Puppet MastersS


Arab Awakening: Could Saudi Arabia be next?

arab fighter
© Reuters
Nobody can predict which way the 'Arab Awakening' will turn this year. But Robert Fisk has ventured a very tentative punt or two...

Never make predictions in the Middle East.

My crystal ball broke long ago. But predicting the region has an honourable pedigree. "An Arab movement, newly-risen, is looming in the distance," a French traveller to the Gulf and Baghdad wrote in 1883, "and a race hitherto downtrodden will presently claim its due place in the destinies of Islam." A year earlier, a British diplomat in Jeddah confided that "it is within my knowledge... that the idea of freedom does at present agitate some minds even in Mecca..."

So let's say this for 2013: the "Arab Awakening" (the title of George Antonius' seminal work of 1938) will continue, the demand for dignity and freedom - let us not get tramelled up here with "democracy" - will go on ravaging the pseudo-stability of the Middle East, causing as much fear in Washington as it does in the palaces of the Arab Gulf.


Top cop kidnapped in Libya's Benghazi

Libyan security officials guard a checkpoint in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi on July 5, 2012. The acting head of the criminal investigations department in Libya's second city Benghazi has been kidnapped at gunpoint.
The acting head of the criminal investigations department in Libya's second city Benghazi has been kidnapped at gunpoint, officials told AFP on Thursday.

"Abdelsalam al-Mahdawi was kidnapped late Wednesday when travelling from his farm to the criminal investigations department," a security official told AFP.

"Bearded men stopped him at a traffic light on Venezia Street and kidnapped him at gunpoint," the official said on condition of anonymity, recalling that the police chief had been abducted before.

He said he believed hardline Islamists were behind the kidnapping.


NYPD loses crucial evidence, guns and drugs to Sandy

© Reuters / Mike Segar
The New York Police Department lost tons of crucial DNA and other evidence when two of its warehouses were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Now, Gotham's justice system is struggling to produce the materials in court.

Located in New York Harbor, the Erie Basin auto pound and evidence warehouse housed hundreds of seized cars, 9,846 barrels of evidence containing sensitive DNA, and thousands of guns. As the storm battered the city, the surge ruptured the warehouse's doors and plunged its content into the water.

According to the NYPD, this included 1,177 barrels of DNA evidence at the Kingsland Avenue location. Approximately 5,000 "narcotics items" and 3,250 firearms were also stored at the Erie Basin warehouse, Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department revealed to the New York Times.

The disaster is now affecting the US court system, where on at least six occasions an officer had to testify that evidence was inaccessible, but still existed, according to the police department. That number is feared to rise.


Putin preps Russian navy for biggest exercise since the Soviet Union

© Associated PressRussian President Vladimir Putin aboard the nuclear submarine Arkhangelsk in 2004.
The Russian navy is about to stage its largest war exercise in a long time - possibly the largest since before the breakup of the Soviet Union. It's a chance for President Vladimir Putin to show off his military might, of course. But the exercise may also be a subtle warning to the United States: Stay clear of waters that traditionally lie in Russia's sphere of influence.

The Russian defense ministry says its the "first time in decades" it's launched naval exercises on this scale. The drills involve warships from all of Russia's fleets: "the Northern, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific," noted a statement from the ministry. The exercise will be reportedly held in late January, and involve amphibious landings in the Caucasus and naval exercises in the Mediterranean.

Putin has undertaken a major $659 billion arms buildup through 2020. On Thursday, the Defense Ministry in Moscow also announced the scale of its ongoing naval increase. By 2016, a statement noted, Russia will have 18 new warships, "and also 30 special-purpose and counter-subversion vessels," along with six new submarines. One of these vessels, the Borei class ballistic missile sub Yuri Dolgoruky, joined the fleet this week.


IDF preparing hospitals for chemical attacks

© AFP Photo/Jack GuezIsraeli rescue teams, doctors, hospital staff and soldiers take part in defence drill simulating response to a chemical attack, at the Hilel Yafe hospital in the coastal city of Hadera, north of Tel Aviv
Military official says Home Front Command preparing hospitals for range of security threats including large-scale missile attacks.

The IDF Home Front Command is preparing all hospitals in Israel for a range of security threats, including large-scale missile attacks and chemical attacks, a senior military source told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

The preparations have been planned three years in advance, and bear no relation to current events or recent threat assessments. Exercises include training hospital staff to deal with conventional missile attacks, mass-casualty incidents and "mega-mass casualty incidents," - involving 1,000 or more injuries.

"We train a lot for chemical weapons," a Home Front Command source said. "This is our business, and only ours. There is no room for error."

The drills form the only basis for dealing with a chemical weapon attack, the source stressed, "since we have no experience with this."

The threat of a chemical attack from neighboring Syria is very low, but the defense community's contingency planning includes steps to both prevent and cope with such a threat.

Comment: One wonders just what kind of attacks are being planned by Israel which will then be blamed on neighboring countries like Syria. Remember, Israel knows better than anyone the usefulness of a false flag attack...


Mullah Nazir killed in South Waziristan drone strike: officials

US drone strikes killed a prominent warlord who had sent insurgents to fight in Afghanistan as well as nine other militants in South Waziridan, officials said Thursday.

Mullah Nazir was the main militant commander in South Waziristan, part of the tribal zone where militants linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have bases.

He is one of the highest-profile drone victims in recent years.

Officials said a US drone fired two missiles at his vehicle in the Sar Kanda area of Birmil in South Waziristan, and five of his loyalists including two senior deputies were also killed.

"Mullah Nazir and five associates died on the spot," one of the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said the attack happened at 10:35 pm on Wednesday (1735 GMT) but that it took time to confirm the reports from such a far-flung and mountainous area along the Afghan border.

Another official said Nazir and his fighters were targeted as they prepared to swap vehicles when their pick-up encountered a mechanical fault.

Two of his influential deputies, Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan, were among those killed, the official added.

Cowboy Hat

Missteps by CIA's shadowy military wing highlight the agency's troubling shift to militancy

© via AmericanSpecialOps.com/photos/
In the years since the Afghanistan invasion, the CIA, long a covert intelligence gathering body, entered a phase of growing militancy that has rendered headline after headline in U.S. mainstream media - and that's due in no small part to its relationship with military operators.

On December 26th, Greg Miller and Julie Tate of the Washington Post published an article about something called the "Global Response Staff" (GRS).

From their post:
The increasingly conspicuous role of the GRS is part of a broader expansion of the CIA's paramilitary capabilities over the past 10 years. Beyond hiring former U.S. military commandos, the agency has collaborated with U.S. Special Operations teams on missions including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and has killed thousands of Islamist militants and civilians with its fleet of armed drones.
This paramilitary unit, comprised of "scorpions" - the most lethal of American military special operators - is responsible for protecting covert agents and classified drone sites in countries like Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan and Libya (surely among other unnamed places).


The Wall Street Journal's misleading celebration of NSA spying

The FISA Amendments Act has been extended, without amendment, for another five years - and The Wall Street Journal is delighted:
Well, not everything President Obama and the 112th Congress managed to achieve is so terrible. With scarcely any notice, much less controversy, they did at least preserve one of the country's most important post-9/11 antiterror tools.
One wonders just what their basis could be for the claim that warrantless wiretapping has been "one of the country's most important post-9/11 anti terror tools." After all, a comprehensive audit by the intelligence community's own Inspectors General found exactly the opposite: That the program launched by President Bush was of no greater value than other intelligence tools; that it generated an enormous number of false leads that wasted time and resources; and that, indeed, it was difficult for intelligence officials to point to a single clear cut case where the program made a crucial contribution to a counterterror success. Much about that program remains secret, of course, but the Journal's assertion here is contradicted by the public evidence.


Israeli settlers attack Palestinians

A group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank village of Jalud overnight, injuring several people, an army spokesman said on Thursday.

Palestinian security officials said a two-month-old baby was among those injured.

The spokesman told that the settlers had damaged two cars, thrown stones at houses and forcibly entered one home, beating a Palestinian who was afterwards taken to hospital.

Soldiers arrived at the village, south of the city of Nablus, and clashed with the settlers, but made no arrests, he added.


U.S. House votes not to reauthorise domestic violence funding bill

Violence Against Women Act (Vawa) passes Senate but is not renewed after Republicans take issue with new provisions.

A bill that would extend funding for domestic violence programs has failed to be reauthorized for the first time since it was signed in 1994.

The Violence Against Women Act (Vawa) provides financing to programs that work to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking as well as offer support to victims. The bill was approved for reauthorization by the Senate in April, but failed to make it through the House before the year-end congressional deadline.

The bill was successfully reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, but House Republicans took issue with provisions added to the 2012 legislation that attempted to expand protections for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans and members of the LGBT community who are victims of domestic violence.

Advocates suggested additions to the bill based on researched trends in domestic violence and worked with both sides of the House and Senate to draft a bill they hoped would make it through Congress before the end of the year.

Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy and advocacy, Futures Without Violence, told the Guardian: "The Senate bill was already very much a bipartisan compromise, it seems very unfortunate that the House chose to fight the provision."