WEEK OF AUGUST 28 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 3
UN Calls for ME Nuclear Talks Including Israel, Iran
Sept. 2….(Jerusalem Post) Israel and some Arab nations indicate readiness to take part in forum proposed by IAEA, Iran says it sees no justification for such a meeting. The UN nuclear agency has invited all its members, including Israel, Arab states and Iran, to attend rare talks later this year about the volatile Middle East and efforts to rid the world of atomic bombs, a document showed on Friday. While Israel and some Arab nations have indicated readiness to take part in the proposed forum in November, Iran said it saw no justification for such a meeting now. In its response to the invitation from Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran's envoy to the IAEA took a swipe at Tehran's arch-foe Israel, which is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.
Nuclear weapons are especially controversial in the Middle East. Arab states often criticize Israel over its presumed nuclear arsenal. Israel and the United States see Iran as the region's main proliferation threat, accusing Tehran of covertly seeking to develop nuclear arms. Iran denies this. "We are of the view that stability cannot be achieved in a region where massive imbalances in military capabilities are maintained particularly through the possession of nuclear weapons which allow one party to threaten its neighbors and the region," Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh wrote. A gathering of regional adversaries around the same table to talk about nuclear arms could be symbolically important, even though substantive progress is likely to remain elusive. Amano, the IAEA's director general, said in the report made available to Reuters on Friday that he had written to all IAEA member states about taking part in a Nov. 21-22 forum in Vienna.
Debate would focus on lessons learned and relevant experience for the Middle East from the establishment of nuclear weapons-free zones in other regions, such as Africa and Latin America. Diplomats stress that no decisions are expected at the planned talks, but that they can be useful as a way to start a dialogue and help build badly needed confidence in the region. Amano said in his Sept. 2 report, the Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East, that he had sought the views of Middle East countries on the agenda for the planned forum. Twelve Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria, had written back, Amano added. Some Arab states seek change in meeting's agenda. He suggested that his efforts had been broadly welcomed, even though some Arab states sought changes to the agenda. He then "wrote to all member states inviting them to take part in the Forum to be held on November 21-22, 2011 at IAEA headquarters in Vienna," the report said. Amano "will pursue further consultations with member states of the Middle East region and with other interested parties on arrangements conducive to the Forum being a constructive contribution towards the objective of the establishment" of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, it added. Amano told Reuters last month he saw "momentum" for his plan to host discussions between Israel and Arab states. IAEA members decided in 2000 that such a meeting should take place but agreement on the agenda and other issues has been lacking. "A nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East will not be achieved tomorrow, everyone knows it, but we can get closer," Amano said in the Aug. 19 interview. "Increasing confidence is very much needed, even a small step is helpful."
Israel is widely assumed to hold the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal and is also the only country in the region outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Arab states, backed by Iran, say this poses a threat to peace and stability. They want Israel to subject all its atomic facilities to IAEA monitoring. Israel, which has never confirmed or denied having atom bombs, says it will only join the NPT if there is a comprehensive Middle East peace. If it signed the pact, the Jewish state would have to renounce nuclear weaponry.
US Confirms al Qaeda Role in Libyan Rebel Takeover
Sept. 2….(DEBKAfile Special Report) The Obama administration finally acknowledged yesterday that al Qaeda elements had been fighting in Libyan rebel ranks in last week's capture of Tripoli. This came about in a cautious remark from the office of President Barack Obama's terrorism adviser John Brennan: "Some members of the LIFG [Al Qaeda's Libyan Islamic Fighting Group offshoot] in the past had connections with al Qaeda in Sudan, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Others dropped their relationship with al Qaeda entirely. Debkafile's military sources revealed Sunday, Aug. 28 that LIFG fighters had fought in the rebel capture of Tripoli on Sunday Aug. 21. Their commander, Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, a veteran al Qaeda fighter from Afghanistan later extradited to Libya and held in prison there, had led the battle for the Qaddafi stronghold of Bab al-Aziziya two days later and has since proclaimed himself Commander of the Tripoli Military Council.
This confronts the US administration with the sole choice of accepting this fait accompli, especially after American reporters discovered in Muammar Qaddafi's abandoned intelligence headquarters files attesting to the former Libyan ruler's campaign against Al Qaeda's Libyan recruits and outside infiltrators. Those files contained a map charting the day to day movements of al Qaeda and other extremist Muslim operatives in the country and their current addresses. They also found documentary evidence of the close reciprocal ties Qaddafi maintained with Western counter-terror agencies, sharing with them the data his agencies gathered on al Qaeda movements.
Until now, President Barack Obama dismissed Qaddafi's warnings that the rebellion which broke out against him in February would open the door for al Qaeda to seize power in Libya. Our intelligence and counter-terror sources find the Brennan statement from the White House raised more questions than it answered:
1. Nothing was said about Washington's reaction should the LIFG turn out in the future to pursue al Qaeda's political, religious and terrorist agenda "for real" and not "just for show." Will the US accept the LIFG commander Belhadj's role as commander of Tripoli or take action to remove him? And what if its leaders are shown to be working closely with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb?
2. How could the Obama administration subscribe to NATO placing British and French special forces at the forefront of the battle for the rebel conquest of Tripoli in direct violation of the UN Security Council confining NATO's intervention to air strikes, and only when they needed save civilian lives? Our military experts stress that without those troops on the ground and NATO's constant aerial pounding of Qaddafi's forces, the rebels would never have taken the Libyan capital, or much else outside their home base of Benghazi. The Libyan venture has therefore placed the United States in the anomalous position of opening the Libyan door to rebels allied with groups owning a strong al Qaeda background while at the same time fighting similar groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen.
3. What message does the Libyan episode send al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist organizations? Might they not infer that the US and NATO will fight their battles against autocratic regimes in other countries?
4. Muammar Qaddafi while fighting for his life around Sirte was quick to pick up on the real balance of strength. He concluded that if it is permissible for the US, Britain and France to back forces aligned with Al Qaeda, he might profitably tread the same path. He accordingly sent his son Saadi on Wednesday Aug. 31 to contact the LIFG Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, the self-styled military governor of Tripoli, to propose on behalf of his father talks for ending the war in order to avoid further bloodshed.
Qaddafi sent another son, Saif al-Islam, with the opposite message to Al Arabya TV: The war goes on, he said, his father was fine and he has 20,000 armed fighters standing by in the city of Sirte ready to fight for him to the death. It is important to note that Saadi bypassed the rebel NTC leaders in Benghazi and its Tripoli commanders and took his offer straight to the leader of al Qaeda's Libyan offshoot. The deposed Libyan ruler clearly understands that to pursue his threatened guerrilla war against the rebels and their foreign sponsors, he will have to play ball with al Qaeda elements, just as the West does.
Union of the Mediterranean & A New Middle East
Sept. 2….(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 Ch. 2 and 7) and he may have prophesied that the last world empire to rule before the Messiah's everlasting reign would be a revived Roman empire. This last Gentile empire to rule is still future. It will be the empire of the Antichrist.
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, UfM 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. Caroline Glick in her recent article entitled, The New Middle East points out that the Iranian regime are the main benefactors of the New Middle East that is taking shape due to long-developed ties and connections with opposition figures that give the Iranians the ability to influence the policies of post-revolutionary allied regimes. She predicts a very dark future should there be an Iranian takeover: "If the mullahs aren’t overthrown, the New Middle East will be a very dark and dangerous place." Caroline Glick mentioned 4 nations that are named in the bible in future prophecies. She pointed out that Russia's (Natural Gas/Energy) Gazprom announcement to sell Syria the Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missile was a testament to Iran’s rising regional power and the US’s loss of power, an important fact considering that for the EU empire to rise, the West would logically, decline from its former super-power status.
Glick also mentions the growing alliance between Russia and Turkey, "Russia’s announcement that it sides with Iran’s ally Turkey in its support for reducing UN Security Council sanctions against Iran indicates that the US no longer has the regional posture necessary to contain Iran on the international stage." 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.
American Muslims Happy With Obama
Sept. 1….(In The Days) A majority of US Muslims are content with the nation’s direction in contrast to many Americans, and are even more satisfied with President Obama. With the 10th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on New York and the Pentagon approaching, the Pew Research Center found that most Muslims felt ordinary Americans were friendly or neutral toward them. In contrast to the majority of the general public dissatisfied with the nation’s direction, 56 percent of the estimated 2.75 million American Muslims said they are satisfied, the survey showed. Seven out of 10 view President Barack Obama’s tenure favorably. “On a variety of measures, Muslims in America are very content with their own lives and with the communities where they live,” Pew researcher Greg Smith said in an interview. Four out of five Muslim Americans surveyed were satisfied with the way things are going in their lives and rated their communities very positively as places to live. “We’ve seen Muslims move in a different direction than the rest of the country with more Muslims believing America is going in the right direction,” Smith said. Only 6 percent of Muslims in the survey of slightly more than 1,000 surveyed by telephone between April and July said they there is a great deal of support for Islamic extremism in Muslim-American communities. Another 15 percent said there is a fair amount of support among US Muslims of extremism. Among the general public, four in 10 believe extremism is supported in the Muslim American community, researchers said.
Pew last surveyed American Muslims in 2007, and researchers compared their attitudes in light of various disputes over mosque building, attacks on Muslims and mosques, a heating up of the US-led war in Afghanistan and hearings in the US Congress about the threat of home-grown Muslim terrorism. Since 2007, there has been little change in how Muslim Americans see how they are viewed by the rest of America, with 28 percent saying other Americans viewed them suspiciously and 22 percent saying they had been called offensive names. Only 6 percent said they had been threatened or attacked, while 38 percent were bothered by their sense that they were singled out for increased government surveillance.
In response to questions about being a Muslim in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, 55 percent said it is more difficult while 37 percent saw no change. Two-thirds of those survey said the quality of life for Muslims in the United States is better than in most Muslim countries. In 2007 only one-quarter of Muslim Americans believed the US-led war on terrorism was sincere, while 43 percent surveyed this year believed the effort was sincere. The survey found nearly seven in 10 Muslim Americans said the Muslim community is cooperating to the extent it should with US law enforcement, an issue raised in congressional hearings. However, only one-third said US Muslim leaders had spoken out sufficiently against extremism. Muslim American attitudes toward terror attacks and al Qaeda had not changed much in four years, with 81 percent saying suicide bombings and other violence against civilians to defend Islam were never justified, with 1 percent saying it was often justified. Only 5 percent had a somewhat or very favorable view of al Qaeda, with a growing majority of 70 percent holding very unfavorable views of the group. The general level of satisfaction among American Muslims was reflected in the 76 percent who approved of Obama’s performance as president, nine out of 10 said they voted for the Democrat in 2008. Muslim support for Obama contrasts with unfavourable views of his Republican predecessor, George Bush. There are an estimated 1.8 million Muslim adults in the United States, including US-born converts, a 300,000 increase since 2007. Two-thirds were born in other countries.
Assad Opting for War to Escape Russian, Arab, European Pressure
Aug. 31….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Monday night and Tuesday, Aug-29-30, three international heavyweights, Russia, the European Union and key Muslim nations, gave Syrian President Bashar Assad tough ultimatums for ending his ferocious crackdown on protest. Nevertheless, on Monday, his troops shot dead 17 people in Syrian cities, even as he received Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov who arrived in Damascus with a last warning from President Dmitry Medvedev: Recall you soldiers to their bases immediately and implement changes or Moscow will endorse UN Security Council sanctions stiff enough to stifle the Syrian economy. Those sanctions are only a step away from a resolution authorizing NATO, together with Muslim and Arab nations, to intervene militarily in the Syrian crisis. Debkafile's military and intelligence sources disclose that Turkey, as a NATO member, and Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have been in discussions this past week on the form this intervention would take:
1. The long-considered Turkish plan to send troops into northern Syria and carve out a military pocket from which Syria's rebels would be supplied with military, logistic and medical aid.
2. Ankara and Riyadh will provide the anti-Assad movements with large quantities of weapons and funds to be smuggled in from outside Syria.
3. The Turkish military incursion would be matched by Saudi troops entering southern Syria at the head of GCC contingents. They would move in via Jordan and establish a second military enclave under GCC auspices.
The third option came up in Tehran last Thursday, Aug. 25, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad heard some straight talk from the visiting Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Debkafile's exclusive Iranian sources reveal that the Qatari ruler slapped down a blunt warning: Assad was finished, he said, and advised Iran to face up to this. For the sake of even minimal relations with the Arab world, Iran must ditch the Assad regime in Damascus or face the real danger of the Syrian crisis deteriorating into a regional conflict, whether against Syria or by Syria, he did not explain. Ahmadinejad turned the emir down flat, according to our sources. He said Iran would never renege on its pact with Assad. Two days later, our military sources report, Syria deployed 25 anti-air missile batteries along its Turkish border. In Brussels, Monday, the 27-member European Union bowed to Washington's demand and finally decided to corner Assad by clamping down an embargo on imported Syrian crude. Europe is the biggest buyer of Syrian oil, importing $4.5 billion worth a year. This provides Syria with its main source of foreign currency revenue and the primary funding for Assad's military operations against dissidents.
Once this source dries up, the Syrian ruler will be forced to cut down on those operations unless Iran is willing to make up the difference. Assad is sure to appreciate that the coalition lining up against him of the US, Europe, Turkey, the Gulf Arab nations and Russia, are almost identical to the alignment (barring Moscow) which has just overthrown Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Tripoli. He and his advisers have no doubt discussed the possibility of being at the receiving end of the same treatment. Their ruler's growing isolation and the real prospect of international punitive measures have given the opposition new heart after nearly six months of standing up to a deadly crackdown: Saturday, Aug. 27 Assad saw his own capital rallying against him with big demonstrations in central Damascus. The pressure from the street continued to build up through Sunday and Monday, some of the protesters venturing to hoist the old Syrian Republican flag instead of the Baathist version introduced by the Assads. Aleppo is now the only Syrian city which has not so far come out against the regime. Tuesday morning, while Assad attended an Eid al-Fitr worship at a Damascus mosque, his soldiers sprayed demonstrators in the eastern town of Deir al-Zour with bullets. Well-informed military sources warn that Assad will not be cowed by the international, military and economic noose tightening around his neck. He is far more likely to try and loosen it by lashing out against his enemies, starting with Israel. Iran will certainly be a willing supporter of such belligerence, starting a war which could spread like wildfire across the region.
China Delivers Jolt to US Middle East Influence
(Sets up collision course over issue of Palestinian statehood)
Aug. 31….(WND) In a further jolt to US influence in the Middle East, China is expected to vote in favor of Palestinian statehood when the 66th United Nations General Assembly takes up the issue next month. Chinese President Hu Jintao told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an exchange of notes last week that Beijing has "always supported the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state" in areas such as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. The exchange of letters between Hu and Abbas comes as the Palestinian president launches a major diplomatic offensive to win international recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Abbas, in effect, has given up on the US position of first holding bilateral talks with Israel to reach a solution prior to going to the UN. The course adjustment followed Israel's resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as part of their new state. While China's stance is no surprise, it further complicates US-China relations at a time when the US position in the Middle East has eroded. China also is flexing its influence elsewhere and has raised challenges to US military presence in East Asia. Beijing has become a "lender of last resort" to the US to the tune of trillions. It holds more than $3 trillion in foreign reserves, mostly in US bonds. China also has begun to assert itself and challenge US standing in Africa and in Latin American, the backyard of the US. The latest challenge from Beijing in the Middle East is to fill a "void of influence" as Chinese interests have expanded greatly there in recent years.
Gaza Terrorists Have Obtained Libyan Weapons
Aug. 30….(YNET) Palestinians in Gaza have acquired anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets from Libya during its six-month civil war, enlarging but not significantly improving their arsenal, Israeli officials said on Monday. While the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi has stirred concern abroad about the fate of Libya's ageing chemical weapons stockpiles, Israel has no indication Hamas or other Palestinian factions have sought these, the officials said. Instead, Israeli officials have detected an inflow of SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), said one official, describing an overland supply route that opened up between eastern Libya, after it fell to the rebels, and the Gaza Strip via Egypt. "We've been seeing more SA-7s and RPGs coming across," said the official. "It's not a major qualitative enhancement for them." The Soviet-designed SA-7 is a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile which Israel said Palestinians had previously smuggled into Gaza. Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), designed to penetrate armour, are plentiful in the territory. Another Israeli official said "thousands" of the weapons had reached Gaza in recent months, but did not provide figures on how many had originated in Libya. Egypt's Sinai peninsula, which borders both Israel and Gaza, has long seen traffic in arms bound for Palestinians. The weapons come up through Sudan or arrive by ship over the Mediterranean. State television reported in Cairo Monday that Egyptian border guards had discovered "a large quantity" of weapons at the border with Libya, giving no more details. Hamas, an Islamist group that governs Gaza, and smaller armed factions declined comment on the Israeli statements. Egypt has stepped up efforts to impose order in Sinai, though Cairo's authority has been weakened by the citizen revolt that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power. The Soviet-designed SA-7 is a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile which Israel said Palestinians had previously smuggled into Gaza. Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), designed to penetrate armour, are plentiful in the territory. Another Israeli official said "thousands" of the weapons had reached Gaza in recent months, but did not provide figures on how many had originated in Libya. Egypt's Sinai peninsula, which borders both Israel and Gaza, has long seen traffic in arms bound for Palestinians. The weapons come up through Sudan or arrive by ship over the Mediterranean. State television reported in Cairo Monday that Egyptian border guards had discovered "a large quantity" of weapons at the border with Libya, giving no more details. Hamas, an Islamist group that governs Gaza, and smaller armed factions declined comment on the Israeli statements. Egypt has stepped up efforts to impose order in Sinai, though Cairo's authority has been weakened by the citizen revolt that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power.
Al Qaeda Bombs Algeria for Supporting Qaddafi
(Al Qaeda claims responsibility for a suicide bombing at a military academy meant to punish Algerian support for Qaddafi)
Aug. 30….(Arutz) Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings that killed 18 people Friday at a military academy in Algeria. At least 26 others were wounded in the attack. The North African offshoot of the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization claimed in a statement that 36 people had been killed and more than 35 wounded at the Cherchell academy, west of Algiers. One of the bombers was riding a motorcycle when he detonated the explosives. The second terrorist detonated his bomb a few seconds later. Both were in front of the entrance to the academy's officers' mess hall, when they carried out the attack, timed to occur just as all the soldiers had gathered to break the Ramadan fast.
Although most of the dead were Algerians, among the victims were two Syrians lieutenants-colonel, Ahmad Ahmad and Anouar Sa'ad, a diplomatic source said. A Tunisian officer, Major Bechir Ouerghi, was also killed. The explosives-packed motorcycle was intended to punish the Algerian government for supporting the regime of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, AQIM said. A statement titled “A Gift for Eid” was emailed to the AFP news bureau in Morocco claiming responsibility for “the two martyr operations” Friday which “targeted the heart of Algeria's Cherchell military institution.” The authenticity of the email, could not be immediately verified.
The text of the statement described the military academy as the “most important symbol of the Algerian regime,” the reason it was targeted by the terrorist organization. Algeria did not recognize Libya's National Transitional Council government following the victory of rebel forces in Tripoli, nor did Algiers ever call for Qaddafi to step down. The Algerian government last week maintained that it had kept a “strict neutrality in refusing to intervene in one way or another in the internal affairs” of Libya. On Monday morning, the Algerian foreign ministry informed the United Nations that Qaddafi's wife and daughter, two of his sons and their children had arrived in the country. The de facto Libyan transitional government, infuriated, said it would demand their extradition from Algeria and warned others in a statement against sheltering Qaddafi family members abroad.
Iran Launches Bible-burning Campaign
Aug. 30….(Newsmax) Iranian authorities began to systematically seize and destroy Bibles after a Shiite cleric issued an urgent warning about the spread of Christianity. Authorities in northwestern Iran seized 6,500 Bibles, according to the Iranian Christian news organization Mohabat News, which quotes an official as saying of the seizure that “all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam; otherwise, what does this huge number of Bibles mean?” The agency has reported several other recent incidents of Bibles and other Christian literature being seized and sometimes publicly burned. Mohabat reports that the government-connected cleric, Ayatollah Hadi Jahangosha, warned of “the spread of Christianity among our youth,” pointing to burgeoning satellite programming, literature, and religious articles promoting the Western tradition. “Everyone in society should feel responsibility in this matter and play his or her role in spreading of pure Islam and fight false and distorted cultures,” the news agency quotes him as saying.
Ambassador Oren: Israel is very concerned about Syrian WMDs
(Wall Street Journal report claims Israel, United States monitoring Syrian chemical weapons, including possibile transfer of weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas.)
Aug. 29….(Ha Aretz) srael is worried about the possibility that the Syrian military may transfer chemical weapons to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas due to instability within Syria, said Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Oren stated that Israel is “very concerned about the status of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons,” and that both Israel and the United States are “watching this situation very carefully.” According to a report published in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, American intelligence agencies believe that Syria has large caches of chemical weapons of various kinds. Furthermore, the United States considers Syria one of the largest distributors of weapons of mass destruction, along with North Korea and Iran, and accuses Syria of smuggling weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, including long-range missiles. However, at this point, the US government has no information that indicates that Syria has transferred any chemical weapons to terrorist organizations. Nonetheless, the Americans are worried that the ongoing uprising in Syria will deteriorate into a Libya-like scenario, in light of intelligence reports which stated that several units within the Syrian military have taken a decidedly anti-Assad stance, increasing the possibility of a civil war. And despite sanctions imposed on Assad by the West, the uprising continues. On Saturday morning, thousands gathered in the suburbs of Damascus in an attempt to march toward the capital. The demonstrators were encouraged by the fall of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, and will call on Bashar Assad to leave his post as President, before he meets the same fate as the Libyan leader. Two Syrian protesters were killed on Friday after confrontations with security forces. The United Nations published a report last week which claims that over 2,000 Syrians have been killed since the uprising began in January.
Who Will Endorse Palestinian State?
Aug. 29….(YNET) On September 20th, the Palestinian Authority will submit its statehood bid at the United Nations General Assembly; the process will culminate with the UN's 193 member states voting on recognizing a Palestinian state. What can we expect at the vote? Officials in Jerusalem presume that should a vote indeed take place, the Palestinians will win an automatic majority thanks to the guaranteed support of the 116 "non aligned" states," which tend to vote as a bloc and promote join interests. Hence, Foreign Ministry officials are focusing their efforts at what they refer to as the "moral majority," that is, large, influential states, this list includes the 27 members of the European Union, global powers, and several other key states.
The failure of such states to endorse a unilateral Palestinian move would make the UN decision illegitimate, Israeli officials believe. For the time being, mostly because the Palestinians have not yet publicized their draft bid, European states have largely refrained from openly voicing their positions. Officials in Brussels are aiming to create a united front of EU states that would abstain in the vote, yet at this time it appears that Europe's votes will be split. The general debate on the Palestinian bid will take place at the UN General Assembly between September 21st and the 30th, and will constitute the final stretch of Israel's and the Palestinians' persuasion efforts. The speakers expected to deliver speeches at the UN include US President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and an Israeli representative whose identity has yet to be determined.
While in Israel the notion of "September" is seen as one of the most significant diplomatic issues of recent years, in Europe and elsewhere this is a rather marginal item on the diplomatic agenda. With EU economies on the verge of collapse, the US contending with its lowered credit rating, and NATO preparing for dramatic changes in the wake of Gaddafi's fall, most "moral majority" states have other priorities at this time. Foreign Ministry officials estimate that domestic affairs are pushing aside foreign policy issues, a trend that may boost the influence of world powers, with an emphasis on Germany, which is seen as the stabilizing factor in face of the economic crisis. Notably, Berlin already announced that it will object to unilateral steps.
Meanwhile, President Obama already urged the Palestinians to avoid unilateral moves; indeed, America will not be endorsing Palestine, it appears. On the other hand, Russia is expected to endorse any Palestinian bid. In Asia, both China and India are expected to endorse Palestine, while Japan is still debating. Israeli officials are hopeful that Japanese democracy and Tokyo's close ties with the US will tilt the balance in Jerusalem's favor; the Foreign Ministry is also counting on Israel's assistance to Japan in the wake of the tsunami disaster.
Some states still on the fence
Aside from Germany, the major players in Europe are France, Britain, Spain and Italy, which will have a great effect on the position of other countries. Israeli officials do not have high expectations of Spain, which they assume will support the Palestinian bid unless EU countries agree on a unified front. However, Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi announced he plans to reject any unilateral moves. Holland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic States and most of the eastern European countries have conveyed similar messages behind closed doors. Meanwhile, Britain and France are a different story; both declared they will make up their mind only after carefully reviewing the final Palestinian draft. "Britain's policy is quite clear: It embraces Israel within the 1967 borders, but condemns it outside those borders," a Jerusalem official said.
As for France, which only recently urged Israel and the PA to renew the peace talks, it has hinted that it will endorse Palestine if the diplomatic freeze continues. However, at this time Paris' vote at the end of the day is still up in the air. Ireland, the first EU country to upgrade the Palestinian delegation to the rank of embassy, is one of the main advocates of a Palestinian state, joined by Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, except for Denmark which is still undecided.
Greece and Cyprus, which have warmed up to Israel recently, are still on the fence as well. This is mostly due to the fact that both had previously endorsed a Palestinian state, after former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat declared independence in 1998, making it hard for them to recant. At this time, the Foreign Ministry is undertaking its final efforts before the UN vote. Israel's diplomats and missions have been trying to mobilize their best connections and activate their 'diplomatic target banks.'
Iranian FM Warns NATO Against Intervening in Syria
(Syria is the front-runner in Middle Eastern resistance to Israel and NATO cannot intimidate this country with an attack," Salehi says)
Aug. 29….(Jerusalem Post) Iran warned NATO on Sunday against any temptation to intervene in Syria, saying that rather than defeating a regime it would be bogged down in a "quagmire" similar to Iraq or Afghanistan. Syria's closest ally in the Middle East, Iran has in recent days tempered its strong support for President Bashar Assad with calls for him to respect the "legitimate demands" of his people. But with the fall of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, aided by NATO bombings, Tehran is concerned at the possible, if unlikely, prospect of something similar happening in Syria. "Syria is the front-runner in Middle Eastern resistance (to Israel) and NATO cannot intimidate this country with an attack," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the official IRNA news agency. "If, God forbid, such a thing happened, NATO would drown in a quagmire from which it would never be able to escape. "If the West should want to follow the same course as they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan they would not realize the desired result." The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed since Assad sent in tanks and troops to crush demonstrations that erupted in March after the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by popular protests. While most neighboring countries have criticized the crackdown, Tehran has explicitly backed Assad, although Salehi said on Saturday that "governments must be responsive to the legitimate demands of their people, be it Syria, Yemen or other countries. "We have leverage vis-à-vis every country: Our friends in the parliaments, the Jewish community, public opinion leaders, the media, NGOs, the church, donors. It's time to play the cards we accumulated," an Israeli diplomat said. In addition, a work plan has been formulated for each and every country and designated messages have been drafted as well. For example, the following message was tailored for Norway, a country associated with the Oslo peace process and most likely to vote in favor of the PA statehood bid: "In Oslo we agreed on an outline for a permanent agreement, and the peace process is named after you. If you support the Palestinians and ditch the outline, it may indicate that Norway has lost it's special status in the peace process.
Libya Potentially Could Become Terrorist Arms Depot
(Post-Gaddafi chaos exposes arsenals of small arms and chemicals to raids by smugglers and militants.)
Aug. 29….(Jerusalem Post) The collapse of strongman Muamar Gaddafi’s government and the ensuing chaos in Libya could prove to be boon to the militant groups in Africa and the Middle East by opening up arsenals of weaponry ranging from small arms to chemicals, experts are warning. Rebels have seized much of the country including most of the capital Tripoli, but as of late Thursday they were still battling Gaddafi loyalists and struggling to establish law and order in a country wracked by six months of civil war. Unorganized opposition fighters and ordinary Libyans have pried open weapons stores in the search for arms for battle and tradable goods. “It’s very hard to say what is actually out there. The large arsenals in the hands of Libyan armed forces have been plundered. This plundering has been very disorganized. People walk in and take whatever they need and load them onto trucks. No one knows where those trucks are going,” said Pieter Wezeman, a research arms transfer program research, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). “There will be very many weapons from these arsenals spreading throughout Libya and maybe outside of Libya,” Wezeman, told The Media Line.
Gaddafi is the third Arab leader to fall in the Arab Spring turmoil but the first to go down in a war that has left such anarchy its wake. The weapons stockpile could find its way across the country’s desolate expanses and through its unguarded borders. Libya would turn into a weapons larder for groups such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip to fighters in Dafur and al-Qaida Islamists across North Africa and Iraq, experts said. Hours after rebel fighters seized the leader’s Bab Al-Aziziya headquarters in Tripoli, looters were seen carrying out trophies like gold-plated pistols and submachine guns, not to mention flat-screen television sets and household goods. But the prize for arms smugglers and their clients is Libya’s vast arsenal of small and portable weapons. Yoram Schweitzer, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Media Line that there are already signs that some Libyan weaponry has reached the Islamic militant movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Getting the arms to Gaza has been as much facilitated by chaos in Libya as by political turmoil in Egypt, which lies between Libya and Gaza, since President Hosni Muabrak was ousted last February. No one knows exactly what there is, where it is stored or in what condition it is in, but SIPRI has reported that the Ukraine supplied 100,000 rifles to Libya in 2007-08 while Russia reportedly sold Gaddafi an unknown number of its Igla-S, a man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile popular with militant groups. Also known as the SA-24 in one of its variants, it could be the biggest prize of all in the arsenal, Wezeman said.
Gen. Carter Ham, commander of US Africa Command, said last April in Congressional testimony that as many as 20,000 surface-to-air missiles were in the country when NATO operations began last March. "Many of those, we know, are now not accounted for," said Ham, who was once in charge of the military operation in Libya.
The US has budgeted $3 million to date for two international weapons-abatement teams to find and destroy anti-aircraft systems and other munitions and landmines. They have found shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile systems, including Russian SA-7 launchers. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that Washington is taking steps to make certain that "the governing forces in Libya have full command and control of any WMD [weapons of mass destruction] or any security assets that the state might have had," the Associated Press reported. But many officials are worried that because NATO has refused to put personnel on the ground in Libya it is severely hindering efforts to secure or destroy. “Libya has probably fewer of the most modern weapons terrorists would like to get their hands on because the country was subject to a United Nations arms embargo. Even after it was lifted,” Wezeman said, adding that Gaddafi had signed a few deals.
Pro-Al Qaeda Brigades Control Libyan Rebels
Aug. 29….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Members of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, LIFG, are in control of the former strongholds of Muammar Qaddafi captured by Libyan rebels last Sunday, Aug. 21, Debkafile reports from sources in Libya. They are fighting under the command of Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan whom the CIA captured in Malaysia in 2003 and extradited six years later to Libya where Qaddafi held him in prison. Belhadj is on record as rejecting any political form of coexistence with the Crusaders excepting jihad. His brigades were the principal rebel force in the operation for the capture of Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya ruling compound on Aug. 23. Saturday, Aug. 27, those brigades overran the Abu Salim district of southern Tripoli taking it from the last pro-Qaddafi holdouts in the city. Many of the prisoners released from the local jail belonged to al Qaeda. The LIFG chief now styles himself "Commander of the Tripoli Military Council." Asked by our sources whether they plan to hand control of the Libyan capital to the National Transitional Council, which has been recognized in the West, the jihadi fighters made a gesture of dismissal without answering.
According to US and British media, at least half of the members of the NTC have moved from Benghazi to Tripoli, the key condition for the receipt of Qaddafi's frozen assets and international aid. But there is no confirmation from our sources that this has happened. Tripoli is rife with disorder, awash with weapons and prey to reciprocal allegations of atrocities. Our sources doubt that the council will be able to assert control of, or even a presence in, Tripoli any time soon. US intelligence sources in Tripoli see no sign that the NTC will be able to persuade the Islamist brigades to relinquish control of the city in the near future, or even lay down arms. Those arms are advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, said a senior American source. Had those NATO contingents not led the Tripoli operation, the rebels unaided would not have captured Qaddafi's centers of government.
A week after that dramatic episode, Tripoli's institutions of government have wound up in the hands of fighting Islamist brigades belonging to al Qaeda, who are now armed to the teeth with the hardware seized from Qaddafi's arsenals. No Western or Libyan military force can conceive of dislodging the Islamists from the Libyan capital in the foreseeable future. Libya has thus created a new model which can only hearten the Islamist extremists eyeing further gains from the Arab Revolt. They may justly conclude that NATO will come to their aid for a rebellion to topple any autocratic Arab ruler. The coalition of British, French, Qatari and Jordanian special forces, with quiet US intelligence support, for capturing Tripoli and ousting Qaddafi, almost certainly met with US President Barack Obama's approval.
For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler. An attempt to vindicate the way this NATO operation has turned out is underway. Western media are being fed portrayals of the rebel leadership as a coherent and responsible political and military force holding sway from Benghazi in the east up to the Tunisian border in the west.
This depiction is false. Our military sources report that the bulk of rebel military strength in central and western Libya is not under NTC command, nor does it obey orders from rebel headquarters in Benghazi. This chaotic situation in rebel ranks underscores the importance of the effort the NTC has mounted to capture Sirte, Qaddafi's home town, where most of his support is concentrated. Control of Sirte, which lies between Benghazi and Tripoli, will provide the NTC and its leader Abdul Jalil, with a counterweight for the pro-Al Qaeda brigades in control of the capital.
WEEK OF AUGUST 21 THROUGH AUGUST 27
China Announces Support for Palestinian UN Statehood Bid
(Special Chinese envoy to the Middle East Wu Sike shares the news at a meeting with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Thursday)
Aug. 26….(Ha Aretz) China says it supports a Palestinian plan to seek full membership in the United Nations next month. Negotiations with Israel on the terms of Palestinian statehood have been frozen since 2008. As an alternative, the Palestinians have decided to seek UN recognition of an independent "Palestine" in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. The Netanyahu government adamantly opposes the Palestinian efforts to seek UN membership without a negotiated peace agreement with Israel, but many countries around the world have already promised Palestinian leaders diplomatic support for the venture.
China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that Wu Sike, its special envoy on the Middle East, told Palestinian leaders in a meeting in Ramallah that Beijing and the Chinese people have always supported the Palestinian cause. The Foreign Ministry statement said Wu expressed understanding, respect and support for the Palestinians' bid for statehood. Earlier in the week, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs also expressed support for an independent Palestinian state, saying that she hopes a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on September 2 in Poland will bring progress toward its recognition. "There's the feeling that now is the time to do something, to give the Palestinians the hope that a state could become reality," Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Trinidad Jimenez said in an interview with El Pais newspaper published on Sunday. President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to upgrade the Palestinians' status at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, but it is thought that he is unlikely to emerge from that venue with full UN membership. More likely is an upgrade of the Palestinian territories to become a non-member state from its current status as an observer. That would not need Security Council approval and would elevate the Palestinians' UN status to equal that of the Vatican.
Ahmadinejad: Iran is Determined to Eradicate Israel
(Iranian president says those who are for humanity should also be for eradicating Israel, since the 'Zionist regime is a symbol of suppression and discrimination.)
Aug. 26….(Ha Aretz) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran was determined to eradicate Israel, ISNA news agency reported Thursday. "Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and discrimination," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with a Lebanese television network, carried by ISNA. "Iran follows this issue (the eradication of Israel) with determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this standpoint and policy," the Iranian president added in the interview with the Al-Manar network. The remarks by Ahmadinejad came one day before the annual anti-Israeli rallies named Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which are held nationwide in Iran on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan. Ahmadinejad on Monday said that Iranians and Muslim nations worldwide should hold Qods rallies and show their willingness to dispose of this "infectious tumor and this regime full of rascality." The Iranian president provoked international condemnation in 2005 when he said that Israel should be eliminated from the map of the Middle East and transferred to Europe or North America.
Iran Says Now is Time to Free Jerusalem
(Arab revolutions have set stage for 'final victory' over Israel)
Aug. 26….(WND) The Iranian Armed Forces' Headquarters today issued a statement saying that the ongoing revolutions and popular uprisings in the region have created the ideal situation for Muslims to finally clinch a victory over the "Zionist regime" and to free Jerusalem from the "Zionist occupation." The statement urged Muslims to turn out for a massive rally to support the International Quds (Jerusalem) Day on Friday, reminding them that the rallies are intended to show that the "Zionist regime of Israel is sinking in the gulf of Islamic awakening and popular anti-Zionist uprisings." The International Quds Day was initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic regime in Iran, and is observed on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims all over the world hold rallies in support of the Palestinian resistance against what Khomeini commonly referred to as "the illegitimate Israeli regime occupying Palestine." The Iranian Armed Forces Headquarters also said that the serial collapse of the US-and Zionist-backed dictatorial regimes created the potential for the formation of a comprehensive Muslim front against Zionism. The statement underlined that the recent developments also have provided the grounds and the opportunity for a "final victory" for the Palestinian people over Israel.
Habibollah Boorboor, director of the Islamic Revolution Loyalists, discussed the importance of Quds Day this year. "Today we are witnessing the Islamic Republic of Iran's tree of life firmly planted and growing in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and, of course, all of these uprisings have been inspired by and modeled after our glorious revolution where all of the region's dictators are being overthrown," Boorboor said. Boorboor emphasized that the resistance front has been fortified and is better prepared than ever before to confront the Zionist regime. He added: "Although the American government and other such despotic countries are willing to support and protect this depraved and corrupt Zionist regime, the Muslim people have awakened and will destroy this cancerous tumor. Muslim countries will take action." During a recent secret meeting with his high command, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated that the time is close at hand for the final move to destroy Israel and facilitate the glorification of Islam worldwide. Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the rest of the radicals ruling Iran believe that as America and Europe become more distracted with their own internal problems, it is less likely that they will get involved in any further conflicts in the Middle East. They are convinced that they now have the best opportunity to coordinate a multi-front attack on Israel. This, in turn, they believe, will trigger the promised coming of the last Islamic Messiah and will lead to Islam's conquest and a worldwide Islamic caliphate.
Egyptians Planning 'Million Man' Anti-Israel March
(Egyptian protest organizers are trying to muster a 'million man protest' outside Israel's embassy in Cairo)
Aug. 26….(Arutz) Egyptian daily al-Youm al-Saba'a reported Wednesday that Egyptian protest organizers are calling for "a million-man protest" outside Israel's embassy in Cairo on Friday. The protesters, using Facebook and other social media venues, say the focus of the demonstration will be the demand to have the Israeli ambassador expelled from Egypt and Israel's embassy in the capital closed. Recalling an ambassador is considered a step towards the cessation of peaceful relations between countries in diplomatic circles. Meanwhile, protesters continue to demonstrate outside the embassy for the fifth day in a row, calling out, "Expell the ambassador immediately." Others gathered outside the ambassador's Cairo residence and called fellow citizens to join them in order to "force the ambassador to leave Egypt."
Anti-Israel protests erupted in Cairo last weekend following reports that at least three Egyptian security officers were inadvertantly killed during a firefight between IDF forces and the terrorists who perpetrated the deadly terror attack near Eilat that left eight Israeli civilians dead last Thursday. The protesters burnt Israeli flags and threw fire crackers at the embassy building in hopes of igniting the Israeli flag at the embassy. An Egyptian youth later climbed the building and took the Israeli flag down. The border-fire incident has stirred a diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Cairo. Egypt's cabinet said Sunday an Israeli statement expressing regret for the border deaths was not enough, but it stopped short of recalling its Tel Aviv envoy. Israel has determined at least three of the terrorists involved in last Thursday's attacks originated in the Sinai, contrary to previous Egyptian claims Sinai terrorists were not involved in the incident. The protesters are demanding that the peace treaty with Israel be altered, especially with regards to military presence in Sinai, or completely abolished. The re-militarization of Sinai by Egypt would be a death knell for the 1979 Camp David Accords, which could potentially result in open armed conflict between the two nations. Egypt's caretaker junta on Wednesday said it planned to develop the Sinai near the Israeli border, while IDFchief of staff Benny Gantz has said he plans to bolster Israel's military strength along the boundary due to last week's attacks.
Price on Gaddafi's Head as Fighting Goes On
Aug. 24….(Reuters) Libya's new masters offered a million-dollar bounty for the fugitive Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday, after he urged his men to carry on a battle that kept the capital in a state of fear. A day after rebel forces overran his Tripoli headquarters and trashed the symbols of his 42-year dictatorship, rocket and machinegun fire from pockets of loyalists kept the irregular fighters at bay as they tried to hunt out Gaddafi and his sons. Western leaders who backed the revolt with NATO air power remained wary of declaring outright victory while the 69-year-old Gaddafi is at large. He issued a rambling but defiant audio message overnight to remaining bastions of his supporters, some of whom may be tempted to mount an Iraq-style insurgency. But the international powers and the rebel government-in-waiting in the eastern city of Benghazi lost no time in making arrangements for a handover of Libya's substantial foreign assets. Funds will be required to bring relief to war-battered towns and to develop oil reserves that can make Libya rich.
France was working with Britain and other allies to draft a new United Nations resolution intended to ease sanctions and asset freezes imposed on Libya when Gaddafi was in charge. Rebels also spoke of restarting oil export facilities soon. In Benghazi, the chairman of the National Council gave a sense of urgency to finding Gaddafi, who the rebels believe may still be in or around Tripoli, having left his Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital before it fell on Tuesday. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who was himself one of Gaddafi's ministers before defecting in February, said the incoming administration would amnesty any remaining member of Gaddafi's entourage who killed or captured him.
The rebels, conscious of divisions among the disparate anti-Gaddafi movements which pose a threat to hopes of a stable democracy, have stressed the wish to work with former Gaddafi loyalists and to avoid the purges of the ousted ruling elite which marked Iraq's descent into sectarian anarchy after 2003. To promote unity, however, removing Gaddafi and his immediate family from any remaining influence is a priority. One rebel commander in Tripoli said Gaddafi might be in an area in the south of the city where clashes were going on. Rebels in the center of the capital said they had come under rocket and mortar fire from Gaddafi supporters to the south.
Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and Benghazi, was still not in the hands of the new leadership. Nor was the southern desert city of Sabha, where the rebels reported fighting. A rebel military spokesman estimated that "95 percent of Libya is under rebel control." Colonel Abdallah Abu Afra told Al Jazeera: "He who governs Libya is he who controls Bab al-Aziziya and that is the reality of the matter. For us, Gaddafi is over."
In a poor-quality audio broadcast on a satellite channel, Gaddafi said the withdrawal from his headquarters in the heart of the capital was a tactical move after it had been hit by 64 NATO air strikes and he vowed "martyrdom" or victory . Urging Libyans to cleanse the streets of traitorous "rats," he said he had secretly toured Tripoli: "I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger," he said. Residents remained fearful, with empty streets, shuttered shops and piles of garbage testifying that life is still far from normal in the city of 2 million. Rebels manned checkpoints along the main thoroughfare into the city from the west. Food, water and medical supplies were running short in places. On the streets of Tripoli, people were defacing or erasing Gaddafi portraits and other symbols in a city where they were once ubiquitous. They painted over street names and renamed them for rebel fighters who had become "martyrs."
The continued shooting suggested the six-month popular insurgency against Gaddafi, a maverick Arab nationalist who defied the West and kept an iron hand on his oil-exporting, country for four decades, has not completely triumphed yet. A spokesman for Gaddafi said the Libyan leader was ready to resist the rebels for months, or even years. "We will turn Libya into a volcano of lava and fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents," Moussa Ibrahim said, speaking by telephone to pro-Gaddafi channels. Rebel leaders would not enjoy peace if they carried out their plans to move to Tripoli from Benghazi, he said.
But Gaddafi was already history in the eyes of the rebels and their political leaders planned high-level talks in Qatar on Wednesday with envoys of the United States, Britain, France, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on the way ahead. Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday in Istanbul. China urged a "stable transition of power" in Libya and said on Wednesday it was in contact with the rebel council, the clearest sign yet that Beijing has effectively shifted recognition to forces poised to defeat Gaddafi. China "respects the choice of the Libyan people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement. A senior representative for reconstruction in the rebel movement said a new government would honor all the oil contracts granted during the Gaddafi era, including those of Chinese companies. "The contracts in the oil fields are absolutely sacrosanct," Ahmed Jehani told Reuters Insider TV. "All lawful contracts will be honored whether they are in the oil and gas complex or in the contracting... We have contracts that were negotiated. There's no question of revoking any contract." A spokesman for rebel-run oil firm AGOCO had warned on Monday Chinese and Russian firms could lose out on oil contracts for failing to back the rebellion.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged Gaddafi and his foes to stop fighting and talk. "We want the Libyans to come to an agreement among themselves," he said, suggesting that Moscow could recognize the rebel government if it unites the country. China and Russia, usually opposed to foreign intervention in sovereign states, did not veto a UN Security Council resolution in March that authorized NATO to use air power to protect Libyan civilians. But they criticized the scale of the air campaign and called for a negotiated solution. The fall of Gaddafi, with the arresting images on Arab satellite TV of rebels stomping through his sanctum and laying waste to the props of his power, could invigorate other revolts in the Arab world, such as in Syria where President Bashar al-Assad has launched bloody military crackdowns on protesters.
Once-a-Century Earthquake Rattles East Coast
Aug. 24….(Reuters) A strong earthquake rattled the East Coast on Tuesday, sending tremors as far as Canada, damaging well-known buildings in the nation's capital and sending scared office workers into the streets. There were no reports of major damage or serious injuries from the 5.8 magnitude quake, which was centered in Mineral, Virginia. It was the largest quake in Virginia since 1897 and struck at a shallow depth, increasing its potency. The East Coast does not normally experience quakes as strong as Tuesday's. The US Geological Survey said the quake was of 5.8 magnitude, downgrading an earlier estimate if 5.9. Earthquakes of magnitude 5.5 can cause damage to buildings and other structures.
As if a rare strong earthquake were not enough, the East Coast was also on alert for powerful Hurricane Irene which was heading up from the Caribbean and could hit at the weekend. The quake made chandeliers sway in the US Capitol and the floor of the US Senate shook before staff headed for the exits. Some minor damage could be seen in the rotunda, under the dome of the Capitol.
Arab League and Egypt Recognize Libya's Rebels as Rulers
(Whereabouts of former leader Muammar Gadhafi remains unknown; European Union already planning to assist new administration)
Aug. 23….(Ha Aretz) The Arab League and Egypt threw their weight behind Libya's rebels on Monday as opposition forces cornered Muammar Gadhafi's loyalists in their remaining strongholds in the capital Tripoli. "Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby offers his full solidarity with the ongoing efforts under the leadership of the National Transitional Council," the Cairo-based League said a statement that was its first formal acknowledgement of the council. Egypt also said it backed the new Libyan leadership. "Egypt recognized the new system in Libya and its legitimate leadership represented in the Libyan National Transitional Council," Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said in a statement. Amr said the premises of Libya's permanent representative at the Arab League would be handed over to the national council. The Arab League suspended Libya's membership after Gadhafi's forces launched a bloody crackdown to try to stop an uprising spreading in the east of the country in February. The League then backed a no-fly zone over Libya patrolled by mostly western powers, a historic move given Arab opposition to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Since then the League has only sent medical aid to Libya and stopped short of formal dealings with the rebel council. That changed on Monday as rebel fighters captured most of the Libyan capital. "This is a historic moment that marks a milestone in the history of the Libyan people. We hope the council's efforts are successful in leading the new phase and protecting the independence, sovereignty and integrity of Libyan lands," the League said. Egypt, which had around 1.5 million migrant workers in Libya before the conflict erupted, has so far avoided any official mention of the council, in contrast to France, the United States and Britain which threw their weight behind it early in the conflict. The European Union said it was already planning for the post-Gadhafi administration of Libya following the rapid advance of rebel forces.
Analysis: After Libya, Eyes Turn to Syrian Revolt
Aug. 23….(Reuters) The downfall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is likely to pave the way for increased Western attention to Syria and embolden protests against President Bashar al-Assad. The implosion of Gaddafi's rule after six months of civil war in which the rebels benefited from sanctions on Gaddafi, a no-fly zone and NATO air strikes may have implications for Syri's six-month-old revolt and Assad's efforts to crush it. "The international community will now think that its strong intervention in the struggle in Syria will resolve the situation," said opposition figure Louay Hussein. Libya has raised the morale of the West and it will have a bigger excuse to intervene. But we reject any military action in Syria. Hussein and other opposition activists said however the events in Tripoli would revive Syrian protesters' hopes. "What happened in Libya means a lot for us, it means that the Arab spring is coming without doubt, there is no solution to any problem without the will of the people," said Michel Kilo, a prominent opposition figure. No country has proposed the kind of action in Syria which NATO forces have carried out in Libya. But the West has called on Assad to step down and Washington has imposed new sanctions over his crackdown, in which the United Nations says 2,200 civilians have died. Syria has an alliance with Iran and a key role in Lebanon, despite ending a 29-year military presence there in 2005. Syria also has influence in Iraq and supports militant groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
Bolton: New Libya Could Become Al-Qaida Bastion
Aug. 23….(NEWSMAX) Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi could have been removed from power months ago, but the lack of leadership in the White House prevented it, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton charged on Monday. “If NATO did what it did this weekend, the question is why didn’t we do it five months ago?” he asked during an interview on Fox News. “Had NATO acted swiftly and decisively we would have reduced the huge terror of this five-months-long war.” Bolton was answering a question on whether the US could be proud of what it had done to help the rebels in the north African nation. “Unfortunately we can’t be as proud of it as we would like to be,” he said. The reason for the delay in toppling the Gadhafi regime, he said was down to one thing, “lack of presidential leadership.” “Clearly France and Britain couldn’t carry this on their own,” he said. “NATO is the United States and always has been and when we stepped back after the first few days we left our NATO allies adrift and that’s one reason why it took five months to get to this point.” But Bolton said it is now clear that Gadhafi’s reign of terror is over. “I don’t see how he gets back to power. The question now is how bloody the exit is going to be. Both he and other bitter enemies still loyal to him could make it very bloody indeed.” He said he was encouraged by a statement made by a member of the country’s Transitional Council that the new Libya will be a modern Islamic nation that respects human rights. “I hope that’s what they are able to do,” he said. “But NATO itself said some months ago there were al-Qaida elements among the rebel forces and one likely scenario is a struggle among different rebel leaders to see who will emerge as the leaders of the post-Gadhafi regime. “We have a big stake in that,” he added. “We obviously want pro-western believers in a free society, not radical Islamists, to take control.
Walid Phares: Obama, NATO Must Stop Libya’s Hardline Islamists From Taking Power
Aug. 23….(Newsmax) Libya is in danger of becoming “another Iran” if the Obama administration fails to act quickly to support non-Islamist factors who led the country’s revolution Middle East expert Walid Phares says. The hardline Islamists are just waiting to take over the country and it is only the United States and its allies in NATO that can prevent them, Phares says in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV. “The Islamist network has its own propaganda and the propaganda is not in the interests of having the image of the United States being defended and protected,” he said. “From the beginning of the process we should have engaged with and partnered with the democracy forces not with the fundamentalist forces.” Phares was speaking on the day it became clear that the rule of Moammar Gadhafi was at an end 10 days before it would have marked its 42nd anniversary. Three of the dictator’s sons were captured as the capital, Tripoli, fell, although Gadhafi’s own whereabouts remain a mystery. He said Libya is in danger of falling under radical Islamist leadership if the US doesn’t throw solid support behind secular forces. “Look what happened in Egypt and look what happened in Tunisia. We entered very late in the game. “We know that the interim council has former bureaucrats, people who would like to build a pluralist democracy, but it also has a large contingent of Islamic militants, so one has to be very careful about how the transition will go about.”
Phares, the Advisor to the Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House of Representatives, said the chances of the Islamists ending up victorious are about even. “It’s a 50/50 possibility. “The Islamist militias within the rebels are the most organized, widest network. The people we see on the streets, those thousands of young men, happy to see the departure of Gadhafi or at least his demise, are not those who have power. They will only have power in the future if they organize themselves into a political party if democracy or a democratic culture takes root in Libya. “Waiting is basically inviting the Islamists to seize the revolt and turn it into another authoritarian regime. “If the Islamist militias take over in Libya, then they are going to support their colleagues in Tunisia and in Egypt and in Gaza and in Syria, so it all depends on the near future of events in Libya. This is where we, the United States and the international community, will have to be swift, smart and strategic.” Phares said the Islamist groups have proven to be the best equipped, organized and funded throughout this year’s Arab Spring and they are now setting the agenda in both Egypt and Tunisia, the other Middle East countries where the government has been overthrown. He pointed out that in Egypt, the revolution was led by “the youth, women, minorities, the Facebook people, liberal elements of society,” who were then joined by the middle classes and labor groups. “But soon enough, the Muslim Brotherhood moved in,” said Phares, a Newsmax contributor and author of the book “The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.” “They are now leading politics in Egypt. The same could be said about other countries, it could be about Libya and Syria and Tunisia as well.
Phares said the Libyan revolution would not have succeeded without NATO and the United States, but now the war has been won, it is important for the west to win the peace as well. He said the Islamist factions will be keen to ensure that NATO’s role in their country is now at an end. “The Islamist militias were the ones who did not want to see (NATO) boots on the ground, because they know that if the international presence comes to Libya it will connect with Libya’s civil society, which is unarmed, and it will impose a disarming of militia. “So the Islamist militia in Libya will make sure that NATO’s mission is over and that way they can move forward to grasp power.” Phares said the new Libyan government’s top priority has to be disarming militia groups. Otherwise it could find itself fighting both the remnants of forces loyal to Gadhafi and to Islamists bent on seizing power for themselves. “This is where the United States and the international community and the Arab moderates must put all the pressure they can on the new government to disarm the militia before they engage in the political process.” Phares said the events in Libya over the past 48 hours will have been watched closely by other despots such as Syria’s Bashir al-Assad and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. He said they will see very clearly how a “dictator who fought his own people with weapons and tanks and planes ended up being defeated.
Assad: Obama Himself Should Resign
(Syrian President Bashar Assad calls in interview on Syrian state television on President Barack Obama to resign for supporting Israel)
Aug. 22….(Arutz) Syrian President Bashar Assad took advantage of the interview he gave to Syrian state television on Sunday and responded to US President Barack Obama’s call for him to resign by saying Obama himself should resign. Assad said in the interview that the US stands alongside Israel “who commits crimes against Arabs and Palestinians.” “What the West says does not interest us,” Assad said. “If we understand that these countries support the crimes of Israelis against the Palestinians, then we understand what this is all about.” The Associated Press reported that in the interview, Assad also said he expected a parliamentary election to be held in Syria in February of 2012, along with a series of reforms that would let political groups other than his Baath party to participate. According to the report, Assad also warned against Libya-style military intervention in his country, saying there will be “repercussions” to any country interfering in Syria’s affairs. Earlier it was reported that Assad said in the interview the opposition in Syria has become 'more militant' in recent weeks, blithely adding he is “not worried.” “As for the security situation, it has become more militant in the recent weeks and specially last Friday. We are capable of dealing with it. I am not worried,” he was quoted as saying. Last Friday gunmen loyal to Assad killed fourteen protesters in the seminal protest-city of Dara'a when demonstrations were staged there after Friday's weekly afternoon Muslim prayers. The slayings came one day after Assad promised United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon operations against civilians 'were over.'
Tehran Pulls Strings of Gaza Missile War Via Proxy Jihad Islamic
Aug. 22….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) The role of Iran and Hizballah in manipulating the ongoing Palestinian war on Israel from Gaza is manifest, Debkafile's military sources report. They planned, orchestrated and funded the coordinated attacks on the Eilat Highway Thursday, Aug. 18, in which gunmen shot dead eight Israelis and injured 40, and its sequel: volleys of 90 missiles launched day and night from Gaza against a million Israeli civilians since then. Yossi Shoshan, 38, from Ofakim, was killed by one of the dozen Grad missiles hitting Beersheba and his home town Saturday night. More than a dozen people were injured, at least one critically. The prime mover in the missile blitz is Tehran's Palestinian arm, the Jihad Islamic, which is responsible for 90 percent of the launches. Hamas is left on the sidelines, cut off for the first time from top levels of authority in Tehran and Damascus.
The IDF is held back from substantive action to snuff out the Iran-backed offensive by the indecision at the policy-making level of the Israeli government, which is still feeling its way toward determining the dimensions and potential thrust of the military crisis landing on Israel out of the blue. Under Egyptian, Israeli and US noses, Tehran managed to transfer to its Palestinian arm in Gaza, the Jihad Islami, more than 10,000 missiles well in advance of the violence launched three days ago. Most of them are heavy Grads bringing Beersheba, capital of the Negev and Israel's 7th largest town (pop. 200,000), within their 30-kilometer range for a sustained, massive missile offensive. Tehran has now launched the hardware smuggled into the Gaza Strip ready for a Middle East war offensive for five objectives:
1. To leave Syrian President Bashar Assad free to continue brutalizing his population and ignoring President Barack Obama's demand backed by Europe that he step down.
2. To manufacture a direct military threat on the Jewish state, whose destruction is a fundamental of the Islamic Republic of Iran's ideology.
3. To thwart the Egyptian military junta's operation last week for regaining control of the lawless Sinai Peninsula and destroying the vast weapons smuggling network serving Iran in its capacity as the leading international sponsor of terror.
4. To render the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his bid for UN recognition of an independent state on Sept. 20 irrelevant. His isolation was brought home to him last Thursday by the coordinated Palestinian terrorist attacks near Eilat last Thursday.
5. To plant ticking bombs around Israel for potential detonation and explosion into a full-blown regional war.
Debkafile's Washington sources disclose that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined this peril to Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshall Muhammad Tantawi, Saturday night, Aug. 20, to dissuade him from recalling the Egyptian ambassador to Israel over the deaths of three or five Egyptian police in the melee over the Palestinian terror attack near the Sinai border. This danger was on the table of Israel's inner cabinet of eight ministers when they met early Sunday to decide on IDF action for terminating the Palestinian missile war. However, just as Cairo discovered that its operation for eradicating al Qaeda and other Islamist radical groups' grip on Sinai would give Iran the pretext for aggression, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the IDF high command found themselves at a loss to determine whom to attack. Up until now, Israel declared the Hamas rulers of Gaza accountable for all attacks originating in the enclave. That formula is no longer valid. The Eilat Highway attacks were planned and executed behind Hamas's back and so was the missile offensive, until Saturday night, when Hamas decided to try and step in. Both Hamas and Cairo are in fact out of the picture.
Israel's leaders are stuck for solutions because no one in Washington, Jerusalem or Cairo can be sure of the outcome of any military steps they might take. They can't be sure whether they will douse the violence or just play into the hands of Hizballah and Tehran who may have more shockers in their quivers ready to loose. Only three facts stand out from the fog of uncertainty: First, the security crisis besetting Israel has the dangerous potential for dragging the Middle East into a regional war. Second, America and Israel are paying in full the price of their quiescence in the face of Iranian, Hizballah and extremist Palestinian belligerence and active preparations for war, including the stockpiling of thousands of increasingly sophisticated weaponry on Israel's borders. Third, the first step an Israeli soldier or tank takes into the Gaza Strip to silence Jihad Islami's missile fire is more likely than not to precipitate a second Iranian-orchestrated assault on another of Israel's borders. Sunday morning, no one in any of the capitals concerned was ready to risk guesstimating how far Tehran was ready to go in its current offensive and what orders Hizballah and its Palestinian puppets had received.
Syria's Assad Warns Against Military Intervention
Aug. 22….(AP) Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday his regime was in no danger of collapse and warned against any foreign military intervention in his country as the regime tries to crush a 5-month-old popular uprising. In his fourth public appearance since the revolt against his family's 40-year rule erupted in mid-March, Assad insisted that security forces were making inroads against the uprising. "It may seem dangerous, but in fact we are able to deal with it," he told state-run TV in a 40-minute interview. It was the first time he has agreed to take any questions, although the state-owned network is a mouthpiece for the regime. The Syrian leader has come under mounting criticism over the brutal military offensive that has used tanks, snipers and gunboats to try to crush the uprising. Most recently, the United States and its European allies on Thursday demanded he step down. Late Saturday, former ally Turkey called Syria's situation "unsustainable." Human rights groups and witnesses accuse Syrian troops of firing on largely unarmed protesters and say more than 2,000 people have been killed.
In the interview, Assad also said he expected a parliamentary election to be held in February 2012, along with a series of reforms that would let political groups other than his Baath party to participate. Assad's remarks were unlikely to have much resonance with Syria's opposition, which says it has lost all confidence Assad's overtures for reform while his security forces open fire on peaceful protesters. The interview was similar in tone and contents to other speeches he gave in the past few months in which he tried to portray confidence, stressing Syrian sovereignty and insisting the unrest was being driven by a foreign conspiracy. The Syrian leader has come under mounting criticism over the brutal military offensive that has used tanks, snipers and gunboats to try to crush the uprising. Most recently, the United States and its European allies on Thursday demanded he step down. Late Saturday, former ally Turkey called Syria's situation "unsustainable."
On Sunday, Assad brushed off President Barack Obama's condemnation, saying it has "no value." "I am not worried about the security situation right now, we can say the security situation is better," he said. He warned against Libya-style military intervention, saying there will be "repercussions" to any country interfering in Syria's affairs. There have been no serious international plans to launch such an operation, in part because the opposition has said it does not want Western countries to interfere.
Qaddafi Regime Falls in Tripoli
Aug. 22….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Muammar Qaddafi's regime fell in Tripoli just before midnight Sunday, Aug. 22. The rebels advanced in three columns into the heart of the capital after being dropped by NATO ships and helicopters on the Tripoli coast. Except for pockets, government forces did not resist the rebel advance, which stopped short of the Qaddafi compound of Bab al-Aziziyah. After one of his sons Saif al Islam was reported to be in rebel hands and another, Mohammad, said to have surrendered, Qaddafi's voice was heard over state television calling on Libyans to rise up and save Tripoli from "the traitors." Tripoli is now like Baghdad, he said. For now, his whereabouts are unknown. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said 1,200 people had been killed in the 12 hours of the rebel push towards the capital. As he spoke, Libyan rebels, backed by NATO, seized control of the capital. After holding out for six months, the Qaddafi regime was to all intents and purposes at an end.
WEEK OF AUGUST 14 THROUGH AUGUST 20
UN Wants New Global Currency to Replace Dollar
(A number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency)
Aug. 19….(In The Days) The dollar should be replaced with a global currency, the United Nations has said, proposing the biggest overhaul of the world’s monetary system since the Second World War. In a radical report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said the system of currencies and capital rules which binds the world economy is not working properly, and was largely responsible for the financial and economic crises. It added that the present system, under which the dollar acts as the world’s reserve currency, should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration. Although a number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the UNCTAD report is the first time a major multinational institution has posited such a suggestion. In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving. The proposals would also imply that surplus nations such as China and Germany should stimulate their economies further in order to cut their own imbalances, rather than, as in the present system, deficit nations such as the UK and US having to take the main burden of readjustment. “Replacing the dollar with an artificial currency would solve some of the problems related to the potential of countries running large deficits and would help stability,” said Detlef Kotte, one of the report’s authors. “But you will also need a system of managed exchange rates. Countries should keep real exchange rates adjusted for inflation stable. Central banks would have to intervene and if not they would have to be told to do so by a multilateral institution such as the International Monetary Fund.” The proposals, included in UNCTAD’s annual Trade and Development Report, amount to the most radical suggestions for redesigning the global monetary system. Although many economists have pointed out that the economic crisis owed more to the malfunctioning of the post-Bretton Woods system, until now no major institution, including the G20, has come up with an alternative
Seven Killed in Series of Terrorist Attacks in Southern Israel
(At least 26 wounded after armed gunmen fired on bus traveling near Eilat, close to Egypt border)
Aug. 18….(Ha Aretz) Seven people were killed and at least 26 people were wounded Thursday in a series of terrorist attacks on Israeli targets approximately 20 kilometers north of the southern city of Eilat, close to the border with Egypt. The first attack, at around 12 PM, was a drive-by shooting targeting Egged bus 392 traveling from Be'er Sheva to Eilat, near the Netafim junction. Shortly afterward, IDF forces rushed to the scene and were faced with several explosive devices that were detonated alongside an IDF vehicle. At approximately 12:35, a mortar was fired from Egypt to Israel. No casualties were reported. At 1:10 PM, a terrorist cell fired an anti-tank missile at a private vehicle, wounding seven. Minutes later, another cell fired an anti-tank missile at a private vehicle, killing six. The IDF Spokesman reported that two to four terrorists were killed during the clashes. According to reports, the terrorists in the car opened fire at the Egged bus, which carried a significant number of soldiers leaving their bases for the weekend. In the aftermath of the first attack, Israeli security forces launched a search for the vehicle thought to have transported the gunmen, setting up barricades in the area. A firefight erupted once the IDF troops caught up with the vehicle, in which several of the armed men were killed. Two IDF helicopters were called to the scene in order to evacuate those wounded to Yoseftal hospital in Eilat and to Soroka hospital in Be'er Sheva.
Arab League Countries Back Emergency UN Session on Syria
Aug. 18….(Arutz) Human Rights Council to hold meeting after 24 countries back initiative; Assad tells UN chief police operations against protesters have stopped. The UN Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on Monday on the escalating violence in Syria after 24 countries including four Arab members, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - backed the European Union initiative, a UN statement said. The announcement came shortly after Syrian President Bashar Assad told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations against pro-democracy protesters had stopped, the United Nations said on Wednesday. In a phone call with Assad on Wednesday, Ban "expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria, including in the Al Ramel district of Latakia, home to several thousands of Palestinian refugees," the United Nations said in a statement. "The Secretary-General emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped," the statement added. Residents of the besieged port city of Latakia said on Wednesday that Syrian forces raided houses in a Sunni district, arresting hundreds of people and taking them to a stadium after a four-day tank assault to crush protests against al-Assad. The UN statement said Ban repeated his calls for an independent investigation into all reported killings and acts of violence, and for free access by the media. It added the UN chief called on Damascus to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. "The Secretary-General also urged president Assad to engage in a credible and peaceful process of reform towards comprehensive change," the statement said.
Assad enumerated the reforms he will undertake in the next few months, including revision of the Constitution and the holding of parliamentary elections, the statement said. "The Secretary-General emphasized the need for reforms to be implemented swiftly without further military intervention," it said Ban said a UN humanitarian assessment team, which the Syrian Government had agreed to receive, should be given independent and unhindered access to all areas affected by violence. Assad said the team would have access to different sites in Syria, according to the statement. The UN human rights chief is expected to suggest that the Security Council refer Syria's crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, envoys said on Wednesday. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay will address the 15-nation council in a closed-door session on Syria on Thursday, along with UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Obama Calls on Assad to Step Down, Imposes New Sanctions
(Syrian President Bashar Assad and President Obama)
Aug. 18….(Fox News) President Obama on Thursday for the first time called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, while announcing a new set of sanctions against the regime. In a written statement, Obama accused the government of perpetrating a "sustained onslaught" against its people. He said the regime has tortured protesters and shown a "flagrant disrespect" for the Syrian people, demonstrating Assad's failure to follow through on calls for reform. "The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people," Obama said. "We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."
President Obama issued a statement saying the United States cannot and will not impose transition upon Syria, but "the time has come for President Assad to step aside. Minutes later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the president in calling for Assad to "get out of the way." With US forces mired in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Obama and Clinton stressed that the US will pressure Assad but not intervene inside the country. Clinton said the United States understands Syrians' desire to handle the uprising without foreign interference. "We respect their wishes," Clinton said. "The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria," Obama said. But Clinton said it would take "words and actions to produce results." As part of that effort, the president announced what he described as "unprecedented sanctions" to deepen the regime's isolation. Obama said he signed a new order freezing Syrian government assets under US jurisdiction and barring Americans from dealing with the government. The order also bars Americans from dealing in the country's energy sector. Obama said the administration's actions would be "amplified by others." Shortly afterward, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement calling for Assad to step aside, saying he must "face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime." Though the moves may not have any immediate impact on the Syrian regime's behavior, officials hope it sends a powerful signal that Assad is no longer welcome in the international community. The administration's critics described the announcements as long-awaited. "Better late than never," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted. John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations, said such a rhetorical offensive may not have much impact, though he described the statement as the right thing to do. The statement "certainly raises the question, what is he prepared to do about it?" Bolton said. "Without some outside intervention, it's going to be very bloody for a long time."
The announcements follow months of escalating protests and bloody crackdowns in Syria. As many as 2,000 protesters have been killed by the government during that time, while more than 12,000 have been arrested and thousands more Syrians have fled the country. Assad on Wednesday told the United Nations that military and police operations had stopped, but to this point the regime has used kidnappings, torture and killings to try and quell the protests. Syria has been a US-designated state sponsor of terrorism since 1979. Obama, Clinton and top national security aides have previously said that Assad has "lost his legitimacy" as a leader and that Syria would be "better off" without him. But they had not specifically demanded that he step down.
The administration had planned to make the announcement last week but postponed it largely at the request of Syria's neighbor Turkey, which asked for more time to try to convince Assad to reform, and because Clinton and other officials argued it was important to build a global consensus that Assad must go. Clinton on Tuesday publicly questioned the effectiveness of the United States acting alone. "It is not going to be any news if the United States says Assad needs to go," she said. "OK, fine, what's next? If other people say it, if Turkey says it, if Saudi King Abdullah says it, there is no way the Assad regime can ignore it." Since then, however, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has compared Assad to Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi for refusing to heed calls to change. Turkey has joined calls for Qaddafi to leave power, and Erdogan said Wednesday he had personally spoken to Assad and sent his foreign minister to Damascus, but "despite all of this, they are continuing to strike civilians." In addition, Tunisia on Wednesday recalled its ambassador from Syria, following the lead of several other Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, that the US has been lobbying to show displeasure with Assad. And, on Thursday, US officials say the UN human rights chief is expected to call on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for investigation of alleged atrocities against protesters during the five-month uprising.
Should We Brace for Another US-Mideast War
(First Libya, now sources say next country warned of NATO attack)
Aug. 17….(WND) Turkey secretly passed a message to Damascus last week that if it does not implement major democratic reforms, NATO may attack Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, according to Egyptian security officials. The Egyptian security officials said the message was coordinated with NATO members, specifically with the US and European Union. Assad has been widely accused of ordering massacres on militants and protesters engaged in an insurgency targeting his regime. The Egyptian officials said Turkish leaders, speaking for NATO, told Assad that he has until March to implement democratization that would allow free elections as well as major constitutional reforms. Read what we'll need to accomplish to restore America to greatness. The officials said the NATO message demanded Assad halt attacks against the insurgency and begin the process of democratization immediately. Last week it was widely reported Turkey gave the Syrian government a two-week ultimatum to come up with a set of reforms and asked Assad's regime to withdraw its security forces from protest cities. The reports, however, did not mention any message passed to Assad on behalf of NATO. Yesterday, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Spain sent a secret mission to Syria in July to attempt to find a solution to the current conflict there and offer asylum to Assad and his family. While it is not clear what form any NATO military action would take against Assad's regime, the Egyptian security officials told WND they would expect such action to mimic the international coalition that has been targeting Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.
Soros-funded doctrine with Obama White House ties
The Libya bombings have been widely regarded as a test of a military doctrine called Responsibility to Protect. In his address to the nation in April explaining the NATO campaign in Libya, Obama cited the doctrine as the main justification for US and international airstrikes against Libya. Responsibility to Protect, or Responsibility to Act, as cited by Obama, is a set of principles, now backed by the United Nations, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility that can be revoked if a country is accused of "war crimes," "genocide," "crimes against humanity" or "ethnic cleansing." The term "war crimes" has at times been indiscriminately used by various UN-backed international bodies, including the International Criminal Court, or ICC, which applied it to Israeli anti-terror operations in the Gaza Strip. There has been fear the ICC could be used to prosecute US troops. The Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect is the world's leading champion of the military doctrine. As WND reported, Soros is a primary funder and key proponent of the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect. Several of the doctrine's main founders sit on boards with Soros.
WND reported the committee that devised the Responsibility to Protect doctrine included Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa as well as Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, a staunch denier of the Holocaust who long served as the deputy of late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. Also the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy has a seat on the advisory board of the 2001 commission that original founded Responsibility to Protect. The commission is called the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. It invented the term "responsibility to protect" while defining its guidelines. The Carr Center is a research center concerned with human rights located at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Samantha Power, the National Security Council special adviser to Obama on human rights, was Carr's founding executive director and headed the institute at the time it advised in the founding of Responsibility to Protect. With Power's center on the advisory board, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty first defined the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. Power reportedly heavily influenced Obama in consultations leading to the decision to bomb Libya. Two of the global group's advisory board members, Ramesh Thakur and Gareth Evans, are the original founders of the doctrine, with the duo even coining the term "responsibility to protect."
As WND reported, Soros' Open Society Institute is a primary funder and key proponent of the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect. Also, Thakur and Evans sit on multiple boards with Soros. Soros' Open Society is one of only three nongovernmental funders of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Government sponsors include Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Rwanda and the UK Board members of the group include former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Ireland President Mary Robinson and South African activist Desmond Tutu. Robinson and Tutu have recently made solidarity visits to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as members of a group called The Elders, which includes former President Jimmy Carter. Annan once famously stated, "State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined, not least by the forces of globalization and international co-operation. States are instruments at the service of their peoples and not vice versa."
Soros: Right to 'penetrate nation-states'
Soros himself outlined the fundamentals of Responsibility to Protect in a 2004 Foreign Policy magazine article entitled "The People's Sovereignty: How a New Twist on an Old Idea Can Protect the World's Most Vulnerable Populations." In the article, Soros said "true sovereignty belongs to the people, who in turn delegate it to their governments." "If governments abuse the authority entrusted to them and citizens have no opportunity to correct such abuses, outside interference is justified," Soros wrote. "By specifying that sovereignty is based on the people, the international community can penetrate nation-states' borders to protect the rights of citizens. "In particular, the principle of the people's sovereignty can help solve two modern challenges: the obstacles to delivering aid effectively to sovereign states, and the obstacles to global collective action dealing with states experiencing internal conflict."
More Soros ties
Responsibility founders Evans and Thakur served as co-chairman with Gregorian on the advisory board of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which invented the term "responsibility to protect." In his capacity as co-chairman, Evans also played a pivotal role in initiating the fundamental shift from sovereignty as a right to "sovereignty as responsibility." Evans presented Responsibility to Protect at the July 23, 2009, United Nations General Assembly, which was convened to consider the principle. Thakur is a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, which is in partnership with an economic institute founded by Soros. Soros is on the executive board of the International Crisis Group, a "crisis management organization" for which Evans serves as president-emeritus. WND previously reported how the group has been petitioning for the US to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition in Egypt, where longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak was recently toppled. Aside from Evans and Soros, the group includes on its board Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as other personalities who champion dialogue with Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
WND also reported the crisis group has petitioned for the Algerian government to cease "excessive" military activities against al-Qaida-linked groups and to allow organizations seeking to create an Islamic state to participate in the Algerian government. Soros' own Open Society Institute has funded opposition groups across the Middle East and North Africa, including organizations involved in the current chaos.
'One World Order'
WND reported that doctrine founder Thakur recently advocated for a "global rebalancing" and "international redistribution" to create a "New World Order." In a piece last March in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, "Toward a new world order," Thakur wrote, "Westerners must change lifestyles and support international redistribution." He was referring to a United Nations-brokered international climate treaty in which he argued, "Developing countries must reorient growth in cleaner and greener directions." In the opinion piece, Thakur then discussed recent military engagements and how the financial crisis has impacted the US "The West's bullying approach to developing nations won't work anymore, global power is shifting to Asia," he wrote. "A much-needed global moral rebalancing is in train," he added
'Crescent' Forecast to 'Put End to Israel'
(Iraq could be 'bridge' for Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas)
Aug. 17….(WND) Pulling US troops out of Iraq at the end of this year could make the country a "bridge" between Iran and Syria and would allow Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Iraq and Syria to form the "Shiite Crescent" in preparation for war with Israel. With Hezbollah's 50,000 missiles, which can destroy targets in Israel, "the equation will completely change when Syria and Iran join the war," according to retired Brig. Gen. Walid Sakariya, who also is a Hezbollah member of parliament. US officials apparently share the concern, since they recently have been in Baghdad trying to convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to agree to allow up to 10,000 US troops to remain beyond the end of the year. Maliki, who is Shiite, is an ally of Iran. Following the US withdrawal, Sakariya said that Iraq could become a bridge linking Iran to Syria. "The Iranian forces could cross Iraq and arrive in Syria in order to participate in a direct war on the Golan front." In that case, he said, Israel would not be fighting Hezbollah alone. It also would be fighting Syria, Iraq, Iran and Hamas. Sakariya said that this is the "Shiite Crescent" that Israel fears. Similarly, Sunni Saudi Arabia also is increasingly concerned with the spread of Iranian influence among Arab countries and has decided to create a separate rapid reaction force of Sunni Muslim forces to confront it. "Since Iran dominates this axis, the Arab countries (which are Sunni-led) refer to it as the 'Shiite Crescent,'" Sakariya said. With all of these countries engaged, Sakariya said, there would be a strategically superior force "large enough to pulverize Israel."
Turkey Issues ‘Final Warning’ to Syria
Bashar Assad (left) and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Thousands flee Palestinian camp as Syrian troops shell Latakia; Jordan, PA denounce crackdown by Assad.)
Aug. 16….(Jerusalem Post) Syrian forces shelled residential districts in Latakia on Monday, the third day of an assault on Sunni neighborhoods of the ancient port city that had seen mounting protests against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule. Meanwhile, thousands of people fled a Palestinian refugee camp in the coastal city, some fleeing gunfire and others leaving on orders from authorities, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency said. Diplomatic pressure continued to mount against Damascus, as officials of neighboring Turkey and Jordan called for an immediate halt to the violence. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said military operations against civilians must end immediately and unconditionally, warning the Syrian president that this was Ankara’s “final word.” Latakia is the latest city to be stormed after Hama, scene of a 1982 massacre by the military, the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, capital of a tribal province bordering Iraq’s Sunni heartland, and several towns in the northwestern Idlib province, which borders Turkey. “Between 5,000 and 10,000 have fled, we don’t know where these people are so it’s very worrying,” said Christopher Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA. “We have a handful of confirmed deaths and nearly 20 injured.” Residents of Latakia say al- Raml refugee camp has been among the targets hit by Syrian security forces in their fivemonth- long crackdown. Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh called on “the Syrian authorities to take measures that prevent the violation of the lives of Palestinian refugees in al-Raml camp,” the official WAFA news agency reported. But Rudaineh said the Palestinian policy was not to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab states. “The future of the regimes is in the hands of their people,” he said.
Davutoglu took a firmer tone. “This is our final word to the Syrian authorities. Our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally,” the Turkish foreign minister said in Ankara’s strongest rhetoric yet against its once close ally. “If these operations do not stop, there will be nothing left to say about the steps that would be taken,” he told a news conference, without elaborating. “We have been in contact and have repeated our demands and have emphasized our expectations,” he said. “In the context of human rights this cannot be seen as a domestic issue.” Davutoglu visited Damascus last week and held talks with Assad. Jordan joined the fray on Monday as well. Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit reportedly told his Syrian counterpart, Adel Safar, by phone, “There is a need to stop violence immediately, start implementing reforms and resort to dialogue,” state news agency Petra reported. Western-backed Jordan has said little about Syria since the start of the uprising and refrained from overtly criticizing its northern neighbor, with which it has close trade and political ties despite diverging views on Arab-Israeli peace talks. But Amman, with strong ties to Saudi Arabia, has been under pressure to condemn Damascus’s increasingly violent campaign. In a pattern seen in other population centers across Syria attacked by core military forces loyal to Assad, tanks and armored vehicles deployed around dissident neighborhoods in Latakia and essential services were cut before raids and arrests, and bombardment, residents said. “People are trying to flee, but they cannot leave Latakia because it is besieged. The best they can do is to move from one area to another within the city,” a witness told Reuters.
The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union, a grassroots activists group, said three people, among them a 22-yearold man named Ahmad Soufi, were killed by Assad forces on Monday, bringing the total killed in the three-day sea and land assault on Latakia to at least 31 civilians, including a two-year old girl. Unlike most other Syrian cities, which are predominantly Sunni, Latakia has a large population of Assad’s Alawite sect because of its proximity to the Alawite Mountains and because Assad and his father encouraged co-religionists to move from their traditional mountain region, offering them cheap land and jobs in the public sector and the security apparatus. Assad also replaced the governor of the northern province of Aleppo on Monday, the Syrian official news agency said, following the breakout of pro-democracy protests in Aleppo city, Syria’s main commercial hub and capital of the province. “The minority regime is playing with fire. We are coming to a point where the people in the street will rather take any weapon they can put their hand on and fight than be shot at, or arrested and humiliated,” one activist said. “We are seeing civil war in Syria, but it is one-sided. The hope is for street protests and international pressure to bring down the regime before it kills more Syrians and drives them to take up arms.”
Analysis: Syria and the 'Saudi Dawn'
Aug. 15….(Arutz) Saudi Arabia's sharp condemnation of Syria signals it is no longer willing to wait for Washington to take the lead in the Mideast. As the Obama administration appears reticent and issues tepid condemnations on world events, Saudi Arabia has become bolder in its strategy for dealing with the turmoil in the Mideast. No longer willing to wait for Washington's cue, the Saudis are aggressively trying to influence the regional turmoil and boost its twin goals, protect fellow royal houses and isolate its rival, Iran. The more decisive Saudi policies by King Abdullah were on full display last week as he took the lead among Arab nations by removing his ambassador from Syria and demanding an "end to the killing machine" of President Bashar Al Assad's regime in a startlingly strong condemnation of Damascus' bloody suppression of protesters. It was the first time Saudi Arabia has weighed in publicly on Syria's upheaval, and demonstrated the Saudis' willingness to shift gears dramatically as needed if their interests, and those of their fellow Arab monarchies, require it. To date Saudi Arabia has been the region's pro-status quo, anti-Arab Spring power. The reason for the shift, of course, is Iran. For the Saudis, the revolt in Syria is a chance to strike at one of the key pillars of Iran's regional influence.
Saudi Arabia sees this as a golden opportunity to further chip away at Iran's influence in the Arab Middle East and also, to change the strategic map," Theodore Karasik, a regional affairs expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said. "This is going to make your foreign policy more robust and aggressive," he said of the Saudis. But that doesn't come without some potential complications for Saudi Arabia. Stronger Saudi policies open the risks of friction with Washington, which is Saudi Arabia's main arms supplier and had counted on Saudi support to push US interests in the Arab world. Analysts say there is virtually no chance of a serious rift, and US and Saudi officials are on the same page on other pivotal showdowns, such as efforts to get Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after months of protest and bloodshed.
But Saudi Arabia's short term reliance and alliance with the US may not be in King Abdullah's long-term plans, especially in light of the Obama administration's open desire for the United States to step back from being the global engine and leave "allies" to lead in their regions. The Saudis, who play a pivotal and driving role in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, are at the heart of efforts to transform the GCC into a unified diplomatic and military confederation to counter Iran's influence and rise to being the region's primary power player. The GCC, comprised of the Gulf's six Sunni Arab monarchies, has also moved to include the world's remaining two Arab monarchies, Jordan and Morocco, as King Abdullah has actively sought to solidify GCC alliances with his royal houses via royal marriages. The Obama administration may find its own reluctance to take decisive action has given rise to the Saudi dawn.
Obama and Erdogan Give Assad 15 Days
Aug. 15….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Thursday night, Aug. 11, US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan agreed to set Syrian President Bashar Assad the deadline of Aug. 27 for extinguishing the popular uprising against his rule and starting to implement genuine democratic reforms. This decision followed Erdogan's report to Obama on the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's six-hour conversationwith Assad Tuesday, Aug. 9. Debkafile reports that Assad apparently convinced his Turkish guest that, with a free hand, he would finish off the revolt in 10 to 15 days and then get down to introducing political reforms including free elections with full opposition participation. If he goes back on his word, then Obama and Erdogan would talk again about a possible US-Turkish military operation in Syria. They decided to trust Assad "one last time" regardless of his broken promises in the past. Our Washington sources report exclusively that Davutoglu covered six main points in his talk with Assad:
1. The Syrian ruler asserted with complete confidence that the protest would be over in 10-15 days;
2. He has no illusions about the uprising disappearing for good and expects further outbreaks at least until the end of next year.
3. Assad promised to forestall fresh flare-up by instituting genuine reforms.
4. After their advisers left the room, Assad showed the Turkish foreign minister intelligence materials with documents and photos as evidence that the rebels fighting his regime were Islamic extremists, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda. He said that if they carried the day in Syria they would move on to Turkey. He therefore asked Ankara for more patience to allow him to subdue these forces. This was a reference to Erdogan's statement last Saturday, Aug. 6, that Turkey's patience with Syrian brutality was "running thin."
5. The Syrian ruler asked for an assurance that Ankara "would not to use Syria for a Turkish (and therefore NATO) campaign against Iran." In the background of this demand was a comment Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin made on Aug. 5 that NATO was planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the Assad regime "with the long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran."
6. Assad said earnestly that he would rather see Turkish than Iranian influence in Iraq and offered to work with Turkey and the US to achieve this end. This was a transparent attempt to con Washington into believing he was willing to drive the Iranians out of Iraq by pandering to its long-held illusion that if the Americans tried hard enough, they could separate him from his foremost ally and prop.
After Obama and Erdogan agreed on their next Syrian steps, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a CBS interviewer Thursday that US policy now hinges on "building the chorus of international condemnation" to make things clear to Assad. Even then, she did tell him to go, since he has no legitimacy." The Secretary of State mentioned China, Brazil and India in the context of her "international chorus." Our Washington sources report she was basing her remark on Erdogan's undertaking to bring the three powers on board for UN Security Council authorization of NATO intervention in Syria if the US goes along with his plan for a two-week respite for Assad to finish the job and he breaks his word on reforms. Surely the president had not forgotten that Erdogan tried this stunt less than a year ago when he failed to harness the same trio for useful intercession in the Iranian nuclear crisis
Debkafile notes: The Syrian ruler has finagled a free hand for intensifying his crackdown on dissent with an unabashed ferocity few tyrants can match. He is trusted to keep his side of a bargain despite an exceptionally bad record in keeping his word and truth-telling. No one is yet prepared to cut down this world sponsor of terrorists, some of whom were let loose to kill Americans in Iraq year after year. Today, he is trampling his opposition into the dust along with every universal value. Washington would still rather believe he is a reformer than force him out of power. A minor incident this week showed how easily he pulls the wool over the eyes of his willing dupes. Tuesday, Assad invited the Turkish minister and reporters to see for themselves that he was pulling his tanks out of Hama. None were allowed to leave the official vehicles. As soon as Davutoglu flew out, the tanks rolled back into the city. On the ground meanwhile, Turkish papers reported Friday Aug. 12 that Ankara had called up reserves and transferred them to the Syrian border to deal with a new and heavy influx of Syrian refugees.
Syria Unrest Continues: 'Deadly Military Attack' on Latakia Port
Aug. 15….(Fox News) Syrian warships have joined a military assault on protesters in the northern port city of Latakia, activists say. At least 19 people have been killed in the operation, according to activists and human rights groups. Explosions and gunfire have been reported in several districts of the city which have seen large protests against the Syrian government. More than 1,700 people have reportedly died in the six-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The operation began on Saturday with armored vehicles and troops moving in. Some 20 tanks and personnel carriers were said to be taking part in the Latakia assault along with at least two gunboats. One witness told Reuters news agency by telephone: "I can see the silhouettes of two grey naval vessels. They are firing their guns and the impact is landing on al-Ramleh, al-Filistini and al-Shaab neighborhoods." Latakia was one of the cities to be caught up in the revolt soon after it erupted in mid-March. Despite repeated attempts by the regime to stifle defiance, it keeps breaking out. It is a sensitive city. Its population is 600,000 or so, and it has a Sunni Muslim majority, as does the country, but there are also areas dominated by President Assad's minority Alawite community. The current punishment is being meted out to mainly Sunni areas, a fact that could further aggravate sectarian tensions already sensitized by the situation. A report on state television denied there had been any naval shelling. Activists said at least two people were killed and 15 wounded in Saturday's attacks. They said a large number of residents had fled the city and that telephones and internet connections had been cut off. International journalists face severe restrictions in operating in Syria, and it is hard to verify reports. Thousands of people were said to have come on to the streets of Latakia on Friday to demonstrate against the government. Latakia has seen many anti-government protests in the past six months. Tens of thousands of people had come out on to the streets across the country again on Friday to protest. The Syrian Observatory said that a large number of troops had also moved into the Saqba and Hamriya districts of the capital Damascus on Sunday, with gunfire heard in both suburbs.
Syria has come under increased diplomatic pressure in the past week to stop its crackdown on dissent. The US has imposed sanctions on Damascus and has said these could be increased, while calling on other countries to follow. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait have all recalled their ambassadors, while Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has described the methods used by the Syrian security forces as "unacceptable". However, it appears the crackdown has intensified, with troops storming several towns and cities. Assad has reiterated promises of political reform, while remaining adamant his government would continue to pursue the "terrorist groups" he has blamed for the unrest. Protests have been targeted in Homs, Hama, Damascus, Deir al-Zour in the east, Deraa in the south and Aleppo and Idlib near Turkey's border
WEEK OF AUGUST 7 THROUGH AUGUST 12
PA Arab Newspaper: So-called Destruction of 'Alleged' Temples
(PA denies Jerusalem history on Temple Mount in Jerusalem)
Aug. 13….(Arutz) Earlier this week, on a day that Jews worldwide fasted and mourned the destruction of their holiest site, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper reported on the "so-called destruction" of the "alleged" Jewish Temple. On Monday, Jews commemorated Tisha Ba'Av or the Ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. On that day, numerous tragedies befell the Jewish people, including the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which occurred about 490 years apart on the same Hebrew calendar date. The fast day started at sundown on Monday and ended Tuesday evening. On Tuesday, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, an official PA newspaper, reported on the "alleged Temple." "Since Monday morning, groups of extremist Jews have been roaming the courtyards of Al-Aqsa mosque one after the other, under heavy police protection, on the occasion of the week of the so-called 'destruction of the Temple'," stated the report. The PA routinely denies the existence of the Temples as well as the Jewish historic connection to Israel.
Chief Palestinian Justice: Temples Never Existed
In a previous WND interview, Chief Palestinian Justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi declared the Jewish temples never existed and Jews have no historic connection to Jerusalem. He also claimed the Western Wall really was a tying post for Muhammad's horse, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets for Islam. Tamimi is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. "Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city, and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880s," said Tamimi. "About these so-called two temples, they never existed, certainly not at the Temple Mount," Tamimi said during a sit-down interview in his eastern Jerusalem office. The Palestinian cleric further denied the validity of dozens of digs verified by experts worldwide revealing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temples throughout Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount itself; excavations revealing Jewish homes and a synagogue in a site in Jerusalem called the City of David; or even the recent discovery of a Second Temple Jewish city in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Tamimi said descriptions of the Jewish Temples in the Hebrew Tanach, in the Talmud and in Byzantine and Roman writings from the Temple periods were forged, and that the Torah was falsified to claim biblical patriarchs and matriarchs were Jewish, when they were prophets for Islam. "All this is not real. We don't believe in all your versions. Your Torah was falsified. The text as given to the Muslim prophet Moses never mentions Jerusalem. Maybe Jerusalem was mentioned in the rest of the Torah, which was falsified by the Jews," said Tamimi. He said Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus were "prophets for the Israelites sent by Allah as to usher in Islam."
Asked about the Western Wall, Tamimi said the structure was a tying post for Muhammad's horse and that it is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, even though the Wall predates the mosque by more than 1,000 years. "The Western Wall is the western wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque. It's where Prophet Muhammad tied his animal, which took him from Mecca to Jerusalem to receive the revelations of Allah." The Kotel, or Western Wall, is an outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount that survived the destruction of the Second Temple and still stands today in Jerusalem. Tamimi went on to claim to WND the Al Aqsa Mosque, which has sprung multiple leaks and has had to be repainted several times, was built by angels. "Al Aqsa was built by the angels 40 years after the building of Al-Haram in Mecca. This we have no doubt is true," he said.
In truth, The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century BC It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 BC after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in AD 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries. According to the Talmud, the world was created from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount. It's believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed in about AD709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al-Aqsa was meant to mark what Muslims came to believe was the place at which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 656 times. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night on a horse from "a sacred mosque," believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia, to "the farthest mosque" and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque became associated with Jerusalem about 120 years ago. According to research by Israeli author Shmuel Berkovits, Islam historically disregarded Jerusalem as being holy. Berkovits points out in his new book, "How Dreadful Is This Place!" that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for. Muhammad made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place, the Kaaba in Mecca, to signify the unity of God. As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings influenced the Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites are to be found only in the Arabian Peninsula and that "in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron." A guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published in 1925 listed the Mount as Jewish and as the site of Solomon's Temple. The Temple Institute acquired a copy of the official 1925 "Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif," which states on page 4, "Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which 'David built there an altar unto the Lord.'"
No prayer zone
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the area. Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians. The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 am and 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm, and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered "sensitive" by the Waqf. During "open" days, Jews and Christians are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any "holy objects" to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.
Abbas Wants US-led NATO Force for PA State
(PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas told US lawmakers he wants a US-led NATO force to provide security for the future 'Palestinian state.')
Aug. 13….(YNET) Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas told visiting US Congressmen on Thursday he wants the security of a future PA state to be handed to NATO under US command, the Maan news agency reported Friday. The PA state must also be "empty of settlements," Abbas said, according to official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA.
Members of the US Congress and Senate delegation, headed by Democrat Senator Steny Hoyer, met with Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday, and quizzed Abbas on Israel's designation as a Jewish state, the status of refugees, and reconciliation between Abbas' Fatah party and rival Hamas, Presidential adviser Nimir Hamad said. Abbas reiterated the Palestinian Authority's well-known positions on these matters, Hammad added, and specified that security responsibility for the Palestinian Authority would be handled by a third party, suggesting the US-Europe military alliance NATO. In September 2010, Abbas outlined his government's acceptance of international forces from NATO or similar to the UNIFIL force operating in southern Lebanon playing a role in PA security, as long as forces did not include one single Israeli, whether from the civilian population or the military. Abbas is currently pursuing a unilateral recognition of PA statehood based on pre-1967 lines at the United Nations in September.
Syrian Uprising May Lead to Regional War
Aug. 13….(Ha Aretz) The brutal crackdown in Syria by Assad continues unabated, and it is likely to become the stage for a regional conflict involving Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the Gulf. In recent days, the Turkish army summoned hundreds of officers for reserve duty, placing them in bases near the border with Syria. Turkish sources report that the military has been on high alert along the border to prepare for a massive flight of Syrian refugees into the country, as well as for the possibility of NATO strikes in Syria. Only hours after Turkey's foreign minister visited Damascus did the government understand that Prime Minister Erdrogan's ultimatum to Assad fell on deaf ears, after news broke that the city of Homs was being battered by Syrian security forces. The protests and the bloodshed continued on Friday, when human rights organizers claim 13 protesters were shot to death by Syrian security forces. According to reports, live fire was shot at thousands of worshippers on their way home from Friday prayers in the town of Dir al-Zur. Crowds went out into the streets across the country calling for Assad to step down.
While Turkey prepares for the worst, Iran refuses to print any news on the uprising in its state-run newspapers, while the government has warned that Syria may become the center of an international war. Iran has also transferred approximately five billion dollars to Syria in recent weeks, and according to Iraqi sources, Iran has demanded that Iraq transfer ten billion dollars to the Syrian government. The involvement of Iran, Turkey, Saudia Arabia, and other gulf states has turned the Syrian uprising from an internal event, resulting from mass poverty, oppression, and a lack of economic and political future, into a potential regional war. Syria, whose regional strategic importance is based less on oil and natural resources, and more on its strong relationship with Iran and ability to intervene in Iraqi affairs, has been able to prevent the establishment of a military front against it. As opposed to the immediate international consensus that allowed for a military offensive in Libya, there has been no initiative to promote a similar UN Security Council in regards to Syria.
In contrast with Libya, where armed resistance could potentially serve as an alternative political power, there is no telling where Syria is headed. Will it end up as chaotic as Iraq, which suffered a difficult period of civil strife after the fall of Saddam? Will a new Syrian regime look toward Iran or the West for support? Will Turkey be able to rely on a new regime with an unchanged military to block the Kurdish PKK party from gaining power? Does the Saudi monarchy prefer a despised, yet well-known leader with whom it could negotiate for hefty sums of money? Such questions also preoccupy the West, which has not yet called for Assad to leave his castle.
In the absence of any outside military pressure, and while Syria can lean on Iran's power of deterrence, it is difficult to determine whether Assad's days are numbered. The military has implemented a strategy of separating the country into isolated cities, giving each one its own special "treatment" that the government hopes will serve as a lesson for others. This is the tale of cities such as Dara, Dir al-Zur, Idlib, Hama, and others that have essentially turned into ghost cities, or areas that where leading a normal life has become quite difficult. This strategy, which presumes that the uprising could last for quite some time, has developed steadily over the last five months. Assad himself has even said that the rebellion may last up to two years.
Borrowing From Communists to Pay Jihadists?
Aug. 12….(Jewish World Review) The debt crisis, chronic high unemployment, the tumbling stock market, the credit downgrade, these are, fairly obviously, symptoms of an economy in distress. We might disagree about the best policy responses. But perhaps we can agree on the worst; borrow massive amounts of money from the communists who want to diminish us and transfer that wealth to the Jihadis who want to destroy us. Surprise: That long has been US government policy and, so far at least, it remains in place. This reality was driven home last week when China’s rulers, who sit on at least $1.16 trillion in US Treasury Securities, scolded “debt-ridden Uncle Sam,” instructing Washington that “the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone.”
At about the same time, it was announced that Rostam Ghasemi will be the next president of OPEC, the cartel that controls much of the world’s oil and manipulates its price on global markets. Unsavory characters have run OPEC in the past but this smashes all records: Ghasemi is a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Brown Shirts of a regime that has been murdering Americans for more than a quarter century and which is openly dedicated to the proposition that a “world without America is achievable.” Ghasemi is under EU and US sanctions for his involvement in terrorism and nuclear proliferation. He also, until recently, headed Khatam al-Anbiya, the “industrial division” of the Guards, an entity deeply involved in the exploitation of Iranian oil, also under EU and US sanctions, and UN sanctions too.
The EU passed its sanctions with great fanfare last June, highlighting strict travel bans on designated persons as a particularly meaningful penalty. But, another surprise, the EU left a loophole in its law: An exception to the travel ban will allow Ghasemi, as Iran’s new oil minister and president of OPEC, to travel to Vienna to attend meetings of an international organization. To say this more succinctly: OPEC will now be headed by an Iranian terrorist master but sanctions on him will be waived to help him do his new job which is to squeeze out of Americans and Europeans as much money as possible which he’ll use to fund terrorism and illegal nuclear proliferation. If you’d read this in a novel, you’d say the plot was not believable. What is fiction: The belief that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, shrink the amount of money we transfer to the Middle East and lower the price of gas by driving our cars less. Nor does it help to raise fuel efficiency standards as was grandly announced last week. When we use less gas, OPEC responds by tightening the faucet, reducing the supply and causing the price to rise again. What we need to do instead: Lift the barriers that are preventing us from utilizing domestic, Canadian and Third World energy resources, including not just Gulf and Alaskan oil but also shale-oil, shale-gas, natural gas and coal (all of which North America has in great abundance), and methanol (which can be made from coal, natural gas, urban garbage, agricultural and forestry waste).
It would help if American automobile manufacturers would make all new vehicles capable of running on the widest possible variety of liquid fuels. The technology already exists. It costs about the same as a seatbelt. Having a critical mass of such vehicles on the road would open an enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors to bring to market a variety of liquid fuels that can compete with gasoline. That ought to be the goal: creating a diverse, abundant and, most importantly, competitive market in transportation fuels. Let me stress: It is not for politicians to pick winners and losers. If Congress and the White House would establish and then maintain a truly free market, one in which consumers determine which transportation fuels and technologies offer the best values, that would put a leash on gas prices and reduce our need to spend in the Middle East and borrow from the Far East. Cheaper energy also would facilitate faster economic growth that increases tax revenues without increasing tax rates. At the moment, however, US policy remains what it has been: not just stealing from Peter to pay Paul, but also borrowing from Hu to pay Abdullah. It’s hard to imagine how we could do worse.
US Booted From Triple-A Debt Club
Aug. 11….(Yahoo) The Triple-A debt club just got even more exclusive: Late Friday, the United States was booted out of a prestigious group of countries that boast a spotless credit rating.
Now only 15 countries (and the very small Isle of Man) hold the triple-A rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's. Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are among those with the undisputed stamp of approval, so is Isle of Man, a British crown dependency off the United Kingdom's west coast, and Singapore. The triple-A rating enables nations to borrow funds at a low cost, because their governments are considered stable and their bonds safe.
The United States for example, has seen its dollar become the world's No. 1 reserve currency because its bonds are held in such high regard by investors. They're backed by the "full faith and credit of the US government," which until now, has never seriously been called into question. On Friday, S&P downgraded the United States to AA+, an investment grade level just one notch below triple-A. It marked the first time the world's largest economy has been downgraded, since Moody's first gave the country a credit rating in 1917. S&P cited estimates that US government debt would balloon to 79% of the size of the entire US economy by 2015, and 85% by 2021, a level S&P says is consistent with AA+ rated countries.
In comparison, estimates from the International Monetary Fund show triple-A rated Canada's debt is likely to only rise to 34% of its economy by 2015, and Germany's is forecast to rise to 52%. (The IMF does not publish forecasts out to 2021). The debt of Belgium, another AA+ rated country on S&P's list, is expected to grow to 85% of GDP by 2015, according to the IMF. Abu Dhabi, with a AA rating, is just a step below AA+. Also in that group are Bermuda, Chile, Qatar, Slovenia and Spain.
Meanwhile, China, the world's second largest economy, is rated two notches below the United States, at AA-. Greece, the lowest rated country in the world, is forecast to see its debt well exceed the size of its economy, at 149% the size of its GDP in 2015.
The Bashar al-Assad Regime
Aug. 11….(Eyal Zisser/JCPA) Only ten years ago, Bashar al-Assad was seen as a reformer with a Western mentality. However, Bashar has said that he was raised in Syria in the house of Hafez al-Assad, and is no different from him. The Western countries and the American administration believed that there was no better alternative to the Assad regime - if this regime collapses, the case of Iraq may repeat itself with chaos, terrorism, and Islamic radicalism. But now there is a change in the attitude of the West toward Syria. Bashar al-Assad's Syria is an important part of the Axis of Evil, supported by Iran and Hizbullah. However, Iran and Hizbullah can do very little to help him, especially inside Syria, because part of the uprising and the unrest has to do with Sunni-Shiite tension and, clearly, Shiite Iran will pay heavily for its support of Bashar al-Assad if he falls. Before the uprising, Bashar was supported by the Islamic and radical movements in the Middle East. Most Muslim Brothers supported him, in Jordan, Egypt, and Hamas. Now they have turned their back on him, led by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale, who reminds them that, after all, Bashar is an Alawite and supported by the Shiite camp. Now Qaradawi, as well as other Muslim Brothers all over the Arab world, and even Hamas, are having second thoughts about their alliance with Bashar.
Assad also had the support of the pan-Arabists. An example is Azmi Bishara, a former Israeli Arab MK who now lives in Qatar. He is Christian but supported Syria as a stronghold of resistance to Israel. Now these people have come to think of Bashar as an obstacle to the revival of pan-Arabism. Turkey, under Prime Minister Erdogan, had become a close ally of Syria. But Erdogan has no reservations regarding the possibility that Muslim radicals might come to power in Syria if Bashar falls. On the contrary, the Sunni radicals and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood are Erdogan's close allies, as is Hamas. So Turkey has nothing to lose if Bashar falls. Clearly, the unrest in Syria has to do with economics. We tend to think that the Syrian economy was doing well, but this prosperity involved the center and some Sunni urban elites, but it had little connection to the periphery (which is exactly what happened in Egypt as well). The World Bank was very satisfied with the conduct of the Syrian economy, but the periphery had reservations. Right now the Syrian economy is paralyzed, and Bashar has made some dramatic changes, bringing back subsidies. The tourist industry has collapsed. Even if he survives, Bashar could pay heavily and might be in desperate need not of Iranian missiles but of economic aid.
In the coming weeks and months, if the unrest continues, the Syrian economy will remain paralyzed and Bashar will have no resources to satisfy the urban elites in Damascus and Aleppo, where the middle class could turn against him. So he is playing for time, but time is not on his side. He needs to bring this unrest to an immediate halt, because if it continues, it will threaten his interests. When Bashar speaks about reform, what he has in mind is to open new schools, to launch new tourist projects, to encourage industry. It has nothing to do with any political change or reform because this would be against the nature of his regime. Bashar is now fighting for his life and what is happening outside Syria has no relevance right now. We know exactly what might happen to him and to all of his generals in the event of regime change. Since he is fighting for his life, he will do what is needed to win, and he does not care that the Americans and Europeans are condemning him for his brutality.
The Syrians do not see Egypt as a model that is relevant for them. The model that is relevant for Syria is Iraq or Lebanon. Syrians look at the Iraqi model as an example of what might happen if the regime collapses: disintegration of the state, bloodshed, and ethnic clashes. So far the protest is limited to the Sunni periphery. We have not heard about unrest in the Druze areas in southern Syria. Christians are clearly in full support of the Assad regime, as are the other minorities. The Kurds in eastern Syria are still in a position of wait-and-see.
Syrian Relations with Israel
The Syrian regime has no interest in an escalation along the Syrian-Israeli border. Syria knows that any small incident can turn into a major war like in Lebanon in 2006. I wonder if it was indeed the Syrian regime who organized all those demonstrations along the border on Nakba and Naksa days. Clearly, when the regime was strong, it could not have happened. Now that the regime is weaker and Assad is focusing much of his attention on the riots all over Syria, such events can happen. But when it got out of control, the regime made an effort to contain and bring the events to an end. Bashar needs his soldiers to fight the Syrian people and to suppress the revolt. The last thing he needs is a war with Israel in which Israel might destroy his army, leaving him without any defensive shield against this uprising. Making peace with Israel is not a popular idea in the Arab world. A weak leader will not even consider it. There is a consensus in Syria that one day it will be possible to think about settling the conflict with Israel, but in a weak regime with a leader under attack, this is not the right time. Nobody in Syria cared about the demonstrations on Nakba and Naksa days. All they care about is Bashar and his regime. People in Syria do not care about what the Israelis do right now. The Syrian regime should be considered a strategic threat to Israel because Bashar al-Assad has sought to develop nuclear capabilities. He provided support to Hamas and Hizbullah - not the kind of support his father used to give them, but strategic support which turned Hizbullah into a major strategic threat to Israel. Bashar was the one who brought the Iranians to Syria and to the region. The Iranians had been present, but only as guests. Now they are in a different position and the alliance became closer. At the same time, Bashar maintained quiet on the Golan Heights border and said he wanted to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
The Syrian ruler came to the conclusion that having a nuclear capability was what saved the North Korean regime, and that what enabled the Americans to attack Saddam Hussein was the fact that he did not have a nuclear option. A different Syrian regime may not have the economic resources and the intimate links to North Korea and Iran, and might not feel the need for a nuclear capability. It could be that Syria under a new regime will be different than Syria under the Assad dynasty. Hafez al-Assad, with Western help, was able to turn Syria - a small, backward state - into a regional power. Take the Assad dynasty out of the equation and Syria will remain an important state geographically, but not the regional power it was before. As for peace with Israel, there was something personal in the Syrian demand for an Israeli withdrawal to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee because Hafez al-Assad, as defense minister, was the one who lost the war in 1967. If you remove the Assad dynasty from the equation, perhaps the Syrian stance will become more flexible.
US Will Tell Assad he Must Go
(State Department sources say Washington's efforts to reason with Assad over; White House expected to present new hard-line policy on Syria)
Aug. 10….(YNET) The Obama administration is preparing to explicitly demand the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad and hit his regime with tough new sanctions, US officials said on Tuesday, signaling that American efforts to engage the Syrian government are finally over. The White House is expected to lay out the tougher line by the end of this week, possibly on Thursday, according to officials who said the move will be a direct response to Assad's decision to step up the ruthlessness of the crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators by sending tanks into opposition hotbeds. Damascus unfazed by growing international censure over deadly crackdown; Syrian sources say foreign delegate en route to Damascus in attempt to convince Assad to negotiate with protesters. President Barack Obama and other top US officials had previously said that Assad has "lost legitimacy" as a leader and that he either had to spearhead a transition to democracy or get out of the way. They had not specifically demanded that he step down. The new formulation will make it clear that Assad can no longer be a credible reformist and should leave power, the officials said. At the same time, the Treasury Department is expected to expand sanctions against Assad and his inner circle. Although the officials would only speak anonymously, the State Department on Tuesday telegraphed the planned shift in policy, saying the administration's two-year attempt to work with Assad, pull Syria out of Iran's orbit and transform it into a regional partner for peace and stability is over.
PA Official Calls for ‘Friday Intifadas’ During Ramadan
(Yasser Arafat's former advisor calls on PA Arabs to riot on Fridays during Ramadan to protest Israel's "racism.")
Aug. 10….(Arutz) Bassam Abu Sharif, a former advisor to Yasser Arafat and a member of the PLO, called Tuesday on all Arab Muslims and Christians in and around the world to turn Fridays during the month of Ramadan into days of intifada of the millions against what he termed “the Israeli occupation” and the “Judaizing” of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority-based Ma’an news agency reported. According to the report, Abu Sharif also called on Arabs to demand that the United States and Europe implement UN Resolution 242 and recognize an independent Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem. Abu Sharif claimed that all Israeli governments have opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state and have wanted to expel the Arabs from the region. He added that his call for the ‘Friday Intifadas’ during Ramadan was made in order to protect the ‘Arabness’ of Jerusalem and Palestine. Abu Sharif also Abu Sharif said that the Arab anger could turn into worldwide anger, causing Europe and the United States to experience large shocks because of their commitment to what he termed Israel’s “popular racism.” Abu Sharif is the same PA official who in 2009 accused Israel of being responsible for the “assassination” of Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004. It has been confirmed by Arafat’s doctor himself that the former PA Chairman died of AIDS.
Assad Meets With Turkish Foreign Minister
Aug. 10….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutogluleft Damascus empty handed after six hours of talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad Tuesday, Aug. 9. Half the meeting was a tête a tête without advisers. In response to the pressing Turkish demand to end the bloodshed, Assad indicated the military operation against the protesters would soon be over, but refused to commit to a deadline, explaining that this was up to the rebels, not him or the Syrian army.
The Syrian ruler likewise refused to promise to enter into dialogue with the opposition. "They don't want to talk to me," said Assad. "They want my head. So long as they don't lay down their arms, there is nothing to discuss." After Davutoglu flew out, the Syrian government published a statement pledging "not to relent in its pursuit of terrorists." Upon returning to Ankara, the Turkish foreign minister told the media to Ankara that his government would continue to keep a close watch on events in Syria, a far cry, debkafile notes, from the harsh words of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan before the Davutoglu's mission to Damascus, when he said Turkish patience with Syrian brutality was running out and if he carried on, Assad would suffer the same fate of the Libyan ruler. It remains to be seen if Erdogan makes good on his ultimatum or use force unless Assad ends his bloody military campaign against dissidents.
Russians Warns NATO About Targeting Syria
Aug. 10….(WND) Moscow's envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has warned that the Western alliance is planning to attack Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad "with the long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran. Dmitry Rogozin, who made the accusation, is in a position to assess whether such planning is being done. "Military planning against Iran is under way," he said. "And we are certainly concerned about an escalation of a large-scale war in this huge region." His comments came after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Assad that he faced a "sad fate" for not implementing long-promised reforms following continued regime attacks against widespread demonstrations in Syria, especially in Hama which remains a major center for the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. In suggesting that an attack on Syria would be in preparation for an attack on Iran, such planning, if it indeed is being contemplated, would underscore Western concern not only for Syria's continued relations with Iran but also the spread of Iranian influence in the Arab world and its continued nuclear enrichment program. Israeli officials have said that Iran is continuing to improve its uranium enrichment capability with the goal of building nuclear weapons, and Israel may not delay much longer in launching a military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Tisha B'Av Marked by Western Wall Prayer
(Masses arrive at holy site in Jerusalem to mark onset of fast commemorating destruction of two Temples)
Aug. 9….(YNET) Tens of thousands of Jews are expected to visit the Western Wall plaza over the next day, where they will lament the destruction of the two Temples. The day, which is marked by a traditional fast, will see dozens of prayer services, each conducted according to the observers' various Jewish traditions. Jerusalem security forces, along with Western Wall ushers, have been deployed in the holy site's plaza to maintain the order. Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said services were being held under the watchful eye of Israeli security forces, since Tisha B'Av is taking place at the same time in which Jerusalem's Muslims community, and the Arab world as a whole, are marking the month of Ramadan/
Its name literally means "the ninth day of [the Jewish month of] Av," the date of some of the gravest tragedies to have befallen the Jewish People. Tisha B'Av is a day of lamentations that first and foremost marks the anniversaries of the destruction of the First and Second Temples by the armies of Babylon and Rome, respectively.
Tisha B'Av Laws
The Sages enacted Yom Kippur-like restrictions on Tisha B'Av, including no eating (minimal wetting of hands and eyes is allowed), drinking, washing, use of cosmetic oils, and marital relations. Leather shoes are not worn, and even Torah study, a major source of Jewish joy, is restricted to topics connected with the Destruction of the Temples, prophecies of rebuke, Tisha B’Av, and the like. Sitting on chairs is not permitted until the afternoon, Tefillin and Tallit are donned only at the mincha (afternoon) service. The hour before the onset of Tisha B'Av is marked by a “mourning meal,” consisting only of a hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, bread, and water. It should be eaten while sitting on low stools or on the floor, with each person sitting alone in a different corner of the room. The regular evening prayer service is followed by the reading aloud, in a traditional mournful melody, of Eichah, Lamentations. Beside the destruction of the Temples, Jewish history is replete with a list of calamities that tok place on this date, including the following:
•God decreed, following the Sin of the Spies as recounted in Numbers 13-14, that the Children of Israel would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel until the entire generation had died out.
•The fall of Beitar, the last fortress to hold out during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135 CE, to the Romans.
•A year later, the Temple area was plowed over, marking the last milestone of national Jewish presence in our homeland until the modern era.
•The Jews of Spain were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492.
•World War I erupted in 1914, setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
•Mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp began on Tisha B'Av eve of 1942.
•The Jews of Gush Katif spent their last legal day in their homes in Tisha B'Av of 2005, and were expelled three days later.
Despite the sadness of the day, the saddest part of the regular daily prayers, tachanun, is not recited, in the anticipation of the final joyous Redemption that will render Tisha B'Av a day of joy. In fact, among the Yishuv Hayashan,- the residents of Jerusalem before the influx of Zionists, there were those who whitewashed their houses on the afternoon of the fast, so that it would be freshly cleaned and ready to welcome the Messiah. Many tens of thousands of people spend Tisha B’Av, or parts of it, at the Western Wall, which, together with the Temple Mount, is the sole remnant of the Second Temple. Visitors spend hours mourning the destruction, the Exile of the Divine Presence and the unredeemed state of the Nation of Israel by reciting and studying the traditional Tisha B’Av lamentations and the Scroll of Eichah (Lamentations). The police announced that over a thousand policemen are stationed in the area of the Old City as so many Arabs are on the streets and on the Temple Mount for Ramadan.
Turkey Issues Military Threat Against Syria
Aug. 8….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) After capturing the northern town of Hama in a bloody military assault, Syrian President Bashar Assad Sunday, Aug. 7, sent a whole division of 200 tanks and dozens of armored vehicles to blast their way into another rebellious city, Syria's oil center of Deir el-Zour in the Euphrates Valley, a town of half a million inhabitants. At least 60 people were reported dead in one day. Debkafile's military sources report that while Hama is a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, Deir el-Zour is the urban center of some 2.1 million members of assorted nomadic Bedouin tribes. They too are Sunni Muslims though of different sects. The Baqqara tribal federation is the largest, numbering 1.2 million, followed by the Fadan Walad and the Fadan Kharsa of the Euphrates Valley and the al Shammar Karsah of Deir al Zour and its environs. Unlike the protesters of Hama, these tribesmen lack anti-tank weapons for battling Syrian armor and so their town may not hold out against the Syrian onslaught beyond two or three days. The tribesmen have meanwhile run for cover to the dense papyrus groves of the river bank and the narrow wadis of the Iraqi al Anbar province just across the border. From these hiding places, our military sources expect them refugees to organize protracted guerrilla warfare against the Assad regime and Syrian army.
Debkafile recalls that these are the very tribes which from 2003 to 2006 joined al Qaeda in bloody warfare on US forces in central Iraq, preventing Anbar and the central Iraqi towns of Falujja and Ramadi ever being completely subdued and constantly convulsed by suicide attacks. It was only when President George W. Bush agreed to implement the Awakening Councils plan put forward by Gen. David Petraeus, the current CIA Director, which involved substantial monthly payments to the tribal chiefs for warfare against al Qaeda that, Al Anbar was pacified.
Aware of the menace posed by these tribes, Syrian security services last week, ahead of the Deir el-Zour offensive, captured the Baqqara tribal chief Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir as hostage against the tribes joining the uprising against the regime. Syrian military intelligence will find him a tough nut to crack, even for a heavy bribe. The upshot may well be that although the Syrian army finally subjugates Deir al-Zour and Abu Kemal on the Iraqi border its forces will be cornered by Sunni tribes which control the road networks around the two eastern towns and prey to their raids. Assad's offensive against the two towns also places at risk Syria's small oil fields and pipeline system. Their daily product of $8-10 million is his primary source of revenue for sustaining his war on the uprising and they will certainly become a prime strategic target for the resistance. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan decided to send his foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu to Damascus Tuesday, Aug. 9, after declaring Saturday that Turkey's patience with its neighbor "was running thin and his country could not remain a bystander to the violence, but must do what is necessary." Davutoglu will "deliver our message in a more determined way," said Erdogan. "A new process will take shape according to their response and actions." "We do not see Syria as a foreign problem, Syria is our domestic problem because we have a 850-kilometer border with this country, we have historical and cultural ties, we have kinship," Erdogan said. This was the last warning from Ankara, and therefore NATO, that Turkey was about to intervene militarily in Syria, after maintaining army units on the Syrian border for weeks. Friday, Aug. 5, Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin accused NATO, of which Turkey is a member, of planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the Assad regime "with the long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran."
Iran Says US 'will be Taught the Mother of all Lessons'
(warns of pending cyber attack on electrical grid)
Aug. 8….(WND) Iran is planning to retaliate against the United States for the sabotage against its nuclear program, according to an editorial in the Kayhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The US has all of its infrastructure connected to the Internet, the editorial says, and as a result, "it is constantly worried about an unknown player, who they will never be able to identify, sitting in some corner of the world who would launch an attack on a sector of (the Americans') foundations. They will be taught the mother of all lessons." Specifically, Iran is looking into launching a cyber attack against US electrical grid systems. Iranian officials are furious over the July 23 assassination of nuclear scientist Dariush Rezai-Nejad, who was working on electric detonators for the Iranian nuclear program, which can be used on missiles or nuclear bombs. He was the third Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated since 2009. The frustration over acts of sabotage started with the computer virus Stuxnet in which 1,000 of Iran's centrifuges at the Natanzs nuclear facility were destroyed and had to be replaced. The virus also attacked the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which has resulted in repeated delays in it joining the country's power grid. The July 29 Kayhan editorial threatening America with retaliation said that during the last month, the United States has published two strategy documents regarding cyberspace, both of which emphasize the ever-evolving nature of Internet communications.
The first document, signed by President Obama, lays out the country's strategy on cyberspace, states that the Internet epitomizes great opportunity and says it is not viewed as a threat to the United States, the editorial says. It adds that "it can be suggested that the US can play a leadership role in cyberspace in that the US would create and maintain that position for the long term." But then the editorial takes direct aim at Washington: "The second document is brimming with the over-confidence and hyper-intellectual posturing of the first. These documents, which the Pentagon published two weeks ago, use straight-forward war vernacular and (the Pentagon) has openly announced that from here on in, cyberspace will be considered a war zone. "The laughable part of this document is when the neurotic American generals threaten hackers sitting behind their computers who attack America (that they) should be careful that a cruise missile does not fly in through their heating pipes to destroy their turf." The United States is no longer the unequivocal leader of the Internet, the editorial says. "Diverse and interesting players have now come on the scene and have, managed to inflict some costly and unprecedented damages on the American Internet infrastructure. Due to the convenient global nature of the 'players,' their network operates outside time and space. They can be anywhere from right under Mr. Obama's ear in Washington, DC, to the depths of the African desert." The editorial accuses the Americans, with the help of Israelis and Germans, of creating the Stuxnet virus to attack the Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities. "Americans are under the (mistaken) impression that they are the only ones who can strike violent blows against their most ardent opponents and not sustain any real damage," the editorial warns. Earlier this year Iranian officials announced that Iran's cyber war campaign would be activated under the Passive Defense Organization of Iran, which openly recruited hackers who would support the goals and ideals of the radicals ruling Iran. Also as reported earlier, in a recent meeting among Iran's Revolutionary Guard commanders and Iranian scientists, America's vulnerabilities for a cyber attack were discussed. They concluded that the US power grids represent the best opportunity for such attacks, as more US utilities are moving their control systems to the Internet and using smart-grid technology. According to reports from the US Department of Energy, America's power grid remains vulnerable to cyber attack, a result of slow implementation of computer security standards. A successful cyber attack on the North American power grid systems could disrupt the economy and possibly create a national trauma.
WEEK OF AUGUST 1 THROUGH AUGUST 6
China Tells US "Good Old Days" of Borrowing are Over
Aug. 6….(Reuters) China bluntly criticized the United States on Saturday one day after the superpower's credit rating was downgraded, saying the "good old days" of borrowing were over. Standard & Poor's cut the US long-term credit rating from top-tier AAA by a notch to AA-plus on Friday over concerns about the nation's budget deficits and climbing debt burden. China, the United States' biggest creditor, said Washington only had itself to blame for its plight and called for a new stable global reserve currency. "The US government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone," China's official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary. After a week which saw $2.5 trillion wiped off global markets, the move deepened investors' concerns of an impending recession in the United States and over the Euro zone crisis. Finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations will confer by telephone later on Saturday or on Sunday, a senior European diplomatic source said. The source said the credit rating downgrade had added a global dimension on top of the Euro zone debt issue, raising the need for international coordination. "The G7 will confer by telephone. It's not yet confirmed whether it will be in one stage or in two stages, tonight and tomorrow," the source said. French Finance Minister Francois Baroin, who would chair such a meeting under France's G7 and G20 presidency, said it was too early to say whether there would be an early G7 gathering. In the Xinhua commentary, China condemned the United States for its "debt addiction" and "short sighted" political wrangling. "China, the largest creditor of the world's sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets," it said. It urged the United States to cut military and social welfare expenditure. Further credit downgrades would very likely undermine the world economic recovery and trigger new rounds of financial turmoil, it said. "International supervision over the issue of U.S. dollars should be introduced and a new, stable and secured global reserve currency may also be an option to avert a catastrophe caused by any single country," Xinhua said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama urged lawmakers on Saturday to set aside partisan politics after the debt battle, saying they must work to put the United States' fiscal house in order and refocus on stimulating its stagnant economy. Obama issued the appeal in his weekly radio address recorded shortly before the United States lost its top rating. S&P blamed in part the political gridlock in Washington, saying politics was preventing the United States from addressing its deficit and debt problems. The president called on Congress to back measures to give tax relief to the middle class, extend jobless benefits and pass long-delayed international trade pacts. "Both parties are going to have to work together on a larger plan to get our nation's finances in order," Obama said. "In the long term, the health of our economy depends on it...in the short term, our urgent mission has to be getting this economy growing faster and creating jobs."
In contrast to the Chinese criticism, France's Baroin said France had faith in the United States' ability to get out of this "difficult period." Baroin said Friday's US unemployment numbers were better than expected and so the situation was heading in the right direction. "Therefore, one should not dramatize, one needs to remain cool-headed, one should look at the fundamentals," he told France's iTele. While the impact of the rating cut on financial markets when they reopen on Monday may be modest because the decision was expected, the shift may have a long-term impact for the US standing in the world, the dollar's status, and the global financial system. "The global system must now adjust to the many implications and uncertainties of the once-unthinkable loss of America's AAA," Mohamed El-Erian, co-chief investment officer at Pacific Investment Management Co., which oversees $1.2 trillion in assets, told Reuters.
USA Credit Rating Downgraded
Aug. 6….(Washington Post) Standard & Poor’s announced Friday night that it has downgraded the sterling US credit rating for the first time. The move came even though the Treasury Department said that it had found a math error in the firm’s calculations of deficit projections, according to a person familiar with the matter. S&P decided to lower the AAA rating, held by the United States for 70 years, to AA+ after a bipartisan debt deal signed into law this week failed to assuage concerns about the nation’s growing spending. Analysts have said a downgrade could increase the cost of borrowing for the US government and lead to tens of billions of dollars in more interest costs per year. That could translate into higher borrowing for consumers and businesses, too. A downgrade would also have a cascading series of effects on states and localities that rely on federal funding, including in the Washington metro area, potentially raising the cost of borrowing for schools and parks. But the exact impact of the downgrade won’t be known at least until Sunday night, when Asian markets open, and perhaps not fully grasped for months. Analysts say the immediate term impact is likely to be modest because the markets have been expecting a downgrade by S&P for weeks. Standard & Poor’s has warned Washington several times this year that, unless the federal government took steps to tame its debt, its credit rating could be lowered. Some analysts are worried about the impact of a downgrade on markets where Treasurys are held as collateral and the AAA rating is required. But most analysts don’t expect this issue to pose a major problem.
S&P’s action is the most tangible vote of disapproval so far by Wall Street on the deal between President Obama and Congress to cut the deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over 10 years. S&P has said that it wanted at least $4 trillion of deficit reduction. The downgrade is likely to be used as a weapon by both Republicans and Democrats as they argue the other side has not taken deficit reduction seriously. Other credit rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, have decided not to downgrade the United States credit rating. But they’ve warned that, if the economy deteriorates significantly or the government does not take additional steps to tame the debt, they could move to downgrade too. In April, S&P first said it might downgrade the US credit rating on concerns that lawmakers would not be able to come to a deal on reducing the debt. In July, as efforts stagnated, S&P said the odds of a downgrade within three months had moved up to 50 percent. The ultimate deal between Obama and Congress ultimately failed S&P’s benchmark. Obama administration officials have been critical of S&P for making what was essentially a political judgment and for failing to conclude that the country was making a strong first step to reducing its deficit.
UN Security Council Finally Rebukes Syria
Aug. 5….(Jewish World Review) The United Nations Security Council overcame deep divisions Wednesday to unanimously approve a statement condemning "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities." Expressing its "grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria," the 15-member council stopped short of mandating any specific action by the international community to address the crisis. But it did call on Syrian authorities to grant full and unimpeded access to international humanitarian and human-rights agencies. The council's action took the form of a "presidential statement," which is a step below a resolution. A resolution usually contains specific actions, like sanctions or authorization for outside intervention. The four European countries currently on the council had resuscitated a draft Syria resolution on Monday after Syrian authorities launched bloody assaults Sunday against protesting civilians. But unabated resistance to a resolution from some council members, Russia and China, in particular, led to Wednesday's compromise statement. After the vote, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, insisted that the statement was no compromise and that the importance of the council's action is that its unanimous vote sends a unified message to Damascus. "Finally we were able to speak with one voice in clearly condemning the violence perpetrated against civilians by the Syrian government and call for a halt to the violence and insist that what has transpired is utterly unacceptable," Ambassador Rice told reporters at the UN.
Asked if the US would have preferred a resolution, she said, "We didn't want a split council and we didn't want a weak statement." Most important for the US, she added, "was a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the Syrian authorities for the abhorrent and crazy violence they perpetrated against their own people. And we got that, and so we're pleased." Noticeably absent from the statement was a demand for an investigation into the killings of some 2,000 Syrians, according to human rights groups' estimates. Some Western diplomats had insisted earlier that the council include such a demand, but Rice said it would have been meaningless since wording called for an investigation by the Syrian state. "We thought that it was preposterous, the original formulation that the Syrian government would be asked to conduct a credible and impartial investigation into its own behavior," she said. The council was unable to agree on calling for an independent investigation with no official Syrian participation, she added. French Foreign Minister Alan Jupp lauded the statement, calling it a "turning point in the international community's attitude" toward the Syrian crisis. He noted in particular that the unanimous statement says that those responsible for the violence must be held accountable. The council intends to stay on top of events in Syria, Mr. Jupp added, noting that the council agreed to "reexamine" events in Syria next week.
Another sticking point that held up council action was insistence from some countries that any statement condemn violence from all sides in the conflict, and not just that perpetrated by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. In the end, the statement calls for "an immediate end to all violence" and specifically calls on "all sides to act with utmost restraint" and to "refrain from reprisals, including attacks on state institutions." The Security Council action came as the US was preparing new sanctions against the Assad regime, according to US officials. The hesitancy of the Security Council to support a more consequential resolution arose from countries including China and Russia, which feared that too much international pressure could weaken the Assad regime and further destabilize an already unstable region. The White House disagrees with that assessment. "The US has nothing invested in Assad remaining in power," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday. "We do not want to see him remain in Syria for stability's sake," he said. "Rather, we view him as the cause of instability in Syria."
China Warns US About Managing its Debt
Aug. 5….(USA Today) China's central bank governor called Wednesday for the US to "take responsible policy measures to handle its debt," a day after the world's largest economy reached a bipartisan deal to reduce its deficit and lift its borrowing limit to avoid a default. The comments from People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, posted on the central bank's website, signal China's lingering concern over America's financial health. China is the US largest foreign creditor, holding at least $1.16 trillion in Treasury securities. Zhou also warned that stability is needed in the highly traded US debt market, and said China plans to continue diversifying its currency reserves. "Large fluctuations and uncertainties in the Treasury market would undermine the stability of the international financial system and hinder global recovery," he said. China isn't the only one concerned with the US' financial condition.
Analysts, investors and even ratings agencies question whether the deal reached by lawmakers is aggressive enough to begin to clean up the nation's debt-laden balance sheet and improve its financial condition. The deal raises the debt ceiling by $2 trillion and reduces the deficit by $2.5 trillion over 10 years. "Concerns about the growth and the health of the US economy are overshadowing the (debt) deal," says Katrina Ell, a Sydney-based associate economist for Moody's Analytics. A raft of weak economic news is fueling those concerns: The US' gross domestic product expanded by a bare 1.3% annual rate in the second quarter. US manufacturing activity grew less than expected in July. And US consumers cut spending for the first time in almost two years in June. Asian central banks are especially concerned about the US' financial health because they're the largest foreign holders of US debt.
Japan is the second-largest foreign holder of Treasuries, with $912.4 billion. Hong Kong holds $121.9 billion. Japan's central bank wasn't available for comment Wednesday due to a quiet period before its monetary policy meeting this week. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said that it's "closely monitoring" the US debt agreement, and meanwhile, managing its currency reserves in a "careful and prudent manner." By raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the US avoids a default on its debt obligations. But that doesn't mean it will escape a downgrade in its credit rating. Already, Dagong Global Credit Rating, a Chinese ratings firm, downgraded the US rating Wednesday, noting that the nation's debt is growing faster than its economy. The downgrade by the little-known firm is having little impact on Asian markets or on investor confidence, however, says Peter Lai, a Hong Kong-based director at DBS Vickers securities firm. The three major US ratings firms are still reviewing the US credit rating. If one of them does downgrade US debt, it's unlikely to spark a dramatic sell-off in the dollar, says Barclays' Asia currency strategist Nick Verdi. "Given the state of the US dollar as the world's reserve currency, where do investors put their money?
Chinese Government Downgrades US Debt
Aug. 5….(Bretbart) China warned Wednesday that tortured efforts to raise the US debt ceiling had failed to defuse Washington’s “debt bomb”, and that it would further diversify its currency holdings away from the dollar. US President Barack Obama finally signed an emergency austerity bill on Tuesday that averted what would have been a catastrophic debt default for the world’s biggest economy. But a failure to rein in US borrowing could “jeopardize the well-being of hundreds of millions of families within and beyond the US borders”, the official Xinhua news agency said in a blistering commentary on the deal. “The months-long tug of war between Democrats and Republicans…failed to defuse Washington’s debt bomb for good, only delaying an immediate detonation by making the fuse an inch longer,” the commentary said. “Meanwhile, the madcap farce of brinkmanship has disclosed yet another ticking bomb in the heartland of the sole superpower in the world, the crippling tendency to politicize the economics while trivializing the politics.”
China, sitting on the world’s biggest foreign exchange reserves of around $3.20 trillion as of the end of June, is the largest holder of US Treasuries. Xinhua’s comments came as China’s central bank said it would continue to diversify its foreign currency investments, signaling growing concerns in Beijing over the US debt crisis and economic downturn. “China’s foreign exchange reserves will continue following the principle of diversified investment, enhancing risk management,” People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan said in a statement. “Large fluctuations and uncertainty in the US treasury bond market will affect the stability of international monetary and financial systems, which will hurt global economic recovery.” The statement, in which he also welcomed the plan, was the first official response to the deal to raise to the limit on US borrowing and enact at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. “We will further study and pay close attention to the details of the plan in hopes the US government and Congress adopts responsible policy measures to properly deal with the debt problem,” he added. Also Wednesday, Xinhua said Chinese rating agency Dagong, which has links to the government through its chairman, had downgraded the United States’ credit rating from A+ to A, with a negative outlook. Dagong has made a name for itself by hitting out at its three Western rivals, Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, saying they caused the financial crisis by failing to properly disclose risk.
Why Arab Leaders are Silent on Syria's Brutal Crackdown
(The creed of Arab unity was put aside to speak out against Libya's Qaddafi. Why is Assad different)
Aug. 4….(Jewish World Review) The Syrian regime's crackdown on the rebellious city of Hama has triggered an international outcry, with ambassadors recalled from Damascus and the United Nations Security Council convening to discuss the worsening violence. But there has been little response from Arab states to the four-month crisis in Syria, which has left some 1,500 people dead and some 10,000 detained. While Arab leaders put aside their adherence to the traditional creed of Arab unity and their distaste for public squabbles to support international action against Col. Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Libya, they are far more wary of Syria.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime sits in the heart of the Middle East and exerts influence, sometimes malign, over several neighboring countries. Since becoming president in 2000, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's relations with many of his fellow Arab leaders have been strained, mainly because of Damascus's deepening relationship with Tehran over the past decade. Syria is a key member in an anti-Israel alliance spanning the Middle East, which is led by Iran and includes powerful groups such as Lebanon's militant Shiite Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, under former President Hosni Mubarak, had deep misgivings about Syria's close relationship with Iran. The Saudis sought to wean Assad away from Tehran through an ultimately unsuccessful mix of persuasion and isolation. If Mr. Assad were to appear on TV today and announce an immediate split with Iran, "he would get all the help he needs from the Arab regimes," says Sateh Noureddine, a columnist with Lebanon's As Safir newspaper. But Assad has shown no inclination to give up that alliance.
The succession of regime-changing rebellions that has rippled through the Arab world since January, however, is of far greater concern to Arab leaders still clinging to power than their frustration with Assad's regime. Silent during the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, they are likely to remain silent even as an unprecedented Syrian movement challenges the 40-year rule of Assad and his father. "Anyone who is going for a revolution should forget about any Arab support coming from any Arab country," says Mr. Noureddine. "Were the Arab regimes happy with the removal of Ben Ali from Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt? Not at all. None of them."
Why is Libya an exception?
Libya was the one exception. The 22-member Arab League gave its approval to Western military intervention in Libya because Qaddafi has earned a raft of enemies in the Arab world during his four decades in power and long ago lost the sympathy of his peers. Qatar, which has something of a maverick reputation in the Arab world, has distanced itself from Syria, even though the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was a personal friend of Assad. The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite news network has been a staunch critic of the Syrian regime's handling of the protestors. Other Arab media outlets also have been deeply critical, particularly those owned or supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
In Lebanon, Syria's tiny and vulnerable neighbor, some politicians have become increasingly outspoken in criticizing developments in Syria. Over the weekend, Saad Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who has been living abroad lately (reportedly due to death threats), condemned the "slaughter" in Hama, saying "we in Lebanon cannot under any circumstances remain silent regarding these bloody developments." But, analysts say, despite the occasional critical voice, the leaders of the uprising in Syria should expect no assistance from Arab leaders. It also looks unlikely that they will get tangible help from Western countries. While leaders in the United States and Europe have slammed the Assad regime for the ruthless repression of opposition protestors, a military intervention similar to that of Libya has been ruled out. Syrian opposition activists have decried the lack of support from the international community and some accept that they are on their own. "The important thing is to remain committed to the peaceful nature of the movement, despite ongoing provocation by the regime and the moral cowardice of the international leaders," says Ammar Abdulhamid, a leading Syrian activist based in Washington. "Admittedly, this will get more difficult from now onward."
China & Russia Blast US Borrowing After Debt Ceiling Agreement
Aug. 4….(Bloomberg) China, the largest foreign investor in US government securities, joined Russia in criticizing American policy makers for failing to ensure borrowing is reined in after a stopgap deal to raise the nation’s debt limit. People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said China’s central bank will monitor US efforts to tackle its debt, and state-run Xinhua News Agency blasted what it called the “madcap” brinksmanship of American lawmakers. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said two days ago that the US is in a way “leeching on the world economy.” The comments reflect concern that the US may lose its AAA sovereign rating after President Barack Obama and Congress put off decisions on spending cuts and tax increases to assure enactment of a boost in borrowing authority. China and Russia, holding a total $1.28 trillion of Treasuries, have lost nothing so far in the wake of a rally in the securities this year. “It’s probably frustration more than anything else for China,” said Brian Jackson, a senior strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong. While the nation has concerns, “they realize there’s not a lot of options for them out there and so they need to keep buying Treasuries.” China held $1.16 trillion of Treasuries as of May, US Treasury Department data show. The nation has accumulated the holdings as a by-product of holding down the value of its currency, a policy US officials have said gives China an unfair advantage in trade.
Expressions of concern about the fiscal health of the US and the impasse among lawmakers have failed to dent global demand for the securities, with yields on 10-year notes declining to the lowest levels since November. Two-year yields fell to a record low in Tokyo trading today. Investors in Treasuries earned 3.12 percent in the three months ending July 31, based on Bank of America Merrill Lynch data. That means a $10 million holding earned $312,000 in the period. China’s central bank welcomes this week’s legislation that raised the US debt limit, preventing a default, and will “closely observe” the implementation, Zhou said in a statement on the central bank’s website today. Xinhua said the move “failed to defuse Washington’s debt bomb for good,” in a commentary dated yesterday. Standard & Poor’s indicated last week that anything less than $4 trillion in deficit cuts would jeopardize its AAA rating for the US The measure enacted by Obama yesterday threatens automatic spending cuts to enforce $2.4 trillion in spending reductions over the next 10 years.
Obama said yesterday the debt measure was a “first step” on a path that must also include increasing revenue. The $14.3 trillion debt ceiling will be raised by at least $2.1 trillion. “They are living beyond their means and transferring part of the problems onto the world economy,” Putin told a youth camp at Lake Seliger outside Moscow Aug. 1. “In a way, they are leeching on the world economy.” Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings say their AAA credit ratings for the US may be downgraded if lawmakers fail to enact deficit-reduction measures and the economy weakens. China’s Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. today cut its grade for the US to A from A+ with a negative outlook. “China hopes the US administration and the Congress would take responsible policy measures to handle its debt issue,” Zhou said. He highlighted the global role of US Treasuries, saying that any “large fluctuations and uncertainties” in the market for the securities would undermine financial stability and hinder the world economic recovery. The Xinhua commentary said that the higher debt ceiling and plans to reduce spending were not enough to make any sizable dent in the nation’s fiscal burden. It referred to a “madcap farce of brinksmanship” before the agreement was reached. A previous Xinhua commentary on clashes between Republicans and Democrats said that “the ugliest part of the saga is that the well-being of many other countries is also in the impact zone when the donkey and the elephant fight,” referring to the symbols often used for the Democratic and Republican parties.
Obama signed the debt-limit compromise yesterday. The measure raises the ceiling until 2013. In his statement, Zhou also commented on China’s foreign-exchange reserves, which are the world’s largest at more than $3 trillion. The Asian nation will continue to “seek diversification in the management of reserve assets, strengthen risk management, and minimize the negative impacts of the fluctuations in the international financial market on the Chinese economy,” Zhou said. China will also take “effective measures to maintain relatively rapid growth to safeguard economic and financial stability,” he added.
Israel 'Ready to Negotiate Borders With Palestinians'
Aug. 3….(Telegraph) Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has bowed to US pressure by agreeing for the first time that a Palestinian state should roughly follow the contours of the 1967 ceasefire lines separating the West Bank from Israel. The offer, which emerged tonight appeared to represent a major climb-down by Netanyahu, who has consistently refused to discuss specific borders of a future state. A government official in Jerusalem told The Daily Telegraph the offer was dependent on the Palestinians dropping their campaign for statehood at the United Nations next month and accepting Israel as a Jewish state. The offer appears to cross Palestinian red lines, and it seemed likely to be rejected, although the onus is now likely to be placed on the Palestinians to present a counter offer. Netanyahu reacted angrily when the 1967 proposal was made by Barack Obama in May but was now said to be offering to trade Israeli territory on its side of the line for West Bank land where its main settlements were located. “We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse,” said an official, answering a question about the Obama proposal. The Palestinians said they had not received a proposal from Israel. They have demanded that Israel stop construction in its West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem before peace talks resume. Netanyahu was said to have wanted talks with no preconditions where issues such as settlements and borders would be discussed. The ceasefire line dates from June 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
Putin Says US is "Parasite" on Global Economy
Aug…03 (Reuters) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States Monday of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets. "They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy," Putin told the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi while touring its lakeside summer camp some five hours drive north of Moscow. "They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar," Putin said at the open-air meeting with admiring young Russians in what looked like early campaigning before parliamentary and presidential polls. US President Barack Obama earlier announced a last-ditch deal to cut about $2.4 trillion from the US deficit over a decade, avoid a crushing debt default and stave off the risk that the nation's AAA credit rating would be downgraded. The deal initially soothed anxieties and led Russian stocks to jump to three-month highs, but jitters remained over the possibility of a credit downgrade. "Thank god," Putin said, "that they had enough common sense and responsibility to make a balanced decision." But Putin, who has often criticized the United States' foreign exchange policy, noted that Russia holds a large amount of US bonds and treasuries. "If over there (in America) there is a systemic malfunction, this will affect everyone," Putin told the young Russians. "Countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities. There should be other reserve currencies." US-Russian ties soured during Putin's 2000-2008 presidency but have warmed significantly since his protégé and successor President Dmitry Medvedev responded to Obama's stated desire for a "reset" in bilateral relations.
Church Attacks in Iraq Increasing
Aug. 3….(Fox News) A car bomb outside a Christian church wounded 23 people on Tuesday morning, police said, as security forces found and disabled vehicles packed with explosives outside two other parishes in northern Iraq. The bombing and the two averted attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk signal continued violence against Iraqi Christians, nearly 1 million of whom have fled since the war began in 2003. "The terrorists want to make us flee Iraq, but they will fail," said the Rev. Haithem Akram, the priest of one of the churches that was targeted. "We are staying in our country. The Iraqi Christians are easy targets because they do not have militias to protect them. The terrorists want to terrorize us, but they will fail." The assault began at 6 a.m., when the car blew up outside the Syrian Catholic church, severely damaging the church and nearby houses, said police Col. Taha Salaheddin. The parish's leader, the Rev. Imad Yalda, was the only person inside at the time of the blast and was wounded. The 22 other wounded were people whose nearby homes were hit by the blast, said Kirkuk police chief Maj. Gen. Jamal Tahir.
Following the blast at the Syrian Catholic church, police discovered two more car bombs parked outside the Christian Anglican church and the Mar Gourgis church, both in downtown Kirkuk. The ethnically and religiously mixed city of Kirkuk is located 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad. Sunni extremists often target Christians who are seen as unbelievers. Violence against Christians stepped up late last year, climaxing in the Oct. 31 siege of a Catholic cathedral in downtown Baghdad that left 68 dead and scored wounded when al-Qaida suicide bombers held worshippers hostage for hours before detonating their explosives belts. Since then, the Vatican and the US Congress have pleaded for Iraq's government to do more to protect Christians in Iraq. A State Department report says Christian leaders estimate that 400,000 to 600,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from a prewar level of as high as 1.4 million by some estimates.
Moscow Defends Assad, Backs Iran Nuke Program
Aug. 3….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) As Moscow prepares to block strong UN Security Council condemnation of Syrian violence against protest, Russian diplomats Monday, Aug. 1, launched a quiet effort to start freezing sanctions imposed on Iran over its military nuclear program in return for Tehran satisfactorily answering of the International nuclear watchdog's "questions and concerns," Debkafile's Moscow and Washington sources report. The Obama administration, while not involved in the Russian initiative, has indicated through contacts between US and Russian officials that if Moscow persuades Iran to go this path and another effort to break the long impasse over its nuclear program, Washington will not interfere and agrees to await results. Moscow's hands were therefore free to put its proposition to Tehran: Russia will block a strong UN Security Council resolution condemning its ally Syrian President Bashar Assad for his brutal crackdown on dissent, thereby shutting the door to approval of Libya-style outside military intervention. Tehran will reciprocate by cooperating with the Russian plan for solving the nuclear controversy along the lines proposed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in mid-May: "each time when Tehran satisfactorily answers the questions or concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it should be encouraged, including some sanctions should be frozen," he suggested.
Until now, Tehran has rejected this Russian overture. Over the weekend, however, Debkafile's Iranian sources disclose that Iranian leaders decided after a stormy session to change course. The Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the order to inform Moscow that Iran is willing to discuss the Lavrov plan while fully reserving its objections. Moscow must also be ready to talk through Iran's counter-proposals. Accepting Tehran's decision as the starting point for discussing the Lavrov plan, Moscow made two more public moves: An announcement in Moscow and Tehran that Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev would visit Tehran on Aug. 15, followed two days later by the arrival of Iran's foreign Minister Saeed Jalili in Moscow. The latter would sit down with Lavrov to hammer out agreement on the Russian plan. On Monday, too, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin commented that the draft European powers had circulated condemning Syria was “somewhat excessive” and Russia would consider a presidential statement from the council “satisfactory.” Moscow was encouraged to start meeting Tehran halfway after many Western experts came to the conclusion that the UN, US and European sanctions aimed at making Iran abandon its nuclear drive were wasted effort, with not the slightest effect on slowing Tehran's nuclear momentum. With little chance of a UN move against Syria, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Monday that additional US steps might target Syria’s oil and gas industry, which is the government’s main source of revenue amid the virtual collapse of the rest of the country’s economy.
Assad Praises His Army for Hama Slaughter
Aug. 2….(Arutz) Syria's president Bashar Assad on Monday praised troops for "foiling enemies" during the Ramadan Eve slaughter of at least 84 protesters in the city of Hama, the state-run Sana News Agency reported. In a speech marking the 66th anniversary of the Syrian army's formation, Sana quoted the embattled Assad who said the military "proved its loyalty to its people, country and creed." "Its efforts and sacrifices will be admired," Assad said, adding "these sacrifices succeeded in foiling the enemies of the country and ending sedition, preserving Syria." Assad earlier told the People's Army Magazine his regime is capable of foiling any conspiracy to undermine its national unity. “Syria is capable of foiling the new chapter in the conspiracy through the awareness of its people and national unity," Assad said. "Conspiracies make us stronger, and pressure causes it to adhere more to our standards and rights that cannot be liquidated or marginalized," he added. Assad's regime has blamed the five-month uprising in Syria on “armed gangs” working for some Arab and Western countries. “The army was a model of commitment to the nation’s causes and a defender of its rights, proving to be an impregnable fortress foiling the dreams and suspect plans of enemies,” Assad insisted.
Assad, echoing recent statements by ally Mahmaoud Ahmadinijad of Iran, said there was a plot to fragment the nation and the region, but “the people who undertook the conspiracy forgot that Syria has unique characteristics that make it immune to conspiracies.” “This vicious attack won’t fare any better than the previous ones, all of Syria’s honest people are confident that we will emerge from the crisis more powerful, more present and more effective regionally and internationally,” he said. Assad reiterated his stance that peace in the region “doesn’t mean relinquishing a speck of soil or a drop of water," a reference to the Golan Heights lost to Israel in 1967. “We will remain free in our national decision-making and sovereign in our international relations and our resistant course to achieve just and comprehensive peace according to international legitimacy resolutions that stipulate for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands up to the June 4th, 1967 line,” he said. Many regional analysts believe Assad, supported by Hizbullah, may seek conflict with Israel as a means of shifting international attention away form his regime's bloody crackdown. Some 1,600 civilians have been killed by Assad gunmen to date.
Barak: Assad's 'Fate Has Been Sealed'
(EU extends sanctions on Syria, warns of more; Syrian leader: Golan will return to Damascus' control)
Aug. 2….(YNET) Bashar Assad's "fate is sealed," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday, as the European Union ramped up sanctions against key members of the Syrian president's regime. The beefed-up sanctions come as the Assad regime continued its two-day siege of the iconic city of Hama that has left at least 84 people dead. "He can hold out a few more weeks, just on inertia," Barak told members of his Atzmaut Knesset faction, "but I don't think he'll be able to last for long." The defense minister added, however, that Assad's ouster would not necessarily be a positive development for Israel. "None of us knows who might replace him, but we're monitoring all the implications of what's happening there," he said, according to Army Radio. "Assad will fight until the last Syrian," said Mordechai Kedar, an expert at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center and author of the 2006 book "Assad in Search of Legitimacy." "Sanctions won't even touch the last hair on his head. Right now he's struggling for his survival, for himself as a human being, for his family, his clan and his sect. The fight is to the death, to the last breathe," Kedar said.
Syrian tanks shelled the city of Hama for the second day on Monday, killing at least four civilians, residents said. The killings in Hama brought to 84 the number of civilians reported killed in a tank-backed crackdown on the central city, where Assad's father crushed an armed Muslim Brotherhood revolt 29 years ago by razing neighborhoods and killing many thousands of people. Meanwhile, European Union diplomats extended sanctions against Damascus, while the beleaguered president lashed out at foreign conspirators and assured his armed forces that the Golan Heights would return to Syrian sovereignty. In an address to the military, Assad said that Syria was facing a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife designed to "tear Syria into small statelets that compete to satisfy those who worked to slice them up." "Syria's belief in just and comprehensive peace doesn't mean relinquishing a speck of soil or a drop of water, affirming that the Syrian Arab Golan will remain Arab and Syrian and will return to the homeland Syria," Assad said, according to the state-run SANA news agency. ""We will remain free in our national decision-making and sovereign in our international relations and our resistant course to achieve just and comprehensive peace according to international legitimacy resolutions that stipulate for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands up to the June 4th 1967 line, those who bet on other than that are delusional."
The new sanctions, levying new asset freezes and travel bans on five more regime figures, were drawn up by the 27 EU governments last week after the bloc accused Syria of Sunday's indiscriminate "massacre" of civilians. The Syrian human rights group Sawasiah put the civilian weekend death toll in Hama at 80. Some reports gave higher figures. In announcing the extension of the sanctions to five more individuals connected to the violence, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warned there could be further steps "should the Syrian leadership persist in its current path." Earlier Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague refused to rule out military action against the Assad regime. "We do want to see additional sanctions," he told the BBC. "We want to see stronger international pressure all round. Of course, to be effective, that can't just be pressure from Western nations, that includes from Arab nations, it includes from Turkey." Seeking military action against Syria, even with UN authority, is "not a remote possibility", he said.
Russia and China have previously opposed any condemnation of Syria in the council, where they hold veto powers. "Moscow is seriously concerned by information about numerous casualties," Russia's Foreign Ministry said Monday. "The use of force against civilians and representatives of state structures is unacceptable and must cease." For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood accused the Alawite elite of waging sectarian warfare on Sunnis by attacking Hama. "Syria is witnessing a war of sectarian cleansing. The regime has linked its open annihilation with the crescent of Ramadan. It is a war on the identity and beliefs of the Syrian nation, on Arab Muslim Syria," it said in a statement. Dr. Kedar of Bar-Ilan University said the coming weeks could bring the turning point in the nearly five-month uprising. "People in Syria have started to shoot back.
Assad Unleashes His Army
Aug. 2….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Early Monday Aug. 1, undeterred by international condemnation, President Bashar Assad broadened his bloody tank assault to all of northern Syria, a 20,000 square kilometer area almost the size of Israel. He is now waging war on the 3.5 million inhabitants of Hama, Deir al-Zour, Homs, Idlib and Ar-Raqqah, followed by Abu Kemal on the Iraqi border, after inflicting a one-day death toll Sunday of 150, 120 in Hama, 30 in Deir el-Zur, and leaving more than 1,000 injured. Syrian armored forces shooting at random are now running into heavy resistance: Awaiting them are anti-tank traps and fortified barriers manned by protesters armed with heavy machine guns. In Hama Sunday, the 4th and 11th Syrian army divisions kept to the southern and western districts and were still fighting their way to the barricaded center early Monday. Debkafile's military sources estimate it will take the Syrian army at least ten more days to conquer this key town of a million inhabitants, provided the army holds up. However, signs of extensive disintegration emerged Sunday night and early Monday: A Syrian armored division ordered to set out for Damascus from its base in Qatana southwest of the capital broke up when most of its officers and men deserted, taking with them their armored vehicles and weapons. This was the first time in the five-month conflict that an entire armored column has fallen back from an operational mission.
Our military sources report urgent White House requests Sunday night to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to send into northern Syria the Turkish units held ready on the border for two months to establish a protected zone for refugees and the growing number of Syrian army deserters seeking asylum. Operational plans for this incursion had been in place for some weeks, ready for execution as soon Assad launched a general offensive against the opposition. The plan is now up in the air, placed in doubt by the grave crisis between the prime minister and the Turkish command, which peaked last Thursday (July 28) when the entire Turkish high command, including the chief of staff resigned in a body. This development certainly helped Assad decide now on his crushing offensive in northern Syria. Monday night, his crackdown is the subject of an urgent UN Security Council session called by Germany.
No Arab ruler before him has gone to the bloody lengths Syrian President Bashar Assad went Sunday, July 31, on the eve of Ramadan on Aug. 1, to snuff out the five month-long protest against his regime. Before dawn, troops and tanks, indiscriminately blasting city streets with cannon, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, stormed the two most active centers of resistance. By evening, the 4th division had killed 130 people and left 1,000 injured in Hama in the north, while the 7th division had left 20 dead and more than 100 injured in Deir al-Zour. Hundreds were arrested. US President Barack Obama said he is appalled by the Syrian government's use of violence and brutality against its own people. While Obama still avoided calling on Assad to step down, an official at the US embassy in Damascus said the Syrian military's deadly attack on the flashpoint protest city of Hama on Sunday amounted to "full-on warfare" and was a "last act of utter desperation.
Debkafile's intelligence sources report that Assad chose to turn his army loose on the two cities with no holds barred to pre-empt what he regards as his Ramadan test: He had hoped to avert the nightly processions from the mosques after the Taraweeh prayer marking the end of each day's fasting and win a 30-day lull in the bloody clashes. The regime had pinned its hopes on calming the charged anti-regime climate in the country on a huge public event in Aleppo Thursday July 29, complete with Syria's top performing artists, as a show of self-assurance. This did not work, any more than an appeal from the authorities to the 30 most senior clerics for help to keep the crowds off the streets. They were asked to issue a collective fatwa (religious edict) excusing the faithful from attending the mosques for Taraweeh and permitting them to recite the prayer at home, in consideration of the exceptionally hot summer weather. Twenty-nine clerics declined to cooperate with this transparent tactic for suppressing the protest. The thirtieth, Sheikh Al Bouti, Syria's foremost scholar, world Muslim eminence and head of the Theology Department in the faculty of Islamic Law at Damascus University, agreed to issue the dispensation. Its circulation was widely accompanied by the burning of his books on Islamic law in one town after another. When Assad realized there was no way he could use Ramadan for a respite from the revolt against his regime, he turned to a horrendous outburst of violence.
Iran's Missiles Could Soon Reach US Shores
Aug. 2….(WND) While America focuses on its internal problems and its involvement in three wars and the world focuses on the global economy, Iran is progressing on three dangerous fronts: nuclear weapons, armed missiles and naval capability. Despite four sets of UN sanctions and pressure by the US and Europe, Iran has chosen not only to not halt its nuclear program but to expand it. Iran's leaders, dominated by fanatical mullahs, have announced that the installment of faster centrifuges has begun and that they will soon triple the production of enriched uranium to 20 percent at the Fardo nuclear facility deep in the mountain near the city of Qom. It is estimated that Iran will have enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb within two months and currently has enough low enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs. Iran is also perfecting its missile delivery systems. Recently, the Revolutionary Guards held war games in which they launched several long-range ballistic missiles from missile silos. They also successfully tested two long-range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, into the Indian Ocean. While the Guards' ballistic missiles have a range of 1,200 miles covering all US bases in the Middle East and all of Israel, they now possess missiles from North Korea with a range of 2,000 miles, which covers most of Western Europe. The Iranian Navy has also been busy expanding its operation on the orders of Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who has emphasized the navy's strategic importance in protecting the Islamic republic's interests and to confront its enemies. Last February, for the first time in three decades, two Iranian naval vessels passed through the Suez Canal en route to Syria. Iran's navy then successfully expanded its mission in the Indian Ocean and its submarines completed a two-month-long mission in the Red Sea.
In an alarming July 18 statement, Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayari said the Iranian navy plans on deploying warships in the Atlantic Ocean as part of a program to ply international waters, although he did not say where in the Atlantic the ships would be sent. Two days later, Rear Adm. Seyed Mahmoud Mousavi revealed, for the first time, that the Iranian navy has equipped a number of its logistic vessels and units with long-range surface-to-surface missiles. He stated, "Missile frigates and destroyers have been equipped with these missiles since a long time ago and the surface-to-surface missiles of the logistic vessels were successfully tested and assessed during the recent naval war games, dubbed as Joushan." More ominous is the warning by the chief commander of the Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari: "Currently, we are seeking to utilize our defensive capabilities in open seas. And it means that if the enemy plans to pose a threat to the Islamic Republic, Iran is capable of taking reciprocal action, and this strategy is currently on our agenda."
The Revolutionary Guards have successfully test-launched long-range ballistic missiles from a ship before, so the statement that they are arming some of the vessels with such missiles should worry the United States. An Iranian navy ship or any commercial vessel operated by the Iranians could easily launch a missile from outside the Gulf of Mexico and pretty much cover most of the US. Much more alarming is the fact that once in possession of a nuclear bomb, Iran could successfully carry out its promise to bring America to its knees by a successful electromagnetic pulse attack on America. "One nightmare scenario posed by the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse was a ship-launched EMP attack against the United States by Iran, as this would eliminate the need for Iran to develop an ICBM to deliver a nuclear warhead against the US, and could be executed clandestinely, taking the US by surprise. Since an EMP attack entails detonating a nuclear weapon at high-altitude, in space, it leaves no bomb debris for forensic analysis, no fingerprints identifying the attacker. We might never figure out who hit us, assuming the nation survives and recovers from an EMP attack," warns Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, president of EMPact America, who served on the congressional EMP commission.
The West has tried for years to negotiate with the radicals ruling Iran with the hope that they would halt their nuclear weapons program. However, the Islamic regime has turned down every incentive offered and its officials have openly stated that there is nothing the West can do to stop their nuclear program. With the world's economy on the line and terrorism a major concern, global stability and security should be the top priority for world leaders. For that reason alone, the Iranian leaders who support worldwide terrorism, not to mention the many Iranian officials wanted by Interpol, should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons. A nuclear-armed Iran will change our world with horrific consequences.
Egyptians Call for Sharia Law, Islamic Caliphate
Aug. 1….(Israel Today) Tens, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured into Cairo's now-famed Tahrir Square on Friday to demand their nation become subject to Sharia Law and form the cornerstone for a new Islamic caliphate. The unplanned demonstration erupted following Friday prayers at mosques around the Egyptian capital. The demonstrators, who were led by the increasingly powerful Muslim Brotherhood, demanded that Egypt's interim military regime give way to an intolerant Islamic dictatorship. Various news media reported the demonstrators shouting and holding up signs reading: "Egypt will return to Sharia Law!", "Liberals and secularists are the enemies of Allah!", and "The solution is Islam!" When Egyptians ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak in February, the international media made much of how conservative Muslims, Coptic Christians and Egyptian secularists worked together for the common goal of democratic freedom.
The prevailing assumption was that Egypt would serve as a model of how a diverse, but tolerant Middle East society could throw off the shackles of dictatorial oppression and build something better. But Egyptian commentators are now saying that what is happening in their country more closely resembles the Iranian revolution. In 1979, a broad coalition of Iranians overthrew the dictatorial regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The shah was briefly replaced by a secular, democratic government. But Islamists quickly hijacked the revolution, and Iran today is ruled by a religious council and is subject to the strictest interpretation of Sharia Law. What is happening in Egypt now "is a lot like Iran, and it's only going to get worse," Saeed Rahnema, a pro-democracy demonstrator in Iran in the late 1970s and now a professor at York University in Toronto, told Canada's The Globe and Mail. Egypt's one hope at this point is that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist movement currently lacks a charismatic leader like the Iranians had in Ayatollah Khomeini. But such a figure can rise quickly in this region. And even if he does not, the fear that the Islamists are sowing in their fellow Egyptians is all but guaranteeing that even a democratically elected Egyptian government will be dominated by Muslim fundamentalists.
Meanwhile, tensions between Israel and post-revolution Egypt are again rising after Muslim gunmen bombed the Sinai natural gas pipeline on Saturday, the fifth such attack since Mubarak's ouster. The pipeline had already been turned off while work was being done to repair damage from the previous bombing earlier in the month. Israel receives about 40 percent of its natural gas from that pipeline, and having it out of order is setting the stage for an energy cost crisis in the Jewish state. The latest pipeline attack has reignited the debate over whether or not Israel should continue to purchase natural gas from Egypt, considering that the Jewish state has recently discovered its own massive reserves. Israel buys natural gas from Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords that brought peace between the two nations. But Israeli energy experts say it can no longer be seen as a reliable source of energy. Israel's own offshore gas reserves are actually larger than Egypt's, and could easily supply the nation's needs. But making such a switch is certain to put the kind of economic pressure on Egypt that could lead to an outbreak of hostilities.
Dozens Killed as Syria Army Storms Hama
(At least 45 civilians killed and death toll may rise further, residents say. Three civilians killed in southern Syria according to human rights campaigners)
Aug. 1….(YNET) Syrian army tanks firing shells and machineguns stormed the city of Hama on Sunday, killing at least 45 civilians in a move to crush demonstrations against President Bashar Assad's rule, residents and activists said. The government forces began their assault on the city, scene of a 1982 massacre, at dawn after besieging it for nearly a month. Citing hospital officials, the Syrian Observatory for human rights said the death toll was likely to rise, with dozens badly wounded. A doctor, who did not want to be further identified for fear of arrest, told Reuters that most bodies were taken to the city's Badr, al-Horani and Hikmeh hospitals. Scores of people were wounded and blood for transfusions was in short supply, he said by telephone from the city, which has a population of around 700,000. "Tanks are attacking from four directions. They are firing their heavy machineguns randomly and overrunning makeshift road blocks erected by the inhabitants," the doctor said, the sound of machinegun fire crackling in the background. Another resident said that in Sunday's assault, bodies were lying uncollected in the streets and so the death toll would rise. Army snipers had climbed onto the roofs of the state-owned electricity company and the main prison, he said. Tank shells were falling at the rate of four a minute in and around northern Hama, residents said, and electricity and water supplies to the main neighborhoods had been cut - a tactic used regularly by the military when storming towns to crush protests.
Assad's Pre-Ramadan Massacre of 140 in Two Syrian Cities
Aug. 1….(DEBKAfile Special) No Arab ruler before him has gone to the bloody lengths Syrian President Bashar Assad went Sunday, July 31, on the eve of Ramadan on Aug. 1, to snuff out the five month-long protest against his regime. Before dawn, troops and tanks, indiscriminately blasting city streets with cannon, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, stormed the two most active centers of resistance. By evening, the 4th division had killed 120 people and left 1,000 injured in Hama in the north, while the 7th division had left 20 dead and more than 100 injured in Deir al-Zour. Hundreds were arrested. Syrian troops encountered armed resistance in both towns, where in the last month both had formed local committees and erected makeshift anti-tank barriers. Since many army deserters, including officers, have joined the protesters in facing the troops, and there is no shortage of arms, the battles are not expected to die down before the end of the week. Debkafile's intelligence sources report that Assad chose to turn his army loose on the two cities with no holds barred to pre-empt what he regards as his Ramadan test: He had hoped to avert the nightly processions from the mosques after the Taraweeh prayer marking the end of each day's fasting and win a 30-day lull in the bloody clashes. The regime had pinned its hopes on calming the charged anti-regime climate in the country on a huge public event in Aleppo Thursday July 29, complete with Syria's top performing artists, as a show of self-assurance. This did not work, any more than an appeal from the authorities to the 30 most senior clerics for help to keep the crowds off the streets. They were asked to issue a collective fatwa (religious edict) excusing the faithful from attending the mosques for Taraweeh and permitting them to recite the prayer at home, in consideration of the exceptionally hot summer weather. Twenty-nine clerics declined to cooperate with this transparent tactic for suppressing the protest. The thirtieth, Sheikh Al Bouti, Syria's foremost scholar, world Muslim eminence and head of the Theology Department in the faculty of Islamic Law at Damascus University, agreed to issue the dispensation. Its circulation was widely accompanied by the burning of his books on Islamic law in one town after another. When Assad realized there was no way he could use Ramadan for a respite from the revolt against his regime, he turned to a horrendous outburst of violence.
Modern Youth Ministry a '50-Year Failed Experiment?
(Food for thought)
Aug. 1….(Christian Post) A group of pastors and former youth ministry leaders suggest that today’s youth ministries should be disbanded, calling the common practice of separating congregations by age for worship and Bible study "unbiblical." The church leaders state their case in the documentary film, “Divided: Is Age-Segregated Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church?” The film is produced by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches in association with LeClerc Brothers Motion Pictures. The producers released the documentary earlier this month online, and have made it available for free until Sept. 15. “Divided” follows “edgy twenty-something” Christian filmmaker Philip LeClerc on a quest to find answers to why his generation is increasingly turning away from attending church. Recent surveys have shown that as many as 85 percent of young people will leave the church and many never return. NCFIC Director Scott T. Brown told The Christian Post that today’s modern concept of youth ministry is a “50-year failed experiment.” Brown said that when he was a church leader in the ‘70s and ‘80s he could have been the “poster boy” for the youth ministry movement in California. However, he said he now feels that dividing children from adults at church is an unbiblical concept borrowed from humanistic philosophies. “The church has become divided generationally,” Brown said. “It’s not doing what Scripture prescribes and is actually doing something foreign to Scripture by dividing people by age or by life stage.” “The whole point of ‘Divided’ is that God has spoken clearly about the discipleship of youth in the Bible,” he explained. “Scripture is sufficient. It’s time to get beyond the age of modern, systematic age-segregated youth ministry. We need to put it aside.”
Former youth pastor Boyd Dellinger, who is now the lead pastor of Heritage Bible Fellowship in Fayetteville, NC, is one of several church leaders interviewed in the film. Dellinger said that by all of today’s standards he was once a successful youth pastor. “I look back and realize I did more harm to families than I ever imagined,” Dellinger says in the film. “I see that more as I look back because I was usurping the authority of parents, especially fathers by having their children’s hearts turn towards me, with their permission.” “Today, I can make more of a difference in the lives of young people through the biblical standards of fathers turning their hearts towards their children,” he adds. Dellinger doesn’t question the good intentions of youth ministry leaders today and their desire for youth to know Jesus. He just questions the method. “We have to go back to what does the Bible say? There’s something fundamentally wrong with the church’s drive to say we can do a better job of raising your children than you can,” Dellinger highlights. “God has appointed fathers to lead their children; not for someone else to do it just because they have a college degree or some seminary training. That does not qualify someone to all of a sudden become the spiritual leader of your family.”
More than 750 churches have signed onto a confession posted online by NCFIC that points to the desire of having more age-integrated discipleship, according to Brown. He sees this manifest itself in churches in the same way it does in Scripture. In the paradigm shift, Brown said churches would have “the older gathering together with the younger for worship, celebration, and instruction. It would look like what happened in Deuteronomy 12 where Moses commands the parents to bring whole families to come and worship and sacrifice.” “It’s the only pattern you see in Scripture. You never see Moses, or Nehemiah, or Jesus, or the apostle Paul, or anyone ever segregating people by age. On the contrary, integrated discipleship is really an un-disputable pattern of Scripture.”