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Thread: Syria

  1. #641
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    Default Re: Syria

    Syria conflict: US and Russia hold surprise talks - live updates

    Live• Lavrov, Clinton and Brahimi meet in Dublin
    • UK seeks to amend arms embargo on Syria to help rebels
    • Six dead in clashes between pro and anti-Morsi protesters


    Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov watches as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a group photo at the OSCE conference in Dublin. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images







    UK support for Syrian rebels

    Britain will next week to amend an arms embargo on Syria to make it easier to help Syrian rebels, Reuters reports.
    A Foreign Office official said the increased "practical support" that Britain envisaged would be training and non-lethal equipment. Items such as body armour and night-vision goggles are currently caught up in a European arms embargo aimed at stemming supplies to Assad's forces.
    European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday.

    Last week EU diplomats said they had agreed to reduce the renewal period of a package of sanctions against Syria, including the arms embargo, to three months rather than one year to make it easier to supply the rebels.
    "Having successfully amended the EU arms embargo (and sanctions package) by setting a three-month renewal period, we will make fresh arguments in support of amending the arms embargo ahead of the March 2013 deadline in a way that offers sufficient flexibility to increase practical support to the Syrian opposition," Foreign Office Europe minister David Lidington said in a statement.
    Western powers have been wary of supplying weapons to Syria's rebels because the political and armed opposition to Assad has been fragmented. Opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition was formed only last month and further unity talks have been fraught.
    However, the Foreign Office on Thursday hailed the coalition's appointment of a representative to Britain, Walid Saffour, as a "sign of progress".
    Saffour held talks with David Quarrey, the FCO's director for the Middle East and North Africa today.
    Last week Saffour told the Guardian he would be lobbying the UK to help supply arms to the Syrian opposition.



    US and Russia discuss Syria

    The US, Russia and the international envoy on Syria are to hold a surprise meeting on Syria, AP reports.
    US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will gather in Dublin on the sidelines of a human rights conference, a senior US official said.
    Ahead of the three-way meeting, Clinton and Lavrov met separately for about 25 minutes. They agreed to hear Brahimi out on a path forward, a senior US official said.
    The gathering of the three key international figures suggests possible compromise in the offing. At the least, it confirms what officials describe as an easing of some of the acrimony that has raged between Moscow and Washington.
    The threat of Syria's government using some of its vast stockpiles of chemical weapons is also adding urgency to diplomatic efforts.
    One idea that Brahimi could seek to resuscitate with US and Russian support would be the political agreement strategy both countries agreed on in Geneva in June.
    That plan demanded several steps by the Assad regime to de-escalate tensions and end the violence that activists say has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011. It would then have required Syria's opposition and the regime to put forward candidates for a transitional government, with each side having the right to veto nominees proposed by the other.
    The US insists the tide of the war is turning definitively against Assad.
    On Wednesday, the administration said several countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have informally offered to grant asylum to Assad and his family if they leave Syria.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov watches as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a group photo at the OSCE conference in Dublin. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images

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  2. #642
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    Default Re: Syria

    Internet service goes out across Syria
    20m ago




    Internet service went down Thursday across Syria and international flights were canceled at the Damascus airport when a road near the facility was closed by heavy fighting in the country's civil war.


    Activists said President Bashar Assad's regime pulled the plug on the Internet, perhaps in preparation for a major offensive. Cellphone service also went out in Damascus and parts of central Syria, they said. The government blamed rebel fighters for the outages.


    With pressure building against the regime on several fronts and government forces on their heels in the battle for the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, rebels have recently begun pushing back into Damascus after largely being driven out of the capital following a July offensive. One Damascus resident reported seeing rebel forces near a suburb of the city previously deemed to be safe from fighting.


    The Internet outage, confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in Syria's 20-month-old uprising against Assad, which activists say has killed more than 40,000 people.


    Regime forces suffered a string of tactical defeats in recent weeks, losing air bases and other strategic facilities. The government may be trying to blunt additional rebel offensives by hampering communications.


    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned what she called the regime's "assault" on Syrians' ability to communicate with each other and express themselves. She said the move spoke to a desperate attempt by Assad to cling to power.


    Syrian authorities often cut phone and Internet service in select areas to disrupt rebel communications when regime forces are conducting major operations.
    The government sent mixed signals about the Internet outage but denied it was nationwide. The pro-regime TV station Al-Ikhbariya quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying that "terrorists" have targeted Internet cables, interrupting service in several cities.


    Separately, state-run TV said the outage was due to a technical failure that affected some provinces, adding that technicians were trying to fix it.
    Activists in Syria, reached by satellite telephones unaffected by the outage, confirmed the communications problems.


    A young Syrian businessman who lives in an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, which some refer to as part of "the green zone" because it has remained relatively safe, sent a text message to an Associated Press reporter Thursday that said the Internet had been cut in his area and that mobile phone service was cutting out.


    He said he was driving Wednesday through the Damascus suburb of Aqraba, near the airport, and saw dozens of rebel fighters for the first time in the area, riding in pickup trucks and motorcycles, and wielding AK-47s.


    Their presence so close to the "green zone" may have led to the Internet being cut, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared government reprisal. He said the military was positioned a few hundred meters away from the rebel fighters and had built large speed bumps to enclose the area.


    The opposition said the Internet blackout was an ominous sign that the regime was preparing a major offensive.


    "I fear that cutting the Internet may be a prelude to a massacre in Damascus," said Adib Shishakly, a Syrian opposition figure from Cairo, Egypt. "The regime feels it is being choked off by rebels who are closing in on the capital from its suburbs. It's a desperate move; they are trying to sever communications between activists."


    Renesys, a U.S.-based network security firm that studies Internet disruption, said in a statement that Syria effectively disappeared from the Internet at 12:26 p.m. local time.


    "In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet," Renesys said. It added that the main autonomous system responsible for Internet in the country is the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, and that "all of their customer

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    Default Re: Syria

    Planes cancelled, internet service suddenly turned off.

    Sounds like the game is afoot.....
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    Default Re: Syria

    Fighting rages amid chemical weapons fears in Syria

    • AFP
    • December 07, 2012 2:28AM





    Tweet


    Free Syrian Army fighters scope out an abandoned building during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo. Fears are growing that the Assad regime could use chemical weapons. Source: AP



    TROOPS waged fierce assaults on rebels around Syria, focusing on the capital's outskirts, amid growing concerns that an increasingly desperate regime might resort to chemical weapons.

    Those fears are likely to be raised during talks in Dublin between the top Russian and US diplomats and the international peace envoy, with the UN chief saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must face justice if he uses his chemical arsenal.
    Assad forces shelled Douma and Zabadani to the northeast of the capital and Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham to the southwest, official and activist sources said.
    As the army escalated its assault on rebel-held Daraya, the scene in August of the single worst massacre in Syria's 21-month conflict, additional troops were deployed to the town.
    "Syrian army units continued today to pursue terrorists loyal to (the radical Islamist) Al-Nusra Front, which is part of al-Qaida, in Daraya," state news agency SANA said.









    A rebel fighter runs for cover during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo.




    Citing an unnamed military source, the agency also said "Daraya will be completely cleansed of terrorists soon," using its standard term for rebels.
    An anti-regime activist said that the army is advancing little by little into Daraya, though the rebel Free Syrian Army is fighting hard to keep the troops out of the town.
    "The army has been able to enter into around 30 per cent of Daraya in recent days, and there are serious fears about what would happen to the town if the troops do reclaim it," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Kinan.
    At the same time, there were clashes in Irbin to the east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
    In the capital itself, security forces swarmed the southern district of Zahra after a car bomb exploded, with the Observatory saying no one was killed.
    But state television said "Al-Qaida terrorists exploded a bomb in a car in front of a Red Crescent centre in Damascus, causing one death and major damage."
    Damascus province is now a key battlefield, as regime forces battle to retake control of an eight-kilometre belt around the capital, analysts say.
    In the embattled northern city of Aleppo, several districts saw clashes, while shells slammed into zones in the southern province of Daraa, the Observatory said.
    The Observatory said the fighting had claimed 104 lives across the country, according to a toll compiled from a network of activists, lawyers and doctors.
    The Britain-based watchdog has tallied more than 41,000 deaths, most of them civilians, since the uprising erupted in March 2011.
    In Dublin, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi amid fears the regime could be preparing to use chemical weapons as it battles the rebels.
    Mrs Clinton warned Damascus on Wednesday that this was a clear red line that must not be crossed.
    "Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria," Mrs Clinton said.
    Speaking in Baghdad yesterday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Assad should be "brought to justice" if his regime uses chemical weapons.
    Mr Ban said he had warned that whoever does so "will have to be brought to justice, and it will create serious consequences to those people."
    Mrs Clinton also again pressed the Assad regime to make "the decision to participate in a political transition, ending the violence against its own people."
    Moscow has been a staunch ally of Assad and along with China has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions aiming to sanction the regime.
    Washington has long been calling for Moscow to use its leverage with Assad to try to persuade him to step down, and open the way towards a political transition.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Monday on a trip focused on resolving sharp differences over the conflict.
    Last month, Mr Erdogan said Russia held the key to the Syrian conflict, and that if Moscow took a "positive" stance in the Security Council it could push another key Damascus ally, Iran, to review its policies.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Donaldson View Post
    Patriot Missiles being moved to Turkey. But... won't be there til next MONTH.
    Is anyone else wondering why it would take a month when A) Turkey is a NATO member and B) we already have a major base at Incirlik?

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    Default Re: Syria

    Note the capitalization of the word "MONTH". So, yeah, I was wondering instantly why it will be a "month". I know why it will be a month, they have to move the stuff from somewhere else, they have to get "permission" from one country (where the batteries are already installed to take them out) and then permission from Turkey to land them, deploy and probably train the crews.

    Though... in my time we had (as troops) got a phone call (usually it was around 2:30 or 3:00 AM) and we had about an hour to report, with all our gear, full combat/Mopp, shot records, military ID, mil DL, etc etc. I have deployed to an aircraft or a military convoy in as little as 3-4 hours and departed our base to a FOB or some other location.

    We took our equipment with us. More than once we loaded stuff on C-130s or C-141s or C-5s and flew to some damned place somewhere and deployed.

    The equipment we too was 407L tactical systems (various types of communications vans, telephone vans, radio, weather, radar or RAPCON stuff, mobile air traffic control towers, generators, trucks and much more)

    If our old unit could do it in a few hours and be on the ground setting up, there is NO REASON a Patriot Missile battery can't be redeployed from another location in a matter of days and not weeks.
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  7. #647
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    Default Re: Syria

    Fighting rages amid chemical weapons fears in Syria

    • AFP
    • December 07, 2012 2:28AM




    Free Syrian Army fighters scope out an abandoned building during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo. Fears are growing that the Assad regime could use chemical weapons. Source: AP



    TROOPS waged fierce assaults on rebels around Syria, focusing on the capital's outskirts, amid growing concerns that an increasingly desperate regime might resort to chemical weapons.

    Those fears are likely to be raised during talks in Dublin between the top Russian and US diplomats and the international peace envoy, with the UN chief saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must face justice if he uses his chemical arsenal.
    Assad forces shelled Douma and Zabadani to the northeast of the capital and Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham to the southwest, official and activist sources said.
    As the army escalated its assault on rebel-held Daraya, the scene in August of the single worst massacre in Syria's 21-month conflict, additional troops were deployed to the town.
    "Syrian army units continued today to pursue terrorists loyal to (the radical Islamist) Al-Nusra Front, which is part of al-Qaida, in Daraya," state news agency SANA said.










    A rebel fighter runs for cover during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo.




    Citing an unnamed military source, the agency also said "Daraya will be completely cleansed of terrorists soon," using its standard term for rebels.
    An anti-regime activist said that the army is advancing little by little into Daraya, though the rebel Free Syrian Army is fighting hard to keep the troops out of the town.
    "The army has been able to enter into around 30 per cent of Daraya in recent days, and there are serious fears about what would happen to the town if the troops do reclaim it," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Kinan.
    At the same time, there were clashes in Irbin to the east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
    In the capital itself, security forces swarmed the southern district of Zahra after a car bomb exploded, with the Observatory saying no one was killed.
    But state television said "Al-Qaida terrorists exploded a bomb in a car in front of a Red Crescent centre in Damascus, causing one death and major damage."
    Damascus province is now a key battlefield, as regime forces battle to retake control of an eight-kilometre belt around the capital, analysts say.
    In the embattled northern city of Aleppo, several districts saw clashes, while shells slammed into zones in the southern province of Daraa, the Observatory said.
    The Observatory said the fighting had claimed 104 lives across the country, according to a toll compiled from a network of activists, lawyers and doctors.
    The Britain-based watchdog has tallied more than 41,000 deaths, most of them civilians, since the uprising erupted in March 2011.
    In Dublin, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi amid fears the regime could be preparing to use chemical weapons as it battles the rebels.
    Mrs Clinton warned Damascus on Wednesday that this was a clear red line that must not be crossed.
    "Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria," Mrs Clinton said.
    Speaking in Baghdad yesterday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Assad should be "brought to justice" if his regime uses chemical weapons.
    Mr Ban said he had warned that whoever does so "will have to be brought to justice, and it will create serious consequences to those people."
    Mrs Clinton also again pressed the Assad regime to make "the decision to participate in a political transition, ending the violence against its own people."
    Moscow has been a staunch ally of Assad and along with China has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions aiming to sanction the regime.
    Washington has long been calling for Moscow to use its leverage with Assad to try to persuade him to step down, and open the way towards a political transition.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Monday on a trip focused on resolving sharp differences over the conflict.
    Last month, Mr Erdogan said Russia held the key to the Syrian conflict, and that if Moscow took a "positive" stance in the Security Council it could push another key Damascus ally, Iran, to review its policies.
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    Default Re: Syria

    I'm wondering if this "meeting" with Russia today is more of a "Listen, Hillary, tell Barack that Valdamir said... if you guys are so rash as to attack Assad if he uses chemical weapons, well the consequences could be well beyond what you expected."
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  9. #649
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    Default Re: Syria

    This just in from Harvard! (LOL)

    December 6th, 2012
    09:38 AM ET


    Former US Amb. doubts Syria's use of chemical weapons; says Assad will lose civil war

    Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and Harvard Professor Nicholas Burns says that there will be “negative repercussions” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against his people and that he will lose the civil war.


    Burns says, “The Syrian government would have to think long and hard before using those weapons. There’ll be all sorts of negative repercussions from them including the threat of military intervention. And I do think the Russian government will not want to see Syria use chemical weapons or let them out to the control of rebel forces.”


    When O’Brien asks if Assad is desperate enough to use weapons on his own people, Burns answers, "It’s really impossible to tell. The Syrian government spokespeople have been saying over the last couple of days under no circumstances will they use them, except for foreign military intervention. But, Assad is desperate. His back is against the wall. He is going to lose in this civil war. The rebels have made extraordinary advances over the last couple of days. So he’s got to be thinking about either exile or perhaps creating an enclave within Syria where his Alawite clan can defend themselves perhaps along the Mediterranean coast.”


    Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

    -----


    Here's a bit I looked up on this former Ambassador:

    Professor Burns served in the United States Government for twenty-seven years. As a career foreign service officer, he was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; the State Departments third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement; a long-term military assistance agreement with Israel; and was the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran's nuclear program. He was U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2001-2005), Ambassador to Greece (1997-2001) and State Department Spokesman (1995-1997). He worked for five years (1990-1995) on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs and Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. Burns also served in the American Consulate General in Jerusalem (1985-1987) where he coordinated U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and before that, at the American embassies in Egypt (1983-1985) and Mauritania (1980 as an intern).

    Here's some of his papers (just titles, since I was curious about his real opinion of things.....)
    Selected Publication Citations:

    • Book Chapters
      • Burns, R. Nicholas, Yoichi Funabashi, and Wolfgang Ischinger. The New US Administration: Meeting Challenges, Managing Expectations. Seeking Opportunities in Crisis: Trilateral Cooperation in Meeting Global Challenges. Brookings Institution Press: Trilateral Commission, Tokyo Plenary Meeting, 2009, 83-90.

    • Commentary
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Giving Thanks for the Brighter Future Ahead." Boston Globe, November 22, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Three Crises That Can’t Wait." The Boston Globe, November 8, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Romney’s Shift on Foreign Policy Creates Confusion." The Boston Globe, October 25, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Cuban Missile Crisis Holds Lessons for Presidential Race." The Boston Globe, October 10, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Murders in Libya Point to Need for Wise Leaders in US." Boston Globe, September 13, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "How Romney Can Win the Foreign Policy Debate." Boston Globe, August 30, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Diplomacy is the Best Tool for Iran." Boston Globe, August 16, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Mitt Romney Flunks His Foreign-Policy Tryout." Boston Globe, August 2, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "US Confronts New Perils in the Middle East as Election Looms." Boston Globe, July 19, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Return of Russia." Boston Globe, July 5, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "US Makes Asia a Priority." Boston Globe, June 7, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Two Challenges That College Graduates Will Inherit." Boston Globe, May 24, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Anchoring NATO with Leadership." Chicago Tribune, May 21, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Blame China, Not Obama or US, for the Plight of Activist Chen Guangcheng." Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Rise of Turkey as a Superpower." Boston Globe, April 27, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Masters in The Art of Diplomacy." Boston Globe, April 13, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Why Europe Still Matters." Boston Globe, March 30, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Obama Delivers a Clear Message on Iran." Boston Globe, March 15, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Diplomacy Returns to US Arsenal." Boston Globe, March 2, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Dark Days in Mideast Test US Policy." Boston Globe, February 17, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "India’s Strategic Importance to the US." Boston Globe, February 3, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "What to Do About Iran." Boston.com, January 20, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Foreign Policy Credentials of the Republican Presidential Candidates." Boston Globe, January 6, 2012.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Iraq War Damaged US Credibility." Boston Globe, December 21, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Our Best Foreign Policy President." Boston Globe, December 9, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Arab Awakening, Act 2." Boston Globe, November 25, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "America’s New Isolationism." Boston Globe, November 11, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Victory for US Leadership." Boston Globe, August 23, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Why Isn't Peace on Anyone's Platform." Boston Globe, December 23, 2011.
      • Cohen, William S, Nicholas Burns, and George Robertson. "NATO on the Brink." The Hill, July 11, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Gamble In Libya." Boston Globe, March 22, 2011.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Where Do We Go From Here?" Foreign Policy, February 4, 2011.
      • Armitage, Richard L., and R. Nicholas Burns. "A To-Do List for Obama in India." Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2010.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Strength of Obama's Long Game With Iran." The Atlantic, August 19, 2010.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Strength of Obama's Long Game With Iran." Atlantic Monthly, August 19, 2010.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Ways Obama can Tend Bonds with India." Boston Globe, November 24, 2009.
      • Scocroft, Brent, Joseph S. Nye Jr., R. Nicholas Burns, and Strobe Talbott. "US, Russia Must Lead on Arms Control." Politico, October 13, 2009.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Obama's Opportunity in Iran." Boston Globe, October 1, 2009.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Working With Our Friends in Europe." Boston Globe, April 3, 2009.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Ascension." National Interest Online, January 6, 2009.
      • Burns, Nicholas. "We Should Talk to Our Enemies." Newsweek, October 25, 2008.

    • Edited Volumes
      • Burns, R. Nicholas, and Jonathon Price, eds. American Interests in South Asia: Building a Grand Strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Aspen Institute, 2011.
      • Burns, Nicholas R., and Jonathan Price, eds. The Global Economic Crisis and Potential Implications for Foreign Policy and National Security. Aspen Institute, 2009.

    • Public Testimony
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Statement of Nicholas Burns Before the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs." Testimony to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate, July 30, 2009.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "Statement of Nicholas Burns Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations." Testimony to the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, May 6, 2009.

    • Research Papers/Reports
      • Armitage, Richard, R. Nicholas Burns, and Richard Fontaine. "Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of U.S.-India Relations." Center for a New American Security, October 18, 2010.
      • Burns, R. Nicholas. "The Future of U.S.-India Relations." Presentation for the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, November 2008.

    Last edited by American Patriot; December 6th, 2012 at 16:16.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Gulfnews.com:

    Foreign intervention critical to end Syria impasse

    Unless the rebels get western help before it is too late, extremists will dominate the battlefield — with grave consequences for regional stability


    • By David Gardner
    • Published: 00:00 December 7, 2012


    The crumbling regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is desperately trying to secure a perimeter around Damascus to halt further advance by rebels buoyed by a recent string of tactical victories, enabling them to capture loyalist bases and seize some heavy weapons. Politically, a fragmented opposition is closer to cohering behind an embryonic transitional government than at any time since the Syrian uprising began nearly 21 months ago. Is this the endgame for Al Assad?



    “The regime is cornered,” judges one top Arab security official. Even officials in Russia, Syria’s most important international ally, have started murmuring that they see no way out for Al Assad. But 40,000 deaths into this bloodbath, with millions of Syrians displaced by the violence, there is still plenty of fighting to come.



    How long the conflict continues depends to an extent on what the external actors in this drama now do. The Friends of Syria — the loose international forum arrayed against Al Assad — holds its fourth ministerial meeting in Marrakesh next week. Can it find ways of accelerating the erosion of the regime and bolstering the opposition?



    So far, the anti-Al Assad international camp has midwifed a new, more cohesive opposition, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, now recognised as the legitimate leadership of Syria by France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf states, with more countries, including the US, expected soon to follow.



    In addition, after receiving ‘credible intelligence’ that Al Assad’s forces may be preparing the option of using chemical weapons against their opponents, the US and its allies have warned of immediate “consequences” were they actually to do so. Nato, for its part, has agreed to move Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to the Turkish border.

    But there is little sign of intermediate measures — between embracing the National Council and threatening an assault on loyalist forces — that could hasten the implosion of a regime that is offering tantalising glimpses of decomposition.



    Alawites in disarray


    There are, for example, signs that the cohesion of the Alawites is unravelling. In October, there was a shootout in Qardaha, Al Assad’s ancestral home, between rival Alawite clans. One well-placed source in Latakia, the port city at the foothills of the Alawite mountains, says the trigger was the discovery that one of Al Assad’s cousins, a powerful militia leader, was found to be selling arms to the rebels.



    Certainly, the Alawites are paying a heavy price to keep Al Assad in power, however fearful they are of retribution should Syria’s Sunni majority topple them.



    The Syrian opposition, in which Sunnis in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular dominate, has not done enough to convince the Alawites, and other minorities such as the Christians, the Druze and the Kurds, that their future is assured in a plural Syria without the Assads.



    Part of the reason Syria’s minorities are fearful is that they see Islamist forces gaining influence in rebel ranks.



    This equation could change were European powers, for example, to start funnelling anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to selected rebel units, which their intelligence people on the ground should by now have had time to identify. Better armed, the rebels stand a better chance of widening the fissures within the loyalist camp — of splitting the regime rather than defeating it outright.



    Unless the rebels get western help before it is too late, moreover, it is the black flags of the extremists that will dominate the battlefield — with consequences not just for Syria but the region.



    Friends of Syria apart, the international powers also need a more compact steering group devoted to Syria’s future — and that seeks to include Russia, which is showing signs of exasperation with the Al Assads, and renewed interest in the opposition.



    “You need everybody who is part of the problem to be dragged into the solution”, observes one European foreign minister. “Otherwise they’ll be spoilers.”

    — Financial Times
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    Default Re: Syria

    US, Russia set for surprise meeting on Syria. Is compromise in works? (+video)

    Secretary Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will discuss Syria with UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi today, amid reports that Syria is deploying its chemical weapons.


    By Bradley Klapper, Associated Press / December 6, 2012






    US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, holds a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last month. The two officials are set to hold a surprise meeting with UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi today in Dublin, Ireland, to discuss a possible resolution to the Syrian crisis.


    Vincent Thian/AP




    Dublin, Ireland

    The top US and Russian diplomats will hold a surprise meeting Thursday with the United Nations' peace envoy for Syria, signaling fresh hopes of an international breakthrough to end the Arab country's 21-month civil war.

    The Christian Science Monitor
    Weekly Digital Edition





    Sources have told CBS News the US has detected signs that Syria's government is preparing chemical weapons for possible use, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets in Ireland with Russia's foreign minister. CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports.


    US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will gather in Dublin on the sidelines of a human rights conference, a senior US official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. She provided few details about the unscheduled get-together.


    Ahead of the three-way meeting, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov met separately Thursday for about 25 minutes. They agreed to hear Mr. Brahimi out on a path forward, a senior US official said. The two also discussed issues ranging from Egypt to North Korea, as well as new congressional action aimed at Russian officials accused of complicity in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
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    Default Re: Syria

    From Britian:

    Britain to offer increased 'practical support' to Syrian rebels

    Britain will seek next week to amend an arms embargo on Syria to make it easier to help opponents of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the Foreign Office said on Thursday.

    Foreign Secretary William Hague Photo: AFP/GETTY









    2:45PM GMT 06 Dec 2012




    A Foreign Office official said the increased "practical support" that Britain envisaged would be training and non-lethal equipment. Items such as body armour and night-vision goggles are currently caught up in a European arms embargo aimed at stemming supplies to Assad's forces.



    European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday.



    Last week EU diplomats said they had agreed to reduce the renewal period of a package of sanctions against Syria, including the arms embargo, to three months rather than one year to make it easier to supply the rebels.



    "Having successfully amended the EU arms embargo (and sanctions package) by setting a three-month renewal period, we will make fresh arguments in support of amending the arms embargo ahead of the March 2013 deadline in a way that offers sufficient flexibility to increase practical support to the Syrian opposition," Foreign Office Europe minister David Lidington said in a statement.



    Western powers have been wary of supplying weapons to Syria's rebels because the political and armed opposition to Assad has been fragmented. Opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition was formed only last month and further unity talks have been fraught.



    However, the Foreign Office on Thursday hailed the coalition's appointment of a representative to Britain, Walid Saffour, as a "sign of progress". In Turkey, Syrian rebels are trying to restructure to present a unified force.


    In the absence of unity, Western powers fear arming the rebels may stoke violence between disparate groups and worry that weapons could fall into the hands of radical Islamists.


    An estimated 40,000 people have been killed since an Arab Spring-inspired uprising against Assad's rule in March last year turned into an armed rebellion in response to government crackdowns.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Syria's Assad May Be Considering Using Chemical Weapons, Panetta Says


    Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons at the entrance of a building during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 5, 2012. (Narciso Contreras/AP Photo)




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    By DANA HUGHES (@dana_hughes) , LUIS MARTINEZ (@LMartinezABC) and ALEXANDER MARQUARDT (@marquardta)

    Dec. 6, 2012





    The Obama administration fears that the beleaguered Syrian regime may unleash chemical weapons on rebels who are pressing their campaign closer to the capital of Damascu.


    "I think there is no question that we remain very concerned, very concerned that as the opposition advances, in particular on Damascus, that the regime might very well consider the use of chemical weapons," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today.


    "The intelligence that we have causes serious concerns that this is being considered," he said.


    The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has moved to prepare some of its chemical weapons for use. U.S. officials reacted with alarm this weekend after U.S. intelligence uncovered Syrians moving components of sarin gas into bombs on or near Syrian airfields, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.


    Two U.S. officials said Wednesday it was still very unclear what the intent was behind the activity that caught their attention. There is nothing that suggests Assad ordered the chemicals be moved.


    The heightened concern comes as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to meet today with U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the options to end the conflict in Syria.

    The idea behind the meeting in Dublin is that the three parties might be able to revive the political transition plan on Syria put forward in Geneva in July.


    That plan by the so-called Action Group for Syria called for an immediate cessation of violence, the withdrawal of Syrian troops to their bases, access for humanitarian agencies and the establishment of a transitional governing body with officials from across the political spectrum.


    It did not call on Assad to step down, which Russia has long rejected, and the plan never really went anywhere. Its main proponent was former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan who later resigned as special envoy to Syria and Brahimi was appointed to the post.


    As the conflict reaches almost two years, there is speculation that Russia's stance may be softening. Russia is Syria's closest ally outside the Middle East and a shift in its support for Assad would likely spell the end of his rule.


    Syria's current Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told Sky NewsWednesday that international intervention in Syria would be "dangerous for the whole region" and that it is "funny" to think that Syria could threaten a NATO country.


    "In no way we can threaten a NATO country and these are just provocations and further support for the terrorist groups that are supported by the Turkish government and by many European countries," Mekdad said.


    Mekdad also told Sky News that Assad will "never, ever" leave Syria and said "even if" Syria has chemical weapons it would not use them against its own people.
    "We are saying if we have them we shall not use them against our people," Mekdad said.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Russia: West exaggerating Syria's chemical weapons threat

    By Kim Sengupta
    Wednesday, 5 December 2012


    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

    • enlarge


    The West is aware that its’ claims about the threat from the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons does not stand up to scrutiny, the Russian government has said.

    Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that there had been an exaggeration of the threat faced by Turkey to justify Nato’s deployment of Patriot missile batteries and the move will end up adding to the tension in the region; “any such deployment is creating the risk that these arms will be used” he maintained.

    Speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Alliance in Brussels, Mr Lavrov insisted that “as soon as we get these rumours [about chemical weapons] we engage in constructive demarche; when we get confirmation that nothing of that type is happening we share this information with our American colleagues.”

    Mr Lavrov, who had, alongside President Putin, held talks with the Turkish leadership, said that Moscow respected Turkey’s right to self-defence and Russia would not make a formal objection about the stationing of the Patriot system. However, his statements directly contradicted the stance of the US, UK and Nato, which maintain that a desperate Assad regime may use weapons of mass destruction against its enemies.

    Barack Obama had warned President Assad that “the world is watching” and “if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”

    British foreign secretary William Hague echoed: “We are worried about Syria’s chemical weapons, more so in recent days for the same reason the US is worried. We have sent a clear message to the Syrian regime that the use of such weapons will not be acceptable. That is not to say, of course, that what they are doing now is acceptable.”

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated: “Twenty-eight Nato foreign ministers unanimously agreed to express their concern at reports that the Syrian regime may be considering using chemical weapons, this would be contrary to international law and there would be an immediate reaction from the international community.”

    Last night Nato formally agreed to deploy Patriot batteries. Mr Rasmussen stated “We say to anyone thinking of attacking Turkey ‘don’t even think about it.’”

    Mr Rasmussen had called Mr Lavrov 48 hours after Turkey, as a member state, submitted the request for Patriot deployment on 21 November. He has, he said, repeatedly stressed to the Russian foreign minister that the stationing of the system was a defensive and not offensive move and there were no plans to set up a ‘no fly’ or a ‘buffer’ zone keeping out Syrian forces.

    Some Russian officials remain unconvinced. “With a bad winter and 50,000 refugees stuck on the Syrian side of the border there may well be calls for a buffer zone. Then the West can say that the Patriots just happen to be there. We know their range [around 70 kilometres] will be adequate to enforce this.”

    However, there are signs that the Russians may be distancing themselves from Mr Assad while pointing out their concern about what may follow after the regime’s collapse.

    Speaking in Istanbul, President Putin said “We are not lawyers for the Syrian leadership’s actions; we are concerned with other things, namely what will happen in the future”, before adding - alluding to the lawlessness which followed the overthrow of Col Gaddafi in Libya – “We don’t want the recurrence of the mistakes made in the past.”

    Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and influential think tank with Kremlin connections reported a visit by senior Russian officials to Damascus during which they found President Assad to have given up hopes of defeating the revolution and his own survival.

    “His mood is that he will be killed anyway. If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people, if he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap. It is not about Russia or anybody else. It is about his physical survival” said Mr Lukyanov.

    Meanwhile the bloodletting continued in Syria with fighting across the country. The official television channel claimed that 29 students and a teacher were killed in a rebel mortar strike on a school 25 kilometres from Damascus. An education ministry official said later that the death toll was 13 students and one teacher.

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    Told ya....
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    Default Re: Syria

    Russia Docks Warships in Syria as NATO Arms Turkey

    Expert: Ships show Russia still backs Assad

    By Paul D. Shinkman

    December 5, 2012 RSS Feed Print



    A Turk holds a placard that reads 'Bloody Assad associate in guilt with Putin' near the Russian consulate in Istanbul, Dec. 3, 2012.

    Russian warships docked at a naval base in Syria, according to reports on Wednesday, further separating Moscow from Western actions in the war-torn country.

    The two ships made a rare call at the port in Tartus, Russia's only remaining international military base since the Soviet Union collapsed, according to AFP and Interfax reports. Russian authorities claim the stop was only to load fuel and water and make "minor repairs." This is the second time the Russian Navy has raised eyebrows in recent weeks, following reports that it docked warships off the coast of Gaza in late November, during the height of the fighting there with Israel.

    This most recent maneuver comes amid a new NATO decision to send Patriot missiles to Turkey, and sharpens the divide between Russia's history of supporting the Syrian regime and pressure on the West to back the opposition fighters.

    [PHOTOS: Violence Escalates into Civil War in Syria]

    The presence of the navy ships has three purposes, says Michael Weiss, cochair of the Russian Studies Center at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based foreign policy think tank. Russia wants to run weapons and materiel into Syria, take Russian nationals out of the country, and send a signal to the United States that it still backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    "They have military advisers helping the regime — a claim I cannot corroborate but absolutely believe," Weiss says. "But nonessential diplomatic staff and probably a lot of bi-nationals will leave."

    The vessels are the landing ships Novocherkassk and Saratov, Interfax reports, assigned to Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Moscow sees Tartus as a major strategic asset, according to AFP, and refers to it as a "point of material-technical supply," rather than a base. It is too shallow for large ships to dock.

    [READ: Citing Iraq, Clinton Declines to Endorse Syrian Rebels]

    This most recent move is consistent with Russia's likely intentions at Gaza, Weiss says, though it is less of threat than an indication of the former superpower's crumbling infrastructure.

    "Frankly, it's amazing that those ships can reach Gaza at all," he says, adding the U.S. Sixth Fleet had to accompany the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov when it last sailed for Tartus in case it sunk.

    More than 40,000 have been killed by the fighting in Syria since it began in early 2011.

    Turkey has pushed for NATO to supply it with Patriot missiles along its border with Syria to deter regime forces from continuing their aerial and rocket barrages. U.S. News reported Tuesday that Assad, now cut off from forces outside Syria, will likely turn to ground-to-ground missile attacks to try to repel opposition fighters who have surrounded the capital city.

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    Default Re: Syria

    If the Russians are worried about Assad, why don't they JUST GO IN and TAKE HIM OUT? Hmmmm?

    How about they STFU and go and secure (perhaps destory) those chemical weapons themselves?


    Lavrov... put up, or shut up.

    And Mr. Lukyanov ought to just go back to sleep.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Russia wants to run weapons and materiel into Syria, take Russian nationals out of the country, and send a signal to the United States that it still backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    Well... looks like Obama better get "flexible" huh?
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    Default Re: Syria

    I can't see the videos at all in this. I'll have to check later to see if they posted.

    Syria video purports to show use of white phosphorus

    Posted by Babak Dehghanpisheh on December 6, 2012 at 11:18 am





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    A video surfaced Thursday that appears to show a Syrian military helicopter shooting canisters of white phosphorus, a controversial substance that is a considered a chemical weapon by some military analysts.
    In the video, a helicopter flying at a very high altitude above the town of Maraiya in Deir al-Zour province is shown firing a shell that explodes into smaller pellets and drops toward the ground leaving behind white smoke trails.
    The video was posted on YouTube via an account used by the opposition. The authenticity of the footage is impossible to verify with the restrictions placed on media personnel by the Syrian government.



    The footage comes at a time when international leaders have expressed great concern about the Syrian government using chemical weapons against its own people. On Monday, President Obama said there would be “consequences” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was even more explicit and called the use of chemical weapons a “red line.”
    The use of white phosphorus against military targets falls into a gray area within the Chemical Weapons Convention. Some observers say the use of white phosphorus for illumination in a military conflict is legal but that using it in a offensive capacity against military targets is illegal.
    White phosphorus can cause severe chemical burns, and the smoke vapors can cause illness or even death. There also is a risk that white phosphorus residue can poison food stocks or water sources and lead to later poisoning.
    In the video posted Thursday, the helicopter is clearly operating in the middle of the day, which makes it unlikely that the shells were being used for illumination. The U.S. military was heavily criticized for the use of white phosphorus shells in an offensive capacity during an operation to recapture the Iraqi city of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...mical-weapons/
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    Default Re: Syria

    Pannetta just verbally warned Assad again. A few minutes ago.

    An expert was just on talking about Sarin (and Saddam).

    Having gone through a lot of hours of training on my own about chemical warfare... all I can say is "Oh man I hope they don't use it".

    The "expert" (didn't catch his name or his title, was on Skype with FNC) said that he believes without a doubt Assad will use these weapons because of the same things I was saying, he's desperate and he doesn't believe the world community will do jack - because he's been protected from Moscow for some time now.

    And with the remarks today by Lavrov, apparently that has not CHANGED.

    And I think I was right, I think he told Hillary to back off or else.
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