Reports On Imminent Closure Of Tartus Base Are Wrong

[Russia Today was wrong about closure of Tartus naval base, according to the following (SEE:  All personnel withdrawn from Russian navy base in Syria).  Moreover, Russia is negotiating a permanent base at Cyprus.] 
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Russia is in the midst of negotiations for a military presence on Cyprus. In addition to being part of a plan to build up its naval forces, analysts say Moscow needs to find an alternative to its base in Syria.

Reports that Russia is withdrawing all military personnel from its naval base in Syria and replacing them with civilian workers are wrong, the Russian Defense Ministry made announced on Thursday (27.06.2013) in Moscow. There is no need for the military to be based in Tartus, a city on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, the press release said, “because maintenance of Russian warships was taken over by civilians long ago.”

According to the ministry’s statement, Tartus would remain Russia’s naval base within the Mediterranean. But at the same time Moscow is clearly preparing for a loss. It has long been speculated that Russia, in the event of a regime change in Damascus, would give up the Tartus base. And now it seems they have found an alternative.

Cyprus instead of Syria

The Russian government is in negotiations with Cyprus about extending their military cooperation. The Russian Air Force could uses a base in Paphos, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said in an interview with the “Voice of Russia” radio station on Monday (24.06.2013). Cyprus and Russia will discuss the specifics soon, the Cypriot diplomat added. Military cooperation agreements could be signed within the coming months.

0,,16907862_404,00 Putin may sign an agreement with Cyprus within the coming months

“This is certainly connected to Tartus,” Margarete Klein of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs told DW. “Even if the Russian government assumes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will retain power, it could change in the future.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s navy is paying an increasing number of visits to Cypriot ports. On June 19, three warships docked in the port of Limassol to refuel and replenish supplies. In May, it was the “Moscow” missile cruiser, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and the vessel that in July will take over command for the Russian Navy’s 16 ships in the Mediterranean.

Russia’s favorite in the Mediterranean

It’s no surprise to observers that Russia is looking at Cyprus for a Mediterranean base as the countries have close economic ties and Cyprus is still regarded as a tax haven for Russian companies. A few years ago, Russia loaned Cyprus billions in credit. In spring 2013, when the EU country was on the brink of national bankruptcy due to high debt, Cyprus’ leader went to Moscow to negotiate a new round of loans. Both sides couldn’t agree in that case and in the end, the European Union bailed out the island.

Back then there was speculation that Russia would offer the credit to Cyprus with the condition that the countries would expand their military cooperation. Should such an agreement come to fruition in the future, it would be a turning point. Almost 20 years have passed since Russia had a military presence in a current EU country.

In Soviet footsteps

Experts put Moscow’s plans in Cyprus in a larger context. “Russia wants to re-establish itself as a great power,” said Klein of the SWP.

Russia wants to build a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean by 2015. President Vladimir Putin described the Mediterranean as a “strategic region” in which Russia has its own interests.

0,,16046779_404,00 Warships, like this one, were tasked with keeping US fleets at bay during the Cold War

During the Soviet era, between 30 and 60 Russian naval vessels were tasked with keeping US Sixth Fleet at bay. In 1992, the Russian Mediterranean fleet was disbanded, and now it seems to have been revived on a smaller scale. It is planned that 10 Russian warships will monitor the Mediterranean.

Vessels to send a clear signal

In professional circles, these plans were met with some skepticism. “I think this policy is about sending a clear signal,” Klein said, adding that the Russian Navy’s military importance is “not very big.”

Russian journalist and analyst Alexander Golz said he has a similar view of the situation. “The task of the Mediterranean fleet will be to show its presence,” he told DW.

He pointed out that the Russian Navy lacks modern warships. “Russia only has one aircraft carrier, the ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ stationed with the Northern Fleet,” added Golz.

Neither Klein nor Golz said they though Russian warships would participate in the Syria conflict. NATO also needn’t worry, the experts said. Golz pointed out that Cyprus is not a NATO member, though two British military bases are stationed on the island, one of them in near Limassol.

DW.DE

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State Dept. Nets 119 Middle Eastern, North African “Interns” for Special Brainwashing and Social Agitation Training

[SEE:  A Glimpse Inside of Hillary’s Subversive “Intern Factory”State Dept. Calls Subversive Stable of Activist Geeks, “an underground railroad of trust”]

U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative’s 10th Student Leaders Exchange Program

us state dept
Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 27, 2013

 


Students from 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as well as the Palestinian territories arrived in Washington D.C. on June 24 to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative’s (MEPI) 10th Student Leaders Exchange Program. These 119 civic-minded undergraduate students will participate in an intensive, six-week exchange program to enhance their leadership skills, expand their understanding of American civil society and democratic processes, and explore ways to enhance democratic participation in their home countries.

All students will attend an orientation session in Washington, D.C. before traveling to one of six host universities: Benedictine University (Illinois), the University of Delaware, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.), Montana State University, Portland State University (Oregon), and Roger Williams University (Rhode Island). They will return to Washington, D.C. on August 2nd for closing sessions.

Since 2004, nearly 1,220 undergraduate students from throughout the MENA region have participated in the MEPI’s Student Leaders Exchange Program. Many have gone on to support their communities through volunteerism and civic activism.

For additional information on MEPI: mepi.state.gov or facebook.com/usmepi.

Media Contact: Gabriel Hons-Olivier at Hons-OlivierG@State.gov or (202) 776-8476

Was Assad’s Only Sin Before All of This, Insulting the Saudi Demi-God?

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia welcomes the Gulf Arab leaders in Riyadh, May 14, 2012. source

What’s Saudi beef with Assad?

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Re: Why Saudi Arabia is arming Syria’s rebels, World June 22

Why Saudi Arabia is arming Syria’s rebels, World June 22

Would someone please remind me why just about everyone wants to oust Bashar Assad. He must have done something horrible since the whole world is in such frenzy to oust him. But what?

In the interview with Prince Turki al-Faisal he was asked what was the Saudi kingdom’s strategic aim in supporting the rebels. His reply: “The immediate downfall of Bashar Assad regime.” Not exactly an illuminating answer.

Why do the Saudis want the immediate downfall of Bashar Assad? Surely it has nothing to do with human rights and freedoms, because I can’t see why the Saudis would be concerned about such trivialities. After all, we just recently learned that at last the women in his country are allowed to ride bicycles. (Well, as long as a male is supervising them, and they ride around in a circle with no destination in mind.)

In response to another question, the prince replied, “The Syrian people are determined to achieve what they aspired to when they began their protest.” My question is, “What exactly were they aspiring to when they began their protest?”

After two years of this terrible conflict, with hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens dead or facing horrible conditions in refugee camps, I have totally forgotten (if I ever really understood) what the rebels were/are trying to achieve. Does anyone know?

I remember something about a young man setting himself on fire. So what, exactly, is it about Assad that the Saudis don’t approve of? What is it about him that Canada doesn’t approve of? Anyone?

Kaarina Brooks, Alliston

Shias under attack across the globe

 

From Cairo to Peshawar, Shias are under attack by Sunni militants. The sectarian warfare targeting Shias has left thousands dead. The rest of the world watches silently as Muslims self-destruct in sectarian wars.

Earlier on Sunday, a lynch mob near Cairo (Zawyat Abu Musalam), Egypt, murdered four Shias who had taken refuge in a house. The mob dragged their corpses in the street as hundreds watched from the rooftops. In Iraq, a series of bombs continue to kill and maim Shias. In Pakistan, Sunni militants attacked a mosque killing 15 Shias on June 21. In Bahrain, the Saudi-backed regime continues to harass the Shia majority, which is demanding more political rights.

Across the globe, the Shia-Sunni schism has taken a turn for the worst. The Syrian conflict has pitched the Iran-backed Alawite regime against the Sunni majority, who is being supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and other Gulf states. What may have started as an internal conflict in Syria has transformed into a sectarian civil war, which threatens to plunge the billion-plus Muslims in a bloody sectarian warfare.

Sheikh Hassan Shehata, a prominent Shia scholar in Egypt, was attacked and killed in his house along with three others in Zawyat Abu Musalam. The mob numbering hundreds set the Sheikh’s house on fire. Initial medical reports suggest that Sheikh’s neck was cut with a sharp object while severe trauma was inflicted on his and others’ skulls. The grisly videos posted on the Internet show the mob, including several women, watching the brutal attack, but making no attempt to stop it.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the right-wing group that supports Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, has been pandering to the Salafists to muster support against the Egyptian National Opposition, who have threatened massive street protests on June 30. The underhand dealings between the Egypt’s ruling party and the Salafists made it possible for the extremists to run a campaign of fear against Shias over the past two weeks that culminated with the murder of the Sheikh and his followers.

If it were not for the brave activist, Hazem Barakat, who tweeted the videos and his willingness to testify against those who orchestrated the lynching, the world would not have known of the brutality of these attacks.

The hitherto unresolved conflict in Iraq continues to add victims as suicide and car bombings by the extremists continue to kill Shias. Earlier on Monday, a series of bomb blasts in and near Baghdad killed 42 people. Since April 2013, more than 2,000 have perished in sectarian violence in Iraq. The blasts were staged strategically in Shia neighbourhoods in Baghdad.

In Pakistan, the militants have literally run over the country where they target Shias and other minorities at will. Even worse, the militants have started to target the judges who have heard cases against the militants. The bomb attack on the High Court judge, Maqbool Baqar, which left him with serious injuries while his driver and eight others in his security details died, is a clear message from the militants that they have no interest in respecting the State or its institutions.

The Taliban spokesperson while speaking to the media revealed that they targeted Justice Baqar for his “anti-Taliban and anti-mujahideen decisions.”

Earlier in the week, armed men dressed as paramilitary police in a remote mountainous area in Pakistan attacked a hotel killing nine foreign tourists. The Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which they claimed was in retaliation to a drone strike that killed a Taliban commander, Waliur Rahman.

The attack on the tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan is eerily similar to the attacks on Shias in the past in the same part of Pakistan. In August 2012, armed men wearing uniforms of paramilitary police stopped three buses near Mansehra and killed 20 Shias after removing them from the buses. It was the third such attack in six months.

McDonald’s Refuses To Operate In Jewish Colony On West Bank

McDonald’s refuses to operate in Jewish settlement

1 hour ago  • 

The McDonald’s restaurant chain refused to open a branch in a West Bank Jewish settlement, the company said Thursday, adding a prominent name to an international movement to boycott Israel’s settlements.

Irina Shalmor, spokeswoman for McDonald’s Israel, said the owners of a planned mall in the Ariel settlement asked McDonald’s to open a branch there about six months ago. Shalmor said the chain refused because the owner of McDonald’s Israel has a policy of staying out of the occupied territories. The decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the U.S., she said. In an email, the headquarters said “our partner in Israel has determined that this particular location is not part of his growth plan.”

The Israeli branch’s owner and franchisee, Omri Padan, is a founder of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes all settlements and views them as obstacles to peace. The group said Padan is no longer a member.

The decision by such a well-known multinational company to boycott the West Bank deals settlers an unwelcome blow.

It also adds the name of an important international brand to a movement that has urged businesses to stay out of the West Bank. International companies like Caterpillar, France’s Veolia and others have faced pressure from a global network of pro-Palestinian activists to sever links with the settlements.

The activists have also pushed consumers to shun products made in settlements. Israeli academics and unions have also been boycotted because of Israel’s settlement policies and European countries are considering stepping up efforts to label settlement-made products sold in Europe.

The Palestinians want the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, as part of their future state. Israel captured those areas, along with the Golan Heights, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians and most of the international community consider Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal or illegitimate.

The mall’s owners, settlers and politicians who back them chided McDonald’s for its decision.

“McDonald’s has gone from being a for-profit company to an organization with an anti-Israeli political agenda,” said Yigal Dilmoni, a leader of the Yesha Council, a settler umbrella group. He urged Israelis to think twice before they buy a meal at McDonald’s following its decision. Pro-settler lawmaker Ayelet Shaked said she would boycott the fast food chain.

Tzahi Nehimias, a co-owner of the Ariel mall, said an Israeli burger chain, Burger Ranch, had offered to take McDonald’s spot. He also said Burger King had shown interest, but Miguel Piedra, a spokesman for Burger King Worldwide Inc. said the company had no plans to re-enter Israel. The company closed its restaurants in Israel in 2010 and turned them over to Burger Ranch.

Nehimias said other international companies who were asked to open a branch at the mall also declined, but none cited the mall’s location in a settlement as a reason. He declined to identify the other companies. Some 19,000 Jewish settlers live in Ariel and it has a large student population.

Peace Now welcomed McDonald’s decision.

“We totally understand and support people who think settlements are bad for Israel’s interests,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, who heads Peace Now. “They don’t want to take an active role by opening a business there and helping to expand and to contribute to the settlement idea.”

Rafeef Ziadah of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement said McDonald’s move “will encourage other corporations to end their complicity in Israel’s occupation.”

This is not the first time McDonald’s has stirred controversy in Israel. The company didn’t open a branch in Israel until 1993 due to the Arab League boycott of the country.

A year later, McDonalds built a branch near a memorial to Israel’s Golani military brigade, and Israelis objected to the large double arches sign there, saying it desecrated the site. The sign was later made smaller. In 2004, McDonalds was criticized for telling its Arabic and Russian speaking staff not to speak those languages at work.

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Associated Press writers Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem and Candice Choi in New York contributed reporting.