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.

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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

 ANKARA

(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

Reuters

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.