Daily Archives: February 6, 2012

U.S. Embassy in Syria Closed, Diplomats Evacuated

ABC News

The United States has whisked its remaining diplomats out of Syriaand suspended operations at its embassy in Damascus as violence there continues to increase, U.S. officials told ABC News.

The skeletal staff, including Ambassador Robert Ford, departed quietly despite in some cases being denied exit visas by Syrian authorities, the officials said.

“The recent surge in violence, including bombings in Damascus on Dec. 23 and Jan. 6, has raised serious concerns that our Embassy is not sufficiently protected from armed attack,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today. “We, along with several other diplomatic missions, conveyed our security concerns to the Syrian government but the regime failed to respond adequately.”

The embassy had already drawn down its staffing over the past several months amid concerns about their security. After the latest round of reductions in January a core group of only 17 remained in the country. Some departed overland to Jordan while others flew out of the airport in the capital.

The shuttering of the embassy follows similar steps by other Western countries in recent weeks. A U.S. official said that talks are ongoing with Poland to serve as the American protecting power in Syria while the U.S. embassy is closed.

Today’s move comes after the Obama administration says its requests to Syrian authorities for increased security around the American embassy and its diplomats fell on deaf ears. The embassy is situated on a busy intersection in Damascus and officials say they feared al Qaeda elements, which are believed to be behind a string of car bombs in the Syrian capital, could target the Americans next. They had requested that the street the embassy is on be closed, but nothing was done.

The embassy had already been targeted by a pro-Assad mob last July after Ambassador Ford defied restrictions on his travel outside the capital and visited the restive city of Hama. Some in the crowd scaled the outer walls of the embassy and defaced the exterior, including the American flag, before being chased away by embassy guards.

The U.S. embassy, like other diplomatic facilities there, is guarded by Syrian security forces. U.S. officials say they were slow to respond and accused the government of sponsoring the protest.

Similar mobs have targeted Ambassador Ford’s convoy when he went to visit a prominent opposition leader in September. Ford and his staff barricade themselves in the leader’s office for several hours before Syrian security finally arrived to disperse the crowd. As they left the pro-Assad protestors pelted the cars with rocks, eggs, and tomatoes, damaging one of them significantly, officials said at the time.

The Syrian government’s crackdown on the movement to oust President Assad has become increasingly bloody in recent months. The United Nations stopped counting the dead late last month, saying it was too hard to keep up with and verify the body counts. At the time it placed the death toll at more than 5,400. Since then there have been reports of hundreds more killed.

Opposition elements have also stepped up efforts to fight back, raising fears that the once peaceful movement could evolve into a civil war.

Ambassador Ford has been one of the most vocal critics of the Assad government over the past year. In August President Obama called on Assad to step down, and the United States has supported resolutions in the United Nations Security Council that would do the same.

The latest effort at the United Nations, proposed by Morocco and backed by the Arab League, was vetoed on Saturday by Russia and China who have maintained support for President Assad and are reluctant to endorse another resolution that could lead to foreign intervention like in the case of Libya.

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Obama: U.S., Israel Working in ‘Lockstep’ on Iran

By JTA

President Obama said Israel and the United States will work in “lockstep” to  keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In a pre-Super Bowl interview on NBC on Sunday, Obama discounted reports that  Israel was getting ready to strike Iran.

“I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do,” he  said.

Asked if Israel would give him advance warning of a strike, Obama said he  would not go into details of conversations, but added that “we have closer  military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we ever  have.

He continued: “And my number one priority continues to be the security of the  United States, but also the security of Israel and we are going to make sure  that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this, hopefully  diplomatically.”

Obama downplayed reports of an Iranian attack on U.S. soil, and said a  military confrontation would be destabilizing.

“Obviously, any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is  disruptive and has a big effect on us, it can have a big effect on oil prices,” he said. “We’ve still got troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran. And so our  preferred solution here is diplomatic, we’re going to keep on pushing  on that  front.”

He repeated, however, that “we’re not going to take any option off the  table.”

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AIPAC Obtained US Missile Secrets

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www.irmep.org

Author Norman F. Dacey made powerful enemies. He turned the cozy estate-planning industry upside-down after publishing How to Avoid Probate in 1965. The book sold 2 million copies as Dacey barnstormed [.pdf] the country advising Americans how to structure their estates to avoid the costs, delays, and publicity of probate by setting up trusts. Dacey engaged in fierce battles with various bar associations who tried to shut down publication of the book by claiming he was practicing law without a license. The tenacious Dacey returned fire, filing scores of libel and First Amendment lawsuits.

Newly declassified U.S. State Department documents reveal a lesser-known but equally intense battle fought by Dacey. The chairman of the American Palestine Committee and close confidant of“Rabbi Outcast” Elmer Berger nearly succeeded in having American Israel Public Affairs (AIPAC) Director Morris Amitay prosecuted for trafficking classified national defense information in the mid-1970s.

In 1975, the Ford administration attempted to sell improved Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Jordan and duly sent notification containing classified Department of Defense data to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee. AIPAC Director Morris Amitay reviewed the classified document after being informed of its existence “secretly by aides of Senator Clifford P. Case, Republican of New Jersey, and Representative Jonathan B. Bingham, Democrat of New York” according to the New York Times. Amitay and AIPAC quickly mounted a massive campaign in opposition to the missile sale, telling constituent public pressure groups that the weapons were capable of “providing cover for offensive operations against Israel.” After delays, Jordan considered acquiring a similar system from the Soviet Union.

Dacey was outraged. He dashed off a March 30, 1976, letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Adolph Dubs inquiring, “Did you initiate action to discover the identity of the individual(s) responsible for the violation and to institute appropriate action to punish the violator?” On April 29, the State Department forwarded Dacey’s letter to the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, but attempted to downplay the affair by claiming that “A notice of sale is normally not considered by the Department of Defense to require classification and protection…. I would appreciate any comments you could offer on the issues presented by the letter….” On May 19, the State Department seemed to try to extricate itself from the scandal, telling Dacey “we consulted with the Justice Department informally after receipt of your first letter and, at their request, transmitted it to them for further consideration. The matter is still under review in the Justice Department, which expects to provide you with a direct response in the near future.”

On June 16, Dacey again pressed the State Department. “We have had no response…. There has been a flagrant violation of the U.S. Criminal Code.” On June 22, 1976, the litigious Dacey upped the ante. “While we are certain that you have not intended to give the appearance of exhibiting disdain for public inquiries courteously submitted, the lack of any satisfactory response leaves us with no alternative to that conclusion. We do not wish to proceed publicly under sections 2383 and 2384 but you appear to leave us with no other course.” On June 25, 1976, the State Department testily warded off Dacey: “We are not aware that any Department of State official has failed to meet his obligations under applicable law and regulation regarding this document.”

The Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice initially appeared to think otherwise and asked the State Department for more details on July 21, 1976. On Nov. 4, the Department of State finally admitted to DOJ that the disclosure to AIPAC was “unauthorized” and had included both the dollar amounts and quantitative configurations of the missile system. The State Department revealed that “specific details of Jordan’s military equipment needs are information provided us in confidence by that government. The classification of the documents in question was, in our view, substantively proper.” Worse still, according to State, “Had Jordan actually entered into such a major arms-supply relationship with the Soviets, this would have had a significant adverse impact on U.S. national defense interests and on U.S.-Jordanian relations.”

The U.S. State Department then responded to the DOJ’s other questions probing the feasibility of criminally prosecuting Amitay: “With the public disclosure of the information having already occurred, the authorization of its release for the purpose of prosecution would not be expected to cause damage with our relations with Jordan.” However, Amitay was never charged and continued to serve as AIPAC’s director until he resigned 1980 to establish a pro-Israel political action committee in Washington. The Department of Defense letter obtained by AIPAC has never been declassified.

Details of Dacey’s efforts to have U.S. criminal statutes enforced are timely and relevant. On Feb. 14, 2012, former AIPAC employee Steven J. Rosen will present oral arguments in the D.C. Court of Appeals claiming that seeking, obtaining, and leveraging such classified data has long been standard practice at AIPAC. Rosen sued AIPAC for $20 million in damages after it fired him in 2005 and publicly claimed Rosen’s classified information gathering activities “did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees.” If AIPAC settles before the hearing, it will be seen as an attempt to pay off Rosen — as previously agreed — in order to keep his silence. If AIPAC loses in appeals court, Rosen will be able to air even more dirty laundry to a jury, which could divert attention and resources from AIPAC’s intense drive to force the Obama administration to attack Iran.

While the Department of Justice may now have earned a reputation as the place where warranted prosecutions of AIPAC go to die, there is little evidence Israel’s lobby has similarly captured the pool of D.C. Appeals Court judges. The ghost of Norman Dacey — bane of American bar associations nationwide — may yet prevail.

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Iranian MP–Israel attack on Iran will change the Middle East geography

A senior Iranian lawmaker says the 33-day war with Lebanon should have taught Israel how devastating even the thought of a war with Iran could become for the entity.

Head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Sunday that a war with Iran would have consequences for Israel that are far worse than the war with Lebanon.

The Iranian lawmaker said if Israel commits the folly of waging war against Iran it could change the geography of the Middle East and would result in a serious security challenge for Israel.

Boroujerdi said Iran’s advancements in different fields, which are made despite international sanctions, irk Israel.

“The Zionist regime [of Israel] considers regional revolutions, which have Islamic tendencies and are modeled after the Islamic Revolution of Iran, a serious threat and thinks a war with Iran is the answer to all its security challenges,” he concluded.

Boroujerdi’s remarks come after Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon threatened Iran with a military strike against its nuclear facilities in an attempt to force the country to abandon its peaceful nuclear energy program.

The United States, Israel, and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program.

Iran argues that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has every right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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Santorum: Iran would nuke Missouri

thehill.com

Rick Santorum warned that if Iran procures a nuclear weapon, it would pose a threat even to Missouri.

“Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouris,” Santorum said Friday at a campaign stop in the Show Me State. “These are folks who have been and are at war with us since 1979. This is a country that has killed more troops in Afghanistan and Iraq than the Iraqis and Afghans.”

Santorum’s saber-rattling on Iran is nothing new. In the past he’s said that he would attack nuclear facilities in Iran if the country did not agree to international nuclear arms inspections.

He’s in the middle of a campaign swing through Missouri, where Newt Gingrich did not make the ballot. Santorum is hoping to shrug off a pair of disappointing showings in the South Carolina and Florida primaries, where he ended up near the lower end of the field, with a strong showing. He and Gingrich have been fighting to be the conservative alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney.

The former Pennsylvania senator has said he would not drop out of the race after one or a small number of poor primary showings.

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(Mossad and CIA Funded) Anti-Putin protesters march through Moscow

Anti-Putin protesters march in Moscow

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have braved temperatures of -18C in Moscow to march through the city shouting “Russia without Putin” and calling for a rerun of disputed elections.

In the latest of a series of mass gatherings since allegations of widespread government vote-rigging at the parliamentary poll on 4 December, the protesters walked an agreed route from Oktyabrskaya metro station to Bolotnaya Square, near the Kremlin.

Much of the protesters’ anger is focused on the prime minister and defacto leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who earlier likened their white ribbons – worn as a symbol of solidarity – to condoms.

“Under Putin, so many thieves have come to power,” said Ivan Frolov, 28, an engineer. “The authorities are totally closed, they don’t talk to the people. We want to choose leaders who listen to us. And we don’t want to worship a single person.”

Analysts say nascent discontent – especially among the urban middle class – grew in September when President Dmitry Medvdev, who is perceived as being a more liberal figure, announced he would not run for a second term, leaving Putin free this spring to return to the presidency, which he held from 2000 to 2008.

Protest organisers claimed up to 120,000 people attended the march while police put the figure at 35,000. There was an irreverent atmosphere: some came dressed as clowns, or knights on cardboard horses, while others banged drums. Groups of communists waved Soviet flags, and several hundred nationalists marched in in a phalanx crying in unison: “Russia for ethnic Russians!” However, the majority of demonstrators showed no party or group allegiance, and many had fashioned their own placards.

Natasha Orekhova, 26, a public relations specialist with a real estate firm, stood next to a friend who carried a fork with a pretend snake spiked on its tines, a reference to Putin calling the protesters Bandar-logs, the monkeys hypnotised by a python in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

“Suddenly there is a feeling of unity in our discontent,” said Orekhova. “The people coming to protests are beautiful, clever, educated. It’s very pleasant.”

Many spoke of the ruling elite treating ordinary people with contempt. Galina, a linguist in her 50s who declined to give her surname, said: “We want our dignity back. The authorities despise us. Recently, I was travelling to visit my sick mother in hospital and they closed the road for an hour because Putin’s cortege was taking him somewhere to drink tea with someone. I sat in my car crying tears of rage and frustration.”

Several opposition leaders spoke from a stage. Sergei Udaltsov, a radical leftwing activist, drew cheers when he tore up a portrait of Putin.

The protesters are demanding a rerun of the parliamentary elections, the resignation of the head of the central election commission, reform of the political system and the release of political prisoners.

So far, the only sop offered by the Kremlin is a simplified process for registering political parties and the return of direct elections of regional governors, but it remains unclear when these changes will come into effect.

Attention now turns to the presidential election on 4 March. Putin is the clear frontrunner in that race and a rally of his supporters in a park on the edge of Moscow on Saturday also drew large crowds. However, he admitted this week that he may not get the 50% required to win in the first round of the vote, which would erode his authority.

Police deployed about 9,000 officers for the protests. No serious incidents were reported.

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