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Stopping Extremist Settlers


August 16, 2012

Late this past June, a group of Israeli settlers in the West Bank defaced and burned a mosque in the small West Bank village of Jabaa. Graffiti sprayed by the vandals warned of a “war” over the planned evacuation, ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court, of a handful of houses illegally built on private Palestinian land near the settlement of Beit El. The torching of the mosque was part of a wider trend of routine violence committed by radical settlers against innocent Palestinians, Israeli security personnel, and even mainstream settler leaders — all aimed at intimidating perceived enemies of the settlement project.

Syrian Rebels Put Captured Iranian Drones on YouTube‏



Preparing for War with China

James Holmes

August 16, 2012

For an operational concept that has never been published, the U.S. military’s AirSea Battle doctrine has elicited some fiery commentary. Or maybe it stokes controversy precisely because the armed forces haven’t made it official. Its details are subject to speculation. The chief source of information about it remains an unclassified, unofficial study published in 2010 by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Diplomacy is the best tool for Iran


 By Nicholas Burns

August 16, 2012

 Are we are on a collision course to war with Iran? With negotiations flagging, sanctions inconclusive, and an intransigent Iran speeding boldly ahead with its nuclear enrichment program, the US government appears determined to stop Iran one way or another.

My Harvard colleague, Graham Allison, calls it “a Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” Iran and the United States are like two trains hurtling toward each other on the same track in a breakneck game of diplomatic chicken.

This arresting scenario was the major take-away from the meeting of the nonpartisan Aspen Strategy Group (of which I am the director) last week. Few of the former senior government officials, journalists, and academics present were clamoring for a fight with Iran, especially after the bitter wars we have fought in Muslim countries since 9/11. But many believe an attack by the United States is likely in the next year or two unless something alters our calculus.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspends Syria

16 August 2012

Asma Alsharif

MECCA (Reuters) - The Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria on Thursday, citing President Bashar al-Assad's suppression of the Syrian revolt, but there was little support for direct military involvement in Syria at a summit of Muslim leaders in Mecca.

Summit host Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate Syria diplomatically and has also backed calls for the Syrian rebel opposition to be armed, which Foreign Minister Saud al-Fasial described in February as "an excellent idea".

But speaking to reporters after the summit, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said he "did not see much support for external military intervention" in Syria during the summit.

Climate change and the Syrian uprising

By Shahrzad Mohtadi

16 August 2012

A drought unparalleled in recent Syrian history lasted from 2006 to 2010 and led to an unprecedented mass migration of 1.5 million people from farms to urban centers.
Because the Assad regime's economic policies had largely ignored water issues and sustainable agriculture, the drought destroyed many farming communities and placed great strain on urban populations.

Kurds see increasing influence in Middle East


Deutsche Welle
16 August 2012

As the Assad regime loses ground in the Syrian civil war, ethnic Kurds are gaining more and more leverage. Kurdish leaders have not been able to unify, but neighboring countries are already alarmed.

For a long time it was relatively quiet in Syria's Kurdish regions. As people in the south and west of the country took to the streets to protest against President Bashar Assad, there were few such demonstrations in northeastern Syria, which is home mostly to ethnic Kurds. Young Kurds soon joined the rebellion against the regime, but most of the rest of the population took a wait-and-see approach.

As an ethnic minority, the Kurds did not want to end up between the front lines. For many years, the Assad regime discriminated against the Kurds and even denied their existence in Syria. But as the pressure on the regime grew, Assad offered them Syrian citizenship, hoping to buy their neutrality. It now appears as though a large portion of the Syrian Kurds have not openly come out against Assad because his government tolerates that they have a considerable degree of autonomy in their region of the country.

Largest ethnic group without a country

Turkish soldiers and tanks wait in front of Gecimli military base where Kurdish rebels attacked near Hakkari, Turkey 05 August 2012<br />
(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++ epa03342821<br />

Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels have frequently clashed along the Iraqi border

The autonomy alarms neighboring Turkey where the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) has been fighting a three-decade-old insurrection using ambushes and bomb attacks to gain their own state or at least autonomy.

The Kurds are considered to be the world's largest ethnic minority without their own country. Population estimates range widely from 30 million to 38 million Kurds with most of them living in Turkey (13 million to 16 million), Iran (6 million to 8 million), Iraq (roughly 6 million) and Syria (1.5 million to 2.0 million). The fifth largest population of Kurds lives outside the region in Germany (650,000). Other, traditional, population centers can be found in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The violent struggle between the PKK and Turkey has cost the lives of more than 40,000 people. Following the arrest and imprisonment of its leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, the PKK has lost influence, but the situation of Kurds in Turkey has improved over the years, not least because the government in Ankara has applied to join the European Union. Kurdish hopes for more autonomy, however, have not been fulfilled.

Northern Iraq as a model

President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masud Barzani speaks to the press in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010. Barzani confirmed the Kurds, the bloc that came in fourth place in the election, will retain the presidency the second highest position in Iraq's political structure. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Iraqi Kurd autonomy is a model for Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran

That's why for many Turkish Kurds developments in northern Iraq are serving as a model for the future. The majority of people living there are Kurds. Under the protection of the United States, a self-ruling Kurdish administration has evolved since 1991. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Kurds were able to secure broad autonomy in the region. Political stability and income from oil production have ensured that the region has largely prospered. There is also a functioning parliament and government under President Masud Barzani.

For several weeks now, some cities in Syria along the Turkish border have been under Kurdish control. The Syrian army has partially withdrawn to its barracks in the area. The Democratic Union Party (PYD), considered an offshoot of the PKK, is essentially running the show.

Unclear position

A member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, trains on a weapon at their camp in the Qandil mountains near the Turkish border with northern Iraq. (ddp images/AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)

The PKK has not given up its fight for more rights in Turkey

What aims the PYD is ultimately pursuing is unclear, said Sonor Cagaptay, a Turkey expert with the Washington Institute. The PYD recently pledged not to fight against Turkey any longer.

"We will see whether the PYD has cut its ties to the PKK when the Assad regime falls," Cagaptay said. "Then, we will see if the PYD continues to spare Turkey or if it goes back to its origins."

The relationship between the PYD and the Assad regime is also not clear, according to the Kurdish Islam expert Kamiran Hudsch. "At the beginning of the revolution, the members of this party were called the 'shabiha' of the Kurds," he said in a reference to the Assad-loyal shabiha militias in Syria. "Whether or not they are loyal to the regime is unclear," he added.

Many observers suspect that the PYD is working with the Assad regime, said Hudsch. At least, both sides appear to be benefitting from the current situation. The PYD can expand its influence in Syria's Kurdish areas and beyond the borders and northern Syria is again a safe haven for Turkish PKK fighters.

Fear of spreading war

Turkish soldiers patrol in the province of Sirnak, on the Turkish-Iraqi border, southeastern Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007.<br />
(AP Photo/Ibrahim Usta)

Turkish soldiers patrol the mountainous southeast of the country

Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, is pressuring Syria's Kurds to work together with the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). The rebels fighting in the Free Syrian Army are formally answerable to the SNC. At the same time, Barzani has maintained contacts with the Assad regime in Damascus. So far, Kurdish organizations have not actively participated in the fight against Assad's forces because many fear otherwise the fighting could spill over into the Kurdish areas.

Turkey is annoyed that Assad is leaving the Kurds alone. "The rebellion of the Syrian people has allowed the Kurds to demand what the Iraqi Kurds already have," said Cagaptay from the Washington Institute. "That will lead to Turkish and Iranian Kurds saying they want to be next."

The dream of national sovereignty

A Kurdish village in Iran.<br />
Source MEHR<br />

This village in Iran is one of many remote Kurdish communities

Many people in Turkey have voiced concern that the Turkish Kurds want to set up an independent Kurdistan with their ethnic brethren in Syria, Iraq and Iran. And, at the moment, it seems the Kurds are in the strongest position in their history to make the dream of national sovereignty come true.

However, the Kurds also have a long tradition of inner conflict; one example being the long confrontation between the two Iraqi Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Masud Barzani. The differences were only put aside in favor of an alliance when it became clear that the end of Saddam Hussein's regime was near.

Many observers, therefore, are skeptical that a Kurdish state could become a reality. But one thing, at least, is clear: Efforts to found their own nation would turn Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran against them.


U.S. Reliance on Saudi Oil Heads Back Up


Cliffors Krauss, New York Times
16 August 2012

HOUSTON — The United States is increasing its dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia, raising its imports from the kingdom by more than 20 percent this year, even as fears of military conflict in the tinderbox Persian Gulf region grow.

Syria crisis: Blast near Damascus military compound


15 August 2012


A large explosion has struck close to a military compound in the Syrian capital, Damascus, near a hotel used by the UN's observer mission.

Possible war with Iran could be month-long affair: Israel minister

Wed Aug 15, 2012

(Reuters) - War with Iran would probably turn into a month-long conflict on various fronts with missile strikes on Israeli cities and some 500 dead, Israel's civil defense minister said in an interview published on Wednesday.

Are Reports of al-Qaida in Syria Exaggerated?

Der Spiegel

15 August 2012

Intelligence reports claim that members of the al-Qaida terrorist network are streaming into Syria to join the rebel ranks. But the rebels deny the allegations and say that jihadists are not welcome. In any case, it is the Assad regime that has long had ties to al-Qaida.

Wave of Suicides Shocks Greece

Der Spiegel

15 August 2012

Greece has always had one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but its economic crisis has triggered a disturbing increase in the number of people killing themselves. Are the deaths the result of personal desperation or are people making a political statement with the only thing they have left to sacrifice?

US says Iran forming pro-regime militia in Syria

By Mathieu Rabechault | AFP

The United States on Tuesday accused Iran of setting up a pro-regime militia in Syria as Washington increasingly ties the crisis there to interference by its long-time foe Tehran.

Mali army gives ECOWAS troops conditions

15 August 2012

Mali's military on Tuesday rejected the deployment of any foreign West African soldiers to the capital, saying any regional intervention could only take place in the North of the country, currently occupied by Islamist groups.

The comments, after talks between West African defense chiefs and Malian authorities, are likely to dismay regional leaders who have been seeking to shore up a weak civilian administration in Bamako before helping the local army take on a mix of gunmen including some from al Qaeda.

Mali faces a twin crisis after rebel fighters took advantage of the void following a March 22 coup to seize the North.

Israel Plans Iran Strike; Citizens Say Government Serious


15 August 2012

Dozens of Israelis crowded in front of a storefront at a Jerusalem shopping mall yesterday to pick up new gas masks, part of civil defense preparations in case the military strikes Iran and the Islamic Republic or its allies retaliate.“Our leaders seem to have gotten very hawkish in their speeches and this time it seems they mean what they say,” said Yoram Lands, 68, a professor of business administration, who was picking up new masks for himself and his wife at a distribution center in the mall.

Warning on missing

Cyprus Weekly

15 August 2012

NICOSIA - Executive Secretary of the Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons Nicos Theodosiou has warned that if Turkey does not cooperate with the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) then half of the missing persons in Cyprus will remain missing.

Morphou protests

Cyprus Weekly

15 August 2012

NICOSIA - The municipality of the occupied town of Morphou, organisations and associations of the district will hold a series of events Thursday to mark the 38th anniversary of the occupation of Morphou and the broader district by the advancing Turkish troops, on August 16, 1974.
A delegation led by the Mayor of the occupied town will hand over a protest resolution to the Ambassadors of the five UN Security Council permanent members and the Representation of the European Commission.

Egypt's president has powers that rival Mubarak's

Hamza Hendawi

USA Today

15 August 2012

CAIRO – Egypt's Islamist president has given himself the right to legislate and control over the drafting of a new constitution. He has installed at the top of the powerful military a defense minister likely to be beholden to him.

Europe, Politics

Why Germans love the enigmatic Angela Merkel

Jochen Hung

The Guardian

15 August 2012

She is "Europe's most dangerous leader", the "Iron Frau" who is "dragging us towards the abyss". Angela Merkel's handling of the euro crisis, it is safe to say, has not been met with approval on the world stage.

Creative Chaos: 'Outlaws, smugglers US proxies in looting of Syria'‏

The world's biggest global body outside the UN - Organization of Islamic Cooperation - is suspending Syria's membership. Iran's the only member of the bloc to have openly spoken out 'against'…