hope that it could weaken one of Iran’s key allies. The Syrian unrest continued on Saturday, with government troops reported to have killed more protesters. With 61 people confirmed killed by security forces, the country’s status as an island of stability amid the Middle East storm seemed irretrievably lost.
For two years, the United States has tried to coax Damascus into negotiating a peace deal with Israel and to moving away from Iran, a fruitless effort that has left President Obama open to criticism on Capitol Hill that he is bolstering one of the most repressive regimes in the Arab world. Officials fear the unrest there and in Jordan could leave Israel further isolated. The Israeli government was already rattled by the overthrow of Egypt’s leader, Hosni Mubarak, worrying that a new government might not be as committed to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. While Israel has largely managed to avoid being drawn into the region’s turmoil, last week’s bombing of a bus in Jerusalem, which killed one person and wounded 30, and a rain of rocket attacks from Gaza, have fanned fears that the militant group Hamas is trying to exploit the uncertainty.
The unrest in Jordan, which has its own peace treaty with Israel, is also extremely worrying, a senior administration official said. The United States does not believe Jordan is close to a tipping point, this official said. But the clashes, which left one person dead and more than a hundred wounded, pose the gravest challenge yet to King Abdullah II, a close American ally. Syria, however, is the more urgent crisis, one that could pose a thorny dilemma for the administration if Mr. Assad carries out a crackdown like that of his father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad, who ordered a bombardment in 1982 that killed at least 10,000 people in the northern city of Hama. Having intervened in Libya to prevent a wholesale slaughter in Benghazi, some analysts asked, how could the administration not do the same in Syria? Though no one is yet talking about a no-fly zone over Syria, Obama administration officials acknowledge the parallels to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Some analysts predicted the administration will be cautious in pressing Mr. Assad, not because of any allegiance to him but out of a fear of what could follow him, a Sunni-led government potentially more radical and Islamist than his Alawite minority government. Still, after the violence, administration officials said Assad’s future was unclear. “Whatever credibility the government had, they shot it today, literally,” a senior official said about Syria, speaking on the condition that he not be named. In the process, he said, Assad had also probably disqualified himself as a peace partner for Israel. Such a prospect had seemed a long shot in any event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown no inclination to talk to Assad, but the administration kept working at it, sending its special envoy, George J. Mitchell, on several visits to Damascus.
Assad has said that he wants to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel. But with his population up in arms, analysts said, he might actually have an incentive to pick a fight with its neighbor, if only to deflect attention from the festering problems at home. “You can’t have a comprehensive peace without Syria,” the administration official said. “It’s definitely in our interest to pursue an agreement, but you can’t do it with a government that has no credibility with its population.” Indeed, the crackdown calls into question the entire American engagement with Syria. Last June, the State Department organized a delegation from Microsoft, Dell and Cisco Systems to visit Mr. Assad with the message that he could attract more investment if he stopped censoring Facebook and Twitter. While the administration renewed economic sanctions against Syria, it approved export licenses for some civilian aircraft parts. The Bush administration, by contrast, largely shunned Damascus, recalling its ambassador in February 2005 after the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Many Lebanese accuse Syria of involvement in the assassination, a charge it denies. When Obama named Mr. Ford as his envoy last year, Republicans in the Senate held up the appointment for months, arguing that the United States should not reward Syria with closer ties. The administration said it would have more influence by restoring an ambassador. But officials also concede that Assad has been an endless source of frustration, deepening ties with Iran and the Islamic militant group Hezbollah; undermining the government of Saad Hariri in Lebanon; pursuing a nuclear program; and failing to deliver on promises of reform. Some analysts said that the United States was so eager to use Syria to break the deadlock on Middle East peace negotiations that it had failed to push Assad harder on political reforms.
To Survive, Assad Must Contain Sunni Unrest before it Infects Army
March 28….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis) The protest against Bashar Assad’s regime is swelling. From its first epicenter in the southern town of Deraa it spread Friday, March 25, to new cities, Homs, Aleppo, Latakia and parts of Damascus. It has quickly attained the scale unforeseen by the regime of a popular uprising by the majority Sunni population (74 percent) against Allawite-dominated (15 percent) rule. Army troops gunned the protesters down in what witnesses described as a massacre of scores and hundreds injured, raising calls from the opposition for international intervention. The number of dead and injured cannot be reliably determined. Debkafile’s intelligence sources report that special Syrian security clean-up units removed the bodies as they fell. The authorities were caught unawares by the upsurge of street rallies that followed preachers’ sermons in hundreds of Sunni mosques calling on their congregations to go out and drive the Assads and the minority Allawite sect from power. The Syrian secret service missed the Muslim Brotherhood’s hand in organizing this mass street eruption. The strongest rallying cry came from the influential radical Egyptian television preacher Yussuf Qaradawi who called on Syria’s Sunni community to stand up for its rights as a majority. Because the army’s 4th Division commanded by Bashar’s brother Maher Assad, the only unit to be manned by Allawites, is tied down in suppressing riots in the southern town of Deraa and most of the troops in all other units are Sunnis, Assad is short of trusted contingents to defend his regime. He figured that fresh outbreaks in Deraa would inflame the rest of the country and therefore kept the 4th Division in place. But the outbreaks spread to other key cities anyway under slogans calling for solidarity with the martyrs of Deraa and threatening his power centers in Damascus and beyond.
Neither the conciliatory measures announced on Thursday nor the security crackdown against protesters has succeeded in stifling dissent and defusing the crisis. Defiance continues in Deraa itself even after demonstrators were gunned down with live bullets. The al-Omari mosque, which was stormed by security forces on Tuesday night, was reported to be back in the hands of protesters. The mosque has been the focal point of dissent in Deraa. The tipping point for the 11-year old Assad regime (which followed the one his father established after a military coup) is therefore not far off unless he makes the right decision or receives outside help. He can either opt for the Qaddafi option, for instance, or follow the example of the King of Bahrain. From the outset of the Libya revolt in February, Muammar Qaddafi opted for abandoning the east and focusing his military effort on preserving his centers of power in Tripoli and its outlying towns. After stabilizing his rule, he planned to set out and wrest the rest of the country from the rebels opposing his regime. So far, his gamble has succeeded. The rebels backed by international forces have not unseated him. Will Assad decide after Friday that he has enough loyal military strength to buttress his rule over all of Syria, or choose to pull in his horns and concentrate on saving Damascus? Since much of his army is unreliable, the Syrian ruler may have to opt for the Bahrain remedy, namely, calling for outside help as did King Hamid al Khalifa who asked Riyadh for Saudi forces to prop up his throne against a Shiite-led uprising. The allies who come to mind in the case of Assad are Iran, the Lebanese Hizballah, pro-Iranian Palestinian groups with bases in Damascus, Hamas, Jihad Islami and Ahmad Jibril’s Popular Palestinian Front-General Command.
It would take Tehran no more than a few hours to fly Revolutionary Guards units into Damascus. An Iranian command structure is already positioned at Syrian armed forces headquarters in Damascus. Also available to Tehran is an Iraqi Shiite militia, the Mehdi Army of the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, a good personal friend both of Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Assad. Saturday, there was widespread speculation that Tehran would do its utmost to rescue the Syrian ruler who only recently opened the port of Latakia for an Iranian base. Giving Hizballah a foothold in Syria is more complicated given the unstated competition between him and the Syrian ruler and the latter’s reservations about the former’s rising military strength and effective secret and terrorist capabilities. Assad would undoubtedly take into account that once Hizballah gained a foothold in Syria, it would be hard to dislodge. Putting the fate of the Assad regime in the hands of radical Palestinian organizations would be equally imprudent and, worse, a humiliation. It would give Palestinians their second open door to an Arab uprising, the first of which gave Hamas undreamed of leverage in Egypt. Assad may even stage an attack on Israel as a desperate diversionary tactic from his troubles.
WEEK OF MARCH 20 THROUGH MARCH 26
Franklin Graham: World’s Christians in Grave Danger
March 25….(Newsmax) The Muslim Brotherhood, with the complicity of the Obama administration, has infiltrated the US government at the highest levels and is influencing American policy that leaves the world’s Christians in grave danger, warns internationally known evangelist Franklin Graham. “The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active here in our country,” Graham tells Newsmax. “We have these people advising our military and State Department. We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. “It’s like a farmer asking a fox, ‘How do I protect my hen house?’" That same Muslim Brotherhood is fomenting much of the rebellion and the deteriorating social order roiling the Middle East, forcing millions of Christians to flee for their lives, says Graham, son of beloved evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, and founder of The Samaritan’s Purse international charity. “Under Egypt’s Hosni Mubarek and Jordan’s King Hussein and other moderate leaders, Christians had been protected,” Graham says. 11 million Christians live in Egypt and I ear for them, because if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, you’re going to see a great exodus of Christians. Same thing in Tunisia and Lebanon. I fear for the church because the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be a very terrible thing.” A new report from the Roman Catholic aid agency Aid to the Church in Need supports Graham’s contention that the persecution of Christians worldwide has worsened exponentially in the past few years.
According to the report, Christians face increased suffering in 22 countries around the world, with Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Nigeria being among the worst countries to be a Christian in today. The persecution has gotten markedly worse over the past two years according to the organization. “The proportion of countries with a worsening track-record of anti-Christian violence and intimidation would be higher were it not for the fact that in many cases the situation could scarcely have been worse in the first place” the report’s authors wrote.
More than 75 percent of religious persecution in the world is currently being carried out against Christians, the report concludes. The Vatican formed a special committee late last year to address the flight of Christians and the rise of militant Islam in the Middle East. In his New Year’s message, Pope Benedict XVI said Christians suffer more than any other religious group because of their faith. Asked if President Barack Obama was doing enough to protect Christians at home and abroad, Graham says, “No. If anything it’s the opposite.” “Muslims are protected more in this country than Christians,” he says. “The president has made many statements but he doesn’t back them up. We have to do more to protect the Christians in the Muslim world. Their lives are in danger.”
In recent weeks, Obama administration officials have stepped up the defense of their inclusive stance toward Muslims in their ranks. Deputy national security advisor, Denis McDonough, said last week that President Obama is actually trying to prevent terrorism by "dispelling the myths that have developed over the years, including misperceptions about our fellow Americans who are Muslim." "When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution," McDonough said at an interfaith forum in Sterling, Va. Graham, however says what Obama is really doing is "giving Islam a pass" rather than speaking openly about the "horrific" treatment women and minorities receive. "We certainly love the Muslim people," Graham said in an earlier interview with Newsmax. "But that is not the faith of this country. And that is not the religion that built this nation. The people of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith are the ones who built America, and it is not Islam."
Gaza Missiles Inch Closer to Tel Aviv
March 25….(Israel Today) Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists again escalated their confrontation with Israel on Thursday when they fired foreign-built missiles at towns just 10 miles south of the heavily-populated Tel Aviv metropolitan region. Eight missiles fired from Gaza landed in or near the port city of Ashdod and a number of central Israel towns, including Rishon Lezion and Yavne. Israeli responded with tank fire into Gaza. A Hamas facility in Gaza City was destroyed by the retaliatory barrage. Israeli aircraft also attacked terrorist cells attempting to launch additional missiles into Israel. Thursday’s back-and-forth was a continuation of the escalating war between southern Israel and Hamas-ruled Gaza. The situation began to spiral out of control over the weekend, when Hamas-allied terrorists fired more than 50 mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel. Israel has responded hard to the provocative attacks. Israeli retaliatory strikes on Tuesday killed nine Palestinians, including four civilians, whom the terrorists were using as a human shield. Many others were wounded. In a demonstration proving that it is not Israel’s intent to harm Palestinian civilians, an eight-year-old Gaza boy wounded in Tuesday’s exchange was rushed to an Israeli hospital for emergency treatment.
Syria Next? Gates Calls for Syrian Forces to Step Aside
(Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made an unprecedented pledge of greater freedom and more prosperity to Syrians on Thursday as anger mounted following a crackdown on protesters that reportedly left at least 100 dead.As an aide to Assad in Damascus read out a list of decrees, which included a possible end to 48 years of emergency rule, a human rights group said a leading pro-democracy activist, Mazen Darwish, had been arrested)
March 25….(Financial Times) The Syrian people should follow Egypt’s lead and the country’s army should “empower a revolution”, Robert Gates, US secretary of defense, said as thousands marched in a southern city. Gates made his comments, some of the toughest remarks to date by a US official about the rule of Bashar al-Assad, president, on a day of further upheaval in the Middle East. The White House signaled that it was preparing for a change in power in Yemen, where it has been allied with the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, president. Officials also said NATO had neared a deal to take over command and control of the military operation in Libya, after a dispute within the alliance. Drawing a parallel between the unrest in Syria and the protests that unseated Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, Gates said: “I’ve just come from Egypt, where the Egyptian army stood on the sidelines and allowed people to demonstrate and in fact empowered a revolution. The Syrians might take a lesson from that.” His comments came as thousands of people marched on Thursday in Deraa, southern Syria, where at least 44 people are now thought to have been killed in a week of protests, and as Assad announced salary increases and promised greater freedom. “I would say that what the Syrian government is confronting is in fact the same challenge that faces so many governments across the region, and that is the unmet political and economic grievances of their people,” Reuters quoted Mr Gates as saying during a trip to Israel. The Obama administration as a whole has been careful to avoid the language of regime change when dealing with the Middle East and it was not clear if the White House shared Gates’ sentiments. Barack Obama, US president, has argued that the two key principles the US is backing are respect of universal rights and non-violence in dealing with protesters. But with the exception of Muammer Gaddafi, Libyan leader, Washington has not explicitly called for any of the Arab world’s leaders to leave office.
In a difficult balancing act, the administration insists it is popular will, rather than the US’s opinion, that should determine the fate of Arab leaders, while maintaining alliances with strategically important countries. On Thursday Washington signaled it was ready to deal with a new government in Yemen in the event of Mr Saleh’s departure. “We do not build our policy in any country around a single person,” said Jay Carney, White House press secretary. “And we obviously will look forward to having a solid relationship with the leader of Yemen.” The US has also condemned the violence in Deraa, which the state department said it was “deeply troubled” by. In Syria itself, after days of protests and bloodshed, angry crowds turned out for the latest funerals in Deraa amid a huge security presence. Witnesses heard chants of “The blood of our martyrs is not spilt in waste” and “God, Syria, freedom”. Officials at the main hospital in Deraa have reported receiving 37 bodies, according to Reuters. Gates, while in Egypt, had called on the Egyptian authorities to give new political forces more time to organize as the country takes its first steps towards democracy.
Hamas Stirring Another Southern War From Gaza
March 24….(Israel Today) Israel is once again in the midst of a mini-war with the terrorist forces controlling the Gaza Strip, reported the Israeli media on Wednesday, as three more missiles were fired from the Hamas-ruled territory at cities in southern Israel. Early Wednesday morning, a Grad-type missile landed just short of the southern port of Ashdod. A few hours later, two Grads slammed into the Negev capital of Beersheva. A 56-year-old man was wounded when one of the missiles landed in the courtyard adjacent to his apartment building. Miraculously, there were no other injuries. In addition to the missiles, at least 10 mortar shells were fired at farming communities in southern Israel. The attacks follow a major weekend escalation, which saw Gaza-based terrorists fire well over 50 mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel. Israeli forces responded to the weekend assault by hitting terrorist installations throughout Gaza. On Tuesday, nine Palestinians, including at least four civilians, were killed when Israeli forces returned fire on a source of terrorist mortar fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement expressing deep regret over the civilian deaths, but stressing that Hamas alone is responsible for the tragedy by sadistically using the civilian population as a human shield. Israeli forces are able to lock on to the source of enemy fire, and accurately return fire. However, the Israelis often cannot know whether or not the terrorists are firing from amidst innocent civilians, which the terrorists like to do. Hamas and its terrorist allies threatened an even stronger response following the deaths, as Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom warned that the situation is very quickly starting to resemble the lead-up to Israel’s wide-scale incursion into Gaza in 2009.
Terrorist Bombing in Jerusalem
(Officials confirm identity of woman killed in Jerusalem bombing; Explosive device detonated at phone booth near Jerusalem bus stop Wednesday afternoon wounds nearly 40 people, most of them aged 15-30. Gaza terror groups laud attack )
March 24….(YNET) A woman of about 60 was killed and dozens of people were wounded Wednesday afternoon after an explosive device was detonated in a phone booth near the Jerusalem Convention Center. Medical officials 39 people were hurt in the blast, including three who were seriously hurt. Five other victims were moderately wounded and the rest sustained light injuries. Most victims are young, aged 15-30, said Shaare Zedek Medical Center Deputy Director, Ovadia Shemesh. Authorities were able to confirm the fatality's identity only several hours after the attack. The woman did not carry any ID or wallet, and nobody arrived at the hospital to look for her. Earlier, medical officials estimated that the woman is a foreign resident who has no relatives in Israel. Another possibility raised was that she was a passerby at the attack site and her relatives were unaware she was in the area today. Even after identifying the woman, police officials did not publish the name. The victim's identity is expected to be cleared for publication later on. Police say the explosion was caused by a device placed at a telephone booth near a bus stop. Police officers were searching for additional devices while trying to clear residents from the scene, shouting that it could still be dangerous. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency consultation session in his office following the attack. Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told Ynet that the bomb weighed 1-2 kilos (roughly 2-4 pounds) and included steel pellets added to the device in order to maximize its damage. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who visited the scene of the attack, said retaliation was called for. "The series of incidents from Itamar and until today without a doubt requires us to consider anti-terror operations. It will not be possible to refrain from launching an operation. No concrete decision has been made but we will weigh different options," he said. Magen David Adom ambulance service director Eli Bin said the victims had been standing at the bus stop or nearby when the device exploded. The Popular Resistance Committees, a Gaza terror group, lauded the attack and said it came in response to "Israel's crimes." The Islamic Jihad also lauded the bombing but did not claim responsibility for it. Group spokesman Abu-Ahmed said the attack is a "natural response to the enemy's crimes." "It's a clear and powerful message to Israel that her crimes won't be able to break the resistance," he said.
IDF Strikes Targets in Gaza in Retaliation to Rocket Attacks
March 24….(Jerusalem Post) Israeli airstrikes hit smuggling tunnels along Gaza-Egypt border as well as a Hamas training camp in central Gaza; action follows rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ashkelon; no reports of injured in attack. IDF aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours on Thursday, Hamas said, a day after Palestinians fired about a dozen rockets and mortars across the border, striking deep into Israel. There were no reports of injuries in the attacks. Hamas said Israel targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza. A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes. The IDF confirmed that several strikes were carried out in Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks and that direct hits on multiple targets were recorded. On Wednesday, Israel vowed to retaliate for rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ashkelon as Hamas evacuated most of its manned positions throughout the Gaza Strip in anticipation of IDF air strikes. At 5:30 Wednesday morning the first Grad-model Katyusha rocket slammed into Beersheba for the first time in almost a month, lightly wounding one person. Several hours later, another rocket hit the Negev city. Yet another rocket landed south of Ashkelon on Wednesday, a day after a rocket fell near Ashdod. The Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the missile fire, which came after Israel killed four terror operatives in a missile strike on Tuesday night. The four were behind the firing of two Katyusha rockets into Beersheba in late February, the IDF said. Fearing a further escalation, the IDF Home Front Command ordered residents in Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod to stay close to their homes and near bomb shelters, out of concern that additional rockets will be fired in the coming days from the Gaza Strip. “The IDF will continue to act to protect Israeli citizens and will take preemptive action along the Gaza border,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. “There will be highs and lows; not everything will end tomorrow, but we are determined to restore quiet and security to the South.”
Bombing in Central Jerusalem Work of Terrorist Pros
March 24….(DEBKAfile Special Report) The bomb which exploded Wednesday afternoon, March 23, near the No. 74 bus stop opposite Binyanei Haooma at Jerusalem's main northern entrance was detonated by remote control. It killed a female tourist and injured 30-40 passers-by and passengers, several seriously plus at least 20 shock victims who later sought hospital treatment. Debkafile's counter-terror sources report that the attack was professionally executed by a team of three to five with local aid from East Jerusalem Palestinians. While the authorities have reassured the city that it was a one-off attack, intelligence and terror experts are certain a terrorist organization activated trained bombers and may do so again. The 1-2 kilogram device planted in a suitcase was detonated at one of the busiest corners of Jerusalem, where taxis wait to pick up out-of-town arrivals and two buses take on passengers. The site of attack must have been picked in advance, with the bomber waiting in a getaway car nearby to detonate the device as one of the buses was pulling away and drive off to Arab Jerusalem or the West Bank before the police arrived. This method is familiar from the 2003-2006 Palestinian war of terror. The police initially set up road blocks on the highway to Tel Aviv before realizing too late that the bombers had headed east. That same morning, two Iran-supplied Grad missiles were fired from Gaza and exploded in Beersheba, a town of 200,000, injuring five people and damaging a house, followed by seven mortar shells exploding in the Eshkol farm region closer to the border, an area (of 200,000) still jittery from the 50 mortars fired in a single barrage Saturday. Some were found to contain phosphorus to magnify the burn wounds.
Overnight, two Grad missiles were aimed at the important port towns of Ashkelon (170,000 inhabitants) and Ashdod (200,000). Wednesday night, after taking 20 assorted missiles and mortar shells during the day, three quarters of a million civilians were advised to stay close to their bomb-proof shelters and safe rooms. Terrorist incidents have occurred in recent weeks in other places too. Earlier this month two Palestinians murdered five members of an Israeli family in their sleep at Itamar on the West Bank. They still have not been apprehended. An explosive device was defused in time in a rubbish bag on a Jerusalem high street. Beersheba and Ashdod have shut down all schools until the end of the week. Their leaders are demanding action to put an end to the constant assaults on the population, backed by several cabinet ministers who are pushing for a major campaign against Hamas. The attack reminded Jerusalemites of the years of deadly Palestinian terror which struck down hundreds of civilians on buses, cafes, streets, schools, markets, stores and at festive events in every corner of the city. The last two years have been relatively free of these attacks. The last major Palestinian outrage in Jerusalem was the massacre at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva seminary on March 6, 2008. Later, for a while, Palestinians tried using tractors for rampages on city routes.
Putin Strongly Condemns 'Trend' of US Military Intervention
(Slams UN resolution allowing military action on Libya as a "medieval call to crusade")
March 22….(Emirates News) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday lashed out at the "steady trend" of US military intervention around the world, accusing Washington of acting without conscience or logic. "I am concerned about the ease with which the decision to use force was taken," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying in reference to the current international campaign in Libya. Noting that the United States had already involved itself in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin added: "Now it's Libya's turn. "And all of this under the guise of protecting peaceful civilians. Where is the logic, where is the conscience? There is neither one nor the other," Putin said. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Pin Monday slammed the UN resolution allowing military action on Libya as a "medieval call to crusade" and hit out at Washington for its readiness to resort to force. In one of his most virulent diatribes against the West in years, Russia's de facto number one said there was no "logic" or "conscience" to the military action. "The resolution by the Security Council, of course, is defective and flawed," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as telling workers on a visit to a missile factory. "To me, it resembles some sort of medieval call to crusade when someone would appeal to someone to go to a certain place and free someone else." Putin's comments marked a sharp hardening of Moscow's rhetoric against the Western military action on Libya after Russia abstained from the UN resolution last week, refusing to use its veto which would have blocked its passage. Putin also said that the events in Libya showed that Russia had taken the right decision in strengthening its military capabilities, in possible reference to its massive new $650 billion rearmament plan. "Today's events in Libya prove that we are doing everything right in terms of strengthening Russia's military capabilities," he was quoted as saying. He also announced that Russia planned to double the production of strategic and tactical missile systems from 2013. Putin's hardline comments also sit awkwardly with the reset in US-Russia ties championed by his successor in the Kremlin, President Dmitry Medvedev, which has seen a swift warming of relations over the last months. Observers have long speculated that the US favors Medvedev over Putin. Some reports even suggested that US Vice President Joe Biden wanted to warn Putin against considering a return to the Kremlin in 2012 polls, on his visit to Russia this month. Russia had initially backed international measures against the Kadhafi regime, signing on to UN Security Council sanctions that imposed an arms embargo against Libya and other sanctions against Kadhafi's family. Some Russian defence officials had initially expressed concern about the sanctions, saying the UN arms export prohibition may cost the country some $4 billion in current and future contacts.
Clashes in Syria as Thousands Protest Assad Regime
March 22….(Ha Aretz) The Syrian army deployed on Monday at the entrances to the southern city of Daraa as officials tried to calm passions following protests for freedom in which five civilians were killed, residents said. Thousands of mourners marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed al-Kerad who died on Sunday, the latest of five protesters to be killed by security forces. Mourners chanted slogans demanding political freedom and an end to corruption. "God, Syria, freedom. The people want the overthrow of corruption," they chanted. The slogan is a play on the words "the people want the overthrow of the regime," the rallying cry of the revolutions that overthrew the entrenched leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and spread across the Arab world. The mourners later gathered at the al-Omari mosque in the old quarter of Daraa near the border with Jordan. Troops set up checkpoints at the entrances of Daraa and were checking identity cards. The Syrian justice minister arrived at a city hall.
Hundreds of protesters set alight to the courthouse, other buildings and cars in the southern Syrian town of Dara'a on Sunday during protests. The violence came after at least one person was killed and more than 100 wounded, including two in critical condition, when security forces used live rounds against thousands of protesters on a third straight day of demonstrations in the city, rights activists said. The protesters in Dara'a, where four other people were killed on Friday, according to rights groups, have been demanding an end to 48 years of emergency law, the release of political prisoners and greater freedoms. Protesters also torched offices of mobile phone providers MTN and Syriatel and tried to march on the home of the town’s governor, but security forces used warning shots and tear gas. Several hundred protesters set off from the town’s old city and started torching buildings, cars and the courthouse despite attempts by security forces to disperse them. Unable to march to the governor’s house, protesters set alight trees outside the residence, witnesses said.
Assad Moves Against Spreading Protests in Syria
March 22….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) In an effort to contain spreading popular disorders against his regime, Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday, March 21, sent the 4th Armored Division commanded by his younger brother Maher Assad to suppress the three-day uprising in Darra (Deraa), capital of the southern Hauran region, and blockade the adjoining Jabal ad-Duruz where a demonstration is planned for March 26 at As-Suwada. Earlier, he posted two expanded Syrian army brigades at Darra, where some 20 demonstrators were killed and 300 wounded by tear gas and live bullets. Damascus confirmed army had been deployed in Darra where five more demonstrators were killed Monday in fresh anti-government unrest after smashing the statue of Hafez Assad, the president's father and predecessor. The demonstrators called on Syrians around the country to join them at a rally to mourn those who died in clashes with police over the past three days. Assad has thus joined the list of dynastic Arab rulers fighting to retain power in the face of popular revolts. Sunday, the United States "strongly condemned the violence that took place in Syria and called on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for today's violence must be held accountable," said a White House statement. However, Washington has invested considerable effort into improving relations with Damascus and so, unlike in the case of Libya, the Obama Administration has not gone beyond verbal condemnation of Assad's brutal crackdown on dissent. Assad's Baath party and family have ruled Syria for almost half a century under emergency laws dating from 1963, which brook little dissent and no political freedoms. Poverty-stricken Darra is strategically important because it is situated on the Damascus highway to southern Syria, Jabal ad-Duruz, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.
The regime failed in its effort to open a dialogue with the leaders of the Darra uprising. They refused to meet a large group of prominent Syrians from Hauran clans headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad which arrived Sunday to try and defuse the tension. As soon as they left, Darra townspeople set fire to the Baath Party building, the court and other symbols of Assad domination, igniting other parts of the country. Monday, March 21, demonstrations spread to the town of Quneitra on the Syrian part of the Golan abutting the part held by Israel. The 4th Division was then assigned the task of cutting southern Syria off from the rest of the country, separating it as one of three military sectors: Large forces cordoned off Damascus, the capital, which lies 100 kilometers north of Darra; they also blocked routes out of Jabal ad-Duruz, home to nearly a million Syria Druze tribesmen. The Assads have lived in fear of abiding separatist Druze dissent against Damascus since the Great Druze Revolt of 1925-1927, which spread across Syria. The Syrian army has also laid to siege border regions on the Syrian Golan, the areas adjoining the Lebanese and Israeli borders and the Yarmuk River crossing into Jordan, lest anti-Asad disturbances spill over between those sectors and spread further. The regime's contest with the South is therefore in standoff for the moment. But unrest simmers in Damascus and Aleppo, where the opposition continues its attempts to mount protest demonstrations, so far without success. Sunday's riots in the northern Kurdish towns of Al Qamishli and Al Haskah and also at Deir ez-Zor and Homs have died down for the time being although mass arrests are reported.
Entire Mideast in Turmoil: Two Key US Allies in Danger
March 22….(Ha Aretz) Uprisings in the Arab world are escalating at a fever pitch and threatened are more two key US allies, Bahrain and Yemen, where a top Yemini general and two other commanders joined the anti-government rebellion against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh, who has held power in the terror-ridden country for 32 years, is a key ally with the United States whose fall from power could have immense ramifications in the American war against al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. Saleh fired his cabinet Sunday after two senior officials quit in protest of his attempts to suppress demonstrators with brute force. More than 50 people were killed last week. Tanks were roaming the streets of the capital of Sana'a Monday. The three army officers who turned against Saleh are members of his own tribe, which also has called on him to resign.
In Bahrain, home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet, Sunni Muslim King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said his forces have foiled a foreign plot against his rule. Saudi Arabia, which like Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Muslim despite a majority of Shi’ite Muslims, has sent 1,000 troops to help the government suppress the uprising on fears that the fall of Bahraini kingdom could spell trouble for the Saudi King, Abdullah.
Coalition Strikes see Waning Support from Arabs, China and Russia
March 21….(Guardian) Arab support for the US-led war in Libya showed signs of fraying today in reaction to the sheer destructive power of the initial attack, claims of civilian deaths and a warning by Muammar Gaddafi to prepare for "a long war". The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, appeared to wobble just over a week after his organization, which represents 23 Arab states, voted in favor of a no-fly zone. Pictures of charred bodies led to not only the Arab League but also Russia and China expressing regret over the violence. Moscow claimed the US-led coalition was going beyond its UN mandate to protect civilians and called for an end to the "indiscriminate use of force". As anti-aircraft fire was heard across Tripoli, and a second wave of attacks was launched targeting ground forces and air defenses, suggesting a second night of bombardment, the US claimed it had control of the skies over Libya and had stopped Gaddafi's advance against rebel positions. The start of the mission, labeled Operation Odyssey Dawn, included firing more than 100 Tomahawk missiles at Gaddafi's air defenses. Defense sources said the next phase would be to cut supply lines to Gaddafi's frontline troops and was expected to involve British Tornado ground attack jets.
Gaddafi, seeking to win Arab popular support, portrayed the military action as an attack by crusading colonialists and signaled that the west should prepare for a protracted conflict. Defiant from the moment the attacks began on Saturday night, he said Libyans had the patience to wage a "long war". "We will fight if you continue your attacks on us," he vowed in an ominous radio address. He added that he would throw open the country's arsenals, arming the civilian population with a million weapons to conduct this war.
But Moussa, in comments carried by an Egyptian news agency, was quoted as saying: "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone. What we want is the protection of civilians and not a bombardment of more civilians." A UK government source claimed his comments had suffered from mistranslation. An about-turn by Moussa would seriously undermine the US-led effort. The Obama administration is anxious to avoid being seen in the Muslim world as embarking on a third war against a Muslim country within a decade. The US cited the Arab League vote in favor of a no-fly zone as tilting the balance in Washington in favor of military action. The Foreign Office stressed that the coalition, unlike Gaddafi, was not attacking civilians. "The UN resolution authorizes all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people. For the no-fly to be enforced safely, it is necessary to carry out carefully targeted operations against Libyan air defense capabilities. All missions are meticulously planned to ensure every care is taken to avoid civilian casualties." In spite of promises by several Arab countries to provide military support to the coalition, only Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have responded so far. A French defense ministry spokesman, Laurent Teisseire, said Qatar planes would be flying alongside French jets "in the hours to come". An Italian source told the Guardian that jets from the UAE may be hosted at Decimomannu base on Sardinia. "I think it is very important for opinion in the Arab world to show that this is not simply the west acting," said Fox.
Arab League, Russia, China Critical of Libyan Action
March 21….(Voice of America) The Arab League is criticizing the international air assault on Libya, a week after asking the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone on the North African nation. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Sunday that the United Nations' implementation of the no-fly zone on Libya has gone beyond what the league wanted. He told reporters in Cairo that the league wants to protect civilians, not bomb them. Separately, Russia called on the international community to stop what it called the “indiscriminate” use of force in Libya, saying it was killing civilians. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement Sunday that said the air raids on Libya have included attacks on non-military targets, killing 48 civilians and wounded more than 150 others. Russia also announced it is evacuating some of its diplomatic staff and other citizens from Tripoli. Both China and Russia abstained when the UN Security Council passed a resolution on Thursday which authorized “all necessary means” to protect Libyan civilians and enforce a ceasefire. The African Union also called on the international community to show restraint. A panel of five AU leaders had planned to travel to Tripoli on Sunday to meet with Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, but the trip was canceled. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict issued a statement, urging military and political leaders to consider the safety of Libyan citizens and ensure their access to humanitarian aid.
West Allies: No Fly Zone Being Enforced
March 21….(Fox News) The US fired four additional Tomahawk missiles at Libya air defense systems Sunday, bringing the grand total to 124, a senior US Defense official tells Fox News. Each Tomahawk missile costs $600,000, according to the official, bringing the initial costs of the strikes to approximately $71 million. "This is not a NATO mission," the defense official told Fox News. "Each contributing nation comes to the fight with its own 'caveats.'" Qatar is now sending fighter planes. Anti-aircraft fire erupted in the Libyan capital Sunday night, with volleys of tracer fire arching into the air, marking the start of a second night of allied strikes on the country. The US and it allies continued to fight against targets of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, who on Libyan state radio said the raids were "acts of terrorism." Qaddafi added that all of the country's people were now carrying weapons to defend the nation. "We will not leave our land and we will liberate it," he said. He said he has opened up the weapons depots to Libyans, and said everyone is armed with "automatic weapons, mortars, bombs." "We promise you a long war," he said in the address. Qaddafi's comments come as Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US and allied forces have effectively established a no-fly zone over Libya in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." Mullen said the operation has made significant progress. "We've had a pretty significant impact in this first 24 hours. I would say the no-fly zone we were tasked to put in place is now in place," Mullen said on "Fox News Sunday."
His Highness El-Sayyid Idris Abdullah Al-Senussi, nephew of His Majesty King Idris of Libya and the son of His Highness El-Sayyid Abdallah Abed Al-Senussi, made a statement exclusively obtained by Fox supporting military action against Qaddafi. "I strongly support the military actions taken by coalition forces against Muammar al-Qaddafi," Al Senussi said. "I wish to commend the French forces along with the other coalition nations participating in Operation Odyssey Dawn. I also wish to commend the Arab League for their historic resolution condemning Muammar al-Qaddafi and calling for a no-fly zone in Libya that lead to the UN adopting resolution 1973." "On behalf of the Libyan people I remain committed to supporting the provisional government with the goal of achieving a free democracy with open and free elections for all of Libya."
NATO's top decision-making body is set to decide whether the alliance will join in on the strikes in Libya. Diplomats said NATO's military planners are due to present final action plans to the North Atlantic Council on Sunday. Libya's state television claims that 48 people have been killed and 150 were wounded during military attacks. The report could not be independently verified. Military strikes by the US and its allies against targets in Libya Saturday "severely disabled" Libyan leader Qaddafi's air defenses, a US official confirmed to Fox News. The official also warns they do not know what Qaddafi will do next following the military strikes. "It's too soon to predict what he and his ground forces may do in response to today's strikes," the official told Fox News. Three RAF Tornado jets have left the UK, the first of the British strike force tasked with enforcing a no-fly zone over the country, Sky News reported. Despite the blow, Qaddafi remained defiant as he threatened to attack military and civilian targets in the Mediterranean in retaliation of international coalition strikes on Libya.
The Pentagon says 114 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been launched from US and British ships in the Mediterranean, hitting more than 20 Libyan targets along the Mediterranean coastline. Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told reporters the Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from one British submarine and a number of American destroyers and subs. He said the success of the mission was not immediately clear, adding that additional attacks would commence later. The US has at least 11 naval vessels in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two destroyers, two amphibious warfare ships and the USS Mount Whitney, a command-and-control vessel that is the flagship of the Navy's 6th Fleet. Also in the area are Navy P-3 and EP-3 surveillance aircraft, officials said. The US military strikes clear the way for European and other planes to enforce a no-fly zone designed to ground Qaddafi's air force and cripple his ability to inflict further violence on rebels, US officials said.
President Obama authorized limited military action against Libya Saturday. "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy," Obama said in a statement from Brazil. The president also reiterated that the US will not be deploying ground forces into Libya. A senior military official tells Fox News that the US will be targeting air defenses along the Libyan coast in Operation Odyssey Dawn. There are a total of 25 coalition ships in the Mediterranean, with the US contributing 11 warships.
Libyan state television is reporting that "crusader enemies" have bombarded civilian targets in Tripoli, Benghazi, and Misrata, according to Reuters. In the hours before the no-fly zone over Libya went into effect, Qaddafi sent warplanes, tanks and troops into Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. In an open letter, Qaddafi warned: "You will regret it if you dare to intervene in our country." At a news conference in the capital, Tripoli, the government spokesman read letters from Qaddafi to Obama and others involved in the international effort. "Libya is not yours. Libya is for the Libyans. The Security Council resolution is invalid," he said in the letter to Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. To Obama, the Libyan leader was slightly more conciliatory: "If you had found them taking over American cities with armed force, tell me what you would do." China expressed "regret" over punishing airstrikes by the US and European nations against Libya to enforce a UN no-fly zone. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says China "consistently disagrees with the use of force in international relations" and expressed "regret" over the Saturday attacks. In a statement posted on the ministry's website, Jiang said China "hopes the situation in Libya resumes stability as soon as possible" in order to avoid escalation of a military conflict.
Hamas Fires 50 mortar shells into Israel
March 21….(Jerusalem Post) IDF responds to attacks with tank, helicopter strikes on Gaza; Hamas claims responsibility for 10 projectiles. Civilian areas in southern Israel were heavily shelled by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza on Saturday morning, when more than 50 mortars were fired at the regional councils of Sha'ar Hanegev, Eshkol and Sdot Hanegev. Two Israelis sustained light injuries by shrapnel and were transferred to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Hamas's armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for a dozen of the mortars fired.
The IDF responded to the barrage of mortars with tank shells and helicopter attacks. Six Palestinians were reportedly injured in the strikes. Following the attacks, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed diplomats in New York to lodge a complaint with the United Nations over the mortar barrage.
The regional council is inhabited predominantly by farmers, and has been the target of Palestinian shelling for several years. Southern communities cannot be alerted to mortars by the Color Red rocket alert system and have developed their own cell phone text messaging alert system. "When we heard the high number of explosions across the area, we knew this was not an ordinary attack," he said. Ronit Minaker, a spokeswoman for the Eshkol Regional Council, said residents had been ordered to stay indoors for the duration of the morning. "People were compliant with the safety instructions," she said. "We're not used to this kind of massive fire. But we have experienced it before, and we know how to respond," Minaker added. "Our residents expect the government to do everything it can to end this.
Union for the Mediterranean
(Idea revived to meet the challenges of a New Middle East)
March 21….(Examiner) The diffusion of innovations, resulting from the current and continuously evolving informational revolution has directly impacted socio-cultural living standards, and has influenced structural-sectoral shifts in the economy. These 'shifts' can be smooth or can create crisis and renewal, a process which Joseph Alois Schumpeter, an Austrian-American economist and political scientist called, "creative destruction." The present popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa give witness to the power of knowledge and technology and diffusion within a growing globalized society and its tremendous influence these have also, on political change. Ten years ago, PM Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech at CPAC February 17, 2001 at the Ronald Reagan banquet, astutely observed and predicted, "It is the information revolution that is beginning to collapse the totalitarian regimes of our time. This is the first real change that is producing not only economic changes, not only social changes, but enormously important political changes. Because up to now, technology has really been at the service of dictatorships. "The greatest service that dictatorships have received in the 20th century was this thing, the microphone. And the microphone would give a single dictator the ability to control the minds and hearts of millions of people, to tell them who is the enemy, who are the well poisoners of the earth, who are the cancer that has to be excised. That's how Israel was referred to in the Middle East. That's how the Jewish people were referred to in the heart of Europe by the Nazis. It is the power of the microphone, the power of mass communications, controlled from above, that was the greatest threat to freedom in the 20th century." "We are witnessing the breakup of that monolithic control. Because you now have, or very soon will have, millions of people, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people, ultimately billions of people, who can access networks of information and communication from below, who can become their own broadcasters, or narrowcasters and that is fundamentally eroding the power of dictatorships."
The Biblical Prophet Daniel received the prophecy over 2500 years ago that there would be a remarkable increase in knowledge and technology in the last days: "But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Daniel 12:4) Daniel also received prophecy about the empires of the world (Daniel Chapters 2 and 7) and he prophesied that the last world empire to rule before the Messiah's everlasting reign would be a (revived) Roman empire. Prophecy teacher Jack Kelley writes this warning in his study of Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks, "A ruler who will come from the territory of the old Roman Empire will confirm a 7 year covenant with Israel that permits them to build a Temple and re-instate their Old Covenant worship system. Three and 1/2 years later he will violate the covenant by setting up an abomination that causes the Temple to become desolate, putting an end to their worship. This abomination brings the wrath of God down upon him and he will be destroyed." This last Gentile empire to rule is still future. It will be the empire of the Antichrist. Thousands of years ago Daniel prophesied that the information revolution would herald or, occur simultaneously with a future world empire coming from a "revived" or "reborn" Roman Empire, like the one in existence at the time of Christ.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to establish a 'Mediterranean Union' as part of his presidential campaign in 2007. The idea was anteceded by the Barcelona Process, also known as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.The aim of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration initiative is stated as "turning the Mediterranean basin into an area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity." Nicolas Sarkozy envisioned this Union to follow the model of the European Union with a shared judicial area and common institutions, and as a forum for dialogue between Israel and its Arab Neighbors. Turkey opposed the idea initially, skeptical that membership of the Mediterranean Union was being offered to them as an alternative to full accession to the EU. (Libya was also very hesitant) On the 13th of July, 2008 in Paris, France, the ‘Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean'‚ was launched according to the Joint Declaration adopted at the heads of state and Government. For the past 2 years the Union for the Mediterranean has not progressed as expected due to stalemates with the Israel-Arab peace process and canceling of summits. This may soon change. As the revolts in North Africa, and Arab nations along the Mediterranean and in the Middle East proceed to overturn political systems, vacant areas of political and economic structure are left in need of leadership and direction. The EU recognizes this, and has plans to plant roots of 'deep democracy' in the region. It is interesting to this writer, who has been following the evolution of the Mediterranean Union since its inception, to see it now reviving in such a way with a framework in place that could possibly meet the needs and challenges of the 'New Middle East.' However, it is precisely for this reason, the fact that it is practical, makes sense, and involves Israel, that is concerning; a reviving roman empire signals the end of days, and the time to be on the alert.
Upon reviewing a map of the Union for the Mediterranean nations in comparison with a map of the Roman empire at or about the time of Christ 2000 years ago, those who study bible prophecy can not help but to be amazed at the similarity. One possible obstacle holding back full implementation of the emergence of the revived Roman Empire, is competition from another set of nations vying for world power, wealth and domination. This 'obstacle' of competitive nations to a revived Roman empire may possibly be removed by the fulfillment of the Isaiah 17:1,14; Jeremiah 49:23-27; Amos 1:3-5; Zechariah 9:1-8 prophecy against Damascus, Syria and the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecy of the Gog Magog war; a Russian (Magog) and Iran (Persia) led coalition of muslim nations (Turkey (Meshech and Tubal/Gomer/Togarmah) Libya (Put), Sudan/Ethiopia (Cush), who will attempt a doomed attack on Israel, greatly reducing their influence in the region. "Rumors of war" and rumors of 'peace and security' seem to be the prevalent themes of the day.
In closing, the Bible warns of a 'creative destruction' of sorts resulting from the advances of man-kind in the realms of peace-making via the emergence of a union set to undermine the sovereignty of nations in the guise of 'democracy.' Israel is unlike any other nation in the world as it can not be contained by such a global union that will eventually be led by the Antichrist.
Israel is like a banner to the world that the Word of God is the truth, and Jerusalem as prophesied by Zechariah will be a burdensome stone to all the nations who attempt division or conquest of her. The conflict in the Middle East that brings Israel and her neighbors to the decision table is rooted in the spiritual realm and no corruptible man-made plan can bring lasting peace and security based upon unscriptural and dishonest means or motives. It is the confirming of the (false) peace treaty that initiates the time of Jacob's trouble, and judgment upon all the earth.
WEEK OF MARCH 13 THROUGH MARCH 19
Franklin Graham: World’s Christians in Grave Danger
March 19….(Newsmax) The Muslim Brotherhood, with the complicity of the Obama administration, has infiltrated the US government at the highest levels and is influencing American policy that leaves the world’s Christians in grave danger, warns internationally known evangelist Franklin Graham. “The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active here in our country,” Graham tells Newsmax. “We have these people advising our military and State Department. We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries. “It’s like a farmer asking a fox, ‘How do I protect my hen house?’ “ That same Muslim Brotherhood is fomenting much of the rebellion and the deteriorating social order roiling the Middle East, forcing millions of Christians to flee for their lives, says Graham, son of beloved evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, and founder of The Samaritan’s Purse international charity. “Under Egypt’s Hosni Mubarek and Jordan’s King Hussein and other moderate leaders, Christians had been protected,” Graham says. 11 million Christians live in Egypt and I fear for them, because if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, you’re going to see a great exodus of Christians. Same thing in Tunisia and Lebanon. I fear for the church because the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be a very terrible thing.” A new report from the Roman Catholic aid agency Aid to the Church in Need supports Graham’s contention that the persecution of Christians worldwide has worsened exponentially in the past few years.
According to the report, Christians face increased suffering in 22 countries around the world, with Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Nigeria being among the worst countries to be a Christian in today. The persecution has gotten markedly worse over the past two years according to the organization. “The proportion of countries with a worsening track-record of anti-Christian violence and intimidation would be higher were it not for the fact that in many cases the situation could scarcely have been worse in the first place” the report’s authors wrote. More than 75 percent of religious persecution in the world is currently being carried out against Christians, the report concludes. The Vatican formed a special committee late last year to address the flight of Christians and the rise of militant Islam in the Middle East. In his New Year’s message, Pope Benedict XVI said Christians suffer more than any other religious group because of their faith Asked if president Barack Obama was doing enough to protect Christians at home and abroad, Graham says, “No. If anything it’s the opposite.” “Muslims are protected more in this country than Christians,” he says. “The president has made many statements but he doesn’t back them up. We have to do more to protect the Christians in the Muslim world. Their lives are in danger.”
In recent weeks, Obama administration officials have stepped up the defense of their inclusive stance toward Muslims in their ranks. Deputy national security advisor, Denis McDonough, said last week that President Obama is actually trying to prevent terrorism by "dispelling the myths that have developed over the years, including misperceptions about our fellow Americans who are Muslim." "When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution," McDonough said at an interfaith forum in Sterling, Va. Graham, however says what Obama is really doing is "giving Islam a pass" rather than speaking openly about the "horrific" treatment women and minorities receive. "We certainly love the Muslim people," Graham said in an earlier interview with Newsmax. "But that is not the faith of this country. And that is not the religion that built this nation. The people of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith are the ones who built America, and it is not Islam."
Franklin Graham: Japan Quake, Tsunami Feels Like End Times
March 19….(Newsmax) The cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in Japan have all the trappings of Armageddon, but there’s no way to know whether the end times are upon us, evangelist Franklin Graham tells Newsmax. His advice in the wake of the tragedy: Help your fellow man as much as you can, and always be prepared to meet your maker. “What are the signs of Christ’s second coming? War and famine and earthquakes … escalating like labor pains,” Graham says. “Maybe this is it, I don’t know. We should pray and be vigilant. The Bible teaches us Jesus is going to return someday. Many of us we believe that day is sooner rather than later.” “Whether the end is in five years, 10 years, 100 years or 1,000 years, we need to be ready to stand before God,” Graham says in an exclusive Newsmax interview. Graham, son of beloved evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, is spearheading the shipment of 90 tons of relief supplies to the hardest-hit area in northern Japan though The Samaritan’s Purse, a charity he founded. The group is sending blankets, hygiene kits, and other necessities to be distributed through hundreds of Christian churches in Japan.
The relief supplies are desperately needed, as conditions on the ground remain critical a week after the deadly quake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear plant crisis, Graham says. “In Tokyo, life goes on. But you don’t have to go very far north to find a different Japan,” he says. “The country in the north is without power, without fuel, bridges have collapsed, railroads not operating. You go for hour after hour at night and don’t see one light in the distance. They are suffering.” Graham acknowledged that he and his staff are preparing to work in harsh, dangerous conditions, exacerbated by the looming threat of radioactive contamination from Japan’s damaged nuclear plants. “I’ve told my staff, if any of you are nervous you don’t have go,” he says. “I haven’t had one person back out. There are dangers wherever we go in the world, but as Christians we put faith in God. He’s called us to do this work. He’ll look after us and protect us. It’s not going to stop us from responding and helping.” Graham urges people to stay focused on helping the Japanese people and cautions against reading too much into the spiritual implications of such tragedies. “We do know that God made the world, but we don’t blame God every time there’s a disaster,” he says. “People like to say, ‘Why did God allow this?’ Every time there’s a storm in life, it’s not always God behind it.”
Obama / Qaddafi Must Withdraw Forces
March 19….(DEBKAfile Special Report) US President Barack Obama Friday, March 18, laid down an ultimatum for Muammar Qaddafi to comply with or else face "military consequences," the key condition being the withdrawal of Libyan troops from Misrata and Zawiya west of Tripoli and Ajdabiya to the east, the last being tantamount to lifting the siege on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Obama spoke 24 hours after the UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya, approved a no-fly zone and authorized "all necessary measures to protect civilians." While Obama's demands appeared to cancel out the gains made by Qaddafi's forces in recent weeks, Debkafile's military sources note that he set no deadline for these withdrawals. Nor did he specify that the towns in question must revert to rebel control. Most of all, he did not demand Qaddafi's departure outright, although he stressed that the Libyan ruler had lost the confidence of his people. The set of conditions which the US president called non-negotiable would in fact restore the standoff between Qaddafi's army and the rebels which preceded the current offensive, giving Washington breathing space to decide on its next steps. He made it clear that the Europeans and Arabs must take the lead in enforcing the no fly zone over Libya, not the US, which would only provide logistical and other support as needed. Over the weekend, therefore, European and Arab planes may take off from air bases in Italy, Greece and Cyprus and fly over Libya.
Debkafile reported earlier Friday, March 18: Hours after UN Security Council approval Thursday night, March 17, of no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures to protect civilians," military action against Muammar Qaddafi is up in the air. Although the air forces of at least five nations were standing by for its passage, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that "it is not at all clear" what military action is to be taken against the Qaddafi regime. The final result of resolution must be Qaddafi's departure, she said although this is not mentioned in the UN motion. debkafile's Washington sources explain the delay by the Obama administration's decision to let the Europeans, primarily Britain and France, take the lead, on the assumption that they will turn to the United States for support. Only then will any real military operation begin, if the administration so decides. For now, not a single American, European or Arab warplane has taken to the skies. More than a month after Qaddafi began suppressing the uprising against him, it is becoming clear that, notwithstanding the war rhetoric leading up to the UN resolution, no real force was ready to implement it.
President Barack Obama is meanwhile preparing to set out on a Latin American tour. A multinational conference in Libya has been called for Saturday by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to decide what to do next and Pentagon spokesmen have said that preparations for action against Libya continue, but will not take concrete form before early next week. In fact, the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, supposed to have spearheaded an aerial-naval operation against Libya, was reported Friday distancing itself from Mediterranean waters and heading for the Gulf of Aden. This abrupt change in Washington's posture on Libya is explained by debkafile's US and European sources on two grounds:
1. The rebels fighting Qaddafi do not exactly fit the description of freedom-fighters and democracy seekers described in Western circles. The information in Washington is that they are made up of a mishmash of politically irresponsible, squabbling bands which spend more time cashing in on the conflict than fighting it. The Obama administration is reluctant to underpin its Libya policy in this type of opposition.
2. The US failed to mobilize Egypt for a joint campaign against the Qaddafi regime. With the Saudi king sharply opposed to US policy in the Middle East, the administration is reluctant to go forward against Libya without the participation of the two most important Arab nations, with only the UAE and Qatar on board. Therefore no military action is expected in the immediate term. The arena is left to Qaddafi and it cost him nothing to announce smoothly in Tripoli Friday, March 18, that he fully accepts UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and its initial clause calling for an immediate ceasefire and halt in hostilities in order to protect civilian lives.
Egypt and Israel
March 19….(WND) From the beginning of recorded history, Egypt and Israel have been inextricably linked. It was to Egypt Abraham and Sarah once fled. And it was to Egypt that Jacob and his sons sought refuge from a famine. In a strange way, Egypt actually incubated the nation of Israel, first under the watchful eyes of Joseph, who had miraculously ascended to the position of prime minister, and later, under a pharaoh who knew not Joseph, in slavery. The strange and uneasy bond between the two nations did not end with the Exodus of 3 million children of Israel, their 40 years in the wilderness or their settling in the Promised Land. At the height of his splendor and power, King Solomon made affinity with Egypt and married, among many others, pharoah's daughter to help seal the peace. Later, during the time of Jeremiah, both Egypt and Judah are conquered by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.
Egypt and Israel were conquered later by Greece and again by Rome. It was to Egypt that Joseph and Mary fled with their baby, Jesus, to escape the wrath of King Herod. Egypt did not exactly welcome the children of Israel back to their homeland in 1948. Instead, it was one of the Arab nations that declared war on the reborn state the day it was declared a nation. The modern state of Israel fought wars with Egypt again in 1956, 1967 and 1973. But Egypt once again became a place of refuge for Israel in 1978, when Israel agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula it had captured in 1973. A peace treaty between the two nations has been in place since. Not much longer will that peace last.
The Muslim Brotherhood is on the verge of taking over the country, probably as early as this fall. Israel will, again, be totally isolated in the roughest neighborhood in the world, surrounded by hostile nations on every side. War is just a shot away. For those of us old enough to remember, Israel was nearly defeated in the last regional war between the unified Arab nations and the Jewish State. So close to annihilation was Israel in 1973 that Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan armed their nuclear weapons. Only a last-minute military relief effort by the US provided Israel with the weaponry it needed to make desperate counterattacks against Egypt and Syria that saved the day.
Can Israel count on the US next time? Not with the administration of Barack Obama. In fact, one could argue it was Obama's speech in Cairo in 2009 that encouraged and mobilized the Muslim Brotherhood, signaling to them the time was now to make their move against President Hosni Mubarak. Why would Obama do that knowing the peace between Egypt and Israel had maintained a regional peace for 31 years? The only explanation that makes sense is that Obama detests Israel, at least a sovereign and self-reliant Israel. So, if Israel cannot rely on the US who then? This is going to sound strange to many "sophisticated," secular and materialistic ears. But Israel needs to rely on the same God that delivered her from the bowels of Egypt in the time of Moses. Israel needs to rely on the same God who did an even bigger miracle in delivering her scattered remnants from the four corners of the Earth a generation ago. Israel needs to rely on the same God who defended her from all odds in 1948.
UN Clears Way for Attack on Libya
(US, Europe Ready to Launch Air Strikes Against Gadhafi Forces; Rebels' Worsening Plight Jolts White House to Act)
March 18….(Wall Street Journal) The United Nations Security Council authorized military force Thursday against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi's security forces, opening the way for European and US airstrikes within days. The UN action, pushed aggressively by France and the UK, came as Col. Gadhafi's security forces continued their assault toward Benghazi, the de-facto capital of rebels trying to end his 42-year rule. European and American officials argued on the Security Council floor that an international campaign to stop Col. Gadhafi's forces was required immediately to stave off a potential massacre of opposition forces and civilians. French officials have indicated that military strikes could take place within hours of the resolution's passage. Others were more cautious about how quickly any attacks would begin. In Benghazi, the rebel administration unleashed fireworks over the harbor seconds after the UN vote, and in the eastern port city of Tobruq, tracer bullet volleys lit up the sky as boats in the harbor blew their horns. Col. Gadhafi, shortly before the vote, said his troops would launch an all-out assault in the coming hours against rebels and members of the opposition in Benghazi even if the whole world opposed him. Ten members of the Security Council voted for the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya and other security measures, with no members opposing the resolution. Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstained. The resolution also authorized other nations to board ships and planes to enforce an existing arms embargo on Libya, and approved "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from Col. Gadhafi's security forces. UN members, aware of the sensitivity such a military campaign could have in a Muslim country, stressed that there would be no foreign military occupation of Libya, an outcome that is barred by the resolution. "Our resolution is aimed to protect Libyan civilians," said Lebanon's ambassador to the UN, Nawaf Salam, a central player in the drafting of the resolution. "It will not result in the occupation of even an inch of Libyan territory." The assertive US posture marked a turnaround from the early days of the month-old Libyan crisis, when President Barack Obama's administration, and particularly his defense advisers, seemed reluctant to embrace military action. The president appeared to have found himself facing two unpleasant possibilities: Adding a third military commitment to the wars already underway in Afghanistan and Iraq, or watching Col. Gadhafi defeat, perhaps brutally, a rebellion sparked by regional pro-democracy uprisings. US officials said military action was preferable out of fear that, should Col. Gadhafi remain in power, he would slaughter those who had turned against him and perhaps return to his traditional support for international terrorism. "If Gadhafi stays, he will do terrible things to Libya and her neighbors," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit Thursday to Tunisia, Libya's neighbor to the west. "It's in his nature, there are some creatures who are like that." European and American officials said military operations could begin quickly, as fear increased that Col. Gadhafi could move aggressively to retake Benghazi. France has been the most aggressive in seeking to contest Col. Gadhafi and Paris's military forces are expected to play a central, and early role, in enforcing the no-fly zone and taking other actions, European and American officials said. US forces are also expected to take an important part in the operation, but the White House is wary of being seen as the driving force behind any military actions.
The UN vote passed narrowly, as nine votes are required with no vetoes by any of the permanent member of the Security Council. Russia, a vocal critic of the Libya action, abstained, and said it worried about a widening war. "The passions of some Security Council members for military force prevailed," said Moscow's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin. "The use of force will fall on the shoulders of those who take action." Some Russians accused the US of a double-standard, pressing for Col. Gadhafi's removal while supporting Bahrain's royal family, despite its crackdown on protesters. "Why can the King of Bahrain spill the blood of his subjects and the leader of Libya can't?" said Yevgeny Satanovsky, director of the independent Institute for Middle East Studies in Moscow.
US and European officials stressed the importance of having Arab states take part in any coalition, logistically and financially, after the Arab League backed the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were among countries that discussed the possibility of assisting the US and French governments in Libya, according to Arab and European diplomats. A number or Arab governments were still voicing reluctance to back a UN-mandated operation in Libya, given frustration over the White House's handling of the recent democracy surge in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in particular, felt the US abandoned its long-time ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and hadn't shown enough support for the Bahraini royal family.
EU/US Set to Attack Libya, Qaddafi Threatens Europe and ME
March 18….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Shortly before the UN Security Council met Thursday, March 17, to discuss a no-fly zone resolution for Libya, Moscow promised Washington and other Western capitals not to apply a veto, debkafile's sources report exclusively. The US, British, French, UAE and Qatar air forces were on standby to attack Libyan army targets as soon as the resolution is passed. If attacked, Libya threatens retaliation against civilian and military targets in Europe and the Middle East, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry in Tripoli. In Tunis, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that a UN no-fly zone over Libya "would require the bombing of targets to take out the threat posed by Muammar Qaddafi's regime." She spoke after Cairo rejected Washington's request for the use of Egyptian air bases to enforce the no fly zone against Libya and from which to launch US air attacks on Qaddafi's army. This too is disclosed by Debkafile's exclusive sources.
Earlier Thursday, March 17, Debkafile reported: Shortly before she left Egypt for Tunis Wednesday, March 16, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urgently asked the head of Egypt's military junta Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi for permission to use Egyptian air bases for American military jets to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. Clinton told Tantawi she hoped for UN Security Council approval of the no-fly zone at its special session Thursday March 17. But this might not be enough to stop Muammar Qaddafi's advance and the US might have to resort to military action against his army. She did not elaborate on this. In Tunis, she said later that a UN no-fly zone over Libya would require the bombing of targets to take out the threat posed by Muammar Qaddafi's regime.
Debkafile's sources say the White House is weighing the option of US aerial strikes for halting Qaddafi's march on Benghazi, Libya's second largest city and the primary rebel stronghold. The point of this action would be less to preserve rebel control of the city and more to keep Qaddafi from proclaiming his victory over the opposition to his rule and its foreign champions. Another part of the plan under consideration in Washington would entail strikes against Qaddafi's government and military centers in Tripoli, the capital. Tantawi promised Clinton to convene the Supreme Military Council Thursday before the Security Council session and inform her of its decision before she flies out of the Middle East.
According to our Washington sources, the Pentagon proposes to use the big Egyptian air base at El Mansoura in the Nile Delta for enforcing the no-fly zone and launching air attacks on Libya. The Obama administration's U-turn on direct military intervention in Libya was discernable early Thursday morning in the remarks of America's UN Ambassador Susan Rice: She said: "The US view is that we need to be prepared to contemplate steps that include, but perhaps go beyond, a no-fly zone, at this point, as the situation on the ground has evolved and as a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk." By "the situation on the ground," she was referring to Qaddafi's three army columns, reinforced with thousands of fighters from the Warefla tribal federation, which are rapidly advancing on Benghazi. Debkafile's military sources report that the Saadi and Khamis brigades, the latter being the 32nd Libyan Brigade most of whose troops move in APCs, are approaching the last rebel stronghold. They are backed by an artillery brigade and a tank brigade. From the west, Libyan missile ships have blockaded Benghazi.
Our sources add that Libyan army units based in Benghazi went into action ahead of the main body's arrival. Those troops were caught by the onset of the Libyan uprising on Feb. 15 in rebel-held territory. They stood by and waited for Qaddafi's orders to go into battle. Another sign of President Obama's strong inclination to undertake military action beyond a no-fly zone came from the deployment Monday, March 14 of the nuclear attack submarine USS Providence off the Libyan coast. In the past decade, this submarine has often been called in to support US missile attacks, usually with Tomahawk, whether in 2003 in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The US fleet present off the Libyan coast includes also the marine assault ship USS Kearsarge, which is a helicopter carrier; the Marine Amphibious Transport Docks vessel and the missile destroyers USS Barry, USS Ponce and USS Mason. The American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, now near the Red Sea, could also be called in for an American missile attack on Libya.
Where is President Obama?
March 17….(New York Post) The Middle East is afire with rebellion, Japan is imploding from an earthquake, and the battle of the budget is on in the United States, but none of this seems to be deterring President Obama from a heavy schedule of childish distractions. The newly installed tandem of White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Senior Adviser David Plouffe were supposed to impart a new sense of discipline and purpose to the White House. Instead, they are permitting him to showcase himself as a poorly focused leader who has his priorities backward. This morning, as Japan’s nuclear crisis enters a potentially catastrophic phase, we are told that Obama is videotaping his NCAA tournament picks and that we’ll be able to tune into ESPN Wednesday to find out who he likes. Saturday, he made his 61st outing to the golf course as president, and got back to the White House with just enough time for a quick shower before heading out to party with Washington’s elite journalists at the annual Gridiron Dinner. Obama appeared a little sleepy as he weighed in against the bullies, perhaps because he’d spent the night before partying with lawmakers as they took in a Chicago Bulls vs. Charlotte Bobcats game.
Meanwhile, the president has been studying for weeks whether to establish a No Fly Zone over Libya, delaying action while the point becomes increasingly moot as Qaddafi begins to defeat and slaughter his opponents. And lawmakers from both Parties are wondering why he seems to be AWOL in the deficit reduction debate. The Libya indecision follows an inconsistent response to the protests that ousted former Egyptian President Mubarak and seemed to catch the White House off guard. The perfunctory response from the White House Monday to Saudi Arabia’s dispatch of troops to Bahrain suggested the administration wasn’t prepared for that one either. But the fun stuff won’t end anytime soon. On Thursday, the Taoiseach of Ireland will be in town to help the president celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And then Friday it’s off to Brazil for the start of a three-country Latin American tour. Oddly, he’ll be missing Carnival, which went down last week.
Iran and Saudis Set for Armed Duel over Bahrain
March….(DEBKA) The contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-Shiite split in the Arab world were ramped up to a dangerous level Wednesday March 16 by the all-out offensive launched by Bahrain security forces, tanks and helicopters to drive the mostly Shiite protesters out of the main square and key points of the island-state. debkafile's sources report that Bahraini forces dispersed the protesters camped for a month in the Pearl Roundabout main square of Manama, at the capital's downtown and financial district, near the oil refineries and in the Ar Rifa district, home to the royal palaces. The exact number of casualties is not known. Official sources say three Bahraini police officers and three protesters were killed and hundreds were injured. In an effort to stop the demonstrators regrouping for another assault, the authorities empowered by the three-month emergency declared Tuesday, March 15, imposed a curfew from late afternoon until early morning, banned all street gatherings and warning that violators would be shot. After the streets were cleared, the army moved tanks into the former protest venues.
Debkafile's military and Gulf sources say that Bahrain laid the ground for its security crackdown Wednesday with the entry of Saudi, UAE and Kuwait military contingents into the island-kingdom Monday, March 14. Local units were able to focus on dispersing the demonstrators, leaving Saudi troops to secure strategic compounds. The Bahraini conflict may well escalate further if the protest leaders, predominantly disaffected Shiites, return to the fray:
1. This time, they will not come back with rocks, sticks, petrol bombs and slogans, but armed with the guns provided by Iranian agents which they have kept hidden in their homes.
2. Those Shiite demonstrators will not shrink from shooting not just at Bahraini security forces but also Saudi troops. A warning of this came Tuesday when a Shiite sniper shot dead a Saudi officer. The Saudis tried to keep this incident quiet but they won't be able to do so if casualty figures rise on all sides.
debkafile's Iranian sources say that it will be up to Tehran to decide if the Bahraini Shiites get into direct firefights. That will depend on whether the Iranians are ready to embark on concrete steps to back the protesters and encourage them to take bolder action.
Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the dispersal of the Shiite protesters as "unjustifiable and irreparable." Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said ominously: “The unexpected interference of foreign forces in popular uprisings in different countries, including Bahrain, whose people are peacefully after their legitimate demands, can lead the region toward a crisis that will have dangerous consequences." This was a clear threat to the GCC region as a whole for authorizing combined military intervention in Bahrain. Iran could hit back by igniting Bahrain-type disturbances among the Shiites of the eastern Saudi oil regions and of other the Gulf states which sent military units to Bahrain, especially Qatar and the UAE. The spread of unrest from Bahrain to other Gulf emirates would have a major impact not just on their regimes but also on the global oil and financial markets. Tuesday and Wednesday, Riyadh began transferring large military contingents to the Shiite regions, deploying them in city centers and at oil fields, installations and terminals. Smaller units of extra troops were added to the brigades in Bahrain. The royal rulers of Saudi Arabia are determined to stay the course, Debkafile's Gulf sources reported Wednesday from circles close to the throne. One source said that Saudi King Abdullah was utterly resolved to crush the Shiite revolt in neighboring Bahrain. He sees this mission as the battle to preserve the integrity of his own kingdom. The king told his close associates that he would spare no effort and use every means to wipe out the threat to the Bahraini regime. Saudi Arabia therefore stands ready for a showdown with Iran over the island kingdom, even at the cost of a regional Sunni-Shiite war in the Persian Gulf.
Qaddafi’s Army Bombs Benghazi
(Son Says ‘Too Late’ for No-Fly Zone Over Libya)
March 17….(Bloomberg) Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi brought the war for the first time to the rebel capital, with three of his warplanes bombing Benghazi airport before being chased off by anti-aircraft fire. Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, scoffed at today’s UN Security Council discussions about authorizing a no-fly zone. “It’s too late,” he said in an interview with EuroNews television, according to a transcript on its website. “In 48 hours, we will have finished our military operation. We are at the gates of Benghazi.” His timetable may be optimistic, since his forces were still facing rebel resistance 100 miles away. Libya’s state-run television appealed to residents of Benghazi to support government troops. The army “is coming to secure you and to lift the injustice and horror off you and to protect your pure souls and precious blood,” said the broadcast, which has been airing since yesterday. There have been few signs of rebels making defensive preparations on the city’s outskirts, the Associated Press reported. The International Committee of the Red Cross today pulled its staff from the coastal city, relocating to Tobruk, close to the Egyptian border, according to a news release on its website. “We are extremely concerned about what will happen to civilians, the sick and wounded, detainees and others who are entitled to protection in times of conflict,” Simon Brooks, head of the ICRC mission in Libya, said in the release.
On the ground, government forces continued to fight pockets of rebel resistance Ajdabiya, a city 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Benghazi, and attacked the blockaded city of Misrata, the last rebel holdout near Tripoli. Libya’s crude oil exports may be halted for “many months” because of damage to facilities and international sanctions, the International Energy Agency said yesterday. Crude oil for April delivery rose 80 cents, or 0.8 percent, to settle at $97.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil is 20 percent higher than a year ago.
The UN Security Council was meeting through the afternoon on Libya, with Russia proposing the body issue a formal call for a cease-fire. French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to the other leaders of Council nations saying it is “high time” to respond to the Libya situation with a no-fly zone. “Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya,” he said, according to an e-mail from the French Embassy in Washington. “It is now a matter of days, if not hours.” The death toll from the fighting may reach 15,000, Mustafa Gheriani, a media coordinator for the rebels, said today by telephone from the rebel capital. In Benghazi, three fighter jets from Qaddafi’s fleet carried out air strikes on the airport that is currently being used by the rebels as an airbase, breaking off their attack amid anti-aircraft fire, Ahmed Omar, a military spokesman for the opposition, said today by telephone. Rebel aircraft bombed government forces near Ajdabiya today, Al Jazeera television said. Misrata was shelled by government tanks from three directions early today, Reda Almountasser, a resident, said by phone. In his EuroNews interview, Qaddafi said rebels should flee to Egypt while they can. “We have no intention of killing them or taking revenge on these traitors who have betrayed our people,” he said. “We say to them that they can run into Egypt quite safely because Libya no longer belongs to them.
IDF Seizes Freighter of Iranian Weapons Headed to Gaza
(The Victoria cargo ship that was boarded by Israeli Navy commandos on Tuesday morning was carrying advanced Chinese-made anti-ship missiles that would have threatened Israeli sea-based strategic installations and navy vessels)
March 16….(Jerusalem Post) The IDF seized a freighter ship with dozens of tons of weaponry from Iran headed for Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. The ship, known as Victoria, was flying a Liberian flag, and was seized by the navy in the Mediterranean Sea, 200 miles off of Israel's coast. The Victoria was boarded by commandos from the Israeli Navy's Flotilla 13, also known as the Shayetet, arrived in the Ashdod port on Tuesday evening. An initial inspection of the cargo revealed the ship was carrying weapons. The exact amount is to be determined. The crew, questioned by the Navy Commando, was not aware that the cargo contained weaponry. The ship set sail Monday night from the port of Lattakai in Syria and from there it traveled to Turkey. There, it was supposed to unload the weapons, which would travel by land to Gaza. The IDF's assessment is that the weapons did not originate in Turkey, but that the containers were unloaded there and transferred onto the Victoria. The port of Lattakai is the same port where two Iranian war ships docked in February on their way to the Suez Canal. At the time, IDF officials raised concerns of the possibility that they were carrying weapons intended for terrorist organizations, but there was no confirmation. Iranian officials on Tuesday denied allegations that weaponry was sent by the Islamic Republic. Asked about Israel's allegation, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said: "Don't trust Israeli media news. We do not confirm it in any way." The Israeli Navy has conducted numerous operations over the years against Iranian smuggling to Hamas and Hezbollah. Foreign reports attribute bombings of truck convoys in Sudan as well as arms ships in the Red Sea in recent years to the IDF. In November 2009, the Israeli Navy seized the Francop cargo ship, which was carrying 500 tons of weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon, including Katyusha rockets and grenades. At the time, IDF officers said the amount was enough to sustain Hezbollah for several weeks of war. The amount of weaponry found on the ship was smaller than that found on the Francop, but IDF sources said the munitions appeared to be of higher quality.
Thirty-nine containers were loaded on the Victoria in Latakia including four that were slated to be unloaded in the Egyptian port of Alexandria. When the commandos boarded the ship they found the four locked and after opening them discovered some 50 tons of weaponry including the advanced anti-ship missiles. The C-704 has a range of 35 km and carries a warhead with 130 kg of explosives. The commandos found booklets explaining how to use the missile in Farsi, further proof that the missiles originated in Iran. The missiles use an advanced radar to acquire their targets. In 2006, a Chinese-made C-802 missile struck the INS Hanit off the coast of Beirut killing four Israeli sailors.
Much about this episode is still obscure, except for the clear evidence of military intelligence cooperation between Tehran, Damascus, Ankara, Hizballah and Hamas in the smuggling of Iranian weapons to radical groups in the region.
Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain
March 16….(Arutz) A Saudi official confirmed on Monday that more than 1,000 Saudi troops have entered Bahrain, where anti-regime protests have been going on for a month. The official told AFP that the troops entered the country on Sunday, and that the intervention came “after repeated calls by the (Bahraini) government for dialogue, which went unanswered” by the opposition. Bahraini television showed on Monday evening a line of armored vehicles carrying Saudi troops crossing the 16-mile causeway that links the two countries. The Los Angeles Times cited witnesses and diplomats who said that the force began taking up positions at strategic locations around the country, including the neighborhood that is home to the royal family. There was no immediate sign that the Saudi troops were positioning themselves near Pearl Roundabout, the traffic circle in the capital which is occupied by protestors. Anti-regime protests in Bahrain have been taking place since last month, as demonstrators have called on the government to announce reforms that would end what they claim is systematic discrimination against the country’s Shi’ite population (which makes up the majority) by its Sunni rulers.
The Bahraini king, Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa, has offered to begin dialogue with the demonstrators and has also suggested a new parliament and other reforms. The opposition, however, has refused to talk until the government resigns. Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, and is the only Arab country which has a female Jewish ambassador to the United States, Huda Nono. The official Bahrain news agency posted a statement on Monday in which it said that the arrival of the Saudi troops is the first wave of a larger intervention by Bahrain's Persian Gulf neighbors. “On this occasion, the Bahrain Defense Forces calls upon all citizens and residents to cooperate fully with the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] forces and welcome them warmly,” read the statement which was quoted by The Los Angeles Times. The Saudi intervention came just two days after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the capital Manama and held talks with the king in which he urged Bahrain to undertake rapid and significant reform. Gates noted that Washington was concerned that the longer the instability in Bahrain continues, the more likely it is that Iran would try to meddle in Bahrain's affairs. Gates’ concerns may be have some substance since, according to a report in Reuters on Monday, Iran has urged Bahrain not to allow foreign interference in the country. The report quoted the Director General for Persian Gulf and Middle East Affairs at Iran's Foreign Ministry, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who said that foreign interference in Bahrain would only complicate the situation. “The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain are among the domestic issues of this country, and creating an atmosphere of fear and using other countries' military forces to oppress these demands is not the solution,” Abdollahian was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying. “It is expected that the demands of the Muslim people of Bahrain, be seriously considered by the authorities and that they prevent the situation from becoming more complex by making right decisions and not allowing foreign interference in Bahrain.”
The Massive Japanese Earthquake
March 15….(FOJ) I have not ran any articles or stories dealing with the earthquake in Japan to this point. The situation in Japan is very sad, and many people have lost their lives. It is a tragedy that defies human understanding. Many prophecy ministries simply exacerbate the tragedy and devastation that befalls unfortunate victims in these events. FOJ would like to publicly urge Christians world-wide to pray for the Japanese people, and the communities that were hit by this calamity.
Many prophecy people are too quick to proclaim the idea that earthquakes are a sure sign of the end-times. Earthquakes can be among the natural geo-physical signs of prophecy, but sensitivity to the sufferings of people must be considered. Earthquakes are not necessarily signs of judgment on a people, but do reflect the reality that our world is chaotic and cursed. Earthquakes can happen almost anywhere. (Luke 21:10-11 Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.)
I have read numerous articles relative to the Japan earthquake over the past several days. But I was especially concerned by one story that proclaimed that the earth’s crust was fractured by the Japan earthquake, and that the earth’s axis was affected by the subterranean blast. These details, if correct would be serious signs of the kind of earthquake activity prophesied in the Bible during the Great Tribulation. The Bible indicates that many intense earthquakes will happen during that seven-year period, climaxing with one gigantic earthquake in Jerusalem! (see Revelation 6:12, 8:5, 11:13,19, 16:18) Therefore, the idea that the earth’s crust has been fractured and the earth’s axis is altered is a serious dynamic for our world. Coupled with the geo-political reality of Israel in our world today, and the conflict surrounding Jerusalem, cataclysmic earthquakes only cause more concern about the times in which we live. For Christians, we know that Jesus Christ is the only real security and hope in the world, and his salvation is the Rock of Ages, which all people should be looking for!
Palestinian Terrorist Butchers Jewish Family in Samaria
March 14….(Israel Today) A Palestinian terrorist on Friday night quietly slipped into a home in the Samarian Jewish community of Itamar and butchered five members of the family living there as they slept. The terrorist broke in through a living room window. He missed eight-year-old Roi Fogel, who was sleeping on the couch, and proceeded to a nearby bedroom where he slashed the throats of the father, Uri Fogel, and his 3-month-old baby, Hadas, who was sleeping with him. At that moment, the mother, Ruth, came out of the bathroom and was quickly murdered as she looked with horror on the bodies of her dead loved ones. The killer moved on to the children’s bedrooms, where he executed 11-year-old Yoav, who was reading in bed at the time, and stabbed three-year-old Elad twice in the heart as he slept. The terrorist missed two-year-old Shai Fogel, who was sleeping in another room. Also surviving the attack was 12-year-old Tamar Fogel, who only returned home from a friend’s house after the attack was over. With the help of a neighbor, Tamar woke her sleeping brother who then unlocked the front door that the terrorist had locked to cover his escape. It was then that Tamar and Roi Fogel discovered the nightmare that had visited their happy home.
The Israeli army immediately launched a manhunt for the perpetrator and any possible accomplices, and announced that due to the extreme severity of the attack, the operation will be “blue-and-white” only - meaning Israel will be hunting the killers alone, and not working together with Palestinian security forces. Palestinian terrorists who in the past were caught first by Palestinian Authority police were able to spend a short time in jail before being prematurely released to resume their attacks on Israelis. The IDF is determined that the butcher of the Fogel family will not be given that luxury. Young Jewish residents of Samaria reacted to the attack by setting up roadblocks and hurling stones at passing Palestinian cars and houses in nearby Palestinian villages. Meanwhile, the government responded by approving the construction of hundreds of new housing units in a number of Jewish settlements.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued vague condemnations of the attack, reiterating that they are against all violence that targets civilians, but clearly trying to draw a parallel between the massacre of the Fogel family and Israeli anti-terror military operations. Abbas “stressed his rejection and condemnation of all violence directed against civilians, regardless of who was behind it or the reason for it,” according to a statement released by his office. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that while Abbas and Fayyad say what they must for international consumption, it is the anti-Jewish incitement they permit and even facilitate in Palestinian society that leads to such atrocities. “A society that allows wild incitement like this, leads to the murder of children,” Netanyahu said. Palestinian television, schoolbooks and performances regularly demonize the Jews, while summer camps and public squares are named after the most successful of Palestinian terrorists. A group affiliated with Abbas’ own Fatah faction later came forward and claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, known as the Al Aqsa Brigades, released a statement calling the brutal slaughter of the Fogel family a “natural response” to “Israeli crimes.” In cold, unsympathetic tones the statement referred to the killer as a “combatant” who “killed all five Zionists who were in the house” and then “returned home safely after conducting his mission successfully.”
Abbas' Double Game: Fatah Tipped to Endorse Itamar Murders
March 14….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas received a stern ticking-off when he called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Saturday night to condemn the savage murder Friday night by Palestinian terrorists of the parents and three small children of an Israeli family while they slept at their home at Itamar on the West Bank. The Prime Minister knew Abbas had quietly ordered heads of his Fatah organization to throw its support behind the atrocity – which was why Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was careful earlier to denounce "violence by any quarter" only in general terms. In his address to the nation Saturday night, Netanyahu accused Palestinian leaders of hypocritically mouthing peace slogans abroad while promoting anti-Israel incitation and propaganda on a daily basis in Palestinian schools and mosques. He warned that terrorists would not be allowed to determine the settlement map.
Debkafile's sources report that the Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has been caught out playing a double game, which has yet to be fully clarified: Is he supporting an operation by the rival Islamist Hamas action so as to ride the Arab unrest galloping across the Middle East and boost his faltering prestige at home? Is he trying to stir up another Palestinian uprising (intifada)? It would appear that Abu Mazen is opportunistically hoping to exploit the Palestinian street's sympathy for the Arab uprisings and divert its anger over the corruption deeply entrenched in his regime by letting Fatah terrorists off the leash for a fresh wave of attacks on Israel that could fit the slogan of the Third Palestinian Uprising. Hamas adherents might even rally behind his leadership.
Israeli security chiefs fear that even if Abbas does not mean to let the violence go to those lengths, Fatah activists may take his sympathy for the Itamar outrage as the green light for more attacks. In the last two weeks, Palestinian organizations and left-wing elements in Israel and aboard have been pushing for a Palestinian Day of Rage on Tuesday, March 15 and for two days on March 20-21 the following week, which coincide with the Jewish festival of Purim. Israel's army, intelligence and police have been placed on the highest level of preparedness for terrorist attacks, focusing on the West Bank, Jerusalem and mixed Jewish-Arab towns until after Purim. Security measures have also been clamped down on West Bank traffic in a major operation to net the killers. Itamar has been declared a closed military zone. Saturday night saw angry Jewish settlers blocking and stoning Palestinian vehicles.
Syria Supplying Qaddafi With Arms
March 14….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) As Washington commended the Arab League for approving a proposed no-fly zone over Libya and European powers drew up plans for saving the anti-Qaddafi movement from defeat, Syria began sending Muammar Qaddafi supplies of arms, ammunition and weapons spare parts to sustain his effort to crush the uprising. debkafile's military and intelligence sources report exclusively that over the weekend a Libyan army general arrived at the Syrian Naval command at Tartous to establish a liaison office for organizing military hardware supplies from Damascus to the Libyan army and arrange shipping schedules. Our sources report that another Libyan official was in Damascus early last week to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar Assad the types of weaponry required, prices and transport arrangements. After he left, Assad ordered Syrian emergency military stores to be opened and civilian freighters chartered to carry the consignments they had decided on across the Mediterranean to Libya. The Syrian and Libyan arsenals are fairly compatible: both are dominated by Russian military products, Mig and Sukhoi fighters and bombers, T-72 tanks, BM-21 rocket launchers, the same armored personnel carriers and anti-air and anti-tank missiles.The Libyan-Syrian arms transaction is a landmark in the sense that it is the first time since the Arab revolts erupted in January that one Arab regime has stepped in to help another suppress an uprising.
Damascus is also in violation of last month's Security Council Resolution 1970 which included an arms embargo against the Qaddafi regime and by supplying Libya weapons by sea Assad undermines the Western-Arab effort to introduce a no fly zone to curtail Qaddafi's aerial might. By this action, Bashar Assad shows contempt for the US President Barack Obama's policy in support of the popular unrest against authoritarian Arab regimes and scorns the indulgence shown him by the US president. In the last six months, Washington has gone to extreme lengths to establish friendly relations with Damascus, not only restoring the US ambassador after five years, but quietly accepting fresh Syrian meddling in Lebanon.
The Obama Administration had hoped that Assad would respond by being helpful on the Palestinian issue and start distancing himself from Tehran. Instead, he has strengthened his military ties with Tehran, granting Iran its first permanent base on the Mediterranean at Tartous. Now, by replenishing the regime's stocks of arms and ordnance, the Syrian ruler has gone directly against US policy of support for the Libyan opposition and spurred Qaddafi on for his final major offensive to crush the uprising without having to stop and wait for fresh supplies of war materiel. In the last 24 hours, rebel militias were pushed out of the two key oil towns of Ras Lanuf and Brega in eastern Libya after losing their footholds in Tripolitania to the west. Pro-Qaddafi forces were landed for the first time by sea Saturday, March 12, at Agilah, 60 kilometers east of Ras Lanuf, indicating that Qaddafi intends to drop more troops on the coast of Cyrenaica to pursue his thrust into the rebel-held region. Our military sources report that no obstacles now stand in the path of Qaddafi loyalist troops heading for the rebel center of Benghazi, 200 kilometers from Brega. The rebels have nowhere near the manpower they need to hold Libya's second largest city against a government offensive. There are first signs of an exodus beginning from the city. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has scheduled visits to Tunis and Cairo this week and a possible rendezvous with Libyan opposition National Transitional Council leaders in Cairo Tuesday, March 15. That timetable is prone to last-minute changes.
WEEK OF MARCH 6 THROUGH MARCH 12
Biggest Bond Funder Dumps US Treasuries
March 11….(In The Days) Bill Gross, the manager of the biggest bond fund in the world, has forgotten more about bonds than most of us will ever learn. That is why the big move that PIMCO has just made is so unsettling. At one time PIMCO held more US government debt than any other bond fund on the globe, but now news has come out that they have gotten rid of all their US government-related securities. So should we be alarmed? For months Gross has been warning that the bull market in bonds is coming to an end, and now it looks like he is putting his words into actions. Gross has often publicly decried the rampant government spending that has been going on over the last several years, and apparently he has seen enough. He is taking his ball and he is going home. This really is a stunning move by PIMCO. Gross must really believe that something fundamental has shifted. Gross didn’t get to where he is today by being stupid. But so far world financial markets are taking this news in stride. Nobody seems all that alarmed that the largest bond fund in the world has dumped all of their US Treasuries. But with world financial markets in such a state of chaos right now, shouldn’t we all take note when one of the biggest players in the game makes such a bold move?
Gross believes that interest rates on US Treasuries are way too low right now and that they will start going up when the Federal Reserve ends the current round of quantitative easing in June. Gross has indicated that if interest rates on US Treasuries go up high enough, PIMCO might get back in.
But if interest rates do start going up that is going to make servicing the monolithic US national debt much more expensive, and that would not be good news for US government finances. But would the Federal Reserve really allow interest rates on US Treasuries to go up substantially? Wouldn’t they just step in at some point and start buying US government debt again? Probably. But the truth is that the Ponzi Scheme of the US Treasury issuing bonds and the Federal Reserve buying them up cannot last forever as Gross noted in his March newsletter, “Basically, the recent game plan is as simple as the Ohio State Buckeyes’ “three yards and a cloud of dust” in the 1960s. When applied to the Treasury market it translates to this: The Treasury issues bonds and the Fed buys them. What could be simpler, and who’s to worry? This Sammy Scheme as I’ve described it in recent Outlooks is as foolproof as Ponzi and Madoff until, well, until it isn’t.” Gross also noted in his newsletter that the Federal Reserve is currently buying up about 70 percent of all new US government debt. So what is going to happen when that stops? Nobody knows for certain, but it sure is going to be interesting to watch.
The market for US Treasuries has not been working “normally” for quite some time now, and there is some legitimate doubt as to whether it will ever fully get back to “normal” again. Meanwhile, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe continues to get even worse. The yield on 10-year Portuguese bonds is now above 7 percent, the yield on 10-year Irish bonds is now above 9 percent and the yield on 10-year Greek bonds is now above 12 percent. Most people expect European leaders to soon come to an agreement to add billions more to existing bailout funds, but there is no guarantee that is actually going to happen. In fact, the Germans are making waves by insisting that the financially troubled nations in the EU must be willing to agree to limits on their future budget deficits. A recent article on CNBC described the situation this way. Before the Germans will agree to pump in extra cash from their taxpayers, backed by the French, they want each leader to agree to legislation at home that will limit the size of their future national deficits. The Greeks are already refusing point blank. Things may boil to the surface at an extraordinary summit on Friday. So what if an agreement can’t be reached? Could the dominoes in Europe start to fall?
Very few people actually want to see a wave of sovereign defaults in Europe, but the current situation cannot go on forever. At some point the Germans are going to get sick and tired of bailing out other members of the EU. The global addiction to debt is about to start having some very serious consequences. For decades, most of the governments of the industrialized world have been running up debt as if it would never come back to haunt them. Now the world is absolutely covered in red ink and everyone is looking for a way to solve the problem. But there is not going to be a debt jubilee to come along and save everyone. This debt bubble is either going to keep expanding or it is going to burst. At one point, at least some of the debt-ridden nations will try to inflate their way out of debt by recklessly printing money. To a certain extent that has already been going on. But it will not work. It will only cause a whole lot of inflation.
This is just more evidence that any economic system based on debt is destined to fall. When we allowed a private central bank to start issuing debt-based currency in this country back in 1913 we set ourselves up to fail. As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve should never have been allowed to come into existence, and it should have been shut down by Congress long before now. But now the United States is caught in the same debt trap that most of the other nations around the world are caught in. The global addiction to debt is going to have some very, very serious consequences. Instead of moving into a great time of peace and prosperity, everything is about to come falling apart. Things could have been different. Things did not have to turn out this way. But here we are on the edge of one of the biggest financial disasters in human history and most Americans still don’t understand what is happening.
North Korea Nears Completion of Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb
(North Korea Disrupts Current Military Maneuvers With Russian Device To Jam GPS)
March 10….(ABC News) North Korea appears to be protesting the joint US and South Korean military maneuvers by jamming Global Positioning Devices in the south, which is a nuisance for cell phone and computers users, but is a hint of the looming menace for the military. Since March 4, Pyongyang has been trying to disrupt GPS receivers critical to South Korean military communications apparently in protest of the ongoing joint military training exercises between South Korean and US forces. Strong jamming signals were sent intermittently every five to 10 minutes. The scope of the damage has been minimal, putting some mobile phones and certain military equipment that use GPS signals on the fritz. Large metropolitan areas including parts of Seoul, Incheon and Paju have been affected by the jamming, but "the situation is getting wrapped up, no severe damage has been reported for the last two days," Kyoungwoo Lee, deputy director of Korea Communications Commission, said. The jamming, however, has raised questions about whether the Korean peninsula is bracing for new electronic warfare. The North is believed to be nearing completion of an electromagnetic pulse bomb that, if exploded 25 miles above ground would cause irreversible damage to electrical and electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, radio and radar, experts say. "We assume they are at a considerably substantial level of development," Park Chang-kyu of the Agency for Defense Development said at a briefing to the parliament Monday. Park confirmed that South Korea has also developed an advanced electronic device that can be deployed in times of war. The current attempts to interfere with GPS transmissions are coming from atop a modified truck-mounted Russian device. Pyongyang reportedly imported the GPS jamming system from Russia in early 2000 and has since developed two kinds of a modified version. It has also in recent years handed out sales catalogs of them to nations in the Middle East, according to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo. US Forces Korea spokesman David Oten declined to assess the effects, saying it is a matter of intelligence but added in an e-mail response that they are conducting extensive analysis of potential threats and ensured that "United States forces operate using multiple, redundant navigational systems and train extensively to operate in a contested electronic environment."
Saudi Protestors Warned
March 10….(YNET) Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Wednesday that dialogue - not protests - is the way to bring reform and warned that the oil-rich nation will take strong action if activists take to the streets. "The kingdom does not interfere in the affairs of others and will not allow for anyone to interfere in its own affairs," Prince Saud al-Faisal said Wednesday at a press conference in Saudi Arabia's port of Jiddah. Using a figure of speech, he said his regime would "cut off any finger" raised against the regime. "Reform cannot be achieved through protests. The best way to achieve demands is through national dialogue," he said. Inspired by a wave of uprisings in the Arab world, activists from Saudi Arabia's Shiite Muslim minority have called for a "Day of Rage" on Friday to demand the regime's ouster. The government accuses Shiites from outside the country of spurring the protests.
The Interior Ministry on Monday reiterated that demonstrations are banned in the kingdom on grounds that they contradict Islamic laws and values and said in a statement that its security forces will act against anyone taking part in them. The warning came after about 100 Shiites staged a protest in an eastern region of the kingdom, and was the latest attempt by Saudi Arabia to get ahead of the unrest that has swept the Arab world in recent months. Last week, the government announced an unprecedented economic package worth an estimated $36 billion that will give Saudis interest-free home loans, unemployment assistance and debt forgiveness.
Iran Secretly Supplying Taliban
March 10….(ChicoER) NATO forces in Afghanistan have seized 48 Iranian-made rockets intended to aid the Taliban's spring battle campaign, the most powerful illicit weapons ever intercepted en route from the neighboring state, officials said Wednesday. The shipment is seen as a serious escalation in Iran's state support of the Taliban insurgency, according to NATO officials and described in detail by an international intelligence official. It's also an escalation in the proxy war Western officials say Iran is waging against U.S. and other Western forces in Afghanistan, as Washington continues to lobby for tougher international sanctions against Tehran to dissuade it from its alleged goal of building nuclear weapons. The intercepted 122-millimeter rockets can be fired up to 13 miles (22 kilometers) away from a target, and explode in a burst up to 80 feet (25 meters) wide, double that of the previous 107-millimeter rockets provided by Iran to the Taliban since 2006, the intelligence official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters. The rockets, which were shown to an Associated Press reporter, were machined without Iranian markings or any serial numbers, but the official says their technical details match other Iranian models. So far, there is no evidence that the 122-millimeter rockets have been used in Afghanistan, though the Taliban has sometimes used Chinese- and Russian-made rockets of the same range in the fight here, harvested from the multiple weapons caches around the country from Afghanistan's decades of civil war.
Iran, which was a staunch opponent of the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan before the US-led invasion triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has denied allegations that it is supporting militants in the wartorn country. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said they were sent by Iran and intended "to provide the Taliban with the capability to kill Afghan and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers from significant range."
EU Launches Democracy Strategy for the Southern Mediterranean
March 9….(BNO News) The European Union on Tuesday launched an ambitious strategy to support democracy and prosperity in the Southern Mediterranean area. The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy presented the Communication on a Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean. "The historic changes underway in the Southern Mediterranean carry the hope of more freedom, democracy, and a better life for the people in the region. It is our responsibility to rise up and support that transformation," said European Commission President Jose Barroso. The ambitious strategy was designed to support the momentous changes in Europe's southern region. It will also be an improvement on the EU relations with the countries in the South Mediterranean area. "The European Union has the experience and tools to help the countries in the region as they make the journey to deep democracy," said EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. "Today we have agreed a comprehensive offer of practical measures to support and underpin this process of transition." Ashton added that the EU leaders will endorse these measures on Friday's European Council summit. The strategy will be built on three key issues: the targeted support for democratic transformation and institution-building, a specific emphasis on support to civil society, and a boost for economic growth, development and job creation. "The European Union is determined to make a qualitative leap forward in the relations with its neighbors who are willing and able to embark on the path of political and economic reforms," said President Barroso. To this end, the European Union will refocus the substantial assistance programs available to the South Mediterranean for the period 2011-13. The EU aid is worth €4 billion ($5.56 billion) in grants. The South Mediterranean area is need of assist due to human hardship and migratory challenges. The Commission has already made €30 million ($41.7 million) available to tackle the most pressing humanitarian needs of the displaced people. In Tunisia, an additional EU aid package of €17 million ($23.65 million) has been prepared for immediate support for democratic transition and assistance to impoverished areas.
Gadhafi Launches Airstrikes as Civil War Rages in Libya
March 8….(CNN)Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi took aim at the rebel-controlled town of Ras Lanuf Monday, launching aerial strikes as part of an assault aimed at crushing the uprising against him. At the end of the third week of unrest, protests began February 15, Gadhafi's aerial forces targeted the main road heading into the oil town after launching another air strike earlier, five kilometers southeast of the city. In what has turned into a civil war, members of the opposition fired anti-aircraft guns toward Gadhafi's planes. Some families fled Ras Lanuf, hoping to escape the violence that has engulfed some of the country's most populous areas. Thousands trying to leave Libya Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said "there are credible reports of the use of helicopter gunships against civilians by government forces." Three members of the UN Security Council, France, Britain, and the United States, were working Monday on a possible resolution that would include language on a no-fly zone over Libya, diplomatic sources at the United Nations said. But any kind of military intervention could face sharp criticism from Russia and China, two permanent members of the council that wield veto power. US President Barack Obama said Monday he had a "very clear message to those who are around Col. Gadhafi: It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there." "We've got NATO as we speak consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside Libya," he said. In a statement, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO did not intend to intervene in Libya, but "as a defense Alliance and a security organization, it is our job to conduct prudent planning for any eventuality." NATO has begun around-the-clock surveillance flights of Libya, as it considers options for dealing with the Libyan violence, US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder told reporters Monday. While the opposition has managed to fight off onslaughts by Gadhafi's forces in some places, including what a witness described as an "amazing" victory against Gadhafi's heavy artillery Sunday in the town of Misrata, the regime has advanced as well. Gadhafi's forces seemed to make headway in the city of Bin Jawad, where the Libyan army appeared to have control Monday after fighting over the weekend.
WEEK OF FEBRUARY 27 THROUGH MARCH 5
Mubarak Faces Corruption Probe on Gas Deals to Israel, Egypt May Shut Israel Off
March 5….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) The prospects of Egypt resuming its gas supplies to Israel dropped to zero Thursday, March 3 when Egypt's state security prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud announced that deposed president Hosni Mubarak would be summoned for questioning next week about allegedly corrupt deals for selling Israel Egyptian gas at knock-down prices, Debkafile's Cairo sources report. Mahmud claimed he had documentary evidence that Egypt lost more than half a billion dollars on its gas sales to Israel and sought to follow up suspicions that the difference was shared out between the Mubarak family and the Israeli and American partners in the transaction. The flow of gas to Israel was suspended on Feb. 5 when Hamas blew up the pipeline running through Sinai during the Egyptian uprising. Our sources confirm that supplies will not be renewed until the end of the corruption inquiry which could go on for years. In response to a statement by the Merhav company, the Israeli partners of the joint company EMG, that supplies would be resumed Friday, March 4, word came from Cairo that there is no such intention.
The damage to Israel's power supply is substantial. Egyptian gas fueled 40 percent of Israel's electricity requirements. In the meantime, world fuel prices have shot up and Israel has been forced to convert its power stations from gas to heavy fuel, incurring extra outlay running into hundreds of millions of dollars a month. The new military rulers of Egypt, headed by Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi, appear helpless to halt the corruption probe against the former president and his family.
It had been hoped in Washington and Jerusalem that, in the meantime, the generals would at least get the pipeline repaired and the gas flowing again to Israel, in accordance with Cairo's international contract obligations. But the army chiefs have refrained from doing so, just as they allowed Prosecutor Mahmud to place the Israel gas deal at the top of the corruption file against Mubarak. The prosecutor evidently intends to press ahead with the investigation and release findings scandalous enough to throw Egypt's relations with the United States and Israel into deep crisis. Whereas the Americans involved in the gas deal were private businessmen, the Israelis were government officials from the infrastructure ministry in the governments headed by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. For now, Debkafile's Cairo sources add, the military junta has no intention of interfering in the prosecutor's case or plans to summon to Cairo for questioning the Israel and American representatives of the firm. If they refuse to come, he is considering issuing international arrest warrants through Interpol, thereby curtailing their travel plans. The military junta, by permitting the prosecutor to inflate the gas deal with Israel to scandalous proportions, has darkened the hopes entertained in Jerusalem until now that the new rulers will provide Egypt and its relations with stability and show an interest in preserving the thirty-year old peace treaty with Israel. But now, the ruling generals demonstrating that if peace relations with Israel do not serve their ends, they are have no compunctions about sacrificing their peace partner's interests in order to pander to Egyptian public opinion, even at a loss of the desperately needed $2 billion a year which the gas deal brought the Egyptian treasury
Shi'ites Stage Protests in Saudi Oil Province
March 4….(Jerusalem Post) Saudi Shi'ites staged protests in two towns in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province on Thursday, demanding the release of prisoners they say are being held without trial. Demonstrations of about 100 people were seen in the small Gulf coast town of Awwamiya, as well as in the nearby Shi'ite centre of Qatif, demanding the release of those the protesters say were arrested for security reasons and held, in some cases, for more than a decade. "We want the prisoners free but we also have other demands," said Radi al-Suwaileh, who was in the Qatif march. "We want equality." They are calling for better access to jobs and to be treated as equals in the ultraconservative kingdom dominated by a rigid form of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. Shi'ites say that, while their situation has improved under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face restrictions in getting senior government jobs. The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges. "We want jobs. I graduated from a US university but did not get a job for 10 months," said one young man who gave his name as Muhammad. Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite minority mostly live in the east, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world's top crude exporter and is near Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shi'ites against their Sunni rulers. More than 2 million Shi'ites are thought to live in the area, and in recent years they have increasingly practised their own religious rites thanks to the King's reforms.
Last week, King Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month medical absence and unveiled $37 billion in benefits to help lower- and middle-income people among the 18 million Saudi nationals. It includes pay rises to offset inflation, unemployment benefits and affordable family housing. The demonstrations in and near Qatif were much smaller than protests staged in 2009 after police launched a search for firebrand Shi'ite preacher Nimr al-Nimr, who had suggested in a sermon that Shi'ites could one day seek a separate state. The secessionist threat, which analysts say was unprecedented since the 1979 Iranian revolution, provoked anti-government protests, and was followed by clashes between the Sunni religious police and Shi'ite pilgrims near the tomb of Prophet Mohammad in the holy city of Medina. Since then, Shi'ites say the situation has calmed down but they are still waiting for promised reforms to be carried out.
Tehran's Hands-off Threat to Riyadh Incites Saudi Shiites to Revolt
March 4….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Ahead of the first Day of Anger planned in Saudi Arabia for March 11, a senior Iranian figure close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Riyadh Wednesday, March 2, against launching preventive security measures against, or cracking down on, the kingdom's two million Shiites who live and work in the oil regions of the east. The world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia covers 40 percent of the world's oil needs. Saudi and other Gulf security sources called the Iranian warning unprecedented interference in the domestic affairs of Saudi Arabia and a call to the Shiite minority to rise up against the throne under the shield of Iran's protection. It also struck the match for reigniting Shiite riots in Bahrain, fomenting the Shiite minorities in other Gulf emirates and further complicating the explosive situation in Yemen.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came forward for the first time in the three-month wave of Arab uprisings to accuse Iran of using its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah to shape events in the Arab world. Addressing the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday, March 2, she said "They are doing everything they can to influence the outcomes in these places," she said, citing Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Palestinians, though not Saudi Arabia. "They are using Hizballah to communicate with counterparts in the Palestinian movement Hamas who then in turn communicate with counterparts in Egypt." Debkafile's Washington sources note that the allegations she leveled against Iran contradicted the position taken by the Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who has said repeatedly in the last couple of weeks that the uprisings had domestic origins and Iran was not stirring the pot. Clinton's words also countered the view presented by Defense Secretary Robert Gates on March 1that the unrest in Arab countries was a major setback for Iran and al Qaeda. The Obama administration is clearly divided on its reading of the upheavals in Arab countries and the role played in them by Iran, indicating that as the disturbances go into their third month, a consistent policy has yet to be formulated in the White House.
The warning to Riyadh came from Iranian parliament Mohammed Dehgan, one of the closest and most influential members of the Ahmadinejad circle. It was couched in stark and brutal terms: "The Saudi leadership should know that the Saudi people have become vigilant and do not allow the rulers of the country to commit any possible crime against them," said Dehqan. "Saudi Arabia should account for the suppressions of the Shiite and Sunni people in the country for numerous years." He went on to threaten that Saudi Arabia, whose Shiite minority accounted for at least 15 percent of its population, could be the next target of the revolution engulfing the Arab world. The Iranian lawmaker went on to warn Saudi Arabia against interfering in the course of events in Bahrain and Yemen. Dehqan and other senior Iranian officials have also warned Saudi Arabia to stop taking the fingerprints of Iranians entering the kingdom, or face reprisals. Debkafile's Gulf sources find three major implications in the harsh Iranian warning to Riyadh:
1. Tehran is for the first time taking an overt stand on the Arab uprisings, using their Shiite minorities as levers of manipulation.
2. Iran is flexing muscle for the first time in the role it covets of regional superpower which calls the shots for the oil states and challenges US supremacy.
3. Iran wants Riyadh to call off the preventive measures Saudi security and intelligence have been conducting for some days to offset a Shiite uprising on the Day of Anger, including the arrests of political and religious activists.
Obama: Israelis Must Show Seriousness About Peace
March 4….(YNET) US President Obama this week called on Jewish leaders to speak to their colleagues in Israel and to “search your souls” over Israel's seriousness about making peace, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Wednesday. According to participants, Obama told the Jewish leaders that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to secure his legacy by establishing a Palestinian state and would accept a decent offer if one were on the table. “The Palestinians don't feel confident that the Netanyahu government is serious about territorial concessions,” the president reportedly said. Jewish leaders say that during White House meeting president said Palestinians 'don't feel confident that Netanyahu government serious about territorial concessions'. Obama also reportedly said that the Jewish sections of Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands as part of any peace deal, but that the Arab sections would not. JTA reported that in an hour-long meeting at the White House Tuesday with some 50 representatives from the Jewish community’s chief foreign policy umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Obama reiterated the US commitment to Israel. The Jewish leaders noted the president's affirmation of his "deep commitment to Israel's security," according to JTA. Several participants at the meeting told JTA that the president also implied that Israel bears primary responsibility for advancing the peace process.
FOJ Note: Isn’t this story a joke? Israel has bent over backwards and taken unprecedented gambles in the hope of peace with its neighbors, and especially so in the case with the Palestinians. What does Israel have to do, move to Mars?
Arabs Demand Libya halt Violence, Eye No-fly Zone
March 3….(Jerusalem Post) The Arab League called on Muammar Gaddafi's government to halt attacks against Libyans on Wednesday and said it would consider imposing a "no-fly" zone over the country which has been suspended from the organization. An Arab League ministers' meeting in Cairo rejected any direct outside military intervention in Libya, where Gaddafi is trying to put down a revolt threatening his four decades in power. They reiterated their condemnation of his use of force. "We have to save the Libyan people and that is why we are trying to call on Libya and the Libyan authorities to cease those attacks against the Libyan population," Secretary-General Amir Moussa told reporters during a closing news conference. "The Arab League will not stand with its hands tied while the blood of the brotherly Libyan people is spilt," Moussa said. Steps could include a "no fly" zone, enforced in cooperation with the African Union, he said, reading from the text of a resolution issued at the end of the meeting. Western states appear hesitant about the idea of staging any form of military intervention in Libya. The United States is sending warships towards the country, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that imposing a "no-fly" zone would mean first attacking Libya and destroying its air defenses. "Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses, and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down," Gates told a congressional hearing. Gates said a no-fly zone for Libya "also requires more airplanes than you can find on a single aircraft carrier, so it is a big operation in a big country." "I think we are a long way from making that decision," Clinton told a Senate hearing, adding that it was possible that US military assets could be used to "support getting equipment and supplies to areas that have need of them and where we are welcome." The international community should be ready to implement a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi's attacks on his own civilians, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said earlier Wednesday.
The Cairo-based Arab League has suspended Libya's participation in condemnation of the crackdown by Gaddafi forces against protests that have grown into a rebellion against his rule and restricted his government to the west of the country. The Arab resolution called on the Libyan government to respond to the "legitimate demands of the Libyan people" and to stop bloodshed. The Libyan authorities must lift restrictions on media and mobile networks and allow the delivery of aid. The Arab League demanded "the preservation of the unity of Libyan lands and civil peace," similar to the language it used in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Their resolution confirmed Libya's suspension from the organization until it responded to demands such as allowing freedom of expression. "The situation in Libya is sorrowful and it is not correct that we accept it or live with it," said Moussa, speaking at the opening session. "The Arab people will stand against tyranny because it is painful, rejected and insulting," Moussa said. "It is the first meeting of a new era, in the era of revolution," he added.
Israel Blamed for Unrest in Arab World
March 3….(Israel Today) It was only a matter of time before Arab leaders and Islamic figures started accusing Israel of being behind the unrest sweeping the Middle East. “I am going to reveal a secret,” the embattled president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, told supporters on Tuesday. “There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world. The operations room is in Tel Aviv and run by the White House.” Saleh claimed that the US is actually aiding and directing the mounting demonstrations against his regime, but that the “Zionists” are ultimately pulling the strings. “We say that this is a Zionist agenda,” declared Saleh, insisting that pro-democracy revolutions across the region are part of a “conspiracy that serves Israel and the Zionists.”
Yemen is a major battleground in the war against Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden’s group would love to be able to establish a firm stronghold in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Until now, Saleh had been allied with the US in preventing this outcome. The Yemeni president’s accusations were echoed by American Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan during the annual gathering of his Nation of Islam near Chicago on Tuesday. Farrakhan publicly urged US President Barack Obama to not allow the “Zionists to push you to mount a military offensive” against the crumbling regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has been slaughtering demonstrators in an effort to hang on to power. Farrakhan said Gaddafi is “my brother,” and insisted the Libyans must be left to work out their problems on their own. He insisted that the only people who benefit from the turmoil in the Middle East are the Zionists, who, according to Farrakhan, “dominate the government of the United States of America and her banking system.” For good measure, Farrakhan, who is African-American, accused Jews of having been “disproportionately involved in the slave trade.” Farrakhan was adamant that he has nothing personal against the Jews, but said it is his duty to “pull the cover off of Satan so that he will never deceive you and the people of the world again.”
Muslim 'Shouted Islamic Slogans' Before Killing Two US Airmen
March 3….(Times On Line) Two American airmen were shot dead and another left fighting for his life today after a Kosovo Albanian gunman stormed their bus before opening fire at Germany’s busiest airport where he allegedly worked. Officials said the gunman, identified as Arid Uka, 21, shouted out 'Islamic slogans' before opening fire. He gunned down his first victim as the soldier stood in front of the vehicle at Terminal 2 before turning his weapon on the driver as he sat behind the wheel. A fourth man was lightly injured and both he and the gravely wounded man are now being treated at the city’s University Clinic Hospital. A German official told Fox News Channel that one airman was smoking a cigarette when the suspect pulled out a firearm and shot him. Another serviceman was gunned down as he returned a luggage trolley. The attacker, reportedly wielding a knife and a handgun, then boarded the bus and fired at the driver before being taken down by police, the official said. The suspect's uncle, 70-year-old Rexhep Uka, said Uka was born and raised in Germany and was a devout Muslim who worked at the airport. He said Uka's grandfather was a religious leader at a mosque in the village of Zhabar, near Mitrovica, Kosovo. ABC News reported that when the gunman opened fire, he shouted 'Allah Akbar' which is Arabic for 'God is Great'. Eyewitnesses said the man 'infiltrated' himself among the GIs before shouting out radical Islamic slogans and then reaching into a bag for his gun. Although the motives for the attack are still unclear, many Kosovans are Muslims, raising the suspicion that Islamic extremism may have been a factor behind the attack.
In the States, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Patrick Meehan, said in Washington that it looked like a terrorist attack. Investigators spend the afternoon carrying out a finger-tip search of the scene. The wheel of the bus where the driver had been sitting was swathed in sheets. Only last year the interior ministry in Berlin put Germany on high alert for a terror attack after receiving information that al-Qaeda was planning 'a bloodbath' because of German involvement in Afghanistan.
Libyan Opposition Lacks Military Strength to Remove Qaddafi
March 3….(DEBKA) Barring changes in the military situation, Muammar Qaddafi looked Wednesday, March 2, as though he had averted his regime's immediate danger of collapse by dint of a successful counter-offensive against rebel forces. His prospects had strikingly improved since Saturday, Feb. 26, when President Barack Obama told him to leave and the UN Security Council clamped down sanctions on his regime. During the day, the regime's armored forces and commandos supported by the Libyan Air Force recaptured parts of Brega, Libya's refinery city and supplier of the country's benzene, and sections of the Bay of Sirte town of Ajdabiya. Debkafile's military sources say the loss of Brega will cause severe fuel and refined oil shortages in rebel-held Cyrenaica in the east. Unless they can get hold of fuel from outside Libya, the rebels have no chance of organizing enough fighting strength to stand up to Qaddafi's army. Not only have they lost sight of their goal of taking Tripoli but their alternative provisional government in Benghazi is in jeopardy. With the capture of Ajdabiya, Qaddafi's forces control the strategic crossroads linking the two halves of Libya, Tripolitania to Cyrenaica, and have cut off links between the rebels in Cyrenaica and the opposition groups in the west. It is worth noting that troops engaged in Qaddafi's counter-offensive Wednesday came from the strategic town of Sirte, where they were encamped after leading the recapture of Misrata and Zawiya the day before.
The prospect of foreign military intervention on behalf of the Libyan opposition faded Wednesday. By then, British Prime Minister David Cameron was the lone Western voice still talking about a Western or British military option in Libya. British military circles emphasized that the British army lacks commando strength as well as warplanes and warships for a war operation against Qaddafi, especially for a lengthy campaign. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the administration was still very far from imposing no-fly zones over Libya. This was a reversal of her comment Tuesday that this option was being "actively considered" and followed the news conference given Tuesday by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, in which both stressed that the UN Security Council in imposing sanctions on Libya had not authorized outside military intervention. Gates pointed out that there is "no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force, and we also have to think about, frankly, the use of the US military in another country in the Middle East."
Regarding the imposition of no-fly zones, Adm. Mullen was equally skeptical. He warned that such an operation, which he described as "very complex," could lead to situations in which Americans planes were brought down. Both poured cold water on any military options while Gates pointed out that there was no confirmation of the slaughter of civilians by air bombardment. On the number of protesters killed and army defectors, Gates commented, "We are still in the realm of speculation." Spokesmen in Washington also worked hard to play down the military significance of the passage of two amphibious assault craft, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponc, through the Suez Canal to Libyan waters. The Pentagon stressed that the 800 marines aboard these vessels would stand ready to render humanitarian aid and help rescue refugees stranded in Libya.
Moscow Calls for Nuclear Free Zone in Mideast
March 2….(Novosti) The world community should waste no time in going ahead with the creation of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. A resolution adopted at the NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) Review Conference in 1995 calls for the creation of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The idea was supported at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010 in New York by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia, the United States, Britain, France, and China. "We believe that it is high time this resolution was carried out. We will not be able to see just how feasible this task is until we start working," Lavrov said, adding there could be "no more dragging of feet.
Oil Prices Jump Again on Middle East Unrest
March 2….(Yahoo) Oil prices climbed again today as Iran clamped down on anti-government protesters and unrest in the Middle East threatened to keep energy prices high for months to come. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate for April delivery gained $2.66 to settle at $99.63 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude gained $3.62 to settle at $115.42 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. The recent surge in oil has pushed up gasoline prices in the U.S. by nearly 20 cents per gallon in the past week. That's the sharpest increase since September 2008, when Hurricane Ike shut down Gulf Coast refineries, according to the Oil Price Information Service. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina sent prices soaring about 45 cents per gallon in one week. Americans are now paying roughly $75.6 million more per day to fill up than a week ago.
The national average added another penny on Tuesday at $3.375 per gallon. Prices should keep rising to between $3.50 and $3.75 by spring, according to OPIS oil analyst Tom Kloza. He said future increases will be much more gradual, because gasoline markets have mostly priced in the recent rise in crude. "So we should flatten out" in coming weeks, Kloza said. Oil prices surged 13 percent last week, peaking above $100 per barrel, as Libyan protesters expanded their control over the country. While the Libyan uprising continued Tuesday, news agencies reported that Iranian authorities imprisoned opposition leaders in Tehran. Iranian authorities denied the reports. Pro-reform groups have clashed with the Iranian government. Jailing opposition leaders would be a major escalation of the country's political crisis. Iran exports about 2.5 million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids per day, about 3 percent of global demand.
The Iran protests are among the latest uprisings that have churned through North Africa and the Middle East, a crucial region that's responsible for most of the world's crude exports. Analysts say it's impossible to say how long it will take for uprisings to play out, but energy markets likely will be on edge through the summer. Analysts added that they're still concerned about unrest in Algeria, which produces 1.8 million barrels per day, as well as increasing threats facing Iraq's oil supplies. Militants set off bombs in an attack on Iraq's largest refinery over the weekend. The unrest which has forced oil companies in Libya to evacuate workers and shut down production operations has so far not had a major impact on world petroleum supplies, as refineries turn to other countries for oil including Saudi Arabia, which can crank up its production by another 5 million barrels per day.
The concern is that spare production capacity is now declining faster than expected, which means supplies could be harder to find in the future as global consumption increases. "The pressure on spare capacity will be immense, as will be that on oil prices over the course of 2011," Barclays Capital analyst Helima Croft said in a research note. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Tuesday that a prolonged rise in oil prices would hurt the US economy. But he said runaway inflation is unlikely. "The most likely outcome is that the recent rise in commodity prices will lead to, at most, a temporary and relatively modest increase in US consumer price inflation," Bernanke said.
Where do PA Arabs See Themselves in the Mideast Turmoil?
March 2….(Arutz) Palestinian Authority Arabs are pessimistic regarding their situation, and most would support a non-violent way to reunite Fatah and Hamas and form a state. However, when asked if they expect a youth revolution in the West Bank similar to those that occurred in Tunisia and Egypt, only 22.8% said yes,31.3% said no, with the rest undecided, and 27.2% explained that they felt that Palestinian conditions are different from those in the Arab countries. Researchers questioned 1,360 PA adults, 860 of them from Judea and Samaria and the remaining 500 from Gaza. The poll was conducted on February 24-26. The majority of respondents were pessimistic regarding the future, with 54.1% expressing concern regarding the state of the PA economy and 61.8% saying they fear for their lives, their family and their property under the PA. Of those surveyed, 80.1% said they support the protest movement in the Arab world that has seen leaders toppled in Tunisia and Egypt, and regimes threatened in Libya and Bahrain. Still, despite uncertainty about their future and support for Mideast protests,, they do not embrace the idea of turning their own lives upside down. Close to 75% said they would support a non-violent popular movement among Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza aimed at getting their government to bring an end to the Fatah-Hamas schism, a move that would unite actively anti-Israel and terrorist Hamas with Fatah.
On the other hand, more than 76% said they would support a popular uprising aimed at forcing Israelis to leave Judea and Samaria, but in this case non-violence was not mentioned. The question of non-violence is irrelevant, since attempted violence against Jews is ongoing. Peace was also a non-issue. Only 19.6% expressed support for peace talks, while 77.6% said the PA should continue to refuse to speak to Israel unless Israel forbids Jews to build homes east of the 1949 armistice line. Even the 19.6% who remained in favor of talks were not all optimistic: just 18% said they believe an end to the Israel-PA conflict is possible at this time. Despite the strong support for unifying Hamas and Fatah, 56.5% said they prefer PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the current second in command to Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, running their lives, to Hamas' Gaza head, Ismael Haniyeh. Just 19.2% said Haniyeh would be preferable to Fayyad.
Clinton Warns of Iranian Efforts to Fill ME Power Vacuum
(US sec. of state says Obama needs to maintain aid and involvement in region to keep Tehran from succeeding, says "there's an opportunity for Israel" in the changed political landscape)
March 2….(Jerusalem Post) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tuesday that Iran was aggressively trying to take advantage of the domestic upheavals across the Arab world, and warned that the United States needed to maintain robust aid and involvement in the region to keep Tehran from succeeding. Clinton described Iran as working “every single day with as many assets as they can muster, trying to take hold of this legitimate movement for democracy,” in testimony before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. “There’s no doubt in my mind if we are not present, and present in resources, not just in rhetoric, not just saying what we’re for but being able to deliver on that, others will fill that vacuum,” cautioned Clinton. “We are in a competition. I just stress over and over again, we’ve got to be there. We’ve got to fight back.” Clinton also indicated that the US was trying to take the initiative in ensuring that the implementation of more democratic governments would not be exploited by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In addition, Clinton indicated that the US would be taking a tougher tone on Iran and its human rights abuses against domestic opponents of the current regime.
Our work continues, she said, adding that in the changed landscape, “we believe that there’s an opportunity for Israel.” She referred to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent acknowledgement of the isolation Israel faces. “That’s not good for Israel,” she said. “I know that the prime minister recognizes that we have some very tough choices ahead.” She said that when it came to Israel’s choice of whether to pursue a peace process with Syria, “we would support anything that Israel would decide is in Israel’s best interests when dealing with Syria.” Clinton also weighed in on the notion of a national unity government between Fatah and Hamas, saying that if the latter “does not renounce violence, does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, does not agree to support previous agreements that have been entered into, we could not support any government it was a part of or any rapprochement that took place.”
Iran Building Permanent Naval Base in Syria
March 2….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Just two days after two Iranian warships reached the Syrian port of Latakia via the Suez Canal, Friday, Feb. 25, an Iranian-Syrian naval cooperation accord was signed providing for Iran to build its first Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port, Debkafile's military and Iranian sources reveal. The base will include a large Iranian Revolutionary Guards weapons depot stocked with hardware chosen by the IRGC subject to prior notification to Damascus. Latakia harbor will be deepened, widened and provided with new "coastal installations" to accommodate the large warships and submarines destined to use these facilities. Iran has much to celebrate, Debkafile's military sources report. It has acquired its first military foothold on a Mediterranean shore and its first permanent military presence on Syrian soil. Tehran will be setting in place the logistical infrastructure for accommodating incoming Iranian troops to fight in a potential Middle East war. According to our sources, the "cadets" the Kharg cruiser, one of the two Iranian warships allowed to transit the Suez Canal, was said to be carrying were in fact the first construction crews for building the new port facilities.
Two more events were carefully synchronized to take place in the same week.
On Feb. 24, as the Iranian warships headed from the Suez Canal to Syria, Hamas fired long-range made-in-Iran Grade missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one hitting the main Negev city of Beersheba for the first time since Israel's Gaza campaign two years ago. Tehran was using its Palestinian surrogate to flaunt its success in getting its first warships through the Suez Canal in the face of Israeli protests. The Iranians were also parading their offensive agenda in deploying warships on the Mediterranean just 287 kilometers north of Israel's northernmost coastal town of Nahariya. The second occurrence was a contract announced by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov for the sale of advanced Russian shore-to-sea cruise missiles to Syria. The Yakhont missile system has a range of 300 kilometers and skims the waves low enough to be undetected by radar. Debkafile's military sources take this sale as representing Moscow's nod in favor of the new Iranian base at Latakia, 72 kilometers from the permanent naval base Russia is building at the Syrian port of Tartous.
The Russians are willing to contribute towards the Iranian port's defenses and looking forward to cooperation between the Russian, Iranian and Syrian fleets in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the US Sixth Fleet's regular beat. This unfolding proximity presents the United States with a serious strategic challenge and Israel with a new peril. At a ceremony in honor of the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Habib said: "Iranian warships' presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time after 32 years is a great move that is going to cripple Israel."
US Moves Warships, Aircraft near Libya
March 1….(Jerusalem Post) In the hardest-hitting US denunciation yet of Libya's leader, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice says Gaddafi is "disconnected from reality," is "slaughtering his own people" and is unfit to lead. The United States moved warships and aircraft closer to Libya on Monday and froze $30 billion in assets, ramping up pressure on what a top US envoy called a "delusional" Muammar Gaddafi to relinquish power. In the hardest-hitting US denunciation yet of Libya's leader, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Gaddafi is "disconnected from reality," is "slaughtering his own people" and is unfit to lead. The United States also pressed Gaddafi's inner circle to abandon their leader. "You have to think very, very seriously which side you want to be on. You will be held accountable," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. The military preparations and tougher US rhetoric follow days of criticism of US President Barack Obama's administration by Republican lawmakers, conservative commentators and others for an initially cautious response to the turmoil in Libya. Pentagon spokesman, said the US military is moving ships closer to Libya "in case they are needed." The US ships could be used for humanitarian and rescue missions, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Geneva, where she told the UN Human Rights Council it was "time for Gaddafi to go now." "There is not any pending military action involving US naval vessels," Clinton said. The Pentagon gave no details of the forces being moved but the United States has a major base near Naples, Italy, home to its Mediterranean headquarters, as well as in Rota, Spain.
As of Monday, the US Navy had eight ships in the Sixth Fleet's area of operations, which includes the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the Atlantic Ocean usually patrolled by frigates and destroyers. It has two aircraft carriers further southeast in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Washington is also working with allies on imposing a possible "no-fly" zone over Libya, US officials said. A no-fly zone would stop Gaddafi from using warplanes or helicopters to attack rebels who have seized large parts of the country, although it is unclear how big a role the Libyan air force has played in the crisis so far. The Obama administration has said military action is one option it is looking at, although many analysts say the United States is highly unlikely to launch a ground invasion or air strikes because of the volatile situation on the ground.
US Weighs Hit-and-Run Raids to Disable Qaddafi's Air Capability
March 1….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) The US is repositioning its naval and air forces around Libya, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan stated Monday, Feb. 28, indicating possible military steps to break the standoff between Muammar Qaddafi's army and rebel forces in the fighting for control of the towns commanding the roads to the capital Tripoli where Qaddafi is barricaded. The reported rebel capture of the key towns of Misrata and Zawiya is technically correct. In fact, they are both surrounded by Libyan troops who control their road links with Tripoli. In Misrata, the army has a valuable edge over opposition forces in its control of the local airfield. The Pentagon spokesman's indeed remarked that there are "various contingency plans" for the North African country where Muammar Qaddafi's forces and rebels in the east "remain locked in a tense standoff." Most military observers interpreted his remark as referring to potential US military intervention in Libya to break the stalemate. It was strengthened by the imminent redeployment off the Libyan coast of USS Enterprise from the Red Sea and the amphibious USS Kearsarge, which has a fleet of helicopters and about 1,800 Marines aboard.
This US naval movement appeared to be running ahead of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier Monday said "nothing is off the table" but added "there is no pending naval action planned against Libya." Debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the presence of the two US warships opposite Libya gives Washington and its allies a flexible option for military intervention should Qaddafi be seen to prevail over the opposition or if the standoff lingers too long. Among the 1,800 marines aboard the Kearsarge are units especially trained for guerrilla or covert raids behind enemy lines. They would have air cover from the Enterprise to protect them from Libyan air and helicopter strikes. They primary mission would be to disable the Libyan air force and put its air fields out of commission. The rebels would not then be stalled by the Libyan ruler's ability to bring in fresh troops and drop them at any point and give them a better chance of carrying the day. The other "contingency plan" in discussion between Washington and European allies is creating a no-fly zone to protect the people from air assault. The American UN Ambassador Susan Rice said later that Washington is discussing military options with its allies but a determination is premature. On the sanctions front, the US government Monday blocked a record $30 billion in Libyan assets, the largest amount ever frozen, in line with the Obama administration's decision to impose unilateral and multilateral sanctions on Qaddafi.
What's Happening in Egypt Now?
Feb. 28….(Israel Today) Most of the international community, and certainly the mainstream international press, has moved on from Egypt and its 18-day uprising that lead to the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak and his dictatorial regime. The new story on everyone’s lips is Libya, where the masses are fighting, and dying, to similarly remove Col. Muammar Gaddafi. But what is happening now in Egypt? The sudden removal of Mubarak cannot be the end of the story, and with the future of such a significant regional power hanging in the balance, what happens in the weeks and months after is far more important than the president’s resignation. Amazingly, while the Western intelligentsia spent the two weeks leading up to Mubarak’s departure alternatively insisting that the Muslim Brotherhood was either not a threat or too small to worry about, almost no one covered the February 18 return to Egypt of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi as the major event it was. Qaradawi was exiled from Egypt decades ago by Mubarak, and was also banned from entering the US and Britain for his radical views and teachings. But that didn’t stop the cleric. Instead, he was given a spot on Al Jazeera, where his show “Sharia and Life” quickly became the top rated program on the Middle East network. When he stepped into Cario’s now-famed Tahrir Square this month, it was to a hero’s welcome by the estimated two million Egyptians that came to hear him. During his speech, Qaradawi advised those who had toppled Mubarak that “the revolution is not finished,” and insisted that democracy in Egypt must be along Islamic, not Western lines.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s platform officially states that Egypt’s government must be “republican, parliamentary, constitutional and democratic in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.” During the Tahrir Square event, Qaradawi’s bodyguards prevented Google executive Wael Ghonem from coming on stage and addressing the crowds. The Western media had tried to make Ghonem, who was a major player in the opening days of the uprising, as the “new face” of the Egyptian street - educated, moderate and Western. Prof. William Jacobson of the Cornell Law School aptly noted that the event signified that “the yuppie revolution in Egypt is over, the Islamist revolution has begun.” Jacobson accurately explained that Ghonem never was the face of the Arab street in Egypt, “he merely was a face to which Western media could relate.”
The real face of the street in Egypt is Islam, and that is why just as many people who turned out to demand Mubarak go home also came out to hear Qaradawi. Some in the mainstream media are still trying to whitewash Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood. But the cleric’s long history of poisonous decrees against Israel, calling for attacks on Americans in Iraq, and general hatred for all infidels speaks for itself. For example, when asked a few years ago about interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews, Qaradawi said: “There is no dialogue between us except by the sword and rifle. We pray to Allah to take this oppressive Jewish, Zionist band of people…do not spare a single one of them…count their numbers and kill them down to the very last one.” Despite cleverly wording his public speeches in a way that allows the likes of the New York Times to paint him as a “moderate,” Qaradawi remains dedicated to the Muslim Brotherhood’s stated goal of imposing Sharia Law with the goal of eventually establishing an Islamic empire. What’s more concerning is that Qaradawi is far from being a fringe figure. Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center in Qatar, confirmed in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor what should have been clear from Qaradawi’s reception in Cairo earlier this month: “Qaradawi is very much in the mainstream of Egyptian society, he’s in the religious mainstream, he’s not offering something that’s particularly distinctive or radical in the context of Egypt.”
It should also be noted that if free elections are held in Egypt, there are very real indicators that the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly formed political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, will sweep them by a large margin. In Egypt’s most recent parliamentary election, Mubarak’s party and allies won 80 percent of the vote thanks to heavy rigging of the system. But despite having the deck stacked against them, the Muslim Brotherhood still managed to win 20 percent of the seats in parliament. Imagine what the group could do in free elections without a strong or recognized “liberal” opponent.
Anti-Gaddafi Rebels Take Over City Closest to Tripoli
Feb. 28….(Jerusalem Post) Armed men opposed to the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are in control of the city of Zawiyah, about 30 miles west of the capital Tripoli, a Reuters reporter in the town said. The red, green and black flag of Libya's anti-Gaddafi rebellion was flying from a building in the centre of the town and a crowd of several hundred people was chanting "This is our revolution," the reporter said. Also on Sunday, the British government revoked the diplomatic immunity in the UK of Gaddafi and his sons, Foreign Secretary William Hague said, urging Gaddafi to step down. "Of course it is time for Col. Gaddafi to go," Hague said in a BBC interview. "That is the best hope for Libya and last night I signed a directive revoking his diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom, but also the diplomatic immunity of his sons, his family, his household, so it's very clear where we stand on his status as a head of state," he said. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Sunday that nearly 100,000 people have fled violence in Libya in the past week, streaming into Tunisia and Egypt in a growing humanitarian crisis.
Quadaffi Defiant as UN Security Council Clamps Down
(US Calls for Qaddafi to leave)
Feb. 28….(Fox News) The Obama administration will offer "any type of assistance" Libyans seeking to oust Muammar al-Qaddafi need, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday before jetting off to Geneva for talks with diplomats about establishing a unified front against the dictator. Clinton did not discuss military assistance, but added that African nations must not let mercenaries go to the aid of the Qaddafi clan. "You must stop mercenaries, you must stop those who may be going to Libya either at the behest or opportunistically to engage in violence or other criminal acts," she said. Meanwhile, Qaddafi's sons are vowing to stay in Libya until the bitter end, saying Sunday that reports of widespread violence are overblown even as the UN Security Council moves against the strong-arm dictator and his family. Sayf and Saadi Qaddafi denied any suggestion there is a crisis that could topple their father's regime. "You're hearing rumors, false reports," Sayf Qaddafi said on ABC's "This Week." "There's a big gap between reality and the media reports. The whole south is calm. The west is calm. The middle is calm. Even part of the east." Saadi Qaddafi said if his father left it would only take one hour for the country to devolve into civil war. "Nobody is leaving this country. We live here. We will die here," Sayf Qaddafi said. Saadi and Sayf Qaddafi are two of the dictator's five children targeted in a five-part UN Security Council resolution on Saturday. Qaddafi and 10 of his top associates were named in the resolution aimed at putting the squeeze on the Libyan strongman facing massive protests at home. The resolution, which won the support of veto power-wielding China at the end of a long day, includes a travel ban and an asset freeze for key Libyan leaders. It imposes a complete arms embargo on Libya. It also calls a ban on states to provide transit to Libya of mercenaries, encourages cargo inspections by states transporting goods there and provides for states to offer support for humanitarian assistance and agencies. Security Council members did not consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and no UN-sanctioned military action was planned. NATO also has ruled out any intervention in Libya. The UN General Assembly plans to vote Tuesday on whether to suspend Libya from the UN Human Rights Council. It takes a two-thirds vote of member states present in the General Assembly to adopt such a measure. The resolution also refers Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court for prosecution for crimes committed against the Libya people after protests began Feb. 15. Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, called the move "very significant:" "For the first time ever, the Security Council has unanimously referred an egregious human rights situation to the International Criminal Court. As President Obama said today, when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule," she said. The council said its actions were aimed at "deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators." And members expressed concern about civilian deaths, "rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government." The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime's hold. Qaddafi and his backers continue to hold the capital Tripoli while rebels have taken control of one city about 30 miles from Tripoli. Qaddafi is no stranger to international isolation. UN sanctions were slapped on his country after suspected Libyan agents planted a bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people, mostly Americans. Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and pledged to end efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.