Friday, May 31, 2013

Corruption Skulduggery

"I don't recall an Olympics without corruption. It's not an excuse, obviously, and I'm very sorry about it, but there might be corruption in this country...."
Jean-Claude Killy, head, International Olympic Committee coordination commission for the Sochi games

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to Jean-Claude Killy, Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, during a February summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to Jean-Claude Killy, Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, during a February summit. (Alexei Druzhinin/RIA-Novosti/Associated Press )

It's a world class spectacle, held in a country that has every desire, much as China did before it, to display its grandeur and its ability to fund grand infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. If China could manage, by temporarily shutting down its carbon-belching coal-fired chimneys in Beijing to briefly welcome the sun to shine benevolently upon international visitors to the Summer Olympics, Russia can build outstanding venues and upgrade bridges, roads, hotels, trains, port, airport and power grid.

It all gets costed into the final tally. A building spree that includes of necessity all the venues for the various sport events; an Olympic stadium, three Olympic villages, a ski jump, hockey arenas, Alpine facilities, and more, much more. The original estimate announced in 2007 -- once the Olympic Committee had selected Sochi, beloved of Vladimir Putin and close by where he has had another sumptuous palace built for himself -- to host the 2014 games stood at $12-billion.

Russia has ample revenues from its large gas energy fields and its monopolistic provision to much of the European Union to keep them from freezing in winter, dependent on the good graces of the man who occasionally turns rather grumpily nasty with them, and who himself owns an significant share of the country's energy giant, Rosneft. A riches-generating source for his old KGB cronies as well, who now own their own significant shares.

But corruption doesn't start and end with the President, it permeates the society at all levels. And Boris Nemtsov, one-time deputy prime minister has become a critic of the Kremlin, and he contends in a report just released that up to $30-billion of state funding has been 'liberated' into the bank accounts of Russian officials and associated businessmen. Inflating the original cost to prepare for the Olympics to rather considerably more than was originally estimated: $51-billion.

Cost overruns do not explain the differential. Nor does inflation. Nor does the doubling of infrastructure and other costs in preparation for mounting the Olympic Games over time. The 2012 London Summer Olympics came with a pricetag of $14.3, and it was a brilliant affair. The difference between the initial and final costs of Olympic Games in the past 14 years, according to Mr. Nemtsov's figures on average was two-fold.

Russia's new costing of $51-billion far outstrips that normal range of expectation. Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, claims he requires time to analyze Mr. Nemtsov's report and the figures contained therein, but he is confident that Russian prosecutors and the Audit Chamber have kept well abreast of Olympic costs.

Someone isn't touching base; state auditors at Russia's Audit Chamber have repeatedly spoken of their concerns relating to the skyrocketing overruns. They issued recommendations that those overruns be perused by prosecutors. To which Mr. Zhukov responds that additional infrastructure had to be built at some of the venues, raising costs.

Sochi is reputed to be a beautiful city, situated as it is on the Black Sea, a lovely vacation venue. Certainly President Vladimir Putin holds it in high esteem. And the city is set to benefit hugely from hosting the Olympics. Good thing the rest of Russia doesn't mind, those hard-working citizens who haven't the personal wherewithal to bask in the beauty of the city. A city that they have bequeathed with their hard-earned funds, with additional perquisites.

And generous abundance as well for on-the-take, grasping, venal officials and businessmen. Ta-dum!

Labels: , ,

Moscow‘s smoke screen obscures Assad’s next Syrian war moves

DEBKAfile Special Report May 31, 2013, 8:00 PM (IDT)
Russian MiG-29M2 fighter-bomber
Russian MiG-29M2 fighter-bomber
One minute, Russian spokesmen declare that Moscow is only filling standing contracts with Syria for the sale of weapons, i.e. – S-300 anti-air missiles; the next, that delivery will take place only in the second quarter of 2014 (ahead of Syria’s presidential election). Then, after those spokesmen previously declared that Russia would only fill outstanding arms contracts, Serge Korotkov, head of the MiG company came out with the news Friday, May 31, that a Syrian delegation was in Moscow to discuss “a new contract” for the sale of “more than 10” MiG-29 M/M2 fighters.

According to debkafile’s military sources, this Russian fighter-bomber is designed to operate in complex electronic jamming environments. It is therefore just what the Syrian army lacks for overcoming the Israeli Air Force’s ability to disable Syria’s Russian-made electronic warfare systems.
Moscow is therefore offering to provide Bashar Assad and his air force with a key resource for delivering on the statement he made in a TV interview Thursday, May 30: “We have informed all foreign parties that we will retaliate against any future Israeli attack.”

Our military and Russian sources say that the conflicting Russian statements on weapons sales to Damascus have two motives:

1.  To lay down a smoke screen for concealing the true nature and volume of the military equipment Moscow is shipping to Assad and his army by airlift. Its transports land and unload their freight at various Syrian airfields, including Aleppo and Latakia. Without the Russian and Iranian air corridors, the Syrian army would soon run out of the ammunition, spare parts and fuel, needed day to day for keeping up its war on the rebels.

2. To spread a fog fraught with Russian menace for scaring Israel, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey off any thought of military intervention in the Syrian conflict.
This too is the frame of mind Moscow is seeking to generate for June 5 when representatives of Russia, the US and the United Nations meet to prepare the ground for the Geneva conference which had been called to hammer out a political settlement of the Syrian war.  Moscow is determined to browbeat Washington into accepting Iran’s participation.

Only the UN has so far named its representatives to the preliminary meeting. They are special envoy for Syria, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, and the Deputy Secretary General, US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman.

Some weeks ago, Brahimi was on the point of resigning his mission. He changed his mind when he saw Assad was gaining the upper hand in the way and the Obama administration unwilling to stop him except by cooperating with Moscow in calling an international conference for setting limits on Assad’s triumph.

The Algerian diplomat became convinced that without Moscow and Iran’s attendance, the conference is condemned to fail.

Most probably, therefore, the preparatory meeting will be preoccupied with settling the argument over Iran’s participation. Already, behind closed doors, Moscow, Washington and Tehran have closed the gap between them and bargaining over the format of Tehran’s attendance, whether as a separate delegation or part of the Syrian team? And will Hizballah be asked or not?

The Russians are confident they come to the event with the strongest hand. Their delegates will lead a front composed of Iran, Syria and Hizballah, which is not only united but way ahead on the war front.
In contrast, their American co-sponsors, have not been able to persuade the fractious Syrian opposition or its Gulf patrons, led by Saudi Arabia, to put in an appearance at the conference.

Unless this obstacle can be overcome, the US delegation comes to the conference without Syrian or Arab parties on its side of the table.
Israel can only watch from the sidelines.

President Vladimir Putin and his advisers feel they can safely turn up the heat in the belief that President Barack Obama will have no choice in the final reckoning but to accept the Russian-Iranian proposals for ending the Syrian war, starting with leaving Assad in power. Otherwise, Moscow is indicating that the war will escalate, fueled by the swelling input of Russian arms, and the United States will sink further in Middle East estimation.

Implicit in the Russian stance is that the Syrian war which has already spread to Lebanon thanks to Hizballah’s participation in the fighting will next spill over into Israel. Moscow is playing the S-300 missiles and MiG-29 M/M2 warplanes as pieces in its game against Israel too on the Syrian chessboard.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sergei Guriev was a mainstream figure in Russia, albeit one openly critical of Putin's policies. His flight suggests that Putin's crackdown on dissent is expanding to a new level.

By Correspondent / May 31, 2013
Sergei Guriev gives a thumbs-up as he listens during an interview with Reuters journalists in Moscow in September 2012. The prominent economist and government adviser has fled Russia after being questioned by state investigators, amid a growing clamp-down on groups and individuals critical or independent of President Vladimir Putin.   Maxim Shemetov/Reuters/File

Russians are puzzling over the strange case of Sergei Guriev – one of the country's leading economists, dean of the world-class New School of Economics in Moscow, member of the board of the giant state bank Sberbank, newspaper columnist, and adviser to the Russian government – who, in a single day this week, concluded a "vacation" in France by abruptly quitting all his posts and announcing that he will not be returning to Russia anytime soon.
In another country, the sudden departure of even such a prominent figure might be regarded as a personal matter, and hence attract little notice. But in Russia, where political significance is seldom far from the surface, Mr. Guriev's flight has been received as a dire signal by many intellectuals that the ongoing crackdown against anti-Kremlin protesters and "politically active" non-governmental organizations may now be expanded to include prominent academics and other professionals who think they should be able to work within the establishment while also maintaining openly critical views about President Vladimir Putin and his policies.

"Guriev's departure is a major blow to the public face of Putin's Russia," says Ilya Ponomaryov, a Duma deputy who is facing his own serious troubles, which include investigation by the Kremlin's powerful Investigative Committee after he became a leader of the protest movement that erupted in December 2011 over alleged electoral fraud.

"People like Guriev, whom we call 'system liberals', are one by one getting sacked. They had played the role of showing that all is basically well, you can be a professional, do your job, have your own opinions, even be critical of the Kremlin, and no ill will befall you. Wittingly or not, they put a respectable front on the regime. But that mask has fallen now, and reality is coming into sharp focus," he says.

Though a solid, mainstream figure who served on government commissions and reputedly became close to former President Dmitry Medvedev, Guriev never made any bones about his liberal views – which he espoused in a regular column for the Moscow business daily Vedomosti – his sympathies for the protest movement, or his personal contribution of 10,000 roubles (just over $300) a year ago to anti-corruption blogger and protest leader Alexei Navalny.

Guriev also served on an independent expert panel in 2011 that examined the prosecution's case against politically disobedient oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was sentenced for a second time two years ago, and which found the trial was rife with legal, procedural, and factual errors.
That latter activity may have been Guriev's undoing. During the month of April he was reportedly summoned repeatedly by the Investigative Committee, mainly to discuss Mr. Khodorkovsky and his now-dismantled oil major Yukos, while investigators also paid threatening visits to the New School of Economics.

Finally breaking his silence and speaking to The New York Times on Friday, Guriev said investigators had put escalating pressure on him to cooperate, including a demand to hand over five years' worth of professional and personal emails, and submit to searches of his home and office.
"I have no issues with Putin or Medvedev. It is just that I (and my family) have a subjective dislike of my chances to lose my freedom, given that I have done nothing wrong," the Times quotes Guriev as saying.

The Kremlin's Investigative Committee is building a series of cases against dissidents, including almost 30 people charged with inciting "mass disorders" during peaceful demonstration on the eve of Mr. Putin's inauguration for a third term last May allegedly under the direction of foreign-inspired leaders.

Another case – which appears, in the Investigative Committee's narrative, to be related – involves the alleged misappropriation of state funds given to former President Medvedev's pet "modernization" project of Skolkovo. In this dossier, the parliamentarian Mr. Ponomaryov, who was paid $700,000 for research and consultation on behalf of Skolkovo, is accused of being the conduit through which sympathetic government officials allegedly funneled state cash to the street protest movement.
Ponomaryov says the charges are "ridiculous," and that he openly declared and paid taxes on legitimately earned income.

Yet another potential case, which has not yet been announced, may well be a third trial for Khodorkovsky and his co-defendent Platon Lebedev, who are due to be released next year after spending over a decade in prison.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer, Vadim Klyugvant, says they have received no official notice of new charges against his client, but all signs point that way.

"Since the first case was initiated in 2003, there have always been additional charges budding from the principal case," he says. "We've already been through a whole second trial. There is no legal basis for fresh charges against Khodorkovsky, but everything depends upon the tasks set to a group of investigators who have, by now, made their entire careers on pursuing him. Some of them have been promoted to generals by now," he adds.

This connects with Guriev's tale, experts say, because as one of the key experts who tore apart the previous case against Khodorkovsky, he will be under great pressure to recant.

"The Khodorkovsky case was never really closed," says Masha Lipman, editor of the Moscow Carnegie Center's Pro et Contra journal. "He's supposed to be released next year, but many people, including me, won't believe it until they see it."

Sergei Markov, a former adviser to Putin who often expresses the inner-Kremlin point of view, says that Guriev was trying to stand on two stools, and couldn't keep it up.

"Guriev was a strong critic of Putin, at the same time he worked for the Russian government. Such people have to make a choice, either don't be an opponent, or don't try to work for the government. Guriev gave expertise to support Khodorkovsky, and yet he had received money from Khodorkovsky. This is a good starting point for investigation," Mr. Markov says.
Guriev strongly denies ever having received money from Khodorkovsky.
Markov goes on to paint a wider conspiracy.

"Guriev's departure was specially organized by some people who want to protect high-level opponents within the establishment. There are such people, who want to retain their high positions while being secret opponents of Putin. Guriev was an open opponent, but there are also hidden ones," he says.

Some experts say the Investigative Committee is working its way toward accusing members of former President Medvedev's circle, and perhaps ultimately Medvedev himself, of financing, encouraging, and possibly even organizing the protest movement.

"It all comes down to the view, on the part of the siloviki," – former members of the security forces who came into power alongside ex-KGB agent Putin – "that Medvedev was too permissive, too liberal, and that he may have privately sympathized with the protesters," says Ms. Lipman.

"The push for Putin to get rid of Medvedev and everything he supposedly stands for is getting stronger by the day.... Putin is moving from a more open to a more rigorously-controlled society, and the  siloviki are playing an increasingly influential role," she adds.

Guriev, the economist who thought he could work within the system without sacrificing his principles, has made his personal escape, but left behind a stark message to the rest of Russia's liberal intelligentsia, she says.

"The Kremlin wants everybody to know that even if the current crackdown comes at the cost of losing some of Russia's best minds, that's a price they don't mind paying."

Labels: , , ,

No rise in cancer rates after Fukushima disaster - UN

BBC News online - 31 May 2013
Damaged reactor 3 at Fukushima nuclear plant. File photo The Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled by the deadly earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011
Cancer rates are not expected to rise as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, UN scientists say.

The evacuation of thousands of people shortly after the accident in 2011 sharply lowered their exposure to radiation, a draft report concluded.

The World Health Organisation has said local residents have a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers.

Reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant were crippled by an earthquake and tsunami that killed some 19,000 people.

It was the world's worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The findings of the draft report were presented by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (Unscear) in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Committee member Wolfgang Weiss said the decision by the Japanese authorities to evacuate large numbers of people had proved to be the right one.

"If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades," he added.

Unscear's report also stated that "no radiation-related deaths have been observed among nearly 25,000 workers involved at the accident site".

Studies after Chernobyl linked cases of thyroid cancer to radioactive iodine that contaminated milk. But Mr Weiss said that had not been the case in Japan.

The report was prepared by 80 scientists from 18 countries and will be published in full later this year.

The findings contradicted a report published by the WHO in February, which said the risk of cancer for those living near the nuclear plant had risen.

Labels: , , , ,

US and Germany urge Russia not to arm Syria military

BBC News online - 31 May 2013
Syrian government troops in Arjun in Qusair, 30 May 2013 Fierce fighting has been raging around the key Syrian town of Qusair

The US and Germany have called on Russia not to supply Syria's military with an advanced missile system they say could prolong the conflict there.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the delivery of Russian weaponry would have a "profoundly negative impact" and put Israel's security at risk.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Moscow not to hinder the chances of mooted peace talks.

In Syria, fierce fighting continued on Friday around the key town of Qusair.
Dozens of opposition fighters reached the town on Friday to bolster it against an offensive involving government forces and militants from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

One opposition activist told the BBC the humanitarian situation in the town near the Lebanese border was worsening, with 800 wounded people needing treatment.

Mr Kerry and Mr Westerwelle held talks in Washington a day after Mr Assad said a Russian contract to supply the S-300 surface-to-air missile defence system was being implemented, without confirming any deliveries.

The S-300PMU-2 - the variant experts believe will be sent - is a highly capable system that, as well as targeting aircraft, also has the capacity to engage ballistic missiles.

Two Russian newspapers on Friday quoted defence sources as saying that it was unclear if any of the missile system would be delivered this year.

Mr Kerry called on Russia not to upset the balance in the region by providing weaponry to the Assad regime, "whether it's and old contract or not".


After 40 years of tight dictatorship in Syria, it is not surprising that the opposition is finding it hard to produce a coherent, representative leadership to face off against a tough regime team in the proposed Geneva conference.
What was meant to be a three-day meeting of the opposition coalition in Istanbul turned into eight days of in-fighting that has failed to achieve its stated goals of electing a new leadership, approving an interim government and taking a clear position on the Geneva proposal.
After initially saying it would go to Geneva with conditions, the opposition now says it will not go as long as Hezbollah is fighting at Qusair. That buys it time for the great deal of work, and doubtless wrangling, that will be needed to construct a plausible delegation for the talks, and more meetings will be held early next month.
By contrast, the regime side is unified and coherent, and has decades of negotiating experience to draw on. The opposition risks a severe defeat in the talks, unless it gets its act together very seriously.
"It has a profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region and it does put Israel at risk," he said. 

"We hope that they will refrain from that in the interests of making this peace process work," he said.
He added that he was convinced the Syrian opposition would take part in US and Russian-backed talks expected to be held in Geneva next month. Russian and American officials are set to meet next week to prepare the ground for the peace conference.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says a lot more needs to be done for the opposition to be in any kind of shape to attend any conference in a coherent manner.
He says that, by contrast, the Syrian government appears unified and confident.

Mr Assad said on Thursday that Syria would "in principle" attend the peace conference in Geneva if there were not unacceptable preconditions.

In an interview with Lebanon's al-Manar TV, which is owned by Hezbollah, he warned that Syria would respond in kind to any future Israeli air strikes.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television said troops and Hezbollah fighters had captured the Arjun district of Qusair on Thursday.

Syria's Russian-made military

  • Nearly 5,000 tanks; 2,500 infantry fighting vehicles; 2,500 self-propelled or towed artillery units
  • 325 Tactical aircraft; 143 helicopters
  • Nearly 2,000 air defence pieces
  • 295,000 active personnel; 314,000 reserve personnel
Statistics: IISS
An attempt to get wounded people out of the town on Friday had failed, an opposition activist told the BBC, as the convoy had come under attack, with nine people killed.

The source said 30,000 people were still in Qusair, 80% of which was under rebel control, although these figures cannot be independently verified.

"There is no water at all, because the Assad regime controls the water supply, and there has been no electricity for four months," he said.

More than 80,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million have fled Syria since the uprising against Mr Assad began in 2011, according to UN estimates.

line break
How the Russian S-300PMU-2 missile defence system works
  1. The long-range surveillance radar tracks objects over a range of 300km (185 miles) and relays information to the command vehicle, which assesses potential targets
  2. A target is identified and the command vehicle orders the engagement radar to launch missiles
  3. Launch data is sent to the best placed of the battalion's six launch vehicles and it releases two surface-to-air missiles
  4. The engagement radar helps guide the missiles towards the target. It can guide up to 12 missiles simultaneously, engaging up to six targets at once
The vehicle used as a launcher is currently manufactured at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT) in Belarus, although Russia is now shifting the production to its western city of Bryansk.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

This is my Pack - many of whom would have been gassed-to-death had they been in a gas chamber using shelter...they are lucky, so many wonderful dogs are not so lucky - so please SPEAK OUT for those who cannot!

Labels: , ,

Valued Allies

"He was a very cool-minded person, a very intelligent person and he was someone that the government could talk to", said Mansur Mahsud, director of administration and research at the Islamabad-based FATA Research Center.

Now who will the government of Pakistan bargain with? Waliur Rehman, considered to be the second in influence as commander of the Pakistani Taliban is no longer in the land of the living. Perhaps that is to be expected; that old adage, live by the sword, die by the sword has the resonance of fact, after all, and Waliur Rehman is held to be responsible for hundreds of bombings and shootings across Pakistan.

So, the man is a mass murderer, a declared enemy of the state and of its people, other than those living in Waziristan, but he is considered to be intelligent, cool-minded, and a potential candidate for peace negotiations. Somewhat like Osama bin Laden, one might suppose. Whose presence in Abbottabad, despite its location close by an elite military barracks was completely unknown to Pakistan authorities, much less the military.

But whose death at the hands of American Navy SEALS in a swift, deadly assault enraged Pakistan because the United States had humiliated it by infringing on its sovereignty creating a deep abyss in disgruntled belligerence. The Pakistani medical officer who lived next door to the bin Laden domestic complex and who had collaborated with the CIA on the bin Laden file, as an ally of Pakistan has been imprisoned, as a traitor to his country.

Waliur Rehman, held responsible for an attack on an American base in Khost, Afghanistan in 2009 which killed seven Americans working for the CIA, a Jordanian intelligence officer and wounded six other CIA personnel had a $5-million bounty on his head. One of U.S. President Barack Obama's famous drones targeted the man. One wonders, who will claim the bounty? A local who envisions flirting with death?

Missiles were fired into a house in Miran Shah in the North Waziristan tribal region. Where Waliur Rehman was hit, and as well another five people within the house, killing them all. Confirmation of his death was delivered by two Pakistani officials who viewed the body. Another affirmed that intelligence agents had intercepted communications between militants, revealing the transmission of the news of his death.

Denied, however, by a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban: "This appears to me to be false news. I don't have any such information." During Pakistan's recent elections U.S. drone program strikes became a raging hot issue engendering great debate. Nawaz Sharif, returning to the presidency again, has made no secret of his anger over the use of U.S. drones within Pakistan, demanding they be halted.

Mr. Sharif is, in fact, prepared to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban for an end to the tribal area attacks. Presumably hoping to influence the Taliban that their bloody assaults on the country and suicide bombings in Islamabad are damaging to the health of the country. As an Islamist Mr. Sharif will certainly have more in common with the tribal chiefs in the semi-autonomous tribal belt than his recent predecessors.

Though even they were tolerant of the presence of the al-Qaeda leader.

Labels: , , , , ,

Evolution To Freedom

"I never expected that such racial violence would erupt in Lashio. Our small town is multi-ethnic and we have lived in peace for a long time."
Sai Myint Maung, local politician

Burma, which its former military government called Myanmar, was described as a hermit kingdom not all that long ago. A closed society. Indifferent to the rest of the world, placid in their apartness and eager to keep it that way. The totalitarian military government in any event was constantly criticized by the international community; best to keep it out of Burma's affairs.

Except when it suffered catastrophic natural events like earthquake upheavals and international humanitarian aid rushed in to the rescue of Burmese trapped in remote-area mudslides, when the Burmese military failed to respond as rapidly and helpfully as the emergency situation impacting on thousands should have demanded of them.

On its border with impoverished Bangladesh, Burma has thousands of unwanted Bangladeshi refugees, Muslims who have lived there for decades. Where Burma is Buddhist. But, as the local politician from Lashio remarked, his town was comfortably pluralist, tolerant, people getting along. But something quite dreadful has happened in Burma.

Even while there is now, under an elected administration, and with the freeing of Burma's celebrated dissident, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi able after long years of home imprisonment, to join the new parliament -- and new freedoms have come to the Burmese, intolerance of the minority among them has risen, and riots have taken place across the country.

Muslim communities have been targeted, and Muslims have been killed in an orgy of religious and ethnic carnage. Pogroms are launched by mobs of Burmese Buddhists, sometimes with clergy involved in driving up anger against the Muslims, and rampaging mobs rage through Muslim areas, burning mosques, schools, shops, ransacking and murdering.

Hundreds of Buddhists on motorcycles armed with sticks patrol in the streets of in Lashio, northern Shan State, Myanmar, Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Sectarian violence spread to a new region of Myanmar, with a mob burning shops in the northeastern town after unconfirmed rumors spread that a Muslim man had set fire to a Buddhist woman. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Associated Press/Gemunu Amarasinghe - Hundreds of Buddhists on motorcycles armed with sticks patrol in the streets of in Lashio, northern Shan State, Myanmar, Wednesday, May 29, 2013.

The government of President Thein Sein declares itself outraged at the atrocities and appeals for measured control, for people to refrain from attacking others, but it has had little influence on what occurs. In some areas Muslims have fought back and inflicted damage on their Buddhist attackers. But Muslims are by far the victims of these paroxysms of intolerance.

"Damaging religious buildings and creating religious riots is inappropriate for the democratic society we are trying to create. Two religious buildings and some shops" were burned in Lashio, wrote presidential spokesman Ye Htut on his Facebook page. "Any criminal act will be dealt with according to the law", he emphasized. Yet there have been no criminal trials of Buddhists involved in the violence.

And the highly respected icon of human rights and freedoms, Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for her muted stance on the problems her country is struggling with. Muslims hide in their homes, fearful of the violence that overcame other parts of the country, the attacks that killed hundreds last year in western Burma.

Hundreds of people died in the clashes that took place in Western Rakhine state last year, between Buddhists and Muslims.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Israeli intelligence denies first Russian S-300s arrive in Syria - contrary to Assad’s claim

DEBKAfile Special Report May 30, 2013, 5:52 PM (IDT)
Russian S-300 anti-air missiles system
Russian S-300 anti-air missiles system
Senior Israeli intelligence sources emphasized to debkafile Thursday May 30 that Syria had still not received the first consignment of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries – contrary to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s claim. 
Directly taunting Israel, Syrian president Bashar Assad said in an interview prerecorded for broadcast Thursday night, May 30, that the first batch of Russian S-300 anti-air missiles has arrived in Syria and a second consignment was on the way. The broadcast was scheduled to air simultaneously over Hizballah’s Al Manar and Syrian state television channels.

The Syrian ruler was responding to the quote from Israel’s National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror that the S-300 batteries have not been delivered yet and when they are, Israel will destroy them before they are operational.

Wednesday, May 29, debkafile reported the landing at Latakia airport of a large Russian transport carrying 60 tons of unidentified freight. Labeled by Moscow “humanitarian aid,” it may in fact have contained the first S-300 delivery to which Assad referred.

Continuing in the same vein, Assad said that not only would the Syrian army react to any further Israeli attacks, he “would not stand in the way of Syrian groups that want to fight for the liberation of the Golan.”

debkafile reported earlier Thursday.
Fresh Hizballah forces entered Syria early Thursday, May 30, hours after the United States called the presence of the Hizballah fighters from Lebanon in Syria “unacceptable” and “dangerous” and demanded their immediate withdrawal. Already fighting on three fronts – Damascus, Homs and al Qusayr - debkafile’s military sources report that the new increment is assigned a fourth. Iran’s Lebanese proxies will be heading south to take on the rebel stronghold of Deraa, capital of the Huran, where they will be fighting within 30 kilometers of Israel’s Golan border.

Lookout posts report the incoming Hizballah units organizing their equipment and getting set to move.

The threats traded by Russia, Syria, Hizballah with Israel have reached a new pitch of stridency.
Israel’s National Secuirty Adviser Yakov Amidror was quoted Wednesday night as warning that if the Russian S-300 anti-air missiles are delivered to Syria, Israel will strike them and prevent their deployment for operational use.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens voiced his certainty that the Russians are aware Israel is capable of destroying the batteries.

debkafile’s military sources add: Moscow has made a point of stressing that the S-300s for Syria will arrive accompanied by Russian officers and advisers, in the belief that Israel will think twice before tangling with Moscow by attacking the missiles still in their crates and risking harm to Russian personnel. This eventuality came up in the tough conversation Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 14.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has meanwhile pitched in to warn that another Israeli strike against Syria would elicit an immediate Syrian response. He spoke to the Hizballah TV station Al Mayadin Wednesday night. In answer to a question, he said the Syrian response would be proportional to the Israeli attack.

In Helsinki, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reacted harshly to the European Union’s decision – spearheaded by Britain and France – to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels: He made it clear that this decision had untied Moscow’s hands for supplying Bashar Assad with weapons banned by international treaties.

“Every decision has two sides. If one side lifts its restrictions, then the other side may no longer feel compelled to keep its previously adopted obligations,” Shoigu said Wednesday.

A special interview with President Assad is scheduled for simultaneous broadcast Thursday night by Hizballah’s Al-Manar and Syrian state television channels.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

  • After Woolwich killing, Britain debates how to combat 'radicalization'

In the UK, a debate is raging over whether the government should introduce press controls and make it easier to snoop on individuals, or if that would do more harm than good.

By Correspondent / May 30, 2013
British Home Secretary Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London last Thursday. This week, she promised to carry out a deep review of the government's strategy to combat radicalization, triggering a broader debate over how young Muslims and others can be identified and deterred from going down pathways that could lead them towards violence.   Alastair Grant/AP

Divisions within Britain’s governing coalition over how to counter the threat of domestic terrorism intensified Thursday as the leader of the Liberal Democrats warned against “knee-jerk reactions” to last week’s killing of an off-duty British soldier in London – comments seen as a thinly veiled attack on a raft of new proposals from the Conservative cabinet minister in charge of security.
Related stories
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg warned against banning radical preachers from television, which he said would backfire, and used a regular radio phone-in to criticize attempts by Home Secretary Theresa May to revive a controversial bill that would allow police and spy agencies access to details of individual's Internet use.

The so-called "snoopers’ charter," previously dropped in the face of opposition from the Liberal Democrats, was among a package of measures which included censorship of websites and a reduced threshold for proscribing extremist groups. Secretary May’s promise to carry out a deep review of Prevent, the government strategy to combat radicalization, is triggering a broader debate over how young Muslims and others can be identified and deterred from going down pathways that could lead them towards violence.

Though Prevent was introduced in 2007 by the Labour government, there have been signs in recent years that police-led tactics have been prioritized over community initiatives involving out-reach to youngsters and work with recently released prisoners. An example of the former is the Channel program, which is run by the police but asks teachers, parents, and other community figures to be vigilant.

“The government has run into trouble in terms of what kind of people it should be working with,” says Professor Andrew Silke, who studies terrorism at the University of East London and has worked with the government and law enforcement agencies. "Should it, for example, engage with former radicals, people who have been convicted of offenses and say they have come out and are reformed? There has been a recent shift to say they are not going to work with someone if they have radical views, even if they are completely peaceful.”

“You can sense there has been a real cooling in terms of the temperature and support for some of the initiatives that got funding in the early days,” he says.

May, who says that thousands of people are potentially at risk of being radicalized in the UK, has also raised the prospect of preventing radical preachers and leaders of tiny extremist groups from appearing on television – a move similar to the 1980s and '90s ban on radio and television appearances by spokespeople from the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) political wing.

"One of the issues we need to look at is whether we have got the right processes, the right rules, in place in relation to what is being beamed into people's homes,” she told the BBC last week.
However, figures from the opposition Labour Party warn that she is in danger of not learning from mistakes made while it was in power.

John Denham, who was involved in overseeing the running of Prevent while he was a minister in the last government, wrote in an article for the Guardian on Wednesday: “Reducing the number of potential extremist sympathisers is only partly about winning ideological arguments: crucially we need to give stake, voice and status to the vulnerable and alienated. This means engaging them, not rejecting them."

Whatever change of course is heralded by events in Woolwich, scholars such as Professor Silke argue that more needs to done to measure what actually works in terms of combating radicalization.

“Prevent is an area where, if you actually look at what has been done and spent, there are a lot of initiatives that sound like they should be good. But when you ask people what is the impact of this and ask them what has been achieved they are not able to give you facts and figures," he says.

Labels: , , , ,

Parents: Violent Arabs Make 'Superland' Super-bad

Teachers and parents explain why amusement park's policy of separation became necessary.

By Gil Ronen -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 5/30/2013, 4:50 PM

Israel news photo: Flash 90
The Superland amusement park is under attack in the media and in the political arena for a policy of keeping Jewish and Arab visitors apart, but independent-thinking parents and teachers explained Thursday why they feel the policy is justified and necessary.

Arutz Sheva has spoken to parents of children who visited the park over the past year. They said that the Arab children and youths in the park have a  habit of provoking fights with the Jewish kids, and that they behave similarly in other parks in Israel.

A teacher who did not want to be identified said the Arab groups have a marked tendency of behaving “with insolence and brutality,” turning the Jewish kids' fun days into violent nightmares.
"We often arrive at the parks with dozens of children,” the teacher said. “Arab groups often begin to provoke the Jewish kids. The Arab youths curse, swear and try to provoke a violent fracas. We need to support Superland in its decision. We cannot surrender to the extreme Left in its attempt to harm the park, which simply wanted to have separate days in order to avoid unnecessary violence.”

Another teacher told Arutz Sheva about similar experiences at the Kiftzuba park near Jerusalem, where there have been numerous violent fights between Jewish and Arab kids lately. “The Arab students swear and curse and behave rudely toward the Jews. We can't have fun days if the parks are mixed. That is the truth and there is no other truth.”

"The leftist media is trying to twist the truth, as it always does, and present a picture of poor Arab kids who were not allowed to enter this park or another but that is the truth and this is the real picture. It's not a matter of racism.”

Labels: , , , ,

Assad May be Bluffing on Missiles, Says Expert

Amb (ret.) Yossi Ben-Aharon explains why Russia wants to supply S-300s to Syria and what it means for Israel in this exclusive interview.

By Ben Bresky & INR Staff -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 5/30/2013, 7:04 PM

Syrian border
Syrian border
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have been bluffing Thursday morning when he said that his country had already received some of the Russian S-300 missile systems it has purchased, a former top level Israeli government official told Arutz Sheva.

Retired ambassador Yossi Ben-Aharon is a consultant on Middle Eastern affairs, who served as Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Ministry and Director-General of the Prime Minster's Office under Yitzhak Shamir. He gave an exclusive live interview to Josh Hasten host of Arutz Sheva's Reality Bytes podcast about the latest developments in Syria. 

For the full interview in mp3 format click here

Interview with Yossi Ben-Aharon
"Anything that President Bashar al-Assad says should be checked for veracity," Ben-Aharon stated. "He is in dire straits. He is probably trying to set up some type of protective wall in case Israel sees a need to attack a shipment of armaments from Syria to the Hizbullah. He could be deliberately misleading," Ben-Aharon commented. He added, "we do not have information that the S-300 missiles have indeed arrived in Syria."
The Hizbullah organization, based in Lebanon, has repeatedly attacked Israel, most notably in the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

In spite of Israeli and American calls to halt the weapons sale, Russia's foreign minister stated on Wednesday that his government would carry out the delivery in the near future. Ben-Aharon called this a power play on Russia's part. Because of the "Arab Spring" revolutions that occurred in many Middle Eastern countries, the Russians "are left only with Syria and they are trying to hold on to the maximum extent of their power," he stated. He noted that Russia has part of its naval fleet in the Mediteranean sea near Syria, and "Assad is the only Arab leader who has opened the gates for some kind of Russian influence."

In regard to the possibility that the S-300 missiles could be used against Israel, Ben-Aharon reiterated the unofficial response of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon: "We have cautioned the Russians not to supply the piece of armament. But if however it does happen to materialize on Syrian territory, we will know how to deal with it. We have the capacity. If there is a real threat to us, we will have to make a move even if we are taking a risk."

In a previous interview on Arutz Sheva / Israel National Radio which took place following Israel's alleged raid on a Syrian weapons compound, Ben-Aharon spoke of his own personal experiences in talking with Syrian officials. For the May 5th interview with Yossi Ben-Aharon click here.

Syria Preemptive Strike Interview
"We are dealing with a very tough customer," he said. "They are headstrong and very proud. They looked down on other Arab countries. That was their attitude before the civil war started."
Today the former top Israeli adviser describes a fragmented society. What started as a bid to oust a dictatorial leader has become much more complicated. "There are so many outside factors in the web that prevent any chance of a ceasefire. It has become a sectoral confrontation between the Sunnis and the ruling family of Alawites who are similar to the Shiite sect of Islam," Ben-Aharon explained.

"The Iranians offered support to the pro-Shiite minority, and the Saudi Arabians and Qatar weighed in to support the majority Sunnis in Syria. If that isn't enough, you have other factors that poke their fingers in, such as Hizbullah from Lebanon. Assad has supported Hizbullah. When they saw the Assad regime beginning to fracture, they sent their own fighters to help in Damascus. Over and above all of this, western countries have tried to support the revolutionaries that are fighting to bring down the brutal Assad regime, and Russia is trying to maintain its influence. Let's remember that the Russian Soviets were sending weapons to Syria back in the 1970s."

For the full interview, including his comments on United States Secretary of State John Kerry latest announcement, download Reality Bytes with Josh Hasten by clicking here. 

Josh Hasten hosts the Reality Bytes call-in talk show live every Thursday from 10:00 AM - 12:00 noon Israel time on Arutz Sheva - Israel national Radio's live internet stream. For free podcast archives click here.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


"Clearly this move is a threat to us. At this stage I can't say there is an escalation. The shipments have not been sent on their way yet. And I hope that they will not be sent. If God forbid they do reach Syria, we will know what to do."
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon

Clearly the Sunday Times of London got it wrong when they ran with a scoop that Moscow had changed its mind about supplying the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with powerful and advanced S-300 air-defence missiles, after all. Russia loves playing its little cat-and-mouse games. Vladimir Putin no doubt enormously enjoyed seeing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu grovel a bit at Sochi, trying to convince him not to send those missiles on.

Even invoking the stability of the region, the potential for the missiles falling into the hands of terrorists; no argument persuasive enough to change his mind. Power, quite the cerebral aphrodisiac.

A top Russian official has since affirmed that his government remains committed to 'honouring' the deal; a contract had been signed and must proceed. All the arguments against proceeding are simply transparent enough fear-mongering. And in this instance the motivating force, fear, is insufficient to halt a process that has been initiated and will proceed.

Fearing the possibility that these weapons might tip the scales and turn the entire geography into a tinder-box is simply absurd. Isn't it?

Israel's concerns that Syria's already sophisticated weapons arsenal requires no additional munitions have fallen on deliberately deaf ears; there is quite simply no argument convincing enough to dissuade President Putin. Hezbollah's affairs are no concern of Russia. That Syria and Hezbollah have openly sworn to attack Israel on a number of fronts is Israel's concern and it will remain with Israel.

Should Hezbollah's haste to throw in its lost entirely with Syria destroying the rebels' advance redound on Hezbollah eventually and somehow spell its own death-knell, now that might become Russia's concern, however.

Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, remains mute whether any of the S-300s with their striking range of up to 2000 kilometres, the capability to track and strike multiple targets simultaneously, a truly fearsome advantage, have yet been shipped. "We understand the concern and signals sent to us from different capitals. We realize that many of our partners are concerned about the issue. We have no reason to revise our stance." 

This is what can be called the blindness of implacability.

"We believe that such steps to a large extent help restrain some 'hotheads' considering a scenario to give an international dimension to this conflict", said Mr. Ryabkov.

Those hotheads obviously referring to Israel, to the United States. Certainly not to Syria, to Hezbollah or al-Nusra among the rebels. So that, Israel's prospects look grim and dim. There is the prospect that Hezbollah could take possession of the missiles, with its intention of destroying Israel.

And the other option...the prospect that should the rebels succeed in their mission of toppling Assad and seeing him flee, the missiles left behind to fall into the possession of al-Qaeda-linked Sunni terrorists, why then, they too striving to achieve their ultimate goal, the destruction of the state of Israel, would be interested in making maximum use of those missiles.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Destroying Civilization

"We're talking about a regime that's willing to go to enormous lengths to use massive force against civilians, including Scud missiles and other types. We condemn all support of arms to the regime."
Patrick Ventrell, U.S. State Department
Of course, Russia has expressed its alternate view of the irresponsibility of the European Union in deciding to permit Syrian rebels to be armed. It's a scandalously cavalier attitude on the part of the EU. One that will be responsible, without doubt, in heating up an already fiery situation. And as the conflict within Syria grows and slops over its borders, affecting Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, all countries quite suffused with the tinder-box embers of their own looming conflicts, the European Union's decision is abominable.

The decision by Russia, on the other hand, to proceed to 'honour' a contract signed away back when, with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is infinitely intelligible and obviously just. To arm the Syrian regime with S-300 missiles is simply business as usual for Russia. Russia clearly has legitimate business interests in Syria, and the European Union has not. Above all, any interference by the United States in the chaotic affair of a country defending itself against foreign invaders would be intolerable.

The games that governments play in their clumsily transparent stabs at realpolitik...! Russia and America cannot possibly clash country-to-country in a cataclysmic conflict that would see the world shrivel in exposure to lethal weapons meant to destroy all in their path, but the appetite to lock horns, to gain hegemonic interests and ultimately advantage the winning side, is quite simply irresistible. The U.S. consenting to establishing a 'no fly' zone, and Russia giving Syria the missiles to shoot down NATO planes.

Sometimes things really are black and white. The dark side is the combination of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Russia; grey seems to escape that picture. On the other hand, the white of the EU, United States, Turkey, the Arab States and Israel has turned a little shop-worn grey with the rebels they are in support of being comprised in large part of intruders, al-Qaeda stalwarts among the Syrian rebels. With Saudi Arabia and Qatar quietly supporting them.

This is not a war, however, between good and evil, in the final analysis. Besides that it is also coincidentally a proxy war, it is largely a war between Islam and Islam. On either side there are the spawn of the devil, eager to slaughter their opposites. The religion itself is polarizing and becomes hateful in the extreme when it has been cast as the motivator of conflict, as a morally obligating pillar built into Islam's foundation through jihad.

Europeans and Americans are not unaware of all of this. And Israel most certainly is acutely aware of how fragile her footings in the Middle East have suddenly become, with that realization having come swooping down, carrying all other possible scenarios before it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Questionable Job Performance Evaluation

"Here we must ask, who handled this important abduction poorly? ... Does it come from the unilateral behaviour along the lines of our brother Abu Abbas, which produced a blatant inadequacy: Trading the weightiest case (Canadian diplomats!!) for the most meagre price (700,000 euros)!!
"Rather than walking alongside us in the plan we outlined, he managed the case as he liked."
North African Branch, al-Qaeda
"Your letter ... contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering," they write. "We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means. ... But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it." 

My, such a querulous, dissatisfied, slandering note of grievance. What might have occasioned such bitterness? That the ransom of a United Nations Niger-employed diplomat of Canadian provenance was insufficient unto the purpose of releasing him back to his country of origin? Tut-tut, shouldn't have made the deal. Shouldn't have entrusted the making of the deal to their own version of a black sheep, someone who wasn't a team player, chafed at taking orders he had no wish to comply with.

So Robert Fowler and his colleague Louis Guay were freed from captivity, from the misery of their forced incarceration by a band of desert jihadists who pay for their operations, their costly purchases of arms, by such abductions and consequent ransoms. Abductions which the world deplores, and most particularly those countries whose nationals have been targeted, and for whom to gain release they pay through the nose.

Insisting vehemently all the while that they paid nothing; it was simply an act of altruism that somehow struck the abductors, feeling badly that they had discommoded those whose lives they made miserable, and simply released them out of the goodness of their shrivelled, black little hearts. Heaven knows, in all likelihood Canadians might have seen a better use of $1-million than to waste it on rescuing Robert Fowler from his misery.

Robert Fowler has often demonstrated his gratitude to the country and to the Conservative government, in power at the time and whose decision it must have been to bring him on home, by sharp criticism and ongoing blame for anything and everything that he doesn't, in his great, good wisdom, agree with. That, of course, is a story other than the one that has led al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to have their 14-member Shura Council moan about being short-changed.

The voluminous letter setting out the Shura Council's disgust with the actions of Moktar Belmoktar, a petty-criminal-minded jihadist they were evidently incapable of controlling to their satisfaction, affirms that ransom payments derived from governments seeking to free their captured citizens are indeed used for the purchase of arms, enabling them to carry out attacks against the very governments that have awarded them the cash to begin with.

It's even likely that some of the arms dealers they do business with are ensconced in those very same European countries.

Life is complicated.

The leaders, in the letter, vent their outrage against Belmoktar who decided in high dudgeon to have no further truck with the group, in any event. And he set out to form his own terrorist group. With some spectacular results, since his was the jihadist group  - including two Canadian Muslims - that planned the largest hostage-taking yet, at the BP-operated In Amenas gas field in Algeria.
aired Al-Qaeda’s dirty linen in public, in online jihadist forums.

A still image broadcast by Algeria's Ennahar TV on January 19, 2013 shows hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the south of the country. (AFP Photo / Ennahar TV)
A still image broadcast by Algeria's Ennahar TV on January 19, 2013 shows hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the south of the country. (AFP Photo / Ennahar TV)
And just to prove that this was no one-off where he got lucky, planned and carried out simultaneous bombings in Niger last week, at a military base, and at a French uranium mine. Could be that al-Qaeda could use Belmoktar's expertise, after all. They might consider begging him to reconsider and return to the fold and use his bold sense of attack-and-atrocities to their further advantage.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A former Nepali Gurkha has been forced to abandon his attempt to become the oldest man to climb Everest. Min Bahadur Sherchan, 81, had been planning to beat the record set only last Thursday by his longtime rival, the Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, 80. But he had to be airlifted from the mountain's base to a hospital in Kathmandu after suffering from chest problems. His departure brought an end to an epic octogenarian battle -- and sounded a note of disappointment for Nepalese officials who had hoped he would regain the record Wednesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing. The pair's rivalry began in 2008 when the Japanese man set out to extend his then-world record, set in 2003 at age 70. He reached the summit again in May 2008 only to find Mr. Sherchan, then 71, had been there the day before.
The Daily Telegraph

Pakistani authorities suspended a four-day polio vaccination program Tuesday after gunmen killed a female polio worker and wounded another in a blow to the UN-backed campaign aimed at eradicating the crippling disease in this violence-torn country. Such attacks have made it harder for Pakistan to join the vast majority of nations declared polio-free. The two women were attacked Tuesday in Kaggawala, a village near Peshawar. Senior police official Shafiullah Khan said two attackers on foot fired a pistol at the workers. The vaccine campaign was launched Tuesday morning, but it was halted "for security reasons and to express solidarity with the slain and injured female polio workers", said Habibullah Arif, a government official. No group has claimed responsibility for the latest killing, but some Pakistani insurgents have claimed in the past the polio workers are U.S. spies and the vaccine makes people sterile.
The Associated Press

Two recently rehired Afghan police opened fire on their commander at a checkpoint in a remote district in the country's south, killing him and six of his men, officials said Tuesday. It was the latest in a string of "insider attacks", in which Afghan forces gun down their comrades or international forces. The police chief of volatile Kandahar said the two attackers were former policemen who had rejoined the force only two days before. Gen. Abdul Razaq said they fled in a police vehicle with their dead comrades' weapons after the attack Monday. "We found the weapons and the vehicle today, and now we are searching for the two policemen", Gen. Razaq said. Taliban insurgents warned they would infiltrate security forces to carry out insider attacks.
The Associated Press

Kenyan members of parliament voted Tuesday to overturn a directive that had reduced their pay, hoping it would force the government to pay the higher salaries earned by legislators in the previous parliament. Their pay was slashed to $78,000 from $126,000 this year by a government commission which indicated the country's wage bill was too high. The Salaries & Remuneration Commission had also argued that although Kenya was among the world's poorer economies, its legislators earned more than French lawmakers. Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 which intended to remove the parliamentarians' powers to establish their own level of pay. The minimum wage in Nairobi is about $1,500 a year, but many here live on even less.
The Associated Press

Sudanese government troops clashed with rebels in Southern Kordofan state, near the border with South Sudan, and each side claimed Monday to have inflicted heavy losses on the other. The clashes erupted Sunday in Dandor, 500 kilometres west of Khartoum. Southern Kordofan has been hit by violence for nearly two years, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and killing scores. South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 under a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war, but disputes remain over their common border, demilitarization and sharing oil revenues. A spokesman for the Sudanese army, Col. Sawarmy Khaled, said government forces clashed with rebels who attacked Dandor, killing more than 70 and seizing two of their tanks. He did not mention government casualties. From the other side, a rebel statement said Sudan People's Liberation Army-North and Sudan Liberation Army rebels carried out a joint attack Sunday on a Sudan government garrison, east of Southern Kordofan's state capital, Kadugli.
The Associated Press.

Bombings and gunfire in central and northern Iraq killed at last 19 people and wounded dozens on Tuesday, in the latest bloody chapter of  a wave of violence that has edged the country closer to all-out internal warfare. A day earlier, 70 people were killed, and more than 450 have died this month. Most of the attacks are sectarian in nature, with Sunni and Shiite areas targeted frequently. No one has claimed responsibility for the recent wave of attacks, but such systematic bombings bear the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents under the leadership of the al-Qaida branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq. They appear aimed at drawing the country's majority Shiites into an exchange of attacks like that which brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-07.
National Post

Labels: , , , ,

Israeli forebodings over widening Russian-Hizballah-Iraqi intervention in Syria

DEBKAfile Special Report May 29, 2013, 1:23 PM (IDT)
Russian Syrian military drill
Russian Syrian military drill
Forebodings were voiced Wednesday, May 29, by senior Israeli military officers in the face of the widening military intervention in the Syria civil war by Russia, Iran, Hizballah and latterly Iraq too. They have made Syria’s civil war the platform for a Russian contest against the West and a ladder up which Iran and its proxy Hizballah are climbing to top Middle East regional power spot.

Russia, Iran and Hizballah are winning the contest by default against an unresisting US-led West and a hesitant Israel.

 A senior IDF officer acknowledged on Wednesday, May 29, that Israel’s government and military leaders are at a loss on how to proceed. They have yet to recover from the calamitous miscalculation that Bashar Assad’s days were numbered to which they clung stubbornly for almost eighteen months.
Even today, some spokesmen refer to a “disintegrating Syria,” thereby losing sight of the major strategic and military changes overtaking the country that are entirely to Israel’s detriment as well as eroding its options against a nuclear Iran.

At a time that the US and Israel should be using their heaviest military guns to slow Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, Tehran with Moscow's backing has brought its military assets up close to Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon and openly threatens to use them.

Unlike Syria and Iran, Israel can’t count on military intervention against an aggressor by supportive big powers.  According to debkafile's Washington sources, no part of the Obama administration, including its military and intelligence arms, favors military action in Syria.

Even the direct evidence of chemical warfare already afoot in Syria is unavailing.

In Addis Ababa, US Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the administration’s mantra Wednesday by denying “concrete evidence” of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The Secretary and the rest of NATO were deaf to the vivid testimony brought to Le Monde Wednesday by two reporters, who risked their necks by spending two months concealed in the Jobar district of Damascus. They discovered Russia or Iran had developed a chemical weapon that does not explode. The release of its poisonous gases sounds like popping the top off a can of soda and has "no odor, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas."

So what does happen?
The Le Monde reporters provided a graphic first-hand description.

"The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate."

Wednesday morning, the Israeli Home Front rehearsed an attack on a Jerusalem suburb by a chemical-tipped missile.

 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who watched, said the exercise is designed to protect Israeli civilians “from the threats pilling up around us.” Israel’s home front is the best protected in the world but also the most threatened, he said: “We must make sure that defense is in place before an attack.
Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon voiced his certainty that the Syrian President would not use chemical weapons against Israel or treat Israelis the way he treats his own people. There is no indication that anyone in the region intends to challenge us any time soon with unconventional weapons, said the defense minister.

debkafile’s military sources find Ya’alon’s comment delusory. They don’t see why Assad would treat Israelis differently from his own people – especially since the IDF has presented him with no real deterrent. After all, none of Israel's three air strikes in January and May stopped the flow of Hizballah fighters into Syria. And meanwhile, Syrian and Hizballah leaders are declaring loud and clear that a war front against Israel is already operating from the Syrian Golan and Lebanon.

The question is who in Israel is listening. And what is being done to make sure that Assad will be prevented from using chemical weapons against Israeli military and civilian targets at a time of his convenience.

The spate of events in the last 48 hours is troubling - to say the least.
Monday, US Senator John McCain was reported to have paid a secret visit to Syria. What did this "visit" consist of? debkafile reports: The senator entered Syria from Turkey through the Kilis corridor which is the main supply route for the rebels in Aleppo, one of the few still under their control. McCain penetrated some 300 meters into Syria, had his picture taken, and left.

A US publication reported Wednesday that President Barack Obama had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to establish no-fly zones over Syria against Syrian warplanes. The Pentagon thereupon issued a denial: “There are no new American operational plans,” said the spokesman.
Moscow’s response was ready in place even before the report was published.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the S-300 anti-air missiles that Russia was supplying the Assad regime were a "stabilizing factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict.

In the grades Moscow handed out for foreign interventionists: The US and Israel and their leaders were "hotheads" while Moscow,  the calm, rational stabilizer.

In that capacity, debkafile's military and intelligence sources reveal that a huge Russian cargo plane landed in Latakia airport Wednesday with 60 tons of "humanitarian aid for Syria."

The nature of this cargo was not disclosed, but the last thing it must have been was “humanitarian” given the massive military aid Moscow is extending Assad’s army.

Moscow also knocked on the head the timorous decision by European Union foreign ministers Tuesday to lift the arms embargo for Syrian rebels, which they carefully combined with a decision not to send them weapons.

In sum, the US is not doing anything to help the rebels, Europe is not sending arms, the rebels’ Persian Gulf patrons have bowed to pressure from Washington and slashed their weapons aid, while Israel declares it wants no part of the Syrian civil war – even after it assumed the calamitous proportions of a world power contest with Israel’s arch foes gaining the upper hand.

So who is feeding the flames of the Syrian conflict with a generous supply of military hardware? Who but Russia, the self-styled "stabilizing factor”.

The Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Commander Gen. Salem Idris made a desperate show of bravado Wednesday, by threatening to strike Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon if Hassan Nasrallah does not pull his brigades out of Syria within 24 hours.

Hizballah knows perfectly well that Gen. Salem is starved of weapons, just he knows that the US, Europe or Israel will not interfere with the stream of fighting strength he is pumping into Syria.
At worst, a few rockets will hit Hizballah centers in Beirut and the Beqaa Valley. Early Tuesday morning, the rebels tried to ambush Hizballah forces near the eastern town of Arsal. Their operation went badly wrong and mistakenly killed three Lebanese soldiers manning an army checkpoint.

The senior Israeli officer interviewed by debkafile put all these forebodings into words when he said: "A military and strategic catastrophe for the West and Israel is in full flight in Syria, and no one in Washington or Jerusalem is lifting a finger. Israel’s government and military heads never imagined that the Syrian war would take this turn. But we had better wake up at this eleventh hour - before it is too late.”

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet