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Showing posts from February 11, 2013

Bulgarian Charge of Hezbollah Bombing Was an “Assumption”

By Gareth Porter

-- LONDON, - Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov’s dramatic announcement Tuesday on the Bulgarian investigation of the July 2012 terror bombing of an Israeli tourist bus was initially reported by Western news media as suggesting clear evidence of Hezbollah’s responsibility for the killings.

But more accurate reports on the minister’s statement and the only details he provided reveal that the alleged link between the bomb suspects and Hezbollah was merely an “assumption” rather than a conclusion based on specific evidence.

Tsvetanov was quoted by various Western news outlets as saying, “We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” The minister also said, “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects,” according to the BBC and Jerusalem Post.

Those statements implied that the Bulgarian investigators had uncovered direct evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Burgas bombing.

But th…

Officials: Iran and Hizbullah Building Militia Network in Syria

Iran and Hizbullah are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve their interests in the event that Assad falls.

Iran and Hizbullah, its Lebanese terror proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials told The Washington Post on Sunday.

According to the sources, the militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. Officials believe, however, that Iran’s long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in place in the event that Syria fractures into separate ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria.

“It’s a big operation,” the official told The Washington Post. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to …

Iran Resumes Converting Uranium Into Fuel

Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats say.

Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats said on Sunday.

If this process is expanded, it could buy time for negotiations between Washington and Tehran on its disputed nuclear program, the diplomats from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna told Reuters.

The possibility of Iran converting enriched uranium into fuel, slowing a growth in stockpiles of material that could be used to make weapons, is one of the few ways in which the nuclear dispute could avoid hitting a crisis by the summer.

The diplomats said that Tehran could otherwise have amassed sufficient stock by June to hit a "red line" set by Israel after which it has indicated it could attack to prevent Iran acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA diplomats said that Iran had appa…

Lawmakers propose giving federal judges role in drone strikes, but hurdles await

A proposal to give federal ­judges a direct role in the nation’s drone campaign gained new momentum this week with a signal from senior lawmakers that they intend to consider creating a special court to oversee the selection of targets for lethal strikes.

But the idea — cited by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), among others, as a way to impose new accountability on the drone program — faces significant legal and logistical hurdles, according to U.S. officials and legal experts.

Analysis found that the weapons the administration was comfortable with would not have “tipped the scales.”

Among the main obstacles is almost-certain opposition from the executive branch to a dilution of the president’s authority to protect the country against looming threats. Others include the difficulty of putting judges in a position to approve the killing of individuals — possibly including American citizens — even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

In more practical terms, U.S. officials expressed …

U.S. said to be target of massive cyber-espionage campaign

By Ellen Nakashima,

A new intelligence assessment has concluded that the United States is the target of a massive, sustained cyber-espionage campaign that is threatening the country’s economic competitiveness, according to individuals familiar with the report.

The National Intelligence Estimate identifies China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of American businesses and institutions to gain access to data that could be used for economic gain.

Analysis found that the weapons the administration was comfortable with would not have “tipped the scales.”

The report, which represents the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, describes a wide range of sectors that have been the focus of hacking over the past five years, including energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotives, according to the individuals familiar with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified document. The assessment does …

Dunford takes charge of NATO in Afghanistan

General expected to be last commander of NATO and US forces there, as combat troops are set to withdraw by end of 2014.

The command of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan is changing hands, with Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford taking over from General John Allen.

Dunford is expected to be the force's last commander, with the US committed to removing its combat troops from the country by the end of 2014.

"Today is not about change, it's about continuity. What has not changed is the will of this coalition," Dunford said in a change-of-command ceremony for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul on Sunday.

Afghan forces are expected to take over the lead role for security in Afghanistan this spring. The international force plans to hand over full responsibility for security to the Afghans by the end of 2014, with most international combat forces being withdrawn.

Former Iraq commander

Dunford will assume command of 68,000 US troops who make up the bulk of the c…

More than 100 dead in South Sudan cattle raid

Governor of Jonglei state says 103 people, including women and children, killed in latest outbreak of tribal violence.


Heavily armed rebels have killed more than 100 people, including women and children, in a cattle raid in South Sudan's Jonglei state, local officials have said.

Kuol Manyang Juuk, the governor of Jonglei state, said on Sunday that 103 people died in the Friday clash in Akobo County.

Juuk said 17 of the attackers were killed and that 14 soldiers from South Sudan's military, the SPLA, who were accompanying the cattle-moving tribe also died. Northeastern Jonglei state has been wracked by massive bouts of tribal violence for years.

The United Nations says more than 2,600 violence-related deaths were reported in Jonglei from January 2011 to September 2012, and account for more than half of reported deaths in South Sudan.

Akobo County Commissioner Goi Joyul said the attack took place during a yearly migration in which members of the Lou Nuer ethnic group were driving …

Mali rebels launch guerrilla attack on Gao

French general says armed rebels used canoes to cross Niger River for surprise strike o
n Malian army in northern city

An armed rebel group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, has claimed responsibility for an attack on the city of Gao in northern Mali and a suicide bombing the day before.

Fighters armed with AK-47 automatic rifles sneaked into Gao on Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the Malian army in the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops routed the al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

The attackers used canoes to cross the Niger River to penetrate Gao, according to French General Bernard Barera, who cited Malian officials.

The combat started at about 2:00pm local time (14:00 GMT) in Gao's commercial hub and the fighting was continuing as night fell.

Later, the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of helicopters overhead. The AFP news agency, citing Malian troops, reported that a loud explosion was also heard on…