Created on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 07:16
Turkey on Wednesday denied agreeing to a US- brokered truce with Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, saying it would not compromise with a "terrorist" group a week into an unprecedented cross-border offensive.
Washington said Tuesday the two sides -- both US allies -- had agreed to a cessation of hostilities between their forces in Syria after deadly clashes at the weekend.
Also on Tuesday, the Islamic State group's top strategist Abu Mohamed al-Adnani was killed in a US-led coalition air strike in Syria's Aleppo province, in a major blow to the jihadists, the group said.
While Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies kept up the fight against IS, Ankara's bombardments of Kurdish-backed positions appeared to have eased, with no reports of any such strikes since Monday.
Turkey however rejected Washington's claim that it had agreed to hold fire on the pro-Kurdish coalition.
"We do not accept in any circumstances ... a 'compromise or a ceasefire reached between Turkey and Kurdish elements,'" EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik told state-run Anadolu news agency.
"The Turkish republic is a sovereign, legitimate state," Celik said, adding Turkey could not be put on an equal footing with a "terrorist organisation," referring to the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
After driving the Kurdish-backed fighters south away from the flashpoint border town of Jarabulus, the Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies on Tuesday fought Islamic State (IS) group jihadists to the town's west, Turkish media said.
Three Turkish soldiers were killed in a rocket attack on a tank near Jarabulus, the reports said.
Turkish warplanes later carried out airstrikes against "terrorist" targets nearby, state-run Anadolu news agency said, referring to IS.
Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 to clear the border area of jihadists and halt the westward advance of a US-backed Kurdish-led militia which Ankara considers a "terrorist" group.
After helping Syrian Arab rebels take Jarabulus from IS on the intervention's very first day, Turkey began strikes against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a YPG-dominated coalition that has been leading the fight against IS.
US Central Command spokesman, Colonel John Thomas, said Tuesday that the Turkish and Kurdish-led forces had reached a "loose agreement" to stop fighting each other.
Kurdish-backed militias said they had agreed to the truce.
Washington had expressed alarm after a weekend of clashes between its Turkish and Kurdish allies.
Ankara said it killed 25 "terrorists" in strikes on pro-Kurdish positions on Sunday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 40 dead and said the victims were mostly civilians.
Calling the escalation "unacceptable" the US urged the warring parties to stop fighting each other and concentrate on combatting IS.
Turkish media reported on Monday that Ankara summoned the US ambassador to protest the US criticism.
A spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry, however, told AFP that there was only a "phone call" to Ambassador John Bass.
IS attack Turkish forces
Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody war against the Turkish state since 1984.
In the past few months Turkey has watched in alarm as the Kurdish militia advanced west to fight IS, raising the prospect of a Kurdish-controlled corridor running nearly the entire length of Turkey's border.
On Tuesday, Turkey again demanded guarantees from Washington on the group's promise to the US to retreat east of the Euphrates river.
The US-led anti-IS coalition has been backing the YPG with training and equipment to fight the jihadists.
On Tuesday, Turkish forces and their rebel allies came under attack in IS-held territory to the west of Jarabulus, with the jihadists claiming in a statement to have destroyed two Turkish tanks in a missile attack.
The group also claimed to have carried out a suicide car bombing against Turkish-backed rebels in the same area and said it had killed "dozens" of Turkish soldiers and allied fighters.
'Leave Syria,' Iran tells Turkey
Turkey's offensive has raised concerns that Ankara could be drawn even
deeper into the Syrian conflict.
Iran, a key backer of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, urged Turkey to quickly wrap up its campaign, saying it was a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
Turkey has said Syria was informed in advance of the operation by Russia.
"Although the fight against terrorism... is a principle for all peace-seeking governments, it cannot and must not justify military operations on another country's territory without coordination with its central government," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.
Category: Archeology and History
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 12:04
The United States returned Wednesday hundreds of Iraqi artifacts its special forces recovered during a raid in Syria against a man described as the Islamic State group's top financier.
Some of the pieces were displayed at the Iraqi national museum during a repatriation ceremony attended by Antiquities Minister Adel Shirshab and US Ambassador Stuart Jones.
"These artifacts are indisputable evidence that Daesh (ISIS) - beyond its terrorism, beyond its brutality and destruction - is also a criminal gang that is looting antiquities from museums and historical sites," Jones said.
"And of course the purpose of this is to sell these items on the black market," he said.
The pieces on display in one of the recently reopened museum's main Assyrian halls Wednesday were small items, including coins, statuettes and jewelry.
"The coins for example are from the Islamic period. This is evidence that this terrorism that claims such heritage is blasphemous is trying to profit from it by selling it," Shirshab said.
The artifacts were retrieved by the US commandos who carried out a rare raid inside Syria on May 15 during which Abu Sayyaf, a top ISIS figure, was killed.
Abu Sayyaf was believed to be the jihadist organization's top financier, and US officials said they were learning a lot by analyzing what the raid had produced.
"These are very precious, priceless pieces," said Hakim al-Shammari, head of the exhibitions department at the national museum.
He could not estimate the black market value of the recovered artifacts but said they would have made a substantial contribution to ISIS finances.
"The revenue they get from selling such pieces is used to finance operations, buy weapons, recruit people and manufacture car bombs, for
example," he said.
Officials at Wednesday's ceremony provided few details on exactly where and when the returned artifacts had been looted.
ISIS has captured much attention by posting videos of its militants destroying statues and heritage sites on the grounds that they are idolatrous.
But experts argue they have mostly destroyed pieces that are too large to smuggle and sell off, and kept the smaller pieces, several of which are already resurfacing on the black market in the West.
The US says it has repatriated more than 3,000 stolen artifacts to Iraq since 2005.
Created on Thursday, 21 May 2015 13:18
Islamic State has threatened judges in Egypt with death after issuing a decision last week to have former president Mohammed Morsi executed. The terror group issued the threat on Thursday, just days after three Egyptian judges were killed in Sinai.
An audio recording on an ISIS site which was said to have been issued by the “Islamic State in Sinai” group featured what the site said was voice of group head Abu Osama al-Missri.
"The Egyptian tyrants cannot jail our brother Morsi. Poison their food, follow them to their homes and neighborhoods, destroy their homes with bombs, if you can,” al-Missri said in the message.
An Egyptian court sentenced Morsi to death on Saturday, along with a number of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made it his mission to crack down on Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch, Hamas. The cabinet designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist group in December 2013, "indefinitely" closed the Rafah border crossing to Gaza, and is now building a separation barrier between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
The sentence was condemned by the European Union and the U.S.
"The court decision to seek the death penalty... was taken at the end of a mass trial that was not in line with Egypt's obligations under international law," the EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini said in a statement. "The EU opposes capital punishment under all circumstances. The death penalty is cruel and inhumane."
The United States also expressed alarm Sunday at the death sentences, saying it has "consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday night blasted Egypt for the death sentence, saying it meant that "Egypt is turning back into ancient Egypt. The West, unfortunately, is still turning a blind eye to Sisi's coup."
Created on Friday, 24 April 2015 08:22
The United States created the "myth" of Iranian nuclear weapons in a wily maneuver to turn the country into a "threat," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei alleged on Sunday.
Speaking to several hundred military commanders during a televised address, Khamenei once again displayed his deep mistrust of the US -
just as nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 world powers are set to resume.
"They created the myth of nuclear weapons so they could say the Islamic Republic is a source of threat. No, the source of threat is America itself, with its unrestrained, destabilizing interventions," Khamenei charged.
Khamenei also attacked Israel, accusing the "Zionist regime, that is chained like a dog to the American regime," of being the real source of instability in the region.
"The other side is methodically and shamelessly threatening us militarily ... even if they did not make these overt threats, we would have to be prepared," he added.
A framwork agreement on Iran's nuclear program was reached between the Islamic Republic and world powers earlier this month. Negotiations to achieve a final accord by the June 30 deadline are expected to resume in Vienna this week.
While that temporary agreement has been reached, divisions remain. One major issue is how quickly international sanctions will be lifted once a final accord is determined.
Israel, meanwhile, has been consistently critical of the diplomatic deal with Iran, berating the West once again on Sunday for ignoring Iran's aggression in the Middle East.
Speaking before the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused Iran
of "ramping up its aggressiveness in the region and all around Israel's borders."
"Israel also sees with great severity the fact that there is no mention of this aggressiveness in the nuclear deal being formed between the powers and Iran," he added.
"There is no conditioning of the deal upon an end to this aggressiveness, either at the start of the deal or as a condition forremoving sanctions.”
Created on Friday, 17 April 2015 19:39
Iranian leadership continues to state clearly that the framework deal announced in Lausanne, Switzerland earlier this month constitutes a major achievement of the Islamic regime, which didn't give up on its nuclear program at all and forced the US to fold.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards chief General Mohammed Ali Jafari, who is considered to be one of the most influential men in Tehran, said that Iran's enemies tried to cause a change in the regime's policy through the negotiations and sanctions, but those efforts were in vain.
Jafari stated that the US in practice conceded to all of the red lines of Iran regarding its controversial nuclear program.
The Iranian military leader emphasized that no obligating agreement has yet been sealed between Iran and world powers regarding the nuclear program, and there are differences of opinion in terms of the removal of sanctions that are still liable to prevent a final agreement.
Iran has demanded that all sanctions be removed immediately with the signing of an agreement, while world powers have called for a gradual removal to try and ensure Iran keeps its word in reducing its uranium production - but not stopping it, or closing any of its nuclear facilities.
Jafari accused the US of "fraud" and "psychological warfare" in publishing a fact sheet
announcing what the US claims was agreed on in the framework deal, which Jafari called a false translation. He said the US did so to deceive its allies regarding the scope of the deal.
Top Iranian officials said last Tuesday that they will start using advanced IR-8 centrifuges
that are 20-times as effective as standard ones as soon as a deal is reached, meaning they would be able to produce a nuclear arsenal in a rapid timeframe.
US President Barack Obama likewise admitted in an interview last week that as a result of the deal, Iran will be able to reach a "zero" breakout time
by 2028, meaning it could produce nuclear weapons immediately whenever it wanted to.
It has also been noted that the US changed its goal
to a one-year window for nuclear breakout, after shelving original demands to dismantle significant parts of Iran's nuclear program when faced with strong Iranian opposition. The US management of the deal has been criticized by many, including famed former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
Created on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 21:30
US-Israel relations have been especially tense over the past several days, with US President Barack Obama giving a particularly cold reception to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's re-election last week.
The many harsh statements that have been made over the past week are not in a vacuum, according to a senior diplomat - who claims that the multiple condemnations are indeed a form of "revenge" from the Obama Administration against Netanyahu.
"The White House has three main motives," the source explained to Walla! News. "One, revenge (for Netanyahu's speech in Congress). Two, frustration. It's no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu and we know that clearly, and they have failed. Three, the government's attempt to shift the focus from them because the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue."
According to the expert, Obama is specifically attempting to use "deterioration in the Palestinian territories" as an excuse to draw attention away from the disastrous - and unpopular - Iran nuclear deal, despite the fact that "he knows that the only place preserving the stability of the Middle East at the moment is here."
The senior official heavily criticizes the Obama administration's handling of Israel and the issue of peace talks, asking why the issue of "settlements" in Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria are suddenly the most important policy issue on the agenda.
"Look what we have done so far with the construction in the settlements," the official fired. "We took upon ourselves all of the restrictions from the [Ariel] Sharon - [George W.] Bush era, which allowed natural growth but not the establishment of new settlements."
"But this administration does not understand the Sharon-Bush terms," he continued. "Their policy is a "no brick" policy, and it doesn't make any sense."
The White House has levied toward Israel since Netanyahu's victory, including a set of remarks later Monday night whereby it stated that Israel's "occupation must end
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:25
An Arab satellite television network report claimed Thursday that a US-led coalition airstrike against Islamic State targets in areas they control has killed a “large number” of the organization's top commanders.
It is not yet clear if ISIS' top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed.
The report on Al Arabiya television quoted sources in the US-led coalition as saying that the airstrike at a location on the Syria-Iraq border resulted in the deaths of “dozens” of top ISIS commanders.
The group was meeting in the city of Ka'im, and coalition forces, alerted to the meeting by ground intelligence, took advantage of the situation to eliminate the commanders.
Iraqi sources said that al-Baghdadi was set to attend the meeting, and may have been on his way there when the coalition planes struck. The fighters that carried out the strike were flown by French pilots.
Reports from the region indicated that coalition forces struck hard in a number of ISIS-controlled cities, and that damage across the area occupied by the terror group was widespread.
Witnesses said that ISIS militia ordered people to remain in their homes until further notice, and that fresh forces from neighboring states had poured in to help fight the coalition forces.
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 06:58
The recent U.S.-hosted Conference on Countering Violent Extremism that brought together the representatives of 60 nations in Washington "did not give birth to a global strategy on terror," states an article in the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram. It "served instead to underline differences between various points of view, especially those of Cairo and Washington."
As explained by political science professor Gamal Abdel-Gawad of the American University in Cairo, the disagreements between Egypt and the U.S. are stark. The Americans "still see political Islam as a present and legitimate player, not a synonym for extremism,” according to Abdel-Gawad.
Furthermore, the U.S. differentiates "between extremist Islamists and moderate Islamists, and believe that the moderates can be effectively integrated in politics as part of an acceptable political system… U.S. officials believe that the integration of political Islamic currents, including those suspected of extremism, in political life would be beneficial.”
Egypt, whose government has labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group, and which faces terrorist threats in Sinai, neighboring Libya, and elsewhere, does not agree.
Egypt has been pro-active in fighting these threats, including striking by air against ISIS forces in Libya for slaughtering 21 Egyptian Copts. Egypt had expected that the international coalition operating in Syria and Iraq would include Libya on its agenda, but this did not materialize.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told conference participants that the West “is not in a war against Islam” and that terrorist groups do not act in the name of the world’s one billion Muslims. Many Arab countries do not agree. Jordan's foreign minister told the conference that the current confrontation with terrorist groups should be viewed as “World War Three,” while Saudi Arabia called for drying up terrorism sources through concerted global action.
Some believe that the U.S. is "hedging its bets" regarding the ongoing struggle between the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt and the Egyptian government. Kamal Al-Helbawi, a former top Brotherhood official, said as much, noting that an American national security document of a few weeks ago calls for continued talks with both the government and opposition.
“The moderate Islamism Washington is talking about is the one it wishes to create, not the one it ascribes to the Brotherhood or other so-called moderates," said Al-Helbawi.
The analysis concludes that Egypt’s best option for now is to turn to its Arab partners for help. "Its diplomats will try either to dust off the Arab Joint Defence Agreement, or form a coalition with other nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Jordan… [and is even] talking to Russian diplomats in Syria about a possible political deal."
Created on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 08:38
Iraqi officials have expressed irritation and analysts skepticism at the US prediction that an offensive to retake Iraq's key city of Mosul from jihadists could be launched in April-May.
Mosul is a major hub for the Islamic State (ISIS) group and holds special significance as the place where jihadist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.
It has been under the jihadists' full control since the second day of their June offensive in Iraq, but federal and Kurdish forces have been slowly closing in, reports AFP.
An official with the US Central Command said last week that "the mark on the wall we are still shooting for is the April-May timeframe."
The rationale is to launch the operation before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which will start in mid-June, and searing summer temperatures, he said.
US President Barack Obama's envoy for the international coalition against ISIS, John Allen, said in October that any attempt to wrest back Mosul, Iraq's second city, could be a year away.
Iraq's defense minister, Khaled Obeidi, was irate that the Pentagon would call a date for the Mosul battle.
"A military official should not disclose the date and time of an attack," he told reporters on Sunday. "The timing is up to (Iraqi) military commanders. Where this American official got his information from, I don't know."
In a possible sign of the sensitivities of such issues, these comments were cut out of video footage of his press conference subsequently posted online by the defense ministry.
Together with Iran, the United States has been Iraq's top foreign partner in the war against ISIS and has launched almost daily strikes around Mosul since August 2014.
Some Iraqi officials have been gung-ho about a Mosul offensive, arguing that no more time could be wasted to claim the country back, but preparations have been slow.
Mosul, biggest operation ever for Iraqi army
Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker and senior leader in the Sarayat al-Salam Shi'ite militia, argued it was more pressing to liberate the western province of Anbar, which borders Baghdad.
"We need more time (for Mosul)...maybe by the end of the year," he told AFP. "The army needs more training, equipment, and arms to be able to do this."
"Yes we want to liberate Mosul and we support its liberation, but there are important flashpoints that need to be secured and we should not stretch ourselves too thin," Zamili said.
Mosul is a large city whose population was estimated at close to two million prior to the June 2014 ISIS assault.
Ten years ago, it took 10,000 highly trained US marines to clear Fallujah, a city the fraction of Mosul's size.
With Mosul, "the challenge is enormous, it would be a bigger operation than the post-Saddam Iraqi military has ever accomplished," said Nate Rabkin, the managing editor of the Inside Iraqi Politics newsletter.
Months of coalition air strikes have weakened ISIS's grip on the Mosul region, cutting some supply roads and destroying some of the military equipment they had seized from the army.
But the US Central Command official said 20,000-25,000 federal, Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces would be needed to defeat 1,000-2,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul.
"It would be extremely difficult to get these numbers of Iraqi army forces or ministry of interior forces into Mosul by summer 2015," said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute.
The United States officially has hundreds of forces in Iraq, advising and training the army, but there is no sign that process is near completion.
Beyond just finding the manpower, the Iraqi army would need to achieve a quantum leap in logistics to coordinate and supply different forces in a broad operation.
Relations between the autonomous Kurdish government and the federal authorities in Baghdad, currently strained by a revenue-sharing dispute, would also have to improve.
Knights said the timeframe given by the Pentagon official may have been more of a political message that a blurted military secret.
"I think it is a misstatement of US policy," he said, arguing that everything so far suggested Washington was trying to slow Baghdad's schedule down rather than pushing for quick action. "Maybe Iraq wants to go next week, and this is our attempt to hold them off till later."
Created on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:36
The United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" on a deal to train and equip Syrian rebel forces, the State Department said Tuesday.
"As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
"We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon," she said, without providing any further details about the train-and-equip program, which is expected to begin next month.
The announcement puts an end to months of difficult negotiations between allies Washington and Ankara on how to train Syrian rebel forces to eventually take on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
Last month, the Pentagon said it would send nearly 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as part of the effort.
More than 400 trainers would be backed by a similar number of support troops that will provide help with logistics, communications and intelligence, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
The total troop number "for this mission could approach 1,000," Kirby said on January 16. "It might even exceed that."
The US government hopes the effort can begin by late March, so the first rebel forces trained can be operational by year's end, according to the Pentagon.
The goal is to train more than 5,000 Syrians in the first year of the program.
But such a deal with Turkey specifically raises some difficult questions about its own murky role in the Syrian conflict.
Turkey's Sunni Islamist government openly backs the Sunni rebellion against the Assad regime, and has repeatedly called for international intervention to remove the Syrian dictator.
But many - including Turkey's Kurdish community - says Ankara's support for the rebels is also geared towards a more sinister objective of snuffing-out Kurdish hopes for self-determination in the region. They accuse Turkey of directly supporting Islamist rebels including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and even ISIS in their battles against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
Turkey denies those charges, but has failed to explain how Islamist fighters and weapons destined for jihadists are able to flow freely through its borders into Syria.
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 11:50
Americans believe the Islamic State group poses the most serious threat to the United States in the next decade, according to a poll released Friday.
Eighty-four percent of those quizzed by Gallup said ISIS jihadists, who have grabbed large areas of Iraq and Syria in a brutal onslaught, and terrorism in general presented a "critical threat," according to AFP.
Respondents put the possible development of nuclear weapons by Iran - which says its nuclear aims are peaceful - as the next most serious danger, followed by the "military power of North Korea."
Despite its alleged backing of rebels in the conflict in Ukraine, only 49 percent of those polled said the military power of Russia was the gravest threat to the US, and 44 percent were worried about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
"In a winter that has seen acts of unspeakable terrorism, with Obama seeking authorization for military action against the Islamic State, Americans are clearly concerned about Islamic militants and terrorists," Gallup said.
"The conflict in Ukraine may not worry Americans as much because they see it as more of a threat to Europe than to the US."
The results were based on telephone interviews conducted from Sunday to Wednesday, with a random sample of 837 adults, across the United States.
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 12:44
Five separate sets of potential fireworks have been igniting simultaneously in the Middle East for the last few weeks, each of them adding fuel to the fires caused by the others. If and when these developments reach the kindling point, the entire region may go up in uncontrollable flames.
These are the sources of the fires:
a. the rivalry between Al Qaeda and ISIS
b. the intensifying struggle between the Sunni Jabhat al Nusra and the Shiite Hezbollah.
c. the successes of the Houthis in Yemen
d. Islamic fury at what is happening in Egypt
e. the struggle between Islamic extremists and European regimes
Here are the details::
a. In the militant Sunni arena there is a fierce struggle going on between organizations that identify with Al Qaeda's ideology, headed by Jabhat al Nusra - and ISIS, which is in control over large swathes of Syria and Iraq and has established the most stringent form of Sharia law in those areas. The rivalry has caused Al Qaeda to increase its attacks on the Yemeni government, abort an American attempt to rescue two hostages from Yemen last December, accept responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and announce that the brothers who perpetrate the murders received their training in an Al Qaeda camp in Yemen.
b. The war between the Shiite Assad regime and Hezbollah on the one hand and Sunni Jabhat al Nusra on the other is getting more fierce. Jabhat al Nusra managed to cause Hezbollah painful losses recently, near the Hermon Mountain range and in a daring infiltration into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, by way of the city of Arsal. Hezbollah is feeling pressured, leading the Iranian revolutionary guards to send some top officers to help the organization plan its next operation and improve its results.
c. In Yemen, the Shiite Houthi militias have succeeded in taking over the capital city of Sana'a and appear as the winning side in the long, drawn out war the Houthis have been waging against that nation. Iran is backing the Houthis, the US is helping the regime, both against al Qaeda and the Houthis. Without doubt, Yemen is a battlefield where Iran is forcing its enemies to follow its agenda, including nearby Saudi Arabia, which sees the Houthis as a direct threat to its security. Several years ago, the Saudis built a separation fence all along their border with Yemen, in an attempt to keep out Al Qaeda and Houthi militants.
d. There is a fierce struggle in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood - the mother of all Sunni Jihad organizations - and the regime of Al Sisi. As far as this struggle goes, Sisi is reinstating the government of Gamal abdel Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, all of whom waged relentless and bloody war against the "Brothers". As of now, Sisi has succeeded in pushing the "Brothers" from positions of rule into jail cells and from the streets to the cemetery. His successes are infuriating his detractors. The fight is to the finish, and it is also being waged in the Sinai Desert between the government and the militias of Anṣār Bayt al-Maqdis, who recently switched its loyalties from al Qaeda to ISIS.
Europe is a relatively new battleground, but the last few weeks showed mounting escalation, both in jihadist activities against governments (see France) and in governmental activity against jihad cells (Belgium, Germany). Jihad activities in Europe are encouraged by ISIS as well as Al Qaeda, both sides of the rivalry mentioned above. People who return from Jihad in Syria, Iraq and Libya - but not just they - are participating in the heated struggle for Europe's image.
These struggles are synergetic, they influence one another because an Islamic militant sees what is happening in one area and decides to take revenge for Allah in another. This sinking into chaos can lead to large number of large scale conflicts, with many more participants and deaths, especially if these organizations succeed in drawing Israel and the US into the fray. We have already heard of ground troups from the West fighting ISIS.
Israel must understand the dangers now permeating the atmosphere of the MIddle East with oil vapors that any spark can set on fire and that no one will be able to put out before the entire region is ablaze. The potential for destruction posed by all these disputes is enormous, and the explosion may shake Europe and even cross the Atlantic when Islamic extremists blow their minds at the deep crisis affecting the entire Middle East.
The massive Islamic immigration to Europe turned that continent into a branch of the Middle East's disputes, so that Europe will not be immune to the many deep seated and broad Middle Eastern problems. And America is on the same planet, so that the Middle East disasters will find their way to its shores as well.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.
Created on Friday, 23 January 2015 08:52
Syria's opposition interim government said Thursday it had received $6 million from the United States in the first direct US financial support for the rebel body.
The money is for development and relief projects in "areas liberated by the moderate Syrian opposition," it said in a statement, including food deliveries, public services and supporting local rebel councils.
Interim government chief Ahmed Tohme said the money would be divided into two parts, with $4.4 million devoted to reconstruction and the purchase of heavy equipment include generators, water pumps and tankers.
The remaining $1.6 million will be used to strengthen local government in rebel-controlled areas and for emergency aid response, including food baskets and assistance to bakeries.
He said the funds would not be spent on operating and running costs, which the government would cover separately from other sources.
The interim government said it has signed deals with the US Agency for International Development on the dispersal of the funds.
Mamdouh Soud, operations manager for the program dispersing the funds, said they would be spent mostly in northern Aleppo province and northwestern Idlib province for now.
"In the next two months, we hope to expand into northern Latakia and northern Hama provinces," he told AFP.
He said the current grant would extend until May and the interim government hoped to negotiate additional funds beyond that.
While items purchased with the funds, like blankets, are being procured through USAID, they are not marked with the agency's logo, he said.
"The project is intended to support the local councils and the government, so the items will not be marked with USAID, just marked with 'Syrian Interim Government.'"
The opposition Syrian National Coalition and the interim government are internationally recognized as the representatives of the opposition.
But, based in Turkey, they have regularly faced charges of being out of touch with the realities of the conflict on the ground.
Moderate rebel groups with ties to the Coalition and interim government have lost ground in recent months to both the regime and terrorist groups like the Islamic State organization and Al-Qaeda's Al-Nusra Front.
More than 200,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, which began with anti-government protests in March 2011 and has since spiraled into a war.
Created on Sunday, 04 January 2015 09:39
In a recent interview with Russian news network RT, Fatah central committee member Abbas Zaki threatened the US following the Palestinian Authority's (PA) failed UN bid demanding recognition and Israeli withdrawals.
"The whole world should understand that the US is an enemy, pushing Israeli extremists to carry on with their actions, depriving us of our rights, and supporting Israel in everything,"said Zaki, despite the fact that American and Israeli funding keeps the PA afloat.
The RT report went on to say that Zaki was “comparing the US administration with 'the cobra’s head,'” and that “Zaki vowed retaliation if America doesn’t change its current stance.”
Zaki, who is the former representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO
) to Lebanon, was interviewed in the wake of the PA's unsuccessful bid to secure a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution in favor of Palestinian statehood this week.
Zaki insisted that the latest developments in the UNSC were not a failure for Palestinian Arab diplomacy.
“It’s just the persistent unwillingness of the US administration to give the Palestinian people its lawful right of self-determination. It’s a very dangerous precedent," he said. "The US administration realizes very well that 138 states support Palestine as having UN observer status. The US knows that there are many decisions and resolutions of international organizations condemning the Israeli crimes and injustice towards the Palestinian people.”
“Regardless of all that, the current US administration still uses its right to veto,” he complained, despite that the US didn't use its veto to shoot down the resolution, which fell a vote short of the required nine votes. “In such a way, the US wants to tell Palestine not to address the UN, neither today nor in the future.’
Zaki described the US administration’s stance as “unprincipled and unacceptable,” with Washington “always making decisions in favor of Israel.”
“We can’t tolerate anymore the crimes committed against us during the whole ‘peace process’ led by the US,” he explained. “Israel has gone too far, destroying our sacred places, taking our land, killing our citizens… Israel commits crimes and the US can’t stop this in any way.”
Zaki concluded by stating that the “civilized world stands on our side, in particular – France, Luxembourg, Russia and China." All four states voted in favor of the PA resolution.
Zaki has a long history of venomous statements. He recently opposed his organization's aspirations
to sue Israel for "war crimes" at the International Criminal Court (ICC), explaining that it would hinder terrorism.
"I'm against signing the Rome Statute as long as our country is occupied,” he explained. “If tomorrow you shoot, they'll say you signed an agreement.”
On official PA TV in March, Zaki called Israelis "an advanced instrument of evil," claiming "Allah will gather them so that we can kill them
Zaki similarly revealed the not-so-secret intentions of the PA back in 2011, when he said "if Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall, what will become of Israel? It will come to an end."
“If we say that we want to wipe Israel out...C'mon, it's too difficult. It's not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don't say these things to the world,” he warned. “Keep it to yourself.”
Created on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 03:09
Following Islamic State's (ISIS) brutal murder of Peter Kassig
, documented in a horrific video circulated Sunday, a 26-year-old female aid worker is the last of the terror organization's American prisoners.
The information comes from current and former United States officials, as well as individuals involved in efforts to free American prisoners from ISIS's clutches, The Daily Beast reported.
The woman, the same age as Kassig was, was likewise kidnapped trying to help refugees of the long Syrian civil war. She was particularly involved in helping children orphaned and/or separated from their families.
She was taken hostage in August 2013 along with a group of other volunteer aid workers, who have reportedly have been released.
No news organizations have published the woman's name, due to requests from both US officials and her family not to disclose her identity, who fear publicity and further attention will put the American hostage's life in greater risk.
Despite this, the general circumstances of her capture and her captivity have been widely known and reported for more than a year.
ISIS's intentions for its sole remaining American prisoner remain unclear. Current and formers US officials say it is noteworthy she did not appear in the video depicting Kassig's execution. ISIS has a pattern of filming the next hostage it intends to kill at the end of their grisly videos.
Although Islamic State has murdered Muslim women and children, it has never murdered a female Western captive on camera. It would signify a radical departure for a terror group - even one as violent and macabre as ISIS, who are well-known for their bloody propaganda.
A former US counterterrorism official said that before ISIS, who has already asked for an exorbitant ransom of $6 million for the woman, decides what to do, it will carefully consider any public reaction.
“Before they’re doing anything, they want to have a really good feel for how it will play,” the former official said.
Created on Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:56
The Middle East is falling apart, according to the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida - all because of an elaborate conspiracy on the part of the US to stoke conflict in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
"After the coffins of US soldiers returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, and before that, from Lebanon, [the US] adopted a new method [to protect US interests]: exploitation and creation of Islamic, Christian and Jewish religious extremism, in order to fight [Arabs] with it [this method] rather than with its own soldiers," the article claims, in a translation provided by Palestinian Media Watch. "Taking a closer look at what is happening in the region we can see that the wars in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Palestine were planned by the US in order to protect its interests."
The article claims that US President Barack Obama's shift from the "war on terror"
to the sidelines of foreign policy issues is designed to inflict damage on the Arab world without directly costing US lives.
"The US is using extremists as human shields fighting on its behalf, so that American soldiers will no longer be in danger of returning home in coffins," it says, adding that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Islamic Front, and Al-Nusra factions in Iraq and Syria are part of an American plot.
It then bizarrely claims that the ISIS - the Islamist sect conquering Iraq in an Islamic turf war deemed "too extreme" for Al Qaeda - is "led by Jewish extremism, as represented by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman."
"Not even Hitler, Pinochet and Nero - nor the ISIS in Syria, which kills whoever doesn't know the correct number of times to kneel and bow during the morning prayer - ever reached this level," it asserts, linking the ISIS with the murder of 16 year-old Arab teen Mohammed Abu Khder.
The article then swings back to the "Jewish roots" of ISIS Islamists.
"In an attempt to undermine the resolution of the [Fatah-Hamas] rift, the US engaged the Jewish ISIL to attack Gaza - not just in order to commit crimes, kill and destroy, but also to stir up an inter-Palestinian civil war, in an attempt to deepen the rift and Gaza's separation from the rest of the occupied homeland, to prevent the establishment of the independent [Palestinian] state," it accuses.
"ISIL's declaration that it will fight Israel only after it has finished with the infidels
merely proves that ISIL in Syria and Iraq will not fight the Jewish ISIL, because the plot is the same plot, the boss is the same boss, and the goal is the same goal: to tear [apart] the Arab homeland and gain control of its resources - through the blood of others."
Created on Saturday, 12 July 2014 13:37
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has in recent days expanded its hold after capturing large portions of Iraq last month, and last Sunday declared itself an Islamic "caliphate
," has threatened foreign journalists with death if they dare write against the Islamist group.
The message was written on a Twitter account associated with ISIS, which changed its name to "Islamic State" along with its declaration of an Islamic caliphate.
"The brothers register the names of all the Western journalists who demonize the Islamic state, in case the United Heretical States of America decides to get involved in Iraq and Syria; in this way we'll know who to attack first," read the message.
The ISIS threat continued "their propaganda is what kills our women and children in the Muslim world, and indeed because of their lying propaganda many Muslim children died."
It is worth noting that ISIS has committed numerous atrocities against Muslims in areas under their control; two weeks ago it executed and crucified one of its own
members for corruption.
As far as America getting involved in Iraq and Syria, US President Barack Obama has waffled back and forth on taking action. First he committed to not sending troops
to Iraq - only to send over 500 marines
, dozens of helicopters, and the aircraft carrier George HW Bush into the Persian Gulf.
The Sunni Jihadist group now controls a corridor from the Syrian provincial capital of Deir el-Zour to the border town of Boukamal, giving it a free flow between Syria and the areas of Iraq it seized last month.
Created on Friday, 13 June 2014 10:27
The Obama administration has quietly returned a dozen detainees from a small US military prison in Afghanistan, defense officials stated Thursday night, in another controversial prisoner release set to tone down the US's war on terror.
US President Barack Obama, in a letter to Congress released on Thursday, informed U.S. lawmakers that about 38 non-Afghan prisoners remained at the Parwan detention center outside of Kabul, down from around 50 a few months ago.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that a Frenchman, a Kuwaiti and ten Pakistani prisoners were sent back to their respective home countries at the end of May.
According to the official, the remaining detainees include Yemeni, Tunisian and other Pakistani nationals.
The news surfaces on the heels of the controversial return home
of US soldier and longtime captive Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was traded for five top Taliban terrorists last month.
Critics have said that, in making the trade quiet trade for Bergdahl, the administration violated the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires a 30-day warning before releasing terrorists from the compound - charges that US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
Hagel also made a number of remarks indicating that the terrorists' release - which the Taliban called "a victory
," sparking the desire to kidnap more soldiers
- was necessary to save Bergdahl's life, indicating an "ends justify the means" approach.
Created on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 12:56
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is preparing a diplomatic offensive against Israel with the help of Arab countries, in order to thwart Israel's attempts to impose sanctions on the new Fatah-Hamas unity government and to take unilateral steps in Judea and Samaria.
Azzam Al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official in charge of negotiating with Hamas, said in an interview with the Al-Sharaq Al-Awsat newspaper Tuesday that the Arab delegation will be leaving soon to New York and Washington, in an effort to maintain contact with US Secretary of State John Kerry about Israeli policy, and to mobilize international support for the PA position.
In another context, Ahmed said that the PA demanded that Hamas not interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt, to shake off its association with the Muslim Brotherhood and accept the "National Program" of the PA. This includes the so-called "four Palestinian principles
": recognizing Israel, recognizing the terms of international agreements, and the explicit rejection of violence and terrorism.
An Egyptian official recently said that if those steps of cutting ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and not interfering in Egyptian matters were taken, the Nile state would be willing to hand the Rafah Crossing
between Sinai and Gaza over to the unity government's supervision.
Ahmed also said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will visit Gaza only after the government will receive the security mechanisms and strengthen them, and they become part of the security protocols for a unified Palestinian state.
The US and EU stated that they are willing to "work with" the Hamas-Fatah unity government earlier this month, as officials protested repeatedly that the new government - while backed by Hamas - does not support terror, claiming it lacks the official presence of Hamas officials. It is worth noting that three Hamas-backed ministers were sworn in from Gaza by live feed to the new government.
The PA's campaign, if true, may be a response to the Ministry of Housing and Construction's announcement last week that it would build 3,300 more homes
in Judea and Samaria, which were approved as part of Israel's official response to the swearing-in of the "unity" government.
The PA issued a sharp condemnation of the announcement, calling on the US
to take "serious steps" against Israel over the move.
"It is time for the American administration to take serious steps against what the government of Israel is doing," Nimr Hammad, an adviser to Abbas, told AFP. "We strongly condemn this decision which affirms that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a liar and is not interested in the two-state solution."
PA Minister Nabil Abu-Rudeineh has also warned that the PA will take unspecified steps in revenge of the building announcement.
Created on Monday, 09 June 2014 22:03
A former Hamas government spokesman revealed on Sunday that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has said in private meetings he is lying in public statements to "trick the Americans."
The spokesman, Ihab al-Ghussein, wrote on Facebook that "behind closed doors," Abbas had said "when I go out and say that the government is my government and it recognizes 'Israel' and so on, fine - these words are meant to trick the Americans." Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) translated the Facebook post.
"Guys, let me (continue) saying what I say to the media. Those words are meant for the Americans and the occupation (i.e., Israel), not for you. What's important is what we agree on among ourselves. ...Don't harp on everything I tell the media, forget about the statements in the media," Abbas told Hamas, according to Ihab al-Ghussein.
PMW exposed that Al-Ghussein then laughs at Abbas in the post, adding "I really do want real reconciliation, meaning partnership and achieving unity, but not reconciliation as Abbas means it."
Al-Ghussein held his position as Hamas government spokesman until the new unity government between Hamas and Fatah was sworn in last Monday.
Abbas has insisted to the US that the new unity government would be controlled by him, and be based on what he called "the four Palestinian principles
": recognizing Israel, recognizing the terms of international agreements, and the explicit rejection of violence and terrorism.
Apparently his statements worked: the American administration said last Monday that it would "work with
" the new unity government, claiming it did not include Hamas
Despite the claim, three Hamas-backed ministers were sworn in to the unity government from Gaza via video feed. Further, Hamas continues to be adamant
over its full control of the government, and said it would be subject to their approval
before being established.
That approval power was proven when Hamas nearly scuppered the government the day of its swearing-in over a disagreement on the Ministry of Prisoners, which was resolved in a last second deal.
Casting a shadow of doubt over how much the American administration is being "tricked" by Abbas are reports last Thursday from Buzzfeed, claiming that the US has been negotiating with Hamas for months
, despite it's official policy against the terrorist organization. US officials denied the reports.
Created on Friday, 23 May 2014 08:44
A leading Syrian opposition figure has claimed western states could send desperately-needed arms to rebel groups in Syria "within weeks".
The comments were made by Syrian National Coalition (SNC) president Ahmed Al-Jarba in an interview with the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat, and came on the heels of whirlwind of meetings in the US, UK and France, in which Al-Jarba appealed for greater support for the rebel Free Syrian Army. The international tour followed a meeting of the Core Group of the Friends of Syria in London earlier this month, in which opposition leaders appealed for more material support in their campaign to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Syria's fractured rebel movement
has faced a series of setback in the past few months, with regime forces capitalizing on infighting to claw back territory from opposition factions.
The fall of the city of Homs
- formerly the epicenter of the revolt against Assad - earlier this month, was one of the most serious blows yet to the rebel movement.
More "moderate" rebel brigades aligned with the SNC, who tend to operate under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have been increasingly eclipsed by Islamist factions such as the Islamic Front and other even more radical elements, a development which has alarmed western states and fed skepticism over support for the rebels.
But SNC and FSA leaders have said western states are partially to blame for failing to back verbal support with meaningful military aid.
All that might be about to change, however, according to Al-Jarba
"We knocked on the door of the US administration, the US Congress and the American media" to ask for weapons, he said. "Compared to our direct contact with the Americans last year, these [latest] meetings were positive... and I can at this point tell you that we have certainly made advances".
"I told them that we do not want your children to come to Syria [to fight] or for your air force to carry out any strikes. What we want is arms to defend ourselves from [the Assad regime's] air raids and barrel bombs, while we at the same time support a political solution," he said, addressing fears that Islamists from western countries were being radicalized in Syria.
Small-scale weapons aid and military training has already been supplied
to select rebel groups, along with "non-lethal" aid such as medical supplies and other equipment, but both Congressional
caution and a hesitant White House have prevented anything further until now.
But with the Iranian-backed Assad regime making steady progress, western states are reportedly warming to the idea of upping the level of aid in order to force him to the negotiating table. Last month the first clear evidence of rebels using advanced US-made anti-tank weapons
emerged. It was unclear whether they were supplied directly by Washington or via Saudi Arabia, which backs the rebels - but either way some analysts have seen it as a hint that the US is preparing to up the ante.
It's a sentiment Al-Jarba said he tapped into.
"We can only reach such a resolution by convincing Bashar Al-Assad that there is no military solution to the conflict, and that is why you must provide us with substantial military assistance."
"I have truly sensed that there is real seriousness that this will take place in the coming days, which will be translated... on the ground in the coming weeks."
He also claimed US officials had been convinced by his guarantees that weapons would not fall into the hands of extremists.
"We reject terrorism and are fighting against it on the ground... So it would be impossible that these arms would end up in the hands of those we are fighting," he asserted.
That statement may be somewhat misleading, however; although mainstream rebel groups have largely turned against Al Qaeda breakaway ISIS, many others - including FSA groups - openly admit to cooperating and even sharing weapons
with Al Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.
Meanwhile, pro-government forces continue to make gains in the north of the country, reportedly breaking a year-long siege of Aleppo prison.
Created on Thursday, 24 April 2014 08:09
The Al Qaeda-linked group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has threatened to attack Canada and the West in a new viral video.
One of the terrorists in the short film stated that, after ending the "jihad" in the Middle East, the war will be taken to North America - specifically to "destroy" Canada, according to Shalom Toronto.
"This message is directed to Canada and all American tyrants," the unidentified terrorist states. "We will destroy you, with the help of Allah." The terrorist, who spoke in English, had a North American accent; it is not known whether or not he is a Canadian citizen. He did say, however, that he "emigrated" to Syria to join the Islamists.
"I immigrated to Syria for one reason only," he continued. "And left convenience and comfort behind for one reason only. For the Sake of Allah... and with Allah's help, after the (occupation) of Syria, the (occupation) of Iraq, and the (occupation) of Saudi Arabia we will take action against you, Barack Obama."
After the interview, he threw his passport into a fire and burned it on camera.
The news surfaces just as Al Qaeda conducted the largest and "most dangerous"
meeting in years, CNN reported earlier Wednesday. The jihadist group's second-in-command, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, met openly with fighters and commanders in Yemen, and pledged to wage war on the "bearers of the cross" (i.e. Christians) in the US.
Canadian security officials are increasingly more concerned about the departure of young Canadians to fight the Islamic holy war in Syria. Four Canadians have been killed in the war-torn country over the past three years.
Most recently, Damian Clairmont, also known as Mustafa Al-Gharib and Abu-Talha Al-Canadi, was killed by the Free Syrian Army in January during an internal power struggle among rebels in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The 22-year-old Nova Scotia native left Calgary for Syria in 2012 and was involved in two Islamist organizations.
Andre Poulin of Timmins, Ontario was killed in a battle for an Aleppo airport last August. Abu-Muslim, as he was also known, converted to Islam in 2009, adopted an extreme form of the religion and built up a criminal record based on threats, arms violations and defying court orders in Canada before he left.
The two are the latest known Canadians to have died in the Syrian civil war.
Created on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 15:16
Terror group Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis announced Thursday that it will carry out revenge attacks on the United States and harm its interests in Egypt, following Washington's decision
to add the Sinai-based terror group to its list of terror groups.
Voice of Israel's monitor of Arabic radio said that the organization vowed to strike US firms and delegations.
Egypt welcomed the US State Department’s decision Wednesday. Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelati told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are in constant contact with the United States, Britain and other countries, and we constantly keep them in the picture to show the reality and danger of terrorism. It is an international phenomenon that threatens Egypt and the international community, and it needs action at the highest levels to fight this phenomenon and dry up its financial sources.”
According to the US State Department, the decision to add the group to the terrorist list followed discussions between the federal government’s Departments of Justice and Treasury. The listing of the group will be followed by a ban on providing it with financial aid and entering into contracts with the group, and the freezing of any assets or property it is proven to own in the United States.
The Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has already claimed a series of terrorist attacks in Egypt, including the assassination of a top Egyptian police general
, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing
on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. The group had previously claimed a car bombing
which killed five people outside Cairo police headquarters in January and the gunning down of six Egyptian soldiers in February.
Several months ago, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis denounced the Egyptian arm
y as “an enemy of Allah” because of its crackdown on Sinai terrorists and called for “jihad” against it.
Egypt’s interim government says there is a direct link between the Muslim Brotherhood and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and on this basis blacklisted the Brotherhood
as a terror organization.
The terror group has in the past also claimed responsibility for firing rockets
from the Sinai Peninsula at the Israeli resort city of Eilat, as well as attacking Israeli border patrol in a deadly assault in 2012. That attack left one border policeman dead, and another wounded.
Created on Sunday, 09 February 2014 08:39
The Iranian navy is deploying a "military fleet" to US maritime borders, according to a senior military official in Iran.
"The Iranian Army's naval fleets have already started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," announced Afshin Rezayee Haddad, the Commander of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet Admiral, on Saturday.
"Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message," he added, according to the semi-official FARS news network.
That "message" is apparently a response to the US Navy's increased presence in the Persian Gulf.
The US Navy's 5th fleet is based in the island of Bahrain, neighboring Iran, and American forces have conducted two major maritime war games in the last two years, according to FARS.
Back in September 2012, Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the Islamic Republic planned to deploy its vessels off the US coasts to counter the US Navy's presence in the Persian Gulf, though he did not give any date for the deployment at the time.
One year beforehand he had declared that Iran planned to send "a flotilla into the Atlantic".
The move comes as Tehran has been taking an increasingly belligerent tone with the US, despite President Hassan Rounani's "charm offensive".
Also on Saturday, Iran's Revolutionary Guards threatened that its drones and missiles could hit US
warships in the Persian Gulf.
Created on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 06:10
Despite initial positive statements by Saudi Arabia on the Iran nuclear deal reached Sunday in Geneva, a senior advisor to the Saudi royal family said that his country was deceived by its American ally in the agreements and will pursue an independent foreign policy in response.
The advisor, Nawaf Obaid, told a think tank meeting in London "we were lied to, things were hidden from us. The problem is not with the deal that was struck in Geneva but how it was done," reports The Telegraph.
On Sunday, just after the deal which gave Iran around $7 billion in sanctions relief in return for promises to enrich uranium at lower levels, among other things, revelations showed that US President Barack Obama's administration had been holding secret negotiations with Iran for the past 6 months.
The report detailing the secret negotiations added that the talks were kept hidden even from America's allies until recently.
Obaid said Saudi Arabia knew about the secret talks with Iran, which occurred through a channel in Oman, but was not directly briefed by the US.
The Saudi call for independent policy comes after an interview appeared last Friday in which Saudi Arabia’s UK ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, said his country would not "sit idly by" if the West failed to stop Iran's nuclear program.
Israeli leaders have similarly expressed strong criticism of the Iran deal and left the option of a military strike open. While the security interests of the two nations seem to be aligned on this issue, Saudi Arabia denied reports of diplomatic contact with Israel - which the Gulf state does not officially recognize - leading to cooperation on a possible strike.
As for the shape Saudi independent policy may take as the nation's US ties grow tense, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Saudi King Abdullah earlier in the month, perhaps signalling a shift towards alignment with the Russians.
Russia just recently sealed a $4 billion arms deal with longtime US ally Egypt, designed to provide Egypt with parity to the IDF. That deal will reportedly be partially funded by oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, it has been reported in the past that Saudi Arabia could acquire a nuclear weapon quickly from Pakistan if it felt pressed to do so by Iran's nuclear program.
Created on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 05:59
A US citizen, who joined the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) in Syria, has sent a video message to the West expressing his desire to wage total war against the "infidels" and impose Islamic rule over the entire world.
The video features "the American Abu-Dj'ana," brandishing a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a bayonet, who says the following:
"This is a message to people in the West from the Mujahideen (lit. "holy warriors") in Syria. We came here from different countries to protect this land, this Islamic land; to spread the Law of Allah on earth; and to dedicate our lives for Jihad in order so that we can get to heaven."
"We are coming to kill all the infidels in the West and beyond to spread Allah's law (Sharia) and the book of Allah (Koran) and to raise them to the highest level," he continues.
"We came to kill anyone that stands in our way. The flag that says that 'there is no God but Allah' will be raised over Parliament Buildings and in capital cities around the world [. . .] with these simple weapons we will liberate this country and this people and bring Islamic law to control all the world - Europe, U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Africa. "
Western states have grown increasingly worried over the influx of foreign fighters - many of them from Europe and North America - to take part in the Syrian civil war. Although many of them are fighting with non-Al Qaeda-aligned groups, a growing number are joining the ranks of its affiliates such as ISIS and the Nusra Front. Western intelligence officials worry about "the day after", when those battle-hardened Islamists return to their home countries, posing a real security threat there.
Videos like these, showcasing Western-born Islamists fighting for Al Qaeda in Syria, are still rare, but have become increasingly common as ISIS and the Nusra Front seek to bolster their presence and encourage new recruits, in the face of mounting losses both against government forces and Kurdish militias in northern Syria.
Over 11,000 children alone have been killed in the bloody conflict, which has raged in the region since 2011. Foreign nationals have been pouring into Syria to engage in the Civil War, which has mushroomed from a national conflict into an all-out holy war between various Islamic factions. Even among the rebels, there has been a marked lack of unity, with Al Qaeda groups like this one dividing the rebel camps, as some rebels focus more on domestic issues and less on a global Jihad campaign.
Created on Monday, 16 September 2013 16:59
United States President Barack Obama reacted Monday to news of a mass-shooting at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington D.C, which has killed at least twelve people.
“We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in the nation’s capital,” Obama said.
Those who were targeted knew the dangers of battle abroad, but “today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home,” he said.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible,” he vowed.
A tweet from the White House stated, “’These are men & women were going to work, doing their job, protecting all of us.’ – President Obama on the victims of the #NavyYardShooting.”
Four people were reported dead shortly after the attacks. The U.S. Navy has now confirmed that 11 people were killed in the shooting, while Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray mentioned "at least twelve fatalities."
Several people remain in serious condition with gunshot wounds.
The exact number of fatalities and injuries has not yet been confirmed.
There were conflicting reports as to how many gunmen were involved in the attacks. Original witness accounts suggested three attackers. One shooter has been killed, identified as 34 year-old Aaron Alexis, who recently began work at the Navy yard as a civilian contractor.
A second shooter is reportedly “contained” but not yet in custody.
One shooter was described by witnesses as a tall, African-American man, while another - now believed to be Alexis - was described as a white man wearing a khaki shirt and military-style beret.
Two US media outlets released tweets identifying one of the shooters, but later retracted their statements.
Witnesses to the attack expressed surprise that the shooters, who were armed with rifles, had gained access to the secure building. All workers must present ID on entrance, and visitors must obtain a security clearance, they said.
Roughly 3,000 people work in the compound that was attacked. Most managed to evacuate shortly after the shooting began with the help of security guards.
Several nearby schools were put under lockdown during the attack. A statement from the DC Public Schools via Twitter said, “When MPD advises that #navyyardshooting is resolved, we will lift the school lockdown.”
Created on Monday, 16 September 2013 12:08
At least four people have been killed in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. At least eight people have been injured, and several of the victims are reportedly in critical condition.
Two of those shot were Washington D.C. police officers. One suffered gunshot wounds to the leg; the other officer's condition is not known.
Initial reports stated that three gunmen armed with AR-15 rifles opened fire at the yard on Monday morning (Eastern Standard Time); however, police now believe there were only two shooters. Shots were fired at the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters building, where roughly 3,000 people work.
Eyewitnesses described the scene as "pandemonium" as workers dropped everything and raced to get out.
Hundreds of police, SWAT and FBI response personnel are at the scene, and helicopters have been circling overhead.
Police say one shooter is "down." It is not yet clear if the shooter was apprehended or shot.
A second shooter has been pinned down between the third and fourth floor of a building at the scene of the attack.
Several of the wounded remained trapped at the scene, with rescue personnel not authorized to go in to get them with gunmen still at large.
Nearby schools and public buildings were put on lockdown as the attack continued, and flights from Reagan National Airport were briefly halted.
The Naval Sea Systems Command engineers, purchases and maintains ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy. It is the U.S. Navy's oldest shore installation.
Workers and newscasters expressed surprise Monday that the attackers managed to enter the building with unauthorized weapons. Workers reported that employees may enter the building only with ID cards, and that visitors must obtain security clearance.
Created on Sunday, 15 September 2013 08:56
As a leading scholar in the field of public diplomacy, Professor Eytan Gilboa has said Obama has mishandled the situation in Syria and potential negotiations with Iran.
Arutz Sheva met this week with Gilboa, the Director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University, who has made it clear that "time is running out" for United States President Barak Obama to diplomatically handle the crisis in the Middle East.
"Everybody agrees that this is going to be the time for decision, otherwise, if nothing is going to be done, Iran will become a nuclear power. Obama has shown in the chemical weapons crisis in Syria that what he promises may not really become policy," Gilboa said.
Gilboa stated that "there are very serious question about his [Obama's] commitment to stop nuclear Iran by all means, including military force if necessary." He went on to say that Israel may find itself alone in the last effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
"Israel can only rely on itself as a potential response to Obama's mishandling the crisis in Syria and his potential mishandling of the negotiations with Iran."
Created on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 10:52
The military of Egypt is respecting the universal rights of all Egyptians by rooting out Muslim Brotherhood terrorism, the backers of Morsi’s regime – finding smuggled weapon stashes and arresting Morsi’s guest militias (Hamas and Al Qaida terrorists). After more than two years of protests to brin3dg about the removal of two dictatorships, the latter installed through fraudulent elections billed as “free and fair,” Egyptian freedom-fighters backed by the army must not retreat from their chance now to expose and expunge radical terrorists who came dangerously close to dominating Egypt for the long term. This means countering the efforts of the Obama administration inside Egypt.
Everything hinges upon the unthwarted dedication of the Egyptian army to continue with actions loyal to Egyptian pro-democracy freedom-fighters. So far it has done so by not heeding the call for “restraint” coming from the U.S. White House and Department of State in wrestling with an entrenched terror group fallen from “legitimacy.” Implying that Egypt’s military is sparking violence rather than dispelling it, an August 14 White House Statement by the Press Secretary on Egypt advises, “Violence will only make it more difficult to move Egypt forward on a path to lasting stability and democracy, and runs counter to the pledges by the interim government to pursue reconciliation.” But has the secular, civil, pro-democracy majority movement represented by the interim government ever promised to reconcile with terrorists?
Secretary of State John Kerry mentions “inclusion” or “inclusive” five times in his August 14 State Department press briefing on Egypt. He is referring to Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis he knows to be the only parties left out from Egypt’s interim government seeking stability and to build democracy. Last year, America restrained from pertinent challenges to Morsi’s unmet commitments and executive overreaches -- interferences that would have favored Egypt’s real democracy movement. All of this makes the Obama administration seem nothing more than promoters of the ousted regime and their protesters who gathered armed forces in the streets of Al Adawyia, Cairo and other cities across Egypt.
Fittingly, White House disapproval comes now and blames Egypt’s military for defending the country against the aggression of Morsi defenders and Brotherhood thugs, advising reconciliation which will place Egypt’s democratic future at risk. Ignoring these urgings, the interim government is speaking of combating “religious fascists” and “dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood” as a way of ensuring that democratic values prevail.
U.S. Senator John McCain, America’s best and brightest, labels Egypt’s problem a military coup – in reality, this coup is nonexistent. In cautioning John Kerry against leniency toward Egypt’s military, John McCain says, “… to think they’re [the military coup government of Egypt] going to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood flies in the face of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood who … will be able to survive, perhaps, underground, despite the efforts of the generals to eliminate them” (Newsmax, 8/15/13). In an open letter to Obama (Newsmax 8/16/13), Free Egyptians reject the arrogance, pessimism and opposition coming from the U.S. in answer to their struggle for freedom in the face of terrorism. Paradoxically, the greatest democracy on earth offers the greatest resistance to Egypt’s democratic goals.
Stressing strong opposition to Egypt’s “return to a State of Emergency law,” the Office of the Press Secretary speaks solely for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood -- the only body that could possibly benefit from the absence of marshal law as it ravages the country – and in doing so aligns America with jihadists appearing on the U.S. State Department’s list of more than 50 Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Meanwhile law and order is kept by military and police curfews, saving lives and securing the nation against this deadly Brotherhood backlash.
Referring to the Al Adawyia event, the White House said, “The world is watching what is happening in Cairo.” Unlike Morsi’s tight control on Egypt’s media and the tendency to shut out foreign press, the military invited both foreign and Egyptian media to freely witness their handling of Al Adawyia protesters. Patient for weeks (40 days) and under pressure from citizens to remove terrorists from sit-ins blocking their doorways, the army finally arrived to find that the Muslim Brotherhood had been receiving deliveries of suspicious cargo, setting up arbitrary check points to intimidate residents, and receiving mysterious visitors from limousines with diplomatic plates. The military gave notice for protesters to remove themselves from the scene peacefully without fear of harm and gave fair warning that those remaining would be removed by force.
The White House rightfully condemns violence in Egypt and extends condolences to family members of those killed and to the injured from the Al-Adawyia Muslim Brotherhood stage. But it does so at the expense of appearing neglectful and unsympathetic toward the hundreds of murderous attacks on Egypt’s Christians who for the past six years have sought the support and help of a freedom-loving America and still wait. Now suffering more so at the brunt of Brotherhood Muslim madness and unleashed hatred, Christians have so far lost 83 Coptic churches looted and burned by the Muslim Brotherhood, along with Christian schools, shops and businesses.
Al Adawyia of August 14th encapsulates Egypt’s post-Morsi civil strife. All along, the Egyptian military welcomed peaceful Morsi protesters -- encouraging calm with hope to avoid bloodshed from a violent, vengeful group very different from the unarmed and nonviolent Tamarud movement protests. Warnings over loud speakers were issued, and many Al Adawyia protesters dispersed, but others (thousands) turned against police and military with Molotov cocktails and machine gun fire killing many (50) police officers and military personnel.
After the Brotherhood-occupied area was cleared, police and military entered the vacated Al Adawyia mosque (which had come under siege and become Brotherhood headquarters) and discovered the macabre -- the unthinkable. A mass grave dug into the floor was piled with 30 bodies which forensics later confirmed to be tortured residents set on fire. The mosque was stockpiled with Brotherhood weaponry confiscated by the military.
Mindful of reports that the Muslim Brotherhood intend to create a shadow government and establish its own military like Hamas in Gaza, the army intervened to make certain Al Adawyia could never be the incubator for a state within a state. With good reason to fear an aided and emboldened Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian army took action it knew was widely endorsed by Egyptians who have come to expect an army responsible to the pro-freedom majority and its interim government in performing their duty to the country.
Today, amateur videos show Muslim Brotherhood killing other Brotherhood protesters before and during the August 14th attack on military in Al Adawyia and other locations in Egypt. Egyptian hospitals number the day’s dead at just over five hundred-- whereas the Muslim Brotherhood reported three thousand losses to Al Jazeera. Muslim Brotherhood propaganda goes far beyond skewing numbers to staging photographs for Al Jazeera with dramatizations of fake injuries made to implicate Egypt’s military and disseminate it across the world. For the U.S., insisting that Egypt’s answer for democracy includes the fraudulent, unscrupulous and untrustworthy Muslim Brotherhood makes the Obama administration look likewise -- fraudulent, unscrupulous and untrustworthy -- to the smart, genuine and brave freedom fighters of Egypt.
Created on Saturday, 10 August 2013 19:04
On 19 July 2013, Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered an unclassified letter to Senator Carl Levin concerning the risks of US military intervention in Syria. http://www.levin.senate.gov/download/?id=f3dce1d1-a4ba-4ad1-a8d2-c47d943b1db6.
While the letter is was ostensibly delivered to the Senate, it actually delivered the equivalent to ten American thermonuclear bombs hitting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem simultaneously.
While the letter was supposedly written by Dempsey, it was surely approved and intensely vetted by President Obama himself. So while the letter had Dempsey's signature, it was Obama's policy. The Dempsey/Obama letter outlined all the catastrophic effects which would occur if the US militarily intervened in Syria to defeat Assad.
However, Obama's real addressee was not Sen. Levin, but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama's real message: Bibi, forget about an American attack on Iran.
Here is a redacted version of Dempsey/Obama's letter:
1. "Train, Advise, and Assist the Opposition.
The scale could range from several hundred to several thousand troops with the costs varying accordingly, but estimated at $500 million per year initially. . . . Risks include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory cross-border attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.
2. Conduct Limited Stand-off Strikes.
Depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions. . . .There is a risk that the regime could withstand limited strikes by dispersing its assets. Retaliatory attacks are also possible, and there is a probability for collateral damage impacting civilians and foreigners inside the country.
3. Establish a No-Fly Zone.
We would require hundreds of ground and sea-based aircraft, intelligence and electronic warfare support, and enablers for refueling and communications. Estimated costs are $500 million initially, averaging as much as a billion dollars per month over the course of a year. Impacts would likely include the near total elimination of the regime’s ability to bomb opposition strongholds and sustain its forces by air. Risks include the loss of U.S. aircraft, which would require us to insert personnel recovery forces. It may also fail to reduce the violence or shift the momentum because the regime relies overwhelmingly on surface fires—mortars, artillery, and missiles.
4. Establish Buffer Zones.
Thousands of U.S. ground forces would be needed, even if positioned outside Syria, to support those physically defending the zones. A limited no-fly zone coupled with U.S. ground forces would push the costs over one billion dollars per month.. . . .Risks are similar to the no-fly zone with the added problem of regime surface fires into the zones, killing more refugees due to their concentration. The zones could also become operational bases for extremists.
5. Control Chemical Weapons.
At a minimum, this option would call for a no-fly zone as well as air and missile strikes involving hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers. Thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites. Costs could also average well over one billion dollars per month. The impact would be the control of some, but not all chemical weapons. It would also help prevent their further proliferation into the hands of extremist groups. Our inability to fully control Syria’s storage and delivery systems could allow extremists to gain better access. Risks are similar to the no-fly zone with the added risk of U.S. boots on the ground.
We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime's institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control."
First, Levin didn't even really ask about the US attacking Syria; Senators Levin and McCain had primarily asked about the "costs, benefits, and risks associated with training and arming" the rebels. Nevertheless, Dempsey only obliquely responded to the 'arming the rebels' question Sen. Levin and McCain had actually posed.
Instead, Dempsey/Obama went on and on about why the US shouldn't attack Assad. The letter was devoid of any strategic "intended benefits" of toppling Assad. For instance, retiring Gen. Mattis stated the fall of Assad would be the "greatest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years." His "25 years" refers to Operation Praying Mantis where on April 18, 1988, under President Ronald Reagan, the United States, in a limited air strike with 2 American casualties, took out a huge chunk of Iran's Persian Gulf fleet in a day.
Second, in the Dempsey/Obama letter, all you have to do is change the word "Syria" to "Iran" and multiply all the negatives by 1000, and Dempsey would sign it again. So, if Dempsey (really Obama) is dead-set against attacking a greatly weakened Assad, he is a 1000 times dead-set against attacking Iran for 1000 times all the same reasons and costs outlined in the Dempsey/Obama letter.
Dempsey is set for "talks" with Israeli leaders. His message will be clear. Obama demands are that:
-Israel must stop attacking Assad immediately, or the anti-Israeli DOD leaks will go nova.
-The US must "extinguish" all peaceful attempts to resolve the Iranian nuclear file before any military contingency can even be contemplated.
-Israel is not to disrupt Obama's blossoming Iranian "partnership."
-Israel had better not even think of attacking alone because, with Assad still in power, the Hizbullah will send thousands of missiles into Israel and America will not re-supply Israel.
Obama's 'promises' to do "something" to Iran's nuclear program was made to Bibi to force Israel to give in to Abbas. They will soon be exposed for the lies they always were.
The writer, who often writes on security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at www.marklangfan.com.
Created on Saturday, 13 July 2013 20:03
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed alarm at reports that U.S. officials have conducted "direct meetings" with Hamas leaders and has called upon the Obama Administration to deny these reports if they are untrue.
The United States, Europe and Israel all classify the Hamas movement, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, as a terrorist organization.
According to a Palestinian news outlet, the Hamas deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad, said that senior American representatives, together with European ambassadors, held meetings with Hamas about two weeks ago in which they discussed removing Hamas from the list of designated terrorist organizations, but that "these contacts have not yet reached the level of decision-makers."
Hamad claimed, "These meetings which included U.S. officials close to the White House, were held away from the mass media and aimed at removing Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations."
"If these reports are true, than the Obama Administration has dishonored its commitment to maintain no contacts with Hamas and to adhere to the Quartet conditions that there can be no recognition of Hamas until and unless it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and abides by and implements all previous Israeli/Palestinian agreements,” said ZOA National President Morton A. Klein.
"The idea that the U.S. should deal with Hamas if it meets the three conditions is based on the extraordinarily naïve or malign idea that a bloodthirsty group of terrorists can become responsible and acceptable peace partners provided that they utter the right words on a few occasions when the cameras are rolling.
"Does the Obama Administration not recall that we went through the same charade with Yasser Arafat years ago? Arafat did verbally renounce terrorism, accept Israel's right to exist and even signed several agreements to that effect, yet he immediately continued terrorism, repeatedly called for Israel's destruction in Arabic and continued incitement,” Klein affirmed.
"Words and signatures mean nothing when they come from murderers,” he said. “Surely if such people are capable of murdering they are capable of lying.”
"The Obama Administration should be insisting at the very minimum on the rescission of the Hamas Charter; the dismantling of its terror squads and bomb-making factories; the complete overhaul of its education system and media broadcasting to remove all incitement to hatred and murder against Jews, Judaism and Israel; and strict adherence to such changes for at least one year before granting it any form of recognition,” he said.
"Talking to Hamas before it has done anything to satisfy even the flawed and meager conditions we have demanded of it will only result in putting off the day when Palestinians genuinely reform their society to purge it of jihadist and violent, rejectionist elements.
"If these reports are untrue, President Obama should say so without delay,” Klein concluded.
Created on Saturday, 29 June 2013 12:12
Great Britain has barred a pair of American anti-Islam activists from entering the country, labeling them “extremists” whose “presence here is not conducive to the public good,” The Hill reported.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of the organization Stop Islamization of America, had been invited to speak at a rally of the English Defense League, but the British Home Office informed them Tuesday that they were not welcome in the country after the leftist group “HOPE not hate” initiated a campaign against them.
“The Home Secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviors by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK,” the Home Office letter said, as reported by The Hill.
Geller and Spencer were leaders in the movement to stop the construction of a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City. Geller sponsored a poster campaign against Jihad on the New York City Transit System
"In not allowing us into the country solely because of our true and accurate statements about Islam," Geller said, "the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead."
Created on Friday, 21 June 2013 09:17
United States and Taliban officials will engage in Afghanistan peace talks Thursday, senior U.S. administration officials said.
The officials say prisoner exchanges will likely be among the topics discussed in the Doha office, which opened Tuesday after months of delays.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's High Peace Council is expected to follow up with its own talks a few days later, Fox news reported.
The first meeting will focus on an exchange of agendas and consultations on next steps.
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Tuesday that "an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace and reconciliation process is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region."
"You know, these statements represent an important first step towards reconciliation, the outcome of which must be that the Taliban and other insurgent groups break ties with Al Qaeda and violence and accept Afghanistan's constitution including its protections for women and minorities," she said.
The Islamist militia, which has been fighting against US-led NATO troops and the Afghan government for 12 years, broke off initial contacts with the Americans last year and have refused to negotiate with Kabul.
Secretary of State John Kerry did not comment on the prospect of direct talks between US and Taliban envoys, but said of the office opening that, "It's good news. We are very pleased with what is taking place", the AFP news agency reported.
US officials have conditioned a settlement with the Taliban on the terrorist organization renouncing ties with Al-Qaeda.
The Taliban statement made no specific direct reference to peace talks.
It said only that the office would help to build relations with the world, allow them to meet other Afghans, and to contact the United Nations, other agencies and the media.
"We support a political and peaceful solution that ends Afghanistan's occupation, and guarantees the Islamic system and nationwide security," the Taliban said, according to AFP.
Created on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 14:57
At least 14 people were killed and 30 wounded when a suicide car bomber struck outside the Supreme Court in the Afghan capital on Tuesday.
The court lies a few hundred meters (yards) from the gates of the U.S. Embassy in a central part of Kabul.
Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said the bomber drove an SUV and specifically targeted buses carrying court employees.
It was the second attack in Kabul in as many days.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack but it comes as the Taliban and other terrorist entities have unleashed a wave of bombings and assassinations around the country.
Deputy police chief Dawood Amin said the top court was the target of the attack.
"There were casualties among the supreme court officials," said eyewitness Mohammad Salem.
Created on Friday, 10 May 2013 07:10
The Obama administration is ignoring the link between radical Islam and terrorism, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Thursday.
In an interview with Fox News, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) tied the terrorist attack in Benghazi to the Boston Marathon bombings, saying that in both cases, the Obama administration had ignored the connection to radical Islam.
"There's a wider thing here, some narrative throughout the administration where they just don't want to admit who the real enemy is and confront the enemy head on, and that's radical Islam," McCaul said.
On Wednesday, three State Department officials testified that they were disappointed with the department's response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Created on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 08:13
An anti-terror court has sentenced three Saudis to six years in prison each for plotting to kill American nationals at the height of a campaign of Al-Qaeda attacks in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006, a witness said, according to AFP.
The court in Riyadh issued its ruling late on Sunday, said a witness at the hearing during which two other men were acquitted.
The three convicted were found guilty of having "supported the actions of the deviant group and planned the assassination of seven Americans in the kingdom," the court ruled, using the official term to designate Al-Qaeda.
It said they also planned to enter Iraq "to carry out terrorist acts", according to AFP.
Saudi courts started in July 2011 to try hundreds of suspects for the wave of Al-Qaeda attacks which rocked the country from 2003 until 2006 when authorities launched a massive campaign of arrests targeting the jihadist network.
Around 3,000 suspects are being tried or due to go on trial, according to Saudi authorities.
Created on Monday, 22 April 2013 11:58
A Syrian government daily accused the United States on Sunday of having "thrown oil on the fire" of the country's conflict by doubling its aid to the opposition.
"The meeting of the so-called 'Friends of Syria' held in Istanbul yesterday has thrown oil on the fire of the Syrian conflict," said the Al-Watan daily, as reported by the AFP news agency.
The United States announced at the meeting in the Turkish city that it would double its aid to Syria's opposition, including new non-lethal military equipment, but paid no heed to calls for arms supplies or a direct intervention.
Secretary of State John Kerry said American assistance to the opposition would rise to $250 million (191 million euros).
Some of the money will be used to "provide an expanded range of support" to rebel fighters battling President Bashar al-Assad, beyond the current provisions of food rations and medical kits, "to include other types of non-lethal supplies."
However the pledge fell short of opposition demands for foreign backers to supply the rebels with arms, impose a no-fly zone and carry out air strikes on positions used by the Assad regime to launch missiles.
"The results of the meeting were known in advance with the American statements made last week on providing new aid to the opposition," Al-Watan stated.
"The statements were not surprising, given that Washington has opted since the start of the crisis to line up with armed groups by giving them political, financial and military support," it said, according to AFP.
Created on Saturday, 13 April 2013 20:14
The highly anticipated New York trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law could be delayed because his court-appointed lawyers have been hit by U.S. budget cuts, they said Monday.
Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan called the revelation that a package of United States federal government cuts known as the sequester could imperil a start to the trial this year "stunning," the AFP news agency reported.
Martin Cohen, an attorney for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, allegedly a senior propagandist in the Al-Qaeda network, said he doubted he could be ready by Kaplan's suggested trial date in September.
"The lawyers for the federal defenders are to be furloughed for five-and-a-half weeks," he told a hearing, saying it would be "very difficult to be ready for September."
Cohen suggested a January date for the trial as an alternative.
Kaplan said it was "extremely troublesome to contemplate the possibility of a case of this nature being delayed because of sequestration."
Abu Ghaith has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill U.S. nationals.
He was brought in and out of the Manhattan court with his hands cuffed behind his back and wearing a blue prison smock. He did not speak during the hearing, but listened to proceedings through an English-to-Arabic interpreter, according to AFP.
Defense lawyers have questioned whether the bearded former comrade of the late Bin Laden could get a fair jury trial in a courthouse just a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, where nearly 3,000 people died in the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks.
Cohen said his team was considering asking Kaplan to move the trial elsewhere because of "the prejudicial nature of the trial in New York."
Asked later by journalists if a fair trial was possible, Cohen said: "These are questions that we're mulling over."
Once a trial does get underway, it could take as much as five weeks, with up to four weeks spent on the prosecution case, lawyers for both sides told the court, according to the news agency.
Created on Sunday, 07 April 2013 15:55
The US Embassy in Cairo deleted a controversial tweet about attacks on freedom of expression in Egypt following complaints by President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The embassy temporarily shut down its account and deleted the tweet, which had linked to a clip by popular US funnyman Jon Stewart denouncing the arrest of Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef.
Youssef, dubbed Egypt's Stewart, is on bail facing accusations of insulting Morsi and Islam, and is under investigation for "threatening public security."
Egyptian judicial sources said Youssef was being investigated along with the head of the CBC television channel, which airs his weekly program "Albernameg" (The Show), modeled on Stewart's satirical "The Daily Show."
In his Monday night show on Comedy Central, Stewart mocked Morsi for cracking down on dissent, pointing out that the former senior Muslim Brotherhood figure was swept to power in the revolution that ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.
But Morsi's office took issue with the clip tweeted by the US embassy, saying on its @EgyPresidency account that "it's inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the embassy's Twitter feed @USEmbassyCairo was back again Wednesday afternoon, after what she called "glitches with the way the Twitter feed has been managed."
Embassy staff, who are responsible for maintaining the feed as part of their digital diplomacy outreach, were now "reviewing" their procedures on "how they decide what they want to tweet from their embassy site."
The Twitter incident comes amid heightened U.S.-Egyptian tensions as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood seek to consolidate power.
Nuland called Youssef's arrest “evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression” on Monday, prompting the Freedom and Justice Party to denounce her “unreserved audacity” and “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Egypt.”
Created on Sunday, 31 March 2013 20:59
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a blast that killed 10 people and injured 31 others near the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar on Friday.
A suicide bomber rode a motorbike up to a security checkpoint, a third of a mile from the consulate, and detonated 22 pounds of explosives attached to his body, police spokesman Mohammad Faisal said, according to CNN.
"It was a suicide attack, the target was the FC commander," police official Arshad Khan told the AFP news agency.
The apparent target, head of the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary (FC) Abdul Majeed Marwat, reportedly escaped without serious injury.
Another official told the AFP that Marwat had escaped with "only scratches" but had been taken to hospital for treatment.
Four of the wounded were paramilitary personnel, according to reports.
Peshawar, located in Pakistan's northwest near the border with Afghanistan and adjacent to Pakistan's tribal region, is rife with Islamic extremists, including the Pakistani Taliban, and is often the site of violet attacks.
Last week a car bomb exploded at a nearby camp for displaced people, killing 12 and injuring 32 others.
Created on Monday, 25 March 2013 09:59
An alleged al-Qaeda terrorist who fought against US soldiers in Afghanistan and went on to plot a bomb attack against American diplomatic facilities in Nigeria was charged Wednesday in New York.
Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, also known as "Spin Ghul," was charged by a grand jury with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to bomb US diplomatic facilities, as well as providing material support to al-Qaeda, AFP reported.
Harun was born in Saudi Arabia but claims Nigerian citizenship, according to court documents.
The charges allege that Harun traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 with plans "to fight violent jihad."
After receiving "military-type training at al-Qaeda training camps," he allegedly went to war against US-led forces that invaded the country in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"Harun allegedly attempted to kill United States military personnel in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2003," the Brooklyn federal prosecutor's office said.
In 2003, Harun allegedly underwent training to attack US diplomatic facilities in Nigeria, where he also conspired to bomb the sites.
After an alleged co-conspirator was arrested in 2005, Harun left Nigeria, spending several years in custody in Libya, then after his 2011 release attempting to enter Italy aboard a ship filled with refugees, according to AFP.
It was then that he fell into the hands of Western authorities following an altercation with Italian authorities on the refugee ship, the prosecutor's office said.
"As alleged, Harun not only intended to, but did commit acts of terrorism against Americans. Now he is subject to the American justice system," FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in a statement.
"The defendant was a prototype al-Qaeda operative, trained by al-Qaeda in terrorist tradecraft, deployed to fight American servicemen, and dispatched to commit terrorist attacks throughout the world," said the chief prosecutor, US Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Created on Monday, 11 March 2013 19:16
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed Thursday a State Department decision to defer awarding the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award to Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim after news reports revealed anti-Semitic messages on her Twitter feed.
The messages included a tweet in which Ibrahim expressed her understanding and admiration of Adolph Hitler saying, “I have discovered with the passage of days that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler.”
A tweet about last July’s suicide bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, which killed five Israelis, was equally venomous saying, “Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.”
She also posted a message calling Saudi royals “dirtier than the Jews.”
Ibrahim was one of 10 women scheduled to receive the award from First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry at tomorrow’s ceremony at the State Department.
Although Ibrahim tweeted yesterday, “My account has been previously stolen and any tweet on racism and hatred is not me,” the objectionable tweets remain on her feed.
“We commend Secretary John Kerry and the Department of State for taking this matter seriously, and holding in abeyance the award to Ms. Ibrahim,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “There is no courage, and there should be no honor, in propagating anti-Semitism. If it is ascertained that Ms. Ibrahim is responsible for these anti-Semitic messages, she is unworthy of U.S. recognition and the honor and award should be withdrawn.”
The League called on Ibrahim to issue a public disavowal of the anti-Semitic tweets, stating they do not represent her views, unequivocally condemning anti-Semitism as repugnant and unacceptable and urging others not to promote anti-Semitism, hatred or bigotry of any kind.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced the decision to delay the awarding ceremony on Thursday afternoon.
“We as a department became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim’s alleged public comments,” Nuland sad, according to The Washington Times. “After careful consideration, we’ve decided that we should defer presenting this award to Ms. Ibrahim this year so that we have a chance to look further into these statements.”
She added that Ibrahim “has categorically denied” that she posted the unsavory messages and claimed that her account had been “hacked.”
“But we need some time and, in order to be prudent, to conduct our own review,” Nuland said.
Created on Thursday, 07 March 2013 11:58
The imam of a mosque in Miami was found guilty on Monday of funneling thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban, the United States Justice Department said.
After a two-month trial, Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 77, originally from Pakistan, was convicted on several counts of conspiring to support and providing material support to foreign terrorist groups for murders, maimings and kidnappings, AFP reported.
Khan could face up to 15 years in prison for each of the charges when he is sentenced on May 30.
"Despite being an imam, or spiritual leader, Hafiz Khan was by no means a man of peace," said US attorney for southern Florida Wifredo Ferrer in a justice department statement.
The mosque has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
According to evidence presented during his trial, Khan transferred money from the US to bank accounts in Pakistan belonging to Taliban terrorists and sympathizers.
He also worked in the US to raise money and spread propaganda for the same cause and helped found a madrassa, or Islamic school, in Pakistan to provide shelter and other support to the Taliban, AFP reported.
Some of the children who studied in the madrassa, according to a recorded phone conversation later went "to train to kill Americans in neighboring Afghanistan," the prosecution said.
Created on Saturday, 16 February 2013 13:59
President Barack Obama on Wednesday extended his 2011 declaration of emergency with regard to Libya, maintaining that the situation in the country "continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
The declaration allows the administration to extend sanctions on members of Moammar Qaddafi's family and former regime officials, asserting the need for the United States “to protect against this threat and the diversion of assets or other abuse.”
“We are in the process of winding down the sanctions in response to developments in Libya, including the fall of Qaddafi and his government and the establishment of a democratically elected government,” Obama said in the message to Congress.
“We are working closely with the new Libyan government and with the international community to effectively and appropriately ease restrictions on sanctioned entities, including by taking action consistent with the U.N. Security Council's decision to lift sanctions against the Central Bank of Libya and two other entities on December 16, 2011.
“The situation in Libya, however, continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States and we need to protect against this threat and the diversion of assets or other abuse by certain members of Qaddafi's family and other former regime officials,” the message read.
On December 16, the United States and the United Nations Security Council lifted most of the sanctions imposed on Libya under the rule of the brutal Qaddafi dictatorship.
“[A]fter careful consultation with the new Libyan government, the United States rolled back most U.S. sanctions on the government of Libya… Due to the bravery and perseverance of the Libyan people, the Qaddafi regime was defeated and Libya is now undertaking a transition to democracy,” the White House announced at the time.
According to the U.S. Treasury, more than $30 billion of Libyan assets were released.
The president’s declaration to continue the national emergency status for Libya comes as a number of lawmakers are still demanding answers regarding the administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other Americans.
Created on Monday, 21 January 2013 19:06
Recent reports reveal that the U.S. may have another Benghazi scandal on their hands.
The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that the U.S. received a number of reports that "something big" would be carried out against a Western target just before the Algerian hostage crisis which ended in a final assault Saturday night - although he claimed the information was not decisive enough to act on.
"Just like the Benghazi event, we had lots of threat streams," Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.) told ABC News Sunday. "There are reports coming in from all different types of sources saying, 'Something big is going to happen…We didn't know for sure, for certain it would be this particular place under those circumstances, but we knew that they were trying to find a...Western target, which this clearly was."
Rogers was referring to the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September of last year. The attack sparked outrage within the U.S. as reports surfaced that the government ignored regional threats and may have been able to prevent the attack which killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya.
Survivors said the terrorists targeted Americans and other Westerners. According to Algerian authorities, the 32 terrorists, armed with heavy machine guns, missiles and other weaponry, specifically singled out foreign workers at the gas plant, killing some and attaching explosives to others.
One of the terrorists told Algeria's Ennahar TV that if the group did not get what they wanted, "The Americans that are here, we will kill them…We will slaughter them."
Rogers told ABC News that the incident reveals that al-Qaeda has not been diminished, but rather the opposite, they are re-emerging as a powerful force in the region.
"Clearly this is a growing threat in the region. They feel emboldened," he said. "It can't just be Algeria. It has to be the whole northern Africa region and it needs to be a cohesive policy that is well-coordinated that covers all the different problems that we're finding in northern Africa... It really is naive to believe this isn't getting worse."
On Saturday, Algerian forces stormed a gas plant in the Sahara desert, bringing a four-day hostage situation to a violent end. In the aftermath, security forces searched the area for explosives and booby traps, and instead discovered a grizzly scene as dozens of bodies were found.
Many of the bodies were badly disfigured, making it hard for officials to identify the dead.
The current death toll is 81.
Three Americans were killed in the standoff and seven Americans made it out safely.
Created on Thursday, 17 January 2013 17:02
Only the people of Israel can decide who will represent their best interests, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday in remarks directed at President Barack Obama a week prior to the general election.
"I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state," he said.
His remarks came in response to an article by prominent Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in which he quoted Obama as repeatedly saying that, "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are."
Obama, he wrote, appeared to see Netanyahu as a "political coward" who is completely "captive to the settler lobby," and whose ongoing “settlement” activity was moving Israel
"down a path toward near total isolation."
Goldberg, who is himself a vocal critic of Prime Minister Netanyahu, maintained that Obama “told several people that sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.
Although the U.S. would not cut off its aid to Israel, Obama was not likely to "waste his time on Mideast peace" and the Jewish state could soon notice a "significant shift" on the diplomatic front, he wrote.
Senior Likud MKs reacted furiously, accusing the U.S. president of "gross interference" in the upcoming election.
“This is gossip a journalist wrote, and the facts suggest that the opposite is true,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who heads Likud’s response team. “Israelis expect their prime minister not to give in to pressure, even if it would give them applause in the United States.”
Netanyahu told reporters on a tour of an army base near Gaza that, "Over the last four years, we have faced tremendous pressure and we will continue to stand up for the vital interests of Israel and its security."
"We will do everything necessary to defend the security of the citizens of Israel in this area as well as in other areas," the prime minister said, in remarks broadcast by public radio.
Until now, there had been no official response to the article, which on Wednesday dominated national headlines.
Created on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 18:14
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said on Wednesday that his virulent anti-Semitic comments, which he reportedly said prior to his election and which were condemned by the United States on Tuesday, were taken out of context.
"The president stressed they were taken from comments on the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and stressed the need to put the remarks in the right context," said a statement from the president’s office issued following a meeting between Morsi and United States Senator John McCain on Wednesday.
In a TV clip released by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Morsi refers in a 2010 interview to "occupiers of Palestine" as "blood suckers and war mongers, and descendants of pigs and apes."
"We must resist them with all forms of resistance. A military resistance in Palestine against these Zionist criminals assaulting the land of Palestine and Palestinians," he says in the remarks to Quds Channel three years ago.
In Wednesday's statement, Morsi "stressed his commitment to the principles he has always insisted on, including full respect for religions, freedom of faith and religious practices, especially the heavenly religions.”
Morsi also "stressed the need to differentiate between Judaism and its adherents from (those who practice) violent actions against Palestinians."
He further "stressed the importance of building a strategic relationship between Egypt and the United States based on mutual respect and shared interests."
On Tuesday, Washington condemned Morsi's remarks and urged him to immediately clarify his views.
"The language that we've seen is deeply offensive," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding "we think that these comments should be repudiated, and they should be repudiated firmly."
Morsi, who was a leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, came to power in June as the Arab nation's first democratically elected president, following the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Nuland said Washington had already raised its concerns about the television clip with Cairo, and stressed again that Congress, which has blocked part of $1 billion in extra US aid, was watching the new Egyptian leadership carefully.
"We completely reject these statements, as we do any language that espouses religious hatred. This kind of rhetoric has been used in this region for far too long," she told journalists. "It's counter to the goals of peace."
"President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt," added White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The two administration officials stressed, however, that since coming to office, Morsi had reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
He had done so "in both word and deed, and has proven willing to work with us toward shared objectives, including a ceasefire during the crisis in Gaza last year," Carney said.
Washington would judge Morsi by both what he says and what he does, Nuland added.
Created on Monday, 17 December 2012 10:42
Chief representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington D.C. is warning United States lawmakers against retaliating for last month's statehood vote at the United Nations, maintaining that doing so would only hurt U.S. credibility in the region.
“History has shown time and again that the language of threats, financial pressure, and punitive measures simply does not work,” Maen Rashid Areikat wrote in a letter sent to U.S. lawmakers. “Engagement and dialogue is the only way to express the views of Congress. Biased and one-sided resolutions cannot contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive for a political resolution to the conflict.”
Areikat’s letter came in response to calls by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, urging President Barack Obama to close the PLO office in Washington D.C.
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Edward Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) are circulating a letter in response to the Palestinian Authority’s successful bid at the United Nation, urging that the U.S. to utilize “every means at our disposal to ensure that this General Assembly vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums.”
The UN resolution, which approved the PA bid for upgraded status as non-member observer state, granted the it de facto status as a sovereign state based on its own territorial claims, thus violating peace accords and enabling it to circumvent final status negotiations with Israel. Despite adamant disapproval by Israel and the U.S., the bid was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions.
“[A]llow me to point out a fact that may escape some of you: the genie is already out of the bottle; it cannot be put back in,” Areikat wrote in his letter. “There is no action that can be taken by anyone, Congress included, to change our UN status. The world spoke in a unified voice; Palestine is now recognized as a non-member State at the UN.”
“We sure can disagree but to express your disagreements by applying pressure serves no one’s interests,” he wrote.
Created on Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:03
Many Pakistanis fear that President Barack Obama’s re-election will mean a surge in American drone strikes. For those producing and selling U.S. flags to burn at protests, however, his victory could be provide encouraging news, AFP reported.
Demonstrations against U.S. missile strikes targeting suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are common in Pakistan, and no protest is complete without America’s beloved Stars and Stripes being sent up in flames.
Nadeem Shah, the owner of a flag business in Rawalpindi, the twin city of the capital Islamabad, said he expected more drone strikes -- and more protests.
“Of course Obama has become stronger now and he will push his policies harder and there will be more drone strikes because he himself is stronger now,” Shah told AFP.
“When the drone strikes increase the protests against these strikes will also increase in Pakistan and it can have an impact on the flags and poster business,” he added.
Pakistan’s flag industry enjoyed a boom in September, when Muslims blamed their deeply imbedded hatred against America on an anti-Islam film made in the United States. While the film was merely a timely and convenient excuse to renew anti-American protests, it quickly became the scapegoat upon which the Muslim world could place their fury.
Created on Saturday, 06 October 2012 20:29
Fighting in Syria between Damascus and the rebel militias continues to drag on and the violent rebellion has now come to involve Turkey, Iran and the West.
The civil war continues to entangle Turkey in violence, as Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day in which Syrian shells fired by the rebels landed in the neighboring country. In reponse, Turkey again fired back at Syria Saturday after a Syrian bomb landed in a field in southern Turkey.
The response comes only one day after the Turkish Prime Minister warned Syria it would not hesitate to retaliate if further provoked.
Meanwhile, rebels have warned that the West's inaction in the crisis will only cause trouble down the road. As reported by the New York Times, Majed al-Muhammad, the commander of a Syrian militia, slammed the West for not trying to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from massacring his own people, saying the Syrian people are being radicalized because of the intensity of the conflict and the fact that the entire world is doing nothing to stop the killings.
Al-Muhammad claimed the frustration caused by the West turning its back on the people of Syria will cause the Syrian people to turn their back on the West once the civil war comes to an end.
“We are now at a very critical juncture,” wrote a journalist in one Turkish newspaper, “We are not only facing Syria, but Iran, Iraq, Russia and China behind it as well. Behind us, we have nothing but the provocative stance and empty promises of the U.S.”
“The United Nations and international community are making a big mistake,” said Ghassan Abdul Wahib, 43, a truck driver and now a leader in Kafr Takharim, a village in the north. “By letting this be a long war, they are dragging Syria toward radicalism, and they will suffer from this for a long time.”
Iran continues to be entangled in the crisis, as Syrian rebels said they will begin executing the 48 Iranian hostages they have if Iran does not stop sending weapons to the Syria government and are calling on Iran to withdraw their military from the Eastern Ghuta area of Damascus. Among the 48 are several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Created on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 09:31
Al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa called the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens a "gift” and urged Muslims to continue killing U.S. government representatives.
In a statement, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb praised the killing of Stevens, calling it "the best gift you (can) give to his arrogant and unjust administration."
"We encourage all Muslims to continue to demonstrate and escalate their protests ... and to kill their (American) ambassadors and representatives or to expel them to cleanse our land from their wickedness," the group said in the statement.
It further threatened attacks in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania, and condemned the United States for “lying to Muslims for more than 10 years, saying its war was against terrorism and not Islam.”
In the most recent attack, a suicide bomber in Kabul rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying South African aviation workers to the airport, killing at least 12 people.
The Islamist terrorist group Hizb-i-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for the film “Innocence of Muslims,” which portrays Islam and the Prophet Mohammad in a negative light.
Created on Saturday, 15 September 2012 15:58
One of the American diplomats who was killed Tuesday at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, said in an online gaming forum hours prior to the brutal assault that he had seen suspicious people taking pictures outside his compound and wondered if he and his team might "die tonight."
Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer assigned to the consulate, was well known in the online gaming forum EVE Online, where he went by the name "vilerat," and was seen as a leader by his fellow gamers.
Smith was killed along with three others, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, when the U.S. consulate in Libya was attacked by a vicious mob, who later dragged the body of the ambassador though the streets of Libya in a show of victory.
Hours prior to attack, Smith reportedly sent a message to Alex Gianturco, the director of "Goonswarm," Smith's online gaming team or "guild."
”Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures,” the message, which was first reported by the Wired news source, read.
Within hours of posting that message, Smith, a husband and father of two, was dead.
“My people, I have greivous [sic] news,” Gianturco wrote following the attack. “Vile Rat has been confirmed to be KIA in Benghazi; his family has been informed and the news is likely to break out on the wire services soon.”
“Needless to say, we are in shock, have no words, and have nothing but sympathy for his family and children,” he continued. “I have known Vile Rat since 2006, he was one of the oldest of old-guard goons and one of the best and most effective diplomats this game has ever seen.”
As word of the attack spread, tributes to the American diplomat flooded the online forum.
"To your wife and children, know that the love of thousands of video game nerds, the world over, fall to your shoulders," wrote one poster, according to Wired.
"Vile Rat was a shining example of life lived to its fullest," wrote another. "A great man in all respects and will be missed by many. Not even 12 hours ago we were talking in jabber, he had made a joke about the lack of security in such places and crappy Internet. The whole thing seems surreal."
Created on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 20:05
Seventy years ago, on August 8, 1942, the World Jewish Congress representative in Geneva, Gerhart M. Riegner, sent a telegram to British and American diplomats providing them with reliable information about Hitler’s plans to annihilate millions of European Jews.
The telegram was the first authoritative word that the Nazis actually had a coordinated extermination plan.
A few days before, Riegner had received a phone call from a friend at the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland with news that a German industrialist had told him of a plan being discussed by Hitler to exterminate the Jews of Europe.
The cable, which he then sent to British and American diplomats in Switzerland, stated: “Received alarming report about plan being discussed and considered in Führer headquarters to exterminate at one fell swoop all Jews in German-controlled countries comprising three and a half to four million after deportation and concentration in the east thus solving Jewish question once and for all stop campaign planned for autumn methods being discussed including hydrocyanic acid.”
Riegner urged the US vice consul in Geneva to inform the administration in Washington of the plan and to transmit the contents of the telegram to Stephen Wise, president of the World Jewish Congress and a personal friend of US President Franklin Roosevelt.
However, Wise received Riegner’s alarming message only three weeks later, on 28 August 1942. The WJC president immediately relayed it to the US authorities, but the telegram was largely met with disbelief, despite preexisting evidence for mass executions. The US State Department considered it "a wild rumor, fueled by Jewish anxieties", while the British Foreign Office refused to forward the telegram for the time being and called for the allegations to be investigated first.
It was only on 25 November 1942 that the State Department contacted WJC President Wise, confirming Riegner's report and granting Wise permission to release the news about the Holocaust to the world. It took a further 14 months until, in January 1944, President Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board whose aim was to try to save Jews. "Since my first telegram, 18 months had passed during which time the inexorable massacre continued and millions of Jews were sacrificed," Riegner wrote in his memoirs.
For the rest of his life, Riegner was haunted by the knowledge that many of the six million Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps could have been saved if the United States and Britain had acted promptly on his warning dispatched from Switzerland. "Never did I feel so strongly the sense of abandonment, powerlessness and loneliness as when I sent messages of disaster and horror to the free world, and no one believed me," Riegner recalled in his memoirs.
(World Jewish Congress)
Created on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 18:33
A federal magistrate judge has ruled that al Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran and Hizbullah should pay more than $6 billion in damages to the families of victims killed on September 11, 2001, CNN reported.
The recommendation is largely symbolic as it would be nearly impossible to collect any damages.
Federal Magistrate Judge Frank Maas made the ruling Monday, after federal Judge George Daniels decided last year that the terrorist groups and the Iranian regime were liable because of their support for the attacks,.
The initial filing made in 2003 had identified Iraq for its purported role in supporting the attacks, though attorneys withdrew it as a defendant when authorities later considered those claims unfounded.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied any Iranian connection in the attacks, just as he denies the regime’s aspirations in acquiring nuclear weapons.
The 9/11 Commission Report mentions contact between al Qaeda and Iran-supported Hizbullah terrorists, which are based largely in southern Lebanon.
The report also pointed to Iranian border inspectors who were told not to stamp the passports of al Qaeda members and who had facilitated the travel of the would-be hijackers, CNN reported.
However, the report also stated that "we have found no evidence that Iran or Hizbullah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack."
In October, 2011, Judge Maas determined that al Qaeda should face $9.3 billion in penalties for the businesses and properties destroyed and damaged in the 2001 attacks.
Created on Thursday, 28 June 2012 20:10
The US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama's attempt to overhaul America's healthcare system.
The decision means the massive healthcare intiative, popularly called ObamaCare, which is still only partly in effect, will proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years.
The plan is expected to affect the way countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care, and is intended to ensure some 30 million uninisured Americans will recieve proper healthcare.
The ruling also hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced the court's decision to allow the law to go forward.
However, the court did reject two of the administration's three arguments in support of the insurance requirement. But the court nonetheless said the mandate can be construed as a tax, making it constitutionally sound.
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," Roberts said.
The court did take issue with the law's expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part in the law's extension.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome.
Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
"The act before us here exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding," the dissenters said in their opinion.
Created on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 15:24
Ohio Congressional candidate Samuel Wuerzelbacher, also-known-as “Joe the Plumber,” issued a controversial YouToube video Monday linking the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide to gun control.
"In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated. In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1938 to 1945, 6 million
Jews and 7 million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated," Wuerzelbacher says in the video as he shoots at apples on a target range.
"I love America," he closes with a smile.
“I’m just stating the fact that history is very important — people need to understand what happened. Different countries around the world have tried to disarm their citizens, and then have tried to exterminate their own now-unarmed citizens,” Wurzelbacher told POLITICO, citing Turkey, Russia and Germany as examples.
Wurzelbacher told the news source that he has no sympathy for those who might be offended by his message.
“If people are looking to be offended by this video, they are probably serving a political agenda. Unfortunately there are a lot of whiners out there,” the Ohio Republican said in an interview. “The Second Amendment essentially allows us Americans to make sure that we keep our rights. It’s very important to make sure we sustain it.”
The controversial video, posted Monday and first reported on by the New York Observer, drew a quick rebuke from the National Jewish Democratic Coalition.
"Using the memories of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust to make a political point is never appropriate, under any circumstances," said NJDC head David A. Harris. "For Ohio Republican House candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher to imply that these innocent lives were taken because of gun control laws is simply beyond the pale. Wurzelbacher — who is just the latest in a long line of Republicans who seem to think it is acceptable to use the Holocaust for political gain — must apologize and remove this offensive video immediately."
Wuerzelbacher, a Tea Party favorite who became somewhat of a celebrity during the 2008 presidential campaign for questioning then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on taxes, is running against Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) in a heavily Democratic district in northern Ohio. Kaptur’s opponent in 2010, Rich Iott, gained national attention for having participated in Nazi reenactments, The Hill reported.
Created on Monday, 11 June 2012 07:45
U.S.-based Georgia Power is interested in joining Turkey’s nuclear power plant project, its Chief Executive Officer Paul Bowers announced on Friday, The Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“Turkey wants to be independent in the energy arena. We can help them because we have been constructing nuclear power plants for the past 30 years,” Bowers told the Anatolia News Agency during his visit to Turkey with Georgia State Governor Nathan Deal.
Bowers stressed that Georgia Power specializes in ensuring that nuclear energy remains safe and clean.
Bowers and Deal are planning to meet with Turkey’s Economy Ministry during their visit to discuss their interest in the nuclear plant project.
“We have 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. and 400 around the world. We ensure that our nuclear projects are in line with all safety standards. If there are any other recommendations or suggestions beyond this, we can of course take those on as well,” Bowers said.
The move comes following the declaration of Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz that Turkey is determined to build nuclear power plants, and aims to establish 23 nuclear units by 2023.
The country is in talks with Japan, South Korea, China and Canada for the second nuclear power plant to be constructed in the northern province of Sinop.
Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy giant, has been awarded the contract to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in the southern province of Mersin. The plant is said to cost around $20 billion.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims that the country’s first particle accelerator, which opened at the beginning of the month, aims strictly at serving the health sector and diminishing dependence on external markets.
However, such declarations of peaceful nuclear ambitions remain doubtful, at best, as Erdogan has criticized the international community for singling out Iran on nuclear issues, saying, “You have to be fair. You will overlook Israel’s nuclear activities but you will spark crisis over Iran. This is not fair.”
Created on Saturday, 09 June 2012 06:55
Members of the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation met in Washington, D.C., this week and called on the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, CBN News reported.
Several Jewish and Christian leaders, as well as pro-Israel lawmakers, attended the group's Jerusalem Day celebration on Capitol Hill, which took place on Wednesday.
Representative Allen West (R-FL) asserted that, "Jerusalem is the rightful capital of the Jewish people, and it should stay that way."
"It should always be unified under one simple flag, that star of David, because that is David's city,” he said.
"We have to be Israel's friend, and I would implore this president, who I just believe in my heart is not Israel's friend, to have a change of heart," Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill) told CBN News.
Legislation was passed on Capitol Hill in 1995 calling for the U.S. Embassy in Israel to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Seventeen years later and that still has not happened.
Successive administrations, from President Clinton to President Obama, have used a waiver to delay that decision and keep the Embassy in Tel Aviv.
"For us, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, the greatest country the world has ever known, to be fearful of moving our embassy to Jerusalem, in my opinion, is a disgrace and we need to do that and do that right now," GOP Florida Senate candidate Dave Weldon said.
"They don't need Jerusalem," said Rabbi Benny Elon, President of the Israel Allies Caucus. "They just want to make sure that we, the Jews, shall not have it."
Created on Sunday, 27 May 2012 19:56
US officials are reportedly set to ship arms to the Syrian opposition, but are concerned American arms may end up in al-Qaeda's hands.
The officials told AFP on condition of anonymity that those concerns – just where the guns will ultimately be pointed – are holding up the arms transfer from Washington.
The US is already transferring “non-lethal” materials, including medical supplies and communication equipment to the fighters of the Free Syria Army (FSA), which is primarily comprised of Syrian Army defectors.
However, officials have been hesitant to provide arms to the FSA because the disparate opposition has been joined by groups Washington believes have ties to Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah.
A vetting plan to separate the groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s government from those profiteering from the armed conflict is yet to be finalized, the unnamed US officials told AFP.
Some US allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been less hesitant and openly said they would fund the purchase of arms for the Syrian opposition.
Washington has at once called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and said he cannot be dislodged without outside military intervention, or substantive external logistical support for the Syrian rebels.
At the same time, the Obama administration has remained doggedly dedicated to its 'sanctions only' approach on Syria and repeatedly ruled out arming the rebels – and has backed the UN brokered peace plan and observer force.
Arming the rebels would be an open admission that the UN ceasefire – already in tatters – had failed, and could lead to the perception that Washington rather than Assad drove the final nail into its proverbial coffin.
Thus, were the US to begin arming the rebels, it would herald a major policy shift. However, analysts note that a meaningful vetting plan would require direct US oversight of the Syrian rebel’s logistical operations.
In doing so, they say, the Obama administration would be making itself accountable to the American public for the conduct of Syria's armed opposition – and opening the door to deeper involvement.
Historically, US "material assistance" to rebel groups has led to additional assistance in the form of intelligence support and military advisors. And, in some cases, combat forces being deployed as well.
With an election looming large on his horizon and Washington touting troop pull-outs in Iraq and Afghanistan, US president Barack Obama may be reticent to arm the rebels because if he goes in for a penny, he may end up on the hook for a pound.
Created on Thursday, 17 May 2012 11:15
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said this week his nation's military is ready to execute "the military option" on Iran's nuclear program if need be.
Makor Rishon reported that Shapiro, speaking at a meeting of the Israel Bar Association for Tel Aviv and the Central Region, said that not is an American military option available, but that made all necessary preparations to carry it out were complete.
"We do not know if sanctions and diplomacy will work," Shapiro said of Western efforts to force Tehran to halt its controversial uranium enrichment program. "So, all options are on the table, including the military option."
Shapiro said US President Barak Obama made it clear in previous meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu - and public pronouncements – that the US will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"I think this is a statement that America can take to the bank, that Israel can take to the bank, and that Iran should take to the bank," Shapiro said.
"We believe that there is a window – not an unlimited time – in which we can still use diplomacy to achieve our goal," he said.
Shapiro stressed "At some point we will have to decide if diplomacy has failed. What we want to do is give it any chance, because this is another thing that Israel and the US agree on – that it’s better to solve this diplomatically and through sanctions, than through military force."
"But that does not mean that the military option is not available. In fact, this is not only an available option, but as I said, it is ready. All the necessary preparations have been made to read it," he repeated.
Shapiro added that Obama considered an Iranian nuclear weapon counter to America's national interests, and was unafraid to use military force to protect those interests.
"This is a part of the fight against international terrorism," Shapiro said, adding, "Certainly it was the right decision to eliminate Bin Laden. This is a good indication of president’s ability to make hard choices when he believes the interests of the US are on the line."
Shapiro's remarks come ahead of talks between the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – and Iran in Baghdad next week.
A previous round of talks held earlier this year resulted in no progress other than an agreement for more talks.
Ahead of those talks International Atomic Energy Agency officials have pressured Iran for access to sites where they suspect Iran has conducted nuclear research of a military nature.
In particular, IAEA officials want Iran to address concerns expressed in an extensive IAEA report in November that at least until 2003, and possibly since, that Tehran has engaged in nuclear activities of a decidedly military nature.
Two previous trips to Tehran in January and February by the IAEA resulted in Iran denying international inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites.
Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is obligated to allow the UN watchdog access to its site for inspections to ensure it is complying with the treaty - but has consistently refused to honor the treaty.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said recently that access to Parchin was a "priority" and said in March that "activities" spotted by satellite there "makes us believe that going there sooner is better than later."
In March, Amano charged Iran with a systemic attempt to cover up nuclear activity of a military nature saying, "Iran is not telling us everything."
Western nations have accused Iran of removing evidence from Parchin and other sites. Iran says any allegations of "sanitization" of the site were "a childish (and) ridiculous story made out of nothing."
Observers note that Shapiro's assertion that Jerusalem and Washington are in lock-step on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program is out of harmony with statements by senior Israeli officials.
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has publicly said Western sanctions should be given more time, he has told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee he does not believe they are working. He also said that sanctions were not working openly during a trip to Cyprus earlier this year.
Israeli officials – including Defense Minister Ehud Barak – have charged that further talks are a waste of time saying Iran is using them stall for time in its bid for nuclear weapons.
Analysts believe the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months will dramatically increase should the Baghdad talks fail.