When Syrian dissidents took to the streets last year to protest the Bashar Assadregime, they did not anticipate a muted response from the world community. Thousands of civilian deaths later, outside support for Syria’s democratic movement has been almost nonexistent.
There is no air blockade to protect civilians, no significant humanitarian aid and no genocide charges against Assad. Leaders like French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama, both of whom spoke so strongly against Moammar Gadhafi’s carnage in Libya, have been frustratingly subdued on Syria.
Western countries like to pin the blame for the inaction on Russia and China — the two countries that vetoed a United Nations resolution that called for Assad to step down. Yet, any right-minded person would have known such a veto was coming. Considering the close ties between these countries and Syria, there was no chance they would abandon their ally. The resolution was clearly a pretense to shift the blame and avoid responsibility.
If the world does not put a stop to the massacre in Syria, the implications would be significant. Democratic activists around the world will likely question the double standard. Why were the U.S. and NATO so eager to jump into the Libyan conflict, but are staying on the sidelines in regards to the ongoing massacre in Syria?
The obvious conclusion appears to be that western countries will only intervene to prevent genocide or to support democracy when it is convenient. Libya was a convenient target, because the country is oil-rich and Gaddafi had few powerful allies. On the other hand, Syria has the backing of Russia and is a regional power.
Recent U.S. intelligence indicated al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have infiltrated Syria. The inaction by the international community may have given al-Qaida an opening to hijack the democratic movement in the region. If the information was correct, this could be the beginning of a never-ending nightmare.
When Patty Tegeler looks out the window of her home overlooking the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, she sees trouble on the horizon. ”In an instant, anything can happen,” she told Reuters. “And I firmly believe that you have to be prepared.” Tegeler is among a growing subculture of Americans who refer to themselves informally as “preppers.” Some are driven by a fear of imminent societal collapse, others are worried about terrorism, and many have a vague concern that an escalating series of natural disasters is leading to some type of environmental cataclysm.
They are following in the footsteps of hippies in the 1960s who set up communes to separate themselves from what they saw as a materialistic society, and the survivalists in the 1990s who were hoping to escape the dictates of what they perceived as an increasingly secular and oppressive government. Preppers, though are, worried about no government. Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a “survival center,” complete with a large generator, portable heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food that her sister recently gave her as a birthday present.
She says that in case of emergency, she could survive indefinitely in her home. And she thinks that emergency could come soon. ”I think this economy is about to fall apart,” she said. A wide range of vendors market products to preppers, mainly online. They sell everything from water tanks to guns to survival skills. Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck seems to preach preppers’ message when he tells listeners: “It’s never too late to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.”
“Unfortunately, given the increasing complexity and fragility of our modern technological society, the chances of a societal collapse are increasing year after year,” said author James Wesley Rawles, whose Survival Blog is considered the guiding light of the prepper movement.
Iran boosts security for all in nuclear field.
President Ahmadinejad gives order to put anyone who is active in the nuclear field ‘under special care’ following last week’s killing of nuclear scientist in Tehran.
The order was given by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rahimi said. The ISNA news agency quoted the vice president saying that the additional measures — which were not specified — come on top of ones ordered 10 months ago for Iran’s nuclear scientists. “This time around, the government ordered that anyone who is active in the nuclear field, from low levels to higher ups, be under surveillance and put under special care,”
The new security order was given after Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a 32-year-old deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, was murdered on January 11 along with his driver/bodyguard when assassins on a motorbike fixed a magnetic bomb to their car. The attack was the fifth such incident targeting Iran’s scientists in the past two years. Four other scientists — three of them involved in Iran’s nuclear program — died in the attacks, while one managed to escape with injuries. Iranian officials say the attacks are a covert campaign by Israel and the U.S.
Is Iran Closer to the Nuclear Bomb Than We Realize?
A report that Iran is about a year away from having the capability to build a nuclear bomb may be too optimistic, contended John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “I worry the publicly available information is giving only a very small picture and that Iran is actually even much further along,” Bolton said today in a radio interview.
Bolton was on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s WABC Radio. The former ambassador was asked about a statement from a former head of U.N. nuclear inspections claiming Iran is now just a year or so away from having enough enriched uranium to assemble a nuclear bomb.
Olli Heinonen wrote in an article published earlier this week that Iran made this advancement after switching production of its higher-grade enriched uranium to a new, underground site.
“So they’ve got more work to do, but they are already well on their way,” he said. Reacting to the one-year timeline, Bolton stated, “I think it can be even less than that.”
Hague warns of Iran crisis
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that ”intensifying” tensions with Iran could escalate into a crisis that destabilises the entire Middle East unless the country abandons its nuclear enrichment program. Mr Hague expressed concerns in The Sunday Telegraph that Iran’s actions could cause a nuclear arms race, and called on the country’s government to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the growing confrontation. ”We do have to confront this problem, because Iran has embarked on a course which threatens the whole region of the Middle East with nuclear proliferation,” Mr Hague said.
”It is an intensifying problem that we have over their nuclear program. And so there is a risk that this will become a greater crisis as 2012 goes on.”
Mr Hague’s comments came as the European Union prepares to agree on an embargo on Iranian oil, in response to Iran’s decision to step up its efforts to produce the materials for a nuclear weapon. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful, and has threatened to retaliate to an oil embargo by blocking the Strait of Hormuz. ’It’s because we don’t want to see an intensifying crisis that we favour negotiations – if Iran will come to meetings or negotiations – and we will apply stronger and stronger sanctions to try to show negotiation is the only way forward,” Mr Hague said.
The Foreign Secretary said Britain was not calling for military action, but stressed: ”We don’t take any options off the table in the long term … We believe in intensifying the peaceful, legitimate pressure on Iran – so that’s what people will see much more of over the coming weeks.”
Mikhail Prokhorov, a super-rich tycoon challenging Vladimir Putin for Russia’s presidency in March, said his country faced the danger of violent revolution if it did not break conservative resistance and move quickly to democracy. Prokhorov, a billionaire bachelor long seen more as playboy than politician, told The Freeland File on Reuters, that Russians had shaken off a post-Soviet apathy and were now “just crazy about politics.” He denied accusations he was a Kremlin tool, let into the race to split the opposition and lend democratic legitimacy to a vote Putin seems almost certain to win.
Putin is seeking to return to the Kremlin and rule until at least 2018, but protests against alleged fraud in a December 4 parliamentary vote have exposed growing discontent with the system he has dominated for 12 years.
“What worked before does not work now. Look in the streets. People are not happy,” Prokhorov, 46, said in the interview beneath the windowed dome that soars above his spacious office on a central Moscow boulevard close to the Kremlin. “It is time to change,” said Prokhorov, ranked by Forbes magazine as Russia’s third-richest person, with an $18-billion metals-to-banking empire that includes the New Jersey Nets basketball team in the United States. “Stability at any price is no longer acceptable for Russians.”
But Prokhorov made clear he considers revolution equally unacceptable for a country with grim memories of a century of hardship, war and upheaval starting with Vladimir Lenin’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, instead calling for “very fast evolution.”
“I am against any revolution, because I know the history of Russia. Every time we have revolution, it was a very bloody period,” he said.
Iran will take action if a U.S. aircraft carrier which left the area because of Iranian naval exercises returns to the Gulf, the state news agency quoted army chief Ataollah Salehi as saying on Tuesday.
“Iran will not repeat its warning … the enemy’s carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf,” Salehi told IRNA. ”I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Salehi as saying. Salehi did not name the aircraft carrier or give details of the action Iran might take if it returned. However, last week a spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet said the USS John C. Stennis had left the Gulf.
Iran completed 10 days of naval exercises in the Gulf on Monday, and said during the drills that if foreign powers imposed sanctions on its crude exports it could shut the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s traded oil is shipped. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, said it would not allow shipping to be disrupted in the strait.
Iran fires missiles
Iran said on Monday it had successfully test-fired two long-range missiles during its naval drill, flexing its military muscle in the face of mounting Western pressure over its controversial nuclear program.
Iran also said it had no intention of closing the Strait of Hormuz but had carried out “mock” exercises on shutting the strategic waterway. Tehran denies Western accusations that it is secretly trying to build atomic bombs, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity. The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the Islamic state’s nuclear row with the West. The European Union is considering following the United States in banning imports of Iranian crude oil. U.S. President Barack Obama signed new sanctions against Iran into law on Saturday, stepping up the pressure by adding sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran’s central bank.
Meanwhile, Iran said the new record low of the national currency to the U.S. dollar was not linked to the latest sanctions from the United States targeting the country’s central bank. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on Tuesday insisted there “is no relation” between the two. He said the American sanctions “have yet to be put into practice.”