Saturday, August 11, 2012

Turkey, Iran set to clash further before reaching a new understanding on ties

Turkey, Iran set to clash further before reaching a new understanding on ties

... Many in Turkey believe that it is hard to recover from the deepening rift between the two countries, which may spell more crises that need to be managed for the future. “Following the Turkish open position against the Assad regime in Syria, the relations between Turkey and Iran will never go back to where they were. The Syrian crisis has exposed Iran’s true face,” Suat Kınıklıoğlu, the director of Ankara-based Center for Strategic Communication (Stratim) told Sunday’s Zaman. He said there was a Turkish romanticism in the Middle East, especially as regards to Iran, among conservative circles in Turkey.

“The shrewd Iranians always pretended they were embarking on a special relationship with Turkey. Many in Ankara were eager to believe. The Syrian crisis, among others, has exposed the true character of Iran, which is very much framed by a sectarian worldview,” Kınıklıoğlu said, adding that “Turkey’s reintegration into its neighborhood space needs reassessment in view of the tectonic changes precipitated by the Arab Awakening.”

The problems with Iran are not just limited to Syria. The meddling of Iran into Iraqi affairs and its support of Shiite leader Nouri al-Maliki’s exclusionary policies of Sunnis and Kurds in the country drew the ire of Ankara as well, complicating already-tense ties between Turkey and Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan criticized Iran’s support of Maliki’s government on Tuesday, saying that Maliki enjoys a good level of support from Iran in clinging to power. “It is not possible to accept Iran’s stance. We conveyed this to them at the highest level of talks. We said to them, ‘Look, this has been a source of disturbance in the region’,” Erdoğan stated.

The problems with Iran also manifest themselves in the trade and economic ties as well, with Ankara complaining about major hindrances in entering into the vast Iranian market despite numerous agreements and protocols. Many Turkish firms find it difficult to operate in Iran, whose economy is pretty much controlled by the Revolutionary Guards tied to religious leaders. The trade volume, heavily dominated by Iranian gas and oil, does not favor Turkey and contributes to the high current account deficit (CAD) Turkey maintains.

“Then, the mantra was that Iran would soon open critical sectors in its economy to Turkey. Iranian gas fields were supposedly going to be jointly operated. Bilateral trade was to reach $30 billion annually. Of course, none of that materialized. The Iranians never intended to open up to Turkish firms, which would upset internal commercial interests within the mullahcracy,” Kınıklıoğlu asserted.

As a sign of the mounting crisis between Turkey and Iran, a recent decision by Iran to suspend a visa-free travel regime with Turkey may be a harbinger of a more serious confrontation between the two countries. For the first time since the visa-free regime went into force in 1964, Iran suspended it last week, citing security concerns in the run-up to a summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran as an excuse.

Visa regime is a step which reflects the tensions between Iran and Turkey. Obviously, Iran’s attitude can be considered a first step for the subsequent tensions with Turkey,” Bayram Sinkaya, an expert on Iranian politics and a lecturer in the department of international relations at Yıldırım Beyazıt University in Ankara, said in remarks to Sunday’s Zaman.

Asked how much worse the ties can get between the two countries, Sinkaya said both Turkey and Iran have to manage their relationship, saying that Iran does not want to lose Turkey for fear of further isolation. The same is also true for Turkey, he said, predicting that Turkey will be more patient with the mullah regime in order not to taint the regional image.

In any case, Turkey and Iran are set to have more showdowns in their bilateral relations before reaching a new level of understanding on resolving their differences.

A unified Syria without Assad is what Turkmen are after

A unified Syria without Assad is what Turkmen are after

 Syrian Turkmen, who stand in support of the territorial integrity of Syria, are concerned that the breakup of the country or the survival of the Bashar al-Assad regime may leave them exposed to serious threats....

A scenario in which Syria would be broken up following the fall of the Assad regime is not at all favored by Turkmen, as the population is not so densely concentrated as to have an absolute majority in any one part of the country but is rather spread throughout Syria. In the breakup scenario, three new states may come into being: a Kurdistan region along the Turkish-Syrian border, referred to by Kurds as Western Kurdistan; a Nusayri state, for which Latakia would be the center, along the Mediterranean coast of Syria; and a Sunni Muslim state in the remaining part of the country. The first two states potentially represent a major threat to Turkmen communities.

Should the Kurds move to set up a state in the north of the country, Turkmen living in that region would feel themselves under threat. “The project of Western Kurdistan has caused much anxiety to Turkmen,” Cevizci noted, adding that at most only 50 percent of the population along Syria’s border region with Turkey is of Kurdish origin, with Turkmen making up 30 percent and Arabs estimated to have a share of 20 percent of the population of the region, while the area from Aleppo to Rakkaq to the Turkish border is a Turkmen basin. “There are nearly 290 Turkmen villages in this region,” Cevizci remarked.

Ziyad Hasan, spokesperson of the Syria Democratic Turkmen Movement, confirmed the anxiety of Syrian Turkmen on the Turkish-Syrian border regarding the Western Kurdistan project of the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) -- an offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Hasan stated to Sunday’s Zaman, “Turkmen in the region are afraid of having to migrate, being massacred or assimilated [should the project be realized].” Cevizci’s outlook is equally gloomy. “Should a Kurdish state be established in this part of Syria, it would be the beginning of the end for Turkmen.”

The theoretical Nusayri state along the Mediterranean coast of Syria poses similar threats to Turkmen. In the region surrounding Latakia, the third most concentrated area of Turkmen habitation after Aleppo and Homs, Turkmen areas have been under bombardment in the recent past, together with Turkmen areas of Hamah. “The Syrian regime, in an effort to reserve the area for Nusayris as part of a worst-case scenario, has been trying to force Turkmen out of the area,” Hasan maintained. In the area stretching from the north of Lebanon to Turkey’s Hatay province, there are nearly a hundred Turkmen villages, and the region has a Turkmen population of 150,000 to 200,000.

The total population of Turkmen in Syria is estimated to be around 3 to 3.5 million, of whom around 1 to 1.5 million are able to speak Turkish. The nearly 2 million Turkmen remaining, though aware of their Turkish origin, do not speak Turkish any longer but Arabic. “It’s because after the Ottoman Empire lost Syria, Turkmen here were not allowed to conduct any cultural activities in Turkish, let alone learn their language at school,” Hasan noted....

“In this way, it may be possible to prevent the probable mass migration from Aleppo to Turkey,” Cevizci remarked. Seeking refuge from the clashes, 250,000 people, about 100,000 of them Turkmen, have already left Aleppo for surrounding villages, with Aleppo, a city of more than 3 million residents, experiencing major shortages of staple products such as food, baby food, gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as medicine. Diesel fuel is 15 to 20 times more expensive than it used to be, and there are long queues for bread in the city. “When their stock of food runs out, they will turn to Turkey,” Cevizci noted, communicating the urgency of providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

‘Spring’ likely to knock at Iran’s door after Syria, experts say

‘Spring’ likely to knock at Iran’s door after Syria, experts say

An Arab Spring-like popular movement in Iran is not so far away due to growing domestic discontent triggered by the economic concerns that international sanctions have created, and which could also open Pandora’s box for the repressed groups in the country, political analysts have claimed.

According to analysts there is nothing to do but “wait and see” if the Iranian public raises its voice after the embattled Syrian regime falls and the opposition declares a political and military success....

On the other hand, the mullah regime systematically marginalizes reformist circles that criticize the ultra-nationalist stance of “resistance,” by infringing upon their political and democratic rights. During the consultative elections of March, the reformist camp was deterred from participating.

Arif Keskin, who is a prominent Iran analyst, estimated that the psychological basis for an uprising is readying itself among the Iranian people regarding the country’s situation. “If the current political state continues like this for one more year, we could see an “Iran Spring” by the June presidential elections,” Keskin noted.

The last presidential elections in 2009 saw a large scale popular uprising after protesters claimed the elections were fraudulent. The uprising was thought to be the largest one since the 1979 Revolution, which led to the founding of the current republic.

The movement, however, has been violently suppressed by the the Ahmedinejad regime.

Some rare protests have already started in Iran, due to price hikes on food, showing the effects of international sanctions on the public so far. Beginning in July, Nishabur, a province of 270,000 in the east of the Tehran capital, has been the stage for protests after prices for chicken more than doubled. Iran’s leadership is trying to make up the economic shortfall by cutting government subsidies, including the financial assistance it usually offers to newlyweds for travel to the holy places of Mecca, Medina, Najaf and Karbala, and by raising food prices....

“There is still a strong opposition tendency within the country, and the remnants of the Green Movement are still present among the people. But the Iranian administration would successfully play upon the nationalistic identity, uniting the public if the international community plays war tam tams on Iran [after the Syrian crisis has been solved],” Uslu stated to Sunday’s Zaman. However, he claimed that if the international community would make an emphasis on democratic acquisitions rather than a preemptive strike on Iran, a successful popular movement will most likely occur after the fall of the Syrian regime.

The longstanding ethnic grievances could also be the source of opposition within Iran. The regime marginalized the cultural rights of Azeri Turks whose numbers amount to 35 million in the country, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, Turkmens and others. The regime has effectively integrated the Shiites among those ethnic groups, but Sunni people are most likely to claim their identity. The fact that such domestic opposition groups gain more legitimacy and recognition on international platforms could create another headache for the Iranian regime.

Keskin claims that for a popular democratic movement to succeed and lead to the demise of the autocratic regime, the support of Azeri Turks is important. “There is currently a political mobilization happening among Turks in Iran. During the green movement, Turkish-populated regions remained silent, and not because they are pro-regime, but because that the green movement is nationalistic. The integration of Tabriz, [which is a province in Iran home to largest number of Turks] to the movement is of key importance if anything is to change in Iran,” he claimed.

THE DAILY STAR :: On Tactics in Aleppo

THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: U.S., Turkey to explore imposing Syria no-fly zone

... Insurgents said they had been forced to retreat in the latest twist in relentless, see-saw battles for Salaheddine, part of a swathe of Aleppo seized by rebels last month.

Some rebels, outgunned and low on ammunition in Aleppo, have pleaded for outside military help, arguing that more weapons and a no-fly zone over areas they control near the Turkish border would give them a secure base against Assad's forces.

"The reason we retreated from Salaheddine this week is a lack of weapons," complained Abu Thadet, a rebel commander in Aleppo who said his fighters would regroup and fight back. "We can handle the bombing. It's the snipers that make it hard."

Ten of the 30 fighters in his brigade have been wounded, mostly by snipers lurking even in areas rebels claim to control. His men have broken holes in walls of buildings to try to create safe passages for them to move around in Salaheddine....

Friday, August 10, 2012

US defense firms could push forward with sending layoff notices - The Hill's DEFCON Hill

US defense firms could push forward with sending layoff notices - The Hill's DEFCON Hill

Despite administration warnings that notices related to sequestration were unnecessary, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney are continuing their preparations.
Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney are going forward with plans to issue layoff notices to thousands of employees due to looming defense cuts under sequestration, despite administration claims that such warnings are unnecessary.
U.S. defense companies planned to start handing out pink slips in November under federal mandates outlined in the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, due to the anticipated $500 billion automatic cut to defense coffers are set to go in place in January.

But administration officials from the Department of Labor have argued that such notices did not fall under the act's mandates, noting the law only required notices to be sent out if layoffs are caused by a foreseeable event. ...

-bth: the implications on workers are the same whether the announcements are made or not.  Congress is screwing with the lives of average Americans.

Virus Seeking Bank Data Is Tied to Attack on Iran -

Virus Seeking Bank Data Is Tied to Attack on Iran -

A security firm said Thursday that it had discovered what it believed was the fourth state-sponsored computer virus to surface in the Middle East in the last three years, apparently aimed at computers in Lebanon.
The firm, Kaspersky Lab, said that the virus appeared to have been written by the same programmers who created Flame, the data-mining computer virus that was found to be spying on computers in Iran in May, and that it might be linked to Stuxnet, the virus that disrupted uranium enrichment work in Iran in 2010.
The latest virus, nicknamed Gauss after a name found in its code, has been detected on 2,500 computers, most in Lebanon, the firm said. Its purpose appeared to be to acquire logins for e-mail and instant messaging accounts, social networks and, notably, accounts at certain banks — a function more typically found in malicious programs used by profit-seeking cybercriminals.
The researchers said the target banks included several of Lebanon’s largest — the Bank of Beirut, Blom Bank, Byblos Bank and Credit Libanais — along with Citibank and the online payment system PayPal....

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Is terror not far away from Swat Valley in Pakistan? Taliban consolidating to recapture Swat - ...

Is terror not far away from Swat Valley in Pakistan? Taliban consolidating to recapture Swat - ...

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (eTN) - Terror may be heading back to Swat Valley in Pakistan, after Taliban leader, Fazlullah, who almost succeeded in controlling Nuristan and Kunar in Afghanistan, vowed to strike back at Swat in the future. The first step he is taking to achieve his plan is to try to consolidate his group in the Dir and Chitral areas, where Taliban can attack domestic, as well as international tourists, in the Swat Valley, or they can abduct them for ransom to show their writ in the area.
Since this is tourism season, a lot of vehicles are going in and out of Swat Valley, therefore, controlling the entrance of extremists looks very difficult. Slaughtering Pakistani soldiers and posting avideo of this event testified that three years after the army pushed Fazlullah out of the Swat Valley, he is back.
Mullah Fazlullah organized thousands of fighters in the past, who virtually ruled picturesque Swat, imposing his radical version of Islam on the area. Opponents, and those deemed immoral, were publicly flogged, or even beheaded, and hung in squares and at intersections. Girls' schools and government buildings were burned down
.Taliban consolidating to recapture Swat
Nowadays, Fazlullah's men control a 20-kilometer (12-mile) stretch of the rugged and largely unpatrolled border with Pakistan from areas in Afghanistan's forbidding Nuristan province. The Pakistan military thought it had defeated him during a Swat offensive in 2009.
Sirajuddin Ahmad, Fazlullah's spokesman and cousin in a telephone conversation with an international news agency, said that their aim is to recapture Swat and take control of Pakistan....

-bth: it is astonishing out inept Pakistani authorities are at dealing with this man.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

US lawmakers demand DHS acts to block UAS ‘hackers’ -AUVSI

US House of Representatives lawmakers have chastised the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to take charge of security aspects related to the integration of UAS into civilian airspace. The issue is gaining prominence in part as a result of recent tests showing that “remote hackers” were able to hijack an unmanned aircraft, and also because the number of active commercial UAS is expected to leap from several hundred today to as many as 10,000 by 2017, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration. The growth will take place in large part because Congress, as part of the FAA’s recent budget authorisation, mandated the agency to integrate UAS into civil airspace by September 2015. While trusting that the FAA will properly handle UAS safety, members of a House homeland security subcommittee and witnesses at a 19 July meeting on the future of UAS operations in civil airspace were concerned that no government agency has taken responsibility for UAS security. “[The DHS] does not see domestic use of drones as part of their mission, and has no role. DHS’s lack of attention about this issue is truly incomprehensible.” says Michael McCaul, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management. Security fears increased in June when a professor and students at the University of Texas at Austin were able to spoof a commercial UAS and cause the vehicle to head toward a crash despite the operator having valid command and control links. “Almost all civilian UAVs depend heavily on civilian GPS,” says Todd Humphreys, an assistant professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering, who led the experiments. “You can fool [an unmanned aircraft] into tracking your [GPS] signal instead of the authentic one. You can hijack it and you can do it from miles away.”

-bth: people need to be paying attention to this critical factor.  Drones can be hacked.

NightWatch 20120806 - KGS - On the PM Defection from Syria's Asad Regime

NightWatch 20120806 - KGS

Politics. Prime Minister Riad Hijab, a Sunni Arab, defected and fled to neighboring Jordan, a Jordanian official and a rebel spokesman said Monday. Supposedly several other ministers and some more one-star generals defected as well.
Comment: These defections signify that Syria's Sunni elite, which heretofore has cooperated with the Alawites, has now rejected President Asad's reform program. Hijab was named prime minister as part of the political reform program. This increasingly becomes a fight to the death for the Alawites, who are holding on and holding together....

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Obama Turns To Local Media To Promote Reelection Message

Obama Turns To Local Media To Promote Reelection Message

While any sophisticated campaign media operation needs to engage across media platforms, both Democratic and Republican strategists told The Huffington Post that local media can be especially beneficial as the election nears.

"Local media is much better strategically," said Mark McKinnon, global vice chair of Hill + Knowlton Strategies and chief media adviser for George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns.

"Because they are generally so thrilled to have the access, local media [is] more likely to ask friendlier and easier questions," McKinnon continued via email. "Much better chance of controlling your message. Bottom line, you can usually drive local media like a truck."

Paul Begala, a former Clinton White House adviser, CNN analyst and media consultant for pro-Obama Super Pac Priorities USA Action, said he endorses a strategy with increased local media outreach, but with one tweak. "They have to put him on the Sunday shows more," Begala said.

Obama hasn't appeared on any of the four Sunday morning public affairs shows -- NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union" -- since Sept. 20, 2009, when he argued for health care reform. The president hasn’t appeared on "Fox News Sunday" since the 2008 campaign (and only after host Chris Wallace started a weekly "Obama Watch" segment).

Begala said the lengthy Sunday shows, where candidates are grilled on a number of different issues, would be good preparation for the fall debates against Mitt Romney, a candidate who spent much of the Republican primary on the debate stage. Obama, he said, "needs to hit against major league pitching."...

Welcome Home Benari Poulten

Henry Kissinger: Meshing realism and idealism in Syria, Middle East - The Washington Post

Henry Kissinger: Meshing realism and idealism in Syria, Middle East - The Washington Post

...  Since the Arab uprisings began, four governments have fallen, and several others have been seriously tested. The United States has felt obliged to respond to and occasionally to participate in this drama, but it has still not answered fundamental questions about its direction: Do we have a vision of what strategic equation in the region serves our and global interests? Or of the means to achieve them? How do we handle the economic assistance which may be the best, if not the only, means to influence the evolution?

 The United States can and should assist on the long journey toward societies based on civil tolerance and individual rights. But it cannot do so effectively by casting every conflict entirely in ideological terms. Our efforts must also be placed within a framework of U.S. strategic interests, which should help define the extent and nature of our role. Progress toward a world order embracing participatory governance and international cooperation requires the fortitude to work through intermediate stages. It also requires that the various aspirants to a new order in the Middle East recognize that our contribution to their efforts will be measured by their compatibility with our interests and values. For this, the realism and idealism we now treat as incompatible need to be reconciled.