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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 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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