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These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 13, 2013.
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Terrorists' jihad on jail in Sydney

From Australia

THEY are the convicted terrorists who planned to bomb a Sydney target and appeared to wear their time in prison like a of badge of honour

But five members of the western Sydney terrorist cell have appealed against their record sentences - which ranged from 23 to 28 years - claiming the judge who sent them to jail was too severe.

Mohamed Ali Elomar, Khaled and Moustafa Cheikho, Abdul Rakib Hasan and Mohammed Omar Jamal were part of a nine-man terrorist cell that planned to attack an unspecified Sydney target.

They were found guilty by a jury on October 16, 2009, and now retired judge Anthony Whealy ordered the men serve the longest jail sentences for terrorism offences in Australia. The Sunday Telegraph can reveal a date has been set for their court challenge in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal: June 3.

The federal Director of Public Prosecutions said: "The defendants have lodged appeals against their sentences and the severity of their sentences."Their trial heard the men were Muslim extremists who intended to wage "violent jihad" against Australia to "coerce or influence by intimidation the Australian Government" to drop its support for US involvement in "Middle Eastern and other areas involving Muslims".

The five were part of a nine-man cell with had links to a Victorian terrorist network. At least one Sydney member was close to Abdul Nacer Benbrika, a Melbourne extremist since jailed over a plot to blow up targets including the MCG. Four of the nine admitted terrorism offences and were jailed for five to 18 years. They were Mirsad Mulahalilovic, Khaled Sharrouf, Mazen Touma and Omar Baladjam, a former actor who appeared on Home and Away and ABC drama Wildside.

Defence lawyers said the men denied there was a terrorist conspiracy and denied taking part in it.

Posted on 01/13/2013 10:23 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 13 January 2013
The French Army's No-Nonsense Intervention

From Reuters:

Jan. 13, 2013

France bombs Islamist stronghold in north Mali


British Islamists protest outside the French Embassy in London January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
[A demonstration by Muslims in London on Jan. 13]

 

(Reuters) - French fighter jets pounded an Islamist rebel stronghold in northern Mali on Sunday as Paris poured more troops into the capital Bamako, awaiting a West African force to dislodge al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the country's north.

The attack on Gao, the largest city in the desert region controlled by the Islamist alliance, marked a decisive drive northwards on the third day of French air strikes, moving deep into the vast territory seized by rebels in April.

France is determined to end Islamist domination of north Mali, which many fear could act as a base for attacks on the West and for links with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.

France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French intervention on Friday had prevented rebels driving southward to seize Bamako itself. He said air raids would continue in the coming days.

"The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe," he told French television.

In Gao, a dusty town on the banks of the Niger river where Islamists have imposed an extreme form of Sharia law, residents said French fighters and attack helicopters pounded the airport and rebel positions. A huge cloud of black smoke rose from the militants' camp in the north of the city.

"The planes are so fast you can only hear their sound in the sky," resident Soumaila Maiga said by telephone. "We are happy, even though it is frightening. Soon we will be delivered."

A Malian rebel spokesman said the French had also bombed targets in the towns of Lere and Douentza.

France has deployed about 550 soldiers to Mali, split between Bamako and the town of Mopti, 500 km (300 miles) north, Le Drian said. State-of-the-art Rafale fighter jets were also dispatched to reinforce "Operation Serval" - named after an African wildcat.

In Bamako, a Reuters cameraman saw more than 100 French troops disembark on Sunday from a military cargo plane at the international airport, on the outskirts of the capital.

The city itself was calm, with the sun streaking through the dust enveloping the city as the seasonal Harmattan wind blew from the Sahara. Some cars drove around with French flags draped from the windows to celebrate Paris's intervention.

More than two decades of peaceful elections had earned Mali a reputation as a bulwark of democracy, but that image unravelled in a matter of weeks after a military coup last March that left a power vacuum for the Islamist rebellion.

French President Francois Hollande's intervention in Mali has won plaudits from leaders in Europe, Africa and the United States, but it is not without risks.

It raised the risk level for eight French hostages held by al Qaeda allies in the Sahara and for the 30,000 French expatriates living in neighbouring, mostly Muslim states.

Concerned about reprisals, France has tightened security at public buildings and on public transport. It advised its 6,000 citizens in Mali to leave as spokesmen for the Islamist groups have promised to exact revenge.

In its first casualty of the campaign, Paris said a French pilot was killed on Friday when rebels shot down his helicopter.

Hours earlier, a French intelligence officer held hostage in Somalia by al Shabaab extremists linked to al Qaeda was killed in a botched commando raid to free him.

President Hollande says France's aim is simply to support a mission by West African bloc ECOWAS to retake the north, as mandated by a U.N. Security Council resolution in December.

With Paris pressing West African nations to send their troops quickly, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who holds the rotating ECOWAS chairmanship, kick-started the operation to deploy 3,300 African soldiers.

Ouattara, installed in power with French military backing in 2011, convened a summit of the 15-nation bloc for Saturday in Ivory Coast to discuss the mission.

"The troops will start arriving in Bamako today and tomorrow," said Ali Coulibaly, Ivory Coast's African Integration Minister. "They will be convoyed to the front."

Military analysts expressed doubt, however, that African nations would be able to mount a swift operation to retake north Mali - a harsh, sparsely populated terrain the size of France - as neither the equipment nor ground troops were prepared.

The United States is considering sending a small number of unarmed surveillance drones to Mali as well as providing logistics support, a U.S. official told Reuters. Britain and Canada have also promised logistical support.

Former French colonies Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso have all pledged to deploy 500 troops within days. In contrast, regional powerhouse Nigeria, due to lead the ECOWAS force, has suggested it would take time to train and equip the troops.

France, however, appeared to have assumed control of the operation on the ground. Its airstrikes allowed Malian troops to drive the Islamists out of the town of Konna, which they had briefly seized this week in their southward advance.

Calm returned to the town on Sunday after three nights of combat as the Malian army mopped up any rebel fighters. A senior Malian army official said more than 100 rebels had been killed.

"Soldiers are patrolling the streets and have encircled the town," one resident, Madame Coulibaly, told Reuters by phone. "They are searching houses for arms or hidden Islamists."

Human Rights Watch said at least 11 civilians, including three children, had been killed in the fighting.

A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders in neighbouring Mauritania said about 200 Malian refugees had already fled across the border to a camp at Fassala and more were on their way.

In Bamako, civilians tried to contribute to the war effort.

"We are very proud and relieved that the army was able to drive the jihadists out of Konna. We hope it will not end there, that is why I'm helping in my own way," said civil servant Ibrahima Kalossi, 32, one of over 40 people who queued to donate blood for wounded soldiers.

Posted on 01/13/2013 10:57 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
In Tunisia, Those Who Are Most Fervently "On The Right Side Of History" Know History Doesn't Matter

From FoxNews:

Historic Tunisian mausoleum at tourist site burned down amid tensions

Published January 13, 2013

| Associated Press

Vandals have burned down a famed mausoleum at a picturesque, much-visited site outside Tunisia's capital, amid tensions between the government and Islamist extremists.

The president's office condemned the arson at the Sidi Bou Said mausoleum, calling Sunday for better security at cultural sites and blaming those who "are trying ... to undermine the country's culture in its historical dimension."

Residents marched to protest the violence. The fire gutted the mausoleum and the roof caved in.

The overnight fire came after five ultraconservative Muslims were detained for burning down another mausoleum near Tunis and a series of similar attacks apparently aimed at destabilizing the government.

Tunisia's government, led by moderate Islamists elected after a revolution in 2011, is struggling against pressure from those who want a strict Islamist state


Posted on 01/13/2013 11:26 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
A Musical Interlude: If You Can't Land'er On The Old Veranda (Harry Reser's Six Jumping Jacks, voc. Tom Stacks)
Listen here.
Posted on 01/13/2013 11:42 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Will The Audun-Lysbakkens Of The Western World Ever Face Reality?

From Gates of Vienna:

January 12, 2013

“Every Single Muslim Who Understands Islam Shares These Opinions”

It’s always refreshing to hear the plain truth spoken plainly, and we are fortunate that Muslim spokesman are so often eager to speak the plain truth about Islam. Despite the earnest desire on the part of the leftist establishment for a different account of Islamic teachings — one that would dovetail neatly with their own Progressive worldview — Muslims themselves repeatedly insist that they follow what is written in their scriptures and recorded in their traditions.

Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer has translated a video clip from the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK concerning the planned Al-Haddad seminar in Oslo this weekend hosted by Islam.net. He sends this introductory note:

It’s a debate between Audun Lysbakken, the leader of SV (Socialist left), and Fahad Qureishi, the leader of Islam.net. In the clip Qureishi dismisses Lysbakken’s naïve claim that the majority of Muslims don’t agree with the views that Al-Haddad espouses, and he does so in a very clear and concise manner.

The discussion is interesting because it shatters the view held by many leftist Norwegians that ‘radical’ Muslims are bearded fanatics who salivate and scream their lungs out at rallies and rant at obscure sites on the internet. Fahad Qureishi, the leader of Islam.net, is very calm. In this interview he delivers a clear and unambiguous message that can’t really be misinterpreted: there is only one Islam — and it is very evil and undemocratic.

We need more TV appearances like this one. Let honest Muslims explain what Islam really is, and spare us the politically sanitized version by leftist apologists and other useful idiots about what they want Islam to be.

Also pay particular attention to the very subtle threat at the end of the clip where Qureishi admonishes Lysbakken to select his words more carefully when he refers to Islam.

And, by the way, Qureishi wasn’t assaulted by any left-wing brownshirt thugs when he left the building, which would surely have been the case if members of SIAN or the NDL had appeared on the show and presented similar material about this sinister political ideology. I wonder if Qureishi is guilty of ‘Islamophobia’ in the eyes of the leftists?

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Transcript:

0:20
0:29 The controversial Sharia judge and Islamic preacher, Haitham al-Haddad will return to Oslo
0:36 tomorrow to deliver another lecture for Norwegian youths, organized by Islam.net.
0:42 You have described the opinions of the preacher as barbaric,
0:46 leader of SV, Audun Lysbakken. What do you mean by that?
0:50 It is very hard to describe it as anything but barbaric when people advocate
0:56 the stoning of adulterers and support the death penalty for apostates in Islamic states.
1:04 I believe the death penalty is barbaric in general, but when arguments
1:08 such as these are added to the equation it creates a whole new dimension.
1:12 In addition to that, al Haddad has expressed some
1:16 very reactionary views on the role of women in society and gays.
1:21 He has also argued that women should stay out of the work force
1:25 and that girls should marry when they are quite young.
1:29 He has also stated that marriage should only be entered in order to
1:32 have children and that domestic violence is a private matter, etc.
1:35 This is not a man who should be a role model or moral authority figure for Norwegian youths.
1:41 But shouldn’t Islam.net have the right and opportunity to invite
1:47 a controversial person and allow him to express his opinions?
1:53 Yes, of course, and nothing that I have said or written
1:58 can be interpreted as an attempt to deprive Islam.net of that right.
2:02 But you are encouraging them to cancel the event?
2:05 An important aspect of religious freedom is that one has to accept criticism
2:09 and that one has to accept differing views when promoting values that are so controversial.
2:13 And I believe that it would be unfortunate to allow al Haddad to come
2:17 to Norway without anyone exposing his views, and that is why I am doing it.
2:21 Are you afraid of the impact he might have on young people?
2:27 No, I don’t believe that the values and attitudes that he expresses are shared
2:33 by that many. Not by Norwegian Muslims and not by Norwegian Muslim youths.
2:39 But, I still believe that it is appropriate to challenge Islam.net
2:44 about the attitudes that he has brought to the table.
2:48 Do they see these as healthy and positive views and do they believe
2:52 that a person who espouses such opinions is a good role model for young people?
2:56 I’ve also noticed that they have marketed al Haddad as man who is
2:59 very capable at teaching others what it’s like to be Muslim in the West,
3:02 but many of the values which are promoted here
3:06 will actually make it very difficult to function in the West.
3:09 And it will lead to more isolation and segregation, something which
3:14 I consider to be negative values to pass onto Norwegian youths.
3:18 Leader of Islam.net, Fahad Qureishi, do you believe that
3:22 this preacher is a good role model for young Muslims in Norway?
3:27 I think he is a good role model for many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims,
3:34 because the things that he talks about are quite common in Islam
3:42 and something that the great majority of Muslims can relate to.
3:47 The only difference is that he is a little bit more direct than others.
3:52 And to take things out of its proper context and isolating them from the overall picture
3:58 can of course come across as a little bit weird and . Interviewer – and very cruel.
4:04 Cruel, yes, they can seem very cruel… But isn’t that exactly what he means?
4:07 He talks about things in their proper context. Let me give you an example.
4:12 Let’s say that you have a wonderful painting and
4:15 that you remove a tiny part from the painting
4:18 and isolate it from the rest of it. When you look
4:22 at this tiny part you don’t understand what it is.
4:24 It just looks weird and strange. But as soon as you put it in its proper context
4:28 in the place where it belongs, then you’ll see that, yes, this is a wonderful painting.
4:32 But can you explain to me why. And so it is with Islam, you have to look at the
4:36 overall picture of Islam, and see what Islam really is.
4:39 Which doctrines does Islam promote, and are they beneficial to mankind
4:43 or are they disadvantageous to mankind? And when you look at it from that perspective,
4:48 one is able to understand that opinions that might seem strange today are
4:53 actually beneficial to mankind as a whole.
4:56 But can you explain to me how stoning, which you believe
5:00 has been taken out of context, can fit into a unified and harmonious picture?
5:06 It is quite possible to do so, but it cannot be done
5:10 in the short time that we have at our disposal here.
5:13 So I would rather encourage everyone to read the Qur’an and learn about Islam
5:18 and study it thoroughly. And understand what
5:21 the Islamic message is, and then maybe people will
5:24 get a better understanding for certain aspects of Islam that may appear strange today.
5:30 But you make it sound as if there is a general consensus on Haddad’s interpretations,
5:34 but he is a controversial figure even in the Islamic community.
5:38 To be completely honest with you, you’ll find one hundred percent agreement
5:42 on this from the time of the Prophet (PBUH) to present day.
5:47 You will not find any Sunni Muslims with actual knowledge of Islam and who are familiar
5:52 with what the Prophet (PBUH) taught reject basic things in the teachings of Islam.
5:57 Because these things are written in the Quran,
6:00 and you have direct quotes from the Prophet (PBUH)
6:03 and therefore to criticize a person for having such opinions is to criticize
6:07 the existence of the religion. Because these are
6:10 opinions that are deeply rooted in the religion,
6:12 and to dismiss it is akin to suggesting that the religion should be banned,
6:17 which is a very radical stance to take. I think Lysbakken should meet with Dr. Haddad
6:23 and talk with him and try to get a better understanding of why he has these opinions,
6:29 rather than to deny him the right to speak, or suggest that we cancel the event
6:36 so that he will be unable to convey his message. Freedom of expression should also apply
6:41 to those who have opinions that you might not
6:44 necessarily understand or which might seem strange,
6:46 or to exaggerate seems barbaric to some. But if you are unwilling to engage
6:50 such opinions with dialogue, then you will never be able to understand
6:54 why 1.6 billion people have a different perception of reality than yourself.
6:58 But these actions don’t just seem barbaric; they are in fact illegal here in Norway.
7:03 But we’re not discussing Norway here. Haddad strongly encourages people
7:08 to respect Norwegian law in Norway or U.S. law in the United States.
7:13 He just points out the Islamic position in relation to certain crimes and how
7:20 they will be dealt with in an Islamic state where Muslims are in charge.
7:27 So it seems quite obvious to me that you’re not going to cancel
7:30 tomorrow’s lecture. But you had probably not expected that, Lysbakken?
7:34 No, I hadn’t expected that, but I think Qureishi’s answers are quite discouraging.
7:38 Because it is one thing to invite someone to hear what they have to say.
7:43 But what Qureishi is doing here is admitting that he shares some
7:48 of the very controversial beliefs that al Haddad promotes.
7:54 Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that just because you belong to
7:59 a certain religion you are somehow exempt from criticism.
8:04 Nor is it true that all religious people are as fundamentalist as is being portrayed here.
8:10 There are many Muslims living in Norway, and I’m happy about that and I believe
8:16 that many of them disagree with your claim that all Muslims share such views.
8:22 It is incorrect and I believe the views you are promoting
8:25 are not shared by the great majority.
8:28 And it doesn’t really matter that you support stoning in some ideal future society.
8:34 It is just as reprehensible to stone people for adultery whenever and wherever it may be.
8:38 And it’s just as reprehensible to support the death penalty for apostates.
8:42 There are certain things that simply don’t belong in a humane and decent society.
8:50 Qureishi you are going ahead with this lecture,
8:54 how many people do you expect will show up tomorrow?
8:56 Yes, we are going ahead with the lecture and we don’t anticipate that many attendees,
9:00 for the simple reason that the premises will only seat 50 people.
9:03 Thus I expect 50 people tomorrow. But just to clarify, I did not
9:07 say that every single Muslim shares these opinions.
9:11 I said that all Muslims with knowledge of the religion
9:14 and who follow the teachings of Sunni Islam,
9:17 which have been practiced for 1400 years, share these views, which includes scholars
9:23 with an understanding of the religion. And once again I wish to point out that
9:26 Lysbakken is taking things out of their proper context,
9:29 and claims that these values are reprehensible and repugnant.
9:32 But it’s Islam that he’s talking about here. These are basic values that we’re discussing.
9:36 He doesn’t simply criticize the person conveying
9:39 the values, but he also criticizes our Prophet (PBUH)
9:42 who had the same values and who himself practiced these values.
9:45 We have authentic sources that prove that these values have been practiced,
9:49 and therefore I believe that one should use more suitable words
9:52 rather than dismissing it as barbaric and reprehensible.
9:55 Well you got the chance to highlight that. I wish to thank you both
10:00 for appearing on the show. Thank you very much to Audun Lysbakken and Fahad Qureishi.
10:05

Posted on 01/13/2013 12:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
France Keeping The Beast At Bay In West Africa -- But What About In France?

La France frappe les bastions islamistes au Mali

  • Par Georges Malbrunot Publié Réactions
    Troupes françaises embarquant pour Bamako à N'Djamena, au Tchad, samedi.
    Troupes françaises embarquant pour Bamako à N'Djamena, au Tchad, samedi. Crédits photo : HANDOUT/REUTERS

    La résistance des djihadistes est plus forte que prévu. Plusieurs de leurs bases arrière ont été bombardées. Un premier soldat français a été tué.

    Pour la quatrième journée consécutive, les raids aériens de l'armée française devaient se poursuivre ce lundi au Mali, pour «liquider» les groupes armés islamistes, dont l'avancée vers le sud du pays n'est pas «totalement empêchée», a reconnu dimanche le ministre de la Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian. «Il y a des raids en permanence» contre les colonnes de pick-up, a déclaré M. Le Drian à la télévision. Depuis jeudi, les «terroristes» descendent «par deux voies», «la voie ouest et la voie est». À l'Est, a poursuivi le ministre, «les différentes interventions que nous avons menées, y compris d'ailleurs les forces maliennes, ont permis de bloquer la progression. Là, c'est arrêté». «Concernant la voie ouest, des combats se poursuivent, ce n'est pas fini. Une opération ne se mène pas en deux jours», assurait dimanche après-midi Jean-Yves Le Drian.

    La contre-attaque franco-malienne est partie de Sévaré, localité à 70 km au sud de Konna dans le centre du Mali, où avaient atterri jeudi les éléments des forces spéciales françaises prépositionnées en Afrique. Des affrontements, notamment à l'arme lourde, ont ensuite opposé à Konna les forces gouvernementales maliennes et les djihadistes alliés à al-Qaida, qui cherchent à se diriger vers le sud et Bamako, la capitale. Un militaire français, blessé par un tir d'arme légère alors qu'il se trouvait dans un hélicoptère Gazelle, est décédé des suites de ses blessures, ainsi qu'une douzaine de soldats maliens.

    Des hommes bien entraînés

    En face, «une centaine d'islamistes» aurait été tuée, selon une source militaire malienne. Parmi eux, un haut responsable du groupe Ansar Dine, Abdel Krim, dit «Kojak». Dix civils, dont trois enfants, sont morts au cours des combats, selon l'ONG Human Rights Watch.

    Alors que François Hollande déclarait samedi que l'intervention française avait permis de porter «un coup d'arrêt» aux islamistes, il s'avère que ceux-ci offrent une résistance plus grande que prévu. «Ils se révèlent en réalité bien équipés, bien armés et bien entraînés», soulignait-on dimanche dans l'entourage du président de la République. «Ce qui nous a beaucoup frappés, c'est la modernité de leur équipement», récupéré souvent en Libye après la guerre qui a renversé le colonel Kadhafi en 2011. [but of course that should have been thought of, before or during the NATO bombing of Qaddafy's forces -- why didn't they take the occasion to destroy all the stores of weaponry?]

    Dimanche, quatre avions de combat Rafale ayant décollé de France ont bombardé des bases djihadistes à Gao et sa périphérie, dans le nord-est du pays. Selon des habitants, les islamistes ont commencé d'évacuer cette localité. L'aviation a encore frappé des camps à Léré, une localité dans le nord-ouest proche de la frontière avec la Mauritanie, où se sont réfugiés 200 femmes, enfants et des personnes âgées. En fin de journée, de nouveaux bombardements ont détruit des bases islamistes à Aghabo, à 50 km de Kidal, dans le nord-est du Mali. À Tombouctou, dans la zone sous contrôle des islamistes, un habitant faisait état d'un «début de panique» parmi les familles de djihadistes partis combattre à Konna. «C'est l'occasion ou jamais d'en finir avec ces islamistes», déclarait à l'AFP un enseignant.

Posted on 01/13/2013 2:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
In Yemen, From Houthistan To The Hadramaut, Iranians Just Want To Have Fun

From Reuters:

U.S. envoy says Iran working to destabilize Yemen

SANAA (Reuters) - Iran is working with southern secessionists in Yemen to expand its influence and destabilize the strategic region around the Straits of Hormuz, the U.S. envoy to Yemen was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Yemen's state news agency Saba cited U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein as accusing Iran of supporting south Yemeni leaders trying to revive the formerly independent state of South Yemen, and naming Ali Salem al-Beidh, who runs a pro-independence satellite TV station from Lebanon, as one of them.

"There is evidence that proves Iran's support to some extreme elements of the southern movement (al-Hirak)," Feierstein was quoted by Saba as saying in remarks reported in Arabic.

"Ali Salem al-Beidh resides in Beirut and receives financial support from the Iranian government. We have no doubt that he is responsible for efforts to foil the Gulf initiative (for democratic transition in Yemen) by supporting the calls for secession."

Yemen is grappling with al Qaeda militants and Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north as well as the southern separatists. Its location flanking top oil producer Saudi Arabia - Iran's Sunni Muslim regional adversary - and major shipping lanes have made restoring its stability an international priority.

Yemen's Gulf neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, sponsored a deal that saw veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh step down last February after a year of protests and allowed his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to take office.

The power transfer deal mandates Hadi to oversee reforms during a two-year interim period to ensure a transition to democracy, including amending the constitution and restructuring the armed forces to break the Saleh family's grip.

The process is expected to lead to presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.

But efforts to convene a national reconciliation dialogue central to reform have met resistance from some south Yemeni separatist leaders such as Beidh.

Beidh failed in a civil war in 1994 to reverse the unification of north and south Yemen four years earlier.

Most of Yemen's fast-declining oil reserves are in the south, but many southerners complain that northerners in the capital Sanaa have discriminated against them and usurped their resources. The central government denies any discrimination.

Yemeni officials have also accused Iran of backing the Shi'ite Houthi rebels who operate in northern Yemen. Iran denies any interference in Yemen's affairs.

Posted on 01/13/2013 3:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Vaste Programme, Monsieur

France determined to 'eradicate' terrorism in Mali, official says

CNN  - ‎13 minutes ago‎
(CNN) -- As a new round of French military strikes targeted Islamist rebels in Mali on Sunday, both sides of the fight said they were determined to win.
Posted on 01/13/2013 4:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Erdogan's Viciousness Toward Israel Harms Only Turkey

From Al-Monitor:

Turkey-Israel Tensions Set Back
Turkish Energy Interests

A general view of Ambarli gas-fired power station, idled in a supply dispute with Ukraine, in Istanbul, Jan. 8, 2009. (photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
  
  


Surrounded by 70% of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, Turkey is almost completely dependent on imports to meet its needs for hydrocarbon energy. Despite this hard reality, Turkey’s Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz said, “We aim to have a Turkey in 2023 that won’t import oil or natural gas," and, "We will also continue our work turning Turkey into an energy hub.”

Although Turkey has the best geographic position in this region to be the major European gas hub, Ankara’s unintelligible policies toward the Middle East are now undermining this objective. While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has mobilized the masses to his side by using the traditional animosity toward Israel, and Ahmet Davutoglu, his foreign minister, took the stage with a policy of “zero problems with neighbors,” Turkey’s gain out of this approach seems insignificant. To the contrary, Turkey now has problems with all of its neighbors — including the two oil and natural gas giants of the region, Iran and Iraq, both sharing long borders with Turkey. Its relations with Israel, Greece and the Greek Cypriots are also troublesome — to say the least.

As Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse has reported here, and here, the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean basin not only caught the Turkish leadership unprepared, it also revealed the shortsightedness of their approach of designating Israel as an enemy. When Turkey and Israel engaged in dialogue on building an “infrastructure corridor” linking port cities of these two countries, which would have included five separate underwater pipelines for oil, natural gas, electricity, water and communications, they were also seeking to cement a strategic partnership. While anyone who can repair the personal and political rupture between Prime Minister Erdogan and the Israeli leadership will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, the fact is that the loss of Turkey as a partner isn't really all that damaging for Israel.

 “When we were talking about the infrastructure corridor, it was 2005 and later 2007,” Binyamin Fuad Ben Eli Ezer, former Israeli minister of infrastructure told Al-Monitor. “I tried to find a way to buy gas from Gazprom, Russia, as quick as possible. Today, we don’t need that. The new discoveries in Leviathan and Tamar will be good for us for at least 300 years.”

Leviathan and Tamar are newly discovered huge gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel.  Israel certainly has the full sovereignty to explore and exploit these fields. The issue that brings Turkey into the equation is more about the way the natural gas will be brought to surface and carried to international markets for consumption. Ben Eli Ezer, who was the founding father of the idea of the “infrastructure corridor,” also sheds some light on this dilemma.

“Erdogan blessed it. I went with all the maps and the work we’ve done and we found that it is more than possible to do it by these underwater pipelines. It’s an economic one, good one, too,” Ben Eli Ezer said. “If you ask me something happened with Calik. He came to Israel eight or nine times. Both [Ehud] Olmert and [Ariel] Sharon were more than happy about this project from the beginning.”

A giant company with diversified interests from energy to media, Çalik Holding was tasked with preparing a feasibility report by the Erdogan government. Chief Executive Officer Ahmet Çalik is also known as a close friend of Erdogan. “Çalik kept it at 'wait and see.' Then the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident happened, and everything blew up,” Ben Eli Ezer said. That still leaves room to speculate as to whether this “infrastructure corridor” between Turkey and Israel that was going to build pipelines under the deep waters of the Mediterranean was really doable. It’s not really the distance that matters, but the engineering that this project requires is certainly a challenging one. 

Ben Eli Ezer, however, thinks that if people put their minds to it, the project is still possible and that he would prefer to do it with Turkey and normalize relations with the Ankara government.

“I want to make a statement,” Ben Eli Ezer told Al-Monitor. “The government of Israel, the prime minister of Israel — as far as I know, he’s more than interested to bring back normalization of the relation with Turkey. He’s keen to find the formula that will satisfy both sides.” He then went on to say this: “You see, there is two almost super nations that we have to consider in the Middle East — Turkey and Egypt. We have border with Egypt, which makes it more important for us. But we also don’t need Turkey on the other side.”

Yet the Erdogan-Davutoglu policy is crystal clear on using Israel as a whipping boy at every opportunity. So far, this approach has won them the masses on the Arab street. Erdogan continues to claim that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the mother of all problems in the region, as if the reason people in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria put their lives on the line to bring down dictators had anything to do with Israel’s unresolved dispute with the Palestinians. Israeli officials have expressed privately many times that under these circumstances, it's not possible to trust Turkey anymore. “It takes years to build trust, and takes only minutes to dissolve it,” one senior Israeli official told  Although Ben Eli Ezer expressed a desire, despite all these challenges, to rejuvenate the “infrastructure project,” he also said, “But I don’t see how.”

In short, a Turkey in fights with all the countries in the region rich with oil and natural gas reserves only harms its own long-term interests — and undermines the goals that Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has set: “We aim to have a Turkey in 2023 that won’t import oil or natural gas,” and “We also continue our work turning Turkey into an energy hub.” 

Tulin Daloglu is a columnist for Al-Monitor and a foreign-policy analyst based in Ankara, Turkey. She tweets @TulinDaloglu.

Posted on 01/13/2013 5:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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