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Showing posts from February 8, 2013
By KIMBERLY DOZIER, AP Intelligence Writer

CIA Director nominee John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee'. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Protesters from CODEPINK, a group opposed to U.S. militarism, including co-founder Medea Benjamin, center, disrupt the start of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing for John Brennan, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

CIA Director nominee John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee'. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

CIA Director nominee John Brennan, flanked by security, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Protesters from CODEPINK…

Turkey Denies U.S. Complained Over Comments Against Israel

Turkey denies that the United States expressed concerns over remarks made by the country’s officials about alleged Israeli raid in Syria.

Turkey denied on Thursday that the United States expressed concerns to Turkish authorities over remarks made by the country’s officials about an alleged Israeli raid on a military convoy and a research center near Damascus last week.

Diplomatic sources told the Turkish daily Today's Zaman that the U.S. embassy did not convey any concerns to the Turkish side over the remarks.

“There has been no initiative or a meeting in Ankara [between Turkish and US officials]. We couldn't understand what they were referring to,” the sources told the newspaper.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu criticized the Syrian government for failing to respond to the alleged Israel airstrike, suggesting that the Syrian stance raises suspicions that there is a secret deal between the two countries.

“Why has the Syrian army, which has been attacking its …

Ahmadinejad Attacked in Cairo a Second Time

An Egyptian citizen attempts to assault Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, removed by security guards.

An Egyptian citizen attempted to assault Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Cairo on Thursday evening.

According to a report in the website of the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, the assault occurred at the residence of Mojtaba Amani, the acting Iranian ambassador in Cairo, during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

The attacker attempted to physically assault Ahmadinejad as he chanted, “Down with Iran, he must leave,” Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

A journalist for the Turkish news agency Anadolu who was present at the scene said that the aggressor was swiftly removed by security guards.

This is the second attempted attack on the Iranian president during his stay in Cairo.

Earlier this week, a young Syrian man tried to assault Ahmadeinjad as he was coming out of a mosque, throwing his shoe at the Iranian president.

Egyptian security forces ar…

Israel Deploys Third Iron Dome Battery in North

A third Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has been deployed in northern Israel, a week after alleged Syria airstrike.

Israel has deployed a third Iron Dome anti-missile defense system in the northern part of the country, Israeli media said on Tuesday.

"The deployment of several Iron Dome batteries in the north of the country comes as part of the setting up of the system," an army spokesman was quoted as saying.

Last week, Israel placed two Iron Dome systems in multiple locations in the north, including in the Haifa area. The move came in response to increasing concerns that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may lose control over the chemical weapons arsenal in the country.

Tuesday’s deployment comes less than a week after an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria. The strike targeted a military complex near Damascus that a U.S. official later said contained surface-to-air missiles, and an adjacent facility said to house chemical weapons.

Israel has not commented on the attack, an…

Arab League Backs Syrian Opposition's Call for Dialogue

Arab League chief backs a call from Syria's main opposition leader to talk to Assad, but pro-Assad daily hints the offer is too late.

By Elad Benari

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Tuesday backed a call by the leader of Syria's main opposition group for talks with the Damascus regime aimed at ending nearly 23 months of bloodshed in the country, AFP reported.

Arabi also offered to play a role in any negotiations for a democratic transition in Syria, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

According to AFP, he expressed hope that "the Syrian government would respond positively to the proposal" made by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, saying it would “take advantage of every opportunity to break the cycle of violence and to end the bloodshed.”

Arabi appealed for a transition agreement for "real change that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom, democracy, social ju…

Orthodox corruption?

After decades of suppression, the Russian Orthodox Church appears to be back in favour with the country's leadership.

Less than three decades ago, it would have been unthinkable for a Russian premier to have exchanged public expressions of solidarity and goodwill with the head of the country's Orthodox Church.

For years under communism the institution had been suppressed, its priests harassed by the authorities, its churches closed or given over to communal secular pursuits, its devotees scorned for their 'superstitious' adherence to doctrines that the state and the party regarded with deep suspicion.

Indeed, the Soviet Union was the first nation to have elimination of religion as an ideological objective and tens of thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of people paid very dearly for their beliefs as a consequence.

But things have changed. Nowadays the nation's political leaders and top clerics seem to be building an extraordinarily close relationship. Last week…

Tunisia braces for mass protests

Tens of thousands expected to take to the streets after general strike is called following murder of opposition leader

Tunisia faces a general strike with tens of thousands expected to take to the streets after the murder this week of a leftist opposition leader sparked violent clashes with police.

The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) called the strike to coincide with the funeral of Shokri Belaid, a lawyer and vocal critic of the ruling Ennahda party who was shot dead outside his home on Wednesday by a lone gunman.

The strike call from Tunisia's most powerful trade union comes after the murder triggered demonstrations in both the capital, Tunis, and the central mining region of Gafsa, amid a deepening political crisis.

Belaid will be buried after weekly prayers in the Muslim country, where a long-established secular tradition has been countered by the rise of one of the region's most powerful Islamist parties.

"There's no place for violence in Tunisia's democr…

ICC orders Libya to hand over ex-spy chief

Judges at The Hague ask Tripoli to hand over Gaddafi's ex-intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi
Senussi, right, was charged alongside Gaddafi's son, left, with committing crimes during the revolution [AFP]

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have ordered Libyan authorities to immediately to hand over Abdullah al-Senussi, deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's former intelligence chief.

The written order published on Thursday sets up the latest legal showdown between the Hague-based court and Libyan authorities, who say they plan to put Senussi on trial themselves.

The ICC has indicted Senussi on crimes against humanity charges for the murder and persecution of protesters in the early days of the uprising that eventually toppled Gaddafi in 2011.

"Libya remains under obligation to comply with the surrender request," the judges said in their statement. They would decide later how to respond if the North African state continues to hold Senussi, the judges …

Iran unveils 'domestically-built fighter jet'

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Qaher-313 demonstrates Tehran's growing self-reliance in military technology field.

Iran has unveiled its newest combat jet, a domestically manufactured fighter-bomber that military officials claim can evade radar.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a ceremony broadcast on state TV that building the Qaher-313, or Dominant-313, shows Iran's will to "conquer scientific peaks".

The Qaher is one of several aircraft designs rolled out by the Iranian military since 2007.

Tehran has repeatedly claimed to have developed advanced military technologies in recent years but its claims cannot be independently verified because the country does not release technical details of its arsenals.

The country launched a self-sufficiency military programme in the 1980s to compensate for a Western weapons embargo that banned export of military technology and equipment to Iran.

Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armoured personnel carriers, missil…

UN says bribe payments soar in Afghanistan

Survey found that $3.9bn, twice the nation's domestic revenue, was paid in bribes in 2012.

A new United Nations report on corruption in Afghanistan has found that $3.9bn, twice the nation's domestic revenue, was paid in bribes in 2012.

The report, titled "Corruption in Afghanistan: Recent patterns and trends", released on Thursday, found that though corruption had dropped nine percent since 2009, the amount paid in bribes has risen by 40 per cent.

"First and foremost, most Afghans unfortunately do regard this bribery as a fact of life", Jean-Luc Lemahieu, regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, told Al Jazeera.

The survey of 7,000 Afghans suggested that half the population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official in 2012. Further, 68 percent per cent of those surveyed cited low wages as an acceptable reason for demanding bribes.

At well over $300 each, judges and prosecutors received the highest average payment…

HRW: Hundreds of Afghan Children Killed in US Attacks

By Human Rights Watch

February 08, 2013 "RAWA" -- (Geneva) – The United States government should promptly carry out the recommendations of a United Nations committee of experts to improve protection of children abroad from armed conflict. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report and recommendations to the US government on February 5, 2013.

The committee raised a number of concerns regarding US practices during armed conflict that were harmful to children, Human Rights Watch said. The committee said it was “alarmed” at reports of the deaths of hundreds of children from US attacks and air strikes in Afghanistan since the committee last reviewed US practices in 2008. It also expressed “deep concern” at the arrest and detention of children in Afghanistan, laws that exclude former child soldiers from securing asylum in the US, and presidential waivers to US laws that have allowed governments using child soldiers to receive US military assistance.

“The US can and…

Targeting the Iranian Threat to “Stability”

Israel Enters SyriaBy Ben Schreiner February 08, 2013 "Counterpunch" -With its air strikes against targets inside Syria last week, Israel announced its formal entry into the Syrian crisis.  The Israeli targeting of Iran has thus entered the Syrian theater. According to McClatchy, the Israeli strikes on January 30 targeted anti-aircraft missiles at a military base outside of Damascus.  The missiles, according to Israeli intelligence sources, were headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Israel relies heavily on the strength of our air force, and its strategic deterrence,” an Israeli official explained to McClatchy. “Weapons systems that make our air force vulnerable will not be allowed to fall into the hands of terrorist groups.” Accordingly, Washington reacted to the Israeli assault by sternly warning Damascus.  “Syria,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes warned, “should not further destabilize the region by transferring weaponry to Hezbollah.” Washington, in other…

U.S. Goading Japan into Confrontation with China

“………..Their defeat Doth by their own insinuation grow. ‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes Between the pass and fell incensèd points Of mighty opposites.” – Hamlet on the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
February 08, 2013   - At the height of the 2012 election campaign in late October, a U.S. delegation tiptoed into Japan and then China with scant media coverage.   It was “unofficial,” but Hillary Clinton gave it her blessing.  And it was headed by two figures high in the imperial firmament, Richard L. Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State for George W. Bush; and Joseph S. Nye Jr., a former Pentagon and intelligence official in the Clinton administration and Dean Emeritus of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  The delegation also included James B. Steinberg, who served as the Deputy Secretary of State in the Obama administration and Stephen J. Hadley, Bush Two’s national security adviser. The delegation was billed as an attempt by the U.S. to defuse tensions be…