Syria may not be rich in oil, but its key location would likely make it a very convenient transit country for Central Asian gas and Iranian oil. Speaking to RT, journalist Kris Janssen also said if Syria’s regime was toppled, Tehran would be next.
The current situation in Syria is atypical to this peaceful country’s history, where people managed to avoid internal conflicts for centuries, stresses founder of Syrian Friendship Association and journalist Kris Janssen.
He believes the fact that the uprising started in Dara’a, near the Jordanian border, is no coincidence – indicating it was largely influenced from outside.
Janssen added that many external forces and governments are more interested in destroying Syria because it would allow them to attack Iran – the regional “powerhouse” – which the journalist believes is the main target.
RT:You established the Syrian Friendship Association; does that mean you are considered pro-Assad, as you have been portrayed in the Belgian media?
Kris Janssen: I am considered pro-Syrian, pro-Syrian people and convinced that the only way to get out of this crisis, out of this bloodshed is by following the path of reform, not the path of violence. So if I say I am pro-reform, I don’t say I am pro-Assad. But if you look to the reality it is the Syrian government who is also willing to follow this path of reform.
RT:You have written and said that the armed uprising in Syria has been supported or started from the outside, but you also acknowledged the fact that the Syrians from inside want change. What is the basis of your analysis on this?
KJ: I do believe that the violence we are seeing now has nothing to do with reform, it has to do with the strained people. Also, I am convinced – and I have a lot of testimonies from people in Syria – that a lot of the rebels, the members of Syrian Free Army, as the matter of fact are foreigners. This is not reform and Syrians are not interested in this. Syrian people are very peaceful people and they managed to live together for centuries without any problem. So the violence we are seeing now is not a Syrian product. I went to Dara’a, which was a hotbed the year before, where the trouble started. Also, Dara’a is near the Jordanian border.
It is not a coincidence that the trouble started at the border town because this underlines once again the influence from abroad. I mean, if the current situation in Syria was really a Syrian problem, trouble would have started in Hama or Homs. A lot of outside forces and governments are interested to destroy Syria. Why? Because you have to remember Syria has a very strategic position in the area, in the Middle East, in the region. I think the main target is Iran because Iran is such a powerhouse in the region. It is so strong. They know that to take out Iran, first they have to take out Syria. And I am quite convinced that if they would succeed to destroy Syria the next target would be Hezbollah in Lebanon and once these two allies are taken out, they will concentrate one hundred per cent on Iran.
RT:Who are you referring to when you say they?
KJ: In my opinion, the United States and their allies, because they have strategic interest in that region. Also, a lot of people talk about oil, but you have to know that Syria is not rich in oil. They have some oil, but it is not rich. But, of course the real oil is in Iran, is in Saudi Arabia. But Syria can be a transit country. Also, you have to know there are huge gas reserves in the former Soviet Union. I mean the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union. So they have huge gas reserves. And I think you have to see it in this context.
RT:How do you confirm the identity of the rebel fighters, as you claim they are coming from the outside, they are foreigners. How do we have proof of that?
KJ: Because they found a lot of proof of this like when people died in Homs and now in Aleppo, they find identity cards, passports of foreign people, they captured people with foreign accents. Doing it as mercenaries or doing it for the money, we also have now Al-Qaeda, which is active in Syria because they hope to establish a new base over there.
US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons
DEBKAfileExclusive Report August 23, 2012, 8:44 AM (GMT+02:00)
Those elite units have been issued with special equipment for chemical and biological warfare including anti-contamination suits. The transports are also fitted with purification equipment for operating in polluted terrain.
These plans followed President Barack Obama’s warning Monday, Aug. 20 that “we cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.” He announced, “We have put together a range of contingency plans.”
Also on standby for stealthy raids into Syria are British special operations forces in Cyprus and French units trained in unconventional warfare in Jordan. Thursday morning, President Obama talked by phone to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande to wrap up the details of their combined operation in Syria, effectively the onset of direct Western intervention in the Syrian conflict.
The Pentagon had not by Thursday reacted to these reports, but did release photos of US special operations soldiers clad in anti-contamination suits standing by armored personnel carriers equipped for chemical and biological warfare. The American media were also briefed on US plans to land special operations teams trained in the handling of these weapons for missions to protect or destroy unguarded Syrian stockpiles before they fall into the wrong hands. They also refer to air strikes to incinerate chemicals without dispersing them in the air.
debkafile’s military sources report that alongside the US satellites and drone aircraft monitoring the chemical and biological weapons stores, small American reconnaissance teams are already on the ground, marking out landing sites and setting up bridgeheads for the incoming US, British and French special forces.
Some – though not all – of the targeted stockpiles of shells and missile warheads are located around centers of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s civil war such as Aleppo in the north. They may be inadequately guarded since the Syrian ruler may have been forced to throw the units securing them into battle against rebel forces.
Important stress was laid by Obama in his comments Monday on the fact that he had not ordered US military engagement in Syria “at this point.” In other words, beyond that point, he was free to change that order. debkafile’s military sources report that direct American military involvement in the Syrian conflict has to all intents and purposes begun and looks like expanding in the coming days.
This is a sharp reversal of the military situation in the Middle East. It could lead to all-out warfare exploding in Syria possibly involving Hizballah ahead of a strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons, although this strike could unfold from the Syrian campaign – during its course or at its conclusion.
Washington is hoping that its direct action in Syria, aside from grappling with the unconventional warfare menace looming over the region, may persuade Tehran to cave into American demands for halting uranium enrichment and turn it aside from its race for a nuclear weapon in order to save itself from attack.
The Obama administration is split between two factions on the Syrian question – those who are pushing hard for direct US military intervention – both to end the bloodshed and Bashar Assad’s reign in Syria and to preempt a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran. The other faction is dedicated to Obama’s anti-interventionist mindset.
This controversy is explored in the coming issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly (for subscribers) out next Friday.
Cameron adds his voice to chemical weapons warning in Syria
August 23, 2012 – SYRIA – British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined President Barack Obama in warning Syria the use of chemical weapons would trigger a re-think in their approach. The rise in western rhetoric came as unverified footage showed Syrian tanks on the streets of Damascus. Opposition activists reported 40 people were killed in bombardments timed with the departure of the United Nations observer mission. Heavy shelling has also continued in suburbs across Aleppo as both regime forces and Syria rebels claim to be gaining ground. The plight of civilians remains the focus for the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos: “The humanitarian situation has worsened since my visit in March. The most urgent and growing needs are for health care, shelter, food, water and sanitation. There are serious public health issues in the school buildings that are being used as shelters.” In such a school, those taking refuge blame the president for their plight. More than 500 families have fled the fighting in nearby Aleppo and no one knows when they will be able to return home.
NY state senator puts on Israeli uniform to play soldier on Syrian border
(Philip Weiss) The office of NY state senator David Storobin, a Republican running for reelection, sent out the above photograph today of the senator in the occupied Golan Heights, on the Syrian border.
The photo came with the following release from aide Steven Stites:
Senator David Storobin (R-Brooklyn, on the left) today visited with General Shmulik Olansky (center), a 3-star general in charge of the Golan Heights Armor Division, directly on the Syrian border in a hostile region. The Senator is on an official state visit approved by the Defense Minister of Israel. To the right is the Senator’s Chief of Staff, Paul Gullo.
“Israel shares a border and a region with multiple dangerous countries,” Storobin said. “Thank G-d for the brave men and women in the Israeli armed services that stare down this danger to protect Israel every day.”
If you need a high-res image sent as an attachment, please email me.
State Senator David Storobin (R-Brooklyn) represents the 27th Senate District, which includes the neighborhoods of Bergen Beach, Brighton Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Homecrest, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Midwood and Sheepshead Bay.
260 die in Syria in 24 hours, including 189 civilians
(AGI) Nicosia – Over 60 people have died today in different parts of Syria, including at least 48 non-belligerents.
Fighting between loyalists and rebels has continued, particularly in Damascus and its surroundings. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition organisation in exile based in the United Kingdom, said that a total of 260 have been killed in the last 24 hours, including 189 civilians.
‘Global balance of power takes shape in Syria’
The Syrian crisis is comparable to the Suez Crisis when a US-USSR standoff marked the demise of the old world, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Dr. Qadri Jamil told RT. Today, Russia and China usher a unipolar world to an end.
RT: Let us start by revisiting your recent news conference in which you assessed the basic principles that must be observed for any kind of dialogue to be possible in Syria. You named two principles: ending hostilities and refraining from foreign interference. Is there anything else?
Dr. Qadri Jamil: No. There are only these two principles, which should be enough. If we were to agree on these two principles, all other issues would become technicalities, despite our contradictions, and we would be able to reach an agreement on certain reciprocal concessions.
The guidelines in question include refraining from foreign interference in any form, which means the Syrian people should be allowed to decide their fate by themselves. It is, in fact, a longstanding principle of international relations that’s being violated right now.
The second principle requires giving up violence in any of its forms. If we look at the issues that lie at the core of contention in Syria, we’ll see that it’s something that simply cannot be resolved through use of force. Instead, the way to deal with them is to sit down at the negotiating table. I should say that pursuing a peaceful solution through dialogue would require the world to show quite a lot of courage by refraining from military action. It might seem that military force can get you farther than anything else; but in reality, we’ve all seen that warfare doesn’t get you anywhere politically.
The situation in Syria is very volatile, and any instance of armed combat will only escalate the hostilities. What we need is a simultaneous ceasefire, which would be in line with the Kofi Annan plan, the Geneva arrangements, the stance of our friends, and the attitude of the Syrian government, which has published a resolution calling for national reconciliation.
RT: How would you respond to people who say they won’t negotiate with a government whose military machine has been razing Syrian cities to the ground? How is that as a pre-condition for dialogue?
QJ: That’s beyond reason. Violence has been employed by each of the warring parties. If we start regarding such statements as a precondition, then dialogue will never take place. Civil wars in Lebanon and Algeria have shown that, sooner or later, warring parties do come to negotiate with each other. So the Syrian people do have a chance.
If only we get down to reconciliation without delay, we might avoid having to pay an immense price for our country’s war-torn economy. Common sense and wisdom call for sitting down at the negotiating table as soon as possible, without imposing any preconditions that will only impede the process. Such demands may be perfectly well-meaning but, at the end of the day, they are misleading and effectively do more to obstruct the peace process rather than encourage it. And anyone who’s impeding dialogue right now should be held responsible for the continuing bloodshed in Syria.
Turkey probes possible Iran link in bombing near Syria
In TV interview, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc says ‘foreign elements’ might be linked to Kurdish rebel group PKK.
Turkey has said it is investigating whether another country, possibly Iran, was involved in an explosion that killed nine people near Syria earlier this week. The announcement reflects concern about spillover from the war in Syria as well as increasing tension with Iran, a regional power that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Turkey blamed a Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, for the attack in the southern city of Gaziantep. In a separate incident near the Iraqi border, Turkish media reported Thursday that five soldiers and 16 Kurdish militants died in a nighttime ambush of a military convoy and an ensuing operation by security forces.
Some Turkish officials allege there are links between the PKK, which denied it carried out the bombing, and Syrian intelligence. Turkey backs the Syrian opposition in its war with forces loyal to Assad, and relations between Ankara and Damascus have sharply deteriorated since the conflict began in March 2011.
UPDATE 2-U.N. chief to visit Iran in defiance of U.S., Israel
* Ban to attend non-aligned summit in Iran – U.N.
* U.S., Israel had urged Ban to boycott Tehran summit
* U.N. chief to raise concerns about Iran nuclear work, Syria
* Ban hopes to meet with Iran’s supreme leader, president
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22 (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations in Iran next week, defying calls from the United States and Israel to boycott the event, a U.N. spokesman said on Wednesday.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters that Ban will be in Tehran Aug. 29-31 for a meeting of some 120 non-aligned nations, and for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials.
“With respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Secretary-General will use the opportunity to convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community,” he said. “These include Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.”
Ban is “fully aware of the sensitivities” linked to his visit, but he is also aware of his responsibilities as head of the United Nations, Nesirky said.
He noted that non-aligned nations comprise two-thirds of all U.N. member states.
One of Ban’s responsibilities is “to pursue diplomatic engagement with all … (U.N.) member states in the interest of peacefully addressing vital matters of peace and security,” Nesirky said.
He added that Ban hoped to have “meaningful and fruitful discussions” with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top members of the Iranian government.
Iran war could cost Israel economy $42 billion
August 22, 2012 – TEL AVIV – Israel’s economy would incur damages of as much as 167 billion shekels ($42 billion) should Israel attack Iran over its nuclear program, business information group BDI-Coface has projected. Direct economic damage would reach 47 billion shekels, BDI-Coface, a respected research group, said on Tuesday. That would be equivalent to 5.4 percent of Israel’s gross domestic product last year. Indirect damages would amount to 24 billion shekels a year for three to five years due to the collapse of businesses, it said. There has been an upsurge in rhetoric from Israeli politicians this month suggesting the country might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities ahead of U.S. presidential elections in November. Israel, widely believed to be the only atomic power in the Middle East, views Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, citing threats made by leaders of Islamist Iran to destroy the Jewish state. BDI noted that 32 days of war with Lebanon in 2006 led to a 0.5 percent reduction in Israel’s economic growth. Direct costs such as civil property and infrastructure damage cost the economy another 1.3 percent. “In the event of a war of the same magnitude, duration and damage, it is possible to expect damage of 16 billion shekels,” it said. The war with Lebanon took place mainly in Israel’s north, which produces just 20 percent of the country’s output. “It is reasonable to assume that in the event of a war, it would also involve the center of the country, which produces 70 percent of Israel’s economic activity,” BDI said, noting Israel’s gross domestic product was 870 billion shekels in 2011. Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer warned this month of an economic crisis in the event of a war with Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is frustrated that Western diplomacy to try to force Iran to rein in its nuclear program has so far proved fruitless. Senior Israeli officials have said a final decision about whether to attack Iran has not yet been taken, with the military hierarchy unhappy about the prospect of going it alone without full U.S. backing.
Still time for diplomacy on Iran weapons: U.S.
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 19:04 EDT
WASHINGTON — Diplomacy can still solve the crisis over Iran’s suspect nuclear program, the United States said Wednesday, adding that it had relayed the message to close ally Israel.
Tensions are taut between Israel and Iran amid threats by the Jewish state to attack nuclear facilities in the Islamic republic to prevent it from reaching nuclear weapons capability, while Washington has sought to dissuade its ally from taking preemptive military action.
“We believe there is still time for diplomacy to work — but we need to see a better effort from the Iranians to answer the concerns that we’ve had,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
“We are focused on trying to have this dual-track policy of diplomacy backed by pressure work. And we are still focused on that.”
Iran is at the center of a showdown with the international community over its alleged nuclear drive, and has been accused of providing arms to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
War With Iran Appears More Imminent
There has been ongoing speculation on the possibility of an Israeli-U.S. strike on Iran for quite some time. Publicly, the Obama administration has indicated that while military action was not off the table, it was also not the first choice of the administration. President Obama had hoped Israel would delay an attack on Iran until after the presidential election in November, but the Israeli government is apparently serious about attacking earlier.
“Israel is telling President Obama that unless there is a change of tack, Israel will go it alone. I do believe that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is serious about this,” Reuters quoted Ehud Yaari saying. Yaari is an Israeli-based fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
According to the Jerusalem-based intelligence website DebkaFile, “the White House … scrambled to reconnect with Jerusalem after the Obama administration was persuaded that Israel was serious about conducting a fall military operation against Iran’s nuclear program before the Nov. 6 US presidential election.”
“Obama and Netanyahu were discussing a one-on-one encounter on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session opening in New York on Sept. 18,” DebkaFile revealed. And discussions “handled by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon for the US president and senior adviser Ron Dermer for the prime minister” have moved forward.
Reuters reports that Netanyahu wishes to secure three commitments from the Obama administration: “a pledge that the United States will attack if Iran does not back down; a tight deadline for negotiations with Tehran, which have so far proved fruitless; and a further tightening of the sanctions noose.”
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, along with the newly appointed Home Front Defense Minister, have reportedly made well-coordinated preparations for a war with Iran, and for the possible repercussions that would result.
Naturally, President Obama would prefer for such an endeavor to be postponed until after the elections, concerned that any decision on how to handle Iran, one way or another, could impact his chances for re-election.
Anger as Iran bans women from universities
In a move that has prompted a demand for a UN investigation by Iran’s most celebrated human rights campaigner, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be “single gender” and effectively exclusive to men.
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country’s religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam.
Senior clerics in Iran’s theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
Iranian leaders in Israel’s sights after calling for its destruction
DEBKAfile DEBKA Video August 21, 2012, 5:57 PM (GMT+02:00)
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have bandied thousands of words in their dispute over an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. For a time, their argument muffled the abiding ambition of the Islamic Republic to destroy Israel – come what may.
However, the message roared by Iranian leaders over last weekend – before and after Al Quds Day – was quite simply this: Israel must be destroyed, irrespective of whether or not it attacks the Islamic Republic
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was cheered by half a million demonstrators in Tehran shouting: Death to Israel! Death to America! when he declared Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that will soon be finished off in the new Middle East. He called “the Zionist regime’s existence an insult to all humanity.”
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “The fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography,”
And although both were severely rebuked by world leaders for their violent invective, it continued to pour out of Tehran in a comment by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force Chief, Brig. Gen. Amir Hajizadeh who said an Israeli attack would be welcome “as a pretext to get rid of Israel for good.”
Israel’s new Home Defense Minister Avi Dichter laid it out in plain language: While Syria, Lebanon and Gaza confront Israel with a strategic threat, Iran imperils our very existence.”
Certain Western intelligence sources were reminded of a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in 2006 when he quoted a Holocaust survivor as saying: “My main lesson from the Holocaust is that if someone tells you he is going to exterminate you, believe him. And I add to that. Believe him and stop him!”
Six years later, those sources now suggest, after America’s top soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey offered the opinion that Israel can no longer destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon capacity – only delay it , that Netanyahu may be willing to go further: Not only to stop them, but kill them.
They are quietly using the term “decapitation.”
They point to the Israeli Mossad’s long record of targeted covert operations for dealing with past and would-be annihilators: In the fifties, the Mossad captured the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann in Operational Finale.
In the seventies, Golda Meir ordered Operation Wrath of God to hunt down and pick off one by one the Palestinian Black September murderers of 11 Israeli sportsmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
In February 2008, Iran’s senior terrorist operations commander, Hizballah’s Imad Mughniyeh, was liquidated in Damascus, so ending a bloody career of assassinations, terrorism and abductions against US and other Western targets as well as Israel.
Hizballah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah knows the score: He has spent six years hunkered down in a fortified bunker, taking care never to broadcast his inflammatory speeches calling for Israel’s destruction live, only by video.
It cannot be ruled out that this point, Israel may decide to disable Iran’s nuclear program by going for its leaders.
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