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Friday, September 13, 2013

9/13 Links Part 1: Egyptian Tanks Cross Gaza Border, Putin’s Trollpolitik, AQ Praises Boston Bombing

From Ian:

Egypt Tanks Cross Gaza Border Fence
Two Egyptian army tanks have crossed an initial border fence leading to Gaza for the first time on Thursday, witnesses said.
The Hamas administration in Gaza neither confirmed nor denied the incursion, only commenting that no Egyptian tanks had actually entered the Gaza Strip itself.
Witnesses told the AFP news agency that two tanks "crossed the first Egyptian border fence along the corridor between Egypt and (Gaza), and drove along the road running next to the cement wall that Egypt built."
They said it was the "first time Egyptian tanks have been in this area, although they didn't cross into the area ruled by Hamas," adding that the soldiers on top of the tanks had masked faces.
Hamas gives landmines to Egyptian Islamists, trains them in planting car bombs
The Hamas Islamist group ruling Gaza has been teaching Egyptian Islamists how to plant bombs in cars, Egyptian state television said on Thursday.
Hamas also gave 400 landmines to Egyptian militant groups, said the television. Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas rejected the allegations on Thursday.
"This is completely incorrect," said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Islamist group. He said that the report was an "attempt to demonize Hamas".
Prof. Gilboa: The Time to Decide is Now, Obama
Arutz Sheva met this week with Gilboa, the Director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University, who has made it clear that "time is running out" for United States President Barak Obama to diplomatically handle the crisis in the Middle East.
"Everybody agrees that this is going to be the time for decision, otherwise, if nothing is going to be done, Iran will become a nuclear power. Obama has shown in the chemical weapons crisis in Syria that what he promises may not really become policy," Gilboa said.
Analysis: Syria chemical weapons proposal is Putin’s masterstroke
If, for whatever reason, the Syrians do choose to part with an appreciable fraction of their chemical weapons capability, President Vladmir Putin will be able to bask in an aura of statesmanship. It was he, after all, who proposed this path.
And if the Syrians prove recalcitrant and obstructive, no one will blame the Russian president – on the contrary. He has always denied that the regime used chemical weapons in the first place. Why would anyone think he would care whether they hand the weapons over or not? It will instead be seen as a further achievement for him, as the Americans squirm and try to justify why they are not returning to the path of military action, even though the will of the “international community” is being flouted.
Putin will be able to claim credit in the event of Syrian compliance, and in the event of Syrian defiance.
Vladimir Putin’s Trollpolitik
This is Putin just taunting Obama, speaking to the president as Obama used to speak to his predecessor. It’s difficult to know which part Obama will find most insulting. “The law is still the law” is a good one coming from the unreformed KGB gangster. The same goes for Putin’s plea for Obama to listen to his people. Then there is his professed concern for America’s allies, in which Putin suggests Obama is gambling with Israel’s safety.
7 Hypocritical, False and Misleading Statements in Vladamir Putin's NYT Op-ed
2. "A strike ... could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance."
Hypocrisy. Russia has been supplying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with weapons and has been helping Iran with its nuclear program. Putin seems less concerned that these actions would destabilize the region and "throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance."
Syria Expert says 'Assad Can Potentially Win this War'
"There is a wide gap of the Russian proposal and what the United States is expecting of Russia and of Syria. The Americans are speaking of the destruction of chemical weapons, while the case for the Syrians and Russians, they are ready to declare that Syria has such weapons. It can end with no agreement and we can end up where we were a week ago."
Syria Joins Anti-Chemical Weapons Treaty, U.S. Unimpressed
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that the U.S. option to use military force remains on the table while discussions proceed with Russia on how to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
Asked about Syria submitting a document to United Nations and seeking to join the agreement, Harf said, “The Chemical Weapons Convention is an important thing ... but that that would not be a substitute for working with us and the Russians to verify and ultimately destroy their stockpile.”
Report: Assad Scattering Chemical Weapons
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Bashar Al-Assad has begun scattering his massive stockpile of chemical weapons to as many as 50 different sites across the country.
The US newspaper claimed in a report Friday that a secretive military unit at the center of the Syrian chemical weapons program had been charged with moving the lethal stockpile, making it difficult for the international community to track. The newspaper cited US and Europeans intelligence agencies as saying: "Unit 450 is in charge of mixing and deploying chemical munitions, and it provides security at chemical sites."
Syrian rebel chief claims Assad gave Hezbollah nerve gas
According to a report Friday in Saudi Arabia’s al-Watan newspaper, Syrian National Coalition member Kamal al-Labwani said the rebels obtained documents and testimony from a defector from one of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons research centers that indicate Syrian President Bashar Assad transferred roughly one metric ton of VX nerve gas to its ally, Hezbollah.
Al-Labwani told al-Watan that he forwarded documentary proof of his claim to the US Embassy in Jordan and British intelligence in Doha. The al-Watan report could not be independently confirmed.
UN: Syria targets hospitals, denies healthcare as 'weapon of war'
Syrian government forces have deliberately targeted hospitals, attacked field hospitals with fighter jets and prevented the sick and wounded from receiving medical care, UN war crimes investigators said on Friday.
In a special report, they said that the forces of President Bashar Assad had waged a campaign using "the denial of medical care as a weapon of war", especially against people living in opposition-controlled areas.
"There is also evidence that some anti-government armed groups have attacked hospitals in certain areas," said the independent inquiry led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro.
Syrian Shells Land in Golan Heights as Israeli Hospitals Treat Victims of War
While there are no reports of injuries or damage resulting from the shells on Thursday, wounded Syrians continue being admitted for treatment in Israeli hospitals. Most recently, a Syrian man with a wound to his head, a one-year-old, and a 10-month old were admitted to Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, according to the Jerusalem Post and Israel Radio.
U.S. Calls on Egypt to Cancel State of Emergency
The United States on Thursday once again called on Egypt's interim authorities to lift a state of emergency which has been in force since August. The call came after Cairo announced it would extend the state of emergency for two months.
"We remain opposed, as we have from the beginning, to the state of emergency. And we urge the interim government to end it immediately," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters, according to the AFP news agency.
U.S. and Iran are edging toward direct talks
Signaling a possible thaw in long-frozen relations, the Obama administration and the new leadership in Iran are communicating about Syria and are moving behind the scenes toward direct talks that both governments hope can ease the escalating confrontation over Tehran's nuclear program.
President Obama reportedly reached out to Iran's relatively moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, through an exchange of letters in recent weeks. The pragmatist cleric is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, and after years of the United States cold-shouldering his ultraconservative predecessor, U.S. officials say it's possible they will meet with Rouhani on the sidelines.
Beyond that, U.S. and Iranian officials are tentatively laying the groundwork for potential face-to-face talks between the two governments, the first in the rancorous 34 years since radical students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and founded the Islamic theocracy. Diplomatic relations have been broken ever since.
U.S.: Iran Nuclear Developments Are 'Troubling'
Both the United States and the EU expressed hope that the election of Hassan Rouhani, who has been described by the West as a relative moderate, would lead to a softening of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear defiance.
At the same time, they also said Iran had continued to increase its nuclear capacity in recent months and that no progress had been made so far in a long-stalled UN investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran, which denies any such activity.
They warned that they may seek diplomatic action against Iran at the next quarterly meeting of the 35-nation board of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in late November, if no progress has been achieved by then.
Iranian Media Lauds Humiliating Blow for U.S.
Iran's conservative press trumpeted as a "humiliating blow" the decision by its arch-foe the United States to put on hold plans for a military intervention in Syria following a surprise Russian initiative aimed at defusing the stand-off.
"By taking the Russian initiative seriously, Washington will send a signal to Tehran that it's willing to take risks and make compromises for peace," Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based advocacy organisation, told the AFP news agency.
Erdogan vows to squelch efforts to 'create chaos' as police disperse protests
Riot police used tear gas to disperse pockets of anti-government demonstrators in several Turkish cities for a third night and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vowed to stamp out what he described as efforts to "create chaos."
Officers backed by armored vehicles and water cannon played cat and mouse into the early hours of Friday with groups of youths in the streets of Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, dismantling their makeshift barricades of garbage and rubble.
There were similar protests in Ankara and reports on social media of unrest in the Mediterranean coastal cities of Antalya and Antakya, but the troubles were not on the same scale as the weeks of rioting which rocked Turkey in June and July.
Taliban attacks US Consulate in Afghanistan
Taliban militants attacked the US Consulate in western Afghanistan on Friday morning, using a car bomb and guns to battle security forces just outside the compound in the city of Herat. It was not entirely clear whether any attackers managed to breach the facility, but at least two Afghans died, while the US said its personnel were all safe.
The attack, which also injured several people and wound up leaving five alleged militants dead, underscored the perilous security situation in Afghanistan, where US-led troops are reducing their presence ahead of a full withdrawal next year. The insurgent strikes are no longer concentrated in the country’s south and east, but occur with troubling frequency in the north and west, which have been the more peaceful areas in years past.
Al-Qaida calls for terror attacks in US to 'bleed America economically'
In his audio speech, Zawahri said Muslims should refuse to buy goods from America and its allies, as such spending only helped to fund US military action in Muslim lands. He added that Muslims should abandon the US dollar and replace it with the currency of nations that did not attack Muslims.
Zawahri spoke approvingly of one of the worst attacks on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001, the bombing of the Boston Marathon in April, which US authorities say was carried out by two ethnic Chechen Muslim brothers. The attack killed three people and injured 264.
Zawahri sought to paint the bombing as part of al-Qaida's violent transnational campaign of jihad or holy war against US interests, even if it was relatively small-scale.