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.
The Middle East may have taken another step towards war Monday as Israel blamed Iran and its terrorist ally Hezbollah for two apparently co-ordinated attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia.
In the first attack, the wife of an Israeli diplomat was injured when a bomb exploded in or near her car in New Delhi.
The woman managed to make it back to the Israeli embassy and was rushed to hospital. Israel Radio reported the injured woman was the wife of the Israel’s military attache at the embassy in New Delhi.
Indian officials are said to be investigating the possibility the bomb was placed underneath the car or that an assassin on a motorcycle either attached a bomb to the car or threw it at the vehicle.
Indian television cited witnesses who claimed to have seen a motorcycle following the car and possibly throwing something moments before.
In the second attack, an embassy staffer in Tbilisi, Georgia discovered a bomb underneath his car as he was driving to the embassy Monday morning. He reportedly heard an unusual sound and discovered the bomb when he pulled over to inspect. Police managed to disarm the weapon before it exploded.
The attacks mirror similar assassination attempts against nuclear scientists in Iran, which Iranian officials have blamed on Israeli and U.S. agents. Monday’s attacks also occurred a day after the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniya in a car bombing in Damascus.
Israel’s Prime Minister immediately blamed Iran for the two terror attacks Monday saying that Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah, were responsible.
“In recent months we have witnessed several attempts to attack Israeli citizens and Jews in several countries, including Azerbaijan, Thailand and others,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “In each instance we succeeded in foiling the attacks in cooperation with local authorities. Iran and Hezbollah were behind all of these attempted attacks.”
“Iran, which is behind these attacks, is the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “The Israeli government and its security forces will continue to work together with local security services against these terrorist actions.”
Monday’s attacks occurred as the Middle East faces increasing threats of a regional war, with Israel threatening to attack Iran’s secret nuclear installations to prevent Tehran getting nuclear weapons.
Iran has threatened to retaliate in the event of an attack, vowing to wipe Israel off the map, while also threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz to international oil shipments.
The death toll from shelling by Syrian security forces in the city of Homs has soared to almost 350, an opposition member has told Sky News.
It had earlier been reported that more than 200 people had died in the attack which lasted more than three hours.
But Mohamed Khalid, of the Syrian National Council in Cairo, said the latest casualty figure was at least 337 – with 72 children and 45 women among the bodies already identified. He said another 1,100 were wounded, with 95 in a critical condition. Mr Khalid added that ambulances were unable to reach the injured and that people had resorted to carrying them in their cars – which were in turn were being shelled by government forces.
He claimed the regime was using long-range artillery to fire shells from three miles away, targeting several neighbourhoods including Khalidiya.
Abu Rami Alhomsy of the Syrian Revolutionary General Commission said. “It was a normal day for a demonstration but last night they started shelling this neighbourhood. “We have many injuries. Many women and children have been killed and injured.”
As explosions sounded in the background, Mr Alhomsy said: “I am hiding in the street with many people around me. They are shooting into here from an outside area. “Oh my God.” It is not possible to verify activist reports as the Syrian government restricts access for independent media. State media blamed the attacks on armed gangs.
As news of the violence spread, activists used social media to orchestrate protests at Syrian diplomatic outposts around the world.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 217 people were killed in the Khalidya district of Homs. “This is the worst attack of the uprising, since the uprising began in March until now,” Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the London-based observatory, said. “Syrian forces are shelling the district with mortars from several locations,” he added.
Activists said hundreds of people were wounded in the attack, north of the capital Damascus.
Homs has become a flashpoint of the 10-month revolt against the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
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.”
The Doomsday Clock moved one minute closer to midnight after scientists agreed that a global cataclysm was more likely today. The clock, which last moved in January 2010, is a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and emerging technologies. The clock now shows five minutes to midnight, said the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in Washington. The clock had been set at six minutes to midnight for the past two years. It was previously set at five minutes to midnight from 2007-2010. Scientists said in a statement that two years ago, there was reason for optimism ‘that world leaders might address the truly global threats we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued. The last change pushed the clock’s hands back one minute – from five to six.
However, in 2011, it would have been a surprise if the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS), the panel behind the decision, said the potential for nuclear meltdown was less likely.
The most significant contributing factors to the decision were the narrowly averted nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan which was caused by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11. There were also concerns about the danger from Iran which has begun to enrich uranium at a secret underground site – a move which could be a step towards developing a nuclear bomb. Further cause to move the clock closer to midnight came from North Korea where the death of Kim Jong Il saw his young and untested son Kim Jong Un put in control of a country widely believed to have full nuclear capabilities.
Today’s announcement by the BAS followed a year of deliberations by the group of experts who determine the risk.
At approximately 06:06:25 UTC on Wednesday, January 11th, a 4.6 magnitude earthquake struck Southern Iran. On January 5th, 16:53:40 UTC, a 5.0 struck the Southern Iran area, followed by a 4.7 magnitude earthquake on January 7th, 23:25:38 UTC and a 5.2 magnitude earthquake on January 9th, 19:53:37 UTC.
“Iran sits over several major faults in the earth’s crust, and is prone to earthquakes, many of which have been devastating. The deadliest quake in the country was in June 1990 and measured 7.7 on the Richter scale. About 37,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured.”
From the US saving Iranian sailors, to the US’s strict and critical view of Iran’s nuclear development capabilities, to Iran giving the US a final warning to leave the strait, to rumours of US troops landing in Israel, to just a few hours ago, a nuclear scientist being killed in Tehran by a car bomb. This whole area is something that we need to keep an eye on in the coming days as the tensions continue to rise between all countries surrounding the strait, and all of the countries who are dependant on oil of the area. Let’s hope war is not close.
– Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Begins at New Underground Site
– Iran’s Uranium Effort Concerns Russian Officials
– US Treasury Secretary Presses China on Iran
– Iran Keeps Issuing Threats, US Keeps Saving Sailors
– Thousands of US Soldiers Said to be Deployed to Israel
– Car Bomb Kills Iranian Nuclear Scientist; US Presses Sanctions
Update: Jan 11th, 18:13:30 UTC – At approximately 17:08:01 UTC, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck Northern Iran at a depth of 20.1 km (12.5 miles), 47 km SE of Amol Iran, 73 km ESE of Sari, Iran, and 136 km ENE of Tehran, Iran. This is definitely a quake a bit closer to Tehran than usual, and with all the talks it’s best that we mention all of these Iran quakes which seem to be becoming much more apparent as of the past 3-5 weeks.
Updated January 6, 2012 6:13 am – Syrian officials blamed a “terrorist suicide bomber” for an explosion Friday which appeared to target a bus full of police in central Damascus, causing deaths. State TV reported the blast in the central Damascus neighborhood of Midan killed at least 25 people and wounded more than 50 others, with “most” of the casualties being civilians. Graphic video on Syrian television showed mangled human remains amid debris.
Friday’s explosion comes two weeks after two blasts in Damascus targeting security buildings killed 44 people. Syrian President Bashar Assad has waged a brutal crackdown on a growing opposition movement, which has sparked violence between armed rebels known as the Free Syrian Army, and state security forces. While the regime squarely blames the opposition movement for the violence, opposition leaders have voiced skepticism, suggesting the government itself may have staged the deadly attacks two weeks ago in an effort to paint the anti-government groups as terrorists.
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.”