Jun 30, 2012

Oil, spies, terror groups, Turkish vengeance: the Syrian nightmare may be just beginning

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June 29, 2012SYRIA - The U.S. and Russia are putting together a deal to allow Assad to remain leader for at least two more year, because of anxiety about oil routes via Syria, a source told the Independent’s Robert Fisk. The unnamed source, said to be close to the negotiations, is quoted as saying: We are talking about two fundamental oil routes to the West – one from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Jordan and Syria and the Mediterranean to Europe, another from Iran via Shia southern Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean and Europe. This is what matters. This is why they will be prepared to let Assad last another two years. They would be perfectly content with that. And Russia will have a place in the new Syria but the U.S. also wants Assad to go. Obama, facing a tough re-election battle this autumn and with his domestic record assailed from all sides, could use a big international win. It would defuse criticism from American interventionists about US inaction in Syria. It would also help secure the stability of Iraq, on which so much American blood and treasure was spent in the past decade. It would prevent the spooked, volatile leaders of Turkey, a valued Nato ally, sliding into some kind of regional conflict. Russia’s interest dictates a settlement in Syria that sustains its influence on its Arab ally, keeps its Mediterranean port facilities open, and maintains its business and arms sales links. As Assad loses ground to the opposition, these interests appear threatened. The scene is set for a Clinton-Lavrov meeting that could still ring the death knell for the Assad regime. Maybe they can pull it off; maybe they cannot. Whatever the outcome, democrats will note that Obama and Putin have something else in common: a deep wariness of the politically unquantifiable Syrian opposition and a pragmatic disinterest in the wishes of the Syrian people. This backroom deal, if it happens, has little to do with building a democratic Syria. It has everything to do with fixing a problem that is upsetting the world order as decreed from Washington and Moscow. –Guardian
Hamas leader assassinated: The Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas says one of its members has been assassinated in Damascus. Kamal Ghanaja was reportedly shot dead by gunmen who burst into his home in the Syrian capital’s northern suburb of Qudsaya earlier this week. Hamas has not formally blamed anyone for the killing but one official told the AFP news agency that the Israeli secret service, Mossad, was behind it. Israel’s defense minister described the accusation as not “necessarily true. He was not really personally familiar [to me],” Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio on Thursday. “According to all the background published, he was no saint and I don’t want to add anything or comment about this incident.” In a separate statement, the Hamas leadership in Gaza stopped short of directly blaming Mossad, but said it was opening an investigation to identify the party behind the deplorable crime.” But one unnamed Hamas source told AFP: “According to our information, Mossad was behind the assassination.” Hamas leaders said Kamal Ghanaja’s blood would not be wasted.-BBC
Israel fortifies Syrian border: The IDF is preparing for the possibility of terror attacks from the Syrian border, a senior IDF officer told journalists on Thursday. Brig. Gen. Tamir Hyman said on Thursday that, “the events unfolding beyond the border increase the likelihood of terror attacks. That, in turn, necessitates preparations as far as infrastructure, training and deployment.” Hyman added that the division’s working assumption is that a terror attack can take place from the Syrian border without the IDF having prior intelligence. “Terror organizations may seek to exploit a situation of instability and lack of governability that may develop on the Syrian side of the border. Now it’s quiet, but we’re preparing for the worst-case scenario.” Hyman briefed journalists during a tour of the Golan Heights. According to Defense Ministry officials, extremist Islamic terror organizations are flooding to Syria from Iraq and other countries. Toppling the regime of President Bashar Assad is, in fact, their main objective, but there are fears they might use the opportunity to launch attacks against Israeli citizens in the Golan Heights. Following events in recent weeks, ministry officials believe that Assad’s position is more stable than previously assumed. The president is still in relative control of the army, and his treatment of the population is apparently ruthless. Still, Israeli officials believe that the army’s daily functioning and morale have already been damaged. At least 12,000 soldiers have been killed, and recent drafts have seen an unprecedented low percentage of conscripts. –Haaretz
Syria amass tanks on Turkish border: A general in the rebel Free Syria Army said on Friday that Syrian government forces had amassed around 170 tanks north of the city Aleppo, near the Turkish border, but there was no independent confirmation of the report. General Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the Higher Military Council, an association of senior officers who defected from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, said the tanks had assembled at the Infantry School near the village of Musalmieh northeast of the city of Aleppo, 30 kms (19 miles) from the Turkish border. “The tanks are now at the Infantry School. They’re either preparing to move to the border to counter the Turkish deployment or attack the rebellious (Syrian) towns and villages in and around the border zone north of Aleppo,” Sheikh told Reuters by telephone from the border. He said the tanks were mostly from the 17th Mechanized Division. –Jerusalem Post