Saturday 13 October 2012

Custodian Of The Custodian Of The Custodian

21 August, 2012

By Chandra Muzaffar

Muslims and Muslim governments are angry with Bashar al-Assad. They hold him responsible for the massacre of thousands of people, many of them innocent civilians, in Syria. They want him to go.

It is true that Bashar’s army has killed a lot of people. It has used excessive force --- as I have pointed out in a number of articles before this. Anyone with a conscience would condemn the mindless violence that has bloodied Syria in the last 17 months.
But Bashar’s violence is only one side of the story. The armed rebels opposed to him have also massacred thousands. How else can one explain the fact that almost one-third of the 17,000 people killed so far in the conflict are from the army and related security agencies?

The rebels are not only well equipped with a range of weapons and communication apparatus but are also supported by logistical routes developed by the CIA and intelligence provided by Mossad. Their weapons are delivered through “a shadowy network of intermediaries, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” and “are paid for by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.” Since April 2012, hundreds, perhaps even a few thousand, militants, some linked to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, from Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and Jordan have crossed over into Syria to fight the Bashar government in what they perceive as a “jihad.” It is reported that out of 200 rebels captured in Aleppo recently, 70 were foreign fighters.

The mainstream media in most Muslim majority states have not highlighted these aspects of the Syrian conflict. Neither have they subjected to scrutiny the authenticity of the news they carry on the conflict and the sources of the news items. As a case in point, the Houla massacre of 25 May 2012 was widely publicised all over the world as an example of the brutal, barbaric character of the Bashar government. Scores of children were allegedly butchered by his militia. A picture of a large number of dead children “wrapped in white shrouds with a child jumping over one of them” was offered as proof of the heinous crime.
The picture was actually from the war in Iraq in 2003.
The photographer himself, Marco Di Lauro of Getty Images, came out in the open to expose the fabrication. In fact, the Houla massacre itself was “committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were members of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of the Assad”, according to the leading German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

Houla is not the only case. A Christian nun, Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix of the St. James Monastery has published on the monastery’s website, an account of armed rebels gathering Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in the Khalidiya neighbourhood in Homs, and blowing it up with dynamite. The rebels then put the blame for the crime upon the Syrian army. There is also the story of Zainab al-Hosni, allegedly abducted by government forces and burnt to death. A few weeks later, Zainab appeared on Syrian television to nail the lie about her. The most widely quoted source for the alleged atrocities committed by the Syrian government is of course the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) which is a one man operation run by a Rami Abdul Rahman from Coventry, England. His statistics have been challenged on a number of occasions by Syrian analysts who have shown why his reporting is unreliable.

It is disappointing that most Muslim governments and NGOs are oblivious to all this and focus only upon Bashar’s wrongdoings. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at its emergency summit held in Mecca on 14 August 2012 reflected this biased approach to the Syrian conflict by condemning only the government while exonerating the armed rebels. A few states such as Algeria, Kazakhstan and Pakistan called for a balanced statement from the summit that would also apportion blame upon the armed opposition but their plea was ignored.
Worse, Syria which was suspended from the OIC at the summit was not even invited to the meeting and given a chance to defend itself. It was denied the most elementary principle of natural justice. It is a right that is fundamental to Islamic jurisprudence.

Why has the Muslim world as a whole, especially its elites and its intelligentsia, adopted such a blatantly biased and starkly unjust position on Syria? Is it because many are ignorant of what is really happening in that country, given the orientation of the mainstream media? Or is it because Muslims revere the Saudi monarch so much --- he is after all the custodian of the two holy mosques--- that they are convinced that in seeking the elimination of Bashar al-Assad he is doing what is morally right? Or is it because many Muslim elites are beholden to Saudi wealth --- and Qatari largesse ---- that they are prepared to acquiesce in their wishes? Or is it also because of certain sectarian sentiments that Muslims appear to be incensed with the Bashar government?

It is these sentiments that I shall now explore. For many months now a segment of Sunni ulama (religious elites) in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and certain other states have been attacking Bashar as an Alawite leader who is oppressing the Sunni majority. Since Alawites are a branch of Shia Islam, the target has been Shia teachings and the Shia sect. Given the standing of these ulama, their vitriolic utterances have succeeded in inflaming the passions of some Sunni youth who view Bashar and his circle as infidels who should be fought and defeated at all costs. Even the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, has now joined the bandwagon and accuses Shias of theological deviance and malpractices.

It is important to observe in this regard that in the context of Syria there is no rigid Shia-Sunni dichotomy. The Sunnis given their numerical strength dominate the army, the public services and the private sector. Some of the most critical positions in Syrian society are held by Sunnis. The Grand Mufti of Syria for instance is a Sunni of the Shafie doctrinal school. Indeed, sectarian, or for that matter, religious affiliation has very little weight in society. In many ways, Syria is a society that has sought to de-emphasise religious and sectarian loyalties and nurture a notion of common citizenship. Since the beginning of the conflict, it is the Western media that have been preoccupied with the so-called Sunni-Shia divide and appear to be deliberately stoking sectarian sentiments. The Arab media has followed suit.

The way in which Sunni-Shia sentiments are now being manipulated convinces me that geopolitics rather than sectarian loyalties is the motivating force. If sectarian loyalties are really that important, how does one explain the close ties that the Sunni Saudi elite enjoyed with the Shia Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, in the sixties and much of the seventies?
Was it because the Shah was the gendarme of the US and the West in the Persian Gulf and an ally of Israel? Was this the reason why the Saudis could get along so well with the Iranian elite? Isn’t it revealing that it was only when the Shah was ousted in a popular revolution in 1979 and the new Islamic leaders of Iran rejected American hegemony over the region and challenged the legitimacy of the Israeli entity, that Saudi relations with Iran took a turn for the worse?

Saudi animosity towards the new independent minded Iran was so great that it bankrolled the Iraqi instigated war against Iran from 1980 to 1988. The primary goal of that war was to strangulate Iran’s Islamic Revolution at its birth. The war brought together a number of pro-US Arab states with the notable exception of Syria. Needless to say the US and other Western powers aided and abetted this anti-Iran coalition. It was during this time that anti-Shia propaganda was exported from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. Groups within the Shia community also began to respond to these attacks by churning out their own anti-Sunni literature.

In spite of the relentless opposition to it, Iran, much to the chagrin of its adversaries in the region and in the West, has continued to grow from strength to strength, especially in the diplomatic and military spheres. One of its major achievements is the solid link it has forged with Syria, on the one hand, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the other. It is the most significant resistance link that has emerged --- resistance to Israel and US hegemony--- in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) in recent decades.

Israel, the US and other Western powers such as Britain and France, and actors in WANA like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, are worried. The Iran helmed resistance has increased their apprehension in light of five other related developments.

One, Iran’s nuclear capability. Though Iranian leaders have declared on a number of occasions that they regard the manufacture and use of a nuclear bomb as haram (prohibited), there is no doubt that the country’s nuclear capability has been enhanced considerably in recent years.

Two, the inability of Israel to defeat Hezbollah and gain control over Lebanon which it regards as its frontline defence. This was proven again in 2006 and today Hezbollah is in a more decisive position in Lebanese politics than it was six years ago.

Three, the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the introduction of electoral democracy which has led to the rise of Shia political power. Shia political elites in Iraq are by and large inclined towards Iran, which the US sees as a huge setback for its hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Four, the Arab uprisings, especially those that are mass based, like in Tunisia and Egypt, have raised questions about the shape of democratic politics in the region in the coming years. Will it give rise to the emergence of Islamic movements that challenge the legitimacy of Israel, US hegemony and the role of feudal monarchies in WANA? Or, would it be possible to co-opt the new Islamic actors into the status quo?

Five, how will all these changes unfold in a situation where US hegemony is declining? How will Israel and the other states in WANA that are dependent upon US power for the perpetuation of their interests fare when the US is no longer able to protect them as it did in the past?

For Israel in particular all these developments in WANA portend a less secure neighbourhood. Total control and predictability are crucial elements in Israel’s notion of security. It is because of its obsession with security that guarantees control over its neighbourhood that it is determined to break the link between Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah. It reckons that if Bashar is ousted that link would be broken.

This was obvious in the conversation between Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, as reported by the respected Jewish journalist, Israel Shamir.
Netanyahu made it clear that Israel preferred “the Somalisation of Syria, its break-up and the elimination of its army.” Bashar’s successor ---- after his ouster--- he stressed “must break with Iran.” Netanyahu gave the impression that Israel was in a position to “influence the rebels.”

Since this is Israel’s agenda for Syria, all the moves and manoeuvres of states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to eliminate Bashar would be very much in line with what Israel wants. Any wonder then that both Israeli leaders and its media welcomed the suspension of Syria from the OIC.
In this regard, Israel would have been thrilled to read a pronouncement by Al-Qaradawi in May 2012, widely reported in the WANA media that
“If the Prophet Muhammad was alive today, he would lend his support to NATO.”

More than endorsement from within the region, what Israel has always been confident about is the patronage and protection of the US and most of Europe. On Syria, and in the ultimate analysis, on Iran, the Israeli political and military elites know that the centres of power in the West share its diabolical agenda. Indeed, it is Israel that determines the US’s position on critical issues pertaining to WANA. It is the tail that wags the dog.

Israel’s relationship with a major Arab state like Saudi Arabia, (with whom it has no formal diplomatic ties) on the one hand, and the US, on the other, tells us a great deal about who is in charge of who. The Kenyan- American scholar, Professor Ali Mazrui, once described the Saudi-US nexus this way: the problem with the custodian of the Holy Mosques is that there is a custodian of the custodian.

If I may add, since it is Israel that decides US foreign policy in WANA, it may not be inaccurate to say that there is a custodian of the custodian of the custodian.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). Malaysia.
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Resistance Hides More Surprises, "Israel" under Air Quake

Zeinab Essa

It is not the first time and won't be the last.

Once again, the Hizbullah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah redirects the compass towards Palestine. However, this time from space.

The Lebanese Resistance Leader revealed his party's new victory and left "Israel" under shock suffering the aftermath of Hizbullah's 'airquake'; the Ayoub reconnaissance drone that penetrated the depth of Occupied Palestine's space.

But what "Israel" really fears in addition to the new Hizbullah surprise is Sayyed Nasrallah's few words: This capability [the Ayoub drone] is only part of our surprises in any future confrontation.

Tel Aviv simply asking: What's next?

Ayoub's Qualities:

In an interview with, the Retired Brigadier General in the Lebanese Army, Elias Farhat, explained some of the qualities of Ayoub drone.
"By definition, a drone is an unmanned combat
air vehicle that is armed and has no pilot onboard," he stated, as he pointed out that "what really distinguishes this drone is its technically advanced characteristics."

In parallel, Farhat unveiled that the metal alloy from which the drone was made is a major point of its achievement. "The metal alloy similar to that used in the manufacture of US "Phantom" aircrafts, provides a reflective surface to Radar signals."

On the level of Ayoub's engine, the military expert highlighted that "the resistance men succeeded in assembling the engine in such a manner that allows the drone to fly slowly, thus making it difficult to be hit by earth-air missiles."

"This explains why the "Israeli" army resorted to the use of military jets to down the drone, " he said, noting that "Israel" confessed its high-tech jets failed to target the drone from the first attempt.

The Retired General further confirmed "the technical equipment of the aircraft will always remain a secret." However, he voiced confidence that "the drone was able to send instant sensitive intelligence images to the resistance operation base, all along its track."

Drone's Track, Timing:

Regarding the path of the drone, Farhat expected "the drone flew over the Mediterranean Sea for around 300 km, passed over Gaza's airspace, before moving into the "Israeli" depth, where it crossed 57 km."

"The plane arrived at a distance of 40 km from the Dimona nuclear reactor i.e. thirty minutes elapsed before the plane was hit," he elaborated.

Moreover, the military expert unveiled that sensitive "Israeli" military posts were under Ayoub's surveillance, on top of which is the Iron Dome. "This proves another aspect of "Israel's" failure in face of Hizbullah drone," he iterated, and noted that "the unique Iron Dome , which cost "Israel" millions of dollars, was unable to discover the UAV."

According to Farhat, the "Israeli" delay in shooting the drone had nothing to do with inhabited areas, as "Israel" claimed.

"Based on military logic, an army orders to shoot an enemy drone immediately for it fears the possibility it might carry explosions," the former LA General stated.

"Does any of the "Israeli" army officials carry the responsibility for such a hypothesis, which might lead to the bombing of "Israeli" inhabited areas?" he wondered.

To the expert, this "Israeli" hypothesis does not make sense. Elaborating on the point, Farhat added "Out of the 30 minutes Ayoub drone hovered in "Israeli" space, we give the "Israelis" 10 minutes: 5 to detect the nature of the aircraft (sports aircraft, Cessna or military training planes), and 5 other minutes to launch military aircrafts from Ramon base, South of al-Naqab[Negev] to intercept the plane."

On the timing of Ayoub's penetration, the military expert affirmed "it has coincided with the October 6,
1973 War with "Israel", in parallel with the escalated US-"Israeli" threats against Iran."

Farhat also referred to the scheduled US-"Israeli" military drills in the Gulf in the coming days. "The resistance axis succeeded in sending a strong message to "Israel": After land and sea victories, we are able to breach "Israel's" space."

"The drone's penetration also carried an operational military dimension suggesting that new facts are to appear in any future war with Hizbullah," he emphasized.

Ayoub: The Existential Shock

In another context, the Retired General shed light on the confusion and fear that preoccupied "Israel" after the resistance victory.

"Directly after the incident, "Israel" rushed to breach Lebanese sovereignty via intensive flights over the Southern Lebanese territories," he clarified.

The military expert further explained that "the "Israeli" military institution's fear was reflected in the deployment of Patriot missiles in the Carmel region, east of Haifa."

"Sayyed Nasrallah's vow that the drone won't be the last has dealt a blow to the Zionist entity," he considered, and reiterated that "57 km above the 48 Occupied Palestinian territories is an unprecedented nightmare since the establishment of the Zionist entity."

"Ayoub drone formed an existential shock to "Israel"," he estimated as "Israel" is no more protected.

In addition Farhat commented on Sayyed Nasrallah's declaration that "the drone is part of Hizbullah's capabilities by saying: "Ayoub is no more among the resistance surprises, it is known that the resistance doesn't uncover any of its surprises unless it hides higher levels of technical and military capabilities."


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Syria: A Victim of Geo-Politics

Published Friday, October 12, 2012

The “Arab Spring” came to a halt in Syria, where an intransigent regime with powerful allies remains entrenched in power. With Russia and China obstructing numerous Western-backed resolutions targeting the Syrian state, the debate was no longer simply about Syria’s internal power struggle.
Instead, with their vetoes, Moscow and Beijing were saying that they too had interests in the Middle East which they were determined to protect, and that the region is not an exclusive Western preserve under the hegemony of the United States and its allies.

Essentially the Russian position and its unprecedented triple veto of the Syria resolutions were influenced by the Libya intervention. Russia and China were vehemently opposed to NATO intervention, as it exceeded its operational and legal mandate by arming the rebels and bombarding Gaddafi’s forces. Russia accused the US and its European allies of tricking fellow Security Council members and using a mandate to protect civilians as a cover for providing support to Libyan rebels and ousting Gaddafi. It was, in short, regime change.

Russia, which abstained from the 17 March 2011 vote authorizing the use of force in Libya and allowed it to pass, vowed not to let that happen again in Syria, a key weapons-export destination and host to Moscow's only warm-water naval port outside the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the US and Saudi Arabia lost a crucial ally in Yemen with the ousting of Ali Abdullah Saleh, further fueling the scramble to exert influence in the region.

The Arab world is now in a fragile phase, thus increasing its susceptibility to regional powers. Syria’s strategic geopolitical importance adds a new dimension to the escalating crisis with more external interests at stake. Russia, as the former superpower patron for traditional Arab nationalist states, played an important role in the region, and Syria is its last ally in the Arab world. Russia’s position toward the political upheaval both in Syria and the Arab world is determined by power: the power to emerge as a victor in the larger battle against the United States and to project resurgent Russian designs in an area which should naturally come under its sphere of influence. By working with Iran and Syria, Russia gains set goals in the region – politically, economically, financially and militarily – in order to reassert its hegemony, in the Cold War sense.

The Syrian president commands a number of keys which are imperative to the protection of the Syrian-Iranian axis. Firstly, he has powerful international friends such as Russia and China, who constitute a new bloc of power against US hegemony in the region. Secondly, Syria has acted as a loyal Russian ally for the last 40 years and accounts for approximately 10 percent of Russian arms exports – with Syria’s arms imports growing some 600 percent over the last five years. Russian and Chinese support at the UN Security Council has given Assad breathing space and has protected him from Western plans to topple his political system. It is likely that neither Russia nor China will abandon Syria, as they have fundamental interests at stake.

The Arab world is unambiguously going through a transition; the "Arab Spring" halted in Syria and the Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council against resolutions targeting the Baathist state have re-initiated a near return to deadlocked Cold War politics, where US hegemony and interests clash with that of the other major international actors. The fundamental difference is that the world system is now a multi-polar system in progress, and the Middle East is a main battleground in this international struggle.

This current plethora of political manoeuvring resembles the Soviet Union-US proxy wars of yesteryear in the region. Apart from prolonging the regime’s de facto colonial status, it seems clear that the constant struggle for influence waged by the US and the Soviet Union effectively polarized and/or anesthetized political life in most Middle Eastern countries, encouraged the rise of military or military-backed regimes, and generally served to stunt or distort the growth of indigenous political institutions. In addition, the regional clients of the superpowers made generous contributions to the destabilization of the region by attempting to involve their patrons in various local conflicts.

The internationalization of Middle Eastern politics demonstrated by the growing importance of events in Syria has instigated a new trend of global interest in the region. Fuelled by rising oil prices, potential conflict and the looming prospects of war with Iran, Russian and Chinese solidarity with Syria can be described as evidence of a longstanding difference between Russia, China and many other countries, but particularly the West over the future of the world, especially in regions serving as a conduit for Sino-Russian influence and interests.

Ultimately the Middle East is separated into two camps: the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is an umbrella for all the Gulf States, allied with Turkey, Jordan and the Western powers; and Syria, Iran, and Lebanon (Hezbollah), who command political and military support from Russia, China and India. Israel’s position or balance of interests brings it to work indirectly with the GCC in undermining and threatening Iran. At the heart of this deadlocked system is an ideological struggle between Arabism and political Islam, and Syria is the current source of a regional and international struggle. No one state has managed to assume leadership over this fractured region which has inevitably led to the presence of many countries with medium strength functioning through the balance of powers or more accurately an alliance system which serves as a deterrent, especially for weaker states.

The "Syrian uprising", when placed in a regional and international context, portrays the reflection of a struggle between the Sunni Arab states and the status quo on a regional level, effectively acting as an arena for the clash of Saudi imperialism with Iranian imperialism. This provides the United States with the perfect opportunity to pursue “regime change” under the guise of human rights with the aim of overseeing the creation of a US/Israel friendly government as a replacement for a staunchly pan-Arab anti-imperialist state.

The political actions of regional states are essentially a facade, especially in the cases of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as higher stakes are at risk and symmetric imperialism in this region has fuelled a political crisis in Syria, which could have lasting implications on an ever violent region with global/regional interests at stake.

Perhaps we are witnessing an Eastern counterweight to the West’s hegemony, with Syria as the source and Russia as a main protagonist.

Danny Makki is a graduate in International Relations and founder of Syrian Youth in Britain and a member of the Syrian social club, a regular commentator on the Syria crisis.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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Bibi: Ready to Discuss Golan Withdrawal if Syria Cuts Ties with Iran, Hezbollah

Local Editor

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu send a message to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in January 2011, saying he was ready to discuss a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, to June 4 1967 lines, on the condition that Syria agree to abandon its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah. netanyahu
Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot revealed for the first time on Friday morning the existence of secret contacts between the Zionist entity and Syria, that went on from December 2010 through March 2011. Indirect talks were undertaken by American envoys Dennis Ross and Fred Hoff, who passed messages between the two sides.

According to the report in Yediot Aharanot, Netanayhu agreed to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights, and return to June 4 1967 lines.

According to a source who was intimately involved in the talks, Netanyahu expressed willingness to discuss the Syrian demand for a full Israeli withdrawal, but only on the condition that Assad accepts a series of Israeli demands regarding the military alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, as well as Syrian support for Palestinian organizations.

The source, who took part in the talks and asked to remain anonymous, agreed to recount some of the details of the talks that took place between Damascus and Tel Aviv on the eve of the beginning of the Syrian crisis.


For its part, the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded to reporters' questions about the report saying that "prior to the eruption of all of the violence in Syria, there were efforts to try to support contacts between Israel and Syrian officials."

Nuland said that the US involvement in these preliminary negotiations was part of US Mideast envoy George Mitchell's mandate.

Nuland added that "the conditions in Syria aren't suitable for a serious effort. But we all hope that we will have a new day in Syria and there will be another opportunity for her to make peace with her neighbors."

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NATO Turns Radar Toward Syria As Turkey Fears Attacks

By:Okan Muderrisoglu posted on Friday, Oct 12, 2012

Following Syrian artillery fire to Akcakale and Hatay, Ankara has developed a multifaceted new strategy. After convening the NATO Council on Sept. 3 in a sign of alliance solidarity, and after obtaining parliamentary authorization on Sept. 4 to consolidate its political and military deterrence, Ankara has now taken another critical step.

NATO was asked to activate its technical capacity to boost Turkey’s defenses by orienting its radar at Kurecik to Syria.

Military risk analysis

Turkey’s military command is updating military plans in view of the tension with Syria and is engaged in comprehensive risk analysis. The Syrian air force and air-defense systems are assessed as relatively strong points, and studies were made of the threats they may pose to Turkey.

Missile systems and chemical-warfare stocks in Syria were seen as elements of a major threat. This is when the decision was made to make use of NATO facilities.

Kurecik on line

Upon Turkey’s request, NATO reviewed its mechanisms and made two important declarations.

First, it described the Akcakale shelling as an attack against NATO’s southeast borders, instead of the Syria-Turkey border. Then, NATO emphasized the indivisibility of security among NATO allies and put it on record that it will not tolerate military aggression against Turkey.

Finally, a strategic dimension was added to diplomatic moves by turning the Malatya-Kurecik radar of the NATO missile shield toward Syria.

Anti-missile measures

With the integrated radar system at Kurecik, the missiles that make up Syria’s air-defense and offensive capacities are now under NATO surveillance. In case of a possible missile attack against Turkey, the early warning system of Kurecik radar will be activated, and Turkish F-16s kept on standby will be tasked to thwart the missile attack.

Moreover, depending on the level of threat perception, intelligence obtained from NATO AWACS early-warning aircraft may be utilized and Patriot missile interception systems can be deployed.

Missile shield project

The missile shield project Turkey joined in 2011 was initially set up with American technical and military input. The base at Kurecik was later put under Turkish military control.

At the beginning of the year, American experts were sent to the radar base. In defense of the system criticized by Russia and Iran, NATO said that all data to be obtained by the radar will be used in defense of all allies. Ankara said repeatedly that the radar base does not target any country and was purely a defensive measure without any deployment of missiles.

Command in Germany

The Kurecik missile shield system, which can detect aerial vehicle and missile-launcher movements in real time, is commanded from the NATO air base at Ramstein, Germany.

The system is controlled from the NATO air base at Geilenkirchen, Germany, which also monitors all aerial moves. A Turkish general and his team are working in the command center in Germany. This general is recognized as a fully authorized representative of Turkey.
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Don’t Vote for Evil

"Information Clearing House" - Back during the George W. Bush neocon regime, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in his UN speech summed up George W. Bush for the world. I am quoting Chavez from memory, not verbatim. “Yesterday standing at this same podium was Satan himself, speaking as if he owned the world. You can still smell the sulfur.”

Chavez is one of the American right-wing’s favorite bogyman, because Chavez helps the people instead of bleeding them for the rich, which is Washington’s way. While Washington has driven all but the one percent into the ground, Chavez cut poverty in half, doubled university enrollment, and provided health care and old age pensions to millions of Venezuelans for the first time.
Little wonder he was elected to a third term as president despite the many millions of dollars Washington poured into the election campaign of Chavez’s opponent.

While Washington and the EU preach neoliberalism–the supremacy of capital over labor–South American politicians who reject Washington’s way are being elected and reelected in Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia.
It was the Ecuadoran government, not Washington, that had the moral integrity to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. The only time Washington grants asylum is when it can be used to embarrass an opponent.
In contrast to the leadership that is emerging in South America as more governments there reject the traditional hegemony of Washington, the US political elite, whether Republican or Democrat, are aligned with the rich against the American people.
The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, has promised to cut taxes on the rich, taxes which are already rock bottom, to block any regulation of the gangsters in the financial arena, and to privatize Social Security and Medicare.
Privatizing Social Security and Medicare means to divert the people’s tax dollars to the profits of private corporations. In Republican hands, privatization means only one thing: to cut the people’s benefits and to use the people’s tax dollars to increase the profits in the private sector. Romney’s policy is just another policy that sacrifices the people to the one percent.
Unfortunately, the Democrats, if a lesser evil, are still an evil. There is no reason to vote for the reelection of a president who codified into law the Bush regime’s destruction of the US Constitution, who went one step further and asserted the power to murder US citizens without due process of law, and who has done nothing to stop the exploitation of the American people by the one percent.
As Gerald Celente says in the Autumn Issue of the Trends Journal, when confronted with the choice between two evils, you don’t vote for the lesser evil. You boycott the election and do not vote. “Lessor or greater, evil is evil.”
If Americans had any sense, no one would vote in the November election. Whoever wins the November election, it will be a defeat for the American people.
An Obama or Romney win stands in stark contract with Chavez’s win. Here is how Lula da Silva, the popular former president of Brazil summed it up: “Chavez’s victory is a victory for all the peoples of Latin America. It is another blow against imperialism.” Washington, making full use of the almighty dollar, was unable to buy the Venezuelan election.
How will a Romney or Obama win be summed up? The answer will be in terms of which candidate is best for Israel’s interest; which is best for Wall Street’s interest, which is best for agribusiness; which is most likely to attack Iran; which is most likely to subject economic and war protesters to indefinite detention as domestic extremists.
The only people who will benefit from the election of either Romney or Obama are those associated with the private oligarchies that rule America.
This article was originally posted at Counterpunch
Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, Wirtschaft am Abgrund (Economies In Collapse) has just been published.

Why Hugo Chavez’s Re-Election Matters to the Arab World

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks during a news conference after winning elections in Caracas 9 October 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Jorge Silva)
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Caracas - As crowds occupied the streets of Caracas, Venezuela on the evening of Sunday, October 7, to celebrate the successful re-election of President Hugo Chavez, a Lebanese flag was held aloft. As they poured into the grounds of Miraflores to hear him speak from the balcony of the Presidential palace, later that night, a Palestinian flag was also visible as it was waved above our heads. These symbols were not without meaning; the re-election of Chavez with 55 percent of ballots cast – eleven points ahead of his opponent, Henrique Radonski – will have repercussions not only across the continent of South America, but also in the Arab world.

On Tuesday, just two days after his electoral victory, Chavez reiterated his support for the Syrian government, about which he has been characteristically vocal over the last year. It is a far cry from the pre-election promises of Capriles, who was seen by many in Venezuela as the candidate of the United States and had pledged to develop “closer relations with Israel,” as well as re-thinking several areas of foreign policy. Chavez, on the other hand, took the step of expelling the Israeli ambassador in January 2009, during the bombing campaign of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. It was not the first time he had taken such action, having ordered the US ambassador to leave in September 2008.

From the evidence of his first press conference since being re-elected, and particularly in regard to the Arab world, it is clear that re-thinking foreign policy is the last thing on Chavez’s mind. He described Assad’s as the “only legitimate government” of Syria, before continuing:

“[He] has made a huge effort to make concessions, constitutional changes, [and has] called for elections, but none of that is true for those who want to overthrow [the regime].”

Whilst speaking from the “People’s Balcony” of Miraflores at just before midnight on Sunday, Chavez called for reconciliation with the opposition at home. But he knows that his victory, although down from the 26 percent margin he won by in 2006, would be considered a landslide in many other countries and gives him a strong democratic mandate for the next six years of government. Foreign policy has often been a talking point during the last fourteen years of Chavez’s government, and his popularity, so pervasive amongst the poorest sections of Venezuelan society, has also spread as far as occupied Palestine, the south of Lebanon, and many parts of the Arab world.

Chavez vehemently denounced the NATO bombing of Libya earlier this year, which he described at the time as “imperial cynicism,” a “massacre” and a “madness” that had “destroyed” the country. On Tuesday, Chavez took the opportunity to mention former Libyan President Colonel Gaddafi, saying that “the way he died was a barbarity.”

Some western commentators have criticised Chavez’s support for what they see as dictatorial governments in Libya and now Syria, whilst recognising the democratic credentials of Venezuela itself. However, Chavez is particularly aware of what demonization of political leaders who challenge or question the dominant narrative – once referred to as the “Washington Consensus” but now struggling to retain one hand, let alone a “consensus” in Latin America – can lead to. The April 2002 coup d’etat against his government, which resulted in huge demonstrations and the re-instatement of Chavez after just forty-eight hours, was preceded by much hysterical commentary in both the US and in the privately-owned Venezuelan media, which routinely referred to Chavez as an “autocrat,” a “monkey” or even “Venezuela’s Hitler.”

Chavez is of the view that, whilst undoubtedly embroiled in turmoil, there are more forces at work in Syria than usually portrayed in the mainstream media. On Tuesday, he repeated his opinion in regards to Syria that “the US government is largely responsible for this disaster.”

There is no doubt that Chavez’s presence will be continued to be felt in the Arab world over the next six years. With a wave of pro-poor, anti-imperialist governments continuing to enjoy widespread popularity in Latin America – Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina – the question remains as to how Arab people will respond to this example of resisting subservience to foreign interests. Indeed, in a speech following his decision to expel the Israeli ambassador, Hugo Chavez made a proposal of his own:

“Every day, Latin America will be more united and more free. I hope that one day, Arabs will be the same way; united. United or dominated, you decide!”

Jody McIntyre is a journalist and political activist. He was Guest Editor for the October 2012 issue of the New Internationalist. He is also the co-director of a forthcoming documentary on the Venezuelan ‘Hip-Hop Revolucion’ movement with Pablo Navarrete. Follow him on Twitter @jodymcintyre.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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Washington behind 'message' to Moscow: 'Get out of the picture!'

[AP] ".... There's nothing magical about the timing. It's a coincidence resulting from the build-up of frustration in Ankara," said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey analyst at the Chatham House think tank in London. "Turkey wants to hasten the demise of the Assad regime in Damascus, but really its hands are tied."... "If it is acting with its allies, it's a clear message to Russia to get out of the picture and stop arming Syria," he added. "It is such a bold move, that one wonders if Turkey acted alone."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined Thursday to comment on Turkish media reports that the intelligence on the plane's contents had come from the United States. But she told reporters that Washington backed Turkey's decision to intercept the plane....

The exact contents of the cargo are still unclear ... Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said late Friday that the plane was carrying radar parts for Syria, that the shipment complied with international law and that there was no weapon on board.

Lavrov said, however, that the cargo, consisting of "electric equipment for radars," was of dual purpose and could have civilian and military applications. The Russian company that sent it demands its return, he said.

Earlier, the respected Russian daily Kommersant quoted an unidentified source saying there were 12 boxes of spare parts for radars of the Syrian missile defense units.

"If the Kommersant report is right, you could speculate about this being part of a build-up to imposing a no-fly zone," said Hugh Pope, who leads the Turkey program for the International Crisis Group....
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, said the incident also wasn't about sending any messages to Russia in particular, because Russia's stance on Syria is already clear and isn't likely to change.
Lukyanov said the plane incident showed that Turkey is "getting really nervous" with hostilities raging near its border. "Turkey is trying to demonstrate how tough and capable it is."
Meanwhile, Russia's and Turkey's growing business ties could suffer, he said.

If Turkey keeps on getting involved in Syria, "the political situation in Syria will have an increasing influence on other areas of their (Russian-Turkish) relations," said Lukyanov. "No one wants to heat this up, but sometimes things get out of hand."

Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:25 PM

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Jeffrey Blankfort to Ali Abunimah (must read)

DateTuesday, October 9, 2012 at 10:11PM AuthorGilad Atzmon
I know you have great ambitions, Ali, but Abe Foxman does not plan to retire yet although you do give a very good imitation of him as grand inquisitor. Perhaps, he will hire you as the ADL's expert on "anti-Semitism" in the solidarity movement since at the moment you seem to be doing the job for free.
After reading what you have written about Greta Berlin, one of the leading activists in the struggle for justice in Palestine and the Free Gaza Movement, in particular, you obviously did not learn any lesson from your earlier scurrilous denunciation of Gilad Atzmon.

But who in hell (because we have to look everywhere for the source and that's the most obvious place to start) commissioned you to be the decider of who is and who isn't a part of this movement and the judge on high of his or her activities?

While you remain silent, I must note, about those in the movement in leadership positions who dismiss or minimize the face of the enemy in this country, namely the American Zionist Jewish Establishment, and who deny its control over Congress and ignore its stable of syndicated columnists and propaganda ministries parading as "think tanks" that dominate the Washington beltway. I have to assume that you agree with them.

For quite some time, Ali, the Electronic Intifada put out good information, (except about The Lobby) but it seems its success has gone to your head and allowed you to think you are some kind of an oracle. I would advise you to cut it out before your last name becomes an unbecoming verb. (as in, "Did you hear? So and so has been Abunimahed?")

Jeff Blankfort

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'Saudi authorities discover that groups engaged in supplying weapons to rebels in Syria are arranging to transfer them to the Kingdom'

audi authorities discover that groups engaged in supplying weapons to rebels in Syria are arranging to transfer them to the Kingdom'

[Al Akhbar] "... A new factor is at play here: fear that the fallout from the Syrian crisis could spill over beyond Syria and Lebanon to Saudi Arabia itself.

Last month, Riyadh reportedly contacted the Lebanese authorities for help in preventing the smuggling of arms from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia. They had discovered that groups engaged in supplying weapons to rebels in Syria were arranging to transfer them to the kingdom.

Turkey, too, is torn between continuing to try to topple the Assad regime without intervening directly and stepping back, as the Iranians and Russians have been urging it to do in their contacts. Ankara no longer feels sure that Assad‘s departure or forcible overthrow is inevitable, nor that it can take Aleppo from him and turn it into a buffer zone.

This impression was reinforced by the advice given by Turkish intelligence to Lebanese officials negotiating over the release of Shia hostages in Syria: act on the assumption that Aleppo is in Assad’s hands.

Turkey’s ambivalence did not prevent it from mounting mild military retaliation against Syria’s violations of its territory. But it no longer calls for the overthrow of the regime, after repeatedly declaring its days numbered for much of the past 19 months. Now, contrary to what it has been saying for months, it is prepared to agree to the regime remaining but Assad departing. It used to insist the two were synonymous and that both had to be removed entirely when it was promoting itself to the world as the one country capable of breaking the back of the Assad regime.

After the Syrian president realized that the option of Western military intervention was no longer on the cards, nor that of overthrowing him by force, he turned into a de facto partner at the negotiating table. June’s Geneva Agreement broke new ground by proposing a balanced solution providing for dialogue between Assad and his opponents via a government of national unity to oversee a transitional period. But there was no real incentive to get the agreement implemented.

Assad is certainly no longer in a position, as he was a year ago, to impose what he wants. But he still has the capacity to prevent anything being imposed on him. He has won, at least until now, the battle for his survival and prevented his overthrow, but without creating a fait accompli."

Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:01 PM

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