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Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

Saudis to Unify Hardline Islamist Groups in Syria

Salafists

The speculations about Saudi Arabia climbing down on the regime change project in Syria in tandem with the United States’ diplomatic moves following up the Russian initiative on chemical weapons, can now be laid to rest. So indeed the animated talk in hushed tones in the regional capitals that spy chief Prince Bandar Sultan, who is piloting the Saudi project in Syria might be given the sack by King Abdullah.

After carefully weighing the options, the Saudis have apparently decided to press ahead with the project in Syria, no matter the twists and turns in the US policies. The UPI has carried a special report that Prince Bandar is being assigned to work on bringing together under Saudi control the hardline Islamist groups operating in Syria. 

The Saudis are actually fighting a proxy war in Syria aimed at containing Iranian influence. There have been reports that Prince Bandar recently visited Israel. Saudi Arabia and Israel have a congruence of interests in the containment of Iran. Recently, in his UN speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly referred to Israel and some unnamed Arab states working together.
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Is Turkey on the Cusp of Rethink on Syria?

Erdogan

Through the past two-year period of turmoil in Syria, President Bashar Al-Assad has shown himself to be a master tactician who consistently outmaneuvered his regional adversaries. Syria has a tough neighborhood. Al-Assad’s regional adversaries are formidable people in their own ways. But he invariably pre-empted them, staying one step ahead of them, repeatedly forcing them onto the back foot and throwing into disarray their best-laid plots. 

That’s what makes his latest interview last week with the Turkish television channel Halk rather significant. Al-Assad came down very hard on Turkey’s Syria policies and on Prime Minister Recep Erdogan personally. He warned Ankara of a blowback of terrorism that it has been promoting in Syria – “In the near future these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey. Turkey will pay very dearly…” 

"All that he [Erdogan] says about Syria and its people is a heap of lies, that is all ... Erdoğan is doing nothing but supporting the terrorists," said al-Assad.
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The Dragon Enters NATO's Orchard

FD 2000 Air Defense


What a tumultuous week it has been. It began with United States president Barack Obama’s speech in the UN General Assembly last Monday signaling that the era of American dominance of the Middle East is ending. But the signal is already being acted upon before the week ended.

That is what the stunning announcement in Ankara on Thursday signifies – over the decision by the Turkish government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to select a Chinese defence firm, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp [CPMIEC], for a $3 billion contract to co-produce a long-range air and missile defence system for the country… 

From a long term perspective it is a close call to decide which is going to be more fateful – the American-Iranian thaw that Obama visualized in his UN speech and kick-started immediately thereafter, or the appearance of a Chinese company that is allied to the People’s Liberation Army to undertake the highly sensitive task of building a missile defence ensemble for a country on Europe’s doorstep that also happens to be a key member country of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO].
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Obama at the UN: Syrian Blues and a Persian Puzzle

Obamaun

The general expectation was indeed that the United States President Barack Obama’s annual address at the United Nations General Assembly session on Tuesday would contain some major pronouncements of new American policy direction on the Syrian conflict and over the situation around Iran

No doubt, the Middle East dominated his speech and all but edged out other global issues such as climate change or the US’ rebalancing strategy in Asia or global disarmament. This in itself is stunning: America, the lone superpower, in a diminished role as regional power. 

The overpowering impression one gets out of Obama’s speech is that the Middle East remains a major foreign policy preoccupation, perhaps, even the most important preoccupation, for the rest of his presidency. Obama has zeroed in on the Iran question as the one area where he will seek a presidential legacy.
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Syria: The Iron in Obama's Soul

Boehner Cantor

For the first time through the two-year old Syrian conflict, the United States has mentioned the sacred cow – "boots on the ground". The Secretary of State John Kerry has pleaded that the US Congress should approve the use of American ground troops although the Obama administration may not intend to take recourse to such action. 

This is a hugely significant turning point in the fast-developing scenario of US military intervention in Syria. There was added poignancy that Kerry was speaking at a congressional hearing on Tuesday with the Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey seated beside him listening.


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Obama Nearing Point of No Return

Obama Joker

President Vladimir Putin’s remarks on the Syrian crisis, while on a visit to Vladivostok over the weekend, were his first ones since the crisis began snowballing over the United States’ moves to launch a militarily attack against the Middle Eastern country.

What is striking from the Kremlin’s transcript is that Putin spoke far more extensively than what the media reports suggested, and, second, he spoke on virtually every aspect of the explosive situation.

The timing is very important, too, as less than a week remains for the major international event G20 summit which is scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg on Thursday, bringing together the world’s top leaders, including President Barack Obama, around a conference table.
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Iran Can Finesse Obama's Legacy

Obama Peace Prize

President Barack Obama is setting a new precedent in America’s history as an imperialist power. 

He is all but apologizing before he orders a military attack against a sovereign country with which the United States is not war, and which has not offended America’s vital interests and concerns as a sovereign country even remotely. 

The Obama administration is publicizing in advance that it is going to be a "limited" military attack by the US on Syria. It is even willing to give advance notice of when the attack can be expected – most likely on Thursday. Who would say Obama is not a humane and considerate statesman?

By "limited" attack, the Obama administration is indicating it will not directly attack Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles but only their "delivery systems," which means the Syrian air force and the army units that are capable of staging a chemical weapon attack. Indeed, someone is in command of any country’s armed forces and, therefore, the "command-and-control" systems of the Syrian armed forces will also be targeted.
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The West Strikes Back in Syria

Syria Gun Rebels

No sooner than the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors arrived in Damascus – within 72 hours, in fact – the Syrian opposition figures based in Istanbul, Turkey, have claimed that up to 1400 people have been killed in chemical weapons attacks by the government forces on the outskirts of the Syrian capital on Wednesday morning. 

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union and the Arab League are among those who have demanded for urgent action. 

Unsurprisingly, the Syrian government itself has strongly refuted the allegation calling it a "dirty" media war, which reflected the "hysteria, disorder and breakdown" of the rebels who have suffered a string of devastating military defeats in the recent days and weeks.

What is the game plan? One vital clue lies in the appointment of the Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom as the head of the UN team that landed in Damascus three days ago. Sellstrom served in the select band of UN weapon inspectors in Iraq…
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Egypt's Junta Has Nothing to Lose

Egypt Aug14

The appointment of Robert Ford as the new American ambassador to Egypt was indeed an ominous sign that the Obama administration expected civil war conditions to arise in Egypt. Ford’s forte during his hugely successful “diplomatic’ assignment in Baghdad in the middle of the last decade was to organize the notorious death squads, which tore Mesopotamia apart and destroyed Iraq almost irreparably.

Equally, Ford played a seminal role in his subsequent ambassadorial assignment in Damascus in 2011 in successfully triggering the Syrian civil war. Ford is the living embodiment of the stunning reality that between the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, there has been no real shift in the United States’ policies in the Middle East aimed at perpetuating its regional hegemony.
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The Kurdish Spring in Turkey’s Backyard

Ocalan
photo: ~ Magne

The blowback of Turkey’s covert operations aimed at destabilizing the Syrian regime has begun surging. The spectre of an independent Kurdish entity on its Syrian border has come to haunt Turkey.

The challenge posed by the “Kurdish Spring” in northern Syria is of an existential character, but, ironically, the powers from far and near who encouraged Turkey to destabilize Syria are nowhere to be seen – incapable or unwilling to get involved in what could turn out to be a regional maelstrom.

An even bigger irony is that Turkey’s best allies in the region in the struggle against Kurdish separatism have traditionally been – and still could be – Iran, Iraq and Syria – but Ankara is no longer on friendly terms with any of them and the prospects of reconciliation seem a remote possibility at the moment.

Meanwhile, the military coup in Egypt has found Turkey badly isolated in its region. The regional axis involving Turkey, Qatar and Egypt has overnight disintegrated and key Arab states view with disfavor the Turkish leadership’s affinities with the Muslim Brotherhood.
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