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Category: Middle East (page 7 of 19)

News from the Middle East and around the Mediterranean.

WikiLeaks Reveals US Requests Al Jazeera Web Content Gets Nixed


A top-secret US cable from the US embassy in Doha, Qatar where the Aljazeera headquarter is, was published recently on Wikileaks. The cable revealed that Al Jazeera’s Managing Director Wadah Khanfar agreed to a US government request to delete web content that “disturbed” the US government.

The cable describes the meeting between US government officials with Wadah Khanfar. US government officials raised the question of an Al Jazeera website piece published listed under the heading

“”Special Coverage”, and containing “Live Testimony Concerning Tal Afar”. “The site opens to an image of bloody sheets of paper riddled with bullet holes. Viewers click on the bullet holes to access testimony from ten alleged “eye witnesses” who described recent military operations in Tal Afar.

Khanfar said that in accordance with a promise he made to the US government, he had two images removed (two injured children in hospital beds, and a woman with a serious facial injury.)
US government indicated “that the testimony of a “doctor” in the piece also implied that poison gas had been used on residents of Tal Afar and that the appearance of the piece, in particular the bloody bullet hole icons, came across as “inflammatory and journalistically questionable.”

According to the cable Khanfar said he had told the website staff that in future, when they want to add an item to the “Special Coverage” section of the website, they should send a draft of the idea to his office. The cable notes that The AJ website is located in another building across town. Khanfar added “I don’t say that such things are not going to be repeated on the website, but it is a learning process”. The cable says the meeting with Khanfar took place on 10/19/2005. He asked for fixing “the method of how we receive these reports” as he has had found one of them in the fax machine.

In the cable US officials told Khanfar that despite large decrease in “negative coverage” since February, the month of September showed an increase in such programming. Such problems according to the cables “still remain with double-sourcing in Iraq; identifying sources; use of inflammatory language; a failure to balance of extremist views; and the use of “terrorist” tapes. “Khanfar said there are still some mistakes “which we accept and address” but he maintains that the points are taken out of context noting that during the “AJ broadcasting day, a comment made or position taken by one person may be balanced with a different comment or position later in the same show or later on during the same day.”

As for using “terrorists tapes” Khanfar said “We have always said that we are going to use these tapes and we will continue to use them. The question is how. None of the tapes are used just like that,” the cable wrote: “meaning that they are reviewed for newsworthiness and are edited.”

Paid Riots in Egypt, Jewish News Station Launch & Palestinian Statehood on the way

After being evacuated amidst the recent violent protests, four Israeli diplomats and security personnel will be returning to Israel’s embassy in Cairo. The return comes amidst reports by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that the protesters were actually paid to attack the embassy.

The envoys will return to Cairo to a different building and work to retain the Jewish Country’s diplomatic presence in Egypt. The ambassadors left almost two weeks ago after Egyptian demonstrators stormed Israel’s embassy in Cairo, necessitating the emergency rescue of its staff by Egyptian commandos.

Egyptian protesters who were recently questioned by Egyptian security reportedly said that they were offered money to cause the riots. The riot and protest participants were bused to the area, then given dinner and envelopes containing money, according to al-Ahram.

Just Journalism and JN1
In other news, Just Journalism, the organization set up three years ago to monitor media coverage of Israel, is closing its doors. A statement announcing the closure on its website this afternoon told supporters: “Despite our extremely modest budget it has become increasingly difficult to financially sustain the operation in the current economic environment”.

Along with daily online briefings, Just Journalism published more detailed reports to expose “skewed” reporting of the Jewish Country.
Its advisory board includes MP Denis MacShane, political commentator Robin Shepherd, think-tank head Douglas Murray and the editor of Standpoint magazine Daniel Johnson.

Meanwhile, Ynet reports that the first-ever Jewish news network will commence broadcasting this week:

Jewish News 1 (JN1) was born as an alternative to the world’s leading news networks – CNN, Fox News and Sky News. But its main goal is to serve as the Jewish version of al-Jazeera, which has won the hearts of tens of millions of Arab viewers over the past 15 years.

According to the Makor Rishon newspaper, the channel will be broadcast via satellite to Europe, North America and the Middle East. In Israel it will be offered by the Yes satellite company.

“Jewish News 1” will broadcast news from Israel and the world 24/7. The network has already set up studios in Tel Aviv, Brussels and Kiev, and additional studios will be opened in Washington, Paris and London in the coming months.

The network has 12 correspondents, all foreigners, who are currently deployed in six countries. The casting of reporters to cover the news in Israel, Europe and Russia will be completed in the coming days.

The network will begin its broadcasts in English, but its managers seek to offer news in seven additional languages, including Hebrew, French, Italian, Russian and German.

“We’ll broadcast everything that is newsworthy,” says Alexander Zanzer, the channel’s editor-in-chief in Brussels, where the station is based. “Alongside general news, we’ll offer economic and cultural items, as well as a peek into educational projects. Everything you can see on other global news channels, you’ll be able to see on our channel as well.”

Palestinian Statehood on track…
In other news, Palestinian diplomats are planning to submit their application for statehood to the United Nations Security Council on Friday, even as world leaders are pressuring President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace negotiations with Israel as an alternative. The quartet of powers involved in brokering peace—that is the U.N., the European Union, U.S., and Russia—hope to set up a feasible timeline for new negotiations, alongside a pledge supporting Palestinian statehood should the negotiations fail. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Sunday, however,“Unfortunately, we didn’t get any solid or even medium-sized [offer] at all. As a result, yes, we are firm in our decision to go to the Security Council.”

al-Zahar vs. Mashaal: a rocky road for Hamas

The recent conflict between Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Gaza, and Damascus-based Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal demonstrates the animosity within the Hamas leadership in Gaza and Syria.

Al-Zahar demands that Hamas-Gaza be given a more authoritative role in decision-making, while the Hamas leadership abroad contends that the axis of power is better kept outside of Palestine-proper.

Since Israeli’s tragic 2005 Gaza disengagement, Hamas’ victory in the Israel-granted parliamentary elections of 2006, and Hamas’ military takeover of the region in June 2007, the Hamas government has secured notable political and economic power, as evidenced by foreign relations and has imposed taxes on imports from Israel and Egypt. The result is a deteriorated dependence of Hamas-Gaza on the Hamas leadership abroad.

Also, the consolidation of the Hamas regime in Gaza, where the central military forces of the al-Qassam Brigades are stationed, gradually has shifted the balance of power inside Hamas. Al-Zahar challenged Mashaal’s authority to lead the movement, arguing that the center of power should be moved from abroad to “inside” Palestine. After the creation of the

Palestinian Authority in1994, Fatah underwent a similar process.
The current main interest of Mashaal is to promote reconciliation with Fatah in order to pave the way for Hamas to join the PLO and take over the organization, however, such issues such as Hamas’ not backing the Abbas-led bid for statehood at the UN are prolonging the rift between the geopolitical Palestinian factions.

On May 17th, al-Zahar was asked by the Palestinian daily al-Quds for his reaction to Mashaal’s statement:

“The position of the [Hamas] movement regarding the negotiations and the resistance has not changed. We’re in favor of the way of resistance, and the way of negotiations was and still contradicts the position of the majority of the Palestinian people, who voted for Hamas in the 2006 general elections. Today, there is someone saying that we’re giving Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] the option to hold a new round of negotiations [with Israel]. We did not agree to the negotiations and we did not encourage him [Abbas] to hold negotiations. On the contrary, we embarrassed him day and night on this issue of negotiations. Therefore, what happened on the day in which the reconciliation agreement was signed was not agreed upon [within Hamas], we don’t recognize it and I think that it does not express the position of the movement, whose platform is based on resistance, not negotiations…. ”

…We did not agree to these statements and we were surprised when it was said. The world should know that there was no change in the position of the movement regarding resistance, as it is the only way. We can only negotiate issues within the framework of resistance.”

Palestinian Statehood Bid

The former Foreign Secretary of Britain, Jack Straw has called on MPs to back the Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood at the United Nations.

The British government has not yet confirmed whether it will support the bid if a vote goes ahead. The U.S. will not back the move. Straw wrote to every member of British Parliament urging them to help the Palestinian cause for statehood.

“It is vital that the UK and other European countries have the courage to point the way forward.” He added that the UN, World Bank, the EU and the IMF have all deemed the Palestinians “ready for statehood” and said: “We all understand the fears that Israelis have for their security, but it will not enhance their security to deny the right of self-determination permanently to the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the U.S. would not admit that homosexuality would not be tolerated in a Palestinian state. Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post, points out that the price for being gay in the Hamas-ruled
Gaza Strip is the death penalty:

The Hamas-controlled Gaza strip has declared homosexuality punishable by death. Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar has said, “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”

In an April broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Syrian academic Muhammad Rateb al- Nabulsi said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place, and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

But homosexuals aren’t all who are strongly unwelcome in the proposed Palestinian State. Ha’aretz reported:

The future independent Palestinian state will not include a Jewish minority, a top Palestinian official told USA Today on Wednesday, adding that it was in the best interest of both peoples to “be separated.”

Maen Areikat, PLO Ambassador to the United States, made the comment just as the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, was preparing to offer up Palestinian statehood to a vote in the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

The left-wing Israeli daily also reported that Hamas is not backing Abbas’ statehood bid. Further evidence that the PA and Hamas are not altogether reconciled:

The Islamist Hamas movement said Wednesday that President Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to approach the United Nations for recognition of Palestinian statehood was a “tactical” move, part of a negotiations process, and therefore could not be backed. The move was not based on principles and “Hamas and other factions are not part of this step and do not support it,” Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told a workshop in Gaza City.

Three Tales for Thursday

Beyond the Pale

According to a survey taken last month by Ben Gurion University pollsters, 60 percent of Israelis say they would be in favor of seeing NATO troops deployed in both the West Bank and Gaza. According to the “Israeli Positions on the European Union” survey, 64 percent of Israeli Jews and 63 percent of Israeli Arabs citizens are in favor of seeing peacekeeping forces, (aside from the United Nations) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Back in 2009, 54 percent of Israeli Jews and Arabs supported the idea.

In the poll that was compiled by Sharon Pardo of the Department of Politics and Government, 68 percent of Israelis are in favor of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Roughly 81 percent of Israelis want the Jewish Country to join the European Union (EU). These figures are up from 69 percent in 2009, and 43 percent would like to see Israel have better relations with the EU, this is in comparison with 20 percent who would like to see the Jewish Country get along better with the United Nations and just seven percent with NATO.

Paro says:

“the message is quite clear, Israelis are not for isolationism, they want cooperation…Israelis are really into strengthening and deepening the cooperation between Israel and the EU…Israelis understand the importance of the EU for the future of Israel and they want to strengthen the relations.”

The poll surveyed 1,000 Israelis from all different walks of life in mid-June and had a 3.3 percent margin of error…

Iran to build nuclear war head?

On Monday, the head of the United Nations Nuclear Agency announced their plans to publish new information serving as supporting evidence that Iran could be working on a nuclear warhead.
The comments by International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Yukiya Amano were the first time he revealed plans to release some of the recent knowledge available to the IAEA that is causing concerns.

A Syrias Situation on the Jewish Country’s Border?

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has ordered his military chiefs to launch another operation on the Golan Heights.

DebkaFile reports:
Assad’s preparations entail three additional steps:

1. He has filled the vacant position of deputy chief of staff with Gen. Ali Ayub, commander of the 1st Formation made up of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th Divisions, deployed until now on the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon borders with Israel. Its personnel have been left out of Assad’s military campaign against the opposition until now.

2. Those divisions, made up mainly or Sunni conscripts, have begun pulling back from their positions on the Syrian-Israeli border and are heading north. For the first time, therefore, Assad feels he can safely send Sunni troops into battle against protesters and is not afraid to leave his borders undefended against an Israeli attack.

3. The Syrian president holds Erdogan responsible for authorizing the Turkish army and his National Intelligence Organization-MIT to set up a state-of-the-art command center for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood at Jabal al-Zawiya in the Syrian province of Idlib near the Turkey border. He believes it is working with a parallel command center on the Turkish side which directs the steps of Syrian protest tacticians against the Assad regime.

Why Egypt Is Not Interested In Peace

Remember this?

And this?

One article I found on the Internet – don’t know who it’s by – reads as follows:

“Hitler never had more than 37 percent of the popular vote in the honest elections that occurred before he became Chancellor. And the opposition among the 63 percent against him was generally quite strong. Hitler therefore would have never seen the light of day had the German Republic been truly democratic.”

The introduction to the thesis continues:

“Unfortunately, its otherwise sound constitution contained a few fatal flaws. The German leaders also had a weak devotion to democracy, and some were actively plotting to overthrow it. Hitler furthermore enjoyed an almost unbroken string of luck in coming to power. He benefited greatly from the Great Depression, the half-senility of the president, the incompetence of his opposition, and the appearance of an unnecessary backroom deal just as the Nazis were starting to lose popular appeal and votes.”

What will the new anti-Semitic, Koran guzzling psycho of Egypt hold in the cards for the future of the region? Will he be……Hitleresque?

Hear about this?

A bunch of “freedom seeking”, whip cracking, Pharoahites have taken the anti-Israel protests in Cairo once step further.

What began as vandalism of the Israeli embassy in Cairo last month when Hamas militants opened fire on an Egged bus close to the Sinai border with Eilat has quickly escalated. Anna Theresa Day of PolicyMic.com has a nice slideshow of last month’s situation. See it Associated Press reports:

“Outside the Nile-side Israeli embassy in Cairo’s neighborhood of Giza, thousands of protesters battled riot police and army troops into the early morning hours, hurling rocks at them. The police and army troops responded with tear and firing live ammunition into the air to try and disperse the crowd. Several cars, police vehicles and trees on the streets outside the embassy were set ablaze. The violence subsided by around 6 a.m.

The state MENA news agency said 837 people were injured in the overnight clashes, including at least 46 policemen, while 19 protesters were arrested.
Earlier on Friday, hundreds of protesters tore down the embassy’s security wall with sledgehammers and their bare hands. After nightfall about 30 protesters stormed into the embassy.
Just before midnight, the mob reached a room on one of the embassy’s lower floors at the top of the building and began dumping Hebrew-language documents from the windows, said an Egyptian security official.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli official said the protesters reached a waiting room on the lower floor. Israel’s ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and other embassy staff were rushed to Cairo airport and left on a military plane for Israel, said Egyptian airport officials.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information or speak to the media.
Since the February fall of Mubarak — who worked closely with the Israelis in his 29 years in power — ties have steadily worsened between the two countries.”

One Jerusalem bro, old Ethan Bronner and the New York Slimes’ Egypt bureau Chief, David Fitzpatreck reported:

Two Israeli military jets arrived around dawn to carry away the ambassador and about 85 other diplomats and family members. One Israeli diplomat, the deputy ambassador, stayed behind, taking refuge in the American embassy, diplomats familiar with the arrangements said.

For Israel, the embassy attack and evacuation represented the most ominous deterioration yet in its relationship with its neighbor in the seven months since the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, a strongman who suppressed the Egyptian public’s hostility to Israel in order keep his country’s alliance with Israel and the United States the pole star of its foreign policy.

The Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, who serves under the council of military officers acting as a transitional government, called an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday as the Egyptian interior ministry put police on alert to guard against more violence.

For Egypt’s interim military rulers, allowing the invasion of a foreign embassy is an extraordinary breach of Egypt’s international commitments that is raising security concerns at other embassies as well…

… The attack on the embassy marked a new turn toward violence in the previously peaceful protest movement that has flourished in Cairo’s Tahrir Square since the revolution. At a demonstration called Friday to reiterate a litany of liberal demands, thousands of hard-core football fans showed up looking for revenge on police who attacked some of them after a match earlier in the week, and they injected a new impulse toward mayhem into the day…

… As an angry mob stormed the embassy and tore down its flag for the second time in a month, Israel appealed to the United States for help. Coming a week after Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador over its refusal to apologize for a deadly raid on a Turkish ship, the attack left Israel facing crises in relations with its two most important regional allies, and ambassadors in neither country…

…The violence also raised concerns about whether Egypt’s military-led transitional government would be able to maintain law and order and meet its international obligations, and to what extent popular rage unleashed by the Arab Spring would send a chill over the region…”

Ahmadinejad: No Homosexuals in Iran

In 2005, Human Rights Watch reported that two Iranian teenagers were executed for homosexual conduct. In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed there were no gay people in his country. In 2011 he secured this as a fact once again.

According to the Associated Foreign Press, three men were executed by hanging for “forbidden acts against religion” in Iran. The forbidden act? You guessed it!

Iran Human Rights reported via the state-run Iranian news agency ISNA that these men were put to death for acts against Sharia, “based on the articles 108 and 110 of the Iranian Islamic penal code.”
Articles 108 and 110 of the penal code are a section of the chapter covering the punishment of sodomy, according to Iran Human Rights.

Murder, armed robbery, rape, drug trafficking and adultery are other crimes that are actually punishable by death in Iran.

Ahmadinejad recently gave a statement saying:

“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country… We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you we have it.”

Ralph Alter wrote in the American Thinker:

“The Obama administration thus far has been willing to overlook the rapid development of Iranian nuclear weaponry, the brutal repression of the Iranian people, Iranian sponsorship of terror groups, Iranian provision of IED’s to Iraqi and Afghan military groups meant to kill American soldiers, and Iranian support for Hamas, the PLO and any other group willing to inflict harm upon the nation of Israel.
One suspects this latest affront to a legitimate Democrat constituency may finally engage the B.O. Administration to take action against Ahmadenijad and his not-so-merry pranksters. Obama will go to almost any lengths to maintain his pose as the agent of Muslim outreach for the West, but this vile breach of politically correct etiquette may prove to finally be a bridge too far.”

If Ahmadinejad is allowed to continue then his statement just might end up to be correct…
No Homosexuals will be left in Iran.


Protect the Levant in Case Egypt Flakes on Oil

IAF drones are reportedly patrolling the vast blue above the country’s gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea on charge of security concerns, citing Hezbollah. Lebanon has been complaining in a world forum about the Leviathan (16 trillion cubic feet) and Tamar (estimated 8.7 trillion cubic feet) oil wells, of the enormous Levant Basin Province. Together, the two Israeli sites are twice as big as the British fields in the North Sea, with an estimated value of $300 billion, enough gas for 50-70 years of domestic consumption.

It should be noted that recently Cyprus, inspired by Israel’s discovery, started looking for oil off of their shores, however, Turkey threatened Cyprus over these actions. Ahmet Davutoglu a senior Turkish official said that they would show the “necessary response” if the country goes ahead with the marine oil dig. For years, Cyprus and Turkey have been in dispute over who owns the northern region of Cyprus, with the Turkish government claiming the region as theirs and threatening military action time and again.

Because Israel and Lebanon have no maritime border, Lebanon claims the Levant Basin as its own. The Hezbollah, which constitutes much of the Lebanese military, despite contrary claims has threatened to use force to protect the natural wealth it insists belong to Lebanon. Hopefully it would not result in a situation like the Israel-Lebanon War of 2006.

Hassan Nasrallah said:

“We warn Israel not to touch this area or try to steal Lebanon’s resources…Those who harm our installations will have their own installations harmed,” he said.

Israel says it would use force to defend its gas fields should an attack by Hezbollah happen.

Usually, countries negotiate their maritime border, as did Israel and Cyprus, several months ago.

Because the Arab League refuses to supply gas to Israel, the Jewish Country, who imports coal, mainly from South Africa, is starving for fossil fuels. Egypt is the only nation which supplies gas to the Jewish Country, but in a post-Mubarak situation this is a fragile reality. The Arab gas line supplies Egyptian gas to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and a separate feed for Israel

When the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt went down last spring, Israel began to sweat. On February 5th, an explosion happened near the El Arish compressor station which supplies Israel and Jordan, and as a result, the supply was temporarily halted.

On April 27 an explosion at the pipeline near Al-Sabil village in the El-Arish region once again halted natural gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. And on July 4th, an explosion near Nagah, in the Sinai Peninsula halted gas to Jordan and the Jewish Country once again. These incidents are behind a failed attempt to blow up a pipeline supplying the Jewish Country, last March.

Three Turkey Sandwiches

40 Israeli passengers on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were held for several hours by local Turkish police on Monday after their passports were taken confiscated. Authorities in Jerusalem estimate that the detention of the Israeli passengers came in response to a recent incident during which Turkish citizens were detained for questioning by border police at Ben Gurion Airport. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials said there is no news regarding any change in the policy concerning the reception of Israelis. Israeli businessmen who were on the flight said the attitude of the police officers was extremely rude, holding Israelis without any explanation, and causing passengers to miss their flights without caring.

The Turkish news agency, Anatolya reported that Turkish tourists encountered similar treatment at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Turkey on Monday informed Israel’s top diplomat in Ankara that nearly all senior Israeli embassy personnel must leave the country by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, deputy ambassador to Turkey, Ella Ofek, has been summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry and informed that all Israeli diplomats ranking above the level of second secretary, including the IDF military attaché, must leave Turkey by Wednesday. The only Israeli diplomats who will be permitted to stay are embassy spokesman Nizar Amir and other personnel who provide consular services.

On Monday, Opposition Leader Tzippi Livni attacked the Likud government for its handling of the crisis with Turkey, saying that the Jewish Country should have acted earlier to avoid the current situation that she described as the “worst of all possible situations.” Livni said that with appropriate diplomacy, an arrangement could have been reached which did not have the significance of “an apology with a gun pointed at our head.”

Livni said:

“I was there when relations with Turkey were not simple and they invited Hamas after Palestinian Authority elections. After my meeting with [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, they took back [the invitation]. I have been in the negotiating room and I know what can be obtained and what cannot be obtained, so enough with the slogans.”

The French government has also expressed concern over diplomatic deterioration between Turkey and Israel. A statement from the French government said:

“France regrets that the parties have not arrived at an agreement to overcome their differences, despite the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General…with reservations, [France] is concerned by the deterioration of Israeli-Turkish relations and calls these two countries to recover, without delay, the path of dialogue and calm…We have taken note of the conclusions of the Palmer Commission report. We have equally noted that the authors of the report stress that the document reflects the view of the panel on the events and does not constitute a juridical analysis on the legality of the actions undertaken…France had condemned the military operation carried out in international waters off Gaza… and the disproportionate use of force by Israel…”

Meanwhile, Turkey (the second largest army of NATO) has more on their plate. A new NATO early-warning radar system is to be deployed in Turkey to help spot missiles coming from outside Europe and namely Iran. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Ghashghavi was quoted as saying:

“Iran and Turkey are neighbors and friends and fully capable of maintaining their security by themselves and without any interference by foreigners…The presence of non-regional countries would not only fail to improve the security level in our region but rather make it worse…”

But the Turkish foreign ministry defends itself:

“Turkey’s hosting of early warning radar will constitute our country’s contribution to the defense system being developed in the framework of NATO’s new strategic concept…It will strengthen NATO’s defense capacity and our national defense system…”

In recent years, according to the Turkish publication, Zaman:
“Turkey has sought stronger ties with fellow Muslim states in the Middle East, including Iran, to rebalance a foreign policy that previously gravitated heavily toward the West. But it has split with Iran recently over Syria’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests… Turkey, seen as a bridge between the Middle East and the West, has become increasingly critical of Iranian ally Syria, with Turkish President Abdullah Gül saying he has lost confidence in the country…”

Meanwhile, Turkey has been involved for some time in a war with Kurdish rebels on the Iraq border. CNN reports:

A pick-up game of soccer for policemen in the eastern Turkish town of Tunceli turned deadly Sunday night when suspected Kurdish militants opened fire on players and spectators.
A police officer and his wife were both killed in the attack, a local police officer said Monday, on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to give interviews to the media.
The officer said nine other police officers were wounded, while one of the attackers was killed in the ensuing gunbattle.

CNN reports that:

The government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to improve relations by launching a state Kurdish language TV station in 2009. But tensions have escalated between Erdogan’s government and the main Kurdish nationalist political party in recent months. After winning a larger number of seats in June parliamentary elections, the main Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) boycotted the swearing-in ceremony for new lawmakers. Kurdish lawmakers are protesting a decision by Turkey’s electoral board, which disqualified a prominent Kurdish candidate from participating in the June election.

Riots have erupted periodically in Istanbul and other Western Turkish cities over the last six months.

More on Turkey today 8/9/2011

At a Tel Aviv conference, Israeli vice premier Moshe Ya’alon confronted the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayip Erdoganon, Wednesday, “How can you trust a government that consorts with Iran and Hamas… Since his government rose to power, Turkey has decided to turn East instead of West. Turkey turned into an Islamic republic from a secular republic.”

In reference to the issue of apologizing to Ankara for the Mavi Marmara mishap Ya’alon said:

“We are talking about a phenomenon that goes beyond this specific incident. The goal is to defeat the State of Israel. If anyone thinks that one word can settle the matter, they fail to understand…what happened during the flotilla was without a doubt a Turkish provocation… We had no intention of ending the incident with fatalities but the soldiers had no other choice but to defend themselves.
The result was not good and we tried to resolve the crisis later on… Israel is not at fault for the situation with Turkey. I regret hearing the Opposition chairwoman say that the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks led to the situation with Turkey. Whoever says that in an interview is asking for outside pressure. Perhaps he fails to understand or perhaps he is driven by political interests.”

One Turkey Sandwich Growing Stale

Prime Minister of the Jewish Country, Binyamin Netanyahu, recently said he “hopes a way will be found to overcome the differences with Turkey,” he added that “we do not want a further downgrading of the relations… Israel has a right to defend itself… We do not need to apologize for [stopping] weapons smuggling by Hamas, and we do not need to apologize for working to defend our children, our citizens and our cities.”
So that’s that!

Meanwhile, reportedly, overwrought diplomatic vibrations between Israel and Turkey since the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in May of 2010 and more specifically following the release of the Palmer Commission report, have not seem to have shaken routine business relations between the two countries.

This says a lot about money. This does not say much about Turks and Jews. But actually, according to the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, bilateral trade increased to $1.1b in exports to Turkey between January and July of 2011, and Turkish exports to the Jewish country have jumped to $1.25b. Israel imported $1.8b of goods from Turkey in 2010 and exported $1.3b. 70% of Israeli exports to Turkey are chemicals and refined oil products. Other exports include metals, machinery, furniture, wood and paper products.

In a loosely related scoop of desert sand, a senior Israeli official warned it would only worsen ramshackle diplomatic standings with the Jewish Country were Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the Gaza Strip, where rockets have been fired and terrorists infiltrating the Israeli border and murdering Jews since August.

It is however confirmed that Erdogan will pay a two-day visit to Egypt starting September 12th and this is when he may cross over into Gaza – retracing the steps taken recently by Hamas murderers who opened fire on an Egged bus on the road to Eilat a couple of weeks ago.

The senior Israeli official says Erdogan would hurt Turkey’s relations with the United States as well by visiting Gaza. The move would also weaken Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas because a trip to Hamas-controlled Gaza would challenge his position as the sole representative of the Palestinians.

Turkish Deputy Premier Bulent Arinc said that Erdogan was scheduled to meet with the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi as well as other leading Egyptian politicians and intellectuals during the visit. The visit is expected to produce important decisions reflecting the strength of relations between Egypt and Turkey. Apparently Turkey hopes for reforms and elections in Egypt to proceed in accordance with the hopes and wishes of the people. The Turkish deputy prime minister says Erdogan may possibly cross into Gaza at the Rafah crossing after making arrangements with Egyptian authorities.

On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced at a press conference that Ankara is to expel Israel’s ambassador, and freeze all military agreements. This is in response to Netanyahu’s refusal to apologize for the flotilla incident. Davutoglu also says Turkey will be taking measures for freedom of maritime movement in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, will no longer recognize the blockade on the Gaza Strip (along with Egypt).

The Turkish political columnist Asli Aydintasbas says it is unlikely fences will be mended between Israel and Turkey unless Jerusalem meets Ankara’s demands. “Knowing the prime minister’s personality and knowing the importance of this issue for Turkey, I do not see how Turkey can accept anything short of an apology…” says Aydintasbas.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is pushing for a solution to the diplomatic crisis or at least says he is in favor of one:
“Both sides are very important countries in the region… Their improving relationship, normal relationship will be very important in addressing all the situations Middle East.”

Will NATO Get Syrias About Assad? What Will It Mean For Iran?

On Sunday Iran told NATO not to get any big ideas about invading Syria. The hypothetical situation, warned Iran, would be akin to NATO’s “quagmire” situation in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the United Nations, 2,200 people have been killed since Assad sent in tanks and troops to crush demonstrations which erupted in March after the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia were toppled by popular protests.

Israel is concerned that the Syrian military could transfer chemical weapons to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or Hamas because of instability within Syria.

American intelligence agencies believe that Syria has large caches of chemical weapons. The United States considers Syria among largest distributors of weapons of mass destruction, along with North Korea and Iran, and accuses Syria of smuggling such weapons to the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Meanwhile, three Scud missiles flying between Iraq and Kuwait last Friday were launched by the Iran-backed Ketaeb Hezbollah of Iraq. These are the first such attacks since the US invaded Iraq in 2003. It also marks the first time that any Middle East terrorist group has used Scud missiles.

The round was a warning for Kuwait to cease construction of the Grand Mubarak Port opposite the Iraqi shore.

Earlier in August, Kuwait massed troops on Boubiyan Island opposite from Iraq to defend the $1.1b Grand Mubarak Port that is under construction there – an odd reaction to Iraq’s demand that Kuwait freeze construction of the Persian Gulf port until guarantees are provided the new facility will not be a hindrance to the operations of Iraq’s own planned harbor in the southern region of Basra. A government spokesman in Baghdad demanded reassurance that safe and free navigation will not be affected by the Kuwait port scheduled for completion in 2016.

This dispute did not account for Kuwait’s heavy military deployment on its largest island. This came after Tehran discovered that Mubarak Port is also projected to house a large naval base to serve the fleets of Kuwait, the US and Saudi Arabia in the

Persian Gulf. Until last Friday, there was no confirmation of the group’s claim to have recovered the majority of the 250 Scuds held by Saddam Hussein before the US invasion in 2003.

Last week, Iraqi Hezbollah activities staged a demonstration against the port on the Iraqi-Kuwait border. Kuwait said it would show no tolerance for any border incursions whatsoever.

Meanwhile, reports out of Washington indicate that the rebels of Libya’s National Transitional Council will recognize Israel diplomatically, and Israeli businessmen are already arriving in Libya to establish future business relations.

This will represent a major shift in Libya’s foreign policy toward Israel and will provide the Jewish state with a much needed strategic ally among the Arab countries, since ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Israeli experts have nearly completed the restoration of the five-century-old, 2.5 mile wide walls of Jerusalem. The $5 million undertaking – the first restoration in a century – which commenced in 2007 is set to be completed by the end of 2011. But this is not the only wall being built in Israel.

Israel is also increasing its presence along the Egyptian border and building a brand new fence after terror attacks last week injured dozens of Israelis and killed eight. The government is building a new, NIS 1.4 billion fence along the border, but construction is expected to take some two years. Consequently, the NSC recommended increasing the IDF’s deployment along the border in the meantime.

Many in Egypt are worried that the increased Israeli military presence along the border could be permanent and will keep tensions between the two countries high. This is among the reasons for protests in Cairo outside the Israeli embassy, where Israeli flags are being burnt.

Reportedly, both the Egyptian and Israeli militaries are in constant discussion over how to tackle the militant issue in the Sinai Peninsula. One anonymous official said, “Right now, we are looking at ways of reducing the tension and working together, logistically, on how to battle violent militants in Egypt…”

Meanwhile, Ynet reported that an “Army inquiry shows at least three of the terrorists that perpetrated attack were Egyptians; clips, radio communication show IDF did everything in its power to prevent Egyptian troops from getting hurt.”

And in other news, Iranian dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, released a statement saying:
“Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and discrimination…Iran follows this issue (the eradication of Israel) with determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this standpoint and policy…”

The remarks came only one day before the annual anti-Israeli rallies named Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which are held nationwide in Iran on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan. On Monday, Ahmadinejad said that Iranians and Muslim nations worldwide should hold Qods rallies and show their willingness to dispose of this “infectious tumor and this regime full of rascality.”

Legions of Pharoah and Google Street View

Al-Youm al-Saba, the Egyptian daily, reported Wednesday that Egyptian citizens have created groups on Facebook calling for “a million-man protest” outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Friday.

The focus of the demonstration will be the demand to have the Israeli ambassador expelled from Egypt and Israel’s embassy in the capital closed.

The protests come after 5 Egyptian policemen were killed on the border by IDF soldiers in friendly fire, after eight Israeli citizens were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Israel apologized to Egypt for the incident.

For the fifth day in a row, protesters continue to demonstrate outside the embassy holding signs and chanting slogans saying, “Expel the ambassador immediately” and “force the ambassador to leave Egypt”.

Protesters burnt Israeli flags, and threw fire crackers at the embassy building attempting to burn an Israeli flag on a flagpole at the embassy.

In other news, Israel will allow Google Street View cameras to snap 360 degree photographs of its street. They are the first Middle Eastern country to do so. However, there are conditions.

Using the electronic tool to plot terrorist attacks and other privacy issues are concerns which prompted the Law, Information and Technology Authority to develop guidelines with Google for Google Street View. Here are some of the stipulations:

Google must provide citizens with an account of what Google Street View does and means, the rights of citizens and routes the camera crews will follow.

Users will be offered an efficient and reliable way online to blur residences and other objects.

Google must instruct Google Israel to heed legal proceedings in the country, meaning that any civil litigation brought by citizens against the company will be carried out in this country, despite the fact that Google’s main center is in the U.S.

Google has promised not to dispute criminal claims that might be raised against Street View by arguing that the Law, Information and Technology Authority lacks standing to prosecute criminal claims against the company in Israel.

Kurds in a Turkey Sandwich

Turkey’s military said air strikes on suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq this week have killed some 100 guerrillas and warned that it would begin further offensives against the group from both inside Turkey and across the border.

The military said that 80% of separatist rebels were injured in six days of cross-border air raids which commenced on Aug. 17th, hours after eight soldiers and a government-paid village guard were killed in an ambush by PKK the Kurdistan Workers’ Party near the border with Iraq.

The Turkish military released the following statement:

“According to initial information obtained, between 90 and 100 terrorists were rendered ineffective, more than 80 wounded terrorists were moved to hospitals or villages, and contact with a high number of terrorists was cut…Rendered ineffective…Iraq’s north and domestic areas will be monitored for separatist terrorist activity and air and ground operations will continue…”

The military said 79 shelters and hideouts were hit, one ammunition depot, 18 caves, eight depots, 14 PKK buildings or facilities, nine anti-aircraft gun positions and three rebel road blocks.

The PKK rebels however have denied any losses, insisting that areas hit by Turkish warplanes were in fact deserted bases.

“By giving these false numbers, the Turkish army commanders are trying to raise the spirits of their soldiers and to create more pretexts to continue their war against civilians…The government condemns and denounces all attacks and violations of the sovereignty of Iraq by neighboring countries… We do not believe that this is the best way of solving this issue… Both the stances of the Kurdistan and Baghdad governments is weak and far from firm. (Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki’s government is too weak to stand against Turkey… Targets hits were determined following detailed analyses that were verified several times and were included on the list of targets only after it was established with certainty that they were not areas inhabited by civilians…”

Considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union the PKK is fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the conflict since 1984.

The rebels have long used northern Iraq as a base for hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets. Some 40 soldiers were killed in escalated PKK assaults since July.

Turkey has been carrying out a number of cross-border air raids and ground incursions over the years but has failed to stop rebel infiltration throughout the mountainous border.

Libyan End Game

NATO says that it will continue operations in Libya after General Qadaffi’s compound in Tripoli was invaded by some 500 well-trained rebels based in the western Nafusa Mountain range. The general’s whereabouts are still unknown but it seems impossible he could leave Libya. The red, black and green flag of the rebellion is flying in Tripoli and the reign of Muamar Qadaffi is clearly coming to an end.

At checkpoints inside the city, rebels placed the ubiquitous canvas portraits of the dictator on the ground for drivers to run over. Loyalist forces, however, are continuing to hit back, Seif al-Islam, the general’s son visited a hotel where foreign journalists were staying. A vicious gunfire ensued and as of Tuesday afternoon continued.

The International Organization for Migration, meanwhile, said that a rescue mission to pluck 300 foreign nationals from the Libyan capital has been delayed by fighting. The Geneva-based group says an IOM-chartered ship will remain off the coast of Tripoli “until security conditions have improved and the safety of staff and migrants can be guaranteed.”

Carol E. Lee of the Wall Street Journal wrote on her blog:

“President Obama spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday about events in Libya, the White House said. The two leaders “welcomed the progress” being made by the opposition and agreed that Gadhafi, along with remaining members of his government, need to “reliquish power once and for all,” according to a White House statement on the call.
“At the same time, they agreed to continue to work with allies and partners in the international community to protect the people of Libya and to support a peaceful transition to democracy,” the statement said. “President Sarkozy joined the president in urging the Transitional National Council to continue demonstrating its leadership by respecting the rights of the people of Libya, avoiding civilian casualties, protecting the institutions of the Libyan state, and pursuing a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya.”

Obama has no plans to make any public statements Tuesday on Libya, a White House official said. He was briefed on Libya on Tuesday morning by his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, and he will be updated throughout the day “as needed,” the official said.”

And here’s another one from the ol’ Wall Street Journal.

Charles Levinson and Margaret Coker wrote:

Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi battled through Tripoli’s densely populated neighborhoods, attacking and defending patches of territory across the sprawling, and seemingly divided, capital.
Specific districts of Tripoli have become notorious for their antiregime protests during the six months of Libya’s civil war, while other neighborhoods have remained forcibly allied with the leader—loyal men and families who owe their careers, tribal ties and social positions to Col. Gadhafi. These divisions have erupted in increasingly bloody street fighting this week, threatening a vacuum of power and a Balk.

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