Are Russian Marines Landing At Tartus Naval Base A Replay of Russian/British Standoff In Kosovo?




Russian Marines Come Ashore At Tartus Naval Base


[Should we think of the Russian marines landing at Tartus Naval Base will prove to be an updated replay of the Russian/British/NATO standoff  which took place at Slatina airfield in Pristana, Kosovo in 1999?  In the Kosovo confrontation, it has been reported that only high stakes diplomacy prevented an order for an air assault to take control of the airport away from the occupying Russian troops, given by the commander of NATO forces, Gen. Wesley Clark (SEE:NATO general ordered military assault on Russian troops at end of Yugoslav war).  In both Yugoslavia and Syria, Russia took a risky stand, to block an insane NATO attempt to seal the fate of another Russian ally.  In both cases, Russia was treated as a “spoiler,” for daring to stand in the way of another Imperial aggression, with the Clintons leading smear campaigns in both cases, to blackmail Russian leaders into submission to their “fate accompli.”  Perhaps Putin has this previous embarrassment in mind, or the series of NATO  double-crosses since then,  as he lands his marines at Tartus, preparing to interfere with the next intervention outside of UN authority about to be made by the Evil Empire.  There is always hope.]

Kosovo Chronology

June 12 – Russian troops enter Pristina 3-1/2 hours before NATO troops enter Kosovo. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says deployment was an “unfortunate mistake” and troops have been ordered to leave; they take up position at Pristina airport. – British NATO troops enter Kosovo at dawn to begin taking control from withdrawing Serbian forces; they reach Pristina in the afternoon. French and U.S. troops also enter Kosovo. – Yeltsin promotes commander of Russian forces in Kosovo. Russian and British forces in standoff over control of airport.

June 16 – A nine-vehicle Russian military convoy enters Pristina airport, joining up with 200 Russian troops already there.


Russian Marines Come Ashore At Tartus Naval Base

Russia sends navy vessels to Syria base: agencies

Gleb Bryanski

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Moscow is sending three large landing ships with marines aboard to a Russian naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus, Russian news agencies quoted a source in the general staff as saying on Friday.

The source said each ship would have up to 120 marines on board and that the vessels, already in the Mediterranean, would arrive in Tartus by the end of this week or early next week.

The source said the ships’ mission was to replenish supplies at the small Russian maintenance and repair facility, manned by fewer than 100 personnel, according to analysts.

Russia had earlier said it was preparing to send marines to Syria in case it needed to protect personnel and remove equipment from the naval maintenance facility.

Syria is Moscow’s firmest foothold in the Middle East and bought $1 billion worth of weapons from Russia last year, or about 8 percent of total Russian arms exports.

Tartus is the Russian navy’s only permanent warm water port outside the former Soviet Union.

The source in the Russian General Staff said the three ships would be joined by three other ships from the Russian Navy’s Black Sea and Northern Sea fleets.

The potential loss of Tartus would be a strategic blow to Russia, according to what the Interfax news agency described as a military-diplomatic source.

“Tartus is of extreme military-strategic importance for the Russian Navy, as the backup for the task forces in the Mediterranean. Therefore, its loss would entail deep negative consequences and the actual loss of influence in this key region,” Interfax quoted the source as saying.

The Russian Defense Ministry declined comment. The General Staff source said the ships would head back to the Russian port of Novorossiysk after spending several days in Tartus.

Russia has blamed the West for the failure of diplomatic efforts led by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who resigned on Thursday. Moscow said it regretted his departure.

“He’s an honest broker, but there are those who want to take him out of the game to untie hands for the use of force. It’s already clear,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov wrote in his Twitter microblog.

Russia and China have three times blocked Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria that were meant to put more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alistair Lyon)

Saudi uprising trumps sectarian card

Saudi uprising trumps sectarian card

By Zayd Alisa
As popular uprisings swept the Arab world, many experts stressed that Saudi Arabia was incomparable to others. It was immune from turbulence, let alone, regime-ousting uprisings.

Confident that its internal front was impeccably secure, the Saudi regime moved swiftly to achieve its external overarching goals, which ranged from holding at bay the spread of popular uprisings clamoring for democratic change and political reform, to severely undermining, if not, reversing what it perceives, as the mounting

Iranian and Shi’ite influence, and ensuring the survival of other monarchies.

The Saudi regime offered Ben Ali, Tunisia’s dictator, refuge and has steadfastly refused to hand him back to face trial. The Saudi king gave, not just his emphatic support to Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s tyrant, but also threatened the US that he was ready to bankroll him.

Saudi Arabia’s tireless effort to spearhead the counter-revolution suffered its first setback at the hands of its closest ally the US, which encouraged the Egyptian army to turn against Mubarak. The Saudi regime has made concerted effort to make up for lost ground in Egypt. It has gained huge influence with the military council by providing it with $4 billion in aid, as well as by throwing its weight behind the extremist Salafi movement, which emerged second after the Muslim Brotherhood in the parliamentary elections.

As for Yemen, the Saudi regime initially supported Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s dictator, but when his brutal crackdown spectacularly backfired, it launched its own initiative to ensure that Saleh was replaced by another staunch ally, namely his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour, through a cosmetic election. Just as important, however, was the Saudi regime’s clear message that uprisings were absolutely futile, since Saleh was ousted by its own initiative rather than an uprising.

For the Saudis, the Bahraini uprising was indisputably a nightmare scenario that sent shock waves right across the kingdom. This was hardly surprising, since Bahrain was a brutal dictatorship governed by the Al Khalifa family, from the Sunni minority, while the vast majority of Bahrainis were Shi’ite.

In Saudi eyes any concession, no matter how insignificant, let alone a triumph by the Bahraini uprising, would inspire its own Shi’ites to rebel against the regime. Shi’ites form an overwhelming majority in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province, which is located just some five kilometers from Bahrain.

Like the Shi’ite in Bahrain, they have constantly complained of being subjected to intolerable discrimination and marginalization. Despite the undeniable failure of their supposed “day of rage” in March last year, it nonetheless unnerved the Saudi regime.

In response, the king announced unprecedented measures ranging from billions of dollars in benefits and new jobs to a stern warning that security forces would pull no punches in confronting protestors. He also gave massive rewards to the Wahhabi Salafi religious establishment and,

Most ominously, gave a green light for the Saudi army to invade and occupy Bahrain. Within 24 hours of the occupation, Bahraini forces backed by Saudi forces unleashed a ferocious onslaught against the peaceful protesters in Manama’s Pearl Square.

In another strenuous attempt to placate the dramatic escalation in exhortations for political reform, the king suddenly declared last September that municipal elections supposed to be held in 2008 would finally take place. Not surprisingly the turnout was hugely disappointing – 1.08 million Saudi men of the country’s 18 million population registered to vote – since it is abundantly clear that the council is a powerless body.

Behind such machinations a pivotal role was being played by the radical and regressive Wahhabi Salafi religious establishment in propping up and lending religious legitimacy to the Saudi regime, which in turn provides it with the vital funding to propagate and export its extremist ideology.

According to the Wahhabi ideology it is strictly forbidden to oppose the ruler. Far from questioning the highly contentious actions of the Saudi regime, the religious establishment has issued religious fatwas to back them up. These fatwas were utilized by the Interior ministry headed by Nayef, to declare last February that these protests were a new form of terrorism that would be confronted with an iron fist, as was al-Qaeda. It also indirectly blamed Iran for the protests.

The peaceful protests in the eastern province entered a highly perilous phase in October 2011, when the savage crackdown turned into a campaign of cold-blooded murder. The dramatic escalation coincided with the death of Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the heir to the throne and the appointment of Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who died on June 16 this year, as a replacement.

The Saudi regime’s overriding priority has always been to establish and bolster its position and image as the indisputable guardian of Sunni Islam, even though it firmly endorses the Wahhabi ideology.

Ever since 1979 – when the Iranian revolution toppled the shah – the Saudi regime has vigorously endeavored to portray and present all major events and conflicts in the region as an integral part of an ongoing existential sectarian war waged against the Sunnis by the Shi’ites, namely Iran, in order to become the unrivalled power in the region.

As the uprising began in Bahrain, the Saudi regime started deliberately ratcheting up sectarian rhetoric in order to instigate inter-religious strife which would stave off any uprising by the Sunni majority.

However, media reports in July have confirmed that that open dissent and protests have spread far beyond the eastern province to Sunni areas in Hejaz, and even to the Saudi regime’s heartland and powerbase in the capital Riyadh.

The United States, which considers Saudi Arabia as a central pillar of its Middle East policy, must be holding its breath as Saudi Arabia’s uprising surmounts the regime’s impregnable shield: sectarian divisions.

Among the principal reasons behind the increasingly deepening cracks in the Saudi regime’s internal front are: first, the inescapable reality that the regime has emphatically supported brutal dictators in crushing uprisings by the Sunnis in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

Second, the inconsistent position of the regime in unequivocally backing secular monarchies like Morocco, Jordan and secular establishments like the Egyptian military against Sunni Islamic movements.

Third, the inexcusable failure by the king to activate the much-trumpeted allegiance council – set up by him as a showcase of reform – to select the heir to the throne twice within eight months, prompting senior figures from the royal family to bitterly criticize the lack of consultation. This, has evidently, not only consolidated the widespread perception that the royal family is in the midst of a vicious power struggle, but also added weight to the argument that this is a royal family that marginalizes its senior members, never mind, the ordinary citizens.

Fourth, the undeniable success of people in other countries, such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, and to a lesser extent Yemen in ousting their dictators and democratically electing new leaders.

Fifth, the sheer hypocrisy in the King’s call on the Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad, to implement genuine reform and halt the killing machine, while he has spectacularly failed to lead by example.

Sixth, the failure of the authorities to tackle chronic problems, such as unemployment, corruption and poor housing, despite the billions of dollars in oil revenue.

Seventh, foreign-educated Saudis are beginning to question the legitimacy of such a rigid dictatorship.

Eighth, the mounting fears that the ruthless crackdown in the eastern province would dramatically intensify the increasingly vocal demands for secession. Finally, the death of Nayef and his replacement by Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is perceived as more sympathetic to reform have laid bare that even though Nayef was a hardliner, he was nonetheless used by the regime as the perfect pretext for not undertaking meaningful reform.

Although it has been more than a month since Salman took over, but there are absolutely no reforms in the pipeline. Even more revealing, however, has been the dramatic surge in the regime’s savagery, which has reached an unsurpassed level, especially with the arrest and alleged torture of Shi’ite religious leader Nimr Al Nimr.

The US should be deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Saudi Arabia, not only because its implacable support for the Saudi regime has made a mockery of its pretention of defending democracy and human rights, but, more menacingly, Saudi Arabia was the country where the vast majority (15 out of 19) of the 9/11 suicide bombers came from, never mind, the mastermind, Osama Bin Laden. This is also where nearly all fatwas giving religious legitimacy to al-Qaeda’s atrocities emanate from. Now is the time for the US to stand on the right side of the present and future of Saudi Arabia, by extending the oil-for-protection deal to an (oil and concrete democratic reforms-for-protection deal).

Zayd Alisa is a political analyst and a writer on Middle East affairs.

Balochistan the Center of Anti-Pakistan Global Intrigues

Interior Minister Rehman Malik. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Describing the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a ‘killing machine’, Interior Minister Rehman Malik accused extremist organisations and banned outfits in Balochistan on Thursday of acting on directives from abroad and with complete support and assistance from Afghanistan.

“The BLA is a killing machine which is overhauled in Afghanistan and all its spare parts come from Afghanistan,” the interior minister said in a speech in the Senate on the ‘law and order situation in Balochistan’.

Referring to his recent meeting with Hamid Karzai, he said the Afghan president had indirectly admitted that his country had a role in Balochistan and that the Kunar province from where most of the infiltration into Pakistan were taking place was under the control of the US and Nato forces.

The minister told the house that the Afghan president had asked him to facilitate talks with the Haqqani network and in return he would request the US and the Nato forces to stop cross-border movements from the Kunar area to Malakand and other adjacent areas.

“I told the Afghan president that there are training camps in your country and I can provide you the list of those persons who receive $468 (for it),” he said without elaborating.

“We cannot separate the Balochistan problem from the world power game. The issue is grave. If we are negligent, history will not forgive us. We will have to find a solution collectively before it is too late,” the minister said, adding that the powers which wanted to see a destabilised Pakistan had prepared a roadmap.

Indian links

Mr Malik alleged that Baramdagh Bugti, a grandson of Akbar Bugti, was involved in kidnapping and killing people. Despite this, he said, he had accepted the invitation for a meeting with Baramdagh Bugti in Tajikistan, but it was cancelled at the eleventh hour by the Baloch leader.

The minister said that Mr Bugti celebrated the New Year in India and refused to meet him. He said Baramdagh Bugti had informed him from India about having received a message from the Indian establishment advising him not to see him.

The minister also criticised the US for giving special treatment to India. “We are partners in the war on terror, but India is receiving facilities,” he said.

Mr Malik said he was surprised why Washington and the United Nations were concerned about human rights violations in Balochistan whereas such violations were also taking place in the other three provinces of the country. “Why the US and the UN are interested only in the affairs of Balochistan? Why there are international seminars only on the Balochistan issue?”

The minister categorically blamed the BLA and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi for the situation in the province. He alleged that the BLA had murdered a number of workers engaged in development activities in Balochistan. Giving official figures, he said, 138 personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), 89 policemen and 872 civilians had been killed in violent incidents in Balochistan in 2011, and the BLA had claimed responsibility for most of the killings.

Responding to criticism on FC’s role in Balochistan, he said the FC had been given under the control of the chief minister and it was there only to assist police. Moreover, he said, the FC was assisting police only in five per cent area of the province. “If criticism on the FC continues, I will withdraw the FC and send it to borders,” he threatened.

The interior minister again requested Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch to arrange an in-camera session of the upper house in which, he said, the members would be able to get a briefing from officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Foreign Office and the interior ministry on the role of foreign countries in the region.

Mr Malik also called for some changes in the Balochistan Package announced by the government two years ago.

Sinister dimension

Taking part in the debate, Farhatullah Babar of the PPP stressed the need for resolving the issues of forced disappearances and dumping of bodies to end insurgency in Balochistan.

“Although the issue has plagued the whole country there is a sinister dimension to it in Balochistan that has given rise to a perception that Baloch dissidents are being eliminated while the powers-that-be have become impervious to both sane advice and the dictates of laws,” he said.

Mr Babar said this was evident from the fact that whenever directions were issued and law-enforcement agencies were asked to recover the missing persons, dead bodies were dumped in response.

He proposed that the state should not live in a state of denial and must admit that people were disappearing in a mysterious manner.

He demanded that the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances be published and its recommendations implemented. He suggested that Pakistan should sign the International Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The PPP senator said that according to reports a team of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will visit Pakistan in September. “We should facilitate the visit of the UN team and use the opportunity to remove misperception and to demonstrate that the government is serious about solving the problem,” he added.

Mutilated bodies

Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party claimed that so far 400 mutilated bodies of the missing persons had been found in Balochistan. He said the Balochistan situation was similar to that of East Pakistan. He said there was a complete constitutional breakdown in the province where no government existed at all.

Leader of the Opposition Ishaq Dar of the PML-N alleged that the rulers in Balochistan were only interested in corruption and 80 per cent of the allocated development funds had gone into the pockets of different people.

The interior minister will conclude his speech on Friday.

Meanwhile, the house passed a resolution condemning the atrocities being committed against Muslims in Myanmar.