Category: Afghanistan


(Reuters) – Afghanistan on Monday rejected as baseless a U.S. intelligence forecast that the gains the United States and allies have made in the past three years will be significantly rolled back by 2017.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate also predicted that Afghanistan would fall into chaos if Washington and Kabul failed to sign a pact to keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014.

President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman dismissed the U.S. forecast, reported by the Washington Post on the weekend, and suggested there was an ulterior motive for it. [Read the full article]

 

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Report: Iran may be month from a bomb | USA Today

 

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.

The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as it is trying to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

“Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran,” stated the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. “An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further.” [Read the full article]

 

Syria meets chemical weapons deadline | LA Times

 

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — The Syrian government has met an international deadline to submit a detailed declaration of its chemical weapons facilities and a proposal to destroy its toxic arsenal, the group overseeing the disarmament process said Sunday.

The determination means that the U.S.- and Russian-crafted plan to do away with Syria’s extensive chemical stockpile is proceeding on pace, even as Syria is convulsed by civil conflict that is now in its third year. [Read the full article]

 

Lebanon suffers under the strain of a refugee crisis now out of control | The Guardian

 

As you come through the military checkpoints on the way into Wadi Khaled, local mobile phones bleep with an unsolicited text: “The Ministry of Tourism welcomes you to Syria.”

This part of northern Lebanon, which juts like a knucklebone into Syria, is so close to the war that the villagers can watch the rockets land and palls of smoke rising across the hillsides. Children have swarmed up on to the first floor of the shell of a half-built house and are pointing excitedly to where the outlying villages of Homs begin. “I can see our house,” shouts Satash, six. [Read the full article]

 

Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria miss deadline | AP

 

BEIRUT (AP) — International inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile have missed an early deadline in a brutally tight schedule after security concerns prevented them from visiting two sites linked to Damascus’ chemical program.

Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were to have checked all 23 of Syria’s declared chemical sites by Sunday, but the organization said Monday that inspectors have visited only 21 because of security issues. While there are no consequences for missing the deadline, the group’s failure to meet it underscores the ambitious timeline as well as the risks its inspectors face in carrying out their mission in the middle of Syria’s civil war. [Read the full article]

 

AP Exclusive: Key operations in Haifa out of commission two straight days, major losses | USA Today

 

HADERA, Israel (AP) — When Israel’s military chief delivered a high-profile speech this month outlining the greatest threats his country might face in the future, he listed computer sabotage as a top concern, warning a sophisticated cyberattack could one day bring the nation to a standstill.

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was not speaking empty words. Exactly one month before his address, a major artery in Israel’s national road network in the northern city of Haifa suffered a cyberattack, cybersecurity experts tell The Associated Press, knocking key operations out of commission two days in a row and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. [Read the full article]

 

Turkey goes from honest broker to Iranian ally | Al Arabiya

 

A few years ago, Turkey was the only country that could talk to everyone in a Middle East where distrust among nations is a prevailing mentality. Mishandling crises in most states hit by the mass uprising, Ankara was left alone. Officials in Ankara preferred to describe its international standing “precious loneliness.”

For centuries, building alliances to balance against threatening states has been at the heart of successful foreign policy-making. The very gauge of success in foreign policy is to what extent a state can build coalitions to pursue common security interests. If a state is lonely and isolated, no matter how moral its policies are, it will have to shoulder the entire burden of securing itself. The Turkish government, however, points to “moral motives” behind its policies instead of its dire results. [Read the full article]

 

Car bombs kill scores in Baghdad, in sign of crisis in Iraq | Washington Post

 

IRBIL, Iraq — Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaeda affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008.

In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing dozens of people. [Read the full article]

 

In Egypt’s Countryside, Vendettas Between Police and Islamists Simmer | The Daily Beast

 

In a hospital for police in Cairo, in one bed after another, if the patients were conscious, they told stories of horror. They had been beaten with in an inch of their lives. They had been burned with acid. They’d seen their buddies die around them. They’d been dragged through dusty streets behind trucks like the slaughtered American soldiers in Black Hawk Down. But as they lay there in the hospital in pain last month, few people heard their stories—few people, that is, outside the Egyptian army and security forces. And many of those soldiers and cops who did hear what happened to their comrades talked about “terrorism,” about “justice,” about “revenge.” [Read the full article]

 

Saudi Arabia’s message to Obama | Boston Globe

 

Is there an idiom in Arabic for cutting off your nose to spite your face? Saudi Arabia’s abrupt rejection on Oct. 18 of the UN Security Council seat to which it had just been elected was described as “bizarre” and “baffling,” a “perplexing” decision that left diplomats “gasping.” No member of the United Nations had ever done such a thing, and the Saudi government’s explanation was about as subtle as an uppercut.

“The . . . double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities,” the Foreign Ministry charged angrily, and the results have been “continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against peoples, the violation of rights, and the spread of conflicts and wars.” [Read the full article]

 

Give Syria peace, not a process | The Guardian

 

A group of foreign ministers declared last week that Bashar al-Assad “would not have a role in Syria” when a transitional governing body was established to move the country forward. For all the media excitement over the announcement, this Friends of Syria grouping merely reiterated a basic condition of the Syrian National Coalition, the main political opposition group, recognised by more than 100 countries as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people”.

The public sidelining of Assad was a mere formality while efforts continue to convince the opposition not only to remain united in a single delegation, but to show up at an international conference in Geneva on 23 November. With many earlier promises still unfulfilled, Syrians opposed to Assad are used to lowering their expectations from the international community – but there are limits, and many are troubled by the current plans. [Read the full article]

 

In Syrian civil war, emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria boosts rival Jabhat al-Nusra | Washington Post

 

REYHANLI, Turkey — While the emergence of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a major force in the Syrian civil war has caused deep concern for many rebels, one group’s fighters claim its presence has given them a popularity boost.

Until ISIS asserted its place in the war earlier this year, Jabhat al-Nusra had the reputation of being the most radical wing of the opposition seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was the first to claim responsibility for car bombings against government targets and was quickly designated a terrorist group by the United States. [Read the full article]

 

NATO Reduces Scope of Its Afghanistan Plans | New York Times

 

BRUSSELS — After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered.

The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments — amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world — unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption. [Read the full article]

 

Kuwait Hookah Cafes Under Fire From Islamic Conservatives For Allowing Women | Huffington Post

 

KUWAIT CITY — KUWAIT CITY (AP) — One of the traditional pleasures of the Middle East — leisurely puffing on a water pipe filled with aromatic tobacco — has become ensnared in another of the region’s customs: that of Islamic conservatives decrying what they see as liberal Western decadence.

Hard-liners are denouncing some shisha cafes as a “moral menace” because they allow young men and women to mix freely. [Read the full article]

 

Kuwait upholds 10-year prison sentence for Twitter ‘insults’ | New York Daily News

 

KUWAIT CITY — A rights activist in Kuwait says an appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against a social media commentator for posts considered offensive to Islam and the rulers of fellow Gulf states Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s ruling highlights the escalating crackdowns in the Gulf on perceived online dissent and the deepening cooperation among Gulf nations, fearing political challenges inspired by the Arab Spring. [Read the full article]

 

Governing By Crisis In Cyprus: Lessons For The United States | Forbes

 

Six months ago Cyprus received a 10 billion euro bailout from the Troika – the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The Cyprus Financial Crisis was a devastating blow to Cypriots and halted their banking system. Banks closed for two weeks to prevent a banking panic. When they reopened, capital controls were placed on the people’s money and customers were met by armed guards at the branches. Depositors could not withdraw more than 300 euros a day from their bank accounts, couldn’t cash checks, and could only charge 5,000 euros a month on credit card purchases abroad.  The severities of these restrictions are compounded by the fact that Cyprus is a tiny island that produces very few manufactured goods. Many of these restrictions are still in effect and have caused massive economic contraction. [Read the full article]

 

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Middle East turmoil is fuelling Ottoman nostalgia. But it’s a dead end | The Guardian

They called it the Sublime Porte. It was the seat of an empire that stretched from Algiers to Baghdad and Aden to Budapest. The name suggests something dreamlike and luxurious. In reality, the Ottoman state was an extraordinary and ruthless machine. Its administrators, plucked from their families as children so they would be loyal only to the sultan, fought wars, collected taxes and founded cities with an efficiency unmatched at the time.

But the most intractable problems of the modern Middle East are found where that empire once had its core: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. This is no coincidence. The civil war in Syria, in particular, has cast people’s minds back to the collapse of Ottoman power, and the arbitrary carve-up that created states which now, nearly 100 years later, seem on the brink of failure. [Read the full article]

Iran could develop nuclear weapons capability despite sanctions, report warns | The Telegraph

As the US Congress debate further sanctions, the report found that Iran’s banking system was under growing stress and would have little capacity to defend its currency if it came under renewed pressure.

The state of Iran’s finances helped explain the sudden insistence of Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani on a “quick”, three-to-six month deal being brokered between Tehran and the international P5+1 grouping. Talks are due to open in Geneva on October 15. [Read the full article]

The Syria Deal That Could Have Been | The Atlantic

Despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenetic efforts, preparations for the “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria’s civil war are already foundering. The rebel movement has become increasingly radicalized against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and more fractured. A newly confident Assad, meanwhile, has somewhat relegitimized himself as a signatory to a new chemical-weapons ban negotiated by the United States and Russia under U.N. auspices, which his government is tasked with implementing over the next year. Defying global opprobrium over his use of sarin gas, Assad has also positioned himself in a series of high-profile TV interviews as a preferable alternative to Islamist rebels who want to create a fundamentalist state.

All of which should prompt a reexamination of the first Geneva conference in the summer of 2012, on which Kerry’s new push for peace is based. According to some officials involved, perhaps the greatest tragedy of Syria is that, some 80,000 lives ago, President Obama might have had within his grasp a workable plan to end the violence, one that is far less possible now. But amid the politics of the 2012 presidential election—when GOP nominee Mitt Romney regularly accused Obama of being “soft”—the administration did little to make it work and simply took a hard line against Assad, angering the special U.N. Syria envoy, Kofi Annan, and prompting the former U.N. secretary-general to quit, according to several officials involved. [Read the full article]

Blast from the past for Egyptian dissidents | Al Jazeera

Cairo, Egypt – Omar Assaf was dragged from his house by a dozen armed Egyptian special forces at 2am. The 30-year-old financial analyst – a father of three young children – was hauled off to prison last month wearing only shorts and T-shirt. Nobody knew what happened to him.

“My family went to all the prisons in Cairo to provide him with clothes, money and food. Police officers told them the same story over and over again – that he was not there,” Omar’s sister Aya Assaf told Al Jazeera. “They didn’t want us to help him.” [Read the full article]

Dignity for Iran equals an Iran free of nuclear weapons | Al Arabiya

“Either you let me play or I will spoil your game!”

This is the sound of an unhappy child that no one wants to play with but who just won’t take “no” for an answer; a sound that has been heard repeatedly in just about any unsupervised ball game. Sometimes the child even charges onto the field to snatch the ball.

This has been Iran for decades, playing the role on a global scale. Although, the difference is that Iran never wanted to play by the rules of the game, it wanted others to adhere to its version of the game, one where it could relive the “glory” of its past. [Read the full article]

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Syrian Rebels: U.S. Distracted By Focus On Chemical Weapons | NPR

 

A satellite cellphone rings for rebel commander Bashar al-Zawi, at home with his family in the Jordanian city of Irbid. It’s a rare domestic break for this wealthy businessman turned rebel commander. But he is anxious to get back to his battalion of 5,000 fighters in southern Syria.

They are taking part in a rebel offensive that is squeezing the Syrian army around the city of Dera’a. Military analysts say the fight is one of the most strategically important battles in Syria’s civil war, because Dera’a, close to Damascus, is President Bashar Assad’s stronghold in the southwest. [Read the full article]

 

Assad says U.S. aggression against Syria still possible | Al Arabiya

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview broadcast Thursday that his country was committed to the convention against chemical weapons it signed under a U.S.-Russian deal.

Assad, speaking to Venezuela’s Telesur, said he saw “no obstacles” to the deal’s implementation but that he did not rule out a U.S. military strike against his regime. [Read the full article]

 

Disbanded Brothers | The Economist

 

THE Muslim Brotherhood has seen worse. During the 1950s and ‘60s Egyptian courts sentenced thousands of Brothers to brutal prison camps and a dozen to hang. For most of the time since its founding in 1928 the group was formally outlawed. Yet never has the secretive and highly disciplined organisation seen its fortunes fall so swiftly as now.

Less than three months ago a Brotherhood stalwart, Muhammad Morsi, was Egypt’s president, and his party Egypt’s strongest. Now Mr Morsi languishes in jail awaiting trial, along with most of the Brotherhood’s first- and second-tier leadership and perhaps 2,000 more fellow Islamists—close to the number of Egyptians, many of them Brothers, killed in the violent unrest that followed Mr Morsi’s ousting in July. [Read the full article]

 

Egypt minister says relations with US unsettled | AP

 

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Egypt’s relations with the United States are “unsettled” as the country struggles to redefine its national interests vis-à-vis other countries, the foreign minister said.

The U.S. was a close ally of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s longtime authoritarian ruler who was ousted in an uprising in early 2011. America counted on him to keep the peace with Israel and as a bulwark against the rise of Islamic fundamentalists in the Mideast. [Read the full article]

 

Opinion: Breaking from stalling tactics | DW

 

Finally some good news! Even the fact that Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani didn’t cause any further indignation with his speech at the UN General Assembly can be seen as a positive step. Although the Israeli delegation boycotted Rouhani’s talk from the start, no one left the room in protest. So far so good.

In contrast to his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani neither denied the Holocaust, nor threatened the West or predicted the imminent destruction of Israel. Rouhani even left New York in the company of Iran’s single Jewish parliamentarian. And even more significant: in an interview with CNN, Rouhani judged Nazi crimes as reprehensible. [Read the full article]

 

Edward Said and his quest for a just peace | Al Jazeera

 

Edward Said died ten years ago – in September 2003, after a twelve-year battle with leukemia. One of the 20th century’s great intellectuals, Said, author of the masterworks Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, was also a beloved professor to generations of students at Columbia University, a gifted amateur pianist and an opera critic for The Nation magazine. He was perhaps best known for his fierce defense of the rights of his people, the Palestinians, in numerous books and hundreds of essays and articles published worldwide.

September also marks another fateful 20th anniversary – that of the now-infamous Arafat-Rabin handshake on the White House lawn, which sealed the Oslo accords. The legacies of Oslo and its greatest critic, Edward Said, stand as polar opposites. Indeed, it was Said who was among the first to sharply criticise the accords, in part because, unlike many satisfied pundits of the day, he had actually read them. For this reason, his widow Mariam told me, he had declined a White House invitation to attend the ceremony in September 1993. Today, his words on Oslo are the soundings of a prophet. [Read the full article]

 

Rafsanjani and Khamenei: A brief history | Al Jazeera

 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani have been two prominent figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their friendship goes back two decades prior to the Islamic Revolution and their alliance has been quite decisive in the present power hierarchy of the Islamic Republic. At present, however, they seem to be at odds with each other, with Rafsanjani’s eye on Khamenei’s Office. Their relationship in the context of the foundation of the Islamic Republic will provide a better understanding of Iranian politics. [Read the full article]

 

Afghan Warlord: ‘The West Must Give Us Our Weapons Back’ | Spiegel

 

Though NATO claims it will be leaving behind a pacified Afghanistan when it withdraws its troops next year, there are already increasing signs that the former mujahedeen are reactivating their militias. The mujahedeen were the main military force that resisted the Soviet occupiers and the communist Najibullah regime — and later fought the Taliban. Their leaders, who represented diverse ethnic groups, were popular but also often notorious for their ruthlessness. Now, the mujahedeen want to arm their militias for renewed fighting and a possible civil war.

The mujahedeen feel the Afghan army is incapable of providing security in the country after NATO’s withdrawal. Despite the West’s efforts to nurture this fledgling military force, over the past three years one out of every three soldiers has deserted — a total of 63,000 men. [Read the full article]

 

The AP Yemen leak case: When speculation about White House spinning turns out wrong | Washington Post

 

“I think there was a little premature chest- thumping in this whole thing, and I`ve ordered a preliminary review. And I will tell you, this has been a damaging leak. We shouldn`t underestimate what really happened here. When you jeopardize our foreign service liaison partners, any of them that may or may not have been involved, or you jeopardize the conclusion of wrapping up all of the people involved, that`s dangerous to our national security…. This is not anything that should be used for a headline. Our national security should be exempt from any November at any time in any year.” [Read the full article]

 

Prostitution and Sex Abuse Spread as Lebanon’s Refugee Crisis Worsens | The Atlantic

 

EIN EL-HELWEH REFUGEE CAMP, Lebanon — “I asked him who gave him the money and he said: ‘no one’. I replied and told him that someone had to have given him the money. He replied: ‘no one fucked me’.”

The four of us—a woman named Sabeen, two NGO workers, and me—were crowded around a small table, drinking bitter Turkish coffee as the blistering sun shone through the barred windows. The room was stuffy, there was no electricity, and she was whispering, ensuring that no one would hear our conversation. The walls of the center, which is considered a safe haven for victims of abuse and asked for its name not to be used, were covered with signs reading, “Do not abuse me, I am a child.” [Read the full article]

 

Israel: New Unlawful West Bank Demolitions | Human Rights Watch

 

(Jerusalem) – Israeli military forces should cease actions in a West Bank Bedouin community that were apparently intended to displace the residents without lawful justification. The military demolished all homes in the community on September 16, 2013, and blocked four attempts by humanitarian groups to provide shelters, with soldiers using force against residents, humanitarian workers, and foreign diplomats on September 20. Under international humanitarian law in effect in the occupied West Bank, the deliberate unlawful forced transfer of a population is a war crime.

An Israeli court in August rejected a petition against military demolition orders by residents of Mak-hul and other Bedouin communities, on technical grounds. On September 24, more than a week after Mak-hul was demolished, the court temporarily suspended any further demolitions. [Read the full article]

 

Turkey should quit EU bid, says Erdogan ‘guru’ | AnsaMED

 

(ANSAmed) – ANKARA – After 45 years of waiting patiently at the door and eight of talks trudging forward at a snail’s pace, Turkey has become embittered and has started to go vocal on a possible withdrawal of its membership candidature. Two figures linked to Islamic Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made public statements to this effect in recent days. For the first time a minister, Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis, said what many are thinking: Turkey ”will probably never be EU member”. Erdogan’s chief advisor, Yigit Bulut, followed by saying that ”Turkey should immediately get rid of the European Union scenarios”, since the country could instead take on the leadership of the ‘new world’ coming into being in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Erdogan, nostalgic of Ottoman ‘grandeur’, would like to see Turkey as the new regional superpower and has long been less-than-enthusiastic about the ‘EU scenario’. Nevertheless, in the first few years of his Islamic-conservative Justice and Development Party government he did bring in EU-leaning political and economic reform, earning EU support in the contest of wills against Kemalist military officers, seen as ‘guardians’ of the secular state. Since the 2011 elections, Erdogan has changed policy, the analyst Emre Uslu writes in Taraf. He has shifted his focus to the Middle East and begun to distance himself from the West. [Read the full article]

 

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Afghanistan, corruption and Karzai | Asia Times

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During the Second Afghan War (1878-1880) there was a particularly competent British army officer called Henry Brooke whose well-written diaries of the period are published as Brigade Commander: Afghanistan. He had little time for Afghans, and in April 1880 wrote that “An Afghan is so natural a liar that no one thinks of believing them, and among themselves they are never weak enough to put any trust one in the other, and in this they are quite wise as a more treacherous set of lying beings do not, I suppose, exist on the face of the world.”

Of course it is not politically correct in this enlightened age to heed the words of an imperialist creature of a British Raj that was intent on crushing innocent people who were living lives of moral cloudlessness, agreeable democracy and social tranquillity before being subjected to the attentions of the dreaded colonialists. But in spite of that, you do have to admit that Brooke had a point – and that perhaps his point remains relevant today. And he could have added some words about corruption to his observations. [Read the full article]

No place for a ‘Plan B’ attack | Japan Times

PARIS – The Washington debates about the Syrian chemical weapons, and whether there is an Obama “Plan B” by which the United States may yet bomb Syria, seem deaf to what really happened last week.

Russia delivered Syria, its ally, to international negotiations concerning those weapons and their renunciation. This has possibly opened the door to some way to resolve the Syrian civil war. Moscow is now responsible for what its client, Syria, does. All the more is Russian President Vladimir Putin required to deliver a cooperative President Bashar Assad if Moscow continues to insist that the U.S. renounce military action, even if Syria fails to fulfill the obligations which it has accepted. [Read the full article]

Civil society, human rights and Jewish-Israeli communitarians | openDemocracy

In many parts of the world, ordinary people view universal human rights as a “good thing,” something to support and enforce. Many Jewish Israelis will likely say the same, but only for people living elsewhere; Tibet, perhaps, or even Syria. When it comes to the Palestinians, I doubt many Israelis would feel the same way.

I’ve interviewed many United Nations representatives about their work on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and most say Jewish Israelis are not aware of, and do not want to be aware of, the conditions facing Palestinians living just a few miles down the road. For all intents and purposes, as far as most Jewish Israelis are concerned, Palestinians reside on the moon. [Read the full article]

‘US-Russia deal on Assad’s chemical weapons irks Syrian opposition’ | Jerusalem Post

AMMAN – The Syrian opposition reportedly feels badly let down by Washington’s decision to do a deal with Moscow to eliminate Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons but diplomats are warning the Syrian National Coalition that it risks losing Western support if it cannot adapt to new realities.

The rift that has alienated the Syrian opposition from the United States threatens to derail international efforts to end the two and a half year civil war, diplomatic and opposition sources said. [Read the full article]

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The Shortest Path to Peace in Syria | OpEdNews

 

Because “defensive alliances which have fixed and limited objectives are often more durable,” the “Syria-Iran alliance has survived” more than three decades of unwavering and insistent US — led military, economic, diplomatic and media campaign to dismantle it, but it is still enduring “because it has been primarily defensive in nature” and “aimed largely at neutralizing ” Israeli capabilities and preventing American encroachment in the Middle East.”

This was the conclusion of the professor of International Relations at Webster University Geneva, Switzerland, Jubin M. Goodarzi, in his 2006 book, ” Syria and Iran: Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East.” [Read the full article]

 

Assad: We’ll Give Up Chemical Weapons | truthdig

 

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a yet-to-be-televised interview that Russian diplomatic efforts persuaded him to cede control of his country’s chemical weapons stockpile to the international community.

The Guardian reports that Assad’s statement is believed to be the first public acknowledgment of the weapons cache. “ ‘Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision,’ the news agency Interfax reported, quoting the state-run Rossiya-24 channel’s yet-to-be-aired interview,” the newspaper notes Thursday. [Read the full article]

 

An attack on Syria won’t protect civilians | Al Jazeera

 

A little over a decade after September 11, 2001, the United States may find itself on the same side as al-Qaeda if it goes forward with an attack against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

To be fair, al-Qaeda represents a minority of those fighting to topple Assad. The rebellion in Syria began as a popular uprising against decades of tyranny by the Assad family, which hails from the country’s Alawite minority. The government’s swift and brutal suppression fractured the country, as well as the Middle East more broadly, and the rebellion quickly spread to other parts of Syria. [Read the full article]

 

Erdogan is not Turkey’s only problem | Cyprus Mail

 

TÜRKAN Saylan was a trailblazing physician, one of Turkey’s first female dermatologists and a leading campaigner against leprosy. She was also a staunch secularist who established a foundation to provide scholarships to young girls so they could attend school. In 2009, police raided her house and confiscated documents in an investigation that linked her to an alleged terrorist group, called “Ergenekon,” supposedly bent on destabilizing Turkey in order to precipitate a military coup.

Saylan was terminally ill with cancer at the time and died shortly thereafter. But the case against her associates continued and became part of a vast wave of trials directed against opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies in the powerful Gülen movement, made up of the followers of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. [Read the full article]

 

Egypt is facing a new Islamist insurgency | New Statesman

 

Suicide bombings in Sinai and an assassination attempt on the interior minister are a sign that Egypt is facing a growing threat from Islamic extremists, and the violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood can only make things worse.

Yesterday six soldiers were killed in a double suicide bomb attack in Sinai and ten soldiers and seven civilians were killed in Rafah, near the Israel border, by bomb blasts. Less than a week earlier, on 5 September, Egypt’s interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, survived a bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo. A Sinai-based al-Qaeda inspired group later claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt. [Read the full article]

 

Across Egypt, piles of ash where church pews once stood | CS Monitor

 

When a wave of attacks on churches and Christian properties swept across Egypt last month, this city was hit the worst.

Minya’s streets are now lined with burned-out hulks. Church interiors have been reduced to ash. The once-cheerful turquoise exterior of a Christian orphanage is now streaked black from the fire that gutted it. Destroyed wheelchairs sit outside a burned-out Jesuit center that worked with disabled people. Torched schools, shops, and monasteries lie in ruins. On one street, several Christian-owned shops are reduced to scorched rubble. Nearby, an untouched snack shop blares a song that proclaims “Egypt is Islamic.” [Read the full article]

 

Egypt: Detained Morsi supporters denied their rights | Anmesty International

 

Scores of detainees arrested following the dispersal of two large pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo last month have been deprived of their basic legal rights, Amnesty International said.

The organization has documented several cases of protesters who were denied prompt access to their lawyers and relatives, or an opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of their detention after their arrest. [Read the full article]

 

Next Door To Syria, Iraq Slowly Boils | NPR

 

With the current focus on Syria it’s easy to miss that things are getting worse again in Iraq. Since the spring, the country has been pounded by waves of attacks on civilians and security forces by extremists with links to al-Qaida. Three car bombs in the Iraqi city of Baquba Tuesday.

Iraq is one of those slow-boil crises — not as dynamic or transformational as a military coup in Egypt or a civil war in Syria. Refugees aren’t creating havoc on the borders. Iraq’s government doesn’t seem on the verge of falling. Instead, Iraqis are stuck in a middle ground: A daily life wracked with danger but without enough upheaval to raise international alarm. [Read the full article]

 

Iraq’s forgotten lesson | Al-Ahram

 

As the drums of war are being beaten again, the debate over whether the United States should bomb Syria is increasingly being overshadowed by the fiasco of the Iraq war and the systemic devastation it unleashed on the country’s people.

One key question that is being raised as US President Barack Obama crafts his sales pitch on Syria is whether the world has learned any lessons from Iraq and whether it should try harder this time to stop the destruction of another Arab country. [Read the full article]

 

Lebanon at breaking point | Open Democracy

 

The relationship between the Lebanese population and Syrian refugees is showing clear signs of strain. The Syrian refugee crisis is causing increased social and political tensions in a Lebanon on the brink of civil war. Two years into the Syrian conflict over half a million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring Lebanon. Now it seems that Lebanon’s hospitality has reached its limit.

According to Human Rights Watch, Palestinian refugees fleeing the violence in Syria have been refused entry into Lebanon for the past three weeks, and this violates Lebanon’s international obligations. This action demonstrates that Lebanon is close to breaking point. The mass influx of Syrian refugees is putting the country’s already scarce resources under added pressures. A recent study by the Fafo Foundation, an independent research organization, of a representative sample of 900 Lebanese respondents, shows that the majority wants stricter border control. More than half of the sample are not comfortable with having Syrian refugees as neighbours and attitudes towards the Syrian refugee population are souring. [Read the full article]

 

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Middle east mapEgypt unrest: Leaders plan strike against Muslim Brotherhood as Cairo protest branded a threat to national security | The Independent

Egyptian authorities gave the strongest indication yet that security forces were preparing a strike against the Muslim Brotherhood – announcing in a televised statement that the group’s month-long Cairo sit-in was a threat to ‘national security’ and would soon be ended.

The statement, which was issued by the country’s interim cabinet, prompted fears that of another deadly confrontation between authorities and Muslim Brotherhood supporters. [Read the full article]

Iran gives Gazans aid, but bypasses Hamas | LA Times

GAZA CITY – Already under pressure from the new military-led government in Egypt, the militant group Hamas took another public-relations blow Tuesday when Iran began distributing food aid to Gazans, but delivered the charity through Hamas’ rival, Islamic Jihad.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, has seen its ties with Iran fray over the last two years, particularly after Hamas refused to back Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war. Though Assad had long given exiled Hamas leaders refuge, Hamas political chief Khalid Meshaal left Syria last year after not supporting Assad’s crackdown against predominantly Sunni rebels. [Read the full article]

For Saudi Women, New Subway Will Mean More Than A Cool Ride | npr

Saudi Arabia will soon have a subway system in the capital, Riyadh, that’s said to be.

It’s the latest such development in the Arabian peninsula: Dubai opened the first subway system in the Gulf back in 2009, while Qatar has commissioned a metro to be built in Doha ahead of the 2022 World Cup. [Read the full article]

Why The Prisoner Release Reinforces The Occupied/Occupier Relationship | The Daily Beast

I don’t always agree with Jeffrey Goldberg, and I suppose that ultimately I’m not entirely in agreement with him now, but he’s raised an important point that I believe reflects a reality underlying the entire Israeli-Palestinian relationship, one that we (and in that “we,” I’m boldly including President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry) should bear in mind as peace negotiations move forward.

On Monday, Goldberg wrote that: [Read the full article]

Middle East peace process hits new stumbling block as Israel ‘considers major building project in West Bank’ | The Independent

Israel could be about to embark on a major building project in West Bank settlements, just a day after the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, announced that peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians were back on track.

Reports in the Israeli media today suggested that in return for getting his plan to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners accepted by the cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a demand from the right-wing Jewish Home party to increase building activity in the Occupied Territories. [Read the full article]

Israel, Palestinians deeply divided despite renewed peace talks | Reuters

(Reuters) – Israel and the Palestinians remain far apart over terms of any peace deal, officials from both sides made clear on Wednesday, a day after talks resumed in Washington for the first time in nearly three years.

Israel’s lead negotiator, Tzipi Livni, said the parties “need to build confidence” after what she called an encouraging start in Washington, and disputed a Palestinian demand to focus first on agreeing the frontiers of an independent state. [Read the full article]

U.N. inspectors heading to Syria to probe chemical weapons reports | CNN

(CNN) — U.N. inspectors will travel to Syria “as soon as possible” to investigate three reports of chemical weapons use, a U.N. spokesperson said Wednesday.

The announcement of the upcoming visit followed talks last week between Syria’s government and a U.N. representative for disarmament affairs, according to the U.N. statement. [Read the full article]

Syrian president recruits Instagram in ongoing propaganda war | The Verge

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an official Instagram account earlier this month, marking his latest efforts to control the propaganda war being waged in parallel with bloody civil conflict. The Assad regime published its first photo to the account on July 24th and has since posted 68 others. The longtime president already has a presence on both Facebook and Twitter, and at the time of this writing, has garnered more than 3,000 followers on Instagram. [Read the full article]

Pentagon Official: Afghan Troops Will Need Support Beyond 2014 | ABC News

WASHINGTON — The “zero option” in Afghanistan — a complete pullout of U.S. troops — is unrealistic and there will need to be some level of U.S. involvement in the country even after the 2014 withdrawal, a Pentagon official said today.

Peter Lavoy, the Pentagon’s top policy official on Afghanistan, said today the agency has developed a number of plans for U.S. involvement after the 2014 withdrawal based on the current situation on the ground, which was highlighted in a new six-month review of the security situation in Afghanistan. [Read the full article]

“Everywhere Taksim Everywhere Resistance” Slogan Faces Ban | bianet

The Turkish government is reportedly paving its way to ban the use of Gezi Resistance-related slogans including “Everywhere Taksim, Everywhere Resistance” in stadiums across Turkey.

The Turkish government is reportedly preparing to take measures against soccer fan groups – groups that played a prominent role during Gezi Resistance protests. [Read the full article]

Turkey police fire tear gas to disperse protesters | France24

AFP – Turkish riot police on Wednesday fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters at Istanbul’s Taksim square, the epicentre of violent demonstrations which rocked the country in June.

At least four people were injured, eye witnesses said, after police stepped in to break up a crowd of around 500 protesters clustered at the square. [Read the full article]

Turkey struggles to balance competing ideas | Global Times

A trip to Istanbul last week sent me to the well-known Taksim Square, which is located in the European part of Turkey’s capital city. The square and its surrounding business streets are the best embodiment of Turkey’s European charisma.

Walking on a nearby pedestrian street, one feels as if one is roaming in an ancient European town, without feeling the Islamic influence to which 98 percent of the country’s population adhere. [Read the full article]

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