IDF Prepping Forces for September Upheaval, After Palestinian UN Action

Iron Dome - Tal Cohen

An Iron Dome battery on the outskirts of Ashkelon.
Photo by: Tal Cohen

IDF redeploys Iron Dome as rocket fire from Gaza increases

IDF deploys missile defense system near Ashkelon; Sdot Negev Regional Council chairman: We are stepping toward the month of September, but we have security problems.

By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff

The Israel Defense Forces redeployed the Iron Dome missile defense system near Ashkelon on Friday following days of heightened rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

The Iron Dome’s deployment comes a day after Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak a letter imploring them to redeploy the missile defense system.

Earlier in the week, Meir Yifrach, the chairman of the Sdot Negev Regional Council cautioned that “we are stepping toward the month of September, but we have security problems.”

Yifrach continued, saying “I have eight towns where the schools and the kindergartens are not protected. I have warned security forces about this, but I have yet to receive an answer.”

The IDF has attacked several targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the firing of Grad rockets at Israel in the last several days, most recently attacking five locations early Friday morning.

Hours before the air strike Friday a rocket fell in an open field near the town of Kiryat Gat. The rocket was the third of its kind in 24 hours, but it caused no injuries or damage.

An IDF Spokesperson said that planes attacked three tunnels used for terror activity and a terror activity site in central Gaza and another terror activity site in southern Gaza.

The IDF added that, “The IDF will operate with determination and respond with force against any terror organization attempting to disturb the way of life or harm the citizens of Israel. The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”

Two additional rockets landed on Wednesday, one near Ashkelon and the other near Kiryat Gat. A woman was lightly wounded on Monday when a Qassam rocket landed near a kibbutz near Ashkelon.

U.S. downgrade a grave concern

U.S. downgrade a grave concern: Pranab


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday described the downgrading of the United States government by a credit rating agency as a “grave situation” and said it has to be analysed. File photo: Ramesh Sharma

The HinduFinance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday described the downgrading of the United States government by a credit rating agency as a “grave situation” and said it has to be analysed. File photo: Ramesh Sharma

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday described the downgrading of the United States government by credit rating agency as a “grave situation” and said it has to be analysed.

“We will have to analyse it. It will require some time.

Situation is grave and there is no gain in making off-the-cuff remarks,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

In an unprecedented move, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US government’s ‘AAA’ sovereign credit rating — a development which raises concerns that investors will lose confidence in its economy.

This comes a day after the turmoil witnessed in the global markets including those in Asia. In India, the BSE Sensex plunged more than 700 points before recovering partially with investors selling across the board.

Seeking to allay domestic fears, Mr. Mukherjee had on Friday said that the market fall was due to external factors.

“This is nothing domestic. It is substantially due to external factors. Stock markets fell due to global factors like weak recovery in US and spread of debt burden in Euro-zone. Current volatility is temporary,” he had said.

Market regulator Sebi said it was watching the situation closely. ”… And our belief is that everything is perfect and right in our market. There is nothing for the people to worry,” said Sebi Chairman U.K. Sinha.

“Our risk management system is working perfectly. All the settlements are taking place,” he added.

The Reserve Bank, however, had said that India will have to learn to live with volatility in the global economy.

The U.S.’s downgrade, the S&P said, reflects its opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan which Congress and the administration recently agreed to “falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium—term debt dynamics.”

Other prominent credit rating agencies — Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings — affirmed their AAA credit ratings even as President Barack Obama signed a bill that ended the debt—ceiling impasse that pushed the Treasury to the edge of default.

Moody’s and Fitch also said that downgrades were possible if lawmakers fail to enact debt reduction measures and the economy weak.

US Credit Rating Officially Downgraded

[The lunatics in Washington have merely slowed our falling into the bottomless pit; we have already lost our balance and pitched-over.  Our national debt has just equaled our Gross Domestic Product and unemployment is poised to go through the roof.  The world has never experienced the level of suffering that awaits us all, previous depressions and world wars will fade away from memory, for the survivors.  Preparations should be being made, by us all, if it is not too late for that.  When the bottom really drops out of this whole thing it will be sharp and it will be sudden.  Recovering from the great event will be the hard part for us all.  Governments will have to find some way to restore both order and some sort of stability, before any real improvements will be noticeable.  That is why it is imperative that our government, that all governments, take measures now, that will improve the people’s odds for survival.  Like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we need some sort of “strategic reserves” of basic survival items, enough stuff to hold us for sixty days or more.   When our currency collapses, everything relying upon a flow of cash will collapse with it–meaning basically, everything. 

One positive side effect of all this is that the Empire builders will be forced into giving-up their aggressive plans for global domination.  If you can’t afford your Army then you can’t invade too many countries.  It will be comparable to the fall of the Soviet Union, when Russian troops went months without pay, some of them struggling just to find something to eat.  This spells the end for the New World Order, unless the American leaders are prepared to use all the military force at their disposal to preserve America’s position atop the world.

The downgrading of our credit rating is just a start, but considering the ripple effect, it may be just enough to grease the slippery slide.] 

US loses AAA credit rating after S&P downgrade

News ticker in Times Square, New York. 5 Aug 2011
News of the downgrade ended a tumultuous week for US finances

One of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, has downgraded the United States’ top-notch AAA rating for the first time ever.

S&P cut the long-term US rating by one notch to AA+ with a negative outlook, citing concerns about budget deficits.

The agency said the deficit reduction plan passed by the US Congress on Tuesday did not go far enough.

Correspondents say the downgrade could erode investors’ confidence in the world’s largest economy.

It is already struggling with huge debts, unemployment of 9.1% and fears of a possible double-dip recession.

The downgrade is a major embarrassment for the administration of President Barack Obama and could raise the cost of US government borrowing.

This in turn could trickle down to higher interest rates for local governments and individuals.

However, some analysts said with debt woes across much of the developed world, US debt remained an attractive option for investors.

The other two major credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, said on Friday night they had no immediate plans to follow S&P in taking the US off their lists of risk-free borrowers.

‘Flawed judgement’

Officials in Washington told US media that the agency’s sums were deeply flawed.

Unnamed sources were quoted as saying that a treasury official had spotted a $2 trillion [£1.2 trillion] mistake in the agency’s analysis.

“A judgment flawed by a $2tn error speaks for itself,” a US treasury department spokesman said of the S&P analysis. He did not offer any immediate explanation.

John Chambers, chairman of S&P’s sovereign ratings committee, told CNN that the US could have averted a downgrade if it had resolved its congressional stalemate earlier.

“The first thing it could have done is raise the debt ceiling in a timely matter so the debate would have been avoided to begin with,” he said.

International reaction to the S&P move has been mixed.

China, the world’s largest holder of US debt, had “every right now to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets,” said a commentary in the official Xinhua news agency.

“International supervision over the issue of US dollars should be introduced and a new, stable and secured global reserve currency may also be an option to avert a catastrophe caused by any single country,” the commentary said.

However, officials in Japan, South Korea and Australia have urged a calm response to the downgrade.

The S&P announcement comes after a week of turmoil on global stock markets, partly triggered by fears over the US economy’s recovery and the eurozone crisis

S&P had threatened the downgrade if the US could not agree to cut its federal debt by at least $4tn over the next decade.

Instead, the bill passed by Congress on Tuesday plans $2.1tn in savings over 10 years.

S&P said the Republicans and Democrats had only been able to agree “relatively modest savings”, which fell “well short” of what had been envisaged.

The agency also noted that the legislation delegates the lion’s share of savings to a bipartisan committee, which must report back to Congress in November on where the axe should fall.

The bill – which also raises the federal debt ceiling by up to $2.4tn, from $14.3tn, over a decade – was passed on Tuesday just hours before the expiry of a deadline to raise the US borrowing limit.

S&P said in its report issued late on Friday: “The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilise the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.

“More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.”

The agency said it might lower the US long-term rating another notch to AA within the next two years if its deficit reduction measures were deemed inadequate.

S&P noted that the bill passed by Congress this week did not include new revenues – Republicans had staunchly opposed President Barack Obama’s calls for tax rises to help pay off America’s deficit.

The credit agency also noted that the legislation contained only minor policy changes to Medicare, an entitlement programme dear to Democrats.

“The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed,” it added.

US/Saudi/Israeli/Hariri Forces Try To Draw Lebanon Into Syrian Conflict



[They have failed in all their previous gambits to neutralize the Hezbollah-friendly government of Lebanon, so now they are looking to destabilize the Arab state by sucking it into Syria.  Everyone must keep in mind that these dark forces of the “Future/March 14” alliance have been trying to ignite a new round of fighting within Lebanon since Israel failed to dislodge resistance forces in 2006.  So far, the Hariri gang has failed to trip-up the other guys.  Let us hope that they can resist these moves to ignite a regional war as they have done in the past.  There is no end to the devious Zionist machinations.]

Lebanese Officials Snap Back at Muslim Brotherhood, Defend Miqati

by Naharnet Newsdesk

Information Minister Walid al-Daouq accused the March 14 forces without naming them of seeking to confront the cabinet by shoving Lebanon into the events of Syria through the statement issued by Syria’s banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood on Friday lashed out at Prime Minister Najib Miqati, accusing him of “siding with the killers of Syrian children.”

In a statement published by the Italian news agency AKI, the Brotherhood’s official spokesman Zuheir Salem said: “The Syrian people would never compromise, no matter the sacrifices, the blood of our brothers in Lebanon, whether in Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon … or anywhere in Lebanon.”

“It is known who the political party that wrote and distributed this statement is,” Daouq said. “It wants to shove Lebanon into the events in Syria.”

Another Lebanese official source told As Safir newspaper that the statement of the Brotherhood is “a local invention as part of the campaigns on the government and the prime minister.”

“Lebanon took into consideration its local issues, its ties with Syria and the international community” when it dissociated itself from a U.N. Security Council statement condemning the regime’s crackdown on protestors in Syria, the source said.

“Miqati doesn’t need lessons on patriotism from anyone. He always calls for the adoption of dialogue to resolve all differences and stresses that things could not be solved through violence,” the official added.

Russian President Says U.S. Had Role in Georgian Conflict

Russian President Says U.S. Had Role in Georgian Conflict


MOSCOW — In an interview Friday that was timed to the third anniversary of Russia’s war with Georgia, President Dmitri A. Medvedev said top United States officials played a key role in events that touched off the war, and offered a withering assessment of a recent Senate resolution on Georgia’s behalf, which he said reflected “the personal tastes of certain elderly members of the Senate.”

Vladimir Rodionov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On state television Friday, President Dmitri Medvedev expressed doubts about joining the World Trade Organization.

They were the toughest remarks Mr. Medvedev has directed toward the United States in months, heightening the impression that the rapprochement between the two countries — the so-called reset — is beginning to unravel. Mr. Medvedev dismissed as “pure provocative nonsense” the notion that a Russian military intelligence officer was linked to an explosion outside the American Embassy in Tbilisi, a charge that was tentatively corroborated by a United States intelligence assessment that was described to reporters last week.

Georgia has always been the point of highest tensionbetween the United States and Russia, even as they negotiated on such subjects as Iran’s weapons programs, the war in Afghanistan and nuclear nonproliferation. The tension has re-emerged this summer, as both countries head into an election season and with the question of Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization appearing to dominate the agenda for the reset.

Mr. Medvedev cast doubt on that prospect in the interview, conducted at his resort home in Sochi and broadcast on state television. He said Russia would withdraw its application rather than accede to the current demands of Georgia, which, as a W.T.O. member, can block the entry of any new member. Georgia has asked for independent observers to be stationed at the borders between Russia and the enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; Mr. Medvedev said Russia was willing to offer only electronic monitoring.

“Under the guise of W.T.O. accession, our colleagues in Georgia are trying to push through a new edition of the political problem,” Mr. Medvedev said. “We will not fall for it. W.T.O. accession is not too high a price to pay here.”

The 2008 war stripped Georgia of any control over the ethnic enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose separatist governments have long been supported by Russia. It began on Aug. 7, when, after an exchange of artillery fire, the Georgian military shelled the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. The Russian Army poured in, forcing Georgian troops to retreat. Since then, despite Western protests, Russia has remained deeply entrenched in both enclaves, which it has recognized as sovereign nations.

Mr. Medvedev devoted much of the interview to the decisions he made during the confrontation with Georgia, casting himself as a resolute leader who stood up to American pressure. As he waited for President Mikheil Saakashvili to engage in talks with Russia, “Georgia was getting more and more visits from ‘envoys from across the ocean,’ as the Soviets would have called them,” Mr. Medvedev said.

“The moment of truth for me, as I realized later while analyzing those events in hindsight over and over again, came with the visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,” he said. “Following that visit, my Georgian colleague simply dropped all communication with us. He simply stopped talking to us, he stopped writing letters and making phone calls. It was apparent that he had new plans now. And those plans were implemented later.”

Notably, Mr. Medvedev said that he decided to go to war with Georgia without consulting Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, and that the two did not even have a conversation until the following day.

In the interview, which was broadcast in Georgia as well, Mr. Medvedev missed no opportunity to denigrate Mr. Saakashvili, describing him as “a person I will never shake hands with” and “a difficult man to avoid, because he is gluey; if he wants to adhere to you, he will do a good job of it.” He said he would like to see the Georgian leader tried for war crimes, and at times seemed to be goading Mr. Saakashvili, who has expressed persistent anxiety about Russian attempts to undermine his government, both through military force or interference in domestic politics.

After saying it was up to Georgian voters to decide Mr. Saakashvili’s future at the polls, he added, “maybe they could also use other means, the way it sometimes happens in history.” He added that deposing Mr. Saakashvili three years ago would have been “a piece of cake,” but it “wasn’t on my agenda.”

“He should actually be thankful to me for halting our troops at some point,” Mr. Medvedev said. “If they had marched into Tbilisi, Georgia would most likely have a different president by now.”

Medvedev: Saakashvili should be thankful to me for halting our troops

Medvedev: Saakashvili should be thankful to me for halting our troops

President Dmitry Medvedev's interview

President Dmitry Medvedev’s interview

© RIA Novosti. Vladimir Rodionov

RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Babich
 President Dmitry Medvedev’s interview ahead of the third anniversary of the Georgian-Russian war over South Ossetia has caused a media uproar for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that two of the journalists were ethnic Georgians – Sophie Shevardnadze from the Moscow-based Russia Today (RT) television channel and Ekaterina Kotrikadze, head of the news service at the First Caucasian Information Channel (PIK TV).

The Russian-language PIK TV, which broadcasts from Georgia to the whole of the CIS, was set up by Kotrikadze and former BBC journalist Robert Parsons. Although it claims to be an independent media outlet, many experts question its ability to criticize Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who welcomed the founding of the news organization several months ago.

Kotrikadze’s participation in the recent interview with Medvedev may help allay those concerns. The conversation, which was not bound by any preconditions, allowed the Russian president to freely express his views on the war and also to discuss several little-known facts. For example, Medvedev informed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was in China at the time, of his decision to deploy Russian troops in South Ossetia a day after the war had begun.

“I had already issued all the orders to the military. Tskhinvali was already ablaze. Mr. Putin just made a statement condemning Tbilisi’s move. That was the right thing to do, of course. We spoke 24 hours after the attack over a secure line. As you understand, it’s not very appropriate to discuss matters like this by cellphone,” Medvedev told the Russian and Georgian media.

Another highlight of the interview was Medvedev’s admission that he issued the order to halt the advance of Russian troops in Georgia in August 2008.

“[Saakashvili] should be thankful to me for halting our troops at some point. If they had marched into Tbilisi, Georgia would most likely have a different president by now,” the Russian president said.

He also made clear in the interview that Moscow would welcome a change of leadership in Georgia. However, Medvedev said it is “up to the people of Georgia to assess Saakashvili and decide his fate through a democratic vote or other means.”

The president offered compelling arguments against accounts of the war that put the blame on Russia. He answered questions about Russia’s alleged preparations for the conflict, the allegation that Saakashvili’s action on Tskhinvali was no different from what Russia was doing to Chechnya back in 1999, and the different Ossetian casualty estimates offered by the Russian media, prosecutors and international commissions.

He said the reason for the war was the killing of hundreds of Russian nationals, including peacekeepers, on Saakashvili’s orders. When the bombing of Tskhinvali began on the night of August 7 three years ago, 90% of the South Ossetian population held Russian passports. This is the reason for the conflict, Medvedev said, adding, “I will never forgive him for that … Mr. Saakashvili is a person I’ll never shake hands with.”

Medvedev described himself in the interview as “a young and liberal president,” which is exactly how Saakashvili positions himself. Can youth and liberal views coexist with respect for the law and democratic procedure? We will know the answer next year, when presidential elections are held in Russia and Georgia.

Ekho Moskvy Editor-in-Chief Alexei Venediktov said on air after the interview that there were no questions about Medvedev’s re-election because they would have been pointless. The president would not have answered them, he said.

Saakashvili’s political future is also uncertain, although most experts believe he will survive. So far, the voters in both Russia and Georgia never got the real opportunity to elect a candidate that was disliked by the political establishment (the only exception was Boris Yeltsin’s election in 1991).

“After the Soviet Union collapsed, truly free presidential elections were held only once, in Abkhazia, which Saakashvili promised to return to the fold of ‘democratic’ Georgia,” Felix Stanevsky, Russian ambassador to Georgia from 1996 to 2000, told RIA Novosti. “An opposition candidate was elected there in 2004. When Saakashvili came to power [as a result of the Rose Revolution in 2003], he won 96% of the vote, which is an unlikely achievement for a young liberal.”

There is one thing the Russian president has said that even his most radical Georgian opponents will be unable to disprove: “Conflicts are no good for anyone, ever. Those who say you can resolve something through violence are liars.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

31 US Special Forces Die in Chinook Helicopter Shoot-Down

31 US troops die in Afghan helicopter crash: Karzai office

Updated 1 hour ago
KABUL: A total of 31 members of the US special forces have died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan, a statement from the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai expressed condolences over a NATO helicopter crash and the deaths of 31 members of US special forces,” the statement said. (AFP)

Dozens Killed as NATO Helicopter Shot Down in Afghanistan

By  and 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents shot down a NATO Chinook helicopter during an overnight operation in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 37 people on board, a coalition military official said on Saturday. It was believed to be the deadliest helicopter crash in the nearly decade-long war, punctuating a surge of violence across the country even as American and NATO forces begin a modest drawdown of troops.

Afghan military officials put the death toll at 38, including 31 Americans and seven Afghan commandos. President Hamid Karzai’s office, in a statement, described the American casualties as members of the special forces. The coalition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it, confirmed that the majority of the dead were NATO forces, but could not immediately identify their nationalities or what units they belonged to.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has expressed his condolences to the U.S. President Barack Obama and to the families of the victims,” Mr. Karzai’s office said in a statement.

The helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Tangi valley of the Wardak Province just west of Kabul, the coalition official said. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a NATO spokesman, confirmed the crash but could provide no further information, including what caused the crash or whether there were casualties.

There were conflicting accounts on when the helicopter went down. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said insurgents shot down the helicopter around 11 p.m. Friday as it was launching an operation on a house where the militants were gathering in the Tangi Joyee region of the district of Saidabad in the eastern part of the province. Eight militants were killed in the fight that continued after the helicopter fell, he said.

“The fresh reports from the site tells us that there are still Americans doing search operations for the bodies and pieces of the helicopter are on the ground,” Mr. Mujahid said.

Although the nationality of the NATO soldiers killed was not confirmed, Americans were known to be carrying out the majority of operations in the area.

Gen. Abdul Qayum Baqizoy, police chief of Wardak, said the operation began around 1 a.m. Saturday as NATO and Afghan forces attacked a Taliban compound in Jaw-e-mekh Zareen village in the Tangi valley. The firefight lasted at least two hours, the general said.

“It was at the end of the operation that one of the NATO helicopters crashed,” he said. “We don’t know yet the cause of the crash and we don’t know how many NATO soldiers were on board.”

The Tangi valley runs along the border of Wardak and the neighboring province of Logar. Taliban activity has been heavy in both provinces, which border the capital of Kabul.

Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting from Kabul.