Sunday, January 8, 2012
If there was any doubt about Al Jazeera's sympathies and lack of neutrality, it was effectively laid to rest with the channel's coverage of the release of Samir Kuntar. Kuntar had savagely murdered two Israelis in 1979, including a 4-year old girl, and had been jailed in Israel since then. On his 2008 release in an Israel-Hezbollah deal, Al Jazeera Arabic threw him a party: "Brother Samir, we wish to celebrate your birthday with you," crowed the station's Beirut bureau chief, hailing Kuntar as a "pan-Arab hero."
The Two Faces of Al Jazeera.(MEForum).By Oren Kessler.
One of the principal beneficiaries of the Arab uprisings has been Al Jazeera television. Viewers are praising the English and Arabic channels' comprehensive coverage of the revolts while the Obama administration continues to court the network as part of its signature foreign policy goal of improving ties with the Arab and Muslim worlds.
On August 1, 2011, Al Jazeera English (AJE) began broadcasting to two million cable subscribers in New York—the third major U.S. city to carry the station after Houston and Washington, D.C. AJE's gutsy, driven reporting—one commentator aptly commended its "hustle"—has won it friends in high places: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the channel as "real news," and Sen. John McCain (Republican, Ariz.) said he was "very proud" of its handling of the so-called Arab Spring.
Lost in the exuberance is the fact that a vast gulf still separates the channel's English iteration from the original Arabic, which fifteen years after its birth continues to inflame Arab resentments in its promotion of anti-Americanism, Sunni sectarianism and, in recent years, Islamism.
As AJE debuts in New York, many viewers who do not speak Arabic will presume the station to be a direct or approximate translation of its parent network in Qatar. But to appreciate what Al Jazeera English is, it is critical to remember just what it is not—even a remote likeness of its Arabic-speaking progenitor.
In his 2004 state of the union address, President George W. Bush singled out Al Jazeera as a source of "hateful propaganda" in the Arab world, and then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld blasted its war coverage as "propaganda," "inexcusably biased," and "vicious."
Over the past decade, however, Al Jazeera's sectarian impulse has been moving ever closer to garden-variety Sunni Islamism, a shift dramatic enough to catch the attention even of the liberal bulwark The Nation. In 2007, the weekly's Kristen Gillespie wrote that 9/11 "brought a new anti-imperialist and, many argue, a pro-Sunni Islamist bent to the network ... The field reports are overwhelmingly negative with violent footage played over and over, highlighting Arab defeat and humiliation. And there's a clear underlying message: that the way out of this spiral is political Islam."
"[I]t doesn't take much viewing of the channel to discern a dual message," Gillespie wrote. "Sunni religious figures are almost always treated deferentially as voices of authority on almost any issue, and Arab governments as useless stooges of the United States and Israel."
In the words of Alberto Fernandez, then-director for press and public diplomacy in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, "We see the unconditional support of Islamic movements, no matter where they are: Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan. … How things are covered, the prominence of things, what words are used—sometimes you do see that very clear Islamist subtext."
In 2002, Al Jazeera Arabic promoted Wadah Khanfar—a reporter from the West Bank town of Jenin widely believed to have close Muslim Brotherhood ties—from Iraq bureau chief to managing director. Three years later Khanfar was promoted to director general of the overall Al Jazeera network, overseeing both language channels. On both occasions, he replaced relatively secular-minded journalists.
Gillespie spoke with nine active and former employees who described Khanfar as an Islamist. "Everyone is complaining about the new trend now—that the liberals, the secular types, the Arab nationalists are getting downsized, and the Islamic position is dominating the newsroom," said a former Baghdad correspondent. "From the first day of the Wadah Khanfar era, there was a dramatic change, especially because of him selecting assistants who are hard-line Islamists," added AJA's former Washington bureau chief Hafez al-Mirazi, who resigned a year after Khanfar's arrival to protest the station's "Islamist drift."
For his part, Khanfar has dismissed the idea that his perspective was in any way at odds with those of the channel's viewers. "Islam is more of a factor now in the influential political and social spheres of the Arab world, and the network's coverage reflects that," he said. "Maybe you have more Islamic voices [on AJA] because of the political reality on the ground." Judea Pearl put the channel's agenda more plainly: "I have no doubt that, today, Al Jazeera is the most powerful voice of the Muslim Brotherhood."
The Obama State Department overturned the Bush administration's refusal to grant Khanfar a visa, and in 2009, he met with State, Pentagon, and White House officials before embarking on a speaking tour that included the New America Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, and Middle East Institute.
Khanfar resigned as director general in September of this year, following the release of WikiLeaks cables showing he had met with U.S. officials and agreed to tone down Iraq war coverage Washington deemed inflammatory. The choice of Khanfar's replacement—an oil executive who belongs to the ruling al-Thani dynasty—is yet another sign that despite U.S. pressure to privatize, Qatar intends to keep Al Jazeera a wholly-owned family business.
Given its Islamist sympathies, it is unsurprising that the network sides heavily with Hamas in its rivalry with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA). "In Arabic, it's unmistakable—Al Jazeera is not just pro-Palestinian, but pro-Hamas," the Israeli spokesman said. The New York Times—which has pushed for AJE's inclusion on U.S. cable—has conceded that there is "little doubt" the Arabic channel portrays Hamas more favorably than its rivals.
Polls show a remarkable 53 percent of Palestinians use Al Jazeera as their primary news source with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya a distant second at 13 percent. The way AJA covers any prospective Israeli-Palestinian agreement will fundamentally shape how such a deal is viewed—and whether it is accepted—by the Palestinian public.
When in 2009 Mahmoud Abbas agreed to defer a U.N. Human Rights Council discussion of the notorious Goldstone report on that year's Gaza offensive, Al Jazeera censured the PA president for his "capitulation" to Israeli and Western demands. The resulting public outcry nearly resulted in Abbas's resignation.
Early this year, the network published the "Palestine Papers"—a leak of 1,700 files encompassing a decade's worth of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations—prompting commentators across the Arab world to denounce the PA leadership for supposedly agreeing to wide-ranging concessions toward Israel. "The fact is that Al Jazeera has never done the same against Hamas, and that Hamas has never complained about Al Jazeera's coverage," the Israeli spokesman said. "It's always the Palestinian Authority that complains."
On Al Jazeera Arabic, anti-Israel sentiment tends to bleed indistinguishably into anti-Semitism. Erik Nisbet, a scholar of Arabic media at Ohio State University, said the channel's treatment of extremists would be roughly akin to a U.S. network giving airtime to the Ku Klux Klan. American channels, he said, "would report on them, but they are not going to do in-depth interviews or invite them to be on mainstream talk shows, and let them say anything they want, but Al Jazeera does." According to Nisbet, there is "no doubt" that anti-Semitism is woven into the very fabric of AJA's reporting.
After 9/11, AJA presenters repeated, unchallenged, a report that Jews had been tipped off not to report to work at the World Trade Center that morning. Contributors running the clerical, jihadist, and guerrilla gamut blamed Jews for the attacks and urged the United States to "get rid" of its own. The summer before, an episode of The Opposite Direction was dedicated to the question, "Is Zionism Worse than Nazism?" Of the 12,000 viewers who called in, 85 percent answered in the affirmative, 11 percent saw both as equally bad, and 2.7 percent ventured that Nazism was worse.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, host of Al Jazeera's most popular program, Shari'a and Life, regularly froths about the insidious character of Shiites, Americans, and especially Jews. "Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one," he said on air in 2009. Elsewhere, Qaradawi praised Hitler's treatment of the Jews ("even though they exaggerated the issue") but stressed the führer's regret at not finishing the job.
When in July 2008, four days before his forty-sixth birthday, Kuntar was released in an Israel-Hezbollah deal, Al Jazeera Arabic threw him a party. "Brother Samir, we wish to celebrate your birthday with you," said Ghassan Ben Jeddo, the station's Beirut bureau chief, playing master of ceremonies. "You deserve even more than this," he said, hailing Kuntar—pudgy and bemused in a mock military uniform—as a "pan-Arab hero."
While a live band tooted a martial medley, food servers rolled out a cake adorned with images of terrorist leaders including Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah. Handing Kuntar a scimitar to cut a piece, Ben Jeddo gushed, "This is the sword of the Arabs, Samir."
Israel threatened to boycott the channel unless it apologized, and AJA's director general penned a letter admitting "elements of the program violated Al Jazeera's code of ethics" and saying he had ordered steps be taken to ensure a similar incident was not repeated. AJA's deputy editor later clarified that the channel had not actually apologized.
"The gentleman involved was fully reprimanded, and he no longer works for us," Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said this summer. "Clearly, that was taken very seriously. That is not the channel I run. I would not have run that … Action was taken immediately after the show was aired."
It is unclear which "gentleman" received the reprimand. Ben Jeddo stayed on as Beirut bureau chief until this year when he resigned to protest the network's hard-hitting if belated coverage of the Syrian crackdown. "The channel ended a dream of objectivity and professionalism after Al Jazeera stopped being a media source and became an operations room for incitement and mobilization," he wrote in his resignation letter with apparent seriousness.
In English, Al Jazeera's coverage of the event was only marginally better. In the lead-up to Kuntar's release, AJE aired a segment from his home village of Abieh in which reporter Zeina Khodr described Nahariya, a city within Israel's sovereign borders, as a "settlement." After introducing Kuntar by his full name, she named him seven times by his first name and not once by his last. Nowhere did she mention the brutality with which Kuntar's victims were murdered
On Kuntar's release, Lebanon-based reporter Rula Amin effused that "in his hometown, Samir Kuntar is received as a freedom fighter, and he was received with a festive ceremony. A hero, even to those who were not even born when he went to prison." Amin apparently found it more remarkable that Kuntar's admirers included young people than that an entire village, country, and region should lionize a child murderer.
"A display of unity in Abieh," she concluded, "may be the start of reconciliation between Hezbollah and Walid Jumblatt," the Lebanese Druze leader. As Amin would have it, the crux of the story is not the inverted morals of Kuntar's reception but the prospect of that reception serving as a catalyst for Lebanese reconciliation.
"In 2007, I was still hoping that Al Jazeera will become a force for good," he recalled earlier this year. "Unfortunately, the opposite has happened. Al Jazeera's popularity and general acceptance in the West has emboldened its management to take an even harder anti-Western stance."
"Today, we have much deeper concerns with Al Jazeera—it is no longer a clash with journalistic standards but a clash with the norms of civilized society," Pearl wrote. "Our charming infant is smashing windows now and poisoning pets in the neighborhood—a slap on the wrist is perhaps way overdue."Hmmmm......The RED line Huma Weiner a.k.a. Huma Abedin her brother named Hassan Abedin, Huma's brother listed as a fellow and partners with a number of Muslim Brotherhood members on the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS), including al-Qaeda associate, Omar Naseef and the notorious Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi.How deep is the Obama 'Admin' infiltrated by the muslim Brotherhood?Read the full story here.
Oren Kessler is Middle East affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.
Actor Brad Pitt was in “respectful awe” when he visited President Obama in the Oval Office in March 2009, Jodi Kantor reports in “The Obamas.”Though the star is so confident in his public life, he “barely said a thing, and he seemed overcome by meeting the president,” Kantor says.Obama later chastised Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, for talking too much during the meeting, but Jarrett said she was just trying to help Pitt feel more comfortable.Pitt’s reaction to meeting with the president in the Oval Office was similar to how others responded. Entering the office through a narrow hallway “sometimes did strange things to people,” Kantor writes. Visitors’ voices sounded strange because of the room’s curved walls, former deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. Some, like Pitt, responded with near silence, while others “babbled” or began to cry. Older African-Americans were particularly moved to see Obama in the office.Hmmmmmm.................Compare the above to this Man.Read the full story here.
- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation China 5.1!More info here.
- Chart of the Week: Defense Spending Throughout U.S. History.(Heritage).President Obama visited the Pentagon on Thursday to outline his plan for gutting our nation’s military. Obama’s vision makes America more vulnerable to foreign threats and leaves our armed forces less able to provide for the common defense.As we’ve previously illustrated, Obama has proposed significant reductions to the Pentagon’s budget. This week’s chart shows how sharply defense spending has dropped as a percentage of the total federal budget — currently well below its historical average despite ongoing operations overseas. The chart also debunks the myth that our Founding Fathers were isolationists.During his Pentagon visit, Obama claimed the country is safer today than when he took office. Heritage’s James Carafano, writing in the New York Post, called Obama’s assertion “laughable.”Not only is the world not a safer place than when Obama came into office, the strategy his Pentagon has produced to deal with today’s challenges may well make it far worse. Let me translate the Pentagon report into English: The administration is going to gut the Army and Marine Corps, while hitting the Navy and Air Force less (for now). The “strategy” basically says, We have a four-legged stool; we’re going to cut off two legs.For more information on defense spending and how the Budget Control Act of 2011 will impact our nation’s military, Heritage produced a fact sheet that outlines what cuts to expect in the future.Hmmmm.....If he really wanted to destroy America as a superpower would he do anything different?Read and see the full story here.
- Soldiers on Lockdown After 'Sensitive' Military Equipment is Stolen from Washington Base.(Fox).FORT LEWIS, Wash – More than 100 soldiers were on lockdown Sunday after "sensitive" military equipment was stolen from a base in Fort Lewis, Wash.The soldiers were put on lockdown Wednesday after items such as scopes, night vision goggles and range finders went missing from Joint Base Lewis-McChord over the holidays, myFOXSpokane.com reported.Lewis-McChord spokesman Matt Hinkle said Saturday that the army was carrying out a criminal investigation into the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division after the "sensitive" items went missing, The News Tribune reported."They'll be on base until the items are found," Hinkle, who estimated the company contained about 100- 200 soldiers, said. "This is the unit's property that's come up missing.""We're going to continue to conduct this investigation as thoroughly as possible," I Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield added. "We will get to the bottom of this matter."Officials are offering a $10,000 reward for the return of the equipment.Hmmmm........for night vision goggles $10.000 reward?Read the full story here.
- Obama Seeks Pay Hike For Federal Workers While Gutting Hundreds of Thousands From U.S. Military.(WP).The White House will propose a 0.5 percent pay increase for civilian federal employees as part of its 2013 budget proposal, according to two senior administration officials familiar with the plans.The modest across-the-board pay jump would be the first increase for federal workers since before a two-year freeze began in late 2010. Raises for within-grade step increases and promotions have continued during the freeze.The proposal, which requires congressional approval, differs from Republican plans supported by lawmakers and presidential candidates that would freeze basic pay rates for one more year. Some of those plans also call for denying within-grade raises. In recent weeks, GOP lawmakers have called for extending the pay freeze as a way to pay for a payroll tax extension.But, “a permanent pay freeze is not an acceptable policy,” one of the senior administration officials said Friday. “While modest, a 0.5 percent increase reflects the belt-tightening we must do in these difficult times.”The officials were unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, but said that the White House notified agency budget offices about the decision Friday morning so that agencies could complete their 2013 budget requests.The White House is expected to formally unveil its fiscal 2013 budget proposal in early February. No decision has been made yet on a potential pay raise for uniformed military personnel, the officials said, though lawmakers and federal worker unions traditionally push to ensure pay parity between civilian and military personnel. Pay parity was the standard practice for many years before 2009.Read the full story here.
- US think tank group considered close to Obama administration E-mails reveals anti-Semitism.(JPost).A senior employee of the US think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) appears to have admitted in an e-mail sent from his CAP account that a blogger for the policy organization used anti-Semitic language to attack supporters of the Jewish state.CAP advises the Democratic Party on Middle East policy and is an important source of ideas for the Obama administration.The Jerusalem Post last week obtained the first CAP acknowledgment of Jew-hatred stemming from a group of Mideast bloggers affiliated with CAP’s ThinkProgress website.In the e-mail that the Post obtained exclusively from the CAP account of Faiz Shakir, who serves as editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress.org website and is a vice president at CAP, he wrote, “Yes, I agree ‘Israel Firster’ is terrible, anti-Semitic language. And that’s why that language no longer exists on Zaid’s personal twitter feed, because he also knows and understands the implications.”Zaid Jilani wrote on his Twitter account, where he identifies himself as a “Reporter-Blogger for ThinkProgress,” that “...Obama is still beloved by Israel-firsters and getting lots of their $$.”The e-mail recognizing the anti-Semitism of a CAP blogger was sent from FShakir@americanprogress.org in December.US-Jewish and Israeli NGOs accused a faction of ThinkProgress bloggers that month of stoking modern anti-Semitism. The anti-Israel scandal saw two CAP writers, Jilani and Ali Gharib, issue apologies for asserting that American Jews and a non-Jewish Republican senator serve the interests of the Israeli government over the security of the United States.Speaking with the Post from Washington on Thursday, Shakir declined to comment on the e-mail from his account.He did not respond to a followup Post e-mail sent on Friday.In a lengthy article on Friday on the Daily Beast news website, Ken Gude, the managing director of CAP’s National Security and International Policy Program, denied any anti-Semitism or anti-Israelism at CAP. He told the Daily Beast that the allegations were “wildly unfair” and “flatly untrue.”The Post sent an e-mail to Gude on Friday citing the quote in question from the email that had been sent from Shakir’s account. He did not respond to the Post e-mail or to a follow-up telephone query.Critics accuse CAP of failing to combat rising anti-Israel sentiment among a group of bloggers who write about the Middle East and have created an anti-Jewish state environment at the mainstream policy organization. The e-mail conceding anti-Semitism at ThinkProgress underscores an internal rift at the think tank.In an e-mail to the Post last week, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, wrote, “The prominence of CAP in the Obama administration has been recognized by news outlets like Time and Bloomberg News, both of which describe the think tank as the president’s ‘Ideas Factory.’ The fact that CAP has staffers who disseminate this kind of virulent, poisonous anti-Israel material points to a serious problem – that there is a strain of hostility toward Israel running through elements of the mainstream Democratic Party.”Matt Duss, director for the Middle East at CAP, compared Israel’s security policies to the racist “segregated South” in the United States. Duss declined to respond to queries about this statement on the ThinkProgress website. The disclosure of the e-mail from Shakir’s account comes after a series of dire developments for CAP’s reputation, culminating in sharp criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center – all of which slammed CAP for promoting hatred of Jews and Israel.Brooks said that “Liberals and Democrats who value their party’s reputation regarding national security and the US-Israel alliance have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, it appears that elements who would irreparably damage that reputation have a foothold within an important mainstream Democratic institution.”David A. Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, wrote to the Post that “The words of these individuals [the bloggers] are deeply disturbing, and they were right to apologize for their remarks. However those who have not apologized for their remarks include Rep. Allen West (R-FL), who invoked Joseph Goebbels to attack Democrats in December, and far too many others on the right who have dragged abusive Holocaust rhetoric into our political discourse in recent years.”Harris said, “In truth, neither the Left nor the Right has a monopoly on rhetoric that American Jews rightly find disturbing – although through talk radio, presidential candidates and members of Congress, the Right seems to be trying to corner the market.”Steinberg said “it is highly unfortunate when individuals and organizations play politics with anti-Semitic rhetoric.“Pointing fingers and saying that others are more anti- Semitic is a sad attempt to distract from one’s own errors. This rhetoric adds to the destructive impact, and does nothing to remove this language from the public discourse.”Read the full story here.
- Obama Administration reaches out to Egypt’s Brotherhood 'out of necessity'; Islamists see further parliament gains.(AlArabiya).The United States is reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood as the group gains political momentum in the parliamentary elections.“It’s clear that they (the Brotherhood) are now the only game in town,” and U.S. officials must talk to them, Marina Ottaway, who heads the Middle East program in Washington for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told AFP.Banned under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood has emerged as a major political winner from the uprising that toppled him in the form of the well-organized Freedom and Justice Party.During the Mubarak era, Ottoway said that the U.S. administration had essentially “bought” the former president’s “line” that the Brotherhood and its links to Islamist militants were a threat to Egypt’s and the region’s stability, even though it had renounced violence decades ago.“The U.S. essentially backed Mubarak in its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Ottaway said. U.S. officials had also turned down invitations by her think-tank to attend post-2005 meetings with Arab Islamist groups, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.“For the U.S. now to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood is a big step, it’s a step that’s long overdue, but it’s a step that the United States has resisted,” she added. “It’s a huge change and they’re doing it out of necessity.”The Muslim Brotherhood said on Saturday it had won at least 41 percent of the seats in Egypt’s lower house of parliament, with Islamists of various stripes occupying almost two thirds of the assembly so far.The Brotherhood has promised that Egyptians of all persuasions will have their say and, while the strong Islamist performance has alarmed some Egyptians and Western governments that backed Mubarak, it is far from clear whether rival Islamists will cooperate in the new legislature. The Brotherhood’s Democratic Alliance list has won 41 percent of the seats so far, while another list led by the hardline Islamist Nour Party came second with 20 percent of the seats.Hmmmm....“It’s a huge change and they’re doing it out of necessity.”The fact that Huma Wiener's brother sits on the same board as Prominent Muslim Brotherhood theologian Shaikh Yousef al-Qaradawi has NOTHING to do with the policy change?Read the full story here.
- Muslim Brotherhood Denies Obama Administration's Claim That Egypt Will Honor Peace Treaty.(WorldJewishDaily).In another blow to the Obama administration's attempt to reassure its allies that the rise of Islamic parties throughout the Arab world is not a threat, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the victors in recent elections, has denied the administration's claim that it had agreed to honor Egypt's 1978 peace treaty with Israel.The Brotherhood's deputy leader Essam al-Erian,stated on Saturday that the accords "are under the responsibility of the people and state institutions, and it would not be right for anyone to speak on behalf of the Egyptian people... We are not in a position to give assurances."This would appear to be a confirmation of the Brotherhood's intention to put the treaty up for a national referendum, which the treaty would almost certainly lose, meaning that it would have to be renegotiated and/or a state of war would exist between Egypt and the Jewish state. The statement is also a brutal slap in the face of the Obama administration, which had claimed on Thursday that private reassurances had been given by the Brotherhood to the effect that they would honor the treaty.Reaction on the part of the administration to the Arab Spring in general has been haphazard and inconsistent, with Washington trapped between its desire to promote democracy and the increasing sense that the wave of uprisings will not bring democracy but rather Islamic theocracy to power throughout the Middle East.At the moment, however, the most pressing concern is maintaining the Egyptian-Israeli peace, which has been the cornerstone of the peace process and regional stability for over thirty years.At the moment, the prospects are not looking good. As YNet reports,Rashad al-Bayoumi, the Brotherhood's second in command, told Al-Hayat last week that "the Muslim Brotherhood will not recognize Israel under any circumstances and might put the peace treaty with the Jewish state up to a referendum."The Brotherhood, he added, "did not sign the peace accords… We are allowed to ask the people or the elected parliament to express their opinion on the treaty, and [to find out] whether it compromised the people's freedom and sovereignty. We will take the proper legal steps in dealing with the peace deal. To me, it isn't binding at all. The people will express their opinion on the matter."Hmmmm........Which one would you believe or trust - Obama or The Muslim Brotherhood?..........Exactly!Read the full story here.
- Thugocracy - Union Workers Received Nearly 8 Times As Many Obamacare Waivers As Those In The Private Sector.(DailyCaller).Labor unions continued to receive the overwhelming majority of waivers from the president’s health care reform law since the Obama administration tightened application rules last summer.Documents released in a classic Friday afternoon news dump show that labor unions representing 543,812 workers received waivers from President Barack Obama‘s signature legislation since June 17, 2011.By contrast, private employers with a total of 69,813 employees, many of whom work for small businesses, were granted waivers. [...]. By and large, unions backed the health care overhaul, a law from which nearly a half million of their workers are now exempt.Read the full story here.
- Thousands of US troops land in Israel. Aircraft carrier coming soon.(Debka).Thousands of US troops began descending on Israel this week. Senior US military sources told debkafile Friday, Jan. 6 that many would be staying up to the end of the year as part of the US-IDF deployment in readiness for a military engagement with Iran and its possible escalation into a regional conflict. They will be joined by a US aircraft carrier. The warplanes on its decks will fly missions with Israeli Air Force jets. The 9,000 US servicemen gathering in Israel in the coming weeks are mostly airmen, missile interceptor teams, marines, seamen, technicians and intelligence officers.The incoming American soldiers are officially categorized as participants in Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint US-Israeli war game ever held.The maneuver was originally designated Juniper Stallion 2012. However, the altered name plus the comment heard from the exercise's commander, US Third Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, during his visit two weeks ago, that the coming event is more a "deployment" than an "exercise," confirmed that Washington has expanded its mission. The joint force will now be in place ready for a decision to attack Iran's nuclear installations or any war emergency.Our sources disclose that it was decided at the last minute in Washington and Jerusalem to announce the forthcoming Austere Challenge 12 on Thursday night, Jan. 5, ahead of the bulletin released by Tehran about another Iranian naval exercise at the Strait of Hormuz to take place in February, although its 10-day drill in the same arena only ended Monday, Jan. 2.The early release was decided in consultations among US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the two army chiefs, US Gen. Martin Dempsey and Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.British Defense Minister Phillip Hammond, on a visit to Washington, was brought into the discussion.The handout circulated to US correspondents from Hammond's talks in the US capital affirmed that Britain stands ready to strike Iran if the Strait of Hormuz is closed.However, that phrase was omitted from the British minister's remarks at a news conference, following a last-minute request from Panetta, signifying the Obama administration's interest of keeping a low profile on plans for attacking Iran.Tehran too is walking a taut tightrope. It is staging military's maneuvers every few days to assuring the Iranian people that its leaders are fully prepared to defend the country against an American or Israeli strike on its national nuclear program. By this stratagem, Iran's ground, sea and air forces are maintained constantly at top war readiness to thwart any surprise attack.The joint US-Israeli drill will test multiple Israeli and US air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets, according to the official communiqué.Hmmmm....... Calling it not just an “exercise”, but a “deployment”Now, it’s reported that the US military, including the US Navy, will be stationed throughout Israel.While American troops will be stationed in Israel for an unspecified amount of time.Has the Foreign Invasion of Israel Begun? What will happen when Obama gets a second Term?Will he divide Jerusalem?Split up Israel?Read the full story here.
- Flashback - Judaism: An Invasion of Israel? In 2012?INN April 12, 2011.(INN).Negative-seeming events may be the fulfillment of a prophecy that is a harbinger of redemption. Read on for a possible scenario in keeping with current and recent events and Biblical prophecy.Read the full story here.
- Iran: Underground nuclear site near operational.(JPost).Iran's underground uranium enrichment facility will start operations soon, a senior official was quoted by Iranian media on Sunday as saying, a move likely to increase tension between the Islamic state and the West over Tehran's nuclear ambitions."The Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future ... 20 percent, 3.5 percent and four percent enriched uranium can be produced at this site," said the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, the Kayhan daily reported.Iran has said for months that it is preparing to conduct uranium enrichment at Fordow, a protected site deep inside a mountain near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom in central Iran.The United States and its allies say Iran is trying to build bombs, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed at generating power.The inauguration of the site could block fresh nuclear talks with major powers aimed at resolving Iran's nuclear row through diplomacy. Iran has called for talks on its nuclear program with the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany (P5+1), which have been stalled for a year.Diplomats told Reuters on Friday that Iran was believed to have begun feeding uranium gas into centrifuges in Fordow in late December as part of final preparations to use the machines for enrichment.Iran is already refining uranium to a fissile purity of 20 percent - far more than the 3.5 percent level usually required to power nuclear energy plants - above ground at another location.Diplomats say it is moving this higher-grade enrichment to Fordow in an apparent bid to better protect the work against any enemy attacks. It also plans to sharply boost output capacity.The United States and Israel, Iran's arch foes, have not ruled out strikes against the Islamic state if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.Iran has been hit by four rounds of U.N. sanctions and the United States and the E.U. have imposed increasingly tight economic sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme.Iran disclosed the existence of Fordow to the IAEA only in September 2009 after learning that Western intelligence agencies had detected it. Read The full story here.
- Egypt wants new gas deal with Israel, wants increase of 30%.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: After renegotiating successfully with Jordan, Egypt is looking to do the same with Israel over its controversial natural gas deal.Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab told the state-run al-Ahram newspaper that Cairo has already achieved new and equitable gas export deals with countries in the region and is hopeful that they can renegotiate a new deal with Israel.According to the minister’s office, the price of gas to Israel would rise to between $5-$10 per million metric thermal units (MMBTU) and “under no circumstances would he agree to a price lower than $5.”The announcement comes as activists continue to lash out at the Egyptian military junta over its continuing the deal with Israel that delivers natural gas to the neighboring country at rates well below international standards.Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is currently charged with corruption over the deal.“I think it is about time to change this, especially as the government is losing money from it and we are struggling as a country monetarily,” Ahmed Taha, an activist who has protested numerous times for the deal to be revoked, told Bikyamasr.com in a written statement. “We cannot continue a deal that is not benefiting us as a country,” he added.Ghorab said that Egypt “has succeeded in reaching an agreement to raise gas prices to at least $5 per MMBTU with every country in the region except for one.”Ghorab declined to name which country has not yet signed an agreement with Egypt, but as the ministry has already announced new deals with others, he was likely referring to Israel.“If I am not successful in altering the agreement with this country, I will resign my post,” he added.If the deal goes through, then the price Israel will pay Egypt for gas will be 30 percent higher than the previous price, and the price does not include brokerage fees Israel must pay the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG). Following the regime changes in Egypt, and the public uproar over the price of gas exports, the new Egyptian government was forced to open the existing agreements with countries in the region and to begin negotiations for updated prices.Hmmm......By 2013 Israel will have it's own gas from the Tamar field , i wonder to whom Egypt will sell their gas at that time?Read the full story here.
- Hamas leader’s Tunisia visit angers Palestinian officials.(AlArabiya).A visit by Gaza’s Hamas leader has angered the official Palestinian representatives in Tunisia who say they were ignored during the talks with the new government, a Palestinian source said Saturday.Ismail Haniya, prime minister in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, visited Tunis Thursday to meet with the new moderate Islamist-led administration while he was on a tour of the region.But that did not sit well with representatives of the Palestinian Authority led by president Mahmud Abbas.“The Palestinians are furious. Neither the government nor the foreign ministry, nor the (Islamist) Ennahda party informed them of the dates and program of Haniya’s visit, as they should have,” the Palestinian source told AFP.Another source told the Arabic language newspaper Le Maghreb that the lack of communication could hamper reconciliation efforts going on between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party.Haniya was welcomed with much fanfare on his arrival in Tunis, where he was met by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and the head of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi.Some Tunisian media also questioned the purpose of Haniya’s visit, whether it was to talk with the government or the Islamist party.Questioned by AFP, a government source said the Hamas leader “was invited by Tunisia and by the Ennahda party.”Haniya’s six-country tour marked his first travel abroad since Hamas, seen as terrorist group by Western powers, took power in Gaza in 2007. According to his office it was aimed at raising funds to rebuild Gaza City, devastated by an Israeli offensive three years ago.But the Hamas takeover of Gaza politically divided the Palestinian territories, with Abbas’s Fatah left largely ruling the West Bank and recognized internationally as the official Palestinian authority.In April, following years of bitter rivalry, the two factions signed a reconciliation deal whose implementation has since stalled.Last month, Abbas met Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo and the two agreed on a process that could pave the way for the Islamist group to join a reformed Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and for long-delayed Palestinian elections.Tunis was the headquarters of the exiled PLO under Yasser Arafat before the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel granted Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.Read the full story here.
- Senior US official to visit Ankara for talks.(TZ).US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is due to visit Ankara tomorrow (Monday) for talks with Turkish officials, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday.Citing diplomatic sources, Anatolia said Burns will spend 30 hours in Turkey, having talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu.Burns' visit to Ankara comes following Davutoğlu's talks with top Iranian officials in Tehran last week, following which Davutoğlu said talks between Iran and major world powers on Tehran's nuclear program will resume soon. In remarks published in a Japanese newspaper on Sunday, Davutoğlu said both sides have agreed to resume talks soon in Turkey.In addition to Iran, developments in Iraq and Syria are also expected to be discussed during Burns' visit to Turkey.Hmmmm.....Discussing the 'oil waiver' deal ...don't forget to mention the 'reelect obama' fund?Read the full story here.
- Israel - Palestinian nabbed with 11 explosive devices.(YNet).A Palestinian was arrested by Military Police and Border Guard officers Sunday morning at the entrance to a checkpoint in the Jenin area in possession of an improvised gun, a commando knife and 11 explosive devices of different sizes.Three other men suspected of aiding him were also detained. According to suspicions, the four were on their way to carry out a terror attack. The checkpoint has been closed.After being arrested at the entrance to the Salem crossing in the Jenin area, the suspects were taken in for questioning by the security forces. The explosive devices they were carrying were destroyed. The devices were found in the Salem crossing, where Palestinians wait in line for the Jenin Military Court, located nearby. It's unclear whether the court was the target of the attack.A Military Police soldier spotted the four Palestinians trying to enter the checkpoint and wires sticking out of the clothes of one of them. He ordered him to lift up his hands and undress and found three pipe bombs on his body. A search of the Palestinian's bag revealed eight more pipe bombs, a knife and an improvised gun. The four Palestinians were locked in the building and police sappers were dispatched to the area. The other three Palestinians were not carrying anything on their body, but were questioned on suspicion of aiding the man caught with the explosives. A senior officer explained that this was an unusual incident. "Eleven devices is an exceptional amount in one time. We've had incidents this year of three or four devices seized at the same time.Last week, a Border Guard force arrested a Jenin resident on suspicion of planning a stabbing attack in Beersheba. The man was located in a hideout in the southern city and taken in for questioning by the Shin Bet, as was another Palestinian arrested at the Shoket Junction. Hmmmm......Obama's 'peacepartners'.Read the full story here.
- The Geo-Politics of the Strait of Hormuz: Could the U.S. Navy be defeated by Iran in the Persian Gulf?(GR).by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya.U.S. naval strength, which includes the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, has primacy over all the other navies and maritime forces in the world. Its deep sea or oceanic capabilities are unparalleled and unmatched by any other naval power. Primacy does not mean invincibility. U.S. naval forces in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are nonetheless vulnerable.Despite its might and shear strength, geography literally works against U.S. naval power in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. The relative narrowness of the Persian Gulf makes it like a channel, at least in a strategic and military context. Figuratively speaking, the aircraft carriers and warships of the U.S. are confined to narrow waters or are closed in within the coastal waters of the Persian Gulf. This is where the Iranian military’s advanced missile capabilities come into play. The Iranian missile and torpedo arsenal would make short work of U.S. naval assets in the waters of the Persian Gulf where U.S. vessels are constricted. This is why the U.S. has been busily erecting a missile shield system in the Persian Gulf amongst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in the last few years.Even the small Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf, which appear pitiable and insignificant against a U.S. aircraft carrier or destroyer, threaten U.S. warships. Looks can be deceiving; these Iranian patrol boats can easily launch a barrage of missiles that could significantly damage and effectively sink large U.S. warships. Iranian small patrol boats are also hardly detectable and hard to target.Iranian forces could also attack U.S. naval capabilities merely by launching missile attacks from the Iranian mainland on the northern shores of the Persian Gulf. Even in 2008 the Washington Institute for Near East Policy acknowledged the threat from Iran’s mobile coastal missile batteries, anti-ship missiles, and missile-armed small ships. Other Iranian naval assets like aerial drones, hovercraft, mines, diver teams, and mini-submarines could also be used in asymmetrical naval warfare against the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Even the Pentagon’s own war simulations have shown that a war in the Persian Gulf with Iran would spell disaster for the United States and its military. One key example is the Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) war game in the Persian Gulf, which was conducted from July 24, 2002 to August 15, 2002 and took almost two years to prepare. This mammoth drill was amongst the largest and most expensive war games ever held by the Pentagon. Millennium Challenge 2002 was held shortly after the Pentagon had decided that it would continue the momentum of the war in Afghanistan by targeting Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and finishing off with the big prize of Iran in a broad military campaign to ensure U.S. primacy in the new millennium.After Millennium Challenge 2002 was finished, the war game was "officially" presented as a simulation of a war against Iraq under the rule of President Saddam Hussein, but in actuality these war games pertained to Iran. The U.S. had already made assessments for the upcoming Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Moreover, Iraq had no naval capabilities that would merit such large-scale use of the U.S. Navy.Millennium Challenge 2002 was conducted to simulate a war with Iran, which was codenamed “Red” and referred to an unknown Middle Eastern rogue enemy state in the Persian Gulf. Other than Iran, no other country could meet the perimeters and characteristics of “Red” and its military forces, from the patrol boats to the motorcycle units. The war simulation took place because Washington was planning on attacking Iran soon after invading Iraq in 2003.The scenario in the 2002 war game started with the U.S., codenamed “Blue,” giving Iran a one-day ultimatum to surrender in the year 2007. The war game’s date of 2007 would chronologically correspond to U.S. plans to attack Iran after the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006, which was to extend, according to military plans, into a broader war against Syria. too. The war against Lebanon, however, did not go as planned and the U.S. and Israel realized that if Hezbollah could challenge them in Lebanon then an expanded war with Syria and Iran would be a disaster.In Millennium Challenge 2002’s war scenario, Iran would react to U.S. aggression by launching a massive barrage of missiles that would overwhelm the U.S. and destroy sixteen U.S. naval vessels – an aircraft carrier, ten cruisers, and five amphibious ships. It is estimated that if this had happened in real war theater context, more than 20,000 U.S. servicemen would have been killed in the first day following the attack. Next, Iran would send its small patrol boats – the ones that look insignificant in comparison to the U.S.S. John C. Stennis and other large U.S. warships – to overwhelm the remainder of the Pentagon’s naval forces in the Persian Gulf, which would result in the damaging and sinking of most of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and the defeat of the United States. After the U.S. defeat, the war games were started over again, but “Red” (Iran had to operate under the assumption of handicaps and shortcomings, so that U.S. forces would be allowed to emerge victorious from the drill. This outcome of the war games obviated the fact that the U.S. would have been overwhelmed in the context of a real conventional war with Iran in the Persian Gulf.Hence, the formidable naval power of Washington is handicapped both by geography as well Iranian military capabilities when it comes to fighting in the Persian Gulf or even in much of the Gulf of Oman. Without open waters, like in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. will have to fight under significantly reduced response times and, more importantly, will not be able to fight from a stand-off (militarily safe) distance. Thus, entire tool boxes of U.S. naval defensive systems, which were designed for combat in open waters using stand-off ranges, are rendered unpractical in the Persian Gulf.Hmmmm.......Whoever sold Iran Bladerunner 51, the British-built speedboat hailed among the fastest in the world was a moron.Since 2002's war game Iran has been modernising and expanding it's weapons arsenal.Read the full story here.
- Russian naval flotilla docks in Syria: state media.(AlArabiya).A large Russian naval flotilla led by an aircraft carrier has docked in the Syrian port of Tartus in what Damascus state media hailed on Sunday as a show of solidarity by close ally Moscow.The six-day port call by the carrier group in the Mediterranean port where Russia has a recently expanded naval base is intended to boost ties at a time when President Bashar al-Assad’s government is under mounting Western and Arab pressure over its bloody crackdown on dissent, the Syrian press said.“The port call is aimed at bringing the two countries closer together and strengthening their ties of friendship,” the official SANA news agency quoted a Russian naval officer it named as Yakushin Vladimir Anatolievich as saying.“The commanders of the Russian naval vessels docked in Tartus took turns to express their solidarity with the Syrian people,” the news agency added.The governor of Tartus province, Atef al-Nadaf, paid tribute to the “honorable position adopted by Russia which has stood by the Syrian people.”The Al-Watan newspaper, which is privately owned but close to the government, reported last week that the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov was escorted by a large flotilla including submarines.Despite strong Western criticism, Russia has stood by its Cold War ally in the face of a mounting international outcry over the death toll from security force efforts to crush nearly 10 months of anti-government protests.In October, Moscow joined Beijing in vetoing a Western-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution that would have threatened Damascus with “targeted measures” if it failed to rein in its security forces.Read the full story here.
- Jamaica 'to cut ties with British monarchy'.(AlYazeera).Jamaica's new prime minister has said that it is time for her country to cut ties with the British monarchy and declare itself an independent republic.Speaking at her inaugural address on Friday, Portia Simpson Miller, said her government would "initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy", establishing a republic with a president as head of state, and breaking off links with the former colonial power.Jamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy and also a Commonwealth realm."I love the Queen. She's a beautiful lady and apart from being a beautiful lady a wise lady and a wonderful lady. But I think time come," Simpson Miller said.Currently under Jamaica's constitution, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, and the prime minister is formally appointed by the governor-general, who represents the queen.The announcement comes ahead of celebrations to mark 50 years of the country's independence from the UK.Simpson Miller, taking over for her second term as prime minister, won a landslide victory in an election last week that largely pivoted on public discontent with Jamaica's ailing economy and massive debt.The unemployment rate currently stands at about 13 per cent, up from under 10 per cent in 2007, when the centre-right Jamaica Labour Party, the previous ruling party, won power. Its public debt stands at $18.6bn of gross domestic product."In the short and medium term, we will use all state resources to stimulate employment through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Program," Simpson Miller said after taking the oath of office. "We will do so in a transparent and non-partisan manner."Nearly half of all Jamaicans (43 per cent) live under the poverty line of $2.50 per day, according to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report.Reaching a new agreement with the IMF on Jamaica's debt is one of the new government's top priorities, Omar Davies, the official in charge of the transition, told reporters on Wednesday.New talks with the global lender are set to begin on Monday, with Jamaica represented by Peter Phillips, the country's new finance minister. Phillips has held several cabinet posts in previous administrations.In the December 28 election, Simpson Miller's People's National Party secured 41 seats, two-thirds of the total, in the House of Representatives.She succeeds Andrew Holness, 39, the youngest-ever prime minister of the country.Read and see (video) the full story here.
Egyptian Cleric Yousuf Al-Badri Calls upon Sunnis and Shiites to Unite and Says: "The Nuclear Bombs of Iran and Pakistan Should Be Bombs against Israel"
Yousuf Al-Badri: Today, the Islamic nation must unite against the dangers that surround it - Iran, the Sunni East... the Sunni Maghreb, and all the Islamic states must unite.
The nuclear bombs of Iran and Pakistan should be bombs against Israel. We shall chant, like we chanted in Tehran: "Death to Israel. Death to America." We must stand united, because the Sunnis and the Shiites are the two wings of Islam. Anybody who tries to sow discord in this nation is a sinner, sinner, sinner. Hmmmm......Don't you love Obama's 'Arab Spring'?Source Memri.
- India to ask for waivers on new U.S. sanctions on Tehran;Iran state firm says it owes no oil to Italy.(AlArabiya).India to ask for waivers:
India will ask for waivers on new U.S. sanctions on Iran as it seeks to minimize the impact of curbs on oil imports from Tehran, the Times Of India reported on Saturday, without identifying a source for its report.India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon met the U.S. ambassador in New Delhi, Peter Burleigh, on Friday, the newspaper reported. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai is expected to discuss the matter further when he travels to Washington.Spokesman for India’s Foreign Office and the U.S. embassy were not available for comment.U.S. President Barack Obama last month signed into law new sanctions against financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank, the main conduit for the country’s oil revenues.The latest sanctions ̶ part of U.S. effort to reduce Iran’s oil revenue and force the country to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program ̶ have pushed up global crude prices.Brent crude prices gained more than 5 percent last week on anxiety over Iran and potential supply disruptions.India is the No. 2 customer for Iran’s oil after China.
Meanwhile, Iran state firm says it owes no oil to Italy:
The state-owned National Iranian Oil Company said on Saturday that it does not owe some $2 billion in oil shipments as claimed by Italy, in remarks that could be aimed at undermining EU unity over banning oil purchases from Iran.Italian oil firm ENI “does not have any specific financial claim on the National Iranian Oil Company,” NIOC’s director of international affairs, Mohsen Qamsari, was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.His comments ran contrary to statements by Italian officials that ENI was receiving oil shipments from NIOC in lieu of an estimated $2 billion (1.6 billion euros) in debts owed by the Iranian firm.Italy is said to have signed up to the proposed EU ban on Iranian oil imports on condition that ENI’s oil-for-debt shipments not be affected.Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti set out that position last week, saying that “the embargo should not include imports that do not give Iran additional financial resources” ̶ implicitly excluding the deliveries to ENI.The European Union is expected to announce the new sanctions on Iran at a foreign ministers’ meeting on January 30.The package was only agreed after assurances were given to EU nations dependent on Iranian oil ̶ notably Italy, Greece and Spain ̶ that they would be able to get oil from alternative sources.Italy’s demand that it keep receiving Iranian oil owed under previous arrangements was also addressed.The European Union is joining the United States in ratcheting up sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, which the West believes masks a drive to develop an atomic weapons capability.Iran, which insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, has said it is “not concerned” by the imminent EU embargo. It says it will easily be able to sell its oil to other markets.The European Union is collectively the second-biggest destination for Iranian oil exports after China, taking in some 450,000 barrels per day.Iranian oil accounted for 15 percent of Spain’s total oil imports, 14 percent of Greece’s and 13 percent of Italy’s, according to EU statistics for 2010.Hmmmm........Sanctions that 'benefit'?If Turkey can do it why not the rest of the world?Read the full story here.