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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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Middle east mapU.S. steps up drone strikes in Yemen | The Hindu

The U.S. has stepped up the intensity of its drone strikes on suspected al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, carrying out eight strikes in two weeks in response to fears of a terror attack in the capital, Sana’a.

Yemeni officials said at least seven Saudi Arabian militants were among those killed in the three strikes on Thursday, as the country was celebrating Id at the end of Ramadan. [Read the full article]

Yemen’s hunt for master bomber Ibrahim al-Asiri | The Telegraph

Under pressure to thwart what the West feared would be a major al-Qaeda terror attack, the country’s security forces offered to pay five million riyals to anyone who could help find the terror group’s master bomber.

However, the reward, issued for Asiri and 24 other leading members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is not as impressive as the figures sound. The equivalent in US dollars is just £15,000 — far less than the £103,000 that AQAP itself offered last December for anyone who killed Gerald Feierstein, the US ambassador to Yemen. [Read the full article]

Conspiracy Theories: The One Thing Everyone in Lebanon Has in Common | The Atlantic

Bilal, a Salafi sheikh, holds court at his well-furnished house in Bab al-Tabbaneh, a notoriously volatile Sunni neighborhood in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. The area, which has historically been a flashpoint for many violent conflicts with neighboring Alawites, is tense following June clashes between the Lebanese army and supporters of Sunni cleric Ahmed Assir in the southern town of Abra that left 46 dead. An uneasy truce has held in Tripoli since the army seized Assir’s compound and Ramadan started, but Bilal says he’s sure it won’t last, and he blames that on Iran, the militant group Hezbollah, and, oddly enough, on the U.S.

“Americans see us as Bin Laden, as terrorists,” he says with a sneer. “But when the world talks about Hezbollah, they call them a militia. We have brains. We know the Americans are behind everything that’s going on. They’re sitting watching the blood of Muslims being spilled, and they turn a blind eye.” [Read the full article]

Four suspected militants killed in Israeli drone strike in Egypt | The Telegraph

At least four suspected Islamist militants were killed in an Israeli drone strike over Egypt’s restive Sinai peninsula, Egyptian security officials have reported.

Although reports of Israeli drone use over Sinai have surfaced in the past, this is the first to come with official acknowledgement. [Read the full article]

Will the Military Break Egypt’s Stalemate? | New Yorker

“The phase of diplomatic efforts has ended,” Adly Mansour, the interim Egyptian President, said in a statement Wednesday. He was referring to efforts to get the supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the deposed President, to give up and go home. No big surprise; there was never going to be any compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging sit-ins in Cairo while Morsi is being held incommunicado. Mansour’s statement, which said that the Brotherhood was “fully responsible for the failure of these efforts and the subsequent events that may result,” was taken as a sign that in the next few days it seems very likely that their protests will be forcibly dispersed and there will be more blood on the streets. Despite this, the Brotherhood gathered again in large numbers on Friday. [Read the full article]

Zimbabwe signs secret deal to supply Iran with uranium to build a nuclear bomb | Daily Mail

Zimbabwe has signed a secret deal to supply Uranium to Iran for its controversial nuclear programme, according to a senior Government source in Harare.

Negotiations between the two countries, which would see thousands of tonnes of the raw uranium shipped to Tehran for enrichment, have allegedly been going on for two years, the Times reports. [Read the full article]

Judge Iran’s regime by its actions, not by empty words | The Globe and Mail

This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.

Canada’s skepticism of the regime’s commitment to genuine reform stands. Despite the expression of the Iranian people on June 14, Iran’s nuclear non-compliance, its deliberate decision to ignore its human-rights obligations, its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist groups, its support for Syria’s Assad regime, and its own regular and inexcusable anti-Semitic rhetoric continues unabated and undeterred. Mr. Rowhani’s own tome of literature chronicling Iranian subterfuge and clever protraction of nuclear negotiations does little to enhance his own credibility. [Read the full article]

Conspiracy convictions deepen Turkey’s divide | Al Jazeera

Political divisions in Turkey were on full display this week, as a court sentenced hundreds of former military officers, opposition politicians, journalists and academics for plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a conspiracy case that has gripped the nation.

The highest-profile defendant of the 275 on trial was former armed forces chief Ilker Basbug, who on Monday received a life sentence in jail, along with 17 others – including retired generals. [Read the full article]

In Turkey, Erdogan’s ‘mega-projects’ push forward | Jerusalem Post

ISTANBUL – An undersea rail tunnel linking Asia with Europe, the first in a series of multi-billion dollar construction projects in Istanbul backed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is close to completion. Engineers are now conducting tests on the 8.5-mile tube, part of which runs beneath the busy Bosphorus Strait shipping channel.

The undersea tunnel – the world’s deepest at 56 meters (184 feet) – is scheduled to open to the public on the country’s 90th anniversary, October 29, and will begin to shuttle 1.5 million people a day between the city’s two sides according to government officials. Under construction since 2004, it is a cornerstone of a series of planned undertakings intended to modernize transportation in Istanbul. [Read the full article]

U.S. soars in world popularity charts post-Iraq—but will it last? | CNBC

Favorable global feelings toward the United States have returned to 2002 levels, matching generally warm, pro-American sentiments measured just prior to the Iraq War: 64 percent of the planet’s inhabitants tend to like America, according to numbers tabulated for NBC News by the Pew Research Center.

That equates to a 13-point rise in American favorability among the same 19 nations surveyed by Pew in 2007. The Pew team polled people in countries spanning from Pakistan, where only 11 percent of locals today back the United States, to Ghana, where 83 percent of the populace is pro-American, Pew figures show. [Read the full article]

Wave of bombings in Iraq during holiday kills 64 | Yahoo!

BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of car bombings, mainly targeting cafes and markets around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killed 64 people Saturday out celebrating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said.

Violence has been on the rise across Iraq since a deadly crackdown by government forces on a Sunni protest camp in April, and attacks against civilians and security forces notably spiked during Ramadan. The surge of attacks has sparked fears that the country could spiral into a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007. [Read the full article]

Saudi Arabia says terror arrests linked to Western embassy closures | Al Arabiya

Saudi Arabia’s arrest of two men suspected of plotting terror attacks is connected to the recent closure of Western embassies in the regions, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told Al Arabiya on Thursday.

The interior ministry had said the surveillance of messages exchanged through social media led to the arrest of the two suspects, who hail from Yemen and Chad. [Read the full article]

Bullets and bank accounts | The Economist

AS SYRIA’S 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad turned into a civil war, business in Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s two biggest cities, plunged and inflation soared. Early this year, when rebels took over the northern city of Raqqa—and with it a good chunk of Syria’s oil and agricultural land, two main sources of government revenue fell into rebel hands. On the battlefield the regime has held its own; when it comes to financing the fighting the situation is less clear.

Unemployment has balooned to 60% and government coffers are empty; oil production is down to 20,000 barrels per day, from 380,000. Oil sanctions and sabotage have cost the government at least $13 billion by its own reckoning. Farming, trade and manufacturing are running at less than a third of pre-war levels. The Syrian pound has tumbled from 47 to the dollar when fighting broke out to around 250 today. In Beirut UN experts reckon that 19% of Syrians now live below the poverty line, compared with less than 1% before the war. [Read the full article]

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood faces uphill battle | USA Today

Syria’s banned Muslim Brotherhood may have an opportunity to stage a comeback after decades spent in exile. It is playing an increasingly providing assistance to military brigades it supports.

BEIRUT (AP) — For Syria’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, the uprising against President Bashar Assad that erupted amid Arab Spring revolts in 2011 provided a long-sought opportunity to stage a comeback after decades spent in exile. [Read the full article]

Deadly airstrikes in Assad northern Syrian stronghold | France24

Syrian regime air strikes killed more than 30 people Saturday in the Latakia province, bastion of the ruling Assad clan, and the northern city of Raqa, a monitory group said.

Seven children were among at least 13 civilians killed in an air raid on Raqa, the only provincial capital in rebel hands, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Read the full article]

UNHCR hails UAE humanitarian support in Pakistan | Gulf Today

ISLAMABAD: The UNHCR’s representative in Pakistan, Neill Wright, has lauded the outstanding and unprecedented role the United Arab Emirates has played under the leadership of the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE has helped to improve the difficult conditions currently being faced by the people in Pakistan due to the floods and natural disasters which caused this humanitarian crisis. [Read the full article]

UAE’s pearling industry seeks to regain long-lost luster | Taipei Times

Abdulla al-Suwaidi dreamed of reviving a long-lost part of Middle Eastern culture when he seeded his first oyster with a tiny bead and placed it in the warm waters of the Gulf in 2004.

Almost a decade later, the cofounder and vice-chairman of RAK Pearls is finally seeing the fruits of his labor with the first auction of cultured pearls from RAK’s oyster farm off the coast of Ras al-Khaimah, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. [Read the full article]

Ya’alon: Israel respects Egypt’s sovereignty | Jerusalem Post

A day after international media reports claimed Israel struck a terrorist cell in the Sinai Peninsula, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued a statement stressing that Jerusalem “respects Egypt’s full sovereignty.”

He added that Israel is aware of Egypt’s stepped-up activities to combat terrorism in Sinai, adding that the “Egyptian army is fighting first and foremost to protect Egyptian civilians, as well as Egyptian sovereignty.” [Read the full article]

Egypt walks the wire in denying Israeli strike on Sinai | Times of Israel

Contradicting earlier reports, the Egyptian army spokesman said late Friday that there was no truth to reports of an Israeli drone attack on Egyptian soil. He also claimed there was no coordination at all between Israeli and Egyptian authorities with regard to what he termed “explosions in the Rafah region.”

The circumstances surrounding the strike that occurred early Friday evening near Rafah in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in which (it appears) that five Islamic terrorists were killed, were not immediately clear. Particularly elusive were the facts regarding who perpetrated the strike. Initial reports published by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency and then later by AP cited Egyptian officials in El-Arish who said that an Israeli drone fired missiles at a storage site for long-range missiles. They said the strike took place near the Kerem Hashalom crossing, and in the triangle between the Israeli, Egyptian and Gazan border. [Read the full article]

Netanyahu to Kerry: Palestinian incitement undermines peace | Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu complained to US Secretary of State John Kerry about continued Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel, even as a ministerial committee prepared to make good on Israel’s pledge to release Palestinian prisoners.

“Incitement and peace cannot coexist…Rather than educate the next generation of Palestinians to live in peace with Israel, this hate education poisons them against Israel and lays the ground for continued violence, terror and conflict,” Netanyahu wrote to Kerry in a letter over the weekend. [Read the full article]

Taking wing | The Economist

SOME 30,000 soldiers are slowly vacating their bases in Israel’s main city, Tel Aviv, and moving to the Negev desert. By the end of the decade, much of the country’s army will have migrated to four huge bases alongside Bedouin shanties. Tel Aviv’s developers, relishing the prospect of building on vast tracts of the country’s most valuable land, talk of turning swords into timeshares. They plan an 80-storey tower for the Kirya, the old British base in the city centre, which for the past six decades has been the headquarters of the general staff. Large parts of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) expect to withdraw from coastal population centres. Overall, the men in uniform, who long dominated the state, are becoming more peripheral. [Read the full article]

US-run Israel-Palestine talks meaningless theatrics: Analysis | PressTV

A political analyst has denounced the planned resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as “meaningless theatrics” aimed at covering up Washington and Tel Aviv’s agenda in the region.

“The so-called ‘peace talks’ initiated by [US Secretary of State] John Kerry between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are meaningless theatrics that are part of a stratagem concealing and obscuring the real intentions of the US and Israel in the Middle East,” said Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in a Friday article titled “John Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian talks are a cover for aggression and annexation” on Russia Today’s website. [Read the full article]

Qatar: Enemies dine together in the new Casablanca | The Star

As the magic of food, family and friends this weekend marks the end of the holy month of fasting for Muslims worldwide, what do Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and their classic 1942 film, Casablanca, have in common with the today’s tiny, gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar and its capital city, Doha?

Well, the surprising answer is: quite a bit. In today’s world, the city of Doha — with its own blend of secrecy and intrigue — is beginning to look a lot like the Casablanca of the 1940s. [Read the full article]

Bahrain Protests 2013: August 14 Will Be Biggest Protest Yet | Policy Mic

Bahrain is bracing for a series of protests likely to be the most significant in over a year. Inspired by the Tamarod Movement, which helped bring down the Morsi government in Egypt, Bahriani activists will take to the streets on August 14, a date that marks the country’s independence from Britain.

On Friday, prominent Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was refused permission to board a British Airways flight from Copenhagen to Bahrain, apparently on the request of the Bahrain regime. She was allowed into the country earlier this year, and this denial is another indication of the government’s tension as the 14th approaches. [Read the full article]

Cyprus FinMin calls on House to pass bills to keep bailout plan on track | Famagusta Gazette

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades has warned that if the House does not approve bills aiming at implementing a memorandum of understanding agreed with the Troika, Cyprus’ bailout program will be derailed.

Speaking to the House Committee on trade and industry, Georgiades said that the Finance Ministry is preparing a total of fourteen bills that must be approved by the House to secure the next tranche of 1.5 billion euro which will be used exclusively to recapitalise the cooperative movement. [Read the full article]

Yet another bad idea | Cyprus Mail

THE NEWS, if confirmed, that the government intends “to appoint a fully political board” which will consist of non-executives, while the current executive directors of the Cyprus National Hydrocarbons Company (CNHC) will be demoted to department heads, is a huge blow to the future of our economy, and our hopes for a lean, accountable and transparent state. It is an open tender for more corruption and patronage. It will be seen as a provocation by the Turkish-Cypriots, leading to a choice of messy outcomes.

Lastly, it is not just a blow, but a revelation. It is a revelation of why our international lenders aren’t really impressed by our claims of an economic revival centered on exploiting our natural gas reserves. [Read the full article]

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