Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re: The situation in Syria and the imminent attacks planned by al-Qaida, Quds Forces, Hezbollah. TERRORIST SUPER-AXIS TO STRIKE WITHIN U.S.
May 14, 2013
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu landed in Sochi, Russia, and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
By Uzi Baruch
First Publish: 5/14/2013, 4:25 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned against any moves that would further destabilize the situation in Syria, speaking after talks with visiting Israeli Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu.
“In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid any moves that can shake the situation,” Putin was quoted as saying by news agencies, days
after Israeli forces launched air strikes against regime targets in Syria.
Netanyahu had been expected to warn Putin against delivering advanced S-300 missiles to Syria which would severely complicate any future air attacks against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Netanyahu in his public comments did not indicate whether he succeeded in convincing Putin to halt arms supplies to Syria or whether the two leaders reached any firm agreements.
Speaking to reporters, Netanyahu stressed that his country’s task was to “defend its citizens.”
“Together we are trying to find ways to strengthen stability and security, we have a remarkable opportunity to directly speak with each other,” the
Israeli premier was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Russia has refused to halt arms supplies to the Damascus regime, saying it has to honor contracts it concluded before the war.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Russia on Tuesday said it had detained an alleged American CIA agent working undercover at the U.S. embassy who was discovered with a large stash of money as he was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB, ex-KGB) identified the man as Ryan C. Fogle – third secretary of the political section of Washington’s embassy in Moscow – and said he had been handed back to the embassy after his detention.
In the latest espionage scandal that risks rocking U.S.-Russia relations at a sensitive time, the Russian foreign ministry said it was summoning U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul on Wednesday to provide an explanation.
Photographs published by state English language television RT showed Fogle being held to the ground face down and having his hands put behind his back for the arrest.
He was then shown being questioned at the Federal Security Service while documents such as his passport and a stack of 500 euro notes along with some letters were displayed.
Pictures were also shown of his alleged espionage equipment including wigs, a compass, torch and even a mundane atlas of Moscow as well as a somewhat old fashioned mobile phone.
The FSB said in statement carried by Russian news agencies that Fogle was carrying “special technical equipment, written instructions for recruiting a Russian citizen, a large sum of money and means for changing a person’s appearance.”
The statement added that “recently, the U.S. intelligence service has made repeated attempts to recruit the staff of Russian law enforcement agencies and special services, which were detected and carried out under control of the Russian FSB counter-intelligence service.”
The Russian news agency reports said the suspected agent had been caught red-handed trying to recruit an employee of one of the Russian security services.
It is not clear what will now happen to Fogle but normal practice in Russia would be for him to be declared persona non grata and ordered to leave within 48 hours or less.
The incident comes amid a new chill in Russian-U.S. relations sparked by the Syrian crisis and concern in Washington over what it sees as President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on human rights.
The last major spy row between the two former Cold War rivals involved the glamorous Anna Chapman and 10 other Russian spies arrested in the US in 2010.
The spy scandal – which ended with a swap of the 10 sleepers and four Russians convicted of spying for the West – was a huge embarrassment for Russia’s foreign intelligence at the time.
Several of the spies were portrayed by the press as bumbling amateurs who had accomplished little through careers that in some cases stretched back to the Soviet era.
On Tuesday, the FSB and Russia’s tightly-controlled state media appeared intent on showing to the public that the man it had caught was a real agent who posed a danger to Russia’s interests.
The photos published by RT also showed a document entitled “printed instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited.”
Parts of the recruiting document allegedly used by Fogle read: “Dear Friend. This is an advance from somebody who is impressed with your professionalism, and who would value highly your future cooperation with us.”
The document added that the U.S. government was willing to pay $100,000 outright. “Payment can be much higher if you are ready to answer specific questions,” it added.
“Besides, we offer up to $1 million per year for long-term cooperation, with a promise for an additional bonus for information that will help us.”
McFaul – who was doing a question-and-answer session with Russians on his Twitter account at the time the news broke – tweeted “No” when asked if he could comment on the incident.
The governments of the United States and Russia can sometimes be at odds. Americans and Iranians rarely see eye to eye on anything. But the possibility of wrestling losing its Olympic spot has given these three often-divergent nations a cause to rally around.
The U.S., Russian and Iranian wrestling teams will meet on Wednesday for an historic exhibition in New York. It’s a showcase event for what the sport’s international governing body has dubbed “World Wrestling Month.”
The IOC in February recommended that wrestling be dropped from the Olympic program starting in 2020. Wrestling now has to plead its case to the IOC to be included as a provisional sport in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 29.
The New York exhibition, known as “The Rumble on the Rails” and to be held at Grand Central Terminal, is designed to highlight the sport’s international appeal and popularity. The pre-meet news conference is even being held at the United Nations, and the meet will be televised live by the NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports — a rarity for a sport struggling for ways to make itself more viewer-friendly.
The Iranians, who will be competing in the U.S. for the first time in 10 years, will also compete against the Americans at an exhibition in Los Angeles on May 19.
“In this crisis, we all stick together. Wrestlers maybe can do, sometimes, what politicians cannot,” said Nenad Lalovic, the acting president of FILA, the sport’s governing body. “We love our sport, and we are united to save it.”
If there’s one thing that the U.S., Russian and Iran have in common, it’s a proud tradition of wrestling success and a deep passion for the sport that’s been re-ignited by the IOC.
The Americans have won more Olympic medals in wrestling than any other country. When put in certain context, it can be argued that the U.S. wrestling team has been more successful than any other American Olympic team.
The Russians are now the world’s premier wrestling nation. They won 11 medals in the recent London Olympics, including four golds, when no other nation claimed more than six medals.
The Russians were furious at the IOC’s recommendation, and their angst over the sport’s Olympic future stretches all the way to the top.
“The removal from the Olympic program of traditional forms of sports, which were its basis from the beginning and were in the program of the Olympic Games even in the time of ancient Greece … is unjustified,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said in March.
But wrestling holds a place in Iranian culture that likely exceeds that of even the U.S. and Russia.
It’s often been said that wrestling is the national sport of Iran, where it doesn’t have to compete with the likes of baseball, American football and hockey. The Iranians won three golds in London, backed by a fan section more boisterous than any other nation.
Tehran also served as the first place for the international wrestling community to come together and start formulating a plan to save its Olympic status.
The first major meet of the year, the World Cup, was held in Tehran roughly a week after the IOC decision, and the world’s top 10 wrestling nations — including the U.S., Russia and Iran — met to discuss how to respond to the IOC.
U.S. Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs said the fans inside the arena were overwhelmingly supportive of the competitors, regardless of what country they wrestled for.
“It was probably the best wrestling venue, in terms of fan support and excitement, that I’ve ever been a part of,” Burroughs said after the World Cup. “We’re competitors on the mat. But with the decision by the IOC, now everyone is coming together.”
The New York and Los Angeles exhibitions highlight a busy week for wrestling. FILA, the sport’s international governing body, will meet in Moscow on Saturday to discuss major changes designed to improve wrestling’s standing with the IOC.
The matches in New York and Los Angeles won’t count for much more than pride. But wrestling officials are hoping to show the IOC and the world that a sport which can bring three such powerful but often clashing nations together is one worthy of a spot in the Olympic Games.
In fact, a photo of Burroughs and Iranian wrestler Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi locked arm-in-arm on the medal stand in London has become a symbolic image on social media sites for the movement to save Olympic wrestling.
“It is an exciting opportunity for wrestling to show the world its ability to bring together nations of different political, cultural and geographic backgrounds,” USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender said in announcing the New York meet last month.
The Telegraph | 13/05/13 | Last Updated: 13/05/13 3:25 PM ET
A fleet of 34 ships will begin the world’s biggest anti-mine exercise Monday in an international show of force after Iranian threats to close the Gulf.
A coalition of 41 nations will practise detecting and clearing mines in the British-led exercise to ensure that they can keep open one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
The move follows Iran’s warnings in recent years that it might block the Strait of Hormuz if it were to come under attack from America or Israel for its nuclear programme, or in retaliation for international sanctions against the country. Such action would send the oil price soaring and deal a significant blow to the already weakened world economy.
Tehran has already said it will “fully monitor” this week’s exercise and warned participants against “provocations”. It held its own minesweeping exercise east of the strait last week and said it had unveiled a “modern anti-mine” system.
Commodore Simon Ancona, the Royal Navy officer leading the exercise, said it was purely defensive and was not aimed directly at Iran or any other nation.
He said: “There’s no way anyone can claim that they are provocative. They will all take place in international waters. There’s nothing overtly provocative and there’s nothing covert.” He added that the exercise had been put on because of growing international recognition that keeping sea lanes free of mines and protecting shipping was critical to the world economy.
Six British ships are among those taking part. Overall, the mine hunting and disposal drills will use more than 100 divers and 18 underwater remote controlled drone craft to detect and destroy mines. The Royal Navy prides itself on having some of the best anti-mine expertise and equipment in the world.
Ships will also carry out exercises to protect oil installations and escort convoys of merchant ships through the strait, that carries 30 per cent of seaborne oil supplies, Cdre Ancona said, amounting to 15 to 17 million barrels a day.
He said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that a shift in oil prices is a global event and should oil prices increase, then we would all feel that cold breeze.”
The 40-kilometre wide Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf is by far the most important oil “chokepoint” in the world. The threat to close it remains Iran’s most potent strategic weapon.
Malcolm Graham-Wood, an oil analyst with VSA Capital in London, predicted that if Iran ever closed the strait with mines international oil prices could double overnight. A growing number of pipelines in the
Gulf have yet to diminish the oil trade’s reliance on the waterway.
However, he said they would probably quickly fall back as America and its allies moved to clear the channel.
Commanders said British and US naval vessels came into regular contact with their Iranian counterparts in the Gulf’s confined waters and relations were civil.
Vice Admiral John Miller, commander of the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, said: “I think we have a fairly good idea of what their maritime capability is. We are out in the Gulf each and every day and the Iranian navy is out in the water every day and we have a good opportunity to assess each other.”
The Daily Telegraph
AFP | May 13, 2013, 05.07 AM IST
MANAMA, Bahrain: Vice-admiral John Miller, commander of the US Fifth Fleet, said on Sunday that a massive naval minesweeping exercise involving 41 countries was not directed at Iran.
“It is not about Iran,” Miller said at a news conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, the fleet’s headquarters, saying the manoeuvres were “purely defensive”.
Iran on Tuesday warned against any “provocations” in the Gulf as the US-led international naval force began preparing for the exercise.
“Our message does not get to one country… it is about a secure maritime environment,” Miller said.
“It is purely defensive, not provocative, and takes place in international waters.”
The Islamic republic has warned that if it was attacked by the US or Israel over its nuclear activities, it would block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a major oil conduit.
Miller said that “critical to the global economy is a maritime environment that has free-flowing commerce, ships can safely sail.”
“If some nation puts mines into the waters then the global community has to get them from the waters as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that the “newest technologies” will be used in the manoeuvres.
Thirty-five ships, 18 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles and more than 100 explosive ordinance disposal divers will participate in the anti-mine manoeuvres running until the end of May.
Commodore Simon Ancona of the British Royal Navy said that more than 40 countries and 6,500 service members were taking part.
Iran’s Fars news agency reported earlier this week that a minesweeping exercise was being conducted by Iranian forces in the east of the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
PFLP-GC militants guard a base in Naameh near Beirut. (File Photo: AFP)
Saturday, 11 May 2013
A militant Palestinian group in Damascus said it is forming combat units to try to recapture Israeli-occupied territory, in particular the Golan Heights, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah said that they would support such operations.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) said it was preparing for new operations after nearly 40 years of quiet on the Israel-Syria border.
The group, designated terrorists by the United States and others in the West, was most active in the 1970s and 80s but retains influence with Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon.
“The leadership of the PFLP-GC announces that it will form brigades to work on liberating all violated [Israeli-occupied] territories, first and foremost the occupied Golan,” it said in a statement late on Friday.
“The Popular Front’s leaders have opened the door to all Syrian citizens to volunteer in the formation of the resistance.”
Israel launched a series of air strikes around Damascus last week that inflamed regional tensions already on the rise as Syria’s two-year civil war slowly seeps across its increasingly chaotic and porous borders.
Intelligence sources said Israel was trying to take out “game-changing” Iranian weapons destined for Lebanon’s Shiite militant and political group Hezbollah.
Assad is a pivotal ally of regional Shiite power Iran, and is believed to serve as its arms conduit to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.
Assad and his father, who ruled for 30 years before him, maintained calm in the Golan despite an official state of war between the two countries and Syria’s support for militants in Lebanon and Gaza.
But following last week’s strikes, which shook the Syrian capital and set its skyline alight with flames, Assad was quoted by state media as saying he would turn the Golan into a “resistance front” and would allow combatants to attack Israel from the area.
Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 and is believed to coordinate with the PFLP-GC, turned up the rhetoric further by saying it would support any such operations.
“We announce that we stand with the Syrian popular resistance and offer material and spiritual support as well as coordination in order to liberate the Syrian Golan,” the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Thursday.
Nasrallah said Syria would defy Israeli strikes by sending his group sophisticated weaponry, which he hinted may change the balance of power in the region.
The regions bordering the Golan Heights have already collapsed into disarray, with daily battles between state forces and rebels fighting to topple four decades of Assad family rule.
The war, which has killed more than 70,000 people, risks becoming increasingly regionalized, as the country’s borders mark the fault lines of several Middle Eastern conflicts.
Saturday, 11 May 2013
The White House offices in the West Wing were evacuated briefly on Saturday. (File Photo: AFP)
The White House offices in the West Wing were evacuated briefly on Saturday after smoke was detected in the building, but staff were allowed to return and there was no indication of danger to President Barack Obama, CNN said.
The Secret Service had investigated the source of the smoke, CNN said.
The president’s office and top staff offices are located in the West Wing adjacent to the main White House. Fox reported fire trucks were at the scene.
State Department sanctions four Iranian companies and one individual for aiding Iran’s development of nuclear weapon.
By Arutz Sheva staff
First Publish: 5/10/2013, 1:09 PM
The US State Department imposed sanctions, Thursday, on four Iraniancompanies and one individual for aiding Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon by providing centrifuge components, equipment and research to the government’s uranium enrichment and nuclear programs.
“These entities and individual were designated because they provide the Iranian government goods, technology, and services that increase Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and/or construct a heavy water moderated research reactor, both of which are activities prohibited by U.N. Security Council Resolutions,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell in a statement.
The sanctioned person and companies will be unable to engage in financial transactions with Americans and all of their assets under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen.
Aluminat, Pars Amayesh Sanaat Kish, Pishro Systems Research Company and Taghtiran Kashan Company are the four firms sanctioned by the State Department. Parviz Khaki is the individual whose assets will be frozen, The Hill reported.
“Iranian private sector firms should heed the risks incurred by conducting business with those who support Iran’s proscribed nuclear activities and should choose to focus their activities on legitimate international commerce,” Ventrell said
“The United States will continue to investigate and research similar activities, and additional companies making material contributions to the Iranian government’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery will likely be designated,” he added, according to The Hill.
FRIDAY 10 MAY 2013
AQ Khan, the mastermind of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, has denied any involvement in similar programmes in North Korea and Iran, insisting that the two states have acquired any knowledge in the field from Western sources.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr Khan, who has been described as a “serious proliferation risk” by the United States after being accused of passing on his knowledge to countries – like North Korea – which Washington regards as a rogue state, said: “I have nothing to do with it and Pakistan has nothing to do with it. All the western countries you see the nuclear technology Pakistan did not develop. Pakistan also acquired it from the western countries. They [North Korea] are also getting it from the western countries.”
Pyongyang said in 2009 that it had joined the nuclear club, a claim that the US later said was probably true. Mr Khan was widely accused of helping Kim Jong-il’s administration in acquiring the bomb. A leading nuclear physicist, Mr Khan was identified after reports suggested that Pakistan and North Korea had exchanged ideas on nuclear weapons in the early 1990s.
“Pakistan did not have any knowledge about missiles and Pakistan did not give anyone any information about missiles. We are a novice in this field,” he said.
The rare interview with Mr Khan comes on the eve of Pakistan’s general elections, for which Mr Khan, despite not standing himself, has formed a party. As well as denying any link to North Korea’s nuclear weapons, he has also attacked the West over Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran insists that its atomic work is for peaceful means, but the West, and especially Israel, has said that the country is working towards producing a bomb.
“It’s just propaganda, just propaganda western propaganda for public consumption,” he said. “You know they were making the same propaganda about Iraq. And they couldn’t find a trace of it. Not an iota of truth was in it. And even Collin Powell [the former US Secretary of State] had gone to the United Nations and was showing her pictures of chemical weapons laboratories and then he apologised.”
Talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – have produced few results, while Israel has insisted that it will act to prevent Iran enriching sufficient uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. Mr Khan, however, insists that the claims are unfounded.
“If you attack a country on false accusations, you destroy the whole country, millions of people there and then you say oh it was false information. So this is the same thing. Everyone must know, Iran is a signatory to [Non-Proliferation Treaty]. [The] IAEA can send any inspectors anytime there to see anything, any facility. So there is no question of Iran getting anywhere near nuclear weapons production. So this is as simple as the daylight. It’s just the propaganda for public consumption.”
Tehran says it will respond with “blows under the belt”; Assad: We will turn Syria into a resistance nation.
Iran has vowed to respond to Israel’s alleged airstrikes in Syria earlier this week with “blows under the belt in several locations,” Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Wednesday.
In a message from Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, related to Syrian President Bashar Assad by Iranian envoy Ali Akbar Salehi, the Islamic Republic promised “full and unlimited support from Iran, politically, militarily, and economically, to the Syrian leadership and people, against the takfiris, terrorists, Israel, the US, and all who dare attack this country.”
The message also said that Tehran recognizes that the real target behind Israel’s alleged attacks on Syrian soil were Iran and Hezbollah.
The paper quotes Iranian sources as saying the response to Israel’s alleged strikes will be made on two levels. The first being “blows under the belt in several locations,” which could be done inside Syria under the policy of “contain, squeeze and crush,” or outside of it, while maintaining the “terror balance.”
The second possible way of response will be calling a meeting of “the friends of the Syrian people” in Tehran in two weeks, in which Iran will “announce a new initiative for a Syrian solution.” More than 40 countries will be invited, and President Assad will be represented by ministers Ali Haidar and Qadri Jamil.
The Iranian sources also told Al-Akhbar Israel’s “aggression against Syria” was a part of “an attempt to enter Damascus and cause mayhem before the meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow,” but that “the attempted coup was aborted.”
Despite the threats made, both the Iranian sources and Assad were quoted by the paper as saying that they are “aware that Israel does not want war.”
Assad went as far as saying Damascus chose not to response immediately to Israel’s alleged attack for that very reason.
“Syria was easily able to satisfy its people and calm them and its allies down by firing a few rockets at Israel in response to the Israeli raid on Damascus,” he was quoted as saying.
Instead, the Syrian president is interested in a different kind of response. “We want strategic revenge, by opening the door of resistance and turning the entire Syria into a resistance nation,” Assad said, expressing his wishes to emulate Hezbollah who turned Lebanon into a “resistance nation.”
“We began to feel that we and they [Hezbollah] are in a similar situation,” he said, stressing Hezbollah is more than just an ally that helped Syrian against Israel.
The Syrian president expressed “very high confidence, great satisfaction and appreciation toward Hezbollah” and promised to “give them everything,” according to Al-Akhbar.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday his forces would support any Syrian effort to recapture the Israeli Golan Heights, days after Israel reportedly launched raids in Syria believed to have targeted weapons destined for the Lebanese militant group.
“We announce that we stand with the Syrian popular resistance and offer material and spiritual support as well as coordination in order to liberate the Syrian Golan,” he said in a televised speech.
In the days following the alleged Israeli strikes last Friday and Sunday, Syrian state news programs quoted unnamed sources saying that Damascus had given the green light to carry out operations against Israel from the Golan Heights after decades of calm on the border.
A Syrian deputy foreign minister claimed the country would “respond immediately” to any new Israeli strike following the alleged attacks on military targets near Damascus last weekend, AFP reported Thursday.
“The instruction has been made to respond immediately to any new Israeli attack without [additional] instruction from any higher leadership, and our retaliation will be strong and will be painful against Israel,” AFP quoted Faisal Muqdad as saying.
In the report, Muqdad denied that the alleged Israeli air strike targeted weapons headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel did not comment on two strikes it allegedly conducted in Damascus on Friday and on Sunday morning, reportedly targeting weapons transfer sent by Iran and meant for Hezbollah.
Reuters contributed to this report.
DEBKAfile Special Report May 10, 2013, 2:23 PM (IDT)
The Obama administration’s slowcoach policy on Syria has given Iran and Hizballah unfettered access for military intervention in the Syrian civil war, magnifying its lethality and heightening the prospects of its spilling over into Israel, Turkey and Jordan, say DEBKAfile’s Middle East analysts.
Ahead now is the influx of highly advanced weapons into the already excessively violent conflict. Thursday, May 9, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the transfer of advanced missile defense systems from Russia to Syria would be a “destabilizing factor for Israel’s security.”
Speaking to reporters in Rome, he was referring to Moscow’s imminent sale of S-300 air defense missiles to the Assad regime, which DEBKAfile revealed Tuesday, May 7, President Vladimir Putin had disclosed in his tough conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about Israel’s air strikes on Damascus.
In his comments, Kerry said nothing about how the US intended to stop the sale or respond to the deployment in Syria of weapons that would not only affect Israel’s security but lock the sky against US air action against Syria and the imposition of a no-fly zone.
DEBKAfile’s sources estimate that the Syrian conflict and its repercussions, already horrendous, will go from bad to worse when it transpires – inevitably – that the Obama administration has no partner for its loudly hailed accord with Moscow, obtained by Kerry on May 7, for an international peace conference on the conflict.
Moscow has not joined the celebration. In fact, the prospects of this event started fading the moment Secretary Kerry declared in Rome, two days after his talks in Moscow, that “Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of a transitional government that would try to lead the country out of its civil war.”
This brought the rift to the fore, because Moscow will on no account countenance the exclusion of Assad’s representatives from any international forum or transitional government, whereas Washington keeps on insisting that Assad must go as the precondition for any deal to settle the conflict.
Washington, the West and Israel have been progressively losing bargaining chips in the weeks since a coalition of Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian Bassij troops began turning the tide of war against the rebels, pushing them out of one area after another which they had captured, including parts of the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo.
This pro-Assad military alliance and its gains have been largely ignored by Western media.
Another complication is the emergence of the pro-Al Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra as the most dedicated and best trained and armed of all the Syrian rebel militias fighting Assad. Although the US and Russia share an interest in liquidating this Islamist front and rooting al Qaeda’s followers out of Syria, no assent on this appears to be in the offing.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was mobilized meanwhile to fend off the pressure for US military intervention in Syria coming from Israel, Turkey and the Gulf emirates. Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Thursday, Hagel stressed the “unprecedented levels in recent years” of US defense cooperation with Israel and US reliance on “strong partnerships with other regional countries from Jordan and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
He did not however disclose if and when the US might take action to stop the bloodshed in Syria or curb Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.
The defense secretary likewise avoided spelling out how the US would be able to act militarily in a Middle East emergency while at the same time cutting deeply into its military resources. He assured his listeners that “US strategy sees the Middle East as critical to its security interests, and a robust presence would remain,” adding, “We have made a determined effort to position high-end air, missile defense, and naval assets to deter Iranian aggression and respond to other contingencies.”
His audience was well-informed enough to question this assertion at a time that US Air Force squadrons in Europe were being dismantled and returning home to be grounded.
While Hagel was speaking, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford quietly crossed into northern Syria from Turkey for secret meetings with leaders of rebel groups fighting in Aleppo and Idlib – a mission assigned him by Secretary Kerry. He was only there for a few hours before crossing back to Turkey.
Ambassador Ford left Damascus in February 2012 when the embassy suspended operations in a capital beset by full-blown civil war.
DEBKAfile’s sources report his mission in meeting Syrian rebel leaders was threefold:
1. A demonstration that the Obama administration had no qualms about sending emissaries into embattled Syria and conveying direct US assistance to rebel forces.
2. A message to Moscow that if it persisted in sending Syria S-300 interceptor missile systems, that would jeopardize Israeli air force flights over Syria, Lebanon and even northern Israel, the United States would send the rebels weapons for knocking out Syrian air force operations and so eliminate the Assad’s military edge against the rebels.
3. Turkey was used for the crossing to hold off Ankara’s push for American military intervention in Syria – even on a limited scale.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to meet the US President at the White House on May 16, told an NBC TV interviewer Thursday: President Barack Obama’s red line had been crossed a long time ago as it was clear that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.”
The dossier Erdogan is preparing for Obama is based on the evidence of Turkish physicians who treated rebel casualties and diagnosed them as suffering from the effects of poison chemicals. Nonetheless, he has as little chance of being heeded by the US president as was Israel when it presented its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria last month.
In view of the US administration’s head in the sand and the spreading of a strong Russian umbrella for Bashar Assad over to his Lebanese Hizballah ally as well, Hassan Nasrallah was not surprisingly cockier than ever when he declared in a speech Thursday night that Syrian territory rather than Lebanon would henceforth be the stage for the combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah “resistance” front against Israel.
Secretary Kerry had a point when he noted that the Syrian war was on the point of spilling over into Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
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