•  ISIS Lebanon as Next Target
  • Weak MHP support to AKP
  • Turkey looks depressing
  • Fethullah Gulen
  • Union Jack
  •  Arab summit
  • North Korea

Use the menu below to find specific articles with various combinations (i.e. Area: Middle East and Topic: Economy will provide all articles related to Economy for Middle East)

Bleak prospects for no-fly zone as proxy war grips Syria


Deutsche Welle, 14 August 2012

With the UN peace plan in tatters, regional battle lines are being drawn in Syria. Calls for a no-fly zone have grown, but the West remains reluctant to intervene during an election year and an economic crisis.

As Syria enters its 18th month of bloodshed, the conflict there has increasingly become a regional proxy war, with the United States and its allies - particularly Turkey - facing the difficult question of how to proceed in the wake of the failure of diplomacy to end the violence.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at news conference during the ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, June 7, 2012. Clinton on Thursday condemned the Syrian government for new reports of "simply unconscionable" violence, accusing President Bashar Assad of intensifying a crackdown of a national uprising that has already killed thousands. (Foto:AP/dapd)

Clinton announced the creation of a working group with Turkey

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Istanbul over the weekend, where she met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss what she called ways to "hasten the end of the bloodshed and (President Bashar) Assad's regime."

When asked by a reporter whether establishing safety or no-fly zones was under consideration,she indicated that both Washington and Istanbul were actively weighing the pros and cons of a military intervention.

"It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions," Clinton told a press conference after her meeting with the Turkish foreign minister on Saturday. "But you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning. And we share not only the frustration, but the anger and outrage of the Syrian people at what this regime continues to do."

As the civil war in Syria has escalated, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated and increasingly strained the resources of neighboring countries, particularly Turkey. The UN refugee agency reports that almost 150,000 Syrians have fled their homeland since the uprising began, with at least 50,000 taking refuge in Turkey alone.

According to the UN, the widespread and indiscriminate use of warplanes and helicopter gunships by the government against rebel forces in the city of Aleppo has led to a spike in the stream of refugees. Meanwhile, Western nations have expressed concern that the Assad regime could use its alleged chemical weapons in an act of desperation, or simply lose control of them as Syria slides toward collapse.

"The range of contingencies people are discussing is very much larger and there's going to be a broader debate about responses, including a no-fly zone," Ian Lesser, director of the Transatlantic Center with the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, told DW.

Reluctance in the West

Although the resignation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has sparked discussion among some NATO member states about using airpower to establish a no-fly zone, there's little appetite for military intervention after a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"First of all, there's the ongoing presidential campaign in the United States and the fact now that Europe is in the midst of a major euro crisis," Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkish politics with Chatham House in London, told DW.

"So at the current time, I do not think the conditions are right for the Western powers and its regional partners to implement - unilaterally - a no fly-zone outside of the remit of the United Nations Security Council," Hakura added.

Syrian refugees stroll at Reyhanli refugee camp in Hatay province on the Turkish-Syrian border March 15, 2012.

Turkey is housing tens of thousands of refugees and as well as the Free Syrian Army

China and Russia have already used their Security Council veto power to block three resolutions aimed at putting pressure on the Assad regime. Beijing and Moscow have drawn a redline, making it clear that they will oppose any diplomatic move that could open the door to a Libya-style intervention in Syria.

"In the UN Security Council it would be very difficult to get a mandate because of continued Chinese and Russian and potentially other opposition," Lesser said. "So the notion of intervention without a solid international mandate, the enthusiasm for this is clearly limited."

According to Lesser, deadlock at the Security Council is "a complicating factor, but it's not necessarily a limiting one" for the West. Washington and its allies have the capability to intervene in Syria, as they did in Kosovo, without a United Nations mandate. But there remains a more fundamental issue of what a military intervention could realistically achieve.

"There's this big open question - politically, what can you do usefully with the use of force? It's not clear," Lesser said. "The Syrian military is by all accounts much more capable than the Libyan military."

The regional proxy war

As Western nations mull the risks of using military force, the major regional powers are already deepening their involvement in Syria's civil war. Rebel forces in Damascus kidnapped 48 Iranians earlier this month, some of whom have been confirmed by Tehran to be retired members of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard.

The Syrian opposition has long claimed that Iran and the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah are providing active military support to the Assad regime. Meanwhile, the Sunni Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are reportedly supplying weapons to Syrian rebel groups. Turkey, for its part, has provided a sanctuary on its soil to the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA).

"The Syrian conflict is not really about Syria per se, but it has come to symbolize the regional struggle that is taking place between the United States, its Gulf Arab partners, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and most of the north African countries and European partners on one side," Hakura said. "Then on the other you have Russia, China, Iran, and the Baathist regime in Syria."

The Sunni states in the Middle East are keen to hasten the collapse of the Assad regime. They are betting that by eliminating Tehran's Syrian ally, they can break the back of the "axis of resistance" - the alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Redlines in Syria

So far, the Western nations such as the US and the UK have publicly limited themselves to providing non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. That aid primarily consists of communications equipment, which experts such as Hakura say is intended to strengthen and centralize the rebels' weak and chaotic command-and-control capabilities.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r) welcomes his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad at the presidential palace in Tehran, Iran, on 19 August 2009 . Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived 19 August in Tehran for a one-day visit and started talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the presidential office. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH +++(c) dpa - Report+++<br />
---<br />

Western and Sunni Arab states want to break the Tehran-Damascus alliance

The West has acted with caution and stopped short of directly supplying the rebels with weapons out of concern that Islamist fundamentalists could be infiltrating their ranks. Both the Guardian and the Long War Journal have reported that militant groups, such as the al Nusra front, are operating with the secular Free Syrian Army. Al Nusra has alleged ties with al Qaeda affiliates that cut their teeth during the US occupation of Iraq.

Although cautious, there are certain redlines that could precipitate a Western military intervention in the Syrian civil war. Lesser says that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, or if those weapons fall into the hands of the aforementioned Islamist groups, Washington would likely intervene. A sharp escalation of the humanitarian crisis that destabilizes neighboring states could also mobilize a coalition of Western nations to act.

And unlike the Libyan conflict, the Syrian civil war and the resulting refugee crisis are unfolding across the border from a major NATO member state - Turkey.

"Turkey is a NATO ally," Lesser said. "If Turkey is attacked by Syrian forces, this could conceivably become a so-called NATO Article 5 contingency in which an attack on one is an attack on all."

"Turkey's NATO allies would be obliged to come to Turkey's assistance and so it would become a US military contingency as a matter of alliance solidarity," he continued. "I don't think that's likely but it's not inconceivable."

Syria is a crossroads in the Mideast, a nation where a mosaic of ethno-religious and tribal groups have loyalties that stretch across national borders into the rest of the region. The outcome of the Syrian conflict is likely to play a decisive role in the regional power game - one which is escalating.

"This is not a place that is marginal to the future of the Middle East," Lesser said. "It is, like Egypt, a place that is very central to the future of the Middle East. There's a great deal at stake."


Greece, Cyprus, Israel to talk gas

Kathimerini, 14 August 2012

A meeting between officials of Greece, Cyprus and Israel is being lined up for September so the three countries can agree on transporting natural gas from the Southeastern Mediterranean to the European market.

An Act of Self-Preservation: Why Iran Wants the Bomb

The Diplomat

14 August 2012

The real roots of Iran’s nuclear program lie not in physics - but in Iran's own sense of history.

Exactly ten years ago today the Iranian opposition group, Mujahideen al-Khalq (MeK), revealed the full details of a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak in Iran. Since then Iran and the international community- since 2006, the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) -have been locked in a diplomatic battle that has ground to a stalemate.

Preparing for a post-Assad Syria

Deutsche Welle

13 August 2012

Syria's President Bashar Assad is still clinging to power. But many governments are expecting his regime to fall - and are planning for what comes next.

It was only eighteen months ago that the US government sent an ambassador back to Syria. But Robert Stephen Ford did not stay long. In October 2011, after only ten months, the American envoy left again - for safety reasons, Washington said. The peaceful protests of the Syrian population against their government had turned into a violent conflict. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad has come under heavy international pressure for sanctioning brutal attacks against his own people.

Invitation from Paris


Sarkozy welcomes Assad to Paris for a national holiday

Syrian opposition calls for no-fly zone

Al Jazeera

12 August 2012

A Syrian opposition official has asked for no-fly zones across Syria and safe havens patrolled by foreign forces near the borders with Jordan and Turkey.

Abdel basset Sida, head of the Syrian National Council, said the United States had realised that the absence of a no-fly zone to counter President Basher al-Assad's air superiority has hindered rebel movements in the country.

Egypt News — Revolution and Aftermath

New York Times

12 August 2012

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, and its revolution in February 2011 was the capstone event of the Arab Spring, inspiring demonstrators in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

But in June 2012, a series of events threw the country’s troubled transition to democracy deeper into confusion as Egypt’s two most powerful forces — the military establishment and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group — moved toward a showdown. A swift series of steps by the military and its allies in the judiciary left many observers in Egypt and the West wondering if they were witnessing a subtle military coup, or even a counterrevolution.

With no progress in sight, Turkish Cypriots await UN to declare talks dead


12 August 2012

Almost exactly four years after Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders launched talks on reuniting the divided island under the UN auspices, a breakthrough is as unlikely as ever. Frustrated with the lack of settlement and persisting international isolation, the Turkish Cypriot leadership says it may be long overdue for the UN to tell the world the obvious truth that no solution is in sight, so that the Turkish Cypriots can move beyond a limbo they have been stuck in for years.

Intervention into Syria already underway'‏


The escalating militarization of the Syrian conflict only favors foreign players' interests, claims Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute of Policy Studies, and…

Syria: What's Behind the Conflict‏



Syria has become the bloodiest uprising of the Arab Spring and has now descended into a full-blown civil war. Find out what's behind the conflict and what's at stake for the international community.…

Saudi Arabia and Iran pick sides in Syrian conflict‏


Tehran has declared Syria a fellow member of what it terms "the axis of resistance" to US influence, meaning American hopes for an end to President Assad may prove premature. And then there's the…

Syrian Rebels Claim to Have Brought Down a Jet


Published: August 13, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian rebels claimed on Monday that they had brought down a Syrian fighter jet for the first time as battles raged in Aleppo and Damascus, and the United Nations said it had removed a third of its observers in advance of its mandate expiring later this month.



The developments — three weeks into a ground battle for Aleppo, and as fighting spreads in Damascus, Dara’a and other areas — highlight the conflict’s recent spiral away from diplomacy and toward widening war.

Powerful uncle of North Korea leader in China to talk business

By Jack Kim


Mon Aug 13, 2012

(Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle and the man seen as the power behind the young and untested dictator went to Beijing on Monday in the latest signal that the reclusive state is looking seriously at ways to revive its broken economy.

For some Assad loyalists, a gory death at rebel hands


13 August 2012

(Reuters) - Disturbing footage of Syrian rebels slitting the throat of a blindfolded young man and throwing bodies off a rooftop to a cheering crowd below have appeared on YouTube.

It was not possible to independently verify the authenticity or the circumstances in which the videos were recorded and some activists argue that one of them was staged by supporters of President Bashar al-Assad to discredit the rebels.

Egyptian Leader Ousts Military Chief


Published: August 12, 2012

CAIRO — President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt forced the retirement on Sunday of his powerful defense minister, the army chief of staff and several senior generals, in a stunning purge that seemed for the moment to reclaim for civilian leaders much of the political power the Egyptian military had seized since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year.

Mr. Morsi also nullified a constitutional declaration, issued by the military before he was elected, that eviscerated the powers of the presidency and arrogated to the military the right to pass laws. It was not immediately clear whether he had the constitutional authority to cancel that decree.

Syrian rebels need no-fly zone-opposition leader

By Hadeel Al Shalchi


Sun Aug 12, 2012

(Reuters) - Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad need the protection of foreign-guarded no-fly zones and safe havens near the borders with Jordan and Turkey, a Syrian opposition leader said on Sunday.

Battles raged on in the northern city of Aleppo, where tanks, artillery and snipers attacked rebels in the Saif al-Dawla district next to the devastated area of Salaheddine.

Al Qaeda-linked insurgent targeted in Ghazni raid

By Bill Roggio

August 12, 2012

Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured "three suspected insurgents" during a raid that targeted an al Qaeda associate who operates in the southeastern province of Ghazni.

The combined special operations team attempted to capture the "al Qaeda associated insurgent" during a raid in the Gelan district in Ghazni today, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. It is unclear if he was captured during the raid.

Iran's ties to Latin America worry U.S.

Stewart M. Powell

12 August 2012

Washington - Ever since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck a deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for weekly air service between the nations' distant capitals, American officials have worried that Iranian-backed terrorists could reach the rim of Latin America, pick up fake Venezuelan passports and sneak into the United States.

Now, with growing talk of a pre-emptive attack by Israel to slow Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program, Iran has threatened that it would retaliate across the globe. And Iran's easy access to the Western Hemisphere has U.S. officials particularly concerned.

Morsi retires defense minister, suspends interim constitution

Deutsche Welle

12 August 2012

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has sent Defense Minister and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi into retirement. He also suspended changes made to the constitution by the military.

Tantawi was replaced by Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, while the head of the armed forces, Sami Anan, was also ordered to retire with immediate affect, according to a presidential spokesman.

Turkey signals to US, may go ahead ‘solo' with safety zones in Syria


12 August 2012

While NATO allies Turkey and the US have started synchronizing their contingency operation plans for Syria amid the influx of thousands of refugees into Turkey in recent days, Turkey has made it clear that it will go ahead with setting up “safety zone” pockets inside Syrian territory to handle the mounting humanitarian crisis.

Europe’s solidarity imperative


12 August 2012

LONDON –- When Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, publicly proclaimed that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to ensure the future stability of the euro, the effect of his remarks was immediate and remarkable.