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US War Games Sends Clear Signal To Syrian President

ZARQA, Jordan (AP) — Under the watchful eye of stern-faced American advisers, hundreds of U.S.-trained Jordanian commandos fanned across this dusty desert plain, holding war games that could eventually form the basis of an assault in Syria.

With the recent deployment of Patriot missiles near the Syrian border, and the mock Syrian accents of those playing the enemy, the message was clear: There is fear of spillover from the Syrian war in this U.S.-allied kingdom, and the potential for a Jordanian role in securing Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles should Bashar Assad's regime lose control.

Dubbed Eager Lion, the 12-day exercise involves combined land, air and sea maneuvers across the country. It brings together 8,000 personnel from 19 Arab and European nations to train on border security, irregular warfare, terrorism and counterinsurgency.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Duke Shienle said Syria "is a concern that all our regional partners share."

The Syrian crisis is "causing all military in the region to increase intensity," he said as he supervised masked commandos in black uniforms from Jordan and two other Syria neighbors — Iraq and Lebanon — in a mock exercise to free a hijacked aircraft on an airstrip in the eastern Jordanian desert.



U.N. Recommends Bringing Iraq Closer To Ending 1990s Sanctions


UNITED NATIONS | Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:19pm EDT
(Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday recommended bringing Iraq one step closer to ending all U.N. sanctions imposed on Baghdad more than two decades ago after former leader Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait In 1990.

Despite the toppling of Saddam in 2003 after a U.S.-led invasion, the United Nations has not fully lifted the sanctions. U.S.-led troops drove Iraq out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.

If the U.N. Security Council accepts Ban's recommendation, it will be a significant political boost for Baghdad as it struggles to restore its international standing a decade after Saddam's ouster.

Iraq is still subject to a U.N. arms embargo and asset freeze on individuals and entities linked to Saddam.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/19/us-iraq-kuwait-un-idUSBRE95I00L20130619

Iraq still burdened by 1990 sanctions, who knew?

Israel's President Peres Backs Obama's Move To Arm Syrian Rebels

srael's president has said that the US is right to funnel weapons to the Syrian opposition fighting against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with Reuters the Israeli president repudiated fears that weapons the US is supplying will be turned on Israel and that Israel will launch unilateral air strikes against Iran.

As the Jerusalem Post points out Peres gave the interview in the run up to his 90th birthday. He answered "yes" to a question which asked if the US decision was wise adding, "They didn't have a choice."

He lamented that, "Unfortunately it is becoming more of a confrontation between two superpowers and a growing intervention of outside forces . . . It is a tragedy."

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/352598#ixzz2WbWa3i9x

NSA Director: Surveillance Programs Foiled About 50 Terrorist Plots

Washington — The National Security Agency director on Tuesday vigorously defended two formerly secret surveillance programs as having foiled more than 50 terrorist plots, including a plan to blow up the New York Stock Exchange.

The programs are “the best counterterrorism tools that we have to go after these guys,” said NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, flanked by other top law and intelligence officials. “We can’t lose those capabilities.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Howell, called Alexander a “patriot” Tuesday as he kicked off a rare public hearing by his committee that is charged with oversight of the classified phone and Internet surveillance programs recently leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Before a Senate panel last week, Alexander said the leaked programs foiled “dozens” of terrorist plots. He offered more specifics Tuesday about two more unclassified plots and pledged to release the details of the more than 50 cases in a classified report to the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

Internet intelligence identified a Kansas City man talking to an extremist in Yemen and foiled a developing plot to bomb the Wall Street stock exchange, said Sean Joyce, deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In another instance, the phone records program identified a San Diego man who was providing financial support to a terrorist group in Somalia, Joyce told the committee under further questioning.


From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130618/POLITICS03/306180052#ixzz2Wb3wnoLw

I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I *do*!

Israeli Politicians Protect 'Price Tag' Attackers

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet have declared that ‘price tag’ perpetrators – thugs who attack Palestinian property in the West Bank, vandalize Christian or Muslim holy sites and private homes of left-wing activists within the Green Line – will not be labelled “terror” groups, but rather as “illegal associations.” The designation is important because it indicates which laws authorities can apply in their effort to crack down on these activities.

Israeli news has been reporting the authorities’ frustration in trying to break into the cells and prevent the attacks; the move is supposed to be part of a stepped-up effort to address the problem. It is hard not to be cynical, though, when military courts and jails are full of Palestinians for every stone thrown, but other crimes – like torching cars and burning mosques – just seem far too complex and sophisticated for a simple Israeli intelligence outfit to solve.

In truth, I don’t think this is worth a lengthy moral or ideological debate about whether the group should be labelled as terrorists in general, since it has not killed civilians, thank god. What matters is that the government stop the violence that indeed terrorizes people and sows lawlessness in the land under Israel’s control, while entrenching the unequal standards of law enforcement for two different populations. To that end, perhaps the most deplorable point in Haaretz‘ coverage of the issue (Hebrew) is the following. Barak Ravid writes:

Prime Minister Netanyahu hesitated from the decision to declare “price tag” activists as a terror organization, especially against the background of political pressure from settler leaders in the West Bank and from the Jewish Home party, as well as figures in his own party. Holding a vote within the government about defining the “price tag” activists as a terror organization could have sparked a coalition crisis.



One By One, Israel's Coalition Members Abandon Two-State Rhetoric

Economy Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett is the latest MK to join a robust list of Israeli government coalition members who have publicly stated that the two-state solution is dead and that the notion of a Palestinian state is a thing of the past. Although it’s no new position for him, Bennett is making it clear that no matter what Prime Minister Netanyahu says or what polls show, the Israel of 2013 is squarely against a two-state solution.

Bennett stated that ”the idea of forming a Palestinian state in Israel has reached a dead end,” speaking at a settler council meeting Monday morning, comparing the “Palestinian problem” to a “piece of shrapnel” lodged in someone’s rear end; that one needs to learn to live with a pain in the ass rather than surgically remove it and risk becoming disabled.

Bennett also asserted there is no occupation, since Israeli Jews cannot be occupiers in their own home (echoing the Netanyahu-commissioned Levy Report from nearly a year ago that concluded there is no occupation) and called on Israel to annex Area C of the West Bank. This is similar to what Likud MK and former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said last year: “Today, almost 20 years since Oslo, one could clearly argue that the idea of separating between the nations has failed … Between the Jordan River and the sea, there can only be one state, Jewish and democratic, with a solid Jewish majority.”

There are plenty of other coalition members who have publicly come out against the two-state solution and the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, as a Knesset committee meeting on the subject exposed last month. It’s not just fundamentalist Hebron settler Orit Struck from Jewish Home, who said two states are ”not part of the government’s guiding principles, and for good reason.”



Israel Seeks $5 Billion US Loan Guarantees - Report

Israel's Defense Ministry will ask the US to guarantee $5 billion in bridge loans that Israel plans taking from US commercial banks to finance procurement of advanced weapons systems that the Obama administration is offering Israel including the Osprey aircraft-helicopter and smart munitions. In the long term procurement will be financed by US military aid, and the loans will bridge the intermediary period in which annual US military aid to Israel is $3.1 billion not enough to finance the new weaponry, US "Defense News" reports.

One senior US source told the weekly magazine that approving the guarantees would not be dependent on Israeli concessions in the peace process with the Palestinians. The US would see such approval as a confidence building measure. "There won't be conditions but there will be expectations," the source said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during his visit to Israel in April that Washington, "would be prepared to put at Israel's disposal the new advanced military capabilities to strengthen it qualitative advantage over its military enemies."

Immediately after this announcement, Pentagon sources expressed annoyance over the administration's decision to prematurely make public the planned procurements. Sources said then that there had been no talks between the US and Israel on costs, quantities, payment conditions and delivery dates.



Iran Is Ready to Suspend 20% Uranium Enrichment, Russia Says

Source: Bloomberg

By Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko - Jun 18, 2013
Iran is ready to suspend enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, a key demand of world powers at talks over its disputed nuclear program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

In return, the Persian Gulf nation must be offered “weighty reciprocal steps,” including a gradual lifting of unilateral and United Nations sanctions, Lavrov said in an interview with the Kuwaiti news service Kuna posted today on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

“This could become a breakthrough agreement that could largely remove the tension surrounding the existing problems, including concern about enrichment rising to weapons level,” he said. “It would be unforgivable not to use this opportunity.”

Progress on an interim proposal by the world powers for Iran to suspend its 20 percent enrichment of uranium in return for limited relief from sanctions was scuttled at the latest round of talks in April by Iran’s insistence on being assured that what it sees as its right to peaceful enrichment of uranium will eventually be recognized.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-18/iran-is-ready-to-suspend-20-uranium-enrichment-russia-says.html

New Voters Loosen Republicans’ Grip on Old Dominion

The downtown in Leesburg, Virginia, offers a portrait of attachment to the past. Federal-style buildings line the streets, and the courthouse square features both a plaque commemorating a reading in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence and a statute honoring Confederate soldiers.

The picture is misleading.

A more accurate rendering reveals a downtown that gives way to suburban growth that has made Loudoun County the wealthiest in the U.S. Technology companies, many with ties to the federal government, and other businesses fueled by the development have stoked an economy attracting higher educated workers and minority populations that have soared since 1990 -- a five-fold increase of Hispanics and seven times the number of Asians.

Located 40 miles from Washington, D.C, Loudoun County is now considered by White House officials to be one of the best bellwethers for presidential elections. President Barack Obama won there in 2008, the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and again in 2012, victories that signaled how shifting economic and population trends are refashioning the politics of Virginia and the nation.

“We are seeing a solidly red state turn blue,” said Dustin Cable, a demographer at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in Charlottesville. “Virginia is really ground zero for a lot of what we see at the national level.”



US Home Construction Up 6.8 Pct. In May; Permits For More Single-Family Homes Hit 5-Year High

Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. builders stepped up home construction in May and applied for permits to build single-family homes at the fastest pace in five years. The gains show housing remains a key source of growth for the economy.

The overall pace of homes started rose 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 914,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That offset part of the 14.8 percent decline in April. May's rate is still below March's pace of more than 1 million — the fastest in five years.

Construction increased in May for both single-family homes and apartments and condos.

And builders sought more permits to build single-family homes, which make up nearly two-third of the market. The seasonally adjusted annual rate rose 1.3 percent to 622,000 — the highest since May 2008. That's a sign that construction will increase further in the coming months.

Read more: http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/f532e1e7b7664a59a648fa155e44172f/US--Housing-Starts/
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