Thursday, January 16, 2014

War watch January 16 , 2016 - Syria sees Al Qaeda continuing to pick off rival rebels ....... Iraq sees Al Qaeda making greater inroads in Anbar Province - note Al Qaeda marching toward Baghdad ... NSA news - Obama shows his colors once again by punting regarding NSA reforms , US has a lot of never to preach to the world regarding cyber war......Afghanistan sees another drone attack with multiple civilian casualties - Karzai's reluctance to trust the US looking better by the day.....Iran - US proponents of sanctions on Iran won’t like consequences – Iranian FM to RT ...... Turkey - Opposition rejects AKP's proposed offer on Judicial Bill , Turkish President Gul signals veto on Government led Judicial Bill !

Syria......



Weapons Inspectors: Syrian Chemical Weapons Fired from REBEL-HELD Territory

George Washington's picture





 
The head of the UN weapons inspectors saidthat the American case for Syrian government firing chemical weapons was weak, because the rockets can only go 2 miles … but government-held territory is much further away.
Similarly, McClatchy reported yesterday:
A team of security and arms experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama administration insists they originated.

***

The authors of a report released Wednesday said that their study of the rocket’s design, its likely payload and its possible trajectories show that it would have been impossible for the rocket to have been fired from inside areas controlled by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Map of Damascus
Modified Grad missile
In the report, titled “Possible Implications of Faulty U.S. Technical Intelligence,” Richard Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argue that the question about the rocket’s range indicates a major weakness in the case for military action initially pressed by Obama administration officials.

***

To emphasize their point, the authors used a map produced by the White House that showed which areas were under government and rebel control on Aug. 21 and where the chemical weapons attack occurred. Drawing circles around Zamalka to show the range from which the rocket could have come, the authors conclude that all of the likely launching points were inrebel-held areas or areas that were in dispute. The area securely in government hands was miles from the possible launch zones.

In an interview, Postol said that a basic analysis of the weapon – some also have described as a looking like a push pop, a fat cylinder filled with sarin atop a thin stick that holds the engine – would have shown that it wasn’t capable of flying the 6 miles from the center of the Syrian government-controlled part of Damascus to the point of impact in the suburbs, or even the 3.6 miles from the edges of government-controlled ground.

He questioned whether U.S. intelligence officials had actually analyzed the improbability of a rocket with such a non-aerodynamic design traveling so far before Secretary of State John Kerry declared on Sept. 3 that “we are certain that none of the opposition has the weapons or capacity to effect a strike of this scale – particularly from the heart of regime territory.”

“I honestly have no idea what happened,” Postol said. “My view when I started this process was that it couldn’t be anything but the Syrian government behind the attack. But now I’m not sure of anything. The administration narrative was not even close to reality. Our intelligence cannot possibly be correct.”

Lloyd, who has spent the past half-year studying the weapons and capabilities in the Syrian conflict, disputed the assumption that the rebels are less capable of making rockets than the Syrian military.

The Syrian rebels most definitely have the ability to make these weapons,” he said. “I think they might have more ability than the Syrian government.” [He's right.]

***

They said that Kerry’s insistence that U.S. satellite images had shown the impact points of the chemical weapons was unlikely to be true. The charges that detonate chemical weapons are generally so small, they said, that their detonations would not be visible in a satellite image.

The report also raised questions whether the Obama administration misused intelligence information in a way similar to the administration of President George W. Bush in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  [Correctindeed.] Then, U.S. officials insisted that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had an active program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Subsequent inspections turned up no such program or weapons.

“What, exactly, are we spending all this money on intelligence for?” Postol asked.

***
Even the New York Times – one of the main advocates for the claims that the rockets came from a Syrian government base – has quietly dropped the claim.









http://rt.com/news/geneva-syria-talks-opposition-705/



Syrian opposition faction will not take part in Geneva peace talks - Brahimi

Published time: January 16, 2014 12:34
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) shakes hands with Syrian opposition leader Haytham Manna (C) of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change during their meeting in Moscow, on March 11, 2013. (AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) shakes hands with Syrian opposition leader Haytham Manna (C) of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change during their meeting in Moscow, on March 11, 2013. (AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)
The Syrian National Coordination Committee, a faction in the domestic Syrian political opposition, has decided to boycott this month’s peace conference in Switzerland, the UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said as cited by Reuters.
Brahimi said in a statement that he respected the organisation's decision not to join the opposition delegation to the talks but deeply regretted they would not be included.
Brahimi has yet to announce the make-up of the two delegations to the talks, which are set to begin on January 22.
The National Coordination Committee (NCC) is a Syria-based political opposition group that rejects armed confrontation with President Bashar Assad and calls for talks with his government.
Some of the more radical opposition factions see the NCC as a front for the Assad regime, rather than a genuine opposition force.
Meanwhile, the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said it was not aware of any decisions made by the Committee, its spokesman Munzer Mahos told Interfax.
The SNC has not yet decided whether it will go to the Geneva conference. It will announce its decision Friday, Mahos said.





Al-Qaeda Car Bomb Kills 26 Rival Rebels in North Syria

Blast Targeted Key Base Near Turkish Border

by Jason Ditz, January 15, 2014
A suicide car bombing tore through the Aleppo Province town of Jarablos today,killing 26 people, almost all of them rebel fighters from factions fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) recently.
The bombing was attributed to AQI by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-rebel mouthpiece that said it was likely retaliation for a recent turf war in which factions have seized several AQI possessions.
Jarablos is close to the border with Turkey, which makes it a particularly coveted prize for the various rebel groups, and today’s bombing took place near an old prison the fighters had been using for a base.
Territory along the border with Turkey means rebels can use Turkish territory to smuggle in weapons, and the best crossings have long been held by AQI, who demands a cut of everything smuggled in.







Iraq......


Scores Killed as al-Qaeda Takes More of Iraq’s Anbar Province

Iraqi Officials Claim Town Retaken, But Losses Mount

by Jason Ditz, January 15, 2014
Iraqi military officials claimed to have retaken a small town on the outskirts of Fallujah, one of several that has fallen to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in recent days. The victory is a small one, however, and the momentum is still swinging AQI’s way.
Bombings targeted troops, AQI fighters kidnapped truck drivers on the outskirts of Baghdad, and scores of people were killed. AQI is on the move and seizing more territory in Anbar, threatening a push into Baghdad.
Police abandoned two major posts in Anbar, along the highway to Baghdad, saying that the AQI fighters have heavy arms and that requests for support were never answered.
AQI seems to be having their way with the Iraqi military at this point, though it is losing some parts of Fallujah to Sunni tribal leaders. That isn’t necessarily good news for the Maliki government either, however, as the locals in Fallujah were in open rebellion before AQI arrived and still have deep objections to the central government’s policies.


Iraq's Bloody Day: 115 Killed, 145 Wounded


Iraqi Army Retakes Western Town Seized by Gunmen


Sunni Politician: US Broke Iraq, Is Morally Obligated to Fix It





US Cyber warfare.......Obama punts on NSA reforms , US preaches a hypocritical message to the world......





Obama’s NSA Phone Plan: Let Congress Decide

President Wants to Keep Metadata, Won't Touch Matter in 'Reforms'

by Jason Ditz, January 15, 2014
President Obama’s Friday “reforms” are likely to amount to little or nothing, and the biggest political hot-button issue, the NSA telephone metadata surveillance, is likely to be punted downfield entirely, according to those familiar with the plans.
The problem is that President Obama wants to keep the plan more or less unchanged, but admitting as much would be politically impractical amid growing outrage about it. His plan, rather, is to leave the matter to Congress.
Or at least sort of up to Congress. While officials are likely to give lip service to the matter being up to Congress, it is also a foregone conclusion that Obama will be throwing most of his support behind the Feinstein plan, which keeps the system intact and even grants additional powers.
The NSA collects all metadata about every phone call made, and keeps that data for an unspecified amount of time. The administration insists such data is vital for the war on terror, though the evidence suggests it has never been critical in a terror investigation and is rarely even consulted.


and......



The Hypocritical US Position on Cyber-Warfare
John Glaser, January 15, 2014
The New York Times is out with a story about how the NSA has the capacity to surreptitiously install software on specific computers that allow the agency to mount cyber attacks and carry out surveillance, even when the targeted computers are not connected to the internet. The Times reports that the NSA has done this to some 100,000 computers around the world.
This again brings up the issue of the NSA engaging in cyber-warfare, an activity that the U.S. is a veritable pioneer in, but which Washington relentlessly condemns other nations for engaging in.
The “tracking malware” discussed for the first time in the New York Times piece, “is a pursuit played most aggressively with the Chinese,” the report says. The U.S. has targeted Chinese Army units and “has set up two data centers in China — perhaps through front companies — from which it can insert malware into computers.”
Granted, the Chinese engage in cyber-warfare against the U.S. as well, but to frame U.S. cyber operations against China as purely a response to Chinese cyber threats is disingenuous. There is documentation of U.S. cyber-warfare going back decades – and the U.S. has always been, needless to say, way ahead of China on this front, technologically speaking.
“U.S. intelligence services carried out 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, the leading edge of a clandestine campaign that embraces the Internet as a theater of spying, sabotage and war,” The Washington Post reported in August, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The key word there is “offensive.”
The hypocrisy of the official U.S. position on cyber-warfare is made clear in two recent Washington Post articles…
The Post reported in September 2012: “Cyberattacks can amount to armed attacks triggering the right of self-defense and are subject to international laws of war, the State Department’s top lawyer said Tuesday.”
And in August 2013: “The CIA and the NSA have begun aggressive new efforts to hack into foreign computer networks to steal information or sabotage enemy systems, embracing what the budget refers to as ‘offensive cyber operations.’”
Either Washington’s logic is airtight and they admit that China, Iran, and other countries targeted by our cyber-warfare now have the right to respond militarily in self-defense…or, the real logic is that the U.S. considers offensive cyber-warfare to be illegal for everyone except Uncle Sam. Which is it?



And.....




Afghanistan.......





​Afghanistan accuses US of killing woman, 7 children in airstrike

Published time: January 15, 2014 21:20
Afghan president Hamid Karzai (AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)
Afghan president Hamid Karzai (AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has strongly condemned the US airstrike that killed 7 children and a woman in central Afghanistan on Tuesday night, emphasizing that American troops once again acted against all mutual agreements between the states.
“As a result of bombardment by American forces last night... in Siahgird district of Parwan province, one woman and seven children were martyred and one civilian injured,” a statement from Karzai's office said as cited by AFP.
The issue of civilian causalities has been very sensitive in relations between the US and Afghanistan. The two countries are currently in a dispute over a security agreement that would see American troop presence remain after the withdrawal of the main US forces scheduled for December. The Obama administration has argued that if the US does not leave behind at least 8,000 troops the Taliban movement might gain momentum.
“The Afghan government has been asking for a complete end to operations in Afghan villages for years, but American forces acting against all mutual agreements... have once again bombarded a residential area and killed civilians,” Karzai stressed in a statement following the airstrike.
Earlier reports by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) indicated that at least two civilians were killed in Siahgird district after an “enemy force engaged Afghan and coalition forces” and ISAF had to call in “defensive air support to suppress the enemy fire.”
At least 10 insurgents and one ISAF soldier were also killed in the fighting, NATO added. According to a Taliban spokesman cited by AFP, 12 Afghan soldiers were killed during the attack in Siahgird, the largest district of Parwan province located about 50 km north of Kabul.
This event is “directly tied” to what is in dispute between the Afghan government and the US government, Robert Naiman, policy director at Just Foreign Policy rights organization told RT.
“The Afghan government doesn’t want the US to engage unilaterally in military operations and particularly wants an end to all night raids. This event is an example of why the Afghan government is so adamant about this, and events like this make it less likely that the US and the Afghan governments will be able to reach an agreement,” Naiman said.
The Obama Administration has been ratcheting up the pressure for Karzai to sign the agreement. The Afghan president in the meantime is adamant to delay the signing saying that whatever comes out of this agreement should be determined after presidential elections in April.
“If it’s not nailed down before the elections, this is going to be key issue in the election, which would be great, because then the Afghan people can decide what they want,” Naiman said. “People can vote for the candidate that has the position that they agree with. So if you believe in democracy in Afghanistan you should be delighted that the agreement be delayed until after the election.”


Iran......

http://rt.com/news/iran-foreign-minister-zarif-700/


US proponents of sanctions on Iran won’t like consequences – Iranian FM to RT

Published time: January 16, 2014 09:47
Edited time: January 16, 2014 12:47


Iranian FM Javad Zarif (Still from RT video)
Download video (200.54 MB)
US sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program produced no positive outcomes, and if hardline lawmakers manage to impose more of those, despite President Obama’s position, they will not like the consequences, warned Iranian FM Javad Zarif.
The minister was commenting to RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze on the ongoing drive in the US Congress to impose more sanctions against Tehran. Proponents of such a policy say that Iran is bluffing when it says it would walk away from the nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 group and that more sanctions would result in a better final deal.

“Those in the United States, who are pushing for more sanctions, have to see what this policy has produced and whether it is worth risking. I don’t want to get engaged in a childish discussion on whether Iran is bluffing or not. They can test us,” Zarif said.
“What sanctions have produced is basically 19,000 centrifuges and a lot of resentment among the Iranian population that the United States Congress is against their buying medicines. [This is] because it restricts the possibility for banks to open Letters of Credit for Iranian corporations to import medicine,” he observed.
Zarif said that US senators who favor additional sanctions against Iran, such as New Jersey’s Bob Menendez, should ask themselves whether they are proud of the results of sanctions. He added that the effect of any further sanctions would not be any different.

“If they believe that sanctions are so important, then they can test it and see the consequences. I don’t think the consequences would be something that they would like,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry Reception House in Moscow on January 16, 2013. (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry Reception House in Moscow on January 16, 2013. (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)

Minister Zarif gave his interview to RT days ahead an agreement comes into force, which will see the West lift some of the sanctions against Iran in exchange for the slowdown of the program.
He dismissed the entire notion of Iran having a secret weapons nuclear program as “waste of time, money and energy of a lot of people” and said that Iranian nuclear facilities have long been subject to intensive international scrutiny.
“The fact is that Iranian nuclear facilities have been open to more inspection, more scrutiny, more transparency measures than probably any other nuclear facility – certainly in the region and maybe beyond,” he said in an apparent reference to Israeli civilian nuclear program and alleged nuclear arsenal.
Zarif added that Tehran is not concerned at all with surprise inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We don’t need surprise inspections because there are daily inspections. When you have daily inspections, there is no surprise,” he joked.
Iran’s dealings with Turkey over Syrian peace settlement, the conditions for Tehran’s participation in the Geneva II peace conference and the prospects of Zarif’s visit to Saudi Arabia were also discussed in the interview.


Turkey.......


Turkey's main opposition rejects gov't offer on judicial bill

ANKARA

CHP has rejected the government's formula for the status of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which is at the heart of the battle over control of the judiciary. DHA Photo 
CHP has rejected the government's formula for the status of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which is at the heart of the battle over control of the judiciary. DHA Photo
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has rejected a government offer on a judicial bill that has dominated discussion for the past week.

The government had suggested that the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) be restructured so that it more closely resembles the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), meaning the parties in Parliament would be given seats on the HSYK in proportion with their numbers in Parliament.

The CHP said in a statement it had decided to reject the government proposal to change the constitution because the ruling AKP had not halted work on the draft legislation that would tighten the ruling party’s grip on the judiciary.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül has personally intervened to try and end the crisis that stemmed from the draft legislation to tighten the ruling party’s grip on the judiciary. He met with opposition leaders Jan. 13 before meeting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who later announced that the draft could be “frozen” if the parties agreed on a charter amendment.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chair Nurettin Canikli submitted the offer to the opposition parties Jan. 14. While the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) agreed to consider the proposition, it was rejected by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) representatives.

January/16/2014
and.....


Turkish president signals veto on government-led judicial bill

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkish President Abdullah Gül has received his Slovenian counterpart Barut Pahor at the Çankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara, Jan. 15.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül has received his Slovenian counterpart Barut Pahor at the Çankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara, Jan. 15.
President Abdullah Gül has indicated that he could veto draft legislation that would tighten the ruling party’s grip on the judiciary unless his recommendations to change certain articles in the draft are heeded.

The president also urged all political parties to overcome the ongoing problem with a constitutional amendment “that will not harm Turkey.”

“There is a need to see that the existing legal and democratic system in Turkey is strong, but that there is always need for further enhancement, certainly. Now, within this framework, there is of course the principle of the separation of powers in Turkey. The fields of the executive, legislative and judiciary [branches] are separate from each other. But their functioning in harmony is a need for the state system,” Gül said Jan. 15 in response to questions at a joint press conference following talks with visiting Slovenian President Barut Pahor.

He was responding to a question about his prospective response if he cannot achieve his desired result after meeting with both the government and the opposition parties and if the draft is adopted in its current form and sent to him for approval in its current form.

The president appeared intent on speaking positively about a possible resolution to the ongoing judicial crisis, saying such problems could be solved through dialogue and consultation.

“I hope that this is resolved fundamentally. I believe that [solving] this through a constitutional amendment is more appropriate. And I would like the constitutional amendment to be within the framework of [practices in] developed democracies and the EU criteria, and current endeavors are to this effect,” said the president, a former foreign minister who played a central role in arriving at the EU declaration in December 2004 for the start of accession negotiations with Turkey in October 2005.

“If all of these do not happen… Of course, I shared my view with the government and Mr. Prime Minister about this draft and that that some changes shall be done. Let’s see, we will see how the process will happen,” Gül said.

Gül has personally intervened to try to end the latest crisis that stemmed from draft legislation to tighten the ruling party’s grip on the judiciary. He met with opposition leaders Jan. 13 before meeting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who later announced that the draft could be “frozen” if the parties agreed on a charter amendment.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chair Nurettin Canikli submitted the offer to the opposition parties Jan. 14. While the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) agreed to consider the proposition, it was rejected by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) representatives.

“If we can get a result on this issue, this will not only solve the problem but also create a very positive atmosphere, and we can prove that problems can be solved within the democratic system,” Gül also said Jan. 15.

In Istanbul, meanwhile, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu ruled out an idea floated by Erdoğan concerning the restructuring of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

“There shall not be a party rosette behind a judge. This is not right,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, in response to Erdoğan’s suggestion that “Exactly like in the case with the RTÜK [the Radio and Television Supreme Council], the groups at the Parliament will find [places] on the HSYK according to [the numbers in Parliament].”

RTÜK has nine members elected by Parliament for a period of six years from a pool of candidates nominated by political parties, in proportion to the number of seats they hold in the legislature.

Replacements at HSYK

Bozdağ, meanwhile, chaired a meeting of the HSYK, the composition and authorities of which are at the center of grave political turmoil.

Bozdağ, who took office as part of an extensive Cabinet reshuffle on Dec. 25, 2013, following the launch of an extensive graft probe involving Erdoğan’s allies eight days earlier, and Justice Ministry Undersecretary Kenan İpek, who was appointed to his current post on Dec. 31, 2013, attended the HSYK meeting for the first time.

According to the decisions made at the meeting, replacements were made in the 1st Chamber of the HSYK.
January/15/2014