US foreign policy calculated cul-de-sac

US foreign policy calculated cul-de-sac (Op-Ed)

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/AFP

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/AFP

The siege mentality that successive teams of US policy-makers have finessed to perfection in the last decade in Pakistan and Afghanistan was inspired by the famous Bush slogan “who is not with us, is against us.”

Spurred by the discovery “we have watches and they have time,” it crept into the paranoia about the global forces of darkness conspiring against Captain America.

Here’s the self-defeating  fundamental flaw of US foreign policy that generates anti-American sentiments: the responsibility to protect ‘My way or highway’ is a sacred cow for good and all, but other nations have the inalienable right and solemn duty to embrace unilaterally the values and vital interests of the United States, come hell or high water.­

For America the exceptional, foreign ‘partnership’ is just a euphemistic oxymoron for designated morons eager to be US minions to promote ‘the freedom agenda’ of the unipolar world disorder at the expense of their nations’ sovereignty and dignity.

Most of the time, the Disneyworld Order works just fine, but sometimes, somewhere …things happen and woe betide anyone who gets in the US way!

When Russian and American presidents came from their parleys right into the limelight with TV cameras zooming in, the telltale body language of the close-up said it all: the ‘reset’ in bilateral relations, if it had ever been for real, was definitely out of the picture.

If there’s any tacit agreement between the opposite sides, this is it: the American/Russian strategic ‘partnership’ has reached an impasse. As far as why, opinions differ.

Andrew S. Weiss, who won his spurs at NSC, DOD and the State Department, is no stranger to Beltway bandits and pundits, and therefore, is perfectly qualified to illuminate Washington’s groupthink vis-à-vis Moscow’s stance.

As director of the RAND Center for Russia and Eurasia, he’s also supposed to reflect the intellectual rigor and integrity of the most prominent US think-tank and demonstrate the virtues of an unbiased Kremlinologist with total immersion in Russian realities.

He titled his subtle invective “Putin’s Waiting Game”, implying that the Russian president is playing games with gentle naïve Obama and is just biding his time for the next occupant of the White House to keep the log rolling.

It is hardly coincidental that his insinuation was parroted on June 26 by a NYT editorial: “We’re not sure what kind of cynical game Russia is playing.”

Well, from the outset, the Kremlin-astrologists got it wrong twice:

Firstly, as the former CIA chieftain Leon Panetta used to say, ‘there’s only one game in town’ – in this case, the US Global Blame Game, aka Information Support Operation for R2P and ‘humanitarian’ interventions.

Secondly, you don’t have to be a KGB colonel to figure out that a White House figurehead is whimsical dependent variable; in the meantime US foreign policy towards Russia is a real constant, bolstered by non-negotiable bipartisan ideological dogma since the days of yore.
If there’s anything for the Russian president to wait for, it has nothing to do with the US November elections: American presidents don’t formulate Russian policy; they are just allowed to execute it.

Well, despite all his credentials, the maven has badly failed to meet the expectations: his take was to tank rather than to think the imponderables.

What could have been unvarnished analysis of the undercurrents, intricacies and complications in American/Russian entanglement, has been relegated to a thinly veiled character assassination leaflet against the Russian president.

However it’s tempting to engage the author in a verbal skirmish, if you put emotions aside and take a broad look, you might suddenly realize that, given Andrew S. Weiss and the FP magazine bona fides, this ‘unofficial’ viewpoint says what the ‘official’ Washington thinks about its relations with Moscow but, due to political correctness, is too gun-shy to articulate it openly.

However, don’t blame the messenger – sure, his message is ugly, but it betrays the true color of the White House attitude towards the Kremlin.

The sheer enormity of the challenge to ‘wait out’ the change of Washington attitude towards Moscow, is this – yes, Congress does rein in US Foreign Policy, but the American electorate, which is supposed to control the legislative branch, hasn’t expressed in unequivocal terms a long overdue need for change in Russian policy – yet.

Until that paradigm shift happens, our bilateral relations will remain hostage to the almighty ghosts of cold war which hold sway over Beltway.

Evgeny Khrushchev for RT

NGOs to Register as ‘Foreign Agents’ or Risk Jail Time

NGOs to Register as ‘Foreign Agents’ or Risk Jail Time

Author of the amendments State Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin

Dozhd TV

Author of the amendments State Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin

Non-governmental organizations funded by foreign donors and involved in “political” activity face hefty fines and jail terms if they fail to register on a state list, under plans drawn up by ruling party United Russia.

The amendments to the law on NGOs, officially submitted to the State Duma on Friday, open a new front in the struggle between the government and civil society groups, following the passing of a law earlier this month that drastically increases the fines for illegal demonstrations.

The proposals, drafted by United Russia Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin, would require all non-governmental organizations receiving funding from abroad and engaged in “political” activities to register on a special list as “foreign agents”. These NGOs would also have to publish a report of their activities every six months and undertake an annual financial audit.

Any organizations failing to register within 90 days of the law coming into force would be liable to civil and criminal penalties, the deputy told RIA-Novosti on Friday. The penalties included a maximum prison sentence of four years, fines up to 300,000 rubles ($9,128) or 480 hours of mandatory community service.

U.S. Air Force identified 31 victims of sexual abuse among cadets

[One of the side benefits of trying to fight multiple wars with an all volunteer force.  Women have no place in combat and should never be placed in harm’s way unless they are MASH nurses.  Placing all of these attractive, healthy young women amongst mobs of pubescent young men, who are in the process of training and getting “pumped-up” for war, is a formula for multiple rapes and rampant sexual abuse.  The Air Force is lucky that the victim count in this case is not higher.   That luck may prove to be illusory if all the female and male victims of rape and sexual abuse manage to overcome their victim’s shame and come forward together.]  

The Air Force has provided assistance to victims, which he said are still active.
AP The Air Force has provided assistance to victims, which he said are still active.
A dozen instructors, all men, are being investigated on charges ranging from rape, in severe cases, sexual behaviors that do not involve physical contact.

The U.S. Air Force said Friday it has identified 31 female cadets who have been sexually abused by instructors from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio (Texas), one of the military training centers in the country. A dozen instructors , all men, are being investigated on charges ranging from rape, in severe cases, sexual behaviors that do not involve physical contact, said at a news conference Gen. Edward Rice, commander Command Air Education and Training.

Of the twelve instructors, nine of them belong to the same unit, the 331 Training Squadron, one of nine that are responsible for providing basic training for future pilots. The general regretted the incident, calling it “unacceptable” in a institution in which the cadets have to be “safe” but did not think it is an “endemic problem” but located in this squad that is being investigated in depth. Rice said detected events occurred during the past two and a half years but the first victim came to light until last year when one of those affected complained to Sergeant Luis Walker, who is being tried in a military court. According to Rice, other cases have been known later, thanks to allegations three instructors revealed that they had heard some of his colleagues gave evidence talks about the abuse and reported to his superiors. So far, only one of the twelve instructors suspects, Sergeant Peter Vega Maldonado, has been convicted had an “improper relationship” with a student and having breached the standard of “no contact”, which prevents any contact of any kind beyond what strictly professional. Sergeant Vega, who is currently serving a sentence, was sentenced to 90 days in prison, a $ 2,000 fine and airman degradation. The unit commander, Lt. Col. Mike Paquette was relieved of his command earlier this month as responsible for what happens in his unit and is on administrative waiting for a new destination. Rice said they are investigating whether there were more victims and more instructors involved and said he will not stop “until you are completely convinced that we have done a thorough job.” He has instructed the General Division Margaret Woodward, Acting Director of Strategy, Policy and Operational Planning of the Air Force, a comprehensive investigation on all training units of the Air Force, which will be delivered within sixty days. The objective is to analyze the situation training centers and study how to improve the selection of instructors and to protect the cadets. Rice said it is too early to draw conclusions and wait for the Woodward report before taking action, but one of which deck is that the cadets are trained by instructors. The Air Force has provided assistance to victims, which he said are still active. Basic Training Center, located at the base of Lackland Air Force in San Antonio ( Texas) trains annually to 35,000 soldiers, of whom 22 percent are women. EFE

Arab League To Host Syrian Opposition Groups Meeting In Cairo

[Instead of supporting and encouraging this Arab tribal warfare and providing it with a transparent cloak of legitimacy, under the mantle of an alleged “human rights” crusade, we should be fighting the war on Saudi Arabian soil, against all of the Arab League.  The Saudis and their Gulf State allies have always been the primary sponsors of ALL Sunni terrorism.  The Syrian government has refused to support these efforts, or to help in the Saudi/Israeli plots against Iran, thus explaining the Saudi/Arab League vendetta.  It is time to back out of this Sunni tribal war and take steps to shut it down, or at least guide it to its proper conclusion.  

War on Saudi Arabia.]

Arab League to host Syrian Opposition Groups meeting

داي برس

CAIRO- Syrian opposition figures said they will meet in Cairo on July 2 via the invitation of the Arab League (AL) to discuss the increasing amount of violence against civilians after the Syrian revolt entered its 16th month.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi said Thursday that the Arab League will host on July 2-3 a broad meeting for Syrian opposition to outline a unified vision over power-transition in their country witnessing a 15 month-long popular uprising.

In a press statement following a preparatory gathering held here Thursday, Al-Arabi said the coming conference will be attended by representatives of all opposition and national parties and movements.

Russia’s Lavrov Warns U.S. Over ‘Magnitsky law’

Russia’s Lavrov warns U.S. over human rights law: agency

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov leave a meeting in St. Petersburg June 29, 2012. REUTERS/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov leave a meeting in St. Petersburg June 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Pool

MOSCOW | Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:42am EDT

(Reuters) – Russia has warned the United States that their relations would suffer “serious damage” if Washington adopts a bill to penalize Russian officials for human rights abuses, a state news agency reported on Saturday.

Itar-Tass said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at talks on Friday in St Petersburg that “the possible endorsement in the United States of the ‘Magnitsky law’ will bring serious damage to relations between our countries.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the report.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week passed the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act”, named after a Russian anti-corruption lawyer whose death in 2009 while in pre-trial detention drew widespread condemnation.

The bill would deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians suspected of involvement in his death.

Despite broad support in Congress, the bill’s future remains uncertain, partly because the U.S. administration is unenthusiastic about a measure that Russia says would be an unwarranted intrusion into its internal affairs.

The passing of the bill has added to tension between the White House and the Kremlin over international engagement in Syria, among others. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Diana Abdallah)

Criticism of Obama’s Reset with Russia–First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

[When you begin to hear voices from mainstays of the “legitimate press,” like Forbes magazine, echoing the alternative press, as we support Russian efforts to stall war the drive to civil war in Syria, then you know that some major changes are afoot.  The author points out the absurdity of the American right-wing, as they have been pushing us towards a senseless war with Russia, and he does it with a fairly devastating effect.

American foreign policy has been driven by this right-wing “Neocon” war fever for more than thirty years, no matter which party has claimed to hold power.  The so-called “Jacksonian” Democrats, who worship Reagan or Brzezinski are in line for a comprehensive comeuppance for that failed foreign policy.  Beginning here, with a refreshing look at the insanity of seeking world war, I hope this author, Mark Adomanis, continues to expose the insanity of all American foreign policy, which has been formulated by the neocon crowd.  When we start to hear the legitimate press echoing the alternative press view that the entire “war on terrorism” has been based on an endless series of lies and deceptions, then we will know for sure that that wondrous thing we have called the “Arab Spring” is starting to blossom on American soil.]

Criticism of Obama’s Reset withRussia:

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Mark Adomanis

Mark Adomanis, Contributor

The reset has, by this point in time, attracted media attention out of all proportion to its observable real-world impact. A modest policy that modestly improved relations between Russiaand the United Stateshas become, particularly for people of a hawkish persuasion, evidence that Russiahas comprehensively outmaneuvered the United Statesto some sort of dastardly and wicked end (though precisely what the end is is never specified). Adding to the growing canon of pieces arguing that “the reset is the worst thing in the world” Michael Weiss recently penned a story “Putin has America right where he wants it” that might very well be the single most ludicrous thing that anyone has said about the issue.

Weiss deep confusion about the reset, and his tendency to make totally irrelevant and marginal issues key parts of the American-Russian bilateral relationship, is nicely demonstrated by the following paragraph:

But the two countries’ fundamental disagreement about what to do about Assad, the dictator whose bloody attempts to suppress a popular revolt has resulted in the deaths of 14,000 Syrians, was only the last straw for a policy that has been on life support since its inception. On a vast array of issues — ranging from human rights to Iran to the territorial integrity of the post-Soviet states — Russian behavior has consistently been a thorn in the side of the United States and its allies. The reset only provided Obama with a justification to cover his retreat in the face of Russia’s advance.

Underlying this paragraph are several unproven assumptions: that theUnited Stateshas an interest inSyria, that theUnited Statesfaces a significant threat fromIran, that theUnited Stateshas a genuine interest in promoting human rights, and that the Russian attempts to project power throughout the post-Soviet space are dangerous for theUnited States. But why should theUnited Statessuddenly become interested inSyria’s internal political arrangements when it hasn’t had any notable influence in the country for the past 50 years?  Is theUnited Statesreally threatened by a third-rate economic backwater likeIran, a country that is surrounded not only by American military installations but by close American allies? If the United States genuinely cares about promoting human rights, why does it continue to closely cooperate (on Syria, among other things) with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most violently authoritarian, repressive, and backwards societies?* Is the United States actually in any danger from Russian attempts to strong-arm Georgia and other post-Soviet republics, or does it merely find these things distasteful?

Reasonable people can disagree on any of the issues I’ve just outlined, and many people I respect disagree sharply with my own views. But Weiss’ positions, regardless of how correct he thinks they are, are not intuitively obvious: they can be advanced through argument and debate but one cannot simply wave ones hands and airily assume that the United States needs to intervene everywhere and that occasional Russian opposition to this interventionism is proof of their base hostility and of the failure of the reset.

Indeed, if you look at the issues that Weiss blames for the reset’s failure they are impossible to square with his contention that:

“The hard truth is that the reset was doomed from the beginning by Russia’s increasingly autocratic political system.”

Why would a more democratic Russiasupport a USeffort to overthrow Assad? Why would a more democratic Russiasupport a USwar with Iran? Why would a more democratic Russiastop trying to influence the “near abroad?” Weiss’ contentions on the likely course of a “democratic” Russian foreign policy could be true. Authoritarian governments can and have distorted their foreign policies in fundamentally anti-democratic ways (e.g. Egypt).  There could be polls demonstrating that most Russians strongly dislike the Kremlin’s foreign policy and that they would welcome increased American involvement in the former Soviet space and American armed interventions throughout theMiddle East with open arms. I, however, have never seen nor heard of any such polls because I strongly suspect that they do not exist. Indeed, in contrast to Weiss’ airy assumptions that a more democratic Russian government would automatically be a more  pliant and accommodating one, Turkey’s experience as it democratized over the past 12 odd years would strongly suggest that the relationship between “democracy” and “a foreign policy in line with American needs” is not a straightforward one.

Even more strange than the magical thinking about “democracy” is Weiss’ habit of saying things that would appear to simply not be true. For example:

The men and women who have paid the price for Obama’s gullibility on these points are the beaten-down Russian dissidents, whose fate used to matter to the United States. Even as they have begun the hard work of constructing a domestic opposition movement, they have been denied even token support by the White House.

Russian dissidents have been fighting against Putin since he first came to power. In what possible sense can they be said to be “beginning” the construction of an opposition movement? They’ve been doing this for over a decade and they’ve failed at doing so. That doesn’t mean they’ll always fail, or that their failure is fated, but pretending that the Russian opposition came into existence sometime since Barack Obama‘s election is the kind of carelessness and sloppiness  the calls into question all of the articles other points.

Lastly, while arguing in favor of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of LawAccountability Act, Weiss demonstrates why using opinion polls to argue for a preffered policy outcome can be very dangerous:

This legislation would not only impose travel bans and asset freezes against the 60 Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky case, but carries a universal clause that applies to gross human rights violators in any foreign country. This is why an ever-growing number of Russians supports the bill and Putin wholeheartedly opposes it.

Is it actually true that an “ever-growing growing number of Russians” supports the passage of the bill? Well, no. In August of 2011, 44% of Russians were in favor of efforts  in the West “to ban from entry into European countries and the United States figures from the Magnitsky case (i.e. those against whom he gave testimony and those who were involved in his death).” Just the other day Levada released another poll asking Russians how they related to “the proposals being discussed in theUS and in a number of other Western countries to ban entry to Russian officials who participated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.” 36% of respondents related positively or very positively, which would seem to suggest precisely the opposite  of what Weiss is alleging: that momentum for the passage of the act is not growing, but slipping. Is the act still a good idea? I have my doubts. But what is quite clear, what is not a matter of debate, is that there is no “growing” consensus among Russians that it is necessary: polls show that the number has decreased over the past year precisely during the time when discussion of the act has grown more frequent.

The reset is a modest policy that has yielded modest results and a modest improvement in Russian-American ties that, under the confrontational policies of George W. Bush, had decayed to their worst levels since before the end of the Cold War. Weiss argument that the rest is a titanic and crippling failure, and that it should immediately be replaced, strongly suggests that his goal is not regime change in Syria or the isolation of Iran (two things that are going to happen regardless of the Kremlin’s wishes) but confrontation with Russia itself. Why anyone would want a comprehensive confrontation with Russiais utterly beyond me. On some issues even I will agree that it makes perfect sense to “confront” (or “oppose” or “disagree with” or whatever you want to say”) the Russians: once they’re in the WTO I hope and expect that the White House will play hard ball defending American commercial interests. But on other issues, I would argue a much larger number of issues, it makes perfect sense to work with the Russians because while their interests are in many respects different from ours they are not diametrically opposed. In short, Weiss prescription is a prescription for the return of policies that have already been tried and have already failed spectacularly.

* Saudi Arabia, on most objective measures, is actually more domestically repressive thanIran. The ludicrousness of working with a country likeSaudi Arabia to “promote human rights” is impossible to exaggerate. Only marginally less ridiculous is the idea that theUnited States government has a genuine and apolitical interest in promoting human rights.

Doubts Cast on Turkey’s Story of Jet

Doubts Cast on Turkey’s Story of Jet

U.S. Intelligence, Contradicting Ankara, Indicates Aircraft Was Shot Down by Syria in Its Own Airspace, Officials Say


U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria’s account and at odds with Turkey.

The Turkish government, which moved tanks to the Syrian border after the June 22 incident, says the debris fell in Syrian waters, but maintains its fighter was shot down without warning in international airspace. Ankara also has said the jet was hit too far from Syrian territory to have been engaged by an antiaircraft gun.

Shah Deniz Consortium Selects Nabucco, Regardless of Unresolved Turkmen Caspian Issues

[Movement on this issue is circumstantial evidence that major money changed hands under the table, in order to buy all sides onto the same team.  Putin’s next move may determine the issue of war or peace in Central Asia, for the near future.]



(EnergyAsia, June 29 2012, Friday) — The Shah Deniz consortium, led by UK’s BP and Norway’s Statoil, has concluded its evaluation of potential gas export routes towards Southeastern and Central Europe.

In a statement, the consortium operator BP said the Nabucco West project with a route running from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Baumgarten has been selected as the single pipeline option for the potential export of Shah Deniz Stage 2 gas to Central Europe.

Development of the South East Europe Pipeline (SEEP) project, which had been assembled by Shah Deniz partners in collaboration with Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, will cease. This decision was made on the basis of the publicly communicated selection criteria announced last year.

In particular, BP said the greater maturity of Nabucco West gave the consortium confidence that this project could be developed and delivered on the same timeline as Stage 2.

The Shah Deniz Stage 2 project aims to deliver gas from the Caspian Sea to markets in Turkey and Europe, opening up the “Southern Gas Corridor”. The progress made to date allows the consortium to maintain its target for first gas exports from Stage 2 project around the end of 2017.

BP said the consortium will cooperate with the Nabucco West project to optimise its scope, its technical studies and its commercial offer.

Based on the same criteria, in February this year the consortium selected the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the potential route for export of Stage 2 gas to Italy. Since that decision, the Shah Deniz consortium has closely worked with TAP, recently concluding a co-operation agreement with this project.

BP and Statoil each have a 25.5% stake in the consortium developing the Shah Deniz II gas field, which is thought to hold 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas. Their partners include Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR, Russia’s LukOil, NICO, Total SA and TPAO.

BP said the consortium will continue to work with the owners of the two selected pipeline options. It will make a final decision between these projects, and will conclude related gas sales agreements ahead of the final investment decision due in mid-2013.

Shah Deniz II is expected to add 16 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/year) of gas production to the approximately 9 bcm/year from Shah Deniz Stage 1.

The latest development, located 70 km offshore in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea, is expected to include two new bridge-linked production platforms, 26 subsea wells to be drilled with 2 semi-submersible rigs, 500 km of subsea pipelines built at up to 550m of water depth, a 16 bcm/year upgrade for the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), and expansion of the Sangachal Terminal.

Rashid Javanshir, President of the BP Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey Region, said:

“We are delighted to announce the selection of the Nabucco West option, alongside our earlier selection of TAP. 

This represents another important milestone in the development of Shah Deniz Stage 2 and the transportation of gas resources from the Caspian to Europe.

“We are grateful to the governments and companies who have supported the development of both the Nabucco West and SEEP pipeline projects.”

Rovnag Abdullayev, President of SOCAR, said:

“This decision constitutes a significant step towards implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor Strategy which would serve the strategic interest for sustained energy security of European countries as well as Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

“This indicates the growing role of Azerbaijan as an enabler to provide diversified energy resources to European market.”

BP said the consortium will consider building more pipeline capacity to deliver Shah Deniz gas through Turkey and Europe. Any export route selected for export of Shah Deniz Stage 2 gas would need to have the ability to meet all relevant environmental, safety, social, legal and regulatory standards.

Syrian Army Masses Armor Near Turkish Border, Countering Turkish Moves

Syrian army amassing near Turkish border, FSA general claims

ANTAKYA – Reuters

 A Syrian army tank patrols an area in the district of Al-Waar in the flashpoint city of Homs on May 2, 2012. AFP

 A Syrian army tank patrols an area in the district of Al-Waar in the flashpoint city of Homs on May 2, 2012. AFP

A general in the rebel Free Syria Army said today that Syrian government forces had amassed around 170 tanks north of the city Aleppo, near the Turkish border, but there was no independent confirmation of the report.

General Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the Higher Military Council, an association of senior officers who defected from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, said the tanks had assembled at the Infantry School near the village of Musalmieh northeast of the city of Aleppo, 30 kilometers from the Turkish border.

“The tanks are now at the Infantry School. They’re either preparing to move to the border to counter the Turkish deployment or attack the rebellious [Syrian] towns and villages in and around the border zone north of Aleppo,” Sheikh told Reuters by telephone from the border.

He said the tanks were mostly from the 17th Mechanised Division.

Turkey deployed air defense weaponry along its border with Syria yesterday, following Syria’s downing of a Turkish warlplane over the Mediterranean on Friday.

Lavrov: Repetition of Libyan Scenario in Syria Is Catastrophic for Whole Region

Lavrov: Repetition of Libyan Scenario in Syria Is Catastrophic for Whole Region

MOSCOW, (SANA) – Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Thursday said that Russia rejects any foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs, stressing the need for solving the crisis in Syria and restoring stability to it.

In a joint press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Rafiq Abdel Salam in Moscow,  Lavrov regretted targeting Syrian media, stressing the necessity of not stopping the  broadcast of Syrian satellite channels acceding to the calls of some western  and Arab countries.

He said that it is a must to guarantee the freedom of expression and media, pointing out that targeting media became in the nature of some world governments such as the NATO bombing attack on TV center in Belgrade and the television center in Tripoli.

Lavrov warned against the agendas of some TV satellite channels which might turned into serious ideology, adding that several parties are involved in violence in Syria side by side with the armed terrorist groups.

On Geneva meeting, Lavrov stressed that leaking formulas to the media before the meeting is irresponsible stance and irresponsible approach of diplomacy.

Lavrov stressed that there is no draft resolution for Geneva meeting on Syria, indicating that there are proposals to be studied in the preparatory meeting to be held on Friday, underlining that “No agreed Syrian resolutions drafted for Geneva conference.”

Lavrov said that the Syrian people alone have the right to decide the transitional period on the basis of national dialogue and with the participation of the Syrian government and the opposition groups, adding that the international community agreed on these principles since it agreed on the plan of the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.

Lavrov said Russia rejects the imposition of previously-made recommendations on Syria, adding that Geneva meeting aims at supporting Annan’s plan as to create appropriate atmosphere to launch comprehensive national dialogue to solve the crisis in Syria.

The main role of the Gulf parties should be to influence all relevant parties to halt violence in Syria and the withdrawal of governmental forces and the opposition groups from all cities and villages under UN supervision to sit down around the negotiation table, Lavrov said.

Lavrov added that the Syrian people only has the right to determine the system of the rule in their country within the framework of the national dialogue, indicating that this principled vision constituted the basis for Russia’s call for holding Geneva meeting and it suggested the participation of the UN Security Council permanent members and some Arab, regional and European countries.

He said that the list of participants included the main countries and the essential international players, adding that the Geneva meeting aims at reaching a settlement to the crisis despite the stance of some groups and organizations such as the so-called “Friends of Syria” group which invites more than 150 countries to attend their meeting for promotion rather that serious dialogue.

Lavrov said that the U.S. rejection of Iran’s participation in Geneva meeting reflects its doubled-standard policy, underlining that it was a mistake to exclude Iran from the Geneva talks as the meeting represents a chance to unify the stances of key players on the crisis in Syria to end violence and start the political process.

Lavrov underlined that there is no NATO member who desired to repeat the mistaken Libyan scenario in Syria since such intervention will be catastrophic for the whole region, indicating to communications with NATO representatives in this regard.

He stressed that the two countries share the same stance towards preventing the repetition of the Libyan scenario in Syria.

He called for democracy in implementing the principle of the rule of the international law in international relations and the multi-polarization in addition to enhancing the central role of the UN.

Lavrov said that Russia and Tunisia called for enhancing the role of the UN within the framework of this organization, reiterating Russia’s support to the aspirations of the people in the region for better life, stressing that changes should serve the interests of all sides.

The Russian Foreign Minister and his Tunisian counterpart agreed on that the changes should not lead to sectarian conflicts.

Lavrov said the people should determine their destiny without any foreign interference and the country’s sovereignty, independence and the safety of its territories should be respected and these principles can be applied in regard to the crisis in Syria.

He expressed full support to the changes taking place which work towards achieving national agreement and all other changes and reforms that meet the people’s aspirations.

For his part, Tunisian Foreign Minister stressed that the participation of some Arab and Tunisian youths in the crisis in Syria is destructive rather than useful, adding that Tunisia rejects the involvement of Tunisian youths in the Syrian Affair.

He added that Tunisia supports real political reforms in response to the aspirations of the Syrian people in regard to Syria’s priorities away from foreign intervention.

Abdel Salam hailed Russia’s positive and balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause and its commitment to the international legitimacy resolutions, in addition to rejecting settlement.

MOSCOW: the Attack on al-Ikbariya TV was carried out for political considerations

The Russian Foreign Ministry underlined that the attack on Syrian al-Ikhbariya TV has been carried out for political considerations.

“The act is a brutal aggression against those who differ in opinion and who tried to relay the objective image about what is taking place,” Alexander Lukashevich, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman said in a press statement today.  

He added that Moscow has no doubt that this crime had a political background and it was directed not only against persons, but against a media institution.

“Unfortunately that act comes within the list of acts that directly contradict with the principles of the freedom of opinion and publication       

Gatilov: Syrians should Set Conditions for Moving to Political Process

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that the participants in Geneva conference on Syria due to be held on Saturday have to provide the necessary conditions for moving to a political process that the Syrians determine.

Gatilov added on his Twitter account that ”Forming a national unity government in Syria is not possible except through dialogue between the government and the opposition groups.” 

Lavrov Discusses with Annan the International Conference on Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed in a phone call with the UN envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, the international conference on Syria due to be held in Geneva on Saturday.

In a statement on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the two sides highlighted issued related to organizing Geneva conference.

The Russian Foreign Ministry indicate that Lavrov discussed with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, the crisis in Syria. The two sides said they had close stances on the issue.

English Bulletin 

Troop immunity likely to be focus of U.S., Afghanistan deal

[US insistence on obtaining immunity for its Special Forces hunters out to kill more Iraqis screwed Obama’s deal for a permanent presence in Iraq.  Will their demand for unlimited license to hunt Afghans cost them the same price in Afghanistan?]

Troop immunity likely to be focus of U.S., Afghanistan deal

A soldier from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division walks with his weapon to an MRAP while preparing to leave in a convoy inside FOB Joyce in Afghanistan's Kunar Province June 24, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A soldier from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division walks with his weapon to an MRAP while preparing to leave in a convoy inside FOB Joyce in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province June 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
By Missy Ryan and Hamid Shalizi


(Reuters) – U.S. and Afghan officials are likely to tussle over legal protections for American soldiers inAfghanistan when they begin negotiations on a security agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain beyond 2014.

Afghan officials say they expect the deal with the United States to include the number of U.S. troops permitted to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014; the number of bases where troops will be located, and who will control them; what those troops can and can’t do and legal immunities for those soldiers.

Talks on the security agreement, which have not begun, follow the conclusion of another bilateral deal outlining the two countries’ future ties, which U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed in Kabul in May.

This time, negotiators must tackle some of the most sensitive issues that were ultimately excluded from the first deal, even as many Afghans, and Karzai himself, chafe against a foreign troop presence that has lasted more than a decade.

If such talks failed, the United States would be forced to pull out a force now numbering 90,000 by the end of 2014, when NATO nations are due to remove most troops, despite few signs that a resilient Taliban insurgency will soon die out.

Aimal Faizi, chief spokesman for Karzai, said the agreement, which is supposed to be finished by next May, would focus on the “nature, scope and obligations” of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan after 2014.

“Both sides will start talking based on these three areas,” Faizi told Reuters.

It’s not known how many U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan will stay behind after the end of 2014.

The remaining force could include several tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers, likely focusing on special forces operations targeting al Qaeda and other militants, advising Afghanistan’s inexperienced military, and retain the ability to launch U.S. drones that target militants in neighboring Pakistan.

“The security agreement will touch upon the most contentious issues that have had times strained the relationship between the two countries – so I expect that these will take a very long time,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank.

Long-standing Afghan demands to subject foreign soldiers to local law may be the main stumbling block for negotiations.


Whether, and when, a U.S. soldier might be tried in a local court was perhaps the most contentious issue when the United States hammered out a similar deal in 2008 with Iraq. Ultimately, the deal allowed Iraq to try U.S. soldiers for “grave” crimes committed off-duty, and off base.

As in Iraq, foremost in the mind of Afghan negotiators will likely be past missteps or abuse by American soldiers, along with years of civilian deaths that have occurred during NATO military operations.

A series of scandals involving American soldiers this year culminated in March when a U.S. staff sergeant is alleged to have walked off his base and shot at least 16 villagers in their homes.

The soldier accused in that case, Robert Bales, was whisked out of Afghanistan and is facing military trial in the United States.

Afghans also demanded that U.S. soldiers who burned copies of the Muslim holy book on a NATO base face local trial. But U.S. officials have indicated they may face only administrative discipline within the U.S. military.

A current U.S. troop agreement with Afghanistan, which has been in force since 2003, gives U.S. military personnel protection from prosecution in Afghan courts in most cases.

Yet Karzai, who critics see as bowing to Western interests, may be keen to be seen to assert Afghan sovereignty by taking a harder line in those negotiations.

At the same time, Katulis said, “the Afghan government’s negotiating stance will be more limited than what we saw in Iraq last year because the Afghan government is much more dependent on external sources of support”.

There is always the possibility that Afghanistan could ultimately rebuff the U.S. bid to secure its future troop base in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if the two countries can’t hammer out a deal on troop immunity, or for other reasons.

Last year, U.S. officials abandoned talks for a deal that would have allowed some U.S. soldiers to remain in Iraq beyond the expiration of the two countries’ security pact.

That is seen as far less likely in Afghanistan given the country’s reliance on outside military power and the threat from the Taliban.

(Editing by Michael Georgy and Robert Birsel)

More Soldier-On-Soldier Action At Ft. Bragg

[SEE:  It is this “Warrior Mentality” Nonsense That Is Creating the Monsters]

Army investigators work the scene of a fatal shooting Thursday. A soldier with the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade was shot and killed during a safety briefing.  Staff photo by Drew Brooks

One soldier killed, two injured in shooting on Fort Bragg

By Drew Brooks
Staff writer

A Fort Bragg soldier shot and killed another soldier during a unit safety briefing on post Thursday afternoon, then shot and wounded himself, officials said.

Both soldiers were assigned to the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. A third soldier in the unit suffered a minor injury.

None of the soldiers’ identities have been released by Fort Bragg authorities.

The shooting happened around 3:30 p.m. during a briefing ahead of the long weekend for soldiers, officials said. It is unclear how many shots were fired.

Fort Bragg spokesman Col. Kevin Arata said he did not know the specific nature of the injuries of the two surviving soldiers, but said the shooter was alive and in custody.

A senior U.S. defense official told NBC News that the soldier killed was a battalion commander. Arata wouldn’t confirm the report but did say the brigade’s commander was not harmed.

“This is a tragedy for our community. We don’t yet know the reasons for the shooting, but are working with the unit and the affected families to help them through this difficult period,” Arata said. “Our prayers are with those who have been affected by this terrible incident.”

The killing is believed to be the first shooting murder on Fort Bragg in more than 15 years, when Sgt. William J. Kreutzer Jr. opened fire on his brigade at Towle Stadium. But the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade lost another soldier about three months ago when he was shot and killed in Fayetteville.

Thursday’s shooting was in a field next to the Bastogne Gables neighborhood on Fort Bragg. The area is in Fort Bragg’s historic district, several blocks from Macomb Street.

The field, often used for formations by nearby units, is flanked by buildings used by the 525th and the 16th Military Police Brigade.

Hours after the shooting, military police and agents from Army Criminal Investigation Command remained on the scene, which centered on the area around a small wooden stage.

Nearby intersections in the area of Letterman and Armistead streets remained blocked Thursday evening.

The 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade has several subordinate battalions, including the 319th Military Intelligence Battalion, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, the 1st Squadron of the 38th Cavalry Regiment and the 525 Brigade Support Battalion.

Safety briefings are common on Fort Bragg and typically take place before weekends or holidays to remind soldiers to be safe and use caution.

Fort Bragg soldiers have a training holiday today and do not report back for duty until Tuesday.

It is unclear what, if anything, was the motive for the attack.

The Army has been confronting a surge of suicides within the military, officials have said.

Pentagon statistics obtained by The Associated Press show that suicides have spiked this year to roughly one a day, higher than the rate of combat deaths. About half of those turning weapons on themselves have no history of deployment.

Thursday’s killing came three months after the murder of Sgt. Kevin Moseby in Fayetteville. Moseby, who had been with the Special Troops Battalion, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade since January 2010, was shot at his home in March.

Another soldier, Duane Brown Jr. of Sanford, was charged in that killing.

While several non-shooting murders have occurred on Fort Bragg in recent years, officials said it is very rare to have a soldier shot and killed on the military installation.

In October 1995, Kreutzer shot and killed Maj. Stephen Mark Badger and wounded 18 other soldiers. Kreutzer is serving a life sentence at a military prison in Kansas.

Staff writer Drew Brooks can be reached at or 486-3567.

Karimov Takes Uzbekistan Out of CSTO, Clearing Path for US Base

[SEE:  CSTO talks tough on NATO]

 “The leaders of the CSTO agreed that the deployment of foreign bases in their territory is only possible with the consent of all CSTO partners.”

Uzbekistan Without CSTO: Expected but Risky

Uzbekistan Without CSTO: Expected but Risky

Photo: RIA Novosti

Uzbekistan suspends its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). On June 28th official Tashkent sent a relevant note to the CSTO Secretariat.

The collective security treaty was signed on May 15th, 1992. On December 2nd, 2004, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on granting the CSTO an observer status in the UN General Assembly. The CSTO unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This agreement provides for the right of any CSTO member to opt out of the organization at any time.

Tashkent has already used its right: in 1999 it refused to extend the treaty but in August of 1999 it restored its CSTO membership. In 2009 Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov refused to sign the agreement on the Collective Forces of Operative Reaction (CFOR) within the CSTO treaty and brought cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization to a minimum. Possibly, Russia’s plans to open a military base in Kyrgyzstan that Uzbekistan was strongly against, served as a reason. There are rather strained relations between Bishkek and Tashkent, which is explained by the existence of 58 disputable areas on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. In addition to this, the inter-ethnic clashes that occurred in the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 cooled the relations between the two countries even more.

Russian experts are not surprised at the suspension of Uzbekistan’s CSTO membership. And still, Tashkent has made a very risky step, an expert with the Institute of the CIS States, Andrei Grozin says. “Tashkent’s foreign policy is zigzagging. It undergoes changes only once in 2 or 3 years. Tashkent wants to win the love of NATO that is interested in solving tasks concerning the cuts of the Uzbek contingent in Afghanistan. Tashkent wants to become the key link in the future troop withdrawal and play the role of the main spring board through which the transshipment of cargoes to today’s Afghanistan’s western border will be carried out”, Grozin stressed.

However, with due regard for the current situation in Central Asian countries which is very difficult, they won’t do without security guarantees on the part of their neighbours. Neither the USA nor NATO wants to give such guarantees to Uzbekistan – and none of them can do that. Tashkent has time to think everything over. Taking into account the choices the Uzbek authorities make from time to time, Uzbekistan may soon again find itself on the list of CSTO members.

Awareness of the Impending War On Pakistan Is Increasing

[I’ve been warning about the planned attack upon Pakistan for several years.  Maybe if enough of us take-up the chorus it will be heard by the American people before they learn about it after the fact on our controlled national media )SEE:  Waging War Upon Our Friends ;  Dissecting the Anti-Pakistan Psyop ).]]

“Bring ’em on!” – US tells Pakistan

Is the United States starting a low-intensity war against Pakistan? The signs look ominous. Washington’s wrath will only increase in the coming months.
“Bring ’em on!” – US tells Pakistan

Parvez Kayani, the current Chief of the Pakistan Army

Is the United States starting a low-intensity war against Pakistan? The signs look ominous. The relentless drone attacks through the recent months are destabilizing Pakistan’s tribal areas, especially the areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan. The US’ excuse is that the drones are hunting down the militants belonging to the so-called Haqqani group. But they are causing a lot of civilian casualties so much so that the United Nations officials begin to wonder if these wanton killings would constitute ‘war crimes’.

Indeed, the destruction caused by the drones is fuelling antagonism in the minds of the people who live in the tribal areas. They blame their government in Islamabad for doing nothing to protect them. On its part, Pakistan government keeps protesting to the US about the violation of its territorial integrity but the US ignores the demarches and continues with the drone attacks.

The US would know that the drone attacks do not provide the conducive setting for a normalization of the US-Pakistan relationship. Yet, it is not prepared to give up the drone attacks. There seems to a game plan to systematically destabilize the Waziristan area and to provoke the Pakistani military leadership.

Meanwhile, there has been a concerted attack by assorted militants of dubious backgrounds on Pakistani troops from across the border in Afghanistan. Exactly who they are or who are their mentors no one knows. In a cross-border strike on Monday, the militants used extremely brutal method to behead Pakistani soldiers. Evidently, they were making a point – showing their thumbs up at the Pakistani military leadership.

To add to the tensions, for the first time, the militants have publicly admitted that they do enjoy ‘safe haven’ on Afghan soil. This is something Pakistan has hinted at in recent period but it is now coming into the open. Again, they are taunting the Pakistani military leadership. The former US President George W. Bush would say, “Bring ‘em on!”

Coinciding with these developments, US’ commander in Afghanistan John Allen undertakes a visit to the Pakistani Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, ostensibly for the purpose of discussing the reopening of the NATO’s supply routes through Pakistan. But his real intention would have been to fathom the mood of the generals in Rawalpindi following these provocations. He probably wished to reinforce the signal to the Pakistani side that the US might hit back at Pakistan with cross-border terrorism unless Pakistan cracked down on the Haqqani group. Allen did this nicely and diplomatically – but unambiguously – by proposing ‘joint operations’ by the US and Pakistan forces along the border region.

Allen met the Pakistani army chief Parvez Kayani in a one-on-one meeting. Kayani seems to have protested about the safe havens available for the militants on Afghan soil and called on the US-led coalitiontroops in Afghanistan to stop “miscreant attacks on Pakistani border posts.”

This is going to be a cat-and-mouse game. Pakistan is hunkering down and the US is losing patience. The decision in Washington seems to be to carry the war into Pakistani territory and incrementally inflict such unbearable losses that Pakistan finds it impossible to defy the US’ regional strategies.

Quite obviously, the US has concluded it has no alternatives but to step up the pressure and escalate tensions in a calibrated way. The US has been taken by surprise at Pakistan’s ‘strategic defiance’. The fact of the matter is that the present directions of Pakistani foreign policy hold the serious threat of undermining the US’ regional strategies with regard to permanent military presence in Central Asia, US’ containment strategy toward China (and Russia), projection of the NATO as a global security organization and of course the so-called New Silk Road Initiative.

The possibility that with Russian and/or Chinese participation, Pakistan might proceed with the Iran gas pipeline project infuriates the US to no end. Pakistan’s manifest enthusiasm for Russia’s participation in the TAPI [Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India] gas pipeline project rubbishes the US’ expectations that American companies could secure lucrative energy contracts via involvement in the project. The US apprehends that during the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan in September, the two countries may begin a qualitatively new level of relationship with major projects in the energy sector.

If that happens, the US’ containment strategy toward Iran also begins to unravel.

In sum, the US’ patience is wearing thin. The common wisdom in the international community, historically speaking, has been that the Pakistani elites with their comprador mentality might say a few hot words now and then but would ultimately be loyal foot soldiers of the US agenda. The basis of this supposition is that ultimately the class interests of the Pakistani elites would prevail as the crucial determinant of statecraft. Of course, the US has had to pick up the tab for the services rendered by Pakistan but that was only to be expected.

The US establishment has been attuned to this paradigm characteristic of the cold-war era. That is why the US establishment is shocked to see that the Pakistani elites (military leadership, in particular) are no longer what they were supposed to be – Washington’s hirelings serving the US’ global agenda.

Washington’s wrath will only increase in the coming months. We are witnessing the commencement of a US-inspired low-intensity war against Pakistan being waged by obscure militant groups based in ‘safe havens’ inside Afghanistan. Call it by whatever name one likes, but the project aims at breaking Pakistan’s strategic autonomy.

To be sure, Pakistan comprehends what is going on. But what are its policy options? ‘Hot pursuit’ across the border into Afghanistan across formidable terrain may seem an option. But it isn’t an option. It may turn out to be a trap, as the US may also choose the precedent and send its own troops into Pakistan. Carefully planted media leaks recently revealed that the thought of cross-border attacks on Afghanistan by US troops did cross the American mind more than once in the past. Suffice to say, Allen’s proposal to Kayani on ‘joint operations’ is a double-edged sword.

Yair Klein Reveals That He Was “Asked by the Colombian government to help train FARC.”

Yair Klein Israeli mercenary. Photo Week







[The old master trainer of mercenaries and terrorists is threatening to do the one thing which no other source has ever done, reveal that he trained both sides of an American limited war effort in Colombia, and promised to provide details of that era.  This is mind-blowing stuff…..think about it,…..the man worked for the Israeli government, to carry-out secret American military and drug control policy, with the full consent of the Colombian host government.  Klein is validating every known conspiracy theory about the secret S. American drug war, especially those speculating about CIA drug-running.  More importantly to us today, is that Yair is validating the most ludicrous conspiracy theory imaginable (the one that has kept me searching for proof), that the CIA trains and finances all major terrorist operations in secret, in order to justify the open creation of paramilitary counter-forces (death squads), such as the dreaded AUC in Colombia, which was also trained by Mr. Klein and his British and American associates.  

This is an identical set-up to that now being employed from Pakistan to the Middle East, as well as in Africa…the Pentagon/CIA train both the terrorist armies (a.k.a., “al-Qaeda”) and the Special Operations military forces who fight against them.  It is no coincidence that Special Forces are the units which train together on the international level, as well as the primary motivational force within the US Military.  According to popular doctrine, all military forces should be trained by “SpecOps.”  

Yair Klein could never reveal such geostrategic secrets and survive the telling, but maybe he is the kind of guy who doesn’t give a shit, or possibly a real “jedi warrior” type who fights for honor or the cause of justice in this world.  Until Klein, or someone like him, blows the whistle on the whole stinking mess, researchers like me will continue to search for someone, or something which proves incontrovertibly, that the United States government is the world’s greatest source of terrorism.]

Yair Klein threatens to blow whistle on Colombian gov’t


“What I have on these officials is fantastic,” Klein says; Justice Ministry says it does not plan to take any action in former IDF officer’s case.

Illustrative photoPhoto: Courtesy

A Justice Ministry spokesman said Sunday that the ministry does not anticipate having to take any action in the case of former IDF Lt.-Col. Yair Klein, who returned from Russia over the weekend after more than three years in prison.

In 2001, Klein was tried in absentia by the Supreme Tribunal of the Manzales district of Colombia and sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison on charges of training illegal paramilitary groups. The Colombian government issued a warrant for his arrest with Interpol, and he was detained during a visit to Russia in August 2007.

The Colombian government asked Russia to extradite Klein. The government agreed to do so and the Russian courts, in a series of rulings, upheld the decision despite appeals by Klein’s lawyers, including his Israeli attorney, Mordechai Tzivin.

Tzivin appealed the final decision of the Russian Supreme Court in May 2008 to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that Russia had not taken into account the poor state of human rights in Colombia at the time, as well as a threat by former Colombian vice president Francisco Santos, that Klein would “rot in jail” after his return to Colombia.

The human rights court, in April of this year, forbade Russia from extraditing Klein to Colombia. Russia appealed the decision, but the appeal was denied last month.

On Sunday, in a telephone conversation with The Jerusalem Post, Klein said his entire relationship with Colombia was approved by the Israeli and Colombian governments.

Klein said that in 1988 he was sent by the Israeli Defense Ministry to help protect the organization of banana growers in Colombia at the request of the Colombian government.

Before he had time to take action, he said, the organization was destroyed. He told the Post that in the meantime, however, he was asked

by the Colombian government

to help train FARC,

the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Klein indicated that there was a conspiracy involving senior government officials who were cooperating with FARC. He also claimed that FARC fought against the drug cartels in Colombia.

Klein told the Post that if the Colombian government persisted in its efforts to force him to return to Columbia, he would blow the whistle on officials in the current and previous Columbian governments.

“What I have on these officials is fantastic,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tzivin said that for the past month, ever since the European Court of Human Rights prohibited Russia from extraditing Klein, the public, the media and the government in Colombia have been preoccupied with what illegal activities Klein might divulge about Colombian political and military leaders.

Presumably in an effort to persuade the Colombian government to drop the affair, Tzivin told the Post, “My client has information that could cause political shockwaves in the senior echelons of the current and previous Colombian governments.

If exposed, the information could lead to dismissals in the government and the arrest of past and present political and military figures.

“I recommended to my client not to publish the information so as not to cause chaos, since Colombia is now significantly improving the state of human rights in the country.”

Red Cross Triage Seminar In Tajikistan Prepares Surgeons for Mass Casualties

[What does the International Committee of the Red Cross know that it should be sharing with the rest of us?  Tajikistan is being set-up to be the scene of the first interstate war in Central Asia and the countdown has begun (SEE:  New mini-Cold War Heating-Up In Southern Central Asia?).]

Tajikistan: surgeons discuss weapon wounds and management of mass casualties

DUSHANBE, June 28, 2012, Asia-Plus – On Thursday June 28, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launched a three-day seminar bringing together 37 surgeons-practitioners from hospitals located in the areas potentially prone to emergency situations or contaminated by mines and unexploded ordnances (UXO), the ICRC Office in Tajikistan reported.

Surgeons from Khatlon and Sughd provinces, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region and Districts Subordinate to the Center representing Tajik Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, Committee for Emergency Situations, Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Committee for National Security are taking part in the event.

The seminar is facilitated by two ICRC senior surgeons, who between them have 25 years of experience in war and emergency surgery, and will serve as a platform for exchanging experiences and best practices.  It will be also an occasion for Tajikistan’s Red Crescent Society (RCS) to share its experience of providing fist aid in emergencies.

“This seminar will focus on surgery for people injured by weapons, together with the management of mass casualties,” explained Valery Sasin, ICRC senior surgeon.  “Surgeons need to be well-prepared to respond to all kinds of emergencies, through familiarity with tried and tested techniques that can save lives and limit the long-term consequences of injuries.  The ICRC has gained international recognition in the surgical management of emergency-related trauma and seeks to share this knowledge with medical circles all over the world.”

This event, organized by the ICRC with the support of the Ministry of Health follows a previous seminar, held in 2011, which brought together 50 surgeons from different Tajik ministries and agencies.  This year, three surgeons from Kazakhstan have joined their Tajik colleagues.

The ICRC has been working in Tajikistan since 1992 and carried out a major humanitarian operation during the 1992-1997 civil war.  More recently, the organization has supported the mine risk education program and other activities of the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan.  In 2012, the ICRC has launched a project to provide micro-economic grants to most vulnerable mine victims and their families.  The ICRC, through its Special Fund for Disabled, also supports the Dushanbe orthopedic centre, which provides physical rehabilitation services for mine victims and other disabled people.  In addition, the organization promotes international humanitarian law in the country.

US DEA Manipulating Mexican Drug War To Influence Sunday’s Presidential Election

[As this latest story from the Mexican drug wars emerges, we begin to see the complex nature of the grand psyop which is being set-up for us there.  The latest chapter in the story involves two young men who were arrested by Mexican military authorities, based on US DEA directives.  The charges against them were that they were allegedly to be the sons of “El Chapo” Guzman, who is called “the world’s most powerful drug lord” by the CIA psy-warriors.   These men, who have been tied to the notorious drug baron by the compromised American media are not who they have been alleged to be.  They are not related to Guzman and therefore innocent of the charges leveled  against them by the USDEA.  After the mistake was revealed by Beltran’s lawyers, the bizarre twist unfolded next, that two DEA agents (both blonde, one balding) tried to make a deal with the men to take the rap, at least until the election (Mexico election next week).  Now it is more than covering-up a clerical error, it is a conspiracy to subvert the Mexican justice system, in addition to subverting our own system, in order to advance the political ambitions of the PAN presidential candidateJosefina Vázquez Mota, who the NED (CIA)-funded candidate in this election and is considered to be the most likely presidential candidate to advance the DEA’s drug war (More on this continues below, after Guzman article).  Vasquez Mota is a classic “false flag” operation, since she is using CIA money to campaign against her opponent by revealing the previous administration’s submission to the directives of the American International Republican Institute (IRI), run by Sen. John McCain and PRI’s participation in a CIA spy program, run by a private contractor (SEE: Peña Nieto CIA).   The intelligence operation was intended to gauge whether or not the PRI is willing to continue the ‘war Gringo'” (the American drug war), in anticipation of  Mexico’s scheduled “transition ‘from the right” to full-blown American neo-liberalism.  

This disgraceful episode is a clear-cut case of the US Drug Enforcement Administration interfering in Mexico’s legal and electoral processes.]

Oops! Mexican police reveal man paraded as son of drugs baron Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is actually a CAR SALESMAN

Kevin Beltran Rios (blue shirt) and Felix Beltran Leon (red shirt): Leon insists he is a car salesman from western Jalisco state who has no relationship to Guzman

Kevin Beltran Rios (blue shirt) and Felix Beltran Leon (red shirt): Leon insists he is a car salesman from western Jalisco state who has no relationship to Guzman

Marina stops in Texas the son of El Chapo Guzman

The Economist

Map: U.S.

Elements of Marine arrested in a raid in Zapopan Jalisco, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, alleged son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Navy confirmed.

Incommunicado false “Chapito” and threatened his lawyers

Posted by koneocho
Veronica Guerrero, defense attorney Leon Felix Beltran, whom the Navy Department and the DEA confused with the son of Joaquin “El Chapo Guzman”, reported that has been threatened to take the case, and said the arrest of his client has electoral purposes.
In a radio interview, the trial revealed even that is thinking of leaving the defense of Leon Beltran, whose presentation was publicized by the Semar as a major blow against organized crime, especially the “Sinaloa Cartel” that commands “El Chapo” Guzman. Less than 24 hours after the federal government had to accept their mistake: the detainee was not the son of the boss.
The lawyer also alleged that the federal government held incommunicado Beltran Leon, despite already confirmed that he is the son of “El Chapo”. He explained that since last Thursday have prevented him from advising his client.
This lack of communication, the lawyer said, has prevented the defense to know what crimes are arrested. Although he admitted that one of the lawyers could meet with the detainee, I can not provide legal assistance or allowed access to the file.
Although no details of the bullying, he said that is in a delicate situation.
In the morning, said Beltran had a meeting with Leon in the Office of Special Investigations into Organized Crime (OFDI) could not be performed. “We could not, because we were told that there was no staff to make the presentation.”
He said that tomorrow will see the mother and wife who are the only ones that have been able to talk to Felix Beltran Leon.
Announced that it filed a complaint with the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) for the arbitrary detention of Beltran Leon, lack of communication and access to the detainee.
Till next Wednesday when the defense seek to meet with the detainee facilities SIEDO, “We are in fear of what else is making.”
He said considering that Leon Beltran capture and subsequent presentation to the media, had intended to bolster the candidacy of Josefina Vazquez Mota, the PAN candidate for President of the Republic.
More details
Arrested by the Navy is not the son of El Chapo. Photo: Rafael River
Heriberto Rangel Juan Mendez, who heads the defense of Felix Beltran Rios, the young man who mistook the Navy with Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, “El Gordo”, son of the leader of the “Sinaloa Cartel” Joaquin “El Chapo”   Guzman, said that while his client remains in solitary confinement, his legal team began receiving threats not to proceed with the case.
The attorney said the lawyer Veronica Guerrero received calls on his cell phone to warn: “Keep fucking and cock will enforce.”
“I mean, what makes us nervous, I say unfortunately, we discovered the farce of the Navy and the DEA, and that has us worried …” she told   MILLENNIUM.
Minutes earlier, in an interview with Ciro Gomez Leyva   Evening Formula, Ms. Veronica Guerrero addressed the issue of threats, and who said they fear that you are fabricating evidence to his client and the middle brother, Kevin Daniel Beltran Rios.
“Even us, as a defense, we have received threats. The situation is becoming a bit more delicate but the truth we will move forward. We are currently in discussions with the family, because both the lawyer Heriberto and his servant are pondering the option that maybe we withdraw from the defense, “he said.
About the kind of intimidation that has received only indicated that the litigant have called his mobile phone during the early morning, why he decided to turn it off, but did not elaborate more about it.
“This phone even today (Monday) I have tried to switch them off as much as possible, precisely to avoid such things. But we must, unfortunately is the only phone number I count right now, “he said.
He said that the only people who have been able to briefly talk with Felix Beltran, who remains rooted, like his brother, his mother and wife were also attorney Heriberto.
“We have not had access to the file, and just going out of the National Commission on Human Rights because it also brought a complaint,” he said.
Heriberto Rangel reported that Monday was quoted by the federal prosecutor assigned to the Office of Special Investigations into Organized Crime (OFDI) to take the oath of office as a lawyer for the two young people and meet the preliminary investigation, but, upon arrival said no one was there.
“Everyone (authorities) deployed, to seek, scratching, to see how incriminating these guys,” he said.
He noted that the work of his team has “walked the calluses to corporations that are very strong,” but all he has done is to show the truth of what happened.
“We always said, if we had gone straight to the SIEDO to display the voter registration and licensing of this guy (Felix), then the better it would have eaten and had never taken,” he said.
He recalled that the elements of the Navy stormed the home of young people without a warrant, and took official documentation, including passport Felix Beltran.
“Our greatest fear is that right now they have it there (in the Federal Research Centre), which will require touch guns. That’s our biggest fear. He (Felix) told me that the weapons were not there (at home) and who has never touched, “said the lawyer.
(With information from and

Josefina Vazquez Mota received funding from a “front organization” of the CIA

The journalist Manu Dornbierer published information in its column in the newspaper Por Esto! , information that reveals the funding they received Josefina Vazquez Mota of the CIA by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is one of its front organizations . The NED was created in 1982 to carry out covert CIA actions by providing advice and financial support to unions, NGOs and political parties. Its purpose is to enforce (for good or ill) the interests of the United States. If you want more information about the NED I recommend  this article . For now we Dornbierer he writes:

But the PAN and Vázquez Mota have other tricks to gain power and money, serving to neoliberalism. Consider this information: “ In 2000 the International Republican Institute received from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED that financed Sergio Aguayo) $ 270.407 to mark the transition ‘from the right’ to the political change in Mexico. The beneficiary of these funds is the Mexican NGO ANCIFEM that went to ‘encourage the participation of women in the Mexican electoral process’ . This organization has now ACTION PROGRAM: Election Observation.Featured ANCIFEM members are Josefina Vazquez Mota (political coordinator) and Ana Teresa Aranda, among others. Similar courses were used as instructional supporters of Mr. Yushchenko (Ukraine presidents) to ‘report’ or ‘simulate’ electoral fraud in case of defeat. These complex networks of international relations not only have the same modus operandi but claim a certain procedure of the beneficiary. National Democratic Institute also maintains programs with Mexican political parties. “

The candidate was now a member of the leadership of the women’s association ANCIFEM PAN, the organization “NGO” received money from the CIA, through an agency for the development of democracy , with the intention of promoting a political shift to the right in 2000. Also, remember that Hillary Clinton said in July 2011, as always respectful of the sovereignty of the American countries, which in Mexico “The PRI would win only” over my death body “(over my dead body), but after Washington organized an operation of “damage control” with Peña Nieto, trying to see if the PRI is willing to continue the “war Gringo” (El Universal). Meanwhile, Chepina and declared his love for García Luna, ergo Hillary Clinton and her clan. Is that they are women, they say, and both pro-drug war.

Activity in Mexico of the International Republican Institute (IRI), which received NED funds to be allocated to the ANCIFEM, is documented in a note of El Universal November 2, 1999 from which I extract the following:

The IRI was one among other international organizations with greater representation in the legislative elections of 1997, sent in 16 states and a close linkage with the National Women’s Civic (Ancifem) . The IRI was presided over recent years by Senator John McCain , who represents Arizona and has special interests in Mexico.

New poppy blight poised to boost opium price: U.N.

[If you had possession of several years worth of surplus opium stashed from Afghanistan’s constant overproduction, then a blight would be the greatest gift in the world.]

New poppy blight poised to boost opium price: U.N.

Afghan farmers work at a poppy field in Jalalabad province

Afghan farmers work at a poppy field in Jalalabad province (Parwiz Parwiz Reuters, REUTERS / May 5, 2012)

Michael Shields
VIENNA (Reuters) – A fresh blight is poised to hit Afghanistan’s poppy fields this year, driving up opium prices and threatening to fuel a shift to potentially lethal heroin substitutes like “krokodil”, the U.N. drugs watchdog said on Tuesday.Plant diseases destroyed nearly half the 2010 opium harvest in Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer, but output there rebounded 61 percent last year, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its 2012 World Drug Report.

That helped put global opium production at 7,000 metric tons (7716.2 tons) in 2011, still more than a fifth below the 2007 peak.

“We may anticipate that this year there will be another plant disease – maybe not to the same scale as 2010 – but (it) still may affect, especially in the southern part of Afghanistan, poppy cultivation,” UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said.

“This means that the production of opium may not increase or may even decrease, but at the same time definitely it would lead to an increase in prices for the next year. That is something we need to address very seriously.”

The UNODC report cited indications that shortages had encouraged users in some countries to replace heroin with other substances such as desomorphine – whose street name is krokodil – acetylated opium, and synthetic narcotics.

Krokodil is a crude, codeine-based drug that users inject, risking serious health problems as it attacks body tissue.

“It is a powerful drug which can kill people in just two months, in a few weeks,” Fedotov said.

It was hard to gauge what impact the 2010 crop failure in Afghanistan had on major markets, the report said, but drug seizures fell in most countries getting Afghan opiates. Some European countries, including Britain and Russia, saw heroin droughts.

Opiate prices in Europe and the Americas had not changed much since 2009, officials said, but farm-gate prices in Afghanistan and number-two producer Myanmar kept rising in 2010 and 2011. A kilo of opium costs around $200-$250 in Afghanistan.

Rising prices at times of increasing output could reflect under-reported demand from Asia and Africa, a growing market for raw opium not made into heroin, a parallel market for morphine or speculation on local markets, the report said.

Drug syndicates also tended to stockpile opium to be able to smooth out supply fluctuations, UNODC officials said.


The 2012 report showed overall use of illicit drugs seems to have stabilized but was on the rise in several developing countries, especially those along trafficking routes.

Fedotov cited as an example growing consumption of cocaine in West Africa, now a transit route for shipping Latin American supplies to Europe, increasingly from Bolivia and Peru as output in Colombia – mainly bound for North America – declines.

Cannabis remained the world’s most popular illicit drug, with between 119 million and 224 million established users worldwide, the report said.

That was followed by amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), the use of which was largely stable, although methamphetamine and ecstasy appeared to be on the rise.

Seizures of methamphetamine more than doubled in 2010 from 2008 due to big hauls in central America and Asia. Ecstasy pill seizures more than doubled in Europe from 2009 to 2010, and the drug’s use seemed to be rising in the United States and Oceania.

The report stressed the health and security threats illicit drugs posed, renewing UNODC’s call for an integrated approach to reducing both supply and demand.

“Heroin, cocaine and other drugs continue to kill around 200,000 people a year, shattering families and bringing misery to thousands of other people, insecurity and the spread of HIV,” Fedotov said.

Around 230 million people, roughly five percent of the world’s adult population, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010. Around 27 million, or 0.6 percent of adults, are problem drug users, mainly of heroin and cocaine.

By contrast, surveys have shown 42 percent of adults drink alcohol and a quarter use tobacco.

Fedotov said his agency was looking into reports that Uruguay’s government planned to legalize the marijuana market as part of a drive to stop rising crime.

“If these reports are confirmed, of course it will be a disappointing development,” he told reporters, citing international conventions against such a step.

“Cannabis is not so innocent as some people prefer to describe (it),” he said, noting its users faced irreversible physiological changes and often moved on to harder drugs.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Uzbekistan To Finish-Off Russian Internet In Central Asia

[If the Russian mobile/Internet provider gets the boot from Uzbekistan, it will effectively lost its entire Central Asian market, until the advertised return to Turkmenistan, alleged to be sometime in the next couple of months.  This will leave the Virtual Silk Road Internets in the individual countries as the only portals to the outside world.  Sounds like Obama’s and Hillary’s cut-throat diplomats are really doing their stuff in C. A.  The following service map comes from the MTS site.]

MTS’ Central Asian trials extend to Uzbekistan

Clare Nuttall in Almaty
June 26, 2012

Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) is in danger of losing the right to operate on the Uzbek market, after authorities threatened to revoke its licence over poor service, complaints about the company’s use of mobile masts, and a fraud probe. The fight over the licence is just the latest trial for the company in Central Asia.

According to reports in the Uzbek press, the State Communications Inspectorate has said it could strip MTS-Uzbekistan, the country’s largest mobile operator, of its licence after receiving alleged complaints from customers about quality of service. The company is also under fire from officials who say it does not have the necessary authorisation to use 48 of its mobile base stations in Uzbekistan.

MTS-Uzbekistan, which has been active since 2008 and has around 9.5m customers and market share of 38%, is also being investigated on allegations of fraud. Reports say that the company’s former director, Bekhzod Akhmedov, is believed to have fled the country. An audit carried out by the Uzbek prosecutor and tax authorities claims to have uncovered misuse of funds, misappropriation of assets, illegal cash-out of funds and tax evasion,Interfax reports.

An MTS spokesperson told AP that the company sees no reason for the Uzbek authorities to revoke the licence and that it has already submitted documentation for most of the 48 base stations.

“It remains unclear what stands behind the allegations and whether MTS will be able to prevent its licenses from being suspended,” Troika Dialog writes in an analyst note. “We think the company can easily stop using the 48 base stations and not suffer any meaningful negative impact on the services it offers, but the issue, in our view, appears to be bigger than just 48 base stations.”

The pressure on the company comes just six weeks after MTS achieved a breakthrough next door, with the company striking a deal to return to Turkmenistan in May. The Turkmen subsidiary lost its licence in December 2010, but services are due to be restored within the next two to five months following a series of negotiations with Ashgabat. MTS is also facing problems in Kyrgyzstan, where it claims that its majority holding in local operator Bitel, acquired in 2005, has been wrongfully misappropriated.

However, Uzbekistan is a much larger market than either Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan, given that the 29.5m population is the largest in Central Asia. Poor fixed line coverage, with services covering only around 7% of the population, has seen rapid growth in the mobile telecoms market. After a leap in subscriber numbers in 2008, the mobile subscriber base has been growing by around 30% a year, with penetration reaching around 80% in early 2011.

Since MTS entered the market, Uzbekistan has become its third-largest market, accounting for around 4% of consolidated revenues. In 2011, MTS’s EBITDA in Uzbekistan was $231.4m. Troika writes that although the latest news is negative, “given the size of operations in Uzbekistan, the negative impact on MTS’ valuation would only be around 5% under the worst-case scenario of licenses being suspended.”

The Russian mobile operator is hardly alone in its struggles. International companies operating in Uzbekistan have faced numerous problems in recent years, despite insistence from Tashkent that the government wants to promote international investment. Oxus Gold, one of the longest-standing investors, claimed in 2011 that it was being forced out of the Amantaytau Goldfields joint venture by its Uzbek partners. The same year, security forces raided the Turkish-owned Turkuaz shopping centre, beating several of its employees and confiscating goods. A documentary broadcast on Uzbek state television later accused 50 Turkish businesses of promoting the Islamic terrorism.

NATO Continues To Control the Internet In Central Asia

[It is NOT Kazakhstan which is spearheading the future of Internet in Central Asia, it is NATO, and after that, it is the European Union.  The NRENs (national research networks) are a product of CAREN ( Central Asian Research and Educational Network ), which took over the original “Virtual Silk Road” project, NATO’s brainchild.  The whole deal runs on NATO-supplied equipment, under direct control of NATO’ project managers in Germany.]

“As the project comes to an end in June 2010, board members and other participants will discuss the transfer of connectivity in Central Asia on 1 July 2010 to the Central Asian Research and Educational Network (CAREN) project, supported by the European Commission (EC).”NATO SILK board looks at future of computer networks in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Afghanistan

Kazakhstan spearheading future Internet in Central Asia


KazRENA deploys first IPv6 network and regional centre of excellence in Central Asia

Celebrating World IPv6 Launch Day at the beginning of this month, Kazakhstan becomes the first Central Asian country to join the global deployment of the future Internet addressing system, known as IPv6. The growth of the web will now be able to continue unabated, with the new Internet Protocol allowing more users and devices to communicate on the Internet by providing a vastly bigger pool of IP addresses which were about to run out under the predecessor protocol IPv4.

Always at the forefront of innovation, many national research and education networks (NRENs) across the world have acted as early test-beds for the new technology. In Kazakhstan, KazRENA is the first IPv6 compliant NREN in Central Asia, offering global IPv6 connectivity, as well as more reliable web access and ultimately better network performance to thousands of researchers, academics and students.

As an early adopter, KazRENA is acting as a catalyst for IPv6 deployment in other Central Asian countries, served by CAREN, the region’s high-performance broadband Internet for research and education. CAREN facilitates communication, information exchange and collaboration between universities and research centres within Central Asia and provides access to the European and global research community through interconnection to GÉANT, its European counterpart. Operational since July 2010, CAREN currently interconnects scientists and students in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, with Uzbekistan also a candidate country. CAREN is funded by the European Commission and managed by research networking organisation DANTE, in conjunction with NRENs of the countries involved.

KazRENA joined CAREN at the beginning of January 2012 with a 155Mbps connection from Almaty to Frankfurt, Germany, thus bringing the idea of upgrading the Silk Road from an ancient trade route to high-speed data highway closer to reality. “We are very proud to be part of the CAREN community,” said Boris Japarov, Head of KazRENA. “As it is fibre-based, CAREN delivers improved connectivity through a more stable, cost-effective network infrastructure. By recreating the links of the old Silk Road between East and West researchers in Kazakhstan and across the whole region are able to benefit from increased collaboration and can bring their skills and expertise to the global research community.”
Existing and future projects that benefit from CAREN span areas such as environmental monitoring, radio astronomy, telemedicine, e-learning, the digitalisation of cultural heritage, palaeontology and solar cell technology deployment in line with sustainable development policies in Central Asia.

To raise awareness and prepare the local Internet community for the transition to IPv6, in July last year KazRENA held a training workshop at its premises in Almaty which saw the opening of a CISCO-sponsored IPv6 lab; it is set to become a centre of excellence and a catalyst of IPv6 expertise throughout the region offering attendees from universities and other institutions an ideal platform to discuss best practises in the adoption of the new technology.

Far from being solely an academic training site, the lab assists also engineers from telecoms operators, such as Kazakhtelecom, in getting hands-on experience with IPv6 implementation, configuration and usage, which is testament to KazRENA’s commitment to contributing to Internet development in Kazakhstan and throughout Central Asia. “The IPv6 training conducted by KazRENA’s instructor Talgat Nurlybayev provided the required theoretical background and practical skills for future IPv6 deployment at Kazakhtelecom,” said Mariana Alymbaeyva from Kazakhtelecom’s regional direction office in Aktobe. “We highly value KazRENA’s expertise.”

David West, DANTE’s Project Manager for CAREN commented: “It is great to see how the CAREN project is helping develop research and education within Central Asia and with Europe. KazRENA’s playing an important part in the regional project, as its IPv6 leadership illustrates.”

The CAREN project aims to establish a high-capacity regional research and education network in Central Asia. Covering one million students and researchers in the region it underpins regional and international collaboration through links to the pan-European GÉANT network. Funded by the EU and Central Asian National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) the project began on 1 January 2009 with the network going live in July 2010. CAREN currently interconnects scientists and students in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, with Uzbekistan also a candidate country. It is run by international research networking organisation DANTE, in collaboration with the EU and local NRENs. For more information, visit

DANTE is a non-profit organisation, coordinator of large-scale projects co-funded by the European Commission, and working in partnership with European National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) to plan, build and operate advanced networks for research and education. Established in 1993, DANTE has been fundamental to the success of pan-European research and education networking. DANTE has built and operates GÉANT, which provides the data communications infrastructure essential to the success of many research projects in Europe. DANTE is involved in worldwide initiatives to interconnect countries in the other regions to one another and to GÉANT. DANTE currently manages projects focussed on the Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific, sub Saharan Africa and central Asia regions through the EUMEDCONNECT, TEIN, AfricaConnect and CAREN projects respectively. For more information, visit

About KazRENA
Kazakhstan’s NREN, KazRENA, joined CAREN at the beginning of January 2012. Pioneering IPv6 in Kazakhstan, KazRENA has set up an IPv6 training lab set to become a centre of excellence across the region, serving not only the academic, but also the wider Internet community, including government agencies and commercial providers. In May/June 2012 KazRENA conducted a very successful IPv6 training session for technical staff at Kazakhtelecom – the largest ISP in central Asia. For more information, visit

About IPv6
An Internet Protocol or IP address is a number that identifies each sender or receiver of information sent over the internet. The computer industry has been using IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) for these addresses since that protocol was developed. That technology is now reaching its technical limits for supporting unique Internet addresses, due in part to a large amount of growth with mobile devices including: mobile phones, notebook computers and wireless handheld devices. With IPv4 addresses running out this year, the entire Internet industry must adopt a new protocol called, IPv6. With this new protocol, there will be increased address space, which will allow many more devices and users on the Internet. In addition to larger address space, IPv6 offers integrated security, more efficient routing, new configuration options and standardised QoS support. For more information, visit

Helga Spitaler
+44 (0)1223 371 342

Anarchy and terror in Syria

Anarchy and terror in Syria


Given the complexities, Syria's struggle is likely to be prolonged and bloody.

Given the complexities, Syria’s struggle is likely to be prolonged and bloody.

The conflict over regime change in Syria is threatening to balkanise the country.

June 26, 2012:

The year-long battle between the Assad regime and the fragmented opposition seems headed for a new phase of international involvement. On one side, Russia, China and Iran oppose regime change. On the other, the US, the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are for the change.

This confrontation is now sharpening, with more aggressive roles on both sides, threatening to balkanise Syria and turn it into a theatre of bloody conflict. An added element is the increasing role of al Qaeda elements seeking to inflict defeat on both the US and Russia, and gain a foothold in this war-torn country.


The Syrian quagmire has an impact on neighbours such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel.

Turkey supports the pro-Islamic opposition, Syrian National Committee, has set up large refugee camps, but is cautious about the destabilisation of its eastern region with its Kurdish population.

Lebanon is polarised between Sunnis, Shias, Christians and Palestinians groups, with a delicate balance of power, each with its own priorities. It has a porous mountainous border conducive to easy smuggling of weapons and people.

Iraq has its own version of the Shia-Sunni divide, as well as its assertive Kurdish population in the North, and managing its relations with Iran, while still under the influence of the US.

Israel’s main concern is the security situation on the Golan Heights. Under the two Assad regimes, a modus vivendi was in place, with relative peace on the Israeli-Syrian front, though Syria supported anti-Israeli armed operations in Lebanon.

Change or weakening of the Assad regime has both pluses and minuses for Israel, preoccupied with Iran’s nuclearisation and aggressive support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Jordan controls an important transport route for Syria to the South and is the main front for Saudi and Qatari support to the Syrian opposition.


Syria, through its long history, has been a crossroad of various civilisations. The country lies at the intersection of the silk and spice routes, making Damascus and Aleppo important and ancient trading centres. It has been the scene of conquests and regimes of pre-Islamic, Islamic, Crusader, and Ottoman periods, all of which have left their mark on the country.

A secret French-British plan divided the post-Ottoman areas, carving out Lebanon and the district of Antioch from present day Syria. The population has considerable diversity, including Christians, and fringe Shia Islamic sects such as Alawites and Druze. In the 11th century, an Ismaili sect called the Assassins came into being to carry out missions of organised and planned killing of political figures as part of state policy.

Given the complexities of Syria, the struggle for the country is likely to be prolonged and bloody. The opposition is still divided and has no unifying leader. The regime has strong military forces but its support is narrow-based, deriving from the Alawite minority (12 per cent), while increasingly dependent on Russia and China.

The use of military forces and heavy weapons against the opposition has led to large number of civilian casualties, refugees, and human rights abuses. A pro-regime Alawite-dominated armed militia, the Shabbiha, has been killing civilians opposed to the regime. The situation is far more difficult than Libya, where external military intervention could be decisive.


In the situation of stalemate, the regime and the opposition have been seeking more weapons and military support from outside. Arms are being supplied from Russia, ostensibly being delivered as part of earlier contracts.

Russia has beefed up its presence around the coast, especially the deep water port of Tartous, and has supplied air Defence equipment to forestall any attempts by the West to set up no-fly zones. The opposition has been receiving heavier weapons from its external supporters.

The increasing violence has led the UN to suspend its observer mission, and the Annan plan has not worked. So far no foreign direct military intervention has taken place, due to apprehensions of getting bogged down in a long and intractable conflict.

The UN Security Council has been paralysed by divisions among the P-5, with the threat of Russian and Chinese veto blocking Western moves to put Syria under mandatory sanctions and change its regime. This further underlines the need for reforms in the UNSC, especially the abolition of the veto.

Beset by economic woes and the war in Afghanistan, the West is hesitant to embark on a military operation under NATO, as it did in Bosnia, though there are increasing calls for such an initiative.

The recent US move to involve Russia in a monitoring and stabilisation plan for Syria has failed. The almost daily reports of deaths of civilians, and the threats to the stability of Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan might impel the West to boost supplies of arms to the opposition.

A no-fly zone near the Turkish border and sanctuary for the opposition armed elements seems a possible prospect. The movement of Russian warships, arms, and personnel into Syria may result in a stronger response from the West.

A Turkish F-4 jet was shot down off the Syrian coast, and both countries are trying to contain the tensions from this incident.

The reported bomb blasts in Syria in recent weeks has been attributed to al Qaeda elements, including those crossing over from Iraq. The conflict situation will result in hard-line militant groups gaining strength over more peaceful ones.

It presents al Qaeda with a good opportunity to pursue its war against the West and Russia. The Syrian quagmire may well turn into a fiery crucible of terror if the international community goes down the road of confrontation rather than cooperation.

(The author is a former Ambassador of India. He has served in Syria.)

Gazprom Looking To Suckle On Israeli Gas Teat

Russia’s Gazprom keen to participate in developing Israel’s gas sector


Russian gas giant Gazprom plans to launch an Israeli subsidiary that will help develop Israel’s vast offshore gas reserves, Israeli sources said following the meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
Gazprom’s Israeli subsidiary will focus on drilling as well as gas transmission from the country’s offshore fields, the sources said. Gazprom has already expressed an interest in exporting LNG from Israel.

All future international tenders issued by Israel in the gas sector would be open to Gazprom and other Russian companies, the sources said.

In March the Tamar consortium, comprising Noble Energy, Delek Drilling, Avner Oil and Gas, Isramco and Alon Gas Exploration, held talks with Gazprom Marketing & Trading for the sale of 2 million-3 million mt/year of LNG from the Tamar offshore field. The field is expected to begin commercial production in April 2013.

Senior Gazprom officials have visited Israel a few times in recent months to discuss cooperation. In February, a delegation headed by Frederic Barnaud, director of Gazprom’s LNG division, held talks with Noble Energy and Delek Group on possible cooperation. Gazprom is said to be interested in exporting gas from the huge Leviathan field off Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast.

The Leviathan field has estimated resources of 20 Tcf and gas from here is earmarked for export while the Tamar field with reserves of 9 Tcf is expected to meet domestic demand. The Tamar field is due to begin commercial production during the second quarter of 2013. The Leviathan field is not likely to begin commercial production before 2016.

Last week Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said at a press conference in St Petersburg that the company was looking at possible participation in the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields. But the company has not received any “effective offers,” he said.

–Neal Sandler,

–Edited by E Shailaja Nair,

Putin and the Russian Jews In Charge of Isra-Hell

[Putin is obviously a closet Zionist, otherwise he would be puking his guts out, sitting that close to Lieberman.]

Visiting Russians are seeking cooperation in energy, space

Gazprom wants to open a local subsidiary that will engage in drilling and offshore and onshore pipeline operations.

Vladimir Putin and Avigdor Lieberman at Netanya ceremony: Gazprom wants to do business.

Vladimir Putin and His “BFF” Avigdor Lieberman swap stories at Netanya ceremony: Gazprom wants some of that sweet Med. gas.

Natural gas, aerospace, oil shale and tourism are among the areas of economic cooperation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is offering Israel during his visit this week, sources told TheMarker.

The most important item raised between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday was an offer by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom to join in developing Israel’s offshore gas reserves. The largest extractor of natural gas in the world and Russia’s biggest company, Gazprom wants to open a local subsidiary that will engage in drilling and offshore and onshore pipeline operations.

On the Israeli side, no one has rejected the Gazprom offer out of hand and officials are willing to explore the proposals, the sources said. Future international tenders in the Israeli gas sector will be open to Gazprom.

In fact, Gazprom executives have been to Israel in the past to explore cooperation in gas and won a tender to produce gasoline from oil shale in Israel’s south, for which it expects to begin operations soon, the Russian delegation said. They also expressed interest in developing alternative energy projects, mainly in solar and to a lesser extent in wind.

The two countries did about $660 million of bilateral trade in the first four months of this year, with Israeli exports to Russia reaching $384 million and imports from Russia at $277 million, according to the Israel Export Institute.

Another area of interest to the Russians is nanotechnology, where the two countries have signed cooperation agreements. The sources said the Russian state-owned nanotechnology company Rusnano, which has been funded by Moscow to the tune of billions of dollars, has recently opened an Israeli unit whose task will be to identify Israeli companies for acquisition and cooperation.

Rusnano’s chairman, Anatoly Chubais, is part of the delegation accompanying Putin to Israel.

The delegation also includes the incoming chairman of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, signaling the country’s interest in cooperation in aerospace as well.

“Israeli and Russian capabilities in aerospace complement one another,” said one of the sources, pointing to Russia’s expertise in launching satellites, as Israel is regarded a world leader in miniature satellites and other technologies.

In agriculture, the two sides are exploring joint ventures in irrigation, hothouses and the development of seeds for increasing farm yields.

Israel expressed interest in developing tourism. Russia is the biggest source of visitors to Israel after the United States, with about half a million tourists arriving every year. They create about 20,000 jobs and bring in revenues to Israel of $1 billion annually.

The two sides also began talks about establishing a free trade area agreement, which would ease two-way trade. They also plan to sign a financial protocol that will provide guarantees on exports to Russia via the government trade insurance agency.

Chinese survey team attacked in Gwadar, one killed


Chinese survey team attacked in Gwadar, one killed

Occupied Balochistan: A spokesperson of the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), Mr Doda Baloch, has said that fighters from his Organisation have attacked a Chinese survey team few days back, as a result one person was killed and another has been wounded.

While speaking to NNI on Sunday Mr Doda Baloch has accepted the responsibility for the attack on Chinese team. Doda Baloch warned that “no investors, be them national or International, will be allowed to invest in Balochistan without the consent of Baloch Nation.”

The BLF spokesperson further said that the Baloch resistance organisation (we) have made it clear through their pamphlets and press releases that Baloch are struggling for their national liberation and national preservation, therefore no capitalist should invest on Baloch land and the common labourers should refrain working for the investors [to avoid any harm].

Courtesy: Daily Tawar

Afghan-Uzbeks Under Gen. Dostum Are Sabotaging Afghan Development Projects

[Dostum has always looked after “Number One,” even when he was doing George Bush’s dirty work.  It is no surprise that now he acts as an agent of a foreign power, not as an Afghan govt. official.]

Uzbekistan attempt to stop oil project in Amu River


According to Afghan security officials, Uzbekistan is interfering to prevent implementation of oil extraction project in northern Amu River oil basins.

This comes as the first oil extraction project was officially launched in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan yesterday.

An Afghan security official speaking on the condition of anonymity said they have achieved reliable documents and evidences which reflect interference of neighboring Uzbekistan intelligence to prevent oil extraction in Amu River.

The extraction of oil deposits in northern Afghanistan was awarded to China’s National Petroleum Corporation last December.

According to reports Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of the National Movement Party of Afghanistan and a member of the national coalition party, the main anti-government opposition also created barriers to prevent operations in northern oil fields.

Ministry of Mines of Afghanistan also expressed concerns regarding regional interference to create problems in major natural resources of Afghanistan.

A spokesman Jawid Omer said regional intelligence agencies have created barriers towards natural resources extraction projects in the country.

However it is yet not clear whether allegations against Gen. Dostum have any connection with the recent reports suggesting interference by Uzbekistan to stop oil extraction in Amu River.

In the meantime an Afghan security official speaking on the condition of anonymity said a number of Gen. Dostum’s commander’s have been paid by Uzbekistan to create barriers for Amu River oil extraction project.

CIA Sado-Macochism, or Just Plain Old Torture?

PHOTO: In this Dec. 16, 2005 file photo a watch tower overlooks the area near the Polish intelligence school just outside of Stare Kiejkuty, Poland.
Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo
Dec. 16, 2005 file photo 


A Polish official says that prosecutors have a construction order that proves the CIA wanted a cage for terror suspects built at a secret ‘black site’ prison inside Poland.

Senator Jozef Pinior claims Krakow prosecutors have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiekuty, a Polish army based used as a CIA prison for al Qaeda terror suspects in 2002 and 2003.

“In a state with rights,” Pinior told the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, “people in prison are not kept in cages.” He said a cage was “non-standard equipment” for a prison, but standard “if torture was used there.”

Asked if he was sure the cage was for humans, he said, “What was it for? Exotic birds?” He said he has not seen the construction order, but that the Krakow prosecutor’s office, which is investigating the prison, has a copy of it.

This week Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the prosecutor’s office also allegedly has a signed order from Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the then-head of Polish intelligence, authorizing the creation of the black site. A source told the paper that the agreement has a space intended for an American signature, but that the Americans did not sign the document “because they do not want to sign documents inconsistent with their own Constitution and international law.”

Inside a CIA Secret Prison Watch Video
Siemiatkowski did not confirm or deny the existence of the agreement, but said he could not discuss anything he might have signed because it would be classified.

Gazeta Wyborcza reported in March that Siemiatkowski had been charged with permitting the corporal punishment of prisoners of war. Siematkowski has acknowledged publicly that he is under investigation.

Alexander Kwasniewski and Leszek Miller, who were president and prime minister at the time it was allegedly used as a CIA prison, have denied the existence of the Stare Kiekuty black site.  Sen. Pinior said he presented his evidence “with regret, because I always valued [Kwasniewski’s] presidency.”

Several terror suspects, including Abu Zubaydah, have said they were tortured at the Polish site prior to their relocation to Guantanamo. One suspect claims a gun and a power drill were pointed at his head during his interrogation.

After Poland launched its official investigation of the Stare Kiekuty site, President Bronislaw Komorowski said the probe was needed because “the reputation of Poland is at stake.”

ABC News previously revealed the location of another CIA prison at a former riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania. In 2006, President Bush acknowledged that the U.S. had used “black site” prisons in foreign countries, and said many of the suspects who had been detained there were then moved to Guantanamo Bay. While denying that the U.S. employed torture, he said that the U.S. had used an “alternative set of procedures” to interrogate prisoners.

The CIA declined to comment to ABC News on the reported black site in Poland or on Senator Pinior’s allegations about a cage.

Obama Intervenes To Grant US Visa To Member of Known Terrorist Organization

Gamaa Islamiya granted US visa

White House and US administration officials are facing a barrage of criticism for granting a visa to a member of a US-designated Egyptian terrorist organisation, who was scheduled to meet President Obama during a round of talks with a delegation of Egyptian members of parliament.

Egyptian MP Hani Nour Eldin, a member of a Gamaa Islamiya

Egyptian MP Hani Nour Eldin, a member of a Gamaa Islamiya

Hani Nour Eldin, of the infamous Gamaa Islamiya organisation, which was engaged in plotting attacks on US soil, was issued a visa from the US State department to speak with the Obama administration.

The US administration instigated a routine meeting for Egyptian legislators in Washington to meet with new members of Egypt’s parliament. It was an opportunity to exchange ideas and caucus on future relations between the two countries.

US state media scrutinised this meeting as a ”political fiasco”, and criticised the Obama administration for being supporters of the Arab Spring, as evidenced by inviting members of terrorist organisations who were once banned under deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s reign.

The US State Department issued a statement saying that Eldin had confirmed in an interview that he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya and was granted a visa. Under normal circumstances, according to US law, his request for a visa would have been summarily rejected given his affiliation with a known terrorist organization.

Eldin, according to his Facebook page, was born in 1968 and resides in Suez. He was arrested in 1993 on terrorism charges after members of Gamaa Islamiya were engaged in a shootout with Egyptian security officials at a mosque. He has proclaimed his innocence regarding the shooting and says he was incarcerated due to his anti-Mubarak leanings under the ousted president’s regime.

Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group, is a US-designated terrorist organization. It was banned under former president Mubarak, and is now a recognized Islamist political party. Its spiritual leader, Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as the ‘blind sheik’, was convicted in 1995 of plotting attacks on New York City landmarks and transportation centres, and is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina federal prison.

US Officials See No Conflict of Interests In Arming “Al-CIA-da” with Surface-to-Air Missiles To Get Assad

[In order to become a US Govt. official you have to possess absolutely no sense of morality whatsoever.  The latest example of government immorality comes via the phenomenon we affectionately refer to as “al-Qaeda.”  Congress can pass resolutions which resemble declarations of war against “al-Qaeda”-inspired terrorism, giving us the completely scandalous “Global War On Terrorism” (GWOT), while simultaneously supporting known branches of all-Qaeda and arming them with the most feared of all terrorist weapons, the man-portable, hand-held, SAM (surface-to-air-missile).  We have to do everything conceivable to keep terrorists in Libya from getting their hands on several thousand of these nasty man-killers, except for the terrorists who plan to use them in support of NATO’s war on Bashar Assad.  We start a global war against terrorism, yet we openly employ known terrorists to do our dirty work in Syria (unlike places like Pakistan, where we keep our hiring of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s gang on the “Q.T.”.  This is the kind of shit that will finish-off this country, before our leaders ever really cobble together their new world order.  

We are fucked…and deservedly so.]  

Saudi and Turkey get serious about supporting Syrian rebels

Members of the Free Syrian Army

Saudi Arabia is set to pay the salaries of the rebel Free Syrian Army to encourage mass defections from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.

The payments would be made in either U.S. dollars or euros — which would mean a rise in salaries as the Syrian pound has fallen sharply in value since the revolt started 16 months ago, the broadsheet said.

The idea was first proposed to Saudi Arabia by Arab officials in May, the Guardian reported, citing sources in three Arab states and adding that the plan has also been discussed with U.S. officials.

However a spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered no comment to Al Arabiya on such claims, suggesting the topic is likely to be addressed at the joint GCC-EU council and ministerial meeting set to take place in Luxembourg on Monday.

The Guardian also claims that Turkey has allowed the establishment of a command center in Istanbul co-coordinating the supply of weapons to the rebel fighters in Syria, staffed by more than 20 mainly Syrian nationals.

The report comes amid a crisis between Turkey and Syria afterDamascus confirmed that it shot down a Turkish fighter jet that it said had violated Syrian airspace.

The Guardian said Turkey sees weapon supply lines as crucial to the defense of its border with its former close ally Syria, with Syrian forces edging closer in an attempt to stop guns crossing the border into the hands of rebel fighters.

The Guardian says its reporters witnessed weapons being transferred across border from Turkey into Syria in early June.

According to the report, Turkey has given the green-light to establish a command center in Istanbul, to coordinate with opposition leaders within Syria. It is alleged that 22 people have been recruited to run the center, most of them Syrian nationals.

On Friday, Ankara denied allegations in a New York Times report, citing U.S. officials and Arab intelligence sources, that Turkey was among a number of countries shipping weapons to Syrian rebels over the border.

The New York Times also reported that the CIA was on location in south Turkey assisting allies in the distribution of weapons amongst opposition fighters.

“Turkey does not ship weapons to any neighboring country, including Syria,” foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said.

The neighbors’ relations are already strained over outspoken condemnation by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Syria’s bloody crackdown on protests against Assad’s government.

Turkey is hosting more than 30,000 Syrian refugees living in camps near the border, according to foreign ministry figures, as well as army defectors including 12 generals.

Increasing concern

  I think it’s fair to say that we have a concern about the MANPADS coming out of Libya  

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Meanwhile as evidence mounts of Islamic militant forces among the Syrian opposition, senior U.S. and European officials are increasingly alarmed by the prospect of sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of rebel groups that may be dangerous to Western interests, including al-Qaeda.

In an interview with Reuters, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta articulated U.S. worries that shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, also known as MANPADS, could find their way onto the Syrian battlefield.

Intelligence experts believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of such weapons were looted from arsenals accumulated by late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, and are floating on the Middle East black market.

“I think it’s fair to say that we have a concern about the MANPADS coming out of Libya,” Panetta said in the Thursday interview. “We’ve had an ongoing view that it was important to try to determine where these MANPADS were going, not only the concern that some of them might wind up in Syria but elsewhere as well,” he said.

Panetta added that he had seen no direct intelligence yet that such missiles had made their way to Syria. He did not specifically cite the rebels as potential recipients.

But other U.S. and allied officials voiced that concern, while saying they had no evidence that Syrian rebels had yet acquired MANPADS.

Qaeda joining rebels

  It stands to reason that if any Middle Eastern nation is even considering giving arms to the Syrian opposition, it would take a measured approach and think twice about providing arms that could have unintended consequences  

U.S. official

The urgency of Western concerns stems as much from the recipients of the weapons as the weapons themselves. High-level sources at multiple national intelligence services report increasing evidence that Islamic militants, including Qaeda and its affiliates and other hard-line Sunni groups, had joined forces with opponents of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who has advised President Barack Obama on counter-terrorism policy, said that Qaeda and other militants were “deeply engaged” with anti-Assad forces. He cited public pronouncements by senior Qaeda figures, including the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that urged Sunni rebels in Syria to kill members of Assad’s Alawite Muslim minority.

A western government source said that al-Nusrah, a “spinoff” from Qaeda’s Iraq-based affiliate, was responsible for at least some atrocities that have occurred in Syria. The source said the group publicly confirmed its role in killings.

Worries that sophisticated weapons could make their way to the wrong kind of Syrian rebels are one reason Washington remains wary of deeper U.S. involvement in the fighting.

“It stands to reason that if any Middle Eastern nation is even considering giving arms to the Syrian opposition, it would take a measured approach and think twice about providing arms that could have unintended consequences,” a U.S. official said.

Nonetheless, U.S. and allied officials say their Saudi and Qatari counterparts have discussed how MANPADS could be used by Assad opponents to bring down Russian-made helicopters the Syrian army is using to redeploy its troops rapidly between trouble spots.

But such missiles also could be used against other targets, including civilian airliners, one reason for the U.S. and allied concern.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the CIA, with Saudi backing, provided sophisticated shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Islamic militants seeking to oust Soviet troops.

The missiles played a significant role in the Soviets’ ultimate defeat in Afghanistan. But they also became a major headache for U.S. and western counter-terrorism agencies when anti-Soviet militants morphed into anti-Western militant factions including Qaeda.

U.S. providing non-lethal support

Some prominent U.S. Republicans are urging a big step-up in U.S. aid for Assad’s opponents, including arms deliveries and even possible U.S. military involvement.

At a conference on Thursday hosted by the website Bloomberg Government, U.S. Senator John McCain suggested that the Obama administration’s cautious policy regarding the Syrian rebels was “shameful” and urged a major escalation in U.S. involvement.

“So what do we do? First of all, we stand up for them. Second of all, we get them weapons. Third of all, we establish a sanctuary with our allies – no boots on the ground, no boots on the ground – and use our and our allied air power to protect that zone and we help these people in a fair fight,” McCain said.

At the same conference, however, Representative Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned: “We are just really not in a good position today to fully identify all of the groups, all of the factions, who’s winning that leadership fight,” he said.

The United States is understood to be supplying non-lethal support to Assad’s opponents, such as financing and communications gear, possibly including monitoring equipment. The Times said that the Obama administration has held back on providing rebels with intelligence information, such as satellite photographs, on the activities of Assad’s forces.

Riedel warned that Qatar authorities might not be too choosy about which Syrian rebels they are willing to supply with arms, though they would try to avoid giving them directly to Qaeda.

“I don’t think that Qatar and the Saudis are as concerned as we are about surface-to-air missiles,” Riedel added.

What do you think about Saudi paying the Syrian rebels? Tell us your thoughts below. 

© 2012 MBC Group

Why NATO Won’t Go To War Over Syria Shooting Down Turkish Jet

Why NATO Won’t Go To War Over Syria Shooting Down Turkish Jet

The New Atlanticist

James Joyner

NATO in Session Photo

Following yesterday’s shoot-down of a Turkish F-4 by Syria has once again raised the specter of NATO action under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. It’s not going to happen.

Article 5, while relatively short, is much more complicated than commonly understood:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.


Some commentators on Twitter have argued that Article 5 is not triggered because the incident didn’t take place in Europe and was aimed at an aircraft, not the territory of a NATO member. But Article 6 dispels both of those issues:

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

  • on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.


So, aircraft are specifically included as a potential trigger. And the area surrounding Turkey is included as well–added as an amendment to the original treaty by a 1951 Protocol on the accession of Greece and Turkey. Indeed, there would have been little benefit to Turkey in joining NATO if it weren’t included under the Article 5 umbrella, the most fundamental Alliance commitment.

Instead, the operative word that almost certainly disqualifies this incident from an Article 5 response is “attack.” Turkey was engaged in aggressive action along its border with Syria during a particularly tense situation and flew into Syrian airspace. While shooting down the plane was almost certainly an overreaction–the Assad government has said as much–it’s hardly an “attack.”

Ultimately, like the “high crimes and misdemeanor” threshold for impeachment set forth by the US Constitution, it’s a judgment call. In the former case,  the House of Representatives makes the call; in the latter, it’s the North Atlantic Council.

But it’s virtually inconceivable that the NAC would deem this to be a qualifying “attack.” First, Article 5 couches the response in terms of “the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.” An overly aggressive defensive action by Syria–especially a one-off–would not seem to qualify. While the Turkish pilot would certainly have been within his rights to use deadly force to protect himself, a retaliatory strike at this juncture by Turkey–much less its NATO allies–would be in violation of the UN Charter. Second, borrowing language from Article 51, Article 5 specifies the rationale for the use of force as “to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” Given that the incident is already contained–that is, not likely to be followed by any sort of follow-on action by Syria absent further provocation–said security already exists. Indeed, a NATO or Turkish response would make the area more, not less, secure.

A second misconception is that an attack under Article 5 will automatically be met by unified military action by all NATO states. Instead, a declaration by the NAC that Article 5 has been triggered is but a first step; decisions as to what response to take must follow. Not all attacks are equal. Even outside the politics of an alliance, states weigh incidents in terms of severity, the existing relationship with the attacking state, the international environment, and the likely fall-out effects of various response options.

Article 5 has been operative since the North Atlantic Treaty went into effect since 1949. It has been invoked and acted upon precisely once, following the al Qaeda terrorist attack on the United States launched from Afghanistan. Even then, the Alliance response was cautious:

Article 5 has thus been invoked, but no determination has yet been made whether the attack against the United States was directed from abroad. If such a determination is made, each Ally will then consider what assistance it should provide. In practice, there will be consultations among the Allies. Any collective action by NATO will be decided by the North Atlantic Council. The United States can also carry out independent actions, consistent with its rights and obligations under the UN Charter.

Allies can provide any form of assistance they deem necessary to respond to the situation. This assistance is not necessarily military and depends on the material resources of each country. Each individual member determines how it will contribute and will consult with the other members, bearing in mind that the ultimate aim is to “to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area”.

By invoking Article 5, NATO members have shown their solidarity toward the United States and condemned, in the strongest possible way, the terrorist attacks against the United States on 11 September.

If the conditions are met for the application of Article 5, NATO Allies will decide how to assist the United States. (Many Allies have clearly offered emergency assistance). Each Ally is obliged to assist the United States by taking forward, individually and in concert with other Allies, such action as it deems necessary. This is an individual obligation on each Ally and each Ally is responsible for determining what it deems necessary in these particular circumstances.


Ultimately, of course, NATO decided to join the United States in its fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That some Allies joined with more vigor and usefulness than others has been well documented and need not be rehashed here. But that statement of September 12 outlines the nature of the Article 5 obligation nicely: the NAC may recommend action but it’s ultimately up to the individual Allies to decide whether and how to respond.

In the case of Syria, of course, the incident hardly comes out of the blue. Tensions have been escalating for well over a year, with a series of international condemnations and resolutions from the UN and many if not most NATO states. At the same time, the Security Council has, through the veto power of Russia and China, declined to act. And NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has repeatedly and vehemently declared from the outset that NATO has no intention of repeating its intervention in Libya with one in Syria.

Granting that I oppose Western intervention into Syria just as I did into Libya, it’s difficult to see how yesterday’s incident changes anything. Surely, the killing of some 20,000 Syrians, most innocent civilians, is a greater cause for action than the downing of a single fighter jet flying where it wasn’t supposed to? And the facts on the ground haven’t changed one iota: Bashar al-Assad still has a powerful, loyal military and the opposition is a fractured mess. So, NATO military action is no more appealing now than it was Friday morning.

Additionally, Assad has handled the aftermath of this incident deftly. He swiftly expressed remorse for the loss of life caused by the shooting down of Turkey’s jet–almost surely the decision of a relative low level operator making a rapid decision under extreme stress rather than a considered policy judgment of the central government–and promptly not only gave Turkey permission to begin a recovery operation in Syrian space but joined in. While he’s a vicious thug willing to do just about anything to stay in power, he’s rather clearly not angling for war with NATO, much less Turkey.

It’s inconceivable that NATO will decide to start yet another war under these circumstances.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. 

Obama Effectively Using NATO To Take Control of the World–Who Needs Bush and Cheney?

[NATO is now the world center of chaos, masquerading as global policeman.  In “managing conflict,” they have a ready-made excuse for short-circuiting the natural process of conflict-resolution, while expanding NATO’s zone of operations beyond its legal limitations, which are confined to Europe and North America.  With NATO seizing control of the world, every new conflict becomes another excuse for expansion.  If Turkey manages to successfully invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter in the downing of one of its meddling aircraft, then the lid will have been blown off of the build-up to WWIII in the Middle East, giving substance to all of our worst nightmares.  Maybe we would all be better off if we just let the international trouble-makers have their way and blow-up the Middle East.]

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.              

Turkey says to consult NATO allies over downed jet


(Reuters) – Turkey said on Sunday Syria had shot down its military aircraft in international waters on Friday without warning and declared it would formally consult with NATO allies on a reaction.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking some 48 hours after the plane was shot down near the sea borders of both countries, told state broadcaster TRT the plane had been clearly marked as Turkish and dismissed Syria’s earlier statement it had not known the plane belonged toTurkey.

The shooting down of the aircraft has added a further serious international dimension to the more than year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, that Turkey, along with other Western and Arab countries, has supported on the world diplomatic stage.

Turkey is giving shelter to the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA), and accommodating refugees on its southeastern border with Syria, some 50 km (30 miles) from where the Turkish aircraft was shot down. But it denies providing arms for the insurgents.

Davutoglu said he would present the incident formally to the NATO military alliance this week under article four of its founding treaty.

The article provides for states to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened”.

It stops short of the explicit mention of possible armed responses cited in article five.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi urged Turkey and Syria late on Saturday to show restraint over the incident, his ministry said.

In a telephone conversation with Davutoglu, Salehi said he hoped the two sides would “settle the issue peacefully to maintain regional stability”, read a statement on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Iran has supported Assad since anti-government protests erupted across the country early last year and grew into an armed uprising.

(Reporting by Jonathon Burch; Writing by Daren Butler and Ralph Boulton; Editing by Alison Williams)

Russian Ships Sail To Tartus Base with Reinforcements and Defensive Arms

[If this report is true then it represents a major capitulation by Putin to the Imperialist plans of Obama and Cameron.]

More Russian Ships On Way to Syria


WASHINGTON — The United States says the Russian military was preparing to dispatch three more ships to Syria after a separate transport carrying attack helicopters turned back when its U.K. insurer removed its coverage.

But Pentagon officials noted that Moscow’s stated intent was to send supplies and personnel to its naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus.

“We have no indication that these vessels and that material is being sent to Syria for any other purpose than that which the Russian military has acknowledged themselves,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby said Tuesday.

“Russian citizens have been threatened there in Syria, and their stated intention is that this is for force protection reasons.”

Interfax reported Monday that Russia was preparing to send two landing ships carrying marines to Syria in the event that it needs to protect personnel and remove equipment from the naval facility.

On Tuesday, a cargo ship carrying the helicopters, the Alaed, turned around off the British coast after it lost its insurance.

“I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has now turned back apparently towards Russia,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament.

“We have in place a European Union arms embargo on Syria. We discourage anyone else from supplying arms to Syria. We have had discussions with Russia about that specifically.”

The ship’s operator, Femco, operating the Alaed, offered no comment when contacted several times by Reuters about the ship and its cargo.

Meanwhile, PresidentVladimir Putinmade clear during talks this week that he does not want Bashar Assad to remain in power in Syria any longer, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday.

Cameron said Putin had shifted his view of the Syrian leader during talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders at a Group of 20 summit in Mexico, and that discussions were now focused on a transition.

“There remain differences over sequencing and the shape of how the transition takes place but it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit that he does not want Assad remaining in charge in Syria,” Cameron told reporters.

“What we need next is an agreement on a transitional leadership that can move Syria to a democratic future that protects the rights of all its communities.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Cameron were present with Obama for the talks with Putin.

Cameron warned that time was running out to put a stop to the violence in Syria, which shows scarce sign of stemming.

“There is little time left to resolve this, but we do now have clear agreement on the key principles, on the risks to Syria, on the need to stop the violence and the urgency of political transition,” he said.

Obama said Russia and China have “not signed on” to any plan for the removal of Assad from power but that they recognize the dangers of an all-out civil war in the country.

Obama said Assad has lost all legitimacy and that it was impossible to conceive of any solution to the violence in Syria that would leave him in power.

He conceded that he had failed to make a breakthrough with the leaders of Russia or China, despite intensive talks with both Moscow and Beijing, which have shielded Assad from tougher UN sanctions.

“I wouldn’t suggest that at this point the United States and the rest of the international community are aligned with Russia and China in their positions, but I do think they recognize the grave dangers of all-out civil war,” he told reporters at a Group of 20 summit in Mexico.

Syria is Moscow’s firmest foothold in the Middle East. The country buys weapons from Russia worth billions of dollars and hosts the Russian Navy’s only permanent warm water port outside the former Soviet Union.

But Russia has faced increasing Western criticism over arms supplies to Syria, where the United Nations says government forces have killed more than 10,000 people in a crackdown.

The Great Caspian Arms Race

The Great Caspian Arms Race


Inside the petro-fueled naval military buildup you’ve never heard of: It’s Russia versus Iran, with three post-Soviet states — and trillions of dollars in oil — in the middle.


The Caspian Sea, once a strategic backwater, is quickly becoming a tinderbox of regional rivalries — all fueled by what amounts to trillions in petrodollars beneath its waves. Observers gained a first glimpse into this escalating arms race last fall, when Russia and Kazakhstan held joint military exercises on the Caspian, which abuts Iran and several former Soviet republics. Russia’s chief of general staff framed it as a precautionary measure related to developments in Central Asia, saying it would prepare for “the export of instability from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops from there.”

But a scoop by a Russian newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, told a different story. The newspaper got hold of a map apparently showing the real scenario of the exercise: the defense of Kazakhstan’s oil fields from several squadrons of F-4, F-5, and Su-25 fighters and bombers. The map didn’t name which country the jets came from, but the trajectory and the types of planes gave it away: Iran.

While the world focuses on the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, a little-noticed arms buildup has been taking place to Iran’s north, among the ex-Soviet states bordering the Caspian. Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union created three new states on the sea, their boundaries have still not been delineated. And with rich oil and natural gas fields in those contested waters, the new countries — Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan — are using their newfound riches to protect the source of that wealth. So they’re building new navies from scratch, while the two bigger powers, Russia and Iran, are strengthening the navies they already have. It all amounts to something that has never before been seen on the Caspian: an arms race.

The biggest reason for this buildup may be mistrust of Iran, but it’s not the only one. The smaller countries also worry about how Russia’s naval dominance allows Moscow to call the shots on their energy policies. Iran and Russia, meanwhile, fear U.S. and European involvement in the Caspian. All of this, among countries that don’t trust each other and act with little transparency, is setting the stage for a potential conflict.

For the last several centuries, Russia has been the undisputed master of the Caspian. Tsar Peter the Great created Russia’s Caspian Flotilla in 1722, and a quote from him still shines on a plaque at the flotilla’s headquarters: “Our interests will never allow any other nation to claim the Caspian Sea.” Until now, that’s pretty much been the case. Because the Caspian was a relative strategic backwater for most of history, no one cared enough to challenge Russia. The Soviet Caspian Fleet, based in Baku, was perhaps best known for a novelty, the “Caspian Sea Monster,” a massive experimental hovercraft/airplane.

Since 1991, however, the Caspian has started to matter. While the Caspian may still be marginal to Iran or Russia, it is of crucial strategic importance to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Upon gaining independence, those three countries quickly contracted with Western oil majors to explore the untapped resources in the sea, and discovered a fortune capable of transforming their economies. Caspian energy expert (and FP contributor) Steve LeVine estimates that the sea contains about 40 billion barrels of oil, almost all of it in the areas that those three countries control.

The issue of who controls what, however, is a tricky one. While certain pairs of states have worked out bilateral treaties dividing the sea between themselves, some boundaries — most notably those involving Iran — remain vague. In addition, the legality of building a “Trans-Caspian Pipeline” under the sea (as Turkmenistan would like to do, to ship natural gas through Azerbaijan and onward to Europe) is unclear, and both Russia and Iran oppose the project.

This uncertainty has contributed to several tense incidents on the Caspian over the last few years. In2001, Iranian jets and a warship threatened a BP research vessel prospecting on behalf of Azerbaijan in waters that Baku considered its own. In 2008, gunboats from Azerbaijan’s coast guardthreatened oil rigs operated by Malaysian and Canadian companies working for Turkmenistan near the boundary between those two countries. And in 2009, an Iranian oil rig entered watersthat Azerbaijan considered its own, prompting Azerbaijani officials to fret that they were powerless against the Iranians, Wikileaked diplomatic cables show.

And so all five countries on the Caspian have taken significant steps to build up their navies in recent years. Russia’s Caspian Flotilla is by far the strongest of the lot, but that hasn’t stopped Kremlin officials from publicly worrying the fleet is “uncompetitive,” and declaring that they are taking steps to cement its superiority. Russia’s second frigate for the flotilla is currently undergoing sea trials in the Black Sea and should be transported to the Caspian later this year — part of a plan to add 16 new ships to the fleet by 2020. Russia is also building up its naval air forces in the region, and establishing coastal missile units armed with anti-ship rockets capable of hitting targets in the middle of the sea.

“The military-political situation in the region is extremely unpredictable. This is explained on one side by the unregulated status of the sea, and from the other, the aspirations of several non-Caspian states to infiltrate the region and its oil and gas,” the Russian magazine National Defense, in a not-so-oblique reference to the United States and Europe, wrote in a special report this year on the Caspian naval buildup. “In these conditions Russia is compelled to look after the security of its citizens and the defense of the interests of the Caspian countries.”

Iran is the second power on the Caspian, and while it keeps details of its posture on the sea under close wraps, its growing presence is impossible to miss. Iran has built up its navy on the Caspian from nearly nothing during the Soviet era to a force of close to 100 missile boats, two of which are equipped with Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles. And Tehran has announced that it’s building a “destroyer,” which will become the largest ship in its Caspian fleet (though probably closer to a corvette by international standards).

The other three countries on the sea inherited some decrepit vessels from the former Soviet Caspian flotilla, which they augmented with donations of small patrol boats by the United States in the early days following independence. But all now appear serious about developing real navies. Turkmenistan, for example, is building a naval base and naval academy in the coastal city of Turkmenbashi and has bought two Russian missile boats, with plans to buy three more, as well as Turkish patrol boats.

Kazakhstan launched its first proper naval vessel this year — a domestically built missile boat — with plans to buy two more. It also recently contracted with South Korean shipbuilder STX to help develop its shipbuilding capacity. A recent arms expo in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana drew a substantial number of shipbuilders and other naval arms producers from Europe, Turkey, and Russia, and Kazakhstan appears poised to buy Exocet anti-ship missiles from European consortium MBDA.

Azerbaijan has been the relative laggard, focusing nearly all of its booming defense budget on land and air forces designed to win back the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, now controlled by Armenian forces. But it too has lately shown signs of focusing more on Caspian security, buyinganti-ship missiles from Israel.

Adding a few frigates here and a few corvettes there, of course, doesn’t mean the Caspian is the next South China Sea; the firepower and the geopolitical tension on the sea are still low enough that the Caspian is far from “flashpoint” status. But the trend is moving in a dangerous direction. The five countries on the Caspian are all so opaque about their intentions that there is plenty of room for miscalculation, leading to a disastrous conflict that no state truly wants. It is also particularly ironic because  all the governments officially call for demilitarization of the Caspian. Most of the countries justify their Caspian naval buildups in light of this rhetoric by citing a threat from terrorists or piracy — though there has been nearly no indication of either the intent or ability of terrorists to attack.

In reality, the Caspian is a classic case of the security dilemma, in which defensive moves can be perceived by neighbors as offensive ones. “Even if we don’t want to spend that much money on naval militarization, we end up spending it to keep up with all the threats,” says Reshad Karimov, an analyst at Baku’s Center for Strategic Studies. “If someone is too safe, no one is safe.”

The tension on the sea takes many forms. All of the post-Soviet states mistrust Iran, especially Azerbaijan. “How will we react if tomorrow Iran decides to install one of their oil wells in some territory that we consider ours?” asks Tahir Ziyadov, a scholar at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. “Maybe some crazy guy, because he got frustrated by Azerbaijan-Israeli relations, tomorrow he will declare, ‘Go and install that well over there.’ The possibility of serious tension is there, and Azerbaijan will attempt not to allow it.”

Russian opposition to the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline is another potential source of conflict. The United States and Europe have been active in promoting the pipeline, which would allow Turkmenistan to export natural gas to Europe, while bypassing Russia. But commentators in Moscow have occasionally threatened force if a pipeline were to go ahead. “The reaction can be very hard, up to some sort of military conflict in the Caspian Sea,” said Konstantin Simonov, director general of the Russian think tank, National Energy Security Fund, in an interview last year.

“Russia is the wildest card in the deck — they have so many ways to mess things up. They have the resources, they have the firepower, they have established the political will to do that,” Karimov said.

Meanwhile, just this week, the two would-be partners in the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, traded accusations about the disputed oil field that was at the heart of their 2008 standoff.

Russia and Iran both appear motivated to keep foreign (especially U.S. and European) influence out of the Caspian. The U.S. has offered some modest military assistance to help the new countries bolster their defenses on the Caspian, including donations of some patrol boats and training of Azerbaijani naval special forces. And it’s clear from WikiLeaked U.S. diplomatic cables that Azerbaijan in particular relies heavily on U.S. advice for naval issues.

Baku also appears to be using the escalating tensions on the sea to press for greater help — and U.S. officials appear receptive to their requests. During the 2009 incursion of the Iranian oil rig into Azerbaijani waters, several high-level Azerbaijani officials consulted with U.S. diplomats and military officials. One official in Baku fretted: “You know our military capacity on our borders. We do not have enough capacity. We need military assistance.” In a later cable, one U.S. diplomat said the incident “offers a timely opportunity to gain traction on Caspian maritime cooperation with the [government of Azerbaijan].”

Russia, and especially Iran, tend to see this activity on the Caspian as an encroachment on their strategic backyard, and they delivered thinly veiled warnings against “third parties” getting involved in the region. “Iranians think they are a besieged fortress,” said a Baku naval analyst who asked not to be named. “The U.S. cooperation here is nothing special but they build conspiracy theories about it.” Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s strong military relationship with Israel only adds to Iran’s suspicions.

The United States, however, has vowed to expand its involvement in the Caspian and appears determined to help the smaller countries stand their ground against Russia and Iran. The most recent U.S. State Department military assistance plans call for aid to “to help develop Azerbaijan’s maritime capabilities and contribute to the overall security of the resource-rich Caspian Sea.”

Meanwhile, the tension seems destined to rise. Iran recently announced a huge new oil discovery in the Caspian, which Tehran says contains 10 billion barrels of oil. While Iran hasn’t yet announced the exact location of the find, the information it has put out suggests that the discovery, according to regional analyst Alex Jackson, is in “what would reasonably be considered Azerbaijan’s waters.”

As the vast wealth at stake in the Caspian becomes clearer, expect all parties in this new battleground to deploy ever more sophisticated weaponry to defend their interests. No word yet on when Azerbaijan is taking delivery of those Israeli anti-ship missiles.

Exxon Gets the Frack Out of Poland, Dampening Pipe Dreams of Freedom from Gazprom

(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) has decided not to go ahead with its shale gas exploration projects in Poland because its test wells failed to produce commercial quantities of gas, daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported in its weekend edition.

The paper quoted a spokesman for the U.S. company’s Polish arm as saying that Exxon made the decision after testing two of its wells in Poland, which is being closely watched as a potential of natural gas from shale.

The spokesman was not immediately available to comment further.

Exxon, which holds six exploration licenses in Poland, said in January it would evaluate its options after the unsuccessful tests.

A government report in March slashed estimates of Poland’s shale gas reserves to 346 billion to 768 billion cubic meters, or about one-tenth of previous estimates, denting hopes for an energy source that could play a key role in weaning Europe off Russian gas.

Other foreign players seeking shale gas in Poland, the European Union’s largest Eastern member, include Chevron (CVX.N) and Marathon (MRO.N).

(Reporting by Chris Borowski; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

Syria: David Cameron considered ordering special forces to seize Russian ship

Syria: David Cameron considered ordering special forces to seize Russian ship

David Cameron considered ordering British special forces to board and impound a Russian ship suspected of carrying arms to Syria, it has emerged.

A boy holds placard reading

A boy holds placard reading “Russia is the Syrian people’s enemy”, during a demonstration against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Sermada near Idlib  

By , Adrian Blomfield and Mark Hughes

Cobra, the Government’s emergency security committee, met several times as the MV Alaed approached British waters.

With the United States placing pressure on Britain to halt the vessel, the prime minister was regularly briefed on the situation. It is understood that he was presented with several options including a military seizure of the ship.

Avoiding a confrontation that could have damaged already strained ties with Russia, the government instead took action to ensure that the Alaed’s insurance cover was withdrawn.

The ship, which Western officials said was carrying a military cargo including Hind-D Mi-25 helicopter gunships and anti-aircraft defence systems, changed course about 50 miles off the north coast of Scotland. It is now showing that its next port of call is Murmansk, according to the UK National Maritime Information Centre.

The ship’s owners, the Russian operator Femco, denied it was ferrying arms to Syria.

Turkish Special Forces Allegedly Pursue PKK Militants Led By Syrian Kurd, Into Iraq

Turkish Special Forces Pursuing PKK Militants After Outpost Attack

Turkish army special force members stand guard during the EFES-2010 military exercise in Izmir May 25, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
By: Ozgur Cebe, Ufuk Emion Koroglu, Huseyin Kacar 

The attack against the Yesiltas outpost in the rural area around the township of Yuksekova was ordered by the Syrian Kurdish leader Fehman Hussein, who is also known as Bahoz Erdal. The attack was planned by the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)’s Zagros district commander Mehmet Can Gurhan, also known as Resit Dostum, and Iskender Denk, another Syrian Kurd. The 250-strong terrorist attack force was let by yet another Yiulmaz Kurdo, yet another Syrian Kurd that also goes by the name Perwer. Eight Turkish soldiers were martyred and 26 terrorists were killed.

US Prepares To Expand the Covert War On Pakistan

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. military and intelligence officials are so frustrated with Pakistan’s failure to stop local militant groups from attacking Americans in neighboring Afghanistan that they have considered launching secret joint U.S.-Afghan commando raids into Pakistan to hunt them down, officials told The Associated Press.

But the idea, which U.S. officials say comes up every couple of months, has been consistently rejected because the White House believes the chance of successfully rooting out the deadly Haqqani network would not be worth the intense diplomatic blowback from Pakistan that inevitably would ensue.

Members of the Haqqani tribe have been targeted by pilotless U.S. drone aircraft, but sending American and Afghan troops into Pakistan would be a serious escalation of the hunt for terrorists and could potentially be the final straw for Pakistan, which already is angered over what it sees as U.S. violations of its sovereignty.

The al-Qaeda-allied Haqqani tribe runs a mafia-like smuggling operation and occasionally turns to terrorism with the aim of controlling its territory in eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqanis use Pakistani towns to plan, train and arm themselves with guns and explosives, cross into Afghanistan to attack NATO and Afghan forces, then retreat back across the border to safety.

The latest round of debate over whether to launch clandestine special operations raids into Pakistan against the Haqqanis came after the June 1 car bombing of Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan that injured up to 100 U.S. and Afghan soldiers, according to three current and two former U.S. officials who were briefed on the discussions. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the still-evolving debates.

The officials told the AP that recent discussions of clandestine ground attacks have included Gen. John Allen, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, as well as top CIAand special operations officials.

Allen’s spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, said Allen “has not and does not intend to push for a cross-border operation.”

The White House and the CIA declined to comment for this story.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the U.S. was still focused on U.S.-Pakistan cooperation.

“The key is to work together with Pakistan to find ways of fighting terrorists who threaten both the United States and Pakistan, including along the Afghan-Pakistan border, where extremists continue to plot attacks against coalition forces and innocent civilians,” he said.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is arguably at its lowest point over the continuation of drone strikes to hit terror targets in Pakistan, the successful Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden that was carried out without a heads-up to the country’s leaders and the U.S. refusal to apologize for a border skirmish in which the U.S. mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops. On Thursday, the State Department’s inspector general accused the Pakistani government of harassing U.S. Embassy personnel.

Pakistan has done little in response to repeated U.S. requests for a crackdown on the Haqqanis, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta surprisingly voiced that frustration in a visit to Kabul this month.

He said the U.S. was “reaching the limits” of its patience with Pakistan’s failure to tackle the tribe’s safe havens. He added that the U.S. was “extraordinarily dissatisfied with the effect that Pakistan has had on the Haqqanis.” He also made fun of Pakistan’s ignorance over the bin Laden raid at a speech in India, Pakistan’s archrival.

Pakistan’s army has attacked militant strongholds across the tribal areas, except forNorth Waziristan, where the Haqqanis hold sway and shelter both al-Qaida and Taliban militants. Pakistani officials say that they intend to hit North Waziristan but that their army is too overstretched to move as fast as the U.S. demands.

Pakistani officials have conceded privately, however, that they have been reluctant to take on the powerful tribe for fear of retaliatory strikes.

To make up for Pakistan’s inaction, the CIA’s covert drone program has targeted Haqqani leaders, safe houses, bomb factories and training camps inside Pakistan, and special operations raids have hit Haqqani targets on the Afghan side of the border, but that has failed to stop Haqqani attacks on U.S. and Afghan troops and civilian targets.

The officials say Allen expressed frustration that militants would attack and then flee across the border in Pakistan, immediately taking shelter in urban areas where attacking them by missile fire could kill civilians.

The officials say options that have been prepared for President Barack Obama’s review included raids that could be carried out by U.S. special operations forces together with Afghan commandos, ranging from air assaults that drop raiders deep inside tribal areas to hit top leaders to shorter dashes only a few miles into Pakistan territory.

The shorter raids would not necessarily be covert, as they could be carried out following the U.S. military principle known as “hot pursuit” that military officials say entitles their forces to pursue a target that attacks them in Afghanistan up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) inside a neighboring country’s territory.

The U.S. has staged two major raids and other minor forays into Pakistan’s tribal territory before during the George W. Bush administration; the most contentious was in September 2008 when Navy SEALs raided an al-Qaeda compound. The operators killed their target, but the ensuing firefight triggered a diplomatic storm with Pakistan.

Rather than fly in, which U.S. military planners at the time feared would alert the Pakistanis, the SEALs marched across the mountainous border, arriving later than planned because of the harsh terrain and just as the fighters were waking for morning prayers, according to one current and one former U.S. official. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the clandestine operation.

Everyone inside the targeted compound opened fire on the SEALs, including the women, one of whom lightly wounded one of the American operators. The firefight also woke the entire village, which joined in the battle, so the SEALs had to call for strafing runs byBlack Hawk helicopters to beat them back.

At least one woman and one child were among the many dead.

Syria Downs Turkish F-4 Warplane, Apprehends Pilots Alive

PM could not yet confirm Turkish war plane shut down by Syria


Hürriyet Daily News

Two Turkish pilots go missing as their warplane goes down off Syria; PM Erdoğan does not immediately confirm whether or not the aircraft was shot down

Hürriyet photo

Hürriyet photo

Syria shot down a Turkish jet on June 22, an official told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that Damascus expressed sorrow over the incident and was cooperating with Ankara in search and rescue efforts for two Turkish pilots in Syrian territorial waters.

The information, however, was not confirmed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan late June 22 who said “I cannot say that it was shot down. I can’t say it before obtaining concrete information,” in a press conference he held just before a high level security summit. He also could not confirm whether Syria expressed sorrow or apologized for the incident, saying “I cannot confirm whether they have apologized of on what grounds they did so if they apologized.” Despite reports that two Turkish pilots ejected from the plane and they were safe, Erdoğan said “there was no information on the state of the pilots.” But he denied reports that Turkish pilots were taken hostage by Syrian forces. In his separate dialogue with journalists travelling with him, Erdoğan “If this is true, then there would be a great problem.”

The incident could potentially add more tension to the already-tense relations betweenTurkey and Syria over Bashar al-Assad’s oppression against his own people.

Plane crashes at noon
It was not clear exactly how or where the incident occurred, but the military’s earlier statement said the connection with the Turkish F-4 aircraft was lost at 11:58 a.m., over the sea just off the southwest of the Hatay province, bordering Syria. The plane had taken off from the Erhaç airbase in Malatya, Central Anatolia at 10:00 a.m. It was also not clear what purpose the Turkish jet was serving in that region, but there are unconfirmed reports that it was carrying out a reconnaissance flight. It is not known whether the plane was shot down by a Syrian jet or by a surface to air missile.

The NTV private news channel reported that the plane had crashed in Syrian territorial waters, but that there had been no violation of the Syrian border, citing unnamed military sources.

According to information the Daily News gathered from official sources, the Turkish military launched a broad search and rescue operation to find the plane and the two pilots who ejected themselves and fell in the water.

Sources said Syria had dispatched three guard boats to contribute to Turkish efforts, as the search was taking place in Syrian territorial waters. The first news that Syria shot the Turkish jet down came from local sources in Lebanon and Syria. Erdoğan said alongside with Turkey’s four guard boats Syria joined efforts with own vessels.

A local witness has told RT Arabic that the plane crashed on Syrian territory and that the two pilots were captured.

The craft was shot down as the Syrian air defense opened fire, according to Lebanon-based pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV. These reports are yet to be confirmed.

Turkey has joined nations such as the United States in saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down because of the uprising in his country that has killed thousands of people.

Turkey also has set up refugee camps on its border for more than 32,000 Syrians who have fled the fighting.


The Cocaine Highway–Borderland Beat

The Cocaine Highway

Reporter Arm Chair

By ACI for Borderland Beat

It all begins in the steamy mountains of Colombia, up mist covered hills, hidden under the lush canopy of forests; a plant is being cultivated.  The farmer growing the plant knows little of the journey his crop will take.  This is an examination of that journey.
Every day from his humble one room shack nestled in one of Colombia’s many rural departments, he waters and tends to his crop.  If he is lucky enough to survive the weather or the fumigation from government planes he is able to harvest.  After he harvests his crop he must go through the laborious and time consuming effort of converting the leaves into what is known as coca base.  After his work is through he looks at his harvest and thinks of how lucky he is.  This should provide just enough money for his family survives till the next crop is ready.
He meets a man known locally as El Leche at local village, El Leche is a known as a go between for the farmer and the FARC.  He meets with the farmer and pays him his salary for his work.  He tells the man he will be sending some of his people to collect the base and that they will speak again soon.
Later at the man’s farm, a small armed group shows up at his shack to collect their payment.  They are all young, dressed in military fatigues, worn out boots and rifles rusted from the humid jungle heat.   They look tired and dirty, the result of living in the forest and moving from camp to camp.  These are the front line troops of one of the armed wings of the FARC.  The look tattered, paranoid and scared, they take the paste from the farmer and leave, vanishing back into the forest.

The small group consisting of both young men and women trek through the forest, each one listening for the nightmarish low thumping sound of helicopters in the distance.  They all seem on edge, they have spent too much time in the forest, moving from location to location, unable to enjoy the small luxuries we all take for granted.  If they stay in one spot for too long they may not see tomorrow.  So they trek on for what seems like miles.  After days of hellish hiking through dense and rugged terrain they approach a clearing; they have reached their destination, a large scale laboratory which sole purpose is refinement of the coca base into cocaine.
As the walk up to the compound it is easy to see the many guards standing around with their assault rifle at their sides.  The group drops off their merchandise and once again vanishes into the mist of the jungle.  This factory is run by the Rastrojos, a group which was formed out of the now defunct AUC.  These labs are known as high value targets for the Colombian Government and are often targets of the US/Colombian effort to eradicate the production of cocaine.

Once the coca base has been converted in to what most would recognize as cocaine it is pressed into blocks and loaded on to a beat up, rusty truck.  Smoke pours out the back as the truck is barley able to turn over its engine.  Loaded up with its precious cargo, the overworked truck rumbles down the precarious road towards the mangrove swamps to the north.
There waiting for them in the cover of the mangroves is what could only be described as a testament to the shear will of the traffickers; a fully submersible submarine.  The ship has a crew of 3 and they are all waiting on this payloads arrival.  Everyone starts packing the cramped space with as much cocaine as would fit.  The journey ahead for these sailors will not be easy.   They will be out in the open ocean for days with no one but themselves to insure delivery of the product.  In this cramped space the men will have to navigate the thousand mile journey to Guatemala, their final destination.
After docking in a remote region of Guatemala the shipment is unloaded to group who works for a family known as the Lorenzanas.  The Lorenzanes are intermediaries whose sole purpose is to move the product from one end of the country to the other.  Guatemalan Soldiers provide them with security.  This is generally the smooth part of the operation with little risk due to the deep ties the family has fostered within the government.  Once the shipment has been moved, contact will made with a coordinator of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest cartels in Mexico.  Arrangements will be made to move the contraband into Mexico.
Once inside Mexico, our shipment will traverse the country, making several stops along the way, all the while being broken up into smaller parcels and given to different plaza leaders.  The broken down shipments are then housed in safe houses until they are ready to be moved towards the border with the US.  These leaders are responsible for ensuring the distribution of the product along the various parts of the border which the Sinaloa Cartel controls.
Various methods will then be utilized to move the product across the border and into the United States.  Each area has a variety of ways of managing this; some techniques are locally based while others are used throughout the border region.  In the area of Arizona, where our shipment has arrived; has been using an innovative way of crossing drugs; remote controlled toy airplanes.  They are too small for radar to pick up and can been flown for some distance, it is a highly effective method of smuggling.  Our Kilo is taped to the bottom of one of these planes and flown to spotter on the other side.  GPS is often used to locate the planes once they have crossed the border.  Throughout this whole process those responsible watch in the shadows making sure everything runs smooth.  They know that if a load doesn’t make it, they will be left with the bill.  Spotters and decoys are used to throw off law enforcement and further the odds of success.
Once a load has successfully crossed the US border the shipment is then taken to safe houses located in regional distribution points.  In the case of our load it ended up in Nogales, Arizona.  Given its close proximity to the border and national highway system, Nogales makes for a perfect place to stash this shipment.  From here the shipment is further divided and sent to different regions, each run by cartel distributers.  The kilo we have been watching eventually ends up in Chicago.  It is sold to someone who only deals in bulk, several kilos or more.  It then gets broken down further and sold to street gangs which then sell to the end users.

This is the journey of how one kilogram of cocaine makes on its way to the consumer.  It involves the effort of thousands and the complicity of many more.  Its journey led through multiple countries; it flew, floated, was driven and carried; it traveled through jungles and seas, mountains and deserts, all to reach a consumer who doesn’t have the slightest idea of the blood that was split along the way, same as the farmer who grew it.  The illegalization of narcotics lead to all the blood in-between the two.  The farmer never wanted to shed blood, he just wanted to feed his family, and neither did the consumer who was just looking for a good time.  Both are blind to the destruction.  But those that are really blinded are those who think prohibition is worth the blood stained soil from which their policies stem from.  Only through truth can one clearly see the entire picture, we as world citizens need to weigh the cost verse benefits of our policies, for good intentions often come with unintended consequences.

Enhancing the combustible properties of the Caspian Sea

Enhances the combustible properties of the Caspian Sea

Michael Sheinkman

Ashgabat and Baku have not divided the Caspian Field

Relations between Baku and Ashgabat can go to the bottom. The Caspian Sea. This is where you can see the nature of the newly activated contradictions.

Oil slick

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, protested in connection with attempts to conduct seismic work in the field “Kapaz”. It is located on the border sectors of both countries in the Caspian Sea. This is not a diplomatic note, but the call of Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry and the notes outright dissatisfaction.

Baku believes that the agreement signed by Presidents Aliyev and Berdymukhammedov in 2008, crossing parts of the territories of the two countries should not be any activity in connection with the exploration and production as long as there will not be agreed upon issues related to the delimitation of the Caspian Sea . According to Azerbaijan, Ashgabat has violated the contract, did not act according to the rules and not by a neighbor, and therefore entitled to Baku to take appropriate measures to protect its sovereign interests.

Experts believe that while we are talking exclusively about the political and diplomatic reaction. Although the parties have already had a precedent, when they suddenly no meaning, began to strengthen its military presence in the Caspian Sea. It was then that Berdymukhamedov has decided to create his own navy. And their determination to quickly illustrated the acquisition of a small but mobile fleet. Azerbaijan, too, just in case intensified in the area.

Experts, however, and then thought up the hot phase will not come. Although it is flammable, and the sea, but the light it hurt sanity and neighbors. Professionals are not inclined to dramatize the situation now. Anyway, Azerbaijan, has entered into a tough phase of confrontation with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, another smoldering tension does no good. Although outwardly it looks quite serious.

However, despite the apparent suddenness of this turn of events, and the reaction of Baku said that he was in such a scenario is clearly not ready, this exacerbation, probably should be expected. Undivided Caspian Sea, after the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived of legal status – a sea of contradictions. And the sea of desires, often exclusive to each other.

For example, deposit, which is due to the conflict broke out between Baku and Ashgabat, only for Azerbaijan “Kapaz”, and for Turkmenistan – “Serdar”. And it’s not just a different interpretation. For each of them in the name of its geography and its place of residence. Because they call it differently, that the same estimate.

According to official figures and those and other stocks of this site is pulling in 50 million tons of oil. In doing so, they converge. And already in the diplomatic clinch. In 2009, Turkmenistan announced the possibility of further bilateral talks with Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea oil fields. How Berdimuhamedov said at the time, there are several “good options” for a compromise. Apparently, not quite so good they were.

It is possible that the sea state gets from the outside. And not only at the level of non-public provocation. To them it is possible to include the work of a notorious West’s flirtation with the two capitals of the Caspian, which can not push them to more decisive action in an effort to stake a claim for an oil-bearing territory. Not long ago, a senior EU frankly said that the lack of legal status of Caspian Sea allows anyone to develop its deposits.

You can not reliably assert that the West is interested in pushing the littoral states at loggerheads. But if a regime of the Caspian oil rush that each was guided only by their own interests, you get the very turbid water, where you can catch the fish. Moscow declared that under no circumstances would not allow the introduction into the region of new players. By the way, Russia is seriously increased the Caspian Flotilla. Also, just in case.

The expert of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS) Ajdar Kurts will continue.

Sheinkman: This is not the first conflict between the Caspian Baku and Ashgabat. How do you feel now, as all serious?

Kurts: The fact that the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in the post-Soviet time evolved quite easy. Maritime border between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have not yet determined. From my point of view, there is still more arguments in the dispute on the side of Turkmenistan, as he stands on positions that need to measure the border line of the coast or from the islands, which are located in the Caspian Sea. So usually come in international law.

However, Azerbaijan believes in its own way, of course, trying to field all disputes remained in his area. All negotiations (as they often were, not one, not twice, but dozens of times) to anything concrete failed. All are on their hard-line stance, despite the ethnic, confessional intimacy of the two neighboring states.

I think that the current scandal shows that the new sovereign state, having received independence, not always correctly understand international relations, which are all over the world in which the parties must cooperate, rather than butting each other.

Sheinkman: We are just part of the second embodiment. Azerbaijan has already announced that reserves the right to a response action to protect its sovereignty. That it can be to do? How far will this conflict?

Kurts: As a rule, this language means a lot, up to hint at the possibility of sending naval forces in the area of potential conflict to discourage economic activity in Turkmenistan. In this respect, can not help but notice that both countries have naval forces, but the truth, rather undeveloped.

Azerbaijan in military combat-ready aircraft has more than Turkmenistan. I would not like that it came to military conflict, the more that this option is extremely disadvantageous Baku on the grounds that, having not settled until the end of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the country absolutely no need to present themselves in the world as an aggressor, undertaking conflict in their potential eastern borders. But the rigidity of the statement says about it.

Source :: Radio “Voice of Russia”

Afghan Post 2014–5 Super-bases, Bagram, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and Shindand

US Afghan Campaign – Post 2014

By Imran Malik
US Afghan Campaign - Post 2014. 47363.jpeg

The geostrategic environment of Afghanistan and the South-Central Asian Region (SCAR) will undergo a massive paradigm shift come mid-2013. The US/NATO/ISAF Combine’s juggernaut would have come to a grinding halt and the forces would by then have ostensibly receded into the background pending their final egress from the war torn country/region.

But what would the US/NATO/ISAF Combine have to show for all its troubles in Afghanistan? What would it leave in its wake – apart from a geopolitical and geostrategic mess of gargantuan proportions! Quite like Iraq, the US/NATO/ISAF Combine will leave behind a country destroyed and devastated beyond redemption, a nation ripped and torn apart, traumatized and brutalized beyond healing and reconciliation, a region destabilized and polarized beyond extremes!  And US’ own reputation as a sensible, responsible and assertive Imperial Super Power – in tatters and beyond repair!

What pathetic, pitiful and pitiable returns for a labor of such arrogantly savage proportions!!

The Geopolitical Dimension: The remnants of the US/NATO/ISAF Combine will have little impact at the regional level. The withdrawal of the main occupation forces will however leave a gaping power vacuum in Afghanistan which regional forces will try to fill.

The Regional Scenario:  Powers like Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan will mount direct/indirect challenges to the remnants of the US/NATO/ISAF Combine for influence there. None of Afghanistan’s neighbors is likely to intervene physically in that country however they will definitely want an Afghan   regime sympathetic to their own national interests. Thus this power struggle could emanate from beyond the borders of Afghanistan portending serious implications within. Pakistan and to some extent Iran have genuine interests in Afghanistan therefore their national interests will have to be secured in any/all dispensations for Afghanistan. Russia and China are getting more proactive there and the Central Asian Republics (CARs) are likely to follow their lead. A peripheral India, still lacking genuine credentials to project power, is most likely to sit on the fence and would be better off by just staying there.

The Shanghai Cooperation (SCO) Factor: This emerging geopolitical and geostrategic environment is ripe for the SCO to exploit. The SCO (with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran as full members) must start exerting itself at the regional (read SCAR) level to the exclusion of all external powers and influences. It is absolutely imperative for the SCO to dominate, take charge and assume responsibility for SCAR – a region it must start relating to immediately! It must evolve, grow and emerge as a unified competing pole and countervailing force to the US-led West in the region. The SCO must be more proactively involved in the affairs of the SCAR and surroundings.

This will help secure the enormous mineral resources of the region for its people as well as giving it decisive control over the many East-West and North-South trade corridors (eg New Silk Road Project) and oil-gas pipelines (TAPI, IP) under consideration. The SCO must unambiguously declare and demonstrate that SCAR lies well within its sphere of influence and that it will henceforth contest any interference in this vital region! With the US already egressing from Afghanistan and “rebalancing” or “shifting pivot” to the Asia Pacific now perhaps would be the ideal time for the SCO to make its bid for the SCAR!

The Afghanistan-Afghan Nation Scenario: The US/NATO/ISAF Combine will probably hand over power to a Northern Alliance (NA) led Central Government in Kabul albeit with a very limited writ. It will be a blatantly unnatural political dispensation – a minority ruling over the majority (Pashtuns)!! Whither democracy?? An inevitable internecine power struggle will thus ensue at the domestic level.  Afghanistan and the Afghan nation would thus be fractured along many lines. The country is likely to be politically divided up between the NA in the North and West and the Pashtuns dominating the South and the East. And both sides and their allies will get involved in a debilitating and long power struggle attempting to widen their areas of influence and writ at the cost of the other.

Existing and emerging tribal, sectarian and ethnic divisions/affiliations will further complicate the scenario. External influences of Afghanistan’s neighbors, the presence of militant groups like the Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) etc and interference by the remnants of the US/NATO/ISAF Combine will further polarize the Afghans. Thus a bewildering array of some mutually exclusive and some reinforcing fractures will emerge along which the Afghan body politic and the Afghan nation will be split up.

Numerous warlords and militant groups with their respective fiefdoms will emerge. There will be widespread chaos and a total loss of central command and control from Kabul. This phenomenon will have an extremely destabilizing and polarizing effect in the country, will lead to a civil war, could cause the balkanization of Afghanistan and could also encourage ethnic unifications across Afghanistan’s political borders with her neighbors – Pakistan (Pashtuns), Tajikistan (Tajiks), Turkmenistan (Turks/Turkmen), Iran (Shiites) et al. The destabilized country could splinter and send the region into a frenzied tailspin, a deathly vortex!!

The Strategic Dimension:  As the US/NATO/ISAF Combine exits from Afghanistan there would be a number of military/militant forces, inimical to one another, present in the country and the region.

The ANSF:  almost totally comprise of non-Pashtuns! The biggest dichotomy would be that the leadership in the ANSF would almost entirely rest with the NA sympathizers which could lead to a serious implosion once the stabilizing command and control factor of the US/NATO/ISAF is removed. The multi-ethnic nature of the ANSF will cause powerful centrifugal forces based on ethnic, sectarian, tribal and area leanings to seriously threaten the unity of the force. Whatever few Pashtuns that they may have recruited may either desert or turn out to be Taliban/Pashtun sympathizers. The issues of long term sustenance and maintenance of the force (US $ 4.1 billion per annum!) will be a serious concern too. This could well mean the difference between maintaining professional Afghan security forces or finding hundreds and thousands of quasi-trained, well-armed deserters/militants roaming the Afghan landscape seeking affiliations and trouble!

The Bases Factor: The ANSF will have the support of the remnants of the US/NATO/ISAF from five bases spread all around the country – Bagram, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and Shindand. So their immediate support will be limited to the number of US and Allied troops available at a particular base in the region! The order of battle of the US/NATO/ISAF remnants is likely to comprise drones, gunships, airpower, special operations forces, civilian contractors like Blackwater, Xe, etc and the intelligence agencies. Put together they will be a handful and will keep the pot boiling for long.  However the basic issue of supply routes, maintenance and sustenance of these bases will still remain to be crucial.

The Militant Factor: These Afghan and US/NATO/ISAF forces are likely to be opposed by the remnants of Al Qaeda (AQ), the Haqqani Network (HN), some elements of the TTP and most importantly by the majority Afghan population, the Pashtuns. The US bases are likely to be isolated and then reduced piecemeal by the Afghans who are historically known to employ the tactics of siege, intrigue, conspiracy, treachery, raids, ambushes, IEDs and outright attacks to defeat their enemies. Their patience and ingenuity in such affairs is legendary. These bases are going to stick out like isolated sore thumbs on the Afghan landscape and will be under constant siege/attack!

The Pakistan Factor:  In the US-Pakistan context relations have probably hit rock bottom. US arrogance and intransigence have transformed this once major non-NATO ally into a virtual enemy! How has this rapid transformation come about? It was always on the cards for two major reasons. One, the US has never been a reliable ally to Pakistan (flashback 1965, 1971, 1989) or to anyone anywhere in the world except Israel and itself. Two, there was never any convergence of strategic aims and objectives in the Afghan campaign between the two therefore there could not have been any compatible convergences at the tactical level either. So, despite the political rhetoric by both sides the US’ Afghan campaign was actually doomed from the outset. And that is how it will end.

Pakistan is likely to suffer further on two major accounts. Firstly, it will be ironically and unfairly made the scapegoat for US’ ignominious failure and defeat in Afghanistan. Secondly, Pakistan could suffer US cross border operations during the period leading upto US’ final withdrawal in 2014, still two and a half years away! More “Abbotabads” may be in the offing to get militant leaders like Al Zawahiri and Mullah Omar. The US (other NATO/ISAF countries may balk at this idea) could also carry out arrogant cross border operations (a final kick) in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) or even Balochistan or even at some nuclear sites, just prior to its final departure. Its strategic implications and Pakistan’s responses are thus far unpredictable! They could take any form, shape, scope and/or dimension!!

Come end 2014, the US would be defeated, piqued, hurt, angry, bitter and perhaps on the prowl, too!

Pakistan, the SCAR and the world, beware!!

Imran Malik

The author is a retired Brigadier from the Pakistan Army and a former Defense  Attache’ to Australia and New Zealand

CENTCOM Picking SCO Brains Over Peace Mission 2012 Exercises

State Dept. Russian Agitators Afraid To Support US Position On Syria

Why are Russia’s Protest Leaders Silent on Syria?

RIA Novosti

Why are Russia's Protest Leaders Silent on Syria?

Why are Russia’s Protest Leaders Silent on Syria?

MOSCOW, June 14 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti)

As Russia faces growing international pressure over its alleged support for the embattled regime in Syria, the Kremlin’s stance on the crisis in the Middle East country has remained a virtual non-topic at home, with both anti-Putin protest leaders and independent media largely silent on the issue.

That’s not to say, though, that the leaders of recent mass protests against the 12-year-old rule of President Vladimir Putin are indifferent to the ongoing bloodshed in Syria and continuing Russian arms deliveries to Damascus.

“This is an absolutely short-sighted policy that will see Russia lose whatever influence it still has in the Middle East,” said Boris Nemtsov, Solidarity party leader and deputy prime minister under ex-President Boris Yeltsin.

”Putin is backing [Syrian President Bashar] Assad because he thinks he could be next,” Nemtsov told RIA Novosti. “He also sees it as a part of his battle with the United States, his long-time obsession.”

Fellow protest leader Yevgenia Chirikova was even more scathing on Putin’s policies on Syria – Russia’s sole remaining ally in the Arab world.

“I don’t have words to describe how wrong it is to sell arms to a dictator who shoots at his own people,” she said. “It’s also strange to hear the Kremlin say the Syrian people should decide their own destiny, when they don’t pay any attention at all to the wishes of the Russian people.”

Russia – along with China – has twice vetoed United Nations resolutions against Syria over what it says is a pro-rebel bias. Putin has also made it clear that the Kremlin will not sanction UN military intervention to stop what Western powers say is the brutal suppression of the now 15-month uprising against Assad.

But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said again on Wednesday that Russia had no special interest in seeing Assad remain in power. He also said that continuing weapons deliveries to Syria were of an “exclusively” defensive nature.

But Amnesty International slammed on Thursday Russia’s stance on the crisis, saying the Kremlin “bears a heavy responsibility for allowing the brutal crackdown on legitimate dissent in Syria to continue unchecked.”

Putin’s opponents looked unlikely however to use the criticism by the human rights organization as a stick with which to beat their arch-nemesis.

Ilya Yashin, a high-profile opposition figurehead who recently served ten days behind bars for protest-related offences, told RIA that while he was critical of Kremlin policy’s on Syria, he was wary about raising the issue.

“Personally, I think it’s a crime to sell arms to Assad. But I cannot speak for the entire opposition,” he said. “We are concentrating on domestic Russian politics, on the things that unite us all, rather than the things that we could quarrel over.”

“I realize, of course, that this is a very serious issue, but we have to concentrate on Russia, because there is a danger that things here could go the same way as in Syria,” he added.

And analyst Maria Lipman at the Moscow-based Carnegie Center think-tank suggested the anti-Putin protest leaders were perhaps reluctant to raise the issue of Syria for fear of alienating supporters.

“People in Russia don’t have such feelings that the country should side with the United States,” she said. “There is a lot of resentment in Russia about American policies. Going to an anti-Putin protest does not mean at all that you support the United States.”

“Anti-Putin rhetoric is what unites very diverse ideological groups,” she added. “To raise the issue of Syria would only emphasize this diversity.”

A significant proportion of the anti-Putin movement is made up of left-wing and hard-line Communist groups, all of whom are virulently opposed to what they see as an unacceptable U.S. hegemony in world affairs.

And veteran Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who finished a distant second to Putin at this year’s presidential polls, has more than toed the Kremlin line on Syria, accusing “Western special forces” of being behind last month’s massacre in the Syrian village of Houla.

The ongoing rallies against Putin have also seen the involvement of a number of nationalist and ultra-right groups.

Nationalist leader Vladimir Tor refrained from outright criticism of Kremlin policies on Syria, saying simply: “The fewer weapons there are in the Middle East, the better.”

But he also hit out at U.S. policies in the Middle East.

“If it is bad to sell arms to Syria, then it is also bad to sell arms to Israel. If it is bad for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, then it is bad for Israel to have one,” he told RIA. “This is an example of double standards.”

Russia’s opposition media, usually quick off the mark to criticize Putin, has also so far failed to address the Syria issue.

“This theme is, of course, interesting for our readers,” said Vitaly Yaroshevsky, deputy editor of the liberal Novaya Gazeta newspaper. “And we plan to cover the topic soon.”

He cited organizational difficulties for the failure of the paper, funded by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and tycoon Alexander Lebedev, to focus on the Syria crisis.

“[But] our position is that there is no call to praise the Russian authorities over this,” he went on, adding that his own personal opinion was that the “international community can not turn a blind eye to the murder of peaceful civilians.”

Analyst Alexander Shumilin of Moscow’s Center for the Greater Middle East Conflicts told RIA after the killings in Houla that the vast majority of people in Russia had been convinced by state media that “terrorists” were to blame for such atrocities.

“Most people in Russia believe what state television tells them, that the massacre in Houla was carried out by terrorists and the West is trying to blame it all on Assad,” he said.

Manageable chaos: US goal in Central Asia

Manageable chaos: US goal in Central Asia

Manageable chaos: US goal in Central Asia

What methods does the US use to sideline Russia and China in the region? Alexander Knyazev, coordinator of regional programs, the Center for Studies of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Urals and Volga region, the Institute of Oriental Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences, discusses this in his interview.

Q.: What is the reason for the United States’ excessive activity in Kyrgyzstan? How does it correlate with the popular opinion that chaos is where America is? How does this small country deserve this “honor”? What will be the outcome?

A.: Actually, Kyrgyzstan is not an end in itself. The US analytical and political circles have worked on the project of “Greater Middle East” for many years already; within it, there is the so-called project of Greater Central Asia.

All these projects and scenarios envisage redrawing huge regions on the world map. These scenarios assign the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley the fate of Kosovo: it will be an enclave where crime, drugs and terrorist structures will concentrate. These strings will allow influencing the countries of the region, if necessary. In Europe, this function is performed by Kosovo – here you have the European drug dealing center under the roof of the US airbase Bondsteel, as well as trafficking in humans and human organs, smuggling of weapons – the entire range of the criminal market… By the way, the same fate is prepared for Libya, notably, for its eastern part where the so-called revolutionaries supported by the West are based.

Q.: Not so long ago, you said at an international conference that virtually any conflict in Kyrgyzstan threatens to become international…

A.: It is good that last year’s southern developments were localized, thanks to a large degree to Karimov’s generally correct policy. I believe that Tashkent understands clearly that any escalation of the conflict in the Fergana Valley is first of all aimed against Uzbekistan.

It should be remembered that historically, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan consists of President Islam Karimov’s former opposition. This tool is aimed against him, against Uzbekistan’s political regime, directly or indirectly. Naturally, Karimov is working to reduce the IMU’s activity in the region.

This, of course, doesn’t stop their transnational activities. Many of the IMU leaders have “practiced” in Chechnya. Last spring, they received powerful reinforcements from the Caucasus and Xinjiang – Chechens, Dagestanis, Uigurs… A universal tool.

Q.: Which is located not far away and is sure to take advantage of a shaky situation here or in our neighboring countries. Take Tajikistan as an example…

A.: Tajikistan in this respect is important and convenient, partially, as a transit territory. This territory has been marred by conflicts since the civil war of the 1990s, which was once again confirmed by last year’s developments in the Rasht Valley. The distance between the Afghan district of Darwaz on the Tajik border and the closest Kyrgyz settlement is about 1,500 km by road. This way has been repeatedly covered by terrorists and drug couriers. Dushanbe has never controlled this territory – Tavildara, Garm, Dzhirgital, the so-called ‘Karategin zone.” In the past, the Soviet Union managed to establish itself there only in the 1950s.

Apart from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Russia and Kazakhstan will not be able to stand back – de jure and de facto – as member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. In case of a conflict, both Russia and Kazakhstan will have to intervene in some or other way, be it political pressure or something different, up to the bringing of troops.

Q.: Can the latest developments in Libya have affected Central Asia in any way?

A.: Both Astana and Tajikistan must have learned from the Libyan events. Nazarbayev secured his position with an early election, which showed that there was no serious opposition. Uzbekistan must have reinforced the corresponding government structures. However, the attempts at playing multi-vector, hoping for America’s loyalty, are no longer feasible, especially for countries that don’t have resources; the time of such games is over. Playing friends with America is fraught with consequences: the example of Hosni Mubarak is very telling, and he used to be such a great friend of the United States.

What is important for the US now is rotation in itself. This means that loyal regimes that have been around for twenty years or more have to be replaced. Is there a guarantee that the same will not be done to Nazarbayev, for example?

Q.: But an attempt to overthrow him could bring about chaos.

A.: The US goal in Central Asia is to establish a manageable chaos. There will be a smoldering conflict in Kyrgyzstan, sometimes hidden, sometimes open… It is not difficult to manage it, by providing – or not providing – money and weapons. There are a lot of ways to regulate the activities of all these instigators, terrorists and so on.

Q.: What is the goal of managing chaos?

A.: A lot in today’s politics is determined by energy resources. A conflict is a way to manage energy flows. If there is a conflict in a region, the possibility of energy production (and especially, imports) falls drastically: who will invest in a pipeline going through a country at war?

Q.: Many countries intend to build pipelines in Central Asia. Almost all global players have their pipeline projects here.

A.: Now there is a trend towards hydrocarbon supply from Central Asia to China. One of the goals of the manageable chaos scenario is to preserve the region’s oil and gas reserves and not to allow their supply to rivals, i.e. to the Chinese market.

Yet another goal is to put indirect pressure on rival countries. Should there be a conflict, Russia and Kazakhstan will have to spend big, even colossal sums on their security, even if they do not get involved in the conflict directly. For example, China boosted the spending on infrastructure related to the safety of its borders with Kyrgyzstan several-fold after March 2005. Security is a very expensive pleasure, and if you recall that the Russian-Kazakh border is one of the longest in the world… Even Gazprom couldn’t afford to equip it properly…

Caspian apple of discord

Caspian apple of discord

Валерий Туманов, обозреватель

Caspian apple of discord

Valery Tumanov, commentator

The Caspian Sea remains the apple of discord for the five littoral states, and they are trying to resolve the situation at different levels and in different formats. On September 16-17, the Kazakh city of Aktau on the seacoast will host another event devoted to the Caspian problems, the Paradigms of International Cooperation in the Caspian Sea conference.

In the early 1990s, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, disputes concerned division of the water zone. Today, the parties are arguing about rational use of the sea’s natural wealth, environmental problems, navigation practices and a pipeline initiative, which is close to becoming a working project.

The debates are getting hotter. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are nursing plans to lay a gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea that would transport their energy to countries that need it. By connecting the eastern and western coasts of the sea with a pipeline, Baku and Ashgabat, which have huge gas reserves in their respective parts of the sea, hope to sell it to Europe and Asia, at a large profit, of course.

No wonder that both countries are actively lobbying the idea. To a certain extent, they are supported by Kazakhstan, which is not as rich in gas, but still has some and hopes to benefit from the project.

These plans are vigorously opposed by Russia and Iran. Critics can definitely say that the reason for their stance is that they don’t have gas reserves in their parts of the Caspian Sea. However, Moscow and Tehran have forward a fairly solid argument: environment protection. Laying a pipeline across the sea will further aggravate its already serious environmental problems and may even result in an ecological crisis, experts say.

It should be remembered that since the Caspian Sea became a source of oil production after the war, in the late 1940s, the environmental situation here has changed drastically for the worse. At the time, a unique piled town – Neftyanye Kamni – was built 100 km from Baku, in the open sea. This was the starting point for negative changes in the vulnerable organism of the closed Caspian Sea basin.

First of all, industrial presence affected the sea fauna: many species have disappeared, unable to tolerate the influx of oil, which is harmful for living organisms. The first to suffer were the famous Caspian sturgeons; the equally popular Caspian herring was seriously damaged, and so were other species that in the past had earned the sea the fame of a water body with the ideal natural environment for rare fish.

There is no need to say how much the unmerciful exploitation of oil and gas fields has reduced the reserves of the Caspian black caviar, a delicacy that brought the Soviet Union significant returns on exports. However, the returns on exports of oil and gas – strategic energy resources – were even higher, which made the Kremlin allow the development of Caspian fields.

And now, Baku and Ashgabat want to join the race for windfalls promised by the gas pipeline construction. If the Caspian Sea was their own, it would be their own business. But it washes the shores of another three states, and the problem of the water zone’s pollution and the need to preserve the natural integrity of the sea’s unique characteristics – something geographers and biologists from all over the world keep calling for – are a common task for all the five littoral states.

Construction of the pipeline, doctors say, may affect even the Caspian Sea’s recreation zone: its resorts are used widely for treating and preventing different diseases. Fields development, oil shipments and oil spills have already spoiled many Caspian beaches. The pipeline would further aggravate the situation.

At an international symposium held a few years ago and devoted to the Caspian Sea, participants emphasized the need to treat it carefully, to develop oil and gas fields sensibly and to preserve precious bio resources. The sea needs efficient treatment facilities that will bring water pollution to a minimum, scientists said. Unfortunately, the way littoral states treat the Caspian Sea and its problems leaves much to be desired.

Another closed sea nearby, Aral, has already been wiped out. It would seem that this horrible example should provide a sufficient lesson. But no, profit rules the world and it is much stronger than the threat of an environmental disaster.

Yes, the energy needs of the present-day economy are enormous, and the Caspian Sea’s huge energy reserves may partially meet them. But it should be done with caution, sensibly, without getting euphoric about predatory exploitation of the sea wealth.

It is too early to say whether the five littoral states will agree on the pipeline and other disputed issues. One thing is clear, though: the Caspian Sea has not yet become a sea of understanding, a connecting bridge in relations between the countries whose shores it washes. This unique sea remains an apple of discord, the topic of heated debates on problems that need to be resolved with responsibility to the nature and to future generations.

“Our [Azerbaijan’s] main enemies are Armenians of the world,” NOT the Iranians As Washington Implies

State Dept. Responds to ANCA Concerns on Azeri Aggression

Continues Artificial Even-Handedness in Condemning Azerbaijan’s Recent Cease-Fire Violations

WASHINGTON—The U.S. State Department this month once again failed to properly condemn Azerbaijan’s escalating violence against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh in a June 13 letter responding to the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) concerns about Azerbaijan’s recent cross-border attacks.

The response came to a letter by ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian on the June 4-6 Azerbaijani attacks against Armenia and Karabagh that left eight soldiers dead and more wounded.

Philip Gordon 300x225 State Dept. Responds to ANCA Concerns on Azeri Aggression

Phil Gordon

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon, responding for Secretary Hillary Clinton, said the U.S. “deeply regret[s] this senseless loss of life,” and went on to note that “the United States has urged the parties to refrain from the use or threat of force.”

“We remain deeply disturbed by the ongoing artificial even-handedness applied to a belligerent Azerbaijani leadership, which has repeatedly shown–through threats and violence–a blatant disregard for international calls for a peaceful resolution of the Karabagh conflict,” said Hachikian.  “This time it was eight soldiers who were killed on the front lines–brazenly timed to coincide with Secretary Clinton’s visit to the region.  How many more must die before we hear a clear rebuke from the U.S. and international community of Azerbaijan’s escalating violence and war-rhetoric?”

Commenting on the ANCA’s concerns about reports of an impending sale of military equipment to Azerbaijan for use on helicopters for border monitoring, Gordon noted that “the United States’ security assistance to the region is carefully considered to ensure it does not undermine efforts for a peaceful settlement in Nagorno-Karabagh.”


The ANCA has circulated a set of seven specific policy recommendations for the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress to check Baku’s aggression and support the peaceful and democratic resolution of Azerbaijan’s conflicts with Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh.  Among the recommendations is a call for the Obama Administration to “suspend all military aid to Azerbaijan, and stop the sale or transfer to Baku of any military equipment or dual-use items (including the proposed sale of advanced helicopter-based surveillance equipment, DDTC 12-002).”

Review the recommendations and urge Congress to take action by

Pending Military Sale

Azerbaijan’s threats against Armenia and Karabagh and a possible U.S. weapons sale to the Aliyev regime were issues of concern at last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Designate Richard Morningstar.

During his questioning, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) cited Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s recent assertion that “Our [Azerbaijan’s] main enemies are Armenians of the world,” and asked Morningstar, “Do you think, based upon those types of statements, that the proposed sales of military hardware to be used in conjunction with Azerbaijan’s military helicopter fleet is really in the national interest of the United States?”

Morningstar argued, “There are increasing tensions with respect to other neighbors, in particular with Iran. And we have to provide, I think, security assistance, possibly military assistance in ways that cannot be used to exacerbate any situation with respect to Armenia or Nagorno-Karabagh.”  Menendez was quick to respond, reminding Morningstar that “I didn’t hear President Aliyev say, ‘My main enemy or security concern is Iran.’ He said that, ‘Our main enemies are the Armenians of the world…’ I have a real problem with going ahead and selling military hardware to the Azerbaijanis based upon what has happened.”

Watch Menendez’s exchange with Morningstar

Alarm bells regarding the State Department’s consideration of a sale of helicopter equipment that could be used for cross-border monitoring were first raised in a letter to Clinton by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman last month.  In addition to possible attacks against Armenia, Berman expressed concern about the “message that such a sale would send to the regional parties, both in terms of perceived U.S. even-handedness and in terms of our seriousness about persuading Baku to cease its bellicose rhetoric and agree to Minsk Group co-chair demands that it remove its snipers from the ‘line of contact’ in the Nagorno-Karabagh region.”

Russia’s ‘rational’ and ‘moral’ stance on Syria

MOSCOW — As Syria’s uprising against Bashar al-Assad deteriorates into a potentially nation-destroying civil war, most of the diplomatic discourse has been dominated by a high-stakes blame-game between Russia and the West over who is most at fault for the horrific massacre and mayhem.

The most recent example: Monday’s tense meeting between the Russian and US presidents in Mexico, in which Obama failed to get Putin’s help in easing Assad from power.

So far Russia has been losing this rhetorical battle. But the Kremlin insists that its case transcends mere self-interest, and points the way back to a world governed by the rule of law.

Moscow’s community of foreign policy experts — many of whom routinely excoriate the Kremlin — seem uncommonly united in support of Russia’s stance on Syria. They argue that the Kremlin is adhering to a conservative set of international values, based on respect for national sovereignty and the right of Syria’s people to sort out their own future.

The West, they claim, is out of legal bounds and pursuing its own geopolitical interests thinly disguised as a humanitarian “responsibility to protect” in a manner that is reckless, hypocritical and — perhaps the unkindest cut — incompetent.

“The West talks in terms of noble goals, but their actions tend to wreck any stability, threaten the lives of millions, and leave people worse off than before,” says Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the independent Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in Moscow. “I don’t carry any brief for the Kremlin, but in the case of Syria, the Russian aim is to try to minimize negative outcomes. Russian approaches may be old fashioned and conservative but, I’m sorry to say, they’re more rational than current Western policies.”

Russian experts dish out examples of botched Western interventions going back to the 1999 Kosovo war, which Moscow helped to resolve after receiving NATO’s assurances that Kosovo would never be given independence; a few years later Kosovo was made independent. The long and inconclusive US occupation of Iraq and the ongoing imbroglio in Afghanistan are cited as examples of “making things worse.”

But uppermost in Russian minds is the UN-authorized NATO intervention in Libya last year, which Moscow acquiesced to as a measure to protect civilians, only to see it morph into a full rebel campaign for regime change backed by Western air power.

“We’ve been lied to repeatedly; not a single promise the West has made to us in the past two decades has been honored,” says Sergei Markov, vice president of the Plekhanov Economic University in Moscow and a frequent adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past.

“We’ve learned to take our own counsel on problems like Syria. What we see is an extraordinarily difficult situation that threatens to explode into a massive bloodbath. Nobody likes Assad, but if you just remove him the entire state will collapse with awful consequences. We wish we could have an intelligent conversation with Western leaders about this, but so far that hasn’t proved possible,” he says.

After vetoing (along with China) two UN Security Council resolutions that would have imposed tough sanctions and enabled a process for easing Assad out, Russia got on board with the UN-sponsored Kofi Annan plan, which envisaged democratic reforms and UN observers but no sanctions or outside military interference. With the Annan plan in shreds, and violence spiraling in many parts of Syria, the war of words is heating up again.

Russia’s primary argument for its position is that it conforms with international law. Sovereignty is the supreme principle, Russian officials say, and Western attempts to change those rules have not led to good results anywhere.

The fixation on sovereignty is rooted in self-interest, and comes with its own healthy dose of hypocrisy. The Kremlin harbors a deep-seated fear that authorizing outside military force to support rebellious populations might one day be used to license intervention in Russia. And the principle does not seem to apply when Moscow is dealing with its own neighbors in the post-Soviet area; after defeating Georgia in 2008, Moscow effective dismembered its southern neighbor by granting independence to the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Putin, who has effectively ruled Russia for the past 12 years, viewed the pro-democracy “colored revolutions” that erupted in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past decade as the creations of foreign intelligence services. When tens of thousands of anti-Kremlin protesters took to the streets of Moscow last December to demand fair elections, his first public response was to blame Hillary Clinton: “She set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal, they heard this signal and started active work,” Putin said at the time.

“Russian leaders fear revolution very deeply, and they look with horror on the Arab Spring and the totally disordered changes that have followed in its wake,” says Sergei Strokan, a foreign affairs columnist with the Moscow daily Kommersant.

“The only thing that’s worse for them is the idea of popular revolution approved of and supported by the West. They observe all that’s happening through a conspiratorial lens. Hence they see Western-backed rebels creating a pretext for Western military intervention that leads to pro-Western regime change. The biggest regret in Russian official foreign policy circles, and the worst accusation against (former President Dmitry) Medvedev, is that he authorized our UN delegation to abstain on the Security Council resolution that authorized the use of force to protect civilians in Libya last year. They are determined not to enable anything like that, not ever again,” Strokan says.

Russia also has significant financial and political reasons to back Assad.

Syria has been Moscow’s most important strategic partner in the Middle East since 1971. It’s been a major customer for Russian arms and engineering goods. Russia currently has about $5 billion in outstanding arms contracts with Syria, plus as much as $15 billion in other traditional military and economic cooperation — including Russia’s only foreign military base, a naval refueling station at the Syrian port of Tartous.

Financially, abiding by Western-backed sanctions never seems to work out in Moscow’s favor. Over the past year, Russia has sacrificed about $4.5-billion in broken arms deals with Libya, and lost as much as $13 billion due to UN sanctions against Iran, experts say.

“Moscow is afraid events in Syria will spin out of control,” says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments in Moscow. “We have lots of economic interests that we stand to lose, but this is not the main thing. The loss of political influence is more important, because Syria is the last point in the Middle East where Russia has a major role to play.”

Still, the Kremlin has reacted defensively to charges that it is fueling Syria’s civil war by continuing to sell arms to Assad. Stung by Hillary Clinton’s recent claim that Russia was sending attack helicopters to Syria for use against demonstrators, Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport made public the list of weaponry it does sell to Syria, including anti-aircraft systems, coastal defense missiles and jet trainers. “We supply armaments that are self-[defensive] rather than attack weapons, and there can be no talk about any violations by Russia or Rosoboronexport either de jure or de facto,” the agency’s spokesman, Igor Sevastyanov, told journalists.

(It also appears that Clinton’s claim was incorrect. Syria’s fleet of at least 36 Mi-25 “Hind-D” helicopter gunships — a deadly flying artillery platform made famous by Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980’s — was purchased from Russia at least 20 years ago. The helicopters Clinton was referring to were recently serviced in Russia, and were being returned to Syria, but no new helicopter contracts have been signed in over ten years, experts say.)

Russia retorts that it’s the West, and Sunni-dominated Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are smuggling in weapons to fuel the armed rebellion against the Alawite minority rule headed by Assad in Syria.

“We think we know how the world works as well as anyone else, and our diplomats have been active in the Middle East for a long time. We do not have the slightest romantic illusion that something that comes after Assad will be better,” says Satanovsky. “We see a religious war shaping up in Syria, and across the region — Sunni against Shia — and we want no part of it. We see all sorts of extremist groups, including Al Qaeda, fighting alongside these anti-Assad rebels and we wonder why you don’t seem to notice that ….

“Our Western colleagues point to these terrible atrocities (taking place with increasing frequency in Syria) and say, ‘We have to do something!’ But your own Western track record shows that you get the regime change you wanted, then lose all interest in the humanitarian problems,” he says.

“As for Russia, we’ve learned to base our policy on national interest. We simply don’t believe Western leaders know what they’re doing, and we’re not listening to all that chatter anymore. So, Russia’s Syria policy will remain basically the same, and there is no significant debate over this in the Russian establishment today,” he adds.

$10Billion Expansion At Saudi-Owned Texas Refinery (America’s Largest) Undercut By Saudi Oil Surge

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s unexpected surge in oil exports to the United States this year has fallen into question following a deepening crisis this month at the kingdom’s jointly owned and newly expanded Texas refinery.

With the huge 325,000 barrel per day (bpd) crude oil unit at Motiva’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery now expected to be out of commission for as long as a year, crippling the biggest plant in the United States just weeks after the completion of a $10 billion expansion project, the Saudis are likely to throttle back U.S. exports that hit four-year peaks in recent months.

But a deeper look at detailed import data suggests that any curbs on production may not be as deep as many expect. In fact, a Reuters analysis of government data shows that the 27 percent jump in Saudi shipments in the first quarter was driven by higher sales to a variety of customers, not only Motiva, which the kingdom jointly owns with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L).

The world’s top exporter boosted shipments to independent refiners Valero (VLO.N), Marathon Petroleum (MPC.N) and PBF Energy (PBF.N) as part of a 300,00 bpd rise in the first quarter, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Some of that increase was due to unusually low imports in early 2011.

But only about a quarter was destined for the Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, according to a Reuters analysis of more detailed data that identifies which plants consume imported oil. The increase in sales to Valero was nearly twice as large.

To be sure, the kingdom’s state oil firm Aramco must still scramble to rearrange its shipping plans to avoid surplus crude piling up in Motiva’s storage tanks or driving prices lower still by reselling excess oil, measures that are almost certain to require throttling back full-on output.

An industry source in Saudi Arabia said that Motiva had reduced its orders for deliveries of crude in July but declined to give details on volume. An industry source familiar with Saudi oil policy said production “is likely to be affected.”.

The bigger question is how these logistical hiccups are affecting oil policy at a higher level.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has made no secret of his desire to curb $100-plus oil prices in order to provide a “stimulus” for ailing world economies, driving production this year to more than 10 million bpd, near a record high.

But now with Brent crude now dropping to less than $95 a barrel, its lowest since early 2011, the disruption at Motiva may provide a useful excuse to tighten the taps without abandoning its commitment to helping restore global growth.

“Just a couple of months ago, you had people going ‘Oh my gosh, look at all this Saudi crude!'” says Jamie Webster of PFC Energy in Washington.

“A lot of it was for Motiva…. Now the question is: Are they going to find 325,000 barrels of customers elsewhere, are they going to have to bring production down, or are they just going to continue to put it in their stocks?”

The massive expansion at Port Arthur was shut down in early June just weeks after it was commissioned, due to what sources have said is extensive corrosion in the brand new crude unit. It was first expected to restart operations within two to five months, but sources now say it may be shut for up to a year.


Saudi Arabia shipped 300,000 bpd more crude to U.S. refiners in the first quarter than a year ago, the biggest such year on year rise in a decade, EIA data showed. Imports reached 1.4 million bpd, rising sharply even as a boom in U.S. domestic production and diminished demand reduced overall crude imports to their second-lowest quarterly level since the 1990s.

In total, Motiva imported 315,000 bpd of Saudi crude in the first quarter, a 112,000 bpd increase from the year before, the calculations show. Of that, about 250,000 bpd went to Port Arthur, the plant’s largest intake since early 2007 and enough to meet nearly all the refinery’s pre-expansion demand.

But shipments to Port Arthur were up only 74,000 bpd from a year ago, a relatively modest rise that is in many ways logical: Operators would have needed only a bit of extra oil in order to build up additional inventories ahead of commissioning the new units, which didn’t begin running until mid-April.

The balance of Motiva’s crude imports from Saudi Arabia in the quarter went to its Convent plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which had bought almost no Saudi crude a year ago.

The data also shows that Saudi Arabia found other customers ready to increase purchases to a degree not previously known.

Valero’s imports in the quarter jumped nearly 130,000 bpd to a total 217,000 bpd, the data show. That’s a more than 50 percent rise over its average for all of last year, and pushed its intake of Saudi crude to the highest since 2008.

Sources familiar with Valero’s purchases said that the increase was due to a drop in traditional heavy crude supplies from Latin America and Mexico. First-quarter U.S. imports from Mexico fell 300,000 bpd from a year ago to just 1 million bpd.

Marathon Petroleum and Paulsboro Refining — a unit of independent refiner PBF Energy — also saw sizeable increases of nearly 40,000 bpd each, the data showed, although that was partly due to a particularly low base. Paulsboro’s imports are up by just over 15,000 bpd versus last year’s average.


U.S. imports of Saudi crude:

Saudi crude shipments grow:

It is not clear whether the same customers have continued to buy Saudi crude at the same rate. Most oil supply contracts are agreed on an annual basis, allowing for some flexibility in the timing of deliveries. Detailed oil import statistics for the second quarter won’t be fully available until late August.

It is also too early to assess the impact on Saudi Arabia’s production. In theory, the kingdom could seek to keep pumping at a near-record rate of around 10 million bpd, hoping to find new customers or pushing the crude into storage.

But storage is running out.

“Saudi Arabia has been showing the world that it is capable at pumping at high levels of above 10 million bpd, and of course not all this oil is being sold — a lot is going into storage,” said Kamel Al Harami, an independent Kuwaiti analyst.

Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said back in March that storage inside Saudi Arabia and in its facilities in Rotterdam, Sidi Kerir and Okinawa were already full with around 10 million barrels in stock, leaving the United States as a key sink for millions of Saudi barrels.

The extra Saudi shipments amount to a year-on-year rise of around 26.75 million barrels in the first quarter alone. Over the same period, U.S. crude oil stocks rose by 28 million barrels. New weekly EIA data on Wednesday showed U.S. stockpiles unexpectedly rose last week after two declines, pushing stockpiles back toward the 22-year highs they reached in May.

Overall Saudi-U.S. crude exports continued at unusually high levels throughout April and May, with deliveries averaging 1.54 million bpd in the six weeks to mid-June, according to provisional weekly import figures from the EIA.

The question is how much of that oil was earmarked for the 600,000 bpd Port Arthur plant, which is now running at half-strength.

In late May, as the top brass from Shell and Aramco inaugurated the $10 billion expansion, Motiva President and CEO Bob Pease said the new units were expected to run only heavy Saudi crude for about two months before diversifying supplies.

That plan was foiled within days, however, as the new crude unit experienced a glitch on June 3 that forced it to shut down. A week later, following two failed restarts, it was said to be bracing for an up to year-long shutdown. The company has said it cannot say when the unit will be running again.

“All of that (crude) is now going to go into storage and if you fill up storage, then it has to go somewhere,” says Chakib Khelil, an oil analyst and former Algerian energy minister.

(Reporting by Daniel Fineran in Dubai and Jonathan Leff in New York; additional reporting by Reem Shamseddine, Amena Bakr and Janet McGurty in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Saudi Puppet League Grasps for Political Advantage Over Russian Statesmen

[While the Arab League demands that the entire world surrender to the limitless ambitions of the Saudis and their little sheikh puppets, Russian diplomats are the only ones with the moral courage to take concrete steps to interrupt their blatant plan for a long-term war of aggression in the Middle East.  One thing is certain, anything that the sheikhs can do to promote new wars is the most certain way to keep the price of oil artificially high.  The Arabs and their co-conspirators have finally come out of the closet.  They now feel confident that world opinion has been sufficiently twisted, so that they can do openly what they have always done from the shadows, up until now.   The Saudi-led gangsters are aggressively pushing the Americans to enlarge the war on Syria and to start new conflicts in Yemen and Somalia, in order to, not only maintain oil inflation, but more importantly, to give substance to a  Saudi/Sunni superstate (or “caliphate,” as their “al-Qaeda” friends like to call it).  

The Saudi “royal” family and all of their “emirate” co-conspirators should be the next stop on the American “regime change” train, not the last.  

Until we get rid of the Wahhabi terrorist masters, we will never end the “Global War On Terrorism.”]

Arab League calls on Russia to stop giving Syria weapons

HQ Arab League, Tahrir Square, Cairo

Valet parking at HQ.


MOSCOW: Russia should halt arms sales to Syria and U.N. sanctions could be needed to force President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to oust him to implement a failing peace plan, a senior Arab League official was quoted as saying on Thursday.

The UN observer mission in Syria, which suspended operations on Saturday because of the rising violence, should be replaced by peacekeepers, the League’s deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli told Interfax news agency in an interview.

“Any assistance in aiding violence should be stopped. When you deliver military equipment you are helping to kill people.
That should be stopped,” Interfax on Thursday quoted him as saying in response to a question about Russian military
cooperation with Syria.

Russia, one of Assad’s main suppliers of military equipment, has shielded its long-standing ally Syria from tougher UN
sanctions. It says the transfers are unrelated to the conflict inside Syria, something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
dismissed on June 13 as “patently untrue”.

A ship believed to be carrying the attack helicopters to Syria apparently turned back to Russia, Britain’s Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday, after its insurer withdrew coverage for the ship. Russia says its weapons are defensive and cannot be used against civilians.

Ben Helli said a provision in the UN charter which allows the Security Council to authorise actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention was needed to bolster a peace plan by Kofi Annan, joint envoy of the Arab League and the United Nations.

“As we see, neither side is stopping the fighting, therefore I think we’ll have to use Chapter 7 in order to realise the Annan plan,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

“I think that step will be taken sooner or later if the situation continues to develop like this.”

Ben Helli said the Arab League did not support military intervention and his comments to Interfax appeared to suggest that sanctions would apply to anti-Assad forces as well as the Syrian government.

Russia has rebuffed Western and Arab efforts to force Assad to step aside and urged political dialogue, an approach most of the Syrian opposition rejects.

The United Nations says more than 10,000 have been killed by government forces during the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Uruguay mulls government marijuana sales

Uruguay mulls government marijuana sales


MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay –  Peaceful Uruguay is planning a novel approach to fighting its rising crime: having its government sell marijuana to take drug profits out of the hands of dealers.

Under the plan backed by President Jose Mujica’s leftist administration, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana and only to adults who register on a government database, letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. Profits would reportedly go toward rehabilitating drug addicts.

“It’s a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself,” Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro told reporters late Wednesday.

Fernandez said the bill would soon be sent to Congress, which is dominated by Mujica’s party, but that an exact date had not been set. If approved, Uruguay’s national government would be the first in the world to directly sell marijuana to its citizens. Some local governments do so.

The proposed measure elicited responses ranging from support to criticism to humor.

“People who consume are not going to buy it from the state,” said Natalia Pereira, 28, adding that she smokes marijuana occasionally. “There is going to be mistrust buying it from a place where you have to register and they can typecast you.”

Media reports have said that people who use more than a limited number of marijuana cigarettes would have to undergo drug rehabilitation.

“I can now imagine you going down to the kiosk to buy bread, milk and a little box of marijuana!” one person in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, wrote on their Twitter account.

Behind the move is a series of recent gang shootouts and rising cocaine seizures have raised security concerns in one of Latin America’s safest countries and taken a toll on Mujiica’s already dipping popularity. The Interior Ministry says from January to May, the number of homicides jumped to 133 from 76 in the same period last year.

The crime figures are small compared to its neighbors Argentina and Brazil but huge for this tiny South American country where many still take pride in its safety leaving their doors open and gathering in the streets late at night to sip on traditional mate tea.

To combat rising criminality, the government also announced a series of measures that include compensation for victims of violent crime and longer jail terms for traffickers of crack-like drugs.

The idea behind the marijuana proposal is to weaken crime by removing profits from drug dealers and diverting users from harder drugs, according to government officials.

“The main argument for this is to keep addicts from dealing and reaching substances” like base paste, a crack cocaine-like drug smoked in South America , said Juan Carlos Redin a psychologist who works with drug addicts in Montevideo.

Redin said that Uruguayans should be allowed to grow their own marijuana because the government would run into trouble if it tries to sell it. The big question he said will be, “Who will provide the government (with marijuana)?”

During the press conference, the defense minister said Uruguayan farmers would plant the marijuana but said more details would come soon.

“The laws of the market will rule here: whoever sells the best and the cheapest will end with drug trafficking,” Fernandez said. “We’ll have to regulate farm production so there’s no contraband and regulate distribution … we must make sure we don’t affect neighboring countries or be accused of being an international drug production center.”

There are no laws against marijuana use in Uruguay. Possession of marijuana for personal use has never been criminalized here and a 1974 law gives judges discretion to determine if the amount of marijuana found on a suspect is for legal personal use or for illegal dealing.

Liberal think tanks and drug liberalization activists hailed the planned measure.

“If they actually sell it themselves, and you have to go to the Uruguay government store to buy marijuana, then that would be a precedent for sure, but not so different than from the dispensaries in half the United States,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of U.S.-based National Organization for the Reform.

St. Pierre said the move would make Uruguay the only national government in the world selling marijuana. Numerous dispensaries on the local level in the U.S. are allowed to sell marijuana for medical use.

Some drug rehabilitation experts disagreed with the planned bill altogether. Guillermo Castro, head of psychiatry at the Hospital Britanico in Montevideo says marijuana is a gateway to stronger drugs.

“In the long-run, marijuana is still poison,” Castro said adding that marijuana contains 17 times more carcinogens than those in tobacco and that its use is linked to higher rates of depression and suicide.

“If it’s going to be openly legalized, something that is now in the hands of politics, it’s important that they explain to people what it is and what it produces,” he said.

Overburdened by clogged prisons, some Latin American countries have relaxed penalties for drug possession and personal use and distanced themselves from the tough stance pushed by the United States four decades ago when the Richard Nixon administration declared the war on drugs.

“There’s a real human drama where people get swept up in draconian drug laws intended to put major drug traffickers behind bars, but because the way they are implemented in Latin America, they end up putting many marijuana consumers behind bars,” said Coletta Youngers, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank.

“There’s a growing recognition in the region that marijuana needs to be treated differently than other drugs, because it’s a clear case that the drug laws have a greater negative impact than the use of the drug itself,” Youngers said. “If Uruguay moved in this direction they would be challenging the international drug control system.”


Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, Armando Montano in Mexico City and Belen Bogado in Asuncion, Paraguay contributed to this report.

China Ready To Start South China Sea Deep-Water Drilling

Like it or Not: State Oil Company Becomes ‘Flag’ in South China Sea

CNOOC’s Haiyang Shiyou 981, China’s first deep-water drilling rig.

By Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson

Sometimes oil companies follow the flag, sometimes the flag follows them — and sometimes they themselves become the flag.

The third scenario has come to pass in the highly contested South China Sea with the recent launch of a new deepwater rig by China’s state-run China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) roughly 320 kilometers south of Hong Kong.

On May 9, CNOOC Chairman Wang Yilindescribed the company’s new rig in terms befitting of an aircraft carrier, calling it “mobile sovereign territory” and a “strategic weapon” for developing South China Sea energy resources – a statement that has led many to wonder whether CNOOC is in effect serving as a tool of state policy in the South China Sea.

At the very least, it seems Beijing is permitting CNOOC to increase operations in a maritime arena in which the Chinese government has actively sought to prevent other nations from conducting similar operations—even as close as 70 miles from their own coasts. And it puts CNOOC equipment and personnel in a position in which it would be very difficult for Beijing not to defend them in the event of tensions or crisis.

Beijing probably has not directly ordered CNOOC to drill. That would be redundant given the company’s longstanding plans (pdf) to expand its deepwater production in the South China Sea. That said, the close correlation between China’s official policy stance and national interests and CNOOC’s desire to expand its South China Sea oil & gas production effectively make it a tool of state policy whether or not it sees itself as a private actor.

In addition, tacit state backing could embolden CNOOC to consider pushing deeper into the South China Sea. We do not see this as a high probability at present, but the apparent coincidence of state and corporate interests displayed in the current case suggest that the risk of China deciding to drill outside its internationally-accepted exclusive economic zone has risen.

The new rig, dubbed the Haiyang Shiyou 981, greatly expands CNOOC’s drilling options. China’s old rigs are typically only able to drill in waters less than 200 meters deep. In contrast, the HYSY 981 can drill in up to 3,000 meters of water, giving CNOOC the ability to extract oil and gas virtually anywhere in the South China Sea apart from the deepest parts of the abyssal plain.

Notable locations include deep waters near the Paracel and Spratly islands and other areas within what is known as the “nine-dotted line,” a u-shaped dotted line printed on maps published in China that covers the vast majority of the South China Sea and which Beijing seems to view as a boundary within which China has priority rights of resource development.

CNOOC’s current drilling area clearly lies within Chinese-administered waters, but is close enough to disputed zones that China’s neighbors will likely interpret CNOOC’s actions as the commercial maritime equivalent of a show of force near a disputed border. The new deepwater rig provides a national flag platform that extends Chinese companies’ options for drilling in the South China Sea and has aroused widespread concern among China’s neighbors, who likely fear it represents the first step in China’s unilateral assertion of control over maritime zones and resources in contested portions of the sea.

Like any listed company, CNOOC generally seeks to maximize profits and keep shareholders happy. Beyond East Asia, in fact, CNOOC’s actions appear to be relatively independent of specific Chinese foreign policy objectives. In the South China Sea, however, both direct and indirect factors may cause CNOOC to function effectively as a tool of China’s foreign policy.

Since June 2011 Beijing has tried a more measured approach to managing claims. Yet influential voices affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army continue to express positions at odds with this more peaceful approach. Some—such as senior PLA officer Long Tao—even advocate surgical strikes to reclaim reefs and waters occupied by the Philippines and Vietnam as a means of teaching the smaller nations a lesson. While Long’s hawkish stance, cited recently in an essay by Henry Kissinger, does not represent official Chinese policy, it reveals a significant strain of thought among PLA officers that their civilian leaders are either unwilling or unable to suppress. Against this backdrop, China’s maritime neighbors may well see CNOOC’s new exploration program as a double standard favoring Chinese development at others’ expense.

Chinese oil producers typically behave in a market-oriented, profit-driven manner. However, “typically” does not mean “always.” The timing and wording of CNOOC’s statements about the rig deserve special attention because they take place in a well-armed neighborhood where multiple governments must manage intense nationalist pressures and because the risks of miscalculation that could spark armed conflict are uncomfortably high.

In a commodity market, investors’ risk perceptions (and consequently the market) are often most forcefully moved by surprises and events that represent the exception to the generally-accepted view and spark feelings of fear and uncertainty. Thus, CNOOC’s decision to move its new deepwater drilling rig into an area near an internationally-disputed zone merits a thorough assessment, not a glib dismissal that strategic concerns don’t matter.

A commercial entity can play vital roles in advancing national interests and providing services that the government itself may not be able to provide. Private oil companies based in Western countries often play a substantial, if unstated, role in shaping and advancing national foreign policies, particularly regarding energy security. One example is the close cooperation and communication between the U.S. government and Exxon and Chevron when the Caspian Sea oil reserves opened to outside investors in the early 1990s.

Recent events in China have showed that during a time of crisis the government has the power to press state-controlled companies analogous to CNOOC into national service. In the wake of the massive snowstorms that disrupted coal supplies in early 2008, Premier Wen Jiabao called on transport providers to press all available assets into service. China Ocean Shipping Co. subsequently deployed 34 extra bulk carriers to help replenish dwindling thermal coal stocks.

CNOOC’s actions suggest that the company has the potential to serve as a de facto arm of state policy in a much more direct manner than the China National Petroleum Corporation ever did in Sudan. The recent rig deployment merits careful discussion and analysis because the issue is likely to repeat itself as CNOOC pursues greater production in the South China Sea amidst rising tensions between China and its maritime neighbors.

China’s move raises the likelihood that its maritime neighbors will consider similar assertive moves to assert sovereignty over their claims in disputed zones — moves Beijing is likely to try to shut down. How might China respond if PetroVietnam attempts to initiate a drilling program in the Spratlys or Philippine Department of Energy renew its exploration near Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island), where Chinese and Philippine vessels have repeatedly confronted each other since March 2011?

Given the stakes involved, CNOOC will likely find that the South China Sea—however inviting in terms of potential resources—is a politically-complex place in which to operate, and that it will not be able to make decisions on market factors alone.


Andrew Erickson is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a research associate at Harvard’s Fairbank Center. Co-founder of China SignPost (察中国), he blogs at


Gabe Collins is a co-founder of China SignPost and is a J.D. candidate at the University of Michigan Law School.

Armed groups in Syria receive weapons from Israel: Reports

Armed groups in Syria receive weapons from Israel: Reports

 (file photo)

Armed gangs in Syria have been receiving Israel-made weapons in Latakia Province near the border with Turkey 
Armed gangs in Syria have been receiving Israel-made weapons found in Latakia Province near the border with Turkey, Press TV has learned.

The revelation comes days after the Syrian army regained control over the northwestern Syrian village of al-Haffeh in Latakia, at the request of the local residents.

Images taken from the strategic mountainous region show trenches constructed and used by the armed groups. Weapons made in Israel and imported ammunition chests were also found.

Various weapons and uniforms belonging to the rebels were also confiscated by the Syrian army. The uniforms were said to be those of the Jordanian military.

Locals said the armed groups burned electricity services building, sabotaged security installations, and attacked civilians, forcing them to join anti-government protests.

The developments also come days after Israeli President Shimon Peres put his weight behind armed groups in Syria.

Peres said in an interview with Israeli public radio in early June that he respected the armed gangs, who “expose themselves to live fire and I hope that they will win.”

The unrest in Syria began in March 2011. Many people, including security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing the protesters, but Damascus blames “outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.


The Coming Oil Crash–When Drilling for Oil Becomes Unprofitable

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and CEO of state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin (L) push the button launching a new oil terminal at the Black Sea port of Tuapse on June 15. An expected fall in crude prices this autumn could have serious impacts on the economies of Russia and other nations reliant on oil exports.
Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and CEO of state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin (L) push the button launching a new oil terminal at the Black Sea port of Tuapse on June 15. An expected fall in crude prices this autumn could have serious impacts on the economies of Russia and other nations reliant on oil exports.

My mom out in California is elated — gasoline prices in her neighborhood are below $4 a gallon for the first time in four months. Less so are the world’s petro-rulers, who are watching the price of oil — their life blood — plunge at a rate they have not experienced since the dreaded year 2008. Industry analysts are using phrases such as “devastation” and “severe strain” to describe what is next for the petro-states should prices plummet as low as some fear. No one is as yet forecasting a fresh round of Arab Spring-like regime implosions. But that’s the nightmare scenario if you happen to run a petrocracy.

To understand why your average oil king is right to be worried at the moment, grab your calculator. The price of U.S.-traded oil fell to $83.27 a barrel on Monday, and global benchmark Brent crude to $96.05 a barrel; now juxtapose that against the state budgets of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, which require more than $110-a-barrel Brent prices to break even, according to generally accepted estimates, and you’ll see the problem.

Given this already-existing revenue gap, one might fairly wonder what would happen if, as Citigroup’s Edward Morse says is possible, prices drop another $20 a barrel for an extended length of time. Oil economist Philip Verleger’s forecast is even gloomier — a plunge to $40 a barrel by November. Or finally, what Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez fears — $35-a-barrel prices, near the lows last seen in 2008. In Russia, for instance, “$35 or $40, or even $60 a barrel, would be devastating fiscally,” says Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. That could damage the standing of President Vladimir Putin, since his “popularity and authority are closely correlated with economic growth,” Kuchins told me in an email exchange.

With few exceptions, the same goes for the rest of the world’s petro-rulers, whose oil revenue supports vast social spending aimed at least in part at subduing possible dissatisfaction by their populace. Saudi Arabia can balance its budget as long as prices stay above $80 a barrel, according to the International Monetary Fund, although projected future social spending obligations will drive its break-even price to $98 a barrel in 2016.

Of the major petro-states, only Qatar — with a requirement of about $58-per-barrel to balance its budget — appears to have sufficiently disciplined state spending to weather all but the most dire forecasts.

The biggest uncertainty in the global oil market isn’t whether oil prices will drop further — they seem likely to — but how long they will stay down. In short, how long, and at what scale, are the petrocracies likely to suffer? This state of affairs is a woeful blow to petro-rulers after nine years of mostly nirvana. The year 2003 started with oil at about $33 a barrel, after which prices went mainly up, peaking in July 2008 at $147 a barrel. They bounced back nicely even after the global financial crisis sent prices plummeting below their 2003 level, to about $31 a barrel in December 2008. When the Arab Spring unfolded, first Libya and then Iran triggered worried looks on trading desks in London and New York, and the price spiked to about $128 a barrel. My mom saw the average price of gas in California rise to $4.36 a gallon. But then the concern of war between Iran and Israel all-but vanished, and prices since have been on a seemingly relentless decline.

Now, a convergence of forces is weighing on petro-rulers’ nerves: Europe’s economic crisis; a slowdown in Chinese growth including the demand for oil; a steep decline in U.S. oil consumption with a simultaneous rise in domestic oil production; and a determined effort by petroleum colossus Saudi Arabia to build up global inventories.

It is perhaps the last data point — Saudi Arabia’s aggressive actions to lower prices by pumping some 10 million barrels a day — that might seem baffling given Riyadh’s economic stake in the oil game. But Verleger, the Colorado-based oil economist, says the Saudi rationale is clear, and linked to the kingdom’s traditional long game.

In an email exchange, Verleger pointed me to an interview he did a few days ago with Kate Mackenzie at the Financial Times. First, he explains, the Saudis are out for blood when it comes to fellow petro-states Russia and Iran, the former for failing to help calm the fury in Syria, and the latter for refusing to go to heel and give up its nuclear ambitions; in both cases, the Saudis think lower prices will produce a more reasonable attitude. In addition, Saudi Arabia is terrified of a current U.S. boom in shale oil; it is hoping that lower prices will render much of the drilling in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale and Canada’s oil sands uneconomical. Finally, the Saudis are well aware that low oil prices helped to turn around the global economic downturn in 1998 and 1999, and they hope to help accomplish the same now, and perhaps win new affection from the world’s leading economies.

Meanwhile, though, Verleger thinks that oil prices will crash. Markets overshoot when one is trying only to fine-tune them, as the Saudis are, he argues — which is the basis for his forecasts of $40-a-barrel oil and $2-a-gallon gasoline by November.

To the degree that such fire-sale prices are long-lived, they could cause mayhem among petro-rulers. While Verleger thinks that the Saudis can maneuver prices back up when they want, the very nature of a crash demonstrates that markets can be uncontrollable. But the Saudis are willing to suffer the consequences, knowing that their own financial reserves (some $380 billion) give them staying power. “The Saudis are able to look at the long term,” Phil Flynn, an analyst with Pricing Futures Group, told me.

Citigroup’s Morse thinks that prices can fall further from where they are now, but not as low as Verleger forecasts because, he told me, today’s market conditions are different from 2008 — the decline in demand is not as steep, and inventories are not as large. Morse calculates that Brent can fall into the $70s-per-barrel range and U.S.-traded oil into the $60s-a-barrel range. “There is a good chance Saudi Arabia continues to produce enough to force [a rise in oil inventories]. And there’s a good chance, between Europe and China, that demand growth could come to a halt,” Morse said. OPEC might respond by reducing production, but its actions would be late. “Add to the scenario no more supply disruptions (or only modest ones) and no military conflict involving Iran,” Morse said, “and prices could fall another $20 a barrel fairly easily.”

Low oil prices can have serious social impacts simply because, with less free cash, people tend to start more closely scrutinizing their surroundings — and when they become unhappy with what they see, they start looking for a scapegoat. The conditions that led to the string of Arab Spring ousters were not so much the lack of democracy as widespread public dissatisfaction with personal economic prospects. Analysts see similar vulnerabilities for the rulers of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela; when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez can no longer milk the state oil company for public payouts, for instance, his political support could be in jeopardy.

Not everyone thinks the times will be so brutal for petro-rulers. Neil Beveridge of Bernstein Research told me that conditions may push down prices as low as around $90 a barrel, but no more than that. And the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Monday estimated oil prices in the second half of 2012 at $95 a barrel.

The latter would be a heart-in-your throat, 10 percent plunge from the EIA’s previous forecast. But it would be nowhere near the cliff that brings cold chills to the world’s petro-rulers. As for my mom, either of these outcomes will make her merrier cruising the 405.

The Inevitable, Ugly American Pakistani Divorce

Divorcing Pakistan: Simply put, the interests of Washington and Islamabad do not align

By ANDREW J. BACEVICH | Los Angeles Times

The history of U.S.-Pakistani relations is one of wild swings between feigned friendship and ill-disguised mistrust. When the United States needs Pakistan, Washington showers Islamabad with money, weapons and expressions of high esteem. Once the need wanes, the gratuities cease, often with brutal abruptness. Instead of largesse, Pakistan gets lectures, with the instruction seldom well received.

The events of 9/11inaugurated the relationship’s most recent period of contrived warmth. Proximity to Afghanistan transformed Pakistan overnight from a pariah – the planet’s leading proliferator of nuclear weapons technology – into a key partner in the global war on terrorism. Prior to 9/11, U.S. officials disdained President Pervez Musharraf as the latest in a long line of Pakistani generals to seize power through a coup. After 9/11, President George W. Bush declared Musharraf a “visionary” leading his country toward the bright uplands of freedom.

But seldom has a marriage of convenience produced greater inconvenience and consternation for the parties involved. Simply put, U.S. and Pakistani interests do not align. Worse, neither do our preferred forms of paranoia. Pakistanis don’t worry about Islamists taking over the world. Americans are untroubled by the prospect of India emerging as a power of the first rank.

The United States stayed in this unhappy marriage for the last decade in large part because Pakistan provided the transit route for supplies sustaining NATO’s ongoing war in landlocked Afghanistan. In addition to exacting exorbitant charges for this use of its territory, Pakistan has closed that route whenever it wishes to make a point. No more: A recently negotiated agreement with several former-Soviet Central Asian republics creates alternatives, removing Pakistan’s grip on NATO’s logistical windpipe.

The Obama administration now seems ready to declare this troubled union (once again) defunct. With Pakistan no longer quite so crucial in an Afghan context, and still unable to explain how Osama bin Laden found sanctuary on Pakistani soil, evidence that this erstwhile U.S. ally remains in cahoots with various and sundry terrorist organizations has become intolerable. During a recent visit to India, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta publicly stated that U.S. leaders were “reaching the limits of our patience” with Pakistan.

As with most divorces, the proceedings promise to be ugly. Already, the U.S. is escalating its campaign of missile attacks against “militants” on Pakistani soil. U.S. officials dismiss complaints that this infringes on Pakistan’s national sovereignty. “This is about our sovereignty as well,” Panetta has explained, thereby redefining the term to grant the United States the prerogative of doing whatever it wants and can get away with.

Yet there is a back story to the crumbling relationship that goes beyond U.S. frustration with Pakistani double-dealing (and Pakistani anger over American highhandedness). A larger reorientation of U.S. policy is underway. Occurring in two spheres – the Greater Middle East and East Asia – that reorientation reduces Pakistan in Washington’s eyes to the status of strategic afterthought.

In the Greater Middle East – the geographic expanse in which the global war on terrorism has been largely waged – the Obama administration has now abandoned any pretense of liberating or pacifying or dominating the Islamic world. Through a campaign of targeted assassination (supplemented in the case of Iran with cyber attacks) the aim is now merely to keep adversaries off-balance in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. In that context, Pakistan serves chiefly as a target-rich environment.

In East Asia, the Obama administration touts its proposed strategic “pivot” as the emerging centerpiece of U.S. national security policy. In Washington, however, “pivot” is a code word, translated by those in the know as “containing China.” The imperative of thwarting China’s perceived (but as yet indecipherable and perhaps undetermined) ambitions elevates the importance of India. In the eyes of aspiring Kissingers, an India aligned with the United States will check Chinese power just as aligning China with the United States once served to check Soviet power. Here too the effect is necessarily to render Pakistan, which views India as its mortal enemy, redundant.

Yet while a certain logic informs the coming U.S. abandonment of Pakistan, there are massive risks as well.

Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world. (Go ahead: Plug that sentence into your search engine.) Mired in poverty, burdened with a dysfunctional government and weak institutions, dominated by deeply fearful military and intelligence establishments that have little regard for civilian control or democratic practice, it possesses one trump card: a formidable nuclear arsenal. A potential willingness to use that arsenal is what ultimately makes Pakistan so dangerous – and should give U.S. policymakers pause before they give that country the back of their hand, as the United States has done so many times before.

To the extent that foreign policy ends up figuring in the upcoming presidential election, Iran’s putative nuclear weapons program will probably attract some attention. OK, but that’s a potential bomb, not a real one. The bomb that will keep the next president up late is not the one that Iran may be building but the one that Pakistan already holds in readiness to use.


Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

©2012 Los Angeles Times

Saudi/Future-Linked Agitators Stirring Trouble In Palestinian Camps, Seeking Anti-Syria, Anti-Lebanon Recruits

[SEE:  Al-CIA-da Infiltrating Lebanon’s Palestinian Camps]

Berri Warns of Foreign Plot -Local Assistance in Targeting Army at Palestinian Camps

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية

by Naharnet

Speaker Nabih Berri warned on Wednesday of a foreign plot coupled with a local participation to drag the Palestinian camps throughout Lebanon to strife.

“The incidents at the Palestinian camps and the targets against the Lebanese army are not innocent and call for concern,” Berri told several newspapers.

“The foreign plot is present but there is an internal participation in it,” he warned, reiterating that the security incidents from the North to the South are not a coincidence.

He claimed the facts on the ground match the information that he received several weeks ago about preparations for a clash between the shantytowns and their surrounding areas.

Berri was referring to a warning from an Arab leader to a Lebanese official that Palestinian refugees could be pushed to ignite strife in Lebanon similar to the upheaval in Syria.

Al-Akhbar newspaper said Tuesday that the official, who is likely to be Berri, contacted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who sent Azzam al-Ahmed as an envoy to Lebanon to cooperate with the Lebanese authorities in the attempt to thwart the plot.

Angry Palestinians have clashed in the past five days with the Lebanese army at the entrances of the Nahr al-Bared and Ain el-Hilweh refugee camps, leaving three people dead.

Berri rejected “tampering with the morale of the army and the role that the national institutional plays in protecting Lebanese and Palestinians against the Israeli enemy.”

According to An Nahar newspaper, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat held a telephone conversation with the speaker, backing him in his warnings.

Berri also contacted Palestinian and Lebanese officials to contain the incidents at the camps.

Uzbekistan: Back to the USSR?

This Picture Really Is Worth A Thousand Words–Putin-vs-Obama In Mexico

Decoding US-Russian body language in Mexico

BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in a bilateral meeting during the G20 Summit, Monday, June 18, 2012, in Los Cabos, Mexico. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP


LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) — It’s hard to tell if President Barack Obama got a sense of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s soul. In front of reporters, they hardly looked at each other.

In their first meeting since 2009, Obama and Putin shared little eye contact and did not appear to express much personal warmth following a two-hour meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Putin made brief remarks and then looked down at the table as Obama spoke to reporters, aided by a translator.

The gathering had a much different feel compared with President George W. Bush‘s first meeting with Putin in Slovenia in June 2001. Bush said then that he was “able to get a sense of his soul.”

Yet aides said the media shouldn’t draw any conclusions from the chilly body language. They said the meeting wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did if the two leaders didn’t get along.

Mike McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said the chemistry between Obama and Putin was “very businesslike” and “cordial.” McFaul added that there was nothing extraordinary about the exchange. “That’s just the way he looks, that’s just the way he acts,” McFaul said of Putin.

Said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser: “This isn’t the first body language-gate we’ve had with the Russians.” Rhodes noted that the White House had faced similar questions before but said these were “businesslike conversations” between the two leaders and cautioned against trying to decode body language.

Later, the two leaders were all smiles after Obama sat down for the start of the summit. With Putin seated to his right, Obama gave the Russian president a quick “thumbs up” and then slid his chair over to share a few words. Obama’s face lit up with a big smile and Putin grinned as they separated and the meeting began.


Obama and Putin both want to meet in each other’s country — whether they will is anyone’s guess.

Putin ended his brief remarks before reporters with an invitation for Obama to visit Moscow. Obama, who faces voters in five months, made a similar offer.

“I look forward to visiting Russia again, and I look forward to hosting you in the United States,” Obama said.

The U.S. president has already nixed plans to attend the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, in September because of his re-election campaign.

During a March national security summit in Seoul, South Korea, Obama accepted an invitation from outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama said he planned to make the trip after the 2012 campaign. But if he loses re-election, it’s unclear if that meeting will take place.


The G20 summit’s main websites — and — were down through much of Monday afternoon, apparent victims of hackers protesting the international economic conference.

The hacker group Anonymous Hispano took credit for paralyzing the online sites. At around 3 p.m., Los Cabos time, Anonymous Hispano tweeted “Only minutes to begin (hash)OpG20.” Minutes later, the group followed with another tweet about the G20, “they are responsible in great measure for the poverty of the world.” A flurry of other tweets touting the site problems followed. Several Anonymous-related groups have paralyzed the websites of the Brazilian, Russian and other governments.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry, which runs the G20 site, declined comment on the matter.

A blog entry signed by the group condemned what it said is the enormous expense of holding such summits.

“We need changes in economic policy that benefit the majority in fields such as education, health and farm aid,” the blog text reads.


Associated Press writer Jack Chang contributed to this article.

As Anticipated, Kuwait To Be “Over-the-Horizon” Replacement Staging Area for Iraq

US plans military presence in Kuwait: ReportWashington: The United States is planning a significant military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a congressional report.
The study by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examined the US relationship with the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — against a fast-moving backdrop. In just the last two days, Saudi Arabia’s ruler named Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz as the country’s new crown prince after last week’s death of Prince Nayef, and Kuwait’s government suspended parliament for a month over an internal political feud.

The latest developments inject even more uncertainty as the Middle East deals with the demands of the Arab Spring, the end to US combat operations in Iraq at the end of 2011 and fears of Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Home to more than half of the world’s oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf is critical to the global economy,” the report said. “However, the region faces a myriad of political and security challenges, from the Iranian nuclear programme to the threat of terrorism to the political crisis in Bahrain.”

The report obtained by The Associated Press in advance of today’s release provided precise numbers on US forces in Kuwait, a presence that Pentagon officials have only acknowledged on condition of anonymity.

Currently, there are about 15,000 US forces in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Base and Camp Buehring, giving the United States staging hubs, training ranges and locations to provide logistical support. The report said the number of troops is likely to drop to 13,500.


Azerbaijan ready to start war with Turkmenistan over seismic survey on disputable field

[According to Wikileaks’ cables (excerpt below), Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan nearly came to blows over ownership of the old Soviet Kyapaz oil field, disputed because of the reluctance of all parties to deliminate the Caspian boundary.]

“Early-April [2008] standoff between two Azeri border guard gunboats and an international oil company involved Petronas, in block I, rather than Buried Hill in block III, a block that contains a boundary under dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan….officials debated for several days who should tell the president….nobody told President Berdimuhamedov of the standoff for several days; all were too afraid to be the messenger.”

Bulgaria: Caspian Oil Tensions Break Out between Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan

Caspian Oil Tensions Break Out between Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan ready to start war with Turkmenistan over seismic survey on disputable field

Baku, Fineko/ Yesterday, Azerbaijan made a note of protest in connection with Turkmenistan’s “illegal attempts” to begin seismic work on trans-boundary Kapaz field (Turkmen version: Serdar field) in the Caspian Sea.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan informs that yesterday Turkmen ambassador to Baku Toyli Komekov was summoned to the MFA where Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov handed over him a note of protest.

The note says that by the attempt to start seismic surveys on field Kapaz, located on the border of Azerbaijan and Turkmen sectors, Turkmenistan has violated the arrangements of the two countries’ presidents to stop exploration and extraction of resources in the disputed areas of the shelf before an agreement on Caspian Sea bottom division into Azerbaijani and Turkmen sectors is reached. In the note, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry points out that Turkmenistan’s illegal actions are unacceptable and the Azerbaijani side reserves the right to take measures to protect its sovereign rights in the Caspian Sea.

Earlier, Azerbaijan proposed Turkmenistan joint development of Kapaz/Serdar field. Turkmenistan rejected the proposal, considering this structure its own and field Azeri, part of the contract block, developed by bp and partners in Azerbaijan.

Iraq’s Best/Worst Bombs Making Their Way Through Turkey To Syria

Syrian rebels now using EFPs in bombs, bane of U.S. in Iraq

Efp_iraq2a_2The picture, above, is of an Iraqi EFP cache.

By David Enders

McClatchy Newspapers

KHAN SHEIKHOUN, Syria — Rebels have overcome the shortages of arms that plagued the early days of their fight to topple Syria’s government, when their commanders complained of running out of ammunition.

Though they still lack the kind of heavy weaponry that might help them decisively drive back the military, rebels in central Syria are constructing bigger and more effective bombs, and a steady flow of money from the militants’ leadership in Turkey has allowed them to purchase sufficient amounts of small arms.

Some groups have said recently that they have an increased number of modern anti-tank rockets, and others say they’re manufacturing so-called explosively formed penetrators to increase the killing power of their roadside bombs. EFPs, cone-shaped copper plates that are blasted into vehicles when the bombs explode, wreaked havoc on U.S. vehicles in Iraq.

“They are hard to get and expensive,” complained Abu Omar, a 25-year-old former university student who spends his days making bombs with fertilizer, mostly by packing it into empty cooking-gas containers. Syrian state-run news agencies routinely have reported seizures of such materials in past months across the country. For targeting tanks, he packs truck axles cut in half full of explosives, he said.

Members of the armed opposition say the more sophisticated weapons are being transported across the border from Turkey with the knowledge of the Turkish intelligence service, an allegation Turkey has previously denied.

The improved supply of weapons to the rebels is clearly evident, both to reporters traveling in rebel-held area and in the rising death toll among Syrian security forces in clashes with the rebels. On Wednesday, the Syrian government announced the funerals of another 27 soldiers and police officers who died in clashes with the rebels, bringing to 322 the number of such deaths so far in June. Rebel casualties are uncertain, but in the same time period the Syrian Network for Human Rights has published daily tallies of 751 deaths it attributed to pro-government forces, including 78 at Qubeir who allegedly were killed by local militia known as shabiha.

Many rebel commanders in this part of Syria, where rebel units can travel largely without encountering military forces, didn’t want to address the subject of increased arms supplies, fearing that admitting they’re better armed and funded than before might make the world less sympathetic to their cause. The would-be revolutionaries have gone to lengths to paint themselves as the victims in what’s become an all-out civil war.

But they hint at arms shipments. A Turkish-speaking Syrian who arrived in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this week to drop off communications equipment acknowledged the arrival of more sophisticated weapons, but he wouldn’t say exactly what they were.

“It’s a surprise. Just wait,” the man said, smiling and promising that the rebels would be going on the offensive in coming weeks. Other commanders in the area have said the same.

The promise of a rebel offensive also carries the promise of more destruction and displacement. According to the Turkish government, about 4,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey in the last week, bringing the number of Syrians taking refuge in seven camps just inside the Turkish border to nearly 30,000. The cramped camps have become training grounds for the rebels, who share expertise with one another before slipping back across the border.

Much of the rebels’ improved firepower appears to come from local innovation.

“Before the revolution, I worked with electronics,” said Isam al Hamadee, the leader of a group of fighters from the town of Kefar Nbouda who’s become well known among local rebels for his expertise in building remotely detonated bombs.

The rebels also are manufacturing their own rockets, including remote-controlled anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets.

But for some groups, the lack of heavy weapons has prompted a shift to more extreme tactics.

Ahrar al Sham, a group that coordinates with the rebels who operate under the name Free Syrian Army but isn’t directly under its leadership, carried out a suicide bombing against a checkpoint near this battered city last Thursday.

The leader of the group here, who uses the nom-de-guerre Abu Hamza, said the bombing was the first of its kind that his group had carried out, though other branches of Ahrar al Sham, which has proliferated across north-central Syria, had done so.

Members of Ahrar al Sham said the bomber was a 19-year-old man from Khan Sheikhoun who’d been present when Syrian soldiers fired on a group of demonstrators in the city last month, killing a number of them. The man, who took the nom-de-guerre Abu Abdullah, had seen one of his friends die.

“Of course some of the people had reservations,” Abu Hamza said. “But Abu Abdullah wanted to do this. He put it in his mind and couldn’t sleep.”

“It is better to die this way rather than be slaughtered like the people in Houla,” Abu Hamza said, referring to the 80 women and children who were killed last month, allegedly by supporters of the government of President Bashar Assad. “These operations will continue if the world doesn’t give us weapons. We have more people ready to do this.”

“What would you do if the government was killing your family? Your children?” asked one rebel who’d gathered with hundreds of others to watch smoke rise from the massive bombing. “We don’t have heavy weapons, and they have tanks and helicopters.”

Rebels frequently express concern that they’ll be seen as terrorists in the West, sometimes joking with reporters, sometimes serious. It was the selection of a military checkpoint as the target for the bombing that was the issue, not the tactic of a suicide bombing itself.

“We don’t care what the outside world thinks,” another member of Ahrar al Sham said, when he was asked whether such bombings might be seen as counterproductive to their cause.

Syrian and international media didn’t report the bombing, which engulfed the checkpoint in smoke. It’s unclear how many people were killed and whether any civilians died in the blast.

Enders is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Al Aribiya Stirring the Pot In the Philippines–“Al-Qaeda,” Enemy or Ally?

[With the Philippine military and the government giving two different explanations for the alleged “missing” Jordanian news man from Al Arabiya, you know that you are smelling a rat.  Look for the Philippine jungle to explode with murders, bombings and kidnappings in the near future for the Saudi/Dubai viewers’ entertainment.  Will the right-thinking American people and world supporters tire of the Pentagon’s bullshit stories about “Al-Qaeda” (the magical, fairy-like creatures who are simultaneously our enemies and our friends), and shut-down the military/cia before they can finish the fake drama, all the way to the planned final act?  Will America wake-up in time to stop the Pentagon, or wait until the psychodrama is over and the lights are being shut-off?]

Jordanian secretly entered Sulu – military

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is not convinced Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was abducted in Patikul, Sulu.

A Palace spokesman, however, said Atyani was indeed help captive and is now in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

Atyani and his Filipino crew, Rolando Retrero and Ramilito Vera, were reported missing since going out to film a documentary last Tuesday.

Speaking to ANC, Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said they have received conflicting reports on the real purpose of Atyani’s trip to Sulu.

Cabangbang said Atyani secretly entered Sulu and used a different name upon checking-in at a hotel.

The spokesman said Atyani’s employer Al Arabiya has not contacted Philippine authorities as of this time. A crisis committee is now taking charge of search and rescue operations.

Palace confirms ‘missing’ Jordanian journalist now with Abu Sayyaf

Malacañang confirmed Monday that ‘missing’ Jordanian national and Al Arabiya news network Southeast Asia bureau chief Baker Atyani and his team are in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf after they sought the bandit group for an interview in Sulu last week.

“What we can confirm is that he [Atyani] is in the hands of [the] Abu Sayyaf and that he went there voluntarily for an interview,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a press briefing.

“At 5 a.m. on June 12, I think he (Atyani) was seen riding a vehicle voluntarily. After that, we have no information anymore as to his whereabouts until today,” Lacierda added.
He reiterated that Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan offered Atyani security but the latter declined it.
Asked if Atyani and his team are being held hostage by the bandit group, Lacierda said: “What we can confirm is that he went there voluntarily to interview the Abu Sayyaf Group. It is also confirmed that he has in another occasion, had the opportunity to interview [the] Abu Sayyaf head previously.”An earlier report by Agence France-Presse said an initial investigation showed that the Al Arabiya news team checked in at the Sulu State College Hostel in Jolo on Monday, June 11, as they were to shoot a television documentary.On Tuesday, June 12, the three joined local media in an interview with Tan after which they went to Jolo town proper. The Al Arabiya news team then failed to return.

Authorities not informed

Lacierda said Atyani did not inform authorities that he and his team were going to interview the Abu Sayyaf, which reportedly has links to the al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organizations.
Asked if the government could have prevented Atyani from pushing through with his plans to talk with the group, Lacierda said the government could only inform him about the possible dangers of doing so.
“We would not wish to proscribe the right to their duties as a responsible journalist. The best that we can do is to warn them of the (dangers) and to caution them,” he said.
He believed the government implemented enough precautionary measures to prevent the incident from happening.
“We’ve provided security for him… We offered actually security for him; he refused. We offered him a place to stay; he refused. So I believe that on the part of the provincial government and the local government in Sulu, they have done their job to extend all the hospitality and security that they can do,” he said.
Asked if the Abu Sayyaf has been resurgent in the area, Lacierda said he cannot say.
“This is primarily an interview that the Jordanian journalist decided to do. So as to what the intentions of the ASG [are] when they agreed to be interviewed, that’s beyond our comprehension,” he said.
Lacierda said the lines of communication are now on between Tan and the bandit group.
“He [Tan] formed a crisis committee and they are in discussions,” he said, quickly adding that the government will implement the no ransom policy if the group of Atyani is being held against their will.Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a bandit group that has been blamed for most of the country’s worst terror attacks as well as kidnappings of foreigners.In February, two birdwatchers from Europe, Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, were seized by armed men in Tawi-tawi. There is no information yet on their whereabouts. Authorities also could not say if the Abu Sayyaf is responsible for the abduction. — RSJ/KG, GMA News