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Kerry in Afghanistan for urgent security talks

Friday, October 11th, 2013

The U.S. wants a deal by the end of the month, with any remaining troops able to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. (File photo: AFP)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Al Arabiya

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Afghanistan for urgent talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, reported Associated Press on Friday.

The completion of a security deal to allow American troops to remain in Afghanistan after the end of the NATO-led military mission next year will be the main topic of discussion.

The original deadline for the deal was the end of October.

Kerry’s unannounced visit to Kabul comes as talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement have foundered over certain important issues.

These issues include the problem of Afghan sovereignty despite a year of negotiations.

The U.S. wants a deal by the end of the month, with any remaining troops able to conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.

However, the discussions have stalled over Karzai’s demand for American guarantees against future foreign intervention, a veiled reference to neighboring Pakistan.

The rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan began in 2002, following the U.S.-led invasion one year earlier.

(With AFP)

Why Iran takes issue with the Holocaust

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left), Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (centre), and Hassan Rouhani (file photo)

Hassan Rouhani has spoken differently about the Holocaust than his predecessor, but has not reversed position

8 October 2013 Last updated at 19:57 ET

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

BBC Persian

When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Iranian president, one issue which continually antagonised and offended abroad was his statements questioning the scale of the Holocaust, or whether it had even happened at all.

The new administration under Hassan Rouhani has taken a softer line, but as BBC Persian’s Bozorgmehr Sharafedin explains, Iran’s position on the Holocaust continues to be controversial.

One key question which President Rouhani kept being asked during his round of media appearances in New York last month was where he stood on the Holocaust.

His responses were careful but did not satisfy everyone that Iran is no longer in the business of Holocaust denial or revisionism.

President Rouhani said the Holocaust was a “reprehensible and condemnable crime”.

But as many people listening to his interviews on the fringe of the UN General Assembly pointed out, he did not say whether he concurred with the mainstream acceptance of the Holocaust meaning the killing by the Nazis of six million Jews.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Iran never denied [the Holocaust]. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone”

Tweet by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif

That, his critics say, shows that he has not closed the door entirely on those in the Islamic Republic who claim the number of victims of the Nazi extermination camps has been exaggerated.

‘What the Nazis did is condemned,” said Mr Rouhani. “But the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers. I am not a history scholar.’

His Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has been more outspoken.

A US-educated diplomat who has served for years as Iran’s representative at the United Nations, Mr Zarif clearly sees how much the issue has damaged Iran’s international reputation.

“Iran never denied [the Holocaust],” he tweeted in an exchange with Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives.

“The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone.”

Mr Zarif was clearly referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who, during his presidency, frequently claimed the Holocaust was a myth. But does the departure of Mr Ahmadinejad mean the end of Holocaust denial in Iran?

Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran who decides on the foreign policy, has repeatedly referred to the Holocaust as a distorted historical event and he is still in power.

Recent phenomenon

Iran and Israel had good relations under the Shah. The 1979 Islamic Revolution ushered in a new period of anti-Israel hostility, but this was not accompanied by any attempt to deny the Holocaust.

In fact during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), Tehran found many Western films about World War II quite inspiring for the nation and national television was full of programmes sympathising with the victims of the war, including the Jews.

The first Iranian official to cast doubt on the Holocaust was actually Ayatollah Khamenei.

Delegations walk out during Mr Ahmadinejad’s UN speech in 2011

In January 2002, he referred to gas chambers in concentration camps as a story about which its truth was “not clear” and which was being used as “Zionist propaganda” to gain the sympathy of the world.

Mr Ahmadinejad followed this line and in 2005, in his first year in office, called the Nazi extermination of the Jews “a myth”.

“The Holocaust used to be something you only read about in history books in Iran,” says Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (file photo)
Benjamin Netanyahu used Nazi-era documents to rebut Mr Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust at the UN General Assembly in 2009

“It was Ahmadinejad who brought this term into Tehran’s political literature and made it one of the elements of his foreign policy. During his tenure Iran wanted to threaten Israel and it was the safest way.”

Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East who was born and raised in Tehran, believes Mr Ahmadinejad made Holocaust denial a key tenet of his foreign policy for two reasons.

“Firstly, he wanted to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, who became a world figure by proposing the idea of dialogue between the civilisations and religions to the UN,” he told the BBC.

“Secondly, he thought denying the Holocaust would be an existential blow to Israel. But he didn’t realise denying the Holocaust would be perceived as anti-Semitic rather than anti-Israeli.’

Damage control

During Mr Ahmadinejad’s tenure, there were efforts to try to show that Iran was not anti-Semitic.

Probably the most high profile was a very expensive and well-produced Iranian television series, called Zero Degree Turn – which was in essence an Iranian version of Schindler’s List.

Ayatollah Khamenei with a group of Revolutionary Guard graduates
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was the first Iranian official to cast doubt about the Holocaust

It was based on a real life story about an Iranian diplomat who saved Jews in 1940s Paris during the Nazi Occupation by giving out Iranian passports and allowing them refuge in the Iranian Embassy.

But Mr Ahmadinejad continued his Holocaust denial rhetoric, despite the international backlash, as he thought he had found the Achilles heel of Israel.

In December 2006 he ordered the foreign ministry to hold a two-day conference to review the Holocaust. Information obtained by the BBC shows many people at the ministry were frustrated by this order.

“Holocaust denial has been common in the Arab world for decades, but Ahmadinejad’s ideology was mainly rooted in revisionist scholars in the West,” says Mehdi Khalaji.

The former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the scale of the Holocaust

“That’s why the anti-Holocaust conference in Tehran was mainly attended by Westerners and even some neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan rather than Islamists.”

“Ahmadinejad thought he had managed to put unprecedented pressure on Israel,” says Meir Javedanfar. “But he failed to notice he was only making the Israeli stance on Iran’s nuclear programme stronger.”

‘Heinous crime’

President Rouhani and his team have made it clear that they want to put the rhetoric of the Ahmadinejad years behind them, as they attempt to find a solution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme.

In an interview with ABC News at the end of September, Iran’s foreign minister described the Holocaust as a “heinous crime” and said that the remarks by Ayatollah Khamenei about the Holocaust had been mistranslated and taken out of context.

“Ayatollah Khamenei has called the Holocaust a myth, but it’s unlikely that he would deny the foreign minister’s claim,” says Mehdi Khalaji.

“Ahmadinejad is the scapegoat now. In the Islamic Republic’s tradition, officials usually deny their previous statements, not explicitly, but by putting the blame either on translators or reporters. Mistranslation, in Iranian diplomacy, usually means giving up.’

Syria May Officially Split in Two

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Syrian opposition weighs independent government on territory conquered from Assad.


By Dalit Halevy, Maayana Miskin

First Publish: 10/8/2013, 5:32 PM

Syrian troops take position in a heavily damaged area in Aleppo

Syrian troops take position in a heavily damaged area in Aleppo
AFP photo

Syria may split into multiple states, according to recent reports in the Arab-language media. Opposition leaders are weighing the option of establishing their own government, which would rule the territories that rebel troops have conquered in their war against Syria President Bashar Assad.

Al-Hayat reports that the heads of the Free Syrian Army, led by Salim Idriss, have been in talks with the Syrian National Coalition, led by Ahamd Aweinan Assi al-Jarba, regarding the appointments that would be made in a new, rebel-led government.

The sides have reportedly agreed that the government will include 12 ministers.

Syria has in effect already been split into two separate territories, one under the control of rebel troops and one still in Assad’s hands. Rebel leaders may hope that making the new status official will help them earnsupport, both at home and abroad, as potential future leaders of Syria, if Assad is overthrown.

However, as opposed to a clean split, the newly suggested Free Syrian Army – Syrian National Coalition government, could end up as one of three or even four bodies fighting for control in various parts of the country. Dozens of Islamist factions have declared that they do not support the Syrian National Coalition, and some of the factions have also set about making their own state – first declaring independence in Aleppo, and more recently, weighing the possibility of an Islamist state in northern Syria.

The potential Islamist takeover in the north has Syria’s Kurdish population worried, and Kurdish leaders have responded with a proposal for Kurdish autonomy in the threatened regions. While they insist that their goal is a “pluralistic” state of Syria, rather than an independent state, the proposed autonomy – with its own constitution and social, economic and defense establishment – would also be well positioned to become a separate state in the future.


‘Most wanted’ terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi captured by U.S. forces

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

This image provided by the FBI shows al-Qaeda official Abu Anas al-Libi on their wanted list. (AFP)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Al Arabiya

U.S. forces have arrested Libyan al-Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi on Saturday, following a military raid in the streets of Tripoli.

Libi was allegedly involved in the 1988 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which left more than 200 people dead.

He was on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $5 million reward and has been accused in a U.S. federal court in New York for allegedly playing a key role in the East Africa bombings.

“As the result of a U.S. counterterrorism operation, Abu Anas al-Libi is currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement according to Agence France-Presse.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said the arrest showed the United States’s determination to hunt down those responsible for terrorism.

“We hope that this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

Kerry also said the raids should make clear that “those members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run, but they can’t hide.”

Libya said it had demanded an explanation from Washington Sunday for the “kidnap” of a citizen in an unauthorized commando raid on its territory.

“The Libyan government has been following the reports of the kidnap of one of the Libyan citizens wanted by the authorities in the United States,” a government statement said according to AFP.

“As soon as it heard the reports, the Libyan government contacted the US authorities to demand an explanation.”

The government underlined its “desire to see Libyan citizens tried in their own country, whatever the accusations leveled against them.”
A source close to Libi told AFP he was captured by armed men in Tripoli as the operation took place in broad daylight in the knowledge of the Libyan government, a U.S. official told CNN.

But Libyan security services denied the claim, saying they were unaware of any kidnapping or arrest of the man, reported AFP.

The capture of Libi, who was born under the name Nazih Abdul Hamed Al-Raghie puts an end to a 15-year man hut. He will be brought to the U.S. to face trial.

“Capture of Abu Anas al Libi would represent major blow against remnants of al Qaeda’s core,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter, according to AFP.

Libi and other al-Qaeda members have allegedly discussed an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi as early as 1993.

He is said to have conducted visual and photographic surveillance of the embassy and allegedly planned in 1994 to attack the mission as well as the building then housing the United States Agency for International Development in the Kenyan capital, along with British, French and Israeli targets.

In a separate raid, a U.S. Navy SEAL team seized a senior leader of the al-Shabaab militant groupfrom a seaside villa in Somalia on Saturday in response to a deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall last month, the New York Times quoted U.S. officials as saying.

(With AFP)

Column One: America and the good psychopaths

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013



10/03/2013 23:51

Israel the party pooper is Obama’s greatest foe, because it insists on basing its strategic assessments and goals on the nature of things even though this means facing down evil.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Photo: Reuters
In his speech on Tuesday before the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to get the Americans to stop their collective swooning at the sight of an Iranian president who smiled in their general direction.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the premier warned, “I wish I could believe [President Hassan] Rouhani, but I don’t because facts are stubborn things. And the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric.”

He might have saved his breath. The Americans weren’t interested.

Two days after Netanyahu’s speech, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a rejoinder to Netanyahu. “I have never believed that foreign policy is a zero-sum game,” Hagel said.

Well, maybe he hasn’t. But the Iranians have.

And they still do view diplomacy – as all their dealings with their sworn enemies – as a zerosum game.

As a curtain raiser for Rouhani’s visit, veteran New York Times war correspondent Dexter Filkins wrote a long profile of Iran’s real strongman for The New Yorker. Qassem Suleimani is the head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is the most powerful organ of the Iranian regime, and Suleimani is Iranian dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s closest confidante and adviser.

Rouhani doesn’t hold a candle to Suleimani.

Filkin’s profile is detailed, but deeply deceptive.

The clear sense he wishes to impart on his readers is that Suleimani is a storied war veteran and a pragmatist. He is an Iranian patriot who cares about his soldiers. He’s been willing to cut deals with the Americans in the past when he believed it served Iran’s interests. And given Suleimani’s record, it is reasonable to assume that Rouhani – who is far more moderate than he – is in a position to make a deal and will make one.

The problem with Filkin’s portrayal of Suleimani as a pragmatist, and a commander who cares about the lives of his soldiers – and so, presumably cares about the lives of Iranians – is that it is belied by the stories Filkins reported in the article.

Filkins describes at length how Suleimani came of age as a Revolutionary Guard division commander during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, and how that war made him the complicated, but ultimately reasonable, (indeed parts of the profile are downright endearing), pragmatist he is today.

As the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Suleimani commands the Syrian military and the foreign forces from Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq that have been deployed to Syria to keep Basher Assad in power.

Filkins quotes an Iraqi politician who claimed that in a conversation with Suleimani last year that the Iranian called the Syrian military “worthless.”

He then went on to say, “Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I could conquer the whole country.”

Filkins notes that it was the Basij that crushed the anti-Islamist Green Revolution in Iran in 2009. But for a man whose formative experience was serving as a Revolutionary Guards commander in the Iran-Iraq War, Suleimani’s view of the Basij as a war-fighting unit owes to what it did in its glory days, in that war, not on the streets of Tehran in 2009.

As Matthias Kuntzel reported in 2006, the Revolutionary Guards formed the Basij during the Iran-Iraq War to serve as cannon fodder. Basij units were made up of boys as young as 12.

They were given light doses of military training and heavy doses of indoctrination in which they were brainwashed to reject life and martyr themselves for the revolution.

As these children were being recruited from Iran’s poorest villages, Ayatollah Khomeini purchased a half million small plastic keys from Taiwan.

They were given to the boys before they were sent to battle and told that they were the keys to paradise. The children were then sent into minefields to die and deployed as human waves in frontal assaults against superior Iraqi forces.

By the end of the war some 100,000 of these young boys became the child sacrifices of the regime.

When we assess Suleimani’s longing for a Basij brigade in Syria in its proper historical and strategic context – that is, in the context of how he and his fellow Revolutionary Guards commanders deployed such brigades in the 1980s, we realize that far from being a pragmatist, Suleimani is a psychopath.

Filkins did not invent his romanticized version of what makes Suleimani tick. It is a view that has been cultivated for years by senior US officials.

Former US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker spoke at length with Filkins about his indirect dealings with Suleimani through Iranian negotiators who answered to him, and through Iraqi politicians whom he controlled.

Crocker attests that secretary of state Colin Powell dispatched him to Geneva in the weeks before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to negotiate with the Iranians. Those discussions, which he claims involved the US and Iran trading information about the whereabouts of al- Qaida operatives in Afghanistan and Iran, could have led to an historic rapprochement. But, Crocker maintains, hope for such an alliance were dashed in January 2002, when George W.

Bush labeled Iran as a member of the “Axis of Evil,” in his State of the Union address. Supposedly in a rage, Suleimani pulled the plug on cooperation with the Americans. As Crocker put it, “We were just that close. One word in one speech changed history.”

Crocker told of his attempt to make it up to the wounded Suleimani in the aftermath of the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in 2003. Crocker was in Baghdad at the time setting up the Iraqi Governing Council. He used Iraqi intermediaries to clear all the Shi’ite candidates with Suleimani. In other words, the US government gave the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards control over the Iraqi government immediately after the US military toppled Saddam’s regime.

Far from convincing Suleimani to pursue a rapproachment with the US, Crocker’s actions convinced him that the US was weak. And so, shortly after he oversaw the formation of the governing council, Suleimani instigated the insurgency whose aim was to eject the US from Iraq and to transform it into an Iranian satrapy.

And yet, despite Suleimani’s obvious bad faith, and use of diplomacy to entrap the US into positions that harmed its interests and endangered its personnel, Crocker and other senior US officials continued to believe that he was the man to cut a deal with.

The main take-away lesson from the Filkins profile of Suleimani is that US officials – and journalists – like to romanticize the world’s most psychopathic, evil men. Doing so helps them to justify and defend their desire to appease, rather than confront, let alone defeat, them.

Suleimani and his colleagues are more than willing to play along with the Americans, to the extent that doing so advances their aims of defeating the US.

There were two main reasons that Bush did not want to confront Iran despite its central role in organizing, directing and financing the insurgency in Iraq. First, Bush decided shortly after the US invasion of Iraq that the US would not expand the war to Iran or Syria. Even as both countries’ central role in fomenting the insurgency became inarguable, Bush maintained his commitment to fighting what quickly devolved into a proxy war with Iran, on the battlefield of Iran’s choosing.

The second reason that Bush failed to confront Iran, and that his advisers maintained faith with the delusion that it was worth cutting a deal with the likes of Suleimani, was that they preferred the sense of accomplishment a deal brought them to the nasty business of actually admitting the threat Iran posed to American interests – and to American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Expanding on Bush’s aversion to fighting Iran, and preference for romanticizing its leaders rather than acknowledging their barbarism, upon entering office Barack Obama embraced a strategy whose sole goal is engagement. For the past five years, the US policy toward Iran is to negotiate. Neither the terms of negotiation nor the content of potential agreements is important.

Obama wants to negotiate for the sake of negotiating. And he has taken the UN and the EU with him on this course.

It’s possible that Obama believes that these negotiations will transform Iran into a quasi-US ally like the Islamist regime in Turkey. That regime remains a member of NATO despite the fact that it threatens its neighbors with war, it represses its own citizens, and it refuses to support major US initiatives while undermining NATO operations.

Obama will never call Turkey out for its behavior or make Prime Minister Recep Erdogan pay a price for his bad faith. The myth of the US-Turkish alliance is more important to Obama than the substance of Turkey’s relationship with the United States.

A deal with Iran would be horrible for America and its allies. Whatever else it says it will do, the effect of any US-Iranian agreement would be to commit the US to do nothing to defend its interests or its allies in the Middle East.

While this would be dangerous for the US, it is apparently precisely the end Obama seeks. His address to the UN General Assembly can reasonably be read as a declaration that the US is abandoning its position as world leader. The US is tired of being nitpicked by its allies and its enemies for everything it does, he said. And therefore, he announced, Washington is now limiting its actions in the Middle East to pressuring its one remaining ally, Israel, to give up its ability to protect itself from foreign invasion and Palestinian terrorism by surrendering Judea and Samaria, without which it is defenseless.

Like his predecessors in the Bush administration, Obama doesn’t care that Iran is evil and that its leaders are fanatical psychopaths. He has romanticized them based on nothing.

Although presented by the media as a new policy of outreach toward Tehran, Obama’s current commitment to negotiating with Rouhani is consistent with his policy toward Iran since entering office. Nothing has changed.

From Obama’s perspective, US policy is not threatened by Iranian bad faith. It is threatened only by those who refuse to embrace his fantasy world where all deals are good and all negotiations are therefore good.

What this means is that the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power does not faze Obama. The only threat he has identified is the one coming from Jerusalem. Israel the party pooper is Obama’s greatest foe, because it insists on basing its strategic assessments and goals on the nature of things even though this means facing down evil.

Israel and Saudi Arabia are coordinating policies to counter US détente with Iran

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

DEBKAfile Special Report October 2, 2013, 9:15 PM (IDT)

Binyamin Netanyahu revives military option

Binyamin Netanyahu revives military option

Associates of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday, Oct. 2, leaked word to the media that high-ranking Gulf emirate officials had recently visited Israel, signaling a further widening in the rift between Israel and President Barack Obama over his outreach to Tehran. These visits were in line with the ongoing exchanges Israel was holding with Saudi and Gulf representatives to align their actions for offsetting any potential American easing-up on Iran’s nuclear program.

DEBKAfile reports that this is the first time Israel official sources have publicly aired diplomatic contacts of this kind in the region. They also reveal that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates have agreed to synchronize their lobbying efforts in the US Congress to vote down the Obama administration’s moves on Iran.

DEBKAfile reported earlier Wednesday:

After Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama at the White House Monday, Sept. 30, Secretary of State John Kerry carried a message requesting moderation in the speech he was to deliver next day to the United Nations.

On the other hand, at least two European diplomats, German and French, made the opposite request: they asked for a hard-hitting Israeli peroration for setting boundaries – not so much for Iran’s nuclear program as for attempt to slow down President Obama’s dash for détente with Tehran.

It is feared in European capitals that the US is running too fast and too far in his bid for reconciliation with the Islamic Republic, to the detriment by association of their own standing I the Persian Gulf.

They are moreover miffed by the way Washington used Europe as a tool in the long nuclear negotiations between the Six World Powers with Iran and is now dumping them in favor of direct dealings with Iranian leaders.

Netanyahu decided not to accede to either request. Instead he laid out his credo: Iran must discontinue nuclear development and dismantle its program or face up to the risk of a lone Israeli military attack.

The look on the face of US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, sitting at the US delegation’s table in the UN hall, showed he had realized that the prime minister’s words were not just addressed to Tehran; they were an unforeseen broadside against the Obama administration’s Iranian strategy.
The dissonance between Jerusalem and Washington on Iran and its nuclear aspirations, played down after the Obama-Netanyahu meeting at the White House, emerged at full blast in the UN speech. The consequences are likely to be reflected in American media, as they were at the low point in relations in 2010, when administration officials day by day planted negative assessments of Israel’s military inadequacies for damaging Iran’s nuclear facilities.

After the UN speech, the Israeli Home Defense Minister Gilead Erdan tried to pour oil on troubled waters by commenting that the prime minister’s speech had strengthened Obama’s hand against Tehran. However, Netanyahu had a different object. It was to paint Washington’s new partner in détente in the blackest colors, even though he knows there is no chance of swaying the US President from his pursuit of Tehran and the sanctions, which he believes to be the only effective deterrent for giving the Iranians pause, will soon start unraveling.

Binyamin Netanyahu now faces the uphill job of repairing his own credibility. For five years has had declared again and again that Israel’s military option is on track in certain circumstances, but has never lived up to the threat. He has followed a path of almost total military passivity.

President Obama knows that Israel’s military capacity is up to a solo operation against Iran. Tehran, however, though conscious of the IDF’s high military, technological and cyber warfare capabilities, is convinced that Israel like the United States has lost the appetite for a military initiative.

Netanyahu must now revive Israel’s deterrence and convince Iran that his challenge at the UN had ended an era of military passivity and should be taken seriously.

In the coming weeks, therefore, the Iranians will react with steps to upset US-Israeli relations, possibly by raising military tensions in the region directly or through their proxies. Until now Tehran operated from outside Washington and its inner councils. Now, smart Iranian diplomats will be sitting down with the US president close to his ear for friendly discussions on ways to further their rapprochement.

Disputes threaten post-2014 U.S.-Afghan pact

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The U.S. plans to pull out the bulk of its 57,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. (File photo: AFP)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

AFP, Kabul

A planned deal to let U.S. forces stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to fight al-Qaeda remnants is under threat because of disagreement over the Americans’ right to conduct military operations, Kabul says.

President Hamid Karzai is now directly leading the talks after they ground to a halt despite U.S. pressure to complete the security agreement by the end of this month, said Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi.

The U.S. plans to pull out the bulk of its 57,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but it has tentative plans to retain some bases and a smaller force of around 10,000 after that.

“The U.S. wants the freedom to conduct military operations, night raids and house searches,” Faizi told reporters late Tuesday.

“According to them, there are 75 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, which is very strange as this agreement will be for 10 years to have the right to conduct military operations anywhere in the country.

“Unilaterally having the right to conduct military operations is in no way acceptable for Afghans.”

Faizi also said the two sides could not agree on how the bilateral security agreement (BSA) should define an attack on Afghanistan that would trigger U.S. protection.

“We believe that when terrorists are sent to commit suicide attacks here, that is also aggression,” Faizi said in a reference to Pakistan-based militants whom Afghanistan believes are supported by Pakistani intelligence services.

“We are a strategic partner of the U.S. and we must be protected against foreign aggression. For us and for the U.S., that’s the conflicting point. We are not of the same opinion and we need clarity from the U.S. side,” he said.

Karzai has repeatedly said he will not be rushed into signing the pact, and that it may not be finalized until after his successor is chosen in April elections.

“If signed by the current president, he will be definitely held accountable in the history of Afghanistan if things go wrong,” Faizi said.

On Monday U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described the pact as “critically important” as the U.S. and its NATO allies plan the drawdown that will see most foreign troops leave the country by December 2014.

“I hope we’ll have that agreement by the end of October, because we just can’t move without it,” Hagel said.

The collapse of a similar pact with Iraq in 2011 led to the U.S. pulling all its troops out of the country.

Benjamin Netanyahu: nuclear-armed Iran ‘as dangerous as 50 North Koreas’

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


By Robert Tait, Jerusalem and David Blair

7:32PM BST 01 Oct 2013

A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas” and the country’s new president is trying to “fool the world”, Benjamin Netanyahu has declared.

Delivering a trenchant address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Israeli prime minister rounded on President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. The Islamic Republic’s new leader has offered “peace and friendship” to America and held out the prospect of settling the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

But Mr Netanyahu recalled how North Korea agreed in 2005 to freeze its nuclear programme. “A year later, North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapons device,” he said. “Yet as dangerous as a nuclear-armed North Korea is, it pales in comparison to the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.”

An Iran with nuclear weapons would disrupt global energy supplies and turn the “most unstable part of the planet into a nuclear tinderbox” by triggering a regional arms race, predicted Mr Netanyahu. “A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East would not be another North Korea. It would be another 50 North Koreas.”

Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN in New York Tuesday Photo: SETH WENIG/AP

The “lesson of history” was that Iran’s rhetorical threats against Israel and the West should be taken seriously. “This fanatic regime must not be allowed to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” he added

Any solution must compel Iran to stop enriching uranium, export its entire stockpile of this material, and dismantle all the most important nuclear facilities, demanded Mr Netanyahu. He cautioned against allowing Iran to retain even a “residual” capacity to enrich uranium, a highly sensitive process that could be used to make fuel for nuclear power stations – which Tehran says is the only goal – or the core of a nuclear weapon.

“Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime which repeatedly threatens to wipe us off the map. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. But, in standing alone, Israel will know that it is defending many many others,” said Mr Netanyahu.

He recalled how Iranian-sponsored terrorists destroyed a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 people, and Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers in 1996. “Are we to believe that Rouhani, the national security adviser of Iran at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?” asked Mr Netanyahu. “Of course he did.

“Facts are stubborn things: the facts are that Iran’s savage record contradicts Rouhani’s soothing words.”

Recalling how Mr Rouhani negotiated with the West while expanding Iran’s nuclear facilities a decade ago, Mr Netanyahu said: “He fooled the world once, now he thinks he can fool it again.”

Khodadad Seifi, a deputy ambassador at Iran’s UN mission, dismissed Mr Netanyahu’s remarks as “inflammatory” and “sabre rattling”.

Western diplomats privately believe that Mr Netanyahu’s definition of an acceptable agreement with Iran is wholly unrealistic. One described his conditions as an “unconditional surrender”, not a negotiated settlement.

Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff to the Israeli defence minister, described Mr Netanyahu’s conditions as “maximalist”. While Israel could not be expected to be the first to volunteer a compromise, Mr Herzog added: “I think he knows that if there is going to be a deal, it cannot be on these maximalist conditions.” Instead, he said that Israel could live with an agreement whereby Iran exported most of its enriched uranium, allowed tougher international inspections, shut down some key plants, but kept a “symbolic” enrichment capacity – provided that all the uranium was shipped overseas after being processed.

Netanyahu to Obama: Iran Must Take Meaningful Actions

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Iran’s conciliatory remarks have to be matched by “transparent, verifiable, meaningful actions,” Netanyahu tells President Obama.


By Elad Benari

First Publish: 10/1/2013, 12:16 AM

Iran’s recent conciliatory remarks have to be matched by “transparent, verifiable, meaningful actions,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday.

“Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction, so for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program,” Netanyahu said after his meeting with the President.

“In this regard, I want to express my appreciation to you for the enormous work that’s been done to have a sanctions regime in place to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he added. “I believe that it’s the combinationof a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that have brought Iran to the negotiating table.”

“I also believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place,” Netanyahu told Obama. “And I think they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success. And in fact, it is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened…I think, is still the only formula that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.”

Obama said earlier that Washington would not ease up on its sanctions against Iran unless and until Tehran halted its nuclear arms program.

During the meeting between the two leaders, the Prime Minister discussed Iran’s advanced nuclear work, presenting documentation showing that Iran was farther along in its nuclear development than international inspectors suspect.

Netanyahu also presented Obama with the key points he intends to make in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Among other things, Netanyahu is expected to say that he does not rule out diplomatic dialogue with new Iranian President, provided that the talks will establish real results.

Obama said that it was clear that, despite Rouhani’s “charm offensive,” the U.S. would not take Iran at its word, and expected to see actions – specifically a reduction in the level of uranium enrichment as demanded by the international community – that can be verified.

The U.S., he said, would negotiate with Iran “with its eyes wide open,” and consult closely with Israel on the developments. He stressed that the U.S. was not ruling out any option on Iran, including the military option.

Parliament to vote on sending troops to Syria on Oct. 3

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
Turkish lawmakers are seen during a debate at the Parliament in Ankara. (Photo: Reuters)

OCT 1, 2013


The government on Tuesday sent a motion to Parliament requesting authorization to send troops to foreign countries and a vote on the measure is expected to take place on Oct. 3.

The motion, signed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, presents a grim picture of the situation in the war-torn Syria, noting that millions of Syrians have been displaced by war and that Turkey faces the risk of even a greater influx of refugees from the neighboring country.

The motion says that the Syrian regime disregards international law and uses ballistic missiles and heavy weapons, including aerial bombardment, against its citizens and maintains: “The developments show that the Syrian regime has reached a point where it is able to use every method and every weapon, though they are against international norms.” It also points to Turkey’s situation with unrest on its doorstep, ongoing for more than two-and-a-half years, and says that Turkey is in the position of being most affected by any kind of attack and the continuing uncertainty and chaos in Syria.

The text approved by the Cabinet also drew attention to the chemical attack of Aug.21 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta that was reportedly launched by regime forces in which more than 1,000 people, including children, were killed by what appears to have been poison gas. The motion also refers to the UN Security Council (UNSC) decision of Sept. 27, saying, “The UNSC decision confirms that the chemical weapons used in Syria pose a danger to international peace and security.”

The motion also notes that the number of Turkish citizens who have lost their lives in attacks originating in Syria has reached 71 now and draws attention the increasing number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, currently more than 500,000. The motion stresses that Turkey may face a large wave of migration that will create additional pressure on the nation. “The possible results of Syria-related mass migration create indirect danger,” it said.

Turkey has an “open door policy” for Syrian refugees but the foreign minister reiterates at every opportunity in the international arena that the help of other states is needed, as the number of refugees has started to exceed Turkey’s capacity.

The motion also states that because of all the developments in Syria mentioned in the text, it is necessary to take precautions within the scope of Turkey’s rights as derived from international law against actions coming from Syria that pose a direct threat to Turkey’s national security.

The motion reads: “To enable our country’s security against all possible threats, to protect Turkey’s surplus profits efficiently, in order not to be faced with a situation from which it would be difficult to recover in the future, to help the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to observe a fast and dynamic policy, I submit Motion No. 2025 dated Oct.4, 2012 for the approval of Parliament for the authority allowing the TSK to be sent to foreign countries and the necessary regulations that will enable this, the limit, scope, extent and time of which will be decided by the government, to be prolonged for one more year as of Oct. 4, 2013, according to Article 92 of the Constitution.”

A day after mortar shells from Syria killed five civilians in the border town of Akçakale in early September 2012, the government received a mandate from Parliament authorizing military operations in foreign countries, but said it had no intention of going to war with Syria.

For the measure to be approved there must only be a simple majority. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has 327 seats in Parliament. Last year, Parliament passed the measure with a 320-129 vote, stating that Turkey’s priority is to act in coordination with international institutions.

Previously, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced on Monday that the anticipated renewal of a motion related to Syria extending the authorization for the use of the armed forces abroad that was to expire on Oct. 4 had been signed in the Cabinet’s Monday meeting and that a vote on the motion would take place in Parliament on Oct. 3.

“If the date is available, it will be discussed in the plenary session on Oct. 3,” Arınç said.

A similar motion on Iraq that will also expire on Oct. 4 was expected to be merged with the one on Syria; however, Arınç noted that the motion in question only pertains to Syria and has nothing to do with the motion on Iraq.

The motion announced last year says: “The ongoing crisis in Syria affects the stability and security in the region and now the escalating animosity affects our national security. … This situation threatens our national security. In this respect, the need to take precautions and to have the ability to act quickly against any threats to Turkey has arisen. In the framework of this situation, under Article 92 of the Turkish Constitution, we kindly ask Parliament to discuss a motion that authorizes the government for one year to send Turkish troops into foreign countries.”

After the civil war in Syria broke out two-and-a-half years ago, Turkey, despite once having good relations with the Syrian government, broke its ties with President Bashar al-Assad, saying that the authoritarian leader of Syria could not meet the expectations of his nation and observing that the unrest in Syria had turned into a bloody civil war. The strained relations with Syria were also reflected in Parliament. Turkey changed the military’s rules of engagement after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military jet in June 2012. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that any Syrian military element approaching the border would be deemed a threat and be treated as a military target. A year later on Sept. 16, 2013, Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter that had crossed into Turkish airspace.

‘Iran already has a nuclear bomb,’ Israeli paper claims

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Unnamed government analysts quoted by Maariv say Tehran has crossed all red lines and is already in possession of at least one nuclear weapon

A worker outside the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran (photo credit: AP/Vahid Salemi)

A worker outside the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran (photo credit: AP/Vahid Salemi)

Times of Israel

BY JOSHUA DAVIDOVICH September 27, 2013, 1:19 pm
Some Israeli government analysts believe Iran already has at least one nuclear bomb, an Israeli journalist wrote in an article published Friday.
Shalom Yerushalmi, writing in the national daily Maariv, said that “government security sources up to date on development in Iran,” told him recently that Tehran has crossed all points of no return and already has its first nuclear weapon, and maybe more.

The report marks the first time a government official has been quoted saying Iran already has a nuclear weapon. No sources in the piece were named.

The information, if true, would mark a major shift in international relations and would be a game changer in terms of a regional power balance.

“It’s too late for Israel [to prevent an Iranian bomb]. Iran has crossed all the borders and all the constraints, and it has a first nuclear bomb in its possession, and maybe more than that,” Yerushalmi writes, basing himself on what he says is the assessment he heard this week from state security sources. ”We are facing a historic change in the strategic balance of forces in the region.”

He then quotes a source who he says is deeply familiar with what he calls the relentless war against the Iranians. “This is no longer about how to prevent a bomb,” the source is quoted saying, “but about how to prevent its being launched, and what to do if and when.”

Yerushalmi, still basing himself on the anonymous security sources’ assessment, goes on to compare the current behavior of Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and new President Hasan Rouhani, in their interactions with the West, to a soccer coach at the end of a hard-fought match which he knows he has now won. The Iranian leadership is behaving with the air of “those who have achieved their target, and therefore can today afford to be more generous and to offer new (self-serving) messages.” The Iranian leadership can afford to be friendlier, he writes, “because victory has been secured.”

Maariv led its Friday paper with a photograph of a smiling Rouhani, alongside the headline, “What’s hiding behind the smile,” and a sub-headline quoting the security sources saying Iran now has “at least one bomb.” It then adds that most in the security establishment, however, still believe that this “nightmare scenario has not yet been realized.”

While most Western countries believe Iran’s nuclear program is intended for military purposes, officials in Israel, the US and elsewhere say Tehran has yet to “break out” toward a bomb, a process that could take over a year.

Iran, which on Thursday agreed to renewed talks with world powers on curbing its nuclear program, says its program is for peaceful purposes.

On Friday, Iranian and UN officials met to discuss whether to resume inspections meant to determine whether Tehran worked on atomic arms, in a test of pledges by Iran’s new president to reduce nuclear tensions.

Iranian envoy Reza Najafi said in Vienna that it would be unrealistic to expect that “in just one day of meeting we can solve our problems.”

Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic Energy Agency said only that he hoped the meeting could “intensify the dialogue.”

The UN agency wants access to a site it suspects was used to test conventional explosive triggers meant to set off a nuclear blast.

A report released last month by the IAEA said that while Iran was testing new centrifuges, which could help it eventually create a nuclear weapon, its uranium stockpile was still below the amount needed for a bomb.

“It is unlikely, at this point, that Iran could dash toward further enrichment to weapons-grade without the IAEA detecting Tehran’s activities,”Reuters quoted the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy and research group.

Israel sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat, and Jerusalem has campaigned vigorously around the world for heavy sanctions to be placed on Iran, with a threat of military action should those fail to stop the nuclear program.

Next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to deliver a speech at the United Nations during which he is expected to press for maintaining pressure on Iran despite a recent easing of tensions between Tehran and the West. In comments Tuesday, Netanyahu urged the world not to be “fooled” by Iran’s newly moderate rhetoric, which he said was a “smokescreen” to obscure its continued drive toward nuclear weapons.

“Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “But we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the world should not be fooled either.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Also Read:

The Washington Times
KAHLILI: Iran already has nuclear weapons
By: Reza Kahlili / October 27, 2011

U.S. urges U.N. action, Syria sees stalemate

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Kerry aid a “definitive” U.N. report has proved that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb last month. (File photo: AFP)

Friday, 20 September 2013

Al Arabiya

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday urged for a binding U.N. resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons next week, as a senior Syrian official revealed that the country’s conflict has reached a stalemate.

Kerry said a “definitive” U.N. report has proved that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb last month.

“Now the test comes. The [U.N.] Security Council must be prepared to act next week. It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out,” he added, in statements carried by Agence France-Press.

Meanwhile, Syria’s deputy prime minister said Damascus believes the conflict has reached a stalemate.

Deputy Premier Qadri Jamil told Britain’s Guardian newspaper the Syrian government would call for a ceasefire if long-delayed peace talks in Geneva were to take place.

“Neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side,” Jamil said.

When asked what his government would propose at the stalled Geneva-2 summit, he replied: “an end to external intervention, a ceasefire and the launching of a peaceful political process.”

(With AFP)

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