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Pedro Gonçalves

Beirut hit by double rocket attack | World news | - 0 views

  • It was the first attack to apparently target Hezbollah's stronghold in the south of the Lebanese capital since the outbreak of the two-year conflict in neighbouring Syria, which has heightened Lebanon's own sectarian tensions.
  • The rocket strikes came hours after the Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a powerful supporter of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, said his fighters were committed to the conflict whatever the cost.
  • Syria's two-year uprising has polarised Lebanon, with Sunni Muslims supporting the rebellion against Assad and Shia Hezbollah and its allies standing by Assad. The Lebanese city of Tripoli has seen frequent explosions of violence between majority Sunnis and its small Alawite community.
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  • Until recently, Nasrallah insisted Hezbollah had not sent guerrillas to fight alongside Assad's forces, but in his speech on Saturday he said it had been fighting in Syria for several months to defend Lebanon from radical Islamist groups he said were driving Syria's rebellion.
  • At least 25 people have been killed in Tripoli in the north of Lebanon over the past week in street fighting, which has coincided with the battle for Qusair across the border.
Pedro Gonçalves

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra | World news | The Gua... - 0 views

  • "No one should blame us for joining al-Nusra. Blame the west if Syria is going to become a haven for al-Qaida and extremists. The west left Assad's gangs to slaughter us. They never bothered to support the FSA. They disappointed ordinary Syrian protesters who just wanted their freedom and to have Syria for all Syrians."
Pedro Gonçalves

A permanent ceasefire is the only hope for Syria | Jonathan Steele | Comment is free | ... - 0 views

  • Once the US election is over, Washington needs to change policy. One-sided support for the armed opposition condemns Syrians to months, perhaps years, of bloodshed. A Libya-style intervention would be a worse escalation. Far better to junk the failed strategy both candidates followed in last week's debate and work with Russia and Brahimi on a permanent ceasefire. Whatever disputes Obama has with Putin on other issues, he needs to work with the Kremlin on Syria rather than provoke it.
Pedro Gonçalves

Analysis - Iran seeks to save pivotal Syrian ally | Reuters - 0 views

  • Iran, handed geostrategic windfalls in the past decade by Washington's elimination of two of its main enemies, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, now fears the pendulum of regional influence could swing the other way.
  • The political and military hardliners in control say Syria stood by Iran in its hour of need, the only Arab nation on its side in the 1980-88 war with Iraq, and deserves loyalty now.

    They also view the conflict in Syria as an extension of a sectarian power struggle with Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, as well as a U.S.-led campaign to shackle its nuclear ambitions by sanctions or if necessary by military force.

  • For Iran, "losing" Syria would be a damaging blow, but prolonged post-Assad instability might offer opportunities to a country adept at pursuing its interests in a conflict-ridden region, as it has shown in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    "Assad is far from gone and even when he is, things are going to be chaotic for a while," said Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "

    "And Iran thrives in that kind of context."

Pedro Gonçalves

Obama inks 'secret order' to aid Syria rebels - Middle East - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • US President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorising US support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, Reuters news agency said quoting sources familiar with the matter.
  • The White House has apparently stopped short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some US allies have been doing just that.
  • A US government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the US was collaborating with a secret command centre operated by Turkey and its allies.
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  • Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad's opponents.
  • This "nerve centre" is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100km from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a US airbase where US military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.
  • European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad's departure.
  • On Tuesday, reports emerged that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad's helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
  • NBC network said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.

    On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya that the group had "not obtained any such weapons at all".

Pedro Gonçalves

Exclusive - Secret Turkish nerve centre leads aid to Syria rebels | Reuters - 0 views

  • Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria's rebels from a city near the border
  • "It's the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,"
  • "The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes."
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  • The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said
  • Adana is home to Incirlik, a large Turkish/U.S. air force base which Washington has used in the past for reconnaissance and military logistics operations. It was not clear from the sources whether the anti-Syrian "nerve centre" was located inside Incirlik base or in the city of Adana.
  • 20 former Syrian generals are now based in Turkey, from where they are helping shape the rebel forces. Israel believes up to 20,000 Syrian troops may now have defected to the opposition.
  • "All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that these guys (the Syrian rebels) are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don't want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market. The other way they get weapons is to steal them from the Syrian army. They raid weapons stores."
  • The presence of the secret Middle East-run "nerve centre" may explain how the Syrian rebels, a rag-tag assortment of ill-armed and poorly organised groups, have pulled off major strikes such as the devastating bomb attack on July 18 which killed at least four key Assad aides including the defence minister.
  • Qatar, the tiny gas-rich Gulf state which played a leading part in supplying weapons to Libyan rebels, has a key role in directing operations at the Adana base, the sources said. Qatari military intelligence and state security officials are involved.
  • "The Qataris mobilized their special forces team two weeks ago. Their remit is to train and help logistically, not to fight," said a Doha-based source with ties to the FSA.

    Qatar's military intelligence directorate, Foreign Ministry and State Security Bureau are involved, said the source.

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