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dkf's Journal
dkf's Journal
September 5, 2013

Video: Terrorists Launch Rocket Attack at Commercial Ship in Suez Canal

@EliLake: Really important @samlagrone reporting here. Terrorists fire rockets at Chinese ship in the Suez http://t.co/pu4jlPri1P

A video posted on YouTube Wednesday — alleged to have been issued by the group Al-Furqan along with a letter of responsibility — show two men with rocket propelled grenades fire at least one RPG round into the side of a cargo ship bearing the markings of the Chinese merchant shipper Cosco.

The Wednesday letter — according to a rough translation provided to USNI News by industry sources — said the group supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, called for an end to democracy and promised future more severe action against ships in the Suez canal.

The group claimed it was, “targeting the international shipping waterway which has become a safe route for crusader aircraft carriers travelling to attack Muslims, and a trade artery for infidel and tyrannical states,” in a separate translation in a Thursday report from news service Ahram Online.

The video and the accompanying letter from Al-Furqan claiming credit for the attack gives further credence to claims the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) made on Saturday of a terrorist attack that were quickly walked back by the Egyptian military.


September 5, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry has said 34 countries and organizations are ready to support the U.S.

Secretary of State John Kerry has said 34 countries and organizations are ready to support the U.S. in its military strikes against Syria. But who are they?

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry has repeatedly said in the past few days that dozens of countries are supporting the Obama administration's war plan in Syria. But when it comes time to name names, Kerry has stated just a few examples, some of which are already well-known. The mysterious nature of the coalition has confused lawmakers and added to the impression that the U.S. has failed to garner much international support for military action in Syria.

"We will have very broad, and we have already very broad -- I think we've -- I've been in -- you know, we've had some 53 nations or countries and organizations have acknowledged that chemical weapons were used here and have condemned it publicly," Kerry said on Tuesday in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the topic of the administration's proposed authorization of force in Syria. "Thirty one nations have stated publicly that the Assad regime is responsible. And I think we're at about 34 countries have indicated that if the allegations are true, that they would support some form of action against Syria."

In two days of making the case for military strikes to Congress, Kerry listed a handful of countries ready to support the U.S. That leaves dozens that are apparently on board, but whose identities have remained a secret and whose support is unclear.

"I'm guessing we asked our embassies around the world to demarche foreign governments and those that articulated some form of support for our position made our list of allies," said a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The State Department did not respond to repeated requests for a full list of the countries and organizations that are publicly supporting the administration's war plan. The White House referred BuzzFeed's questions to the State Department.


September 5, 2013

Why House Dems think Syria resolution could still pass

After talking to House Dem aides, here is their view of the factors that really matter right now:

1) The majority of Members still have not gotten a classified briefing, sources tell me. Aides say this will change next week, on Monday, when Members are set to be briefed en masse by White House officials. Aides believe Members won’t really make up their mind until they see the classified info, which will make a No vote harder. I’m not defending this position; I’m merely reporting how things are viewed from the inside.

2) Many members were not around during the Iraq War vote and have never taken a big, consequential vote on matters of war and peace. Aides believe that this fact, combined with the classified intel such members will be given (which they haven’t seen yet), and the persuasion they will be subjected to when they hear from White House and State Department officials, will conspire to make a No vote harder.

3) The real state of play is not what it seems. Aides believe that many of those who say they are leaning No are not necessarily at that point. Aides believe there’s a lot of pressure on Dems — given the unpopularity of strikes with constituents, as reflected in the polls, and given some of the pressure being directed to offices by liberal groups — to downplay the possibility of a Yes vote later. So aides think the whip counts don’t tell the real story.

4) There are sizable blocs of Dems who can still get to yes. Dem aides believe they probably need around 120-130 Dems for the resolution to pass, because they think they’ll get around 90-100 Republicans (with most voting No). They think that they can get there. This would draw on Yes votes from 40 or so hawkish, interventionist Dems types who will be persuadable by groups like AIPAC; plus a sizable bloc of moderate Dems who aren’t too worried about the Dem base and will be genuinely gettable; plus some more votes drawn from around several dozen hard-to-classify Dems who are more focused on domestic affairs. Dem aides think they can get the numbers they need even if around 60 progressive Dems prove ungettable.


September 5, 2013

Syria Deeply + Joshua Landis, Syria Comment

@Lara: Here's our Google Hangout with the inimitable @joshua_landis of #Syria Comment, explaining the sectarian war: http://t.co/4BZEX3dEUH

Very interesting overview on the different factions in Syria, who is backing Assad, what could happen if Assad falls...

September 5, 2013

@CNBC: 10-year treasury hits new 2-year high of 2.97 after #ISM:

@CNBC: 10-year hits new 2-year high of 2.97 after #ISM: http://t.co/wOOQj3V0If

September 5, 2013

Russia says it has compiled a 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for a chemical weapons attack

BERLIN — Russia says it has compiled a 100-page report detailing what it says is evidence that Syrian rebels, not forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, were behind a deadly sarin gas attack in an Aleppo suburb earlier this year.

In a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website late Wednesday. Russia said the report had been delivered to the United Nations in July and includes detailed scientific analysis of samples that Russian technicians collected at the site of the alleged attack, Khan al Asal.

Russia said its investigation of the March 19 incident was conducted under strict protocols established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that governs adherence to treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. It said samples that Russian technicians had collected had been sent to OPCW-certified laboratories in Russia.

The report itself was not released. But the statement drew a pointed comparison between what it said was the scientific detail of the report and the far shorter intelligence summaries that the United States, Britain and France have released to justify their assertion that the Syrian government launched chemical weapons against Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The longest of those summaries, by the French, ran nine pages. Each relies primarily on circumstantial evidence to make its case, and they disagree with one another on some details, including the number of people who died in the attack.

The Russian statement warned the United States and its allies not to conduct a military strike against Syria until the United Nations had completed a similarly detailed scientific study into the Aug. 21 attack. It warned that what it called the current “hysteria” about a possible military strike in the West was similar to the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the United States invasion of Iraq.

“The Russian report is specific,” the ministry statement said. “It is a scientific and technical document.”

The statement also noted that the attention paid to the Aug. 21 attack had diverted attention from the investigation into the March 19 incident, which was the reason U.N. investigators were in Syria when the more recent attack took place.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/05/201269/russia-says-it-has-compiled-a.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_term=news#.UiibJei9KSM#storylink=cpy

September 5, 2013

Russia warns of catastrophe if Syria reactor hit by U.S. strike

Russia warns of catastrophe if Syria reactor hit by U.S. strike
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA | Wed Sep 4, 2013 2:30pm EDT

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday that a military strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if a missile hit a small reactor near Damascus that contains radioactive uranium.

The Foreign Ministry called on the U.N. nuclear agency to urgently assess the risk as the United States considers military action to punish Syria's government for an alleged gas attack.

"If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic," a ministry statement said.

It said nearby areas could be contaminated by highly enriched uranium and that it would be impossible to account for the nuclear material after such a strike, suggesting it could fall into the hands of people who might use it as a weapon.


September 5, 2013

Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.

At congressional hearings this week, while making the case for President Barack Obama's plan for limited military action in Syria, Kerry asserted that the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution.

"And the opposition is getting stronger by the day," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

U.S. and allied intelligence sources and private experts on the Syrian conflict suggest that assessment is optimistic.

While the radical Islamists among the rebels may not be numerically superior to more moderate fighters, they say, Islamist groups like the al Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front are better organized, armed and trained.

Kerry's remarks represented a change in tone by the Obama administration, which for more than two years has been wary of sending U.S. arms to the rebels, citing fears they could fall into radical Islamists' hands.


September 5, 2013

The Syrian Rebels plan for containing the Chemical Weapons is US Boots on the Ground.

Gen. Ziad Fahd, the commander of the “southern front” for the Free Syrian Army, urged in a telephone interview Wednesday that the United States and its allies attack six air bases and three rocket-launching batteries around Damascus. He said that if the United States takes out these targets, his 30,000 troops in the Damascus area “can launch attacks on the rest” of the regime’s forces in the south.

The Syrian commander’s comments were reassuring in the sense that he has a military strategy for the next stage of the battle. But Fahd offered little detail on three key issues for any transition: protecting Syria’s Alawite community from revenge killing if the regime falls; working with reconcilable elements of the Syrian army to maintain order and prevent the kind of chaos that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moammar Gaddafi in Libya; and preventing the future use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in a desperate last stand.

These issues are crucial, so they’re worth special attention. “I don’t anticipate revenge killing,” said Fahd, adding that his forces would “look to the courts” to prosecute any crimes by the regime. That’s not enough; the opposition needs a specific plan. On working with the army, Fahd said he has informants within the military but no plans for future liaison. That’s also not adequate. And finally, Fahd said the regime “perhaps” might use chemical weapons again, and for that reason the United States should take out the stockpiles and command-and-control for such weapons. This would probably require the use of ground troops, which Obama has ruled out.

These endgame issues are addressed in a new report to the State Department prepared this week by one of the Free Syrian Army’s key strategists. He outlines what he calls the “Damascus plan” for “handling the power vacuum in case of a sudden Assad collapse.” The plan includes steps for securing the chemical facilities; providing security in the city; protecting Alawites from reprisals; and working with the Syrian army.


September 5, 2013

Republicans and Democrats alike feel the Syria resolution would not pass today

Based on talking to the smartest members and aides we know, Republicans and Democrats alike feel the Syria resolution would not pass today, even after party leaders endorsed it. Immigration reform looks dead for this year and probably next. They think the chances of defaulting on debt are low, but not as low as many think because conservatives are showing no signs of bending. And they see very little hope of any budget deal that allows for major changes to the sequestration cuts.

— Syria: House Republican staffers tell us that several key members are unsatisfied so far by the classified briefings from the administration. A top aide said the administration has failed to make a compelling case “beyond spasmodic moral outrage.”

“Nobody has really heard how this is going to either improve the situation on the ground in Syria, improve the situation for pro-democracy groups, not play into al-Qaeda’s hands, not play into Russia’s hands, not play into China’s hands,” the aide said. “Members felt the administration hasn’t made a case about how this is going to stop it from happening again. They’re putting a lot of chips on: ‘We have to do this for Israel,’ or, ‘We have to do this because it’s unacceptable.’”

Another House GOP aide told us that President Obama will have to make a better personal case to the public, not just to Congress: If you’re going to sell the members, you also have to sell the constituents. Otherwise, the country could watch the amazing spectacle of Congress defeating a war resolution backed by the president and every top elected leader. And Wednesday evening, a top House Republican aide said the measure could actually lose.


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