Published June 18, 2013
June 18, 2013: A general view of Taliban office in Doha before the official opening in Doha, Qatar. In a major breakthrough, the Taliban and the U.S. announced Tuesday that they will hold talks on finding a political solution to ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan as the Islamic militant movement opened an office in Qatar. American officials with the Obama administration said the office in the Qatari capital of Doha was the first step toward the ultimate U.S.-Afghan goal of a full Taliban renouncement of links with Al Qaeda. (AP)
June 18, 2013: Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a ceremony at military academy on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. Karzai announced at the ceremony that his country’s armed forces are taking over the lead for security nationwide from the U.S.-led NATO coalition. (AP)
Representatives from the United States and the Taliban will engage in Afghanistan peace talks Thursday in an office that has opened in Qatar, senior U.S. administration officials say.
The officials say detainee exchanges will likely be among the topics discussed in the Doha office, which opened Tuesday after months of delays. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council is expected to follow up with its own talks a few days later.
June 15 , 2013 Last updated at 15:50 ET
Mr Rouhani had a surge of support after endorsement by reformists
Reformist-backed cleric Hassan Rouhani has won Iran’s presidential election, securing just over 50% of the vote and so avoiding the need for a run-off. Crowds gathered in Tehran to hail Mr Rouhani, who said he had achieved a “victory of moderation over extremism”.
Some 72.2% of the 50 million eligible Iranian voters cast ballots to choose the successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The US said it was “ready to engage directly” with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated Mr Rouhani on his victory. “I urge everyone to help the president-elect and his colleagues in the government, as he is the president of the whole nation,” he said.
WND reported game-changing shipment 2 weeks ago
Published: May 30, 2013
Aaron Klein | Email | Archive
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TEL AVIV – The Syrian government already has received a first shipment of S-300 air defense missiles from Russia and is waiting for more, stated President Bashar al-Assad in a television interview today.
Assad told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station that Syria “has got the first batch of Russian S-300 missiles” and “the rest of the shipment will arrive soon.”
Citing Arab intelligence sources two weeks ago, WND was first to report that S-300 missile batteries had reached Syria.
Israeli security sources said two weeks ago there was no information to support the Arab claim.
Sunday, 26 May 2013
Republican lawmakers denounced Democratic President Barack Obama’s plan for winding down the U.S. war on terror, calling it a misguided approach that undermines national security.
Obama’s May 23 policy speech, which urged an end to the broad war powers Congress approved to fight al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was portrayed by Republicans as a lack of resolve in the face of terrorism threats worldwide.
“At a time when we need resolve the most, we are sounding retreat,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “Our enemies are emboldened all over the planet. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is coming back with a vengeance.”
The president said he would curtail drone strikes and push for an eventual closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The speech called for a ratcheting-down of the war on terrorism, with Obama saying that the U.S. may be drawn into more wars unless the nation moderates its stance.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama, as well as the Republican Bush administration, failed to talk honestly about the scope of the global threat posed by terrorism. The president’s speech missed the mark, he said.
May 20, 2013 By Patrick Goodenough
Pakistani Christians protest against the country’s blasphemy laws and violence targeting their minority community. An independent U.S. watchdog has urged the executive branch every year since 2002 to designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” over religious freedom violations. (AP Photo)
(CNSNews.com) – As the State Department prepares to release its annual report on international religious freedom Monday, a key issue for many Americans concerned about religious persecution is whether it will blacklist a handful of particularly egregious violators – or, as in previous years, ignore the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The question is especially sensitive in the case of countries where the plight of minority Christians has worsened, even as their governments benefit significantly at the cost of U.S. taxpayers.
Among the religious freedom violators are four of the top ten recipients of U.S. foreign aid in fiscal year 2013 – Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria. Another is Vietnam, whose communist government has seen its diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S. improve dramatically over the past seven years.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry will release the administration’s report on the state of religious freedom around the world in 2012, a requirement under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which sought to enhance the importance of religious freedom in the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy.
The primary tool available to the executive branch under the 1998 legislation is the designation of “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) – those whose authorities either commit or are judged to tolerate violations of religious freedom. CPCs are subject to U.S. sanctions or other measures designed to prod governments to improve.
Currently designated CPCs are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.
But a handful of other countries deserve to be on the list too, in the view of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent body established under the IRFA, comprising unpaid commissioners appointed by congressional leaders and the administration.
When it released its own yearly report three weeks ago, the USCIRF pressed for Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam to be designated CPCs.
In some of those cases, the recommendation has been disregarded for years.
Pakistan, home to some of the world’s most notorious blasphemy laws, has evaded CPC status despite USCIRF recommendation every year since 2002, as have Turkmenistan since 2000, Egypt since 2011, Nigeria since 2009, and Tajikistan since last year.
The other two, Iraq and Vietnam, were both previous designated CPCs. The Bush administration removed Iraq in 2004, following the fall of Saddam Hussein regime; and Vietnam in 2006, citing improvements as a result of active lobbying of the communist authorities in Hanoi.
Each year since 2008 the USCIRF has recommended that Iraq be returned to the CPC list. In the case of Vietnam, the commission never agreed with its delisting, and has recommended its return every year since, also to no avail.
Last week House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced legislation calling on the administration to relist Vietnam as a CPC, citing authorities’ refusals to grant legal recognition to churches, as well as assaults, harassment, imprisonment and home destructions targeting Christians.
Last year’s State Department report on international religious freedom referred to “continued reports of abuses of religious freedom” in Vietnam and said that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior State Department officials “raised religious freedom concerns with government officials and called for continued improvements in religious freedom.”
Those diplomatic efforts did not appear to have had any effect, however: The report also noted that Hanoi “did not demonstrate a trend toward either improvement or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom.”
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report earlier this year examining compliance with the IRFA noted tensions between the USCIRF and State Department as each has sought to do its respective job.
The report prompted USCIRF chair Katrina Lantos Swett to underline in a letter to the GAO that the commission’s “mandate is neither to conduct diplomacy nor balance religious freedom against other U.S. national interests.”
Swett said the USCIRF recognized that its role “sometimes poses a challenge for the State Department” – but also noted that “at times, our findings draw the ire of offending governments that would prefer their shortcomings remain hidden.”
May 16, 2013
President Barack Obama dismissed calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal, and evaded a question asking if White House officials knew of the IRS targeting of conservative political groups.
“I can assure that I certainly did not know anything about the [inspector general] report before the IG report had been leaked through the press,” he told reporters during a Thursday lunchtime press conference held in the White House Rose Garden.
Obama’s evasion will likely spur public suspicions that White House officials knew about, or even supported, the IRS targeting.
Friday, 19 Apr 2013 04:56 AM
Police officers celebrate after capturing bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev in Watertown, Mass. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The sought-after suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was arrested Friday night — taken from a boat parked on a trailer behind a house in the suburban town of Watertown, police said.
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, was taken into custody without incident about 8:45 p.m., said Massachusetts State Police Col. Timothy Alben.
“We have a suspect in custody,” Alben said at a 9:30 p.m. news conference. “We’re exhausted, folks, but we have a victory tonight.”
Tsarnaev, a Chechen native who became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was covered with blood when he was arrested, he said.
He was found on the stern end, or back, of the boat, leaning over, Alben said.
The teen was taken to a local hospital, where he remained in “extremely serious” condition, The Boston Globe reports.
“Suspect in custody. Officers sweeping the area,” Boston Police said on Twitter at 8:45 p.m.
“We Got Him,” tweeted Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
April 18, 2013
The FBI is now sharing the photos with the public but the New York Post ran several photos that they linked to the investigation Thursday.
In the photos being distributed by law-enforcement officials, one of the men is carrying a blue duffel bag. The other is wearing a black backpack in the first photo, taken at 10:53 a.m., but it is not visible in the second, taken at 12:30 p.m, the Post reported.
“The attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify the individuals highlighted therein,” said an e-mail obtained by The Post. “Feel free to pass this around to any of your fellow agents elsewhere.”
Authorities know the names of the two men, but do not have enough evidence to make an arrest for Monday’s attack, which killed three and wounded 176, sources told the Post.
Fox said a reporter for the network had seen the photos and called them “clear.”
Since 2010, when the upheaval in the Mideast dubbed the Arab Spring began, the United States has been the friend of rebels seeking regime change in countries throughout the region. In some cases, that meant providing weapons to rebels as well as reportedly conducting clandestine U.S. military operations.
In recent months, evidence emerged that al-Qaida has taken advantage of the U.S.-backed chaos in the Mideast and North Africa to gain allegiance in the aftermath of regime changes. When the Arab Spring initially began, al-Qaida was believed to be strongest in Pakistan. But policy analysts point to the rash of violent protests at U.S. embassies in Cairo and in Yemen and the attack that took the life of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, as evidence of a proliferation of al-Qaida-initiated terror.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States was prepared to provide $60 million in aid to opposition groups working to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. That money will be in addition to $50 million already provided to the rebels to help them organize, as well as $385 million distributed to Syria and neighboring countries for humanitarian relief.
U.S. officials are reluctant to arm Syria’s rebels; the influx of monetary aid comes at a time when the United States and other outside nations have lost leverage over the Syrian opposition forces and radical Islamist groups like al-Qaida are gaining support among the rebel fighters. There is concern from some that the aid money could be making its way into the hands of terror groups.
A NATO researcher explained last week why the growing al-Qaida presence is cause for concern, saying Syria’s uncertain future could make it a top al-Qaida stronghold.
“It’s now clear that Syria is not undergoing a violent transition from one regime to another,” noted NATO researcher Jean-Loup Samaan. “In fact, the country is enduring a process of disintegration of its state structures. Planners for a post-Assad Syria are no longer eyeing the potential successors of Assad but [are looking] at the bewildering landscape of non-state actors that fight each other over the conquest of what will be eventually left of the Syrian state.”
Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Massoud Jazayeri urged U.S. officials to rethink support of Syrian opposition forces earlier this month, warning that terror groups have gained heavy control of opposition forces. He warned that the al-Qaida mission, such as it is, will lead to the armed rebels continuing their terrorist activities in the other countries, including the West, in the near future.
“The al-Qaida groups and those services which conduct their operations in line with the U.S. interests will soon change track of their operations to other places and they will cause new troubles for the U.S. and Europe henceforth,” Jazayeri said.
Questions continue to swirl surrounding the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Among the most confounding factors were inaccurate comments made by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the wake of the assault. The embattled administration official appeared last night on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” to discuss the government’s handling of the crisis.
During the exchange, the host challenged Rice on some of the confusing and contradictory information that emerged in the wake of the terror attack. The ambassador also issued some tough words for those who still believe the Obama administration is hiding key information.
Stewart wasted no time launching into his questioning. Almost as soon as Rice sat down, he asked the ambassador why she was selected to speak out on Sunday morning shows and pondered why someone else more appropriate (i.e. Hillary Clinton or another official) wasn’t chosen. The ambassador gave this long-winded answer:
“I’ve spent many-a-Sunday doing the Sunday shows. In this case, Secretary Clinton, who had been asked originally to do it, felt that she didn’t want to, couldn’t do it that week, having been through quite an intense week with the loss of our colleagues in Benghazi, the violence against our embassies all over the Arab and Muslim world and then — also that Friday having to join President Obama in greeting the families of our fallen colleagues and bringing their bodies back.”
11 February 2013 Last updated at 10:14 ET
Syrian rebels are reported to have seized control of the country’s largest hydro-electric dam, in what would be a strategic loss to the government.
Activists and opposition groups said fighters had taken over entrances and exits of the dam in the northern province of Raqa.
Reports said the dam on the Euphrates River was still operational.
Meanwhile an explosion in a car on the Syria-Turkey border has killed at least seven people, officials say.
It is thought that the explosion happened in the area of the Cilvegozu customs post on the Turkish side of the border, in the southern province of Hatay.
Dozens of people were wounded in the blast, the cause of which was not immediately clear.