Saturday, November 30, 2013

Widespread Horror

"Traditional harmony among communities has been replaced by polarization and widespread horror. The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination. 
"The Central African Republic is becoming a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups in a region that is already suffering from conflict and instability. If this situation is left to fester, it may develop into a religious and ethnic conflict with long-standing consequences, even a civil war that could spread into neighbouring countries."
Jan Eliasson, United Nations deputy secretary-general
French President Francois Hollande, right, and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reviews the troops during a military ceremony, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, at the Invalides in Paris. France will send 1,000 troops to Central African Republic under an expected U.N.-backed mission to keep growing chaos at bay, the defense minister said Tuesday boosting the French military presence in Africa for the second time this year. ((AP Photo/Patrick Kovarik, Pool) )

The Central African Republic was a French colony until 1960. France now views it as being "on the verge of genocide". Over a half million of its 4.6-million population have become refugees, forced by conflict to abandon their homes, their farms, all their belongings and the life that has sustained them up until the present. Sounds like a reprise of Sudan in Darfur.

Central African Republic crisis -- African Union Troops

As a result France has announced a troop surge, while warning at the United Nations that the country was "descending into chaos", and in so doing "becoming a breeding ground for extremists". France has committed to tripling the number of its soldiers deployed to the Republic where fighting between Muslims and Christians has become endemic and dreadful in its consequences.

Former Muslim rebels who placed their man in power after removing the former president have refused to disarm, and are rampaging through mostly Christian areas of the country. France judges that its current 400 French forces are incapable of meeting the challenge in the country, planning to boost its numbers by an additional thousand soldiers to remain there for "up to six months".

Their role, according to Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's defence minister, would be a supportive one. The existing but lamentably ineffective African peacekeeping mission is to be the beneficiary of the increased French forces. "We cannot have a country fall apart like that. There is the violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos. It will be a short mission to allow calm and stability to return", said Mr. Le Drian.

FILE - In this Friday, March 22, 2013 file photo provided by the French Army Communications Audio Visual Office, French soldiers arrive at Bangui airport in the Central African Republic. France will send 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic under an expected U.N.-backed mission to keep growing chaos at bay, the defense minister said Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, boosting the French military presence in Africa for the second time this year. ((AP Photo/Elise Foucaud, ECPAD, File))

The UN Security Council was informed by Mr. Eliasson that it should plan to dispatch a UN peacekeeping force of at least six thousand troops to help cope with the five separate rebel groups that formed to march their alliance on Bangui to oust Francois Bozize, the former present, installing in his stead Michael Djotodia, in March.

Mercenaries from neighbouring Chad and Sudan are among the Muslim fighters. All of the combined militias have refused to surrender their weapons. They stand accused of murder, rape, mass looting and forcing villagers to abandon their homes by threats and by force. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has characterized the situation to be a "total breakdown of law and order".

In response to the Muslim assaults against Christian villagers, vigilante Christian militias have been formed, forced to protect themselves and fight back. Although roughly half of the Central African Republic's population is Christian and only 15% are Muslim, the psychopathy of fanaticism has infected the Muslims, slopping over from the conflict in Mali, in Somalia, in Tunisia, in Sudan, and taking inspiration from the terrorism inspired by the violently faithful toward jihad.

"The International community must take action before it is too late to ensure that CAR isn't catapulted into the international spotlight because it became a human catastrophe", cautioned Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International. Easier said than done. Is there anywhere a more dysfunctional religious ideology than Islam with its imprecations called down upon others, its shrill calls to jihad?

French soldiers pictured on patrol in Bangui on October 23, 2013, are to receive reinforcements under a new agreement between France and the Central African Republic
The international community is being urged to save humanity from the slavering mad dogs of Islam intent on converting the world body to surrender to the only true religion. The trouble with this is that the faithful within Islam are at war with one another as well. Others may be exhorted to embrace Islam, but there is a very particular Islam that is the genuine one, all others to be shunned as heretical. And so, because of sectarian divisions, Muslims slaughter Muslims.

And in their spare time they turn their malevolence toward non-Muslims. Christians being particularly available, since most Jews living in those countries have long since been either pogromed out of existence or programmed to flee for their lives.

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Christian Science Monitor

Why Israel sees ‘historic’ Iran nuclear deal as dangerous appeasement

While the deal freezes growth in Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Israel says it doesn’t curtail Tehran’s ability to create a nuclear bomb in short order.

By Staff writer / November 24, 2013

As European and American diplomats rejoice about successfully negotiating an interim Iran nuclear deal, heralding the "historic" agreement with handshakes and hugs, Israel is decidedly unimpressed.
Yes, the deal curbs any growth in enrichment or stockpiles of enriched uranium, and includes daily inspections of two key Iranian enrichment facilities. But it leaves largely untouched Israel’s greatest concern: Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon in short order.

“The ‘breakout’ possibility has not been negated and the time for breakout … has not been prolonged,” says Ephraim Asculai, a veteran of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, who estimates that it would take only four to six months for Iran to test a nuclear explosive device, with an actual bomb soon to follow.

As a nation that prides itself on understanding Middle Eastern mentalities better than Western countries, and which already feels the sting of Iranian military power from Tehran-backed militant groups on its borders such as Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel has consistently warned Western powers of the dangers of trusting Iranian words without actions to confirm Tehran’s sincerity.

A central fear behind this attitude is the European appeasement of Nazi Germany that ended in the death of 6 million Jews.

In a deal that echoes loudly in Israel today, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain heralded the 1938 Munich Agreement as securing peace in exchange for allowing Hitler to annex part of Czechoslovakia. But Winston Churchill recognized the grave mistake, which soon paved the way for Hitler and his allies to take over much of Europe.

“We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat,” said Mr. Churchill, who had to deal with the consequences when he succeeded Chamberlain two years later. “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning.

Some say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees himself as playing a similar role to Churchill, and is thus willing to take an uncompromising stand for what he sees as right and necessary, however unpopular it may be.

"What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake,” Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet today, criticizing the world’s leading powers for easing the sanctions on Iran in exchange for “cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks.

While Israel had tentatively supported a diplomatic deal on Iran if coupled with sanctions, this agreement essentially only freezes rather than dismantles the Iranian nuclear military infrastructure and offers close to $7 billion in "sweeteners,"  says Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.

“It’s a very disappointing deal," he says, citing rollbacks in Libya and Syria’s nuclear programs as closer to what Israel would have liked.

Israeli leaders made clear that an Israeli military strike is still possible, though President Shimon Peres struck a somewhat more conciliatory tone.

“I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands,” he said, calling on Iran to stop the nuclear program as well as the development of long-range missiles. “… if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse."

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Debkafile Logo

Enough enriched uranium in Iran for 4 nuclear weapons. N-Bomb awaits Saudis in Pakistan

DEBKAfile Special Report November 30, 2013, 11:38 AM (IDT)
Pakistan's nuclear-capable Hatf IX short-range ballistic missile
Pakistan's nuclear-capable Hatf IX short-range ballistic missile
Saudi King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were not won over by President Barack Obama's pledges in personal phone calls to the two Middle East leaders last week not to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Their skepticism only grew. 
This development in the Iranian nuclear controversy finds two of the three leaders trapped in a credibility gap between their public pronouncements and the Iranian reality which has long overtaken them both.

Obama’s oft-repeated pledge is canceled out by most Western nuclear experts, who are convinced that Iran managed to advance to a capacity for producing four nuclear bombs, under cover of protracted diplomacy. In their view, the current first-step deal, followed by a comprehensive accord in six months' time, are merely an attempt by the six world powers to hold Iran back from expanding its arsenal any further.

The US president’s avowals are therefore hollow.

Saudi princes and officials have often said that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon or reaches the threshold of this capacity, the oil kingdom will not lag behind.

All Riyadh needs to do now, say debkafile’s Middle East sources, is to invoke the agreement signed with Islamabad in 2004, under which Saudi funding was provided for Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program in return for some of the bombs or warheads produced to await Saudi Arabia’s call for their delivery, complete with the appropriate missiles.

Pakistan denies the existence of this transaction.

However, military and intelligence experts in the West are certain that although this transfer has not yet taken place, it will soon, in the light of the edge Iran has gained in its current negotiations with the West.

Therefore, Obama’s phone conversation with Abdullah was more concerned with keeping a nuclear bomb out of Saudi hands than out of Iran’s.

Since 2008, the Israeli prime minister has vowed time and time again to prevent Iran reaching a nuclear threshold, making it clear that the Israeli armed forces would be sent into action - if need be.
So his credibility deficit is on a par with Obama’s.

At the Western Wall, Thursday, Nov. 11, on Hanukkah eve, Binyamin Netanyahu paraphrased a popular festival song to declare: “We came to drive out the darkness and the largest darkness that threatens the world today is a nuclear Iran!”

What did he mean by those words, if not an intention to exercise Israel’s military option to “drive out the darkness?”

Maj. Gen. (res) Yakov Amidror – until recently National Security Adviser to the prime minister - wrote last week in The New York Times that Iran already has enough enriched uranium to make four bombs. “The Geneva deal, in short, did not address the nuclear threat at all,” he wrote.

Iran reached that point more than a year ago, so how to take the repeated pledges by the prime minister to “act itself, by itself” to prevent this happening?

Prime Minister Netanyahu has carefully avoided presenting the Knesset or the people with a clear picture of where Israel stands in relation to Iran’s nuclear program, has never laid out his policy on the question or depicted what the future may hold.

And so his “military option” has progressively waned in credibility both at home and abroad.

In Obama’s phone call to Netanyahu, debkafile’s intelligence and Washington sources report that the president described at length the US intelligence measures to be applied for verifying Iran’s compliance with the Geneva deal. He said that its findings would be referred to Israeli intelligence for a second assessment.

Obama also suggested a visit to Washington by an Israeli military intelligence delegation of nuclear experts to finalize the details of US-Israeli collaboration for verifying that Iran was living up to its commitments under the near accords.

When this US-Israeli dialogue reached their ears, the Iranians were furious. Thursday, Nov. 28, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, dropping the genial mien he assumed in Geneva, reverted to harsh Islamic Republican-speak when he said: “Never such a thing will happen and definitely we will not be in the room in which representatives from the Zionist regime will have a presence!”

It was clear that Tehran would boycott the technical discussion on the details of the Geneva accord if Israeli experts were to sit in a side room, a proposal which might also be extended to Saudi Arabia, as the two Middle East nations most directly at risk from an Iranian nuclear capacity.

Then, Friday, President Hassan Rouhani weighed in to further devalue the Geneva accord’s international worth. In an interview with The Financial Times, he said Iran would never dismantle its atomic facilities. Asked whether this was a "red line" for the Islamic republic, Rouhani replied: "100 per cent."

In other words, not only Netanyahu but Obama too can forget about any hopes they may have entertained of Iran shutting down its Fordo enrichment plant, or holding up the construction of its heavy water plant in Arak for the production of plutonium.

Tuesday, Nov, 26, two days after the six powers signed their first-step nuclear accord with Iran, Netanyahu called the security cabinet into special session which went on into the night to hear and debate briefings from IDF intelligence (AMAN) officers.

No word has leaked from that session, but some sources claimed anonymously that the ministers received the most optimistic outlook they had heard in years.

Before giving weight to such possible optimism, debkafile’s analysts recall AMAN’s 2011 prediction that Bashar Assad’s downfall was imminent, and its misreading of the situations prevailing in Washington and Tehran.

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Don't Have To Like It: It's Reality!

"I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth. Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2% have an IQ above 130,. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top."
"And for one reason or another -- boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants -- the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever. I stress: I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity."
Boris Johnson, Mayor, London, England

The truth is, simply put, the morally elevating statement raised to the pinnacle of devotion to equality and in referred to hallowed in hushed tones as an "immortal declaration: that "all men are created equal" is all too often misunderstood. The American Declaration of Independence is a lovely document of high-minded assurance, but it is one that states simply that all men are equal under the law of the land and that they are free to engage in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, but there are no assurances that any of these aspirations will be achieved.

Nor does it mean that all of humankind is created with an equal endowment of genetic traits that would result in an even distribution of intelligence and capability among all persons. It is undeniable that within any society there are dullards incapable of grasping simple concepts, and there is the large middling group of individuals able to fend for themselves adequately, while beyond them exist those endowed with what might be considered more than their share of grey matter, enabling them to rise to the top of any society through their sense of curiosity, inventiveness and competence.

That rise does not necessarily result in people who assume power and more than their share of the goods of the world being outstanding citizens as human beings; many obviously are not, but they were capable of achieving office and riches by whatever means they employed, using their superior capabilities to attain what they set out to do. But to admit in polite company that we have more than our share of village dolts, and too few individuals interested in the world around them is to risk being labelled as indulging in "unpleasant elitism".

Mr. Johnson's speech which he addressed to the British Centre for Policy Studies as part of the Margaret Thatcher Lecture series, was as much and perhaps more, a cheering chorus for a free market economy and capitalism opening up the global economy to benefit as wide a range of populations as possible. Socialism and Communism were contrary ideologies attempting to counter capitalism and the end result was failure.

Individuals with disparate levels of intelligence and capabilities were to be treated as equal in the workforce, and they received, whether they were successful or failed at their enterprises, equal recompense. A kind of one-for-all and all-for-one. It didn't work. It is engrained in human nature that one is rewarded for the level of effort put into an economic-deriving activity. Those who were rewarded despite their lack of effort were complacently accepting, those who saw scant reward for prodigious effort were demoralized and stopped making the effort.

And lecturing them all, encouraging them on to perform and prove the thesis behind Marxism were the party faithful who used their hypocritical cunning -- in fact typical human behaviour --  to live in a manner nowhere near resembling that of the uncompetitive, unrewarding, dismal life of toil and scant self-respect they imposed on the great unwashed. To pave the way and ensure that no nuisance protests upset the apple cart as it was pulling into the town square, the intellectuals, the wealthy and the professionals were simply expunged from the scene.

There are two telling results from the experiment that took millions of lives and failed so spectacularly, an experiment in human and market manipulation that went gratingly against the grain that has been instilled in human nature from time immemorial. The Soviet Union eventually imploded. In North Korea, the old Marxist system prevails, the result being a grim police state, a shuttered kingdom as it were, an enforced misery of unfulfilled lives and malnutrition being the hallmarks, along with nuclear belligerence.

In China, North Korea's mentor-state, the elite were somewhat more discerning, but then they also had the burden of brutally manipulating infinitely greater numbers of people. The Chinese bureaucracy of Marxist ideology experimented just as the Soviet Union did, exhorting and exploiting their human capital and despite the deaths of millions of disposable people, who understood they must adore their tyrants or risk even greater numbers of people sacrificed to the prickly demands of their tormentors, finally surrendered to reality.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union led the remaining leadership to understand the depth of their dictatorial failure in a wholesale human-nature-manipulation experiment. Which hasn't stopped the current leadership from exerting a brutal autocracy that might be recognized as a kissing cousin to the former totalitarian rule; bullying and threatening and generally endearing itself to its former satellites who shudder uncontrollably at the very idea of having to resume that old union, frantically aligning themselves toward the West to fend off Eastern overtures.

China has recognized, just as Russia has, the advances to be made in the financial sphere through the relaxation of the old Communist ideals and the embrace of global capitalism. Their version is capitalism no matter the cause; unfettered and regulated only by the urge to grow itself into a giant of greedy entitlement, little different in fact from what is practised where the capitalist template was invented. And they have succeeded, perhaps beyond their wildest expectations. Hungering for even greater control of world trade.

Black Friday is becoming a universal event, to be celebrated not merely annually; but far more frequently. Capitalism makes a small percentage of those whose responding to its higher orders exemplifying success, rogues of immense wealth, social standing and power. Among them all or at least most of them there is a niggling sense of embarrassment at their own success. And this is the wretched little emotion that breeds philanthropy.

Apart from governments exerting the power of the state to exact a toll on such untold wealth in the manner of taxes so that a certain amount of those winnings can be redistributed at the state's will as it sees fit, grudging respect, as Mr. Johnson would have it, should be spared for the wealthy and no small amount of admiration at their success; they have earned it, in essence. By their determination, their enterprise, their capability, their intelligent manoeuvring.

"When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, they faced a top marginal tax rate of 98%, and the top 1% of earners contributed 11% of the government's total revenues from income tax. Today, when taxes have been cut substantially, the top 1% contributes almost 30% of income tax, and indeed the top 0.1% -- just 29,000 people -- contribute fully 14% of all taxation."
"That is an awful lot of schools and roads and hospitals that are being paid for by the super-rich. So why, I asked, innocently, are they so despicable in the eyes of all decent British people? Surely they should be hailed, like the Stakhanovites of Stalin's Russia, who half-killed themselves, in the name of the people, by mining record tonnages of coal?"

Envy, jealousy, two of the nastier emotions that humans are given to expressing when confronted by the good fortune of those who have managed to advance their aspirations into reality by sheer intent to succeed. But of course Mr. Johnson, a highly intelligent man and an accomplished one as well, knows that very well. Mr. Johnson is more than capable of not only describing and understanding a situation, and pointing out to others how that situation arose and why it should be accepted. But he also -- a rarity -- is able to offer a solution to those who begrudge others their earnings.
"It seems to me therefore that though it would be wrong to persecute the rich, and madness to try and stifle wealth creation, and futile to try to stamp out inequality, that we should only tolerate this wealth gap on two conditions: one, that we help those who genuinely cannot compete; and two, that we provide opportunity for those who can."
"Putin's Palace" File:Putin palace construction.jpg
Exterior of the palace under construction

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Turkey's 'sultan' losing his swing ahead of elections: AFP

AFP , Friday 29 Nov 2013 -- Ahram online
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara November 26, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
Turkey's once all-powerful prime minister is battling problems on both the domestic and international fronts that threaten to diminish his popularity ahead of an election cycle next year.

With three straight election wins under his belt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years and enjoyed a free hand in crafting government policy.

But the tough-talking leader known as the "Sultan" who took office promising bold reforms has become an increasingly polarising figure in Turkey and now faces a key test in local polls in March.
"Since he took office, the prime minister has gradually shifted from pragmatist tendencies to ideological ones, from team work to personal decisions, from democracy to authoritarianism, from thought-out policies to impulsive ones," Ilter Turan, professor at Istanbul's private Bilgi University, told AFP.

Erdogan's controversial policies have exposed deep fault lines within his Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the government has lost support over its heavy-handed response to mass street protests that rocked the country in June.

He has irritated friends abroad with his defiant stance on regional crises, while the EU has only just resumed accession talks after a three-year freeze.

On the economic front, growth has slowed sharply and the Turkish lira has taken a tumble.
Erdogan's stature also took a knock when Turkey failed in its bid to host the 2020 Olympics and lost out to Dubai for the World Expo the same year.

At home, Erdogan is on the verge of losing one of his strongest allies over a bitter education dispute that has gripped the domestic political scene for several weeks.

The feud with influential Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in US exile, erupted after the government floated plans to close down a network of private schools run by the religious movement and seen as giving an unfair advantage to well-off students.

One analyst speculated that Erdogan would "make the mistake of his life" if he dared to challenge the Gulen movement which wields considerable influence in the state apparatus.

Erdogan faced another confrontation with long-time ally Bulent Arinc, the deputy prime minister and an an AKP co-founder, over his criticism of mixed-sex student accommodation.

A former Islamic firebrand, Erdogan has revived fears among secular modernists over a "hidden Islamist agenda" in the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular country.

Turan said Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian style was caused by his overwhelming election successes.

When he first came to power in 2002, Erdogan had an ambitious reformist agenda to build a "new Turkey" betting on strong economic growth, after a long legacy of military coups and rocky coalition governments.

He first waged war against once-untouchable generals in what critics described as "revenge" against the pro-secular military that authored three coups, and used courts to stifle dissent, prompting allegations of the "Putinisation of Erdogan," in reference to the Russian president's hardline stance against rivals.

"There is growing unease over prime minister Erdogan's policies both at home and abroad," Faruk Logoglu, deputy head of the secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told AFP.
"The AKP government has been suffering fatigue after 11 years in power. Democracy and freedoms are being undermined. The price of wrong policies is an isolated and marginalised Turkey in the international arena."

Critics say Erdogan's creeping Islamisation backfired.

A record one million people visited the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, on the 75th anniversary of his death this month.

"This was unprecedented. It is obvious that Ataturk is enjoying a revival among Turks," veteran columnist Semih Idiz wrote in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News.

In the Middle East, Sunni Muslim Turkey has found itself increasingly isolated as it grapples with the spillover of the Syrian civil war and an influx of refugees.

And relations with regional heavyweight Egypt soured after Erdogan criticised the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi as "coup", prompting Cairo to kick out the Turkish ambassador.

"If you fail to fine-tune policies, you will narrow your room for manoeuvre in foreign policy and gradually isolate the country, which will in time have a negative impact on national interests," columnist Hasan Cemal wrote in the independent Internet newspaper T24.

Erdogan is now setting his sights on becoming president if the constitution is changed to give the post sweeping US-style executive powers.

AKP bylaws preclude Erdogan from running for a fourth term as premier in 2015, while the current presidency expires in August next year.

But his presidential ambitions may be foiled by parliament's failure to agree on a new constitution to replace a post-1980 coup charter.

"Strong leaders want to leave a legacy which will always be remembered," said Turan.

"Mr Prime Minister is constantly on a quest. That's why he is rushing. This is leading to impatience both on domestic and international fronts."

This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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Young Syrian refugees forced to work

Syrian refugee children workers sit in wheelbarrows as they wait for customers at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq near the border with Syria November 20, 2013. (Reuters) 
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are growing up in fractured families because of the ongoing civil war, with many being forced into child labor, according to a report released Friday by the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR.

More than 70,000 Syrian families, who sought refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, live without fathers and over 3,700 refugee children are either unaccompanied by or separated from both parents.

“By the end of September 2013, UNHCR had registered 2,440 unaccompanied or separated children in Lebanon and 1,320 in Jordan, more than 3,700 in total,” the report said.

Researchers also found that many Syrian children are taking the role of breadwinner for their families.

Children as young as seven years old are working for long hours for little payment in Jordan and Lebanon. The working conditions are said to be dangerous and exploitative, the report explained.
Most of the 680 small shops at Jordan’s Za'atri refugee camp employ children, the agency said.

The report, titled the Future of Syria: Refugee Children in Crisis, is considered the UNHCR‘s first in-depth survey of Syrian refugee children since the conflict began in March 2011. It involved four months of research focused on Syrians displaced in Jordan and Lebanon. Many refugees, however, are in also in Iraq and Turkey.

Abdullah, a 13-year-old Syrian boy, said in the report that he wakes up early every day to buy bread from other refugees living in the camp to support his family. He later sells the bread to a Jordanian man, who uses the bread to feed his animals.

“If people didn't work, how would they survive?” Abdullah said in a video released by UNHCR. “I feel like a man because I am working. I put food on the table for my family.”

Last Update: Friday, 29 November 2013 KSA 10:41 - GMT 07:41


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Fundamental Values

A Palestinian man who immigrated to Canada and his wife operate a private daycare in Montreal. The owner's wife and two of the personnel who work for them wear niqabs. There are thirteen parents who pay to have their young children looked after in the daycare. The fact that the three daycare workers wear the niqab in public seems of no concern to them. They appear to have been satisfied with the quality of care their children have received.

Someone, it seems, snapped a photograph of the children in the care of the black-clad women whose faces were covered, revealing only their eyes. The children appear to be behaving like children everywhere do, obedient to the wishes of their minders who are taking them for a walk to a nearby Verdun public park. They haven't returned to the park with the children since the day the photograph was taken. And since that photo was taken, some of the parents have removed their children from the daycare.

The photo was taken without permission and posted online on Facebook. It had eight thousand hits. And a whole lot of comments. Some of which were just plain disgusting. Many, though expressed cultural shock at the sight of two women dressed in a manner that elicits both pity and reproach when anyone in the West sees photos taken somewhere in the Middle East or Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Reaction was swift, heated, sometimes horribly uncivil, but universally condemnatory.

It's not difficult to understand why many people would be taken aback at the unusual sight of two burqa-clad (chador and niqab) women, herding children dressed for the outdoors in Canada. It is the polarizing view of an ordinary Canadian scene superimposed with a restrictive, patriarchal custom demeaning to the dignity, safety and independence of women characterized by the black-clad minders.

Quebec, under the Parti Quebecois government, has recently distinguished itself by reaffirming its secularly societal character with the proposal of a new charter. It shed its deeply religious heritage during the social upheaval of the Silent Revolution. The Catholic Church became a background element of choice in a society that had decided to remove itself from the constant daily intrusion of religion in their lives; religion became a private affair.

And most Quebecers prefer it just that way. It grates against their sensibilities to see overt symbols of religion, any religion. But in all probability in particular any religion other than what they were historically accustomed to. Come to my country, to my province, to become a citizen and be prepared to absorb and to reflect my values and my customs. Add them to your own if you wish and welcome to it, but leave the religious aspect private, in the background.

The francophone population has patterned itself on its original homeland of France. And France is a stoutly non-religious society that maintains a strict divide between church and state. It is in this way that it maintains the egalitarianism that it prides itself on; everyone equal, liberty for all. And so, although France, like all European countries, has absorbed a large infiltration of Muslims migrating from their countries of origin, the expectation is that the French culture will predominate.

To that end the Paris Appeals Court has overturned a high court decision in favour of the head scarf-wearing employee, and it has affirmed that a private nursery school was justified when it fired an assistant director who had refused to remove her head scarf while she was working at the school. A head scarf, not something that covers the face, but that covers the hair, the top of the head, the neck of the wearer.

The hijab is a common enough sight in Canada. Worn by many women who are practising Muslim. It does signify that they worship Islam, but it is a chosen cultural and conditioned expectation that pious and not-so-pious Muslim women wear the headscarf. It must suit their view of themselves in reflection of their surrender to Islam. And although it is an obvious sign of their faith, it is a fairly unobtrusive one.

The complete face covering like the burqa which consists of a total screened face covering incorporated into an overall body covering, and the niqab, worn in conjunction with the chador, the all-enveloping body garment, do not have a place in Canada. This is a habitude that is isolating, rejectionist, anti-social, and completely alienating. In a civil society people have an obligation to one another as human beings.

We communicate with one another by voice and vocabulary but also by body language, eye contact and the human involuntary and voluntary greetings conveyed by our facial muscles. When we encounter other people it is incumbent on us as civil human beings to acknowledge the presence of others. A nod, a smile, a spoken word, even silence and a turning away of the head indicating disinterest is a form of communication preferable to the absence of any sign of humanity.

In France, a woman by the name of Fatima Afif who worked at the Baby Loup nursery school was fired for refusing to remove her head scarf. French laws ban head scarves in public school classrooms and face-covering veils in public places. No laws exist to regulate religious garb in private institutions, schools or places of work. Muslims, understandably see those laws as restrictive, infringing on their religious freedom and freedom of expression.

On the other hand, they chose to emigrate to a country whose laws long predated their migration there. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights opened a hearing in another case where a Muslim woman is contesting the face veil ban. The French government's Observatory of Laicite, guides official action respecting secularism, plans to issue its own guide on the issue.

There are many groups in France; political parties, social workers and other professionals who fear the country's constitutional guarantees of secularism is being undermined by immigration. Its increasingly diverse population, particularly the growing and already-large Muslim population appears to be having that effect, and the point is to head it off, to preserve the country's own values.

The same can be said for Canada.

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A Poison Chalice

"[The agreement] virtually guarantees continued and increased brutalities against the people of Iran, increased political incarcerations, more tortures, and more executions without any fear of backlash from the Western democracies."
"The petrochemical, automobile and precious metals businesses and markets inside Iran are virtually owned and controlled by the Revolutionary Guards' apparatus: [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei and his close circle of thugs."
Iman Foroutan, spokesman, Iranian expatriate group The New Iran

"[The Saudis, Kuwaitis and other Gulf states fearing a nuclear Iran would] buy equivalent technologies to redress this grand strategic imbalance, thus triggering yet another regional arms race of a grander and more dangerous calibre and magnitude."
"...Not all [nuclear] sites are inspected daily and none of the engineering sites are included in the agreement."
Sami-Al-Farej, head, Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies

That's the view from the mindful and knowledgeable expatriates who escaped the pervasive fanaticism and persecution meted out by the Republic's ruling Ayatollahs, enforced by the Republican Guard, concerned about the future of the country they left behind, and the fate that awaits the population, inclusive of their extended families. Their concern is that of an atrociously abusive government, a known threat to its neighbours, possessing the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

The ancient Middle East with its ancient tribal animosities and its traditional sectarian divides that dissolved into a more brutalized active bloodletting with the advance of jihadi martyrdom under the mass insanity of fundamentalist Salafist and Shia Islamism, has always presented as a volatile human powder keg. That powder keg has been kick-started toward a mass conflagration by the restlessness instanced by what appeared innocently enough as an "Arab Spring", and which has morphed into a springboard for fundamentalist Islamism.

The international community has found it relaxing to exhale its suspense in anticipation of growing crises. As though signing on to an initial negotiating formula with a totalitarian government which continues to insist on its sovereign and religious entitlements to threaten whom it will, and to support those threats with the realpolitik of accomplishing its goal of achieving nuclear warheads and the powerful ballistic missiles required to send them the distances considered to do the most good for their malevolent cause, is a matter of huge relief.

If one discounts the potential for a tsunami of death raining down from the skies and a mangled disruption of civil infrastructure, and concentrates only on the more immediate prospect of conducting profitable business and trade with an enterprising, scheming government with its own eye on assembling the funding it requires to reach its goal, while disarming the concerns of doubters, then the profit motive that European and Asian and North American profiteers are salivating at has created a boon.

None of this can be perceived in the messages emanating from the disaffected hardliners in Tehran not singing from the same playbook as the administration, or alternatively, coached to sing off key for the purpose of further distracting and disarming their detractors suspicious of their motives in the final analysis.

"It practically tramples on Iran's enrichment rights...  Uranium enrichment restrictions in the final stage and constraints in the first stage mean that enrichment in Iran is headed toward self shutdown", wailed lawmaker Ruhollah Hosseinina; the deal too vague for his liking, so conditional it threatened to a shutting down of Iran's invaluable enrichment program.

Not to worry; in stepped foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, noting some construction will continue at the planned Arak heavy water reactor. That is the site whose focus in the negotiations was to be completely shut down. Minor progress, he assured his critics in Tehran, could continue. A statement that appears in flagrant violation of the co-signed agreement, but obviously reassuring to those who believe no element in Iran's nuclear program should be consigned to the demands of foreigners.
un experts arak
Arak nuclear heavy water plant - Associated Press
American State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, however, parsed Mr. Zarif's statement, stressing that capacity will not increase at the Arak site. "It means no nuclear fuel will be produced and no installations will be installed, but construction will continue there. We're not sure exactly what he means by 'construction'. "But there will be no work on the reactor itself, no work to prepare fuel for the reactor or do additional testing of the reactor."


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Thursday, November 28, 2013

European Anti-Semitism and the Fear of Muslims

When European history teachers omit the Holocaust from their curriculum, they do not do this because they hate their Jewish students more than their Muslim students. They omit it because they are afraid of their Muslim students. They might also believe they do it to be "nice," but then how come this same "niceness" is not afforded to the Jews?
In the "Stockholm Syndrome," now seen, ironically, in Sweden, victims start bonding with their abusers in the wish that if they share the same values as their abusers, their abusers might stop abusing them. "We must be open and tolerant toward Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so toward us." — Jens Orback, former Swedish government minister.
The European Union [EU] is singling out Israel for sanctions. Not only are the officials at the EU failing to boycott other regions that legally count as occupied territories, but they are actively aiding at least one clearly occupying power, Turkey, in the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus: in 2006, the EU approved a $259 million aid package for the Turkish Cypriot community there. In addition to that double-standard, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, has revealed noticeable prejudice on multiple occasions, the latest example being when she felt compelled to compare the Toulouse massacre to "what's happening in Gaza," any similarities to which would objectively be hard to come by.

Is there, then, an EU tendency to be anti-Semitic? As Thomas Friedman once wrote "Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest."

Jens Orback (center), a former Swedish government minister, famously said: "We must be open and tolerant toward Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so toward us." (Image source: Swedish Social Democratic Party/Anders Löwdin)

Recently, a shocking development was reported on in Belgium by Peter Martino, in which elementary schools are using government approved anti-Semitic textbooks for their history classes. That report recalled a Belgian girl in 2008, who wore a small star of David around her neck, and told the author she had just been refused entry to a bus in Belgium by a bus driver who said that, as a Muslim, he could not allow her to enter the bus. In the 21st century, in Western Europe, a girl was turned away from a public bus because she was a Jew.

What still stings me is that I did not take her seriously; what she said, however, has proven anything but far fetched. A 2011 study by Mark Elchardus, relates that one out of every two Muslim students in Brussels -- half -- are anti-Semitic. A recent study roughly replicated the same results for the Belgian cities of Ghent and Antwerp. Conversely, Belgium is also the country that is allowing Abou Jahjah, founder of the Arab-European League, a known anti-Semite and Hezbollah affiliate, accused of instigating riots and forming a private militia, to return to Belgium after having left it for Lebanon in 2006 to "fight off the foreign invasion" alongside Hezbollah. A country in which officials teach schoolchildren that the Holocaust was similar to "what's happening in Gaza"; that accepts the return of a man who was part of a foreign hostile fighting force and says he "felt a sense of victory" on 9/11, is indeed likely to become a country where a girl is refused entry on a bus because she is Jewish.

How is this dynamic to be explained? Besides the latent or active anti-Semitism that might drive EU leaders in their unequally-applied conduct toward Israel -- as opposed to other nations such as Turkey that are committing the same alleged offense -- another explanation is worth exploring.

The author Ali Salim recently began a popular article with: "We Muslims make the mistake of thinking Europeans really care about us, especially the Palestinians. We are wrong. Europeans simply hate the Jews more than they hate and fear us."

Although possible, it might also be worth to consider, an alternative explanation: that many Europeans fear Muslims more than they fear Jews, and therefore give in to anti-Semitic tendencies. When European history teachers, for example, omit the Holocaust from their curriculum in order not to offend Muslim students, they do not do that because they hate their Jewish students more than they hate their Muslim students. They do it because they are terrified of their Muslim students.
They might also believe they do it to be "nice," but then how come this same "niceness" is not afforded to the Jews?

Although European anti-Semitism predates Muslim immigration to Western Europe, the recent rise in post World War II anti-Semitism there coincides with parts of European Muslim populations' becoming more numerous, vocal, assertive and sometimes aggressive. The fear of this onrush might sometimes be expressed in an unconscious, unaware way, displaced, or covered over, as some sort of morally superior solidarity.

In Sweden, for instance, about a month ago, a tragic and disgusting incident took place. A pregnant Muslim woman was physically assaulted, verbally abused and her headscarf was torn off. This act should be condemned in the harshest of terms. But instead, many Swedes established the 'Hijab Outcry' movement, in which countless ordinary citizens and prominent figures took pictures of themselves wearing a Hijab to show their "solidarity" with the victim -- an action that could be applauded, except when one considers that the same people organize no such actions whatsoever in solidarity with the numerous Swedish girls who have been raped and abused by Muslim men. Then the "Outcry" becomes a different story altogether.

"Sweden now has the second-highest number of rapes in the world, after South Africa, which at 53.2 per 100,000 is six times higher than the United States," Daniel Greenfield writes. "Statistics (see sexual violence) now suggest that one out of every four Swedish women will be raped. In 2003, Sweden's rape statistics were higher than average at 9.24, but in 2005 they shot up to 36.8 and by 2008 were up to 53.2. Now they are possibly even higher as Muslim immigrants continue forming a larger percentage of the population. With Muslims represented in as many as 77% of the rape cases and a major increase in rape cases paralleling a major increase in Muslim immigration, the wages of Muslim immigration are proving to be a sexual assault epidemic by a misogynistic ideology."

With the Swedish "Hijab Outrcy," for instance, one might look past this appearance of moral superiority, and see that show of solidarity for what it possibly really is: fear.

Psychology teaches us that when we have feelings that we worry might be viewed as socially unacceptable or potentially damaging to us in some way, we find ways to defend ourselves from the discomfort of too much anxiety; these ways are known as defense mechanisms, responses that are involuntary emotional counterweights to try to offset the feelings that make us uncomfortable. These responses can appear if, for example, a mother does not, deep down, want to love or take care of the child to which she has given birth – an unacceptable thought. She might then try to override those feelings by acting in precisely the opposite fashion, perhaps smothering the child in overprotectiveness, possibly in the hope that the pretending might jump-start her lack of feeling into love, or might at least appear to others as love. Or a man who is sexually attracted to other men might try to cover up these wishes, if they frighten him, by engaging in overtly promiscuous relationships with women, and might even harshly condemn homosexual men, in an effort to push his wishes away. In the "Stockholm Syndrome," victims start bonding with their abusers in the wish that if they share the same values as their abusers, their abusers might stop abusing them.

As the American psychologist Calvin S. Hall wrote, about one of the leading defense mechanisms, "reaction formation," "Reactive love protests too much; it is overdone, extravagant, showy, and affected. It is counterfeit, and [...] usually easily detected. Another feature of a reaction formation is its compulsiveness. A person who is defending himself against anxiety cannot deviate from expressing the opposite of what he really feels. His love, for instance, is not flexible. It cannot adapt itself to changing circumstances as genuine emotions do; rather it must be constantly on display as if any failure to exhibit it would cause the contrary feeling to come to the surface." (A Primer of Freudian Psychology, New York 1954).

The affection and solidarity that many progressive Swedes demonstrate regarding their Muslim population shows similarities to this stance: Swedes have reason to fear the aggressive elements among their Muslim population: many Muslims have created de facto enclaves in large cities, such as Malmö; and, if their demands are not met, do not shy away from using brute force.

The mainstream segments of Swedish society on the other hand, have weakened themselves by allowing a doctrine of political correctness to take hold of their institutions to such an extent that, ironically, a Somali born female journalist, critical of Somali immigrant culture in Sweden, recently decided that Mogadishu was a safer place for her than Sweden.

The carnage caused to Swedish society by vast elements of its Muslim population, however, has apparently failed to change Swedish attitudes. The Swedes' solidarity in the face of pervasive gang-rapes and other abuses looks indeed "overdone, extravagant and showy;" what is really an ordeal has become transformed instead into a sort of online Instagram or Facebook contest of who can show the most solidarity.

This might lead one to conclude that Swedish anti-Semitism might be propelled by the Swedes' fear of their Muslim population, whom they fear far more than their Jewish population, who are not numerous, aggressive or hostile. Without even being aware if it, unconsciously, many Swedes, as in the "Stockholm Syndrome," may be trying to get themselves into the good books of those whom they fear by displaying a kinship and closeness in racist tendencies against a group that both they -- and the people they fear -- also already dislike: Jews.

A former Swedish government minister, Jens Orback, may well have unveiled the country's sentiment nearly a decade ago with his comment on live radio: "We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so towards us" – defeatism in its purest form, soaked in fear.

"A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one," Alexander Hamilton said. If Europe prefers the disgrace of looking the other way while Islamists, through demography and proselytizing, are becoming de facto sovereigns in many enclaves all over Europe, Europeans have a choice: either to give in even further to anti-Semitic tendencies to be in the "good books" of those they fear and eventually live on our knees, or to stand up against the proponents of an openly theocratic and expansionist ideology. The heirs of the civilization that brought down so many threats, and that has accomplished so much, should be more than able to make this choice.
Timon Dias, based in the Netherlands, is completing a graduate program in Clinical Psychology.

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The Clarion Project

Syrian Women Targeted in War for Rape, Kidnapping

Wed, November 27, 2013
A Syrian woman grieves. (Photo: © Reuters)
A Syrian woman grieves. (Photo: © Reuters)
A new report issued by a human rights group on “International Day to End Violence Against Women” says Syria’s civil war "created a context ripe for violence against women, including sexual violence."

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network names the deliberate use of kidnapping and rape of women and girls, especially during “raids, at check points and within detention facilities”  as a means to pressure and humiliate family members and take revenge. Women -- with their children -- have also been used in the conflict as human shields.

Abuses against women have been a "deliberate tactic to defeat the other party from a symbolic and psychological perspective, making women desirable targets as the conflict rages on," the report says.
The report cites particularly horrific instances of abuse culled from cases documented inside seven provinces in Syria as well as in Damascus.

One such case was that of a nine-year-old girl, who was raped in front of her family by government forces in the Baba Amr district of the central Homs province in March 2012.

Another case quotes a teenager, a 19-year-old named Aida from Tartus, a town in the coastal region, who was held in detention for four months, from October 2012 to January 2013.

One of times she was raped occurred the day before a court hearing. She was assaulted by three government soldiers. The report documents Aida’s case in her own words:
"The interrogator left me in the room and came back with three personnel who took turns raping me. I fiercely resisted the first but when the second started, I became more terrified and couldn't resist," she said.

"When the third started, I totally collapsed. I was bleeding all the time. As the last one finished, I fell on the ground. Ten minutes later, the prison doctor came in and took me to the bathroom where he gave me an injection to enable me to stand before the judge."

Although the reports says 6,000 cases of rape have occurred since the beginning of the conflict, the actual number is believed to be at significantly higher, since many cases go unreported due to the stigma A Syria girl is led inside a truck to be raped by government troops. (See full video below.)A Syria girl is led inside a truck to be raped by government troops. (See full video below.)such crimes carry in Syrian society.

The report states that, “Syrian women exposed to sexual abuses subsequently found themselves victimized not only by the crime itself, but also by enduring the silence that surrounds the crime and the social pressure related to it.”

The result of reporting such a crime in Syrian society can lead to honor killing (of the victim), divorce or further abuse from family members. Many women, whose abuse has become public, have fled their communities, exposing themselves to even more danger in the worn-torn country. Abuses have also been documented in refugee camps.

Regime forces are said to have perpetrated 70 percent of the crimes against women, with rebel forces guilty of the the rest. Rape by government forces is a common tactic used in conflicts when the opposition forces comes from within the society and rely on civilian support, according to prominent journalist Lauren Wolfe, an expert on rape in areas of war and the director of Women Under Siege, a organization that has documented sexual violence in Syria for the last year

The London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights, cites 25 cases of women being kidnapped and held hostage for use in prisoner exchanges or "to pressure their male relatives to surrender." 
Sema Nasar, of the Syrian Network, collected first-hand testimonies from Syrian women during from January to June of 2013.

To date, 120,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. Figures from the first two years of the conflict show that 5,400 women were detained during those years, the whereabouts of many remain unknown.

Further, in many of those cases, women have been "detained indefinitely without being presented to the judge, with no access to lawyers or family, and exposed to torture and ill treatment."

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IAF, US Air Force hold largest joint-military exercise in Israel's history

  Israel News

Expansive Exercise
IAF plane taking off during drill Photo: Yair Sagi
IAF plane taking off during drill Photo: Yair Sagi


IAF, US Air Force hold largest joint-military exercise in Israel's history

Israel, Greece, Italy, US are holding massive aerial training exercise in Israel with almost 100 aircraft. IDF stress: Exercise has nothing to do with Iran
Yoav Zitun
Published: 11.25.13, 15:10 / Israel News
Some 50 fighter jets belonging to Israel, Greece, the US and Italy took off Sunday morning from the Ovda air base, signaling the beginning of the largest military air exercise in Israel's history.
צילום: רועי עידן
Blue Flag exercise takes off

The Blue Flag exercise is being hosted by Israel will continue until Thursday and will include more than 60 jet fighters among them the Tornado, AMX and F-15. The IAF is also sharing its jets, both as part of the allies' forces and as the mock-enemy they will target.

Related stories:

The IDF stresses that the exercise's goal is to examine the group's general aerial capabilities, not focusing on any specific operational situation; the comments are intended to stress that the exercise is not related to any future possible attack plan on Iran.
IAF pilot preparing for drill (Photo: Yair Sagi)
IAF pilot preparing for drill (Photo: Yair Sagi)
   The exercise has been in the works for over a year, and in anticipation the IAF conducted two training flights a day during the last six months. According to an IDF source, each one of the participating countries is paying for the costs of its respective share in the exercise.

Representatives from over 20 nations – including a slew of military attachés and representatives from the Cypriot and Bulgarian air forces – are viewing the exercise. However, the Turkish and Polish representatives did not partake.

IAF plane before the mission (Photo: Yair Sagi)
IAF plane before the mission (Photo: Yair Sagi)
   The Polish delegation was forced to back out of the training mission because of budgetary reasons, despite the fact that Polish pilots have been training with their Israel counterparts for some months.

The exercise includes training missions to identify anti-aircraft missiles – ranging from RPGs to advanced systems – as well as surface-to-air ones. The exercise will also include mock dogfights.

US, Italy, Greece, and Israeli pilots before the drill (Photo: Yair Sagi)
US, Italy, Greece, and Israeli pilots before the drill (Photo: Yair Sagi)
 For the first time, the training will include the use of a new information system which sends live data from the plane to ground forces. "In the past, foreign nations were uncomfortable in sharing this level information gather after flights, but this time it is happening," a military official involved in the exercise reported.
"The IAF has been practicing operations with foreign militaries for more than three decades, but only recently have be begun training together on a daily basis. This includes daily flights to Greece. The IAF has become attractive to foreign armies because of its massive operational experience," he said.
Diplomats as well as journalists from Israel and the participating nations were invited to watch the exercise.

US Ambassador in Israel Dan Shapiro, who took a few hours off from Israel's scathing reactions to the Geneva agreement with Iran spoke and said "We live in a tough world and dangerous world. Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood…It needs the best trained forces … and it needs allies."

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