Cheat Sheet: Syria crisis: Where key countries stand (BBC)

The US and its allies are said to be considering military action against sites in Syria. But what do countries in the region and beyond think about any possible action?

A boy shouts slogans during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in Syria in Yemen

The possibility of Western strikes on Syria has divided opinion in the region

The US and its allies are said to be considering military action against sites in Syria. But what do countries in the region and beyond think about any possible action?

Turkey

The Turkish government has been one of the most strident critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since early on in the uprising. On Monday Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper that the country was ready to join an international coalition for action against Syria even in the absence of agreement at the UN Security Council.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf

The monarchies of the Gulf are said to have been key in funding and supplying the rebel forces fighting against forces loyal to President Assad. Saudi Arabia has been a rival of the Syrian government for years and has been particularly active in pushing for action against Mr Assad, with former Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan reportedly trying in recent weeks to garner international support for further support for the rebels.

Israel

Despite initially avoiding becoming involved in the conflict, Israel has carried outthree strikes on targets in Syria this year, reportedly to prevent weapons shipments reaching the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Shelling and gunfire from Syria has also hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, drawing return Israeli fire.

In recent days, Israeli officials have condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces and hinted at support for military action. “Our finger must always be on the pulse. Ours is a responsible finger and if necessary, it will also be on the trigger,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

However, Israeli officials will be aware that any Western action against Syria risks a repeat of events in the first Gulf War in 1991, when Iraq attacked Tel Aviv with Scud missiles in attempt to draw Israel into the conflict and prompt the withdrawal of Arab countries from the war. Reports say sales of gas masks in Israel have gone up in response to speculation over military action.

A burning car is seen at the entrance of a mosque which was attacked by a car bomb, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon

Lebanon is seeing increasing violence linked to the conflict in Syria

Lebanon

The Lebanese Foreign Minister Adana Mansour told Lebanese radio on Monday that he did not support the idea of strikes on Syria, saying: “I don’t think this action would serve peace, stability and security in the region.”

Two bomb attacks which killed almost 60 people in Lebanon this month were linked to tensions over the Syrian conflict. The Lebanese Shia militant movement Hezbollah has openly taken part in combat in Syria on the side of the government, and there have been reports of some in the Sunni community fighting on the side of the rebels. In addition, the country is already playing host to the largest number of Syrian refugees of any country.

Iran

Iran has been Syria’s main backer in the region since well before the current conflict and has been highly critical of any prospect of intervention.

On Tuesday, Iran warned a top UN official visiting Tehran of “serious consequences” of any military action.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi also repeated claims that it was in fact rebels who used chemical weapons, AFP reports.

US

Following a cautious reaction to the initial reports of a chemical weapons attack, American rhetoric has hardened in recent days. Secretary of State John Kerry said the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was “undeniable” and a “moral obscenity”.

Washington has recently bolstered its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting speculation that preparation for an attack is underway. Analysts believe the most likely US action would be sea-launched cruise missiles targeting Syrian military installations.

 boy, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, is treated at a hospital in the Duma

US President Barack Obama had previously said the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line”

UK

The UK is drawing up contingency plans for military action, Prime Minster David Cameron’s office has said. Any action would be “proportionate”, lawful and follow agreement with international allies, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said.

On Monday Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that diplomatic pressure on Syria had failed and that the UK, “the United States, [and] many other countries including France, are clear that we can’t allow the idea in the 21st Century that chemical weapons can be used with impunity”.

France

The day after the reports of the attack near Damascus, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for “a reaction of force” if the use of chemical weapons was proven. He has also suggested that the UN Security Council could be bypassed “in certain circumstances”.

France has been amongst the most hawkish Western countries with regard to Syria, being the first Western power to recognise the main opposition coalition as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative. In May France, along with the UK, successfully lobbied for the EU’s arms embargo to be lifted so as to allow further supplies to the rebels.

Russia

Russia is one of Mr Assad’s most important international backers and has stressed the need for a political solution to be found to the crisis.

It has sharply criticised any possibility of Western strikes on Syria, saying action taken outside the security council threatened “catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa”.

China

China has joined Russia in blocking resolutions critical of Syria at the UN Security Council. It has also criticised the prospect of strikes against Syria.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who might have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.

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The Clinton Doctrine of American Foreign Policy

Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillar...

Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs. Clinton has been a very good but very cautious secretary of state, many analysts say — one who, for the most part, kept her distance from Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine and other seemingly intractable conflicts.

One State Department official, while praising Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, nonetheless looked forward to the arrival of Sen. John Kerry, her designated successor: “I came to admire Clinton as secretary of state, her focus on women and innovation in particular,” the official told me. “But am really happy to have someone in the job who does not retain political ambitions.”

http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/the-clinton-doctrine-add-links-from-original/ 

Look to the More Stable Neighbors

English: Sahara desert from space. Русский: Пу...

English: Sahara desert from space. Русский: Пустыня Сахара из космоса. Українська: Пустеля Сахара з космосу. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fragile states of the Sahara and just below the desert pose significant challenges — not just for the United States and Europe, but also for the North African states themselves. The sources of their instability and conflict are complex and deeply rooted. Internally, they include institutional weakness and corruption, endemic poverty, sociopolitical tensions, unaddressed identity-based grievances, legacies of past abuses, and religious radicalization. External stresses include transnational organized crime and terrorism, weapons proliferation, foreign meddling, cross-border conflict spillover, and global economic shocks.

North Korea’s Socialist Winter: Engagement or Isolation?

Kim Il-sung s Poster

Kim Il-sung s Poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch has placed North Korea in the cross-hairs of the international community. The current standoff with the “Hermit Kingdom” threatens to stifle very real reforms already underway, as well as peace in the region.

The world’s attention has once again focused on North Korea following its controversial missile launch on December 12th, 2012 that successfully put a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns. While Pyongyang maintains its right to develop a peaceful civilian space program, the launch has wrought condemnation from the international community and its biggest ally, China, for defying UN resolutions that ban it from operating ballistic missile technology. While the launch coincides with upcoming elections in both Japan and South Korea, it is domestically perceived as the centerpiece of the North’s efforts to commemorate the year 2012 as the one-hundredth- anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, the deceased nation’s founder who holds the title of “Eternal President.”

Read More : http://www.globalresearch.ca/north-koreas-socialist-winter-engagement-or-isolation/5316064?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=north-koreas-socialist-winter-engagement-or-isolation

Changing landscape: Jihad in Mali

Flag of Mali

Flag of Mali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katherine Zimmerman,Dominic Lisanti | Critical Threats Project

On Tuesday, two Americans were arrested on terrorism charges. An FBI affidavit accuses the pair of planning to “travel from the United States to Mauritania intending to prepare to wage violent jihad.” Mauritania, their travel destination, was not the final destination. Instead, Randy (Rasheed) Wilson and Mohammed Abdul Rahman Abukhdair planned to cross the desert into northern Mali, now largely controlled by militant Islamist groups.

Wilson and Abukhdair met online between February and November 2010. Both were already exploring opportunities to take up jihad abroad. Wilson had been the roommate of Omar Hammami, who left for Somalia in 2006 and is currently a member of al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate there. He had discussed following Hammami to Somalia with another friend, but ultimately, they never acted on it. Abukhdair moved to Cairo, Egypt in February 2007 and then to Alexandria in February 2010. Egyptian authorities arrested him in November 2010 on suspicions of being active in a terrorist group and he was deported to the U.S. in January 2011. By late October 2011, Abukhdair had moved in with Wilson’s family in Mobile, Alabama, and the two men had already begun talking about where to go fight jihad.

Read more : http://www.criticalthreats.org/west-africa/changing-landscape-jihad-mali-december-13-2012

How U.S. Can Once Again Define the Future

America’s economy must do some heavy lifting. Just as the country transitioned from war production to civilian production 60 years ago, it must now transition to sustainable production, while building a new American dream. If it can, the United States will be ideally positioned to rebuild our middle class, compete globally and pre-empt growing confrontation over resources. We must adapt and once again define the future.

http://asp.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2012/how_us_can_once_again_define_the_future_74655

Saudi America – WSJ.com

Sometimes the revolution politicians seek isn’t the one they get. Consider the irony—and the opportunity—in Monday’s report that the U.S. is likely to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer as early as 2020.

In its annual world energy outlook, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) says the global energy map “is being redrawn by the resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States.”

The U.S. will increase its production to about 23 million barrels a day in 10 years from about 18 million barrels a day now, the IEA predicts. That’s more optimistic than current U.S. government estimates and a change from a year ago when the IEA said Russia and the Saudis would vie for number one.

Review & Outlook: Saudi America – WSJ.com.