The American Kafir

2011/02/28

U.S.: Options For Military Action In Libya

Filed under: Libya, National Security, Obama, United States Military — - @ 8:23 pm

Source Link:STRATFOR

U.S. military planners are working on a wide range of options on actions to take in Libya, possibly imposing a no-fly zone, halting warplanes from attacking civilians and removing wounded civilians from the country, The New York Times reported Feb. 28, citing unnamed U.S. officials. The officials said that the United States would seek an international consensus for action and that the scope of planning has substantially increased over the past few weeks. The officials said that the Obama administration believes that only the U.S. military can lead across a full range of options to halt the violence. The officials said that now that most U.S. citizens have left Libya, the United States is more open to speaking publicly about military options.

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Oman and Middle Eastern Unrest

Filed under: Protests — Tags: , — - @ 8:19 pm

Source Link:STRATFOR

Oman and Middle Eastern Unrest
KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters gather in Sohar, Oman, on Feb. 28

Summary

Protests continued for a third day in Oman on Feb. 28, which, though small, have taken place nationwide. Fearful of the unrest, especially given the wider regional context, Omani officials have opted for concessions rather than simply strong-arm tactics. While Oman’s leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, is in a position of strength, various factors in the small, wealthy country warrant close monitoring.

Analysis

Protests continued for a third straight day in Oman on Feb. 28. While small — the largest numbered in the low thousands — the unrest appears to be taking place nationwide. The most intense demonstrations occurred in the northern industrial city of Sohar, which has seen arson and looting. Demonstrations also occurred in the capital, Muscat, and in the far south at Salalah.

Oman has no political parties and protests are rare. No evidence suggests any formal civil society groups behind the unrest, and violence has been limited to Sohar, where rapid industrialization has created economic disparities and associated tensions. Clashes there between demonstrators and security forces have killed as many as a half a dozen people. Fearful that the crackdown could make matters worse, Omani authorities have opted for concessions and allowing peaceful protests. Such concessions are likely to continue, along with political reform.

Oman and Middle Eastern Unrest

The first protests against corruption and rising prices were held in Muscat on Jan. 19. In the wake of the Feb. 11 ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Muscat raised the minimum wage for Omani nationals working in the private sector Feb. 16. But more peaceful protests followed Feb. 18. Oman’s leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, announced 50,000 new jobs and a $390 monthly stipend for employment seekers Feb. 27, one day after he replaced six members of his Cabinet; he also increased the monthly stipend for university and vocational school students.

Saudi, U.S. and even Pakistani military leaders recently have traveled to Muscat to discuss the regional situation. Oman is the second Persian Gulf Arab state to see protests after Bahrain. Since Sultan Qaboos took power in 1970 after ousting his father and quashed a rebellion in Dhofar province near the Yemeni border, Oman, which stands out from its neighbors in many ways, has experienced a great degree of stability facilitated by its small population and oil wealth.

Since the mid-8th century, Oman has largely remained an independent entity with brief periods of occupation by Arab, Persian, and Turkic dynasties and the Portuguese. Some 65 percent of the country’s 2,750,000 nationals follow the Ibadhi sect of Islam, which is distinct from both Sunni and Shiite Islam. Oman is also very diverse in ethno-linguistic terms with significant Balochi, East African and South Asian minorities; some 580,000 foreigners reside in the country. Modern Oman has known only one ruler, the current sultan, who has over the years made some nominal steps toward making the country a constitutional monarchy but has not faced significant opposition since early in his reign.

Wider regional unrest has shined a spotlight on segments of Omani society that have not benefited from the overall prosperity. These elements remained quiet until the toppling of the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents galvanized them. So far, their protests have been small, and the sultan has won the loyalties of many over the years. As a graduate of the military academy at Sandhurst who served in the British army, the sultan played a key role in the development of the country’s military into a modern institution, giving him the armed forces’ loyalty. These factors most likely will allow the sultanate to check the unrest.

That said, various factors could create political problems for the sultan.

  • Oman is the only one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states where citizens outnumber foreigners, creating a significant stratum of natives in which dissent can manifest. Countries like Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have more foreigners than nationals, making them easier to manage for the governments.
  • Sultan Qaboos is 71, and the country has known no other ruler for more than 40 years.
  • The sultan has no children and has not appointed a successor.
  • The royal family is large enough to support intrigue to succeed the sultan.

Even though the sultan is seen as the man who brought security, stability, prosperity and modernity to the country, the factors above and the wider regional unrest put Oman’s future in play. Muscat will thus likely be forced to engage in political reforms to accompany the economic steps it has taken.

The debauching of the LSE

Source Link: Spectator
Written by Melanie Phillips

The Times (£) reports that half the board of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, which has received money from Libya among other Arab dictatorships, has called for a boycott of Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.

It figures.

Now, apparently, there are some red faces:

The university has already been urged by its own dons to give up the £300,000 it received from a foundation headed by the son of Colonel Gaddafi. Howard Davies, the LSE director, is said to have told academics this week that he was ashamed of the institution’s links to the dictatorship.

Questions have been emerging about the LSE’s wider reliance on finance from authoritarian regimes. One of its lecture halls has been named in honour of a sheikh reputed to have promoted anti-Semitic material.

An academic source said the university has become nervous about being seen as anti-Israel because of a threat to donations from American alumni.

Fresh concerns are focused on the LSE’s Middle East Centre. The body was designed to promote impartiality, academic freedom and the strengthening of links with universities in the region. But critics point out that two of the four-strong management group are campaigners for an academic boycott of Israel.

Martha Mundy, an anthropologist, is co-convener of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. John Chalcraft, a politics expert, argued for boycotting Israel in a debate at the LSE last month. The motion was defeated. The centre was set up with £9.2 million which came partly from the Emirates Foundation, which is chaired by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, a member of the ruling Royal Family. Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister when it was established in 2006, attended the signing of a ‘memorandum of understanding’.

Students objected to the subsequent naming of a lecture theatre in honour of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the late UAE ruler. Their union said: ‘To name [the theatre] after a dead dictator with suspected links to Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism is completely beyond the pale.’

Professor Mundy told The Times that the centre took extreme care to maintain the highest standards of scholarship and non-partisanship. She said she had called for ‘academics to avoid, as individuals, work with Israeli academic institutions, not with individual Israeli academics’.

An appreciation of satire is clearly not one of Prof Mundy’s strongest suits.

Note that there is no question of the LSE being embarrassed because what it has done is totally immoral. No question of it being shame-faced because of the way it has destroyed all claim to dispassionate scholarship and the pursuit of truth. A belated fit of conscience? Hardly. LSE Director Howard Davies appears rather to be embarrassed only because the balloon has finally gone up over Gaddafi’s tyranny. And the LSE is apparently only nervous about being seen as anti-Israel

because of a threat to donations from American alumni.

That so? Wonder to what particular ethnic group that particular gem is supposed to refer? Just in case anyone might run away with the idea that the Arab lobby might have a rather bigger impact, eh?

Thus not just the LSE but swathes of the British academy have debauched the very notion of education, having lent themselves to libelling, delegitimising and demonising the victim of genocidal aggression in the Middle East while pocketing funding from the Arab world from which this poison unremittingly pours. This gross corruption of academic standards, and with it the mindset of the intelligentsia, sits at the very heart of the British derangement over Israel. It is truly a disgusting spectacle.

IAEA says gets info on possible Iran military work

Filed under: Iran, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Nuclear, Radical Islam — Tags: , — - @ 7:23 pm

Source Link: Reuters
Photo

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. atomic watchdog has received new information regarding allegations that Iran may be seeking to develop a nuclear-armed missile, the agency said in a report voicing deepening concern about the issue. (A PDF copy of this report can be found after this article)

The confidential document signaled the U.N. body’s growing frustration at what it sees as Iran’s lack of cooperation with a long-running investigation into its disputed nuclear program.

It also made clear Iran’s determination to press ahead with sensitive atomic activity despite four rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006, saying the country had informed the IAEA it would soon start operating a second uranium enrichment plant.

The report looked likely to add to Western suspicions that Iran is secretly bent on building a nuclear weapons capability from its enrichment program, which Tehran denies.

It may also provide the United States and allies with additional arguments for further tightening sanctions on the Islamic Republic, after talks in December and January failed to make any progress toward resolving the dispute.

The IAEA report, obtained by Reuters on Friday, said it remained concerned about possible current activity in Iran to design a nuclear payload.

“Iran is not engaging with the agency in substance on issues concerning the allegation that Iran is developing a nuclear payload for its missile program,” it said.

For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone in a way suitable for a nuclear warhead.

An official with knowledge of the IAEA’s investigation said the new information, if it turned out to be correct, concerned both Iran’s past and more recent activities.

The report said that based on an analysis of “additional information which has come to its attention since August 2008, including new information recently received, there are further concerns which the agency … needs to clarify with Iran.”

BUSHEHR FUEL

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, which is Iran’s stated aim, or provide material for bombs if processed much further.

In a surprise development, the report said Iran had said it “would have to unload fuel assemblies” from the core of the Russian-built Bushehr reactor, which Iranian officials have previously said would soon start generating electricity.

Iran did not give a reason for its move, which was announced a month after Russia said NATO should investigate a computer virus attack on Bushehr last year, saying the incident could have triggered a nuclear disaster on the scale of Chernobyl.

Iran began fuelling Bushehr in August and officials have said the reactor will begin producing energy early this year, a delay of several months following the spread of the global computer virus, which is believed mainly to have affected Iran.

Iranian officials have confirmed the Stuxnet virus hit staff computers at Bushehr but said it had not affected major systems.

Security experts say the computer worm may have been a state-sponsored attack on Iran’s nuclear program and may have originated in the United States or Israel.

The official familiar with the IAEA probe said he believed the reason for Iran’s planned unloading of the fuel assemblies, which he expected would take place in the next few days, was “technical,” without elaborating.

Despite a brief halt of enrichment work in November, Iran’s total output of low-enriched uranium rose to reach a total of 3.61 tonnes, from 3.18 tonnes at the end of October, suggesting steady work despite technical woes and possible sabotage.

Experts say that amount could be enough for two bombs if refined much further.

In a further sign that Tehran has no intention of bowing to demands to halt such work, the report said Iran had told the IAEA earlier this week it planned to begin feeding nuclear material at its second enrichment facility “by this summer.”

In September 2009, Iran revealed the existence of the site, Fordow, being built inside a mountain bunker near the central city of Qom after keeping it secret for years.

(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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Russia vows to sell missiles to Syria

Filed under: Hezbollah, Israel, National Security, Radical Islam, Russia, Syria, WMD — - @ 7:06 pm

Source Link: AFP

by Dmitry Zaks Dmitry Zaks

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia vowed Saturday to fulfil its contract to supply Syria with cruise missiles despite the turmoil shaking the Arab world and Israel’s furious condemnation of the deal.

“The contract is in the implementation stage,” news agencies quoted Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as saying.

Russia initially agreed to send a large shipment of anti-ship Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria in 2007 under the terms of a controversial deal that was only disclosed by Serdyukov in September 2010.

The revelation infuriated both Israel and the United States and there had been speculation that Russia would decide to tear up the contract amid the current turmoil plaguing north Africa and the Middle East.

Israel — which is still technically in a state of war with Syria and fears its close ties with Iran — suspects that the shipment is ultimately aimed at supplying Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon.

The disputed sale is believed to be worth at least $300 million (218 million euros) and is meant to see Syria receive 72 cruise missiles in all.

Russia has not officially confirmed making any Yakhont deliveries to date.

But Interfax cited one unnamed military source as saying that Russia had already sent Syria two Bastion coastal defence systems that can include up to 36 Yakhont missiles each.

The feared complex can only operate when equipped with radar and target detection helicopters and it was not clear from Serdyukov’s comments which supplies — if any — had already been received by Syria.

The Israeli ambassador to Moscow confirmed that his country was primarily worried the missiles would end up in the hands of the Shiite Hezbollah movement that receives strong backing from Syria.

“The question of these missiles’ deliver to Syria really has triggered a negative reaction in Israel,” Dorit Golender told the Interfax news agency.

“And this is understandable since Hezbollah has repeatedly used weapons that they received either from Lebanon or Syria.”

Serdyukov’s statement comes amid Russian efforts to keep its military supply lines open to the Middle East despite the wave of revolutions and social unrest sweeping the region.

A source in the Russian arms exports industry said this week that the fall of the region’s regimes may see the country lose about $10 billion dollars in contracts.

Serdyukov himself confirmed that the unrest may force Russia to give up some of its Soviet-era clients in the Arab world.

“There is a chance we might lose something,” the defence minister said on a visit on visit to Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

“But I hope that the main weapons and military equipment agreements will be fulfilled,” Serdyukov said.

Russia’s sales to Syria have come under particularly close scrutiny because of fears that Moscow may be also be covertly assisting Damascus’ nascent nuclear programme.

The head of the country’s arms export corporation in October denied that Russia had also signed an agreement to supply Syria with its latest range of MiG-31 fighter jets.

But the same agency confirmed in May that Russia was in the process of supplying Syria with a less advanced fighter jet version — the Mig-29 — along with short-range air defence systems and various armoured vehicles.

Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter behind the United States and its sales are crucial to the country’s efforts to keep alive a creaking defence industry whose reforms have dragged on for years.

Egypt’s Stake in the Libyan Unrest

Filed under: Egypt, Libya — Tags: — - @ 6:00 pm

Source Link: STRATFOR

Egypt's Stake in the Libyan Unrest
MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images
A Libyan man carries ammunition for an anti-aircraft gun in Benghazi on Feb. 28

Summary

STRATFOR has received a number of indicators that Egypt’s military-led regime is quietly attempting to facilitate the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi through its support for Libyan opposition forces based in the east. Egypt, experiencing a reawakening in the Arab world, has a stake in trying to shape the outcome of the Libyan crisis, but, like the United States, Italy and others closely monitoring the situation, it faces the same dilemma as everyone else in trying to create a viable alternative to the Gadhafi regime, one that could actually hold the country together.

Analysis

Egypt’s military-led regime has been quietly backing opposition forces in Libya to facilitate the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, according to information STRATFOR has collected from a variety of sources in the region. Though Egypt has strategic interests in trying to shape the outcome of the Libyan crisis, it faces an enormous challenge in trying to cobble together a viable alternative to Gadhafi.

Egyptian Assistance to the Opposition

The Libyan opposition is based in and around the eastern stronghold of Benghazi, where a roughly 8,000-member force is reportedly mobilizing to traverse some 800 kilometers (497 miles) by road through the desert to depose Gadhafi and take Tripoli by force. This opposition force is a mixture of army defectors, politicians, attorneys and youth volunteers, many of whom are poorly equipped and lacking in combat training.

An immense logistical challenge thus lies ahead for this group of Libyan rebels trying to move into Gadhafi’s western stronghold in and around Tripoli — especially as Gadhafi appears to have retained significant air force support both to keep the rebels at bay and to destroy their arms depots from the air. The Libyan opposition does not appear to be alone, however. According to STRATFOR sources, Egyptian army and special operations forces units have played a key role in quietly providing weaponry and training to Libyan opposition forces while trying to organize a political command in the east. One well-placed source, whose information could not be verified, claimed that the Tunisian army is allowing armed volunteer fighters, along with Egyptian special operations forces, to enter Libya from the west through the Tunisian border, which lies closer to Tripoli than Benghazi and is a location to which a number of Libyan refugees have already fled. This reported influx of fighters would presumably be used to flank Gadhafi’s forces from the west while other opposition forces move in from the east for a potential battle over Tripoli.

While the Egyptian army has its hands full at home in trying to manage the post-Mubarak political transition, placate the opposition and resuscitate the economy after weeks of paralyzing demonstrations, the regime in Cairo has a stake in shaping the outcome of the crisis erupting next door. The Egyptian regime’s current foreign policy imperative is to contain unrest on its borders, especially as civil war in Libya could result in a massive spillover of refugees into Egypt and a resurgence of Islamist militancy in Libya’s east. Egypt still seems to be deciding what exactly is the best approach toward containing Libyan unrest, however.

At this point, it appears that the Egyptians have calculated that with Libya’s army and tribes split and with the east in the opposition’s control, Gadhafi can no longer serve as the glue that holds the fragile Libyan state together. For now, the country is in a stalemate, split between east and west, as some 5,000 well-trained and well-equipped forces loyal to Gadhafi are entrenching themselves in Tripoli and battling opposition forces in Zawiya (30 miles west of Tripoli) and Misurata (125 miles east of Tripoli). If the Egyptians organize an assault on Tripoli, the threat of civil war could rise substantially.

Weak Alternatives to Gadhafi

That is, unless, Egypt felt confident that it could cobble together a lasting, viable alternative to the Gadhafi regime to uproot and/or co-opt Gadhafi loyalists and stem the unrest. So far, this appears to be an enormous undertaking, considering the deep fissures that are already emerging within the eastern opposition itself.

Since Feb. 26, the creations of two separate “national councils” in the east have been announced, both of which are committed to a united Libya, rather than to any sort of secessionist push. The first of these, announced Feb. 26 by recently resigned Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has been described as a transitional government that will give way to national elections in just three months. One day after Abdul Jalil’s council was announced, Benghazi-based lawyer Hafiz Ghoga held a news conference that dismissed the notion that there existed anything resembling a transitional government in rebel-held territory. Ghoga’s National Libyan Council, he claimed, was the entity managing the day-to-day affairs of areas held by the opposition until Gadhafi fell. Abdul Jalil has since announced plans to march on Tripoli, whereas Ghoga has not. And while both councils are reportedly to be based out of eastern Libya’s de facto capital, Benghazi, Abdul Jalil is believed to hold more political sway in the eastern town of Al Bayda.

Egypt’s Reawakening and the Libyan Challenge

Coming out of its own political crisis, Egypt is experiencing a reawakening in the Arab world and appears eager to reassert its influence following years of insularity. Unlike Persian Gulf Arab states, whose power is derived from petrodollars, Egypt has real military might and regional intelligence networks with which to assert itself. Cairo already has begun using its response to its domestic crisis to reclaim its influence in the Arab world amid regional unrest — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt has publicized the fact that Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is actively advising high-risk regimes.

In the case of Libya, Egypt is trying to position itself as the regional power that the outside world must rely on to operate in the country. Though Libya’s desert buffers to the east and west make it difficult for outside forces like Egypt to project influence in the country, Libya’s energy assets (which could come under threat should Gadhafi resort to a scorched-earth policy in trying to cling to power) and market for Egyptian labor are also likely driving Cairo’s interest in the current Libyan unrest.

Libya and Egypt have a long and bumpy history, and Libya’s worst nightmare is a powerful Egypt with room to maneuver, especially if the military is in charge. Libya’s population of 6.4 million is dwarfed by Egypt’s 80 million, and it is isolated from much of the Arab world by desert terrain. Libya’s energy assets give it internal wealth that Egypt lacks, though these resources also make the country an attractive target.

Thus, Tripoli has long been outmatched by Cairo in its bid to assume a leadership position in this region. Libya’s best chance of assuming regional notoriety and containing Egypt was to facilitate Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arabist vision, with Gadhafi even going so far as to transfer aircraft to Egypt for use in the 1973 war against Israel. What Gadhafi may not have anticipated was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s strategy to make peace through war with Israel. As tensions developed between the two, a four-day shooting war broke out on the Egyptian-Libyan border in 1977 in which Egyptian forces advanced a few miles into Libyan territory before the Algerian government mediated a cease-fire. Roughly a quarter of a million Egyptian workers were then deported from Libya as Cairo forged ahead with its peace negotiations with Israel, leaving Libya (as well as Syria, Algeria and others) with a sense of betrayal and fear over what an Egypt unrestrained by conflict with Israel would mean for the region. Gadhafi tried again to forge unions with Syria in 1980, but without Egypt, these plans were doomed to fail.

Egypt sees an opportunity to re-establish its influence in Libya amidst the current chaos. Still, like the United States, Italy, France, Russia and others with a stake in what comes out of the Libyan crisis, Cairo cannot reasonably assume it will have an alternative force capable of holding the country together. Gadhafi designed his regime for this very situation: preventing any alternative bases of power from emerging to challenge his rule and keeping Libya shut off from much of the outside world. It is little wonder, then, that the outside world, including Egypt, is desperately trying to make sense of the players in country to sort out potential leaders and gauge their capabilities and trustworthiness in a post-Gadhafi regime. Egypt appears to be taking the lead in this initiative, but the fear of the unknown remains the strongest pillar to Gadhafi’s crumbling regime.

Palestinian Territories: PIJ Leader Calls For Increased Resistance Against Israel

Filed under: Gaza, Israel, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Palestine — - @ 5:55 pm

Source Link: STRATFOR

February 28, 2011

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Khaled al-Batsh called on Palestinian resistance groups to strengthen their activities and detain Israeli soldiers, Maan News Agency reported Feb. 28. Al-Batsh said that resistance is the only way to free thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of PIJ, said that militants would focus efforts on Israeli troops breaching the Gaza Strip border and maintaining the “no-go zone” inside the Gaza Strip.

2011/02/27

An Eyewitness Account of China’s Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

Filed under: China, Protests — Tags: — - @ 5:27 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

February 27, 2011 | 1851 GMT
Another Round of 'Jasmine' Gatherings
STRATFOR
A ‘Jasmine’ gathering on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing on Feb. 27

A second set of “Jasmine” gatherings occurred Feb. 27 in cities across China in response to anonymous open letters published on Boxun.com earlier in the week. As with last week, these gatherings did not have the characteristics of formal protests, and it is difficult to tell how many people participated in the gatherings, given that the chosen locations are generally crowded pedestrian areas and that the participants were instructed simply to walk and smile at each other, making it hard to distinguish them from regular pedestrians and onlookers. However, various reports suggest the turnout was similar to or larger than the first round of gatherings during the week of Feb. 20. Many foreign journalists were also present.

Chinese security forces were out in full force, including regular police, paramilitary units, plainclothes police, and security volunteers with red armbands. Security personnel attempted to disperse the crowds by pushing people along, and construction signs and material were erected near the designated meeting places. Near Beijing’s Wangfujing McDonald’s, street-cleaning vehicles made repeated rounds, spraying water over the street and dispersing crowds, while individual street sweepers in orange clothing used their brooms to ward off suspected protesters. An alternative meeting place, the KFC restaurant, also saw water trucks in place. According to DPA, as many as a dozen foreign reporters were detained in Beijing, and reports from a number of other news agencies indicated that their employees were subjected to harassment or were detained (with some later released) and, in at least one case, beaten. Unconfirmed reports from Shanghai’s gathering, where an anonymous Internet post claimed as many as 1,000-2,000 people attended, resembled those from Beijing, with a heavy security presence and a number of people detained. In Changchun, participants seemed unable to recognize each other and group together, and in Chengdu the meeting place was cordoned off but people did congregate.

Although relatively small in terms of turnout, the gatherings are significant for many reasons. First, they represent cross-regional organization, bringing together people in different locations across the country. Second, they have not stopped after the first week; rather, they have continued. The unknown “control group” that is responsible for writing the appeals for protest has continued to operate, and its primary means of communication remain the U.S.-based Boxun website, blogs and microblogs, as well as word of mouth. Authorities have been censoring key terms but have not been able to prevent new gatherings from forming; they have refrained from using heavy force but have used obstruction and harassment to deter and disperse the gatherings. Thus, while the gatherings have not yielded large turnouts, they have shown the potential to become regular and grow in size. The authorities have responded with security deployments and statements that suggest a high level of concern.

The following is a report from a STRATFOR source at Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing:

There are a few important points to observe in these photographs. Uniformed and plainclothes security personnel could be identified by ear pieces, cameras and general demeanor, and were dominating the area in front of and inside McDonald’s. They were surveying inside adjacent shops, moving people along and taking pictures of any person that caught their interest. The People’s Armed Police were deployed, but they were dressed in ceremonial garb rather than their normal uniforms, indicating their presence was more for a visible deterrent and to serve as a statement of the authorities’ readiness.

People who appeared ready to participate in an organized gathering were present but they were not given the opportunity to do so. Anyone standing in one spot for more than 20 seconds came under intense scrutiny and was moved along by security personnel. One could see interested locals turning up, appearing worried and indecisive at the security presence in the area. Some were taking refuge in the McDonald’s, where they also came under scrutiny of the security services. It is impossible to say how many turned up to participate, as many would have seen the security preparations and thought better of it. Many would have been moved on as soon as they stopped on the spot, and many still would have blended in with the crowd. One could say there were people there hoping to participate, but it is difficult to ascertain, even in loose terms, how many would-be participants were present. Those who say there were no protesters were not looking hard enough.

There were makeshift construction sites set up right in front of the McDonald’s. Three trucks went up and down the street spraying water and creating a very uncomfortable environment for the protesters. Street cleaners were there to obstruct the camera crews or any passers by taking photographs. Security personnel shut the street down at about 2:45 p.m. local time.

Demonstrators on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings
STRATFOR

Uniformed police on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings
STRATFOR

Many street sweepers were deployed to help deter the ‘Jasmine’ gathering on Wangfujing Avenue

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings
STRATFOR

Street-cleaning vehicles on Wangfujing Avenue

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings
STRATFOR

Police with dogs patrol Wanfujing Avenue after street cleaning

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings
STRATFOR

People’s Armed Police deployed on Wangfujing Avenue

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings
STRATFOR

Iran: Opposition Leaders Moved To Safe House

Filed under: Iran, Protests — - @ 3:00 pm

Source Link: STRATFOR

Two Iranian opposition leaders have secretly been moved from their homes where they had been under house arrest for encouraging anti-government protests, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said Feb. 27, Reuters reported. According to sources of the human rights group, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were moved, along with their wives, to a safe house in an area close to Tehran. The sources also said the leaders had not been physically abused and their new location is not a prison. There has been no official confirmation as to their whereabouts.

Syria: President Making Plans To Deter Protests

Filed under: Protests, Syria — - @ 2:55 pm

Source Link: STRATFOR

According to a STRATFOR source with links to the Syrian regime, Syrian President Bashar al Assad is outlining plans to prevent protests from spreading into the country. Security forces have been placed on full alert to quell disturbances as soon as they occur, preventing them from becoming mass demonstrations. The source, whose information has not been verified, also claims that al Assad has decided to remove Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari from the Cabinet and put a number of members and top officials on trial for abusing the public’s trust, a decision to deflect a popular uprising. Meanwhile, a Facebook page that boasts some 25,000 supporters, many of whom are in exile, has called for mass protests in Syria, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia to demand the removal of al Assad. Thus far, the Facebook-organized protests have failed to gain traction.

2011/02/26

Obama’s Economic Advisers: International Socialists, Union Thugs, NBC Execs, Soros Scholars, Subprime Lenders, Amnesty Shills, and Campaign Cronies

Source Link: Floyd Reports

Written By Ben Johnson

The media enthused when Barack Obama bloviated during his State of the Union Address, “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” They now enthuse that the president has appointed members to his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness allegedly designed to cut down inefficient regulations and unnecessary government burdens. None of the media announced that the appointees are a collection of globalists, media elites at NBC News, union thugs, amnesty activists, employees of Soros-funded think tanks, wealth redistributionists, business failures in the subprime lending industry, and Chicago cronies. Nonetheless, today’s issue of USA Today is already spinning the story under the headline, “Obama Wants Business World’s Best Ideas on Jobs.”

Where he would get those ideas is anyone’s guess.

Richard Trumka is perhaps the most conspicuous choice on this job-creating council. Trumka, who recently admitted to Astroturfing the protests in Wisconsin and around the country, is president of the AFL-CIO and a longtime Big Labor activist with a shady history. Michelle Malkin has noted that Trumka led the United Mine Workers when a non-union worker named Eddie York was shot to death in the midst of a mining strike. The UMW aided all eight union members present at the scene of the crime and disciplined none of them. In a separate incident, Trumka incited a crowd in Illinois to “kick the s–t out of every last” person who crossed the UMW picket line. Working his way up the ranks, as AFL-CIO treasurer he was implicated in two money-laundering scandals involving the Teamsters. He said if he were forced to testify before Congress, he would invoke the Fifth Amendment. Trumka climbed the ladder by gripping the coattails of John Sweeney, the union’s former president and member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Sweeney and Trumka saw the union donate more than $200 million in political aid to the Democrats in 2008 and send out more than 250,000 “volunteers,” many of whom worked for Obama in swing states. On February 15, Barack Obama awarded Sweeney the Medal of Freedom.

After succeeding Sweeney as the union’s president in September 2009, Trumka decided to further radicalize the union. Just last fall, Trumka insisted, “We need to fundamentally restructure our economy and re-establish popular control over the private corporations which have distorted our economy and hijacked our government. That’s a long-term job but one we should start now.” To that end, Trumka has worked with European socialists to establish a global tax, a measure that is also a top priority of Obama’s Science Czar John Holdren. Last year, Trumka carried out his threats to go after Democrats who opposed ObamaCare’s “public option,” failing to oust Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln as the Democratic nominee.

The new council position provides no real boost to Trumka; he doesn’t need one. Although certain members of Obama’s Cabinet have not heard from the president after serving two years into his administration, Trumka recently boasted: “I’m at the White House a couple times a week. Two, three times a week. I have conversations everyday with someone in the White House or in the administration. Everyday.”

Trumka is not the only union thug with a seat at the table.

Joseph T. Hansen helps Trumka present the Labor Left’s views. Hansen is president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and chairman of Change to Win, the AFL-CIO’s major union rival (the one formed by SEIU). Like Trumka, Hansen is already a frequent presidential advisor. Hansen serves as a member of Obama’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. Hansen, too, helped elect Obama. UFCW’s political action committee, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union Active Ballot Club, spent $673,309 on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and $3.5 million on Democratic candidates in 2008 and 2010.

Perhaps Hansen’s most valuable contribution, though, was his union’s most famous alumna, Buffy Wicks. Wicks ran the union’s Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign. During her time on UFCW’s payroll, the union announced “an exciting new partnership” with ACORN. After honing her community organizing skills on that crusade, she ran the 2008 Obama campaign on the West Coast and Missouri, for which she was rewarded with a position in Valerie Jarrett’s Office of Public Engagement. Wicks famously presided over the conference call instructing publicly funded artists to produce political propaganda to advance the president’s agenda. (Left-wing activist Sally Kohn recently admitted the administration presided over a series of such potentially illegal meetings.) In addition to his union’s assault on the nation’s largest employer, Hansen is part of the group America’s Agenda, an alliance of Big Labor and Big Business whose members work to promote national health care. Coincidentally, the UFCW also received an ObamaCare waiver.

Hansen, too, is an international socialist and amnesty advocate. His biography at the UFCW website states, “His early experience with global unionism provided him with the foresight to realize that only global solidarity can confront global corporations.” Translated, that means, “Workers of the world, unite.”

Hansen advocates amnesty for illegal aliens. He accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of violating the Fourth Amendment “rights” of illegal immigrants during workplace raids in the Bush years. Hansen co-authored a piece for The Huffington Post demanding “immigration reform” (read: amnesty) for the nation’s 13 million illegal immigrants, claiming that would raise wages for all Americans. His co-author, SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, was more forthcoming about his real intentions. An honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, Medina admitted he supported the bill because “it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters…we will create a governing coalition for the long-term, not just for an election cycle.” Hansen has served as president of Union Network International (UNI), an international union, since 2003.

Laura D’Andrea Tyson, another appointee, is currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. CAP, which received significant start-up money from George Soros, is the most influential think tank in the Obama administration, housing such intellectual giants as Van Jones. Tyson is also a professor in the business school at the University of California at Berkeley, and formerly its dean. She sits on the advisory board for Newman’s Own Foundation, which heavily funds left-wing causes. Tyson gave a preview of her economic advice in an August op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Why We Need a Second Stimulus.” She argued, “Our national debate about fiscal policy has become skewed, with far too much focus on the deficit…too much worry about the size of government.” Echoing the economic savant Nancy Pelosi, Tyson wrote, “Two forms of spending with the biggest and quickest bang for the buck are unemployment benefits and aid to state governments. The federal government should pledge generous financing increases for both programs through 2011.”
Monica C. Lozano is “Publisher and CEO of La Opinión, the nation’s largest Spanish language daily newspaper,” as well as CEO for impreMedia LLC.  The White House press release states Lozano sits on the boards of “several non-profit organizations.” It omits the fact that one of these happens to be the National Council of La Raza. La Raza (“The Race”) supports giving drivers licenses, voting rights, and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. Its generous donors include George Soros. Gray Davis appointed Lozano a regent of the University of California in 2001. However, her own academic career seems less than stellar. She described her undergrad days at the University of Oregon in Eugene, saying, “I studied sociology and political science for the most part, and became involved in a women’s collective that put out a newspaper called Women’s Press…Keep in mind that this was when women’s studies was born.” She did not finish her degree but instead bummed around Latin America before using her family connections to land her job at La Opinión, a newspaper founded by her grandfather. “When I came to La Opinión in 1985, I came without direct newspaper experience, no daily print experience whatsoever,” she confessed. “It’s a family-owned and operated company, started by my grandfather, then my dad and my brother and my sister, and so obviously my relationship to what I was doing and why I was here was different than most people who had worked their way up through the ranks to end up editing a major newspaper. They really opened the doors and asked me to come in, knowing full well that I didn’t have sort of a traditional background and experience that you would find in most managing editors.” She defends the newspaper as challenging the Roman Catholic Church, supporting abortion on demand, condom distribution, and needle-exchange programs for junkies. She admitted candidly, “I think, people have seen me as being too liberal or too left-wing.” However, she will not challenge her readership on one important point: she will not ask them to learn the English language. Lozano has said as far as she is concerned, language balkanization is here to stay – so get used to it, Gringo! “[A]ll of our readership studies show that even when 40 percent of our readers have been here twelve years or over, they still prefer to read in Spanish,” she said.” Even though they’re perfectly bilingual and proficient in English, they still prefer to be informed in Spanish. They prefer reading Spanish.” One need hardly guess her position on illegal immigration. Lozano’s lack of business preparation hardly hampered her business growth due to a bustling trade in illegals and the near-complete lack of assimilation of the nation’s Hispanic population, urged by academia. At least her business succeeded, unlike that of another council member’s family business.

Penny Pritzker is a longtime Chicago crony of Barack and Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett. An heiress to the Pritzker fortune (Hyatt hotels, etc.), she served as Obama’s 2008 national finance chairwoman. Chicago Sun Times columnist Lynn Sweet notes that Pritzker cost Superior Bank customers a pretty penny by pushing the bank to invest in subprime loans, the kernel of the housing market collapse and current recession. Bert Ely, a banking consultant, testified before Congress that “Superior was effectively facilitating very sleazy lending.” When federal regulators seized the bank in 2001, the institution left 1,400 customers without some of all of their savings. Pritzker addressed the situation, writing, “I am proud of how my family responded to this situation.” The Washington Post reported that this performance put her “at the top of Obama’s list” for Commerce Secretary, a post she declined. That has not kept her or her family from closely advising the first couple. Penny Pritzker’s husband, Bryan Traubert, serves on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships; so does Cindy Moelis, the Executive Director of the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation established by Penny and Bryan. Yet another Pritzker, Rachel Pritzker Hunter, is the treasurer of Media Matters and a member of the Democracy Alliance, one of the many groups George Soros established to pool and distribute money from wealthy elites to far-Left causes. Other women on the new economic council have been more successful but no less radical.

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of FaceBook. Sandberg entered the public eye as chief of staff to Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers. She also serves on the board of the center-Left Brookings Institution and a group known as V-Day. And what is V-Day? It is the international feminist organization founded by playwright Eve Ensler, which produces “annual benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues.” The play’s thorough-going vulgarity – including a slang term for vagina that begins with “c” and questions about the odor omitted from that orifice – is the least offensive part of the play. The script gives a positive portrayal of a 24-year-old lesbian seducing and raping a 13-year-old girl. (Subsequent scripts raise the minor’s age to 16.) Before the 2004 election, V-Day produced a show at the Apollo Theater entitled “Vaginas Rock, Chicks Vote.” As part of V-Day, Sandberg helps bring Ensler’s glorification of deviate pedophilia to new audiences around the country.

Jeffrey Immelt, who will head the council, is CEO of General Electric, the parent company of NBC, and whose holdings include MSNBC, the president’s favorite network. Its political action committee, GEPAC, donated $2.4 million to Democrats. Immelt’s colleagues at GE told BusinessWeek they hope Immelt’s role in the administration will give him inside information about policies set “to impact GE coming out from Washington.” Others have noted how Obama’s “green energy” agenda benefits GE, as well as mainland China. By one estimate, GE received $49 million in federal stimulus grants alone. However, Immelt is not the only NBC interest represented on the board.

Brian L. Roberts, as head of Comcast, made the decision to become majority owner of NBC Universal. By chance, on the very day he announced he would be merging the two media titans, he sent Barack Obama a letter endorsing ObamaCare. Upon sealing the deal, he enthused, “The single most awesome asset that comes from this deal is NBC News.” He gave a not-very-convincing promise that the Peacock Network’s public affairs coverage would “keep down the middle, whatever that means.”

That is not to say the president appointed nothing but extremists to this panel. There are some genuine business authorities, including some Republicans. They serve as eyewash. As with his Cabinet picks, which lulled some pseudoconservatives into sycophancy, the moderates exist to provide cover for the council’s radical members, who alone have Obama’s ear.

Not only does this council not include business’s “best ideas,” it is virtually a retread of an earlier presidential advisory group. No fewer than nine members of the “new” council already serve on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Despite the abundance of Big Labor and Big Business appointees, not everyone is represented. Small businesses were frozen out of the discussion, as they have been from the entire administration, although they are the engine of economic growth. Jean Card of the National Federation of Independent Business, observing the council’s makeup, remarked, “It feels like (an effort to win) political points.”

Small business people and the taxpayers have no place in the administration. Meanwhile, USA Today reports that Valerie Jarrett, the main conduit of radicals into the Obama administration, is maintaining her “longevity” in the White House.

Unlike the mainstream media, we have seen the Obama administration’s version of America’s economic future: It is globalist, socialist, unionized, borderless, politically correct, run by heiresses and people with family connections, has a state-run media, speaks Spanish, and made a generous campaign contribution to the Democratic Party before it could even get a seat at the table.

Pardon me if I object.

2011/02/25

Gingrich: If Palin Took Obama Actions, There Would Be Calls for Impeachment

Source Link: Newsmax

Written By Jim Meyers and Ashley Martella

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV Friday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama’s decision not to fully enforce the Defense of Marriage law eventually could lead to a constitutional crisis, as he has directly violated his constitutional duties by arbitrarily suspending a law.

Gingrich even suggested that, if a “President Sarah Palin” had taken a similar action, there would have been immediate calls for her impeachment. Asked directly whether President Obama could be subject to articles of impeachment, Gingrich said, “Clearly it is a dereliction of duty and a violation of his constitutional oath and is something that cannot be allowed to stand.”

(A Gingrich spokesman stressed after the interview that we are not currently in a constitutional crisis, nor was Gingrich calling for the direct impeachment of the president. His statements were meant to illustrate the hypocrisy of the left and the mainstream media.)

Obama Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday that the administration will not defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, which has banned recognition of same-sex marriage for 15 years. President Clinton signed the act into law in 1996.

Obama’s decision to forego a legal defense of the law has caused a firestorm of anger from conservative groups.

Gingrich slammed Obama for his decision, telling Newsmax that he is not a “one-person Supreme Court” and his decision sets a “very dangerous precedent” that must not be allowed to stand.

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“Imagine that Governor Palin had become president. Imagine that she had announced that Roe versus Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone’s right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment.

“First of all, he campaigned in favor of [the law]. He is breaking his word to the American people,” Gingrich says.

“Second, he swore an oath on the Bible to become president that he would uphold the Constitution and enforce the laws of the United States. He is not a one-person Supreme Court. The idea that we now have the rule of Obama instead of the rule of law should frighten everybody.

“The fact that the left likes the policy is allowing them to ignore the fact that this is a very unconstitutional act,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said it is absolutely critical for Obama to comply with Congress and  the constitutional process.

“I believe the House Republicans next week should pass a resolution instructing the president to enforce the law and to obey his own constitutional oath, and they should say if he fails to do so that they will zero out [defund] the office of attorney general and take other steps as necessary until the president agrees to do his job.

“His job is to enforce the rule of law and for us to start replacing the rule of law with the rule of Obama is a very dangerous precedent.”

Gingrich adds: “I don’t think these guys set out to create a constitutional crisis. I think they set out to pay off their allies in the gay community and to do something that they thought was clever. I think they didn’t understand the implication that having a president personally suspend a law is clearly unconstitutional.”

Please Note: The full Newsmax.TV interview with Newt Gingrich will air this Sunday. Please be sure to tune in. To be notified via e-mail when it is posted, please Click Here Now.

The Status of the Libyan Military

Filed under: Libya, Protests — Tags: , , — - @ 5:38 pm

Source Link:Stratfor

February 25, 2011 | 1945 GMT
The Status of the Libyan Military
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
Libyan opposition forces rally in the eastern city of Benghazi

Summary

An armed opposition is taking shape in eastern Libya while leader Moammar Gadhafi seeks to consolidate and defend his position in the west in Tripoli. But geography and issues of personal and political loyalty continue to play a decisive role in the status of forces across the country.

Analysis

While opposition forces are mobilizing in the east in and around their stronghold in Benghazi, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is trying to lock down his power base in the west in Tripoli. In between Tripoli and Benghazi lies a roughly 800-kilometer (500-mile) stretch of sparsely populated open terrain — largely desert — that forms a considerable buffer between the two. Personal and political understandings between factions remain critical.

The current disposition of forces on both sides remains murky for a host of reasons. Much of the Libyan military’s strength exists on paper only. Its 40,000-strong “People’s Militia,” for example, may be largely symbolic. With units under strength to begin with and now potentially fragmenting along various loyalties, the status of the military in the country is unclear. Moreover, there are reports of massive desertion — many have abandoned arms completely and returned to civilian life (half of the army is conscripts). What is more, desertion may be more concentrated in some areas than others, having a disproportionate impact. Other forces in the far southeastern and southwestern portions of the country are as many as 1,100 kilometers from Tripoli or Benghazi and may be too distant to have a meaningful impact on the current standoff in the population centers along the coast.

Gadhafi has long kept a 3,000-strong revolutionary guard in Tripoli for regime security, a well-equipped mechanized brigade with tanks and other armored elements that is particularly loyal to the regime. In addition to his (also murky) multilayered personal security apparatus, he also employs African and other mercenaries who have thus far remained willing to fight for the regime, though it is unclear how hard or how long they might fight. A STRATFOR source suggests Gadhafi has some 5,000 troops that are well trained and well equipped by Libyan standards, many of whom have a stake in the regime’s survival. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the former justice minister of Libya who defected Feb. 21, told Gulf News in a Feb. 25 report that while Gadhafi is hiding out in the well-fortified Azizyeh Camp in Tripoli, his sons Seif al-Islam, Saadi and Khamis are stationed in security zones in the east, west and south of Tripoli, respectively, to guard against an attack.

Traditionally, the military has been more concentrated in the northeast than anywhere else in the country — about half of its forces — in part due to longstanding tensions with Egypt. But after accounting for desertion and other factors, one STRATFOR source has suggested that the real strength of opposition forces in the east is about 8,000 troops; these forces have been mobilized along with several thousand volunteers of questionable military value. Some 12,000 more are reportedly currently remaining neutral.

The sparsely populated, open terrain between these two forces is a considerable logistical challenge even for a well-trained and well-equipped military, which Libya’s is not. Gadhafi, fearing the potential for a coup from his own troops, has kept the military systematically weak and fractured. There is little in the way of military proficiency or professionalism, and some basic training has been deemed useful in a coup scenario and thus prohibited altogether. Being able to project power — to organize an armored march of hundreds of kilometers and sustain it at a distance in combat — is almost certainly among those scenarios. Most sources suggest that the Libyan military is capable of little beyond its garrison and pre-scripted maneuvers.

Moving forces 800 kilometers on road is more difficult than it might sound, and even in terms of basic logistical metrics and field maintenance and repair, the fractured Libyan forces would have particular difficulty consolidating their gains in the east and advancing west in an organized fashion. Such a march grows more challenging when attempting to defend that formation and its lines of supply and to fight on arrival against a dug-in pro-Gadhafi force in urban terrain. This would quickly endanger the entire formation, presumably the core of the opposition’s military strength, at a time when Gadhafi seems to be continuing to weaken.

One problem with this is the potential for Libyan fighter aircraft to ravage long, exposed columns of forces on the march toward Tripoli. The loyalty of air force units in the northwest is of particular importance, especially given recent patterns of defection by Libyan pilots. The question of a foreign-enforced no-fly zone has bearing here as well. But even without air forces in the equation, it is unlikely, though not impossible, that Libyan opposition forces in the east would be able to or would choose to mount an assault on Tripoli without some sort of political arrangement with forces in the intermediate towns — and particularly in Tripoli itself.

And so personal and political understandings between factions remain critical. If Gadhafi maintains his position and the loyalty of those forces he has rallied around him in Tripoli, he will be difficult to displace with or without the air force. But if those fragile loyalties begin to fray — if forces in and around Tripoli begin to defect to the opposition in the east or form other factions — then fighting and civil war may come to Tripoli without the opposition in the east having to move its forces at all. If the opposition intends to attempt to project force westward, its incentive will be to seek allies in western Libya that can both provide logistical support and ensure an uncontested arrival on the scene.

Nearing Talks in Bahrain, Contrary to Iranian Reports

Filed under: Ahmadinejad, Bahrain, Iran, Protests, Shi'ite, Sunni — - @ 5:28 pm

Source Link:Stratfor

February 25, 2011 | 2031 GMT
Nearing Talks in Bahrain, Contrary to Iranian Reports
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
Bahraini Shiite anti-government protesters march toward Manama’s Pearl Square on Feb. 25

Summary

Iran’s state-run media issued false reports of a crackdown on protesters in Bahrain’s Pearl Square, likely with the intention of increasing Sunni-Shiite tensions and halting the movement toward talks between the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa regime and the mainly Shiite protesters. Though it is unlikely this move will work as Tehran hopes, Iran’s leverage with Bahrain’s Shiite population remains a challenge for King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s regime, and for another state concerned about agitation with its Shiite minority: Saudi Arabia.

Analysis

Reports have circulated in Iranian state-run media that Bahrain deployed soldiers early Feb. 25 to disperse the protesters gathered in Manama’s Pearl Square. These reports are false, as photos from the scene show people still camping out in Pearl Square well into the afternoon, and they would run counter to the recent flow of developments, which indicate that the Bahraini regime and opposition groups are nearing negotiations.

Tehran does not want to see the current standoff end, but if the prospective negotiations do proceed, it hopes to weaken the Bahraini regime’s hand as much as possible. This report alone is unlikely to have its intended effect of increasing Sunni-Shiite tensions (Bahrain’s 70 percent Shia population is ruled by a Sunni family), but this does not mean Iran has lost its ability to influence Shiite unrest in Bahrain over the longer term. This is a central worry for Bahrain’s neighbor to the west, Saudi Arabia, which has its own Shiite minority it is concerned about inflaming.

The Bahraini regime has been trying to reach out to opposition groups since King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa assigned Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa to start a dialogue. Salman ordered the withdrawal of Bahraini troops from the streets Feb. 19 and announced that peaceful demonstrations would be tolerated. There have been protesters camping in Pearl Square since then, though their numbers have not been as high as they were at their peak. In the meantime, Hamad pardoned hundreds of Shiite prisoners, including 25 key figures, which was the opposition movement’s key condition before they would join talks with the government. Bahrain also announced that one of the pardoned politicians who has been in exile, prominent opposition figure Hassan Meshaima, who leads the Haq movement (a Shiite group that split from the main Shiite bloc Al Wefaq in 2006 after the latter decided to participate in parliamentary elections), will not be arrested when he returns to Bahrain.

The opposition responded to the regime’s steps positively. After internal negotiations, seven opposition groups, including Al Wefaq and the Sunni left-wing secularist Waad Party, presented their demands to the government and the al-Khalifa royal family on Feb. 23. (After the demands were issued, Bahrain’s largest trade union, General Federation for Bahrain Trade Unions, announced it would join the opposition Feb. 24.) These demands include the resignation of the government, formation of a new national unity government, the release of all political prisoners, an impartial investigation into the deaths of protesters and electoral reform. Opposition groups notably did not demand overthrow of the al-Khalifa family — though some protesters on the street have called for this — and said they want a “real constitutional monarchy.” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said Feb. 24, “Everything can be brought to the [negotiating] table,” when asked if changes to the Cabinet were possible. The United States also threw its support behind the initiative by announcing that U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had spoken with Salman on Feb. 24 and expressed strong support for his dialogue initiative.

Given the conciliatory steps from both the Bahraini regime and opposition, negotiations are likely to begin sooner rather than later. The false Iranian media allegations of a raid in Pearl Square are not an accident in this context. The emphasis on the military being deployed is notable since troop deployment is under the authority of Salman (who is also deputy supreme commander of the Bahrain Defense Force), who will lead the negotiations on behalf of the regime, and any military intervention — rather than a police intervention — would be that much more likely to derail negotiations. (The police are controlled by Prince Salman’s rival, Prime Minister ?Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, and police forces already stormed Pearl Square on Feb. 17; Khalifa has taken a hard line against the opposition, and for Salman to take an equally hard line would limit his leverage in Bahrain’s internal power struggle. Khalifa’s resignation will be one of the key demands of the opposition during the talks.

Tehran wants to see the stalemate between the regime and opposition prolonged in order to push Shiite demands further which Tehran hopes may encourage Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite population to agitate for change. That said, Bahraini opposition groups can still drag their feet for negotiations to extract greater concessions from the regime. Though Iran is not pleased with Bahrain’s ability to deal with the unrest and move toward talks on an accommodation in a relatively short time, this does not mean that it has lost its opportunity. Iran will still try to influence the Shiite majority Bahrain during and after the negotiations to leverage itself against its main rival in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia.

Bomb-making Saudi boy leaves behind a Facebook page…

Filed under: Jihad, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, WMD — Tags: , , — - @ 4:37 pm

H/T haganah

Bomb-making Saudi boy leaves behind a Facebook page…

…and a list of 104 friends.

Thanks Khalid!

Khalid Aldawsari was just taken into custody on charges of planning to make and use a weapon of mass destruction (which in this case means an ordinary high explosive device).

Here’s a copy of the now-unsealed affidavit.

I think it worth noting that the chemical supply house who reported Aldawsari to the FBI when he attempted to order an ingredient for his bomb(s) just happens to be located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Given the well-known links between Charlotte and domestic al-Qaida activism, that was probably a Bad Idea™

UPDATE: And speaking of Charlotte, it really should surprise no one that Khalid is a friend of a friend of Samir Khan.

Islamic Radicalization Index (IRI)

Filed under: Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Radical Islam — - @ 3:13 pm

View this document on Scribd


Venezuela: U.S. Creating Movement To Topple Gadhafi – FM

Filed under: Obama — Tags: , , — - @ 12:23 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

February 25, 2011

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the United States and other powerful countries are trying to create a movement to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, adding these powers are creating conditions to justify an invasion, Canadian Press reported Feb. 25. Maduro said Libya is going through difficult times which should not be judged based on information from foreign news agencies. In a Twitter message Feb. 24, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Gadhafi faces a civil war and Chavez supports Libya and its independence.

Various articles of the Unrest in Mid East and Africa: Updates

Filed under: Iraq, Jihad, Libya, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Yemen — - @ 12:19 pm

Pakistan: U.S. Contractor Arrested

February 25, 2011

Peshawar police arrested Aaron DeHaven, a contractor who recently worked for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, saying that his visa had expired, The Guardian reported Feb. 25. DeHaven is head of a company named Catalyst Services.

Iran: 2nd Uranium Enrichment Plant Operational By Summer – IAEA

February 25, 2011

Iran plans to being operating a second uranium enrichment plant by the summer of 2011 in an underground location near Quom, DPA reported Feb. 25, citing a restricted document it obtained that was issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The document said no centrifuges have been installed at the second location yet, and Iran is still generating enriched uranium at the existing plant in Natanz. The report did not mention the Stuxnet virus, but an official was cited as saying several hundred centrifuges at Natanz were replaced, but it did not significantly affect production rates.

Iraq: Basra Protesters Clash With Army, 2 Dead

February 25, 2011

Protesters clashed with army troops in Basra, Iraq, leaving two protesters dead and five Iraqi troops injured, AKnews reported Feb. 25. The demonstrators marched from a government building toward a provincial council, where the soldiers attempted to intercept them. Demonstrators threw rocks at the soldiers and the police fired shots in the air and used water cannons to try to disperse the crowds, with three protesters killed in the ensuing clash. Iraqi lawmaker from Basra Jawaq al-Bazzouni said.

Yemen: 9 Wounded In Clashes With Police

February 25, 2011

At least nine people were wounded when Yemeni security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in Aden on Feb. 25, DPA reported, citing witnesses at the scene. Witnesses said thousands of people began protesting after Friday prayers in Aden’s Khur Maksar and Mualla neighborhoods, demanding the removal of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Seven were wounded when police opened fire in Khur Maksar, and one of them is in critical condition. Two were injured in Mualla. Around 10,000 people participated in an anti-government rally in Taiz, but no violence was reported there.

Libya: Protesters Killed In Tripoli – Reports

February 25, 2011

Two protesters were killed and several were wounded in confrontations in the Tripoli suburbs of Fashlum, Zawiyat al-Dahmani, Ben Ashour and Al Siyahia, Al Jazeera reported Feb. 25. At least five protesters have been killed in Tripoli’s Janzour district, Reuters reported, citing a resident. Libyan state TV reported that medical sources in Tripoli have denied the reports of killed and injured protesters, accusing Arab satellite channels of conspiring against the Libyan people.

Iraq: Islamic State Of Iraq War Minister’s Body Identified

February 25, 2011

The body of the Islamic State of Iraq’s war minister, Noman Salman, also known as Al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman, has been identified following a Feb. 24 raid in Hit, Iraq, Reuters reported Feb. 25, citing a spokesman for the Baghdad operations command. U.S. forces were not involved in the operation, the spokesman said, which was carried out based on intelligence.

Iraq: Protesters Killed In Mosul

February 25, 2011

At least five protesters were killed and five more injured from gunfire in Mosul, Iraq, Al-Sharqiyah TV reported Feb. 25 in a screen caption at 0957 GMT.

Iraq: Police Open Fire On Protesters

February 25, 2011

Iraqi police reportedly opened fire on protesters in the town of Al Hawijah following “day of rage” anti-government demonstrations, Al-Sharqiyah TV reported Feb. 25 in a screen caption at 0728 GMT.

Iraqi: 2 Protesters Killed

February 25, 2011

Two protesters were killed and over 20 injured during confrontations with security forces in the Iraqi town of Al Hawijah, Al-Sharqiyah TV reported Feb. 25 in screen captions at 0843 GMT.

Somalia: Ethiopian Soldiers Fire Mortars At Town

February 25, 2011

Ethiopian forces, who were based on the border town of Suuftu, are heavily bombarding the town of Beled Xsswo in southwestern Somalia with mortars, the Somali Shabeelle Media Network reported Feb. 25. The town is being controlled by Al Shabab Islamists, the report said.

Israel: Air Force Kills 1, Wounds 3

February 25, 2011

The Israeli airforce attacked Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, targeting a car, killing one and wounding three, according to Palestinian media, The Jerusalem Post reported Feb. 25. The Israeli defense force said the targets were linked to Hamas and had been involved in terrorist activity. “Hamas is trying to restrain the other groups,” a senior official said, adding, Islamic Jihad is trying to attack, challenging Hamas, who is committed to the quiet.

Pakistan: 4 Killed In Convoy Ambush

February 24, 2011

A group of 15 militants armed with rockets and guns ambushed a roadside North Atlantic Treaty Organization terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, torching 12 tankers and killing four, a local police officer said, AP reported Feb. 25. Those killed were drivers or their assistants, the police officer said.

Somalia: Government Seizes Southwestern District – Report

February 25, 2011

Somali government forces seized the southwestern Somali district of Beled Haawo, Gedo region, Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Haji Fiqi said, independent Radio Gaalkacyo reported Feb. 25.

Saudi Cabinet Reshuffle Ahead?

Filed under: Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Obama, Saudi Arabia — - @ 11:43 am

Source Link: Strafor

February 24, 2011 | 2301 GMT
Saudi Cabinet Reshuffle Ahead?
JOHANNES SIMON/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal in Munich in February 2010

Saudi King Abdullah’s reform plan, which includes a stimulus package worth about $35 billion, comes at a time when the kingdom’s Cabinet is due for a reshuffle after its four-year term expired. The pending reshuffle has generated a great degree of speculation within the kingdom and overseas about the Cabinet’s future composition. STRATFOR’s Saudi sources tell us the three key posts — foreign affairs, defense and interior — are up for grabs.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the kingdom’s intelligence chief from 1977 to 2001 who in recent years has served as ambassador to London and Washington, reportedly will become minister of foreign affairs. He will replace his brother, the ailing Prince Saud al-Faisal, who has held office since 1975. Both men are sons of the late King Faisal and grandsons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul-Aziz.

Prince Mohammed bin Naif reportedly will become minister of interior, replacing his father, Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz. Prince Naif will retain his more recent appointment as second deputy prime minister, which essentially means he is next in line to become crown prince in the event that the position becomes vacant due to the death of the king or the crown prince. Prince Mohammed is currently an assistant interior minister and the country’s counterterrorism chief.

Crown Prince Sultan, who holds several key posts (deputy prime minister, minister of defense and aviation, and inspector general), is expected to hand over the Defense Ministry to his eldest son, Prince Khalid, a former general and currently assistant defense minister. Another of the crown prince’s sons and the kingdom’s longest-serving ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, received a four-year extension as secretary-general of the National Security Council in September 2009. Considering that Crown Prince Sultan and Second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Naif are full brothers, and that their other brother, Prince Salman, is governor of Riyadh, their Sudeiri clan is likely to retain considerable clout.

As for the monarch’s clan, King Abdullah appointed his son Mitab as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard — a post that King Abdullah himself held beginning in 1962 — in November 2010. Another of King Abdullah’s sons, Prince Khalid, is a member of the Allegiance Council, which was established in 2007 as a means of formalizing the succession process. Another son, Prince Mishal, is governor of the southwestern province of Najran.

It is not certain that the three key posts will stay within the respective clans — the al-Faisals at the Foreign Ministry, the Sudeiris at the Defense and Interior ministries. For example, we are told that the king opposes the sons of the crown prince and is not likely to allow Prince Khalid bin Sultan to become defense minister. That said, the need for harmony within the ruling House of Saud at a time when unrest in the region threatens to spill over into the kingdom may necessitate that the king drop his opposition.

There is also word that the monarch’s son Mitab might resign as head of the national guard, which would mean he is seeking a Cabinet position. Various other key princes also could see advancement in any shake-up. These include Khalid al-Faisal, the current governor of Mecca (brother of Turki and Saud) and a close ally of the king, and Prince Muqrin, the intelligence chief and the youngest living son of the kingdom’s founder. Prince Muqrin is considered the most able among the second generation.

Regardless of who makes it into the next Cabinet, the top players in the Saudi royal family are caught between the need to close ranks given the turmoil in the region and the need to advance their respective clans at a time of major transition on the home front.

Cairo and Riyadh Working to Stem Regional Unrest

Filed under: Egypt, Protests — Tags: , — - @ 11:42 am

Source Link: Stafor

February 24, 2011 | 2156 GMT
Cairo and Riyadh Working to Stem Regional Unrest
ADAM JAN/AFP/Getty Images
Officials from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at a GCC meeting Feb. 17

Summary

A stream of meetings and messages relayed in recent days illustrate a concerted effort by Egyptian and Saudi leaders to advise embattled Arab regimes on how to contain unrest in their countries. Saudi Arabia and the United States, in particular, appear to be attempting to create a strategy in an attempt to contain Shiite disturbances and thus deny Iran an opportunity to destabilize its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf.

Analysis

Fearing a contagion effect in the region, Egyptian and Saudi officials appear to be taking the lead in trying to advise embattled Arab regimes on how to contain unrest in their countries.

Head of the newly-created Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt and Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi sent letters Feb. 22 to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. According to a STRATFOR source in the Egyptian diplomatic corps, Tantawi’s message to Saleh was very simple: refrain from using extreme force against the demonstrators. The Yemeni opposition has kept to the streets for more than two weeks and became even more emboldened after Saleh authorized the use of deadly force by riot police and pro-government supporters began firing live ammunition into crowds outside Sanaa University, resulting in the deaths of two protesters late Feb. 22.

Tantawi is recommending dealing more gently with the demonstrators to avoid having Saleh lose control over the situation. From the point of view of the Egyptian military, Yemen has already used the iron fist approach, and it has not worked. As Tantawi counseled Saleh, by allowing demonstrations to take place and acting as the protector of the protesters while gradually parceling out concessions, the demonstrations could theoretically be defused. Notably, Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency published a statement Feb. 24 saying Saleh has ordered his security forces to “protect the demonstrators” who are calling for him to resign, reflecting a possible shift in the manner in which the regime intends to deal with the protesters.

According to the same source, Tantawi’s letter to the Qatari leader asked the Qatari government to instruct Doha-based Al Jazeera to cover Egypt in a more constructive and benign manner, as Egypt’s military council has taken steps in processing the demands of the protesters. The source claims that Qatar has responded favorably to the Egyptian request, satisfied that Mubarak has been removed, and is now growing concerned over a fledgling movement on Facebook calling for the overthrow of the Qatari emir.

That the delivery of the Tantawi letters was publicized is telling of Egypt’s confidence in its ability to contain its own unrest. Not only is the Egyptian military restoring order at home, but it is also assuming a leadership role in trying to contain unrest elsewhere in the region. That said, the Egyptian situation is a far cry from that of the one in Yemen. In Egypt, the military carefully managed a succession and actually used the demonstrations to oust Mubarak and thus preserve the regime. In Yemen, conversely, Saleh finds himself in an extraordinarily difficult situation, trying to manage the growing demands of both the political and student oppositions, retain vital tribal and army support, all while keeping a check on myriad security issues. These include the long-simmering al-Houthi rebellion in the north (where Iran could play a role in escalating tensions), a secessionist movement in the south, and the jihadist threat posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

While Egypt is playing its part in trying to contain regional unrest, the other pillar of Arab power, Saudi Arabia, is heading up its own crisis management effort in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Riyadh is most concerned about the potential for Shiite unrest in Bahrain to expand into an Iranian-backed destabilization campaign in the Persian Gulf states with significant Shiite minorities (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, in particular).

Toward this end, Saudi King Abdullah (after returning home from Morocco following a three-month convalescence) met with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Feb. 23 in Riyadh to discuss the steps forward in containing the Shiite opposition protests that have shaken the tiny island kingdom for more than a week and a half. According to a Saudi diplomatic source, the Saudis, like the Yemenis, advised King Hamad to allow the demonstrations to take place, refrain from using force and to pace reforms on Shiite integration. The source claims that the Saudis advised King Hamad to not only release Shiite political prisoners, but to also extend negotiations for as long as possible in order to gradually defuse the intensity of the demonstrations. At the same time, the Saudis want the Bahraini monarchy to refrain from offering any meaningful political concessions to the Shiites, for fear of fueling Shiite demands in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern province.

Meanwhile, Saudi Prince Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Turki bin Abdul-Aziz, commander of the paratroopers units and land special operations forces, led a delegation Feb. 20 to Muscat, Oman, on a visit that is reported to last for several days. Notably, Fahd bin Turki’s visit to Muscat comes at the same time U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis, U.S. Special Operations Command head Adm. Eric Olson and Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, are also in the Omani capital for meetings on regional security issues. British Prime Minister David Cameron also arrived in Muscat for a visit Feb. 23 as the first stop on a regional tour including Egypt and Kuwait.

One of the main issues presumably being discussed among these officials is the threat of Iranian destabilization efforts in the Persian Gulf region. Fahd bin Turki is likely sharing his finding after having spent the past few months touring the GCC countries in an attempt to draw up a regional strategy among the Arab states to contain political unrest. Thus far, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have remained largely immune from significant political unrest, but considering the historic opportunity now being presented to Iran to sow conflict in its Arab neighborhood, the Saudi royals are now working overtime to try to keep these demonstrations in check.

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