Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

This intervention force is “…composed almost entirely of fighting men drawn from the ranks of al Qaeda and its extremist Islamist affiliates and allies… silently backed by the US and NATO members… the hard core is made up of Iraqi Islamists which carried out 15 coordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad last Thursday, killing 72 people and injuring 200″

Why would al Qaeda and other terrorists be better than Assad in running Syria?

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 27, 2011

Libyan ex-al Qaeda's Abdel Hakim BelhajThe Qatar oil emirate, encouraged by its successful participation in the campaign to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, has established a Sunni Arab intervention force to expedite the drive for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ouster, debkafile’s military sources report.

The new highly mobile force boosts the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army, whose numbers have jumped to 20,000 fighters, armed and funded by Qatar and now forming into military battalions and brigades at their bases in Turkey.

When they saw the Syrian massacre continuing unabated this month, the Qatari and Saudi rulers approved a crash program for the Qatari chief of staff Maj.-Gen Hamas Ali al-Attiya to weld this mobile intervention Sunni Muslim force out of al Qaeda linked-operatives for rapid deployment on the Turkish-Syrian border.

A force of 2,500 has been recruited up until now, our sources report. The hard core is made up of 1,000 members of the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya-IFGL, which fought Qaddafi, and 1,000 operatives of the Ansar al-Sunna, the Iraqi Islamists which carried out 15 coordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad last Thursday killing 72 people and injuring 200.

Qatar has just had them airlifted from Libya and Iraq to the southern Turkish town of Antakya (Antioch) in the border province of Hatay.

It is in this town of quarter-of-a- million inhabitants that the new Sunni force has located its command center and separate camps for the two main contingents to undergo intensive training for combat missions in the embattled Syrian towns and provinces of Idlib, Homs, Jabal al-Zawiya, scenes of the fiercest clashes between Syrian troops and rebels.

debkafile also reveals that the man appointed top commander of the Sunni intervention force headquartered in Antioch is none other than Abdel Hakim Belhaj, whose militia last August seized control of Tripoli after it was captured from Qaddafi by NATO and Qatari forces.

He has picked his deputies – Al-Mahdi Hatari, former head of the Tripoli Brigade and loyal crony Kikli Adem.
Qatari officers have set up communication links between the Libyan and Iraqi camps and since last week are coordinating their operations with the Free Syrian Army.

This flurry of military activity is taking place under the watchful gaze of the Turkish military and its intelligence services but they are not interfering.

debkafile’s military and counter-terror analysts stress that the rise of a new Qatari-led Sunni Muslim rapid intervention force breaks fresh strategic ground with ramifications for the United and Israel as well as for the Gulf Arab countries, Syria, Libya and Iraq.

1. A year has gone by since the Arab Revolt first broke out in December 2010. Yet this is the first time a Sunni Muslim power has established an intervention force – one moreover which is composed almost entirely of fighting men drawn from the ranks of al Qaeda and its extremist Islamist affiliates and allies.

2. The new Sunni force, funded by the Persian Gulf oil states, is silently backed by the US and NATO members, with Turkey in the forefront of this support group. This means that the Sunni-Shiite divide is spiraling into overt conflict with Western support afforded to one side.

3. Despite finding itself increasingly isolated by its Arab neighbors, Tehran has so far not intervened directly in conflicts in which it owns an interest – such as Gulf Cooperation Council-GCC intervention against a Shiite-led uprising in Bahrain, and now Sunni militias and terrorists enlisted to battle the Allawite regime of Iran’s closest ally, Bashar Assad in Damascus.

4. Iran’s Lebanese proxy. Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, must also be feeling an uncomfortable draft coming from a Sunni fighting force near his strongholds and carrying out raids against his closest ally, Bashar Assad. He can’t ignore the possibility of that force conducting similar excursions against his own Shiite militia.

5. Israel too must find cause for concern in the rise of a Sunni military intervention force capable of moving at high speed from one arena to another and made up almost entirely of Islamist terrorists. At some time, Qatar might decide to move this force to the Gaza Strip to fight Israel.

http://www.debka.com/article/21602/

(Why Americans should care about “the rest of the story” in Afghanistan.)

From The Wonders Of Pakistan blog online
24 Nov 2011

“If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.”

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”

These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan.

EURASIA’S PIPELINE TANGLE
by Abdus Sattar Ghazali

On November 14, Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to build the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project under which Pakistan will get 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas. The agreement was signed during a visit by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan to Islamabad.

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline, first proposed in early 1990s, will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India….

The original project started on 15 March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. This project was promoted by Argentinian company, Bridas Corporation.

The U.S. company Unocal, in conjunction with the Saudi oil company Delta, promoted alternative project without Bridas’ involvement. In 1995, Unocal signed an $8 billion deal with Turkmenistan to construct two pipelines (one for oil, one for gas), as part of a larger plan for two pipelines intended to transport oil and gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal, was formed.

Since the pipeline was to pass through Afghanistan, it was necessary to work with the Taliban. In January 1998, the Taliban regime, selected CentGas over Argentinian competitor Bridas Corporation, and signed an agreement that allowed the proposed project to proceed.

In 1997, representatives of the Taliban are invited to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.”

It was reported that the Taliban met with Enron officials while in Texas. Enron, headquartered in Texas, had a large financial interest in the pipeline at the time.

On April 17, 1998, Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul. (All such meetings were illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.) US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offers another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/2001]

On December 5, 1998, Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic.

Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

The TAP project was revived less than one month after the 9/11 attacks when US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin meets (Oct 9, 2001) with the Pakistani oil minister to brief on the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan, which appears to be revived “in view of recent geopolitical developments.” [Frontier Post – 10/10/2011]

On May 30, 2002, Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai (who formerly worked for Unocal), Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov, and Pakistani President General Musharraf meet in Islamabad to sign a memorandum of understanding on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project.

TAP is consistent with the US declared policy of linking Central and South Asia and diversifying export routes for Turkmen gas.

The proposed 1,680 kilometres pipeline could carry one trillion cubic metres of Turkmen gas over a 30-year period, according to Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Bayramgeldy Nedirov. But the route, particularly the 735 kilometres Afghan leg, presents significant security challenges.

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.”

These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan. [Journal of Energy Security, March 23, 2010]

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline (TAPI) agreement has been signed at a time when Washington is pressing Islamabad to abandon the pipeline project to supply Iranian gas to Pakistan.

Washington has never tried to hide its opposition to Pakistan`s plans for importing gas from Iran and has always pressured it to seek alternate options. The purpose has been to isolate Tehran in the region over its nuclear program. Apparently, it was under US pressure that India decided to opt out of the project in 2009. In return, New Delhi successfully secured US cooperation for its civil nuclear power projects in 2008.

In January 2010, the United States asked Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project. If canceling the project, Pakistan would receive assistance from the United States for construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal and importing electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. [Times of India – Sept 7, 2009]

On April 12, 2010, Iran announced that it has completed construction of 1,000 kilometers of the pipeline out of the 1,100 kilometers portion on Iranian soil. On this Iranian ambassador to Pakistan said that “Iran has done her job and it now depends on Pakistan”. The construction of the pipeline on Iranian side is on pace to be completed by 2011.

….

According to newspaper reports on 17 June 2011, Iran has given up talks with India on the pipeline and is pursuing the pipeline bilaterally with Pakistan. In July 2011, Pakistani minister for petroleum and natural resources announced that Iran has finished its work on laying the pipeline and Pakistan would start the work for building the pipeline within the next six months.

In November 2010, a Wikileaks cable disclosed that American diplomats had said it was “unlikely that Iran would build a gas pipeline to Pakistan.” Washington opposes the deal because of the economic benefits for Tehran, which has been subject to the United States and international community’s sanctions against Iran. The diplomatic cable noted that the planned pipeline would not move forward because, “the Pakistanis don’t have the money to pay for either the pipeline, or the gas.” [Wikipedia]

The 2,775-kilometre (1,724 mi) pipeline will be supplied from the South Pars field. It will start from Asalouyeh and stretch over 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Balochistan and Sindh. In Khuzdar, a branch would spur-off to Karachi, while the main pipeline will continue towards Multan. From Multan, the pipeline may be expanded to India.

Commenting on the TAPI agreement, Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Nation said: “Pakistan seems to have succumbed to US pressure and sacrificed its national interest in pursuit of the American desire to bypass Iran.”

The paper said, apart from the relative merits of the projects, one of the biggest services the present government can perform for the USA is to give the impression that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is in any way a substitute for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline.

The Nation emphasized that Pakistan needs both the projects if it is to meet the gas shortages that have already hit the country in the past, and which will further worsen, reaching new heights this winter.

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The writer Abdus Sattar Ghazali is Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: http://www.amperspective.com email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

http://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/the-politics-of-gas-pipelines-in-asia/#more-25322

SkyNews online
8 November 2011

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran October 26, 2010. Iran has begun loading fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant on Tuesday, one of the last steps to realising its stated goal of becoming a peaceful nuclear power, state-run Press TV reported on Tuesday.

An attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear programme has lurched from doomsday scenario closer to reality. The change has been prompted by the publication of a report by the International Atomic Energy Authority which shows that Iran has been working on a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it.

Although the Israeli cabinet has been split over whether it would authorise a unilateral attack on Iran, the IAEA report will immediately strengthen the case of the hawks.

Its publication has come after weeks of intelligence ‘chatter’ which has raised the spectre of an attack on Iran by Israel – and even the possibility that both the US and United Kingdom would be involved.

While some of the activities identified in the Annex have civilian as well as military applications, others are specific to nuclear weapons. Read the full IAEA report here: www1.sky.com/news/irangov2011-6.pdf

Whitehall sources have denied there are plans to get Britain involved in an attack on Iran – even ruling out the use of special forces commandos. But they admit the West and Israel had been “spooked” by recent intelligence that indicated Iran was “considerably further advanced in developing a nuclear weapon than we had realised”.

“The window of opportunity to attack it and kill off a nuke programme is rapidly closing,” said one western intelligence source.

According to the IAEA, Iran had modelled the delivery of a nuclear warhead using a Shabab 3 ballistic missile, which is easily capable of reaching Israel from Iranian territory. The report says Iranian scientists had been working on computer simulations of a nuclear weapon being exploded in the air and on impact with the ground.

It stated: “As part of the studies carried out by the engineering groups under Project 111 to integrate the new payload into the re-entry vehicle of the Shahab 3 missile, additional work was conducted on the development of a prototype firing system that would enable the payload to explode both in the air above a target, or upon impact of the re-entry vehicle with the ground.”

Iran, the report says, was shown this information, and dismissed it as “an animation game”.

Annex 1 of the IAEA report draws heavily on evidence from member states, which indicates that Iran has been building the facilities to test nuclear weapons, researching how to turn highly enriched uranium (HEU) into metal form which would firm the core of a warhead, and how to cause a chain reaction using an advanced multipoint detonator.

“As the conversion of HEU compounds into metal and the fabrication of HEU metal components suitable in size and quality are steps in the development of an HEU nuclear explosive device, clarification by Iran is needed in connection with the above,” the report says.

Israel attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at al Kibar in 2006.

And assassins have been working their way through Iran’s nuclear scientists, killing one and wounding his wife last November. Another scientist was attacked in the same way 20 minutes later, when a motorcyclist attached a magnetic mine to his car. The mystery attacks have prompted Iran to put a special security detail on its nuclear workers.

But if Benyamin Netanyahu – Israel’s prime minister and leading hawk – prevails over his cabinet, then Tehran will be looking to the skies to defend itself.

http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16106334

Several areas where Syria has been viciously cracking down on protestors have particular significance. Note these quotes from the previous article:

“The IAEA in 2011 assessed that Syria’s al Kibar facility in Deir al Zour, destroyed by an Israel air strike in 2007, was very likely a covert nuclear reactor built with North Korean assistance.”

“August 13, 2011: The Iranian regime agreed to provide $23 million to construct a military base in Latakia, Syria following a June 2011 meeting in Tehran between Syrian deputy vice president Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani.

The base, to be built by the end of 2012, will house IRGC officers who will coordinate weapons shipments from Iran to Syria. According to a Western security official, ‘The direct route is being set up to make it easier to pass advanced Iranian weapons and equipment to Syria.'”

Assad says he has now stopped his attacks on these areas, despite evidence to the contrary. See today’s article below.

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Assad says Syrian operations have stopped
Aljazeera online 18 Aug 2011

(However…) “Activists said that security forces were continuing their assaults on the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor and in areas of the coastal city of Latakia, despite state media reports of troop withdrawals. Those reports were also disputed by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, who said Syrian soldiers were still in Deir ez-Zor and other towns. Dozens of people are reported to have been killed in Deir ez-Zor and Latakia since the weekend.”

Military and police operations against protesters in Syria have stopped, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the world body said in a statement.

The announcement comes ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday at which the UN’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay, could call for Syria’s crackdown on protesters to be referred to the International Criminal Court, according to diplomats.

In a phone call with Assad on Wednesday, Ban “expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria, including in the Al Ramel district of Lattakia, home to several thousands of Palestinian refugees,” the United Nations said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General emphasised that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped,” the statement added.

The government’s crackdown in Syria is estimated to have killed at least 2,000 civilians since the protests began in March. According to activists, Assad has unleashed tanks, ground troops, snipers and warships in an attempt to retake control in rebellious areas.

Activists said that security forces were continuing their assaults on the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor and in areas of the coastal city of Latakia, despite state media reports of troop withdrawals. Those reports were also disputed by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, who said Syrian soldiers were still in Deir ez-Zor and other towns.

Dozens of people are reported to have been killed in Deir ez-Zor and Latakia since the weekend.

http://english.aljazeera.net//news/middleeast/2011/08/201181834547755984.html

Why should the current turmoil in Syria matter to U.S. interests? (Other than strictly moral issues.) Lots of oil and natural gas sources? Not much there. Those would help explain American business and political interests in many Middle East conflicts, but Syria hardly produces enough for its own use.

So why then, should we care if the Syrian government is violently cracking down with mass murderous attacks on its own citizens?

The answer in one word: Iran. This recent article helps us understand that Syria Matters

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Syria-Iran Foreign Relations
By Will Fulton, Robert Frasco, Ariel Farrar-Wellman
IranTracker.org online
August 15, 2011

[Further analysis on Iran-Syria relations: Iranian support for Syrian repression during the Arab Spring]

Iran and Syria have maintained close ties since the early years of the Islamic Republic and Syria now serves as Iran’s key Arab ally and partner in the region. The advent of the Iran-Iraq War provided Syria with an opportunity to gain another regional ally against Saddam Hussein. In contrast with nearly all other Arab countries, Syria supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.

In 1982 the two states brokered a deal allowing Syria to receive shipments of subsidized Iranian oil, and in return, Syria shut down Iraq’s oil pipeline through its territory.

Syrian support for Iran wavered in 1986 when President Hafez Assad suggested that Syria would not accept Iran as an occupying force in Iraq. Soon after, Minister of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Mohsen Rafiq-Dust and President Assad met in Damascus to restore relations. Syrian officials, however, would not affirm Iran’s goal of “liberation of Iraq.”

With the absence of an Iraqi threat since 2003, relations between Syria and Iran have deepened, sustained by their shared support of terrorist organizations Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas, and their enmity toward Israel. Both Tehran and Damascus have continuously provided Hezbollah with funding, training, materiel, and political support since its creation in the 1980s.

According to a 2008 Congressional Research Service report, “Syria is an important interlocutor between Iran and its Hezbollah protégés; Iranian weapons transit through Syria on their way to Hezbollah caches in Lebanon.” Joint assistance for and advocacy on the behalf of Palestinians in the region is also an integral component of bilateral relations between Iran and Syria, with officials from both countries often stridently criticizing Israel on a host of Palestinian issues.

The two states also cooperate militarily beyond their support for proxy militias, with the Islamic Republic supplying arms, ammunition and military technology to Syrian security services.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, which has led to widespread unrest in Syria and posed a formidable challenge to Assad’s regime, Iranian officials have dispatched IRGC Qods Force advisors, training personnel, and other resources to reinforce Assad’s assault on anti-regime protesters.

After a June 2011 meeting between Qods Force Commander Qassem Suleimani and Syria’s Deputy Vice President for Security Affairs Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek, Iran agreed to provide $23 million to Syria for the construction of a military base in Latakia, in order to facilitate direct arms shipments from the Islamic Republic to Syria.

Syrian officials have consistently expressed their support for Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program and emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution to the dispute. Nuclear cooperation between the two allies, however, has extended beyond rhetoric.

In 2011, the UN Security Council Panel of Experts tasked with monitoring sanctions on Iran accused Syria of refusing to cooperate with its efforts. The two cooperated in 2008 in an unsuccessful effort to gain Syria a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors.

That same year, an Israeli official accused Iran of helping Syria build its own covert nuclear program. The IAEA in 2011 assessed that Syria’s al Kibar facility in Deir al Zour, destroyed by an Israel air strike in 2007, was very likely a covert nuclear reactor built with North Korean assistance.

Economic relations between Iran and Syria have remained strong, though neither state contributes significantly to the other’s economy. According to 2008 data, Iran is not among the top thirty recipients of Syrian goods nor is it among the top thirty importers of goods to Syria.

An increase in economic cooperation may occur, however, as Syria and Iran are increasingly isolated by the international community. In July 2011 Iran, Syria, and Iraq signed a $10 billion natural gas deal amidst growing unrest within Syria.

Nuclear:

June 23, 2011: The UN Security Council issued a report in which it accused Syria of refusing to cooperate with its Panel of Experts established in June 2011 to monitor sanctions on Iran. According to the report, Syria’s refusal to cooperate was in “serious violation of its obligations under relevant Council resolutions.”

February 20, 2010: According to Iran’s Press TV, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem expressed support for a “constructive dialogue between the two parties [Iran and the West] in order to reach a peaceful solution” to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program.

December 3, 2009: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Damascus. Following the meeting, Assad affirmed “the right of Iran and other countries that are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.” Jalili also held a joint press conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, in which Muallem expressed Syria’s desire for a “political solution” to the conflict between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.

October 1, 2008: Iran abandoned attempts to gain a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board in order to support Syria’s bid for a seat. Iranian envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh made the announcement.

June 25, 2008: An adviser to Israel’s national security council accused Iran of helping Syria develop its covert nuclear program. According to the adviser, “The Iranians were involved in the Syrian program. The idea was that the Syrians produce plutonium and the Iranians get their share. Syria had no reprocessing facility for the spent fuel. It’s not deduction alone that brings almost everyone to think that the link exists.”

Economic:

July 25, 2011: Iran, Iraq and Syria signed a $10 billion natural gas agreement. According to the agreement, the three countries will construct a pipeline running from Iran’s natural gas fields to Syria, and eventually to the Mediterranean, via Lebanon. Iraq would initially receive 20 million cubic meters per day, and Syria 20 to 25 million cubic meters per day.

July 15, 2011: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei expressed support for a proposal by Iran’s Center for Strategic Research (CSR) to provide Syria with $5.8 billion in aid.

May 25, 2010: Iran and Syria agreed to set up a joint bank in Damascus. The initial capitalization of the bank was said to total $30 million, with Iran owning 60 percent of the bank.

April 30, 2010: Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and Syrian President Bashar al Assad met in Damascus to discuss establishing a regional economic bloc. Rahimi was in Syria to attend the Iran-Syria 12th Joint High Commission meeting.

The meeting concluded with the signing of a 17-article agreement containing measures for furthering cooperation in “trade, investment, planning and statistics, industries, air, naval and rail transportation, communication and information technology, health, agriculture, [and] tourism.”

September 22, 2009: The joint Iran-Venezuela oil company VENIROGC announced plans to build an oil refinery in Syria capable of producing 140,000 barrels per day.

August 19, 2008: Iranian Minister of Industries and Mines Ali Akbar Mehrabian claimed that the Islamic Republic has “$1.3 billion worth of various projects” underway in Syria.

Diplomatic:

August 2, 2011: Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast warned Western countries to refrain from interfering in Syrian domestic affairs. Mehmanparast advised “the West to learn [its] lesson from its previous mistakes and interference in different countries and not to enter new issues to complicate the problems in the region.”

May 27, 2011: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi held consecutive meetings with his Syrian and North Korean counterparts, Walid Muallem and Pak Ui-chun, in Bali. All parties refused to discuss the contents of the meetings with the press.

July 15, 2010: Former IRGC commander and current military advisor to Ali Khamenei, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said “Iran has no strategic allies in the region save for Syria and Turkey which are to some extent close to us but they are not considered as Iran’s allies in real terms.”

July 2, 2010: Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met in Damascus to discuss events in Iraq and the Gaza Strip.

June 23, 2010: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Syrian First Vice President Farouq al Sharaa in Tehran. During the meeting Ahmadinejad stated, “Today the affinity, companionship and unity between Tehran and Damascus have deterred all the plots of the arrogant powers.”

Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi also met with al-Sharaa and asserted, “Iran and Syria share common positions on the Palestinian issue and they should expand their relations and cooperation with other countries, like Turkey and Iraq to foil the ominous plots of the Zionists.”

April 18, 2010: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem met with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili to discuss regional cooperation.

February 26, 2010: Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

February 26, 2010: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad held a joint press conference in Damascus. During the conference Ahmadinejad asserted that the U.S. desires “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that…. We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Assad similarly attacked what he termed as the “new situation of colonialism” in the Middle East.

February 25, 2010: Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al Assad met in Damascus to discuss “international and regional issues.”

January 7, 2010: Syrian Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran to discuss relations between the two states.

May 5, 2009: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al Assad expressed their mutual support for “Palestinian resistance” during a meeting in Damascus. Ahmadinejad added that “Syria and Iran have been from the very beginning united and in agreement to stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance…. They will continue to do so. We see that the resistance will continue until all occupied territories are liberated.”

Military:

August 13, 2011: The Iranian regime agreed to provide $23 million to construct a military base in Latakia, Syria following a June 2011 meeting in Tehran between Syrian deputy vice president Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani.

The base, to be built by the end of 2012, will house IRGC officers who will coordinate weapons shipments from Iran to Syria. According to a Western security official, “The direct route is being set up to make it easier to pass advanced Iranian weapons and equipment to Syria.”

June 23, 2011: Martin Briens , the French representative from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts to monitor UN sanctions on Iran, expressed concern over the reported “violations of the arms embargo [on Iran], including three new examples of illegal arms transfers which, shockingly, revealed Syria’s participation.”

March 23, 2011: Turkey’s government seized Iranian cargo bound for Syria. The shipment, which included light weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars, violated U.N. sanctions that ban the export of arms from Iran.

March 15, 2011: Israel’s navy seized a weapons shipment from Syria in the Mediterranean Sea. The contents of the shipment included strategic shore-to-sea Chinese-made C-704 missiles likely destined for Palestinians militants in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the weapons came from Iran: “The only certain thing is the source of the weaponry was Iran, and there was a Syrian relay station as well.”

December 10, 2010: A UN Security Council sanctions committee report cited Iran for two separate violations of UNSCR 1747, including one that involved a container of T4 explosives originating from Iran and destined for Syria. Italian customs authorities seized the container.

June 30, 2010: Israeli and U.S. officials reported that Iran had provided Syria with a “sophisticated radar system” capable of detecting a preemptive strike launched from Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

An Israeli military official elaborated, “Iran is engaged in developing Syrian intelligence and aerial detection capabilities, and Iranian representatives are present in Syria for that express purpose…. Radar assistance is only one expression of that cooperation.”

October 13, 2009: U.S. soldiers discovered containers of 7.62mm rounds aboard a German cargo ship traveling from Iran to Syria. The shipment was rerouted to Malta under U.S. direction.

January, 2008: Cypriot authorities intercepted an Iranian vessel carrying arms bound for Syria.[44] Monchegorsk, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL)-chartered vessel flying under a Cypriot flag, originated in Bandar Abbas and was reportedly transporting bullet shells, high-explosive gun charges, and other weapons supplies.

July 22, 2007: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered to provide $1 billion in military aid to Syria.

June 16, 2006: Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkamni signed a defense agreement designed to increase military cooperation. Without giving specifics on the agreement, Najjar stated that Iran “considers Syria’s security its own security, and we consider our defense capabilities to be those of Syria.”

http://www.irantracker.org/foreign-relations/syria-iran-foreign-relations

As I read internet news today, I have to wonder about the spreading protests in the Arab world. Muslim against Muslim, it seems… the people against their governments in country after country. The headlines and the shouted messages seem to say, the people want freedom. Freedom from corrupt governments, freedom from economic woes, freedom from oppressive rules and regulations.

So far we’ve heard about Algeria. Tunisia. Egypt. Jordan. Lebanon. Yemen. Djibouti – yes, that tiny little country too. Worries from Saudi Arabia and Syria. Maybe Kuwait.

I did a bit of research into the differences between two major Muslim groups today. Here’s an abbreviated synopsis.

“Sunnis elect, Shias appoint”

Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. They elect their leaders.

Sunni = “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.” Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. They believe leadership is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves. No basis for veneration of leaders.

Shias (or Shi’ites) constitute only 10-15% of overall Muslim population worldwide. Their leaders are appointed by Allah or his representatives.

Shia = “a group or supportive party of people.” The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical “Shia-t-Ali,” or “the Party of Ali.” They are also known as followers of “Ahl-al-Bayt” or “People of the Household” (of the Prophet). They believe that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. They do not recognize authority of elected Muslim leaders, believe leadership should have stayed within the Prophet’s own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.

Shias follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God (Allah) Himself. Shias believe the Imam – such as Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran – is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. They do venerate their leaders.

So, with the above in mind, let’s look at the Arab world and those countries which are in turmoil right now. (Percentages obtained from Wikipedia, may not be totally accurate.)

Although Sunni Muslims constitute 85% of all Muslims, Shias form a majority of the population in Iran, Yemen (? – see * below) and Azerbaijan, Bahrain and 60% of the population of Iraq. There are also sizable Shia communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon.

Iran – majority (89%) Shia. Ayatollah Khamenei (Iranian Supreme Leader) is a fundamentalist Shia. He supports the policies of Iran’s President Ahmadinajab, who says that the “12th Imam” is causing all the uprisings in the Arab world now so that Islam can take over the world. See Joel Rosenberg’s blog 18 Feb 2011: Ahmadinejad claims 12th Imam behind current events. http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/

Note that Hezbollah is a Shi’ite terrorist group funded and supported by Iran and Syria. This well-known guerilla organization forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000 and is still causing problems for Israel. Hezbollah recently caused the government of Lebanon to fall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah

Does Iran have a hand in instigating the various Arab world riots, working behind the scenes and perhaps using Hezbollah to do it?

Bahrain – majority of the population is Shia but the King is Sunni. Extreme violence today as police opened fire on protesters, then blocked ambulances from reaching wounded.

Libya – majority Sunni but in 2007 Gaddafi said he wants all of N. Africa to be Shi’ite (in an overture to Iran) – a statement that was considered idiotic by many people in his own country. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/2137.htm Protests in Libya turned violent today with a number of people killed and many wounded as the government cracks down on protesters.

* Yemen – 52% Sunni, 46% Shia. President is Shia. Prime Minister (appointed by President) is Sunni. Both are men of very bad reputation, associated with Saddam Hussein, terrorists.

Dijbouti – 90% of population Muslim, nearly all Sunni. President is Sunni. Has just started having protests in the streets today.

All of these protests are for better economic conditions, with food and fuel prices high and unemployment also high. Large populations of young people cannot find work after finishing their education. It doesn’t appear to matter whether the government is by a dictator, elected President, military generals or a monarch, they want the government pulled down. To be replaced by who? How, and how soon?

It looks to me like a set-up for a charismatic leader to emerge. It’s going to be an interesting year.

To follow events in these and other middle eastern countries, read “Arab Awakening” in The Star online.
http://www.thestar.com/topic/arabawakening

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran’s provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen signify creation of an Islamic Middle-East.

Fars News online
28 Jan 2011

“Incidents that are happening in the Middle-East and the Arab world should not be regarded simply,” Ayatollah Khatami said, addressing a large and fervent congregation of people on Tehran University campus.

“To those who do not see the realities I clarify that an Islamic Middle-East is being created based on Islam, religion, and democracy with prevailing religious principals,” Ayatollah Khatami stressed.

He was referring to the recent historic revolution in Tunisia and massive protests in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen.

Egypt’s largest opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday called on the country’s people to continue protests. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam al-Arian warned that Egypt would “explode” if the government does not listen to the people.

Meantime, Police clamped down on anti-government protesters in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Friday.

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8911080828

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Internet, Phones Down as Egypt Braces for ‘Day of Rage’
Fox News online 28 Jan 2011

A small gathering of Egyptian anti-government activists tried to stage a second day of protests in Cairo Wednesday in defiance of a ban on any gatherings, but police quickly moved in and used force to disperse the group.

The Internet and cell-phone data service appeared to be cut across Egypt on Friday as authorities braced for demonstrations backed by both the country’s biggest opposition group and newly returned Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

The government deployed an elite special operations force in Cairo on Thursday night as violence escalated outside the capital, and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood called on its members to take to the streets after Friday afternoon prayers.

Uniformed security forces at least temporarily disappeared from the streets of central Cairo mid-morning Friday, but truckloads of riot police and armored cars started moving back about an hour later.

Unconfirmed reports circulated early Friday on Twitter that police were splashing gas around key squares ready to set them alight when protesters approached.

The Muslim Brotherhood said at least five of its leaders and five former members of parliament had been arrested. The group’s lawyer, Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, and spokesman, Walid Shalaby, said a large number of rank-and-file Brotherhood members also had been detained.

Egypt’s four primary Internet providers — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr — all stopped moving data in and out of the country at 12:34 a.m., according to a network security firm monitoring the traffic. Telecom experts said Egyptian authorities could have engineered the cutoff with a simple change to the instructions for the companies’ networking equipment.

The Internet appeared to remain cut off Friday morning, and cell-phone text and Blackberry Messenger services were all cut or operating sporadically in what appeared to be a move by authorities to disrupt the organization of demonstrations.

Egyptians outside the country were posting updates on Twitter after getting information in voice calls from people inside the country. Many urged their friends to keep up the flow of information over the phones.

The developments were a sign that President Hosni Mubarak’s regime is toughening its crackdown following the biggest protests in years against his nearly 30-year rule.

The counter-terror force, rarely seen on the streets, took up positions in strategic locations, including central Tahrir Square, site of the biggest demonstrations this week.

The real test for the protest movement will be whether Egypt’s fragmented opposition can come together, with Friday’s rallies expected to be some of the biggest so far.

The movement’s momentum appeared to gather Thursday with the return of Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Social networking sites were abuzz that the gatherings called after Friday prayers could attract huge numbers of protesters demanding the ouster of Mubarak. Millions gather at mosques across the city on Fridays, giving organizers a vast pool of people to tap into.

The 82-year-old Mubarak has not been seen in public or heard from since the protests began Tuesday with tens of thousands marching in Cairo and a string of other cities. While he may still have a chance to ride out this latest challenge, his choices are limited, and all are likely to lead to a loosening of his grip on power.

Violence escalated on Thursday at protests outside the capital. In the flashpoint city of Suez, along the strategic Suez Canal, protesters torched a fire station and looted weapons that they then turned on police. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that more than 90 police officers were injured in those clashes. There were no immediate figures on the number of injured protesters.

In the northern Sinai area of Sheik Zuweid, several hundred Bedouins and police exchanged gunfire, killing a 17-year-old. About 300 protesters surrounded a police station from rooftops of nearby buildings and fired two rocket-propelled grenades at it, damaging the walls.

The United States, Mubarak’s main Western backer, has been publicly counseling reform and an end to the use of violence against protesters, signs the Egyptian leader may no longer be enjoying Washington’s full backing.

In an interview broadcast live on YouTube, President Barack Obama said the anti-government protests filling the streets show the frustrations of Egypt’s citizens. “It is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express their grievances,” Obama said.

On its website, the Muslim Brotherhood said it would join “with all the national Egyptian forces, the Egyptian people, so that this coming Friday will be the general day of rage for the Egyptian nation.”

The Brotherhood has sought to depict itself as a force pushing for democratic change in Egypt’s authoritarian system, and is trying to shed an image among critics that it aims to seize power and impose Islamic law. The group was involved in political violence for decades until it renounced violence in the 1970s.

ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a leading Mubarak opponent, has sought to recreate himself as a pro-democracy campaigner in his homeland. He is viewed by some supporters as a figure capable of uniting the country’s fractious opposition and providing the movement with a road map for the future.

Speaking to reporters Thursday before his departure for Cairo, ElBaradei said: “If people, in particular young people, … want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down. My priority right now … is to see a new regime and to see a new Egypt through peaceful transition.”

Once on Egyptian soil, he struck a conciliatory note. “We’re still reaching out to the regime to work with them for the process of change. Every Egyptian doesn’t want to see the country going into violence,” he said.

With Mubarak out of sight, the ruling National Democratic Party said Thursday it was ready for a dialogue with the public but offered no concessions to address demands for a solution to rampant poverty, unemployment and political change.

Its comments were likely to reinforce the belief held by many protesters that Mubarak’s regime is incapable, or unwilling, to introduce reforms that will meet their demands. That could give opposition parties an opening to win popular support if they close ranks and promise changes sought by the youths at the forefront of the unrest.

Mubarak has not said yet whether he will stand for another six-year term as president in elections this year. He has never appointed a deputy and is thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him despite popular opposition. According to leaked U.S. memos, hereditary succession also does not meet with the approval of the powerful military.

Mubarak has seen to it that no viable alternative to him has been allowed to emerge. Constitutional amendments adopted in 2005 by the NDP-dominated parliament has made it virtually impossible for independents like ElBaradei to run for president.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/01/27/egypt-restricts-internet-access-bolsters-security-forces-anticipation-future/#ixzz1CKj38RyJ