February 22, 2012
By Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to ramp up diplomatic efforts against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime on a trip to North Africa this week, as some countries begin to explore the possibility of arming Syria’s rebels.
Clinton is traveling to London on Wednesday for a conference on Somalia, but U.S. officials will be using the international gathering to lay the groundwork for a major conference on Syria’s future taking place later this week in Tunisia. The trip comes as the Obama administration is opening the door slightly to international military assistance for Syria’s armed opposition.
In coordinated messages, the White House and State Department said Tuesday they still hoped for a political solution. But faced with the daily onslaught by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians, officials dropped the administration’s previous strident opposition to arming anti-regime forces. It remained unclear, though, what, if any, role the U.S. might play in providing such aid.
“We don’t want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could take the country down a dangerous path,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “But we don’t rule out additional measures if the international community should wait too long and not take the kind of action that needs to be taken.”
The administration had previously said flatly that more weapons were not the answer to the Syrian situation. There had been no mention of “additional measures,” despite daily reports from Syrian activists of dozens of deaths from government attacks.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland used nearly identical language to describe the administration’s evolving position.
“From our perspective, we don’t believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria,” she told reporters. “What we don’t want to see is the spiral of violence increase. That said, if we can’t get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures.”
Neither Carney nor Nuland would elaborate on what “additional measures” might be taken but there have been growing calls, including from some in Congress, for the international community to arm the rebels. Most suggestions to that effect have foreseen Arab nations such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — and not the West — possibly providing military assistance.
February 7, 2012
By Kurt Nimmo
Excerpts from the Arab League observers’ report on Syria make it clear that the establishment media is only telling part of the story and exaggerating violence by the al-Assad government and its police and military.
The report mentions an “armed entity’ that is killing civilians and police and conducting terrorist attacks targeting innocent civilians. Casualties from these attacks are attributed to the al-Assad government and used to build a case against Syria in the United Nations.
According to the Arab League report, the “Free Syria Army” and “armed opposition groups” are responsible for many of the killings.
In January, it was reported that MI6, the CIA, and British SAS are in Syria working with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council to overthrow the al-Assad regime. The Free Syrian Army is widely recognized as a creation of NATO. It is comprised largely of militants from the Muslim Brotherhood – itself an asset of British intelligence – and is funded, supported, and armed by the United States, Israel, and Turkey.
The report lends credence to reports filed in November of last year by journalist Webster Tarpley, who visited the Middle Eastern nation.
“What average Syrians of all ethnic groups say about this is that they are being shot at by snipers. People complained that there are terrorist snipers who are shooting at civilians, blind terrorism simply for the purpose of destabilizing the country. I would not call this civil war – it is a very misleading term. What you are dealing with here are death squads, you are dealing with terror commandos; this is a typical CIA method. In this case it’s a joint production of CIA, MI6, Mossad, it’s got money coming from Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates and Qatar,” Tarpley told RT.
Tarpley said the United States is pushing a “bankrupt model of the color revolution, backed up by terrorist troops – people from Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood” and the objective is “to smash the Middle East according to ethnic lines.”
October 31, 2011
By Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers
MacDill Air Force Base, FL – The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.
The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.
After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative.
In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.
With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.
The size of the standby American combat force to be based in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, with an answer expected in coming days. Officers at the Central Command headquarters here declined to discuss specifics of the proposals, but it was clear that successful deployment plans from past decades could be incorporated into plans for a post-Iraq footprint in the region.
For example, in the time between the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States Army kept at least a combat battalion — and sometimes a full combat brigade — in Kuwait year-round, along with an enormous arsenal ready to be unpacked should even more troops have been called to the region.
“Back to the future” is how Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, Central Command’s chief of staff, described planning for a new posture in the Gulf. He said the command was focusing on smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries. “We are kind of thinking of going back to the way it was before we had a big ‘boots on the ground’ presence,” General Horst said. “I think it is healthy. I think it is efficient. I think it is practical.”
Mr. Obama and his senior national security advisers have sought to reassure allies and answer critics, including many Republicans, that the United States will not abandon its commitments in the Persian Gulf even as it winds down the war in Iraq and looks ahead to doing the same in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president’s announcement.
During town-hall-style meetings with military personnel in Asia last week, the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, noted that the United States had 40,000 troops in the region, including 23,000 in Kuwait, though the bulk of those serve as logistical support for the forces in Iraq.
As they undertake this effort, the Pentagon and its Central Command, which oversees operations in the region, have begun a significant rearrangement of American forces, acutely aware of the political and budgetary constraints facing the United States, including at least $450 billion of cuts in military spending over the next decade as part of the agreement to reduce the budget deficit.
Officers at Central Command said that the post-Iraq era required them to seek more efficient ways to deploy forces and maximize cooperation with regional partners. One significant outcome of the coming cuts, officials said, could be a steep decrease in the number of intelligence analysts assigned to the region. At the same time, officers hope to expand security relationships in the region. General Horst said that training exercises were “a sign of commitment to presence, a sign of commitment of resources, and a sign of commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity.”
Col. John G. Worman, Central Command’s chief for exercises, noted a Persian Gulf milestone: For the first time, he said, the military of Iraq had been invited to participate in a regional exercise in Jordan next year, called Eager Lion 12, built around the threat of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
Another part of the administration’s post-Iraq planning involves the Gulf Cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia. It has increasingly sought to exert its diplomatic and military influence in the region and beyond. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for example, sent combat aircraft to the Mediterranean as part of the NATO-led intervention in Libya, while Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates each have forces in Afghanistan.
At the same time, however, the council sent a mostly Saudi ground force into Bahrain to support that government’s suppression of demonstrations this year, despite international criticism.
Despite such concerns, the administration has proposed establishing a stronger, multilateral security alliance with the six nations and the United States. Mr. Panetta and Mrs. Clinton outlined the proposal in an unusual joint meeting with the council on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York last month.
The proposal still requires the approval of the council, whose leaders will meet again in December in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and the kind of multilateral collaboration that the administration envisions must overcome rivalries among the six nations.
“It’s not going to be a NATO tomorrow,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations still under way, “but the idea is to move to a more integrated effort.”
Iran, as it has been for more than three decades, remains the most worrisome threat to many of those nations, as well as to Iraq itself, where it has re-established political, cultural and economic ties, even as it provided covert support for Shiite insurgents who have battled American forces.
September 7, 2010
by Wissam Keyrouz
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ruled out an attack on the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme, during a visit to Qatar on Sunday, because any such action would result in Israel’s destruction.
“Any act against Iran will lead to the eradication of the Zionist entity,” he told a joint news conference in Doha with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, after their talks.
Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, has not ruled out a military strike to prevent Iran acquiring an atomic weapons capability, an ambition its arch-foe Tehran strongly denies.
“The Zionist entity and the US government would hit any country in the region whenever they are able to do so, and they will not wait to get permission. But (at the moment) they cannot,” he said.
“Iran has the ability to retaliate, strong and hard,” warned Ahmadinejad, whose comments in Farsi were translated into Arabic.
Iran’s hardline president said the talk of war against Iran to halt its controversial nuclear programme was aimed at putting psychological pressure on Tehran.
“There will be no war against Iran. What could take place is a psychological war,” he said.
In renewed criticism of the relaunched direct peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, Ahmadinejad charged that the “decaying” Jewish state was hoping to “revive” itself through the talks.
“The Zionist entity is decaying. It is in a critically difficult state, and hopes to revive itself through an unfruitful dialogue,” he said.
Ahmadinejad had on Friday said the Washington-sponsored talks were “doomed” to fail, and infuriated the moderate Palestinian leadership by slamming it as unrepresentative.
“Who gave them the right to sell a piece of Palestinian land? The people of Palestine and the people of the region will not allow them to sell even an inch of Palestinian soil to the enemy,” he said at an annual pro-Palestinian rally.
Unlike other Arab states in the Gulf that have echoed Western suspicions about Iran’s nuclear programme and its ambitions in the region, Qatar has maintained friendly relations.
In May when the United States was pushing for a new round of UN sanctions against Iran, Qatar backed Turkish and Brazilian efforts to broker a deal that would avoid further punitive measures.
But Qatar is also a staunch US ally and hosts two American military bases.
As-Sayliyah base served as the coalition’s command and control centre during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, while the US air force used Al-Udeid airbase in the 2001 war in Afghanistan and in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.
September 7, 2010
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned the accepted narrative of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, saying it was still not clear who was behind them.
“Something happened in New York and still nobody knows who the main perpetrators of that act were,” Ahmadinejad told diplomats and newspaper editors late on Sunday while on a brief visit to Qatar.
“No independent people were allowed to try and identify the perpetrators,” he charged.
“They say that in the Twin Towers, 2,000 people were killed. In Afganistan, so far more 110,000 have been killed.”
Ahmadinejad has on several occasions questioned the accepted version of the 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda militants, which killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.
In March, he referred to the attacks as “a big lie,” Iranian state media reported.
Iran is locked in a standoff with Western governments over its nuclear programme.
The UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on June 9 over Iran’s failure to heed repeated ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or, in higly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
July 23, 2010
By: Habib Toumi
Parents will get a text message every time the pupil gets on or off the vehicle on the way to or from school.
Manama An Indian school in Qatar will in September implement a high-tech solution that will enable administrators and parents to monitor students’ use of the school buses. The decision was made following the tragic death of a kindergarten student in May after she was left in a locked minivan for hours.
Called Automated Child Tracking System (ACTS), the state-of-the-art monitoring system will be adopted by Birla Public School when the school reopens after the summer vacation, officials said.
“We have been working on this system for quite some time so children can be monitored to ensure their security and safety,” A K Shrivastava, the school principal, said, quoted by Qatari daily The Peninsula.
A Qatar-based IT solutions provider, iNet Middle East, will implement the automated Radio Frequency Identification (Rfid)-based student tracking system in the school’s buses. iNet uses a combination of Rfid, GPS (Global Positioning System) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technologies.
Rfid is an automatic identification system that enables data to be transmitted by a portable device, called tag, read by an Rfid reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application. All the buses of BPS will be equipped with Rfid readers and each student will be given an Rfid card that incorporates GPS and GPRS technologies, with all the student’s particulars printed on it, the daily said.
The parents, through the technology, will get a text message every time the student gets on or off the bus on the way to school or home. Alert messages will also be sent to the school authorities.“This technology will give peace of mind not only to the parents but also to us,” said Shrivastava, adding parents had been consulted with regard to the scheme and they had given positive feedback.
Sunil Nair, iNet manager, said the application software displays a real-time view of the location of the bus as well as the student inside the bus at any time.
The text messages would be very specific. “For instance, if a child is still inside the bus five minutes after the vehicle’s engine is turned off, a text message will be sent to the school authorities,” he said. ACTS will be introduced in a phased manner and the school will in September launch Phase 1 that covers KG I, KG II, Class I and Class II students.
December 16, 2009
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
“The Gulf monetary union pact has come into effect,” said Kuwait’s finance minister, Mustafa al-Shamali, speaking at a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) summit in Kuwait.
The move will give the hyper-rich club of oil exporters a petro-currency of their own, greatly increasing their influence in the global exchange and capital markets and potentially displacing the US dollar as the pricing currency for oil contracts. Between them they amount to regional superpower with a GDP of $1.2 trillion (£739bn), some 40pc of the world’s proven oil reserves, and financial clout equal to that of China.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar are to launch the first phase next year, creating a Gulf Monetary Council that will evolve quickly into a full-fledged central bank.
The Emirates are staying out for now – irked that the bank will be located in Riyadh at the insistence of Saudi King Abdullah rather than in Abu Dhabi. They are expected join later, along with Oman.
The Gulf states remain divided over the wisdom of anchoring their economies to the US dollar. The Gulf currency – dubbed “Gulfo” – is likely to track a global exchange basket and may ultimately float as a regional reserve currency in its own right. “The US dollar has failed. We need to delink,” said Nahed Taher, chief executive of Bahrain’s Gulf One Investment Bank.
The project is inspired by Europe’s monetary union, seen as a huge success in the Arab world. But there are concerns that the region is trying to run before it can walk.
Europe took 40 years to reach the point where it felt ready to launch a currency. It began with the creation of the Iron & Steel Community in the 1950s, moving by steps towards a single market enforced by powerful Commission and European Court. The EMU timetable was fixed at the Masstricht in 1991 but it took another 11 for euro notes and coins to reach the streets.
Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Kalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, told the FIKR Arab Thought summit in Kuwait that the project would not work unless the Gulf countries first break down basic barriers to trade and capital flows.
At the moment, trucks sit paralysed at border posts for days awaiting entry clearance. Labour mobility between states is almost zero.
“The single currency should come last. We need to coordinate our economic policies and build up common infrastructure as a first step,” he said.
Mohammed El-Enein, chair of the energy and industry committee in Egypt’s parliament, said Europe’s example could help the Arab world achieve its half-century dream of a unified currency, but the task requires discipline. “We need exactly the same institutions as the EU has created. We need a commission, a court, and a bank,” he said.
The last currency to trade in souks from Marakesh, to Baghdad and Mecca, was the Ottomon Piaster, known as the “kurush”. It suffered chronic inflation as the silver coinage was debased.
There is a logic to an Arab currency. The region speaks one language, has the unifying creed of “Umma Wahida” or One Nation from the Koran, and has not torn itself apart in savage wars – ever – in quite the way that Europe has in living memory.
Yet hurdles are formidable even for the tight-knit group of Gulf states. While the eurozone is a club of rough equals – with Germany, France, Italy, and Spain each holding two votes on the ECB council – the Gulf currency will be dominated by Saudi Arabia. The risk is that other countries will feel like satellites. Monetary policy will inevitably be set for Riyadh’s needs.
Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paraibas, said the Gulf states may have romanticised Europe’s achievement and need to move with great care to avoid making the same errors.
“The Greek crisis has exposed the weak foundations on which the euro is built. The gap in competitiveness between core Europe and the periphery has grown wider and wider. The obvious mistake was to launch EMU without a central fiscal authority and political union, as the Bundesbank warned in the 1990s,” he said.
“The euro was created for political reasons after the fall of the Berlin Wall to lock Germany irrevocably into Europe. It was not done for economic reasons,” he said.
Ben Simpfendorfer, Asia economist for RBS and an expert on the Middle East, told the FIKR conference that the rise of China had paradoxically disrupted the case for pan-Arab economic integration.
There was a natural fit ten years ago between rich oil state and low-wage manufacturers in Egypt and Syria, but cheap exports from China have forced poorer Arab states to retreat behind barriers to shelter their industries. “The rationale for a single currency has become weaker,” he said.
The GCC also agreed to create a joint military strike force – akin to the EU’s rapid reaction force – to tackle threats such as the incursion of Yemeni Shiite rebels into Saudi territory earlier this year.
This is a major breakthrough after years of deadlock on defence cooperation.
The Sunni Gulf states are deeply concerned about the great power ambitions of Shiite Iran and its quest for nuclear weapons, to the point where the theme of a possible war between Iran and a Saudi-led constellation of states has crept into the media debate.
They nevertheless repeated on Tuesday that “any military action against Iran” by Western powers would be unacceptable.