Saudis Sending Weapons To Rebels/Terrorists On Syria’s Southern Front, Through Jordan

Diplomat Says Saudi Sends Military Equipment to Syria Rebels

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية

by Naharnet

“Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are accomplices to the terrorism targeting the Syrian people”

W460

Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to stop bloodshed by President Bashar Assad’s regime, a top Arab diplomat said on Saturday.

"Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army," the diplomat told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.

"This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria," he added saying further "details will follow at a later time."

The announcement came two days after the kingdom said it had shut down its embassy in Syria and withdrawn its entire staff.

Riyadh has taken a strong stance against the escalating bloodshed and, along with its five Gulf Cooperation Council partners, expelled Syrian envoys last month and withdrew their own over the "mass slaughter" of civilians.

Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal publicly defended the right of the Syrian opposition to arm itself.

"It is the right of the Syrians to arm themselves in order to defend themselves. Weapons used to target homes are used in wars with enemies," he said.

King Abdullah had also previously called for "critical measures" to be taken on Syria, warning of an impending "humanitarian disaster."

Last week, Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud told AFP Saudi Arabia and Qatar were backing "armed terrorist gangs" operating in the country and are therefore responsible for the resulting bloodshed.

"Some of the countries backing armed terrorist gangs, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are accomplices to the terrorism targeting the Syrian people … and bear responsibility for the bloodletting," he said.

Those charges were renewed on Syrian state television on Saturday after two huge bomb blasts killed at least 27 people and wounded almost 100 in central Damascus.

"Saudi Arabia is sending us terrorists," a resident of the devastated areas said on television.

"These are the friends … of the Istanbul council," said another, referring to the opposition Syrian National Council set up in the Turkish city last August.

At least 9,100 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the uprising against Syria’s President Bashar Assad began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

SourceAgence France Presse

Turkey Threatens Invasion As Syria Turns-Back Istanbul’s River of Subversion and Terror

Turkey threatens military incursion into northern Syria as refugees flee across its borders

Turkey threatened to launch a military incursion into northern Syria after refugees fleeing alleged massacres by pro-Assad forces poured across its frontiers.

Turkey threatens military incursion into northern Syria as refugees flee across its borders

Syrian refugees arrive by truck near the border between Syria and Turkey at Reyhanli in Antakya Photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Adrian Blomfield

By Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent

7:18PM GMT 15 Mar 2012

The warning came as the Arab Red Crescent predicted that as many as 500,000 Syrian civilians could seek refuge in Turkey as government forces widened an offensive in the border province of Idlib, a stronghold of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Turkey has said in the past that a fresh surge of refugees would make it necessary to create a safe area within Syrian territory to protect civilians.

Besir Atalay, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, on Thursday said the move, which was considered but rejected last year, was again being contemplated.

Giving impetus to renewed calls for some kind of limited military intervention, Syrian human rights activists claimed that 23 mutilated corpses had been discovered near the city of Idlib, which fell to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces earlier this week.

The victims, who had been blindfolded and handcuffed before being shot, bore the marks of "extreme torture", the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The killings were the latest in a series of alleged atrocities that have seen dozens of civilians, often from the same families, executed in recent days. Opposition activists say the practice is part of a new strategy of government terror aimed at emptying towns and villages known to have harboured rebels in the past.

As the uprising against Mr Assad entered its second year yesterday, 200 human rights groups joined together to urge Russia and China to back UN action against Syria. Both states have vetoed UN Security Council resolutions seeking to resolve the crisis in Syria, arguing that they unfairly singled out the government for blame. At the same time, Russia has continued to supply the Assad regime with arms.

"City after city, town after town, Syria’s security forces are using their scorched earth methods while the Security Council’s hands remain tied by Russia and China," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch, one of the groups that issued the demand.

"One year on, the Security Council should finally stand together and send a clear message to Assad that these attacks should end."

The Syrian Observatory said that 9,113 people had died over the uprising’s first year, 6,645 of them civilians. It reported 471 rebel deaths and 1,997 soldier and security service fatalities, a figure the government has used to justify its actions.

The regime marked Syria’s bloody anniversary by staging shows of loyalty.

In Damascus and other parts of the country where the rebels have not gained a foothold, tens of thousands of people waved Syrian flags and portraits of the president – a sign that Mr Assad continues to enjoy significant public support, particularly outside the country’s Sunni Arab majority.

With no sign of Mr Assad’s hold on power weakening – despite the defection of a seventh general on Thursday – regional powers are coming under pressure to support the rebels, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar both in favour of supplying them with arms.

Turkey has already given sanctuary to the rebels and plays host to the headquarters of the Free Syrian Army. But despite raising the prospect of a buffer zone within Syria in the past, Turkey would be reluctant to mount a military operation to enforce one without the backing or participation of the Arab League.

Although Mr Atalay said that the issue was now being discussed with Turkey’s Arab partners, the depth of support for a buffer zone remains far from clear although progress could be made when the "Friends of Syria" coalition of Western and Arab states meets in Istanbul on April 2nd.

Truth, lies and Afghanistan

Truth, lies and Afghanistan

How military leaders have let us down

BY LT. COL. DANIEL L. DAVIS

I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.

Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

My arrival in country in late 2010 marked the start of my fourth combat deployment, and my second in Afghanistan. A Regular Army officer in the Armor Branch, I served in Operation Desert Storm, in Afghanistan in 2005-06 and in Iraq in 2008-09. In the middle of my career, I spent eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and held a number of civilian jobs — among them, legislative correspondent for defense and foreign affairs for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

As a representative for the Rapid Equipping Force, I set out to talk to our troops about their needs and their circumstances. Along the way, I conducted mounted and dismounted combat patrols, spending time with conventional and Special Forces troops. I interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. I spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders.

I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.

I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.

From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.

FROM BAD TO ABYSMAL

Much of what I saw during my deployment, let alone read or wrote in official reports, I can’t talk about; the information remains classified. But I can say that such reports — mine and others’ — serve to illuminate the gulf between conditions on the ground and official statements of progress.

And I can relate a few representative experiences, of the kind that I observed all over the country.

In January 2011, I made my first trip into the mountains of Kunar province near the Pakistan border to visit the troops of 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry. On a patrol to the northernmost U.S. position in eastern Afghanistan, we arrived at an Afghan National Police (ANP) station that had reported being attacked by the Taliban 2½ hours earlier.

Through the interpreter, I asked the police captain where the attack had originated, and he pointed to the side of a nearby mountain.

“What are your normal procedures in situations like these?” I asked. “Do you form up a squad and go after them? Do you periodically send out harassing patrols? What do you do?”

As the interpreter conveyed my questions, the captain’s head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed.

“No! We don’t go after them,” he said. “That would be dangerous!”

According to the cavalry troopers, the Afghan policemen rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints. In that part of the province, the Taliban literally run free.

In June, I was in the Zharay district of Kandahar province, returning to a base from a dismounted patrol. Gunshots were audible as the Taliban attacked a U.S. checkpoint about one mile away.

As I entered the unit’s command post, the commander and his staff were watching a live video feed of the battle. Two ANP vehicles were blocking the main road leading to the site of the attack. The fire was coming from behind a haystack. We watched as two Afghan men emerged, mounted a motorcycle and began moving toward the Afghan policemen in their vehicles.

The U.S. commander turned around and told the Afghan radio operator to make sure the policemen halted the men. The radio operator shouted into the radio repeatedly, but got no answer.

On the screen, we watched as the two men slowly motored past the ANP vehicles. The policemen neither got out to stop the two men nor answered the radio — until the motorcycle was out of sight.

To a man, the U.S. officers in that unit told me they had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area — and that was before the above incident occurred.

In August, I went on a dismounted patrol with troops in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. Several troops from the unit had recently been killed in action, one of whom was a very popular and experienced soldier. One of the unit’s senior officers rhetorically asked me, “How do I look these men in the eye and ask them to go out day after day on these missions? What’s harder: How do I look [my soldier’s] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?”

One of the senior enlisted leaders added, “Guys are saying, ‘I hope I live so I can at least get home to R&R leave before I get it,’ or ‘I hope I only lose a foot.’ Sometimes they even say which limb it might be: ‘Maybe it’ll only be my left foot.’ They don’t have a lot of confidence that the leadership two levels up really understands what they’re living here, what the situation really is.”

On Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the infamous attack on the U.S., I visited another unit in Kunar province, this one near the town of Asmar. I talked with the local official who served as the cultural adviser to the U.S. commander. Here’s how the conversation went:

Davis: “Here you have many units of the Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF]. Will they be able to hold out against the Taliban when U.S. troops leave this area?”

Adviser: “No. They are definitely not capable. Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban. [The ANSF] won’t shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won’t shoot them.

“Also, when a Taliban member is arrested, he is soon released with no action taken against him. So when the Taliban returns [when the Americans leave after 2014], so too go the jobs, especially for everyone like me who has worked with the coalition.

“Recently, I got a cellphone call from a Talib who had captured a friend of mine. While I could hear, he began to beat him, telling me I’d better quit working for the Americans. I could hear my friend crying out in pain. [The Talib] said the next time they would kidnap my sons and do the same to them. Because of the direct threats, I’ve had to take my children out of school just to keep them safe.

“And last night, right on that mountain there [he pointed to a ridge overlooking the U.S. base, about 700 meters distant], a member of the ANP was murdered. The Taliban came and called him out, kidnapped him in front of his parents, and took him away and murdered him. He was a member of the ANP from another province and had come back to visit his parents. He was only 27 years old. The people are not safe anywhere.”

That murder took place within view of the U.S. base, a post nominally responsible for the security of an area of hundreds of square kilometers. Imagine how insecure the population is beyond visual range. And yet that conversation was representative of what I saw in many regions of Afghanistan.

In all of the places I visited, the tactical situation was bad to abysmal. If the events I have described — and many, many more I could mention — had been in the first year of war, or even the third or fourth, one might be willing to believe that Afghanistan was just a hard fight, and we should stick it out. Yet these incidents all happened in the 10th year of war.

As the numbers depicting casualties and enemy violence indicate the absence of progress, so too did my observations of the tactical situation all over Afghanistan.

CREDIBILITY GAP

I’m hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground.

A January 2011 report by the Afghan NGO Security Office noted that public statements made by U.S. and ISAF leaders at the end of 2010 were “sharply divergent from IMF, [international military forces, NGO-speak for ISAF] ‘strategic communication’ messages suggesting improvements. We encourage [nongovernment organization personnel] to recognize that no matter how authoritative the source of any such claim, messages of the nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal, and are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here.”

The following month, Anthony Cordesman, on behalf of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that ISAF and the U.S. leadership failed to report accurately on the reality of the situation in Afghanistan.

“Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the U.S. does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead,” Cordesman wrote. “They also, however, were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to ‘spin’ the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control.”

How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.

I first encountered senior-level equivocation during a 1997 division-level “experiment” that turned out to be far more setpiece than experiment. Over dinner at Fort Hood, Texas, Training and Doctrine Command leaders told me that the Advanced Warfighter Experiment (AWE) had shown that a “digital division” with fewer troops and more gear could be far more effective than current divisions. The next day, our congressional staff delegation observed the demonstration firsthand, and it didn’t take long to realize there was little substance to the claims. Virtually no legitimate experimentation was actually conducted. All parameters were carefully scripted. All events had a preordained sequence and outcome. The AWE was simply an expensive show, couched in the language of scientific experimentation and presented in glowing press releases and public statements, intended to persuade Congress to fund the Army’s preference. Citing the AWE’s “results,” Army leaders proceeded to eliminate one maneuver company per combat battalion. But the loss of fighting systems was never offset by a commensurate rise in killing capability.

A decade later, in the summer of 2007, I was assigned to the Future Combat Systems (FCS) organization at Fort Bliss, Texas. It didn’t take long to discover that the same thing the Army had done with a single division at Fort Hood in 1997 was now being done on a significantly larger scale with FCS. Year after year, the congressionally mandated reports from the Government Accountability Office revealed significant problems and warned that the system was in danger of failing. Each year, the Army’s senior leaders told members of Congress at hearings that GAO didn’t really understand the full picture and that to the contrary, the program was on schedule, on budget, and headed for success. Ultimately, of course, the program was canceled, with little but spinoffs to show for $18 billion spent.

If Americans were able to compare the public statements many of our leaders have made with classified data, this credibility gulf would be immediately observable. Naturally, I am not authorized to divulge classified material to the public. But I am legally able to share it with members of Congress. I have accordingly provided a much fuller accounting in a classified report to several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, senators and House members.

A nonclassified version is available at http://www.afghanreport.com. [Editor’s note: At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.]

TELL THE TRUTH

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

Continue the conversation: Use #DavisAFJ when discussing this story on Twitter. Follow us at @afjournal.

Ohio’s Most Famous Old Nazi Dies In Germany At 91

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Reports: Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk dies at 91

msnbc

Convicted Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk has died at the age of 91, German police said Saturday according to reports in the German media.

Demjanjuk was sentenced in May 2011 to five years in prison for his role in the killing of 28,060 Jews at the Sobibor Nazi camp in Poland during World War II. The German court released him pending appeal because of his advanced age.

German police said he died at a home for the elderly in southern Germany, according to The Associated Press.

During the trial Demjanjuk’s family said he had been ill.

Forget About Negotiations, Forget About “Taliban” Office In Qatar

Afghan Taliban Halts U.S. Talks Over ‘Unacceptable’ Terms

Eltaf Najafizada and James Rupert, ©2012 Bloomberg News

SFGate

(Bloomberg) — Afghanistan’s Taliban guerrillas have suspended talks with U.S. officials that aimed at opening formal peace negotiations, the movement said in a statement.

The insurgent group, which is fighting U.S. forces and the American-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, has halted its plans to open an office in the Arab state of Qatar, where peace talks with the Americans were envisioned, the group said in a statement e-mailed by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed. A U.S. negotiator had in a recent meeting presented conditions for talks that "were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed-upon points," it said.

"The Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar from today onwards until the Americans clarify their stance," the Taliban said in the statement, without specifying the point at issue.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. would wait to see how the situation plays out. "We have to see where this goes now," Nuland said today to reporters in Washington. Referring to the Taliban statements, she said it isn’t clear "whether they’re representative of the entire group, whether after feelings calm there is a way to get back to it, we’ll just have to see."

Afghan to Afghan

The U.S. goal has been to facilitate Afghan-to-Afghan discussions by getting the government and the Taliban to the same table, Nuland said. "We still feel that if there is a process that can be supported, that we ought to do that," she said. "We remain prepared to continue these discussions."

Obama administration officials have said in the past year they were holding meetings with the Taliban as the U.S. draws down its forces in Afghanistan and hands security duties to Afghan army and police forces. The guerrilla movement said in January it reached an initial agreement with Qatar to open an office in the Gulf state to facilitate negotiations.

The U.S. is considering the transfer of five Taliban prisoners to Qatar from its Guantanamo Bay military prison to encourage those talks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in Washington Feb. 2.

The Shadowy NED Network of International Subversion Exposes Itself In Egypt

The shadowy world of Egypt’s NGOs

Posted by Jenny O’Connor – 17 March 2012 10:12

Funded by their governments, are these organisations funnelling money to protest movements?

Tahrir Square NGO Egypt

Tahrir Square: One year on. Photo: Getty Images

Ever since the Egyptian authorities raided the offices of a number of Western "non-profit organisations" in December, there has been consternation in the Western press. The 43 people accused of failing to register with the government and of financing the 6 April protest movement with illicit funds have been referred to repeatedly in the Western press as ‘NGO’ workers. This has served successfully to deflect the media from examining whether in fact there was some basis to Egypt’s claims that these people had been acting illegally.

As regards the accused organisations in Egypt, "NGO" might seem a strange term given that four of the five accused organisations receive the majority of their funding directly or indirectly from "their" governments. The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung is a German non-profit that receives 90 per cent of its funding from the German government. The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) are two of the four core institutions of the grant-making institution the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

NED was created as an act of Congress and receives more than 90 per cent of its budget from the US government. Freedom House, while not one of its core institutions, also regularly receives the majority of its funding from NED. Chaired by Richard Gephardt – former Democratic Representative, now CEO of his own corporate consultancy and lobbying firm – the NED’s Board of Directors consists of a collection of corporate lobbyists, advisors and consultants, former U.S congressmen, senators, ambassadors and military staff, as well as senior fellows of highly political "think tanks".

NED and its affiliates (particularly IRI) have been implicated in funding groups involved in organising coups against democratically elected leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (2002), Jean-Betrand Aristide of Haiti (2004) and Manuel Zelaya of Honduras (2009). NED massively funded the political opposition to democratically elected Nobel Peace Price winner President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica (1986-1988) and, during the 1980s, NED poured funding into the cause of ‘defending democracy’ in France against her elected government, under Francois Mitterrand, which it regarded as dangerously socialist. As Barbara Conry of the right leaning Cato Institute once wrote: "Through the Endowment, the American taxpayer has paid for special-interest groups to harass the duly elected governments of friendly countries, interfere in foreign elections, and foster the corruption of democratic movements."

On 14 April 2011, the New York Times published an article entitled "U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings" in which it stated that: "A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the IRI, the NDI and Freedom House".

One need only look at NED’s official website to see that it is pushing a right-wing agenda in Egypt, with nearly half of the $2,497,457 allocated to Egypt in 2010 going to the Center for International Private Enterprise for actions such as strengthening civil society’s "capacity to advocate for free market legislative reform" and other large grants awarded to youth organisations for training and mobilising activists in the use of new and social media.

But this is just the funding that is openly boasted of and the Egyptian authorities are finding it difficult, apparently, to trace the organisation’s funding. Dawlat Eissa – a 27-year-old Egyptian-American and former IRI employee – claimed that that the IRI was using employee’s private bank accounts to channel funding into IRI covertly from Washington.

A leaked Cairo US embassy cable from 2008, entitled "April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt", revealed how the US were in dialogue with one April 6 youth activist about his attendance at the 2008 Alliance of Youth Movements Summit in Washington. The cable also detailed the youth movement’s goal to remove Mubarak from power before 2011. The activist called Mubarak "the head of the snake" saying that it must be removed before democracy could take root.

While the Embassy, deemed this plan "highly unrealistic", the dialogue shows that from as early as December 2008 Washington was fully aware of the movement’s aim to remove the Mubarak regime from power. Critics claim that the defendants in the ‘NGO’ trial are being charged with a law that is a "relic of the Mubarak era". But in what country does the law tolerate foreign governments funding and training opposition group activists aiming for regime change? The US?

The term ‘NGO’ is used deliberately to create an illusion of innocent philanthropic activity. In this case the Egyptian government is investigating the operations of US state funded organisations which have a proven history of covertly funding political parties, influencing elections and aiding coups. Yet one mention of the Egyptian government’s raid on the offices of so-called ‘pro-democracy NGOs’ in Cairo was enough to spark an international outcry. There was an almost complete failure by the Western press to highlight at all the history of the organisations involved or the potential validity of the charges being brought against them.

Jenny O’Connor is a graduate of International Relations and Communications Volunteer at the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland