Saturday, February 4, 2012
‘Act of Valor’: Top to Bottom U.S. Navy Propaganda Film, Uses Active Duty SEALs as Actors, Raw Footage Kept for ‘Training and Other Purposes’
The Navy held final cut privileges in order to remove any frames to address security concerns and kept raw footage to use for real-life training and other purposes.More here HT: Cryptogon.
US Lawmakers say “days of blank checks” are over for Egypt’s military junta.(Yahoo).WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading senator warned Egypt's military-led government on Friday that "the days of blank checks are over" as an Egyptian army team huddled with State Department officials to discuss the future of $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee in charge of foreign aid, issued a blistering attack on Egypt's crackdown on local and U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups and warned that Congress could block future aid unless changes are made."We want to send a clear message to the Egyptian military that the days of blank checks are over. We value the relationship and will provide substantial amounts of aid, but not unconditionally," Leahy said in his statement.Leahy joined a growing number of U.S. lawmakers from both political parties who have expressed outrage over the swoop on non-governmental organizations, which has seen a number of U.S. staffers barred from leaving Egypt.In two joint letters released on Friday, more than 40 U.S lawmakers warned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling military council, that U.S. aid to the Egyptian military hung in the balance."The absence of a quick and satisfactory resolution to this issue will make it increasingly difficult for congressional supporters of a strong U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship to defend current levels of assistance to Egypt," the letters said.Hmmmm......FlashBack:"MFS - The Other News" May 2011 "Muslim Brotherhood to Obama : "Go to Hell".Egyptian Government Rejects US Conditional Aid".Read the full story here.
Don’t Trust Satellite Phones - Satellite Phone Encryption Cracked.(Telegraph).German academics said they had cracked two encryption systems used to protect satellite phone signals and that anyone with cheap computer equipment and radio could eavesdrop on calls over an entire continent. Hundreds of thousands of satellite phone users are thought to be affected.
“We were able to completely reverse engineer the encryption algorithms employed,” said Benedikt Driessen and Ralf Hund of Ruhr University Bochum as they announced their report, “Don’t Trust Satellite Phones”.
The encryption algorithms are known as GMR-1 and GMR-2, and are standards used across satellite phone operators, including Thuraya, a leading providers. Their technology is widely used in the Middle East and Africa, including in some military applications.
Mr Driessen told The Telegraph that the equipment and software needed to intercept and decrypt satellite phone calls from hundreds of thousands of users would cost as little as $2,000. His demonstration system takes up to half an hour to decipher a call, but a more powerful computer would allow eavesdropping in real time, he said.Read the full story here.
FordowIsraeli Defense minister Ehud Barak implies a strike on Iran nuclear program is near.(CSMonitor).By Joshua Mitnick.Tensions between Israel and Iran are on the rise after a group of top Israeli leaders engaged in a round of saber-rattling on Thursday and Iran’s Supreme Leader answered on Friday with a pledge to "remove" Israel.Speaking at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's annual conference, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak compared the current standoff with Iran to the "fateful" period before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt.At the same conference, Israel’s military intelligence chief, Aviv Kochavi said that Iran had enough nuclear material to make four bombs, and could construct a missile within three years. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that "an unconventional country can’t be allowed to have a nonconventional weapon" and that "a nuclear Iran would be the nightmare of the West."
Even though Israeli leaders have been heartened by international sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear program, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes only, the chorus of warnings from Israel reflect growing anxiety among some leaders that Iran may still obtain a nuclear bomb. "The temperature is rising in Israel," says Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst in Tel Aviv. He says that if the defense minister sees the current period as similar to the run-up to the  Six-Day War, "that gives credibility to those who think Israel is going to launch an attack."Comparing Iran’s regime to Nazi Germany, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it is Israel’s right to act to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.Hmmmm.......On Thursday Khamenei then claimed the current century as the century of Islam and promised that human history is on the verge of a great event and that soon the world will realize the power of Allah.IMHO: THE ONLY THING THAT THIS COULD BE IS EITHER A TEST OF A NUKE OR THE USE OF A NUKE.Read the full story here.
GOP Rep. Allen West: Someone's 'playing around with' unemployment numbers.(TheHill).By Daniel Strauss. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is suspicious about the newly released January unemployment numbers. In response to news that the overall unemployment rate had dropped to 8.3 percent and the unemployment rate in the black community declined from 15.8 percent to 13.6 percent, West floated the possibility that the numbers might have been cooked. "Can someone tell me how employment in the black community has improved at a rate three times the national average in just a few months?? With numbers like today, urban communities should be well on their way to economic recovery then! There is something suspicious about the job numbers released today and it has me very concerned," West wondered Friday. "Is this dramatic supposed decrease in black unemployment a result of job creation or is someone playing around with the census numbers??"Hmmm.....As unemployment numbers go down......Food stamp users go up, is the rise equal?Read the full story here.
Polish PM Caves In to the people their demands, Freezes ACTA Ratification.(Novinite).Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk has yielded to mass protests, announcing Friday that his government would put on hold plans to ratify ACTA, the controversial international online anti-piracy accord.
"I consider that the arguments for a halt to the ratification process are justified," Donald Tusk told reporters, as cited by international media."The issue of signing of the ACTA accord did not involve sufficient consultation with everyone who is part of the process," Tusk said, adding that he would hold broad talks on what to do next."The ACTA ratification process will be frozen as long as we haven't overcome all the doubts. This will probably require a review of Polish law. We can't rule out that, at the end of the day, this accord will not be approved," he declared.
Tusk's decision comes in the wake of high-profile protests mostly by young Poles who fear the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) -- aimed at creating international standards for intellectual property protection -- could significantly curtail online freedom.
ACTA was negotiated between the 27-nation European Union, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.
Bulgaria's Borisov Cabinet has also come under fire for the secret signing of ACTA.
Even though Bulgaria has seen no street rallies, massive outcry by Internet users and ISPs led on Thursday Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to declare that ACTA will be applied with reservations and will be supplemented by the existing Bulgarian legislation in its part referring to Internet content.Hmmmm.........President Obama could learn a lesson in Democracy from Poland it seems.Read the full story here.
- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Philipines 6.0 - 5.5 ; Tonga 5.8 - 5.5 ; Mongolia 5.5 - 5.4!More info here.
- Iran blocks IAEA inspectors at Parchin military site.(JPost).By REUTERS.VIENNA - Iran's apparent reluctance to let UN inspectors visit a military site near Tehran underlines the uphill task they face in getting the Islamic state to address suspicions it may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons, Western diplomats say. They say the UN nuclear watchdog sought access to the Parchin complex during three days of talks in the Iranian capital, so far without any sign that Iran would agree to it.More meetings are scheduled for later this month - rare direct dialogue in the long-running international dispute, which has deepened as the West pursues punitive embargos on Iranian oil and Tehran threatens retaliation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) named Parchin in a detailed report in November that lent independent weight to Western fears that Iran is working to develop an atomic bomb, an allegation Iranian officials reject. The UN agency has not said whether the issue was among those it raised in the January 29-31 discussions in Tehran aimed at shedding light on possible nuclear-linked weapons development work, but diplomats accredited to the IAEA said it was. The senior IAEA team requested "access to Parchin, which Iran did not provide", one Western diplomat said.The senior IAEA team requested "access to Parchin, which Iran did not provide", one Western diplomat said. He and others suggested that Iran had sidestepped the question rather than rejected it outright during the meetings with the IAEA delegation headed by the agency's global inspections chief, Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts. "They asked to see a particular site and they never got an answer," another envoy said. "The bottom line is: Iran did not engage the agency on the issues the agency wanted to discuss.""There was nothing achieved on this visit," the Western envoy said. "I was never optimistic. This just reinforces my pessimism." In a new sign of Iran's refusal to back down, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would retaliate over Western-backed oil sanctions and any threat of attack, insisting outside pressure would not halt its nuclear work.Suspicions about activities at the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran date back at least to 2004 when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it may be a site for research and testing relevant for nuclear weapons. In 2005, UN inspectors visited the large site, but not the place where the IAEA now believes the explosives chamber was built.Hmmmm.....That's almost eight years of refusal.Read the full story here.
- Is Iran about to test a Nuclear weapon?(AstuteBloggers).By ReliaPundit. Khamenei then claimed the current century as the century of Islam and promised that human history is on the verge of a great event and that soon the world will realize the power of Allah.IMHO: THE ONLY THING THAT THIS COULD BE IS EITHER A TEST OF A NUKE OR THE USE OF A NUKE.Hmmm.....Last year the Former mossad chief warned of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon in 2012.And The maximum of 3,000 centrifuges that Fodow can contain will never produce enough to supply the fuel needed for a nuclear reactor.However, their performance is perfect for making nuclear bombs.So i wouldn't be surprised.Read the full story here.
- Perfect: Obama pulls combat pay for U.S. troops.(DougRoss).But he obviously holds the U.S. military in very high esteem.President Obama’s latest policy outrage makes no attempt to hide his contempt for our military, as he is ordering that our troops serving overseas in war zones overseas are not to receive combat pay unless they are being shot at.In other words, the president continues to siphon off more and more money from our defense infrastructure -- hitting our warriors first, last and hardest in the process -- to fund his green energy scams and public sector union cronies (which, coincidentally, also contribute heavily to his campaign).Read the full story here.
- Iran Starts Mass-Production of Naval Cruise Missile.(Fars).Iran on Saturday inaugurated the production line of a newly unveiled naval cruise missile, called Zafar (Triumph). The production line was inaugurated by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi in a ceremony at the Defense Ministry' Aerospace Industries Organization on the occasion of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies, celebrating the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution back in 1979. The ceremony was also attended by Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Naval Force Brigadier General Ali Fadavi. During the ceremony, the first cargo of Zafar missiles was delivered to the IRGC. Speaking to reporters, Vahid said that "Zafar is a short-range, anti-ship, radar guided missile capable of hitting and destroying small and medium-sized targets with high precision". He added that the missile can be mounted onto light and speed boats, enjoys a high capability in anti-electronic warfare and is highly destructive. Read the full story here.
- Iranian Navy Ships Arrive in Saudi Port.(Fars).The 18th flotilla of warships dispatched by Iran to the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy mission docked at the Saudi port city of Jeddah today, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Saturday.The Iranian Navy dispatched its 18th flotilla of warships to the Gulf of Aden on January 21 to protect the country's cargo ships and oil tankers against Somali pirates. Addressing a ceremony here in Tehran today, Sayyari said the Iranian Navy's fleet of warships, comprised of Khark warship and Shahid Naqdi destroyer, docked at Jeddah this morning, and added that the mission is part of the Navy's moves in line with the orders of the Supreme Leader for having a stronger presence in the high seas. The commander said that the navy ships' 70-80-day mission is aimed at demonstrating Iran's power in the high seas. While enemies try to portray Iran's growing power as a threat to the regional states, the Admiral indicated that such missions prove that Iran's military power is used to defend the region and can, thus, defuse the plot hatched by the enemies to spread Iranophobia.Hmmmm......Placing the pawns on the chess game board.Read the full story here.
- Iran's SNSC, Three Branches of Power Studying Cut of Oil Supplies to EU.(Fars).Iranian parliamentary sources revealed on Saturday that the country's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and three branches of power (the Parliament, the Government and the Judiciary) are studying a double-urgency bill of the parliament on cutting crude exports to the European countries. "Apart from the SNSC, the issue is important for the parliament, government and the country's macro-scale decision-making levels," member of the parliament's Presiding Board Omidvar Rezayee told FNA, referring to the finalization of the parliament's last week bill on cutting oil exports to the EU members. He said the issue is presently under study at the SNSC and economic departments of the three branches of power, and added, "They will take the final decision in this regard."After the EU oil ban against Iran, members of the Iranian parliament finalized a draft bill on cutting the country's oil exports to the European states in retaliation for the EU move. "The bill has 4 articles, including one which states that the Islamic Republic of Iran will cut all oil exports to the European states until they end their oil sanctions against the country," Vice-Chairman of the parliament's Energy Commission Nasser Soudani told FNA last Saturday.In relevant remarks on Saturday, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi also underlined Tehran's determination to retaliate against the western states' oil ban against the country, and said Iran will certainly cut its oil exports to certain European countries. "Export of oil to certain European countries will certainly be cut," Qassemi said in a press conference on Saturday. "We will decide on stopping oil exports to other European countries later," he added.Read the full story here.
- Damascus denies responsibility for deaths of more than 400 civilians ahead of U.N. vote.(AlArabiya).Damascus on Saturday said gunmen were responsible for the killing of more than 400 civilians across Syria, the state media reported. At least 416 civilians were killed by the Syrian forces across the country while the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) vowed to fight back with intense operations against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.Early Saturday, the anti-Assad regime army intensified its campaign against the government’s forces as it destroyed an air intelligence building in Homs, the Syrian Media Center reported. Hours later, the media center said that a huge explosion took place in Hama close to the border entrance of Halab. And in the rebel-held al-Zabadani, the opposition fighters went on to surround a government security building, the media center said. Ammar al-Wawi, an FSA official, told Al Arabiya that the free army vows more operations against Assad’s forces to include targets such as military and police headquarters.Initially, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 138 of the fatalities were caused by mortar fire in the Al-Khalidiya district of Homs, which has become a flashpoint of the 10-month revolt against the regime of Assad. Civilians, including women and children were killed, a rights group said on Saturday. But Al Arabiya correspondent said that the death toll in Homs alone included 337 people killed and 1,300 others injured. The correspondent also reported that the Khalidiya hospital in Homs was destroyed.Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighborhood at around 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside.“We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt the bombardment was falling on our heads,” said Waleed a resident of Khalidiya.As Syrians rushed to aid victims and carried on with funerals in Homs, Assad forces continued with attacks, Al Arabiya correspondent said, adding that nail bombs were used during the shelling campaign against the city.It was not immediately clear what had prompted Syrian forces to launch such an intense bombardment at a time when diplomats at the U.N. Security Council are discussing a draft resolution on an Arab League plan calling for Assad to give up power.Another 79 people were killed in other parts of town. The grim tolls, if confirmed, would mark the bloodiest day of the almost 11-month uprising against Assad’s regime.“It’s a real massacre,” the observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, calling for the “immediate intervention” of the Arab League to end the killing.Al Arabiya showed images of dozens of bodies on the ground and scenes of chaos in the city, with several buildings destroyed.Residents claiming to be from Homs took to Twitter to send out updates. One spoke of a city that “is bleeding” and under heavy bombardment and another counted “366 explosions tonight so far.”Amid growing concern that Syria is sliding into all-out civil war, an officer with the FSA claimed the regular army “is in a pitiful state and getting close to collapsing.”Read the full story here.
- Report: Fast and Furious "Fix is in" and Boehner is behind it.(BN).As I readied myself for what promised to be a bombshell of a hearing on February 2nd, I thought Attorney General Eric Holder would have his toughest test yet. He would now be in front of the committee that Darrell Issa chairs - the House Oversight Committee. In every Fast and Furious hearing Issa had been involved in, he stood out as the top bulldog, the fieriest and most knowledgable about the case. On February 2nd, he had the gavel and much more evidence with which to go directly at Holder.As I watched the hearing, I was struck by how tame Issa was compared to previous hearings. There were congressmen on the committee who went at Holder hard - Gowdy, Meehan, Buerkle, and Labrador to name a few - but Issa was conspicuously soft. I thought, "Why?" This was the guy who had all of the goods, collectively. He could have personally delivered a mortal blow to Holder's tenure; he might have even exposed a White House connection. Instead, he seemed to put his gloves down.Mike Vanderboegh, the guy who broke the Fast and Furious story originally before CBS' Sharyl Attkisson picked it up and gave it a much wider audience, seems to be pretty convinced that the fix is in and that House Speaker John Boehner is behind it.The Obama administration is, by far, the most corrupt in the history of the United States. It has put the Republic in serious danger. If there was a White House connection to Fast and Furious, Boehner COULD have gone down in history as the man willing to do the right thing by leading the effort to expose it, by truly unleashing Issa and standing with him.Instead, if these reports are true, he has decided to allow the dismantling of America continue.Read the full story here.
- Russian officials plan to meet Assad as U.N. clash over Syria continues.(AlArabiya).Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit to Syria on Tuesday to meet President Bashar al-Assad, Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying in Munich on Saturday, as Russia and Western states clash over a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on the violence in Syria.“On the order of the Russian president, myself and Mikhail Fradkov will visit Damascus on February 7 for a meeting with Bashar al-Assad,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference Saturday.Lavrov, who said President Dmitry Medvedev had instructed him and Fradkov to make the trip, gave no details about its specific purpose, the reports said. The statement came as Russia and Western states clash over a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would support an Arab League plan calling for Assad to cede power.Arab and Western countries have rejected a new draft amended by Russia. The draft dropped callas to condemn “arbitrary executions, killing and persecution of protestors and members of the media, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence, and ill-treatment, including against children.”It also conditioned the pull out of all Syrian military and armed forces from cities and towns with “the end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions and cities and towns.”A major Russian amendment urged U.N. member states to use their influence to prevent continued violence by armed groups. Al Arabiya correspondent from the United Nations reported that Arab and Western states rejected the Russian amendments.“They [Russians] attempted all through the draft to equate between the victim and the aggressor, which is unacceptable to the Arabs and the Europeans alike,” Talal Alhaj said.“My sources are assuring me that these amendments have been refused by the Europeans and Arabs alike. This refusal will of course and most likely lead to a Russian veto, double veto with China.”Read the full story here.
- GOP lawmaker walked out on Obama's speech at National Prayer Breakfast.(TheHill).By Jonathan Easley.Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.) walked out of President Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, his spokeswoman confirmed to The Hill.Jen Talaber said the five-term lawmaker "left quietly" in the middle of the president's remarks.“He was disturbed and offended by the president’s use of prayer and reflection time for partisan politics and class warfare,” Talaber said. “Rep. Gingrey enjoyed listening to the keynote speaker and found the breakfast to be inspiring until President Obama began politicking.”At the breakfast, Obama tried to tie some of the proposals from his State of the Union address, such as everyone paying their fair share in taxes, to Biblical teachings.Talaber said Gingrey listened to several minutes of the speech before he “slipped out” because he found the perceived politicking “inappropriate.”“There are 364 other days a year in which to do that,” she said. “While he commends the president for his attendance, Rep. Gingrey wanted to hear what was in his heart and not campaign rhetoric. He was disappointed that the president seemed to be unaware of the reason so many gathered there today.”Read the full story here.
- GOP's Hatch: Someone should remind Obama he's not Jesus Christ.(TheHill).By Josiah Ryan.Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Thursday evening said President Obama needs a reminder that he is not Jesus Christ."In 2008, the president declared that his nomination was the world historical moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal," Hatch said in a speech from the Senate floor. "Someone needs to remind the president that there was only one person who walked on water and he did not occupy the Oval Office."Hatch skewered the president for a remark he made at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, during which he suggested Jesus might support his plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans.“For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that 'for unto to whom much is given, much shall be required,'" Obama said at the breakfast. Hatch, who is a devout Mormon, suggested Obama was trying to "assume the role of theologian in chief" and said he ought to stick to public policy."[Obama] suggested to the attendees that Jesus would have supported his latest tax-the-rich schemes," Hatch said. "With due respect to the president, he ought to stick to public policy. I think most Americans would agree that the gospels are concerned with weightier matters than effective tax rates.”Hatch said Obama does not even live up to the example set by two former presidents he claims to admire, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln."At some moments in our nation's history, at moments of crises, leaders have emerged, put partisanship aside and worked to solve our greatest challenges, though our current president, who's compared himself to both Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, his leadership is falling well short of their examples," Hatch said.Read the full story here.
- Federal Court Forces EPA to Enforce Rules Agency Believes Are Faulty.(BigGovernment).President Obama’s EPA usually has a bad habit of kicking American industry when it’s down by dumping on them with unnecessary regulations, regardless of what business leaders say the effects will be.Usually. Which is why the latest fiasco over the Agency’s proposed Boiler MACT rule is so noteworthy.After writing new rules in mid-2011 that would require electricity-generating boilers to meet a shockingly high emissions standard – at a capital cost of $9.5 billion – a wide swath of industries, most notably the paper and wood business, pushed back. EPA was set to impose the rules anyway, risking hundreds of thousands of jobs, sky-high costs, and electrical production capacity.Yet shockingly, EPA suddenly changed its mind in December, apparently having listened to the industries’ criticisms and deciding to stay any formal enactment of the proposed rules. EPA wanted more time to study the potential effects and revise the regulations.But of course, the environmentalist left wouldn’t have that. From the PJ Tatler:In December 2011, though, the EPA changed course and decided to delay implementing the rule. It actually appeared to be taking industry concerns into account, for once. The Sierra Club and others had filed suit to force the EPA to stick to its original timeline. The federal court in Washington, DC heard the case and sided with the Sierra Club in January. So now, the EPA is being forced by a judge to implement a rule that the EPA itself has acknowledged is problematic and requires more study.The minute the EPA actually listens to industries’ concerns and decides it wants a more balanced approach, they get stuck with a federal court ruling requiring them to enforce the original rules they have already acknowledged are faulty.Luckily, in order for sanity to prevail, Republicans are pushing legislation that will shield the EPA from the court’s ruling and give it the time it needs to draft new rules that lessen the burden on industry. The legislation, titled the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, has been bouncing around Congress. The House has already passed the bill as part of the payroll tax cut package passed in December. It’s the Senate’s turn now.Even the EPA itself admits that too much is at stake.Read the full story here.
- US anxiety grows over possible Israeli plans on Iran, Israeli strike would have implications for US election.(Jpost).The Obama administration is increasingly anxious about Israeli leaders' provocative public comments on Iran's nuclear program but does not have hard proof that Jerusalem will strike Iran in the next few months, US and European officials said.The US uncertainty and lack of information about Israel's plans on Iran were behind an alarming assessment of the situation reportedly voiced by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the officials said.David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist who specializes in intelligence matters, reported that Panetta believed there was a "strong likelihood" that Israel would attack Iran's nuclear program within the next six months -- as early as April, Ignatius wrote.Three US officials who follow the issue said their understanding was that the United States did not have concrete intelligence suggesting an attack by Israel on Iran in that time frame was likely or actively being prepared.The current US assessment is that for months Jerusalem had been making contingency plans and tentative preparations both for such an operation and for possible Iranian retaliation, two of the officials said."If Israel has a good military option, they just take it, they don't talk about it, they don't give warnings," said Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. "So the fact that they are talking about it, to me, is one tip-off that they don't have a good military option".Many, if not most, Western experts believe it would take Iran at least a year to build a weapon once leaders decided to go ahead. But some Israel leaders and experts believe that an attack would have to be launched earlier if Iran's nuclear effort is to be set back seriously. Barak has warned that Iran's nuclear research could soon pass into what he called a "zone of immunity," protected from outside disruption.Barak was recently quoted telling the Herzliya Conference, "Later is too late," one of the US officials noted. The official said that US policymakers had to be concerned about the possibility of an early Israeli attack "given that Barak and Netanyahu seem so determined to do it."But Panetta's alleged remarks and other Obama administration's statements indicate the White House is focused on dissuading Israel from taking action - and distancing itself from an Israel strike if persuasion fails.A strike on Iran and Iran's response, including attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is vital for oil shipments, could seriously harm the US economy, jeopardizing US President Barack Obama's chances for re-election. Obama also would likely come under intense domestic pressure to back Israel's actions."The US is not too excited about engaging with Israel or being part of anything at this point," one official said."Israel is, practically speaking, the wild card in the pack," the analyst said. "We have no specific information on when or if they will attack but based on their past history and current stance, it is something we do expect at some point."Hmmmm......Is it right to jeopardise the lives of 7.6 million Israelis for reelection reasons?Read the full story here.
- Iran begins month long naval exercises near Gulf strait.(AlArabiya).Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard began naval maneuvers Saturday in the latest show of force near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the critical Gulf oil tanker route that Tehran has threatened to close in retaliation for tougher Western sanctions.Plans for new Iranian war games in the Gulf have been in the works for weeks. But they got under way following stern warnings by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about any possible U.S. or Israeli attacks against Tehran's nuclear facilities.The month-long maneuvers also come after Western forces boosted their naval presence in the Gulf led by the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.Iran has so far made no attempts to disrupt shipping through the strait, the route for one-fifth the world's crude oil. The U.S. and allies have said they would respond swiftly to any attempts at a blockade.Last month, Iran’s navy wrapped up 10 days of exercises in the Gulf, but the Revolutionary Guard - which is directly under control of the supreme leader - represents a significantly stronger military force and controls key programs such as missile development. Iranian state media announced the new maneuvers, but gave no further details.Khamenei, in a speech nationally broadcast on Friday, staked out a hard line after suggestions by Israel that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to rein in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.He pledged to aid any nation or group that challenges Israel and said any military strikes would damage U.S. interests in the Middle East “10 times” more than they would hurt Iran. The comments also may signal that Tehran’s proxy forces - led by Lebanon’s Islamic militant group Hezbollah - could be given the green light to revive attacks on Israel as the showdown between the archfoes intensifies.Read the full story here.
- Video - Syrians storm their embassies in Egypt, Kuwait and rally in UK, U.S and Germany.(AlArabiya).A crowd of Syrians stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo smashing furniture and equipment and setting fire to parts of the building in protest over the latest bloodshed in the country, an embassy official and a witness said on Saturday.Rallies also broke out outside Syrian embassies in Britain, Germany and the United States after human rights activists reported more than 300 people were killed in shelling by government forces in the city of Homs.In Cairo, embassy official Ammar Mohamed said he had been told by security officials about the overnight attack and arrived at the site to assess the damage. The scene was calm by early morning and Egyptian police were guarding the embassy.It was the second such attack on the mission. The embassy was broken into last week in another demonstration against President Bashar al-Assad who has turned his army against demonstrators seeking an end to his rule.Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered at a police station a few streets from the Cairo embassy to demand the release of as many as 11 Syrians and an Egyptian who they said were detained during the protest at the mission.“God you are so strong, help us secure victory over Bashar,” chanted protesters outside the Cairo police station where they said the detainees from the demonstration were taken.The gate of the embassy in central Cairo was broken and furniture and computers were smashed on the second floor of the building, a Reuters witness said, viewing the site after the attack. Parts of the first floor were burned, he said.In Kuwait, witnesses say demonstrators have stormed into the Syrian Embassy compound in the Gulf state, breaking windows and hoisting the flag of the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.Meanwhile, five men were arrested Saturday after gaining entry to the Syrian embassy in London, police said, as protesters demonstrated outside the building.Around 150 protesters gathered outside the plush property in Belgrave Square, one of central London's finest squares, which houses a string of embassies.A Scotland Yard spokesman said the arrests were for public order offences after the demonstration broke out at around 2:00am (0200 GMT).The spokesman said “appropriate policing” was now in place.Read the full story here.
- Freezing Europe hit by Russian gas shortage,Russia admits brief cut of gas supplies to Europe.(BBC).Freezing weather sweeping across Europe has led to a shortage of vital Russian gas supplies to several countries, officials say.An EU energy spokeswoman said eight countries had seen a reduction in gas due to increased demand in Russia. She said the situation was not an emergency but was being monitored.The cold snap is being blamed for scores of deaths in eastern Europe where temperatures have plunged to below -35C.Freezing temperatures have spread to Italy and France, and the UK is also on alert for snowfall over the weekend."I can confirm that there has been a decrease in gas deliveries in various member states - Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Italy," EU spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said."It's not a situation of emergency yet," she added.Correspondents say the sudden drop in Russian gas supplies - which pass through Ukraine - is raising fears of a repeat of a crisis in 2009 when tension between Moscow and Kiev cut supplies to parts of Europe for about two weeks.Russia's state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant acknowledged for the first time Saturday that it had briefly reduced gas supplies to Europe amid a spell of extreme cold. Gazprom deputy chief Andrey Kruglov reported to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the cuts lasted for several days and reached up to 10 percent, but supplies are currently back to normal. Officials in Austria and France, however, have reported cuts of as much as 30 percent, and Italy said supplies were down by 24 percent Thursday. Russia previously had blamed Ukraine for the shortages, saying Kiev is siphoning off more than its share. Authorities in Ukraine have denied the accusations.Putin ordered Gazprom to try to meet an increased demand for the Russian gas in Europe, but added that the company's priority should be to satisfy the local demand.Read the full story here and here.
- Congress Calls for Accelerated Use of Drones in U.S.(BLN).Source: Secrecy News. A House-Senate conference report this week called on the Administration to accelerate the use of civilian unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or “drones,” in U.S. airspace.The pending authorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration directs the Secretary of Transporation to develop within nine months “a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”“The plan… shall provide for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.”The conference bill, which still awaits final passage, also calls for establishment of UAS test ranges in cooperation with NASA and the Department of Defense, expanded use of UAS in the Arctic region, development of guidance for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems, and new safety research to assess the risk of “catastrophic failure of the unmanned aircraft that would endanger other aircraft in the national airspace system.”The Department of Defense is pursuing its own domestic UAS activities for training purposes and “domestic operations,” according to a 2007 DoD-FAA memorandum of agreement. (“Army Foresees Expanded Use of Drones in U.S. Airspace,” Secrecy News, January 19, 2012.)Read the full story here.
- Al Arabiya documentary sheds light on Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination.(AlArabiya).On Feb. 14, 2005, more than one ton of explosives claimed the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 22 of his companions and innocent passers-by. From that point onwards, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has been conducting a series of investigations to determine the identity of the assassins. This was accompanied by a strong upheaval in Lebanon as well as in the entire region. Lebanon suffered a sharp division between the March 14 bloc, headed by The Future Movement under the leadership of Hariri’s son Saad al-Hariri and his allies, on one hand and the March 8 bloc headed by Hassan Nasrallah and his allies on the other. This division reached its peak when the balance of power tipped in favor of Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria. But the investigations continued until Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare accused four Hezbollah senior officials of taking part in the assassination.“In Search for Hariri’s Murderers” is a three-part documentary screened on Al Arabiya on Friday. The second and third parts will be shown on Thursday Feb. 9 and Friday Feb.10, respectively.The film recounts the details of the investigation from 2005 till the present against the backdrop of the complicated political and regional circumstances in which they have been taking place.Former deputy representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Lebanon the late Kamal Medhat gave a special interview to the film about his experience with the Nahr al-Bared battle before he himself was killed during the events.Read and see the full story here.