WEEK OF JANUARY 29 THROUGH FEBRUARY 4
The Two Biggest Holders of US Government Debt
Feb. 3….(CNBC) As the US government spends an unprecedented amount of money to fix the economy, there is an equally great need to raise the cash to pay for it. This is accomplished through borrowing, whereby Uncle Sam sells Treasury securities of varying maturity. For investors, government bills, notes and bonds are considered safe because they have a guaranteed rate of return, based on faith in future US tax revenues. The government has been partially funding operations via Treasury securities for decades. This borrowing adds to the national debt, which has recently surpassed $15 trillion and is rising every second. The amount of debt is quickly approaching the federal debt ceiling, a legal limit to borrowing that currently stands at $16.4 trillion. Much of that debt is held by private sector, but about 40 percent is held by public entities, including parts of the government. Here's who owns the most. Foreign countries listed include private and public investors, according to monthly US Treasury data. 1. Federal Reserve and Intragovernmental Holdings
# 1 Federal Reserve and Intragovernmental Holdings (US debt holdings: $6.328 trillion)
That’s right, the biggest single holder of US government debt is inside the United States and includes the Federal Reserve system and other intragovernmental holdings. Of this number, The Fed's system of banks owns approximately $1.65 billion in US Treasury securities (as of January 2012), while other US intragovernmental holdings, which include large funds such as the Medicare Trust Fund and the Social Security Trust Fund, hold the rest. In the monthly Treasury bulletin, both are combined into one category and the total accounts for a stunning $6.328 trillion in holdings as of September 2011 (the most recent number available). The amount is an all-time high as the Federal Reserve continues to expand its balance sheet, partially to purchase US government debt securities. The Social Security Trust fund is required by law to invest in securities where the principal and interest is guaranteed by the Federal government. About a decade ago, the total government holdings were "only" $2.5 trillion.
# 2 China….The largest foreign holder of US Treasury securities, China currently has $1.132 trillion in American debt, although it is down from all time highs of $1.173 trillion in July 2011.
FOJ Note: No wonder certain politicians are wanting to raise our taxes, ever more higher!
Secretary Panetta Believes Israel Will Strike Iran Soon
Feb. 3….(Washington Post) US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has a lot on his mind these days, from cutting the defense budget to managing the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan. But his biggest worry is the growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran over the next few months. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes that Israel is likely to strike Iran in the coming months, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said Thursday. "Panetta believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June, before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb," Ignatius wrote. Asked by journalists whether he disputes the report, Panetta said, "No, I'm just not commenting." He added, "What I think and what I view, I consider that to be an area that belongs to me and nobody else." He noted that Israel has stated publicly that it is considering military action against Iran, adding that US has "indicated our concerns."
Panetta, along with US President Barack Obama warned Israeli officials against opting for a military offensive in Iran, saying it would jeopardize the international sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear "red line." Even so, Ignatius claimed that senior officials in the Obama administration have yet to decide how to respond if an Israeli military strike materializes. The columnist states that "Israeli leaders are said to accept, and even welcome, the prospect of going it alone and demonstrating their resolve at a time when their security is undermined by the 'Arab Spring'.";
The Israeli scenario, according to Ignatius, is a five day limited offensive, followed by a UN-brokered cease-fire. The relatively light damage that is expected to be inflicted on Iranian nuclear facilities will require Israel to stage another offensive a few years down the line. Ignatius notes that American officials see two possible options to dissuade Israel from attacking: Serious talks with Iran, including full access and supervision over its nuclear program, or increased US covert operations that will undermine the nuclear program to the extent that Israel is convinced an attack is no longer necessary. However, such options might be in vein because Prime Minister Netanyahu has already made a decision to attack in the next six months, Ignatius claims.
Former CIA Chief: Obama Should Learn to Stick By Israel
(Former CIA director R. James Woolsey: Obama tried to make nice with Iran and Syria. It didn't work)
Feb. 3….(Arutz) Addressing the security situation in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, Woolsey said revolutions are usually divided into three phases: The first phase is very enthusiastic, the second phase is when the liberals take over and look like they’re going to move things well, and the third part is what he called the “non-attractive” part. “We can hope that a number of these Arab revolutions veer off before they get to a most unattractive phase three,” he said. “There’s been a lot of progress away from dictatorship and toward people being able to rule themselves, but it’s far from perfect and there is a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know where these Arab revolutions, really, any of them are going.”
Woolsey spoke about the relations between Israel and the United States, and differentiated between the tension with the Obama Administration and the general relationship between the two countries. “I think there’s still some tension with the Obama Administration. I don’t think there’s fundamental tension between Israel and the United States,” he said, adding that the Obama Administration thought that “making nice” with the Iranians and the Syrians would work, but that did not work. “It has not worked out well, and I hope that the Obama Administration is learning that one wants to stick closer to one’s friends than to kowtow to one’s enemies,” he said.
Woolsey, who has previously called for the release of Jonathan Pollard from prison, repeated that position in the interview. He noted that Pollard’s sentencing judge laid down three criteria for parole: That Pollard express contrition, that he help the United States understand exactly what was taken and the implications, and that he agree to forego any proceeds from anything written or televised about what he did. That is, if he writes a book about his experiences, the money would go charity.
Woolsey said that he knows that the first two conditions have been met by Pollard but added that he does not know whether the third one has been met. Nevertheless, he said, “He’s now been in prison well over 20 years, well over the time any spy from any friendly country has spent in American prisons, and he didn’t get anyone killed.” “From my point of view,” Woolsey added, “if he would just satisfy that third requirement it ought to be possible for either parole or some kind of executive clemency to set him free.”
Israel: Iran's Nuclear Program is Complete, Its Missiles Can Reach US
Feb. 3….(DEBKAfile Special Report February) Iran has completed the development of a nuclear weapon and awaits nothing more than a sign from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to start assembling its first nuclear bomb, said Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aviv Kochavi on Thursday, February 2. Assembling a bomb would take up to a year, Kochavi estimated. With 100 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent grade and another 4 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent already in stock, Iran would need another two years to make four nuclear bombs. Therefore, by the end of 2012 or early 2013 Iran may have a single nuclear bomb, but by 2015 the figure would jump to four or five. The officer was essentially amplifying the words of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who said on Jan. 26 that as long ago as 2007 or 2008, Iran had already passed the point of no return in developing nuclear weapons. Kochavi agreed with him that none of the sanctions imposed thus far had persuaded Iran to slow down, least of all shut down, its drive for a nuclear weapon. His comments coincided with the findings published Thursday by the Enterprise Institute, an American think tank, that Iran would be able to manufacture a 15-kiloton nuclear bomb as soon as August of this year, just seven months from now.
Also Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon disclosed that the big blast at the Iranian missile base near Tehran last November blew up a new missile system with a range of 10,000 kilometers, capable of targeting the United States. Commenting on Iran's underground bunkers for nuclear facilities, the minister stressed that any facility built by man can be destroyed by man. "Speaking as a former chief of staff, I say none of Iran's installations are immune to attack," he said. Major General Kochavi went on to say that if Iran had attained a nuclear capability, this meant that the US and Israel had failed to pre-empt this outcome.Turning to another threat, the military intelligence chief painted a grim picture of 200,000 rockets and missiles of assorted types pointing at Israel. Wednesday, February 1, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz stressed that there is no longer any point on the Israeli map that is outside the range of enemy missiles.
According to Gen. Kochavi, Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas are dispersing their missiles and rockets to sites deep inland and integrated in urban environments to minimize their vulnerability to IDF attack. He warned "the enemy" had prepared increasing numbers of its missiles for "depth strikes against Israeli population centers, their warheads more lethal than ever." "Every tenth residential house in Lebanon," he said, "harbors a missile arsenal or launching position. Their sheer volume has reached a strategic dimension with which Israel will have to deal." Tuesday, Jan. 31, the IDF practiced mobilizing an armored division under war conditions, Debkafile's military sources report. The drill simulated moving the troops to conscription bases, arming them with equipment and weapons and getting them to battle lines, all under the heavy missile bombardment of military facilities, national highways and railway lines. The various assessments of Iran's nuclear capabilities have faced serious credibility problems over the years, Debkafile's intelligence sources note.
Today, thanks to Kochavi and Yadlin, we know that the US National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 accepted by the Bush administration was wrong. Its main finding was that Iran had discontinued its military nuclear program in 2003. For five years, Western intelligence officials have given out misleading estimates to save their governments having to pursue direct action for preempting a nuclear Iran. One school of thought claimed that Iran would not build a bomb until it had the resources to create an arsenal; another, that Tehran lacked the technology for weaponizing enriched uranium. Does the latest evaluation that the manufacture of a bomb awaits the decision of one man, the Iranian Supreme Ruler, fall into the same category as the others? Or is it another gambit to fend off a military strike against Iran for five more years?
How do the US and Israel know for sure that Khamenei has not given the order and that Iranian teams are not already busy assembling a bomb in some bunker? US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has maintained more than once that America has the resources for finding out about a decision by the Supreme Leader, but no American or Israeli intelligence officer can endorse this certainty. It should be remembered, Debkafile's military and intelligence sources note, that when Western intelligence announced the discovery of the Fordo underground facility near Qom in mid-2009, construction had begun undiscovered at least eighteen months earlier.
Muslim Brotherhood Uses Palestinian Hamas as Channel to Tehran
Feb. 2….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) As one Palestinian Hamas leader, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, heads to Tehran, the Hamas politburo in Damascus, contrary to reports in the West of a cutoff, firmly maintains his ties with the Assad regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards operating in the Syrian capital and Beirut as well as with Hizballah, debkafile's Israeli and Western military sources report. Debkafile's intelligence sources also stress there is no sign of Hamas leaders seeking to break their ties with Iran, which has for years supplied them with funds and weapons. Indeed, the forthcoming Haniyeh visit to Tehran is welcomed by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent organization, as the lock for opening a secret back channel through which the Brotherhood is keen to mend its fences with the Iranian leadership.
Some Hamas politburo officials have indeed left Damascus, but its operations and intelligence command centers remain in situ. Debkafile's Middle East sources report that Meshaal for the past two years has resided in the Qatari capital of Doha, and his wife and children live in Amman, Jordan; his deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, moved this year with his family from Damascus to Cairo; Mohammad Nazal, Hamas political bureau secretary, relocated with family to Jordan; and Imad al-Alami, who commanded Hamas cells in Lebanon and moved in the past six months to Doha. The rest of the staff hold down the Hamas fort in the Syrian capital under the command of intelligence chief Izat Rishak who is in regular touch with the various Syrian intelligence and security commands in Damascus and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. Izak has risen to the status of Hamas strongman, according to our sources, and the recognized superior commander of the Gazan military wing Ezz e-din al-Qassam and its chief Muhammad Jabary.
Some Western and Israeli circles have presented the Hamas as bolting from its Damascus headquarters as evidence that the Palestinian fundamentalists have turned their backs on the radical Iranian-Sytrian-Hizballah bloc and opted to throw in their lot with the pro-Western moderates of the Arab world. Speculation has been rife that Meshaal, 55, who was said to have offered to resign the politburo post after 14 years, was about to line up with the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and his tactic of declaring opposition to terrorism and advocacy of "popular resistance" to Israel. This, according to our sources, is far from the true state of affairs. Our Middle East sources cite the conditions under which Meshaal was allowed to officially visit Amman Sunday, Jan. 29 for the first time since King Abdullah's father Hussein threw him out of the kingdom in 1999.
Abdullah II, who works closely with Saudi and Qatari intelligence, refused to receive the Hamas leader and his delegation as an independent delegation. They were only admitted as part of the entourage of Qatari Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The Hamas group was forced to wait outside until the king and the Qatari prince had finished their conversation and only then were they invited to enter the palace guest chamber. Over the lunch the Jordanian monarch held for his guests, the Qatari prince and entourage sat at the top table with the king, while the Hamas officials were relegated to a smaller side table. The King made it clear that Meshaal was only invited to Amman after signing a Palestinian unity accord with Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo last month. His next visit was contingent on his upholding it. On no account would the Jordanian king hear of Hamas opening offices in Jordan or carrying out any diplomatic or military business from the kingdom, certainly not among West Bank Palestinians. The Hamas leader promised to refrain from activity among Jordan's Palestinian community.
Our Middle East sources say that the Jordanian monarch was briefed by Riyadh and Doha before receiving Meshaal & Co. According to their intelligence, Meshaal and his three colleagues ' removal from Damascus had nothing to do with any wish to distance their organization from the beleaguered Assad regime. They received orders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to relocate outside the Syrian capital for three reasons:
1. The Hamas politburo could not afford to be seen in bed with Assad while his regime was hounding the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to extinction.
2. The Hamas politburo was ordered to get ready to seize control of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, as the terrorist group did in Gaza, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy for attaining rule in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and soon Syria.
3. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's relations with Tehran and Damascus are at a low point but need not always stay that way. Maintaining the ties between the Palestinian Hamas and Iran gives the Brotherhood a useful back channel for mending relations. Haniyeh is travelling to Tehran with the Egyptian Brotherhood's blessing. Therefore, the claim that Khaled Meshaal has turned moderate and away from extremist Iran and Syria has no foundation in fact.
America Has Killed Off 53,000,000 of Its Own
Feb. 2….(In The Days) Activists count back to the January 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and produce new calculations on how many lives have been ended prematurely through the deliberate choice of their mothers, and with the often enthusiastic cooperation of medical professionals who have found their own ways of reconciling the destruction of life with their Hippocratic oath. (The latest addition tells us that a number roughly equivalent to the population of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona has been subtracted from the human race.)
Partisans of “a woman’s right to choose” rejoice, taking shelter in the assertion that the decision to abort a child is a personal one, between a mother and no one else. A father’s rights are no longer any more sacred than the life in the mother’s womb, parents are often legally required to stand aside, and doctors these days are on hand less to offer medical counsel than to facilitate the mechanics or chemistry of destruction. On that score: chemistry is rapidly trumping mechanics, as the efficiency of the abortionists grows. Planned Parenthood is making new fortunes in blood money through the increasingly widespread use of “tele-med” abortions, which negate the presence or participation of medical staff. An expectant mother simply steps into a room, confirms to a doctor via a video chat her determination to abort, follows his directions to press a specific button, and, voila!, a drawer pops open with two pills inside. “Take one now and one tomorrow,” the doctor says. No muss, no fuss, and no baby. Such simplicities make it easier for the body count to accumulate, and there, too, the abortionists are at an advantage, for as Joseph Stalin reminded us, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” The more babies that die, the less unbearable the death of one more, a hundred more, a thousand more becomes. Abortionists know better than most that nothing succeeds like excess.
Stalin, though, had nothing on Shannon Dea, co-president of Planned Parenthood’s Waterloo Region, in Canada, who recently declared that “Medical science is irrelevant to the question of when a fetus becomes a human being, that matter is a legal and philosophical one, not a medical one.” But what, exactly, is to be gained by wading into debate with those who deem undeniable truth, and even facts irrelevant? Nothing, likely. But for the general benefit, let us consider one particular philosophical implication of all those lives, quenched in the womb. The roughly 53 million children aborted since 1973 equals about 17 percent of America’s current 312 million-plus population. Nearly one-fifth of us, simply taken out of the equation, the equation being our culture, our communities, our daily interactions, our myriad accomplishments as a people.
How would any of us begin to estimate the cost of losing not just the lives, but the extraordinary impact of one-fifth of our nation’s people? Across those two lost generations, what outstanding leaders of business or industry, what eloquent voices of religion or politics, have been forfeited to a mother’s choice? How many of those aborted had within them the one-of-a-kind vision that might have accomplished peace, rolled back poverty, broken down racism, staved off tyrants and terrorists, translated, transformed, transcended some aspect of our civilization in a way no one ever had before?
A mind like Einstein’s, the wisdom of Washington, these come along maybe once or twice in a generation. In our arrogance and near-sightedness, did we forfeit our most gifted ones to the expediencies of a self-centered, sex-obsessed culture? In city after city, as child after child is destroyed without coming to fruition, what are we costing ourselves, and our own children and grandchildren? The abortionists are half right: abortion is as personal as a decision gets. But it’s never about the ones being done away with.
Iran Would Unleash Terror Attacks on US Homeland
Feb. 1….(Washington Post) An assessment by US spy agencies concludes that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States, highlighting new risks as the Obama administration escalates pressure on Tehran to halt its alleged pursuit of an atomic bomb. In congressional testimony Tuesday, US intelligence officials indicated that Iran has crossed a threshold in its adversarial relationship with the United States. While Iran has long been linked to attacks on American targets overseas, US officials said they see troubling significance in Tehran’s alleged role in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington last year. US officials said they have seen no intelligence to indicate that Iran is actively plotting attacks on US soil. But Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said the thwarted plot “shows that some Iranian officials, probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived US actions that threaten the regime.”
The warning about Iran’s more aggressive stance was included in written testimony that Clapper submitted to Congress on Tuesday as part of the intelligence community’s annual assessment of the nation’s most serious security threats. On other fronts, US intelligence officials said that al-Qaeda has been badly degraded, but they expressed rising concern over alleged cyber-espionage by China, the leadership transition in nuclear-armed North Korea and the uncertain prospects for Afghanistan after US forces eventually depart. Still, Clapper, CIA Director David H. Petraeus and other top US intelligence officials spent much of Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee fielding questions about Iran.
Washington is eyeing the country’s nuclear ambitions, long a source of simmering concern, with new urgency. Reports suggest that Iran is closing in on the ability to develop a bomb, and a series of explosions, assassinations and computer attacks targeting the country’s nuclear program have led many outside analysts to conclude that a covert conflict is already underway. Iran says its nuclear efforts are for peaceful, energy-producing purposes and has blamed the United States and Israel for mysterious developments including the apparently targeted killing of yet another Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran on Jan. 11, as well as an earlier cyberattack on the country’s largest uranium-enrichment facility. In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama raised the threat of military intervention to halt Iran’s alleged pursuit of an atomic bomb, saying he would “take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta added new rhetorical heat during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” program that aired Sunday, saying that Iran was probably one year away from being able to build a bomb. He added that it could take a year or two beyond that to develop the ability to deliver a warhead by missile. “That’s a red line for us, and it’s a red line, obviously, for the Israelis,” Panetta said. “If we have to do it, we will do it,” he added, declining to elaborate on what “it” means.
It was against this backdrop that Clapper and others described the efforts by the United States and Israel to move Iran off that nuclear course. Clapper said that escalating economic sanctions have pushed Iran to the brink of a currency crisis, but he acknowledged that the measures have had little or no impact on Iran’s nuclear aims. “The sanctions as imposed so far have not caused them to change their behavior or their policy,” Clapper said. He and others testifying Tuesday indicated that their assessment of Iran’s willingness to launch attacks in the United States stems mainly from a more-detailed understanding of the country’s role in the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir.
As described by US officials in October, the convoluted scheme was to rely on assassins from a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the killing at a restaurant in Washington. US officials said the plot was devised by an Iranian American with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. But the plan was foiled when the would-be operative mistakenly hired a paid informant of the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry it out. Iranian officials have denied any role in the plot. Experts said Iran’s willingness to back such a scheme may reflect a sense among Iran’s leadership that prevailing against the United States and Israel may require adopting new, lower-percentage means of carrying out attacks. “I see the Iranians feeling that they are under siege,” said Daniel Byman, an Iran expert at Georgetown University and a former CIA analyst. Given Iran’s resources and ties to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Byman said that it is “plausible” that Iran already has agents inside the United States. Clapper’s testimony also called attention to other emerging national security concerns, including cyber-related threats from China and Russia and the diminished but persistent danger to the United States posed by al-Qaeda.
This year’s assessment was the first to evaluate the terrorist network since its founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a US commando raid in May. That blow, combined with the toll taken by subsequent strikes and raids, has destroyed al-Qaeda’s core. As a result, Clapper said in the testimony, the United States is entering a “critical transitional phase for the terrorist threat,” in which smaller-bore strikes from regional nodes are more likely than elaborate, mass-casualty plots. If the pressure on al-Qaeda can be maintained, “there is a better-than-even chance that decentralization will lead to fragmentation,” Clapper said in his prepared statement. The terrorist group “will seek to execute smaller, simpler plots to demonstrate relevance to the global jihad.” The group’s affiliate in Yemen continues to be seen as the most likely source of plots targeting the United States. But the death of US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a CIA drone strike in Yemen last year has at least temporarily eroded the affiliate’s ability to mount international attacks, officials said.
Romney or Gingrich: Who's Better for Israel?
Feb. 1….(Israel Today) Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich are emerging as the frontrunners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination and the right to challenge US President Barack Obama in this year's election. But which is better for Israel? As predicted, Israel has been a primary topic of discussion along the campaign trail. In numerous public debates, all of the Republican candidates with the exception of Representative Ron Paul have expressed strong pro-Israel positions. But Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both "pro-Israel," too, and they still pushed Israel to surrender strategic and biblically significant assets. Would a Romney or Gingrich presidency be just more of the same? Romney has repeatedly criticized Obama for "throwing Israel under the bus" and insists that Israel must be free to decide its own fate, but he has consistently shied away from laying the blame for the lack of peace on Israel's enemies. It can be deduced from Romney's remarks that he would maintain the status quo established by Clinton and Bush - a slow-moving peace process that periodically requires Israel to make dangerous concessions, but that in the short-term leads nowhere. It is possible to suggest the opposite of Gingrich. Newt Gingrich has spent some time criticizing Obama for his treatment of Israel, but has expended far more effort trying to clarify the purposely muddied Israeli-Arab conflict. Gingrich has slammed the Palestinian Authority as a gang of terrorists and facilitators of terrorism, and is adamant that the starting point of the peace process must be the basic truth that there never was a sovereign Palestinian Arab nation. A Gingrich presidency could potentially produce a seismic shift in the Middle East peace process.
Muslim Brotherhood Will Cancel Israel Agreements
(Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood will eventually cancel the Camp David Agreement, despite the group’s announcement that it respects international agreements Egypt has signed)
Feb. 1….(In The Days) Speaking to the “International Conference on Islamic Awakening and the Youths,” Ibrahim said that the Egyptian military, so as not to lose its clout, would never allow the Brotherhood to write the constitution or even form a constituent assembly to write the constitution. Following their electoral victories in Parliament, Egypt’s most organized political group has offered assurances that it would respect the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. When asked early this month whether Washington believed that the Islamist party would uphold the treaty, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the party “has made commitments to us in this regard.” Ibrahim said that the current unrest in Syria is a conspiracy and not a revolution, as western media claims. The Egyptian delegation clashed with him over the remarks. “The Syrians transfer arms to the Palestinian resistance,” he said.
Syrian Rebels Warn Nasrallah
(Free Syria Army vows to settle score with Hezbollah leader following future victory)
Feb. 1…..(YNET) Bashar Assad's foes demanded Tuesday that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah put an end to the group's support for the Syrian president's campaign of slaughter against his people. The secretary general of the Free Syria Army's military council warned that Syrian rebels will settle the score with Nasrallah and his group at court once the Syrian leader is deposed. n an interview with the London-based Sharq al-Awsat, the rebel leader urged Nasrallah to put an end to the killing of Syrians, who he said "embraced the Lebanese people during the Second Lebanon War." He added that it was the Syrian people, rather than Assad's regime, that opened the door to the Lebanese people and to Hezbollah members. Meanwhile, Syrian opposition websites reported that the Free Syria Army took over most neighborhoods in the restive city of Homs, adding that the Syrian government is using missiles and tanks to bombard areas under the rebels' control.
Assad May Start Regional War if UN Tells Him to Step Down
Feb. 1….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) In confidential conversations with his advisers, Syrian President Bashar Assad is reported by Persian Gulf sources Tuesday, Jan. 31 to have threatened to start up armed hostilities in the region if the UN Security Council Tuesday night endorses the Arab League proposal for him to step down and hand power to his deputy. Those sources told Debkafile that the heads of the Syrian armed forces and intelligence have been given their orders and some units are on the ready. Other Middle East sources reported that the Lebanese Hizballah has also shown signs of military preparations in the last few hours. And the Russian flotilla berthed at the Syrian port of Tartus, led by the Admiral Kutznetsov aircraft carrier, also appears to be on the alert for ructions in the wake of the Security Council Syria session. During the day, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov warned that pushing the Arab League's UN resolution was "the path to civil war." Our Moscow sources report that top-level discussions are still going back and forth in the Kremlin over a final decision on a veto.
debkafile reports that the military flurry in advance of the critical Security Council session included US naval movements. Sunday, Jan. 29, the nuclear submarine USS Annapolis, escorted by the guided missile destroyer USS Momsen sailed through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea. This looked like a Washington warning for Tehran to keep its military fingers out of Syria if the confrontation there escalates.
It was not the first time Assad has threatened Syria's neighbors. On Aug. 9, 2011, four months into his savage crackdown against protesters, he warned Turkey that, six hours after the first shot was fired against Syria, he would "destroy Tel Aviv and set the entire Middle East on fire." That was his answer to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu when he came to Damascus with a demand from his and other NATO governments that the Syrian ruler stop the slaughter. Davutoglu urged Assad to take a look at Libya and try to understand that if he carried on, he might be in for the same fate as Muammar QaddafiM a strong hint at military intervention by NATO, including Turkey. Earlier still on May 10, one of Assad's close kinsmen, the international tycoon Rami Makhlouf, warned: "If there is no stability in Syria, there will be none in Israel. No one can be sure what will happens after that. God help us if anything befalls this regime."
Palestinians Praise Killer of Jewish Family
Jan. 31….(Israel Today) The mother and aunt of a young Palestinian man who brutally slaughtered nearly an entire Jewish family last year went on Palestinian Authority television recently to praise his murderous actions and to denounce Israel for having the audacity to put him in jail. Hakim Awad was given five life sentences by an Israeli court last August for his role in the March 2011 massacre of the Fogel family in the northern Samaria Jewish community of Itamar. During the home invasion attack, Hakim and his cousin, Amjad Awad (who also received five life sentences), mercilessly stabbed to death Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their young children, including a four-month-old baby. The Fogel massacre sent shockwaves through Israeli society both because of the brutality and the purposeful targeting of young children, at least two of whom were sleeping when they were set upon by the Awad cousins.
Palestinian society views the murders and the murderers much differently. Last week, Palestinian Authority TV aired a program called "For You" decrying Israel's imprisonment of convicted Palestinian terrorists. Hakim Awad was one of the stars of the show. Phoning in to the show, Awad's aunt read a poem she had written for Hakim and referred to the blood-soaked killer as a "hero" and a "legend" among his family, friends and peers. Awad's mother also got on the line to lament that she was being prevented from visiting her son due to the severity of the "Itamar operation," (Palestinians regularly refer to the murder of Israeli Jews, even children, as military "operations.) The hostess of the "For You" program also added her own greeting to Hakim Awad. This continued justification and even glorification of the murder of Israeli Jews is for most Israelis the primary reason the peace process is going nowhere. As part of the original "Oslo Accords," both sides were obliged to educate their populations for peaceful coexistence. Remarks such as those expressed by the Awad matriarchs suggests that Palestinian society has actually been educated to hate Jews even more.
Damascus Beset by Urban Warfare
Jan. 31….(YNET) Syrian forces heavily shelled the restive city of Homs on Monday and troops pushed back dissident troops from some suburbs on the outskirts of Damascus in an offensive trying to regain control of the capital's eastern doorstep, activists said. President Bashar Assad's regime is intensifying its assault aimed at crushing army defectors and protesters, even as the West tries to overcome Russian opposition and win a new UN resolution against Syria's crackdown on the 10-month-old uprising. Activists reported at least 28 civilians killed on Monday. Russia insists it won't support any resolution that could enable foreign military intervention in Syria. Instead, it said Monday it is seeking to mediate talks in Moscow between Damascus and the opposition. The past three days, pro-Assad forces have been fighting to take back a string of suburbs on the eastern approach to Damascus where army defectors who joined the opposition had seized control. Government troops managed on Sunday evening to take back two districts closest to Damascus, Ein Tarma and Kfar Batna, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the London-based head of the Observatory. The wide-scale offensive near the capital suggested the regime is worried that military defectors could close in on Damascus, which has remained relatively quiet while most other Syrian cities have slipped into chaos since the uprising began in March.
The violence has gradually approached the capital. In the past two weeks, army dissidents have become more visible, seizing several suburbs on the eastern edge of Damascus and setting up checkpoints where masked men wearing military attire and wielding assault rifles stop motorists and protect anti-regime protests. Their presence so close to the capital is astonishing in tightly controlled Syria and suggests the Assad regime may either be losing control or setting up a trap for the fighters before going on the offensive. State media reported that an "armed terrorist group" blew up a gas pipeline at dawn Monday. The pipeline carries gas from the central province of Homs to an area near the border with Lebanon.
IAF Commander: 'Arab Spring' Could Strengthen Terror
Jan. 31….(Arutz) IAF Commander Major General Ido Nechushtan on Sunday addressed the upheaval in the Arab world and the effects it could have on Israel. Speaking at the 7th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, Nechushtan said, “We can say that instability and uncertainty are currently central shapers in the Middle East. We need to assume that this is our strategic environment and that it’s not temporary. This is what we’ll have to get used to.” He warned that the weakening of regimes in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring could lead to weapons leaking to terror organizations in general and specifically to Hizbullah. “Israel, like other countries, cannot remain indifferent to such a process,” Nechushtan said. “The instability is undoubtedly a very comfortable platform for terror organizations, and also for countries that wish to do so, to destabilize the entire Middle East.” He also emphasized the danger of Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups taking advantage of the internal changes in Egypt to infiltrate terrorists into the Sinai Peninsula. “More and more terror cells find their places in Sinai and the responsibility is on Hamas,” he said. “These are derivatives of the turmoil in the Arab world which is a major turmoil. We don’t know when it will end. We don’t know what will come afterwards.”
Assad Contains Syrian Uprising, With Help From Russia and Iran
Jan. 31….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis) Ten months after the Syrian people launched an uprising against its ruler, Bashar Assad, if not yet safe in the saddle, has recovered the bulk of his army's support and his grip on most parts of the country. Protesters have mostly been pushed into tight corners in the flashpoint towns and villages, especially in the north, hemmed in by troops and security forces loyal to the president. Monday, Jan. 30, Syrian forces were close to purging the suburbs and villages around Damascus of rebel fighters. The operation began Sunday with 2,000 troops backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers. Six soldiers were killed when their vehicle blew up on a roadside bomb near Sahnaya, east of the capital.
The rebel Free Syrian Army and opposition groups continue to report heavy fighting in the Damascus area, and especially the international airport where they claim to have prevented Assad's wife and children from fleeing the country. However, military watchers do not confirm either the fighting or the Assad family's attempted flight. While both sides spin propaganda, the extreme hyperbole of opposition claims attests to their hard straits and the Syrian president's success in weathering their efforts and the huge sacrifices in blood paid by the people (estimated at 8,000 dead and tens of thousands injured) to oust him. Having got rid of the Arab League monitoring mission, which gave up in despair of halting the savage bloodbath, Assad will shrug off the Arab-Western backed motion put before the UN Security Council Tuesday, Jan. 30, calling on him to step down and hand power to his vice president Farouk a-Shara. He will treat it as yet another failed effort by the combined Arab-Western effort to topple his regime.
The conflict is not over. More ups and downs may still be to come and there are signs of sectarian war evolving. But for now, Assad's survival is of crucial relevance in seven Middle East arenas:
1. The Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah bloc is strengthened, joined most recently by Iraq;
2. Iran chalks up a first-class strategic achievement for counteracting the US and the Saudi-led Gulf Arab emirates' presentation of the Islamic regime as seriously weighed down under by the crushing burden of crushing international sanctions imposed to halt its drive for a nuclear bomb.
3. Hizballah has won a chance to recover from the steep slide of its fortunes in Lebanon. The Pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiite group stands to regain the self-assurance which ebbed during Assad's hard times against massive dissidence, re-consolidate its bonds with Tehran, Damascus and Baghdad and rebuild its political clout in Beirut.
4. It is hard to calculate the enormous extent of the damage Saudi Arabia and Turkey have suffered from their colossal failure in Syria. The Palestinians too have not emerged unscathed. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and their security agencies, which invested huge sums in the Syrian rebellion's removal of the Assad regime, were trounced by Syria's security and intelligence services and the resources Iran provided to keep Bashar Assad afloat. The Arab League, which for the first time tried its hand at intervening in an Arab uprising by sending observers into Syrian trouble spots to cut down the violence, watched impotently as those observers ran for their lives. Assad for his part first accepted than ignored the League's peace plan. Turkey, too, after indicating its military would step across the border to support the Syrian resistance and giving the FSA bases of operation, backed off for the sake of staying on good terms with Iran.
5. Russia and China have gained credibility in the Middle East and points against the United States by standing up for Assad and pledging their veto votes against any strong UN Security Council motions against him. Moscow's arms sales and naval support for the Assad regime and China's new military and economic accords with Persian Gulf emirates have had the effect of pushing the United States from center stage of the Arab Revolt, held in the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions, to the sidelines of Middle East action.
6. The Syrian ruler has confounded predictions by Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he can't last more than a few weeks. His survival and the cohesion of his armed forces have contributed to the tightening of the Iranian military noose around Israel. The Syrian army was in sustained operation for almost a year without breaking and suffered only marginal defections. It is still in working shape with valuable experience under its belt in rapid deployment between battlefronts. Syria, Iran and Hizballah have streamlined the cooperation among their armies and their intelligence arms.
7. The Palestinian rivals, Fatah and Hamas, have again put the brakes on the on-again, off-again reconciliation after it was galvanized by Hamas' decision to create some distance between Iran and the embattled Syrian regime. Seeing Assad still in place, Hamas' Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh will visit Tehran this week and Meshaal may delay his departure from the Syrian capital.
Report: Israel Agrees to Cede Sovereignty of Jordan Valley
(Maariv reports Israeli rep at talks with PA said Israel would be content with security arrangements on eastern border)
Jan. 31….(Arutz) Israel does not demand sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and for all practical purposes cedes this sovereignty, according to a report in the daily Maariv about ongoing talks in Jordan between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to the paper's senior political writer, Ben Kaspit, the Prime Minister's emissary, Attorney Yitzchak Molcho, said at the talks that Israel does not demand sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and will be content with strict security arrangements along the Jordan River. The Prime Minister's Office reacted to the report by calling it "a tendentious and distorted leak from the content of talks whose success depends on the discreetness that both sides committed to." Asked for their response to the report, PA sources said that Israel demanded a military presence along the Jordan Valley for dozens of years, and that PA negotiator Saeb Erekat called the demand unacceptable and said it "exposes Israel's intention to make the occupation endless." In a speech in the Knesset last year, Netanyahu laid out his principles for peace and security and did not include the traditional Israeli demand for sovereignty along the Jordan River.
Russia Backs Assad, Last Friend in Arab World
Jan. 30….(Arab News) Russia’s defiance of international efforts to end Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on protests is rooted in a calculation that it can keep a Mideast presence by propping up its last remaining ally in the region, and has nothing to lose if it fails. The Kremlin has put itself in conflict with the West as it shields Assad’s regime from United Nations sanctions and continues to provide it with weapons even as others impose arms embargoes. But Moscow’s relations with Washington are already strained amid controversy over US missile defense plans and other disputes. And Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seems eager to defy the US as he campaigns to reclaim the presidency in March elections. “It would make no sense for Russia to drop its support for Assad,” said Ruslan Pukhov, head of the independent Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. “He is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East, allowing it to preserve some influence in the region.” Moscow may also hope that Assad can hang on to power with its help and repay Moscow with more weapons contracts and other lucrative deals. And observers note that even as it has nothing to lose from backing Assad, it has nothing to gain from switching course and supporting the opposition.
“Russia has crossed the Rubicon,” said Igor Korotchenko, head of the Center for Analysis of Global Weapons Trade. He said Russia will always be marked as the patron of the Assad regime regardless of the conflict’s outcome, so there’s little incentive to build bridges with the protesters. If Assad’s regime is driven from power, it will mean an end to Russia’s presence,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the magazine Russia in Global Affairs. Syria has been Moscow’s top ally in the Middle East since Soviet times, when it was led by the incumbent’s father, Hafez Assad. The Kremlin always saw it as a bulwark for countering US influence in the region and heavily armed Syria against Israel. While Russia’s relations with Israel have slightly improved greatly since the Soviet collapse, ties with Damascus helped Russia retain its clout as a member of the Quartet of international mediators trying to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
'The Syria route'
After Bashar Assad succeeded his father in 2000, Russia sought to boost ties by agreeing to annul 73 percent of Syria’s Soviet-era debt. In the mid-2000s, Putin said Russia would re-establish its place in the Mideast via “the Syria route.” Syria’s port of Tartus is now the only naval base Russia has outside the former Soviet Union. A Russian navy squadron made a call there this month in what was seen by many as a show of support for Assad. For decades, Syria has been a major customer for the Russian arms industries, buying billions of dollars’ worth of combat jets, missiles, tanks and other heavy weapons. And unlike some other nations, such as Venezuela, which obtained Russian weapons on Kremlin loans, Assad’s regime paid cash. The respected newspaper Kommersant reported this week that Syria has ordered 36 Yak-130 combat jets worth $550 million. Syria’s importance as a leading importer of Russian weapons in the region grew after the loss of the lucrative Iraqi and Libyan markets. Russia, whose abstention in a UN vote cleared the way for military intervention in Libya, later voiced frustration with what it described as a disproportional use of force by NATO. The Kremlin has vowed not to allow a replay of the Libyan strategy in Syria, warning that it would block any UN resolution on Syria lacking a clear ban on any foreign military interference. Moscow accuses the West of turning a blind eye to shipments of weapons to the Syrian opposition and warns it won’t be bound by Western sanctions.
Moscow has shown restraint in its arms trade with Damascus, avoiding the sales of weapons that could significantly tilt the military balance in the region. In one example, the Kremlin has turned down Damascus’ requests for truck-mounted Iskander missiles that can hit ground targets 280 kilometers (175 miles) away with deadly precision. While the sale of such missiles wouldn’t be banned under any international agreements, Moscow has apparently heeded strong US and Israeli objections to such a deal. Moscow also has stonewalled Damascus’ request for the advanced S-300 air defense missile system, only agreeing to sell short-range ground-to-air missiles. The most powerful Russian weapon reportedly delivered to Syria is the Bastion anti-ship missile complex intended to protect its coast. The Bastion is armed with supersonic Yakhont cruise missiles that can sink any warship at a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) and are extremely difficult to intercept, providing a strong deterrent against any attack from the sea. Observers in Moscow said that Russia can do little else to help Assad. The chief of the Russian upper house’s foreign affairs committee, Mikhail Margelov, openly acknowledged that this week, saying that Russia has “exhausted its arsenal” of means to support Syria by protecting it from the UN sanctions. Russia has made it clear it would block any attempts to give UN cover to any foreign military intervention in Syria, but it won’t be able to prevent Syria’s neighbors from mounting such action. “Russia realizes that it has limited opportunities and can’t play a decisive role. Pukhov also predicted that Russia wouldn’t take any stronger moves in support for Damascus. “Going further would mean an open confrontation with the West, and Russia doesn’t need that,” he said.
Turkey and Russia Develop Strategic Alliance
Jan. 30….(Zaman) Turkey, the “unreliable NATO member” in the Cold War years, is now a strategic partner of Moscow. Post-1990 Turkish-Russian bilateral relations, which have become closer due to tourism and bilateral trade, have amounted to a level that has attracted the admiration of other countries. Turkey and Russia’s relations, which have been improving in a number of fields, have gained a strong institutional basis. The future of Turkish-Russian ties, a successful example of Turkey’s recent strategy of “zero problems with neighbors,” is extremely bright.
The High Level Cooperation Council (ÜDİK) that was created during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Ankara on May 12, 2010 has been transformed into a mechanism that serves as a joint cabinet. The third meeting of ÜDİK, whose second gathering was held during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow on March 16, 2011, will be hosted in Turkey in the second half of 2012. The sub-institutions and committees set up as part of ÜDİK seek to improve bilateral relations between the two countries and include the Joint Strategic Planning Group, where foreign ministers serve as chairs, the Social Forum, where civil society organizations are represented, and the Joint Economic Council, which hosts business world members and representatives, which continue to work on their specific agendas.
Last week, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, along with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, held the second Joint Strategic Planning Group meeting with the participation of top bureaucrats from the Russian and Turkish foreign ministries. At the meeting, where bilateral relations between the two countries were extensively analyzed, prominent international and regional issues, including Syria, Iran, the Caucasus, the Balkans and Central Asia, were also discussed. The meeting provided participants the opportunity to exchange opinions and openly discuss regional and international issues, which brought to light differences in the two countries’ approaches to foreign policy. During the talks, which were defined as friendly and constructive by both countries, the contribution of Turkey and Russia’s strategic partnership to the emergence of confidence and stability in the entire region was underlined.
Lavrov, drawing attention to the construction of the Mersin Akkuyu nuclear plant, Russia’s largest foreign investment, worth $20 billion, also recalled that Turkey had given the green light for the South Stream pipeline project, which will transport Russian natural gas to Europe by passing through Turkish territorial waters. The Russian minister held that with the conclusion of the projects, the size of trade between the two countries could reach $100 billion within five years. The Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline and construction projects have solidified ties between Russia and Turkey.
Netanyahu not Hopeful on Future of Peace Talks
Jan. 30….(Israel Today) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday sounded a pessimistic tone when discussing with his cabinet ministers the future potential of direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. "The signs are not particularly good," said Netanyahu in reference to exploratory talks currently taking place in Amman, Jordan. "But I hope they will rebound and we can make progress." Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian leadership for the seeming failure thus far of the Amman meetings, noting that the Palestinians "have refused to discuss with us our security needs."
A day earlier, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried to lay the blame on Netanyahu and his government, insisting that "Israeli intransigence" was behind the failure of the Amman talks, which the Palestinians have threatened to pull out of if Israel does not meet their demands within a matter of days. Abbas charged that Israel had failed to provide a "clear vision" regarding future borders and the removal of Jews from Judea and Samaria. Israel maintains that making such commitments at this point would prejudice the outcome of negotiations, and leave Israel with no bargaining chips. Netanyahu has for years been urging Abbas to return to direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions. Abbas has during that same time being doing his utmost to paint Netanyahu has the primary obstacle to peace over his refusal to accept preconditions.
US Anticipates May Clash with Iran
Jan. 30….(DEBKAfile Special Report) A hurried decision not to de-commission the USS Ponce helicopter marine carrier after duty in Libya, but to refit it for deployment by May in the Persian Gulf as a floating base for commando teams, was confirmed by the US Pentagon and Navy Sunday, Dec. 29. This transportable floating base will expand the commandos' range in coastal areas and support counter-measure against mines which Iran has threatened to plant in the Strait of Hormuz in reprisal for the US-EU oil embargo. The SEALs will also take on Iran's menacing fleet of military speedboats. Debkafile reports Tehran operates four different kinds of these craft in the Persian Gulf:
1. Small, fast vessels, each armed with a small missile for striking tankers and coastal oil targets around the Gulf region, such as export terminals. Earlier this month, Tehran claimed to have developed stealth cruise missiles capable of disabling aircraft carriers with a single shot.
2. Small, extra-fast boats armed with torpedoes. Iranian publications claim several such boats are capable of stealing up on US aircraft carriers and large warships from several directions without being detected and cause serious damage.
3. Floating bombs for kamikaze missions. These fast boats cannot be deflected after locking in on target, whether on sea or shore, and explode on contact.
Iran used these floating missiles piloted by suicide squads to attack oil tankers in the Gulf in November 1987. Since then, their naval tacticians have upgraded this fleet with the technology gained from the British Bladerunner 51, a model of which Iran purchased some years ago. Since early January, the Pentagon has reported four cases of harassment by Iranian military boats sailing close to American warships in the Persian Gulf.
4. Boats carrying teams of Iranian marine frogmen trained for secret suicide underwater missions: One member of the boat's three-man crew dives close to the targeted ship and attaches a magnetic bomb to its hull.
Iran has scattered hundreds of speedboats of different types around uninhabited islands off the Iranian mainland, tucking them out of sight in well-hidden inlets and bays. The US commando teams based on the Ponce platform will have the task of ferreting out and destroying this fleet. The US Defense Department aims to get the Ponce ready for its new mission as a floating commando base with all possible speed. To save time, the US military published one no-bid contract for the engineering work, waiving normal procurement rules on the grounds that any delay presented a "national security risk." The contract carries pointers to the timeline expected in Washington for a military confrontation to erupt between the United States and Iran, as well as the form it may take, say Debkafile's military sources.
The target date for deploying the commando platform in the Persian Gulf in four or five months indicates Washington is preparing for military clashes to blow up with Iran in the late spring or early summer. But according to Debkafile's Iranian and military sources, the Iranian administration has expressed its determination to respond instantly to any diplomatic or military move or action of an offensive nature against the Islamic Republic. And so confrontation may come earlier than anticipated. Sunday, the Iranian parliament was due to vote on a motion to cut off oil supplies to Europe in response to the EU embargo declared last week. Tehran has made it clear it has no intention of standing idle until US and European oil sanctions go fully into effect on July 1 and knows that EU nations are not set up to forego 400,000 barrels of oil a day right now. Saudi Arabia, which pledged to make up the shortfall arising from oil sanctions against Iran, will not have the missing quantities on stream before May, at about the same time as the Ponce and its complement of SEAL commandoes are due to take up position in the Persian Gulf. Tehran may decide not to wait and opt for letting its speedboats loose before then to try and pre-empt American and European plans.
WEEK OF JANUARY 22 THROUGH JANUARY 28
Christians in Syria and Iran Facing Increased Persecution
Jan. 27….(Worthy News) Syrian and Iranian Christians are being targeted for further persecution, according to Christian news reports. In an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post, Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, wrote: "After the ethnic cleansing of Jews in 1948 from the Arab countries, Islamic fundamentalism is now trying to push away the Christians from the region. They want to establish a pure Islamic environment and the mass exodus already began under our noses" "In Syria, Christians will be persecuted after Assad’s eventual fall, since they were the most loyal allies of the Baathist regime. Christians will be slaughtered, or squeezed from Cairo to Damascus; the Arab Christian era is near to its end everywhere," wrote Meotti.
The Pakistan Christian Post also reported that "The Christian community in Syria has been hit by a series of kidnappings and brutal murders; 100 Christians have now been killed since the anti-government unrest began. A reliable source in the country, who cannot be identified for their own safety, told Barnabas Aid that children were being especially targeted by the kidnappers, who, if they do not receive the ransom demanded, kill the victim." In Iran, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been on death row since 2010, has again refused to renounce his Christian belief in exchange for his freedom.
According to the International Christian news agency BosNewsLife, "Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam's prophet Mohammed as 'a messenger sent by God.'" Nadarkhani was first arrested for questioning the dominant role of state-sponsored Islamic religious instruction in his children's public school. According to Clifford D. May, president of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the persecution of Christians in numerous Muslim-majority countries is the most pressing news story ignored by the mainstream media. "If the situation were reversed, if such a war were being waged against Muslims, it would be the top story in every newspaper, the most urgent item at the UN, the highest priority of all the big-league human-rights groups."
Christians in Sudan Facing Death and Persecution
Jan. 27….(Worthy News) Christians in Sudan and newly created South Sudan face possible detention, beatings and even death amid a "deteriorating humanitarian situation" with thousands of people being killed this year alone, aid workers and Christians said in statements obtained by Worthy News Sunday, January 22. Severe inter-tribal warfare has caused an estimated 3,000 deaths and displaced over 100,000 people in the last two weeks," reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has been investigating the situation. The region was reportedly a disaster zone by President Salva Kiir. "Tensions over cattle-raiding are common between tribal groups, However the violence in Jonglei constitutes the worst internal violence since South Sudan gained its independence," from Sudan in July 2011, CSW added.
The troubles have been linked to religious tensions, with Sudan known as mainly Muslim and Arabic-speaking, while South Sudan is more indigenously African in race, culture, and religion, with Christian influences and a perceived Western orientation. Amid the chaos, Christians are fleeing. In published remarks, Zechariah Bol Deng, a senior elder of the Ngok Dinka tribe who are resident in Abyei, said, “Currently, people are still suffering, there are thousands living under trees near the river, unable to return to their homes due to the presence of the SAF in Abyei, and with very limited resources." He added that the presence of the Sudanese army "means that people are afraid to return to Abyei, and their situation is getting more and more desperate. Children are dying of preventable diseases and only a limited number of relief agencies are able to reach them.”
CSW said that attempts at finding a political solution were halted in May 2011, when the Sudan's troops took "the area by force." At least 130,000 Ngok Dinka residents fled the fighting, including Christians, the majority of whom are still unable to return to their homes, according to rights investigators. In Sudan's capital Kharthoum, minority Christians have also been pressured to leave the country towards South Sudan, with reports of detentions and beatings, church leaders said.
Two rounds of north-south civil wars have cost the lives of 1.5 million people, and a continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million people from their homes and killed more than 200,000, according to several estimates. Open Doors, another advocacy group investigating the situation, has warned that the tensions could add to persecution faced by Christians in the region.
Where is The Outcry About Muslim Persecution of Christians?
Jan. 27….(FOJ) The United Nations World Conferences Against Racism, commonly known as the Durban conference has been held regularly over the past ten years have been marked by rampant anti-Semitism. In each conference, the UN membership lambasts Israel as a racist state, and some members (like Iran) openly call for the extermination of Israel. It makes me wonder why the UN is not calling for a conference to discuss the accelerating persecution of Christians that is going in Islamic countries. Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and countless other Muslim countries are being persecuted without discrimination and without hesitation. Beyond that, the Muslim political hacks in every Christian nation are working feverishly to enact Islamic laws in democratic countries. Where is the outcry against all this persecution? How come US President Obama is not lending his voice to organizing such a conference? (oh I forgot, according to Mr. Obama we are not a Christian nation) We need a conference where Iraqi Christians, who numbered 1.5 million in 2003 and now number less than 500,000, can explain why they are leaving the country of their birth. They need a chance to make their case for an autonomous province in Iraq where religious and ethnic minorities can gather together against Islamists intent on making them disappear. We need a conference where Egyptian Coptic Christians can describe the church bombings, the abductions, the rapes and forced conversions they endure at the hands of Islamist in Egypt. We need a conference where Christians, whose churches have been destroyed in Nigeria and Ethiopia, can describe the attacks they’ve endured at the hands of Islamists. We need a conference where women who have endured beatings at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan can tell their story. We need a conference where women who have been set on fire or have been splashed with acid by their relatives can tell their story.
Israel Concerned About Saudi Air Force Being Enlarged Over Israel's Advanced US Fleet
Jan. 26….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) With its latest acquisitions from Washington and Europe, the Saudi Air Force will have more fighter-bombers of more advanced models that the Israeli Air Force. Deep concern over this was recently relayed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Debkafile's Washington and military sources that Israel made its concern known with the utmost discretion so as not to be seen as hampering the expansion of the Saudi Royal Air Force as Riyadh gets set to tackle Tehran should Saudi oil exports be sabotaged by Iranian attacks on its oil production or the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, its primary export outlet.
Last month, the US agreed to sell Saudi Arabia 84 advanced F-15SA fighter-bombers worth $29.4 billion. First deliveries are due in 2015. The package included the upgrading of 70 F-15 planes of the Saudi air fleet. Riyadh is also buying 72 advanced Eurofighter Typhoon fighter bombers. All in all, the oil kingdom will have the largest and most sophisticated fighter-bomber fleet in the Middle East. Israel leaders reminded the Obama administration of its standing pledge to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge in the region. The aircraft supplied to the Saudis will place that edge in doubt. They voiced two additional causes for concern:
1. One fine day, Saudi Arabia, which has never agreed to peace relations with Israel, may be moved to attack the Jewish State from an air base very close to Israel's shores. That proximity and the size and quality of its air force will allow dozens of warplanes to penetrate Israel's air defenses and drop bombs on southern and central Israel.
2. Israel also fears that four or five Saudi pilots or hired Islamist fliers may one day form an Al Qaeda cell inside the Saudi Air Force and conspire to carry out a suicide attack on Israeli cities on the model of al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, most of whose participants were Saudis.
Israeli intelligence officials in close touch with American counterparts asked them if Washington had asked for Saudi assurances about the reliability of the air crews who will man the new F-15SA planes. They were told that no such guarantees had been requested. For now, Israel has brought its concerns to the notice of the Obama Administration without making specific requests to hold up delivery. Israel is conscious that the Gulf region is on tenterhooks over its security and the Saudis are deep in military preparations to beat back potentially aggressive Iranian moves in the wake of the oil embargo approved by the US and the European Union against Tehran's nuclear program. Jerusalem also takes into consideration the importance to the flagging American economy of the huge warplane transaction with the Saudis which will support 50,000 jobs in the US air industry and 600 American contractors of aircraft parts. Obama will certainly not be approachable on this issue while running for re-election. But none of these considerations allays the deep anxiety prevailing in the top echelons of Israel's high military and air command over the radical upgrade awarded Saudi air power providing it with the capacity to outclass and outgun Israel.
America Was The Big Loser in 'Arab Spring'
(The US's rapid fall from regional power is everywhere in evidence)
Jan. 25….(Caroline Glick / JWR) A year ago this week, on January 25, 2011, the ground began to crumble under then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's feet. One year later, Mubarak and his sons are in prison, and standing trial. This week, the final vote tally from Egypt's parliamentary elections was published. The Islamist parties have won 72 percent of the seats in the lower house. The photogenic, Western-looking youth from Tahrir Square the Western media were thrilled to dub the Facebook revolutionaries were disgraced at the polls and exposed as an insignificant social and political force.
As for the military junta, it has made its peace with the Muslim Brotherhood. The generals and the jihadists are negotiating a power-sharing agreement. According to details of the agreement that have made their way to the media, the generals will remain the West's go-to guys for foreign affairs. The Muslim Brotherhood (and its fellow jihadists in the Salafist al-Nour party) will control Egypt's internal affairs. This is bad news for women and for non-Muslims. Egypt's Coptic Christians have been under continuous attack by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist supporters since Mubarak was deposed. Their churches, homes and businesses have been burned, looted and destroyed. Their wives and daughters have been raped. The military massacred them when they dared to protest their persecution. As for women, their main claim to fame since Mubarak's overthrow has been their sexual victimization at the hands of soldiers who stripped female protesters and performed "virginity tests" on them. Out of nearly five hundred seats in parliament, only 10 will be filled by women.
The Western media are centering their attention on what the next Egyptian constitution will look like and whether it will guarantee rights for women and minorities. What they fail to recognize is that the Islamic fundamentalists now in charge of Egypt don't need a constitution to implement their tyranny. All they require is what they already have, a public awareness of their political power and their partnership with the military. The same literalist approach that has prevented Western observers from reading the writing on the walls in terms of the Islamists' domestic empowerment has blinded them to the impact of Egypt's political transformation on the country's foreign policy posture. US officials forcefully proclaim that they will not abide by an Egyptian move to formally abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. What they fail to recognize is that whether or not the treaty is formally abrogated is irrelevant. The situation on the ground in which the new regime allows Sinai to be used as a launching ground for attacks against Israel, and as a highway for weapons and terror personnel to flow freely into Gaza, are clear signs that the peace with Israel is already dead - treaty or no treaty.
EGYPT'S TRANSFORMATION is not an isolated event. The disgraced former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in the US this week. Yemen is supposed to elect his successor next month. The deteriorating security situation in that strategically vital land which borders the Arabian and Red Seas has decreased the likelihood that the election will take place as planned. Yemen is falling apart at the seams. Al-Qaida forces have been advancing in the south. Last spring they took over Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. In recent weeks they captured Radda, a city 160 km. south of the capital of Sana. Radda's capture underscored American fears that the political upheaval in Yemen will provide al- Qaida with a foothold near shipping routes through the Red Sea and so enable the group to spread its influence to neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qaida forces were also prominent in the NATO-backed Libyan opposition forces that with NATO's help overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in October. Although the situation on the ground is far from clear, it appears that radical Islamic political forces are intimidating their way into power in post-Gaddafi Libya. Take for instance last weekend's riots in Benghazi. On Saturday protesters laid siege to the National Transitional Council offices in the city while Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the NTC, hid inside. In an attempt to quell the protesters' anger, Jalil fired six secular members of the NTC. He then appointed a council of religious leaders to investigate corruption charges and identify people with links to the Gaddafi regime.
In Bahrain, the Iranian-supported Shi'ite majority continues to mount political protests against the Sunni monarchy. Security forces killed two young Shi'ite protesters over the past week and a half, and opened fired at Shi'ites who sought to hold a protest march after attending the funeral of one of them. As supporters of Bahrain's Shi'ites have maintained since the unrest spread to the kingdom last year, Bahrain's Shi'ites are not Iranian proxies. But then, until the US pulled its troops out of Iraq last month, neither were Iraq's Shi'ites. What happened immediately after the US pullout is another story completely.
Extolling Iraq's swift deterioration into an Iranian satrapy, last Wednesday, Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps Jerusalem Brigade, bragged, "In reality, in south Lebanon and Iraq, the people are under the effect of the Islamic Republic's way of practice and thinking." While Suleimani probably exaggerated the situation, there is no doubt that Iran's increased influence in Iraq is being felt around the region. Iraq has come to the aid of Iran's Syrian client Bashar Assad who is now embroiled in a civil war. The rise of Iran in Iraq holds dire implications for the Hashemite regime in Jordan which is currently hanging on by a thread, challenged from within and without by the rising force of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Much has been written since the fall of Mubarak about the impact on Israel of the misnamed Arab Spring. Events like September's mob assault on Israel's embassy in Cairo and the murderous cross-border attack on motorists traveling on the road to Eilat by terrorists operating out of Sinai give force to the assessment that Israel is more imperiled than ever by the revolutionary events engulfing the region. But the truth is that while on balance Israel's regional posture has taken a hit, particularly from the overthrow of Mubarak and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, Israel is not the primary loser in the so-called Arab Spring.
Israel never had many assets in the Arab world to begin with. The Western-aligned autocracies were not Israel's allies. To the extent the likes of Mubarak and others have cooperated with Israel on various issues over the years, their cooperation was due not to any sense of comity with Jewish state. They worked with Israel because they believed it served their interests to do so. And at the same time Mubarak reined in the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas because they threatened him, he waged political war against Israel on every international stage and allowed anti-Semitic poison to be broadcast daily on his regime-controlled television stations. Since Israel's stake in the Arab power game has always been limited, its losses as a consequence of the fall of anti-Israel secular dictatorships and their replacement by anti-Israel Islamist regimes have been marginal. The US, on the other hand, has seen its interests massively harmed. Indeed, the US is the greatest loser of the pan-Arab revolutions.
TO UNDERSTAND the depth and breadth of America's losses, consider that on January 25, 2011, most Arab states were US allies to a greater or lesser degree. Mubarak was a strategic ally. Saleh was willing to collaborate with the US in combating al- Qaida and other jihadist forces in his country. Gaddafi was a neutered former enemy who had posed no threat to the US since 2004. Iraq was a protectorate. Jordan and Morocco were stable US clients. One year later, the elements of the US's alliance structure have either been destroyed or seriously weakened. US allies like Saudi Arabia, which have yet to be seriously threatened by the revolutionary violence, no longer trust the US. As the recently revealed nuclear cooperation between the Saudis and the Chinese makes clear, the Saudis are looking to other global powers to replace the US as their superpower protector.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect to the US's spectacular loss of influence and power in the Arab world is that most of its strategic collapse has been due to its own actions. In Egypt and Libya the US intervened prominently to bring down a US ally and a dictator who constituted no threat to its interests. Indeed, it went to war to bring Gaddafi down. Moreover, the US acted to bring about their fall at the same time it knew that they would be replaced by forces inimical to American national security interests. In Egypt, it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would emerge as the strongest political force in the country. In Libya, it was clear at the outset of the NATO campaign against Gaddafi that al-Qaida was prominently represented in the antiregime coalition. And just as the Islamists won the Egyptian election, shortly after Gaddafi was overthrown, al-Qaida forces raised their flag over Benghazi's courthouse. US actions from Yemen to Bahrain and beyond have followed a similar pattern.
In sharp contrast to his active interventionism against US-allied regimes, President Barack Obama has prominently refused to intervene in Syria, where the fate of a US foe hangs in the balance. Obama has sat back as Turkey has fashioned a Syrian opposition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Arab League has intervened in a manner that increases the prospect that Syria will descend into chaos in the event that the Assad regime is overthrown. Obama continues to speak grandly about his vision for the Middle East and his dedication to America's regional allies. And his supporters in the media continue to applaud his great success in foreign policy. But outside of their echo chamber, he and the country he leads are looked upon with increasing contempt and disgust throughout the Arab world. Obama's behavior since last January 25 has made clear to US friend and foe alike that under Obama, the US is more likely to attack you if you display weakness towards it than if you adopt a confrontational posture against it. As Assad survives to kill another day; as Iran expands its spheres of influence and gallops towards the nuclear bomb; as al- Qaida and its allies rise from the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal; and as Mubarak continues to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, the US's rapid fall from regional power is everywhere in evidence.
Netanyahu: World Silent on Threats to Destroy Israel
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused the world of remaining silent in the face of Iranian threats to destroy Israel.
Jan. 25….(Arutz) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took advantage of a special plenary meeting to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day to address the threats to Israel's existence. Seventy years after the Holocaust, much of the world remains silent in the face of Iran's declared intent to wipe Israel off the earth," Netanyahu said. "Much of the world are silent in the face of calls by Hizbullah for the destruction of Israel, and its continued murderous activities. Many remain silent in the face of calls by Hamas to kill Jews wherever they are. "These are days when most of the governments of the world remain silent in the face of cries of Palestinian Muftis to kill Jews wherever they are. Where is the condemnation of the Mufti? Not the Mufti of history, but the Mufti of today?
International Holocaust Remembrance Day should be the day the world stands behind the words 'never again,'" Netanyahu said. Netanyahu added, "This is a day when the world should unite against weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of dark regimes, led by the Ayatollah and his regime in Iran. I send greetings to leaders leaders of Europe and praise them for the important step of taking sanctions against Iran." He also singled out key Iranian oil consumers who have thus far refused to participate in sanctions against Iran and kept Tehran's oil exports from floundering. "It is important that other countries around the world will join this action. I mean China, Japan, India, and South Korea. Only a combination of crippling sanctions and a credible military threat on the table can force Iran to reconsider its nuclear program," he added. "We must ask ourselves whether we learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Can we take death threats seriously, or perhaps in this generation of Jews we do not see the danger before us? We can not stick our heads in the sand. "The Iranian regime openly calls for Israel's destruction, is planning the destruction of Israel, and is working daily to destroy Israel. The lesson says should spur the world to action," Netanyahu said. Iran has referred to Israel as "a one bomb state"
At UN, US, UK and Germany Demand Israel End Settlement Construction
(During Security Council session, Western states call on Israel to halt Jewish construction in territories, quell violence against Palestinians)
Jan. 25….(YNET) The US, Britain and Germany leveled harsh criticism at Israel's settlement construction policy on Tuesday. During a Security Council session, US Ambassador Susan Rice urged Israel to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank and work to quell settler violence against Palestinians. She also expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Washington's representative in the UN also criticized Palestinian incitement to violence and terrorist activity, including the launching of rockets towards Israeli territory. Rice also said the recent talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jordan were encouraging. British Ambassador to the UN Mark Grant accused Israel of employing violence in the territories and called on the Jewish state to halt all settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem.
Germany's UN ambassador, Peter Wittig, said Israel was attempting to detach east Jerusalem from the West Bank, a move he claimed would make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible. In his response to the criticism, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor told the Security Council, "The primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. The primary obstacle to peace is the so-called 'claim right of return.' Let me repeat that: the major hurdle to peace is the Palestinian’s insistence on the so-called 'claim of return.'" "You will never hear Palestinian leaders say 'two states for two peoples'. If you ever hear them say 'two states for two peoples', please phone my office immediately. Call me 'collect' in the event of such an unprecedented occurrence," he said. "You won’t hear them say 'two states for two peoples' because today the Palestinian leadership is calling for an independent Palestinian state, but insists that its people return to the Jewish state. This would mean the destruction of Israel.
Prosor continued to say that, "the idea that Israel will be flooded with millions of Palestinians will never be accepted. The international community knows it. The Palestinian leadership knows it. But the Palestinian people aren’t hearing it. In a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion last November, 90% of Palestinians said that they would not give up the 'claim of return.' This gap between their perception and reality is, and will remain, the major obstacle to peace. "Since the Palestinian leadership refuses to tell the Palestinian people the truth, the international community has the responsibility to tell them the truth. You have a responsibility to stand up and say that the so-called 'claim of return' is a non-starter. Yet, many around this table who never miss an opportunity to tell Israel what it has to do for peace, mumble, stutter and conveniently lose their voices when it comes time to tell the Palestinian people about the basic compromises they will have to make for peace," the Israeli envoy said. He added: "The Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state goes hand-in-hand with a culture of incitement in mosques, schools and media. Day after day, children are taught to pursue violence, and to hate, vilify, and dehumanize Israelis and Jews. "Let me be clear. I am not only talking about Hamas in Gaza,but also about the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where you can’t turn a corner without seeing terrorists and terrorism glorified," said Prosor.
Assad’s Fall Could Solve Iraqi Weapons Mystery
Jan. 24….(Washington Times) If Syria's regime falls, the US will be in a better position to answer one of the lingering questions from the long Iraq War: Did Baghdad ship weapons of mass destruction components to Syria before the 2003 American-led invasion? An opposition leader tells The Washington Times that a new, secular democracy in Syria would allow outside inspectors to survey and ensure destruction of what is believed to be one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the Middle East. Western and Israeli intelligence suspect that Bashar Assad's regime in Syria also owns weaponized nerve agents. Spy satellites tracked a large number of truck convoys moving from Iraq to Syria in the weeks before the 2003 invasion, raising suspicions that some carried weapons of mass destruction. The invading Americans never found stocks of such weapons in Iraq, despite two years of searching by the Iraq Survey Group. The result spurred the political left to attack President Bush with slogans such as "Bush lied, troops died," but nonpartisan national security figures said there was evidence that material may have been moved to Syria. There was just no way to get inside the Iranian-supported dictatorship to take a look.
Zuhdi Jasser, a Syrian-American physician who co-founded the group Save Syria Now, is working to bring an elected secular government to Damascus. He said the Assad regime, which has used brutal repression to remain in power, can fall within a year if the popular uprising comes to the capital. "As far as making sure there is a public transparent disposal of weapons of mass destruction, I believe so," Dr. Jasser told the Times. He said an emerging group, the Syrian Democratic Coalition, is preparing a pledge by pro-democracy members. "Many of us are banking on the fact they will not protect any arsenals there and allow a transparent change so they can be welcomed into the world community and not simply exchange one fascist government for another," he said. Disposing of Syria's chemical weapons "has to be part of the transition," he said. Research groups say the Assad regime maintains large stocks of chemical weapons, including mustard gas. "Over the past three decades, Syria has acquired an arsenal of chemical weapons (CW) and surface-to-surface missiles, reportedly has conducted research and development in biological weapons (BW), and may be interested in a nuclear weapons capability," said a 2003 report by the Congressional Research Service.
Iraq at one point did possess large stocks of chemical weapons and used them on Iran and the Iraqi Kurdish population. After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, UN inspectors destroyed huge caches. But US intelligence agencies always believed that Saddam Hussein clung to some materials because of his regime's efforts to evade and confuse UN inspectors. Suspicions lingered during the administration of President Clinton, who ordered five days of air-strikes on Iraq in 1998 to destroy what he said were remaining stockpiles that could fall into the hands of terrorists. Bush offered a similar rationale for war in 2003. "Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors," Mr. Clinton told the American people. Among those who suspect a Syrian connection is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., who is now the most senior US intelligence officer. He told The Times in 2003 that US satellites documented waves of truck traffic out of Iraq and into Syria. "I think personally that those below the senior leadership saw what was coming, and I think they went to some extraordinary lengths to dispose of the evidence," said Gen. Clapper, who then headed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and now is director of national intelligence. "I'll call it an educated hunch. "I think probably in the few months running up prior to the onset of combat that there was probably an intensive effort to disperse into private homes, move documentation and materials out of the country," he said. "I think there are any number of things that they would have done."
On the activity on the Syrian border, Gen. Clapper said: "There is no question that there was a lot of traffic, increase in traffic up to the immediate onset of combat and certainly during Iraqi Freedom. The obvious conclusion one draws is the sudden upturn, uptick in traffic which may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq and, unquestionably I'm sure, material as well." Such suspicion also found its way inside the Iraq Survey Group, the joint Pentagon-CIA organization formed to hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Charles Duelfer, who headed the Iraq Survey Group, filed a final addendum in 2005 to his exhaustive report. He said his investigators found "sufficiently credible" evidence that material for weapons of mass destruction was shifted from Iraq to Syria. "The Iraq Survey Group was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that weapons of mass destruction were evacuated to Syria before the war," he said.
Still Ignoring History
Jan. 24….(Jack Kelly) Everything that was important to know about him was laid out in his memoir/manifesto: his virulent racism; his contempt for Christianity, democracy and all things Western; his murderous hatred of the Jews. Adolf Hitler dictated "Mein Kampf" ("My Fight") to Rudolph Hess while in Landsberg prison in 1923. After Hitler became chancellor (prime minister) in 1933, a second edition, published in English and French as well as German, sold more than a million copies. Within a month of assuming office, Hitler began converting Germany into a dictatorship, just as he'd said he would in "Mein Kampf." He would seize land for lebensraum (living space) in the Slavic countries to the east, Russia especially, Hitler said in his manifesto. But when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Premier Edouard Daladier met with Hitler in Munich in September 1938, they chose to believe the Sudetenland represented the end of his territorial ambitions. By sacrificing their ally Czechoslovakia, they hoped to secure "peace in our time."
Chamberlain and Daladier chose to believe this because it would have been uncomfortable politically for them to acknowledge the truth. Liberals today delude themselves about the Muslim Brotherhood, for, I suppose, the same reason. But pretending a man-eating tiger is a pussycat doesn't make it so. The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher. He sought a world wide caliphate governed by Islamic law (Sharia). "Allah is our objective," says the Ikhwan's motto. "The Prophet is our leader. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our greatest hope."
Al Banna admired Hitler. He had "Mein Kampf" translated into Arabic. The Nazis subsidized the Muslim Brotherhood. The ranks of the SS Handjar Division were filled mostly by the Ikhwan. The Muslim Brotherhood is today the world's largest and best financed Islamist organization. It's in 70 countries, including ours. The Ikhwan's goals haven't changed, the current supreme leader said Dec. 29. "The Brotherhood is getting closer to achieving its greatest goal as envisioned by its founder, Imam Hassan al-Banna," said Dr. Muhammad Badi. "A government evolving into a rightly guided caliphate and mastership of the world." "Mein Kampf" is still, after the Koran, the Ikhwan's favorite book. "This stuff we now see in the Islamic world looks like Nazism because it comes from the Nazis," wrote journalist Claire Berlinski on her blog Ricochet.
In a 2009 sermon, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's leading jurist, said: "Thoughout history, Allah has imposed upon (the Jews) people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Adolf Hitler. Oh Allah, count their numbers and kill them, down to the very last one."
The Muslim Brotherhood supports terrorism against Israel, Americans, the Shiites in Iraq. But because it plans to get power the way Hitler did, many liberals view the Ikhwan as benign. President Barack Obama even chose Mr. Qaradawi to mediate peace talks with the Taliban. In elections Jan. 8, the Muslim Brotherhood won the most seats in the lower house of the Egyptian parliament. Islamist parties won nearly two thirds of the seats. The new speaker they chose is a member of the Ikhwan. Elections for the upper house begin in late January. The presidential elections are in June. If the Muslim Brotherhood wins control of the government, it eventually will try to impose Sharia and hold a referendum to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel. The Ikhwan are likely also to dominate the new government in Libya, where the regime of secular dictator Moammar Gadhafi was felled by NATO bombs, and in Syria, should secular dictator Bashar al-Assad fall there. Against all evidence, President Jimmy Carter in 1970 told himself the mullahs in Iran were moderate reformers. Against even more evidence, Obama regards the Muslim Brotherhood pretty much the same way. We're paying still a heavy price for Mr. Carter's egregious misjudgment. A greater miscalculation, with more profound consequences, looms.
Russia Sells Syria Yak-130 Light Fighters
(Moscow has agreed to sell the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad combat aircraft as his regime continues to teeter)
Jan. 24….(Arutz) Russia and Syria have signed a $550-million contract on the delivery of 36 Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten combat trainer, the Kommersant daily reported Monday. The report quoted a source close to Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport who indicated the aerospace company Irkut would produce the jets for Syria in the coming months. Both Rosoboronexport and Irkut declined to comment on the deall. However, the source said that under the deal, struck in December,the jets are to be supplied to Syria once Damascus makes an initial deposit on the deal, the source said. Analysts say the contract is “risky” given the worsening satiation in Syria and the growing international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad over his crackdown on protesters. Ruslan Pukhov, who heads the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Stategies and Technologies, told RIA Movosti the contract was “certainly a big success of Russia’s leaders and arms traders.” However, Pukhov cautioned that “the international community, led by the United States, has made a decision to crush Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and this may lead to the contract being disrupted and Russia suffering image and financial losses.” The contract was apparently signed when the situation in Syria was “not as dramatic as it is now,” Pukhov opined. Analysts say the craft would be a poor choice for fighting the growing insurgency faced by Assad's regime and is not capable of emerging victorious in air-to-air battles with Israeli, Turkish, or Western aircraft should a conventional war erupt.
The planes are only the latest arms sale to Assad's regime by Russia, who has opposed sanctions, including an arms embargo, on Syria. Russia, which has billions invested in Syrian trade and contracts, recently sold the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Damascus. Earlier this month, the United States expressed concerns over weapons deliveries to Damascus following media reports about a Russian ship loaded with arms docking in the Syrian port of Tartus. The official civilian death toll in Assad's nearly year-long crackdown on dissidents has risen to 5,400, according to United Nations human rights officials. Assad's regime says some 2,000 security personnel have also been killed by armed insurgents - mostly comprised of army defectors.
Britain, US and France Send Warships Through Strait of Hormuz
*(FOJ) Tensions in the Gulf could reach a breaking point as a senior Iranian official said Iran would “definitely” close the Strait of Hormuz if an EU oil embargo disrupted the export of crude oil. Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee, issued the warning in response to a decision by the European Union on Monday to impose an oil embargo on Iran over the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program. However, with Washington’s decision to deploy a second carrier strike group in the Gulf, the EU’s attempt to pressure Iran economically could greatly increase the likelihood of all-out war in the region.
Jan. 24….(Telegraph) Britain, America and France delivered a pointed signal to Iran, sending six warships led by a 100,000 ton aircraft carrier through the highly sensitive waters of the Strait of Hormuz. This deployment defied explicit Iranian threats to close the waterway. It coincided with an escalation in the West's confrontation with Iran over the country's nuclear ambitions. European Union foreign ministers are today expected to announce an embargo on Iranian oil exports, amounting to the most significant package of sanctions yet agreed. They are also likely to impose a partial freeze on assets held by the Iranian Central Bank in the EU. Tehran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation. Tankers carrying 17 million barrels of oil pass through this waterway every day, accounting for 35 per cent of the world's seaborne crude shipments. At its narrowest point, located between Iran and Oman, the Strait is only 21 miles wide. Last month, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Iranian navy, claimed that closing the Strait would be "easy," adding: "As Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water." But USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear-powered carrier capable of embarking 90 aircraft, passed through this channel and entered the Gulf without incident yesterday. HMS Argyll, a Type 23 frigate from the Royal Navy, was one of the escort vessels making up the carrier battle-group. A guided missile cruiser and two destroyers from the US Navy completed the flotilla, along with one warship from the French navy.
Iran Offered Syria’s Brotherhood Power if it Lets Assad Stay
Jan. 23….(Al Arabia) Iran has offered the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood a deal that includes giving the Islamist opposition group all of the government, but under the condition that President Bashar al-Assad remains as the country’s premier, an official said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday. Mohammed Taifour, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy Superintendent and one of its representatives in the country’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, told the London-based al-Hayat Newspaper that via a Turkish businessman he knows three Iranian merchants requested to see him. Taifour, who rejected negotiation with the Iranian businessmen citing Iran’s support of the Syrian regime, said their deal offer started first with giving the Islamist group four ministerial positions and ended with giving them the entire government, as long as Assad kept his leadership position. The initiation of the first deal offer came three months ago, said Taifour. Taifour rejected the notion that Hamas had played an intermediary role, saying that his group’s relationship with Hamas is almost nonexistent.
In early January, the Arab League chief, Nabil al-Arabi, asked the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, to ask Syria to work to halt violence against protesters. Instead, the high-ranking Brotherhood official called for the international community to protect Syrian civilians and supported the French foreign minister’s proposal of creating safe corridors. “There must be a direction from the Arab League to issue a report and transfer it to the Security Council,” he told the newspaper. At the same time, Taifour rejected the Western powers’ call to unify the Syrian opposition, describing such idea as “marriage by force.” He said that the National Coordination Committee includes officials who are close to the regime, in addition to national opposition figures. He also accused Lebanon’s Hezbollah, along with Iran, of aiding the Syrian regime with human resources and logistical support. Most of the snipers in Syria, according to Taifour, are either Iranian or Lebanese.
The UN has estimated that there are more than 5,400 Syrian civilians, dissidents, protesters who are killed since the beginning of the uprising against the Syrian regime in March. He said that there is a huge difference between the positions of Hamas and Hezbollah. Hamas, he said, is quiet and semi-neutral, while Hezbolla is definitely pro-Assad. Meanwhile, he rejected that the revolution in Syria is heading towards militarization of the opposition; instead he blamed the onus on the regime for wanting to drag Syrians into a sectarian war.
Iran supplying Syria?
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday there was “growing evidence” that Iran was supplying weapons to Syria to help in the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Cameron blamed the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah for channeling arms into Syria where 5,400 people have been killed in violence since March, as he described President Bashad al-Assad as a “wretched tyrant.” He promised that Britain would “lead the way” in tightening sanctions and asset bans against Syria. “There is now growing evidence that Iran is providing a huge amount of support,” Cameron told lawmakers. “There have been interceptions of some shipments by Turkey which are particularly interesting. “People should also know that Hezbollah is an organization standing up and supporting this wretched tyrant who is killing so many of his own people.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday that a UN Security Council resolution on Syria was “long overdue”, but conceded that it was unlikely Russia would let the UN body take any serious action. Prolonged talks on the issue at the Security Council on Tuesday failed to move closer to UN action on the bloodshed, diplomats said.
Just How Bad is the Muslim Brotherhood?
(Despite reassurances, Muslim Brotherhood’s rise likely to bring difficult days for Israel)
Jan. 23….(Ha Aretz) According to the latest reports, the Muslim Brotherhood has officially won a majority of the seats in Egypt’s parliament. This is not what we were told would happen when the rebellious demonstrations began in Tahrir Square last year. The so-called Arab Spring was supposed to be a harvest of political rebirth and enlightenment. However, the latest developments show yet again that the Arab world isn’t heading towards democracy and freedom, but rather, is approaching the strict and clearly non-democratic religious doctrines of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Islamic fraternal organization in Egypt and perhaps the world. It was banned from entering politics for decades, but on account of the popular uprising in Egypt the movement was allowed to run for parliament and has now won a majority. What does that bode for the future?
The phenomenon of Muslim Brotherhood Jew hatred and Israel-bashing has existed for many years. In his book Jihad and Jew Hatred, German scholar Matthias Kuntzel writes: “From its founding in 1928 The Society of Muslim Brothers has been the driving force in the dramatic shift between a neutral or even pro-Jewish attitude in the Arab world to a rabidly anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish one. For today’s global Islamist movement, the Muslim Brothers are what the Bolsheviks were for the Communist movement of the 1920’s, the ideological reference point and organizational core which decisively inspired all the subsequent tendencies and continues so to this day.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s links to the Nazis began during the 1930s and were close during the Second World War, involving agitation against the British, espionage and sabotage, as well as support for terrorist activities orchestrated by Haj Amin el-Hussaini in British Mandate Palestine. This was confirmed by a wide range of declassified documents from the British, American and Nazi governmental archives.
‘Fight Against Israel to continue until Judgment Day’
Reflecting this connection, the Muslim Brotherhood also widely disseminated Hitler's Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Arab translations, further deepening and extend already existing hostile views about Jews and Western societies. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan al Banna said, for example: “the civilization of the West, which was brilliant by virtue of its scientific perfection for a long time, and which subjugated the whole world with the products of this science to its states and nations, is now bankrupt and in decline.”
While Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood’s home base, the organization has branches in 70 countries, including Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Palestine branch was established in 1935 by Hassan al Banna’s brother. In 1987, the Hamas branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was founded and represents today a bitter threat to Israel on every front. In October 2011, Dr. Muhammad Abd Al-Rahman Al- Masri wrote that the conflict between Muslims and Israel is, at heart, religious and that jihad must be waged wherever Islamic land is occupied: “The conflict between the Zionist state and the Muslim Ummah is not like the fight between a landowner and a plundering occupier. This fight is, in essence, a struggle of faith. The Koran indicates this fight will continue until the Day of Judgment.”
Another writer on the Muslim Brotherhood website said: “The attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo is one of the milestones of Egyptian revolution.” Moreover, in a recent MEMRI report on a Muslim Brotherhood website, the researchers documented the worst degree of Holocaust denial and condemnations of the Egyptian Israel peace treaty. So how bad is the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise for Israel? Despite reassuring words by Brotherhood spokesmen, (and the Western Democracy advocates) the movement’s long anti-Jewish track record and its recent entry into Egyptian parliament suggest that difficult days are ahead.
WEEK OF JANUARY 15 THROUGH JANUARY 21
Russia: Western Intervention in Arab Spring Will Lead to A 'Very Big War
(Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, warned that outside encouragement of antigovernment uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa could lead to “a very big war that will cause suffering not only to countries in the region, but also to states far beyond its boundaries.)
Jan. 20….(New York Times) Russian Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov’s annual news conference was largely devoted to a critique of Western policies in Iran and Syria, which he said could lead to a spiral of violence. His remarks came on the heels of a report on state-controlled television that accused the American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who has been in Moscow for less than a week, of working to provoke a revolution in Mosxow. Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, at an impromptu meeting with prominent editors, also unleashed an attack on the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, which he said was serving American interests. Lavrov said Russia would use its position on the United Nations Security Council to veto any United Nations authorization of military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The United Nations has repeatedly called for Syria end a crackdown on opposition demonstrators, which Arab League monitors say resulted in hundreds of deaths over the past month. “If someone conceives the idea of using force at any cost, and I’ve already heard calls for sending some Arab troops to Syria, we are unlikely to be able to prevent this,” Lavrov said. “But this should be done on their own initiative and should remain on their conscience. They won’t get any authorization from the Security Council.” Mr. Lavrov said foreign governments were arming “militants and extremists” in Syria, and he gave a bristling response to Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, who on Tuesday expressed concern about possible Russian arms shipments to Syria.
Mr. Lavrov offered a similarly grave message about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, which he said would be a “catastrophe.” He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran were “intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.” Relations between Moscow and Washington have worsened over the past year, as the cordial tone of the “reset” between President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev has been replaced by a drumbeat of criticism. Mr. Lavrov said that Russia and the United States were not adversaries, and that “the cold war ended a long time ago.” By contrast, however, he was glowing about Russia’s cooperation with China, which he said was “the highest in the history of our bilateral relationship.”
Netanyahu: Palestinian Authority Doesn't Want Peace
Jan. 20….(Israel Today) Twice over the past week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has charged that the Palestinian Authority is the main obstacle to peace, first because of its refusal to negotiation without preconditions and second due to its ongoing refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. Netanyahu told a gathering of Israeli lawmakers on Monday that while he is ready to discuss any peace conditions with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, he will not accept preconditions. Abbas demands that Israel first further demonstrate its goodwill by releaseing all jailed Palestinian terrorists and banning all Jewish construction in areas claimed by the Palestinians, including the eastern side of Jerusalem. "The Palestinian have no interest in entering peace talks," said Netanyahu. "I'm ready to travel now to Ramallah to start peace talks with Abu Mazen, without preconditions. But the simple truth is that Abbas is not ready."
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are currently holding talks in neighboring Jordan, but the Palestinian Authority has declared that it will not remain at the table past January 26 unless Israel accepts the above conditions. Israeli officials say the Palestinians know these are red lines for Israel (especially as preconditions) are are designed to scuttle the talks. During a state visit to the Netherlands on Wednesday, Netanyahu went on to explain that the peace process would never have become bogged down if only the Palestinians would recognize Israel's right to exist. The root cause of the conflict is "the persistent refusal to accept a Jewish state within any boundaries," said Netanyahu during a visit to a 400-year-old synagogue in Amsterdam.
Netanyahu noted that he has been asking for three years for Abbas to finally fulfill the original "Oslo Accords" by recognizing Israel's right to exist and to return to the negotiating table. Despite his firm stance on this point, Netanyahu stressed that unlike the Palestinians, he is not setting any preconditions to negotiations, and will restart talks with Abbas tomorrow, whether or not the latter has accepted Israel as the Jewish state. Netanyahu's visit is the first by an Israeli prime minister to the Netherlands in 15 years. He thanked the conservative government of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for its consistent pro-Israel stance and for helping defend Israel against hostile European Union rulings.
Netanyahu: Iran has Decided to Become a Nuclear State
Jan. 20…. (DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Thursday night, Jan. 19 that Iran had decided to become a nuclear state. He urged action before it was too late to stop Iran completing the construction of a nuclear weapon. His statement at the end of a visit to Holland gave Gen Martin Dempsey, on his first visit to Israel as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the message he will be asked to take back to President Barack Obama. It also contradicted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's statement that Tehran had not yet decided to go nuclear. On Dec. 22, 2011, Debkafile first revealed Tehran had reached a decision to go ahead and build a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu has kept the Iranian cards close to his chest. His statement therefore caught wrong-footed the Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who in the last 48 hours had asserted that Iran had not yet decided whether to build a nuclear bomb and there was still time for US-led sanctions to work.
US Gen. Martin Dempsey began his first visit to Israel as Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff amid a major falling-out between the two governments over the handling of Iran's nuclear weapon potential. debkafile's military and Washington sources confirm that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands by the view that Iran is advancing its plans to build a nuclear bomb full speed ahead, undeterred even by the threat of harsher sanctions. Netanyahu therefore stands by his refusal of President Barack Obama's demand for a commitment to abstain from a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear sites without prior notice to Washington. The US president repeated this demand when he called the Israeli prime minister Thursday night Jan. 13. Netanyahu replied that, in view of their disagreement on this point, he preferred to cancel the biggest US-Israel war game ever staged due to have taken place in April. The exercise was to have tested the level of coordination between the two armies in missile defense for the contingency of a war with Iran or a regional conflict. Netanyahu was concerned that having large-scale US military forces in the country would restrict his leeway for decision-making on Iran. In an effort to limit the damage to relations with the US administration, Defense Minister Ehud Barak struck a conciliatory note Wednesday, Jan. 18, saying, "Israel is still very far from a decision on attacking Iran's nuclear facilities." Striking the pose of middleman, he was trying to let Washington know that there was still time for the US and Israel to reach an accommodation on whether and when a strike should take place.
Debkafile's sources doubt that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are in any mood to respond to Barak's effort to cool the dispute. Obama needs to be sure he will not be taken by surprise by an Israel attack in the middle of his campaign for re-election, especially since he has begun taking heat on the Iranian issue. Republican rivals are accusing him of being soft on Iran. And while the economy is the dominant election issue, a majority of Americans disapprove of his handling of Iran's nuclear ambitions by a margin of 48 to 33 percent according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll this week. Wednesday (Thursday morning Israel time), President Obama responded by reiterating that he has been clear since running for the presidency that he will take "every step available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Before he took off for a short trip to Holland, Netanyahu instructed Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz not to deviate in their talks with Gen. Dempsey from the position he took with the US president, namely, no commitment for advance notice to Washington about a unilateral strike against Iran. The Israeli prime minister is convinced that, contrary to the claims by US spokesmen and media, that current sanctions are ineffective insofar as slowing Iran's advance toward a nuclear weapon and the harsher sanctions on Iran's central bank and oil exports are too slow and will take hold too late to achieve their purpose.
In any case, say Israeli officials, Washington is again signaling its willingness to go back to direct nuclear negotiations with Tehran, although past experience proved that Iran exploits diplomatic dialogue as grace time for moving forward on its nuclear ambitions. US spokesmen denied an Iranian report that a recent letter from the US president to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proposed opening a direct channel for talks. Still those reports persist. American and European spokesmen were forced to deny a statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi Wednesday on his arrival in Ankara that Iran and the big powers are in contact over the revival of nuclear negotiations. Netanyahu fears that dialogue between Iran and the five powers plus Germany (the P5+1) will resume after bowing to an Iranian stipulation that sanctions be suspended for the duration of the talks. Once again, Tehran will be enabled to steal a march on the US and Israel and bring its nuclear weapon program to conclusion, unhindered by economic constraints.
Russia: EU and US Want War With Syria
Jan. 20….(EU Observer) Russia has accused NATO countries of trying to start a war with Syria and foment unrest in Iran, claims backed up by some Western security analysts. Its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov at a press briefing in Moscow on Wednesday said: "Our partners in the West are in fact discussing a no-fly zone. There are other ideas being realized, including humanitarian convoys, in the hope they could provoke a response from Syrian government forces." He added, without naming names, that foreign powers are supplying arms to Syrian "extremists." He also noted the EU and US are keen to remove a line from a Russian-draft UN resolution on Syria which forbids use of outside force. "If someone conceives the idea of using force at any cost, and I've already heard calls for sending some Arab troops to Syria, we are unlikely to be able to prevent this. But this should be done on their own initiative, and should remain on their conscience. They won't get any authorization from the UN Security Council." On Iran, he said the EU's soon-to-be-announced oil embargo is an attempt to foment revolution. "It is really calculated to have a suffocating effect on the Iranian economy and on the situation of the Iranian population, in an apparent attempt to provoke discontent," the minister said. He warned that a Western military strike on Iran could trigger war between the Shia Muslim power and its Sunni Muslim rival, Saudi Arabia: "It would pour fuel on the already smouldering fire of the Sunni-Shia conflict and cause a chain reaction. I don't know where it would stop." With Lavrov confirming that Russian arms traders are still shipping guns to Syria, its Cold-War-era ally, the Kremlin has little moral authority on the subject. Its line also supports Syria's campaign to delegitimize rebels by talk of an external plot. A number of Western commentators from the security establishment have in recent months aired similar views, however.
Writing in the US journal American Conservative on 19 December, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi said the anti-Syria war effort has already begun. "Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi's arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council. Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and US Spec-Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence."
Another former CIA officer, Robert Baer in June last year told EU Observer: "We've taken sides in the Middle East. We've taken sides with Israel and with the Sunnis, from the US to the Dutch and the French." He added: "I'm still talking to my Syrian contacts and they are quite convinced that weapons are coming in to the opposition not just from the Sunnis in Lebanon and through Iraq but also from Turkey." For his part, retired MI6 officer Alastiar Crooke, who runs an NGO in Beirut, told this website Syrian exile groups in France and the US are feeding Western media with uncorroborated stories of atrocities and false accounts of grassroots revolt. "Syrians want change. But whether Westerners believe it or not, most people in Damascus, in Aleppo, the middle classes, the merchant classes and the sectarian minorities, believe President Assad is the only person who can bring in reforms," he said.
Damascus is A City on Edge
Jan.19.(MSNBC) Damascus is a city on edge. There is an uneasy nervousness in the city. Yes, shops are open, and restaurants and cafés bustle with patrons. But that’s up to a certain time, and for those who know Damascus, it’s a few hours less than normal, and a few hours less than what it was just a few months ago. There is an unofficial curfew, imposed by residents who are weary of a different city after dark. There are parts of the city where the risks of travel are too dangerous at night. As we drive around one roundabout in the city, we veer on to a side street. "This side of the circle is safe. If you drive a kilometer in the other side, there are tensions between the residents and the security," my friend tells me. The government says "armed gangs" have inched closer to the capital, frequently attacking security checkpoints at night. Several attacks have already happened in the heart of the capital. And even government employees concede certain routes in and out of the city have become too dangerous to traverse. Anti-government activists say momentum is on their side as pressure mounts on the government, with political and military defections increasing. When night falls, security forces crack down on neighborhoods close to the capital where anti-government sentiment runs high.
Along one of the capital's main streets, one side of the street is well lit. The other is dark. Local residents tell me power outages are becoming more frequent across the city. There are rolling blackouts and increasing shortages of fuel and gas. Factories are shutting down, exports are halting. The value of the Syrian currency is plummeting and inflation is skyrocketing as a result of international and Arab sanctions that are aimed at punishing Assad's government. But the sanctions are clearly taking a toll on the daily lives of Syrians.
Russia Protecting Iran From The West
(Russia again stepped up to protect Iran from Western interference warning that further sanctions would only "stifle" the economy.)
Jan. 19….(Arutz) Russia reached out to protect Iran from the West on Wednesday, warning that sanctions would "stifle" the Iranian economy. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters at a news conference that Western nations should instead return to focusing their efforts on reviving talks with Iran. Lavrov warned that any efforts to impose additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic would cause a "stifling effect on the Iranian economy... in the hope of provoking discontent." The Russian foreign minister also attempted to forestall any talk of a potential military attack to end Iran's its nuclear threat to the world, saying such a move "would pour fuel on the 'hidden smouldering fire of Sunni-Shi'ite confrontation." The intra-Muslim conflict between the two sects has indeed fueled friction between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and between Iran and Bahrain, where Shi'ite populations have attempted uprisings against the Wahabi and Sunni regimes.
Iran's Terror Cells Will Hit Saudi Arabia, Turkey, US and Oil Targets
Jan. 19….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) In the past 48 hours, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey have alerted Washington to intelligence reports of Iranian Al Qods Brigades operatives heading their way for attacks on oil installations and American targets. The alert was accompanied by a query about how the US intended to respond to the approaching menace. Reporting this, Debkafile’s intelligence and counter-terrorism sources say the information relayed to Washington was more detailed and specific than the customary tip-off. A US spokesman accused Tehran of deepening its involvement in the Syrian conflict. For the second time in a week, Washington disclosed that Al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani had visited Damascus recently, confirming Iranian arms shipments for ensuring President Bashar Assad's victory over the uprising against him.
Debkafile’s intelligence sources report that another part of Soleimani's Damascus mission was to synchronize the Al Qods cells' strikes across the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Gaza and Sinai, with the tempo of Assad's crackdown on protest. He also dealt with setting up terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. A US spokesman said: “We are confident that he was received at the highest levels of the Syrian government, including by President Assad.” Four months ago, in October 2011, the US accused Soleimani of a hatching a conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Tuesday night, the Turkish Security General Directorate-EGM put all the country's 81 districts on guard for the expected arrival of Al Qods operatives to stir up mass unrest against the Erdogan government and attack the US embassy and provincial consulates-general. Their arrival, said the EGM notice, would be coordinated with the infiltration of Hizballah terrorist teams to Turkey.
Debkafile’s sources in Ankara believe Tehran is kicking off its first round of Middle East terrorist operations in Turkey as punishment for consenting to the installation of a US radar station on its soil for the NATO shield against incoming Iranian missile attacks, in defiance of Iran's warnings. The Erdogan government is also being penalized for actively supporting Syrian resistance to the Assad regime, especially the Free Syrian Army-SFA. When Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani visited Ankara Jan. 12, he delivered a last warning to the Turkish government to desist from both steps, although the visit was officially billed as focusing on the resumption of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five powers plus Germany. Larijani's talks clearly ended in disagreement, judging by his parting shot: “We've got our ways of doing things.”
A senior counterterrorism source told Debkafile sources on Wednesday, Jan. 18 that the Iranians are setting Turkey up as an example to show the US and their Middle East antagonists what they can expect when Tehran lets the Al Qods Brigades loose against them. According to the information relayed to Washington by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Al Qods has been placed on the ready for action, such as blowing up oil fields, oil pipelines and oil export terminals. Some of its cells are already present among the two countries' Shiite populations in the guise of longtime Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals of Iranian descent; others to be dropped by sea on the Saudi and Kuwaiti coasts.
'EU: Israel Undermining Jerusalem as Capital of 2 States'
(Report by European diplomats calls on EU to enact laws discouraging business that helps build settlements)
Jan. 19….(Jerusalem Post) Israel's policies in Jerusalem are "systematically undermining the Palestinian presence" in the city and making the prospect of it becoming the shared capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state "increasingly unlikely and unworkable," British daily The Independent quoted a report drafted by European diplomats as saying. According to a Wednesday report in The Guardian, the EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem is an assessment of Israeli settlement activity's effect on the prospect for Jerusalem to serve as the future capital of Israel and a Palestinian state. The report drafted by European Union delegates to Jerusalem and Ramallah charges Israel with waging a campaign to "emphasize the Jewish identity of the capital city, at the expense of its Muslim and Christian residents" in efforts to annex east Jerusalem, according to The Independent. The Guardian reported that the document characterizes the situation as "deteriorating" and cautions that "the systematic increase in settlement activity... increasingly undermines the two-state solution." The report was approved by EU diplomats on Friday and sent to Brussels on Monday, according to The Guardian.
The confidential report called on the European Union to enact legislation to prevent or discourage European companies from doing business which benefits Israeli settlements, the Guardian added. According to the Israeli media, the report also raises the possibility of blacklisting settlers perceived as violent from the EU. The report also cited disparities in resource allocation to Jeruslaem's Jewish an Arab populations. According to the Independent, the report states that Palestinians represent 37 percent of Jerusalem's population but only 10% of the city's resources are spent to provide them with services. The report also decried the lack of available schooling for Palestinian children in the capital, with less than half attending municipal schools, The Independent reported. The report on Jerusalem followed a similar report on Area C of the West Bank released last week. The Independent reported last Thursday that an internal European Union report says that a range of Israeli actions in Area C of the West Bank undermine the area's Palestinian population, thereby contributing to the "closing of the window" for reaching a two-state solution.
UN Blames Israel For Gaza Poverty
Jan. 19….(YNET) The United Nations' submitted its annual report on the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories on Wednesday, painting a grim picture that includes food insecurity, isolation, violence and failing health and education services, all courtesy of the Israeli "occupation." The report, which was presented during a Security Council session upon the Palestinians' request, asserted that the number of civilian casualties rose by more than 30% in Gaza and the West Bank compared to 2010. "Serious protection and human rights issues, limited access to essential services and entrenched levels of food insecurity continue to characterize the day-to-day lives of many Palestinians," the report stated. "Israeli authorities continued to impose a blockade on Gaza, amounting to collective punishment of the population and affecting every aspect of life in the Gaza Strip," it adds. The report maintains that the policies that restrict the Gazans' access to areas with viable agriculture and fishing prospects constrain their livelihoods. Moreover, restrictions on the movement of goods and people into Gaza compromise the region's health, education and sanitation services.
The UN also addressed the situation in east Jerusalem, arguing that the Palestinian population there is growing isolated from the rest of the West Bank. Furthermore, the residents of Area C, which makes up 60% of the West Bank and is under Israeli control, have been facing escalating rates of home demolitions, settler violence and restricted travel. "The threat to lives and livelihoods became too great for many, coping strategies were overwhelmed and an increasing number of Palestinians were displaced from their homes and their land," the report claims. The global body called on organizations and policy makers to work towards alleviating the suffering and demand respect for the Palestinians' human rights. "Progress in the peace process is desperately needed, the coping strategies of Palestinian communities are being eroded with each year that passes," the report said. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor slammed the Security Council for "wasting time on an issue that does not pose a humanitarian crisis." He noted that while Gaza saw a 28% growth in its Gross Domestic Product, 4 million Somalis are starving and people in Haiti, Sudan and Afghanistan don't have access to water. Prosor later told reporters that a humanitarian crisis can be found in southern Israel, where kids have 15 seconds to take cover when a rocket is about to explode.
Joint US-Israel Drill Called off by Netanyahu, Not Washington
Jan. 18….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Debkafile's sources disclose exclusively that, contrary to recent reports published in Washington, Jerusalem, and DEBKA too, it was Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, not the Obama administration, who decided to call off the biggest ever joint US-Israeli military exercise Austere Challenge 12 scheduled for April 2012. Washington was taken aback by the decision. It was perceived as a mark of Israel's disapproval for the administration's apparent hesitancy in going through with the only tough sanctions with any chance of working against Iran's nuclear weapon program: penalizing its central bank and blocking payments for its petroleum exports. This was the first time Israel had ever postponed a joint military exercise; it generated a seismic moment in relations between the US and Israel at a time when Iran has never been so close to producing a nuclear weapon.
This week, Netanyahu further orchestrated a series of uncharacteristically critical statements by senior ministers: Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon called the Obama administration "hesitant" (Jan. 15), after which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the Americans to "move from words to deeds" (Jan 16). The underlying message was that the Israeli government felt free to attack Iran's nuclear sites on its own if necessary and at a time of its choosing. Debkafile's sources report that Netanyahu decided on this extreme course after careful consideration when he judged the Obama administration's resolve to preempt a nuclear Iran to be flagging, as indicated by four omissions:
1. Washington has taken no action against Iran's capture of the RQ-170 stealth drone on Dec. 4 more than a month after the event, and not even pressed President Obama's demand of Dec. 12 for the drone's return. Tehran, for its part, continues to make hay from the event: This week, our Iranian sources report, the Islamic Republic circulated a new computer game called "Down the RQ-170." Players assemble the drone from the components shown on their screens and then launch it for attacks on America.
2. Silence from Washington also greeted the start of 20-percent grade uranium enrichment at the underground Fordo facility near Qom when it was announced Jan. 9. Last November, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned in two US TV interviews (Nov. 17 and 22) that as soon as the Fordo facility went on stream, Iran would start whisking the rest of its nuclear facilities into underground bunkers, out of reach and sight of US and Israeli surveillance. Barak made it clear at the time that Israel could not live with this development; therefore, the Netanyahu government believes Israel's credibility is now at stake.
3. Exactly three weeks ago, on Jan. 3 Lt. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, Iran's Army chief, announced that the aircraft carrier USS Stennis and other "enemy ships" would henceforth be barred from entering the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. Yet since then, no US carrier has put this threat to the test by attempting a crossing. Tehran has been left to crow.
4. Even after approving sanctions on Iran's central bank and energy industry, the White House announced they would be introduced in stages in the course of the year. According to Israeli's calculus, another six months free of stiff penalties will give Iran respite for bringing its nuclear weapon program to a dangerous and irreversible level.
Iran Warns of Consequences if Arabs Back Oil Sanctions
Jan. 17….(Reuters) Iran warned Gulf Arab neighbors they would suffer consequences if they raised oil output to replace Iranian crude facing an international ban. In signs of Tehran's deepening isolation over its refusal to halt nuclear activity that could yield atomic bombs, China's premier was in Saudi Arabia on Sunday probing for greater access to its huge oil and gas reserves and Britain voiced confidence a once hesitant EU would soon ban oil imports from Iran. Major importers of Iranian oil were long loath to embargo the lifeblood of Iran's economy because of fears this would send oil prices rocketing at a time, amidst debt and deficit crises and high unemployment, when they could least afford it. But strong momentum for oil sanctions has been created by a UN watchdog report saying Iran appeared to have worked on designing an atom bomb.
A new US law signed by President Barack Obama on New Year's Eve would freeze out of the US financial system any institution dealing with Iran's central bank, which processes its oil revenues. If fully applied, the law would make it impossible for most countries to buy Iranian oil. Washington is offering waivers to countries to let them keep buying Iranian oil for now, but demanding they gradually cut their imports back. Leaders from some of the Asian countries that buy the most Iranian oil have begun touring the Middle East to secure alternative supply lines from Arab states. European buyers suggest they will also lean more heavily on Arab oil producers should an EU ban come into effect. Feeling increasingly encircled, Iran's hardline Islamic clerical elite has lashed back by threatening to block the main Middle East oil shipping route. Since the New Year, Tehran also began to enrich uranium in an underground bunker and sentenced an Iranian-American citizen to death on espionage charges.
Iranian OPEC Governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi said Tehran would regard as an unfriendly act any move by neighboring Gulf Arab oil exporters to make up for Iranian crude. "If (they) give the green light to replacing Iran's oil these countries would be the main culprits for whatever happens in the region, including the Strait of Hormuz," Khatibi told the Sharq daily newspaper, referring to the narrow sea channel through which a third of the world's oil tanker traffic passes. "Our Arab neighbor countries should not cooperate with US and European) adventurers. These measures will not be perceived as friendly," he said. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Saturday the world's No. 1 oil exporter, the only one in OPEC with significant unused capacity, was ready and able to meet any increase in demand. He made no direct reference to sanctions on Iran. Iran's navy commander Habibollah Sayyari said Tehran could exert control over the Strait of Hormuz. The United States, whose warships patrol the region, says it will not tolerate any attempt to disrupt shipping through the strait.
US (Obama) Warns Israel About Attacking Iran
Jan. 17….(In The Days) US defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over US objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard US facilities in the region in case of a conflict. President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a harsh string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The US wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons. Stepping up the pressure, Obama spoke by telephone on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week.
The high-stakes planning and diplomacy comes as US officials warn Tehran, including through what administration officials described Friday as direct messages to Iran’s leaders, against provocative actions. Tehran has warned that it could retaliate to tightened sanctions by blocking oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz. Covert efforts by Israel’s intelligence service to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons have been credited with slowing the program without the high risk of military conflict that could be sparked by an airstrike. Officially, it is the policy of the Israeli government, and the Obama administration, that all options remain on the table. And it is crucial that the ayatollahs in Tehran take this policy seriously,” said Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US.
Meanwhile, the US military is preparing for a number of possible responses to an Israeli strike, including assaults by pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq against the US Embassy in Baghdad. The US believes its embassy and other diplomatic outposts in Iraq are more vulnerable following the withdrawal of US forces last month. In large measure to deter Iran, the US has 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and has moved a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf area. It has also been pre-positioning aircraft and other military equipment, officials say. Arms transfers to key allies in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have been fast-tracked as a further deterrent, officials say.
Israeli officials said Mr. Netanyahu’s government continues to closely coordinate with the US in responding to the Iranian threat. “Israel believes that heightened sanctions combined with a credible military threat may dissuade the Iranian regime from developing nuclear capabilities,” Mr. Oren said. Mr. Panetta and other top officials have privately sought assurances from Israeli leaders in recent weeks that they won’t take military action against Iran. But the Israeli response has been noncommittal, US officials said. US officials briefed on the military’s planning said concern has mounted over the past two years that Israel may strike Iran. But rising tensions with Iran and recent changes at Iranian nuclear sites have ratcheted up the level of US alarm. “Our concern is heightened,” a senior US military official said of the probability of an Israeli strike over US objections. Tehran crossed at least one of Israel’s “red lines” earlier this month when it announced it had begun enriching uranium at the Fordow underground nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom. The planned closing of Israel’s nuclear plant near Dimona this month, which was reported in Israeli media, sounded alarms in Washington, where officials feared it meant Israel was repositioning its own nuclear assets to safeguard them against a potential Iranian counterstrike.
Despite the close relationship between the US and Israel, US officials have consistently puzzled over Israeli intentions. “It’s hard to know what’s bluster and what’s not with the Israelis,” said a former US official. Inside the Israeli security establishment, a sort of good cop, bad cop routine, in which Israeli officials rattle sabers amid a US scramble to restrain them, has assumed its own name: “Hold Me Back.” Some American intelligence officials complain that Israel represents a blind spot in US intelligence, which devotes little resources to Israel. Some officials have long argued that, given the potential for Israel to drag the US into potentially explosive situations, the US should devote more resources to divining Israel’s true intentions.
Russia: Attack on Tehran is Attack on Moscow
(Russia has given Iran its bear hug and warns Israel and the West that an attack on Tehran would be considered an attack on Moscow)
Jan. 16….(Arutz) Russia has given Iran its bear hug and warned Israel and the West that an attack on Tehran would be considered an attack on Moscow. The threat heightens the prospect of World War III in the event of a military strike on Iran. “Iran is our neighbor,” Russia's outgoing ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, told reporters in Brussels. “And if Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Kremlin Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev accused Israel of provoking the United States towards war against Iran, the Russian Interfax news agency reported Friday. “But at the same time, we believe that any country has the right to have what it needs to feel comfortable, including Iran," he added. Rogozin warned on Friday that more attacks on Iran could cause "a scorching Arab Summer." Russia also has come to the defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, warning Western nations not to intervene in Syria with military forces. Russia is a major arms supplier to Syria and has a heavy investment in Iran’s nuclear facilities. Japan also is drifting towards Iran, backtracking from its promise last week to back American sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to halt its unsupervised nuclear development. Last week’s assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist has aroused more “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” protest rallies in Iran, where the scientist was buried on Friday. Iranian state radio said the 32-year-old scientist was involved with enriched uranium, a key ingredient for a nuclear weapon.
Special FOJ Note: Russia throughout the Iranian crisis has been playing precisely the prophesied role that it would play in the Last Days. Ezekiel 38 portrays Russia (Magog) as being a “guard” unto her ally clients in the Middle East quagmire. (Ezeiel 38:7 Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a “guard” unto them.) A guard in this scenario is describing a defender and protecting overseer. This is exactly the geo-political strategy Russia is utilizing with Iran, and that strategy involves countering the US-Western strategy of manipulating the Arab-Palestinian issue for political and economic power. The Ezekiel 38 scenario that is already begun playing out in the nuclear crisis with Iran, begs the important answer to the questions of the prophetic role that will soon be played by Syria, and the Arab League that is described in the Psalms 83 diplomatic war on Israel, and the Burden of Damascus event revealed in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49. No matter how one interprets these ancient prophecies, the mere fact that Russia is showing its hand reveals that the Tribulation era is near.
Russia Says Israel is Pushing US Toward War with Iran
Jan. 16….(Arutz) Former Russian intelligence official Nikolai Patrushev says West is pressuring Syria because it refuses to sever ties with Iran, not because it is repressing the opposition. Adds that Turkey may play a key role in toppling the Assad regime. Russia fears Israel will push the US into a military conflict with Iran, which could retaliate by blocking oil shipments from the Gulf, a confidant of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. "There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, toward which Israel is pushing the Americans," Nikolai Patrushev, who heads the Kremlin's Security Council, told the Interfax news agency. Patrushev, a former head of the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said Tehran could respond by blocking the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran, through which 35 percent of the world's seaborne-traded oil passes. "It cannot be ruled out that the Iranians will be able to carry out their threat to shut off exports of Saudi oil through the Strait of Hormuz if faced with military actions against them," Patrushev said in an interview published Thursday. Patrushev said there was still no proof that Iran was on the brink of creating nuclear weapons. "We have heard talk about Iran creating an atomic bomb by next week for many years," he said, adding that the U.S. was trying to topple Iran's leadership using "all available means" to make the country into "a loyal partner."
Russia, the world's biggest energy producer, opposes further UN Security Council sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program and has sharply criticized US and EU sanctions. The US has said it would use force if Iran carried out its threat to block the strait and moved a new aircraft carrier strike group to the Arabian Sea this week. Patrushev also said Russia received information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf countries are preparing military intervention in Syria. Turkey, a NATO member, may play a key role, working with the US on a possible no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels, Patrushev said. "We are receiving information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf states, working under the 'Libyan scenario,' intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention," he said.Turkey's Foreign Ministry and NATO's press service in Brussels did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Russia argues that UN-sanctioned bombing of Libya by NATO to protect civilians was used to bring about regime change and that Western governments are trying to repeat that scenario in Syria. The West is putting pressure on Syria because the country refuses to break off its alliance with Iran and not for repressing the opposition, Patrushev said. "This time, it won't be France, Britain and Italy that will provide the main strike forces, but perhaps neighboring Turkey, which was until recently on good terms with Syria and is a rival of Iran with immense ambitions," he said. Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected calls for his resignation on Jan. 10, accusing "foreign conspiracies" of aiming to divide his country. Unrest in Syria since March 2011 has claimed more than 5,000 lives, according to the UN Russia, which has a naval base in Syria and sells weapons to the country, is more concerned that Islamist radicals may come to power, said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a Middle East analyst at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
While Russia would block any effort to seek UN approval for a no-fly zone in Syria thanks to its veto-wielding power as a permanent member of the Security Council, Western nations and their allies may form a coalition like they did for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Zvyagelskaya said by telephone Thursday. Russia may have obtained intelligence about Western military plans in Syria or may be sending a signal that it will actively oppose any such efforts, said Fyodor Lukyanov, an analyst at the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow. "After the Libyan experience, Russia will do everything to stop this scenario from happening," he said in a phone interview. "Syria is much more important than Libya from Russia's point of view."
UN Chief Urges End to Israeli 'Occupation'
(Ban Ki-moon says Israeli violence against civilians must end and Israeli settlement construction works against two-state solution)
Jan. 16….(YNET) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel Sunday to end its “occupation” of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. He further called for an end to Israeli "occupation" in the entire Arab world, saying the illegal building of settlements worked against a two-state solution. "The Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories must end. So must violence against civilians," Ban said in a keynote address at a conference in Beirut on democracy in the Arab world. "Settlements, new and old, are illegal. They work against the emergence of a viable Palestinian state," said the UN secretary general. "A two-state solution is long overdue. The status quo offers only the guarantee of future conflict." Ban, who arrived in Beirut on Friday, was speaking at a conference entitled "Reform and Transitions to Democracy" organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Russia Warns Israel That Attacking Iran Would be Big Mistake
Jan. 16….(In The Days) As Israel says the possibility of an attack on Iran is growing larger, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavov has warned that such action would be a huge mistake, reports the Telegraph. “This would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences,” Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavov told reporters in Moscow. “Military intervention only leads to a multiple rise in casualties and human suffering.” Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, made comments recently that an attack was now being considered as an alternative to diplomacy, with growing concern over the country’s nuclear program. The Washington Post noted that a United Nations report on Iran’s nuclear development, due to be released this week, reveals that the experts from Russia had been assisting the country in developing its capacity for building a nuclear bomb. The report purportedly documents that Iran has overcome all the necessary hurdles needed to start building a nuclear bomb. The Washington Post also reported that former Soviet nuclear scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko helped Iranian nuclear researchers with their work over the course of five years. Though Russia supports sanctions against Iran it has now urged against military action, warning against retaliation and the disruption of shipping and trade routes in the Middle-East.
China Secures Oil Deal With Saudi Arabia
Jan . 16….(Breitbart) Saudi state oil giant Aramco inked a deal Saturday with China's Sinopec to build an oil refinery in the Red Sea city of Yanbu that will process 400,000 barrels per day, state news agency SPA said. The project, named Yasref, aims to be operational in 2014, SPA reported. Saudi Aramco will hold a 62.5 percent stake with Sinopec holding the balance in the venture that highlights China's growing role as an infrastructure developer in the oil rich kingdom. The deal "represents a strategic partnership in the refining industry between one of the main energy producers in Saudi Arabia and one of the world's most important consumers," said Aramco president and CEO Khalid al-Falih. The announcement comes as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao headed to the Middle East on a trip to key oil-producing nations, with Saudi Arabia as his first stop, as rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programme spark fears of major oil supply disruptions. The kingdom is China's top oil provider, while Iran its third largest supplier. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where Wen will also visit, are both major oil-producing states but do not figure among the top 10 exporters to China. China, under pressure to secure the energy supplies it needs to keep its economy going, imported 232 million tons of crude oil in the first 11 months of last year, a 6.1 percent rise from the same period in 2010, according to customs data.
US Joint Chiefs Headed to Israel for Urgent Meetings
Jan. 16….(Fox News) Israel's military confirmed Sunday that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey will travel to the Mideast nation this week for talks, as Israel's No. 2 public official suggested that President Obama is being meek about Iran ahead of the US presidential election. The content of the coming discussion between the US general and Israel's top military commander was not stated, but Iran is first and foremost in Israel's mind as the Islamic Republic takes a step closer to going nuclear. "There is very close cooperation between Israel, the Israeli military and the US military, and General Dempsey is a close friend, and I'm sure that he and our chief of staff will have very serious discussions about all the options," said former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman. With Dempsey scheduled to visit Israel this week, his first official trip to the country since he assumed command of the joint chiefs on Sept. 30, the occasion may be used to urge Israel to stay calm and let sanctions work. Israel has grown antsy about Iran's nuclear program and has repeatedly hinted it might take military action if international sanctions fail to stop Iran's nuclear development, which is moving at a fast clip. Reports are that Iran will have 20 percent concentration of enriched uranium by next month. That level of enrichment is not used for energy production but toward weapons development. The US has imposed a series of economic sanctions against the regime, and US officials, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have suggested that the tough sanctions are starting to break down support for the regime. But Israeli Cabinet Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday he was disappointed that the US has not expanded sanctions to further damage Iran's central bank and its energy industry. He also suggested that the Obama administration hasn't been as tough with Iran as necessary. At the same time, Israeli media reported that war games exercises between the two nations were delayed, according to one unnamed Israeli defense official, because Washington wanted to avoid causing further tension in the region.
US, Israel in Open Rift Over Iran: Joint Military Drill Cancelled
Jan. 16….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis) US-Israeli discord over action against Iran went into overdrive Sunday, Jan. 15 when the White House called off Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint war game the US and Israel have every staged, ready to go in spring, in reprisal for a comment by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in an early morning radio interview. He said the United States was hesitant over sanctions against Iran's central bank and oil for fear of a spike in oil prices. The row between Washington and Jerusalem is now in the open, undoubtedly causing celebration in Tehran. Nothing was said about the 9,000 US troops who landed in Israeli earlier this month for a lengthy stay. Neither was the forthcoming visit by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, Thursday mentioned. The exercise was officially postponed from spring 2012 to the last quarter of the year over "budgetary constraints," an obvous diplomatic locution for cancellation. It was issued urgently at an unusually early hour Washington time, say Debkafile's sources, to underscore the Obama administration's total disassociation from any preparations to strike Iran and to stress its position that if an attack took place, Israel alone would be accountable.
Israel's Deputy Prime minister further inflamed one of the most acute disagreements in the history of US-Israeli relations over the Obama administration's objections to an Israel military action against Iran's nuclear sites in any shape or form. Yaalon ventured into tricky terrain when he pointed out that US Congress had shown resolve by enacting legislation for sanctions with real bite. But the White House "hesitated." He went on to say: "A military operation is the last resort, but Israel must be ready to defend itself." The friction was already fueled last week by the deep resentment aroused in Israel by Washington's harsh condemnation of the assassination last Wednesday, Jan. 11, of the nuclear scientist Prof. Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, and absolute denial of any US involvement.
Although Tehran has since accused the United States of the attack, the White House treated it as the defiant sign of an approaching unilateral Israeli military operation against Iran to which the administration is adamantly opposed. Friday, Jan. 13, the Pentagon announced the substantial buildup of combat power around Iran, stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait, two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit, and keeping two aircraft carriers the region: The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis and their strike groups.
Debkafile's military sources report that a third aircraft carrier and strike group, the USS Abraham Lincoln, is also on its way to the Persian Gulf. This massive military buildup indicates that either President Obama rates the odds of an Israel attack as high and is bolstering the defenses of US military assets against Iranian reprisals, or, alternatively, that the United States intends to beat Israel to the draw and attack Iran itself. The official purpose of Gen. Dempsey's visit next Thursday was supposed to be coordination between the US armed forces and the IDF. But his main object was another try to dissuade Israel's government and military leaders from plans to strike Iran without Washington's prior consent. The "budgetary constraints" pretext for canceling Austere Challenge 12 is hard to credit since most of the money has already been spent in flying 9,000 US troops into Israel this month. Although the exercise in which they were to have participated was billed as testing multiple Israeli and US air and missile defense systems, the exercise's commander, US Third Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, announced that the event was more a "deployment" than an "exercise." Its cancellation leaves Washington and Jerusalem at loggerheads in four main areas:
1. President Obama believes he is rushing through the sanctions against Iran's central bank CBI and oil restrictions with all possible speed. He needs time to persuade more governments to support him. Israel sees little real progress in the crawling diplomatic bid for backers and is impatient for action. At the rate the sanctions are going through, they will not be in place before the end of 2012 and by then, Iran will have already acquired a nuclear weapon. Israeli leaders also suspect that the Obama administration may be foot-dragging deliberately in the hope of encouraging Iran to enter into negotiations and so avoid a military showdown. They point out that all previous rounds of talks were exploited for Iran's forward leaps in their nuclear weapon drive, free of international hassle.
2. President Obama insists on the US acting alone in attacking Iran with no Israeli military involvement. This would leave him free to decide exclusively when and how to stage an operation. He is counting on the tightened military and intelligence cooperation he has instituted between the two armed forces and agencies to safeguard Washington against the surprise of a lone Israeli action. But Israel has declined to make this commitment - even in the face of US officials' efforts at persuasion.
3. US military strategists are counting on an Iranian reprisal for an attack on its nuclear sites to be restrained and limited to certain US military assets in the region, Israeli targets and oil installations in the Persian Gulf, including a temporary and partial closure of the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world's oil passes.
They expect Israel to refrain from striking back for Iranian attacks and to leave the payback option entirely in American hands. US officials have said they fear an Israeli overkill would tip the entire American military operation into imbalance and generate unforeseen consequences. The incoming US troops were therefore armed with the sophisticated missile interceptor THAAD systems (easily transportable Terminal High Altitude Area Defense hit-to-kill weapons) to show the Israeli government that the US would stay on top of all the military moves against Iran, offensive and defensive alike.
On these three points, the US and Israel disagree. Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Deputy Prime Minster Yaalon, who are responsible for all decisions on Iran, are willing to put all their trust for defending Israel in American hands or relinquish unilateral military options against Iran. They believe US officials when they assert that the administration is prepared to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but they want to see proof of the pudding and actions to back up the rhetoric. In the light of credible intelligence that Iran is very close to achieving its nuclear goal, Israel is holding on to its military option over American objections.
WEEK OF JANUARY 8 THROUGH JANUARY 14
Obama Administration Acts to Hold Israel back from Striking Iran
Jan. 14….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) The bombing attack in Tehran which killed Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan last Wednesday, Jan. 11, generated an angry phone call from US President Barack Obama to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the next day, Debkafile's Washington and intelligence sources report. Washington is increasingly concerned, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, that Israel is preparing to strike Iran's nuclear sites over US objections and has bolstered the defenses of US facilities in the region in case of a conflict. Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been sending private messages to their Israel contacts warning them about the dire consequences of a strike, the paper reports. Top US armed forces chief Gen. Martin Dempsey will visit Israel next week. Debkafile's exclusive sources report that the differences between the US and Israel surfaced before the tough Obama-Netanyahu conversation Thursday. Political, military and intelligence officials privately voiced resentment over the strong and unusual condemnation the White House and Secretary Clinton issued over the death of the Iranian nuclear scientist.
By denying "absolutely" any US involvement in the killing, the administration implicitly pointed the finger at Israel, an unusual act in relations between two friendly governments, especially when both face a common issue as sensitive as a nuclear-armed Iran. Obama seemed to suspect that Israel staged the killing to torpedo yet another US secret effort to avoid a military confrontation with Iran through back channel contacts with Tehran, while the administration's extreme condemnation is seen as tying in with its all-out campaign to hold Israel back from a unilateral strike. As part of this campaign, the Foreign Policy publication ran an "investigative report" Friday, Jan. 13, the point of which was to show that US and Israeli undercover agencies have been at odds for years after what was called a Mossad "false flag" operation. "Two US intelligence officers" are said to have revealed to the publication that in 2007 and 2008, Israeli Mossad officers posing as US intelligence agents with American passports recruited terrorist group Jundallah operatives for covert attacks in Iran. Our Washington and intelligence sources note that the report appeared two days after the Iranian nuclear scientist was killed and the day after Obama took Netanyahu to task. It had two objectives: to show that the US is not responsible for all the covert operations of recent months against Iran's nuclear targets and, secondly, to demonstrate that Washington means to continue harassing and pressuring Israel by every means to hold it back from a military operation against Iran.
Obama to ‘Take On’ Netanyahu After Election?
Jan. 14….(WND) The Obama administration asked the Palestinian Authority not to make any major demands until after the presidential election in November, a senior PA official told WND. The PA official, speaking on condition his name be withheld, said that Obama promised to renew stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders, meaning an Israeli withdrawal from eastern sections of Jerusalem as well as from Judea and Samaria, also referred to as the West Bank. “We were asked by the US administration not to make special demands or scandals during the elections,” said the official. “After elections, the negotiations will be renewed on basis of the Clinton plan and Obama’s speech in Cairo of the 1967 borders,” the official said. The Clinton plan is a reference to the formula used during the Camp David negotiations in the summer of 2000 that saw sections of Jerusalem in which Jews predominantly live go to Israel, while areas inhabited by Arabs would become a Palestinian state. The negotiations also called for a nearly complete Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
This is not the first time the PA claimed the Obama administration asked it to hold off until after this year’s election. Last September, WND quoted a top PA official saying the Obama administration told the Palestinian Authority it cannot significantly help advance a Palestinian state until after the election. The official, however, said the US will press for a Palestinian state quickly if President Obama is reelected. “The main message we received from the US is that Obama will “take on” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a second presidential term. Obama came into office passionate about the Middle East, and about the Palestinian issue. After reelection, Obama plans to take a strong crack at the Middle East and go after Mr. Netanyahu again.
US Stations 2 Aircraft Carriers Opposite Iran, 15,000 Troops in Kuwait
Jan. 13….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) US President Barack Obama is busy aligning Middle East allies with the next US steps on Iran. Contributing to the mounting sense in Washington of an approaching US-Iranian confrontation, the Pentagon is substantially building up its combat power around Iran, stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait, two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit, and keeping two aircraft carriers the region. The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis which was to have returned to home base and their strike groups will stay in the Arabian Sea.
Iran is caught up in the same pre-war swirl of activity. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani spent two days in Ankara this week. But Turkish leaders failed in their bid to sell their good offices as brokers for averting the expected collision between Tehran and the West. Before flying out of Ankara Friday, Jan. 13, Larijani commented: "We have different ways of doing things." Debkafile's Iranian sources quote the Iranian official as telling his hosts that his country is prepared to take on any military aggressors. One of the responses weighed in Tehran to meet the rising military pressure might be an open declaration of Iran as a nuclear power. By accepting a visit by IAEA inspectors on Jan. 28 to investigate charges that Iran is running a clandestine nuclear bomb program, Tehran may be moving toward that irreversible admission, or possibly its first nuclear test. DEBKA disclosed exclusively on Nov. 25, 2011 that Iran may soon publicize its attainment of a nuclear weapon, a step still being debated intensely at the highest levels of the Islamic regime in Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will make the ultimate decision, is very much in favor of facing the world as a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic. He calculates that this fait accompli has a good change of warding off a Western and/or Israeli military attack.
President Obama put in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss coordinating US and Israeli moves for a military operation against Iran, which many US media believe to be imminent. Obama had similar conversations with other Middle East leaders this week. The and Saudi and Qatari foreign ministers, Prince Saud al-Faisal and Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, spent two days on Jan. 10-11 in Washington talking to the US president. The contents of their talks were kept under tight wraps. Friday, British premier David Cameron suddenly turned up in Riyadh for talks with Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef. Discussions on military preparations centering on Iran inevitably concern the need for urgent action to halt the unending carnage in Syria, Iran's close ally.
Russian National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev, one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's closest advisers, said ominously: "We are receiving information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf States working under the 'Libyan scenario' intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention." Moscow has consistently spoken out against any foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict, or even tough UN sanctions. Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin has suggested more than once that the West would use a military adventure in Syria as the jumping-off point for an attack on Iran. Another sign that Syria is under the military eye of the West came from an indiscreet comment Israel's Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz made Tuesday, Jan. 10 in a briefing to a Knesset panel. Israel, he said, is preparing to absorb members of Bashar Assad's Alawite sect after his downfall. He later detracted his words. Debkafile disclose that the context of the general's comment was Israeli preparations to establish a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the Golan border to shelter Alawites fleeing the vengeance of their compatriots. Turkey too has gone back to talking about setting up in northern Syria a Turkish buffer zone for refugees and anti-Assad dissidents.
Obama Tells Netabyahu to Explain Iran Hit
(Obama calls Netanyahu demanding explanations on Israeli role in Iran assassination.)
Jan. 13….(Arutz) One day after a mysterious assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, US President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the phone and reportedly wanted explanations. According to Channel 2 television news, sources in Netanyahu's bureau said the conversation was "long and good." The White House said that the two leaders spoke, among other things, about “recent Iran-related developments, including the international community’s efforts to hold Iran accountable for its failures to meet its international obligations.” Channel 2 said, however, that it appears Obama demanded explanations from Netanyahu following reports in the press as well as accusations by Iran that Israel was involved in the killing. The US has denied involvement in the assassination.
The television report also says that Obama sought to make clear to Netanyahu American expectations from Israel regarding Iran. The US reportedly wants Israel to refrain from attacking Iran and to coordinate all Iran-related actions with Washington. The White House said Obama “reiterated his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, and the President and the prime minister promised to stay in touch in the coming weeks on these and other issues of mutual concern.”
'Hezbollah, Iran Providing Weaponry to Assad'
Jan. 13….(Jerusalem Post) Iran and Hezbollah are actively assisting Syrian President Bashar Assad and providing him with weaponry as part of an effort to ensure that he survives in the face of growing resistance and protests, head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said on Wednesday. “The radical axis is trying to retain its power and as time passes, Iran and Hezbollah increase their efforts to help the Assad regime survive by providing knowledge, weaponry and other capabilities,” Kochavi said. The IDF intelligence chief said it was possible that in the long term the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East would have a positive outcome, but in the immediate term “the dangers are increasing.” Kochavi’s comments came a day after Turkish customs officials intercepted four trucks suspected of carrying military equipment from Iran to Syria. The governor of the Kilis province said the trucks were confiscated at the Oncupinar border crossing into Syria after police received information about their cargo, according to Dogan news agency.
Muslims Persecuting Christians in Somalia
Jan. 13….(Worthy News) A Somali woman, who converted from Islam to Christianity, was nursing her injuries Wednesday, January 11, after she was reportedly paraded before a cheering crowd and publicly flogged as a punishment for embracing a "foreign religion." Christians said 28-year-old Sofia Osman from Janale city in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, had been taken into custody by fighters of the Islamic militant group al-Shabab militants in November and that the public mistreatment was meant to mark her release. Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency investigating cases of persecution, cited witnesses as saying that the young woman received 40 lashes on December 22 "while jeered by spectators". “I saw her faint. I thought she had died, but soon she regained consciousness and her family took her away,” an identified witness was quoted as saying. The whipping was administered in front of "hundreds of spectators" after Osman was released from her month-long custody in an al-Shabab prison camp, Christians said. At her family’s home she was seen looking dazed and did not talk to anyone. There was no immediate known comment from al-Shabab, which is known for enforcing a strict brand of Islam in areas under its rule and is believed to have links to the al-Qaida terror group.
Al-Shabab has been linked to the mistreatment and killings of several Christians in recent years. It also blocked most international aid workers from accessing parts of Somalia suffering from drought and famine. The reported attack against Osman came shortly after Ibrahim, a 23-year-old Somali Christian, was beaten while on his way back home in an undisclosed town in neighboring Kenya on December 5, Christians said. Locals claimed that he was beaten by, "a gang of young Muslim men" because he was an alleged "apostate", the word used for abandoning Islam. His family said in published remarks that Ibrahim had been raised as a Christian his entire life. Many Somali Christians are known to seek refuge in neighboring Kenya, amid growing tensions at home.
Iranian Nuke Scientist Killed, US Navy, Air Force on High Alert
Jan. 12….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Forty-eight hours after Iran began advanced uranium enrichment in the fortified Fordo bunker near Tehran, Prof. Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, deputy director of the first uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was killed early Wednesday by a sticky bomb planted on his car by two motorcyclists. It exploded near the Sharif technological university in northern Tehran. The pair made their escape. Prof. Ahmadi-Roshan was the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be mysteriously assassinated in Tehran in two years. The same method of operation was used in a similar operation last year. Iran has blamed them all on Israel.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama received the Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal. Their conversation was shrouded in secrecy, although no one doubts it focused on the conflict with Iran and the urgency of keeping open the main export outlet for the world's biggest oil suppliers, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, through the Strait of Hormuz. The crisis in Syria must also have featured in their talks. Shortly before the Saudi minister's arrival, US Navy and Air Force chiefs shed some light on preparations for an imminent operation to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to international shipping.
Debkafile's Washington sources report that the White House is bending over backwards to convince the skeptical Saudis that the president is willing to use military force to keep the vital waterway open, safeguard Gulf oil installations and exports and also prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The armed forces chiefs' disclosures were integral to the White House effort. US Navy Commander Adm. Jonathan Greenert said preparations for a clash in the Strait of Hormuz (between the US and Iran) were keeping him up at night. The US Admiral added: “If you’re asking me why I’m not sleeping at night, it’s because of the Strait of Hormuz and what’s happening in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. Air Force Commander General Norton Schwartz said that the US air force will obviously play a role in keeping the Strait of Hormuz open. A few days earlier, on Jan. 8, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz for a period of time, but that if it did so the US would take action to reopen the Strait. The US has therefore made clear that it is resolved to bring all its naval and air power to bear on ensuring that the Strait of Hormuz remains open.
Riyadh, for its part, has promised to make up any shortfalls in oil sales generated by Western sanctions against Iran as its contribution to Washington's campaign to convince Asian buyers such as India, Japan, China and South Korea to cut down on their purchases from Iran. This pledge is not entirely plain sailing. It raises the question of how quickly Saudi Arabia can up its oil production. The expert assessment is six to nine months at least. Then, there is the counter-threat from Tehran: If the US continues to lean on European and Asian governments for an embargo on Iranian oil, "not a single drop" of Saudi or Gulf oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz, say Iranian officials, thus pitting an Iranian blockade against a Western-led oil embargo.
Many Western experts treat Tehran's threat as empty rhetoric arguing that closure of the vital strait would above all impact Iran's own oil exports and slash its main source of revenue. But Debkafile’s Iranian sources report that Tehran is thinking in terms of a partial and selective closure of the Strait of Hormuz, rather than full-blown military action, in the certainty that the US and West will not attack Iranian oil tankers or even detain them. Partial action, the Iranians believe, will be enough to trigger a major spike in world oil prices, send insurance rates for oil tankers sky high and bring the world's energy markets under intolerable pressure. Two years ago, a Revolutionary Guards speedboat from the island of Abu Musa in the northern outlet of Hormuz damaged the Japanese oil tanker Star M carrying oil from Saudi Arabia by firing a single missile. Washington opted to keep the findings of its inquiry under wraps so as to keep down tensions around the Gulf export route, avoid exacerbating relations with Tehran and keep a cap on oil prices.
Israel Resigned to Nuclear Iran, Obama Ready to Strike?
Jan. 11….(Israel Today) In the first report, which appeared in London newspaper The Times, it was revealed that a group of former Israeli ambassadors, intelligence officials and army chiefs had requested a package of simulated scenarios for the day after Iran tests its first nuclear weapon. The study, conducted by the Institute for National Security Studies, concluded that while Israel would still have a military option, it would be more likely to relent under American pressure and instead forge defense pacts with Western powers as a deterrance against Iranian attack. Iran would use its nuclear threat to improve its position in the region, while simultaneously kicking off a Middle East nuclear arms race with Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt.
Meanwhile, a former national security advisor to US President Barack Obama told Bloomberg News on Monday that the American leader will not hesitate to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. "The Iranians should never think that there’s a reluctance to use the force," said former National Security Council member Dennis Ross, who added that Obama has "made it very clear" that he views a nuclear-armed Iran as one of the world's greatest threats. Until now, it has been widely assumed that while Obama didn't want Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, he would under no circumstances use military force to prevent it. On the other hand, reports in recent months have suggested that Israel is busily preparing to launch its own strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, with or without American assistance.
Iran Plans one-kiloton Underground Nuclear Test in 2012
Jan. 11….(DEBKAfile Special Report) According to Debkafile's Iranian sources, Tehran is preparing an underground test of a one-kiloton nuclear device during 2012, much like the test carried out by North Korea in 2006. Underground facilities are under construction in great secrecy behind the noise and fury raised by the start of advanced uranium enrichment at Iran's fortified, subterranean Fordo site near Qom. All the sanctions imposed so far for halting Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon have had the reverse effect, stimulating rather than cooling its eagerness to acquire a bomb. Yet, according to a scenario prepared by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University for the day after an Iranian nuclear weapons test, Israel was resigned to a nuclear Iran and the US would offer Israel a defense pact while urging Israel not to retaliate. As quoted by the London Times Monday, Jan. 1, INSS experts, headed by Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, a former head of Israel's National Security Council, deduced from a simulation study they staged last week that. Their conclusion is that neither the US nor Israel will use force to stop Iran's first nuclear test which they predicted would take place in January 2013.
Our Iranian sources stress, however, that Tehran does not intend to wait for the next swearing-in of a US president in January 2013, whether Barack Obama is returned for a second term or replaced by a Republican figure, before moving on to a nuclear test. Iran's Islamist rulers have come to the conclusion from the Bush and Obama presidencies that America is a paper tiger and sure to shrink from attacking their nuclear program, especially while the West is sunk in profound economic distress. Debkafile's sources stress that both Tehran and the INSS are wrong: The Tel Aviv scenario is the work of a faction of retired Israeli security and intelligence bigwigs who, anxious to pull the Netanyahu government back from direct action against the Islamic Republic, have been lobbying for the proposition that Israel can live with a nuclear-armed Iran. Our Washington sources confirm, however, that President Obama considers the risk of permitting a nuclear-armed Iran to be greater than the risks of military action. Monday, Jan. 9, top administration officials said that developing a nuclear weapon would cross a red line and precipitate a US strike. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: "If Iran takes the step to develop a nuclear weapon or blocking the Strait of Hormuz, they're going to be stopped." He was repeating the warnings of the past month made by himself and Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Martin Dempsey.
As for Israel, Dennis Ross, until recently senior adviser to President Obama, reiterated in a Bloomberg interview on Jan. 10: "No one should doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if sanctions and diplomacy fail." As for Israel, Ross said: "I wouldn't discount the possibility that the Israelis would act if they came to the conclusion that basically the world was prepared to live with Iran with nuclear weapons," he said. "They certainly have the capability by themselves to set back the Iranian nuclear program."
Israel's media screens and front pages are dominated these days by short-lived, parochial political sensations and devote few words to serious discourse on such weighty issues as Iran's nuclear threat.
This is a luxury that the US president cannot afford in an election year. Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb and conduct of a nuclear test would hurt his chances of a second term. The race is therefore on for an American strike to beat Iran's nuclear end game before the November 2012 presidential vote. The INSS have also wrongly assessed Russia's response to an Iranian nuclear test as "to seek an alliance with the US to prevent nuclear proliferation in the region." This fails to take into account that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, running himself for a third term as president in March, has already committed Moscow to a new Middle East policy which hinges on support for a nuclear Iran and any other Middle East nation seeking a nuclear program. This is part of Russia's determined plan to trump America's Arab Spring card.
Israel Preparing for Nuclear Iran Within a Year
(UK's Times newspaper cites report by Israeli think tank that Israel is readying for Iran with nuclear capabilities within twelve months)
Jan. 11….(Ha Aretz) Israel is preparing for an Iran with nuclear capabilities within the next 12 months, according to a report by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an Israeli think tank. The UK daily Times newspaper published extracts of the report by the Tel Aviv University institute on Monday, according to an AFP report. The INSS was asked to prepare possible scenarios in case Iran carries out nuclear weapons tests by security, intelligence and diplomatic officials, AFP reported the Times as saying. According to INSS predictions, Iranian nuclear weapons tests would change the balance of power in the Middle East region. If Tehran carries out nuclear weapons tests, the US will offer Israel a defense pact, but would urge Israel not to respond with an attack on Iran, according to AFP. Russia would be expected to sign a deal with the US in order to prevent armament in the region, and Saudi Arabia would be likely to develop its own nuclear capabilities, according to the report. On Monday, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had begun uranium enrichment at Fordow, near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, and said all atomic material there was under its surveillance. Diplomats in Vienna, home of the IAEA, said earlier on Monday that Iran had begun refining uranium to a fissile purity of 20 percent at Fordow.
The Miracle of Israel
Jan. 11….(FOJ) Can ancient prophecies about Israel be true? Is the Bible true or relevant today? This video will put those questions to rest! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydwxy9yqhzM
US Troops in Israel, start of War Against Iran?
Jan. 10….(Al Arabia) The Middle East roils in crisis as a US aircraft carrier entered one of the world’s most important choke point for oil shipments, the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to close if the United States raises sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The deployment of thousands of US troops in Israel has raised speculation of an imminent war. On December 20, the Jerusalem Post reported that Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US forces based in Germany, said that there will be a deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel. An Egypt-based military expert, major general Jamal Mathloum, said that “there is a military strategic cooperation between the US and Israel since the 1980s and there is definitely mutual understanding.” He added that the US troop deployment might not necessarily mean a direct signal of war, but that it could be read as Israel and US readiness in case of a conflict arising in the region. There is already a US radar station in southern Israel, and might contain from 500 to 700 American soldiers operating there,” Mathloum said.
But for Abdulaziz Sager, chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, the deployment of US troops in Israel is “definitely to send a clear signal to Iran.” Sager said that there is a US-Israel defense agreement that makes defending the Jewish state an obligation to the United States. In addition to that, US President Barack Obama said in his last AIPAC meeting that the United States does not rule out any option against Iran. According to Debka.com, an Israeli website that provides political and security analysis, about 9,000 US soldiers have already arrived in Israel. But Mathloum said this figure remains insignificant compared to the more than 100,000 American soldiers dispersed in 1,000 US bases worldwide. Lt.-Gen. Gorenc’s announcement came as he was visiting Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill. There will also be an establishment of American command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany, with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East, the newspaper reported.
But according to Elias Henna, a Lebanon-based expert in military issues, the deployment of 9,000 US troops in Israel goes back to the US withdrawal from Iraq and to support US presence in the region and not to leave the “Arab field” open to further Iranian influence. Asked why the United States did not increase its troop numbers in its military bases in the Persian Gulf, Henna said that both countries [Israel and United States] have far more compatible militaries, are bound with military agreements and that the United States has more freedom in Israel. “Israel does not mind even if one million US soldiers to be deployed in the Jewish state,” he added. As the US and Israel continue their cooperation in light of the crisis looming around Iran, the Islamic Republic appears to remain unyielding.
On Sunday, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun, Abbasi Davani, reportedly said that Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility will go on stream soon. Davani said that the Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future and that around 20 percent, 3.5 percent and four percent enriched uranium can be produced at the site. “There is no third party to verify about the site [Fordow] and truth about the announcement,” said Sager, adding “they can say all they want to say but there is no confirmation or verification.”
Venezuela's Chavez Welcomes Ally Ahmadinejad
Jan. 10….(Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed a US warning to avoid close ties with Iran on Sunday, denouncing what he said was Washington's attempt to dominate the world as he welcomed the Iranian president to the Latin American nation. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived at the start of a tour to shore up support from the region's leftist leaders, as tough new Western sanctions aim to isolate the Islamic republic and target its vital oil exports. "A spokesman or spokeswoman in Washington from the State Department or the White House said it was not convenient for any country to get close to Iran.
Chavez said in a televised speech, "America is not going to be able to dominate this world. Forget about it (President Barack) Obama, forget about it. It would be better to think about the problems in your country, which are many," he said. "We are free. The people of Latin America will never again kneel, dominated by the imperial Yankee. Never again," he said, to applause from his audience at an oil processing facility. Obama signed measures into law on New Year's Eve that will make it harder for most countries to buy Iranian oil.
The European Union is also expected to announce some type of ban on Iranian oil by the end of this month, and Washington has said that Ahmadinejad's planned tour of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador showed Iran was "desperate" for friends. "We are making absolutely clear to countries around the world that now is not the time to be deepening ties, not security ties, not economic ties, with Iran," a US State Department spokeswoman said on Friday. The sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to halt its nuclear work, which the United States and its allies say is aimed at producing bombs. Iran says it is for power generation.
Ahmadinejad was met at Venezuela's Maiquetia International Airport by an honor guard, a red carpet, and a reception committee of about 100 people led by Vice-President Elias Jaua. It remains to be seen how far Chavez would go in backing Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil shipping lane, or how much he could undermine the sanctions by providing fuel or cash to Tehran. In the past, Chavez has threatened to stop oil exports to the United States but has never followed through. Other regional leaders due to receive Ahmadinejad, like Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, have a similar ideological stance to Chavez, but fewer resources. Ahmadinejad, who is subordinate to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign policy, has said little about the rising tensions with the West, leaving it to Iran's military commanders to issue the most bellicose statements. The increasingly warm relations between Ahmadinejad and Chavez are a growing source of concern for America.
Chavez highlighted Venezuela's many energy joint ventures with China during his broadcast from the huge Petromonagas oil facility. And he accused the US government of trying to slow China's advance as a great power of the 21st century. "The imperial Yankee is also trying to put the brakes on Russia, as an emerging power again after the fall of the Soviet Union. And the imperial Yankee is trying to slow the growth of Iran as an intermediate power," he said.
Russian, French Warships off Syria, Iran, US Drones over Iranian Coast (US Troops in Israel)
Jan. 10….(DEBKA) US, Russian French and British air and naval forces streamed to the Syrian and Iranian coasts over the weekend on guard for fresh developments at the two Middle East flashpoints. The Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov anchored earlier than planned at Syria's Tartus port on the Mediterranean Sunday, Jan. 8, arriving together with the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and frigate Yaroslav Mudry. To counter this movement, France consigned an air defense destroyer Forbin to the waters off Tartus. Debkafile's military sources report a buildup in the last 48 hours of western naval forces opposite Iran in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea in readiness for Tehran to carry out its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz. Britain has dispatched the HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer armed with new technology for shooting down missiles, to the Sea of Oman, due to arrive at the same time as the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
Our sources report too that Saturday, the giant RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV, took off from the USS Stenning aircraft carrier for surveillance over the coasts of Iran. The Stennis and its strike group are cruising in the Sea of Oman at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz after Tehran announced it would not be allowed to cross through. This was the first time the US has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles over Iran since its RQ-170 stealth drone was shot down by Iran on Dec. 4. It was also the first time the huge drone was ordered to take off from an aircraft carrier for a Broad Aerial Maritime Surveillance Mission (BAMS). US military sources reported Monday, Jan. 9 that the Global Hawk's mission is "to monitor sea traffic off the Iranian coast and the Straits of Hormuz." The US Navy was ordered to maintain a watch on this traffic, another first, after Iranian Navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said in a televised broadcast Sunday night that the Strait of Hormuz was under full Iranian control and had been for years.
Also Sunday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, warned in no uncertain terms that Iran has the ability to block the Strait of Hormuz “for a period of time.” He added in a CBS interview: “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.” Gen. Dempsey went on to emphasize: "Yes, they can block it. We've described that as an intolerable act and it's not just intolerable for us, it's intolerable to the world. But we would take action and reopen the straits." Appearing on the same program, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a quick, decisive and very tough American response to any Iranian attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz. They both spoke a few hours after a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards said the supreme Iranian leadership had ruled the Strait must be closed in the event of an oil embargo imposed on Iran by the European Union.
Debkafile's military sources report the constant escalation of military tension around Iran and Syria in recent days as not just stemming from the rapid advances Iran is making toward production of a nuclear weapon, but from fears in the West and Israel that Tehran and Damascus are in step over their military plans for the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean sectors. After the Admiral Kuznetsov docked in Tartus Sunday with much fanfare, the Syrian Navy commander Dawoud Rajha was received on the deck by a guard of honor of marines under a flyover of Russian Su-33 and Su-25 fighter-bombers. This was taken as a signal of Moscow's willingness to back the Assad regime up against any Western military intervention as well as a gesture of support for cooperation between Syria and Iran in their operational plans.
Sunday, the Iranian media issued divergent statements about the situation at Iran's underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordo, near Qom: In English, the site as described as going on stream soon, while the Farsi media reported it was already operational. The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi Davani declared furthermore," the Islamic Republic is capable of exporting services related to nuclear energy to other countries." This statement showed that Tehran has no fear of raising the level of its threats to the West up to the point of offering to hand out its nuclear technology to other countries in a gesture of uncontrolled proliferation.
Hamas PM: We Will Never Give Up Claim to Jerusalem
(Ismail Haniyeh, on a visit to Tunisia, promises difficult days ahead for Israel and says Hamas will continue to fight for Jerusalem)
Jan. 10….(Ha Aretz) Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza said Sunday that the militant group will never give up its arms, its territory or its claims on Jerusalem on behalf of the Palestinians. Ismail Haniyeh spoke to a cheering crowd of 5,000 in the Tunisian capital Sunday. He predicted difficult days ahead for Israel, which is grappling with how to respond to the Arab Spring, a series of popular uprisings that began in Tunisia a year ago. "Israel no longer has allies in Egypt and in Tunisia, we are saying to the Zionist enemies that times have changed and that the time of the Arab Spring, the time of the revolution, of dignity and of pride has arrived," AFP quoted him as saying to loud cheers. "We promise you that we will not cede a single part of Palestine, we will not cede Jerusalem, we will continue to fight and we will not lay down our arms," he said. "To Tunisia we say: 'It is us today who are going to build the new Middle East'." The rally, held at a sports stadium, was organized by the Islamist Ennahda party, which recently won Tunisian elections. At one entrance, people walked over a piece of cloth sporting the Star of David, and many shouted anti-Israeli slogans.
Muslims Are Global Leaders in Persecuting Christians
Jan. 9….(WND) Nine of the 10 worst nations for persecution of Christians are run essentially under Islamic law, and the “Arab Spring” across parts of northern African has led to a surge of repression, according to the new Open Doors “World Watch” list. The other country in the 10 worst nations is North Korea, led by a fanatical communist regime that has regarded its two previous leaders as gods. The top 10 in this year’s report are in order, North Korea, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iran, the Maldives, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Iraq and Pakistan. The report says the biggest jump in persecution of Christians came in two African nations on the edge of the surging “Arab Spring” movement. Sudan moved up from No. 35 to No. 16, and Nigeria moved up from No. 23 to No. 13. The results in the report, according to Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller, can be attributed to Islamic extremism. “The trend is, according to the research we’re doing, Nigeria, Sudan, all across that region in Africa, where the extremism in the north is intent on pressing in on the Christian and animist south,” Moeller said. “You’re seeing a lot of violence; Nigeria’s a great example of that.
The southern part of Nigeria is virtually all Christian, evangelical, Pentecostal, very aggressive in its Christianity,” Moeller said. The northern part of Nigeria is completely different. “The north is dominated politically and religiously by extremist elements typified by the radical group Boko Haram,” Moeller said. Boko Haram, a name that comes from the region in Nigeria that has seen the uptick in anti-Christian violence, means “western education is a sin.” The rejection of the West seems complete for members of the group, Moeller said. “Boko Haram, just at Christmastime, bombed five churches in Nigeria, and just yesterday they exploded bombs in Kano where several cities in Nigeria are in a state of emergency right now,” he said. Moeller believes that most Muslims don’t aspire to be violent. “That is a huge debate within Islam itself. Millions of Muslims are able to live in peace with their neighbors of other religions in the world,” Moeller said. However, the problem is who happens to be steering the movement. “The way in which Muslim ideas are propagated around the word is held by extremists.” Extremism is growing as a percentage of global Islam. A decade or two ago, it was really limited to suicide bombers in the heart of the Middle East and Palestine and other places. “Today we see suicide bombings in Asia, in Indonesia, in Africa, Nigeria, all over the globe and that is troubling for all Christians who are living in these countries,” Moeller said.
While agreeing with the persecution figures, Atlas Shrugs publisher Pamela Geller contends the issue isn’t extremism. “What Dr. Moeller is calling, with the best of intentions, ‘extremism’ is actually mainstream Islamic behavior,” Geller said. “It is sanctioned by and even encouraged by the Quran and Muhammad. The ‘extremists’ are actually those Muslims who dare to be peaceful,” she said. Moeller said that there is an observable trend that follows an increase in any country’s Muslim population. “We’ve certainly seen in places where that teaching of Islam is dominant that extremism tends to become more popular,” Moeller said. “You can look at the revolutions that took place in this past year as an example of that. Knocking off a dictator is wonderful and we resonate with that as Americans in our freedoms,” Moeller said. The fact of the matter is that what you replace that dictator with in these contexts is also a big question and right now, it seems as if radical Islam is having the upper hand in every election and every new government formation taking place in North Africa.
Egypt, for example, will soon be under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with the goal of creating a worldwide caliphate, or Muslim society. “In 2012, we may see a turn to government-backed extremism, and that’s a troubling turn as well,” Moeller said. Jonathan Racho of International Christian Concern, a Christian human rights group, said he agrees with the report’s findings of increased persecution. “As you can see in the report, the persecution of Christians mostly occurs in Islamic countries,” Racho said. “The persecution of Christians is getting worse and the world must pay attention to this growing problem.” Nos. 11 through 20 are Eritrea, Laos, Nigeria, Mauritania, Egypt, Sudan, Bhutan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam and Chechnya, also dominated by Muslim interests.
US “allies” who are among the top 50 for their persecution of Christians are China, Kuwait, Turkey and India. The report notes that in North Korea, Christians estimated at 200,000 to 400,000 remain deeply underground, and another 50,000 to 70,000 are in “ghastly prison camps.” Being a Muslim background believer or ‘Secret believer’ Christian in a Muslim-dominated country is a huge challenge. Christians often face persecution from extremists, the government, their community and even their own families,” said Moeller. “As the 2012 World Watch List reflects, the persecution of Christians in these Muslim countries continues to increase. While many thought the Arab Spring would bring increased freedom, including religious freedom for minorities, that certainly has not been the case so far.” The report says more than 300 Christians were killed for their faith in Nigeria last year, although the actual number is believed to be double or even triple that.
It says China still has the world’s largest persecuted church of 80 million, but it dropped out of the top 20 this year to No. 21. Last year China ranked No. 16. This is due in large part to the house church pastors learning how to play “cat and mouse” with the government.
Libyan Weapons Sold to Palestinian Terrorists
Jan. 9….(WND) Libyan rebels are selling large quantities of weaponry to Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli security sources. The sources note the weapons were seized after the regime of late Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi was toppled by rebel fighters with help from the US led NATO bombing campaign. The weapons include French and Saudi munitions and equipment seized by the rebel gangs, the sources said. The weapons are being sold to the Gazan groups Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jihadiya Salafia, said the sources. The Israeli security sources said there is information that Islamic Jihad used Iranian funds to purchase rockets from Libyan rebels that can travel farther than Tel Aviv if the projectiles are fired from the Gaza Strip. These are not the first reports of Libyan weapons making it to Gaza.
In October, WND quoted Islamic Jihad sources saying a missile launcher capable of firing up to five projectiles at once that originated in Libya was smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Abu Mussaab, a senior member of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds military wing, told WND at the time that such launchers were recently smuggled into Gaza. “This is not the only surprise,” added Mussab. He promised an improved missile and rocket arsenal will be used against Israel “in the very near future.” Mossaab hinted the launcher originated in Libya. Other Islamic Jihad sources told WND the launcher indeed originated in Libya. Also, the new information of Libyan weapons sales comes after WND reported two weeks ago Iran has been funneling weapons to Islamic Jihad at a time when Hamas has been debating scaling back its affiliation with its Iranian backers.
According to well-placed sources within Hamas speaking to WND, the jihadist group has been asked by the Egyptian military to stay out of any future confrontation between Israel and Iran. For the first time in recent years, Hamas, feeling confident from major Muslim Brotherhood gains in the region, is considering distancing itself somewhat from Iran, the sources said. The group may even remain largely neutral if Israel strikes Iran’s suspected nuclear sites, the sources said. The sources added, however, that no decision has been made.
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood belong to the Sunni stream of Islam while Iran’s leadership espouses fundamentalist Shiite Islam. While Iran has long supported Sunni groups like Hamas, the major differences in Islamic ideology and practice have always caused some unease. Indeed, one of the most senior Hamas officials, speaking previously to WND on condition of anonymity, once said he would ultimately be pleased if Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear sites even if it means scaled-back Iranian funding to his group. The Hamas official said he fears Iran would use a nuclear umbrella to enforce a Shiite superpower in the Middle East at the expense of Sunni ideology. According to several Hamas sources, there has been tension between the jihad group and Iran over Hamas’ decision to not aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in fighting an insurgency targeting Assad’s regime.
That uprising has been supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria is a major Iranian partner in the region. Some Hamas leaders even speculated the group may move their political headquarters from Syria. Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal currently resides in Damascus. According to recent Arabic-language news media reports, Hamas has been quietly scaling back its Damascus headquarters.
While Hamas might not come to Iran’s aid in the event of an Israeli strike, sources in the Islamist group told WND the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror organization in the Gaza Strip is still firmly in Tehran’s camp. The Hamas sources said Islamic Jihad has very similar weaponry to Hamas, including a massive rocket arsenal capable of causing much damage to Israel. WND reported in October on Iran’s missile training in Gaza. Egyptian security officials said Iran has been preparing Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate in the event of Israeli strikes against Tehran’s nuclear sites. The chatter about Hamas’ allegiances come after the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Salafi movement’s Al-Nour Party saw considerable gains in Egypt’s recent parliamentary votes.
The Land-for-Peace Hoax
Jan. 9….(Caroline Glick) Now that the Islamists are poised to take power in Cairo, the Israel-Egypt treaty is null and void. The rise of the forces of jihadist Islam in Egypt places the US and other Western powers in an uncomfortable position. The US is the guarantor of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. That treaty is based on the proposition of land for peace. Israel gave Egypt Sinai in 1982 and in exchange it received a peace treaty with Egypt. Now that the Islamists are poised to take power, the treaty is effectively null and void.
The question naturally arises: Will the US act in accordance with its role as guarantor of the peace and demand that the new Egyptian government give Sinai back to Israel? Because if the Obama administration or whatever administration is in power when Egypt abrogates the treaty does not issue such a demand, and stand behind it, and if the EU does not support the demand, the entire concept of land-for-peace will be exposed as a hoax. Indeed the land-for-peace formula will be exposed as a twofold fiction. First, it is based on the false proposition that the peace process is a two-way street. Israel gives land, the Arabs give peace. But the inevitable death of the Egyptian- Israeli peace accord under an Egyptian jihadist regime makes clear that the land-for-peace formula is a one-way street. Israeli land giveaways are permanent. Arab commitments to peace can be revoked at any time.
Then there are the supposedly iron-clad US and European security guarantees that accompany signed treaties. All the American and European promises to Israel, that they will stand by the Jewish state when it takes risks for peace, will be exposed as worthless lies. As we are already seeing today, no one will stand up for Israel’s rights. No one will insist that the Egyptians honor their bargain. As it has become more apparent that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties will hold an absolute majority in Egypt’s democratically elected parliament, Western governments and media outlets have insistently argued that these anti-Western, and anti-Jewish, movements have become moderate and pragmatic. Leading the charge to make the case has been the Obama administration. In fact, President Obama has eagerly embraced the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood Yusuf Qaradawi is reportedly mediating negotiations between the US and the Taliban.
Qaradawi, an Egyptian who has been based in Qatar since 1961, when he was forced to flee Egypt due to his jihadist politics, made a triumphant return to his native land last February following the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak. Speaking to a crowd of an estimated two million people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Qaradawi led them in a chant calling for them to invade Jerusalem. Over the years, Qaradawi has issued numerous religious ruling permitting, indeed requiring, the massacre of Jews. In 2009, he called for the Muslim world to complete Hitler’s goal of eradicating the Jewish people. As for the US, in 2003, Qaradawi issued a religious ruling calling for the killing of US forces in Iraq.
Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists are happy to cater to the propaganda needs of Western journalists and politicians and pretend that they are willing to continue to uphold the peace treaty with Israel. But even as they make conditional statements to eager Americans and Europeans, they consistently tell their own people that they seek the destruction of Israel and the abrogation of the peace deal between Egypt and Israel.
As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ Jonathan D. Halevi documented last week in a report on Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist positions on the future of the peace between Egypt and Israel, while speaking to Westerners in general terms about their willingness to respect the treaty, both groups place numerous conditions on their willingness to maintain it. These conditions make clear that there is no way that they will continue to respect the peace treaty. Indeed, they will use any excuse to justify its abrogation and blame it on Israel. And they will do so at the earliest available opportunity.
It is possible, and perhaps likely, that the US will cut off military aid to Egypt in the wake of Cairo’s abrogation of the peace treaty. But it is impossible to imagine that the Obama administration will abide by the US’s commitment as the guarantor of the deal and demand that Egypt return Sinai to Israel. Indeed, it is only slightly more likely that a Republican administration would fulfill the US’s commitment as guarantor of the peace and demand the return of Sinai to Israel after Egypt’s democratically elected Islamist regime finds an excuse to abrogate the peace treaty. It is important to keep this sorry state of affairs in mind when we assess the prospects for a land-for-peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
There are several reasons further peace talks are doomed to failure. The most important reason they will fail is that even if they lead to an agreement, no agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is sustainable. Assuming for a moment that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas goes against everything he has said for the past three years and signs a peace deal with Israel in which he promises Israel peace in exchange for Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, this agreement will have little impact on the Palestinians’ view of Israel. Abbas today represents no one. His term of office ended three years ago. Hamas won the last Palestinian elections in 2006.
And Hamas’s leaders, like their counterparts in the Muslim Brotherhood, make no bones about their intention to destroy Israel. Two weeks ago at a speech in Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh proclaimed, “We say today explicitly so it cannot be explained otherwise, that the armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the Mediterranean sea to the Jordan river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers Israel. We won’t relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine.” In his visit with his Muslim Brotherhood counterpart, Mohammad Badie, in Cairo this week Haniyeh said, “The Islamic resistance movement of Hamas by definition is a jihadist movement by the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian on the surface, Islamic at its core, and its goal is liberation.”
With Hamas’a Brotherhood colleagues taking power from Cairo to Casablanca, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which supposedly peace seeking Fatah will win Palestinian elections. It is in recognition of this fact that Abbas has signed a series of unity agreements with Hamas since May. So the best case scenario for a peace deal with the Palestinians is that Abbas will sign a deal that Israel will implement by withdrawing from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and expelling up to a half a million Israeli citizens from their homes. Hamas will then take power and abrogate the treaty, just as its brethren in Cairo are planning to do with their country’s peace treaty.
This leads us to the question of what the diplomatic forces from the US, the EU, and the UN, who have worked so hard to get the present negotiations started are really after. What are they trying to achieve by pressuring Israel to negotiate a deal that they know will not be respected by the Palestinians? In the case of some of the parties involved it is fairly obvious that they want to weaken Israel. Take the UN for example. In 2005, Israel withdrew all of its military forces and civilians from Gaza. Rather than reward Israel for giving up land with peace, the Palestinians transformed Gaza into a launching pad for missile attacks against Israel. And in June 2007, Hamas took over the territory. Despite the fact that Israel is wholly absent from Gaza, and indeed is being attacked from Gaza, no one has called for the Palestinians to give the territory back to Israel. The UN doesn’t even recognize that Israel left. Last September, the UN published yet another report labeling Israel as the occupier of Gaza. And in accordance with this fiction, the UN, along with the EU and the US continues to hold Israel responsible for Gaza’s welfare.
Since the inauguration of the land-for-peace process between Israel and the PLO 19 years ago, the Palestinians have repeatedly demonstrated their bad faith. Israeli land giveaways have consistently been met with increased Palestinian terrorism. Since 1996, US and European-trained Palestinian security forces have repeatedly used their guns to kill Israelis. Since 1994, the PA has made it standard practice to enlist terrorists in its US-and European-funded and trained security forces. The US and Europe have continued to train and arm them despite their bad faith. Despite their continued commitment to Israel’s destruction and involvement in terrorism, the US and the EU have continued to demand that Israel fork over more territory. At no point have either the US or the EU seriously considered ending their support for the Palestinians or the demonstrably fictitious land for peace formula. To understand its feckless emptiness, all they need to do is direct their attention to what happened this week in Cairo, as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists secured their absolute control over Egypt’s parliament. Specifically, our leaders should note the absence of any voices demanding that Egypt respect the peace treaty with Israel or return Sinai. The time has come for Israel to admit the truth. Land-for-peace is a confidence game and we are the mark.
Why is Obama Lying to Cover for the Muslim Brotherhood?
Jan. 9….(Israel Today) The Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday reaffirmed a statement by one of it's leaders last week that it intends to negatively alter or cancel Egypt's peace treaty with Israel after the group assumes power in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood's affirmation came in response to a claim by US State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland last Thursday that the Obama Administration had received secret assurances that the Brotherhood would uphold the Camp David Accords following its electoral victory. Nuland's assertion was itself a response to an interview published in the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat last week in which Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Dr. Rashad Bayoumi insisted that his group will never recognize Israel or its right to exist. "This is not an option, whatever the circumstances, we do not recognize Israel at all," said Bayoumi, adding, "The Brotherhood respects international conventions, but we will take legal action against the peace treaty with the Zionist entity."
In her press briefing, Nuland dismissed Bayoumi's remarks and his commanding position by stating that he is "just one member of the Muslim Brotherhood." Nuland said that Washington had "other assurances from the party" that it would not follow the policies communicated by Bayoumi. Essam Arian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing the Freedom and Justice Party, shot back by insisting that neither Nuland nor anyone else in the Obama Administration had received any such guarantees. "No one in Egypt can promise anything on behalf of the entire nation," Arian told the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. Another Brotherhood official, Subhi Saleh, added that while "the Muslim Brotherhood will honor all agreements, no agreements are sacred and any signed agreement can be reconsidered." That revelation again raised concerns that once in power, the Muslim Brotherhood will hold a national referendum on maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, a move that Bayoumi previously championed.
In light of the results of Egypt's parliamentary election, the Muslim Brotherhood won 40 percent of the vote, while second place went to the even more radical al-Nour Party, and the fact that the Brotherhood's official party position is to reject Israel, such a referendum would certainly be the end of the Camp David Accords. No one is more pleased by that realization than Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who told British newspaper The Independent on Saturday that with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, "Israel is in a security situation they have never been in before." Hamas was born out of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and Haniyeh sees the group as a natural ally in Hamas' quest to eventually eradicate the Jewish State.
Generals Hand Over Power in Egypt to Muslim Brotherhood
Jan. 9….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Washington and Jerusalem were dismayed to discover last week that Egypt's transitional military rulers (SCAF) were preparing to drop the reins of government and hand them over, lock, stock and barrel, including the armed forces to the Muslim Brotherhood, at the earliest opportunity. This decision upends the Obama administration's plans for post-Mubarak: The military rulers were to have stayed in place until a new, democratic constitution was drafted and a moderate president acceptable to the Egyptian people elected. But the generals seem to have despaired of getting Egypt back on its feet after the turmoil of the 12-month uprising and are anxious to escape the country's plunge into chaos, economic breakdown and the uncertainties of an approaching Middle East war.
Led by SCAF chairman Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the military is resolved not to wait for the next two stages of the democratic transition to go through. They are on the run, even if this means handing Egypt on a silver platter to the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist colleagues whose parties have dominated the three rounds of parliamentary elections. Indeed, according to Debkafile's Washington and intelligence sources, Tantawi has already struck a deal to hand over the presidential powers vested in him provisionally to the incoming Speaker of Parliament, the choice of whom is up to the Brotherhood.
After Mubarak's downfall, the Netanyahu government originally agreed to align its policy with the Obama administration's line. It was one of the understandings contained in package agreed between the two governments which also covered plans for Iran and the prisoner swap for releasing Gilead Shalit from Hamas captivity. Until now, therefore, Israel has gone along with line dictated by Washington to act as though there was nothing amiss in relations with Cairo, although Israel has already had to pay a prohibitive price for this pretense, mainly in terms of its security. It entailed holding silent when the Palestinian fundamentalist Hamas went through the motions of cutting its ties with Iran and Syria and moving closer to the putatively "moderate" Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This pretense paved the way for the radical organization's acceptance in the good graces of the West.
But in truth, those ties were never severed. While circulating reports about an imminent transfer of Hamas headquarters out of Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal was discovered secretly acting as go-between to broker a deal between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Arab League. Hamas' Gaza leader Mahmoud a-Zahar then made it crystal clear that the organization had, and never would change its ideological spots or the strategic doctrines which mandate Palestinian armed struggle until Israel is destroyed. By staying mute while these processes ripened, Israel eased the way for the generals to consider dropping Egypt into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood without US interference and helped open the door to relations of cooperation between Islamist Cairo and Washington.It also emboldened Muslim Brotherhood leaders to declare repeatedly that they have never been bound by any pledges to Washington to uphold the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, flatly denying reports to the contrary.
In a twelfth-hour bid to retrieve a portion of Obama's Arab Spring policy wreckage in Egypt, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent her senior deputy for Middle East affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Cairo last week to try and slow down the military junta's transfer of power to the Islamists and perhaps rescue the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which has been an anchor of Middle East stability for three decades.
WEEK OF JANUARY 3 THROUGH JANUARY 7
Thousands of US Troops Land in Israel; Aircraft Carrier Enroute
Jan. 7….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Thousands of US troops began descending on Israel this week. Senior US military sources told Debkafile Friday, Jan. 6 that many would be staying up to the end of the year as part of the US-IDF deployment in readiness for a military engagement with Iran and its possible escalation into a regional conflict. They will be joined by a US aircraft carrier. The warplanes on its decks will fly missions with Israeli Air Force jets. The 9,000 US servicemen gathering in Israel in the coming weeks are mostly airmen, missile interceptor teams, marines, seamen, technicians and intelligence officers.
The incoming American soldiers are officially categorized as participants in Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint US-Israeli war game ever held. The maneuver was originally designated Juniper Stallion 2012. However, the altered name plus the comment heard from the exercise's commander, US Third Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, during his visit two weeks ago, that the coming event is more a "deployment" than an "exercise," confirmed that Washington has expanded its mission. The joint force will now be in place ready for a decision to attack Iran's nuclear installations or any war emergency.
Our sources disclose that it was decided at the last minute in Washington and Jerusalem to announce the forthcoming Austere Challenge 12 on Thursday night, Jan. 5, ahead of the bulletin released by Tehran about another Iranian naval exercise at the Strait of Hormuz to take place in February, although its 10-day drill in the same arena only ended Monday, Jan. 2. The early release was decided in consultations among US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the two army chiefs, US Gen. Martin Dempsey and Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. British Defense Minister Phillip Hammond, on a visit to Washington, was brought into the discussion. The handout circulated to US correspondents from Hammond's talks in the US capital affirmed that Britain stands ready to strike Iran if the Strait of Hormuz is closed. However, that phrase was omitted from the British minister's remarks at a news conference, following a last-minute request from Panetta, signifying the Obama administration's interest of keeping a low profile on plans for attacking Iran.
Tehran too is walking a taut tightrope. It is staging military's maneuvers every few days to assuring the Iranian people that its leaders are fully prepared to defend the country against an American or Israeli strike on its national nuclear program. By this stratagem, Iran's ground, sea and air forces are maintained constantly at top war readiness to thwart any surprise attack. The joint US-Israeli drill will test multiple Israeli and US air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets, according to the official communiqué. Debkafile's military sources add that they will also practice intercepting missiles and rockets coming in from Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It will not be the first time a US aircraft carrier docks in Israel for joint operations with the Israeli Air Force. On June 9, 2010, the USS Truman dropped anchor opposite Israel to test a joint deployment against Iran and its allies. The carrier and its air and naval strike force then staged joint firing practices with the Israeli Air Force over the Negev in the South. Washington and Jerusalem are doing their utmost to present a perfectly synchronized military front against Iran: American officers are stationed at IDF command centers and Israeli officers posted at the US European Command-EUCOM. At the same time, Debkafile's military sources disclose that full consensus has not been reached on every last particular of shared operation against Iran, should one go forward.
Countries With the Largest Number of Christians
Jan. 7….(Taunton Gazette) These are some of the key findings of a new report released by the Pew Research Center, called Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population, which provides data on the world's Christian population by region, country and tradition.
• Almost half (48 percent) of all Christians live in the 10 countries with the largest number of Christians. Three of the top ten are in the Americas (the United States, Brazil and Mexico). Two are in Europe (Russia and Germany); two are in the Asia-Pacific region (the Philippines and China); and three are in sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), reflecting Christianity's global reach.
• Christians are diverse theologically as well as geographically. About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37 percent. Orthodox Christians comprise 12 percent of Christians worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, make up the remaining one percent of the global Christian population.
• Taken as a whole, Christians are by far the world's largest religious group. Muslims, the second-largest group, make up a little less than a quarter of the world's population, according to previous studies by the Pew Forum.
• Although Christianity began in the Middle East-North Africa, that region today has both the lowest concentration of Christians (about 4 percent) and the smallest number of Christians (about 13 million) of any major geographic region.
• Although Christians comprise just under a third of the world's people, they form a majority of the population in 158 countries and territories, about two-thirds of all the countries and territories in the world.
• Nigeria now has more than twice as many Protestants (broadly defined to include Anglicans and independent churches) as Germany, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation.
• About 90 percent of Christians live in countries where Christians are in the majority; only about 10 percent of Christians worldwide live as minorities.
Obama To provide US Missile Secrets to Russia
(FOJ Note: One day after announcing Defense cuts, President Obama is now providing US missile defense data to Russia, possibly making our defenses obsolete)
Jan. 7….(Washington Times) President Obama signaled Congress this week that he is prepared to share US missile defense secrets with Russia. In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on US Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority. US officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the US missile defense arsenal. There are also concerns that Russia could share the secret data with China and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to help their missile programs defeat US missile defensess.
Officials from the State Department and Missile Defense Agency have discussed the idea of providing the SM-3 data to the Russians as part of the so-far fruitless missile-defense talks with Moscow, headed in part of by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, who defense officials say is a critic of US missile defenses. Their thinking is that if the Russians know the technical data, it will help allay Moscow’s fears that the planned missile defenses in Europe would be used against Russian ICBMs. Officials said current SM-3s are not fast enough to catch long-range Russian missiles, but a future variant may have some anti-ICBM capabilities. House bill Section 1227 of the defense law prohibits spending any funds that would be used to give Russian officials access to sensitive missile-defense technology, as part of a cooperation agreement without first sending Congress a report identifying the specific secrets, how they would be used and steps to protect the data from compromise. The president also must certify to Congress that Russia will not share the secrets with other states and that it will not help Russia “to develop countermeasures” to US defenses. The certification is supposed to show whether Russia is providing equal access to its missile defense technologies, which are mainly nuclear-tipped anti-missile interceptors.
End of Arab Christianity
(In Islamic Middle East, Christianity quickly becoming a thing of the past)
Jan. 6….(YNET) Welcome to a Christians-free Middle East. Arab Christianity is near its extinction everywhere. “Christianity in Iraq could be eradicated in our lifetime, partially as a result of the US troop withdrawal,” declared Leonard Leo, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Up to 900,000 Christians already fled the country since 2003, according to a recent study by Minority Rights Group International. Benjamin Sleiman, archbishop of Baghdad, also spoke of “the extinction of Christianity in the Middle East.”
In Egypt, 100,000 Christians already left the country after Hosni Mubarak’s fall earlier this year. The Egyptian Union of Human Rights is denouncing this “mass exodus.” This week Egyptian authorities arrested Gamal Massoud, a Coptic Christian student accused of posting a drawing of Islam’s prophet on Facebook that triggered two days of violence in southern Egypt; meanwhile, Muslims were attacking Massoud’s house and chanting “Allahu akbar” or “God is Great.”
In Syria, the major Christian leaders are supporting Bashar Assad’s bloodbath, fearing an Islamic takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Catholic Patriarch of Lebanon, Bechara Rai, blessed Assad as a “reformer” while Greek-Orthodox Bishop Louqa al-Khouri organized ecumenical shows to support the regime. For the first time in Syrian history, the current Minister of Defense, Dawud Rajha, is a Christian. Yet this is not a sign of power, but rather, of desperation. Adnan al-Aroor, the Syrian sheikh who has become the religious voice of the uprising against Assad, is urging his followers to “tear apart, chop up and feed” the meat of Christian supporters of the regime “to the dogs.” The Syrian puppets in Lebanon waged a campaign of terror against Lebanon’s Christians starting in 2005. Christian politicians and journalists were assassinated and bombs detonated in Christian areas.
Elsewhere, in Gaza, the 3,000 Christians who remain are subjected to persecution and death. Meanwhile, every year some 1,000 Palestinian Christians are leaving their citadel Bethlehem. In a recent Christmas celebration hosted by the Fatah movement, Mohammad Shtayyeh, a central committee member, appealed to Christians to “remain in the land.” The process of eradication began immediately after Yasser Arafat assumed control of the Palestinian Authority. Christian sites and cemeteries were desecrated by Muslims. Slogans like “Islam will win” and “First the Saturday people then the Sunday People” have been painted on walls, and PLO flags were draped over Jesus crosses. Now that the Nasserite mixture of socialism and secularism is outclassed by the Islamist travesty of “Arab Spring,” Christians are vanishing from their cradle.
Christians are paying the anti-Israel appeasing choice: they feed the Islamic crocodile hoping it would eat them last. Many ministers in all the anti-Zionist regimes of the Fertile Crescent were Christian: For example, Tariq Aziz, former Iraq’s deputy prime minister, and Michel Aflaq, the cofounder of the Ba’ath Party who played a pivotal role in the history of both Iraq and Syria. Moreover, Arab Christians like George Habash and Nayef Hawatmeh emerged as the most effective terrorist commanders. There is also the head of the Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, is a fierce anti-Semitic figure. Meanwhile, in Lebanon’ the Christian movements of General Michel Aoun and Sleiman Frangieh are allied with Hizbollah. Christians have also been part of municipal councils headed by Hamas. Nonetheless, the Islamic tiger is now devouring the Christian lamb. Indeed, the Christian era in the Middle East is coming to an end.
US Government Via PP Aborted 330,000 Babies Last Year
Jan. 6….(IN THE DAYS) In addition, the number of adoption referrals made by the organization continued to decline. The latest annual report covers the period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, the PPFA’s fiscal year. The report states that the organization received “government health services grants and reimbursements” totaling $487.4 million. Previous Planned Parenthood annual reports showed total funding from “government grants and contracts” (which were $363.2 million in 2009), while this year’s report also accounts for payments from Medicaid managed care plans among the payments the group receives from government. When compared with previous annual reports, the latest one shows an almost steady increase in the number of abortions performed at its clinics: In 2006, Planned Parenthood did 289,750 abortions; in 2007, it did 305,310; in 2009, it did 331,796; and, in 2010, it did 329,445, a small decrease from the previous year. The annual report for fiscal year 2008-2009 does not include abortion or adoption figures, but a PPFA Fact Sheet posted on its Web site and said to be current as of September 2010, states that 324,008 abortions were performed at Planned Parenthood clinics around the country in 2008.
According to PPFA’s annual report for fiscal year 2007-2008, in 2007 Planned Parenthood’s “adoption referrals to other agencies” totaled 4,912. In Fiscal Year 2010 that number was 841, a decrease of 82.8 percent. The PPFA Fact Sheet states that adoption is included in 1 percent of services in 2008 (primary care and “other services” are included in that 1 percent), or 2,405 adoption referrals. The latest annual report claims that abortion services make up 3 percent of “medical services,” but PPFA states it served 3 million people and performed 329,445 abortions, numbers that show 11 percent of customers received an abortion. The Fiscal Year 2009-2010 annual report also shows that PPFA’s net assets as of June 30, 2010 topped $1 billion, specifically $1,009,600,000.00.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization that lobbies Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, called the organization an “abortion giant.” “With over a billion in net assets and a business model centered on abortion and government subsidies, it is time for Planned Parenthood to end its reliance on taxpayer dollars,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “Despite an unprecedented effort by statewide and federal leaders to defund them, a wave of former employees willing to testify against them, and uniform agreement amongst Republican presidential candidates that they should be defunded, Planned Parenthood continues full-steam ahead.” “They are unwilling to answer to the pro-life American majority that wants out of this business,” Dannenfelser said. As reported earlier by CNSNews.com, a spokesperson with Planned Parenthood told Bloomberg’s Businessweek last year that 90 percent of government funding the organization gets is from the federal government.
With Coming Cuts to Defense, New Military Will Be Leaner, Still Superior
Jan. 6….(Fox News) President Obama offered a new Pentagon strategy that cuts billions of dollars for defense over the next decade and will "turn the page on a decade of war," but has critics arguing will gut US ability to lead a dangerous world. In a rare appearance in the Pentagon press briefing room Thursday, where he announced that the military will be reshaped over time, Obama said the reality of the US economy is forcing the Defense Department to look at its strategy in an all-new way, even as he insisted that strategy will determine the force structure, "not the other way around." "We have to renew our economic strength here at home, which is the foundation of our strength in the world. That includes putting our fiscal house in order," the president said. Calling the "very serious debt and deficit problem here at home" a national security risk, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking after the president, said curbing the growth in the defense budget from its expected $487 billion in increases over the next decade doesn't mean choosing between national and fiscal responsibilities. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the US will focus its security more on challenges from the Asia-Pacific and Mideast.
As expected, the plan wasn't well received by some on Capitol Hill, including the House Armed Services Committee chairman who described the new approach as more of the Obama administration's strategy to "lead from behind." "The president has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense," said Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif. "This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs," McKeon added. "In order to justify massive cuts to our military, he has revoked the guarantee that America will support our allies, defend our interests and defy our opponents. The president must understand that the world has always had, and will always have a leader. As America steps back, someone else will step forward."
FOJ Note: Perhaps Mr. Obama could find more money to help defend our declining nation if he would get the government out of the abortion industry!
Saudi Arabia, Gulf States on War Alert for US-Iran War
Jan. 6….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) The armies of Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council states stood ready Thursday Jan. 5, for Washington to stand up to Iranian threats and send an aircraft carrier or several warships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Riyadh has been leaning hard on the Obama Administration not to let Tehran get away with its warning to react with "full force" if the USS Stennis aircraft carrier tried to reenter the Gulf or Iran's pretensions to control the traffic transiting the world's most important oil route. Wednesday night, the Iranian parliament began drafting a bill prohibiting foreign warships from entering the Gulf without Tehran's permission. Debkafile's Washington sources report that Saudi Arabia has warned the Obama administration that Iranian leaders mean what they say; their leaders are bent on provoking a military clash with the United States at a time and place of their choosing, rather than leaving the initiative to Washington. To this end, Iranian officials are ratcheting up their belligerence day after day. Notwithstanding their military inferiority, the Iranians believe they can snatch a measure of success from a military confrontation, just as the Lebanese Hizballah did in the 2006 war against Israel. In any case, they expect any clash to be limited, at least at first. The two sides will begin by feeling for the opposite side's weaknesses while endeavoring to hold the line against a full-blown war.
America's failure to rise to Iran's challenge will confirm its rulers in the conviction that the US is a paper tiger and encourage them to press their advantage for new gains. The assessment of British military experts Thursday, Jan. 5, was that the question now is: Who will blink first? Will the US follow through on the Pentagon's assertion that the deployment of US military assets in the Persian Gulf will continue as it has for decades? Or will Iran act on its warnings and block those waters to the entry of American warships? President Barack Obama can't afford to cave in to Iran, especially while campaigning for reelection in Nov. 2012; Tehran, for its part, has made too many threats to easily back down.
The entire region is now on tenterhooks for the next move, with US, Iranian and Gulf armies on the highest war alert. American and Iranian war planners both accept that their advantage lies in surprising the enemy, without, however, catapulting the Persian Gulf into a full-dress war. US Navy publications as of Wednesday, Jan. 4 showed a sign of the times: One ran a series of photos of F-18 Super Hornet fighter-bombers standing on the runways of the USS Stennis aircraft carrier ready for takeoff at any moment. Another depicted for the first time ever row upon row of huge bombs in the carrier's hold to show the Iranians what they are taking on.
In the view of Debkafile’s military sources, the fact that the US has deployed only one large aircraft carrier in the region does not signify any reluctance on Washington's part to preserve the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. There is no longer a need to rush more carriers to a flashpoint in these strategic waters. The US maintains five huge air bases in the Gulf region, two, the Ali Al Salem and Ahmed Al Jaber bases, in Kuwait; the Al Dhafra base in the UAE; and the largest air bases outside the US, Al Adid in Qatar and the Thumrait in Oman. The concentration of aircraft carriers at any given location is no longer treated as the marker of an imminent US military operation.
Oil Prices Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz
Jan. 6….(Yahoo) If Iran were to follow through with its threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit route for almost one-fifth of the oil traded globally, the impact would be immediate: Energy analysts say the price of oil would start to soar and could rise 50 percent or more within days. An Iranian blockade by means of mining, airstrikes or sabotage is logistically well within Tehran’s military capabilities. But despite rising tensions with the West, including a tentative ban on European imports of Iranian oil announced Wednesday, Iran is unlikely to take such hostile action, according to most Middle East political experts.
United States officials say the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in nearby Bahrain, stands ready to defend the shipping route and, if necessary, retaliate militarily against Iran. Iran’s own shaky economy relies on exporting at least two million barrels of oil a day through the strait, which is the only sea route from the Persian Gulf and “the world’s most important oil choke point,” according to Energy Department analysts. A blockade would also punish China, Iran’s most important oil customer and a major recipient of Persian Gulf oil. China has invested heavily in Iranian oil fields and has opposed Western efforts to sanction Iran over its nuclear program.
Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons. That did not stop President Obama from signing legislation last weekend imposing sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank intended to make it more difficult for the country to sell its oil, nor did it dissuade the European Union from moving toward a ban on Iranian oil imports.
Energy analysts say even a partial blockage of the Strait of Hormuz could raise the world price of oil within days by $50 a barrel or more, and that would quickly push the price of a gallon of regular gasoline to well over $4 a gallon. “You would get an international reaction that would not only be high, but irrationally high,” said Lawrence J. Goldstein, a director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation. Just the threat of such a development has helped keep oil prices above $100 a barrel in recent weeks despite a return of Libyan oil to world markets, worries of a European economic downturn and weakening American gasoline demand. Oil prices rose slightly on Wednesday as the political tensions intensified.
American officials have warned Iran against violating international laws that protect commercial shipping in international waters, adding that the Navy would guarantee free sea traffic. “If the Iranians chose to use their modest navy and antiship missiles to attack allied forces, they would see a probable swift devastation of their naval capability,” said David L. Goldwyn, former State Department coordinator for international energy affairs. “We would take out their frigates.”
More than 85 percent of the oil and most of the natural gas that flows through the strait goes to China, Japan, India, South Korea and other Asian nations. But a blockade would have a ripple effect on global oil prices. Since Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates all rely on the strait to ship their oil and natural gas exports, a blockade might undermine some of those governments in an already unstable region. Analysts say that a crisis over the Strait of Hormuz would most likely bring China and the United States into something of an alliance to restore shipments, although Mr. Goldwyn said China would more likely resort to private diplomacy instead of military force.
Europe and the United States would probably feel the least direct impact because they have strategic oil reserves and could get some Persian Gulf oil through Red Sea pipelines. Saudi Arabia has pipelines that could transport about five million barrels out of the region, while Iraq and the United Arab Emirates also have pipelines with large capacities. But transportation costs would be higher if the strait were blocked, and several million barrels of oil exports would remain stranded, sending energy prices soaring on global markets. “To close the Strait of Hormuz would be an act of war against the whole world,” said Sadad Ibrahim Al-Husseini, former head of exploration and development at Saudi Aramco. “You just can’t play with the global economy and assume that nobody is going to react.”
Ahmadinejad: Judaizing' Jerusalem Will Bring End of Israel
Jan. 5….(Ha Aretz) Israeli attempts to "Judaize" Jerusalem will bring about its end, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, saying Israel's occupation of Palestinian land was the most important topic in the world. Speaking to a delegation to the Turkish-Palestinian Parliamentary Friendship Group, Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iranian state television that the "Zionists, who have no faith in religion or even God, now claim piety and intend to take away the Islamic identity of the Holy Quds." "This ridiculous move is in fact the continuation of the colonialist polices of oppressors, which will not save the Zionist regime, but also take the regime closer to the endpoint of its existence,” the Iranian president added.
Speaking of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran's official news agency Iran as saying that the "issue of Palestine is the main issue in the region and the whole world and nobody can ignore it." Iran has been embroiled in a standoff with the west over its contentious nuclear program, which Israel and the United States claim has military aspects. Most recently, Iran and the United States have been involved in a heated verbal spat over an Iranian threat to close off the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway crucial to the distribution of Persian Gulf crude oil supplies, if the West sanctions its oil sector.
Earlier Tuesday, American officials rejected an Iranian demand that its naval vessels leave the Gulf, indicating that the threat itself was an indication that economic sanctions on Iran were beginning to take a toll on the Islamic Republic. "These are regularly scheduled movements and in accordance with our long-standing commitments to the security and stability of the region and in support of ongoing operations," Commander Bill Speaks said in an emailed response to Reuters questions. "The US Navy operates under international maritime conventions to maintain a constant state of high vigilance in order to ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce," he said. When asked later Tuesday if the US intends to send naval reinforcements to the Gulf in response to Iranian talk of closing the Strait of Hormuz, Pentagon spokesperson George Little did not answer directly but said, "No one in this government seeks confrontation over the Strait of Hormuz. It's important to lower the temperature." Also referring to Iranian threats on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US saw "these threats from Tehran as just increasing evidence that the international pressure is beginning to bite." "They are feeling increasingly isolated and they are trying to divert the attention of their own public from the difficulties inside Iran, including the economic difficulties as a result of sanctions," Nuland told a news briefing.
US to Iran: Warships to Remain in Persian Gulf
Jan. 5….(USA Today) The Obama administration on Tuesday brushed aside Iran's warning to keep US aircraft carriers out of the Gulf, dismissing its threats as a consequence of hard-hitting American sanctions on the Iranian economy. Iranian military personnel place a national flag on a submarine during navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on Tuesday. Provoking a hostile start to what could prove a pivotal year for Iran, the country's army chief said American vessels were unwelcome in the Gulf, the strategic waterway that carries to market much of the oil pumped in the Middle East. The Islamic republic also has warned of blocking one of the world's key tanker lanes, the Strait of Hormuz, in response to new, stronger US economic penalties on Iran over its disputed nuclear enrichment program. Iranian Gen. Ataollah Salehi's warning about the Gulf came just three days after President Barack Obama signed into law new sanctions targeting Iran's Central Bank and its ability to sell petroleum abroad. Just Iranian saber-rattling, with no effect on US plans or military movements, spokesmen in Washington said. "It's the latest round of Iranian threats and is confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failure to live up to its international obligations," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "Iran is isolated and is seeking to divert attention from its behavior and domestic problems," Carney added. Salehi didn't cite a specific vessel, but the US Navy's 5th Fleet has said the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel headed out from the Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz last week after a visit to Dubai's Jebel Ali port. Iran closed 10 days of naval maneuvers on Tuesday, continuing a tone of military defiance but seeing the bite of international sanctions pull its currency, the rial, down to lows against the dollar earlier this week.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the Navy operates in the Gulf in accordance with international law, maintaining "a constant state of high vigilance" to ensure the flow of sea commerce. "The deployment of US military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades," Little said in a written statement. "These are regularly scheduled movements in accordance with our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region and in support of ongoing operations." The 5th Fleet has long been headquartered in the Gulf state of Bahrain, serving as a key counterbalance to Iran's expanding military presence in the Gulf. American allies France and Britain also have warships stationed in the region, while key Arab partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates closed deals last week with the US for major arms purchases. The threat of a military confrontation appears to be rising. If Iran advances closer to the production of an atomic bomb, it would increase the chances of Israel launching a pre-emptive strike on facilities to prevent what it sees as a mortal threat to its existence. Asked whether the US intends to send naval reinforcements to the Gulf in response to Iranian talk of closing its entry point at Hormuz, Little did not answer directly. "No one in this government seeks confrontation over the Strait of Hormuz," he said. "It's important to lower the temperature." On Monday, Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile as part of its naval maneuvers in the Gulf, prompting Iran's navy chief to boast that the strait is "completely under our control."
Little said any closure of the strait would not be tolerated, but declined to elaborate, while State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US would defend the right of American vessels to freedom of navigation. Asked about Iran's statements suggesting it is ready to restart nuclear negotiations, Nuland said the US and its partners in Europe and elsewhere have made clear that Iran has an opportunity to return to talks, based on conditions outlined by the international community in September. But they've yet to respond, she said. "The Iranians know what will be expected of them," Nuland said. "They have to meet their commitments to the international community and they have to be prepared to engage constructively and seriously on a comprehensive solution that restores the international community's confidence in the peaceful nature of their program." In the meantime, US sanctions on Iran will continue. Nuland said they already were the "toughest" in the world.
IDF Predicts Missile Attacks on Jerusalem in Future War
(Capital was previously believed to be safe due to its holy sites, large Arab population.)
Jan. 4….(Jerusalem Post) The army recently updated threat scenarios for every major city in Israel, and for the first time predicted that missiles might hit Jerusalem, even in a relatively minor conflict. The threat scenarios, as they are called in the IDF, are compiled by the Home Front Command and are based on intelligence collected regarding the enemy’s intentions, as well as its capabilities. The municipalities and local councils are then provided an estimated number of missiles they can expect to face in a conflict and are advised on how they should prepare.
For years, the defense establishment widely assumed that Israel’s enemies, primarily Hezbollah and Syria, would avoid targeting Jerusalem due to the relatively large Arab population in the city, and the fear that Muslim holy sites such as the Aksa Mosque would accidentally be hit. “That is no longer the case,” a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post. “We now believe that in a future war, there’s a possibility that Jerusalem will also come under missile fire even from the Gaza Strip.” The Home Front Command recently presented the threat scenario to the Jerusalem Municipality. According to the IDF, the capital, which is in the range of Syrian and Hezbollah missiles, could also come under fire during a smaller conflict with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Both terrorist organizations are believed to possess Iranian rockets that have the ability to strike Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.
City Councilor Elisha Peleg (Likud), who holds the portfolio for Security, Emergency Services and Fire and Rescue, said the municipality was aware of the new relevant scenarios. “We are getting ready for all the scenarios, and residents will get the best security and defense that they need,” he said. Peleg added that the city was in the process of finding money in the budget for more bomb shelters, though not necessarily in response to the updated scenarios, but because the it was always trying to build more public bomb shelters. The preparations were not unique to the capital, he said. “Now missiles can hit every place in the country,” he said. One of the major challenges in Jerusalem is the diverse population and the relatively old construction, leaving almost entire neighborhoods without bomb shelters and protected rooms. To reach out to the haredi sector, the Home Front Command recently drafted 20 ultra-Orthodox soldiers who would be responsible for visiting haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem such as Mea She’arim, clearing out bomb shelters and preparing protected rooms.
IDF: 8,000 Rockets, Missiles Could Hit Israel if War Erupts
Jan. 4….(Jerusalem Post) Based on enemy capabilities, IDF assesses hundreds of Israelis could be killed if war breaks out this year; a war in 2017 would likely include 15,000 rockets, missiles fired into Israeli cities, greater devastation. Israel is likely to come under fire from 8,000 rockets and missiles if a war breaks out in the coming year, according to updated IDF intelligence. Regarding the capabilities in the hands of it enemies, according to the assessment, it is possible that hundreds Israelis would be killed in such a war. Based on these assessments and the growing arsenals of Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, a war in 2017 would likely include the firing of 15,000 rockets and missiles into Israeli cities, causing greater devastation and more casualties. The IDF believes that most of the rockets will be short-range and another 5,500 will have a range over 70 km. "The arsenals that surround us are increasing in their quality, quantity as well as in their accuracy," a senior IDF officer said on Tuesday. For example, the officer said, by 2017 the IDF believes that Syria, Hezbollah and Iran will have close to a thousand rockets with accuracy of a few dozen meters. The revelation regarding the missile threat to the Israeli home-front comes as the IDF continues to negotiate with the government regarding the defense budget for 2012. The IDF had initially planned to implement a new multi-year plan for the years 2010-2017, but put those plans on hold after the government decided to cut the defense budget in wake of the past summer's social protest.
According to the IDF, under the NIS 50 billion budget proposed by the government the IDF is still missing close to NIS 7 billion needed for training its forces, procuring new capabilities and adequately countering the growing threats in the region. Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh recently appeared before the government and proposed that the IDF receive NIS 5 billion and find within its budget the remaining NIS 2 billion. Naveh warned the government that if the money is not allocated, the IDF will not be able to procure new missile defense systems such as the Iron dome for short-range rockets, David's Sling for medium-range rockets, and the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 for long-range ballistic missiles.
The IDF assessed that it will require around a dozen Iron Dome missile defense batteries to protect Israel from the short-range missile threat along its borders. The gap in the budget, according to the IDF, stems from the government's refusal in recent years to compensate it for the increase in the costs of living within Israel, such as the rising expenses of gas and food. According to the Brodet Commission, which studied the defense budget five years ago, the IDF is supposed to receive compensation for these costs. The Brodet Commission's recommendations were approved by the government at the time. One of the recommendations capped the amount the IDF would pay in property tax at NIS 320 million. The Treasury has refused to implement that recommendation and today the IDF is paying over NIS 700 million.
Arab World not Ready for Democracy
Jan. 4….(Israel Today) In the West, the "Arab Spring" has been hailed as the rise of democracy and personal freedom in the Arab Middle East. But in reality, the Arab Spring has given rise to the kind of Islamist forces that seized power in Iran's ostensibly pro-democracy movement in 1979. Israel's deputy prime minister and former army chief, Moshe Ya'alon, told reporters last month that the problem is Western powers instinctively promote and support pro-democracy movements as though elections alone will give birth to democratic freedoms. "We believe you cannot reach democracy by elections," said Ya'alon. "We believe it is a long process that should start with education." Ya'alon pointed out that it took Europe hundreds of years to fully develop real democracy. But for some reason, the West believes the Arab world will transition from totalitarianism to that same real democracy overnight.
As evidence that this is simply the wrong approach, Middle East expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University told Israel National News that it is precisely this ill-advised rush to elections that has now given rise to Islamists across the region. What was once a problem confined to Iran has now spread to Lebanon with the rise to power of Hizballah, to the Palestinian-controlled territories with the landslide electoral victory of Hamas in 2006, and to Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood's current success at the polls. The Muslim-dominated Middle East is simply not fertile ground for Western-style democracy, as many observers have argued for years. It remains a society where the guy with the most guns or with the highest propensity for brutality will always walk away the victor because most voters are too scared to elect anyone else. Either that, or they take pride in the power demonstrated by the most violent gun-toters, as was the case for many in Hamas' surprise win.
Israel Security Council: Obama Naive on Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood plans to cut off Israel, The Hindu says Obama wants them to talk to Taliban, Israeli officials call Obama naïve.
Jan. 4….(Arutz) Israel’s National Security Council thinks that President Barack Obama is naïve in his attitude towards the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which stated Sunday it can’t fathom the idea of recognizing Israel. Dr. Rashad Bayumi, the Brotherhood’s number two leader, said on Sunday, "No Muslim Brotherhood members will engage in any contact or normalization with Israel.” President Obama has asked the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading jurist, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to mediate secret talks between the United States and the Taliban, according to The Hindu newspaper. The jurist previously has called for killing US soldiers in Iraq and has vowed that Islam “will conquer Europe and America,” whether by force or by the spread of radical Islam.
In early 2010, when American foreign policy experts could not imagine that the radical Muslim Brotherhood would emerge as the most powerful political force in Egypt, President Obama dismissed the party as a “faction,” adding that “they don’t have majority support in Egypt. But they’re well organized. There are strains of their ideology that are anti-US.” Less than a year afterwards, the Brotherhood has emerged as the winner of the first three rounds of legislative elections in the post-Mubarak period. Its closest contender represents the even more radical Salafist Muslim sect. Last summer, the official Obama administration policy changed from shunning the Muslim Brotherhood to “engaging” it. Last month, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry met in Cairo with top members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
Israel's National Security Council, headed by Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror, recently discussed "The Challenge of the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Offshoots” and concluded that the US president is naïve, according to the Hebrew daily Yisrael HaYom. The National Security Council expressed the hope that the Obama administration will use economic leverage to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from spreading its ideology to other Muslim Arab countries. The party was outlawed under the Mubarak regime, and its deep roots and ideology of terrorism resulted in its creation of the Hamas terrorist organization, which now rules Gaza and is working its way back into the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the rival Fatah party.
Iran and Hamas May Go Separate Ways
Jan. 3….(WND) Iran may be losing one of its key allies and sources of influence in the Middle East, the Hamas terrorist organization. According to well placed sources within Hamas speaking to WND, the jihadist group has been asked by the Egyptian military to stay out of any future confrontation between Israel and Iran. For the first time in recent years, Hamas, feeling confident from major Muslim Brotherhood gains in the region, is considering distancing itself somewhat from Iran, the sources said. The group may even remain largely neutral if Israel strikes Iran’s suspected nuclear sites, the sources said. The sources added, however, that no decision has been made.
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood belong to the Sunni stream of Islam while Iran’s leadership espouses fundamentalist Shiite Islam. While Iran has long supported Sunni groups like Hamas, the major differences in Islamic ideology and practice have always caused some unease. Indeed, one of the most senior Hamas officials, speaking previously to WND on condition of anonymity, once said he would ultimately be pleased if Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear sites even if it means scaled-back Iranian funding to his group. The Hamas official said he fears Iran would use a nuclear umbrella to enforce a Shiite superpower in the Middle East at the expense of Sunni ideology. According to several Hamas sources, there has been tension between the jihad group and Iran over Hamas’ decision to not aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in fighting an insurgency targeting Assad’s regime. That uprising has been supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria is a major Iranian partner in the region. Some Hamas leaders even speculated the group may move their political headquarters from Syria. Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal currently resides in Damascus.
According to recent Arabic language news media reports, Hamas has been quietly scaling back its Damascus headquarters. Speaking last month to WND, Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to Hamas’ de facto prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, confirmed reports his group is looking to move the headquarters of its top leadership from Syria. “There are many places in the Arab world that would welcome the Hamas politburo,” Yousef said. Asked specifically where Hamas headquarters can move, Yousef replied: “There are many other countries. Jordan is there. Sounds like they are trying to open dialogue with Hamas. They might offer a place. Turkey, Egypt, Qatar; there are many places where Hamas leaders can find a safe haven to work and try to help their people in Gaza and the West Bank.”
While Hamas might not come to Iran’s aid in the event of an Israeli strike, sources in the Islamist group told WND the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror organization in the Gaza Strip is still firmly in Tehran’s camp. The Hamas sources said Islamic Jihad has very similar weaponry to Hamas, including a massive rocket arsenal capable of causing much damage to Israel. Egyptian security officials said Iran has been preparing Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate in the event of Israeli strikes against Tehran’s nuclear sites. The chatter about Hamas’ allegiances come after the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Salafi movement’s Al-Nour Party saw considerable gains in Egypt’s recent parliamentary vote.
A Hamas/PLO Joint Government Would Not Recognize Israel
Jan. 3….(WND) Hamas and the US-backed Palestinian Authority are studying the possibility of removing the Palestinian government from agreements that recognize the existence of Israel, WND has learned. Both PA and Hamas officials confirmed that the possibility is being studied as part of reconciliation talks aimed at seeing Hamas enter the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, the main Palestinian governing body. The PLO is currently dominated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, which is funded and armed by the U.S. and the international community. Despite news media claims to the contrary, the PLO never formally recognized the existence of Israel. Nor did it officially amend a section of its charter that delegitimizes Israel.
Instead, late PLO Leader Yasser Arafat simply stated that a section of the PLO charter that calls for the destruction of Israel has been nullified. Arafat later put that statement in writing. However, according to PLO regulations, a vote of PLO members must first be taken to amend the charter. Such a vote was never held. The section of the PLO charter in question also calls for a Palestinian “armed struggle” against Israel, while denying the existence of a Jewish people with a historical or religious connection to the land of Israel. Still, as part of the 1998 Wye River Accords, Arafat committed the PLO to nullifying the section of the PLO charter denying Israel’s right to exist. Other accords signed by the PLO recognize Israel.
It is unclear what mechanism Hamas and the PA would implement to change the PLO’s commitments if indeed Hamas enters the Palestinian national government. In Cairo last week, both Hamas and the PA announced that steps were being taken to reform the PLO to enable Hamas to enter. Fatah, Hamas and the 13 other Palestinian factions agreed on the creation of a panel that would govern elections to the PLO.
Muslim Brotherhood Will not Recognize Israel
(Egyptian party's deputy leader says they won't negotiate with Israel, will seek to cancel peace treaty)
Jan. 3….(Jerusalem Post) Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood will not recognize Israel “under any circumstance,” the party’s deputy leader Dr. Rashad Bayoumi told Arabic daily al-Hayat in an interview published on Sunday. In recent Egyptian elections the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won 36.3 percent of the list vote, while the ultra-conservative Salafi al-Nour Party took 28.8%. When asked whether it is a requirement for the government in Egypt to recognize Israel, Bayoumi responded by saying: “This is not an option, whatever the circumstances, we do not recognize Israel at all. It’s an occupying criminal enemy.” The deputy leader stressed during the interview that no Muslim Brotherhood members would ever meet with Israelis for negotiations.“I will not allow myself to sit down with criminals.” Bayoumi went on to say that the Muslim Brotherhood would take legal procedures towards canceling the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was signed in 1979. “The Brotherhood respects international conventions, but we will take legal action against the peace treaty with the Zionist entity,” he told the paper.
At the beginning of December, Egypt’s two leading Islamist parties won about two-thirds of votes for party lists in the second round of polling for a parliament that will help draft a new constitution after decades of autocratic rule. The vote, staged over six weeks, is the first free election Egypt has held after the 30-year rule of president Hosni Mubarak, who routinely rigged polls before he was overthrown by a popular uprising in February. The West long looked to Mubarak and other strongmen in the region to help combat Islamist militants, and has watched warily as Islamist parties have topped votes in Tunisia, Morocco and now Egypt. The Egyptian Parliament’s prime job will be appointing a 100-man assembly to write a new constitution which will define the president’s powers and parliament’s clout in the new Egypt.
Iran Claims to Have Produced Its First Nuclear Fuel Rod
Jan. 3….(Fox News) Iranian scientists have produced the nation's first nuclear fuel rod, a feat of engineering the West has doubted Tehran capable of, the country's nuclear agency said Sunday. The announcement marks another step in Tehran's efforts to achieve proficiency in the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from exploring uranium ore to producing nuclear fuel, despite UN sanctions and measures by the US and others to get it to halt aspects of its atomic work that could provide a possible pathway to weapons production. Tehran has long said it is forced to seek a way to manufacture the fuel rods on its own, since the sanctions ban it from buying them on foreign markets. Nuclear fuel rods are tubes containing pellets of enriched uranium that provide fuel for nuclear reactors. Iran's atomic energy agency's website said the first domestically made rod has already been inserted into the core of Tehran's research nuclear reactor. But it was unclear if the rod contained pellets or was inserted empty, as part of a test. "Scientists and researchers at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran have succeeded in producing and testing the first sample of a nuclear fuel rod," said the announcement.
The US and some of its European allies accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying the program is for peaceful purposes only and is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients. Although the rods are easier to make, Iran is also seeking to produce the pellets with enriched uranium. But so far it is not known whether Iranian nuclear scientists have been able to overcome the technical hurdles to do so. Tehran focused on domestic production of nuclear fuel rods and pellets in 2010, after talks with the West on a nuclear fuel swap deal ended in failure as Iran backed down on shipping a major part of its stock of enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel. The announcement on the fuel rod came just a day after Tehran proposed a new round of talks on its nuclear program with six world powers. The last round of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was held in January in Istanbul, Turkey, but it ended in failure. The UN has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can lead to making a nuclear weapon. Separately, the US and the European Union have imposed their own tough economic and financial penalties.