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PostPosted: 21 Mar 2012 16:33 
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Destroy all churches in Gulf, says Saudi Grand Mufti

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The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” following Kuwait’s moves to ban their construction.

Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country, Arabic media have reported.


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012 16:19 
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Bangladesh PM staffers humiliate Saudi ambassador

In stitching a complex oil-for-food deal, India sets about placating Iran
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Also woos Saudi Arabia with new petroleum diplomacy, while trying to soothe a vexed US, in an interesting coordination effort between external and other ministries
Jyoti Malhotra / New Delhi Mar 21, 2012, 00:32 IST

India is finally plunging into the oil politics of the Gulf and West Asia. It sent a team of senior officials from the commerce ministry to Iran around a fortnight earlier, to clinch an oil-for-food deal. And, is beginning to woo the Sunni oil kingdoms in the region, led by none other than Saudi Arabia.

Arvind Mehta, joint secretary in the ministry of commerce and as many as 70 members of the government-backed Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) met their counterparts in Teheran in an attempt to clinch a $1billion deal to sell rice, wheat, tea and pharmaceuticals to Iran, so as to partially offset India’s huge purchases of Iranian crude, of $12 bn annually.

At 12 per cent, Iran is only second to Saudi Arabia, India’s largest source of its energy needs. It is why the wooing of Saudi Arabia is also in substantial flow in Delhi these days. And, major plans are afoot in Delhi to also receive the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, whose country is already a large source of oil and gas, as well as the fellow-sheikhs of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Energy reality
This dexterous diplomacy, in which the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has allowed the commerce ministry to take the lead in tackling extremely sensitive issues relating to India’s energy needs, comes as quite a surprise. Clearly, ceding space to the commerce ministry also means the MEA is creating for itself essential room for deniability. But it also means that irrespective of the struggle for the top foreign affairs profile between commerce minister Anand Sharma and external affairs minister S M Krishna, several parts of the government are at last working in tandem on cracking India’s energy conundrum.

Last month’s visit by defence minister A K Antony to Saudi Arabia followed a January decision by India to lift the 6.5 per cent anti-dumping duty on the export of polypropylene from there. Polypropylene is used in the manufacture of plastics and had become a thorn in the flesh of the growing India-Saudi relationship. None other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been requested to remove the duty when he went visiting the Saudis about a year before.

The decision to send a team to Iran last week has been cloaked in considerable secrecy and came about after several rounds of both heart and hand-wringing, in which all parts of the establishment argued about what was to be done.

Government sources say there were two realities to be dealt with. First, energy-hungry India needed to continue to purchase Iranian crude, even as all efforts were made to reduce exposure to Iran and look for alternative sources of fuel, for example from Saudi Arabia.

Second, it would take at least a few years for India (and, especially, the Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd) to completely wean itself off Iran’s sweet and light crude.


India certainly did not want to be seen to be the only country breaking the US-led sanctions against Iran, especially as the Americans had become an important political and economic partner for Delhi.

The only via media, the government decided, was to increase Indian exports to Iran which would be exempt from US sanctions, besides allocating about 45 per cent of the oil trade to a rupee- Iranian rial mechanism.

During the Teheran visit, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for western Asia affairs, Ahmad Sobhani, was quoted by state television as confirming this decision, after he had met the Indian team. “At the moment, we have around $12 billion worth of trade with India. Some part of this will be directly in rupees and this will be beneficial for both countries,” Sobhani said. By replacing the dollar with the rupee, many middle channels in the India-Iran trade will be removed, he added.

The visiting Indian team agreed that over the next few years, bilateral trade with Iran could touch $25 billion yearly.

The FIEO team, consisting of private businessmen with hardly any or no dealings with the US, were said to be interested in the commodity deals with Iran, because government backing meant considerably reduced risk. It was also reported that the Iranian Bank Parsian would be allowed to open an office in Mumbai and India’s UCO Bank would be the lead Indian one doing business with Iran.


US vexation
Government sources admitted India’s Iranian connection was hardly going to go down well with the Americans, but said the country had little alternative. “India is hardly the sanction-buster it is being made out to be in the US,” said the sources.

Certainly, the Americans are not impressed. Nicholas Burns, former US under secretary of state for political affairs, who was involved in the negotiations for the Indo-US nuclear deal, put it succinctly: “India’s decision to walk out of step with the international community on Iran isn’t just a slap in the face for the US — it raises questions about its ability to lead,” he said in an article in the Diplomat, a leading US current affairs magazine.

“It represents a real setback in the attempt by the last three American presidents to establish a close and strategic partnership with successive Indian governments...There’s a larger point here about India’s role in the world. For all the talk about India rising to become a global power, its government doesn’t always act like one.”

Still, various parts of the Indian establishment are being told to keep a low profile even as they continue to carry out their Iranian dealings. Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar was at the receiving end of considerable US ire last month because of his comments that India had no option but to continue to deal with Iran, and visiting Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai is believed to have got an earful from US Congress members.

On its part, Delhi is continuing to engage with the US, hoping it would understand that the quality of its interaction with Iran was need-based, as well as limited. The India-US military exercises in the Thar desert began in early March as scheduled, and will go on for two weeks. India will point to the fact that it had twice voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency during negotiations with the US on the Indo-US nuclear deal. And, that it takes very seriously the attack against the Israeli diplomat at the hands of alleged Iranian extremists.

Saudi lever
As for the wooing of the Saudi kingdom and other Arab states in West Asia, none other than Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani, who has large stakes in the petrochemical products business, including polypropylene, is said to have been persuaded to see the light of day when countervailing duties were lifted against Saudi Arabia in January 2012.

In fact, the Saudi assistant petroleum minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, capped his January visit to Delhi by reportedly meeting Ambani secretly on his way home, via Mumbai. In return, the Saudi prince is believed to have assured India that the kingdom could well enhance its oil sales to India from the coming financial year itself.


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012 19:40 
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shyamd wrote:

This following on the heels of the murder of a Saudi diplomat in Dhaka. What's going on? Isn't Saudi BD's top donor?


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2012 21:28 
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timed leaks to prevent and delay war. De-escalation. I read the Gulf Intel report on the subject prepared in mid feb - they are saying that Khomeini doesnt want the bomb it is only ahmadinejad. Now that Ahmadinejad's candidates lost the election they think that khamanei will relent and not go for the bomb. Nothing but hogwash put out by the West. Mossad is in agreement because it doesnt want war now either.

This is nothing but PSY War to screw with public opinion and show de-escalation to Irans negotiators.. 100% BS. Ahmadinejad is being made the fall guy in Iran and will go out taking the blame for everythng.

One word - LOL!

Notice how they shift the message according to the political situation - when they want the heat on - they say Iran is near! then to de escalate - oh many years away!

As source says - do you honestly take those guys in Langley seriously? Have they ever been right? Now this coming from someone who advises several GCC govts on national security and conducts diplomatic missions on behalf of the GCC

Special Report - Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in this April 8, 2008 file photo. REUTERS-Presidential official website-Handout

A float depicting Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a stick of dynamite in his mouth is pictured during the traditional Rose Monday carnival parade in Duesseldorf in this February 20, 2012 file photo. REUTERS-Ina Fassbender

By Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON | Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:02pm GMT

(Reuters) - The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

"They're keeping the soup warm but they are not cooking it," a U.S. administration official said.

Reuters has learned that in late 2006 or early 2007, U.S. intelligence intercepted telephone and email communications in which Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading figure in Iran's nuclear program, and other scientists complained that the weaponization program had been stopped.

That led to a bombshell conclusion in a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate: American spy agencies had "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003.

Current and former U.S. officials say they are confident that Iran has no secret uranium-enrichment site outside the purview of U.N. nuclear inspections.

They also have confidence that any Iranian move toward building a functional nuclear weapon would be detected long before a bomb was made.

These intelligence findings are what underpin President Barack Obama's argument that there is still time to see whether economic sanctions will compel Iran's leaders to halt any program.

The Obama administration, relying on a top-priority intelligence collection program and after countless hours of debate, has concluded that Iranian leaders have not decided whether to actively construct a nuclear weapon, current and former officials said.

There is little argument, however, that Iran's leaders have taken steps that would give them the option of becoming a nuclear-armed power.

Iran has enriched uranium, although not yet of sufficient quantity or purity to fuel a bomb, and has built secret enrichment sites, which were acknowledged only when unmasked.

Iran has, in years past, worked on designing a nuclear warhead, the complicated package of electronics and explosives that would transform highly enriched uranium into a fission bomb.

And it is developing missiles that could in theory launch such a weapon at a target in enemy territory.

There are also blind spots in U.S. and allied agencies' knowledge. A crucial unknown is the intentions of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Another question is exactly how much progress Iran made in designing a warhead before mothballing its program. The allies disagree on how fast Iran is progressing toward bomb-building ability: the U.S. thinks progress is relatively slow; the Europeans and Israelis believe it's faster.

U.S. officials assert that intelligence reporting on Iran's nuclear program is better than it was on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which proved to be non-existent but which President George W. Bush and his aides used to make the case for the 2003 invasion.

That case and others, such as the U.S. failure to predict India's 1998 underground nuclear test, illustrate the perils of divining secrets about others' weapons programs.

"The quality of intelligence varies from case to case," a U.S. administration official said. Intelligence on North Korea and Iraq was more limited, but there was "extraordinarily good intelligence" on Iran, the official said.

Israel, which regards a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, has a different calculation. It studies the same intelligence and timetable, but sees a closing window of opportunity to take unilateral military action and set back Iran's ambitions. Israel worries that Iran will soon have moved enough of its nuclear program underground -- or spread it far enough around the country -- as to make it virtually impervious to a unilateral Israeli attack, creating what Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently referred to as a "zone of immunity."

While Israel would not be able to launch an effective offensive in this analysis, the U.S., with its deeper-penetrating bombs and in-air refuelling capability, believes it could still get results from a military strike.

Israel has not publicly defined how or when Iran would enter this phase of a nuclear weapons program. Barak said last month that relying on an ability to detect an order by Khamenei to build a bomb "oversimplifies the issue dramatically."

CONFIDENCE IN INTELLIGENCE

U.S. confidence that Iran stopped its nuclear weaponization program in 2003 traces back to a stream of intelligence obtained in 2006 or early 2007, which dramatically shifted the view of spy agencies.

Sources familiar with the intelligence confirmed the intercept of Fakhrizadeh's communications. The United States had both telephone and email intercepts in which Iranian scientists complained about how the leadership ordered them to shut down the program in 2003, a senior European official said.

U.S. officials said they are very confident that the intercepts were authentic - and not disinformation planted by Iran.


"Iran has been a high-priority intelligence target for years. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes we really are good," said Thomas Fingar, who was chairman of the National Intelligence Council when it compiled the 2007 intelligence estimate.

While declining to provide specific details, Fingar, now at Stanford University, said: "We got information that we had never been able to obtain before. We knew the provenance of the information, and we knew that we had been able to obtain it from multiple sources. Years of hard work had finally paid off."

The judgment that Iran had stopped work on the weapons program stunned the Bush White House and U.S. allies. Critics accused U.S. spy agencies of over-compensating for their flawed 2002 analysis that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had active nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs.

The 2007 report gummed up efforts by the Bush administration to persuade the U.N. Security Council and others to add pressure on Iran with more sanctions. It was greeted with disbelief by Israel and some European allies.

"It really pulled the rug out of our sanctions effort until we got it back on track in 2008," recalled Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to Bush.

Overlooked by many was that the report said Iran had been pursuing a nuclear weapon and was keeping its options open for developing one, he said. "The problem was that it was misinterpreted as an all-clear when it wasn't that at all," Hadley said.

A November 2011 report by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency said suspected nuclear weaponization efforts led by Fakhrizadeh were "stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a 'halt order' instruction issued in late 2003 by senior Iranian officials."

The reasons for this are not clear. Western experts say it was probably related to a fear of being next on the hit list after the United States toppled Saddam next door.

Iran emphasizes its nuclear program is for civilian purposes. Ayatollah Khamenei this week said Iran does not have nuclear weapons and will not build them.

DISMEMBERED AND BURIED

Some key U.S. allies were never entirely comfortable with the 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate. The Europeans conceded that a centrally directed weaponization program probably stopped, but believed pieces of the program were being pursued separately.

Many European experts believed the Iranians had dismembered their bomb program and scattered and buried its parts, some of them in military or scientific installations, some in obscure academic institutions.

Under pressure from both European allies and Israel's supporters, U.S. intelligence agencies late in the Bush administration and early in Obama's tenure began to take a second look at the 2007 estimate. Some consideration was given to bringing it more into line with European views. Intelligence received after publication of the 2007 estimate suggested that in 2006, Iran believed the United States was going to have to abandon its troubled venture in Iraq. Wisps of information were gathered that Iranian officials were talking about restarting elements of the bomb program, a U.S. intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. But analysts were divided about the significance of the new information. The revised estimate was delayed for months. Eventually, at the very end of 2010, an updated version was circulated within the government. Unlike the 2007 estimate, the White House made public no extracts of this document. A consensus emerged among U.S. experts that the new intelligence information wasn't as alarming as originally thought, according to officials familiar with the result. The 2010 update largely stuck to the same assessments as the 2007 report, these officials said. U.S. intelligence chiefs issued a vague public acknowledgement of the ambiguities of their latest assessment.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress in February 2011 that "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so."

TIME FRAME

The United States and Israel are on the same page in judging how long it would take Iran to have a nuclear weapon that could strike a target: about a year to produce a bomb and then another one to two years to put it on a missile.

Both countries believe Iran has not made a decision to build a bomb, so even if Tehran decided to move forward, it would be unlikely to have a working nuclear device this year, let alone a missile to deliver it.

"I think they are years away from having a nuclear weapon," a U.S. administration official said.

Three main pieces are needed for a nuclear arsenal: highly enriched uranium to fuel a bomb, a nuclear warhead to detonate it, and a missile or other platform to deliver it. For Iran's program, the West has the most information about the first.

Iran has a declared nuclear program for medical research and producing energy, is a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and allows U.N. nuclear inspectors into its facilities.

The inspections are conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and its reports provide some of the best snapshots of where Iran's program stands.

Iran conducts uranium enrichment at the Natanz plant in central Iran and at a site at Fordow buried deep in a mountainous region near the holy city of Qom. Both sites were built secretly and made public by others.

Natanz was unveiled in 2002 by an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Obama and other world leaders announced the existence of the Fordow site in 2009.

Natanz houses about 8,800 centrifuge machines spinning to increase the concentration of U-235, the type of uranium that yields fissile material. Fordow is built to contain about 3,000 centrifuge machines, but the most recent IAEA report says about 700 are operational.

Most of Iran's stockpile is 3.5 percent low enriched uranium. When Tehran declared in February 2010 that it would begin enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity, that sharply increased the anxiety of Israel and others.

Nuclear experts say that enriching uranium from the naturally occurring 0.7 percent concentration of U-235 to the low-level 3.5 percent accomplishes about 70 percent of the enrichment work toward weapons-grade uranium. At 20 percent concentration, about nine-tenths of the work has been completed. For Iran, getting to 90 percent would require changing some of the plumbing in the centrifuges, experts said.

"From 20 to 90 is exponentially easier," a U.S. intelligence official said.

An IAEA report last month said that Iran has produced nearly 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of uranium enriched to 20 percent. That is less than the roughly 250 kilograms (550 pounds) that nuclear experts say would be required, when purified further, for one nuclear weapon.

Iran's enrichment program was set back by the Stuxnet computer virus, which many security experts suspect was created by Israeli intelligence, possibly with U.S. assistance. It wormed its way into Iranian centrifuge machinery as early as 2009. The Institute for Science and International Security estimated that Stuxnet damaged about 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz and stalled its enrichment capability from growing for about a year.

But it isn't clear how lasting an impact Stuxnet has had. Reuters reported last month that U.S. and European officials and private experts believe Iranian engineers have neutralized and purged the virus.

EYES IN THE SKY

U.S. officials and experts are confident that Iran would be detected if it jumped to a higher level of enrichment.

The IAEA monitors Iran's enrichment facilities closely, watching with cameras and taking measurements during inspections. Seals would have to be broken if containers that collect the enriched material were moved or tampered with.

U.S. and European intelligence agencies are also keeping tabs through satellites, sensors and other methods. They watched for years as a hole was dug into a mountainside near Qom and determined - it is unclear precisely how - late in the Bush administration that Fordow was likely a secret uranium enrichment site.

Obama was briefed on Qom when he was president-elect and was the one to publicly announce it to the world in September 2009.

"They had a deep understanding of the facility, which allowed them to blow the whistle on Tehran with confidence," a U.S. official said.

Rumours periodically pop up of other secret enrichment sites, but so far they have not been substantiated. "Most of the people who make the argument that they might have a covert facility or a series of covert facilities are doing that to justify bombing them sooner rather than later," said Colin Kahl, a former defence official focused on the Middle East.

"We are very confident that there is no secret site now," a U.S. administration official said. But given Iran's history of secretly building facilities, the official predicted Tehran would eventually construct another covert plant.

THE UNKNOWN

One of the biggest question marks is how far Iran advanced in designing a nuclear device - a task considered to be less complicated than producing highly enriched uranium.

The more primitive the device, the more enriched uranium is required. Making it small enough to fit on the tip of a missile would be another challenge.

The IAEA has information that Iran built a large containment chamber to conduct high-explosives tests at the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran. Conventional weapons are tested at that base, and the U.S. government appears convinced that any nuclear-related tests occurred prior to the 2003 halt.

But Iran denied the IAEA access to the Parchin site in February, raising more suspicion, and the nuclear agency seems less confident that weapons work has halted altogether.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said recently, "We have information that some activity is ongoing there."

In its November 2011 report, the IAEA said it had "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme."

It cited Iran's efforts to procure nuclear-related and dual-use equipment, acquisition of nuclear-weapons development information and work on developing a nuclear weapon design in the program that was stopped in late 2003.

"There are also indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing," the IAEA said.

While Iran does not yet have a nuclear warhead that can fit on a missile, it does have the missiles.

Iran has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and many of those projectiles could be repurposed to deliver a nuclear device, intelligence director Clapper said in congressional testimony.

Western experts also point to Iran's test firing of a rocket that can launch satellites into space as an example of a growing capability that could potentially be used for nuclear weapons.

"The nuclear threat is growing. They are getting relatively close to the place where they can make the decision to assemble all three parts of their program -- enrichment, missile, weaponization," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said in an interview. Khamenei "hasn't said 'put it together' yet," said Rogers, a Republican. "Have they decided to sprint to making the device that blows up? Probably not. But are they walking to a device that blows up? Yes."

The debate over air strikes, supercharged by Israel's anxiety and U.S. election-year politics, has raised the spectre of the Iraq war. The White House justified that conflict on the grounds of weapons of mass destruction, as well as significant ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. Both proved to be mirages.

"There are lots of disturbing similarities. One has to note the differences, too," said Paul Pillar, a former top CIA analyst.

"The huge difference being we don't have an administration in office that is the one hankering for the war. This administration is not hankering for a war," said Pillar.


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PostPosted: 25 Mar 2012 00:26 
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Bihar MLA Izhar Ahmed gets reception in Dubai by AMU alumni
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Submitted by admin4 on 24 March 2012 - 11:27pm

By TCN News,

Dubai: AMU Alumni Forum UAE hosted a reception in the honor of Dr. Izhar Ahmad, MLA of Bihar ruling party JD (U) and Chairman of the Bihar Estimate Committee in Dubai. Dr. Izhar was on a private visit to Dubai on the special invitation from Mr. Omer Hejazeen, president, Bihar Foundation, an NGO operating in the UAE.

The reception was organized on 10th March 2012 at Ibrahimi Restaurant in Dubai.



Dr. Izhar entered into politics at a very young age and has won Bihar Legislative Assembly Election twice from the same constituency. He is also a practicing Urdu journalist. He won Gaura Boram seat in Darbhanga in 2005 on the ticket of Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan but joined JD(U) of Nitish Kumar just before the 2010 assembly poll and he retained his seat.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. Izhar highlighted the work of Mr. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar for the minorities. He counted permanent fencing of 4000 graveyards, fencing under progress of 4500 graveyards, allotment of 300 acre land for AMU Distance Campus in Kishanganj, 10 Crores rupees and 52 acre land for Maulana Mazharul Haque University in Patna, Granting fund and status to 3000 Madarsa and compulsory recruitment of Urdu teacher in each school in Bihar as some of the great achievement of Mr. Nitish’s governance in Bihar for the minorities.



Mr. Kutbur Rehman, President, AMU Alumni Forum UAE deliberated upon the conditions of the Muslim minority prevailing in different states across India. As per the surveys done, Muslims now belong to the backward category educationally and economically. The Minority has been underrepresented in the legislative process and they have no bargaining power in the power structure at the center and state level which increases their plight. The political parties have traditionally used Muslims for the vote bank politics and did nothing after winning elections after elections with their vote. Muslims need to be given their right at every level in the democratic set-up in India. He requested the youths to come forward and unite themselves to work towards uplifting of the community. He also requested the political parties to give the Muslims their due share in representation and implement policies for their upliftment without any biases. He also said that the AMU Alumni Forum UAE will work towards the political empowerment of Muslims in India and prepare an action plan for this.

Mr. Salman Ahmad Siddiqui, Vice President, Dubai Indian Islamic Centre (DIIC) stressed on the need of healthy and active participation in the democratic process and work cohesively with the UAE government to do the upliftment works in accordance with the law.



Mr. Hassan Aziz Amir handed over a letter written to Prime Minister to Dr. Izhar and requested the letter to be delivered to Mr. Nitish Kumar.


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PostPosted: 25 Mar 2012 16:16 
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Update on Syria: Russia has been steadily increasing the number of SVR operatives since Jan. Syria gave the green light for Rus to open 2 old telecoms, radar and SIGINT stations that were once used by FSU. Russia is helping the Syrians communicate. I think Russia has deployed troops to prevent coup. I have counted 2 attempts at a coup in Damascus. First one was close. AJ was saying that the problem Asad has is that the majority of the military is deployed in the other areas of unrest and damascus is slightly weak so FSA has been taking advantage of that .

Now the focus has shifted to Beijing and Russia to dump Asad - especially Russia as they retain the capability to intervene to prevent a coup. There will be no external intervention (beyond SF operations to achieve certain objectives such as Chemical weapon cache's).

GCC told Lavrov that he is not welcome in any Gulf country until they dump Asad. Source was just in Beijing to convey a message. I presume he was there to basically say something similar and offer more commercial contracts post Assad plus FTA.

Meanwhile Libyan Embassy has made adverts in Turkish press asking for bulk booking of hotels in Izmir, Istanbul and Gaziantep on March 19th. Qatar has been paying for medical treatmnt of Libyans in Turkey - so once they get better they are expected to support the FSA on the front line or in the training camps. Same in Jordan as well. So this war is no where near over yet.

Turkey is ready to deploy in Syria but it is the US that has said no per this article:

US tells Turkey to back off Syria
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Tony Badran, March 22, 2012 share
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[US tells Turkey to back off Syria]
According to inside sources, during her meeting with Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Ankara not to move forward against the Syrian regime. (AFP photo)

In a previously unreported turn of events, it has now come to light that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last month, emphatically dismissed a number of forward leaning options on Syria that the Turkish top diplomat proposed to the Obama administration.

What this means is that Washington, which at one point subcontracted its Syria policy to Ankara, has now called the Turks off the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

According to well-informed Turkish and US sources, during his meeting with Secretary Clinton, Davutoğlu put forward a set of measures, including, among others, creating a buffer zone and/or a humanitarian corridor, as well as organizing and equipping the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The secretary of state responded in no uncertain terms that the Obama administration had no interest in pursuing any of these options. In fact, according to one account, Clinton told her Turkish counterpart no less than three times, “We are not there.”

This conversation fits well with the administration’s message to other regional allies, namely Saudi Arabia, against arming the FSA and pushing Washington’s preferred policy of going through the Russians, in an attempt to reach a “political solution” to the Syrian crisis.

There were hints of Davutoğlu’s agenda on the eve of his meeting with Clinton, along with some speculation about Turkish-US consultation regarding the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria. The idea was that Turkey was prepared to move in this direction following the failure to reach an agreement with Moscow, especially as this resulted in the Assad regime escalating its violence. The brutalization of Homs in February may have also finally pushed the Turks into action.

Apparently, the Turks, much like the Saudis, were looking to the first Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis as a possible forum to bypass the Russians and begin a more muscular effort, with US backing. The Saudis found out at the meeting that no such action was forthcoming, and withdrew in frustration, while publicly voicing their preference for arming the Syrian rebels.

The Turks got their answer from Secretary Clinton well before the Tunis gathering, and, according to the Turkish sources, were dismayed at the Obama administration’s extraordinary passivity and refusal to lead.

The message conveyed to the Turks was the same one made clear to the Saudis. According to one US source, when Davutoğlu ended up asking Clinton where the administration was on the issue, her response simply repeated the mantra about the Arab League initiative and going to the Security Council again for another go at the Russians. In other words, it was more of the same.

Not surprisingly, following the meeting, the Turkish foreign ministry pulled back, stating that direct intervention “is not on our agenda at the moment.” The Turks may have finally decided that more aggressive measures are needed. However, and despite the fact that Clinton may not have objected to Turkey moving on its own, Ankara remains reluctant to lead such an endeavor on its own, especially without explicit US approval and backing. In effect, therefore, the administration was actively blocking any such move on Turkey’s part, just as it held a red light to possible Saudi and Qatari plans to arm the FSA.

However, last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again floated the idea of a buffer zone, adding that the next Friends of Syria meeting, scheduled to take place in Istanbul on April 1, would come up “with very different results,” without elaborating further.

This goes back to the statement by an unnamed US official that the Obama administration would take a passive stand toward regional states arming the FSA “at the next Friends of Syria meeting.” This reading was reflected in Turkish press commentary as well, placing emphasis on the upcoming gathering in Istanbul as a possible turning point. Similarly, there has been speculation that the Saudis, too, are waiting for the April 1 meeting before beginning their efforts to arm the FSA in earnest. The purpose of such declarations could be to pressure the US to take more aggressive action.

If this reading is correct, then it would explain the Obama administration’s eagerness to support the Kofi Annan mission, as well as its praise for the non-binding UN Security Council statement issued yesterday. Secretary Clinton hailed the statement even when it contained no mention of Assad’s departure from power, no time constraints on Annan’s mission, and no specific or credible threat of action in case of Syrian non-compliance, to say nothing of how its call for dialogue between the regime and the opposition flies in the face of the US policy of regime change.

One could ask, then, what in the statement merited such enthusiasm. But what the statement did do is buy the administration more time to continue pressing its regional allies against any military options. Whether the Saudis and the Turks will decide to proceed regardless with their plans following the next Friends of Syria meeting, remains to be seen. But the administration’s latest move certainly has limited their maneuverability.

The Obama administration’s reasoning is simple. It calculates, rather correctly, that such regional efforts will likely end up drawing the US in down the road, one way or another. President Obama wishes to nip in the bud any possibility of this happening in an election year. And so, such regional moves were opposed in order for the president not to be forced to take action he’s adamantly intent on avoiding, regardless of the consequences.

As a result, the administration has found itself in the surreal position of siding closer with Assad’s Russian ally and at cross-purposes with its own regional allies – and, most significantly, in contradiction with own stated policy of regime change in Syria.

Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.

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PostPosted: 25 Mar 2012 21:52 
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Young Saudis in India to narrow cultural divide
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Former president of India and world-renowned nuclear scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on his initiative to achieve world peace through promoting dialogue among followers of various religions and cultures.

“King Abdullah is a great man and the entire world has great respect and appreciation for him,” he said.

Abdul Kalam was delivering an advanced scientific lecture on stem cells on Thursday at the grand conference hall of the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, capital of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Several prominent figures, including Ajit Rangnekar, dean of ISB, Yousuf bin Trad Al-Saadoon, undersecretary for economic and cultural affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and several leading scientists and experts in stem cell research attended the function, held as part of the Saudi-Indian Youth Forum.

In his opening speech at the session, Ajit Rangnekar welcomed the Saudi youths attending the forum and expressed his delight at their academic and scientific standards. “Saudi Arabia is a peace loving country, and the Saudi youths act as messengers of peace for King Abdullah’s interfaith initiative,” he said.

Al-Saadoon, who led the Saudi youth delegation, thanked Abdul Kalam and conveyed to him King Abdullah’s greetings and appreciation. He said the Saudi delegation’s visit comes within the framework of establishing cultural, educational and humanitarian bridges with nations of the world in line with the principles of the Islamic faith.

The visit aims to enable Saudi youths to convey a message of peace and love to all peace-loving people in the world. The delegation is comprised of 26 young Saudi men and women students from all regions of the Kingdom.

On his part, Atul Negi, professor of the University of Hyderabad and supervisor of the Indian youth delegation attending the forum, described King Abdullah’s dialogue initiative as a call for global peace.

“The initiative involves a number of issues that are of concern for both Saudi and Indian youths. It is considered as one of the best means for mutual understanding and exchange of knowledge and culture in addition to offering appropriate solutions,” Negi said in his speech.

Hamid Ali Rao, India’s ambassador to the Kingdom, said the idea of the Saudi-Indian Youth Forum is aimed at promoting better understanding, fostering enduring friendships and exchanging experiences and information between youths in the two countries.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency, he said: “This visit is sponsored by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Indian Foreign Ministry within the framework of King Abdullah’s initiative for dialogue between the followers of cultures, civilizations and religions,” he said.

While welcoming the delegation to India, the ambassador said the Saudi youths would interact with their counterparts in India.

“The objective of the visit is to further promote growing Saudi-Indian relations and benefit from the Indian experience in the field of communications and information technology. It is hoped that the activities of the forum will provide an opportunity for young Saudis to interact with their Indian counterparts and outline common ideas and perceptions,” he said.

The theme of the visit is communications and information technology and taking advantage of it in the economic and social welfare areas. The forum is the fourth in a series, three of which were conducted earlier in China, Brazil and Germany. The delegation is visiting three premier Indian cities of Hyderabad and Bangalore, which are major IT hubs, in addition to the capital city of New Delhi where its members will tour IT and communication facilities, academic and technological institutions, research centers and places of cultural and historical importance.

As part of the forum, Al-Saadoon said there would be dialogue and debate sessions focusing on the latest trends and developments in the field of technology and how to utilize technology to confront current challenges.

At the conclusion of the forum, the youths will send a message to King Abdullah, Indian President Pratibha Patil and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlining their hopes, aspirations and recommendations to promote youth contributions, he added.

The Saudi team arrived in Bangalore, the second stop in their three-city tour, yesterday evening.


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PostPosted: 26 Mar 2012 23:52 
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BRICS to work at narrowing opinion gap on Syria issue
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Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 25, 2012
Email to Author

After Sri Lanka, Syria is the next challenge that faces India at BRICS. The group – consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is gearing up for its annual summit in New Delhi on March 29, and opinions are divided with regard to the situation in the West Asian
country.

Efforts are on to list out the “minimum common positions on the issue” in the joint communique to be adopted at the summit. However, as the communique is only “declaratory” in nature, unlike the more action-oriented United Nations resolutions, the task would not be as onerous, officials say.

BRICS was previously divided over the Sri Lankan issue, with Russia and China maintaining that the island nation was capable of dealing with its internal affairs.

“The BRICS member countries also share many common concerns on Syria. After all, we are working on a joint statement and not a UN resolution,” said Li Kexin, deputy director general, Department of Internat-ional Organisations at the Chinese foreign ministry.

As it happened with the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka, two countries belonging to BRICS — China and Russia — had earlier vetoed the West-backed UN resolution on Syria.

The resolution, which India supported, had not explicitly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. It was reflective of the position of the Arab League, which had earlier recommended that Assad make way for the vice-president as head of the national unity government to resolve the unrest in the country.

China and Russia are firmly against a change of regime in Syria. Though India is against a regime change through external interferences, it says “internal mechanisms” of change cannot be looked at based on the “merits” of the case.

China agrees with India on most points, but is not appreciative of the country “explicitly following” what it calls the Arab League position, officials said. South Africa and Brazil have positions more aligned with that of the West on Syria, where anti-government activists accuse the present regime of killing thousands of protesters over the past year. While the US has listed Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, the European Union and the Arab League have imposed sanctions on the Assad regime. Both Russia and China feel that the West is keen on bringing about a regime change in Syria.


So IBSA are working together on Syria as supposed to BRICS acting as one. India asks for evolution as supposed to revolution which is the correct answer, we can protect our interests there and so can everyone else.


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2012 22:11 
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Source says - Israeli strike on Iran can take place any time now - it is just a case of waiting for the political nod. This is based on the strategic planners. This is the first opportunity to hit Iran based on the regional situation. These are not without great risks. God knows if they will exercise it or not.

Syria: This is the last chance for Assad to avoid a long drawn out civil war. Russia can easily switch off the military tap and its over for Assad. This battle will be won in Moscow.

Annan or any Russian veto will not be able to prevent Assad's downfall. Since 1990 Russian & PRC veto hasnt prevented the wars of Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and elsewhere.

Turkey is worried aboutthe Kurdish question, Kurds if they try and set up an independent state of some sort then Turkish kurds can demand something similar, so their military is ready to roll but this political issue is another problem.

He said next step is to get the GCC citizens to lobby the GCC decision making circles for arming the FSA and funding the humanitarian corridor through Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Which basically imo means GCC has sort of given up on Syria bar Qatar.


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2012 22:32 
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An independent Kurdistan is a good thing for the realignment of West Asia.
It will defang a number of artificial states(Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) created from the debris of the Ottomon Sultanate.

Some are on the job.


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2012 22:35 
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shyamd - I have no idea who you are and where you are located - but your information sources are amazing and I really appreciate you taking the effort to post stuff here. This is not a comment about what you just posted above, but more a overall 'thank you' for all you did over the last year and more, re the 'arab spring' or whatever that nonsense was called.

I ended up relying more on you than on some of the (very) expensive professional sources my employer pays for.

Much appreciated.


Last edited by subodh on 27 Mar 2012 22:36, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2012 22:36 
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shyamd wrote:
Source says - Israeli strike on Iran can take place any time now - it is just a case of waiting for the political nod. This is based on the strategic planners. This is the first opportunity to hit Iran based on the regional situation. These are not without great risks. God knows if they will exercise it or not.


I have been hearing that for 5 years now , Israel strike on Iran inevitable will happen tomorrow or day after


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2012 23:04 
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subodh wrote:
shyamd - I have no idea who you are and where you are located - but your information sources are amazing and I really appreciate you taking the effort to post stuff here. This is not a comment about what you just posted above, but more a overall 'thank you' for all you did over the last year and more, re the 'arab spring' or whatever that nonsense was called.

I ended up relying more on you than on some of the (very) expensive professional sources my employer pays for.

Much appreciated.


+1. Looks like ShyamD is running his own intelligence agency in middle east. 8)


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2012 23:07 
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Quote:
subodh wrote:
shyamd - I have no idea who you are and where you are located - but your information sources are amazing and I really appreciate you taking the effort to post stuff here. This is not a comment about what you just posted above, but more a overall 'thank you' for all you did over the last year and more, re the 'arab spring' or whatever that nonsense was called.

I ended up relying more on you than on some of the (very) expensive professional sources my employer pays for.

Much appreciated.


++1 to that. Unofficially Shyamd has become our source on the ME


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 00:06 
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So when is the subh din of Yahudi strike? Since decision is already taken! Which should imply both sides already know. So should be no big problem to make it pseudo-public?


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 01:22 
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Subodh ji and all, Thanks for your kind words. :) If you or your firm needs any help or guidance I'm happy to help. You can contact me at shyamdbrf at yahoo dot com.

Funny thing is right now I am only able to devote about 30% of my time to the analysis due to work etc. I can provide a picture with far greater clarity and accuracy if I can devote more time.

IBN editor finally got back to me saying the Defence and strategic section at IBN Live is stuck as finance dept won't approve it. Which is a shame.


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 02:29 
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Might be a good thing as you can develop better prespective.


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 03:00 
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Unfortunately it's too time consuming and it distracts me from other things in life. I am thinking about setting up something big and take BRF views to the next level with more impact. I'll drop you a line when time permits.
Thanks


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 03:21 
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ramana wrote:
An independent Kurdistan is a good thing for the realignment of West Asia.
It will defang a number of artificial states(Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) created from the debris of the Ottomon Sultanate.

Some are on the job.
Agreed from an Indian perspective, it will be good to reduce the power of these states. Same for the artificial Durand line also!


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 06:38 
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I knew you will catch on.


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 07:40 
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ramana ji,
Kurdistan is not happening. There are tactical calculations in having different sources spread different narratives and raise the buzz. Cross-validation over model networks can isolate the underlying structure of disinformation mobilization. For noises apparently coming out of ME there are very obvious patterns. But we should encourage flows are good because they yield the intentions of known culprits rather than any value in the information itself.

The danger of course is that some of our omniscient admin in corridors of power may take all that seriously and work on that disinfo. That they indeed are often taken in by such shenanigans is amply borne out by various issues and foibles in our foreign policy - where ME and in general Ummah sourced deception has boxed GOI in on many occasions.

But this is something we cannot get easily rid of - and it works to ME advantage and not to India's advantage.


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 12:00 
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^^^
main blinders are the islamophilism. once that "cooling glass" is removed, it should go a long way in reducing the susceptibility to "ummah sourced" deception.


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2012 12:43 
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Patrick Cockburn: The attempt to topple President Assad has failed


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2012 00:26 
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X-posting

This is a strange one, being used as psy-ops by UK media. A good example of how the Anglosphere is willing to stoke Islamist sentiments against its enemies.
Bashar al-Assad joked about religion of most of population, emails show
Quote:
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad swapped jokes and photographs that callously mock the religious beliefs held by a majority of his population, leaked emails purportedly show.

The ream of messages and derogatory cartoons allegedly sent among his 'inner circle' of female aides and family members poke fun at conservative Muslims.

Most of the messages ridicule the burka, the full body cloak worn by some Muslim women.

One e-mail from a female adviser depicts an image of a crying child in a shopping mall who has lost his mother. Trying to reunite them the shop assistant asks the boy for a description of his mother. The little boy replies 'I don't know sir I have never seen her!!' and the joke jumps to an image of a woman fully shrouded in black pushing a shopping cart.

On January 22 the President's father-in-law Fawaz Akhras allegedly forwarded a 'British wedding photograph' showing 24 newly wed Muslim couples, the women all wearing white burkas, their faces covered. "I just hope, for their sake, that each husband goes home with the right table cloth" the joke reads. Another email entitled 'Why God sends rain to Mexico and not to the Middle East' lists photographs of scantily clad weather women, and ends with an image of a covered Muslim woman standing by a weather map holding an umbrella.

The jokes, which might be viewed as humorous by a liberal Western audience, will be deeply insulting to many in Syria's largely conservative society.

The messages apparently convey little respect by the President and his aides for the population they lead. One message appears denigrate Arab men as being unclean or untrained; the email opens with a picture of a kitten peeing in a squat toilet, and leads on to an image of a man donning a red Kuffiyeh, the traditional Arab headers, urinating against a wall.


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2012 11:28 
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Source says they aren't going to give up on Syria because it's in their security zone. They are in open conflict with Iran and they are going to win. He said weapons are flowing faster now along with humanitarian supplies.


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2012 12:47 
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shyamd wrote:
Source says they aren't going to give up on Syria because it's in their security zone. They are in open conflict with Iran and they are going to win. He said weapons are flowing faster now along with humanitarian supplies.


Maybe so, but GCC mercenaries are unlikely to have the competence to dislodge Assad.


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2012 12:52 
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The Syrian people will speak for themselves, te number of refugees are increasing everyday. Even PRC concludes that Assad has to go.

Now that the US has agreed to provide communication sets to the FSA, things will accelerate. The FSA has been empowered to deliver aid too. Humanitarian and weapons are flowing in faster. Libyans are arriving ready for action. So watch this space.

Source said clearly, we are at war with Iran and its allies.


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2012 23:39 
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Feb 22nd
Quote:
Israel has deployed assets in Azerbaijan and another country. Everything is set for ops in Iran. Like I said - RED ALERT in the region.


Israel’s Secret Staging Ground
Quote:
U.S. officials believe that the Israelis have gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan. Does this bring them one step closer to a war with Iran?

BY MARK PERRY | MARCH 28, 2012

In 2009, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Baku, Donald Lu, sent a cable to the State Department's headquarters in Foggy Bottom titled "Azerbaijan's discreet symbiosis with Israel." The memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quotes Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev as describing his country's relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: "nine-tenths of it is below the surface."

Why does it matter? Because Azerbaijan is strategically located on Iran's northern border and, according to several high-level sources I've spoken with inside the U.S. government, Obama administration officials now believe that the "submerged" aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance -- the security cooperation between the two countries -- is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran.

In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. "The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan."

Senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel's military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf -- but one that could include the Caucasus. The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries' relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran. Turkey's most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with the Azeris, the sources said.

The Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, were all contacted for comment on this story but did not respond.

The Azeri embassy to the United States also did not respond to requests for information regarding Azerbaijan's security agreements with Israel. During a recent visit to Tehran, however, Azerbaijan's defense minister publicly ruled out the use of Azerbaijan for a strike on Iran. "The Republic of Azerbaijan, like always in the past, will never permit any country to take advantage of its land, or air, against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which we consider our brother and friend country," he said.

But even if his government makes good on that promise, it could still provide Israel with essential support. A U.S. military intelligence officer noted that Azeri defense minister did not explicitly bar Israeli bombers from landing in the country after a strike. Nor did he rule out the basing of Israeli search-and-rescue units in the country. Proffering such landing rights -- and mounting search and rescue operations closer to Iran -- would make an Israeli attack on Iran easier.

"We're watching what Iran does closely," one of the U.S. sources, an intelligence officer engaged in assessing the ramifications of a prospective Israeli attack confirmed. "But we're now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we're not happy about it."

Israel's deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku's ties with Tehran have frayed: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan's ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported Israeli-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists, an accusation the Azeri government called "a slander." In February, a member of Yeni Azerbadzhan -- the ruling party -- called on the government to change the country's name to "North Azerbaijan," implicitly suggesting that the 16 million Azeris who live in northern Iran ("South Azerbaijan") are in need of liberation.

And this month, Baku announced that 22 people had been arrested for spying on behalf of Iran, charging they had been tasked by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to "commit terrorist acts against the U.S., Israeli, and other Western states' embassies." The allegations prompted multiple angry denials from the Iranian government.

It's clear why the Israelis prize their ties to Azerbaijan -- and why the Iranians are infuriated by them. The Azeri military has four abandoned, Soviet-era airfields that would potentially be available to the Israelis, as well as four airbases for their own aircraft, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Military Balance 2011.

The U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials told me they believe that Israel has gained access to these airbases through a series of quiet political and military understandings. "I doubt that there's actually anything in writing," added a senior retired American diplomat who spent his career in the region. "But I don't think there's any doubt -- if Israeli jets want to land in Azerbaijan after an attack, they'd probably be allowed to do so. Israel is deeply embedded in Azerbaijan, and has been for the last two decades."

The prospect of Israel using Azerbaijan's airfields for an Iranian attack first became public in December 2006, when retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Oded Tira angrily denounced the George W. Bush administration's lack of action on the Iranian nuclear program. "For our part," he wrote in a widely cited commentary, "we should also coordinate with Azerbaijan the use of airbases in its territory and also enlist the support of the Azeri minority in Iran." The "coordination" that Tira spoke of is now a reality, the U.S. sources told me.

Access to such airfields is important for Israel, because it would mean that Israeli F-15I and F-16I fighter-bombers would not have to refuel midflight during a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, but could simply continue north and land in Azerbaijan. Defense analyst David Isenberg describes the ability to use Azeri airfields as "a significant asset" to any Israel strike, calculating that the 2,200-mile trip from Israel to Iran and back again would stretch Israel's warplanes to their limits. "Even if they added extra fuel tanks, they'd be running on fumes," Isenberg told me, "so being allowed access to Azeri airfields would be crucial."

Former CENTCOM commander Gen. Joe Hoar simplified Israel's calculations: "They save themselves 800 miles of fuel," he told me in a recent telephone interview. "That doesn't guarantee that Israel will attack Iran, but it certainly makes it more doable."

Using airbases in Azerbaijan would ensure that Israel would not have to rely on its modest fleet of air refuelers or on its refueling expertise, which a senior U.S. military intelligence officer described as "pretty minimal." Military planners have monitored Israeli refueling exercises, he added, and are not impressed. "They're just not very good at it."

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, who conducted a study for a think tank affiliated with the Swedish Ministry of Defense of likely Israeli attack scenarios in March 2010, said that Israel is capable of using its fleet of F-15I and F-16I warplanes in a strike on Iran without refueling after the initial top-off over Israel. "It's not weight that's a problem," he said, "but the numbers of weapons that are mounted on each aircraft." Put simply, the more distance a fighter-bomber is required to travel, the more fuel it will need and the fewer weapons it can carry. Shortening the distance adds firepower, and enhances the chances for a successful strike.

"The problem is the F-15s," Gardiner said, "who would go in as fighters to protect the F-16 bombers and stay over the target." In the likely event that Iran scrambled its fighters to intercept the Israeli jets, he continued, the F-15s would be used to engage them. "Those F-15s would burn up fuel over the target, and would need to land."

Could they land in Azerbaijan? "Well, it would have to be low profile, because of political sensitivities, so that means it would have to be outside of Baku and it would have to be highly developed." Azerbaijan has such a place: the Sitalcay airstrip, which is located just over 40 miles northwest of Baku and 340 miles from the Iranian border. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sitalcay's two tarmacs and the adjacent facilities were used by a squadron of Soviet Sukhoi SU-25 jets -- perfect for Israeli fighters and bombers. "Well then," Gardiner said, after the site was described to him, "that would be the place."

Even if Israeli jets did not land in Azerbaijan, access to Azeri airfields holds a number of advantages for the Israel Defense Forces. The airfields not only have facilities to service fighter-bombers, but a senior U.S. military intelligence officer said that Israel would likely base helicopter rescue units there in the days just prior to a strike for possible search and rescue missions.

This officer pointed to a July 2010 joint Israeli-Romanian exercise that tested Israeli air capabilities in mountainous areas -- like those the Israeli Air Force would face during a bombing mission against Iranian nuclear facilities that the Iranians have buried deep into mountainsides. U.S. military officers watched the exercises closely, not least because they objected to the large number of Israeli fighters operating from airbases of a NATO-member country, but also because 100 Israeli fighters overflew Greece as a part of a simulation of an attack on Iran. The Israelis eventually curtailed their Romanian military activities when the United States expressed discomfort with practicing the bombing of Iran from a NATO country, according to this senior military intelligence officer.

This same senior U.S. military intelligence officer speculated that the search and rescue component of those operations will be transferred to Azerbaijan -- "if they haven't been already." He added that Israel could also use Azerbaijan as a base for Israeli drones, either as part of a follow-on attack against Iran, or to mount aerial assessment missions in an attack's aftermath.

Azerbaijan clearly profits from its deepening relationship with Israel. The Jewish state is the second largest customer for Azeri oil - shipped through the Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan pipeline -- and its military trade allows Azerbaijan to upgrade its military after the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) slapped it with an arms embargo after its six-year undeclared war with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Finally, modernizing the Azeri military sends a clear signal to Iran that interference in Azerbaijan could be costly.

"Azerbaijan has worries of its own," said Alexander Murinson, an Israeli-American scholar who wrote in an influential monograph on Israeli-Azeri ties for Tel Aviv's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "The Baku government has expelled Iranians preaching in their mosques, broken up pro-Iranian terrorist groups, and countered Iranian propaganda efforts among its population."

The deepening Azeri-Israeli relationship has also escalated Israel's dispute with Turkey, which began when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship destined for Gaza in May 2010, killing nine Turkish citizens. When Turkey demanded an apology, Israel not only refused, it abruptly canceled a $150 million contract to develop and manufacture drones with the Turkish military -- then entered negotiations with Azerbaijan to jointly manufacture 60 Israeli drones of varying types. The $1.6 billion arms agreement between Israel and Azerbaijan also left Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "sputtering in rage," according to a retired U.S. diplomat.

The centerpiece of the recent arms deal is Azerbaijan's acquisition of Israeli drones, which has only heightened Turkish anxieties further. In November 2011, the Turkish government retrieved the wreckage of an Israeli "Heron" drone in the Mediterranean, south of the city of Adana -- well inside its maritime borders. Erdogan's government believed the drone's flight had originated in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and demanded that Israel provide an explanation, but got none. "They lied; they told us the drone didn't belong to them," a former Turkish official told me last month. "But it had their markings."

Israel began cultivating strong relations with Baku in 1994, when Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq bought a large share of the nationally controlled telephone operating system. By 1995, Azerbaijan's marketplace was awash with Israeli goods: "Strauss ice cream, cell phones produced by Motorola's Israeli division, Maccabee beer, and other Israeli imports are ubiquitous," an Israeli reporter wrote in the Jerusalem Post.

In March 1996, then-Health Minister Ephraim Sneh became the first senior Israeli official to visit Baku -- but not the last. Benjamin Netanyahu made the trip in 1997, a high-level Knesset delegation in 1998, Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2009, and Lieberman again, as foreign minister, this last February. Accompanying Peres on his visit to Baku was Avi Leumi, the CEO of Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems and a former Mossad official who paved the way for the drone agreement.

U.S. intelligence officials began to take Israel's courtship of Azerbaijan seriously in 2001, one of the senior U.S. military intelligence officers said. In 2001, Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems contracted with Georgia's Tbilisi Aerospace Manufacturing to upgrade the Soviet SU-25 Scorpion, a close air-support fighter, and one of its first customers was Azerbaijan. More recently, Israel's Elta Systems has cooperated with Azerbaijan in building the TecSar reconnaissance satellite system and, in 2009, the two countries began negotiations over Azeri production of the Namer infantry fighting vehicle.

Israeli firms "built and guard the fence around Baku's international airport, monitor and help protect Azerbaijan's energy infrastructure, and even provide security for Azerbaijan's president on foreign visits," according to a study published by Ilya Bourtman in the Middle East Journal. Bourtman noted that Azerbaijan shares intelligence data on Iran with Israel, while Murinson raised the possibility that Israelis have set up electronic listening stations along Azerbaijan's Iranian border.

Israeli officials downplay their military cooperation with Baku, pointing out that Azerbaijan is one of the few Muslim nations that makes Israelis feel welcome. "I think that in the Caucasian region, Azerbaijan is an icon of progress and modernity," Sneh told an Azeri magazine in July 2010.

Many would beg to differ with that description. Sneh's claim "is laughable," the retired American diplomat said. "Azerbaijan is a thuggish family-run kleptocracy and one of the most corrupt regimes in the world." The U.S. embassy in Baku has also been scathing: A 2009 State Department cable described Aliyev, the son of the country's longtime ruler and former KGB general Heydar Aliyev, as a "mafia-like" figure, comparable to "Godfather" characters Sonny and Michael Corleone. On domestic issues in particular, the cable warned that Aliyev's policies had become "increasingly authoritarian and hostile to diversity of political views."

But the U.S. military is less concerned with Israel's business interests in Baku, which are well-known, than it is with how and if Israel will employ its influence in Azerbaijan, should its leaders decide to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. The cable goes on to confirm that Israel is focused on Azerbaijan as a military ally -- "Israel's main goal is to preserve Azerbaijan as an ally against Iran, a platform for reconnaissance of that country and as a market for military hardware."

It is precisely what is not known about the relationship that keeps U.S. military planners up at night. One former CIA analyst doubted that Israel will launch an attack from Azerbaijan, describing it as "just too chancy, politically." However, he didn't rule out Israel's use of Azeri airfields to mount what he calls "follow-on or recovery operations." He then added: "Of course, if they do that, it widens the conflict, and complicates it. It's extremely dangerous."

One of the senior U.S. military officers familiar with U.S. war plans is not as circumspect. "We are studying every option, every variable, and every factor in a possible Israeli strike," he told me. Does that include Israel's use of Azerbaijan as a platform from which to launch a strike -- or to recover Israeli aircraft following one? There was only a moment's hesitation. "I think I've answered the question," he said.


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2012 23:57 
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ShyamD, The Shah Of Iran Reza Shah Pahlavi's grandfather was Colonel/General in the Persian forces who fought with Azerbaijan and reconquered lost of territory from Tsarist Russia during the turmoil of the 1917 revolution.

If Azeris sold an airfield you can bet it has iranis working there.


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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2012 00:15 
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Iranians are very smart. They'll mitigate this in some way.

Visits by navy ships to boost Saudi-India maritime ties

Quote:
Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao, 2nd left, addresses a press conference aboard INS TIR in Jeddah on Tuesday. Capt. Ajay Sirohi, commanding officer of the ship, left, Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai, 2nd right, and India's Defense Attaché in Riyadh Col. Ajay Kumar, are also seen. (AN photo)

By JEDDAH: SYED FAISAL ALI, ARAB NEWS STAFF

Published: Mar 29, 2012 03:36 Updated: Mar 29, 2012 03:36

Three Indian Navy ships, in Jeddah port for the past three days, aim to further boost cooperation between the two navies of India and the Kingdom, said the commanding officer of the ships.

"The primary aim of the visit of these ships is to enhance friendly relations between the two navies," Capt. Ajay Sirohi said while addressing a press conference with Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao aboard INS Tir on Tuesday.

The commanding officer and captain of the ships also interacted with their counterparts in the Western Naval Fleet of the Royal Saudi Navy.

The Indian Naval Cadet Training Ships INS Tir, INS Shardul and ICGS Veera docked at Jeddah port on a good will visit on Monday. The 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy is under the command of Capt. Sirohi.

The ships, carrying more than 600 navy personnel, including approximately 100 young sea cadets for training, started their journey on March 10 from Kochi and will leave Jeddah today for Safaga, Egypt.


Speaking to Arab News India’s Defense Attaché in Riyadh Col. Ajay Kumar said the visit is primarily aimed at giving a boost to the existing friendly relationship between the two navies of India and the Kingdom. It also inculcates the spirit of adventure in young officers and cadets.

The visit accords an opportunity to the Indian Navy to bolster the bonhomie and friendship that exists with the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. The visit also aims at developing the ability of both the navies to meet the ever-growing challenges of the maritime environment by drawing on the collective experience of the maritime forces, Col. Kumar said.

INS Tir’s Executive Officer Harsh Kumar Singh said the three ships form part of the 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy and is based at the Southern Naval Command at Kochi.

“The Southern Naval Command, which is the Training Command of the Indian Navy, trains officers, cadets and sailors of the Indian Navy as well as numerous friendly foreign navies in various spheres,” Harsh said.

The 1st Training Squadron has the onerous responsibilities of training young sea cadets, who join the squadron to earn their “sea legs.”

The cadets are put through an intensive sea phase of 24 weeks, so as to acquaint them with the life of a marine, Harsh said.

The primary aim of the squadron is to impart training to sea cadets and in keeping with this aim, the goal of the 1st Squadron is to ensure overall development of cadets to mold them into professionally competent seafarers and train them to achieve excellence in basic maritime operations, he said.

As part of the sea phase, officer trainees are provided an opportunity to learn socio-political and maritime facets of different countries, Harsh said.

Hundreds of proud Indians visited the Indian Navy’s ships to get a feel of the sailors’ life and their working condition and to reenergize their nationalistic fervor.

Young boys and girls, some of them carrying the national tricolor, toured the three ships, with their parents, and learned how the brave sailors of the Indian Navy keep a vigil on sea routes to keep their country safe.


Saudi press running a special about 40 saudi youth in India visiting colleges, ISRO, IT facilities etc.


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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2012 00:40 
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i have this feeling that the west wants to reserve iran/iraq oil for themselves. they have given up on SUNNI oil and india gets it. this is the long-tem vision me thinks.


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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2012 01:00 
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West wants to control every drop of Oil on earth, whichever way possible be it Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Russia yada yada.. this is the only way they can rule the world for next 50-100 years of perhaps even further. They also want to have a technological edge in alternative resources and next generation of fuel research. They have managed to do it so far and I am pretty sure that they will be able to do so even in future.
West looks 50-100 years down the line. A simple matter of fact is West will continue to push defense equipments and technologically advanced overpriced products in leiu of buying Oil from middle-eastern countries while artifically scuttling China/India growth who do not have middle-east as their export market in a big way. India/China and east in general are net importers controlling the oil and market in general would give a big boost to western economies in long run.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2012 03:10 
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Saudi are planning to punish countries that are not fully backing their policy on Syria and other issues.
Although prince salman has stayed silent on the proposal. Prince salman is now in control of certain affairs as crown prince nayef is in Algeria resting after treatment in the US.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2012 05:24 
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Erdogan's visit to Iran yesterday was about the following:
- The fact that Syrian Kurds rejected joining the Syrian Demoratic Union because they werent guaranteed autonomy means that Turkish National Security are compelled to act in Syria
- Turkey said they are expecting the worst national security scenario due to Kurds reacting in Turkey if Syrian kurds try for freedom
- Erdogan conveyed that the western stance against Syria and Iran is hardening as was discussed in Seoul.
- Erdogan told Iranians that if they are compelled to act in Syria (with western backing), they do not want conflict with Iran

Not clear the iranian reply.

Another subject discussed was Hillary Clinton's visit to KSA. As is known, the Americans have declared they want to provide the opposition in Syria advanced comms equipment. This is a hint to KSA that US is ready to do something about Syria albeit limited and encourage KSA and the GCC to continue military support, logistical and also funding.

What does the US mean by advanced communication? Syrian rebels already use satcoms which is being intercepted by Iran and Russia. So the US is providing some NATO military comms sets for the rebels to escape this. Assad's army has been able to pick off some of the rebels as they were able to track down their location and neutralise them.

He said Russia and Iran are pushing the rebels hard because they want written guarantees for their interests to be protected.

Source reaffirmed that inspite of their rhetoric in the media - Turkey is going slow on buffer zone and the GCC feel cheated. The Turks told the GCC about their "great islamic" strategic interests and promises to do this and that but nothing concrete.

The GCC think that the west led by France will probably do something to protect christians. Sarko is losing the elections and he needs to pull something off to get him back in the running seat.
The syrian war is a proxy war between various parties and its show down time. Ultimately its the Syrian people that will decide where they want to be - not russia, not assad, not iran.

Qatar and KSA are continuing to run the show in Syria and you will see a renewed thrust. Things are just getting warmed up. They are in open confrontation with IRan and no one is going to drop this war in Syria.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2012 08:06 
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ShaymD, Please do me and yourself a favor. Put a tag that all your posts are source based and not your views.

This will avoid brickbats.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2012 13:27 
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^^ sure.

Hillary Clinton arrived in Riyadh Yesterday and will meet the council GCC foreign ministers today on top of meeting the Saudis to discuss Syria as my previous post says. She met King Abdullah yesterday.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2012 15:49 
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Exclusive - West wants Saudi not to neutralise oil release

Quote:
By Richard Mably

LONDON | Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:24pm BST

(Reuters) - Oil consuming nations may seek reassurance from Saudi Arabia that it will not cut oil production and neutralise the impact on oil prices if consumer countries release emergency reserves, diplomats and industry sources said.

The issue may be raised by a U.S. delegation, led by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which is in Riyadh this weekend to discuss Syria with Gulf states. Clinton will see Saudi King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

"If they're going to release reserves they need an assurance from the Saudis that they won't offset it by cutting supply," said one industry source familiar with thinking in Washington.

"There's no doubt the measure needs the cooperation of Saudi Arabia," said a diplomat.

The United States, with Britain and France, is considering a release from emergency stockpiles to cut fuel costs. Other countries including South Korea and Japan may join the plan.

Riyadh would not want deliberately to undermine an effort to bring down oil prices. But it might reduce supplies in response to a release of oil drawn from reserves if that were to displace Saudi supplies, particularly in the United States where the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve would provide the bulk of any drawdown.

Oil prices have risen sharply since the start of the year, at one point breaking $128 a barrel, largely because of sanctions against oil producer Iran aimed at slowing Tehran's nuclear programme.

Diplomats have said the sanctions aim to meet Israeli demands for action against Tehran by hitting Iran's oil earnings and to prevent the alternative - a military strike by Israel.

"The view is that higher oil prices are a price worth paying to prevent or push back a war against Iran and higher oil prices can be alleviated by using emergency stocks," said the industry source.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has said publicly that Riyadh wants to bring down oil prices.

But he has also said that Saudi can do no more than meet demand for its crude, which it is already doing, and that the previous drawdown of oil reserves last June during the Libyan civil war did not work.

"That's up to them," he said to reporters in Doha last week of a possible consumer country release. "What I can tell you is that they have done it before and it didn't do anything. You saw what happened in the last release? Nothing."

The concern among Western diplomats is that oil from strategic stocks could displace Saudi barrels, particularly to the United States where Saudi imports have risen recently, leaving net supplies globally little changed.

Last year after the International Energy Agency tapped reserves at the end of June to fill the gap left by Libya's civil war, Saudi output at first remained high, and then fell.

Reuters estimates put Saudi production at 9.85-9.9 million barrels per day from July to September before falling to just over 9.4 million bpd in October and November. It has since risen steadily back to about 9.9 million bpd now.


Note the above link with below

KSA, US plan unified Syria strategy

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is being greeted on arrival in Rawdat
Quote:
Khuraim on Friday. A number of princes and high-ranking officials received the king who will stay for some days in Rawdat Khuraim, a favorite camping spot 100 km north east of Riyadh.

By GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN | ARAB NEWS

Published: Mar 30, 2012 23:28 Updated: Mar 30, 2012 23:28

RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held wide-ranging talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here yesterday that mainly focused on possible unified strategy on the crisis in Syria, according to Saudi and US sources.

The talks, attended by several high-ranking Saudi and US officials, also covered “a range of bilateral subjects and key regional issues,” said Mofid H. Deak, a spokesman of the US Embassy here.

Deak pointed out that “there were only two official meetings of Clinton yesterday — one with King Abdullah and the other with Prince Saud Al-Faisal, foreign minister.”

An SPA report said that Clinton conveyed the greetings of US President Barack Obama to the king, which were fondly reciprocated by King Abdullah. The talks, according to the report, covered “overall situation and developments in the region as well as on global level.”

The talks are extremely important keeping in view the 60-nation gathering of the "Friends of the Syrian People" in Istanbul over the weekend that is aimed at finding ways to aid Syria's opposition and to stop the bloodshed in that country.

The US and the Kingdom are hoping to help unify the opposition's ranks while pushing for humanitarian aid and further isolation of President Bashar Assad's regime.

The talks were attended by Prince Salman, defense minister; Prince Saud Al-Faisal, minister of foreign affairs; Prince Muqrin; chief of Saudi Intelligence; Prince Sattam, Riyadh governor; Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, minister of state, Cabinet member and commander of the National Guard; and Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, deputy minister for foreign affairs. Saudi Ambassador to US Adel Al-Jubeir and American Ambassador James Smith were also present.

According to a Saudi official, the discussions with King Abdullah as well as Prince Saud mainly focused on “Syria and other developments in the Arab world.”

“But, Clinton will spell out her plans and policies possibly in the GCC-US ministerial meeting,” he added.

“The meeting of the foreign ministers of the GCC together with Clinton and other US officials will be held at the GCC General Secretariat today afternoon,” said Ahmed Al-Kaabi, said a GCC spokesman here yesterday.

The meeting at the GCC secretariat will focus on the Gulf’s position on Syria and the role of the US and other allies, said Al-Kaabi. In fact, Saudi Arabia, along with fellow Gulf nation Qatar, has called for a timely approach, including arming the rebels and carving out a safe haven inside Syria from where the opposition can operate.

Clinton, meanwhile, has cautiously welcomed the Syrian government's endorsement of the six-point plan that called for an immediate cease-fire with rebels and an eventual democratic transition in Syria.

She said it was an important step toward peace, but stressed that the Syrian regime now has to deliver. "Given Assad's history of overpromising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate action," Clinton told reporters in Washington before leaving for Saudi Arabia.

"We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says. If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria's history to a close, he could prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas,” she added.

Clinton said Assad must also implement the rest of UN envoy Kofi Annan's plan. Her hesitation reflected the Syrian leader's previous promises to meet the demands of protesters and later Arab League monitors on democratic reforms that were never enacted.

The GCC spokesman said that her meeting with GCC foreign ministers is “significant before engaging in broader meetings Sunday with Arab, Turkish and Western officials in Istanbul.” The meeting in Turkey follows the inaugural one Clinton attended in Tunis at the end of February — a response to Western and Arab failure to win Russian and Chinese backing at the UN Security Council.

Clinton will discuss how to make Assad comply with a new plan to end the crackdown, study further sanctions against his regime and consider ways to aid the opposition.

Meanwhile, at the weekend meeting with Clinton, Turkey plans to renew a call for international help to deal with the soaring numbers of Syrians fleeing violence to Turkey's southern provinces.


Obama Clears Sanctions Against Iran
Quote:


By NATHAN HODGE And TENNILLE TRACY

WASHINGTON—The White House cleared the way for tough new sanctions on Iran on Friday, saying a cutoff of Iranian oil wouldn't significantly harm world markets.

The move, which was expected, allows the U.S. to move forward with new penalties approved last year by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama to target financial institutions doing business with Iran's central bank, a key conduit for the country's oil sales.

The sanctions provisions, part of a defense spending law, required the president to determine whether the nation could withstand the possible oil disruption that resulted.

The president said in a finding there was "sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products from countries other than Iran" to cushion the impact of sanctions on oil markets.

The White House cleared the way for tough new sanctions on Iran Friday, saying a cutoff off Iranian oil would not significantly harm world markets. Nathan Hodge reports on the News Hub. Photo: Reuters.
Journal Community

The move comes amid rising gasoline prices across the country, a growing issue in political campaigns. Republicans are unlikely to criticize sanctions against Iran, but are certain to blame any resulting price increases on White House energy and economic policies.

The sanctions, which take effect June 28, are part of a broader effort to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. U.S. and European Union countries say Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its intentions are peaceful. Among other steps, the European Union is instituting an oil embargo beginning July 1.

The sanctions, intended to drive Iran toward compromise on it nuclear program, are having a "significant impact" on Iran's government and economy, a senior administration official said Friday. Iran has agreed to return to talks with world powers, with negotiations likely to begin in mid-April in Turkey.

Iran is the world's No. 3 exporter of crude oil, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, raising the possibility that the sanctions might remove a significant amount of oil from the global market.

Saudi Arabia, the holder of the largest cushion of spare supply, has been seen as key to filling the gap left by Iranian cutbacks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on Friday, raised the issue of how to maintain stability in the oil markets, according to U.S. officials.

In recent weeks, oil markets have factored in the possibility that sanctions might take a significant amount of oil off the market. The price of crude in New York trading gained $4.19 per barrel in the first quarter, or 4.24%, closing at $103.02 Friday.

Obama administration officials have hinted in recent weeks that tapping the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve was a tool available to calm oil markets. "It's an option that is and will remain on the table," a senior administration official said Friday. "Nonetheless, there appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil," the official said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said this year the world oil market is growing increasingly tight because of swelling demand, supply shortages and modest spare capacity.

U.S. officials have tried to persuade Iran's oil customers to halt or substantially cut back purchases and find alternative sources. The State Department has exempted nearly a dozen countries, including Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., from sanctions because of their efforts to cut back on Iranian oil.

The U.S. hasn't yet said how it will move forward with China and India, economic powerhouses that are large importers of Iran's crude oil.

A senior administration official said Friday that South Korea had indicated an interest in complying with the sanctions. And officials in Turkey, also an Iranian customer, said they would reduce purchases of Iranian oil by 10% and replace it with Libyan oil. Ankara's move came a day after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned from a visit to Iran.


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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2012 08:37 
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http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/17716 ... table.html

Quote:


The hell that is Iraq, who's accountable?
Friday, 30 March 2012 01:04

Last week marked the ninth anniversary of the United States' invasion of Iraq and the first since the much-bandied-about withdrawal of US troops in December last year.

Neither the invasion nor the withdrawal warrants celebration, especially as the former was an international war crime and the latter a charade.

The invasion in March 2003 did not have the prior approval of the United Nations and according to international law experts and the then UN chief Kofi Annan, it was illegal. The George W. Bush administration misled the American public and the world at large by claiming that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links with the al-Qaeda terrorists who used civilian planes to attack the United States on September 11, 2001.

The invasion based on lies — which the Bush administration later attributed to intelligence failure — led to the deaths of some 1.4 million people in a country where another million people, half of whom were children, had died due to 12 years of US-backed sanctions. The stone-hearted sanction-era US Secretary of State Madeline Albright justified the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a price worth paying.

The war also brought destruction, especially to Iraq's infrastructure facilities, rendering some 24 million people without electricity for months and years. State-run factories were deliberately bombed to be privatized later or to be rebuilt by western construction companies.

Even educational facilities were not spared. A UNESCO report released in March 2003, coinciding with the invasion, said the education system in Iraq was one of the best in the region with high levels of literacy. The higher education facilities, especially the scientific and technological institutions, were of an international standard, staffed by high quality personnel.

But today, as a direct result of the US invasion, Iraq has lower literacy rate than it had 25 years ago, because the occupying power began its occupation by destroying every aspect of the country's education system, says a statement released this month by more than 15 non-governmental organisations.
Nine years after the invasion, the country's government which is ironically backed by the US and Iran — foes in the ongoing nuclear standoff — cannot boast of providing uninterrupted electricity services to the people. One third of the population has no access to clean drinking water. Unemployment is at an all time high with university graduates working in building construction sites as labourers. All this is happening in a country which is known to hold the world's second largest oil reserves.

However, the invaders spared the oil facilities. When people resorted to looting government facilities, including the world famous Baghdad museum after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003, the occupying US forces did little or nothing to stop them. But they gave protection to the oil ministry, underscoring the fact that their mission was not to find weapons of mass destruction or to liberate the Iraqi people from dictatorship, but to plunder Iraq's oil resources.
Multinational oil companies which were absent during the Saddam Hussein era are back and the Nouri al-Maliki government is under heavy pressure from the Americans to enact a controversial oil law that will allow virtual privatization of Iraq's oil reserves. Already the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north has done it by signing production sharing agreements with Exxon Mobil, in defiance of the central government.

On another front, the reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure facilities is being carried out by US and other foreign firms. They are paid by Iraq's treasury. The state of affairs is analogous to a situation where a man hires the very thug who destroyed his house to reconstruct it.

Civil society activists claim that corruption runs deep in the government with foreign collaboration. The US$ 6.6 billion which went missing and was mysteriously found in Iraq's Central Bank last year following an audit uproar speaks volumes about the corruption and the collusion.

In the United States, meanwhile, the Obama camp made use of the anniversary to drive home a point that the President had honoured his campaign promise that he would bring the troops home.

But this is a big lie. The ground reality points to the presence of some 50,000 US troops backed by 45,000 private mercenaries and 15,000 officials, many of whom are military or intelligence personnel in civil dress. This adds up to a force of 110,000 — bigger than the US presence in Afghanistan.
The presence of the mercenary force is a new concept in the Western war strategy. It allows the Western governments to do the wrong thing in the right way or to commit war crimes and get away. When 17 Iraqi civilians were mown down by Blackwater mercenaries in 2007, the blame was put on the private firm rather than on the US government which hired it. The Iraqi government banned Blackwater, but it returned under a different name — Xe. The US government investigations into crimes committed by private mercenaries seldom end up in conviction. Often cases against the mercenary killers drag on for years and are then dropped.

In Iraq, the private security forces or the mercenaries enjoy some degree of immunity under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). In Libya, too, the private mercenaries hired by Western governments played a major role in the toppling of the Gaddafi regime while in Pakistan, a mercenary killed two youths and got away in January last year.

As Iraq marks the ninth anniversary of the invasion, violence and bomb blasts are still part of Iraq's daily life. So is sectarian violence which was unheard of during the Saddam Hussein era. In the simmering fire, the Iraqi people's cry for war crimes accountability is only a whimper.


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At Summit, Nations Move to Increase Aid for Syrian Rebels
Quote:
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
Published: April 1, 2012

ISTANBUL — The United States and more than 60 other countries moved closer on Sunday to direct intervention in the fighting in Syria, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria’s military, according to participants gathered here.

The moves reflected a growing consensus, at least among those who met here this weekend under the rubric “Friends of Syria,” that mediation efforts by the United Nations peace envoy, Kofi Annan, were failing to halt the violence in Syria and that more forceful action was needed. With Russia and China blocking measures that could open the way for military action by the United Nations, the countries lined up against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have sought to bolster Syria’s beleaguered opposition through means that seemed to stretch the definition of humanitarian assistance.

The offer to provide salaries and communications equipment to rebel fighters known as the Free Syrian Army — with the hopes that the money might encourage government soldiers to defect, officials said — is bringing the loose Friends of Syria coalition to the edge of a proxy war against Mr. Assad’s government and its international supporters, principally Iran and Russia.

Direct assistance to the rebel fighters, even as Mr. Assad’s loyalists press on with a brutal crackdown, risked worsening a conflict that has already led to about 9,000 deaths and could plunge Syria into a protracted civil war.

“We would like to see a stronger Free Syrian Army,” Burhan Ghalioun, the leader of the Syrian National Council, a loose affiliation of exiled opposition leaders, told hundreds of world leaders and other officials gathered here. “All of these responsibilities should be borne by the international community.”

Mr. Ghalioun did not directly address the financial assistance from the Arab countries — including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — but he added, “This is high noon for action.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the conference that Mr. Assad had defied Mr. Annan’s efforts to broker an end to the fighting and begin a political transition. She said that new assaults began in Idlib and Aleppo provinces even after Mr. Assad publicly accepted the plan a week ago, which called for an immediate cease-fire followed by negotiations with the opposition.

“The world must judge Assad by what he does, not by what he says,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement to officials who sat around an enormous rectangular table the size of a basketball arena. “And we cannot sit back and wait any longer.”

The question of arming the rebels — as countries like Saudi Arabia and some members of Congress have called for — remain divisive because of the uncertainty of who exactly would receive them. Paying salaries to fighters blurs the line between lethal and nonlethal support.

Molham Al Drobi, a member of the Syrian National Council, said that the opposition had pledges of $176 million in humanitarian assistance and $100 million in salaries over three months for the fighters inside Syria. He said some money was already flowing into the fighters, including $500,000 last week through “a mechanism that I cannot disclose now.”

He expressed dismay that the international community was not doing more to provide weapons that might even the odds against the Syrian government’s security forces. “Our people are killed in the streets,” he said on the sidelines of the conference. “If the international community prefers not to do it themselves, they should at least help us doing it by giving us the green light, by providing us the arms, or anything else that needs to be done.”

Even so, as the fighting in Syria drags into a second year, the international involvement on behalf of Syria’s rebels — inside and outside the country — appears to be deepening.

Mrs. Clinton announced an additional $12 million in humanitarian assistance for international organizations aiding the Syrians, bringing the American total so far to $25 million, according to the State Department. She also confirmed for the first time that the United States was providing satellite communications equipment to help those inside Syria “organize, evade attacks by the regime,” and stay in contact with the outside world.

“We are discussing with our international partners how best to expand this support,” she said.

According to the Syrian National Council, the American assistance will include night-vision goggles.

The countries providing most of the money for salaries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — have long been the fiercest opponents of Mr. Assad’s rule, reflecting the sectarian split in the Arab world between Sunnis and Shiites. Mr. Assad and his inner circle are Alawites, a Shiite minority offshoot in Syria that has nonetheless dominated political and economic life in a country with a majority Sunni population, as well as Christian and other smaller sectarian groups.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the host of Sunday’s meeting, called on the United Nations Security Council to act in the wake of the failure of Mr. Annan’s efforts, saying Syria’s government was using the initiative to buy time. “If the Security Council hesitates, there will be no option left except to support the legitimate right of the Syrian people to defend themselves.” Mr. Annan is scheduled to brief the council’s 15 members in New York on Monday.

Mr. Erdogan emphasized that Turkey had no intention of interfering in Syria, once a close ally, but that the world could not stand idly by as the opposition withered in a lopsided confrontation with the government’s modern weaponry. “They are not alone,” he thundered. “They will never be alone.”


A final statement from Sunday’s meeting called on Mr. Annan to “determine a timeline” for the next steps in Syria. What those steps might be remains as uncertain as it has been since Mr. Assad’s government began its crackdown on popular dissent more than a year ago.

The State Department’s stated goals for the meeting in Istanbul reflected the constraints facing the United States and other nations without broader international support for military intervention like that in Libya last year. Proposals to create buffer zones and humanitarian corridors have garnered little support, in part because of the lack of United Nations authorization and logistical difficulties.

The United States and other nations agreed on Sunday to set up a “working group” within the nations gathered here to monitor countries that continue to arm or otherwise support Mr. Assad’s government — “to basically name and shame those entities, individuals, countries, who are evading the sanctions,” as a senior American official put it. They also agreed to support efforts to document acts of violence by Syrian forces that could later be used as evidence in prosecutions, presuming Mr. Assad’s government ultimately falls.

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting
.

Nations to Decide Syria Timeline
Quote:
ISTANBUL—Representatives of more than 60 governments gathered in Turkey will call for a timeline for Syria's government to comply with a U.N.-backed cease-fire plan, officials said, as President Bashar al-Assad's international opponents sought to bridge their differences over the best way to stem the violence in Syria.

The second meeting on Sunday of the so-called Friends of the Syrian People will also firm up international recognition of Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, but is unlikely to directly address calls for greater support for the rebel Free Syrian Army, the officials added.

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad protest outside the Istanbul Congress Center where the "Friends of Syria" conference was opening on Sunday.

Instead, Arab and Western governments sparring on whether to arm Syria's rebels will look for the lowest common diplomatic denominator by backing a six-point peace plan by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, while warning that the plan must strictly hold Syria's government to its commitment to stop military attacks.

Officials at the meeting also said they expect to announce a multimillion-dollar support fund for Syrian military defectors, funded by at least three Gulf Arab states. The Syrian National Council will administer the fund, which will pay salaries to the defectors. (trying to bring them together despite their rivalry and differences)

Opposition activists say military forces have continued a crackdown on opposition strongholds in the Syrian city of Homs and across the province of Idlib since accepting the peace plan last week.

"Nearly a week has gone by, and we have to conclude that the regime is adding to its long list of broken promises," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the meeting. The U.S. has formally supported the Annan peace plan, which has also received support from Russia, China, and Iran, the Assad regime's strongest international supporters. But Mrs. Clinton joined Turkish and Arab leaders on Sunday in calling for a clear timeline for the diplomatic initiative to achieve its aims.

"Nobody wants to let Bashar al-Assad use any kind of diplomatic initiative to basically run the clock out and let him continue to butcher his own people," said a senior U.S. official traveling with Mrs. Clinton. "At some point, we're going to have to talk about the other steps if he doesn't do what he says he's going to do."

The meeting's host country Turkey also issued a stern warning to Damascus, saying it would support "the right of the Syrian people to defend themselves" if the latest diplomatic initiative failed. A one-time ally of Mr. Assad, Ankara is among a handful of countries in the Friends group including Gulf Arab countries calling for a harder line against the Assad regime.

"We cannot accept any initiative that places the villain and the victim on the same footing," Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an opening speech.

The Obama administration stepped up its support for the Syrian opposition on Sunday, for the first time publicly announcing that it will begin supplying communications equipment to the rebels as well as agreeing another $12 million in humanitarian aid. Mrs. Clinton also announced U.S. support for initiatives to more rigorously impose sanctions on the Assad regime and to document its alleged human-rights violations.

Officials said they will also discuss whether to urge a 'timeline' or a 'deadline' for the implementation of the U.N. plan, with a deadline seen as a harsher ultimatum for Mr. Assad, a Western official said. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he would "favor a timeline but not a deadline," adding that the Syrian regime could use a deadline as an excuse to continue its brutal crackdown in the intervening period.

The meeting convened against a backdrop of divisions among the western and Arab countries which have so far failed to broker an end to Syria's violent crackdown, and within Syria's opposition. A group that splintered from the Syrian National Council last month, calling itself the Syrian National Assembly, gathered some 70 dissidents on the eve of the meeting.

There was still disagreement ahead of the meeting's start on what degree of recognition to offer the Syrian National Council, a coalition that has served as the opposition's main interlocutor with foreign governments, but which has fractured in recent weeks.

The first Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Tunis in February recognized the Council as "a legitimate representative" of Syrians seeking a peaceful democratic transition. Council members said they expected to be recognized at Sunday's meeting as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, taking them a step closer to recognition as an alternate government-in-exile

The Council has taken steps in recent days to address concerns by its critics. It has published a National Charter outlining a transition plan to ease fears of a chaotic post-Assad period, started an internal restructuring, and promised to guarantee constitutional rights for Syria's ethnic Kurds, a significant and restive minority group.


Confirms what I said yesterday. Basically they are preparing for a greater and deeper conflict. Everyone is just preparing - weapons are already flowing in. I already said that the Libyans were being paid $1000 per month to fight. This is just preparing for that and also paying the FSA.

Hillary mam basically said before they get deeply involved the opposition need to unite under one banner whch was a big barrier to engagement. GCC basically kicked some arse and got SNC to start uniting with the FSA and promised the kurds their autonomy (whether they do or dont will be decided later, kurds arent naive either). So GCC said we will only help you if you unite and pay both of you. So they said we'll give money to SNC, who will pay FSA, so basically SNC and FSA who were rivals are now being forced to be tied in the hip.

Source mentioned no one really understands the interests of Qatar and they are running their own show. KSA, Kuwait and UAE the GCC power houses are working together.

Meanwhile in Delhi....

BRICS position shaped on West Asia, Afghanistan

Quote:
IANS | April 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Manish Chand

New Delhi: Amid differing perceptions, India played a crucial role in shaping the collective stance of the BRICS countries on the need for dialogue to resolve the festering crisis in West Asia and to push continued regional and international cooperation in stabilising Afghanistan.

The Delhi Declaration at the end of the fourth BRICS summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa on Thursday supported moderation and dialogue in resolving the Iranian nuclear standoff and the Syrian crisis amid threats and sharp rhetoric emanating from Western capitals.

Although there are sceptics who say the political content of BRICS remains thin, the New Delhi summit is by far the most ambitious one as it seeks to reinforce the economic heft of the emerging economies with calls for greater diplomatic clout in setting the international agenda.

Well-informed sources said while each country has its own interests to safeguard, India is broadly satisfied with attempts at injecting political content on issues of immediate concern to its security and economic wellbeing. For example, there was no mention of Afghanistan in the earlier BRICS declarations and limited reference to West Asia in the 2011 Sanya declaration.

On Iran, the BRICS countries collectively warned against allowing the situation to escalate into conflict — a veiled reference to the speculated plan by the US-Israel to target Iranian nuclear facilities.

In the restricted discussions between the leaders that preceded the plenary session, which was open to the media, there were intense discussions among the delegations of the five countries on these sensitive issues, informed sources said. There were differences of perception as well as convergence as none of the BRICS countries wanted to openly defy the West by taking a confrontational stance.

However, India took the lead in the discussions, with Russia and China agreeing that any escalation of the already tense situation in Iran will have corroding spillover effects on the global economy triggered by the rise in oil prices.

The position on Iran is significant as it also calls for roping in Tehran as a responsible member of the international community. This is bound to upset the US which has been trying to isolate the Iranian regime, Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary and envoy to the US, told IANS.


The escalation of the Iranian situation is bound to impact India, Russia and China in different ways. India gets nearly 10-12 per cent of its oil imports from Iran. China imports around 20 per cent of its oil requirements from Iran. Both China and Russia have extensive business interests in Iran.

On Syria, India feels that the larger logic behind its vote on the UN resolution has been vindicated by the BRICS resolution which calls for “a Syria-backed democratic transition” in that country. {Basically they are saying Assad must go}

Any flare-up in the Middle East will have additional complications for India as the region is home to over six million Indians who account for a bulk of $58 billion in remittances sent by overseas Indians. These concerns were reflected in the BRICS position on not letting transformation in the Middle East and North Africa as “a pretext to delay resolution of lasting conflicts but rather as an incentive to settle them, in particular the Arab-Israeli conflict”.

India played a proactive role in getting other BRICS leaders to advocate continued international engagement in Afghanis­tan against the backdrop of the phased pull-down of coalition tro­ops in the violence-torn country.


Good move by delhi to get Russia to get involved in Afghanistan and mentioned in the declarations.

They also all agreed Assad cannot stay.


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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2012 21:42 
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BRF Oldie

Joined: 23 Jul 2000 11:31
Posts: 11555
The outcome and funding of rebels is not a surprise factor considering the Saudi top guy has been openly advocating it.

What this might do is create a direct Shia-Sunni divide by funding rebels along ethnic lines , secondly this might create a civil war like situation becuase Assad is just a symptom of the problem and his going or staying wont solve it.

Not to mention we might just see the rise of terror activity globally and specifically in ME


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