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Arab Winter

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Arab Winter

Executive Producers: Sir Roy Pearce, Sir Donald Silva, Ryan Beck, Thomas Ballard, Ioan Emrich

Associate Executive Producers: Kevin Anderson, Jeffrey Yerkey, Chuck Kohler, Misty Tallman, Dame Astrid Klein

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Knighthoods: Roy Pearce -> Sir Roy of Ankona, Donald Silva -> Sir Donald Silva, Sam Menner -> Dame Sam from the House of Dubious Repute

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Devices : TVs Blu-raysCategories :Lifestyle 0000008907By : selectiveblur softwareUpdated : Fri Aug 30 05:37:38 EDT 2013The No Agenda Show is hosted by Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak, recorded twice a week on Thursday's and Sunday's. The show is a free-flowing conversation that deconstructs recent news and media memes. Much of the appeal of the show comes from the odd couple relationship between the hosts. Adam Curry usually suggests theories about the news or world events, whereas John C. Dvorak is inclined to present a more reasoned perspective, sometimes acting as the "Straight man" to Curry.

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 18:15

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This Month

Presidential Proclamation -- Labor Day, 2013

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:32

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


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On September 5, 1882, in what is thought to be the first Labor Day event, thousands of working Americans gathered to march in a New York City parade. In the 131 years since, America has called on our workers time and again -- to raise and connect our cities; to feed, heal, and educate our Nation; to forge the latest technological revolution. On Labor Day, we celebrate these enduring contributions and honor all the men and women who make up the world's greatest workforce.

America is what it is today because workers began to organize -- to demand fair pay, decent hours, safe working conditions, and the dignity of a secure retirement. Through decades upon decades of struggle, they won many of the rights and benefits we too often take for granted today, from the 40-hour work week and minimum wage to safety standards, workers' compensation, and health insurance. These basic protections allowed the middle class to flourish. They formed the basis of the American dream and offered a better life to anyone willing to work for it.

Yet over the past decades, that promise began to erode. People were working harder for less, and good jobs became more difficult to find. My Administration remains committed to restoring the basic bargain at the heart of the American story. We are bringing good jobs back to the United States. We are expanding programs that train workers in tomorrow's industries, and we eliminated tax breaks that benefited the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class. In the years to come, I will continue to support collective bargaining rights that strengthen the middle class and give voice to workers across our Nation. And I will keep pushing for a higher minimum wage -- because in America, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.

Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American worker, we have cleared away the rubble of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Now is the time to reward that hard work. Today, as America celebrates working people everywhere, we unite behind good jobs in growing industries, and we strengthen our resolve to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2, 2013, as Labor Day. I call upon all public officials and people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor the contributions and resilience of working Americans.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation -- National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, 2013

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:32

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


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Each September, America calls attention to a deadly disease that affects thousands of women across our country. This year, over 22,000 women will develop ovarian cancer, and more than half that number of women will die of this disease. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we lend our support to everyone touched by this disease, we remember those we have lost, and we strengthen our resolve to better prevent, detect, treat, and ultimately defeat ovarian cancer.

Because ovarian cancer often goes undetected until advanced stages, increasing awareness of risk factors is critical to fighting this disease. Chances of developing ovarian cancer are greater in women who are middle-aged or older, women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and those who have had certain types of cancer in the past. I encourage all women, especially those at increased risk, to talk to their doctors. For more information, visit

My Administration is investing in research to improve our understanding of ovarian cancer and develop better methods for diagnosis and treatment. As we continue to implement the Affordable Care Act, women with ovarian cancer will receive increased access to health care options, protections, and benefits. Thanks to this law, insurance companies can no longer set lifetime dollar limits on coverage or cancel coverage because of errors on paperwork. By 2014, the health care law will ban insurers from setting restrictive annual caps on benefits and from charging women higher rates simply because of their gender. Additionally, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to patients with pre-existing conditions, including ovarian cancer.

This month, we extend a hand to all women battling ovarian cancer. We pledge our support to them, to their families, and to the goal of defeating this disease.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research institutions to raise ovarian cancer awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives. I also urge women across our country to talk to their health care providers and learn more about this disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation-- National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, 2013

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:28

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


- - - - - - -



Each day, millions of Americans take courageous steps toward recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Their examples reveal the transformative power of recovery, and their stories provide hope to those struggling to break free from addiction. During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we celebrate their strength, challenge the stigmas that stand as barriers to recovery, and encourage those needing help to seek it.

This year's theme, "Together on Pathways to Wellness" encourages all Americans to walk alongside family, friends, and neighbors who are fighting to overcome addiction. My Administration is proud to advance evidence-based approaches to recovery -- approaches that view addiction as a preventable, treatable disease of the brain. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy builds on our work over the past 4 years, increasing access to treatment and recovery services, and supporting early intervention to address substance abuse in schools, on college campuses, and in the workplace. And to give more Americans a chance to enter recovery, the Affordable Care Act expands mental health and substance use disorder benefits and Federal parity protections for millions of Americans. Thanks to this law, insurance companies must cover treatment for substance use disorders as they would any other chronic disease.

Alcohol and drug addiction remains a serious challenge in our country, but with support from loved ones and allies, Americans seeking help make steady progress each day. As we observe National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, let us unite to prevent addiction, give hope to everyone still struggling with this disease, and celebrate all those moving along the life-saving path to recovery.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation --National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, 2013

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Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:28

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


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In the United States, obesity affects millions of children and teenagers, raising their risk of developing serious health problems, including diabetes, cancer, asthma, heart disease, and high blood pressure. While childhood obesity remains a serious public health issue, we have made significant strides toward stemming the tide. After three decades of dramatic increases in obesity rates among America's youth, recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that rates are holding steady and even decreasing in some areas. During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, let us build on this momentum and strengthen the trend toward healthier lifestyles and brighter futures for our Nation's children.

First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative is on the front lines in the fight against childhood obesity. With partners across the public and private sectors and through targeted programs, this comprehensive campaign aims to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. Let's Move! is dedicated to making nutritious food more available and affordable, helping kids get active, and fostering environments that support healthy choices.

To this end, the initiative is always looking for new ways to engage parents, families, kids, and communities. We launched Let's Move! Active Schools to help bring physical activity back into the school day. We are teaming up with mayors, faith leaders, and businesses to make the healthy choice the easy choice for families. And we are working with the Department of Agriculture to provide more nutritious school lunches and snacks.

Through the Affordable Care Act, my Administration is expanding access to services that can help all Americans reach and maintain a healthy weight. Thanks to this law, millions of children can receive obesity screening and counseling at no out-of-pocket cost to their parents. The Affordable Care Act also created the Community Transformation Grant Program, which is tackling the root causes of chronic disease, including poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Through this initiative, communities across our country are working with public health leaders, businesses, schools, faith-based organizations, and individuals to build partnerships that promote healthy lifestyles.

We all share in the responsibility of helping our Nation's children enjoy longer, healthier lives. Together, we can give them the energy and confidence to learn, excel, and pursue their dreams.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. I encourage all Americans to learn about and engage in activities that promote healthy eating and greater physical activity by all our Nation's children.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand thisthirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation-- National Wilderness Month, 2013

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Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:27

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


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In September 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law, recognizing places "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Throughout our history, countless people have passed through America's most treasured landscapes, leaving their beauty unmarred. This month, we uphold that proud tradition and resolve that future generations will trek forest paths, navigate winding rivers, and scale rocky peaks as visitors to the majesty of our great outdoors.

My Administration is dedicated to preserving our Nation's wild and scenic places. During my first year as President, I designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness and protected over 1,000 miles of rivers. Earlier this year, I established five new national monuments, and I signed legislation to redesignate California's Pinnacles National Monument as Pinnacles National Park. To engage more Americans in conservation, I also launched the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Through this innovative effort, my Administration is working with communities from coast to coast to preserve our outdoor heritage, including our vast rural lands and remaining wild spaces.

As natural habitats for diverse wildlife; as destinations for family camping trips; and as venues for hiking, hunting, and fishing, America's wilderness landscapes hold boundless opportunities to discover and explore. They provide immense value to our Nation -- in shared experiences and as an integral part of our economy. Our iconic wilderness areas draw tourists from across the country and around the world, bolstering local businesses and supporting American jobs.

During National Wilderness Month, we reflect on the profound influence of the great outdoors on our lives and our national character, and we recommit to preserving them for generations to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Wilderness Month. I invite all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation -- National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, 2013

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Archived Version

Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:27

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


- - - - - - -



Every September, America renews our commitment to curing childhood cancer and offers our support to the brave young people who are fighting this disease. Thousands are diagnosed with pediatric cancer each year, and it remains the leading cause of death by disease for American children under 15. For those children and their families, and in memory of every young person lost to cancer, we unite behind improved treatment, advanced research, and brighter futures for young people everywhere.

Over the past few decades, we have made great strides in the fight against pediatric cancer. Thanks to significant advances in treatment over the last 30 years, the combined 5-year survival rate for children with cancer increased by more than 20 percentage points. Today, a substantial proportion of children diagnosed with cancer can anticipate a time when their illness will be in long-term remission or cured altogether.

My Administration is dedicated to carrying this progress forward. We are funding extensive research into the causes of childhood cancer and its safest and most effective treatments. We also remain committed to easing financial burdens on families supporting a loved one with cancer. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or set lifetime caps on essential health benefits. As of January 2014, insurers will be prohibited from dropping coverage for patients who choose to participate in a clinical trial, including clinical trials that treat childhood cancer.

All children deserve the chance to dream, discover, and realize their full potential. This month, we extend our support to young people fighting for that opportunity, and we recognize all who commit themselves to advancing the journey toward a cancer-free world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all Americans to join me in reaffirming our commitment to fighting childhood cancer.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation--National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, 2013

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Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:27

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


- - - - - - -



Among American men, prostate cancer is both the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. Although prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates have declined over the past two decades, in 2013 alone, an estimated 239,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with the illness, and almost 30,000 men will die from this disease. During National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those lost to prostate cancer, offer our support to patients and their families, and highlight our commitment to better prevention, detection, and treatment methods.

The exact causes remain unknown, but medical professionals have identified several risk factors that can increase a man's chances of developing prostate cancer. It is more common among older men and men with a family history of prostate cancer. African American men also have a significantly higher risk, both of developing and dying from prostate cancer. I encourage all men to learn about warning signs by visiting

My Administration continues to support important prostate cancer research -- research that will enhance our knowledge and improve prostate cancer prevention and treatment. The Affordable Care Act also offers new protections for all Americans. The health care law bans insurance companies from placing lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits and from dropping coverage because of mistakes on insurance applications. Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will also eliminate annual dollar limits on vital benefits, and insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to patients with prostate cancer -- or any other pre-existing medical condition.

This month, I encourage all Americans to lend their support to family, friends, and neighbors whose lives have been touched by prostate cancer. Let us celebrate the compassion and perseverance of health care providers, researchers, and dedicated advocates. Together, we can raise awareness, support research, improve care, and reduce the impact of this disease on our citizens and our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all citizens, government agencies, private businesses, non-profit organizations, and other groups to join in activities that will increase awareness and prevention of prostate cancer.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Presidential Proclamation -- National Preparedness Month, 2013

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Archived Version

Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:27

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013


- - - - - - -



Time and again, America faces crises that test our readiness and challenge our resolve -- from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods to shootings, cyber incidents, and even acts of terrorism. While my Administration is working tirelessly to avert national tragedies, it is every American's responsibility to be prepared. By planning for emergencies, individuals can protect themselves and their families while also contributing to their communities' resilience. During National Preparedness Month, we refocus our efforts on readying ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and our Nation for any crisis we may face.

My Administration is committed to preparing our country for the full range of threats. In the face of an emergency, we will continue to cut through red tape and bolster coordination. At my direction, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will launch a comprehensive campaign to build and sustain national preparedness with private sector, non-profit, and community leaders and all levels of government. The campaign will be based on science, research and development, public outreach, and broad participation. It will aim to inspire Americans of all ages to increase their preparedness by moving from awareness to action.

Over this past year, ordinary Americans have stepped up in moments of trial and tragedy to perform real acts of heroism. Despite the brave actions of first responders across America, neighbors and friends are often the first on the scene after an emergency, and circumstances can call anyone to become a hero. This year's National Preparedness Month theme, "You Can Be the Hero," asks all Americans to ready themselves to assist in case of emergency. Anyone can improve their preparedness by making or reviewing emergency plans with their family and by building a disaster kit with food, water, and essential supplies. Visit or to see which types of disasters are most likely for your area and learn more about what you can do to prepare.

This month, as we reflect on challenges to our communities, regions, and our Nation, we continue to lend our support to recovery efforts, and we honor our first responders by doing our part to build a more resilient America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Preparedness Month. I encourage all Americans to recognize the importance of preparedness and work together to enhance our national security, resilience, and readiness.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.



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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 18:53

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Read: President Obama's letter to Congress on Syria |

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 04:02

Here is the text of the draft legislation from the president of the United States to the speaker of the House and president of the Senate regarding authorization for the use of the U.S. armed forces in connection with the conflict in Syria.

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;

Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;

Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world's population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;

Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;

Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

Whereas, the objective of the United States' use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and

Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.


(a) Authorization. -- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to --

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. --

(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. -- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) Applicability of other requirements. -- Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.


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Archived Version

Source: aangirfan

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:20

Prince Bandar, who is reported to be behind the gas attack in Syria. Rumsfeld on the left.'The rebel group al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaeda, did the gas attack in Damascus, using gas supplied by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia.'A group of journalists, one of whom works for the Associated press, report that both rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing the chemical weapons to the al-Qaida linked rebel group.

Both Bandar and al-Nusra are believed to be close friends of the CIA.

The journalists interviewed doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families.

According to the journalists:

"My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry," said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a "tube-like structure" while others were like a "huge gas bottle."Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime's heartland of Latakia on Syria's western coast, in purported retaliation.

More here: Syrians in Ghouta claim that Saudi Arabia supplied the rebels behind the chemical attack of 21 August 2013 / EXCLUSIVE: Witnesses Of Gas Attack Say Saudis Supplied Rebels With Chemical Weapons

Bandar and Bush

Prince Bandar is said to be a friend of Mossad.

Arab country 'cooperates with Mossad'

Prince Bandar and BushPrince Bandar has a 56,000-square-foot mansion in Aspen, Colorado.

The palatial vacation home, called Hala Ranch, is larger than the White House.

From P II: An American Pinay Circle, we learn:

"The early 1970s brought Saudis recruited by the CIA to train at American military bases, including Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

"Bandar has long been an ally, if not an asset, of the CIA.

"When DCI William Casey wanted a cell of alleged terrorists killed, King Fahd sent Bandar to Langley to make the arrangements. The plan backfired when the subsequent car bombing took down an apartment building near Beirut, killing 80 innocent civilians.

"After September 11, 2001, Bandar would fall under suspicion when it was discovered that two of the terrorists involved were found to have received financing from the Prince.

"Bandar was trained at Ellington AFB near Houston. (Source: Lois Battuello)...

Bandar's US MansionAccording to Wikipedia, Bandar helped negotiate the 1985 Al Yamamah deal, a series of massive arms sales by the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia worth GB£40 billion (US$80 billion), including the sale of more than 100 warplanes.After the deal was signed, British arms manufacturer British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) allegedly funnelled secret payments of at least GB£1 billion (US$2 billion) into two Saudi embassy accounts in Washington, in yearly instalments of up to GB£120 million (US$240 million) over at least 10 years.Bandar allegedly took money for personal use out of the accounts, as the purpose of one of the accounts was to pay the operating expenses of the prince's private Airbus A340.According to investigators, there was "no distinction between the accounts of the embassy, or official government accounts [...], and the accounts of the royal family."In 2004, the UK's Serious Fraud Office began an investigation into arms sales to Saudi Arabia.It was The Guardian which reportedly had discovered massive secret payments were going to Saudi princes, to promote arms deals.Tony Blair eventually halted the fraud investigation, claiming that this was necessary in order to continue cooperation with Saudi Arabia in intelligence matters.From The Guardian, 15 February 2008:Prince Bandar is alleged to have received £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.

Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria - Telegraph

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Archived Version

Sun, 01 Sep 2013 02:04

The talks appear to offer an alliance between the OPEC cartel and Russia, which together produce over 40m barrels a day of oil, 45pc of global output. Such a move would alter the strategic landscape.

The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.

As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia's naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia's Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. ''I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,'' he allegedly said.

Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. ''These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria's political future.''

President Putin has long been pushing for a global gas cartel, issuing the `Moscow Declaration' last to month ''defend suppliers and resist unfair pressure''. This would entail beefing up the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a talking shop.

Mr Skrebowski said it is unclear what the Saudis can really offer the Russians on gas, beyond using leverage over Qatar and others to cut output of liquefied natural gas (LGN). ''The Qataris are not going to obey Saudi orders,'' he said.

Saudi Arabia could help boost oil prices by restricting its own supply. This would be a shot in the arm for Russia, which is near recession and relies on an oil price near $100 to fund the budget.

But it would be a dangerous strategy for the Saudis if it pushed prices to levels that endangered the world's fragile economic recovery. Crude oil stocks in the US have already fallen sharply this year. Goldman Sachs said the ''surplus cushion'' in global stocks built up since 2008 has been completely eliminated.

Mr Skrebowski said trouble is brewing in a string of key supply states. ''Libya is reverting to war lordism. Nigerian is drifting into a bandit state with steady loss of output. And Iraq is going back to the sort of Sunni-Shia civil war we saw in 2006-2007,'' he said.

The Putin-Bandar meeting was stormy, replete with warnings of a ''dramatic turn'' in Syria. Mr Putin was unmoved by the Saudi offer, though western pressure has escalated since then. ''Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters,'' he said, referring to footage showing a Jihadist rebel eating the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier.

Prince Bandar in turn warned that there can be ''no escape from the military option'' if Russia declines the olive branch. Events are unfolding exactly as he foretold.

Saudi Arabia made oil offer to Russia during Putin meeting: report - Oil | Platts News Article & Story

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London (Platts)--27Aug2013/732 am EDT/1132 GMT

More details of a meeting at the end of July between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan have emerged, with the Saudi prince reportedly having suggested the two sides come up with a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on global oil supply and price.

The Kremlin has admitted the meeting took place, although neither side has revealed details of what was discussed.

But in recent weeks elements of the conversation have been leaked to the Russian press.

Now, further details, including the Saudi suggestion on oil, have been published by Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir.

Article continues below...

According to As-Safir, Prince Bandar was reported to have offered cooperation in the oil and gas sector in return for Russia backing down over its support for the existing Syrian regime.

"Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets," Prince Bandar was reported to have said.

"We understand Russia's great interest in the oil and gas present in the Mediterranean Sea from Israel to Cyprus through Lebanon and Syria. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that," he was reported as saying by As-Safir.

He also offered Saudi investment in Russia.

"The kingdom can provide large multi-billion-dollar investments in various fields in the Russian market. What's important is to conclude political understandings on a number of issues, particularly Syria and Iran."

Putin, in response, was reported to have said that these topics should be discussed by the relevant ministries in both countries.

On Syria, however, Putin said that Moscow's position would not change.

"We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people," he was reported as saying

Saudi Arabia has been strongly supportive of the rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. But Russia, to the fury of Riyadh and its Western allies, has refused to cut its cooperation with the Damascus regime.

Prince Bandar also reportedly said he hoped that the Russians would understand that Russia's interests and the interests of the Gulf states are one in the face of the nuclear challenge from Iran.

But Putin said Russia still backs Tehran's right to have nuclear power.

"We support the Iranian quest to obtain nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. And we helped them develop their facilities in this direction. Of course, we will resume negotiations with them as part of the P5+1 group," Putin was reported as saying.

"I will meet with President Hassan Rowhani on the sidelines of the Central Asia summit and we will discuss a lot of bilateral, regional and international issues.

"We will inform him that Russia is completely opposed to the UN Security Council imposing new sanctions on Iran. We believe that the sanctions imposed against Iran and Iranians are unfair and that we will not repeat the experience again," he was quoted as saying.

--Stuart Elliott, by Jeremy Lovell,

Bandar bin Sultan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Bandar bin Sultan (Arabic: اÙأمير بندر بن Ø"Ùطان بن عبداÙعزيز ØÙ Ø"عÙد'Ž) (born 2 March 1949) is a member of the House of Saud and was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. In 2005, he was named as secretary general of the National Security Council. He was appointed director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency by King Abdullah on 19 July 2012.

Bandar was born officially on 2 March 1949 in Taif. His actual date of birth is reportedly later according to himself and Western think tanks. He had reportedly faked his birthday to enter the Royal Saudi Air Force,[2]

His mother, Khiziran, was a sixteen-year old commoner from Asir Province and his father, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, was in his early twenties at the time of Bandar's birth.[3] His mother was a concubine. She later learnt to read and write. Bandar lived with his mother and his aunt in his early years, and he had little contact with his father when he was very young. His first close contact with his father occurred when he was eight years old.[3] Bandar's isolation ended when he was eleven years old, a few years later when King Abdulaziz died. It was decided that he and his mother should live with his paternal grandmother Hassa Al Sudairi in the palace.[3]

Bandar graduated from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1968.[4] He received additional training at Maxwell Air Force Base and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.[4] He is a trained pilot and has flown numerous fighter aircraft. Bandar's military career ended in 1977 after he crash-landed his jet and suffered a severe back injury.[3] Afterward, he received a master's degree in International Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins UniversityPaul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.[5]

Prince Bandar joined Saudi air force and later, had the rank of lieutenant colonel.[6] His diplomatic career began in 1978 when he was appointed the King's personal envoy. He successfully lobbied the United States Congress to approve the sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. At the Oval Office, President Carter told him to win the support of California governor Ronald Reagan. He did and in exchange helped Carter win the support of South DakotaDemocraticSenatorJames Abourezk for the Panama Canal treaty. Fahd made Bandar an emissary to Carter and granted him permission to act independently of the Saudi-U.S. ambassador.[3]

In 1982, King Fahd made him the military attache at the Saudi Embassy, a move which could have ended his diplomatic career. However, in 1983, Fahd appointed Bandar as Saudi Ambassador to the United States.[3]

Ambassador to the United States (1983 - 2005)[edit source |edit]On 24 October 1983, Prince Bandar was appointed ambassador to the United States by King Fahd.[7] During his tenure as ambassador, he dealt with five U.S. presidents, ten secretaries of state, eleven national security advisers, sixteen sessions of Congress, and the media.[8] He had extensive influence in the United States. At the pinnacle of his career, he served both "as the King's exclusive messenger and the White House's errand boy".[8] For over three decades, he was the face of the Saudi Arabia lobby.[8][9]

Reagan era[edit source |edit]During the Reagan presidency, he secured the purchase of AWACs surveillance aircraft despite opposition from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.[8] After the United States rejected an arms order, he arranged the delivery of intermediate-range nuclear-warhead-capable missiles from China.[8] This angered the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Department of State.[8] He was exposed for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. He had arranged $32 million in Saudi financing for the Nicaraguan Contras.[3]Nancy Reagan used him to relay messages to the Cabinet.[3]

Bush presidencies[edit source |edit]Bandar has formed close relationships with several American presidents, notably George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the latter giving him the affectionate and controversial nickname "Bandar Bush"[10] His particularly close relationship with the Bush family was highlighted in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. He was reportedly so close to George H. W. Bush that he was often described as a member of the former president's family.[3][11] He advocated Saddam Hussein's overthrow in Iraq in March 2003.[12] He encouraged military action against Iraq and supported Dick Cheney's agenda for "The New Middle East", which called for pro-democracy programs in both Syria and Iran.[12] Additionally, Prince Bandar's children supposedly attended the same school that Cheney's grandchildren were enrolled at.[citation needed]

Clinton era[edit source |edit]Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, had asked him to help pay for the Middle East Studies Center at the University of Arkansas.[3] In the 1990s, he persuaded Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi to turn in two suspects allegedly involved in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. He privately described Gaddafi as "a Jerry Lewis trying to be a Churchill".[3]

Resignation[edit source |edit]On 26 June 2005, Bandar submitted his resignation as ambassador to the United States for "personal reasons".[13][14] On the other hand, the official end date of his term is 8 September 2005.[1] Bandar bin Sultan returned to Saudi Arabia weeks prior to the death of King Fahd, upon which Bandar's father, Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, became the nation's Crown Prince. It was rumored that Bandar's return was timed in order to secure a position in the new government.[15] He was succeeded as ambassador by Turki al Faisal.

Secretary-General of National Security Council (2005 - present)[edit source |edit]Bandar bin Sultan was appointed Secretary-General of the National Security Council by King Abdullah on 16 October 2005. The council was established in October 2005.[16] His term was extended for four years on 3 September 2009.[17]

Prince Bandar visited Damascus and met president Bashar Assad in mid-November 2005.[18] He also secretly met with U.S. officials in 2006 after resigning as ambassador.[19] In other words, in his new post, he is reported to continue to meet privately with them, for instance, senior White House officials made several visits to Saudi Arabia, some of them not disclosed.[20]

On 25 January 2007, Saudi Arabia sent Prince Bandar to Iran for discussions on the crisis in Lebanon and the Kingdom even held talks with Hizballah leaders, whom he had invited for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.[21] After tensions with Qatar over supplying rebel groups, Saudi Arabia (under Bandar's leadership of its Syria policy) switched its efforts from Turkey to Jordan in 2012, using its financial leverage over Jordan to develop training facilities there, with Bandar sending his half-brother and deputy Salman bin Sultan to oversee them.[22]

Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency (2012 - present)[edit source |edit]Bandar bin Sultan was appointed Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency on 19 July 2012 replacing Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.[1][23] Although no official reason for the appointment was provided,[24] the appointment occurred after growing tension between Sunnis and Shiites in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.[25] It was also considered as a move of Saudi Arabia to display more aggressive foreign policy given the regional challenges that comes from Iran and Syria.[26] Prince Bandar is also a member of the Military Service Council.[27]

Prince Bandar organized the visit of Manaf Tlass, who defected from Syria on 6 July 2012, to Saudi Arabia in the last week of July 2012.[28] In August 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that Bandar had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia's efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad and that the US Central Intelligence Agency considered this a sign of how serious Saudi Arabia was about this aim.[22] Bandar was described as "jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the ‰lys(C)e Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime."[22] In late 2012 Saudi intelligence, under Bandar's direction, also began efforts to convince the US that the Assad government was using chemical weapons.[22]

Bandar endured controversy over allegations in the book Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward that President George W. Bush informed him of the decision to invadeIraq ahead of Secretary of State Colin Powell.[29]

Bandar helped negotiate the 1985 Al Yamamah deal, a series of massive arms sales by the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia worth GB£40 billion (US$80 billion), including the sale of more than 100 warplanes. After the deal was signed, British arms manufacturer British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) allegedly funnelled secret payments of at least GB£1 billion (US$2 billion) into two Saudi embassy accounts in Washington, in yearly instalments of up to GB£120 million (US$240 million) over at least 10 years. He allegedly took money for personal use out of the accounts, as the purpose of one of the accounts was to pay the operating expenses of his private Airbus A340. According to investigators, there was "no distinction between the accounts of the embassy, or official government accounts [...], and the accounts of the royal family." The payments were discovered during a Serious Fraud Office investigation, which was stopped in December 2006 by attorney general Lord Goldsmith.[30][31] In 2009, he hired Louis Freeh as his legal representative for the Al-Yamamah arms scandal.[32]

He was alledged of supplying chemical weapons to rebels in Syria.[33]

Disappearance and rumors[edit source |edit]Bandar's last major public appearance before his return to the Kingdom was on 10 December 2008 in a meeting with King Abdullah.[34] After King Abdullah renewed his post for another 4-year term in September 2009, he did not provide the customary public allegiance to the King.[34] He did not show up with his friend Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium.[34] In October 2009, he was not present in King Abdullah's delegation for the watershed Damascus visit.[34] In December 2009, he was not present for the return of his father, Crown Prince Sultan, from Morocco.[34]

According to Iran's PressTV, Bandar was under house arrest for an attempted coup,[35][36] while opposition sources said he was in Dhaban Prison.[34] Some rumors alleged that his coup was exposed by Russian intelligence services because of his frequent trips to Moscow to encourage cooperation against Iran.[34]

Other rumors alleged that he was undergoing treatment and two operations at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.[35] Bandar's lawyer denied these charges.[34] He has no spokesman.[37]

In July 2012, the rumors of his assassination were reported by Voltaire Network[38] and DEBKAfile[39][40] and later published in Press TV[41] and Tehran Times.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49] This news was denied by Arab News[50] and the journalist David Ignatius.[51][52]

Appearances[edit source |edit]In what was perceived as a return to prominence, in March 2011, Bandar was sent to Pakistan, India, Malaysia, and China to gather support for Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Bahrain.[37][53] In April 2011, Bandar was present in meetings when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited King Abdullah and in a separate visit by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.[53]

The other goal of his late March 2011 visit to Islamabad (Pakistan) was to raise the prospect of a return engagement for the Pakistan army. The goal was achieved and Pakistan quickly approved the proposal.[54] His visit to China during the same period resulted in the issuing of lucrative contracts in return for political support. Since China is not a friend of the Arab Spring, it is eager for Saudi oil and investment. Bandar secretly negotiated the first big Saudi-Chinese arms deal. Thus, Bandar is the Kingdoms's premier China expert.[54]

In 1972, Bandar married Haifa bint Faisal, with whom he had eight children: four sons and four daughters.[1] The youngest two (Hussa, and Azus) attended Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, while living in the town from 2001 to 2005. His daughter Princess Reema bint Bandar, who was formerly married to Prince Faisal bin Turki,[55] organized the world's largest pink ribbon event in Saudi Arabia to raise awareness for breast cancer. His son Khalid is married to Lucy Cuthbert, niece of Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.

Habits and health concerns[edit source |edit]Known for his cigar smoking,[56] he usually wears European clothes,[57] and he likes American colloquialisms and American history.[57] In Washington, he earned a reputation for partying and drinking.[57] He may have recently abandoned alcohol after a death scare in the family.[57] In the mid-1990s, he suffered his first depression.[58]

Bandar considers himself an American Hamiltonian conservative.[3] Before the 2000 U.S. presidential election was decided, he invited George H. W. Bush to go pheasant shooting on his English estate in a "Desert Storm reunion".[3] After the September 11 attacks in 2001, in an interview in the New York Times, he stated, ''Bin Laden used to come to us when America'--underline, America'--through the CIA and Saudi Arabia, were helping our brother mujahideen in Afghanistan, to get rid of the communist secularist Soviet Union forces. Osama bin Laden came and said 'Thank you. Thank you for bringing the Americans to help us.' At that time, I thought he couldn't lead eight ducks across the street.''[59]

Bandar argued some researchers ''learn to speak a few words of Arabic and call themselves experts about the affairs of my country.''[60] In 2007, during his tenure as National Security Secretary, Bandar proposed that the Kingdom have greater contact with Israel, because he regarded Iran as a more serious threat than Israel.[61]

He travels frequently on his private Airbus A-340.[3] He owns Glympton Park, Oxfordshire.[62]

A few months after 9/11, Bandar went to Aspen, where he has a thirty-two-room mansion. He bought the land in 1989 and built the residence in 1991.[63] On 12 July 2006, it was reported that Prince Bandar was seeking to sell his 56,000-square-foot (5,200 m2) mansion in Aspen, Colorado, for US $135 million. The palatial vacation home, called Hala Ranch, is larger than the White House, is perched on a mountaintop of 95 acres (380,000 m2), and includes 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms featuring 24-karat gold fixtures. In December 2006, the mansion was still listed for sale at $135 million.[19] In December 2007, the 14,395-square-foot (1,337.3 m2) guesthouse was sold for a reported $36.5 mm.[64] The purported reason for the sale is that Bandar was too busy to enjoy the mansion.[65] Finally, he sold his Aspen ranch for $49 million to Starwood Mountain Ranch LLC in June 2012.[63] It is reported that billionaire John Paulson bought Hala Ranch,[66] and Paulson confirmed it.[67]

In 2001, Bandar bin Sultan was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law by Howard University.[68]

Bandar bin Sultan is a board member of the Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud Foundation.[69]

Donations[edit source |edit]In 1990, Prince Bandar donated an unknown amount to finance construction of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS).[70]

^ abcd"His Royal Highness Prince Bandar bin Sultan". Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington DC. Retrieved 21 July 2012. ^Simpson, William (2008). The Prince: The Secret Story of the World's Most Intriguing Royal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. HarperCollins. ^ abcdefghijklmnWalsh, Elsa (24 March 2003). "The Prince". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. ^ abAl Mulhim, Abdulateef (29 July 2012). "From pilot's g-suit to three-piece suit". Arab News. Retrieved 29 July 2012. ^"Who's Who: The House of Saud". PBS. 7 October 2004. ^Nicholas Laham (1 January 2002). Selling AWACS to Saudi Arabia: The Reagan Administration and the Balancing of America's Competing Interests in the Middle East. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-275-97563-0. Retrieved 12 August 2013. ^Al Zuhayyan, Abdulrahman (7 October 2012). "Prince Bandar, Architect of Saudi-US Relations". Euroasia Review. Retrieved 7 October 2012. ^ abcdef"Prince Bandar bin Sultan: Larger-than-life diplomacy", The Economist, 6 November 2008, retrieved 5 December 2010 ^John MacArthur "The Vast Power of the Saudi Lobby" April 2007, Harper's Magazine^Baer, Robert (May 2003), "The Fall of the House of Saud", The Atlantic, retrieved 5 December 2010 ^Leigh, David (7 June 2007), "Prince Bandar", The Guardian, retrieved 9 February 2011 ^ abOttaway, David (2008). The king's messenger: Prince Bandar bin Sultan and America's tangled. New York: Walker Publishing Company. p. 251. Retrieved 6 December 2010. ^"NBC: Saudi envoy to U.S. offers resignation". MSNBC. 27 June 2005. ^"Bandar stays as envoy to US: Saudi". Gulf Times. 28 June 2005. ^Leyne, Jon (1 August 2005). "Tensions remain among Saudi royals". BBC News. ^"Saudi Arabia creates new security council". UPI (Riyadh). 21 October 2005. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ^"Prince Bandar gets four-year extension as NSC chief". Arab News. 3 September 2009. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2009. ^"The killing of Gebran Tueni: What was the SARG thinking?". Wikileaks. 19 December 2005. Retrieved 25 March 2013. ^ abde Borchgrave, Arnaud (27 December 2006). "Analysis: Arabian Medicis". UPI. Retrieved 29 December 2006. ^Hersh, Seymour M. (5 March 2007). "Is the Administration's new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 3 May 2012. ^Jones, Toby (2007). "Saudi Arabia's Not so New Anti-Shi'ism". Middle East Report242: 29''32. Retrieved 18 April 2012. ^ abcdAdam Entous; Nour Malas; Margaret Coker Connect (25 August 2013). "A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works To Build Support to Topple Assad". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 August 2013. ^Knickmeyer, Ellen (20 July 2012). "Saudi Appointment Suggests Bigger Regional Ambitions". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 July 2012. ^"Saudi king names ex-U.S. envoy as intelligence chief". CNN. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2012. ^"KSA: New Director for Spy Agency". Middle East Confidential. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2012. ^"New Saudi spymaster marks shift in policy". UPI. 26 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2012. ^"Saudi- Authority to monitor audiovisual media". MEFAFN. Arab News. 4 September 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012. ^Jay Solomon; Sam Dagher (26 July 2012). "Key Role Floated for Syrian Defector". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 July 2012. ^Woodward, 269.^"Saudi prince 'received arms cash'". BBC. 7 June 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2012. ^Saudi Prince Secretly Made $2B in 1985 Arms Deal^"Frontline:Black Money, Extended Interview with Louis Freeh". 7 April 2009. ^. 29 August 2013 ^ abcdefghMiles,Hugh (19 January 2009). "The Missing Prince". LRB Blog. ^ abSajedi, Mohioddin (23 November 2006). "The Saudi succession struggle". PressTV. ^"In kingdom, Saudi prince's coup 'fails'". PressTV. 2 August 2009. ^ abRosenberg, Matthew. "Saudi Bid to Curb Iran Worries U.S. ''" Business News & Financial News '' The Wall Street Journal '' Wall Street Journal, 27 May 2011. Web. 27 May 2011. [1].^"Syria reportedly eliminated Bandar bin Sultan in retaliation for Damascus bombing". Voltaire Network. 29 July 2012. ^"Saudi silence on intelligence chief Bandar's fate denotes panic". DEBKAfile. ^Eric Morales (31 July 2012). "Report: Saudi intelligence chief murdered by Syrian hit men". Digital Journal. ^Press TV, accessed 5 August,2012^Tehran Times, Retrieved, 5 August 2012^Rick Carroll (1 August 2012). "Commentary: Rumors fly of Bandar's death". Aspen Times (Aspen, Colorado). ^Brent Gardner-Smith (24 August 2012). "Bandar still alive, insiders say". Aspen Times (Aspen, Colorado). ^"Prince Bandar Bin Sultan: Is The Saudi Spy Chief Dead Or Alive?". International Business Times. 31 July 2012. ^Aaron Kalman (30 July 2012). "Pro-Assad websites claim Syria has killed Saudi intelligence chief, to avenge Damascus bombing". Times of Israel. ^Ian Black (10 October 2012). "Prince Bandar bin Sultan '' profile". The Guardian. ^Richard Walker (14 August 2012). "Was Saudi Arabia toÄŸ spy assassinated?". American Free Press. AFP. ^"Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Probably Killed in Bomb Attack". New Tang Dynasty Television. 1 August 2012. ^Arab News, accessed 5 August 2012^Washington Post, accessed 6 August 2012^Kapoor, Talal (8 August 2012). "The Return of Bandar bin Sultan" (Commentary). Datarabia. Retrieved 9 August 2012. ^ abHannah, John (22 April 2011). "Shadow Government: Bandar's Return". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011. ^ abRiedel, Bruce (2011). "Brezhnev in the Hejaz". The National Interest115. Retrieved 23 April 2012. ^"His Royal Highness Prince Turki bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz Al Saud". Saudi Environmental Society (SENS). Retrieved 5 April 2012. ^Curiel, Jonathan (10 December 2006). "U.S. planning to promote democracy in Muslim nations /Campaign draws mixed reviews". The San Francisco Chronicle. ^ abcdOttaway, David (2008). The king's messenger: Prince Bandar bin Sultan and America's tangled. New York: Walker Publishing Company. p. 124. Retrieved 7 December 2010. ^Henderson, Simon (22 October 2010). "Foreign Policy: A Prince's Mysterious Disappearance". NPR. ^Dudney, Robert S. (December 2001). "Verbatim Special: War on Terror". Air Force Magazine: 40''48. Retrieved 22 April 2012. ^Ahrari, M. Ehsan (1999). "Saudi Arabia: A Simmering Cauldron of Instability?". The Brown Journal of World AffairVI (2): 209''222. ^"Crown Prince Sultan backs the King in family". Wikileaks. 12 February 2007. Retrieved 6 May 2012. ^Leigh, David. "Secrets of al Yamamah". The Guardian. ^ ab"Saudi prince sells Aspen ranch for $49M". Aspen Daily News. 2 June 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2012. ^Carroll, Rick. "Pitkin County real estate sales dip in '07". Retrieved 10 February 2009. ^AP: Saudi prince asking $135M for Colo. home, MSNBC 12 July 2006.^Oshrat Carmiel; Kelly Bit (5 June 2012). "Paulson Buys Saudi Prince's Ranch In $49 Million Deal". Bloomberg. Retrieved 5 June 2012. ^Brennan, Morgan (5 June 2012). "Billionaire John Paulson Confirms $49 Million Purchase of Hala Ranch". Forbes. Retrieved 9 June 2012. ^"Commencement 2000". Howard University. Retrieved 30 March 2012. ^"Who are we?". Sultan Foundation. Retrieved 4 June 2012. ^Riddel, Peter (2009). "The call to Islam: Diverse methods and varied responses". Stuttgarter Theologische ThemenIV: 35''59. Retrieved April 2012. PersondataNameBandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al SaudAlternative namesShort descriptionSaudi royalDate of birth2 March 1949Place of birthTaifDate of deathPlace of death

Ministers who missed the vote: Chief Whip under fire as shambles in Commons is exposed | Mail Online

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Prime Minister humiliated in the Commons after losing by just 13 votes8 ministers, 2 whips and 2 ministerial aides failed to turn upJustine Greening and Mark Simmonds claim division bell didn't soundBut Commons officials hit back and say all the bells have been testedChief whip Sir George Young faces the sack in expected reshuffleBritain faces 'soul-searching' about role in the world, says George OsborneBy Jason Groves

PUBLISHED: 06:40 EST, 30 August 2013 | UPDATED: 06:30 EST, 31 August 2013




Ten members of the Government missed the crunch Commons vote on Syria '' including two who were chatting nearby.

David Cameron was under pressure to sack his Chief Whip Sir George Young after a 'shambolic' operation which saw six ministers, two whips and two ministerial aides miss the vote altogether.

They included International Development Secretary Justine Greening and minister for Africa Mark Simmonds, who were apparently deep in conversation just yards from the Commons chamber while the vote was taking place.

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Bruised: David Cameron, pictured leaving Downing Street today, insisted his whips did a 'good job' despite failing to persuade dozens of his own MPs to turn up for the vote

Humbling of Cameron: Vote on military strike against Syria

MISSING MINISTERS: THE 10 ABSENT MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNMENTAs David Cameron faced the biggest Commons test of his premiership, these are the 10 members of his government who did not vote:

Justine Greening, International Development Secretary, Con

Mark Simmonds, Africa minister, Con

David Gauke, Treasury minister, Con

Alan Duncan, International Development minister, Con

Ken Clarke, minister without portfolio, Con

Steve Webb, Pensions minister, Lib Dem

Mark Hunter, whip, Lib Dem

Jenny Willott, whip, Lib Dem

Tessa Munt, aide to Vince Cable, Lib Dem

Lorely Burt, aide to Danny Alexander, Lib Dem

Other missing senior figures included minister without portfolio Kenneth Clarke, international development minister Alan Duncan, Treasury minister David Gauke and Lib Dem pensions minister Steve Webb. MPs and ministers voiced astonishment at the light-touch handling of the crucial vote by Old Etonian Sir George '' with one minister describing his approach as 'pretty complacent'.

William Hague was also facing criticism for allowing Nick Clegg to make the closing speech in Thursday night's debate.

One Tory MP said: 'Clegg was hopeless and ended up getting people's backs up rather than winning them over. If William had done the winding up speech I think some people would have been won round.'

In the aftermath of the vote, one MP said: 'It was just shambolic. People are saying they've hardly been spoken to, there are a lot of people who are not here. What have the whips been doing?'

Tory MP Peter Bone, a habitual rebel, raised eyebrows in the Commons by revealing he had been given no instructions about how to vote on Syria.

'I have been under no pressure from my Whip to vote one way or the other,' he said, although he eventually voted with the Government. One MP said the first he knew that Parliament was being recalled was when easyJet sent him a text message offering him a flight home. 'Perhaps the Whips' Office should just be franchised out to easyJet,' he said.

Pressure: Sir George Young faces being sacked as the Chief Whip after the Prime Minister suffered humiliation in the Commons vote

Shock: The House of Commons was stunned when the result was announced, inflicting an embarrassing defeat on the Prime Minister

Another MP said that although an aide to the PM had called him, presumably about Syria, he had left no message and never called back.

Also among those who missed the vote were Lib Dem whips Jenny Willott and Mark Hunter as well as Lib Dem parliamentary private secretaries Lorely Burt and Tessa Munt. They were among 31 Tory and 14 Lib Dem MPs who missed the vote, despite a three-line whip being imposed.

Normally in tight votes MPs are ordered back regardless of the difficulty. In past votes, even gravely ill MPs have been wheeled into the Commons on trolleys.

Tories: International development minister Alan Duncan, Treasury minister David Gauke and Ken Clarke, minister without portfolio, all missed the vote

Lib Dems: Whips Mark Hunter and Jenny Willott, and pensions minister Steve Webb were also absent

In contrast, Mr Gauke, Mr Duncan and Mr Webb are all understood to have been given permission to continue their holidays. Mr Clark was also excused duty, as were the four other Lib Dems.

A Number 10 source last night defended the absences, adding: 'There were a number of MPs who did not attend the Commons vote either for personal reasons or because the logistics were impossible. These arrangements were agreed with the Whips' Office.'

Another source pointed out that the missing ministers would not have overturned Labour's majority of 13 on the key vote, but added: 'Could more have been done? Yes it could.'

Alarm: Defence Secretary Philip Hammond (left) said the Commons vote put the special relationship under 'strain' while Chancellor George Osborne warned Britain against turning its back on the world

Thursday night's defeat, which is without precedent in modern times, piles pressure on the PM to replace Sir George, who was brought back from retirement last year following the resignation of Andrew Mitchell.

Former defence secretary Liam Fox and immigration minister Mark Harper have both been tipped to replace him.

The Lib Dem whipping operation was hampered by the fact their chief whip only arrived back from Cameroon on Wednesday. Many Lib Dems simply ignored the three-line whip, including president Tim Farron who left Parliament shortly before the key vote took place.

JUSTINE, THE AID SECRETARY WHO DID NOT HEAR THE SYRIA VOTE BELLClanger: International Development Secretary Justine Greening was chatting to foreign office minister Mark Simmonds (right) in a small room near the Commons as MPs voted on military action

International Development Secretary Justine Greening issued a grovelling apology to David Cameron yesterday after missing the crunch vote because she was lost in conversation in an 'almost soundproof' room with another minister.

Miss Greening and Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds, were just yards away from the chamber on Thursday night, and had already voted to help defeat a Labour amendment.The pair had apparently ducked into a room for an urgent discussion about Rwanda.

Despite the importance of the debate, the pair somehow contrived to miss the crunch vote in which Labour teamed up with Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister.

The pair remonstrated with Speaker John Bercow, arguing that the Division Bell, which alerts MPs to a vote, had not been rung.

But Mr Bercow dismissed their complaint '' pointing out there was no requirement for the bell to be rung.

And furious Commons officials yesterday insisted that the deafening bell had been rung in the corridor outside the room where the pair of ministers were chatting inside.

Extensive tests of the system yesterday confirmed it was working properly.

Hundreds of monitors displaying Commons business were also tested.

A source close to Miss Greening said she had apologised to Mr Cameron for her 'deeply unfortunate' absence, which was 'clearly embarrassing'.

Asked about their absence, Mr Cameron said: 'This was a technical issue.

'They had made it for the first vote, they were in a room in the House of Commons where they didn't hear the division bell. They missed the vote.

'They have apologised profoundly, I have accepted that apology. It wouldn't have changed the result.'

After voting at 10pm, Miss Greening, 44, and Mr Simmonds, 49, had apparently ducked into the little known 'Reasons Room' just behind the Commons chamber for a confidential discussion. The next, critical, vote was scheduled for 10.15pm.

But the pair said the TV monitor displaying Commons business was turned off and they did not hear the division bell outside, or the doorkeepers outside loudly shouting 'division' to signal a vote.

Government whips apparently failed to check the room or knock on the door while rounding up MPs to vote.

The Reasons Room was the scene of the famous episode in 1963 when the then Minister for War John Profumo was grilled by fellow MPs over his relationship with Christine Keeler. A House of Commons spokesman said it was a 'solidly constructed room with a well-fitting door'.

The spokesman also dismissed suggestions the pair could have missed the vote because of a failure of Parliamentary systems designed to alert MPs to votes.

'Both divisions [votes] proceeded as normal last night, with division bells and the usual audio/visual indications on the hundreds of monitors around the estate.

'The division bells have been tested this morning and are working correctly.

The Commons spokesman added: 'There would have been a lot of activity there around those [meeting] rooms.

'I think it would have been clear that there had been a division on and those involved would have known there was a division on as well.'

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David Cameron accepts ministers' apologies for missing Syria vote | Politics |

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 01:51

Justine Greening, the international development secretary, who missed the Syria vote. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

David Cameron has accepted the apologies of two government ministers who missed the vote on Syria which led to a shock defeat for the prime minister.

The international development secretary, Justine Greening, and Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds failed to back the government motion supporting the principle of military action in Syria because they did not hear the bell that alerts MPs to a division in the House of Commons.

Cameron, whose motion was defeated by 13 votes, said: "This was a technical issue. They had made it for the first vote. They were in a room in the House of Commons where they didn't hear the division bell. They missed the vote.

"They have apologised profoundly. I have accepted that apology. It wouldn't have changed the result."

It is understood that Greening and Simmonds were in a room near the Commons chamber, discussing the situation in Rwanda, when the vote was called.

Both MPs voted against the Labour amendment at 10pm, which called for "compelling evidence" that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack.

But Simmonds, the Africa minister, then apparently asked to speak to Greening and the pair went to a small meeting room near the chamber which ministers often use between votes. Once there, they apparently did not hear the bell for the second vote.

A Commons spokesman said: "Both divisions proceeded as normal last night, with division bells and the usual audio/visual indications on the hundreds of monitors around the estate.

"The division bells have been tested this morning and are working correctly."

He added: "There would have been a lot of activity there around those (meeting) rooms.

"I think it would have been clear that there had been a division on and those involved would have known there was a division on as well."

Eight other members of the government payroll vote did not go through either lobby on the main government motion division. As well as Greening and Simmonds, Conservative minister without portfolio Ken Clarke blamed family reasons.

The international development minister, Alan Duncan, and Treasury minister David Gauke, both Tories, were also absent.

It is understood Duncan was "slipped" and given permission to not return from holiday and miss the vote and

Gauke and Webb were both also away on holiday with permission from the whips.

Five members of the Liberal Democrat payroll vote were absent. Both pensions minister Steve Webb and whip Jenny Willott are on holiday in Europe and did not return for the recall. Willott's office said this was with permission of the government whips.

Lorely Burt, parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Danny Alexander, spoke out against military action in the debate and chose not to vote. Whip Mark Hunter and PPS Tessa Munt also missed the vote.

$1b Saudi Arms - OTHER -36(b)(1) Arms Sales Notification

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 16:49

The Department of Defense is publishing the unclassified text of a section 36(b)(1) arms sales notification. This is published to fulfill the requirements of section 155 of Public Law 104-164 dated July 21, 1996.

Ms. B. English, DSCA/DBO/CFM, (703) 601-3740.

The following is a copy of a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives,Transmittals 13-38 with attached transmittal and policy justification.

Dated: August 27, 2013.

Aaron Siegel,

Alternate OSD Federal Register Liaison Officer, Department of Defense.



Notice of Proposed Issuance of Letter of Offer Pursuant to Section 36(b)(1) of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended(i) Prospective Purchaser: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

(ii) Total Estimated Value:

Major Defense Equipment *$ 0 billion.Other$1.2 billion.TOTAL$1.2 billion.(iii) Description and Quantity or Quantities of Articles or Services under Consideration for Purchase: follow-on support and services for Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) aircraft, engines and weapons, to include contractor technical services, logistics support, maintenance support, spares, equipment repair, expendables, support and test equipment, communication support, precision measuring equipment, personnel training and training equipment, technical support, exercises, deployments and other related elements of program support services, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support.

(iv) Military Department: Air Force (QAY)

(v) Prior Related Cases, if any:

FMS case GAG'--$38.0M'--4Apr10

FMS case QBJ'--$224.0M'--18Jul10

FMS case QBI'--$250.0M'--16Jun10

FMS case QAY'--$147.4M'--5Jun10

FMS case KDB'--$120.0M'--15Feb10

FMS case QAV'--$23.0M'--18Oct09

FMS case KCZ'--$95.4M'--27Feb07

FMS case QDE'--$202.4M'--15Mar06

FMS case QZQ'--$54.3M'--5May04

FMS case QZX'--$62.4M'--24Dec03

FMS case CCZ'--$48.4M'--12Aug02

(vi) Sales Commission, Fee, etc., Paid, Offered, or Agreed to be Paid: None

(vii) Sensitivity of Technology Contained in the Defense Article or Defense ServicesProposed to be Sold: None

(viii) Date Report Delivered to Congress: 22 August 2013

* As defined in Section 47(6) of the Arms Export Control Act.

Saudi Arabia'--Sustainment and SupportThe Government of Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale of follow-on support and services for Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) aircraft, engines and weapons, to include contractor technical services, logistics support, maintenance support, spares, equipment repair, expendables, support and test equipment, communication support, precision measuring equipment, personnel training and training equipment, technical support, exercises, deployments and other related elements of program support services, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated cost is $1.2 billion.

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia needs this follow on maintenance and logistical support to sustain the combat and operational readiness of its existing aircraft fleet.

The proposed sale of this support and services will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

There is no prime contractor involved in this proposed sale. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government personnel or contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this sale.

[FR Doc. 2013-21267 Filed 8-30-13; 8:45 am]


What Putin is Saying

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 13:52

By Will Englund,MOSCOW '' Russia dramatically escalated its denunciations of American threats to attack Syrian military targets on Saturday, with President Vladimir Putin saying it would have been ''utter nonsense'' for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons as the Obama administration alleges.

The Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued before President Obama said he would seek congressional authorization before ordering strikes on Syria, said a U.S. attack would be a ''gross violation'' of international law.

Speaking out for the first time since an apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, Putin called on President Obama to find a nonviolent way out of the crisis.

''I would like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: Before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future casualties,'' Putin told Russian news agencies in Vladivostok during a tour of the country's flood-stricken Far East.

''Russia is urging you to think twice before making a decision on an operation in Syria,'' he said.

The White House argued Friday that intelligence shows more than 1,400 people died from exposure to chemical weapons in an attack carried out by the Syrian military.

Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international '-- and especially American '-- involvement in the Syrian conflict. The government of Bashar al-Assad, he said, would have had no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.

Doing so, he said, would have been ''utter nonsense'' '' with the clear implication that that is how he would characterize the American allegations.

On top of that, he said, the Obama administration's ''claims that proof exists, but is classified and cannot be presented to anybody, are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners.''

Putin's comments were soon underlined by a stern statement from the Foreign Ministry. After U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul had finished a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Saturday, the ministry declared, ''Russia has expressed its conviction that any forceful action against Syria that the U.S. could carry out in circumvention of the U.N. Security Council would be an act of aggression and a gross violation of international law.''

Putin said he was surprised by the vote in Britain's Parliament on Thursday not to join a U.S. attack on Syrian military targets. ''It shows that there are people guided by common sense there,'' he said.

Putin said he and Obama have not discussed Syria since the alleged chemical weapons attack occurred.

The Russian president is fond of needling his opponents, often adopting a tone of apparent reasonableness tinged with a considerable amount of condescension. A U.S. assault on Assad's government would do nothing to hurt his standing, at home or in many countries abroad, where his contempt for Washington tends to play very well.

''The U.S. president and I certainly discussed this problem at the G-8'' summit in June in Northern Ireland, Putin said Saturday. ''And, by the way, we agreed then that we would jointly facilitate peace negotiations in Geneva, and the Americans committed themselves to bringing the armed opposition to these negotiations. I understand this is a difficult process, and it looks like they haven't succeeded in this.''

Obama arrives in St. Petersburg for the G-20 meeting on Thursday and leaves on Friday. The purpose of the gathering is to discuss economic growth, but the White House acknowledges there will be plenty of conversation about Syria on the side. There are currently no plans for a one-on-one meeting between Putin and Obama, who earlier this month decided not to attend a Moscow summit with the Russian president.

On Friday, the head of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of parliament, Alexei Pushkov, said the Nobel committee should strip Obama of his 2009 Peace Prize if he launches an attack on Syria.

US has physical proof of Damascus sarin gas attack: Kerry | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 14:08

WASHINGTON: The United States has proof sarin gas was used in a Damascus attack, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday, as he urged Congress to vote for military action against the Syrian regime.

Hair and blood samples provided to the United States from first responders on the scene of last month's attack in the Syrian capital "have tested positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry told NBC and CNN television.



Impunity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 22:06

Impunity means "exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines".[1] In the international law of human rights, it refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a denial of the victims' right to justice and redress. Impunity is especially common in countries that lack a tradition of the rule of law, suffer from corruption or that have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak or members of the security forces are protected by special jurisdictions or immunities.

The amended Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United NationsCommission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005, defines impunity as:

"the impossibility, de jure or de facto, of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account '' whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings '' since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims."[2]The First Principle of that same document states that:

"Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations."Truth and reconciliation commissions are frequently established by nations emerging from periods marked by human rights violations '' coups d'(C)tat, military dictatorships, civil wars, etc. '' in order to cast light on the events of the past. While such mechanisms can assist in the ultimate prosecution of crimes and punishment of the guilty, they have often been criticised for perpetuating impunity by enabling violators to seek protection of concurrently adopted amnesty laws.[3]

The primary goal of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted on 17 July 1998 and entered into force on 1 July 2002, is "to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators" [...] "of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole".[4]

Skull and Bones - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 22:05

Skull and Bones's membership developed a reputation in association with the "Power Elite".[9] Regarding the qualifications for membership, Lanny Davis wrote in the 1968 Yale yearbook:

If the society had a good year, this is what the "ideal" group will consist of: a football captain; a Chairman of the Yale Daily News; a conspicuous radical; a Whiffenpoof; a swimming captain; a notorious drunk with a 94 average; a film-maker; a political columnist; a religious group leader; a Chairman of the Lit; a foreigner; a ladies' man with two motorcycles; an ex-service man; a negro, if there are enough to go around; a guy nobody else in the group had heard of, ever ...Like other Yale senior societies, Skull and Bones membership was almost exclusively limited to white Protestant males for much of its history. While Yale itself had exclusionary policies directed at particular ethnic and religious groups, the senior societies were even more exclusionary.[10][11] While some Catholics were able to join such groups, Jews were more often not.[11] Some of these excluded groups eventually entered Skull and Bones by means of sports, through the society's practice of tapping standout athletes. Star football players included the first Jewish (Al Hessberg, class of 1938) and African-American (Levi Jackson, class of 1950, who turned down the invitation for the Berzelius Society) students to be tapped for Skull and Bones.[10]

Yale became coeducational in 1969, yet Skull & Bones remained fully male until 1992. The Bones class of 1971's attempt to tap women for membership was opposed by Bones alumni, who dubbed them the "bad club" and quashed their attempt. "The issue", as it came to be called by Bonesmen, was debated for decades.[12] The class of 1991 tapped seven female members for membership in the next year's class, causing conflict with their own alumni association, the Russell Trust.[13] The Trust changed the locks on the Tomb and the Bonesmen instead met in the Manuscript Society building.[13] A mail-in vote by members decided 368-320 to permit women in the society, but a group of alumni led by William F. Buckley obtained a temporary restraining order to block the move, arguing that a formal change in bylaws was needed.[13][14] Other alumni, such as John Kerry and R. Inslee Clark, Jr., spoke out in favor of admitting women. The dispute was highlighted on a The New York Times editorial page.[13][15] A second alumni vote in October 1991 agreed to accept the Class of 1992, and the lawsuit was dropped.[13][16]

Judith Ann Schiff, Chief Research Archivist at the Yale University Library, has written: "The names of its members weren't kept secret '-- that was an innovation of the 1970s '-- but its meetings and practices were."[17] While resourceful researchers could assemble member data from these original sources, in 1985, an anonymous source leaked rosters to Antony C. Sutton. This membership information was kept privately for over 15 years, as Sutton feared that the photocopied pages could somehow identify the member who leaked it. He wrote a book on the group, America's Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones. The information was finally reformatted as an appendix in the book Fleshing out Skull and Bones, a compilation edited by Kris Millegan and published in 2003.

Among prominent alumni are former President and Supreme Court Justice William Howard Taft (a founder's son); former Presidents George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush; Supreme Court Justices Morrison R. Waite and Potter Stewart;[18]James Jesus Angleton, "mother of the Central Intelligence Agency"; Henry Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War (1940-1945); U.S. Secretary of DefenseRobert A. Lovett, who directed the Korean War; and Henry Luce, founder & publisher of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated magazines.[citation needed]

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator; Stephen A. Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone Group; Austan Goolsbee,[19] Chairman of Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers; Harold Stanley, co-founder of Morgan Stanley; and Frederick W. Smith, founder of FedEx are all reported to be members.

War Powers Resolution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:57

The War Powers Resolution has been controversial since it was passed.[16] In passing the resolution, Congress specifically cites the Necessary and Proper Clause for its authority.[17] Under the Necessary and Proper Clause, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Because the Constitution limits the President's authority in the use of force without a declaration of war by Congress, there is controversy as to whether the provisions of the resolution are consistent with the Constitution. Presidents have therefore drafted reports to Congress required of the President to state that they are "consistent with" the War Powers Resolution rather than "pursuant to" so as to take into account the presidential position that the resolution is unconstitutional.

One argument for the unconstitutionality of the War Powers Resolution by Philip Bobbitt[18] argues "The power to make war is not an enumerated power" and the notion that to "declare" war is to "commence" war is a "contemporary textual preconception". Bobbitt contends that the Framers of the Constitution believed that statutory authorization was the route by which the United States would be committed to war, and that 'declaration' was meant for only total wars, as shown by the history of the Quasi-War with France (1798''1800). In general, constitutional powers are not so much separated as "linked and sequenced"; Congress's control over the armed forces is "structured" by appropriation, while the President commands; thus the act of declaring war should not be fetishized. Bobbitt also argues that "A democracy cannot ... tolerate secret policies" because they undermine the legitimacy of governmental action.

A second argument concerns a possible breach of the 'separation of powers' doctrine, and whether the resolution changes the balance between the Legislative and Executive functions. This type of constitutional controversy is similar to one that occurred under President Andrew Johnson with the Tenure of Office Act (1867). In that prior instance, the Congress passed a law (over the veto of the then-President) that required the President to secure Congressional approval for the removal of Cabinet members and other executive branch officers. The Act was not declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States until 1926.[19] When Andrew Johnson violated the Act, the House of Representativesimpeached him; action in the Senate to remove him failed by one vote.

Here, the separation of powers issue is whether the War Powers Resolution requirements for Congressional approval and presidential reporting to Congress change the constitutional balance established in Articles I and II, namely that Congress is explicitly granted the sole authority to "declare war", "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces" (Article 1, Section 8), and to control the funding of those same forces, while the Executive has inherent authority as Commander in Chief. This argument does not address the other reporting requirements imposed on other executive officials and agencies by other statutes, nor does it address the provisions of Article I, Section 8 that explicitly gives Congress the authority to "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces".

The constitution specifically states that Congress is authorized "to provide and maintain a Navy" (Article 1 Section 8). The idea of "maintenance" of a Navy implies that Naval Forces would be a permanent fixture of national defense. Two types of Land Forces are described by the Constitution (Article 1 Section 8): the Militia (armed citizenry organized into local defense forces and state volunteer regiments) which Congress can "call forth" and prescribe the "organizing, arming, and disciplining [training]" of, as Congress did in the Militia acts of 1792; and the Army, which Congress can "raise and support", through regular appropriation acts limited to no more than two years. This division matches how the Revolutionary War was fought, by the Continental Army, raised and supported by the Continental Congress, and local Militias and Volunteer Regiments, raised by the separate Colonies. After the war, under the Articles of Confederation, a small standing Army, the First American Regiment was raised and gradually increased in size over time by Congress before, following the Constitution's ratification, being transformed into the Regular Army. The availability of a standing Army, and the President of the United States being authorized as "Commander in Chief", implies his ability as a military commander to employ forces necessary to fulfill his oath to defend the constitution.

There is also an unresolved legal question, discussed by Justice White in INS v. Chadha of whether a "key provision of the War Powers Resolution", namely 50 U.S.C. 1544(c), constitutes an improper legislative veto. (See Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 971.) That section 1544(c) states "such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution". Justice White argues in his dissent in Chadha that, under the Chadha ruling, 1544(c) would be a violation of the Presentment Clause. The majority in Chadha does not resolve the issue. Justice White does not address or evaluate in his dissent whether that section would fall within the inherent Congressional authority under Article I Section 8 to "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces".

War Powers Resolution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 04:05

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 (50 U.S.C. 1541-1548)[1] is a federal law intended to check the president's power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress. The resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution; this provides that the President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, "statutory authorization," or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."

The War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. The resolution was passed by two-thirds of Congress, overriding a presidential veto. The War Powers Resolution has been violated in the past by President Reagan in regards to the aid to theContras in Nicaragua and by President Clinton in 1999, during the bombing campaign in Kosovo. All incidents have had congressional disapproval, but none have had any successful legal actions taken against the president for violations.[2][3] All presidents since 1973 have declared their belief that the act is unconstitutional. [4][5]

Under the United States Constitution, war powers are divided. Congress has the power to declare war, raise and support the armed forces, control the war funding (Article I, Section 8), and has "Power '... to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution '... all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof", while the President is commander-in-chief of the military (Article II, Section 2). It is generally agreed that the commander-in-chief role gives the President power to repel attacks against the United States[6][7] and makes the President responsible for leading the armed forces. In addition and as with all acts of the Congress, the President has the right to sign or veto congressional acts, such as a declaration of war.

During the Korean and Vietnam wars, the United States found itself involved for many years in situations of intense conflict without a declaration of war. Many members of Congress became concerned with the erosion of congressional authority to decide when the United States should become involved in a war or the use of armed forces that might lead to war. The credibility gap widened when news leaked out that President Nixon had secret bombings on Cambodia during the Vietnam War. He did not tell Congress about his military plan. The resolution was created because Congress felt that the president had too much power. The War Powers Resolution was passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate but was vetoed by President Richard Nixon. By a two-thirds vote in each house, Congress overrode the veto and enacted the joint resolution into law on November 7, 1973.

Presidents have submitted 130[8] reports to Congress as a result of the War Powers Resolution, although only one (the Mayag¼ez incident) cited Section 4(a)(1) and specifically stated that forces had been introduced into hostilities or imminent danger.

Congress invoked the War Powers Resolution in the Multinational Force in Lebanon Act (P.L. 98-119), which authorized the Marines to remain in Lebanon for 18 months during 1982 and 1983. In addition, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 1991 (Pub.L. 102''1) which authorized United States combat operations against Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War, stated that it constituted specific statutory authorization within the meaning of the War Powers Resolution.

On November 9, 1993, the House used a section of the War Powers Resolution to state that U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Somalia by March 31, 1994; Congress had already taken this action in appropriations legislation. More recently under President Clinton, war powers were at issue in former Yugoslavia; Bosnia; Kosovo; Iraq, and Haiti, and under President George W. Bush in responding to terrorist attacks against the U.S. after September 11, 2001. "[I]n 1999, President Clinton kept the bombing campaign in Kosovo going for more than two weeks after the 60-day deadline had passed. Even then, however, the Clinton legal team opined that its actions were consistent with the War Powers Resolution because Congress had approved a bill funding the operation, which they argued constituted implicit authorization. That theory was controversial because the War Powers Resolution specifically says that such funding does not constitute authorization."[9] Clinton's actions in Kosovo were challenged by a member of Congress as a violation of the Wars Power Resolution in the D.C. Circuit case Campbell v. Clinton, but the court found the issue was a non-justiciablepolitical question.[citation needed]

After the 1991 Gulf War, the use of force to obtain Iraqi compliance with United Nations resolutions, particularly through enforcement of Iraqi no-fly zones, remained a war powers issue. In October 2002 Congress enacted the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against IraqPub.L. 107''243 which authorized President George W. Bush to use force as necessary to defend the United States against Iraq and enforce relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.[10]

May 20, 2011, marked the 60th day of US combat in Libya (as part of the UN resolution) but the deadline arrived without President Obama seeking specific authorization from the US Congress.[11] President Obama, however, notified Congress that no authorization was needed,[12] since the US leadership was transferred to NATO,[13] and since US involvement is somewhat limited. On Friday, June 3, 2011, the US House of Representatives voted to rebuke President Obama for maintaining an American presence in the NATO operations in Libya, which they considered a violation of the War Powers Resolution.[14][15]

The War Powers Resolution has been controversial since it was passed.[16] In passing the resolution, Congress specifically cites the Necessary and Proper Clause for its authority.[17] Under the Necessary and Proper Clause, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Because the Constitution limits the President's authority in the use of force without a declaration of war by Congress, there is controversy as to whether the provisions of the resolution are consistent with the Constitution. Presidents have therefore drafted reports to Congress required of the President to state that they are "consistent with" the War Powers Resolution rather than "pursuant to" so as to take into account the presidential position that the resolution is unconstitutional.

One argument for the unconstitutionality of the War Powers Resolution by Philip Bobbitt[18] argues "The power to make war is not an enumerated power" and the notion that to "declare" war is to "commence" war is a "contemporary textual preconception". Bobbitt contends that the Framers of the Constitution believed that statutory authorization was the route by which the United States would be committed to war, and that 'declaration' was meant for only total wars, as shown by the history of the Quasi-War with France (1798''1800). In general, constitutional powers are not so much separated as "linked and sequenced"; Congress's control over the armed forces is "structured" by appropriation, while the President commands; thus the act of declaring war should not be fetishized. Bobbitt also argues that "A democracy cannot ... tolerate secret policies" because they undermine the legitimacy of governmental action.

A second argument concerns a possible breach of the 'separation of powers' doctrine, and whether the resolution changes the balance between the Legislative and Executive functions. This type of constitutional controversy is similar to one that occurred under President Andrew Johnson with the Tenure of Office Act (1867). In that prior instance, the Congress passed a law (over the veto of the then-President) that required the President to secure Congressional approval for the removal of Cabinet members and other executive branch officers. The Act was not declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States until 1926.[19] When Andrew Johnson violated the Act, the House of Representativesimpeached him; action in the Senate to remove him failed by one vote.

Here, the separation of powers issue is whether the War Powers Resolution requirements for Congressional approval and presidential reporting to Congress change the constitutional balance established in Articles I and II, namely that Congress is explicitly granted the sole authority to "declare war", "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces" (Article 1, Section 8), and to control the funding of those same forces, while the Executive has inherent authority as Commander in Chief. This argument does not address the other reporting requirements imposed on other executive officials and agencies by other statutes, nor does it address the provisions of Article I, Section 8 that explicitly gives Congress the authority to "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces".

The constitution specifically states that Congress is authorized "to provide and maintain a Navy" (Article 1 Section 8). The idea of "maintenance" of a Navy implies that Naval Forces would be a permanent fixture of national defense. Two types of Land Forces are described by the Constitution (Article 1 Section 8): the Militia (armed citizenry organized into local defense forces and state volunteer regiments) which Congress can "call forth" and prescribe the "organizing, arming, and disciplining [training]" of, as Congress did in the Militia acts of 1792; and the Army, which Congress can "raise and support", through regular appropriation acts limited to no more than two years. This division matches how the Revolutionary War was fought, by the Continental Army, raised and supported by the Continental Congress, and local Militias and Volunteer Regiments, raised by the separate Colonies. After the war, under the Articles of Confederation, a small standing Army, the First American Regiment was raised and gradually increased in size over time by Congress before, following the Constitution's ratification, being transformed into the Regular Army. The availability of a standing Army, and the President of the United States being authorized as "Commander in Chief", implies his ability as a military commander to employ forces necessary to fulfill his oath to defend the constitution.

There is also an unresolved legal question, discussed by Justice White in INS v. Chadha of whether a "key provision of the War Powers Resolution", namely 50 U.S.C. 1544(c), constitutes an improper legislative veto. (See Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 971.) That section 1544(c) states "such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution". Justice White argues in his dissent in Chadha that, under the Chadha ruling, 1544(c) would be a violation of the Presentment Clause. The majority in Chadha does not resolve the issue. Justice White does not address or evaluate in his dissent whether that section would fall within the inherent Congressional authority under Article I Section 8 to "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces".

^Full text of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C 1541''1548)^Greenwald, Glen (June 25, 2011). "Congress vs. the president on war powers". Salon. ^Library of Congress War Powers Reference [1], Library of Congress^Lithwick, Dahlia, "Wrestling Over War Powers", Newsweek, July 12, 2008^Rumsfeld, Donald, Known and Unknown: A Memoir, Penguin, 2011. Cf. especially Chapter 1.^2 The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 318-19 (Max Farrand ed., rev. ed. 1966)(1911)^^U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance. Washington: The Service, 2011 (RL33532), Summary.^Savage, Charlie (2011-04-01) Clock Ticking on War Powers Resolution, New York Times^107th Congress (10 October 2002). "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002" (text). United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2008-12-08. ^Libya War Deadline Arrives^"White House on War Powers Deadline: 'Limited' US Role in Libya Means No Need to Get Congressional Authorization", ABC News, May 20, 2011^"Libya: Nato assumes control of military operation". BBC News. March 27, 2011. ^Dinan, Stephen, "Bipartisan Congress rebuffs Obama on Libya mission". The Washington Times, Saturday, June 4, 2011^Steinhauer, Jennifer (June 3, 2011). "House Rebukes Obama for Continuing Libyan Mission Without Its Consent". The New York Times. ^"The war powers resolution". US Department of State Bulletin. 1988-09-15. Retrieved 2008-07-09. "The War Powers Resolution has been controversial from the day it was adopted over President Nixon's veto. Since 1973, executive officials and many Members of Congress have criticized various aspects of the law repeatedly."^War Powers Joint Resolution, §2(b).^"War Powers: An Essay on John Hart Ely's War and Responsibility: Constitutional Lessons of Vietnam and Its Aftermath," Michigan Law Quarterly 92, no. 6 (May 1994): 1364''1400.^"Myers v. United States, 272 U. S. 52 (1926)". Grimmett, Richard Z. (February 14, 2006). "CRS Report for Congress: War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance" (PDF). Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 2007-09-30. United States Congress (November 7, 1973). "War Powers Resolution of 1973 (Public Law 93-148)". The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness. Retrieved 2007-09-30. United States Congress (October 31, 1998). "H.R.4655: Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338)". Retrieved 2007-09-30. United States Congress (September 18, 2001). "Public Law 107-40: Joint Resolution: To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States (S.J. Res. 23)" (text). United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2007-09-30. United States Congress (October 16, 2002). "Public Law 107-243: Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (H. J. Res. 114)" (text). United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2007-09-30. Kinkopf, Neil. "The Congress as Surge Protector" (PDF). American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-09-30. "The Supreme Court has been clear and unambiguous. When Congress, acting in the vast areas of overlapping power, tells the President 'no', the President must comply." Doumar, Robert G. (January 8, 2003). "Hamdi v. Rumsfeld Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Norfolk (CA-02-439-2)" (PDF). United States Judiciary. Retrieved 2007-09-30. Young, D. Lindley (February 24,2003). ""Amicus Curiae Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Appeal"" (PDF). United States Judiciary. Retrieved 2011-12-06. Library of Congress (March 12, 2012). ""Research Help: War Powers"" (text). United States Government Library of Congress. Retrieved 2012-05-04.

American Service-Members' Protection Act - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The American Service-Members' Protection Act (ASPA, Title 2 of Pub.L. 107''206, H.R. 4775, 116 Stat. 820, enacted August 2, 2002) is a United States federal law that aims "to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not party." Introduced by US SenatorJesse Helms (R-NC) and RepresentativeTom DeLay (R-TX)[1] it was an amendment to the 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act for Further Recovery From and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States (H.R. 4775).[2] The bill was signed into law by George W. Bush on August 2, 2002.

ASPA authorizes the President to use ''all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court''. This authorization has led the act to be nicknamed The Hague Invasion Act,[3][4] because the freeing of U.S. citizens by force might be possible only through an invasion of The Hague, Netherlands, the seat of several international criminal courts and of the Dutch government.

The Act prohibits federal, state and local governments and agencies (including courts and law enforcement agencies) from assisting the Court. For example, it prohibits the extradition of any person from the United States to the Court; it prohibits the transfer of classified national security information and law enforcement information to the Court; and it prohibits agents of the Court from conducting investigations in the United States.

The Act also prohibits U.S. military aid to countries that are party to the Court. However, exceptions are allowed for aid to NATO members, major non-NATO allies, Taiwan, and countries which have entered into ''Article 98 agreements'', agreeing not to hand over U.S. nationals to the Court. The President may waive this prohibition if he determines that to do so is ''important to the national interest of the United States''.

The Dutch government reacted mildly to this legislation, which entitled the American president to violate Dutch sovereignty by force without Congressional approval. The Dutch MEP Wim van de Camp suggested in July 2009 that if the Netherlands should accept previous inmates of Guantanamo Bay the The Hague Invasion Act should be taken into account in the negotiations.[5]



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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:35

Asma Assad, from London.To discuss the gas attack in Damascus, I have lunch with Asma, the wife of President Assad.

We meet at Il Circo restaurant, at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Damascus.Asma orders Pizza Margherita, which has Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato and Fresh Basil; I order Grilled Sea Bass with Saut(C)ed Vegetables and Caper Sauce

Asma was born in Acton, in London.Her father was a consultant at the Cromwell Hospital.Asma graduated from King's College London in 1996 with a degree in computer science and a diploma in French literature.Asma takes a keen interest in women's rights, education and the alleviation of poverty.

I ask Asma about democracy.Asma says: "Obama should listen to the American voters."The American people do not want Obama to support the terrorists in Syria." AsmaAsma frowns and says: "More people were killed in Libya after the so called liberation than before."Asma worries about the Christians in Syria."Thousands of Christian refugees have found protection in Syria," explains Asma. "These people are at risk of being wiped out if the terrorists come to power."And what about chemical weapons?"At school in London," says Asma, "We were taught that the British used chemical weapons in World War I.""Italy used chemical weapons in Ethiopia."The USA used chemical weapons in Vietnam and in Iraq."I hope that we will never use chemical weapons."Assad, loved by most Syrians.I point out that survivors of the gas attack in Damascus are blaming the CIA asset Prince Bandar and his al-Nusra rebels for the gas attack."Well, certainly we did not do it," says Asma. John McCain in Syria meeting al Qaeda. Asma notes that John McCain was in Syria, meeting rebels who are part of Al Qaeda.US military prepares to kill more innocent children.Reports Of Very Unusual Troop Movements In The U.S. And Air Power Massing In Cyprus.The Pentagon's Anti-Syria operations began in 2007, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. I suggest to Asma that there could soon be a false flag attack in Britain.

This would be organised by the people who are angry that the UK is not going to bomb Syria's hospitals and schools. Asma says she certainly worries that further false flag attacks will lead to a full scale American invasion.

"What happens then?" asks Asma. "Does Israel then grab a bigger part of Syria? Do Qatar and Saudi Arabia then get their oil pipeline through Syria?"Obama's friends, the Al Nusra Front terrorists (Al Qaeda in Syria), execute Syrian prisoners.

Over coffee I ask Asma about Obama.

"I feel sorry for Obama," says Asma. "I think he had a difficult childhood. His family was a CIA family and those people have done some terrible things."


As Syria implodes, Mrs Assad splashes out on chandeliers, Western food and fitness fads: Bizarre shopping spree of the British beauty holed up in bunker with vile dictator | Mail Online

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Asma Assad, 38, orders Western food so her children don't eat Syrian cuisine all the timeStudied at King's College London and worked as a banker at JP Morgan before meeting her husbandExtreme spending came to light last year when she ordered £270,000 chandeliersFormer adviser to the Assads claims Asma is superficial and has 'no heart'By Nabila Ramdani and Jo Knowsley

PUBLISHED: 16:33 EST, 31 August 2013 | UPDATED: 21:26 EST, 31 August 2013




Excess: Syria's first lady Asma Assad has carried on shopping as the killing in Syria spreads. She orders Western food for her three children because she doesn't want them to have a Syrian diet

She was once described as 'a rose in the desert', a long-limbed, London beauty who used her elegance and Western style to mask the increasing brutality of her husband's murderous regime.

But as Asma Assad shelters in a bomb-proof bunker to avoid the horrors erupting within Syria '' and to escape the US missiles expected soon to rain down on the country '' she has become more of a Marie Antoinette figure, shopping for extravagant designer goods, food and health products online as the country collapses around her.

While more than 100,000 men, women and children have been killed and nearly two million Syrians have fled the country since March 2011, Asma, 38, recently splashed out on some Bohemian crystal chandeliers from Prague.

She also regularly orders Western food in bulk for her three children as she doesn't want them to eat only Syrian food, according to an insider.

And in photographs posted on her Instagram account only last week, she is shown wearing a new blue £80 Jawbone UP on her right wrist '' a device designed to help wearers keep track of how many steps they take and calories they burn.

The spending seems to have accelerated along with the killing in Syria. Last year, leaked emails showed she had ordered furniture '' including five chandeliers '' worth £270,000 from a shop on London's King Road as her husband's brutal quelling of the Syrian rebellion intensified.

Because of sanctions, the goods are imported to Syria through Lebanon.

But until very recently, Asma travelled to Lebanon herself to meet up with her London-based parents Fawaz Akhras, a consultant cardiologist, and mother Sahar, a retired Syrian diplomat.

They still spend part of the year living in the pebble-dashed West London semi-detached house where their only daughter and her two brothers grew up.

Mrs Assad studied at King's College London, then worked as a banker at JP Morgan when she met her future husband who was training in London to become an eye surgeon.

They married in 2000. Mrs Assad's parents are now spending more time in Lebanon.

'It's a short drive from Damascus and the parents are spending most of their time there so they can stay in touch with their daughter,' said Ayman Abdel Nour, a former adviser to Asma's husband.

Mr Nour told The Mail on Sunday that Asma had lived a remarkably sheltered life in Damascus since she married Assad in a secret ceremony on New Year's Day 2001.

'She is at the centre of a fool's court,' he said. Bashar has been branded 'a thug and a murderer' by US Secretary of State John Kerry, but Asma 'continues to view herself as the respectable wife of a president' according to Mr Nour.

Blow out: Intimate family photographs show the President, first lady and their three children celebrating a birthday. A former adviser to the Assad family said a life of luxury is all that matters to Mrs Assad

Extravagant: Asma Assad's (pictured with her children) outrageous spending came to light last year when she ordered a £270,000 chandelier as her husband's brutal quelling of the Syrian rebellion intensified

He added: 'She is convinced her family will rule Syria for years to come. And she is particularly interested in growing the family wealth and making sure they keep it.

'She wants to be certain her son, Hafez, will take over as president one day, even if this means hiding him in a school or college in Switzerland or Britain for a time.'

Of her recent purchases, Mr Nour said: 'Asma Assad has no heart. She is obsessed by how chic and beautiful she looks. She continues to lead a life of utter luxury. That's all that matters to her.'

Other insiders, who do not want to be named, claim that Asma now travels with at least three Republican bodyguards whenever she goes out and is prevented from seeing any Western news, or from surfing the internet, in case she finds coverage of the Syrian crisis 'depressing.'

Another critic of the regime, who cannot be named for political reasons, said: 'Asma still loves her shopping and buys as much as she can to keep her mind off the chaos around her. The idea that she is under Assad's control and can't leave is nonsense, but her ability to watch Western media is strictly controlled.'

It is a far cry from March, 2011, when Vogue magazine published a fawning piece in which the Assads were portrayed as a 'wildly democratic' couple who had made Syria 'the safest country in the Middle East'.

Dictator: US Secretary of State John Kerry branded Mr Assad a 'thug and a murderer' this week as the attacks in Syria worsened

The article, arranged and managed by an American PR company, paid for by the Syrian government, revealed Asma's love of crystal-encrusted Christian Louboutin shoes and Chanel dresses and painted her as a fragrant, caring first lady, in the style of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

It claimed she cared about art, children, and 'women's issues', and implied she was breathing new life into the region.

Yet at the time of the interview, Syrian police had just fired live rounds and tear gas at up to 4,000 demonstrators in the southern city of Deraa.

Local reports claimed hundreds of protesters were killed. The piece was pilloried and withdrawn from Vogue's website.

The author, Joan Juliet Buck, later wrote a more critical review of her visit to Damascus in Newsweek.

In the family: President Assad as a child(second left) with his father and former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (centre)

She never once saw her eat, she said, and told how on one occasion, when opening a youth centre, Asma had told the assembled children it was to close for lack of funding. When the children cried in disappointment, Asma laughed.

She was just testing them, she said, to see whether they 'cared enough' about the project she was setting up.

Andrew Tabler, an American scholar who worked with Asma on the government-funded magazine Syria Today believes she is in fierce denial.

'There are two sides to Asma Assad,' he said. 'She is a modern woman, definitely apart from other wives of Arab leaders.

'But she also wants to be a princess. She's standing by her man.'

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Bashar Al_Assad - Excerpts from Mrs. Al-Assad Statements

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'The President is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the First Lady supports him in that role,' said Mrs. Al-Assad in an e-mail according to the Times, February 7, 2012. 'These days she- H.E. Mrs. Asma Al-Assad, is equally involved in bridging gaps and encouraging dialogue. She listens to and comforts the families of the victims of the violence.'

From Mrs. Al-Assad address to the 6th Arab World Conference of Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA), March 17, 2011.

''Our identity must become that of a ''learning region''; constantly building our will and capability to do things better, opening ourselves to new perspectives, learning and adopting new skills, and above all, relying on ourselves. This is not to shut out the rest of the world but rather to offer it something new. An Arab world able to develop for itself will also be able to provide so much more for mankind.''

"Syria's wisest investment is in growing that new identity of responsible citizenship in its young people through initiatives like Massar. It empowers them to make their own contribution to shaping the future of our country.''

''Our diversity is a positive advantage for us. It can enable us, as it has through history, to endow the world with fresh perspectives, ideas and innovation'.

''When we fully embed the mindset of developing skills, products and systems for ourselves that we can genuinely shape our own future.'

Excerpts from Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad's Vogue Interview, February, 2011

''I like things I can touch. I like to get out and meet people and do things,''

''Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it's a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That's how religions live together in Syria'--a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands'--the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans'--make up who I am.''

''Before I had any official engagement, I went to 300 villages, every governorate, hospitals, farms, schools, factories, you name it'--I saw everything to find out where I could be effective. A lot of the time I was somebody's 'assistant' carrying the bag, doing this and that, taking notes. Nobody asked me if I was the first lady; they had no idea.''

Excerpts from Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad's Paris Match Interview, December 17, 2010

''Indeed, we believe that the only solution is peace. But for a tango, you need to be two. And, today, we do not have a partner for peace.''

Excerpts from Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad's Statements in France, December 10, 2010

"This civilized and architectural history was accompanied by an accumulation of customs and beliefs and the values of openness that the Syrian people are known for all."

Excerpts from Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad's Statements in France, December 10, 2010

''The Syrian civilized heritage doesn't belong only to the fathers and grandfathers, but also belongs to the children and grandchildren if it is properly invested culturally and developmentally to benefit the future generations of our people.''

Excerpts from Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad's Statements to the Russian Gazeta, December 19, 2009.

''The Syrian People are capable of doing every thing; and the Syrian Youth are necessarily to master Advanced Technology,''

''Religions coexistence in Syria guarantees Equity between Man and Woman. The Syrian Society, like other oriental societies, has many merits; westerns , however, turn blind eyes to the Oriental Society merits!''

Excerpts from Mrs. Al-Assad Statements to the Turkish Press , 2005

''The Syrian woman has achieved success in the field of business and finance. There are many physicians, teachers who work for private as well as public establishments. In addition, the Syrian Woman has occupied high positions in the Judiciary System. Thus, the Syrian Woman has proved her success and presence in all fields; this very woman is able to play successfully the role of a mother, wife, worker. This situation, of course, has persisted in Syria for along time; the changes witnessed recently in our laws are the guarantee keep this continued persistence during the coming years.''

'' There are still many problems and causes facing the woman in all of the world; many are still the rights that we ought to have. As to accomplish this objective , we need for more women occupying decision-making positions as to guarantee a continued distinguished, active role in the realization of women ambitions worldwide.''

Excerpts from Mrs. Al-Assad Statements to the Russian Press , 2005

'' The problem lies in the prevailing idea regarding woman where some consider the women of the Orient as oppressed, uneducated, as not active members of the society. However, whoever visits our region is convinced directly that such idea is false. The woman in Syria takes part in every field of life; for example we have women parliamentarians , ministers, physicians, writers, artists, judges etc. The Syrian woman is active in every field, like in many other countries of our region and the rest of the world. The number of participating women in practical life is on the increase in taking important decisions at the highest levels. Most importantly is to have an active efficient women role, where they contribute to change the living reality where they live. The women of our region are so doing , and we have to realize the appropriate reputation for them in the rest of the world.''

''The Syrian people and government do accord big interest to the growing generations; once one becomes a father, he becomes more practical and realistic; once became a mother, I discovered through my children themselves, a source very rich of knowledge and information for myself. I make use of this source once work on issues related to Child National Affairs. The role of our children should never be underestimated : they are great teachers, and we have to listen to and learn from them. This, in turn, makes us better parents and guaranteeing a continued frank dialogue among all of us.''

Excerpts from Mrs. Al-Assad Sky News Interview , 2005

''President Bashar Al-Assad wants to ensure there is prosperity for all the Syrian people, I know the man behind the presidency, I know the husband that he is to me and more importantly, I know he is a man who cares and wants to push Syria forward and ensure there is prosperity for all people,"

''Syria is in progress, you could see this in the streets, during your movements in markets, visit to the restaurants, discourse exchange. A progress has been achieved; most importantly is to follow up this progress, to be capable to depend on the growth, which we have achieved during the last five years, ''

'' I hope to see one day a world where both women and men occupy an equal position in the field of business, establishments, and politics. Then, and only then, I think, our world is be more human.''

Excerpts from Mrs. Al-Assad "Woman in Business International Forum 2005.'' May 22 Opening

''This year's forum coincides with an especially important chapter in Syria's modern history.

''We stand at a crossroads on our own development path, as Syria faces the complex but not insurmountable challenge of creating a sustainable and prosperous future for all its citizens. As I want to show you, the active participation of women in this process is imperative, which is why the timing of this forum is so significant. I believe the strengths and talents of women can and must be released everywhere, but particularly in the Syria own developing economy. Actually, the Syrian values and our rich heritage figured in many aspects of my life whilst a British education trained me in analytical thinking, creativity and teamwork.''

''I chose investment banking as a career. And as I climbed the corporate ladder, I learned the rigors of professionalism and of working to the highest international standards and practices in global finance and investment. Syria has a proud history of commerce and manufacturing, built on its position at the center of trading routes, and on the enterprise and energy of its people. Today, this nation is building again on that heritage. Syria is shaping its business environment for today's global economy. This means major change at a sustainable pace, introducing the reforms necessary for a dynamic and prosperous enterprise economy. The financial sector is now embracing new and important freedoms. And the investment climate continues to improve as more liberalization is introduced. Further changes to our legislation will cover education, the labor laws and civil society.''


The Only Remaining Online Copy of Vogue's Asma al-Assad Profile - Max Fisher - The Atlantic

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 19:23

Despite all the controversy, the fashion writer's interviews are worth keeping in the public record

In February, Vogue magazine published, for the benefit of its 11.7 million readers, an article titled "A Rose in the Desert" about the first lady of Syria. Asma al-Assad has British roots, wears designer fashion, worked for years in banking, and is married to the dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has killed over 5,000 civilians and hundreds of children this year. The glowing article praised the Assads as a "wildly democratic" family-focused couple who vacation in Europe, foster Christianity, are at ease with American celebrities, made theirs the "safest country in the Middle East," and want to give Syria a "brand essence."

Vogue's editors defended the controversial article as "a way of opening a window into this world a little bit," conceding only that Assad's Syria is "not as secular as we might like." A senior editor responsible for the story told me the magazine stood by it. A few weeks later, the article and all references to it were removed from Vogue's website without explanation. In August, The Hill reported that U.S. lobbying firm Brown Lloyd James had been paid $5,000 per month by the Syrian government to arrange for and manage the Vogue article.

For all the controversy, the article's author, former French Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck, did manage to spend some one-on-one time with both Asma and Bashar al-Assad, an exclusive many journalists might have killed for. Today, as the world watches for cracks in the Assad regime and in the Assad family, Buck's interviews are an increasingly important tool for understanding the man at the top of Syria and the woman next to him.

Sadly, Vogue's piece of the Syrian puzzle has been almost entirely scrubbed from the internet. But, somehow, the text can still be found at a website called, a gif-filled but meticulously updated fan page to the Syrian dictator. The site is registered to a Syrian man living in Rome named Mohamed Abdo al-Ibrahim. A personal site for Ibrahim lists him as an employee of the Syrian state-run news agency.

If you're a researcher focused on Syria or simply a reader curious about how this family presents itself to the Western media as of early 2011, you'll want to bookmark Ibrahim's website, which holds what appears to be the only complete copy of this article remaining online. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic--the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She's a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her "the element of light in a country full of shadow zones." She is the first lady of Syria.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department's Web site says, "the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors." It's a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma's husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country's alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.

Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon's capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.

"It's a tough neighborhood," admits Asma al-Assad.

It's also a neighborhood intoxicatingly close to the dawn of civilization, where agriculture began some 10,000 years ago, where the wheel, writing, and musical notation were invented. Out in the desert are the magical remains of Palmyra, Apamea, and Ebla. In the National Museum you see small 4,000-year-old panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl that is echoed in the new mother-of-pearl furniture for sale in the souk. Christian Louboutin comes to buy the damask silk brocade they've been making here since the Middle Ages for his shoes and bags, and has incidentally purchased a small palace in Aleppo, which, like Damascus, has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years.

The first lady works out of a small white building in a hilly, modern residential neighborhood called Muhajireen, where houses and apartments are crammed together and neighbors peer and wave from balconies. The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement--a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She's breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: "I was, like. . . ."

The internet doesn't forget a story like this easily, much as Vogue might like to.


50 USC § 1541 - Purpose and policy | Title 50 - War and National Defense | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute

Can't have these planes just sitting around: F-22 May Get Its First Combat Mission in Syria

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 02:55

The U.S. Defense Department spent about $67 billion acquiring a fleet of almost 200 F-22 fighter jets, none of which has yet flown in combat.

That may change with a U.S.-led intervention in Syria, where the stealthy, highly maneuverable plane known as the Raptor may be used to penetrate and attack the country's air defenses, among other targets.

''Syria is not Libya,'' Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research organization in Washington, D.C., said in a telephone interview with Military'‹.com. ''Their air defense systems are more formidable. Using F-22s to help suppress those threats and support penetrating capability may be a good idea.''

The White House is preparing to launch a military strike in the war-torn country after the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians. The Aug. 21 attack around Damascus reportedly killed a few hundred people and may be the deadliest since Saddam Hussein's forces killed thousands of Kurds with Sarin gas in 1988.

While President Barack Obama said he hasn't made a decision on whether to conduct a strike, he said there must be consequences for governments that break international norms against the use of chemical weapons.

''It's important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime '... will have received a pretty strong signal that, in fact, it better not do it again,'' he said in an interview yesterday on PBS's ''NewsHour'' show.

When pressed on what a limited air campaign will achieve, Obama acknowledged that it won't ''solve all the problems in Syria. It doesn't obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria. We hope '... a political transition can take place.''

More than 100,000 people have died in the two-year-old uprising against forces loyal to Assad, according to a June estimate from the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the death toll through a network of activists in the country.

Details on what an operation might look like remain murky, though at the very least would probably involve launching a series of Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, or TLAMs, from ships against such targets as command and control facilities, air defenses and aircraft.

The U.S. and Britain amassed an armada in the Mediterranean within striking distance of Syria. Four Norfolk, Va.-based destroyers '-- the USS Ramage, USS Mahan, USS Barry and USS Gravely '-- are already in position, ready to launch the Tomahawk cruise missiles.

At about $1.5 million apiece, the GPS-guided missiles are more expensive than conventional bombs. But they can be launched from a safe distance '-- at least several hundred miles '-- and are ideal for hitting so-called ''light'' targets in fixed locations above ground such as planes, runways, fuel depots, weapon storage areas and Russian-made SA-2 and SA-5 anti-aircraft batteries.

The mission may also involve dropping GPS'' and laser-guided bombs from such aircraft as F-15 and F-22 fighter jets and B-2 and B-52 bombers, though the U.S. probably won't target chemical weapons or stockpiles or other so-called ''hard'' targets, at least initially, because they're more difficult to track, pose a threat to civilians and may be buried deep underground.

The F-22 for its air-to-ground mission can carry two 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs; two AIM-120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAMs; and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

Operational F-22s are assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.; Joint BaseElmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.; and Joint BasePearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, according to a July report from the Congressional Research Service.

The F-22 fleet was grounded for several months in 2011 and aircraft were again restricted from flying in 2012 after pilots complained of oxygen-deprivation symptoms, including dizziness, disorientation and coughs.

The Air Force, which initially struggled to identify the cause of the problem, concluded that a lack of oxygen '-- not the quality of it '-- was causing the symptoms, due primarily to a faulty valve on the pilots' life-support vest.

The service earlier this year lifted flying restrictions on many F-22 fighter jets after upgrading their oxygen system and life-support equipment. It fielded new vest pieces in January and expects to finish installing automatic back-up oxygen systems on the rest of aircraft in the fleet by July 2014.

The aircraft is made by Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Maryland, and its oxygen system is made by Honeywell International Inc., based in Morristown, New Jersey.

Some questioned the Pentagon's decision to not fly the F-22 in the 2011 allied attack on Libya that toppled former strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Whether to use the aircraft in Syria will be driven by operational requirements, not politics, according to Gunzinger, the analyst.

''The decision will be based on military need,'' he said, ''not on bureaucratic politics.''

August 29th, 2013 | Air, The Defense Biz | 2115741

Tagged as: F-22, Raptor, Syria

Syria: Reports of 'napalm-like' bomb attack on Aleppo playground emerge after MPs vote against military action - Middle East - World - The Independent

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 19:09

A playground full of children in northern Syria has been bombed by a fighter jet with a napalm-like substance, according to disturbing new footage captured by the BBC Panorama programme.

Eye witnesses described how a jet had passed the school in Aleppo numerous times, as if it searching for a target, before it dropped the bomb.

At least 10 children were killed and many more were injured, according to the report from Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway.

A large number of those who survived had burns to more than 50 per cent of their bodies, meaning that they were more likely than not to die as well.

Both adults and children were filmed arriving at a basic hospital, with their clothes burned from their bodies and their skin coated in a white substance which the BBC said suggested the bomb contained something like napalm or thermite.

Though he refused to be identified in the report, the school's headmaster spoke out about the terrible scenes.

He said: ''This was the most horrific thing. We have seen images on TV, we have heard many stories, but we have never seen anything like this before.

''The worst thing in life is watching someone die right in front of you and you can't do anything.

''There were dead people, people burning and people running away, but where to? Where would they go? It is not safe anywhere. That is the fate of the Syrian people.''

The BBC said that in Syria, large gatherings of people are regularly targets for bombings, even if they are just waiting outside bakeries, markets '' or schools.

A British medic, Dr Rola, working in Syria with the charity Hand In Hand, was among those providing treatment to the victims.

She told reporters: ''It is just absolute chaos and carnage here. We have had a massive influx of what looks like serious burns, seems like it must be some sort of, not really sure, maybe napalm, something similar to that.

''But obviously within the chaos of the situation it is very difficult to know exactly what is going on.''

In a moment of reflection later, Dr Rola said: ''We feel like some sort of, not even a second class citizen, like we just don't matter. Like all of these children, and all of these people who are being killed and massacred, we don't matter.

''The whole world has failed our nation and it is innocent civilians who are paying the price.''

British medic Dr Rola, working with the charity Hand In Hand, helped treat victims

Mohammed Abdullatif, one of the witnesses on the ground at the time of the attack, said he had a message for the United Nations.

''You are calling for peace. What kind of peace are you calling for? Don't you see this, don't you see this? What do you need to see?

''We are just human beings, we want to live. It is our right to live,'' he said.

The report came as MPs in the House of Commons voted against military intervention in Syria.

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES. The attack left victims with horrific burns and covered with a white substance, suggesting napalm or thermite was contained in the bomb

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BBC reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway filmed the aftermath of the playground bombing

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BBC Panorama has released footage of an apparent incendiary bombing of a playground in Aleppo, northern Syria, with 15-year-old Ahmed (pictured) among those injured

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

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Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:23

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 30, 2013

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence '' but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community's analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime's preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.


The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) '' which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense '' manages Syria's chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime's frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.


We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel '' including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC '' were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of 'Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred '' including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, 'Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu'addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events '' characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers '' were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.

To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government's responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.

Syria: Damascus Areas of Influence and Areas Reportedly Affected by 21 August Chemical Attack

U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013 | Scribd

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Archived Version

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:25

U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government'sUse of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out achemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that theregime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, andgeospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting. Our classified assessmentshave been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources andmethods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence '' but what follows is an unclassifiedsummary of the U.S. Intelligence Community's analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in theDamascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts frominternational and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reportsfrom at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highlycredible nongovernmental organizations.A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemicalweapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtainmore information.We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario inwhich the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information usedto make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime's preparations for this attack andits means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our highconfidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of whattook place.


Readout of Briefing for Congressional Leaders on the Assad Regime's Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

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Archived Version

Source: White Press Office Feed

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:17

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 29, 2013

Following on the President's calls with House and Senate leaders over the last day, and building on extensive Cabinet Member outreach to Congress over the past week, this evening Senior Administration Officials held an unclassified phone call with congressional leaders and the Chairs and Ranking Members of national security committees to brief them on the Administration's thinking and seek their input on the U.S. response to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21. The views of Congress are important to the President's decision-making process, and we will continue to engage with Members as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response to the Syrian government's violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons. Senior Administration Officials participating in tonight's call included National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld. The call lasted 90 minutes and 15 Members asked questions of the assembled Administration Officials.

Members of Congress participating in the briefing included:

Speaker John Boehner, R-OHDemocratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CASenator Dick Durbin, D-IL, Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on DefenseSenator John Cornyn, R-TX, Republican WhipRepresentative Eric Cantor, R-VA, Majority LeaderRepresentative Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, Majority WhipRepresentative Steny Hoyer, D-MD, Democratic WhipSenator Charles Schumer, D-NY, Democratic Conference Committee Vice ChairSenator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Chair, Appropriations CommitteeSenator Carl Levin, D-MI, Chairman, Armed Services CommitteeSenator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Chairman, Foreign Relations CommitteeSenator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Chair, Select Committee on IntelligenceSenator James Inhofe, R-OK, Ranking Member, Armed Services CommitteeSenator Bob Corker, R-TN, Ranking Member, Foreign Relations CommitteeSenator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, Ranking Member, Select Committee on IntelligenceSenator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related ProgramsSenator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related ProgramsSenator Thad Cochran, R-MS, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on DefenseRepresentative Bill Young, R-FL, Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on DefenseRepresentative Ed Royce, R-CA, Chairman, Foreign Affairs CommitteeRepresentative Mike Rogers, R-MI, Chairman, Permanent Select Committee on IntelligenceRepresentative Nita Lowey, D-NY, Ranking Member Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related ProgramsRepresentative Buck McKeon, R-CA, Chairman, Armed Services CommitteeRepresentative Eliot Engel, D-NY, Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs CommitteeRepresentative Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD, Ranking Member, Permanent Select Committee on IntelligenceRepresentative Kay Granger, R-TX, Chair, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask

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Archived Version

Sun, 01 Sep 2013 01:38

The United States and allies are preparing for a possibly imminent series of limited military strikes against Syria, the first direct U.S. intervention in the two-year civil war, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad's suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.

If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren't exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What's happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it.

Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions. First, a disclaimer: Syria and its history are really complicated; this is not an exhaustive or definitive account of that entire story, just some background, written so that anyone can understand it.

Read the rest of our ''9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask'' series here

1. What is Syria?

Syria is a country in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It's about the same size as Washington state with a population a little over three times as large '' 22 million. Syria is very diverse, ethnically and religiously, but most Syrians are ethnic Arab and follow the Sunni branch of Islam. Civilization in Syria goes back thousands of years, but the country as it exists today is very young. Its borders were drawn by European colonial powers in the 1920s.

Syria is in the middle of an extremely violent civil war. Fighting between government forces and rebels has killed more 100,000 and created 2 million refugees, half of them children.

2. Why are people in Syria killing each other?

The killing started in April 2011, when peaceful protests inspired by earlier revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia rose up to challenge the dictatorship running the country. The government responded '-- there is no getting around this '-- like monsters. First, security forces quietly killed activists. Then they started kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing activists and their family members, including a lot of children, dumping their mutilated bodies by the sides of roads. Then troops began simply opening fire on protests. Eventually, civilians started shooting back.

Fighting escalated from there until it was a civil war. Armed civilians organized into rebel groups. The army deployed across the country, shelling and bombing whole neighborhoods and towns, trying to terrorize people into submission. They've also allegedly used chemical weapons, which is a big deal for reasons I'll address below. Volunteers from other countries joined the rebels, either because they wanted freedom and democracy for Syria or, more likely, because they are jihadists who hate Syria's secular government. The rebels were gaining ground for a while and now it looks like Assad is coming back. There is no end in sight.

3. That's horrible. But there are protests lots of places. How did it all go so wrong in Syria? And, please, just give me the short version.

That's a complicated question, and there's no single, definitive answer. This is the shortest possible version '-- stay with me, it's worth it. You might say, broadly speaking, that there are two general theories. Both start with the idea that Syria has been a powder keg waiting to explode for decades and that it was set off, maybe inevitably, by the 2011 protests and especially by the government's overly harsh crackdown.

Before we dive into the theories, you have to understand that the Syrian government really overreacted when peaceful protests started in mid-2011, slaughtering civilians unapologetically, which was a big part of how things escalated as quickly as they did. Assad learned this from his father. In 1982, Assad's father and then-dictator Hafez al-Assad responded to a Muslim Brotherhood-led uprising in the city of Hama by leveling entire neighborhoods. He killed thousands of civilians, many of whom had nothing to do with the uprising. But it worked, and it looks like the younger Assad tried to reproduce it. His failure made the descent into chaos much worse.

Okay, now the theories for why Syria spiraled so wildly. The first is what you might call ''sectarian re-balancing'' or ''the Fareed Zakaria case'' for why Syria is imploding (he didn't invent this argument but is a major proponent). Syria has artificial borders that were created by European colonial powers, forcing together an amalgam of diverse religious and ethnic groups. Those powers also tended to promote a minority and rule through it, worsening preexisting sectarian tensions.

Zakaria's argument is that what we're seeing in Syria is in some ways the inevitable re-balancing of power along ethnic and religious lines. He compares it to the sectarian bloodbath in Iraq after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein, after which a long-oppressed majority retook power from, and violently punished, the former minority rulers. Most Syrians are Sunni Arabs, but the country is run by members of a minority sect known as Alawites (they're ethnic Arab but follow a smaller branch of Islam). The Alawite government rules through a repressive dictatorship and gives Alawites special privileges, which makes some Sunnis and other groups hate Alawites in general, which in turn makes Alawites fear that they'll be slaughtered en masse if Assad loses the war. (There are other minorities as well, such as ethnic Kurds and Christian Arabs; too much to cover in one explainer.) Also, lots of Syrian communities are already organized into ethnic or religious enclaves, which means that community militias are also sectarian militias. That would explain why so much of the killing in Syria has developed along sectarian lines. It would also suggest that there's not much anyone can do to end the killing because, in Zakaria's view, this is a painful but unstoppable process of re-balancing power.

The second big theory is a bit simpler: that the Assad regime was not a sustainable enterprise and it's clawing desperately on its way down. Most countries have some kind of self-sustaining political order, and it looked for a long time like Syria was held together by a cruel and repressive but basically stable dictatorship. But maybe it wasn't stable; maybe it was built on quicksand. Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez seized power in a coup in 1970 after two decades of extreme political instability. His government was a product of Cold War meddling and a kind of Arab political identity crisis that was sweeping the region. But he picked the losing sides of both: the Soviet Union was his patron, and he followed a hard-line anti-Western nationalist ideology that's now mostly defunct. The Cold War is long over, and most of the region long ago made peace with Israel and the United States; the Assad regime's once-solid ideological and geopolitical identity is hopelessly outdated. But Bashar al-Assad, who took power in 2000 when his father died, never bothered to update it. So when things started going belly-up two years ago, he didn't have much to fall back on except for his ability to kill people.

4. I hear a lot about how Russia still loves Syria, though. And Iran, too. What's their deal?

Yeah, Russia is Syria's most important ally. Moscow blocks the United Nations Security Council from passing anything that might hurt the Assad regime, which is why the United States has to go around the United Nations if it wants to do anything. Russia sends lots of weapons to Syria that make it easier for Assad to keep killing civilians and will make it much harder if the outside world ever wants to intervene.

The four big reasons that Russia wants to protect Assad, the importance of which vary depending on whom you ask, are: (1) Russia has a naval installation in Syria, which is strategically important and Russia's last foreign military base outside the former Soviet Union; (2) Russia still has a bit of a Cold War mentality, as well as a touch of national insecurity, which makes it care very much about maintaining one of its last military alliances; (3) Russia also hates the idea of ''international intervention'' against countries like Syria because it sees this as Cold War-style Western imperialism and ultimately a threat to Russia; (4) Syria buys a lot of Russian military exports, and Russia needs the money.

Iran's thinking in supporting Assad is more straightforward. It perceives Israel and the United States as existential threats and uses Syria to protect itself, shipping arms through Syria to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah and the Gaza-based militant group Hamas. Iran is already feeling isolated and insecure; it worries that if Assad falls it will lose a major ally and be cut off from its militant proxies, leaving it very vulnerable. So far, it looks like Iran is actually coming out ahead: Assad is even more reliant on Tehran than he was before the war started.

5. This is all feeling really bleak and hopeless. Can we take a music break?

Oh man, it gets so much worse. But, yeah, let's listen to some music from Syria. It's really good!

If you want to go old-school you should listen to the man, the legend, the great Omar Souleyman (playing Brooklyn this Saturday!). Or, if you really want to get your revolutionary on, listen to the infectious 2011 anti-Assad anthem ''Come on Bashar leave.'' The singer, a cement mixer who made Rage Against the Machine look like Enya, was killed for performing it in Hama. But let's listen to something non-war and bit more contemporary, the soulful and foot-tappable George Wassouf:

Hope you enjoyed that, because things are about to go from depressing to despondent.

6. Why hasn't the United States fixed this yet?

Because it can't. There are no viable options. Sorry.

The military options are all bad. Shipping arms to rebels, even if it helps them topple Assad, would ultimately empower jihadists and worsen rebel in-fighting, probably leading to lots of chaos and possibly a second civil war (the United States made this mistake during Afghanistan's early 1990s civil war, which helped the Taliban take power in 1996). Taking out Assad somehow would probably do the same, opening up a dangerous power vacuum. Launching airstrikes or a ''no-fly zone'' could suck us in, possibly for years, and probably wouldn't make much difference on the ground. An Iraq-style ground invasion would, in the very best outcome, accelerate the killing, cost a lot of U.S. lives, wildly exacerbate anti-Americanism in a boon to jihadists and nationalist dictators alike, and would require the United States to impose order for years across a country full of people trying to kill each other. Nope.

The one political option, which the Obama administration has been pushing for, would be for the Assad regime and the rebels to strike a peace deal. But there's no indication that either side is interested in that, or that there's even a viable unified rebel movement with which to negotiate.

It's possible that there was a brief window for a Libya-style military intervention early on in the conflict. But we'll never really know.

7. So why would Obama bother with strikes that no one expects to actually solve anything?

Okay, you're asking here about the Obama administration's not-so-subtle signals that it wants to launch some cruise missiles at Syria, which would be punishment for what it says is Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians.

It's true that basically no one believes that this will turn the tide of the Syrian war. But this is important: it's not supposed to. The strikes wouldn't be meant to shape the course of the war or to topple Assad, which Obama thinks would just make things worse anyway. They would be meant to punish Assad for (allegedly) using chemical weapons and to deter him, or any future military leader in any future war, from using them again.

8. Come on, what's the big deal with chemical weapons? Assad kills 100,000 people with bullets and bombs but we're freaked out over 1,000 who maybe died from poisonous gas? That seems silly.

You're definitely not the only one who thinks the distinction is arbitrary and artificial. But there's a good case to be made that this is a rare opportunity, at least in theory, for the United States to make the war a little bit less terrible '-- and to make future wars less terrible.

The whole idea that there are rules of war is a pretty new one: the practice of war is thousands of years old, but the idea that we can regulate war to make it less terrible has been around for less than a century. The institutions that do this are weak and inconsistent; the rules are frail and not very well observed. But one of the world's few quasi-successes is the ''norm'' (a fancy way of saying a rule we all agree to follow) against chemical weapons. This norm is frail enough that Syria could drastically weaken it if we ignore Assad's use of them, but it's also strong enough that it's worth protecting. So it's sort of a low-hanging fruit: firing a few cruise missiles doesn't cost us much and can maybe help preserve this really hard-won and valuable norm against chemical weapons.

You didn't answer my question. That just tells me that we can maybe preserve the norm against chemical weapons, not why we should.

Fair point. Here's the deal: war is going to happen. It just is. But the reason that the world got together in 1925 for the Geneva Convention to ban chemical weapons is because this stuff is really, really good at killing civilians but not actually very good at the conventional aim of warfare, which is to defeat the other side. You might say that they're maybe 30 percent a battlefield weapon and 70 percent a tool of terror. In a world without that norm against chemical weapons, a military might fire off some sarin gas because it wants that battlefield advantage, even if it ends up causing unintended and massive suffering among civilians, maybe including its own. And if a military believes its adversary is probably going to use chemical weapons, it has a strong incentive to use them itself. After all, they're fighting to the death.

So both sides of any conflict, not to mention civilians everywhere, are better off if neither of them uses chemical weapons. But that requires believing that your opponent will never use them, no matter what. And the only way to do that, short of removing them from the planet entirely, is for everyone to just agree in advance to never use them and to really mean it. That becomes much harder if the norm is weakened because someone like Assad got away with it. It becomes a bit easier if everyone believes using chemical weapons will cost you a few inbound U.S. cruise missiles.

That's why the Obama administration apparently wants to fire cruise missiles at Syria, even though it won't end the suffering, end the war or even really hurt Assad that much.

9. Hi, there was too much text so I skipped to the bottom to find the big take-away. What's going to happen?

Short-term maybe the United States and some allies will launch some limited, brief strikes against Syria and maybe they won't. Either way, these things seem pretty certain in the long-term:

' The killing will continue, probably for years. There's no one to sign a peace treaty on the rebel side, even if the regime side were interested, and there's no foreseeable victory for either. Refugees will continue fleeing into neighboring countries, causing instability and an entire other humanitarian crisis as conditions in the camps worsen.

' Syria as we know it, an ancient place with a rich and celebrated culture and history, will be a broken, failed society, probably for a generation or more. It's very hard to see how you rebuild a functioning state after this. Maybe worse, it's hard to see how you get back to a working social contract where everyone agrees to get along.

' Russia will continue to block international action, the window for which has maybe closed anyway. The United States might try to pressure, cajole or even horse-trade Moscow into changing its mind, but there's not much we can offer them that they care about as much as Syria.

' At some point the conflict will cool, either from a partial victory or from exhaustion. The world could maybe send in some peacekeepers or even broker a fragile peace between the various ethnic, religious and political factions. Probably the best model is Lebanon, which fought a brutal civil war that lasted 15 years from 1975 to 1990 and has been slowly, slowly recovering ever since. It had some bombings just last week.

More from WorldViews on Syria:

' The one map that shows why Syria is so complicated

' The first truly heartwarming video from Syria in a long time

' Here's why Obama is giving up the element of surprise in Syria

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This post has been updated.

Max Fisher is the Post's foreign affairs blogger. He has a master's degree in security studies from Johns Hopkins University. Sign up for his daily newsletter here. Also, follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


Annals of National Security: The Redirection : The New Yorker

Link to Article

Archived Version

Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:58


In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The ''redirection,'' as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has co¶perated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration's perspective, the most profound'--and unintended'--strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country's right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that ''realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.''

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq's Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is ''a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,'' separating ''reformers'' and ''extremists''; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were ''on the other side of that divide.'' (Syria's Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, ''have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.''

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. ''We haven't got any of this,'' he said. ''We ask for anything going on, and they say there's nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, 'We're going to get back to you.' It's so frustrating.''

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney's office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, ''The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.'')

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy ''is a major shift in American policy'--it's a sea change,'' a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states ''were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,'' he said. ''We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.''

''It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what's the biggest danger'--Iran or Sunni radicals,'' Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. ''The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.''

Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that ''the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.'' Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. ''The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,'' he said. ''It's doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.''

The Administration's new policy for containing Iran seems to complicate its strategy for winning the war in Iraq. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran and the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued, however, that closer ties between the United States and moderate or even radical Sunnis could put ''fear'' into the government of Prime Minister Maliki and ''make him worry that the Sunnis could actually win'' the civil war there. Clawson said that this might give Maliki an incentive to co¶perate with the United States in suppressing radical Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Even so, for the moment, the U.S. remains dependent on the co¶peration of Iraqi Shiite leaders. The Mahdi Army may be openly hostile to American interests, but other Shiite militias are counted as U.S. allies. Both Moqtada al-Sadr and the White House back Maliki. A memorandum written late last year by Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser, suggested that the Administration try to separate Maliki from his more radical Shiite allies by building his base among moderate Sunnis and Kurds, but so far the trends have been in the opposite direction. As the Iraqi Army continues to founder in its confrontations with insurgents, the power of the Shiite militias has steadily increased.

Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that ''there is nothing coincidental or ironic'' about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. ''The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when'--if you look at the actual casualty numbers'--the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,'' Leverett said. ''This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.''

President George W. Bush, in a speech on January 10th, partially spelled out this approach. ''These two regimes'''--Iran and Syria'--''are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,'' Bush said. ''Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.''

In the following weeks, there was a wave of allegations from the Administration about Iranian involvement in the Iraq war. On February 11th, reporters were shown sophisticated explosive devices, captured in Iraq, that the Administration claimed had come from Iran. The Administration's message was, in essence, that the bleak situation in Iraq was the result not of its own failures of planning and execution but of Iran's interference.

The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated hundreds of Iranians in Iraq. ''The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,'' a former senior intelligence official said. ''They had five hundred locked up at one time. We're working these guys and getting information from them. The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they've been doing it all along'--that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans.'' The Pentagon consultant confirmed that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months. But he told me that that total includes many Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who ''get scooped up and released in a short time,'' after they have been interrogated.

''We are not planning for a war with Iran,'' Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary, announced on February 2nd, and yet the atmosphere of confrontation has deepened. According to current and former American intelligence and military officials, secret operations in Lebanon have been accompanied by clandestine operations targeting Iran. American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

At Rice's Senate appearance in January, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, of Delaware, pointedly asked her whether the U.S. planned to cross the Iranian or the Syrian border in the course of a pursuit. ''Obviously, the President isn't going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq,'' Rice said, adding, ''I do think that everyone will understand that'--the American people and I assume the Congress expect the President to do what is necessary to protect our forces.''

The ambiguity of Rice's reply prompted a response from Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, who has been critical of the Administration:

Some of us remember 1970, Madam Secretary. And that was Cambodia. And when our government lied to the American people and said, ''We didn't cross the border going into Cambodia,'' in fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee. So, Madam Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the President is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. The Administration's concern about Iran's role in Iraq is coupled with its long-standing alarm over Iran's nuclear program. On Fox News on January 14th, Cheney warned of the possibility, in a few years, ''of a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world's supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, prepared to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world.'' He also said, ''If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk with the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried. . . . The threat Iran represents is growing.''

The Administration is now examining a wave of new intelligence on Iran's weapons programs. Current and former American officials told me that the intelligence, which came from Israeli agents operating in Iran, includes a claim that Iran has developed a three-stage solid-fuelled intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads'--each with limited accuracy'--inside Europe. The validity of this human intelligence is still being debated.

A similar argument about an imminent threat posed by weapons of mass destruction'--and questions about the intelligence used to make that case'--formed the prelude to the invasion of Iraq. Many in Congress have greeted the claims about Iran with wariness; in the Senate on February 14th, Hillary Clinton said, ''We have all learned lessons from the conflict in Iraq, and we have to apply those lessons to any allegations that are being raised about Iran. Because, Mr. President, what we are hearing has too familiar a ring and we must be on guard that we never again make decisions on the basis of intelligence that turns out to be faulty.''

Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

In the past month, I was told by an Air Force adviser on targeting and the Pentagon consultant on terrorism, the Iran planning group has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. Previously, the focus had been on the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities and possible regime change.

Two carrier strike groups'--the Eisenhower and the Stennis'--are now in the Arabian Sea. One plan is for them to be relieved early in the spring, but there is worry within the military that they may be ordered to stay in the area after the new carriers arrive, according to several sources. (Among other concerns, war games have shown that the carriers could be vulnerable to swarming tactics involving large numbers of small boats, a technique that the Iranians have practiced in the past; carriers have limited maneuverability in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, off Iran's southern coast.) The former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. He added, however, that senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House's not being ''foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq, and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008.''


The Administration's effort to diminish Iranian authority in the Middle East has relied heavily on Saudi Arabia and on Prince Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser. Bandar served as the Ambassador to the United States for twenty-two years, until 2005, and has maintained a friendship with President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. In his new post, he continues to meet privately with them. Senior White House officials have made several visits to Saudi Arabia recently, some of them not disclosed.

Last November, Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for a surprise meeting with King Abdullah and Bandar. The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw. A European intelligence official told me that the meeting also focussed on more general Saudi fears about ''the rise of the Shiites.'' In response, ''The Saudis are starting to use their leverage'--money.''

In a royal family rife with competition, Bandar has, over the years, built a power base that relies largely on his close relationship with the U.S., which is crucial to the Saudis. Bandar was succeeded as Ambassador by Prince Turki al-Faisal; Turki resigned after eighteen months and was replaced by Adel A. al-Jubeir, a bureaucrat who has worked with Bandar. A former Saudi diplomat told me that during Turki's tenure he became aware of private meetings involving Bandar and senior White House officials, including Cheney and Abrams. ''I assume Turki was not happy with that,'' the Saudi said. But, he added, ''I don't think that Bandar is going off on his own.'' Although Turki dislikes Bandar, the Saudi said, he shared his goal of challenging the spread of Shiite power in the Middle East.

The split between Shiites and Sunnis goes back to a bitter divide, in the seventh century, over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis dominated the medieval caliphate and the Ottoman Empire, and Shiites, traditionally, have been regarded more as outsiders. Worldwide, ninety per cent of Muslims are Sunni, but Shiites are a majority in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain, and are the largest Muslim group in Lebanon. Their concentration in a volatile, oil-rich region has led to concern in the West and among Sunnis about the emergence of a ''Shiite crescent'''--especially given Iran's increased geopolitical weight.

''The Saudis still see the world through the days of the Ottoman Empire, when Sunni Muslims ruled the roost and the Shiites were the lowest class,'' Frederic Hof, a retired military officer who is an expert on the Middle East, told me. If Bandar was seen as bringing about a shift in U.S. policy in favor of the Sunnis, he added, it would greatly enhance his standing within the royal family.

The Saudis are driven by their fear that Iran could tilt the balance of power not only in the region but within their own country. Saudi Arabia has a significant Shiite minority in its Eastern Province, a region of major oil fields; sectarian tensions are high in the province. The royal family believes that Iranian operatives, working with local Shiites, have been behind many terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, according to Vali Nasr. ''Today, the only army capable of containing Iran'''--the Iraqi Army'--''has been destroyed by the United States. You're now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers.'' (Saudi Arabia has seventy-five thousand troops in its standing army.)

Nasr went on, ''The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis'''--Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. ''The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can't put them back.''

The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family's myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration's new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.

Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that ''they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was 'We've created this movement, and we can control it.' It's not that we don't want the Salafis to throw bombs; it's who they throw them at'--Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.''

The Saudi said that, in his country's view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. ''We have two nightmares,'' the former diplomat told me. ''For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I'd rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.''

In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. At least four main elements were involved, the U.S. government consultant told me. First, Israel would be assured that its security was paramount and that Washington and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states shared its concern about Iran.

Second, the Saudis would urge Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party that has received support from Iran, to curtail its anti-Israeli aggression and to begin serious talks about sharing leadership with Fatah, the more secular Palestinian group. (In February, the Saudis brokered a deal at Mecca between the two factions. However, Israel and the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with the terms.)

The third component was that the Bush Administration would work directly with Sunni nations to counteract Shiite ascendance in the region.

Fourth, the Saudi government, with Washington's approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations. Syria is a major conduit of arms to Hezbollah. The Saudi government is also at odds with the Syrians over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, in Beirut in 2005, for which it believes the Assad government was responsible. Hariri, a billionaire Sunni, was closely associated with the Saudi regime and with Prince Bandar. (A U.N. inquiry strongly suggested that the Syrians were involved, but offered no direct evidence; there are plans for another investigation, by an international tribunal.)

Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, depicted the Saudis' co¶peration with the White House as a significant breakthrough. ''The Saudis understand that if they want the Administration to make a more generous political offer to the Palestinians they have to persuade the Arab states to make a more generous offer to the Israelis,'' Clawson told me. The new diplomatic approach, he added, ''shows a real degree of effort and sophistication as well as a deftness of touch not always associated with this Administration. Who's running the greater risk'--we or the Saudis? At a time when America's standing in the Middle East is extremely low, the Saudis are actually embracing us. We should count our blessings.''

The Pentagon consultant had a different view. He said that the Administration had turned to Bandar as a ''fallback,'' because it had realized that the failing war in Iraq could leave the Middle East ''up for grabs.''


The focus of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, after Iran, is Lebanon, where the Saudis have been deeply involved in efforts by the Administration to support the Lebanese government. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is struggling to stay in power against a persistent opposition led by Hezbollah, the Shiite organization, and its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah has an extensive infrastructure, an estimated two to three thousand active fighters, and thousands of additional members.

Hezbollah has been on the State Department's terrorist list since 1997. The organization has been implicated in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut that killed two hundred and forty-one military men. It has also been accused of complicity in the kidnapping of Americans, including the C.I.A. station chief in Lebanon, who died in captivity, and a Marine colonel serving on a U.N. peacekeeping mission, who was killed. (Nasrallah has denied that the group was involved in these incidents.) Nasrallah is seen by many as a staunch terrorist, who has said that he regards Israel as a state that has no right to exist. Many in the Arab world, however, especially Shiites, view him as a resistance leader who withstood Israel in last summer's thirty-three-day war, and Siniora as a weak politician who relies on America's support but was unable to persuade President Bush to call for an end to the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. (Photographs of Siniora kissing Condoleezza Rice on the cheek when she visited during the war were prominently displayed during street protests in Beirut.)

The Bush Administration has publicly pledged the Siniora government a billion dollars in aid since last summer. A donors' conference in Paris, in January, which the U.S. helped organize, yielded pledges of almost eight billion more, including a promise of more than a billion from the Saudis. The American pledge includes more than two hundred million dollars in military aid, and forty million dollars for internal security.

The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government, according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. ''We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we're spreading the money around as much as we can,'' the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money ''always gets in more pockets than you think it will,'' he said. ''In this process, we're financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don't have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don't like. It's a very high-risk venture.''

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.

During a conversation with me, the former Saudi diplomat accused Nasrallah of attempting ''to hijack the state,'' but he also objected to the Lebanese and Saudi sponsorship of Sunni jihadists in Lebanon. ''Salafis are sick and hateful, and I'm very much against the idea of flirting with them,'' he said. ''They hate the Shiites, but they hate Americans more. If you try to outsmart them, they will outsmart us. It will be ugly.''

Alastair Crooke, who spent nearly thirty years in MI6, the British intelligence service, and now works for Conflicts Forum, a think tank in Beirut, told me, ''The Lebanese government is opening space for these people to come in. It could be very dangerous.'' Crooke said that one Sunni extremist group, Fatah al-Islam, had splintered from its pro-Syrian parent group, Fatah al-Intifada, in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, in northern Lebanon. Its membership at the time was less than two hundred. ''I was told that within twenty-four hours they were being offered weapons and money by people presenting themselves as representatives of the Lebanese government's interests'--presumably to take on Hezbollah,'' Crooke said.

The largest of the groups, Asbat al-Ansar, is situated in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. Asbat al-Ansar has received arms and supplies from Lebanese internal-security forces and militias associated with the Siniora government.

In 2005, according to a report by the U.S.-based International Crisis Group, Saad Hariri, the Sunni majority leader of the Lebanese parliament and the son of the slain former Prime Minister'--Saad inherited more than four billion dollars after his father's assassination'--paid forty-eight thousand dollars in bail for four members of an Islamic militant group from Dinniyeh. The men had been arrested while trying to establish an Islamic mini-state in northern Lebanon. The Crisis Group noted that many of the militants ''had trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.''

According to the Crisis Group report, Saad Hariri later used his parliamentary majority to obtain amnesty for twenty-two of the Dinniyeh Islamists, as well as for seven militants suspected of plotting to bomb the Italian and Ukrainian embassies in Beirut, the previous year. (He also arranged a pardon for Samir Geagea, a Maronite Christian militia leader, who had been convicted of four political murders, including the assassination, in 1987, of Prime Minister Rashid Karami.) Hariri described his actions to reporters as humanitarian.

In an interview in Beirut, a senior official in the Siniora government acknowledged that there were Sunni jihadists operating inside Lebanon. ''We have a liberal attitude that allows Al Qaeda types to have a presence here,'' he said. He related this to concerns that Iran or Syria might decide to turn Lebanon into a ''theatre of conflict.''

The official said that his government was in a no-win situation. Without a political settlement with Hezbollah, he said, Lebanon could ''slide into a conflict,'' in which Hezbollah fought openly with Sunni forces, with potentially horrific consequences. But if Hezbollah agreed to a settlement yet still maintained a separate army, allied with Iran and Syria, ''Lebanon could become a target. In both cases, we become a target.''

The Bush Administration has portrayed its support of the Siniora government as an example of the President's belief in democracy, and his desire to prevent other powers from interfering in Lebanon. When Hezbollah led street demonstrations in Beirut in December, John Bolton, who was then the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., called them ''part of the Iran-Syria-inspired coup.''

Leslie H. Gelb, a past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Administration's policy was less pro democracy than ''pro American national security. The fact is that it would be terribly dangerous if Hezbollah ran Lebanon.'' The fall of the Siniora government would be seen, Gelb said, ''as a signal in the Middle East of the decline of the United States and the ascendancy of the terrorism threat. And so any change in the distribution of political power in Lebanon has to be opposed by the United States'--and we're justified in helping any non-Shiite parties resist that change. We should say this publicly, instead of talking about democracy.''

Martin Indyk, of the Saban Center, said, however, that the United States ''does not have enough pull to stop the moderates in Lebanon from dealing with the extremists.'' He added, ''The President sees the region as divided between moderates and extremists, but our regional friends see it as divided between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis that we view as extremists are regarded by our Sunni allies simply as Sunnis.''

In January, after an outburst of street violence in Beirut involving supporters of both the Siniora government and Hezbollah, Prince Bandar flew to Tehran to discuss the political impasse in Lebanon and to meet with Ali Larijani, the Iranians' negotiator on nuclear issues. According to a Middle Eastern ambassador, Bandar's mission'--which the ambassador said was endorsed by the White House'--also aimed ''to create problems between the Iranians and Syria.'' There had been tensions between the two countries about Syrian talks with Israel, and the Saudis' goal was to encourage a breach. However, the ambassador said, ''It did not work. Syria and Iran are not going to betray each other. Bandar's approach is very unlikely to succeed.''

Walid Jumblatt, who is the leader of the Druze minority in Lebanon and a strong Siniora supporter, has attacked Nasrallah as an agent of Syria, and has repeatedly told foreign journalists that Hezbollah is under the direct control of the religious leadership in Iran. In a conversation with me last December, he depicted Bashir Assad, the Syrian President, as a ''serial killer.'' Nasrallah, he said, was ''morally guilty'' of the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the murder, last November, of Pierre Gemayel, a member of the Siniora Cabinet, because of his support for the Syrians.

Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be ''the ones to talk to,'' Jumblatt said.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of a radical Sunni movement founded in Egypt in 1928, engaged in more than a decade of violent opposition to the regime of Hafez Assad, Bashir's father. In 1982, the Brotherhood took control of the city of Hama; Assad bombarded the city for a week, killing between six thousand and twenty thousand people. Membership in the Brotherhood is punishable by death in Syria. The Brotherhood is also an avowed enemy of the U.S. and of Israel. Nevertheless, Jumblatt said, ''We told Cheney that the basic link between Iran and Lebanon is Syria'--and to weaken Iran you need to open the door to effective Syrian opposition.''

There is evidence that the Administration's redirection strategy has already benefitted the Brotherhood. The Syrian National Salvation Front is a coalition of opposition groups whose principal members are a faction led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian Vice-President who defected in 2005, and the Brotherhood. A former high-ranking C.I.A. officer told me, ''The Americans have provided both political and financial support. The Saudis are taking the lead with financial support, but there is American involvement.'' He said that Khaddam, who now lives in Paris, was getting money from Saudi Arabia, with the knowledge of the White House. (In 2005, a delegation of the Front's members met with officials from the National Security Council, according to press reports.) A former White House official told me that the Saudis had provided members of the Front with travel documents.

Jumblatt said he understood that the issue was a sensitive one for the White House. ''I told Cheney that some people in the Arab world, mainly the Egyptians'''--whose moderate Sunni leadership has been fighting the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for decades'--''won't like it if the United States helps the Brotherhood. But if you don't take on Syria we will be face to face in Lebanon with Hezbollah in a long fight, and one we might not win.''


On a warm, clear night early last December, in a bombed-out suburb a few miles south of downtown Beirut, I got a preview of how the Administration's new strategy might play out in Lebanon. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, who has been in hiding, had agreed to an interview. Security arrangements for the meeting were secretive and elaborate. I was driven, in the back seat of a darkened car, to a damaged underground garage somewhere in Beirut, searched with a handheld scanner, placed in a second car to be driven to yet another bomb-scarred underground garage, and transferred again. Last summer, it was reported that Israel was trying to kill Nasrallah, but the extraordinary precautions were not due only to that threat. Nasrallah's aides told me that they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives, as well as Sunni jihadists who they believe are affiliated with Al Qaeda. (The government consultant and a retired four-star general said that Jordanian intelligence, with support from the U.S. and Israel, had been trying to infiltrate Shiite groups, to work against Hezbollah. Jordan's King Abdullah II has warned that a Shiite government in Iraq that was close to Iran would lead to the emergence of a Shiite crescent.) This is something of an ironic turn: Nasrallah's battle with Israel last summer turned him'--a Shiite'--into the most popular and influential figure among Sunnis and Shiites throughout the region. In recent months, however, he has increasingly been seen by many Sunnis not as a symbol of Arab unity but as a participant in a sectarian war.

Nasrallah, dressed, as usual, in religious garb, was waiting for me in an unremarkable apartment. One of his advisers said that he was not likely to remain there overnight; he has been on the move since his decision, last July, to order the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid set off the thirty-three-day war. Nasrallah has since said publicly'--and repeated to me'--that he misjudged the Israeli response. ''We just wanted to capture prisoners for exchange purposes,'' he told me. ''We never wanted to drag the region into war.''

Nasrallah accused the Bush Administration of working with Israel to deliberately instigate fitna, an Arabic word that is used to mean ''insurrection and fragmentation within Islam.'' ''In my opinion, there is a huge campaign through the media throughout the world to put each side up against the other,'' he said. ''I believe that all this is being run by American and Israeli intelligence.'' (He did not provide any specific evidence for this.) He said that the U.S. war in Iraq had increased sectarian tensions, but argued that Hezbollah had tried to prevent them from spreading into Lebanon. (Sunni-Shiite confrontations increased, along with violence, in the weeks after we talked.)

Nasrallah said he believed that President Bush's goal was ''the drawing of a new map for the region. They want the partition of Iraq. Iraq is not on the edge of a civil war'--there is a civil war. There is ethnic and sectarian cleansing. The daily killing and displacement which is taking place in Iraq aims at achieving three Iraqi parts, which will be sectarian and ethnically pure as a prelude to the partition of Iraq. Within one or two years at the most, there will be total Sunni areas, total Shiite areas, and total Kurdish areas. Even in Baghdad, there is a fear that it might be divided into two areas, one Sunni and one Shiite.''

He went on, ''I can say that President Bush is lying when he says he does not want Iraq to be partitioned. All the facts occurring now on the ground make you swear he is dragging Iraq to partition. And a day will come when he will say, 'I cannot do anything, since the Iraqis want the partition of their country and I honor the wishes of the people of Iraq.' ''

Nasrallah said he believed that America also wanted to bring about the partition of Lebanon and of Syria. In Syria, he said, the result would be to push the country ''into chaos and internal battles like in Iraq.'' In Lebanon, ''There will be a Sunni state, an Alawi state, a Christian state, and a Druze state.'' But, he said, ''I do not know if there will be a Shiite state.'' Nasrallah told me that he suspected that one aim of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon last summer was ''the destruction of Shiite areas and the displacement of Shiites from Lebanon. The idea was to have the Shiites of Lebanon and Syria flee to southern Iraq,'' which is dominated by Shiites. ''I am not sure, but I smell this,'' he told me.

Partition would leave Israel surrounded by ''small tranquil states,'' he said. ''I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states,'' he said. ''In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.''

In fact, the Bush Administration has adamantly resisted talk of partitioning Iraq, and its public stances suggest that the White House sees a future Lebanon that is intact, with a weak, disarmed Hezbollah playing, at most, a minor political role. There is also no evidence to support Nasrallah's belief that the Israelis were seeking to drive the Shiites into southern Iraq. Nevertheless, Nasrallah's vision of a larger sectarian conflict in which the United States is implicated suggests a possible consequence of the White House's new strategy.

In the interview, Nasrallah made mollifying gestures and promises that would likely be met with skepticism by his opponents. ''If the United States says that discussions with the likes of us can be useful and influential in determining American policy in the region, we have no objection to talks or meetings,'' he said. ''But, if their aim through this meeting is to impose their policy on us, it will be a waste of time.'' He said that the Hezbollah militia, unless attacked, would operate only within the borders of Lebanon, and pledged to disarm it when the Lebanese Army was able to stand up. Nasrallah said that he had no interest in initiating another war with Israel. However, he added that he was anticipating, and preparing for, another Israeli attack, later this year.

Nasrallah further insisted that the street demonstrations in Beirut would continue until the Siniora government fell or met his coalition's political demands. ''Practically speaking, this government cannot rule,'' he told me. ''It might issue orders, but the majority of the Lebanese people will not abide and will not recognize the legitimacy of this government. Siniora remains in office because of international support, but this does not mean that Siniora can rule Lebanon.''

President Bush's repeated praise of the Siniora government, Nasrallah said, ''is the best service to the Lebanese opposition he can give, because it weakens their position vis- -vis the Lebanese people and the Arab and Islamic populations. They are betting on us getting tired. We did not get tired during the war, so how could we get tired in a demonstration?''

There is sharp division inside and outside the Bush Administration about how best to deal with Nasrallah, and whether he could, in fact, be a partner in a political settlement. The outgoing director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, in a farewell briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in January, said that Hezbollah ''lies at the center of Iran's terrorist strategy. . . . It could decide to conduct attacks against U.S. interests in the event it feels its survival or that of Iran is threatened. . . . Lebanese Hezbollah sees itself as Tehran's partner.''

In 2002, Richard Armitage, then the Deputy Secretary of State, called Hezbollah ''the A-team'' of terrorists. In a recent interview, however, Armitage acknowledged that the issue has become somewhat more complicated. Nasrallah, Armitage told me, has emerged as ''a political force of some note, with a political role to play inside Lebanon if he chooses to do so.'' In terms of public relations and political gamesmanship, Armitage said, Nasrallah ''is the smartest man in the Middle East.'' But, he added, Nasrallah ''has got to make it clear that he wants to play an appropriate role as the loyal opposition. For me, there's still a blood debt to pay'''--a reference to the murdered colonel and the Marine barracks bombing.

Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, ''we've got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it's going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites.

''The most important story in the Middle East is the growth of Nasrallah from a street guy to a leader'--from a terrorist to a statesman,'' Baer added. ''The dog that didn't bark this summer'''--during the war with Israel'--''is Shiite terrorism.'' Baer was referring to fears that Nasrallah, in addition to firing rockets into Israel and kidnapping its soldiers, might set in motion a wave of terror attacks on Israeli and American targets around the world. ''He could have pulled the trigger, but he did not,'' Baer said.

Most members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities acknowledge Hezbollah's ongoing ties to Iran. But there is disagreement about the extent to which Nasrallah would put aside Hezbollah's interests in favor of Iran's. A former C.I.A. officer who also served in Lebanon called Nasrallah ''a Lebanese phenomenon,'' adding, ''Yes, he's aided by Iran and Syria, but Hezbollah's gone beyond that.'' He told me that there was a period in the late eighties and early nineties when the C.I.A. station in Beirut was able to clandestinely monitor Nasrallah's conversations. He described Nasrallah as ''a gang leader who was able to make deals with the other gangs. He had contacts with everybody.''


The Bush Administration's reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then'--notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams'--are involved in today's dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal ''lessons learned'' discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: ''One, you can't trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can't trust the uniformed military, and four, it's got to be run out of the Vice-President's office'''--a reference to Cheney's role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte's decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. ''Negroponte said, 'No way. I'm not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.' '' (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because ''he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.''

The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House's policy goals but ''wanted to do it by the book.'' The Pentagon consultant also told me that ''there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn't fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.'' It was also true, he said, that Negroponte ''had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.''

The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. ''There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,'' he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

''This goes back to Iran-Contra,'' a former National Security Council aide told me. ''And much of what they're doing is to keep the agency out of it.'' He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, ''The C.I.A. is asking, 'What's going on?' They're concerned, because they think it's amateur hour.''

The issue of oversight is beginning to get more attention from Congress. Last November, the Congressional Research Service issued a report for Congress on what it depicted as the Administration's blurring of the line between C.I.A. activities and strictly military ones, which do not have the same reporting requirements. And the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Senator Jay Rockefeller, has scheduled a hearing for March 8th on Defense Department intelligence activities.

Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, a Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, told me, ''The Bush Administration has frequently failed to meet its legal obligation to keep the Intelligence Committee fully and currently informed. Time and again, the answer has been 'Trust us.' '' Wyden said, ''It is hard for me to trust the Administration.'' '...

Why Is Vladimir Putin Acting So Crazy? - Businessweek

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 20:36

Behind this week's cover

For Russian leaders, sticking it to the Americans has long been a source of both personal satisfaction and political gain. By that standard, President Vladimir Putin is riding high. He's enraged Washington officialdom by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad'--despite his apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians'--and obstructing efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions. Activists in the U.S. and Europe have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi over the country's harsh new antigay law. The Kremlin's decision to shelter National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, wanted on espionage charges in the U.S., prompted President Obama to nix a one-on-one meeting ahead of the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Sept. 5 and 6.

Since reclaiming the presidency in May 2012, Putin has become the biggest impediment to the Obama administration's foreign policy aims. That's undoubtedly played well with Russians yearning for the days when the country was a superpower. Yet beneath Putin's swagger lie weaknesses at the core of the economy that threaten Russia's future'--and with it, his power base. And for that, he can blame a familiar nemesis: the U.S.

His difficulty has nothing to do with intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles'--and everything to do with natural gas that's cooled to -260F at normal pressure, condensed into liquid form, and transported on special tankers to markets around the world. America's surprising return as an energy superpower is complicating life for the Russian petro state. The rise of a vibrant, global, and pipeline-free liquefied natural gas (LNG) market is a direct threat to Russia's interests in Europe, where Gazprom (GAZP:RU), the state-owned energy giant, supplies about 25 percent of the gas. So is the shift in pricing power from suppliers to consumers as a result of the huge supply shock emanating from North America.

Russia is still the world's biggest overall energy exporter: It's the No.'‰1 oil producer and No.'‰2 in gas after the U.S. However, the country's known oil reserves'--primarily between the Ural Mountains and the Central Siberian Plateau'--are enough to sustain current production levels for just 20 years, according to a study in December by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), vs. 70 years for Saudi Arabia and 90 years for the United Arab Emirates. Untapped oil and gas reserves in eastern Siberia and the Arctic will take massive investments to explore.

Putin's aware of the problem. ''For many years we have had a situation when prices for our main export goods rose fast and almost without interruption, and this made it possible for Russian companies and for the government to cover high expenses,'' he told global executives at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 21. ''But this situation has changed now. There are no simple solutions and no magic wand we can wave to change things overnight.''

That may be true, but the country has little time to waste. Many Russians, and in particular members of the president's inner circle, have benefited hugely from the country's energy-export windfall. Now that foundation is slipping away. The question is whether Putin's power will, too.

When he took over at the start of the last decade (he served as president from 2000 to 2008 and premier for four years after that), the global economy was in the early stages of a commodities supercycle. Accelerating global demand, led by a China growing at about 10 percent annually, coincided with rising prices for oil, gas, copper, coal, and other natural resources. Political instability in Venezuela, the start of the Second Gulf War, and Hurricane Katrina all constrained supply and refining capacity, sending energy markets into overdrive.

Through 2008, Putin oversaw an average of 7 percent growth in gross domestic product and a huge expansion in Russia's middle class. At its 2007 annual meeting, Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, served red and black caviar. Management Committee Chairman Alexey Miller said the company, whose market value at the time was $360 billion, would someday be worth $1 trillion.

Russia's phenomenal run of prosperity would have been an ideal time to diversify the economy beyond energy, a goal that harks back to the days of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Instead, energy's share of the economy actually increased; as of late 2012, oil and gas accounted for about 70 percent of exports, compared with less than 50 percent in the mid-1990s, providing half of the government's revenue and roughly 17 percent of GDP, according to the EBRD. Gazprom alone represents 14 percent of the Russian stock market's total capitalization. ''It has been an issue since the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it has gotten worse,'' says Alexei Kokin, an energy analyst with UralSib Financial. ''I don't see that changing.''

Russia's energy dependency problem became impossible to ignore in 2009 as the global recession crushed oil prices, which fell to $34 a barrel from a precrisis high of $147. Russia's economy contracted almost 8 percent, the steepest drop among the G-20 industrialized nations that year. Since 2010, the economy hasn't come close to hitting the 5 percent to 6 percent mark that Putin has said it needs to close the gap with leading developed nations. On Aug. 9 the government said the roughly $2 trillion economy unexpectedly slowed in the second quarter, growing a below-expected 1.2 percent from the previous year, the sixth consecutive quarterly deceleration. As for Gazprom, it's worth all of $94 billion, down 74 percent in six years.

Photo illustration by Crash!; Putin:

Putin, 60, has long viewed the nation's natural resources as a foreign policy lever. He learned about the economics of scarcity growing up in the 1950s in a decrepit communal apartment complex in postwar Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). ''There were hordes of rats in the front entryway,'' Putin said in an autobiographical compilation of interviews, First Person, published in 2000. ''My friends and I used to chase them around with sticks.'' In a 2012 interview he said that his elder brother died from diphtheria during the Nazi siege of Leningrad; his father barely survived his combat tour with the Soviet army.

Many years later, as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Putin wrote an academic thesis advocating that Russia flex its energy muscles. Once in power, he did just that: In price disputes, Russia turned the taps off on its gas pipelines to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 in the dead of winter, causing shortages elsewhere in Europe. Gazprom has been able to extract high prices, particularly in former Soviet states, by indexing its long-term contracts to the price of oil.

Putin renationalized the oil industry and dialed back the involvement of Western oil companies. Authorities arrested and later convicted Yukos Chief Executive Officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003 on tax charges just as the company entertained selling stakes to ExxonMobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX). Approximately $27 billion in state tax claims bankrupted Yukos, whose assets were sold off to other companies. After pressure from Moscow, Shell (RDSA) gave up part of its stake in an LNG venture in Sakhalin to local interests. British Petroleum (BP) sold its stake in an Anglo-Russian joint energy venture called TNK-BP to Rosneft (ROSN:RU) after a dispute with investors in the country.

At the same time, Putin placed loyalists throughout most of the oil industry or secured the allegiance of executives. In December a report by Yevgeny Minchenko and Kirill Petrov for Moscow-based consulting firm Minchenko Consulting Communication Group portrayed Putin as an energy czar with direct control over ''long-term gas contracts, management of the gas industry, and, basically, Gazprom, as well as the control over backbone Russian banks'' such as VEB, VTB, and Sberbank.

Taxes on the energy industry are vital to the Kremlin patronage system. They give Putin the means to woo key constituencies such as the military, security, and political elites; to improve government pensions; and to spend in poorer regions in the Muslim North Caucasus and other rural areas. During his 2012 campaign, he promised to improve wages for doctors and teachers, increase retirement checks, and invest in Russia's military arsenal. The former KGB career officer is unlikely to loosen his grip on the state-owned energy sector, because that would endanger his grip on power, says one economic adviser who declined to be identified for fear of offending the president.

Five years ago, peak oil theorists predicted that global production would soon hit its high-water mark and then decline inexorably, with the U.S. growing even more dependent on overseas energy imports. Those trends seemed to play into Putin's hands. What he didn't anticipate was that U.S. oil production'--thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology, in which pressurized water and chemicals are blasted into rocks to release energy'--would increase 46 percent. That equals the entire output of Nigeria, estimates Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of consulting firm IHS. ''Think of it like a non-OPEC country appearing in North Dakota or southern Texas,'' Yergin told executives at the St. Petersburg forum in June.

Between now and 2018, North America will provide 40 percent of new supplies through the development of light, tight oil and oil sands, while the contribution from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will slip to 30 percent, according to the International Energy Agency, which also sees the U.S. emerging as the biggest oil producer by 2020 and a net exporter of oil by about 2030. Meanwhile, the agency trimmed global fuel demand estimates for the next four years.

The U.S. is also on pace to add 2 trillion cubic feet per year of natural gas once three just-approved LNG projects start operating, an 8 percent increase in total U.S. capacity based on 2012 production levels. More LNG facilities are coming onstream in Australia, South Korea, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Yergin predicts natural gas, both conventional and liquefied, will be the No.'‰1 energy source by the end of 2030.

Russia's worry is twofold: An expanding supply of affordable LNG, which is transported by ship, is forcing Gazprom to either cut prices or lose share. (Weird and surprising fact: As American utilities shift to gas, displaced U.S. coal is flooding into European markets. The U.S. may supplant Russia as the world's No.'‰3 coal exporter by yearend, according to Goldman Sachs (GS).) Second, the Russian gas giant is under pressure to adopt spot-market pricing instead of tying its prices to oil. In June, Gazprom agreed to revise its gas contracts with German utility RWE after losing an arbitration case; it's renegotiating supply contracts with other utilities, including Eni (ENI:IM) and EconGas. The European Union is also drafting an antitrust complaint against Gazprom for abusing its dominant position, say three people familiar with the probe who asked not to be named. The company declined to comment. Longer term, the Russians may even have to contend with shale energy assets being developed by Western oil majors in Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, all Gazprom profit sanctuaries.

With the LNG trade expected to almost double to 450 million tonnes a year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the Russian government is expected to take up legislation that would for the first time allow companies other than Gazprom, which has been slow to respond to big industry changes over the last decade, to export LNG. Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in June the country is also committed to building out its LNG capacity'--Russia has just one plant up and running in Sakhalin'--and more than doubling Russia's share of the LNG trade from 4 percent to about 10 percent by 2020. With Gazprom's traditional gas business facing pricing and demand pressure in Europe, Russian companies need to be bigger players in faster-growing Asian markets. ''We are really behind the curve and need to accelerate,'' says Ildar Davletshin, an oil and gas analyst with Renaissance Capital.

The challenge for Putin is to simultaneously revive the country's colossal energy sector'--and then place Russia on a track to break free of its hydrocarbon dependency. The country needs to make huge infrastructure investments in the east and to expand nonenergy sectors where Russia has real potential, such as information technology, airplanes, helicopters, engines, turbines, and industrial pumps and compressors.

The country's recent entry into the World Trade Organization could be an opportunity to reduce or eliminate import tariffs and trim domestic subsidies. Putin's near-total control of Russia's political apparatus'--he's marginalized, intimidated, or silenced any potential opposition'--gives him the space to push through painful reforms. It would require not only the kind of tough-mindedness the bare-chested outdoorsman and YouTube sensation is known for but also a fair amount of business savvy and strategic vision. Failing to reform risks condemning Russia to a future of middling growth, declining standards of living, and diminished stature abroad. If Putin truly wants to restore the country to economic greatness, Russia will need a 12-step program for its energy-addicted economy.

What The US, Russia Are Really Quarreling Over: Pipelines

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 04:32

For both countries, the Snowden affair is just another ho-hum spat in the greater imperial rivalry.

Secretary of State John Kerry, right, listens to a translation as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks to reporters during their meeting in Washington, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. The much-discussed Snowden affair is only the latest surface-level event in a geopolitical standoff between the U.S. and Russa over natural gas. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

Nearly two months ago, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden handed smoking-gun documents on the international surveillance apparatus to The Guardian and The Washington Post in what's become one of the most captivating stories in recent memory.

Snowden now lives in Russia after a Hollywood-like nearly six-week-long stint in a Moscow airport waiting for a country to grant him asylum.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden leaves Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, after being granted asylum in Russia for one year. (AP/Russia24 via Associated Press Television)

Journalists and pundits have spent countless articles and news segments conveying the intrigue and intensity of the standoff that eventually resulted in Russia granting Snowden one year of asylum. Attention now has shifted to his father, Lon Snowden, and his announced visit of Edward in Russia.

Lost in the excitement of this ''White Bronco Moment,'' many have missed the elephant in the room: the ''Great Game''-style geopolitical standoff between the U.S. and Russia underlying it all, and which may have served as the impetus for Russia to grant Snowden asylum to begin with. What's at stake? Natural gas.

Russia, of course, has its own surveillance state and has been described by The Guardian's Luke Harding as a ''Mafia State'' due to the deep corruption that reportedly thrives under Putin's watch.

It all comes as the U.S. competes with Russian gas production thanks in part to the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing '-- ''fracking'' '' transforming the United States into what President Barack Obama has hailed as the ''Saudi Arabia of gas.''

Russia produced 653 billion cubic meters of gas in 2012, while the U.S. produced 651 billion cubic meters, making them the top two producers in the world.

Creating a ''gas OPEC''Illustrating this elephant in the room is the fact that when, on July 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin first addressed whether he would grant Snowden asylum, he did so at the annual meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Moscow, which unfolded July 1-2.

''If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips,'' Putin stated at GECF's annual summit.

Paralleling the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) '-- The New York Times calls it a ''gas OPEC'' '-- GECF is a bloc of countries whose mission is to fend off U.S. and Western power dominance of the global gas trade. The 13 member countries include Russia, Iran, Bolivia, Venezuela, Libya, Algeria and several others.

GECF has held informal meetings since 2001, becoming an official chartered organization in 2008 and dominated in the main by Russia. GECF Secretary General Leonid Bokhanovskiy is also the former VP of Stroytransgaz, a subsidiary of Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom.

Depicting the close proximity between Putin's regime and GECF's leadership is the fact that Gennady Timchenko '' a member of ''Putin's inner circle,'' according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism '' owns an 80-percent stake in Stroytransgaz.

A 21st-century ''gas Cold War'' has arisen between the U.S. and Russia, with Edward Snowden serving as the illustrative protagonist. President Obama, upset over Russia's asylum offer to Snowden, recently cancelled a summit with President Putin.

With access to the free flow of oil and gas resources a central tenet of U.S. national security policy under the Carter Doctrine, there's no guarantee this new Cold War will end well.

Fracked gas exports fend off Russia, but for how long?Fracking is in the process of transforming the U.S. from a net importer of gas to a net exporter, with three liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals on the Gulf Coast already rubber-stamped for approval by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Industry cheerleaders as well as President Obama and other like-minded politicians say there are ''100 years of natural gas'' under the United States, a geopolitical game-changer to say the very least.

But independent petroleum geologists and investors alike see it differently, concluding perhaps 15-20 years of gas exist at current diminishing, ''exploration treadmill'' rates of return.

''More and more wells must be drilled and operated to maintain production as the average productivity per well is declining,'' David Hughes, a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute explains in his report ''Drill Baby, Drill.'' ''Since 1990, the number of operating gas wells in the United States has increased by 90 percent while the average productivity per well has declined by 38 percent.''

This means there likely won't be enough gas to fend off GECF and Russian dominance of the global gas market in the long term, particularly because Russia relies on easier-to-obtain conventional gas, as opposed to tough-to-obtain unconventional shale gas.

Despite the reality of the ''exploration treadmill,'' myriad politicians have backed the notion of the U.S. serving as a global supplier of gas via LNG exports. Congress has already introduced two bills in 2013 '' the Expedite our Economy Act of 2013 and the Expedited LNG for American Allies Act of 2013 '' calling for expedited approval of the remaining LNG export terminal proposals.

''[T]he timeline for considering these applications may jeopardize our ability to retain a competitive position against other natural gas exporting nations who are also working diligently to export LNG,'' a bipartisan cadre of 34 U.S. Senators wrote in a July 9 letter to U.S. Department of Energy head Ernest Moniz urging the DOE for to speedily approve LNG export terminal applications. ''There is a global race for market share underway,'' the letter continued. ''American competitors have been at a disadvantage for the past year and a half because the Department of Energy has delayed action on pending applications.''

Sometimes politicians are vague when it comes to the rationale for expedited LNG exports, using phrases like the ability to maintain a ''competitive position'' against ''other natural gas exporting nations'' but not calling out those nations by name.

Others, however, take off the kid gloves and name names. ''Our bill will also promote the energy security of key U.S. allies by helping reduce their dependence on oil and gas from countries, such as Russia and Iran,'' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), co-sponsor of the Expedited LNG for American Allies Act of 2013, of the rational behind the bill's January 2013 introduction.

Months later, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) wrote similarly in a June 2013 Houston Chronicle op-ed piece. ''Aside from unquestionable economic benefits, there are also geopolitical considerations that make exporting LNG to our friends and allies a no-brainer,'' Poe wrote. ''The risk of high reliance on Russian gas has been a principal driver of European energy policy in recent decades '... From the U.S. perspective, cheap but reliable natural gas would reduce Moscow's clout while shoring up goodwill amongst our allies.''

Faced with diminishing returns on shale gas basins nationwide, U.S. strategic planners haven't put all of their eggs in one basket, and have a backup plan in mind to fend off Russia and GECF.

Enter U.S. gas ''anchor,'' AzerbaijanThe LNG for NATO Act was another key bill introduced in December 2012 by now-retired U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.). That legislation's introduction came alongside the release of a key Senate Foreign Relations Committee report titled, ''Energy and Security from the Caspian to Europe.''

First discussed at a press event hosted by the influential Atlantic Council '' then headed by current Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel '' the premise of the report was simple: many NATO member states rely on Russia for gas imports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, gestures to Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev as they walk along an embankment in Baku, Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (AP/RIA Novosti Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev/Presidential Press Service)

And Russia is the main power player alongside China overseeing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which effectively operates as NATO's foil. Thus, the report concludes, NATO must find a way to wean itself off of Russian gas.

''This strategic U.S. initiative would advance U.S. interests by alleviating Russian gas-fueled pressure against NATO allies, bolstering bilateral relations in the Caspian Sea region, and further isolating Iran,'' Lugar wrote in introducing the report.

One of the report's solutions calls for undermining the DOE's LNG export approval process for fracked gas exports to NATO allies due to the U.S. having '-- wait for it '-- a ''100-year supply'' of gas.

''As a first step, we should allow exports of U.S. natural gas, now abundant thanks to shale gas, to all our NATO allies,'' Lugar wrote in an op-ed summarizing the report's conclusions. ''At current consumption rates, we have an estimated 100-year supply, and prices have fallen so low that new drilling activity is drying up. We easily could export some of this surplus as LNG without causing consumer gas prices to spike here at home.''

Perhaps knowing the ''100-year supply'' is more fiction than fact, the report does point to something ''even more important'': Azerbaijan's robust supply of conventional gas.

Azerbaijan, ruled by a human-rights-violating authoritarian regime and bordered by the Caspian Sea to the east and Iran to the south, has the 24th highest proven reserves of natural gas in the world and maintains friendly relations with the U.S. and NATO countries.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee report refers to Azerbaijan as an ''anchor'' gas supplier for NATO countries, a key source of imported gas in particular for European Union countries seeking to fend off reliance on Russian gas.

Given Azerbaijan's strategic importance, the report calls for expedited building of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, set to pipe Azeri gas from the Shah Deniz gas field in the Caspian to Turkey and eventually into EU member states.

''TAP will transport natural gas from '... Shah Deniz '... in Azerbaijan, via Greece and Albania, and across the Adriatic Sea to Southern Italy, and further to Western Europe,'' the TAP website explains. ''TAP offers the shortest and most direct link from the Caspian region to the most attractive European markets.''

The importance of Azerbaijan as an ''anchor'' and TAP is explained bluntly in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report and was recently praised in a State Department press release.

''Fully committed to energy trade with the West, Azerbaijan is [a] pivotal supplier,'' the report explains. ''For the past two decades, Azerbaijan's leadership has made the strategic calculation to use [TAP] to forge closer ties with the West, a decision that was by no means inevitable given the substantial cost of vast new pipeline infrastructure and geopolitical pressures from neighboring Iran and Russia. However, Azerbaijan's main alternative to westward trade would be with Russia, which is not an attractive prospect.''

The report closes by recommending the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank to finance construction of LNG import terminals for NATO countries. It also recommends the creation of a full-time U.S. Envoy for Eurasian Energy Security position.

Contextualizing the recent big Azerbaijan junketOne of the recommendations the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report offers in its report is maintaining closer ties with SOCAR '-- the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic '-- ''to minimize future miscommunications.''

This lends an explanation as to why many former Obama upper-level staffers, along with Stratfor founder George Friedman, state politicians from across the U.S., Vice President Joe Biden's wife Jill and former World Bank head and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz all attended a key gathering in Azerbaijan in late May, officially titled, ''USA-Azerbaijan: Vision for the Future.''

Ted Poe, who weeks after returning from the event wrote the Houston Chronicle op-ed praising fracked gas exports, was also among the attendees.

SOCAR sponsored the event. So too did BP, KBR, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, all companies deeply invested in fracking in the U.S.

''No doubt this was among the biggest concentrations of American political star power ever seen in the Caucasus '-- 317 delegates from 42 states, including 11 sitting members of Congress and 75 state representatives,'' a Washington Diplomat reporter who got inside the conference explained of the nature of the event.

Russia excluded from State Dept. fracking ''missionary force''In August 2010, President Obama's first-term State Department established the Global Shale Gas Initiative (GSGI), now referred to as the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program.

A worker checks a dipstick to check water levels and temperatures in a series of tanks at a fracking operation at a gas drilling site outside Rifle, Colorado. (AP/Brennan Linsley)

Its purpose: creating a so-called ''missionary force,'' showing other countries fracking's ''best practices'' based on the U.S. experience.

''The GSGI uses government-to-government policy engagement to bring federal and state governments' technical expertise, regulatory experience in ensuring the safety of water supplies and air quality, and diplomatic capabilities to bear in helping selected countries understand their shale gas potential and the responsibilities of governments,'' the State Department explains on its website.

State Department officials have spent time instructing Ukraine, Poland, China and India how to do fracking ''safely and economically.'' This tutelage agenda is yet another way to wean NATO countries off of Russian gas in an attempt to further isolate it economically.

Noteworthy is the fact that though Russia possesses a shale gas prize of its own '-- the massive western Siberian Bazhenov Shale field '-- the State Department has not included the country under its Global Shale Gas Initiative/Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program umbrella.

Snowden standoff part of gas ''race for what's left''The lion's share of media coverage surrounding Edward Snowden has focused on both the intrigue of his asylum standoff and the pervasiveness of the global surveillance apparatus alone.

Missed in the discussion is what Hampshire College professor Michael Klare refers to as ''Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet'' in his book titled precisely that, on full display in the Snowden asylum standoff milieu.

That is, a relentless battle royale ensuing between the global powers for the world's quickly diminishing, increasingly difficult-to-obtain and ecologically hazardous forms of ''extreme energy,'' like shale gas fracking.

''Make no mistake: Rising powers/shrinking planet is a dangerous formula. Addressing the interlocking challenges of resource competition, energy shortages, and climate change will be among the most difficult problems facing the human community,'' he writes in the book's conclusion.

''If we continue to extract and consume the planet's vital resources in the same [...] fashion as in the past, we will, sooner rather than later, transform the earth into a barely habitable scene of desolation.''

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Enemy of the State movie-EPIC - Center for Emergency Management, Policy, Information Technology and Communications (Virginia Beach, VA)

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UK intelligence says it found 58,000 classified documents on Guardian journalist's partner | The Verge

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:25

David Miranda was in possession of around 58,000 "highly classified UK intelligence documents" when he was detained at Heathrow Airport under anti-terrorist laws last week, according to The Telegraph. In statements presented to London's High Court today, government officials reportedly noted that some of the seized documents could allow British intelligence officers to be identified overseas. They also said that the UK has been operating under the assumption that foreign governments had obtained those documents during time abroad by Edward Snowden, who originally leaked the information to Miranda's partner, Glenn Greenwald.

20GB of files have been accessed so far

One British intelligence officer noted that it would be "impossible" for Greenwald or other journalists to determine what information could or could not harm the UK's national security, The Telegraph's David Barrett reports on Twitter. The officer also rebuked Miranda for using poor security practices, as he was traveling with a decryption key that allowed for a secure file to be accessed. From what has been reviewed so far, the government reportedly believes that Snowden "indiscriminately appropriated material in bulk" when releasing the information.

A court order has now been issued that will allow Scotland Yard to continue examining the nine electronic devices seized from Miranda. Among those devices is a 60GB hard drive, 20GB of which have been accessed by the police so far, according to The Telegraph. Barrett reports that the drive is encrypted with TrueCrypt, which a detective says has made the materials "extremely difficult to access." The Government Communications Headquarters, Britain's intelligence agency, is said to be assisting Scotland Yard in decrypting the files.

A full hearing is scheduled to take place in October. But while the British government continues to claim that great damage can come as a result of these leaks, Greenwald tells The Telegraph that the government is just trying to cover its own tracks: "The UK Government is incapable of pointing to a single story we have published that has even arguably harmed national security. The only thing that has been harmed are the political interests and reputations of UK and US officials around the world."

The War on Sys-Admins

Snowden impersonated NSA officials, sources say - Investigations

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Thu, 29 Aug 2013 20:48

The Guardian via AFP-Getty Images file

A still frame grab recorded on June 6, 2013 and released to AFP on June 10, 2013 shows Edward Snowden, who has been working at the National Security Agency for the past four years, speaking during an interview with The Guardian newspaper at an undisclosed location in Hong Kong.

By Richard Esposito, Matthew Cole and Robert WindremNBC News

Edward Snowden accessed some secret national security documents by assuming the electronic identities of top NSA officials, said intelligence sources.

''Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,'' said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. ''This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.''

Snowden was a Honolulu-based employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor. His job gave him system administrator privileges on the NSA's intranet, NSAnet. He reportedly used his privileges to download 20,000 documents.

The NSA still doesn't know exactly what Snowden took. But its forensic investigation has included trying to figure out which higher level officials Snowden impersonated online to access the most sensitive documents.

The NSA has as many as 40,000 employees. According to one intelligence official, the NSA is restricting its research to a much smaller group of individuals with access to sensitive documents. Investigators are looking for discrepancies between the real world actions of an NSA employee and the online activities linked to that person's computer user profile. For example, if an employee was on vacation while the on-line version of the employee was downloading a classified document, it might indicate that someone assumed the employee's identity.

The NSA has already identified several instances where Snowden borrowed someone else's user profile to access documents, said the official.

Each user profile on NSAnet includes a level of security clearance that determines what files the user can access. Like most NSA employees and contractors, Snowden had a ''top secret'' security clearance, meaning that under his own user profile he could access many classified documents. But some higher level NSA officials have higher levels of clearance that give them access to the most sensitive documents.

As a system administrator, according to intelligence officials, Snowden had the ability to create and modify user profiles for employees and contractors. He also had the ability to access NSAnet using those user profiles, meaning he could impersonate other users in order to access files. He borrowed the identities of users with higher level security clearances to grab sensitive documents.

Once Snowden had collected documents, his job description also gave him a right forbidden to other NSA employees'' the right to download files from his computer to an external storage device. Snowden downloaded a reported 20,000 documents onto thumb drives before leaving Hawaii for Hong Kong on May 20.

Snowden's documents became the basis for a series of articles in the Guardian and the Washington Post detailing the extent of the U.S. government's collection of data and metadata on emails and phone calls.

''The damage, on a scale of 1 to 10, is a 12,'' said a former intelligence official.

The NSA declined to comment.

Snowden has been charged with theft and violations of the Espionage Act. He is now in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.

Richard Esposito is the Senior Executive Producer for Investigations at NBC News. Matthew Cole is an investigative reporter at NBC News. He can be reached at Robert Windrem is an investigative reporter at NBC News. He can be reached at

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Brain cap - Parlor trick


Only about weed states

Self indulged

23 and me


Its Just Math!

Owner of John Lennon's tooth hopes to clone the late Beatle -

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 03:58

MusicRandee DawnTODAY contributor

Aug. 22, 2013 at 9:33 AM ET

Getty Images file

John Lennon, flashing a toothy grin in 1967.

The dentist who purchased John Lennon's rotten molar for $31,000 at a 2011 auction now has plans for the tooth: He's getting it genetically sequenced in the hopes of cloning the musician, who died in 1980.

Seriously. Dr. Michael Zuk has started up a website, and put out a press release with all the gory details.

"I am nervous and excited at the possibility that we will be able to fully sequence John Lennon's DNA, very soon I hope," Dr. Zuk said in the release. "With researchers working on ways to clone mammoths, the same technology certainly could make human cloning a reality."

"To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of rock's greatest stars would be mind-blowing," he added.

As Rolling Stone wrote, Lennon had given an extracted molar to a housekeeper for disposal in the mid-1960s, but the magazine says Lennon also said she should give the tooth to her Beatles-loving daughter. So the tooth became a family heirloom until it was sold in Nov. 2011.

Dr. Zuk has also permitted a fragment from the molar to be put into a clay sculpture of John Lennon created by his sister, which in 2012 toured the U.K. to promote the charity Smile Train.

But that's not all; Dr. Zuk's press release goes on to note that the "molar has been busy" since being sold. "It participated in a number of charitable ventures" including a line of John Lennon DNA pendants and a documentary.

Maybe it's time to get the tooth its own agent.


Brotherhood head 'suffers heart attack' |

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Cairo: Mohammad Badie, the top leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, suffered a heart attack while in jail, the state run Al Ahram newspaper said on Saturday.

State-run news agency MENA denied a report by the private Al Nahar website, citing security sources, that Badie had died.

Many of the Brotherhood's leaders were imprisoned in recent weeks in the toughest crackdown the group has faced.


Dutch Migration Fears Mirror Sentiments Across Europe : Parallels : NPR

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A chocolate cake is shaped like Europe, with new EU members Romania and Bulgaria (far right), at a welcoming ceremony for their entry into the bloc on Dec. 14, 2006. Curbs on the movement of citizens of the two countries end on Jan. 1, raising fears in Western Europe of an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian workers.

Thierry Charlier/APA chocolate cake is shaped like Europe, with new EU members Romania and Bulgaria (far right), at a welcoming ceremony for their entry into the bloc on Dec. 14, 2006. Curbs on the movement of citizens of the two countries end on Jan. 1, raising fears in Western Europe of an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian workers.

Thierry Charlier/APThe Netherlands is a famously tolerant and welcoming place. But the Dutch social affairs minister says he's worried about too many immigrants coming from Bulgaria and Romania, and he's tapped into wider fears in the European Union about foreign workers.

"In the Netherlands, an 'orange alert' is issued when the country's rivers rise to alarming levels," Lodewijk Asscher, a center-left politician, wrote in the Independent with David Goodhart, the founder of Demos, a British think tank. "The time has come to issue another kind of orange alert '-- one that warns about some of the negative consequences of the free movement of workers within the European Union."

The debate comes as the Netherlands is still struggling to recover from the global economic crisis.

The last labor restrictions across the EU will be lifted on Jan. 1, and that means workers from Bulgaria and Romania, like those in other EU countries, will be able to seek work freely. The bloc's older members fear an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian workers will depress wages.

The Financial Times notes, "The numbers of eastern Europeans in the Netherlands have indeed grown rapidly since EU expansion. Since 2005, the official Polish-born population in this country of 17 million has more than doubled to 110,000, while the Bulgarian and Romanian communities have quadrupled to a combined 30,000." The paper adds that unofficial residents may add another 50 percent to those numbers.

The Netherlands isn't alone in its fears of foreign workers. Here's a look at the debate in other EU countries and beyond:


U.K. fears of an influx from the two countries prompted the government to consider launching a negative ad campaign in Bulgaria and Romania. Its aim, the Guardian reported: "Please don't come to Britain '-- it rains and the jobs are scarce and low-paid."

Some of those fears come from the migration into Britain since the last EU expansion in 2004 and from Asian and African countries. Figures released Thursday showed that though the number entering Britain dropped from last year, the number was still close to half a million.

The prospect of cheap labor flooding the U.K., which has emerged unsteadily from the recession, has led to headlines like: "100 Romanians and Bulgarians take a job in Britain every day, official figures show."

Estimates of just how many Bulgarians and Romanians will come to Britain range from as few as 20,000 to as many as 50,000.


During the last EU expansion, France feared an influx of "Polish plumbers" who would depress wages. Immigration '-- especially from North Africa '-- continues to dominate French politics.

In a recent report, the France 24 television channel said that Interior Minister Manuel Valls had "sowed discord" with controversial comments about the country's immigration policy and its large Muslim population.

"During a closed-door ministerial meeting on Monday, Valls, who is in charge of French police, suggested that in 10 years France's immigration system would need fundamental reforms to tackle the influx of foreigners, especially from Africa.

"In particular, he questioned whether the country would be able to maintain its policy of regrouping family members of immigrants who obtain legal residency.

"Later in the meeting, he was quoted as saying it would be up to France to prove that Islam was compatible with democracy."

Despite those comments, the government introduced new steps this week to make French citizenship more accessible.


Europe's largest economy survived the continent's recession with relatively little damage, but has failed to attract skilled labor from other countries. Here's more from German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle:

"Christina Ramb from Germany's Federal Employers' Federation (BDA) estimates that Germany will lack 4 million skilled workers by 2030. There is already a shortage of doctors and care workers for the elderly as well as engineers and IT specialists."

With southern Europe's economies roiled by the recession, many Spaniards and Greeks looked to Germany for jobs. The Washington Post reported late in 2012 about the lives of some of these new migrants:

"Many ordinary Germans view their new neighbors with caution. A recent local television show about some of the Spanish engineers was called Dr. Guest Worker, a reference to a 1960s program that brought Turkish manual laborers to Germany without granting citizenship to them or their children. The Turkish workers never returned home, but many Germans never welcomed them, creating an underclass with fewer rights and fostering resentments that persist to this day."

Germany has for years had an uneasy relationship with its Turkish minority. Two years ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in on the controversy, saying that Germany's attempts to create a multicultural society had "utterly failed."

Dienstplicht | Krijgsmacht |

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 01:50

De Nederlandse krijgsmacht bestaat tegenwoordig uit beroepspersoneel. Toch geldt in Nederland nog steeds de dienstplicht.

Alleen opkomstplicht uitgesteldAlleen de opkomstplicht is voor onbepaalde tijd uitgesteld. Daarom roept Defensie dienstplichtige mannen tussen de 17 en 45 jaar niet meer op. Zij ontvangen op 17-jarige leeftijd wel een brief waarin staat dat ze zijn ingeschreven voor de dienstplicht. Deze geldt weer als Nederland in oorlog is met een ander land.

Sinds 1 augustus 1996 worden geen nieuwe dienstplichtigen meer opgeroepen. De opkomstplicht werd op 1 mei 1997 om verschillende redenen uitgesteld:

Na de van de Berlijnse muur in 1989 zijn er geen spanningen meer tussen Oost- en West-Europa. Kritiek vanuit de Nederlandse samenleving op de ongelijkheid tussen dienstplichtigen en mannen die niet in dienst hoeven. Door haar nieuwe taak (vredesoperaties leiden), heeft de Nederlandse krijgsmacht behoefte aan minder, flexibeler en sneller uit te zenden personeel. Daarom heeft Nederland nu een beroepsleger.Dubbele nationaliteitMannen tussen de 17 en 45 jaar met een dubbele nationaliteit zijn soms wel dienstplichtig in hun land van herkomst. Zij kunnen in hun land van herkomst vragen of ze verplicht zijn om daar hun dienstplicht te vervullen. Of vragen of zij deze dienstplicht kunnen afkopen, zoals in Turkije het geval is. Hiervoor kunnen zij contact opnemen met de ambassade of het consulaat van het land waar zij of hun (groot)ouders vandaan komen.


War on Weed

U.S. allows states to legalize recreational marijuana within limits - Yahoo! News

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HomeMailNewsSportsFinanceWeatherGamesGroupsAnswersFlickrMoreomg!ShineMoviesMusicTVHealthShoppingTravelAutosHomesMobileYahoo! NewsSearch NewsSearch WebSign InMailHelpAccount InfoHelpSuggestionsYahoo!HomeU.S.WorldPoliticsTechScienceHealthOdd NewsOpinionLocalDear AbbyComicsABC NewsY! News Originals

USDOJ: Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 02:28

Office of Public Affairs


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.

In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize. These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department's efforts in this area.

Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.

For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department's guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize'--either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one'--federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.

A copy of the memorandum, sent to all United States Attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, is available below.


Massive Yosemite blaze may have been sparked by illegal marijuana growers | Fox News

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 04:31

Published August 31, 2013


The massive forest fire that has scorched 333 square miles in and around Yosemite National Park may have been sparked by illegal marijuana growers, according to one fire official in Tuolumne County.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that Todd McNeal, chief of the Twain Harte Fire Department, told a community meeting that it was "highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing."

McNeal, who has 23 years of experience with Forest Service, the National Park Service and other agencies, said at the Aug. 23 meeting that investigators know the fire is human caused since there was know lightening in the area.

The fire started Aug. 17 and its exact cause remains under investigation. It is expected to keep burning long after it is fully contained, and recovery will be extensive. Some 7,000 damaged trees next to power lines will need to be removed by utility crews and 800 guardrail posts will need to be replaced on Route 120, a fire fact sheet said.

Nearly a third of the blaze was contained Friday and some small communities in the mountainous area were no longer under evacuation advisories, but smoke descending down into San Joaquin Valley cities was becoming a problem.

In a sign of progress, a few dozen firefighters were released and more could be sent home in coming days, said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 4,800 firefighters remained on the scene late Friday.

"We continue to gain the upper hand, but there's still a lot of work to be done," Berlant said.

The 2-week-old blaze burning in the Sierra Nevada northeast of Fresno has grown to become the largest U.S. wildfire to date this year and the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California records. Containment was estimated at 35 percent.

Winds had been blowing dense smoke plumes northeast into the Lake Tahoe area and Nevada but a shift Friday brought them west down to the San Joaquin Valley floor.

Regional air pollution control authorities issued a health caution for San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno and Tulare counties. Residents who see or smell smoke were urged to stay inside, especially people with heart of lung problems, older adults and children.

Evacuation advisories were lifted Thursday in Tuolumne City, Soulsbyville and Willow Springs but remained in place for other communities, and evacuations were still mandatory along the fire's southeastern edge.

About 75 square miles of the fire are inside Yosemite but at some distance from the national park's major attractions, including glacially carved Yosemite Valley's granite monoliths and towering waterfalls.

Park officials expect about 3,000 cars a day to pass through gates during the long Labor Day holiday weekend instead of the nearly 5,000 that might typically show. The fire has caused some people to cancel reservations in the park but those vacancies have been quickly filled, officials said.

"Valley campgrounds are still full and skies in Yosemite Valley are crystal clear," said park spokeswoman Kari Cobb.

A 4-mile stretch of State Route 120, one of three western entrances into Yosemite, remained closed, hurting tourism-dependent businesses in communities along the route.

Costs reached $47 million, including firefighters from 41 states and the District of Columbia and significant aviation resources including helicopters, a DC-10 jumbo jet and military aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne FireFighting System. Aircraft have dropped 1.7 million gallons of retardant and 1.4 million gallons of water.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from The San Jose Mercury News.


Adam's Email

1.9x speed listening

From: Anders

Subject: Opera and playback speed

The Opera desktop browser has an optional turbo mode that hits their

server and for mobile they have two different browsers and only one of

them uses their server. The bad news is that their browser is now just

a Chrome copy, they ditched their own engine and are now using webkit

and a new shitty UI.

I listen to all podcasts at 1.9 speed, Windows Media Player does a

really good job at speeding up and you don't sound like smurfs or

anything. I listen in bed with headphones and I'm sure I catch every

word so I don't see how this is a bad thing. I used to listen to a lot

of podcasts so it was basically to save time. I no longer listen to

any of the TWIT stuff and I'm down to just two podcasts but I still

listen at high speed...


New: No BuyBack Policy! FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence | The White House

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Thu, 29 Aug 2013 14:31

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

August 29, 2013

Today, the Obama administration announced two new common-sense executive actions to keep the most dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands and ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities. These executive actions build on the 23 executive actions that the Vice President recommended as part of the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan and the President unveiled on January 16, 2013.

Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence.

Building on the 23 Executive Actions the President and Vice President Unveiled Last January

Last December, the President asked the Vice President to develop a series of recommendations to reduce gun violence. On January 16, 2013, they released these proposals, including 23 executive actions. With the first Senate confirmation of an ATF Director on July 31, 2013, the Administration has completed or made significant progress on 22 of the 23 executive actions. The new executive actions unveiled today build on this successful effort. Closing a Loophole to Keep Some of the Most Dangerous Guns Out of the Wrong Hands

Current law places special restrictions on many of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. These weapons must be registered, and in order to lawfully possess them, a prospective buyer must undergo a fingerprint-based background check. However, felons, domestic abusers, and others prohibited from having guns can easily evade the required background check and gain access to machine guns or other particularly dangerous weapons by registering the weapon to a trust or corporation. At present, when the weapon is registered to a trust or corporation, no background check is run. ATF reports that last year alone, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations.Today, ATF is issuing a new proposed regulation to close this loophole. The proposed rule requires individuals associated with trusts or corporations that acquire these types of weapons to undergo background checks, just as these individuals would if the weapons were registered to them individually. By closing this loophole, the regulation will ensure that machine guns and other particularly dangerous weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.Keeping Surplus Military Weapons Off Our Streets

When the United States provides military firearms to its allies, either as direct commercial sales or through the foreign military sales or military assistance programs, those firearms may not be imported back into the United States without U.S. government approval. Since 2005, the U.S. Government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 of these firearms.Today, the Administration is announcing a new policy of denying requests to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States to private entities, with only a few exceptions such as for museums. This new policy will help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.


After NYT Outage, Rival WSJ Takes Down Paywall | Fox Business

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Sat, 31 Aug 2013 09:06

Following what sources told FOX Business was a cyber attack at The New York Times (NYT), rival newspaper The Wall Street Journal said it would take down its paywall for two hours Wednesday afternoon.

Parent company Dow Jones said on its Twitter account that it was making the Journal's website,, available for free.

''Bonus lunchtime reading: is free to everyone for the next two hours,'' Dow Jones said on Twitter at around 1:15 p.m. ET.

When asked if The Grey Lady's outage spurred the move, a Dow Jones spokesperson said the website was made available for free because of the developments in Egypt, where a state of emergency was declared amid violent protests.

Dow Jones is a unit of former FOX Business parent News Corp. (NWSA), which recently spun off its television and film assets into 21st Century Fox (FOXA).

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Children's host charged in British sex inquiry -

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 02:23

By CNN Staff

updated 9:27 PM EDT, Thu August 29, 2013

Rolf Harris performs on stage during the final day of the Womad Festival on July 25, 2010 in Wiltshire, England.


Rolf Harris faces 13 counts, some of which date to 1980He hosted children's and painting shows in Australia and BritainCharges were part of investigation into another entertainer, Jimmy Savile(CNN) -- British authorities have charged a veteran children's television host with more than a dozen counts of child abuse stemming from an ongoing investigation into another TV personality.

Australian-born Rolf Harris was charged with nine counts of indecent assault dating to 1980, the Crown Prosecution Service announced Thursday. Another four counts accuse Harris of making indecent images of children in 2012, when he was first questioned by police.

Harris, now 83, hosted children's shows and a painting program on Australian and British networks and painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for the monarch's 80th birthday in 2005. He was arrested as part of the long-running Operation Yewtree, the investigation set up after a documentary leveled allegations of sexual abuse against now-deceased "Top of the Pops" and "Jim'll Fix It" host Jimmy Savile.

"Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr. Harris to be charged with nine counts of indecent assault and four of making indecent images of a child," Alison Saunders, chief prosecutor for London, said in a statement announcing the charges. "The alleged indecent assaults date from 1980 to 1986 and relate to two complainants aged 14 and 15 at the time of the alleged offending."

Harris had been released on bail after his initial arrest in March. He's scheduled to appear in court on the charges September 23, prosecutors said.

Operation Yewtree was launched after an ITV documentary in October led to a flood of allegations against Savile, who had been seen as an eccentric but charismatic man who raised millions of pounds for charity. The claims stretched from 1955 to 2009.

Savile died in 2011 at age 84.


Update on Fukushima water leaks '' unrepresentative sample used to support fear mongering

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Source: Atomic Insights

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:09

After posting Fear mongering over WATER leaks at Fukushima Dai-ichi a number of people challenged the concentration numbers I used in the supporting calculations. This August 23, 2013 Tepco press release contains numbers that roughly correspond to those I used, so I pressed the challengers for a source.

They pointed me to a Tepco handout dated August 19, 2013 which contains a table of measurements that are vastly different from the ones that were reported in the press release that I cited. The line labeled as ''leakage water'' includes numbers that are also vastly different from the huge number of similar measurement tables that Tepco has published on their web site.

This handout gave me pause and made me wonder if I had made a serious error in trying to calm people down. If the numbers from that handout are correct and representative, they show there is something to worry about, at least in the local area.

I turned to my friends to try to help sort out the problem. Some advised sticking with the highest measured numbers in order to bound the problem and prove to people frighted about nuclear energy and radioactivity that nuclear professionals are not taking their concerns lightly. That course of action does not appeal to me.

It is not constructive. It just reinforces fear; it does not reflect reality. Radioactive material is finite; it cannot be spread or diluted without becoming less and less concentrated. It is wrong to take the highest reading you can find and then mathematically assume that it is a representative sample. I kept digging and eventually figured out that the numbers that people were using to frighten others were from an isolated sample that was not representative of anything.

Here is an extract from the comment thread on the original post that deserves to be read by more people.

@RodHere is a link to the original press release from Tepco.

From the link;''In addition, it is as follows: nuclide analysis results of water analyzed so far.

ã4.6 — 10^1 Bq/cm3: 134 cesiumãcesium 137: 1.0 — 10^2 Bq/cm3ã131: less than detection limit (detection limit : 3.1 — 10^0 Bq/cm3)ãCobalt 60: 1.2 — 10^0 Bq/cm3ãmanganese 54: 1.9 — 10^0 Bq/cm3ãantimony 125:7.1 — 10^1 Bq/cm3ãall beta: 8.0 — 10^4 Bq/cm3ãchlorine Concentration: 5200 ppm''

Doesn't appear from these numbers that there is a unit conversion issue, and this is the Tepco press release, so I would agree that the level of scrutiny and fact checking is much higher than numbers buried in a table on page 5.

When converted to Bq/l, the all beta count is equal to 80 million Bq/l. This is the same number reported by the media.

The cesium 137 number seen here when converted to Bq/l is equal to 100,000 Bq/l. This is ten thousand times the legal drinking water limit for Cesium 137 in drinking water. I confirmed this from the Health Canada website on the Guidelines for safe drinking water and the level for artificial radionuclides was listed at 10Bq/l.

80 million Bq/l means there are 80 million clicks per second on a geiger counter.Converted to counts per minute this water is registering;

80 million counts per second x 60 seconds = 4.8 billion counts per minute.

4.8 billion counts per minute.This is a staggering amount of radiation.

(Note the use of nonstandard units like ''counts per minute'' and the purposeful selection of numbers that sound as scary as possible to go along with the selection of ''staggering'' as an adjective.)

Update: (Posted August 30, 2013 at 0712) Soon after posting, a commenter pointed out that Tepco announced that the sample results on the handout dated August 19 and quoted in the above comment had been incorrect because they were measured after a considerable amount of evaporation had occurred, thus concentrating the sample. See Leak from Fukushima tank for more details. End Update.

A reader who posts as CW responded:

This measurement was taken from a pool of water .1 cubic meters in volume on the ground, and appears to be anomalous compared to all other water readings at the site. Until confirmed with other readings from the tank it's very possible these readings come from cross-contamination from another area of the site, possibly tracked in on a worker' s boot.

Here is my response:


Based on the voluminous number of readings from all other locations, I believe that the particular sample described in that single press release is highly unrepresentative of the average content of the tanks. Tepco is a company that has experienced more than two years worth of focused demonization from both enemies and ''friends'' about its ''lack of transparency.'' It has decided to take a ''worst case scenario'' approach and treat the sample as if it actually says something about the potential magnitude of the radioactive material that might be released.

I believe that the particular small puddle probably was contaminated. I do not have full details needed to make a complete diagnosis from 12,000 miles away, but my experience with holding tanks is that they often develop a sludge at the bottom as particulate material settles out of the water column.

Similar scary reports have happened as a result of fish sampling. A small fish (29 cm long) that is a known bottom feeder showed up with what looked like a very high concentration of radioactive material that, when scaled to a tuna weighing a couple hundred kilograms, showed a very frightening possible release.

No other fish have been found with that kind of concentration. I suspect that the small fish ate material that happened to contain a physically tiny, but quite radioactive, bit of cesium. After all, a single milligram of cesium-137 contains about 3E9 (3 billion) Bq of radioactivity. The quantity of cesium required to produce a concentration of 254,000 Bq per kg in a 2 kg fish is just 0.0002 milligrams. It would most likely be undetectable without magnification on a physical basis, but it sure is easy to find with a radiation detector.

Hot particles exist; the material released from Fukushima Dai-ichi is not uniformly spread over all of the places that it could have reached. There are a finite number of particles, however, an a finite probability (very small) of encountering enough of them to cause any harm.

It is quite unproductive, unless your goal is to frighten people about nuclear energy, to pretend that the single measurement means there is a risk worth worrying about.

That small accumulation of water, described as 0.1 cubic meter in volume, was also the place where a radiation meter located about 50 cm above the water read 100 mSv/hour (beta + gamma) but just 1.5 mSv/hour gamma. A sheet of paper or a meter or two of distance would be sufficient shielding to protect a person from nearly all of the radiation from that pool. Since most human beings are not likely to drink from a puddle of water on the ground, no one would be likely to ingest the material that was causing the high radiation readings.

It is the height of absurdity to make believe that a 0.1 cubic meter puddle on an industrial clean up site is something people who live in the United States should worry about. Heck, no one anywhere should worry that the material is going to harm them.

As someone who has handled a spill or two in my career, many containing far more dangerous materials than reported to have been in this puddle, I would guess that the cleanup was pretty simple.

Of course, since it was done by nuclear professionals, it is possible that it took many hours and cost tens of thousands of dollars. As Galen Winsor told the world many years ago, certain types of people in the nuclear business have turned revenue-increasing ''feather bedding'' practices into an extreme art form. (Feather bedding is also known as paycheck protection, but the practice is onerous when conducted by contracting companies that collect billions in revenue for doing tasks using 2-100 times as many hours as needed.)

Additional ReadingFukushima contaminated water, some calculation

New Radiation Leak in Japan No Threat to U.S.

Radioactive Ocean Plume From Fukushima Will Reach USA In 3 Years (But when it gets here, it will be exceedingly diffuse.)

What Does the Fukushima Leak Mean for America? (Nothing. It poses no danger to anyone, anywhere.)

PBS Need to Know '' The Nuclear Option. Damning with faint praise

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Source: Atomic Insights

Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:19

As a pronuclear advocate who majored in English as an undergraduate, I could not help but notice the frustratingly effective use of slanted language in the above video segment to damn nuclear energy with faint praise.

From the very pregnant pause after President Obama says ''if it's safe'.....'', to Dr. Lester's multiply negative statement saying that nuclear energy is useful, to the inflation of the waste issue right after being told that the input fuel quantity is tiny (a small input of fuel is what makes the size of the waste problem so manageable compared to the alternative of fossil fuel combustion), it is not hard to find examples of phrases that give nuclear a bad impression while seeming to be grudgingly favorable.

Maybe someday, I will have the resources to make a high quality segment that helps people to understand that gas is no where near as abundant as its boosters claim, that focusing on the capital cost of the electric power plant ignores the capital cost of the required fuel infrastructure, and that there are many reasons why the equipment used to convert fission heat to electricity has been forced far higher than the cost of equipment used to convert combustion heat to electricity.

Until then, I will just have to watch segments like this and fume that if Dr. Lester is one of America's leading pronuclear advocates, it is no wonder why the promised nuclear renaissance is sputtering.


Exclusive: Tony Scott doesnt want a remake or reinvention for Top Gun 2

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Tom Cruise is Maverick in Tony Scott's first blockbuster, "Top Gun."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

It's been almost 25 years since Tony Scott had his first blockbuster with "Top Gun," but the prolific action director is finally returning to the skies. Speaking to HitFix while promoting his new thriller "Unstoppable," Scott confirmed he's on board a sequel, tentatively titled "Top Gun 2," with producer Jerry Bruckheimer at Paramount Pictures.

It's still unclear whether Tom Cruise will return to reprise his iconic role as Maverick, but with the Cold War long over, Scott is ready to do his script on what happened to the heroic fighter pilots in the decades since.

"I'm not waiting for a script. I'm going to do my homework. I'm going down to I think it's Fallon, Nevada, down near New Mexico and it's a whole different world now," Scott says. "These computer geeks -- these kids play war games in a trailer in Fallon, Nevada and if we ever went to war or were in the Middle East or the Far East or wherever it is, these guys can actually fly drones. They are unmanned aircraft. They operate them and then they party all night."

Scott didn't generate the idea for a "Top Gun" sequel, but it sounds like a personal experience piqued his interest about making a film about the modern day Air Force.

He recalls, "It was funny, because I was on a plane actually coming back from Vegas, rock climbing in Red Rock, and the guy sitting next to me was all hung over. He must have been in his late 20's and he was one of these kids. He said, 'I partied all night.' And I said, 'What do you do?' 'I work [with unmanned aircraft in] the Air Force.' But they operate these drones like it's war games, but it's for real."

According to Scott, "Top Gun 2" will partially examine the end of the era of fighter pilots. Scott notes, "These guys are still test pilots and they manned the drones when they were first running them." But, where is Maverick now? Scott wouldn't reveal that, but also confirmed this wouldn't be his next film, but possibly the one immediately after. So, a "Top Gun" sequel is still a few years away.

"This world fascinated me, because it's so different from what it was originally," Scott says. "But, I don't want to do a remake. I don't want to do a reinvention. I want to do a new movie."

Scott's next film, "Unstoppable" with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, opens nationwide on Nov. 11.

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3's on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.

Top Gun 2 - IMDb

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Production Notes from IMDbProStatus: Script | See complete list of in-production titles >>Comments: Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is still interested in making this sequel.Updated: 10 June 2013More Info: See more production information about this title on IMDbPro.EditDetailsCompany CreditsTechnical SpecsSee full technical specs >>


VIDEO-Rick Perry Leaves Trail Of Death: Politicians Who Deny Climate Change Get A Meteorological Shaming | Co.Create | creativity + culture + commerce

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If your name is Sandy, Katrina, Andrew, or Ivan, then you're probably not a fan of the World Meteorological Organization's policy of naming extreme storms after people. These individuals did nothing wrong and yet they must hear their names cursed for generations to come.

The organization 350 Action and agency Barton F. Graf 9000 are proposing a Climate Name Change--a new system of identifying storms by the names of climate change deniers. Now it's "Michelle Bachman" that's ravaging the Florida coast, "Rick Perry" that's led to the deaths of thousands of stranded animals, and John Boehner who has proved to be one of the costliest environmental disasters in American history. As the video below advises, you'd better sign the Climate Name Change petition ASAP "before John Boehner blows your entire city away."

Jennifer MillerJennifer Miller is the author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). She's a regular contributor to Co.Create. Continued

August 26, 2013 | 12:31 PM

VIDEO- Joe Biden Announces New Executive Orders On Gun Control Obama Will Soon Sign - YouTube

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VIDEO-CBS Trumpets 'Historic' Federal Marijuana Decision; Leaves Out Opponents | MRCTV

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If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

From the 30 August 2013 edition of CBS This Morning:

GAYLE KING: The Justice Department has announced historic new regulations giving states the power to regulate marijuana use.

As Bill Whitaker reports, the new rules roll back 75 years of federal policy.

BILL WHITAKER: The Department will no longer prosecute, as long as states follow eight strict guidelines.

BRIAN VICENTE, "SENSIBLE COLORADO": Shop owners in Colorado and the medical marijuana patients, and even just marijuana consumers can really sleep a little easier tonight.

GOV. JAY INSLEE, (D), WASHINGTON (from press conference): I think that this is a very carefully calibrated and very common-sense approach by the federal government.

WHITAKER: The Justice Department is not giving states free rein. It's just loosening the reins a bit.

TOM ANGELL, "MARIJUANA MAJORITY": In 2009, they released a similar memo saying that they would respect state medical marijuana laws. But unfortunately, since that time, the Obama administration has overseen the closure of more state legal medical marijuana businesses than were closed during two terms of the Bush administration.

WHITAKER: Still, supporters of legalization say this could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana.

VIDEO-President Obama on Syria - C-SPAN Video Library

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Prior to his meeting with the leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, President Obama and the leaders spoke about a report on the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013.

Prior to his meeting with the leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, President Obama and the leaders spoke about a report on the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013.

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VIDEO-President Obama's Decision on Syria | The White House

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Just now, President Obama laid out the case for a targeted military action against Syrian regime targets as a result of their use of chemical weapons that killed over one thousand people--including hundreds of children. The President also made clear that this would not be an open-ended intervention, and there will be no American troops on the ground.

While the President was clear on the need for action, he announced he would seek Congressional authorization for the use of force.

Watch the President's statement now in his own words or read a transcript of his remarks:

Watch on YouTube.

Caitlin Hayden is National Security Council Spokesperson

VIDEO- Seether Careless Whisper Official Music Video - YouTube

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VIDEO-John McCain: Great Britain 'No Longer a World Power' | MRCTV

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MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit

Copyright (C) 2013, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Original Subliminal National Anthem (1960s TV Station Sign-Off) - YouTube

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VIDEO- Hillary Clinton: USA created Al Qaeda - YouTube

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 13:50 - "Insurgents in Syria take responsibility for chemical weapons attack"

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In Syria, the foreign-backed insurgents have taken responsibility for last week's chemical attack which the U-S and its allies are blaming on the Syrian government. Militants in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta admitted to Dale Gavlak - a freelance AP journalist who broke the story for Mint Press News-- that they received the chemical weapons from Saudi Arabia.

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VIDEO-California weighs making 'revenge porn' illegal -

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California debates a law that would make posting what's known as "revenge porn" illegalNew Jersey is the only state with a similar lawDistributing photos taken with permission falls into a gray legal area(CNN) -- In the aftermath of a failed relationship, jilted lovers have been known to lash out by posting sexually explicit photos or videos of their exes online.

Called "revenge porn," or the less-salacious "cyber revenge," the trend has been around for years, spawning entire websites that profit off these images. But now, state laws could make this illegal.

Opinion: 'Revenge porn' should be a crime

This week, the California Legislature is debating a new bill that would make it a misdemeanor for people to distribute sexually explicit photos or videos they'd shot in order to cause others humiliation or distress. It has already passed the state Senate.

A similar bill was under consideration in Florida this year that would have made the act a felony, but it failed to muster the votes to become law. New Jersey is the only state that already has such a law on the books.

Advocate Holly Jacobs, a graduate student in Florida, began pushing for stronger laws after naked photos and videos of her were posted online that she had shared with an ex-boyfriend while they were together. The images went viral and were re-posted on hundreds of websites, along with identifying details such as her name, e-mail address and employer.

Jacobs suspects her ex was responsible, although she told CNN that he has denied any involvement. She spent years fighting to get the images removed from various websites.

Agray area

The reason it was so difficult is that these acts of vengeance frequently fall into a gray legal area.

In California, very few variations of revenge are already covered under state law. If a subject is under 18, such an act is covered by child pornography laws. It's already illegal to shoot a video or photograph secretly of someone without permission anywhere there's a reasonable expectation of privacy -- in a bedroom or a store dressing room, for example, but not in a public park or on the street.

However, these laws don't apply in most "revenge porn" situations, where the injured party gave permission to be photographed or videotaped during happier times.

There are cyberstalking statutes, but they require a pattern of behavior (multiple offenses) and implied threats that make the victim fear for his or her safety. Uploading a single nude photo to embarrass an ex wouldn't apply.

As a final recourse, the man or woman shown in an explicit video could pursue a civil case against their ex or the sites hosting the images, but those cases can be costly and difficult to win.

The California bill, Senate Bill 255, targets anyone who photographs or records a sexual image with consent and then "subsequently distributes the image taken, with the intent to cause serious emotional distress, and the other person suffers serious emotional distress."

Under the new law, distributing these types of videos and photos would become a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for first violation. A second offense could result in a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The perpetrator would not become a registered sex offender.

"This is a very precisely drafted and narrowly drafted bill," said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.

Legal pitfalls

The California bill is so narrow, in fact, that it doesn't cover one of the more common revenge-porn situations: images originally shared through sexting. The law only applies when someone is the both the person who shoots the original image and the one who distributes it. If someone takes a photo of himself or herself, texts it to a girlfriend or boyfriend, and then the recipient later posts it, that act wouldn't be considered a crime under this legislation.

Critics such as the American Civil Liberties Union have also expressed concerns about the bill, arguing such a law could have a negative impact on free speech.

"It's possible in extremely unusual situations that this kind of speech might have serious value -- you can imagine a political context or a video that reveals something criminal," Volokh said.

There are other potential holes, such as when images are distributed for bragging rights or money instead of revenge.

"It does require intent to cause serious emotional distress," Volokh said of the bill. "In certain situations, the reason people distribute this material is for money."

Once an image is online it can spread quickly. The bitter ex could be charged with a crime, but getting websites to take down the image would still be a separate battle. The hope is that making distributing the images a crime will deter people from pursuing this type of revenge in the first place.

VIDEO-Syria's first lady draws Marie Antoinette comparisons -

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 05:10

On the showEun Kyung KimTODAY

Aug. 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM ET

The wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been noted for her sense of style and charitable efforts. But as her husband continues to reject claims he gassed his countrymen with poison, Asma al-Assad has drawn controversy of her own.

Syria's British-born first lady is featured in a series of smiling snapshots posted recently on the Syrian presidency's Instagram account meeting children, the less fortunate and doing charity work, specifically with refugees arguably displaced by her husband's political actions.

The photos are being viewed by skeptics as a charm offensive launched by the al-Assad regime as Syria spirals further into civil war and the United States and its allies weigh military action against Damascus for reportedly using chemical weapons against its civilians.

Investigators for the United Nations have been in Syria this week investigating the attacks.

In nearly a dozen photos posted on Aug. 4 alone, Asma al-Assad is pictured with volunteers preparing and serving food to refugees. The Huffington Post noted that the first lady wears a $129 Jawbone UP on her wrist, a bracelet-like activity tracker that monitors her movement, calories burned and what meals she eats.

Another photograph posted a week later shows her outdoors, smiling and sitting cross-legged on the ground, among a group of somber children. Other pictures show her with families, meeting hospital patients and being warmly received by citizens.

While the photos have drawn positive comments from sympathizers, they also have attracted their share of critics who have described al-Assad as a ''monster.''

''Seriously, u make Marie Antoinette look like an angel compared to you!'' wrote one Instagram user.

Although largely silent since her husband has been accused of egregious war crimes, al-Assad already was under the public microscope after Vogue magazine published a glowing profile of her in February 2011. The article, ''A Rose In the Desert,'' portrayed al-Assad as ''glamorous, young and very chic '-- the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies."

But just weeks later, news broke of escalating violence in Syria and critics questioned the subjective tone of the article. The magazine has since pulled the article, which can no longer be found on its website.

Joan Juliet Buck, who wrote the piece, was not available for comment to NBC, but last year she expressed her regrets about the article in an interview with The Daily Beast.

''The message Asma al-Assad gave me everyday for a week was how much she cared about the children of Syria and how she wanted to empower them,'' she said. ''I had serious misgivings.''

Al-Assad, 38, was born in London to Syrian-born, Sunni Muslim parents, a cardiologist father and his diplomat wife. She grew up speaking Arabic and spending family holidays in Syria.

She graduated from King's College in London with a computer science degree and went to work at J.P. Morgan. She met her husband while he was studying ophthalmology in England. The couple have three children.

Last year, al-Assad caught flak for taking a pricey online shopping spree. Emails published by the British newspaper the Guardian revealed she purchased thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, furniture and a vase from Harrods, all while using an alias, the paper reported.

Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said al-Assad was initially viewed as ''the more reasonable, the kinder, gentler face of a brutal regime.''

''I think at first she was very well liked," he told TODAY's Erica Hill. "But over time as the regime's behavior got worse, she was seen as someone who had thrown her lot in with President Assad."

VIDEO-Kevin Rudd - YouTube

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 03:19

Iran Spokeswoman Proclaims Opposition to West Intervening in Syria | World | RIA Novosti

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Sun, 01 Sep 2013 13:57

TEHRAN, September 1 (RIA Novosti) '' The first-ever female spokesperson for the Islamic republic's foreign ministry proclaimed in her inauguration speech on Sunday that Iran was opposed to any military intervention by a Western nation in the Syrian civil war.

Marzieh Afkham, who served the ministry for nearly 30 years before being appointed official spokeswoman on Thursday, called for the parties in the Syrian conflict to engage in dialogue to find a political solution and said Iran did ''not intend to make any hasty judgments about the current situation.''

''We have stated numerous times that we oppose any kind of [military invention] in the region because it could entail serious repercussions; the region is volatile enough. Such [intervention] could lead to a new crisis,'' Afkham said at the ceremony in Tehran.

US President Barack Obama said Saturday that his country was considering an attack on Syria that would be ''limited in duration and scope.''

A day before, the United States released a report saying that Syria's government was responsible for a chemical attack that purportedly killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb late last month, an alleged violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 on refraining from the use of such weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that allegations about the Syrian government using chemical weapons against civilians were a ''provocation.''

''I am sure this was no more than a provocation by those looking to drag other countries [into the conflict],'' Putin said on an official visit to Vladivostok.

''If they say that [Syrian] government forces used weapons of mass destruction '... and that they have proof of it, let them present it to the [UN] Security Council,'' Putin said, referring to the United States.

VIDEO-Statement on Syria

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Fri, 30 Aug 2013 21:22

President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria. And last night, the President asked all of us on his national security team to consult with the leaders of Congress as well, including the leadership of the Congressional national security committees. And he asked us to consult about what we know regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week. I will tell you that as someone who has spent nearly three decades in the United States Congress, I know that that consultation is the right way for a president to approach a decision of when and how and if to use military force. And it's important to ask the tough questions and get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterwards.And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That's our responsibility, to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the Administration and the Congress with the responsibility for their security. That's why this morning's release of our government's unclassified estimate of what took place in Syria is so important. Its findings are as clear as they are compelling. I'm not asking you to take my word for it. Read for yourself, everyone, those listening. All of you, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available, and read for yourselves the verdict reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st.

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack, and I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves. But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know we can't talk about publicly.

So what do we really know that we can talk about? Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year and has used them on a smaller scale, but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday's attack happened. We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn't succeeded in doing so.

We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime's chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that these were specific instructions. We know where the rockets were launched from and at what time. We know where they landed and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.

And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness and death.

And we know it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors. And just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn't report '' not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot wound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood. Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad's gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.

The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Even the first responders, the doctors, nurses, and medics who tried to save them, they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger.

This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.

We also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact, and actually was afraid that they would be discovered. We know this.

And we know what they did next. I personally called the Foreign Minister of Syria and I said to him, ''If, as you say, your nation has nothing to hide, then let the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story.'' Instead, for four days they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombarding block after block at a rate four times higher than they had over the previous 10 days. And when the UN inspectors finally gained access, that access, as we now know, was restricted and controlled.

In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know, all of them, the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.

So the primary question is really no longer: What do we know? The question is: What are we '' we collectively '' what are we in the world going to do about it?

As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference, and especially against silence when it mattered most. Our choices then in history had great consequences and our choice today has great consequences. It matters that nearly a hundred years ago, in direct response to the utter horror and inhumanity of World War I, that the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again.

That was the world's resolve then, and that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear redline for the international community. It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. That's why we signed agreements like the START Treaty, the New START Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which more than 180 countries, including Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, have signed on to.

It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to our close friends Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon '' all of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus. It matters to all of them where the Syrian chemical weapons are. And if unchecked, they can cause even greater death and destruction to those friends. And it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies.

It matters because a lot of other countries, whose polices challenges these international norms, are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say. It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it, because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.

And make no mistake, in an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do or not do matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things, but we need to ask, what is the risk of doing nothing?

It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.

This matters also beyond the limits of Syria's borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened, in the absence of action, to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons' current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?

So our concern is not just about some far off land oceans away. That's not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world. It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations. This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us. And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world. My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.

America should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation, and we are not alone in our will to do something about it and to act. The world is speaking out, and many friends stand ready to respond. The Arab League pledged, quote, ''to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime.'' The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, ''to hold the Syrian Government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime.'' Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, ''committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.'' The Australian Prime Minister said he didn't want history to record that we were, quote, ''a party to turning such a blind eye.''

So now that we know what we know, the question we must all be asking is: What will we do? Let me emphasize '' President Obama, we in the United States, we believe in the United Nations. And we have great respect for the brave inspectors who endured regime gunfire and obstructions to their investigation. But as Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, has said again and again, the UN investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons. That is not the mandate of the UN investigation. They will only affirm whether such weapons were used. By the definition of their own mandate, the UN can't tell us anything that we haven't shared with you this afternoon or that we don't already know. And because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the UN Security Council, the UN cannot galvanize the world to act as it should.

So let me be clear. We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies, and most importantly, talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.

Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. These things we do know.

We also know that we have a President who does what he says that he will do. And he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in Syria, it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway. The President has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be a limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot's brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately, we are committed '' we remain committed, we believe it's the primary objective '' is to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table, and we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That's what the leaders of Congress now know. And that's what the American people need to know. And that is at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country and for the promise of a planet where the world's most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world's most vulnerable people.

Thank you very much.

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